My business class seat on China Eastern – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
China Eastern is not an airline I ever really expected to fly. With a fleet of new Boeing 777-300ERs, the opening of a new route to Chicago, and a small investment from Delta Air Lines, China Eastern is modernizing and becoming a real player in the North American market. When I saw a fare posted of $650 round-trip between New York andÂ Japan, I jumped at the opportunity to give this airline a try.
My routing was New York JFK to Osaka, Japan via Shanghai, returning from Tokyo Narita back to New York. On the first leg to Shanghai, China Eastern graciously upgraded me to business class in order to experience theÂ new product.
A Boeing 777-300ER at Paine Field showing China Eastern’s new livery- Photo: Bernie Leighton
At JFK, China Eastern departs from Terminal 1 and uses the recently renovated Air France lounge. Although this flight departed at 2:00 am (thanks for nothing, daylight saving time), the lounge was actually surprisingly crowded. As boarding time neared, I headed to the gate to find utter chaos. Lines of passengers extended in every direction with no signage to tell anyone where to stand. Eventually, gate agents put up a few signs, but that should have been done much earlier. A hectic boarding process sets a negative tone for a 15-hour flight. The same hectic process was applied to all four of my flights, indicating that China Eastern has a systemic problem with orderly boarding.
A Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 wearing the Bare Fare livery at TPA – Photo: JL Johnson | AirlineReporter
I paid a mere $16.11 for a one-way Spirit Airlines Bare Fare flight from Kansas City to Dallas. Crazy, right? It gets crazierâ€¦ $14.24 of that ticket went to the “Government’s Cut,” (Spirit’s words, not mine) that is,Â various government-imposed fees and taxes. Of the remainder, a single penny went towards the base fare, with the final $1.86 going to what Spirit refers to asÂ “Unintended Consequences of DOT Regulations.” Depending on where you sit on the regulatory fence, the actual revenue fromÂ my Bare FareÂ was either a penny or $1.87.
Spirit Airlines Bare Fare cost structure breakdown – Image: Spirit.com
Either way, the airline was bound to make money off ofÂ me from their various fees, right? After all, that’s what Spirit is known for: evil fees. But, what if I went totally bare and instead just paid only for “ass plus gas” (again, Spirit’s words, not mine). Do people actually do that? I did… for science.
When two AirlineReporter writers decide to go on a weekend guys trip, the possibilities are endless. The thing is – we don’t mind long flights, crazy routing, or extendedÂ layovers – after all, that’s all part of the adventure.
It’s amazing how much ground you can cover in a few days, if you really want to. Once we made the decision to go somewhere, Associate Editor,Â Blaine Nickeson,Â and I spent a few weeks scouring the internet for decent airfares. Â We considered various destinations acrossÂ five continents. Â Finally, something really interesting (and cheap!) popped up: Denver toÂ Tokyo on United’s 787-8 connectingÂ on to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on ANA’s 787-8.
One stop from Denver to a city nearly on the other side of the world? Â Oh yeah, this is the kind of stuff the Dreamliner was built for.
I’ll be the first to admit it. Â I was naive. Â I really didn’t think it could get worse than our low-cost carriers (LCCs) here in the U.S. Â I mean, I’d suffered Spirit’s kneecap-busting 28-inch seat pitch. Â I’d waited an hour-and-a-half to retrieve my bags fromÂ Frontier’s severely understaffed operations at DFW. Â I’d paid for my carry-on bags, seat assignments, drinks, and everything else imaginable. Â How bad could it be?
During our recent trip to Thailand, my wife and I wanted to travel from Krabi (KBV) in the south of Thailand to Chiang Mai (CNX) in the north of the country. Â Although I enjoy different flying experiences, I certainly did not go looking to fly AirAsia. There are several operators offering tickets for this route; however, AirAsia was the only airline flying this particular route nonstop. Â Wanting to make the most of our limited vacation time, we chose to take the shortest option. Â The tickets were ridiculously cheap by U.S. standards – about $35 each.
My first hint of trouble came when I tried to check-in online the morning of ourÂ flight. I wanted to make sure that my wife and I had seats together and pay for our checked bags. When I logged on, I was able to make these selections, albeitÂ with some trouble. Â Getting assigned seats cost about 200 Bhat ($6) each.
Our checked bags would have been about 300 Bhat ($9) each. Not bad, and pretty much in line with what I expect from an LCC. But the problem came when I tried to pay. Â Try as I might, I could not get the system to accept payment without error. Â So, I tried – again and again – for nearly an hour before giving up. Oh well, I figured we’d get it resolved at the airport. Wishful thinking.