Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER at LAX.
AIR NEW ZEALAND PREMIUM ECONOMY REVIEW BASICS
Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (ZK-OKM)
Departed: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Arrived: London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Premium Economy
Seat: 23A (window)
Length: 9.5 hours
Cheers: The product is great and those New Zealand accents — have to love them.
Jeers: Argh, why does my elbow keep pausing my movie?
Bottom Line: Having the word “economy” in the name seems inappropriate; it is anything but economy.
The outer seats in Premium Economy point towards the windows, giving extra privacy. I had the window seat.
THE FULL PREMIUM ECONOMY REVIEW
I recently had the opportunity to take a flight from Los Angelas International Airport (LAX) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) in Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy (note: the airline covered my airfare and I paid the taxes).
Say what? How can I fly from an American city to a foreign city on Air New Zealand? It is because of the Fifth Freedom of the Air, which allows Air New Zealand to operate their flight from Auckland to London, via LAX. Most people probably do not think about taking Air New Zealand to London, but they are a unique option that I wanted to check out.
This was my first Air New Zealand flight — kind of. I actually flew on the exact same plane earlier, when it was brand spanking new. ZK-OKM was Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 777-300ER and I was able to hitch a ride on part of the delivery flight from Paine Field (PAE) to LAX. Since it wasn’t a real revenue flight with standard service (and only 2.5hrs long), I was looking forward to checking out the full product on a much longer flight.
With the outer seat angled a bit towards the window, it makes looking outside a breeze. Taking off from LAX (and yes, I had permission to take this photo below 10,000 feet).
When I first toured the airline’s 777-300ER, I had a hard time placing exactly what Premium Economy was. To me, it looked like something one would find in a long-haul business class.
Air New Zealand has had Premium economy on their 777-200s, but this product is very different. On the -200, it is your standard economy seat, in a 3-3-3 layout with some extra recline and seat-pitch. Not bad, but the new Premium Economy is in a whole other league.
Not only are the seats in a 2-2-2 layout, they don’t face forward. The first question you have to ask yourself when booking your ticket is if you want to interact with the person next to you or not. If you want to talk, dine or even snuggle with your seatmate, you probably want to go for the inner-space seats, located in the middle of the plane. Even though the seats are slightly tilted away from each other, they easily allow people to interact if desired.
The Premium Economy is in a 2-2-2 layout. The outer seats give better privacy than the inner seats.
If you are on your own or want some additional privacy, then getting a seat in the outer-space is for you. Each seat is tilted towards the window and gives more of a sense of privacy.
Having my seat tilted towards the window made taking off even a better experience than usual. It was a little weird at first orienting myself when I was tilted, but after a few minutes, I didn’t even notice anymore.
Since the seat in front is not directly centered, the video screen and tray table popped out and slid over for easier usability. I had plenty of room to work on my large laptop, while watching a movie.
The in-flight entertainment system was good enough and when browsing through the eight pages of movies, I found quite a few that I was interested in seeing. The system was quite slick, having a favorite list, that I could add what I wanted to watch later, so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to watch.
Dang you remote! Why do you have to get in my way? The round silver thing above the remote is a pop out LED light.
The main downside of the product was the location of the remote — which was right by my left elbow. I ended up hitting it more than once, causing issues with my viewing experience. I unlatched the remote and let it hang, so I wouldn’t hit it anymore — problem solved.
The remote is not really needed, since the you can do everything (except use the keyboard, turn on your light or call a flight attendant) via the touch screen.
When will the lights dim? When will I get my next meal? This screen will tell you.
One of the coolest things on the in-flight entertainment system is the “My Flight” menu. This really gives you an itinerary of where you are at during the flight, when you will eat and when the lights will be bright or dimmed. This was great to be able to plan out when I wanted to sleep, when service would start and even when I could order food on demand.
Salmon, bread and wine make sense for a starter, but dessert too?
The food wasn’t too shabby. For dinner I was first served smoked salmon, watercress shoots, toasted almonds and burnt orange mayonnaise. For the main meal I had a choice between lamb, cod and chicken. I went with the lamb with potatoes and minted peas.
Then for desert was raspberry almond cheesecake, but it was odd, since the dessert was put on my tray with my appetizer and remained there until I was done with my meal. Maybe it is a cultural thing?
For breakfast, I had a choice between a chicken herb sausage cheese omelet, or Belgian waffles with strawberries. Not going to lie, I had a hard time making that decision, but I decided on sleeping through the meal, which I later regretted.
This is how dark it got during the flight. Taken over northern Canada.
The seats in Premium Economy do not fully recline, but it does go back farther than economy and there is a little beanbag pillow to put your legs up.
Although the product is slick, you don’t get all the bells and whistles as Business Class — which makes sense. Both premium classes get priority ticket counter access, but only business gets access to the Koru Club Lounge. If you want to get into the lounge, you can buy a day pass for $55, which isn’t a bad deal.
From Los Angeles to London, economy class normally runs around $1200 and Premium Economy runs about $2400. Not bad considering the product one gets when upgrading.
My biggest suggestion is to change the name of this product. The old Premium Economy was just that. An economy product with a bit more leg room, but they were the same seats as economy, with the same seat layout.
The new Premium Economy is much closer to Business Class than economy and not changing the name doesn’t do the product justice. Even calling it something like “Kiwi Class” would be beneficial, because when most people fly and see a “premium economy” seat, they just think space a few inches of extra, but this product is much more than that.
MORE PHOTOS OF AIR NEW ZEALAND PREMIUM ECONOMY:
Catching the Bolt Bus in Seattle, WA. Photo by Malcolm Muir.
This is a guest post written by Malcolm Muir for AirlineReporter.com. Here is his experience with Bolt Bus in his own words (note: Malcom paid his own way there and back) …
A last minute trip north to Vancouver gave me the opportunity (and an excuse) to try out Bolt Bus. Bolt is a new entrant to the Pacific Northwest market and started operations late May. Bolt is owned and operated by Greyhound and from stories I had heard about service etc. from Greyhound I was a little apprehensive.
Costs were extremely good. A one way ticket method cost the day before departure was only $33 round trip (including the $1 booking fee). This was for a late Friday evening departure and mid-Sundays afternoon return so prime services. Like the airlines, fares can vary depending on the time of day as an earlier return from Vancouver would have saved around $10. Fares start at $1 with Bolt Bus so if you can get in early enough with the booking fee could be $3 round trip.
The boarding passes/booking confirmation is emailed and/or texted to you immediately and you’re set. Bolt Bus boards by groups similar to airline zones (unsure how they are assigned though as I was given Group A for both tickets) which helps to ensure that people won’t just rush the bus when it arrives.
Seattle is the middle point for journeys in either direction so there could be delays that hold up the bus (such as traffic in heavy times) however my bus arrived from Portland about 10 minutes prior to its scheduled departure to Vancouver.
Unfortunately, there currently isn’t any signage at the Seattle departure point (5th Ave S & King Street, the International District bus station) so there were many people milling about with worried looks on their faces asking “does Bolt Bus go from here?”
The buses are all modern looking, with leather seated interiors, more seat pitch compared to the competitors, and power points at each row (mounted to the row in front, so avoid the first row as none fitted). Free Wi-Fi is offered inboard however it only works as far as the Border crossing as they don’t seem to have coverage in Canada.
One downside of the seat is the lack of a tray table. There is ample room for it to fit and would definitely make working with a laptop easier but it’s not a deal breaker.
Both trips were lightly loaded, so a set of two seats to myself allowed me to spread out the gear and get some work done. Heading north, the traffic was light and the 8pm departure time avoids most of the I5 traffic snarls of an afternoon. We departed a few minutes late out of Seattle, but this, again, is not a deal breaker.
Bolt Bus allows 2 hours from Seattle north to the border, 30 minutes for the border crossing and another hour into Vancouver, ample time in the 2 hours to catch him up and also relax into the weekend.
The border crossing heading north was uneventful other than having ingredients to wait for 5 minutes while they found some staff, a few questions and I was stamped into Canada. The continued journey resumed right at the 30 minute mark (they leave once everyone is processed so this is where scheduled time could take a hit) and completed the journey into Vancouver in the allotted 1 hour.
Since there is no food service and no stops between Seattle and Vancouver, you need to bring it with you. I took stuff with me on the bus and had no problems, however be mindful of the border crossing as some foods can’t go over (saw a lady have to bin an apple at US customs). The Seattle stop is a good location to pick up some food as it’s right next to Uwijamaya for some good Japanese/Asian food and drinks at non airport pricing.
There is a bathroom on board the bus, but luckily I did not end up having to use it.
Okay legroom, but no tray table on the Bolt Bus.
We arrived into a deserted Pacific Central at 1135pm and it is a bit nerve racking to not see any cabs at the terminal but I am sure this will be against changed in the long run once Bolt have been up and running longer.
The journey south was even more painless as there was an extremely light load. The driver separated the boarding groups to control the group easier but in this instance probably was not needed as much. Traffic was very light for a Sunday afternoon and we made the border early and with customs & immigration taking only 15 minutes for the load we were back on the road early.
After an amazing sight returning to Seattle with a blue sky and a magnificent view of Mt Rainer from I5 we actually arrived 30 mins early. A smooth painless journey in either direction.
And back to Seattle on the Bolt Bus.
The journey with Bolt Bus was definitely an easy one, from the simple booking process to the journey itself, more reminiscent of an ultra-express service as no stops are made between cities. A couple of issues do need to be addressed such as connectivity across the border and signage at departure points; however for the price it’s not that big of an issue.
Bolt Bus favors highly over the direct competitors such as Greyhound and Quick bus. But there would be good competition from Amtrak. With Bolt Bus, if loads are light border crossings would be much quicker than Amtrak as they do not have to work through an entire training load of people, however Amtrak is not at the mercy of traffic problems so if a journey was made during the prime peak hour times, this could obviously add significant delays.
Compared to flying though the price is definitely a big difference as a last minute return with Air Canada was pricing in at $600 return for Best Available fare. Amtrak fares were around $100 return.
If you can get the fares for as little as $1 each way, then Bolt bus is definitely a fantastic option and can only improve as the service gets a bit more popular and has time to be able to settle into the PNW market.
Lufthansa's first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental is one beautiful aircraft. Here she is seen after her first flight in DC.
It has been a long road from the conception of the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental to the first passenger flight on June 1, 2012. Being based in Seattle, I have had the privilege of watching Lufthansa Airlines first 747-8I go from a few parts to a revenue-making machine. I felt beyond lucky when I was invited by Lufthansa to take part on their inaugural flight from Frankfurt Airport (FRA) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).
It was a whirlwind trip; leaving Seattle on a non-stop flight to Frankfurt, arriving at 8am local time and about 24 hours later, leaving on the 747-8I (I will write a future story on my 24 hours in Frankfurt). Fifty-eight hours and 12,000 miles after I left, I was back home in Seattle — well worth the adventure.
A look at Lufthansa's First Class on board the Boeing 747-8I.
There has been plenty of prep work by Lufthansa to train their crews on the new aircraft type. Currently, the airline has ten pilots qualified to fly the 747-8I, but soon they will have many more. Pilots trained on the 747-400 only need a three-day training course and a flight on the new plane to be qualified. Since Lufthansa just recently acquired the 747-8I, it hasn’t had many opportunities to allow pilots to fly it, but that will now change.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the delivery ceremony, so I was excited to get on board my first Intercontinental. During my 24 hour blitz in Frankfurt, there was a special unveiling event allowing me to preview the new 747 and to get access to First Class.
Lufthansa Airline's new Business Class product, which has debuted on the 747-8I.
For the average passenger, he/she might not notice that the 747-8I is something new. From the outside, one might notice the raked wingtips versus the winglets of the 747-400 or the larger upper deck, but it most likely will take the trained eye of an avgeek to see the difference. Inside, there are features, like LED lighting, improved overhead bins, and a feeling of space, that have become familiar on the 787 Dreamliner and 737 with new Boeing Sky Interior.
Not only is the 747-8I a new aircraft for Lufthansa, but it also debuts the airline’s new Business Class. I had seen photos previously, but photos do not do it justice. The new product is much more spacious, cleaner and just plain (or should it be “plane”) better in person.
The new Business Class looks classy and has all the bells and whistles that high end fliers have come to expect.
The new business seats are unique to Lufthansa and will not be found on any other airline. They are in a V-shape 2-2-2 layout with each seat having the feet angled towards each other. I wasn’t quite sure how it would work out and worried that I might have ended up playing footsies with my seat-mate. Luckily, that was not a problem.
The pair of seats in the middle of the aircraft have an advantage over those by the windows — they have more room. With these biz seats, passengers might actually prefer the center seats, although I felt my seat had more than plenty of space.
Lufthansa has its Boeing 747-400 configured with 344 seats and its Airbus A380 with 526 seats — both in a 3-class layout. The new Intercontinental is configured with 362 seats with eight in First Class, located in the nose of the aircraft, 92 Business Class seats, with 32 on the upper deck and the remainder on the main deck, and 262 in Economy class, all found on the main deck.
Lufthansa will continue operating the 747 on more premium routes, since they have a higher percentage of premium seats versus the A380.
Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz says a few words before we depart. FYI: "Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental" in German sounds amazing.
Before departure, there was a ceremony at the gate’s Business/First Class lounge with executives of both Lufthansa and Boeing present. After a glass of champagne and some applause, it was time to board the sparkling 747-8 Intercontinental.
Even though I was on the same plane a day earlier, the energy is entirely different when you are just checking out the interior, versus when you are able ready to take flight. “Epic” and “giddy” would probably be appropriate words to describe it.
Time to load up. Lufthansa has gate lounges where folks in premium cabins can board directly from the lounge. Keep it classy people!
I had seat 10K — a window seat in Business Class, located on the main deck. I quickly got settled in and was ready to start on an historical journey.
This inaugural flight was unique since there were only 75 invited guests and media and the rest were paying passengers. Most airlines won’t have “normal” passengers on inaugural flights, so it was great seeing all the people (some who had no idea) enjoying the experience.
And we have lift off!
How was the flight? Amazing, unforgettable, awesome (insert your positive adjective here). The Intercontinental is not only a beautiful aircraft, but one that flies very well. During take-off, it was music to the ears hearing the four GEnx engines spool up. The large aircraft used a good chunk of the runway before lifting off and once airborne, the aircraft was quiet and allowed you to easily talk to the person next to you.
I was seated right in front of the right wing, which provided great views. I could easily witness the wings flex up, similar to the 787, but not quiet as dramatic. I was actually happy when we hit a pocket of turbulence, because I was able to watch the engines and wings do their dance.
It might take some training of the flight attendants to reassure worried passengers that the wings are supposed to do that.
The upper deck of Lufthansa's Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.
Moving a few times from the main deck to the upper deck, I noticed that up top was a bit louder due to wind noise. It is not enough that a passenger would choose the main deck, but enough that it could be observed.
I know many of you are wondering; how does the Airbus A380 compare to the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental? Well, it is not an easy comparison to make. I haven’t flown on an A380 in a while and without back-to-back flights, it is hard to award an overall winner.
In a beauty contest, hands down, the 747-8 takes the crown. The A380 is a cool looking machine that functions well, but it doesn’t have the grace (nor history) that the 747 has. In the noise department, I think the A380 probably wins out.
The A380 and 747-8I are both great aircraft with their own benefits, but have different missions. Really, with how Lufthansa configures their aircraft, the Airbus A340-600 probably competes more directly with the new Intercontinental than the A380 does.
Down we go! it might not be the spiral stair case of the historical 747's, but it does the job.
During the flight, I had ample opportunity to put the new Business Class to the test. It is a huge improvement over the old product — which isn’t too shabby, but it is starting to show its age.
Each person is given plenty of room, a larger screen and a lie-flat seat. There are additional nooks to store things, an easier to use in-flight entertainment system and one of my favorite things that probably will go unnoticed: the ability to put down your arm rest to have more room sitting or sleeping.
The in-flight entertainment system will be familiar to frequent Lufthansa flyers, but it is much crisper and quicker. There are additional viewing choices, but I would still like to see more. I am able to forgive the lack of choice, since the IFE offers a camera view looking forward and down from the front of the aircraft.
The center arm rest holds your head phones, remote, tray table, but you have to make sure your arm doesn't hit those buttons.
For me, the biggest drawback with the new Lufthansa Business Class is the placement of the seat controls. They have been moved from the remote to a prominent location on the front of the arm rest. On more than one occasion my arm would accidentally hit one of the buttons and my seat would start to unexpectedly move. Asking others who also made the flight, they didn’t seem to have the same issue, so maybe it was just me (and my muscular arms getting in the way — okay probably not).
I was planning on staying awake the entire flight to absorb the entire experience, but after a few celebatory cocktails and my lack of sleep kicking in, I crashed for about one and a half hours. Since the sleep caught me off guard, I did not put the seat in the lie-flat position, but I rested comfortably without waking up in the half-way position. I have to say that the new pillow and blanket are a positive improvement and it is sometimes the little things that count the most.
It is rare to get two water cannon salutes, but FRA gave us one leaving and this is IAD's one to us when we arrived.
When we started our descent, I wasn’t ready for the flight to end. The touch down was smooth and our welcome was warm. We had a water cannon salute at the gate and a group of media, guests and employees taking photos from the tarmac. We were escorted through customs and brought to an arrival party at the main terminal. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay long, since I had to be off on my flight back to Seattle.
This 747-8I inaugural flight was much more than just a flight. It represents all the hard work (and patience) of all the people who worked so diligently to make it possible. I know that it sounds cliche, but I think this aircraft has been well worth the wait.
Lufthansa is planning on taking delivery of four more Intercontinentals before the end of the year and Boeing has stated on the flight there are other airlines (even ones in the US) that are showing interest in the 747-8.
The photo doesn't do a great job showing the wing curve -- you will just have to go see it for yourself.
I am happy to celebrate the new Queen of the Skies initiation into revenue service. It starts with only one flight and one airline, but it won’t be long before millions are hopefully able to enjoy the benefits of the historical and new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.
SEE ALL 51 PHOTOS FROM THE LUFTHANSA BOEING 747-8 INTERCONTINENTAL INAUGURAL FLIGHT
Learn, Read, See More on the Flight:
* Photos on AirChive.com
* Video, photos and story on Jaunted.com
* Story on Wi-Fi on Lufthansa’s 747-8I via APEX blog
* Shots of us landing at IAD from @RacingWinds
I couldn't get any good shots of my 777-200LR in Seattle or Dubai, so I am using this photo of another Emirates Boeing 777-300ER that I took from my aircraft.
EMIRATES AIRLINE REVIEW BASICS:
Airline: Emirates Airline
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Departed: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Arrived: Dubai International Airport (DXB)
tops: Non-stop flight Class: Business Class
Seat: 8D to DXB (center, aisle, bulkhead) and 11A to SEA (window)
Length: About 14 hours
Cheers: Great combination of service and product.
Jeers: If you have wide shoulders, avoid the center seat — even in business class.
Overall: Emirates makes a 14 hour flight easy.
With the wood paneling, the Business Class really has a warm atmosphere. Notice the real flowers on the bulkhead.
THE FULL EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW:
On March 1st, Emirates started flying from Seattle to Dubai non-stop. I was invited to try out Emirates Business Class product on one of their recent flights (the airline covered the costs of the flight). This review will be a mixture of both my flight to and from Dubai — although I slept most of the way home.
The benefits of sitting in a premium cabin starts well before you get to the gate, but only once you arrive to the airport. With Emirates, the benefits of flying in Business Class starts at home. If you fly in either Business or First class you have access to a free chauffeured car within 60 miles of your arriving or departing airport. Unfortunately I did not do my homework before leaving and did not find out about that service until I was in Dubai (thanks Ben for the ride to the airport by the way).
However, I was able to make use of the service when coming home and it is always great having someone greeting you with your name on a sign that escorts you right to your front door in a Town Car. Having a Business Class ticket normally gives you access to a lounge at the airport and flying Emirates out of Seattle is no different. Passengers who have either first or business class tickets are able to use the new Club International lounge before their flight.
Emirate's Business Class seats offer quite a bit of room and one ginormous remote.
Since I stayed in the lounge for a while, my flight was almost fully loaded by the time I arrived at the gate and I was able to just walk on the plane. I messed up and forgot to check myself in online (I know, what kind of airline reporter am I?), so I ended up in a middle seat: 8E. Emirates has their 777-200LR configured in a 2-3-2 layout in business.
Even though the seats are larger, I was not looking forward to being in the center for 14 hours, but at least I wasn’t in economy. When I found my seat and sat down, I became a little worried — my shoulders touched both sides of the hard plastic walls — not good. Luckily for me the lovely (and smaller) Harriet Baskas, who was in my media travel group, had the aisle seat next to me and offered to swap. I gladly took her up on her offer and never had any problems with the seat width with the open aisle.
I think I would have managed just fine in the center seat, but if you have wider shoulders, I would surely advice checking in earlier to claim a non-center seat.
If you like technology and gadgets, you will love Emirates ice entertainment system. Each seat in first and business gets this large, removable remote.
Emirates entertainment system, called ice, was amazing, but a bit overwhelming. First off, you have three options on how to control the system: touching the screen, using the removable touch screen remote or use the smaller wired remote. When sitting in a bulkhead seat, even at 6’1″, I was unable to touch the screen. When I flew back to Seattle I was not at the bulkhead and was able to touch, but it wasn’t easy and I would imagine near impossible if you measuring in at less than 5’10”.
I am normally not very slow when it comes to technology or in-flight entertainment systems, but it seemed like I could only do some things with one remote and I had to do other things with the smaller one. I am sure I just wasn’t able to figure it out, but if I had trouble, I am sure most other people did too. It is worth trying to get past the control issues, because once you do, there are many options — 1200 to be exact.
Emirates, by far, has the largest selection of movies and entertainment I have experienced. After flying a total of 27 hours to Dubai and back, I still had not explored everything it had to offer. For a frequent flier on the airline, this would be a huge perk. No matter what class you are flying in, you get access to the same ice entertainment system (just not the fancy large remote if you are in economy).
Emirates configures their Boeing 777s with a 2-3-2 layout in Business Class. Notice how the windows have buttons to move the shades.
One on my favorite things, on systems that offer it, are the outside cameras you can access on your screen. The Emirates 777 has one facing forward and once facing straight down. Being in the center section during take off, it was handy watching the aircraft take off via the cameras. We took off to the north and just kept going — almost in a straight line over the north pole and back down to Dubai. Because of this, it never got dark outside.
Passengers also have the option to make a phone call at $5 per minute or send text messages for $1 per message. Every time I tried to access the service, it said it was unavailable, which was okay by me. I was planning on trying it out for the story, but was not motivated to ask one of the flight attendants, since I did not mind saving my money. Although Emirates does have Wi-Fi up and running on all their Airbus A380s, they do not have it on the rest of their main fleet (777, A330, A340) — yet.
When the lights go down, the stars come up. Emirates offers a special StarLight feature providing a great sleeping atmosphere.
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is touted as being unique for its ambient lighting and electronic sunshades. The Emirates product in business and in first is almost as close as you can get to the 787 interior.
First, they have the ambient lighting; going from a soft white/yellow to pinks to purple for the different light cycles. Then you have the windows up front that do not have manual shades, but two buttons that make the shades go up and down. The flight attendants have the ability to to put up or down all the shades, similar to the 787.
What Emirate’s 777 has that no 787 has (yet) are the stars that come out on the ceiling. Called StarLight, this amazing feature is unique to Emirates and really sets the mood. It is hard to describe, laying flat on a bed at 35,000 feet, opening your eyes and seeing stars.
It is too bad that Emirates doesn’t have any 787’s on order; it would be amazing what they could (and probably would) do with that cabin.
Steak, potatoes I cannot pronounce and red wine at 30,000 feet? Yea, I can handle that.
After settling in, it was time for meal service. My dinner started with a traditional mezze platter with hummus, smoky moutabal, muhammara, vine leaves and a spinach fatayer. Yea, I don’t know what half of that means either, but I can tell you that it was great. Then I was served roasted tomato and thyme soup and salad, followed by the main course of beef fillet with shallots and dauphionouse style potatoes. I decided to skip the dessert option and have a bit more red wine — nice call.
Economy class still provides large screens, amenities and food. Eh, I will stick to Business Class.
I feel very lucky that I get these opportunities to fly in the front of the plane on long flights, but there is no doubt that I have put my time in economy. During the ride over to Dubai, I made an effort to make a lap around the plane and check out economy. During my tour, most people were sleeping and there were so many feet, arms, shoulders, etc out in the aisle — it was a challenge to get through without bumping into people.
With the 3-4-3 layout in economy, it is a bit tight, but doable with the large screens and same ice entertainment system. That being said, I was happy to return to the business class cabin.
Business Class is nice, but First Class is better. Each seat is like its own cubicle, with closing doors.
When I complete flight reviews, I try to stay anonymous as long as I can. Typically a flight attendant will start asking questions (not suspiciously, but out of curiosity) when I am taking photos of my remote, food, etc. One of the benefits of being known as media is getting access to the aircraft that others might not.
On the flight back to Seattle, I was given the opportunity to spend some time up in First Class. Luckily for me, there were no passengers in the front cabin, which gave me time to check it out and talk to the flight crew. There are four crew members assigned to first class, including the pursuer. They normally work in shifts of two, but when there are no passengers in first, they are able to enjoy a relaxing flight and also will help the rest of the cabin crew, if needed.
Where business felt so much better than economy, similarly first class felt so much better than business. There are only eight first class suites, where each has a large seat, own mini-bar, large tv screen, similar controls to business class and doors that can be closed to give ultimate privacy.
Taking off from Dubai I could see the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in the background.
One indicator on how good a product is on an airline is how well I am able to sleep. The fact that I slept five hours to Dubai and about 10 hours back to Seattle is a positive sign for sure. Another indicator is how happy I am that I was able to sleep so much. In this case, I was upset that I slept so much and wasn’t able to enjoy my experience a bit better. Emirates has lived up to its reputation for providing a fabulous flying experience.
Next is to try and test out their newer business product on the Airbus A380 — stay tuned.
See all 52 photos from my Emirates Airline flight
MORE STORIES ON MY DUBAI TRIP:
* Photo Tour of Emirates Airline Crew Training in Dubai
* Airline Lounge Review: Club International at Sea-Tac Airport
Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 757-200 at Addis' Bole International Airport. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
Previously I shared a review of Ethiopian Airline’s Cloud Nine Business class, written by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren for NYCAviation.com. This is his second review, which looks at Ethopian’s economy class. Here is his review in his own words…
WASHINGTON DC: Four flights, forty-four hours of flying, and one day trip to Ethiopian Airlines headquarters in Addis Ababa later, NYCAviation (NYCA) has one good story ready to roll. Over the course of the next month, NYCA will be debuting a three part series focusing on the Ethiopian carrier; their in-flight service, their history, and their future. We hope you’ll join us for the adventure!
The first in the three part series, NYCA reviews the in-flight experience in the economy cabin on board Jo’Burg to Addis and Addis Ababa to Dulles flights. Both flights were inaugurated during the mid to late 1990s as part of an aggressive expansion of their international service surrounding their 50 year anniversary (1996 and 1998, respectively). Ethiopian provided the flights to NYCA at no charge, flying both legs in September 2011.
Part I Jo’Burg to Addis
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 808 Service to Addis Ababa from Johannesburg
Boeing 757-200 ET-AMT or AMU
Dep: 1438/SAST Arr: 2030/EAT
Seat 15A: Economy Class
Having been dropped off from a previous flight in the domestic terminal in Johannesburg, finding the international check in desks was a bit of a chore. Once located, the line had built up to a forty minute wait, despite not having a bag to check.
Once ticketed, customs and security were both very straightforward and easy. The inbound flight from Addis was running late, and I spotted an Ethiopian Boeing 757, not the listed Boeing 767, rolling to a stop on the runway about twenty minutes prior to boarding time. Nevertheless, boarding began only eight minutes late at 1348 local time, and I settled into 15A for the five hour flight north to Addis Ababa. My carry-on has no problem finding a home, and the camera comes out for departure. The 757 being the performer that it is, we rocket nicely out of Johannesburg about 32 minutes behind schedule.
Considering the 757’s are some of the older aircraft in a fleet that is otherwise unusually young, the quality of the cabin is remarkably good. All the economy seats are (p)leather clad and comfortable enough for economy. They recline a workable 32 degrees of pitch and feature a built in remote in the armrest for selections of music or movies. However, it was odd that the armrest did not lie flush with the seat when not reclined. It stuck out a healthy amount, enough so that if you were lucky enough to have a seat vacant next to you (as I did) it becomes hard to stretch out without getting poked by it.
This particular aircraft was not outfitted with personal TV’s but did have the screens that are fixed to the cabin ceiling. The programming began about 45 minutes in with the smaller shows through dinner culminating to the movie about three hours in.
A meal & drink service began about an hour into the flight presenting options of chicken or fish. The meal consisted of chicken breast with a tomato sauce, rice and carrots. A roll with butter, crackers & block of cheddar cheese, salad with Greek dressing, and packaged desert of coconut cheesecake with berry sauce complimented the main dish. Overall it was a serious step up from anything you’d get domestically in the US nowadays, but it was not ultra fantastic either. It was satisfying, filling, warm & good. The meal was followed up by traditional post meal coffee and tea service. Trays were cleared about an hour following dinner, which appeared problematic for many of the other passengers, since most were done within twenty minutes.
While not watching the movie most of the flight was spent sleeping or talking up the staff in the rear galley. Speaking of the staff, there were some noteworthy exchanges. For the first, I attempted to inform a flight attendant, who throughout the whole flight never gave the impression that she was thrilled to be on board, that one of the lavatories had an issue needing attention ’“ I never received a response. On the flip side, I had some questions about how customs and the process in general worked once arriving in Addis. I inquired in the rear galley and all three flight attendants were extremely helpful in answering each and every question in addition to pouring me a few drinks. The one attendant aside, the staff met or exceeded expectations for friendliness and professionalism. I wish I had more pictures from this flight, but unfortunately the vibe was not right for it, so the camera stayed put away through most of it.
Despite the late departure we made up the time in the air and ended up landing ten minutes early; a nice surprise. After waiting for Cloud Nine business class passengers to vacate, we de-boarded via the air stairs and onto large busses that took us the short distance to the terminal.
Ethiopian Boeing 777 in Addis. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
Part II Addis to Washington Dulles ’“ Via Rome
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 500 Service to Washington Dulles from Addis Ababa via Rome
Boeing 777-200LR ET-ANO
Dep: 2227/EAT Arr: 0300/CEST // Dep: 0801 Arr: 1117
Seat 23A: Economy Class
Arriving at the ticket counter around seven at night after a long day, it was relieving to see a ticket counter dedicated solely to the flight. Check-in was smooth and fast, with customs and security following the pattern. At 2130 the flight begins to board, and twenty minutes later I settle into 23A for seventeen hours aboard the brand-spanking new Boeing 777-200LR (ET-ANO). Despite a scheduled departure of 2205, we did not end up pushing from the gate until 2216, with wheels up for Rome at 2227. Twenty minutes is not the end of the world though, and we predictably made it up en route while trekking over Sudan, Egypt, and the Mediterranean.
Much like the prior flight from Addis to Jo’berg, the first meal service promptly began about an hour in. We were offered choices of chicken, beef, or fish. I chose chicken. It was bathed in a cream sauce along with rice and carrots. A side salad, crackers & cheese, and a roll with butter were also provided. The meal was of average quality and filling. It might have been better – or I might have been a better judge – had I not had a nasty head cold that developed from the day before. As a result, my sense of taste was not in its best form.
While waiting for the dinner tray to be cleared I spent some time playing BlackJack on the 777’s seat back entertainment system. It was clear that Lady Luck was not with me, as I burned through my 1000 in fake money in what may have been a new airline record. Shortly after, while starting a movie, the entertainment system froze and then shut down completely. My seatmate had the same problem, and flagged down a flight attendant who attempted to rectify the problem. About thirty minutes later the system restarts and is fine for the remainder of the flight. Most of the rest of the first leg is spent asleep.
We touched down in Rome almost twenty-five minutes ahead of schedule at 0300. A short taxi later we’re in position on a remote ramp for a refuel. Most of the cabin is asleep, watching a movie or reading a book, and no one seems to notice that the hour scheduled stop has come and gone. About ninety minutes into the stop the pilot announces that we’re still taking on fuel and it’ll be another hour: plus some tires have ’œlow pressure’ and need to be replaced. Frankly this sounds fishy to me, low pressure in the tires does not normally require replacement unless they were totally flat, but maintenance is what it is and at this point complaining is not going to get me off any faster. Another hour later the jack for the tires arrives and it is not large enough. The correct one does not arrive for another ninety minutes or so. By the time the plane has been refueled (twice by the pilot’s record) and fixed up with new tires the stop in Rome lasts just over five hours: No fun.
That being said, the airline and the flight crew did a great job of making an unfortunate situation tolerable. Consider: the plane was kept cool, powered, and the entertainment functional the entire five hours. The crew completed a meal service (I’m told it was breakfast, feeling pretty awful I slept through it), and offered drinks the whole time. And they kept smiling to boot ’“ impressive. We finally set off for Rome four hours behind schedule, with wheels up at 0801 local time.
Cutting to the product itself, the seat-back entertainment is quite nice. The on-demand offerings ranged from TV to games, flight maps to movies. The screen can be operated by touch or by a remote built into the armrest. The seat reclines to 32’ of pitch, and also pushes out to decrease the amount of recline into the person behind you’s space. The plus side is the passenger in front of you takes up less of your space’¦the downside is you reduce your leg room by pushing the seat out. The trade-off seems worthwhile to me.
The airplane being new (the average age of the 777 fleet is under one year), the cabin is predictably in great shape and the newness of the airplane impresses a lot of travelers. The 3-3-3 setup feels reasonably spacious, despite the cabin being full to the brim (287 folks on board).
The remaining nine and some change hours en route from Rome were largely spent sleeping and catching a few movies. Still feeling rather ill, I declined brunch except for a ginger ale, though the food of my seatmate appeared to be similar in nature to the late night dinner we had some twelve hours earlier.
We greased the runway at Dulles at 1117 local time and pulled up to the gate quickly. Deboarding was a bit chaotic, but with a little planning I ended up being first off those annoying Dulles customs shuttles, allowing for a quick sprint through customs and back into the good ole U S of A.
Departure out of Johannesburg. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
Part III The Bottom Line
Regarding Flight 808 to Addis, it was a slightly above average economy experience. The service and staff were generally friendly and fast, the food was good, and the seat on par for an economy experience. Personal entertainment systems, like a seat back system, would have been a bonus, but the five hour flight is not terribly long: bring a book or an e-reader if you need some help passing time or utilize the in-flight entertainment. When compared against most US domestic economy sections, this flight comes out looking good. With the variance on plane types for the flight, you might even be treated to an oversized Boeing 767.
Moving on to Flight 500, let’s cut right to it: seventeen hours on an aluminum tube in coach is never going to be a picnic no matter the carrier. And even worse when an unexpected delay pushes it to twenty-one straight hours.
Addressing the delay, a five hour ground stop for fueling and tire replacement seemed excessive, but this is also a moment that forces an airline and a crew to show their true colors. In this respect Ethiopian met or exceeded expectations: they kept the plane powered & cool and the PTV’s running, they completed a food service, and they kept drinks available through the entire stopover; with a smile. What could have been a nightmare worth writing home over instead turned into an opportunity to show off the airline and crews ability to manage a stressful situation and make the best out of it.
The vast majority of the time, however, the flight will not experience a similar delay and by and large customers will find an enjoyable economy experience. Friendly service, plentiful & decent hot meals, and a well stocked entertainment system help the scheduled seventeen hour flight go by fast.
Overall, while other reviews online are not especially positive, this traveler had a markedly pleasant experience on both economy flights even with the five hour delay in Rome factored in. When you consider prices that the carrier has recently offering on the flights, it is an option that is hard to pass up. This author feels that most travelers will find themselves pleasantly surprised and that coach travelers can rest assured that they will be kept comfortable and well fed on board Ethiopian economy.