Start ’em early! Author’s son planespotting at SFO. Photo: David Delagarza
’œThat’s insane.’ That seemed to be the reaction most people, many of whom were seasoned fliers, had to our plan. My wife and I had schemed it up over a year ago while she was pregnant with our first child. We had always enjoyed traveling, and I had gotten into collecting miles and points when we found out that we would be adding a baby to the mix. We didn’t want to stop traveling once the baby was born, so we booked one of the most ambitious itineraries we could think of – flying to New Zealand, with stopovers in Japan and Australia. And, yes, we would be taking the baby with us.
11 months prior to the trip, we had the miles saved up. We had accumulated enough to book the trip in business class (at least prior to the recent United Airlines MileagePlus devaluation.) After diligently researching and waiting for availability to open up, I finally found a business class route that would work – at least until I saw the infant fare. United charges 10% of the cabin fare for lap infants on international flights. For economy cabins, this can add up to a couple hundred dollars. However, for the premium cabins, we were looking at paying nearly $1,000 each way. Although I did briefly consider footing that bill, we decided to go in economy and use the extra miles to put our son in his own seat (when we could find the award space) and stay in some nicer hotels along the way.
Our outbound itinerary ended up beginning with Denver to Tokyo Narita on United’s 787 Dreamliner. We had a 20-hour overnight stopover before continuing onto Singapore aboard Singapore Airlines’ A380. The final leg took us from Singapore to Christchurch, New Zealand on Singapore’s 777-220ER. 50 hours, four countries, and 14,000 miles just to get there.
Our return trip was a bit easier – Christchurch to Sydney on an Air New Zealand A320, followed by a 23-hour stopover in Sydney before continuing onto San Francisco on a United 747-400, connecting to Denver on a United A319. The only hitch was that I was unable to find any kind of routing that made sense for the return trip once my son was born, so he was going to fly home as a lap infant. It was sure to be quite the adventure.
Climbing out from Vancouver-YVR on ANA’s inaugural flight to Tokyo-Haneda
In Part 1 of our story, you joined me for the arrival of ANA-All Nippon Airways‘ first flight to Vancouver International Airport (YVR), the celebrations at the gate, and Flight NH 115’s departure for Tokyo-Haneda (HND).
Soon after takeoff, our 767-300ER made a wide right turn, climbing across the Strait of Georgia before turning on course northwest-bound along the center of Vancouver Island. I didn’t notice exactly when it happened, but after the landing gear retracted, the forward-view camera rotated to look straight down. As I looked up at the monitors, we flew right over the challenging little Duncan Airport, where the winds can make it interesting to land even a Cessna 172.
I watched the view for a while, and unstowed my In-Flight Entertainment System (IFE) monitor as we drifted up to our initial cruising altitude.
Virgin Australia’s new livery showcasing their transition to a premium-focused carrier Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
VIRGIN AUSTRALIA BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW BASICS:
Airline: Virgin Australia
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 (VH-YIF)
Departed: Brisbane Airport (BNE)
Arrived: Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Business class
Length: About 1.5 hours
Cheers: Fresh and funky looking cabin interior and great catering for such a short flight
Jeers: No foot-rests and no curtain divider thus limiting privacy
Overall: A great new business product on the Australian domestic market which with a few improvements will give competitors a run for their money.
During the last two years, perhaps no other airline has gone through as much transformation as Virgin Australia. Starting off as the first true low-cost carrier (LCC) in Australia in 2000 (then known as Virgin Blue) it quickly became a popular choice for leisure travelers. As the Australian market became more saturated with LCCs, Virgin decided it was time to remodel and focus more instead on the premium market. This transformation included the introduction of a business class across the fleet, with all aircraft having completed the re-fit by the 3rd quarter of 2013.
Etihad Airbus A340-600 taking off – Photo: Jacob Pfleger
Recently, Etihad Airways had a very attractive sale on business class fares between its European gateways and Australia, including codeshares with Czech Airlines from Prague. This was simply too good an offer to pass up, being the AvGeek I am.
Gear retraction on Etihad A340 – Photo: Jacob Pfleger
As I booked via the Etihad website, I was able to partake in the online upgrade auction system. This program is a fairly recent initiative introduced by Etihad Airways, along with other carriers. The program sends out an email approximately a week before the flight, inviting business class passengers to bid on unsold seats in the first class cabin, as well as business class seats for those in economy. Bids for a first class upgrade ranged from $600-$1500 (USD) for the Abu Dhabi-Sydney flight. I bid $1000, as I was celebrating my birthday and thought it would make a nice present. Bidders are advised of the outcome 48 hours prior to the flight. The system is still in the trial stage; I only got an email T-24 hours, advising that my bid had been accepted.
Upon arriving at the combined first and business class terminal at Abu Dhabi, I was greeted by a porter who took care of my luggage and escorted me to the first class check-in area. Unlike conventional check-in desks, the first class area is set up like a classy hotel, where you take a seat at a desk with an agent who processes your booking. The whole process took no more than five minutes and I was on my way to the first class lounge.
Even in The Bahamas, the view is always better with AirlineReporter! And no, I did not end up vandalizing the hotel – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter.com
Recently, the Nassau Airport Development authority in The Bahamas opened a new $83.5 million terminal to serve all non-US international destinations, as well as ’œFamily Island’ domestic travel (a new US-preclearance terminal opened a few years ago). AirlineReporter.com was invited by the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism to come tour the new airport and view the sites and some new developments in Nassau (including the $3.5 billion ’“ with a ’œB’ ’“ Baha Mar development project). Note: While I was a guest of the Ministry of Tourism on this trip, all opinions are my own.
In this part, I will cover the “experience” of getting to Nassau, as well as the amazing cultural exchange opportunity I was afforded on the night of my arrival.