My transpacific odyssey Part 2: JL62 Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles

Part 1: HKG-NRT CX504 (Business Class) and the Pier First Class lounge (Here)

Part 2: NRT-LAX JL62 (Business Class), JAL First Class lounge, QF LAX First Class lounge, LAX-DEN AA (Economy Class) (You are here)

Part 3: DEN-ORD AA2312 (Economy Class), United Polaris Lounge, ORD-HND NH111 (First Class) [to come]

Part 4: HND-HKG CX543 (Business Class) and the Cathay Pacific Haneda Lounge revisited [to come]

Part 5: HKG-LHR CX257 (Business Class)

I started my New Year’s Eve in Kyoto and ended it in a suburb in Denver. Because of flying over the International Date Line, I had 40 hours of New Year’s Eve which was quite a novelty. In terms of the flights, I redeemed 75,000 BA Avios for the Japan Airlines Business Class from Tokyo to Los Angeles, which represented good value for the peak season. I paid for the Economy Class ticket from Los Angeles to Denver which as OneWorld Emerald I have free food/drinks and free exit-row seating, so was excellent all round. I also visited the First Class lounges in Narita and Los Angeles, which was excellent.

Japanese trains are wonderful – they run extremely on time

As an OneWorld Emerald member, I was allowed to check in at First Class check-in. There was no wait, I was escorted by the staff checking me in and she tagged my bag all the way to Denver (although I still needed to pick it up at Los Angeles to clear customs)

Even though it was not clearly signposted, OneWorld Emerald members are allowed to use the First Class private security offered by JAL. There was no one in security, which was handy. I managed to get through quickly and immigration was efficient too.

I quickly arrived at the First Class lounge

There was no a la carte dining at this lounge which was a significant downgrade from what I experienced in most OneWorld Emerald lounges, but the food quality was quite good

Food offering

My plane has pulled in about 2 hours prior to departure – and yet departure was still delayed

I went over to the satellite building lounge to stretch my legs slightly

And more champagne!

The sushi bar opened at 3 pm

Out of everything they offered, I only wanted some eggs

Soon enough, it was time for boarding. The gate area was absolutely swamped with people – looked as if it would be an extremely full flight. The First Class line was extremely long too

First Class through Door 1 – everyone else through Door 2

The Business Class cabin

8C for me today

The TV was in Japanese by default – took a bit of time to get it out of Japanese mode

Route today

Sparkling wine in a plastic flute to start

For some reason, safety briefing was done manually rather than through the personal TV screens

The noise-cancelling headphones

It was a long taxi and then we took off

Hot towel was first offered

My table was soon laid

Sake to start

First course

Everything was extremely good

Bread was given on request

Main course was beef tongue and grilled eel. It was very oil but freshly steamed rice is always appreciated

By this point, we have just over 7.5 hours to go

Dessert and green tea

More desserts

Water bottles were given out just before bed time

More green tea

My bed – it was not long enough for me (1.85m) – the mattress was very comfortable but the cabin temperature was consistently too warm for me to use the blankets

Just lost a day!

My pre-arrival meal: octopus balls, rice porridge with smoked fish and some fruits

View of sunrise

We are nearly there!

Some dessert

Well into California

We landed a few minutes behind schedule and it took a while for us to get to our stand

But immigration was extremely fast in LAX so I was out within 20 minutes

My verdict: It was a rather solid flight. I enjoyed the lounge a lot – it was a quiet place that serves above par food and good wifi for walking. The flight itself was fine – food was above par, the wine selection was good and the service was generally decent. The flight was exceptionally full and it could feel a bit like clockwork. I am really not a fan of the seat – I find it a bit difficult to sleep in and the cabin temperature was definitely set too high.

I quickly re-cleared security at TBIT and headed to the QF First Class lounge for my long layover at LAX. It was an elegantly appointed lounge and with only a handful of people in there during my stay – everything was done perfectly. I enjoyed the food there and the wifi was quick, which allowed me to finish up on some work.

Literally no one here

Breakfast menu

Lunch

To start: some Rose Champagne

Salt and Pepper Squid was excellent

Trout with fresh greens and French fries – all were excellent

Peppermint tea to finish with some desserts

All the food was of extremely high quality and was extremely elegantly presented. It helped that I was the only one in the dining area for most of the time. This reminds me of the privilege it is to be an OneWorld Emerald member which affords me First Class lounges – which is something that Star Alliance and SkyTeam will never afford their elite members.

I boarded my flight to Denver and was on my merry way – everything went on time and I got to my NYE party on time. It was a good day, albeit the long travelling day.

 

 

 

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My transpacific odyssey Part 1: CX504 Business Class HKG-NRT

 

For the second part of my Christmas holiday, I went to Japan for a skiing holiday with my family and then moved onto the Rocky Mountains for New Year’s Eve and the first week of the year for some more wintery fun (and work), thus the transpacific odyssey. This is a pretty special trip for me as I was able to burn significant miles which marked the end of an era. Prior to my days as an avid OneWorld flyer (now Emerald with BA), I was a Star Alliance Gold member with Aegean Airlines and frequented Singapore Airlines’ outstanding economy class. I accumulated a significant amount of miles and on this trip, I was able to burn almost all of them on a 13-hour First Class flight from Chicago to Tokyo/Haneda. On my way to the USA, I flew on JAL Business Class, only redeemed days before the flight. Trying a new Business Class product was nevertheless very exciting and at the same time indulgent – I shall be reporting on that soon, too.

Part 1: HKG-NRT CX504 (Business Class) and the Pier First Class lounge (Here)

Part 2: NRT-LAX JL62 (Business Class), JAL First Class lounge, QF LAX First Class lounge, LAX-DEN AA (Economy Class) [to come]

Part 3: DEN-ORD AA2312 (Economy Class), United Polaris Lounge, ORD-HND NH111 (First Class) [to come]

Part 4: HND-HKG CX543 (Business Class) and the Cathay Pacific Haneda Lounge revisited [to come]

Part 5: HKG-LHR CX257 (Business Class)

However, first, I need to get to Japan, and the obvious choice would be Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class to Tokyo Narita. I would have flown on the later flight CX520 for the long-haul product, but my family was on the earlier (yet delayed) Hong Kong Airlines HX609 service, which meant that had all things gone to plan, I would get into Tokyo at the same time as them (spoiler alert: their flight was delayed for 4 hours while mine was exceptionally – almost to a fault – punctual)

With a departure time of 09:05, I arrived into HKIA at 07:05. First Class check-in had no queues and security was surprisingly light for the peak season. I got through by 07:15.

My flight would leave from the 40s, so I used the Pier First Class lounge. I headed straight for food as I did not have that much time. Flat white to start, with the usual Rose Champagne and sparkling water.

The menu

Starter plate – the portion of fruit was a bit disappointing

Steamed turnip cake

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

More coffee

Bircher Muesli

Soon enough, it was time to go. I did not have time to explore the lounge further barring to get a bottle of still water. Gate was 42 – a long enough trek for me to digest the food!

My ride – Boeing 777-300 with regional configuration.

I boarded through First Class priority lane despite First Class not being offered on this segment. I do appreciate this new policy (First Class boarding lane available regardless of whether First Class is offered) as I was able to skip the long priority queue (full of Silver Marco Polo members – surprisingly, the Green Card lane was very short)

View from my seat

Welcome drink: choice of fruit juice or water

We pushed back on time and the safety demonstration was soon shown

Hot towel offered

I was rather hoping this was my family’s ride – but no

Take-off at 09:27 (against a 09:05 STD – this was extremely good going!)

The long-haul version of noise-cancelling headphones were offered – this is so much better, and I do appreciate this ‘enhancement’

Leaving Hong Kong airspace

Drink service started about 40 minutes after take-off. I had a tea and coconut water

Clear skies near Taiwan

More tea as my table is laid

First course: Fresh Fruits

Breakfast pastries

Second course: Yogurt with Muesli

By this point, we have left Taiwan

Third course: Chinese Dim Sum Selection

I then caught a few moments’ shuteye time. The seat in its cradle position was very comfortable, though not ideal. I woke up with about 48 minutes to spare

Peppermint tea to freshen up.

Soon enough, we were on approach into Narita

We landed at 13:53 local time, which made flight time 3 hours 26 minutes and an extremely punctual flight.

Parked at Terminal 2 looking over to the LCC terminal

Overall, the flight was decent. I would not say I was impressed: after all, I have had better Cathay flights even regionally. The Inflight Service Manager greeted me as an Emerald member and offered to come back to reserve my food option, which never materialised. By the time the cart came to my row, both my neighbour and I wanted the dim sum, and it was rather embarrassing to see the crew tried to break the tie by virtue of my Emerald status (my neighbour was probably a Sapphire, unclear as to whether he was homebred or not, though). The Hong Kong First Class lounge continues to impress, although I have visited a more impressive lounge on this trip (no spoilers this time). Cathay delivered a good flight, nevertheless.

A Transatlantic Odyssey Part 2: British Airways 747 Upper Deck Club World Boston to London

After a few lovely days in Boston, it was time to carry on my travels. As mentioned in Part 1, I bought World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and used 24,000 avios to upgrade the segment to Club World. Originally, I booked myself on the last service of the day – a short redeye service which was operated by a Boeing 747. I upgraded the flight for the chance to fly upper deck (not to mention it was one of the best deals out there!) but in September the aircraft was swapped out for a refurbished Boeing 777-200. Luckily, the flight also moved 5 minutes in the schedule so I could ask for a change in flights. I moved to the following morning departure, which was in retrospect, a lot better. I managed to catch some sleep the night prior and was able to enjoy the flight without the fear of not sleeping!

I woke up at 4:30 am in Cambridge (MA) and got on an Uber for 5 am. I arrived at Terminal E of Boston Logan Airport by 5:20 am, which was very good speed. There was no wait in the Gold/First Class line and I was checked in very quickly. I did not check in a bag but needed to obtain my onward boarding passes. The agent was quick and also gave me an introduction to the Boston lounge. Boarding would be from the lounge – what a novel concept!

A very empty departure hall

I first visited my gate for an obligatory shoot

Then I visited the lounge

And you can indeed board from the lounge

I did not take pictures of the lounge offerings. It was very underwhelming to say the least – but I suppose this would be the norm for a morning departure. There were standard breakfast items, some fruits and some lacklustre pastries. I had a banana and got a glass of sparkling water – and just read until departure.

Priority was enforced. First passengers boarded first, then Gold members, then Club World etc. I was the first one to go on the stairs into the upper deck

My seat is 62K – exit row, so it is a window seat with direct aisle access and a longer bed (sweet!)

The route today

My view

Champagne offered in the morning!

Menu was offered. The Purser soon came back and took my order for Brunch. I overheard many people going for the risotto and many people were asked to pick a second choice. I chose the risotto and was told that would be fine. In fact, I have read so much about the abysmal loading of food for BA flights, and I think only 2 risottos were loaded for the upper deck today… Here, my Gold status paid off.

The load in Business Class was really low – about 20% in the main deck, and about 45% in the upper deck. Everyone has at least a pair of seats and most elected to sit in the window seat. We pushed back a few minutes before schedule

A long taxi followed

Beautiful sunrise to see me off

Take off

Area of UMass

Even with an on time departure, we were still projected for a late arrival – unusually weak winds across the Atlantic this week, I think. I did not mind too much – gave me more time to enjoy the flight anyways

A hot towel was offered

The Purser came over and took orders for drinks. I went for the Rose Champagne and she came back with some nuts

Soon after I finished my drinks, my breakfast tray was brought to me. It did not feel mechanical at all. I guess with the little load, the cabin crew could tailor the service to the pace of the customers. I chose the antipasti plate with the yogurt.

The amount of fish in the risotto was a dismay but the risotto was one of the better mains I have had on a plane!

Soon enough, I was very tired and I made my bed. I used an extra blanket as a mattress and got an extra pillow. I managed to sleep for 2 hours – not bad! The seat is really private, which is a massive plus!

I woke up with about 2 hours left

And the sun is setting – this is one of my shorter days!

I managed to get a picture on the stairs!

One thing I do like about BA is that a Club Kitchen is consistently present on any Club World flights, including the much shorter Moscow flights. There were lots of snacks available. I took a fruit plate and a crunchie

While watching the Big Bang Theory…

With 1 hour 15 minutes to go, I was offered an arrival snack. Tomato with mozzarella and a brownie. I had a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with it. It was great – I would appreciate a choice on the cold plate though!

Bread was not proactively offered though. I asked and the cabin crew heated some bread rolls for me

And a Buck’s Fizz to celebrate a successful expedition!

We were descending by the time the meal wraps up

Approach

Last look at the upper deck

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable flight. The novelty of flying upper deck of a Boeing 747 notwithstanding, the flight showcased the very best of BA services. A very personalised meal service, with above par food and beverage. The cabin crews were very good at not disturbing our rest, and always ready to serve. The seat is, despite all criticisms, very comfortable. I am really glad I was on a day flight so I enjoyed the flight to its fullest extent.

A Transatlantic Odyssey Part 1: London to Boston in BA World Traveller

This winter will see yours truly going across both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, without actually going around the world. This is a holiday of lots of flying and as a fellow aviation geek, truly a season of joy. I started my holiday first to Boston to see my best friend, and then will journey to Asia via Europe, before heading back to Colorado in January followed by a lengthy week back to London via Chicago, Tokyo and Hong Kong. I will be flying some exciting products too – starting with BA’s World Traveller economy product followed by a 747 upper deck experience, to the eventual climax of trying out ANA first class next year.

The trip has been in the clockworks for quite a while. I booked my flights back in May and I managed to score a very sweet deal. I paid for World Traveller on the outbound and World Traveller Plus on the inbound, upgrading the inbound with miles, and part paid for the whole thing in miles. It was fantastic value for a transatlantic return journey, not least being able to experience upper deck on a 747 on the way back.

My trip starts at the First Wing in London Heathrow Terminal 5

There was not a huge wait for check-in, though having to wait was indeed a bit of a novelty! Security was quick and I got into the lounge soon enough. I had quite a while in the lounge but I had to catch up on lots of work so I did not have much to report on. Plus, the Galleries First lounge provides lacklustre food options, anyways. The champagne bar is always fitting for a little celebratory post, however:

I left for the gate at 4 pm and arrived just in time for priority boarding. Despite as a gold (Emerald) member, I chose not to push ahead in the queue when they called for gold as I did not want to seem like a DYKWIA. I gladly allowed bronze members and those in Club World (rightly prioritised!) board in front of me before joining. This was not a very elite-heavy flight at the back I think: as the section lead only greeted myself and another person once we were on the way. The gate agents did a reasonable job enforcing priority boarding turning back economy class passengers and I did not have to wait for too long to board.

My seat is 26C – the first row of Economy Class and an exit row seat

We were underway shortly. The section lead greeted me, welcomed me on board personally and said that BA appreciates my business. This was a really nice touch, and I was later offered the new Club World amenity kit produced by the White Company.

Drink services started first. I opted for sparkling water and a G&T as per usual.

A relative small economy class cabin meant that dinner service started extremely soon. I was served my meal 1 hour 15 minutes after departure. I chose chicken casserole with kale mashed potatoes. The other choice was pasta (that was as much clue I had – both my neighbours went for chicken)

It tasted a lot better than it looked.

I asked for seconds and the section lead came back with another meal and another bread!

Just under 5 hours to go!

Soon after the meal service, the cabin lights were dimmed and I managed some rest while finishing my magazine

Approaching North America

I was provided with cups of tea by the lovely cabin crew during the time I was awake and I felt extremely well taken care of. One of the joys of flying BA is that their tea is really proper and nice. An hour prior to landing, the lights went on and snacks were provided

The flight went by extremely quickly and soon enough it was time to land into Boston

The flight went by extremely quickly. We were barely in air for more than 6 hours and we arrived 50 minutes ahead of schedule. I had to wait for my bag, which was a testament to the efficiency of the CBP check point at Boston. This BA flight was extremely enjoyable: the food and beverage provisions were above par – the white wine was very drinkable and fruity – and the cabin crew was extremely professional: constantly passing through the cabin was water and juice. The hard product was solid: the TV was easy to operate and with good content (admittedly I was saving the content as I have more hours of flying to do later this month) and the seat was a lot better than the older ones.

Some Boston highlights:

The Massachusetts State House

Make way for Ducklings

The Democratic Donkey – ‘jackass’

‘Tis the season to be jolly

Graveyards commemorating the fight for freedom

USS Constitution

The Battle of Bunker Hill memorial

View from the top

The Halifax Christmas Tree

Ice skating at the Frog Pond in Boston Common

Cambridge 5k

Boston Tea Party

Seagull

The JFK Presidential Library

The flag inside

Dinner from the top of the Prudential Tower

Harvard Library

Sunset on Massachusetts Av

LOL

Fusion food: Korean beef fries

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Singapore Changi to Hong Kong

I have flown this sector about a year ago on Cathay Pacific. It was a birthday upgrade on a regional product (back in the days when I was still a loyal Marco Polo Club member) and I was left somewhat unimpressed. This year, as part of my big trip to Hong Kong, I am flying Cathay again, this time paid in Business Class, to check them out again. Two months prior to my flight, an A350 was swapped into the schedule and I was so happy to get the long-haul product.

Fast forward to June when I flew. Cathay flies up to 9 flights a day to Singapore, including the rotation that goes via Bangkok, which I flew in just days ago and was extremely impressed of. So, at any given point, you would see a few Cathay planes on the ground in Changi. Of course, this is back in the days when Cathay was still in Terminal 1:

In terms of lounges, Cathay Pacific used to use the Dnata Lounge in Terminal 1, which was lacklustre to say the least. I prefer the Qantas lounge here (the BA one is not good) and so I spent all my time in the Qantas lounge. I do wonder how the Cathay lounge in Terminal 4 now stacks up with the competition but the lack of showers in the Cathay lounge does militate against it though. I gained entry by virtue for flying Business Class on an OneWorld airline, but equally I could have got in via my OneWorld Emerald status if I am flying in the back.

Once you walk in, there’s a lovely bar, with a bartender and barista

Selection of mocktail

Selection of beverages: Australian sparkling wine and sparkling water

Selection of made-to-order hot dishes

https://flic.kr/p/XhXjxDS

Selection of food from the buffet

A flat white to finish off a lovely meal

The Qantas lounge is very spacious and even during peak hours (last I visited on way to London), it was never too crowded and always quite easy to find a place to sit down

I enjoyed my stay in the Qantas lounge very much and I do believe that Qantas has one of the best lounges in the world, as I look forward to visiting the London lounge and the Los Angeles first class lounge before the end of this year (woohoo!)

I made my way to the gate as soon as the gate opened to avoid having to queue at security and to catch a glimpse of my ride. The Qantas lounge is located near the C gates so it was a bit of a trek to the D gates where my Cathay flight departed. Cathay Pacific, unlike Singapore Airlines, segregates its security and boarding gate area into business class (and OneWorld Sapphire and Emerald members), premium economy (and Marco Polo Green) and economy class, which is often welcomed so that priority boarding will be respected.

My ride today

Boarding was called on time and I was among the first to board

View from my seat – 21A

A hot towel was offered

Watermelon juice as pre-departure drink!

My favourite inflight entertainment – the cameras!

Pushback was delayed due to earlier incident at Changi clogging up departure

Lining up with runway 20C

Take off!

3 hours 21 minutes to Hong Kong

View of Changi at sunset

My usual selection: a G&T with a sparkling water

John Wick being my movie choice

The seat controls for the A350. As opposed to the older business class, pressing the ‘bed’ button once will get you the fully flat bed

Now this is where things get a bit boring as the meal served here is exactly the same to the lunch I had a year ago, but here goes

Cured salmon with fennel citrus salad and crème fraiche cucumber roll

I had the champagne to go with the starter. This would be the last time I have the Billecart-Salmon Champagne as it is being phrase out from Cathay

As an OneWorld Emerald member, I have been asked what I wanted in advance of the cart being pulled out and been given my dinner choice well in advance. I chose what I chose last year:

Braised duck with mai chy preserved vegetables, broccoli, shimeji mushrooms, carrots, and steamed jasmine rice

In retrospect, the fish looked very nice too, and I passed on it twice!

The usual cheese and fruits selection

By this point, we are nearly there

But there is still time for ice cream

And a hot chocolate

Descent began soon after

At gate with a bit of delay

This was a decent flight. The long haul cabin helped a lot – the space, the privacy and the ease in getting in and out. The food and beverage were above par and I enjoyed the Singapore catering very much. This was an exceptionally full flight and next to me were two customers who would not stop chatting with each other and played videos on speakers… I have complained to the cabin crew but to no avail. Service was a bit of a hit and miss – too short a flight and too many passengers. I am starting to understand the difficulty to pull off service on the A350 – as a similar flight on an A330 would have been done much quicker.

My first A350 ride

I just got off BA’s flight from Bangkok and I would transfer onto CX’s fifth-freedom service from Bangkok to Singapore for a short holiday before returning to Hong Kong, also on Cathay. This is one of the best flights I have had and even with the very short flight time (less than 2 hours) and a full Business class cabin (the flight was fully booked a few weeks out!), the cabin crew managed to serve us with ease and great attention. I have flown with Cathay a few times more since and unfortunately, I have to report that this service I have received was an anomaly but made this flight no less enjoyable and pleasant.

I visited the Cathay lounge and was issued my boarding pass. I was also told that my bags will be re-tagged (and indeed they were – with Cathay tags) by the lounge attendant. Because of the delay, I only had just under an hour here. I quickly grabbed some food from the noodle bar due to the lacklustre breakfast I got on board BA, and to freshen up in the loo. I haven’t taken many pictures in the lounge as I had some emails and some messaging to attend to, but this new lounge was designed in the same vein of the Pier and the other new lounges like the one in London (reported here) and the one in Haneda (see here).

I had a sparkling water with some hot food items. The food items were decent and definitely much better than the ones I got on BA. I quickly gobbled up the food and headed down to the gate for boarding.

I arrived at the gate showing ‘Final Call’ although the flight has not called for boarding yet due to a late arrival of the incoming aircraft from Hong Kong.

As with Singapore, there was a dedicated seating area for elites but I did not find a seat (Macro Polo silver members or above would be let in and with a full Business cabin, arriving late meant standing) I did not mind too much. Boarding soon started and only Business class passengers could board on the left and all other passengers needed to board on the right – so not that long a wait considering an A350 only has 38 Business class seats.

My seat: 21A

I was very thrilled with the camera functions, especially I came on a very old plane, and also because this was my first flight on the Airbus A350

It started raining during boarding

I took a water for pre-departure drink

I was then welcomed on board personally by the Senior Purser, who made the point of coming all the way towards the end to give me the menu and thanked me for being an OneWorld Emerald member. She told me to have a read and to decide what I wanted for lunch, and she would come back in 5 minutes to take my meal order. She then went back to the front and distributed the menus. True to her words, she came back and took my meal orders.

Pushback was more or less on time

Blue sky once we took off

On this very short segment, there was no drinks/nuts service. We went straight to the meal service. This was a one-tray affair but it was good. To start we have: Thai seafood and glass noodle salad

In a minute, the Senior Purser came back to serve me my main course option. which was “braised chicken thigh, Chinese onion sauce, sugar peas, carrot, gingko nut and steamed jasmine rice” It was a bit awkward though – sitting on the last row but being served first and the fact that my neighbours had to wait another 15-20 minutes before they themselves were served.

It was a very good main. When the Senior Purser came back to serve my neighbour and those in front of me, she asked me whether I wanted another main course. Curiously on the cart, there was the Chinese option from the Economy Class and I opted for that (in part because I felt guilty to get a second main). Surprisingly, this chicken option was so much better than the Business Class main…

To end, I was offered a choice of ice cream.

And a Hong Kong style milk tea

At this point, we reached the top of descent. It was an excellent service – not rushed and the attention to me as an elite member was low-key but was very well-appreciated. The Senior Purser checked on me every now and then and made sure I was served at the earliest convenience. Together with the purser serving the aisle, I was very well taken care of. What I did not expect came next: they knew it was my birthday the following day and the Senior Purser got the whole crew to sign a birthday card

I was rather taken aback by the kindness and it was indeed extremely surprising to get such attentive segment on such short segment.

A last look on the bird

Thoughts? This was an extremely pleasant flight, and the best flight I have had to-date. The attention to detail, the service flow and the food on board were all excellent, and clearly demonstrated the potential for Cathay to be one of the world’s best airlines. Yet, as my later experiences made clear (long-haul during the summer), the inconsistencies within the Cathay ranks could mean some customers got disheartened and left. All told, I was very pleased with this flight.

Flying an old BA 772

I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw the old Rockwell Collins IFE in the Business Class cabin, that in 2017, I would be able to reminiscent the old days of 747s and when I used to fly to Europe at the back. In fact, the first time I flew BA, on the return, we already had the new IFEs on the 77Ws, so imagine my surprise or my dismay when I saw this old plane flying me to Bangkok.

Anyways, I digress. My trip started in Dusseldorf where I arrived in the airport’s Holiday Inn the night before. They upgraded me to a suite but I was too tired to take any pictures. I dropped dead on the bed until I woke in the morning, and then hurried to the airport after grabbing a few bites. I did not manage the lounge, although sources told me it is pretty bad. And the first thing I shall report is my short flight to London in the Club Europe cabin.

What I did have time to do was to walk to Terminal A to spy on Singapore Airlines’ A350. I am a huge fan of SQ’s Business product and it is indeed my hope that I will return soon (although I am now a OneWorld Emerald member!)

A bus gate today!

View from 1A is fabulous indeed

A short taxi and then we are off. It was a Sunday morning that I flew out of Dusseldorf so understandably not too busy in terms of traffic although I had to wait in the Club line to get my bags check in – not a complaint though.

Great views on departure

The crew quickly sprung into action as this segment was less than an hour and had a 6-row Club cabin (full) to serve. This is my first flight having BA’s new dining concept in Club Europe – I would complain about the portions, but the helping of the bread was generous enough for me. I did not have much of a breakfast so this helped. The crew did not make a fuss about my Gold card unlike those in my flight over in Euro Traveller.

Soon enough we reached the top of descent

My plane

I quickly settled down in the Galleries First lounge to rest/relax/eat. As far as it goes, this lounge is a half-decent First Class lounge (of course, real First Class passengers travelling on BA gets to go to the Concord Room). The bubblies are free-flowing and a decent alcoholic selections are present. There is a menu for which you can order from and the food is definitely a step-up from the Club lounge, But compared to other lounges in the system, this is subpar.

The Champagne Bar

The 4-hour transit went by rather quickly as I was dozing off in the lounge with the champagne that I had. I also had a chance to use the spa and have a shower. It was a good stay no less, although the lounge was at its full capacity throughout and it proved difficult to find seats.

My flight to Bangkok would depart in the B gates so a short ride on the train would do. One thing I like about Terminal 5 is that there are transit trains to take you to your gate areas, as opposed to those long walks to Terminal 3 gates used by Cathay.

I arrived when general boarding just began – so no wait in the queue at all.

My chariot today – 18 years old when taking me back to Asia

My seat is 11A and the window seat in the cabin. I sit directly next to the engine

I was offered a welcome drink

Departure was bang on time

And as a late Sunday afternoon as a phrase suggests, no long queues for the runway and soon enough we were cleared for takeoff

Hot towel offered after cabin crews were released from their seats

G&T to start

A second round of drinks was offered (this segment was about 10 hours long, by this point, the service took already 1.5 hours and we were still on drinks) I took a Rose Champagne, which is my go-to drink on BA

Sometime between the second round of drinks and the laying of the table linen, I was asked about my preference for starter. Here I was acknowledged as a gold member, but lo and behold, they ran out of options by the time they got to me. What a complete waste of time asking for what I want

Anyway, the vegetarian starter was very good

By this point, we were well into Eastern Europe – the quality of the IFE is of course wanting

The sun is catching up with us

Beef for main – not the best decision I have made in life – very tough but bearable

The IFE is not working, but I have been treated to nature’s wonders

The dessert was good once again, saving grace, really. However the inability to have fruits, cheese and pudding means that BA continues to lag behind all its competitors, including CX. I am therefore very much looking forward to the new Club World dining.

Once after dinner, I slept and the flat bed was very good. The last rows of the cabin and the window seat meant an extra long bed and direct aisle access. I was a happy man and I slept swimmingly. I woke up with just under 2 hours to go.

Breakfast was soon served

The beef congee was underwhelming

This IFE map really brought back childhood memories

Approaching Bangkok

Must be my lucky day – another bus gate!!

Thoughts? I really detested the deployment of these very old aircrafts in such long haul flights. The TV was barely working and the resolution made me feel like I own a time machine and went back 10 years in time. The service was good but not outstanding. It is a matter of consensus that BA offers a subpar Business Class product, but once again, I got very solid sleep and was very energetic when I got off the flight. I suffered from very minimal jetlag in Asia which was helpful given my very short trip. So all in all, a good flight. What comes next, though, is the best Cathay flight I have ever flown on. Stay tuned

The Long Way to London Part 2 – British Airways Club World Business Class Singapore to London

Carrying on from part 1, I got off from a very decent Cathay regional flight to Singapore with just over an hour to spare. I quickly dropped by the Qantas Singapore Lounge, which was as stunning. I will review it when I report on my return trip as I did not have long to spend here this time round. I arrived shortly after the major departures for Qantas so the lounge was reasonably empty (with only a Perth service left near midnight)

I tried some Australian white, which was stunning as always, and had some fruits.

But soon enough, it was time to head over to boarding. The gate was open rather early, but I chose to leave only 15 minutes prior to the gate close time as the coming flight would clock nearly 14 hours – no need to spend more time on a plane!

When I arrived at gate C22, the gate was packed with people, especially given a full flight in all cabins and that Singapore Airport processes their security at gate. With just under 300 passengers, boarding would be quite quick (not the security, though!)

Fast track was set up for elite and premium passengers, but my observation showed that queuing up for the non-fast track would result in less queuing, presumably because all non-status passengers had cleared security much earlier without lounge access. Curiously, unlike in Hong Kong, Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus) passengers are not afforded fast track.

Once I cleared security, the flight was closing. I only had time for a quick snap of my chariot before scanning my BP for departure

I was one of the very last passengers to board and I was seated in the last row of the Club World cabin 16A. British Airways’ 777-300ER is configured to have 14 First Class seats between door 1 and door 2, 56 Business Class seats (across 7 rows of 8 seats in 2-4-2 configuration) in the second cabin (Cathay has 53 in their premium-heavy 777-300ERs spread across a mini-cabin and a large cabin), 44 World Traveller Plus and 185 World Traveller seats. Row 16 is the last row of the Club World cabin and the window seats in the Club World cabin face backwards. It is also the closest to the toilets as all Club World toilets are located at the end of the cabin, but given the privacy screens, the window seats are not affected by people using the toilets at all.

The menu and the washbag were given out. At the time of writing, BA has just announced a partnership with the White Company to provide for the new amenity kits – should be a step up from this shoe bag, which while novel when I first got it, is not something ‘Business-Class-like’

Pushback and safety demonstration were on the dot on time

Long taxi to active runway

Took off just before 11 pm

Hot towel offered shortly after taking off

First round of drinks arrived about 35 minutes post-take-off. I had the Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose Brut NV and a water.

This is the cramped cabin and the dinner service

Starter of dinner: Salmon tartare with horseradish crème fraiche. This is by far the only good dish out of all the food served on this flight

Main course:

Moroccan-spiced chicken breast with roasted sweet potato, aubergine and courgette

Seared seabass with red pepper sauce, creamy polenta and sautéed vegetables

Gnocchi with cherry tomato and Caciocavallo cheese sauce – very bland and potentially undercooked

Chilled main course salad f grilled king prawn, papaya and Thai chilli dressing

Dessert was bad: Tipsy cake with caramelised pineapple and vanilla cream

Meal service concluded about 2 hours into the flight, which was quite reasonable. By this point, I ordered a decaf tea before I go to sleep.

I had a good night sleep and slept right until they turned the lights on for breakfast service. The Club World bed has not failed me so far – it is by far the least hard bed I have been on and the privacy afforded me a good night’s sleep.

An energising fruit smoothie with fresh seasonal fruit – generally decent as you really cannot go wrong with these food

Omelette with pork sausage, back bacon, Lyonnaise potatoes and roasted tomato – let’s just say, improvements needed

A hot towel was offered to round off the meal service

By this point, we are well into descent

We landed about 10 minutes behind schedule, due to the extra long duration of the flight. We flew just as much as the block time

Parked next to the A380 from Hong Kong (see my review from last year)

Overall, this is a solid showing from BA, although much worse than SQ. The catering is the weakest spot on this flight: it is really a shame to see BA not stepping up on one of its more premium routes – nearly everyone in the Club cabin is an Emerald (evident from the additional greeting from the CSD). The lack of Asian options in both dinner and breakfast despite departing from Singapore is disappointing, and the wine selection was downright bad, bar the bubbles. The hard product is in dire need of a refresh, but I have had good night’s sleeps on the flatbed, so I am not going to complain. I arrived very refreshed. Going forward, I am looking forward to the new dining concept in Club World, as well as the enhanced bedding, pillows and amenity kits. Service was decent at best, but acceptable given a crowded flight with lots of elites (my last flight as a lowly Sapphire!)

 

 

The Long Way to London Part 1 – Hong Kong to Singapore on Cathay Pacific Business Class

On my way back to London, I chose the longer route, via Singapore, but this time with Cathay Pacific then onto British Airways. I arrived just around the time BA 32 or CX 251 arrived, so I did not lose much time in terms of arriving into London. I just had to leave Hong Kong in the afternoon instead of the evening, which was fine for me, as the earlier departure of BA 16 (22:35) afforded me more time to sleep on the latter red-eye flight.

Also, as an aviation geek, I also wanted to the longest way possible (under the ticket rules, of course, unnecessary to pay excessive fares) to go home, and luckily British Airways allows multiple routings to London from Hong Kong.

I arrived into Hong Kong Airport just 3.5 hours ahead of departure so I could have lunch with my family in Terminal 2. Check-in at the Business Class counters were very quick, without queues and the agent and I had minimal exchange. She checked my bags and issued me my boarding pass within 2 minutes. All is well.

Some mascots-type things I spotted near check-in

Aisle B – next time, I will check-in in the first-class area with my newly-minted Emerald status

An iconic shot

My favourite OneWorld lounge in Hong Kong remains the Qantas Lounge (though I fully anticipate I would be thrown by the Pier First Class lounge in a few weeks’ time): it is often unoccupied and with great food/drinks offering (no champagne, but lovely Australian/New Zealand wine selections)

Also JAL’s lounge during daytime

Hong Kong style milk tea

I really think Qantas did something really brilliant with the lounge; but more importantly is the location. On the level above the concourse, the lounge is very bright and feels very spacious unlike the Singapore Airlines lounge just below it. Makes lovely spots for plane-watching too

The food offering is always good

I opted for the desserts

Gate 1 today – happy days

I left the lounge when the flight started boarding, boarding was well under way

The priority queue was empty

My chariot today: B-HLS, a rather old A333, though with the reverse herringbone business seats

Pre-departure beverage: Cathay delight, water or champagne

Legroom is decent

The noise-cancelling headphones

Seat controls

Gates 1-4 are Cathay’s world

Hot towel was offered

The menu for today

We pushed back a few minutes before schedule

The new mid-field concourse

Big sister

3:23 flight time

Take-off towards the South China Sea

Drinks service started right after the seatbelt sign was turned off. I started with a Gin and Tonic, and a sparkling water.

Table was laid

To start: Seared tuna, asparagus, oven dried tomato, mixed vegetables and wasabi mayonnaise

Garlic bread and rolls

The standard Billecart-Salmon Brut Champagne

The view is excellent

Moving onto my all-time favourite white wine on the plane: Yealands Estate Land Made Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015/6

Stir fried halibut, shallot black bean sauce, kalian, carrot and steamed jasmine rice

More wine and cheese

Ice cream for dessert

Chamomile tea to end

Sunset

Hot towel to end the meal service

Still over an hour to go at this point

I was asked to complete a survey on the flight. I wrote extremely positive comments for the crew: ably led by the manager, and the Singapore-based senior purser was particularly excellent and warm. CX711 is usually operated by some Singapore-based crew and I find them warmer and more approachable my three recent flights.

Writing kit and playing cards

Water bottles given out prior to landing

Today’s flight was rather empty in the front

Soon enough, we began our initial descent into Singapore

And to mark the end of the flight

Overall, this is an excellent flight. I don’t have to sing more songs of praises for the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge – it is simply beautiful and amazing, like its Singapore’s counterpart. Granted, Business Class was not full and the service was thus more efficient and quick. Yet, the crew was warm and approachable – always on hand to help. It is not unlikely you get one or two exceptional crew on each flight, but it is rare to get an entire team that is committed to making the journey better.

Tier Points running to Jakarta – Part 1

The following two reports cover my day trip to Jakarta on Cathay Pacific’s Business Class on a Sunday. The reason I chose Jakarta was because HKG-CGK is over 2,000 miles, which means that it is classed as a long-haul flight with BA’s Executive Club. Bagging 280 Tier Points in a day, at no additional cost to an ex-EU fare, is about the best deal you can get. It also helps that CX777/CX776 constantly runs on long-haul planes as doing the back-to-back would have been painful on a regionally configured plane.

I woke up at 5.45 am and left home at 6 am for my flight at 9.20 am. I took the Airport Express shuttle bus to Kowloon Station where I did my in-town check-in.

I arrived into the airport just 2 hours before my flight. Security was packed but with the HK efficiency, I was through and through in 15 minutes.

The gate today was Gate 2. While the Wing is definitely just next to my gate, I was assured that it would be packed. The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge, which doubles up as JAL’s lounge in the morning/early afternoon before Qantas and BA’s evening departures, provides a rare sanctuary for plane spotting, breakfast-eating and (more importantly) catching up with caffeine undisturbed.

COFFEE!

Japanese rice provision for Japanese passengers

My breakfast, with a lovely cup of flat white

Second course: made to order wonton noodles

My view

SQ001 onwards to Singapore

Leaving the Qantas lounge for my flight. The lounge was not populated at all despite the morning rush hour flights. Staff was courteous and happy to oblige with any requests. Food offering was superb.

As ever, the Priority Pass lounge had a long queue

My flight was about to board when I arrived

My chariot today – newly painted A333

Flying business today!

My seat was 21A, which is an excellent seat. Being at the back of the Business Class cabin means that there is minimal foot traffic as all toilets are in front of you. You are also in the mini cabin which means it is a bit roomier. The only downside is that you will be served last.

This is 20A

My view

Welcome drink: no bubbly in the morning

Hot towel

Business class was full but boarding was quickly done. Safety demonstration soon followed

The seat controls – really showing its age

Push back

The journey is just over 2,000 miles – exactly why I was on that plane!

Taxing to runway

Entering runway 07R for departure

And here we go

Shing Mun Reservoir and Sha Tin

Victoria Harbour

Then I started my inflight entertainment

I was offered a post-take off drink. I took a coconut water (I was rather surprised to see that on the menu) I also asked for a champagne. The Purser serving my aisle was very snappy – not overly approachable, but she was straight to the point, also yelling ‘certainly, sir’ – very typical HK efficiency!

First course: Seasonal Fresh Fruits

With breakfast pastries

Second course: Special K

Third course: Braised beef brisket and noodles – yum!!! It was very flavourful and the beef was flavourful. It was hands-down the best breakfast I have had on the plane. The noodles were well cooked but not overly dry.

A cappuccino to end

Breakfast service concluded about 1.5 hours into the flight, which was rather efficient. The food was decent in portion and quality. I was generally pleased

I decided to start working

I got some sparkling water

And HK style milk tea – one of my favourite drinks on board Cathay

Crossing the equator

Hot towel offered again just under an hour out

Seat returned to take off position

21A has two windows

I asked for a bottle of water to keep myself hydrated until I get on the plane again!

Descending into Jakarta

Our flight route today

The curtain was shut immediately after we arrived to make sure that business class passengers disembarked first

I was picked up by the ground staff who helped me pass through transit. I was led to the lounge while the Cathay staff took care of the rest and came back with a boarding pass. I was impressed by the meet and assist service I was provided with as a back-to-back customer.

The flight was very good. The catering was a stand-up from what I had to London a few months ago – Cathay certainly had the potential to do very well in terms of food. The service I received was good, nothing memorable. The Purser was very to-the-point, but was not as friendly as the ones on SQ. Given a full flight, it was understandable that I felt like I was on an assembly line. Hard product was excellent as ever. Not a bad half a day mileage running. And spoiler alert: my return trip was better!