Tag: Airlines

I figured I could cover the intra-Asia legs in one post because those flights were much shorter (and, sadly, in basic economy/coach and nothing too “over the top”).

AirAsia (Hong Kong to Chiang Mai)

  • Overall, this was MUCH less of a headache than I ever imagined
  • Upon arrival to airport, we waited in a check-in line of 10 people max, and while the gate agent was slow at first, it seemed to be because he was checking a large group (~6 people) all in at once
  • The food was not good, but for the price (I pre-paid and pre-selected the meals, and they were around $2-3 apiece) it was nice to have something to have a few bites of, along with a drink
  • Interestingly, Exit Row seats are unable to drink alcohol (not sure if this is just an Asian airline thing or not, but it was definitely consistent), as well as have any luggage beneath the seat in front of them (both different quirks than FAA regulates for American travel)

ThaiSmile (Chiang Mai to Phuket)

  • Given that I paid a bit more for these fares than some of the more low-budget operator equivalents (AirAsia, Lion, etc), I did have higher expectations for these flights
  • The service itself along with the flight were both of great quality (more than meeting my expectations)
  • We ended up getting a (complimentary) Chicken Ragout Stromboli which may on the surface sound like something to stay away from – but was in fact DELICIOUS
  • The snack service is something that ThaiSmile does that, while you pay for it, is still nice to know it’s there
  • I would liken this to the Asian equivalent of Southwest airlines, with perhaps even a bit more polish and professionalism
  • Chiang Mai was a fairly easy airport to fly out of
  • Phuket on the other hand, was a bit of a disaster upon arrival; it reminded me a bit of a smaller, muggier, more chaotic Cancun
  • Deplaning happened via a passenger staircase, and then onto a quick bus shuttle over to the arrivals/baggage claim area for domestic gates

ThaiSmile (Phuket to Bangkok)

  • Same as above, but I would note that the Phuket departure experience isn’t quite as bad as our arrival experience; yes – it’s crowded and seemingly unorganized (I imagine their international terminal is better), but it got the job done
  • The snack service on this flight was actually a bit more of an odd combo than the prior leg (i.e. half of a creamed corn sandwich and half of a chicken sandwich doused in mayo); as such, neither of us really ate it and so I wouldn’t say it was a slam dunk
  • As far as arrival into Bangkok, the arrival itself was fine, and included another bus shuttle from the plane to the arrivals area

Til Next Time,

Michael

The next leg on our three-stop journey home was a flight on LH400 from Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK). This was another very well-executed flight, and I came away with very fond impressions of the extended staff at Lufthansa and their brand as a whole.

One huge perk of this ticket was access to the Lufthansa Business Lounges. They are incredibly elegant, clean, and straightforward. There is something about the simplicity in design that leaves for a very soothing feeling. It’s a stark contrast from a similar lounge experience (virtually anywhere) stateside. I wondered if this had something to do with German people in general, as they seem to be very professional, clean, and precise. Thus, even as the lounge got more crowded during our four hours there (when we arrived around 6 AM, there were perhaps 8 people in the whole facility, versus when we left when there were 150+), it didn’t seem to get chaotically loud (such as those I’ve seen in ATL, JFK, DCA, among many others).

The flight was another non-eventful one. The staff seemed much more friendly and engaged than the Thai Airways crew. After having been in Thailand for nearly two weeks prior though, I chalked that up to the Thai people simply not wanting to impede on your time to bother you for questions (e.g. How is everything tasting? Can I get you anything more?). Rather, they will be of utmost help if you simply ask them for anything you’d like.

The food was a bit boring again (side question: where does one have to fly to get good airline food??), although there were some added perks that still helped differentiate the experience. For one, the menu had an interesting narrative about the changing over to winter, and what that meant for ingredients as well as one addition to the menu: goose. Katy and I both opted for the goose, as it seemed like something culturally appropriate (such as trying the Thai dish on Thai Airways coming from Thailand). It was so-so. But the small pack of cookies (again, with a narrative about how important baking cookies is to the German culture around the holidays) was a nice touch.

The amenity kit, although pretty standard, had a Christmas theme to it as well, with an ornament of sorts attached (reading “Happy Holidays”), along with a snowflake interior liner.

Til Next Time,

Michael

The first part of our multi-leg return trip home was a 12 hour flight from Bangkok (BKK) to Frankfurt (FRA) in Business Class (also known as Thai Royal Silk). We would then continue onward from there to New York (JFK) and finally back home to Atlanta (ATL). We paid 80k Chase Rewards Points per ticket (for just the BKK>FRA>JFK portion, whereas we booked JFK>ATL separately with Delta miles because it was overall much cheaper).

Seeing as our flight was at 11:40 PM on a Sunday, we didn’t quite know what to expect, either from (unpredictable, but usually terrible) Bangkok traffic or the airport itself. We were also unaware of just how awesome Thai Royal Silk would be. For an airport so massive, I was actually somewhat surprised by the order and efficiency that existed. Perhaps that was due to recent comparisons in airports that are much smaller and quite chaotic (Phuket and Chiang Mai).

The experience with Thai Royal Silk was great to put it simply. Upon arrival to the airport, there is a specific set of check-in counters (not unusual for Biz Class) with a seated check-in counter experience (way unusual for airports in my experience). After that, it’s a quick move through (dedicated) security checkpoint, and (if you so choose) down into the many Royal Silk lounges.

The next “wow” moment for this flight was the “Royal Silk Spa”, which offered us as Business Class ticketholders, a 30 minute massage (our choice between leg massage and head/neck/shoulders). We both opted for the head/neck/shoulders as we had already gotten a leg massage earlier that afternoon. It was a great way to decompress before a flight.

As far as the flight itself, it was relatively uneventful, but a very cool and unique experience since we were flying on the world’s largest passenger jet (an Airbus A380, capable in Thai Airways’ seating configuration of hauling over 500 passengers at once!). The jet was awesome, and we had great seats in the spacious and comfortable business class cabin on the upper deck of the plane. I appreciated the configuration of this plane more than others, because wifey and I got to be much closer to each other (versus, say, many Delta One configurations where you have a barrier between you and your seat mate).

Our flight began with a (fairly typical) hot towel to freshen up. Additionally, passengers in the business/first class cabins had their selection of several pre-flight beverages (spoiler alert: Katy and I obviously picked champagne, because it was Veuve Cliquot and because… champage). The food left a little bit to be desired. Neither of us were fans of the majority of our selections, although they weren’t bad by any means. Additionally, Katy was served by a different FA for the majority of the flight, which ended up causing some awkward timing differences (for instance, she got her main course at least 20 minutes before I did).

The amenity kit was another “what you see is what you get” moment. Nothing to write home about, but Katy was really excited for the quality of the bag and the ability to take it on weekend trips in the future with a small outfit of makeup and such.

One final added bonus was the tail camera, visible in the entertainment console. I got a pretty cool video upon approach into Frankfurt, which shows the plane fighting some light crosswind. Avgeeks of the world, rejoice…

All in all, using the Chase points to book this flight (through United) was a huge score. The business class experience was more than adequate for the points spent, and I would totally do it again.

Til Next Time,

Michael

Delta Flight to Hong Kong

Our outbound flights to Asia were booked as Skymiles Award tickets, costing 105k miles apiece. This seems like an outrageous sum to be sure, but when the true dollar cost of the flight is nearly $5,000, you can look past it. The flight from Atlanta to Seattle itself was a bit of a yawner, as that is a basic first class domestic experience. For the sake of time (and boring you), I’ll go ahead and put that aside and say that the ATL>SEA leg was great and met my expectations.

The buildup to the Hong Kong flight itself was fairly ordinary, although we did get a specific email asking us if we wanted to make meal selections in advance for our SEA>HKG leg. I had heard about this, and I think this particular case was one of their extended pilots, whereby they’ll take certain global travel regions (e.g. Asia) and offer specific menu options. Neither of us opted to do this because we wanted to see all the other options (which, apparently, will roll out next year). Once we got to the airport, the check-in process was fairly standard. The one nice touch Delta adds is free SkyClub access for business/first class passengers on international flights. I personally never pay since I have a Skymiles Reserve Card, but it was great to have Katy’s access free of charge (avoiding the typical $29 I pay otherwise when we go).

As far as the experience once we boarded the flight itself, I will say that I was  actually very impressed. Having flowing in Delta’s top-end cabins many times previously – I doubted that this new(ish) Delta One product would be able to deliver anything extra special. Admittedly, I don’t know that it would have been that much different than business class, but I think there were a few things here and there that made the prestige a bit more grand.

After being seated, we had the customary offer (for business/first class at least) of champagne, which we were definitely not going to refuse since this was the start of our trip of a lifetime. Beyond that, the flight had a proper dinner course, with all sorts of accompaniments, snacks, and beverage choices (even including careful touches like offering Port wine with the dessert). Just before arrival into Hong Kong.

Til Next Time,

Michael

At some point, I’m going to convince a few of my friends to do some guest posts on Air/Hotel Travel Tips and Rewards Program Best Practices.  They are much more intelligent than me when it comes to those things, although I’m not completely asleep at the wheel when it comes to frequent flying and maximizing hotel points.  Whether you travel once a day or once a year, it doesn’t make sense not to take advantage of preferred rates, loyalty programs, and the host of deals that are available if you’re willing to look.  It’s free money.

In the mean time, though, I wanted to point you all to a couple good articles run by Travel & Leisure recently on how to maximize Air/Hotel Travel:

Air Travel Tips

Hotel Travel Tips

Also, be on the lookout for the December issue of T&L/online for the full writeup of 100 Ways to Travel Better.  Fair warning though: don’t sign up for anything from them.  Ever.  You’ll be handcuffed to an obnoxious mailing list where they send you hardbound travel books and conveniently charge your credit card something absurd like $34.95 every time you don’t return to sender.  I seriously cannot figure out how to delete my information from their records.

Til Next Time,

Michael

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