Category Archives: Airplanes

Part 2: Only 18 Hours to Go (AKA SFO – REP)

Part 1: When you wake up at 3 am for a 6 am flight…

We had a three hour layover in San Francisco and I was excited to see the Asiana lounge. I’m sorry to say I was a little disappointed. The lounge was very small with an outdated decor. There were few comfortable seats in the business class room so I slipped into the first class lounge and no one batted an eye.

On the plus side, the first class lounge had a couch (remember, I was going on four hours of sleep), had decent wireless and an endless supply of free diet cokes.

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Business class lounge

Asiana’s business class product more than made up for the lackluster lounge: Comfortable lie-flat seats laid out to maximize space and privacy. There was plenty of space, movie options, and of course diet coke on demand.

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Asiana even gives you comfy slippers!

Due to our short layover in Seoul, I only had five minutes to check out the Asiana lounge at ICN airport, grab a free drink and snap a photo. My cursory impression was very favorable. Too bad I didn’t get to enjoy more than five minutes.

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Finally, the last leg of our flight: From Seoul to Siem Reap. At this point, I was thoroughly exhausted and could barely keep track of what day it was. Asiana’s business class from ICN – REP is more comparable to domestic first class in the United States —┬ánot the lie-flat seats that we had on the SFO-ICN leg. Even without lie-flat seats, I was so tired, I managed to sleep for a majority of the flight.

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And finally, at 11:00 p.m. local Siem Reap time, we arrived in Cambodia. As we disembarked, the first thing we noticed was how steamy and tropical the weather felt. We were clearly a long way from New York’s freezing temperatures. The Le Meridian offered free air port pick-up and I was awfully glad I had made arrangements to take advantage of it before the trip. Our driver was waiting for us outside, and the long journey to Asia was finally over.

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When you wake up at 3 AM for a 6 AM flight…

Our big trip to Asia started with about 1 hour of sleep. That was okay because we had 25 hours of plane time ahead of us and not much to do but watch movies, check the airplane map and sleep.

Check-in at JFK was relatively painless. There were no lines, but it took 20 minutes to convince United to check our luggage all the way through to Cambodia. After security, we were off to the lounge, which, to my surprise, was open at four a.m. in the morning.

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But the best part of our flight leg to San Francisco was United’s new transcontinental business class seats. Domestic business class seats are usually nice, but not meant for heavy duty sleeping. And by the time we boarded the plane, I desperately needed some heavy duty nap time. Luckily, United’s new transcontinental business class seats are comparable to international business class, complete with a full array of media options, lie-flat seats, outlets for our many gadgets, comfortable blankets, etc.

This was just what I needed. Somewhere between New York and Colorado, I managed to sleep for three hours.

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A REVIEW OF MY SECOND AND THIRD BUSINESS CLASS FLIGHTS (YEAH I’M KEEPING COUNT)

Two years ago, the thought of flying business class would have been unthinkable. It would never occur to me to distinguish between different types of business class seats — what does that even mean? Business class is just waaaaaaay better than economy, right? That’s what the old me would have said.

Thanks to the points/miles game, I’m slowly morphing into one of those annoying people who says things like, “The Lufthansa Airbus 330 is not half as nice as the Boeing 747.” Don’t you just hate those people?

But this is one of the “downsides” of flying business class more than once. I now have a point of reference. And that point of reference was so incredible, other business class flights don’t live up to it.

Don’t get me wrong. Our flight to Frankfurt and our return flight to New York City on Lufthansa’s Airbus 330 were great: Lots of leg room, reclining seats, personal entertainment centers, gracious flight attendants, etc. But compared to my inaugural business class flight to Croatia on Lufthansa’s new Boeing 747, there were some important difference.

The 747 has more space, including handy compartments in the armrest and in front of my legs to store useful carry-on items so they don’t end up in a mess on the floor. It also contains brand new lie flat seats, which means the seats recline completely flat so you are horizontal with the floor. I also enjoyed the extra room in the shared armrest on the 747 and the plethora of entertainment options.

The Airbus 330 contains angled seats, which means the seats lie at an angle to the floor when fully reclined. I still managed to fall asleep, but the lie flat seat is definitely an upgrade. The entertainment options were sufficient for an eight hour flight, but the wide selection on the 747 is far more impressive and the screens are bigger. The Airbus 330s also have less armrest space and fewer cubby holes for personal belongings.

At the risk of sounding like a complete spoiled brat, let me reiterate that the the Airbus 330 is an enjoyable and restful flight. But if you have the opportunity to fly business class in Lufthansa’s new B-747s, grab it.

Some pictures:

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JFK Lufthansa Business Lounge!!!

Yes, the title really does warrant three exclamation points.

One of the beneifits of traveling business class is the awesome business class lounges I get to hang out in prior to the flight. Comfortable chairs, free food, wireless, free newspapers and magazines – it is an easy life to get used to. Now, I’ve only been to a few lounges so I am still filled with child-like giddiness everytime I get to check out a new one. A few years ago, Lufthansa invested millions to renovate its JFK lounge so I was especially excited.

My thoughts: It is very NICE, though not that different from my Lufthansa lounge experience at Dulles airport in Virginia. (Am I starting to sound like one of those obnoxious travel snobs? If so, I’m sorry, but I probably won’t do anything about it.) The lounge is spacious and airy, and the food spread is decent, but the lack of power outlets near the most comfortable seats is annoying and seems like an obvious oversight. The wifi is also unreliable. Thank God for 3G.

Here are some photos:

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PHOTO FUN: A BIRD’S-EYE VIEW

One of my favorite things to do on airplanes is take pictures from above. There is something uniquely awesome about seeing a city or landscape from a completely different perspective. This is especially fun if you’re flying over a particularly picturesque area. It is much less fun if you’re are landing in a corn field in the dark.

Here are my bird’s eye pictures of Washington DC from my recent trip.

Washington DC

Washington DC

And here are my favorite bird’s-eye pictures from my Croatia trip:

Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik
Alps

I’m not sure, but this might be the Alps on my way home from Croatia.

What are some of your favorite plane pictures? Post your links below. I’d love to see them.

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WORDS I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SAY: THANK THE GOOD LORD FOR JETBLUE

I generally prefer not to fly JetBlue because they don’t belong to any frequent flier alliances and I don’t fly them frequently enough to amass enough TrueBlue points to be useful. Currently I have 1,529 TrueBlue Points. What the heck am I supposed to do with that?

But JetBlue happened to have the exact flight I needed last night, so JetBlue it was.

And that’s how I found myself sitting on the tarmac for an hour due to foggy weather in Washington DC, and then found myself circling above Baltimore for half and hour waiting to see if we could even land at DCA (we could). I had my iPad, but there’s only so many games of Settlers of Catan I can play before I start knocking my head against the seat in front of me. And something tells me, that wouldn’t go over too well with The National Association of Protecting Mankind from Crazy People. So…Thank the Lord for DirectTV on JetBlue airplanes and the start of the fall TV season.

I firmly believe that TV makes most things in life infinitely better, and flight delays are no exception.

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