ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Alaska to Singapore and Back via Argentina and Dubai

Member for

13 years 8 months

Posts: 38

What’s the greater nonstop distance:

Fairbanks to Singapore
or
Buenos Aires to Frankfurt?

Considering how far north Fairbanks is and how far south Singapore is, I was surprised to discover that the nonstop distance between Fairbanks and Singapore comes out to just 6650 miles while the nonstop mileage between Buenos Aires to Frankfurt totals out at 7140 miles. However, while it’s possible to fly nonstop between Buenos Aires and Frankfurt, there are no nonstop flights between Fairbanks and Singapore. As a result, those of us desiring transport between those two cities are faced with a much longer journey.

Typically, traveling from Fairbanks to Singapore requires flying down to Seattle or San Francisco and then connecting to a long trans-Pacific flight over to Singapore. Depending upon the connecting cities on either side of the Pacific, the total distance flown could be anywhere from 9500 to 11000 miles. Whichever way you go about it, flying from Fairbanks to Singapore is quite a long journey, one that most people look forward to with all the anticipation and enthusiasm normally reserved for a root canal.

Thankfully, I’m not wired that way. I like a good long trip. If I must go to somewhere far away, why not make the most of it? The last thing I’d want to do is take the direct route to Singapore. Here's an idea! Why not fly from Fairbanks to Singapore via both Buenos Aires and Frankfurt! On the face of it, this just sounds crazy - like something kids would come up with while playing travel agent. But then when it comes to air travel, especially in First and Business Class, I still have a lot of kid in me. I also have a lot of miles to burn. I can do this! I'll use a one way Alaska award from Fairbanks to Buenos Aires, a United Award from BA to Kuala Lumpur, and another Alaska award from Hong Kong to Fairbanks.

Interested?

We’ll begin with a collection of First Class domestic flights from Alaska to Miami before upgrading to a Flagship Suite aboard American’s late night 777 down to Buenos Aires. From there it’s only a short flight of stairs to the upper deck of Lufthansa’s 747-400 where a plush seat and a comfortable bed await for the thirteen hour, seven thousand one hundred and forty mile flight to Frankfurt. Next up is a First Class suite aboard Asiana’s 747-400 Combi for the eleven hour flight across the vast expanse of Asia to Seoul. A five hour layover at Incheon should provide plenty of time for a short nap and perhaps a bowl of some locally made Bibimbap before boarding Thai Airways’ newly configured A330 from Seoul down to Bangkok with an intermediate stop in Taipei. A hotel reservation in Bangkok will ensure a good rest and a hot shower with plenty of time to enjoy the lounge facilities at Suvarnabhumi Airport before returning to a First Class suite aboard Lufthansa’s A340-600 for the two hour flight down to Kuala Lumpur. Our early evening arrival will provide more than enough time to catch the KLIA Ekspres train into downtown Kuala Lumpur where a private bedroom awaits aboard the late night express train down to Singapore.

The return trip to Fairbanks will include stops in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong and Dubai. And you all know what a routing through Dubai means! All travel will be in First Class with the exception of the regional flights within southeast Asia, where the best possible seat on the plane will be in Business Class. All in all, this trip will involve just shy of 41000 miles of travel aboard seven airlines and one railroad.

Now here’s the weird part: I’m doing this entire trip in just eight days. Ideally, I’d rather stay home and take this trip in March or April when I’d have more time. There are two factors however that have combined to put me back on the road now rather than later.

The first is United Airlines’ decision to significantly increase the mileage redemption levels for premium class award travel on its Star Alliance partners. That change took effect on February 3rd. The main reason I participated in United’s Platinum Challenge last year was that I got tired of looking at trip reports detailing fellow FlyerTalkers reveling in the luxury of Lufthansa’s First Class cabins. I wanted to go out and write my own report on it and the only way to do that was to earn the requisite mileage. With the dramatic increase in the mileage required to accomplish this goal, I figured why wait and pay 135000 miles for something after February 3rd that I can get now for 90000 miles?

The second factor is that Lufthansa generally doesn’t release its First Class seats to award inventories until fourteen days or less before departure. That means that if I’m going to travel in First Class on Lufthansa, it’s going to have to happen sometime in early February.

So – back in early January I took my newly attained 1K status with United out for a spin. With the 100% mileage accrual bonus, I added another 61,800 additional miles to my Mileage Plus account which, when combined with the 62000 already in it left me with more than enough for that First Class seat on Lufthansa plus an additional one way intra-Asia Business Class ticket.

So – there you have it. This will be a quick trip because of Lufthansa’s policies regarding the release of First Class award seats in addition to the fact that I’m contracted to work with a local tour operator here in town starting February 15th. Though I’d rather take this trip in March, I’m still really excited to get on the road again. I’m excited to finally fly Lufthansa’s First Class and I’m really looking forward to flying aboard Asiana’s 747 Combi as well as returning to the incredible airborne luxury we know as First Class on Emirates Airlines.

That said, I certainly had a lot of fun both flying as well as writing about this whirlwind aerial escapade. If you're at all interested in reading about how it all went down, then by all means go pour yourself a glass of something tasty and settle in for the ride. It should be a good one!

Original post

Member for

13 years 8 months

Posts: 38

February 3, 2014
Alaska Airlines Fairbanks to Seattle 515p – 950p 737-700 First Class

When the day of departure finally arrived it was a gorgeous winter day in the Interior, sunny and about 8°F. It’s almost as if Alaska doesn’t want me to leave. Don’t go! See what you’re missing? It’s a beautiful day. The Yukon Quest dog sled race is into its third day and many of the teams are running at a record pace. Patty Larkin is playing in town this weekend. The Ice Dogs are also back in town. The aurora’s supposed to be good this weekend. Stick around!

As always, there are so many reasons to stay. Still, there is considerable consolation in the fact that I do have a return ticket. I’ll be back in just eight days. I may not beat the Yukon Quest mushers into Whitehorse but it’ll be close. They’ve got 1060 miles to go. I’ve got 40,790.

My neighbor Steve – he of the affinity for 1970s action movies and good bourbon - dropped me off on his way to work. Steve’s starting to approach all-star status amongst those who have dropped me off multiple times at various airports. I waved so long and promised a bottle of Woodford Reserve and a viewing of the original Inglorious Basterds (with Bo Svensen) next Saturday fortnight. It might even be time for another viewing of Vanishing Point. Or even Mr. Majestyk.

Rarely have I ever encountered a line at the TSA checkpoint here in Fairbanks. Once, on a nice summer day about eight years ago I had the misfortune to arrive shortly after four or five busses from Princess Cruises had disgorged their passengers, effectively turning our little terminal into a slow motion insane asylum. Today however the checkpoint was blissfully empty, the blue shirted agents all standing around seemingly waiting just for me, which in effect they were.

I watched as my 737-700 came in over the Tanana Basin and then circled around and landed from the west. As it taxied smartly back to gate 1, I headed over to the gift shop for a copy of today’s News Miner before making my way down to the gate. Despite having lived up here for twenty-six years now, I still am amazed at how quickly daylight returns to these northern latitudes. Just one month ago it was dark at 4:00pm. Now the sun’s up. We’ve been gaining about four minutes of sunlight per day of late. Come March that’ll increase to almost eight additional minutes per day.

It was a light load down to Seattle this evening. As ever, all of the First Class seats were occupied but in back the load was perhaps 50%. The pace was relaxed and friendly as we pushed back from the gate and dispensed with the pre-departure announcements. Soon we were climbing out of Fairbanks and making a wide turn to the south and east as we settled in for the two hour and fifty-eight minute flight down to Seattle.

A couple of Bloody Mary’s got this flight off to a nice start. I like Alaska’s Bloody Mary mix but an extra packet of Tabasco Sauce gave these drinks just the right kick. Additionally, I always bring along a packet of Blue Diamond almonds. I’m an old fashioned guy. I grew up on Blue Diamond almonds with my airborne cocktails. It’s a tradition I rather like and given the easy availability of these almonds in most any convenience store, I’m rarely without them aloft.

Dinner was served shortly afterwards. Normally Alaska’s catering out of Fairbanks (and indeed Alaska’s catering as a whole) is rather weak. I was expecting little more than a scrawny chicken breast with a pile of mixed greens. The plate I was presented tonight was much nicer. It was highlighted by a large juicy chicken breast – at least 6-7oz, maybe even 8! – topped with a creamy sauce and accompanied by polenta and Swiss chard. It was far and away the largest and best chicken dinner I’ve ever been served on Alaska and despite not including any salad or bread, I’d say this was one of the better meals I’ve had on Alaska of late.

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The best chicken dinner I’ve ever had on Alaska!

In retrospect, I can’t help but wonder if this meal represented an upgrade to Alaska’s heretofore mediocre catering into and out of Alaska or if it was a mistake by the caterers. I spoke with friends of mine who'd flown Alaska First Class from Chicago to Portland last night and the only offering on their 5:15pm three and a half hour flight was a bowl of pasta with zucchini. By comparison Coach passengers were offered a nice chicken and rice bowl for just $6.00. So- the jury’s still out on Alaska’s catering system wide but I liked what I saw tonight.

We landed on a nice clear evening in Seattle and parked way out at the end of the D Concourse next to an American 737-800 that might be the plane taking me to Chicago tomorrow morning. After flossing and brushing in the downstairs bathroom, I stopped by to say howdy to the airport cops and then set up camp in my usual locale.

February 4, 2014
American Airlines Seattle to Chicago 815a – 225p 737-800 First Class
American Airlines Chicago to Miami 355p – 800p 757-200 First Class
American Airlines Miami to Buenos Aires 1155p – 1055a 777-200 First Class

I made two mistakes in the planning stages that could have scuttled this entire trip after today. One of them was avoidable; the other perhaps was not, especially since I couldn’t leave until after the Super Bowl. Then again, had I known that the Seattle Seahawks were going to handle the Denver Broncos with the same ease that Mike Tyson would have dispatched Woody Allen in the boxing ring, I would have gotten on the road a few days earlier with some time to enjoy BA and KL. (The cities, not the airlines)

My principal mistake was routing through Chicago instead of somewhere normally warmer like Dallas or Los Angeles. Though Dallas occasionally gets victimized by winter weather, the odds of it being affected are less so than in Chicago at this time of year. The second mistake was not allowing an extra day to get to Buenos Aires just in case anything happened today such as weather or a mechanical. After all, the point of this whole exercise is to experience First Class on Lufthansa and Asiana, not on American.

The weather today in Dallas was pleasant, partly cloudy with temps in the 50s. In Chicago the forecast called for snow starting in the early afternoon and intensifying into the evening. Winter Storm Nika was roiling through the nation’s midsection and Chicago was positioned on the northern edge of the storm’s projected track. Unfortunately, last ditch efforts to reroute through Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and even New York proved futile.

Sigh… I guess we’ll just have to hope for the best.

The day got off to a tenuous start when American’s 8:15am departure into Chicago was delayed because earlier that morning the pilots for my flight had been sent to Paine Field up in Everett, Washington in order to ferry a plane down to SeaTac. The announcement that our flight would be delayed was made at 8:05am and we were told that our pilots had just pushed back at Paine. The new departure time was said to be 8:30. Yeah, right. The pilots didn’t even arrive until 8:25 and by the time we took to the air it was 9:00am. On a positive note, a brisk tailwind would push us into Chicago a bit faster than usual resulting in an arrival at 2:35, just ten minutes late.

Back in the mid-2000s I used to log a lot of miles on American in pursuit of status in Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan. American had some great fares and routings such as Phoenix to Jacksonville routing PHX-SEA-ORD-MIA-JAX that allowed the miles to add up fast. From 2004 to 2008, I logged 282 flights on American totaling 310710 miles. Never once on any of those flights did I ever get to sit in First Class. Now I’d flown American First Class back in the good old days but I was unfamiliar with their post 9-11 product. Be it seating or food however, American always seemed to be a bit better than most other airlines back then. Today, I was looking forward to finally flying First Class on American – albeit the new American as managed by Doug Parker.

Well the seats certainly are nice. By today’s standards, at least. For sure the First Class seats on this 737-800 were more comfortable than those found on Alaska’s 737-800s. One thing I liked was that they were upholstered in cloth. I have never understood the allure of leather other than the fact that it’s easier to clean. The airlines that have it talk it up like it’s the ultimate in luxury but if you look around, most of the world’s best airlines use cloth covered seats in their First Class cabins.

As we pushed back from the gate and the flight attendants commenced with their emergency procedures briefing, two guys seated two rows up from me continued on with their rather loud conversation. It was clearly an awkward situation for the FA standing at the front of the First Class cabin but she struggled on. Nobody else said anything. I thought of saying something but from two rows back that probably would have been equally disruptive.

Call me old fashioned but aside from missing out on potentially important information, above all this type of behavior - be it talking loudly or not even looking up from a book or newspaper - just seems basically rude to me. Even though I’ve logged nearly 500000 miles aboard 737-800s and know this airplane about as well as any passenger can, I always put down my newspaper or book and give the flight attendants my attention if only out of respect to them and what they’re trying to do. I mean, really, imagine how awkward it must be to address a large group of people and see only about half of them paying any attention to what you’re saying. We’ve all been on planes and seen people who can’t be bothered to look up from their books and papers to acknowledge the safety briefings. Why? The usual excuses. They’ve flown hundreds of times. If there’s a crash, everyone’s a goner anyway! Truth be known, a good percentage of airline accidents happen during take offs or landings. Depending upon one’s actions, survival or death are often right there for the choosing. Will you make the right choice? Where IS your nearest exit, anyway?

Once we’d leveled out at 36000’, the Captain came on and advised us of the good news regarding tailwinds and our not so late arrival time. He promised a smooth flight until our descent into Chicago whereupon we’d be flying through the edge of the storm and could expect a few shakes. Otherwise, it should be a fine day for flying so please, sit back, enjoy the service and thank you for flying with American Airlines today.

American has a program that allows First and Business Class travelers to pre-order their main courses in advance of their flight. It’s not like Singapore or Thai where you get a selection of thirty different dishes to choose from. You’re limited to whatever is being served on the flight anyway, but at least you won’t have to worry about not getting your choice. Since I had no status with American, it seemed like a good idea to utilize this perk lest I end up with a bowl of cereal. As such, I pre-ordered the Quiche Lorraine.

I was pleased to see that the flight attendant made a point of acknowledging those of us who’d placed meal requests. The choices this morning were between a quiche Lorraine served with asparagus spears and sun-dried tomatoes or a decent sized bowl of cereal that came with a banana. Both dishes were accompanied by a small fruit plate and a choice of a banana nut muffin or a biscuit. My quiche was pretty good though I didn’t discern any of the bacon that would have made it a quiche “Lorraine”. Additionally, the asparagus spears were in reality tiny half inch long pieces of incredibly thin asparagus stalks that were so small they were unable to impart any real asparagus flavor. My urine didn’t even have that characteristic asparagus odor afterwards.


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American’s Quiche Lorraine Breakfast

Descent into Chicago was a little bumpy but I was thankful to see that aside from cold grey skies, the conditions were otherwise pretty good. The runway and tarmac were clean and dry and all flights were operating on time. The only downside was the new location of my Miami flight which had been reassigned gate L-8, way over on the other side of the airport, about a half mile walk from the end of the H concourse where my inbound from Seattle had arrived. There goes any chance of lounging around at the Admirals Club. I took a big breath and began the long journey over to Concourse L.


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American’s Tails – Past & Present

Although American has been steadily retiring its older 757s, the aircraft taking us down to Miami this afternoon was a relatively youthful 15 year old bird that still had plenty of spring in her wings. We verily leapt off the runway and quickly powered up through the cloud cover and into the bright sunny world of the troposphere. Drinks were served in short order (A Bloody Mary for me, thanks) followed by an early dinner. Once again I’d pre-ordered and so was guaranteed a nice dish of Cajun Shrimp accompanied by cheese grits and southern succotash. For any of you unfamiliar with succotash, today’s version was comprised of corn, some lima beans and a few flecks of green pepper – the latter contributing more color than flavor. It was all good though the main course inclusion of just three 40-count shrimp was a bit on the small side. Dessert was a raspberry and white chocolate cookie, washed down admirably with a cup of surprisingly hot coffee.


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American’s Cajun Shrimp Dinner


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A nice evening sky to enjoy with dinner

Upon disembarking in Miami, I was greeted by an attractive new terminal. Polished stone floors with brass inlaid seashell designs provided an appealing promenade through the high, wide and bright concourse. Looking back, I found it hard to believe that it had been four years since I’d last flown American through Miami International. I used to fly through here a dozen or more times a year and the airport was perpetually under construction. Now at last it appears that Concourse D is finally completed. This and Concourse A are as good as it gets at MIA and I look forward to the day when the rest of the airport is of an equal standard.

Despite the large number of international departures operated by American out of Miami, there is no Flagship Lounge available for First Class customers. Miami’s got more international departures than Los Angeles and London combined and yet those two airports rate Flagship Lounges. What’s up with that?! American, British Airways and Iberia jointly operate a premium lounge over on the E Concourse but that was so far from my departure gate at D23 that it hardly seemed worth the effort to hike over there. Oh well. Instead, I made my way over to the nearest Admiral’s Club.

Any negative feelings I may have been harboring about American’s lounge situation in Miami quickly evaporated upon entering the Admirals Club adjacent to gate 30. Now this is a nice facility. I was immediately reminded of another favorite lounge of mine - Northwest’s World Club (now Sky Club) on Concourse C at Minneapolis. Imagine that lounge with a south Florida ambience and you’d have the Gate 30 Admirals Club at MIA. Accented with vibrant colors and materials reflective of Miami's tropical culture, this is a large and sprawling lounge, spread out over 30000 square feet. Even so, there are plenty of little nooks and crannies where one can enjoy a sense of privacy amidst the potted plants or beside one of the huge windows overlooking the tarmac below.


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American’s Gate 30 Admirals Club at MIA


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American’s Gate 30 Admirals Club at MIA
Photo Courtesy of American Airlines

Because I was travelling on an International First Class ticket, I was given two complimentary drink coupons good for premium class liquors or beers. After dropping my gear off in an intimate little covy of comfy chairs, I made my way to the bar where an impressive selection of spirits was on display. The bartender sported what might best be described as a conservative Mohawk hair style, something not commonly seen in most conservative airline lounges. Brash looks notwithstanding, he was a friendly and attentive guy who upon noting my interest in good bourbon wasted no time in recommending one called Angel’s Envy. I’d never heard of it but I was more than willing to give it a try.

It was printed on the bottle that this bourbon was “Finished in Port Wine Barrels” and perhaps that is why I found it a bit sweeter than I’d like. Not bad, not bad… but for my tastes I love the smoky spiciness of the Woodford Reserve. Little did I know at the time that I wouldn’t taste any Woodford’s until next week’s flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong aboard Emirates.

I left the lounge at 11:00pm and made my way down to D-23 where my Buenos Aires bound 777 awaited. Despite a difference of only seven gates from the D30 Admirals Club over to D23, the distance is deceptively far. Thankfully, a SkyTrain station was conveniently located adjacent to both gates.

It is said that you can dress a criminal in a coat and tie for his court appearance but underneath it all he’s still a criminal. You can also spruce up Miami International Airport with new terminals and shiny stores and restaurants but after all is said and done, it’s still in Miami – America’s own little Third World. Things run differently down here and it’s been my experience that for the most part they run a whole lot less efficiently than what you’ll find in other parts of the country.

Witness the scene at gate D-23. There were no signs or lanes indicating priority boarding, so instead of an orderly boarding process much as you’d expect (and generally find) on most other airlines around the country, here it was sheer bedlam. No sooner had the gate agent uttered the first sentence about the impending boarding process than half the gate lounge arose and surged toward the jetway. More announcements were made imploring people to actually take a moment to look at their boarding passes where their boarding group would be displayed but even this simple request seemed a bit beyond the grasp of these tired and anxious late night flyers.

It’s funny but after what I went through to make my way through the mob and onto the plane with the Group 1 passengers, I couldn’t help but think of maverick World Airways President Ed Daly standing on the aft stairwell of his 727 with a pistol in one hand and a clenched fist in the other, literally fighting off soldiers who were attempting to climb aboard his aircraft as it was taxiing out of DaNang with a load of Vietnamese orphans back in 1975. Some estimates say there were over 350 people onboard that plane. The truth is probably a bit less than 300, on a plane that in a typically mixed configuration carried about 110. Regardless, that was probably the most amazing 727 flight ever made and its “boarding process”, though inadvertent, bore some similarities to what I’ve often experienced in Miami. Here are a couple of great articles about that flight and Ed Daly – a true American hero.

First Article

Second Article

Despite my being amongst the first fifty people to board, the journey down the crowded and muggy jetway took a surprisingly long time. Two flight attendants were positioned at the door of the 777, one of whom examined my boarding pass, welcomed me aboard and then indicated I should turn left with a pointed finger. Hmm… Cathay Pacific this ain’t.

It’s been ten years since I last flew in International First Class on American. That flight was from Los Angeles to London, also aboard a 777-200. By all appearances, nothing has changed in the First Class cabin of these jets over the past ten years. The original Flagship Suites, introduced amidst much fanfare back in 2000, are now old and dated compared to the latest offerings, including those of rival United Airlines. American does offer a new and improved suite aboard its 777-300ERs but the -200s will soldier on with the original equipment which is then slated to be removed and replaced with Business Class seating starting later this year.


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American’s Flagship Suite aboard the 777-200

At my seat were pajamas and slippers, individually packaged in plastic wrap. The wine list, menu and even a separate dessert menu had been laid out on the table beside the seat, along with a bottle of water. A lightweight blanket, duvet and pillow were placed on the foot rest opposite the seat. Light jazz bubbled through the cabin speakers. I stowed my roll-a-board, set down my daypack and then fired off a couple of photographs before the cabin got too crowded. A flight attendant appeared and relieved me of my jacket. She promised to return soon with an amenity kit and something to drink.

Taking a seat in my suite, I removed my shoes and took a moment to re-familiarize myself with the various seat functions. Personal experience has taught me that now is the time to learn about the seat and in the process find out if everything is working correctly. After all, it certainly wouldn’t do to discover that my seat won’t go flat an hour into the flight, especially on a full plane.

American’s suites are a bit different in that the seats not only face forward but can also be swiveled 90° to face the windows. In addition to the main dining table stowed in the wall forward of the seat, a separate table folds out from the wall alongside the windows. When turned and facing the windows, the resulting work space created by tables both in front and to the side is unparalleled.

As I was going through my inspection, one flight attendant arrived with an amenity kit followed shortly thereafter by another with a tray of orange juice, water and sparkling wine. I’m not much of a Champagne drinker, but when I do drink it I’ve come to appreciate the difference between the good stuff like Dom or Krug as opposed to the lesser quality stuff passed off as sparkling wine by U.S. airlines. Water, please.

Interestingly, the electrical outlets in these suites still run on DC whereas more modern devices (including those aboard American’s 737s) use AC. Next I discovered that my personal overhead light would not work. The electric outlet situation was quickly rectified with an airline supplied converter but alas, the overhead light issue required a bit more effort as the problem was with not only my light but everyone’s throughout the cabin.

Meanwhile, I took a moment to inspect the amenity kit. Supplied by Eames Office®, the large padded container is designed to double as a tablet case. Inside is a collection of Dermalogica® products including facial moisturizer, hand cream and lip balm along with the usual assortment of things like eye shades, socks, toothbrush and paste, ear plugs, tissues, a pen and even a laptop screen cleaner.

I think it’s great that the airlines supply these kits but I personally have little use for them. I always keep a toothbrush, floss and toothpaste in my daypack along with eyeshades, earplugs, tissues and plenty of pens. As for all the creams and moisturizers – you can have ‘em. I’ve always lived in a dry and cold climate and have never felt a need to use any of these products. As a result, beautiful women may not sidle up to rub my ruddy face approvingly like they do in the TV commercials for these products, but honestly, I don't even know anyone that uses creams like this - at least not guys.

Pushback was right on time – 11:55pm. As we made our way put to runway 27L, I lamented the darkness that prevented me from seeing some of the colorful aircraft – including some interesting old hulks – that populate the airport perimeter. With the plethora of Latin American and Caribbean cargo airlines serving Miami - many of them with older jets – a daytime taxi around this airport is always entertaining.

We paused briefly at the head of the runway before the Captain throttled up the twin Rolls Royce Trent 800s powering his steed. The combined thrust of approximately 180000 lbf pushed our 500,000 lb. aircraft down the runway until it had achieved sufficient speed to defeat the twin forces of gravity and drag. The lights of Miami twinkled brightly beneath us as we soared into the warm night sky, climbing ever higher and faster toward the considerably colder climes of the upper troposphere where the engines would be at their most efficient.

As we made our way through a thin layer of clouds at 7000 feet, I reclined my seat a bit and reached for the menu and wine list. With a flight time of just eight hours and fifty-seven minutes down to Buenos Aires, my plan was to eat dinner as soon as possible, then read a bit and hopefully knock off about five hours of sleep. Normally I would never eat at this hour of night unless we’d been out partying all night, in which case there’s nothing quite like hittin’ a Denny’s at 2:00am!

Ah – but this is International First Class and even on a U.S. airline like American, I can always make time to check out my favorite form of inflight entertainment – the meal service.

My trip reports put a lot of emphasis on the inflight service - especially the meal service - because I particularly enjoy that aspect of the First Class experience. A nicely prepared and served meal represents a wonderful distraction from the ennui of long distance flight. With a seven to ten hour flight to look forward to, a good meal nicely presented at a leisurely pace represents entertainment far more enjoyable to me than anything found on the entertainment system.

* * * . * * * . * * *

The flight attendant serving my side of the cabin was named GiGi. She was a big, friendly lady with a happy disposition, a ready smile and some seriously frizzy hair. She and the Purser had been working on the overhead personal light issue I described earlier and had managed to get the lights to work all at once but not individually. Huh? You’d think we could just turn our lights off at that point but the button wouldn’t work. GiGi said she’d never seen anything like it on the 777 but it was what it was and so they’d decided to leave them available during the dinner service and turn them off afterwards. That was fine by me as I only needed the light to illuminate the meal on my tray table so as to better provide you all with quality photographs.

Speaking of photos, the biggest problem most photographers face is their self-consciousness about doing something that others may consider weird. While it helps to have a thick skin in this regard, for some that’s either nonexistent or not enough. One thing I’ve really found puts people at ease is if you can provide a reasonable explanation for why you’re taking such out of the ordinary photos. I’ve learned one explanation that resonates well with most flight attendants and seatmates is to explain that I’m doing so for a friend of mine who is a flight attendant with Alaska Airlines. I go on to mention that the largest plane flown by Alaska is a 737 and so my friend is curious to see what the First Class service is like on a larger airplane, much less on a different airline. This explanation seems to put everyone at ease and if I take three or four pictures of my appetizer, it’s because I’m trying to figure out my camera settings. After all, I don’t have a lot of experience taking food photos (they don’t need to know otherwise!)

Alright then, how about a drink before dinner? Right on! Where’d I put that wine list?

WINE LIST

Champagne
Champagne Moutard Vintage 2008

White Wine
Cave des Grands Crus Blancs Pouilly-Vinzelles
Silverado Vineyards Miller Ranch
Sauvignon Blanc, California

Red Wine
Fabre Montmayou Grand Vin, Mendoza
Salentein Numina Cabernet Franc, Uco Valley

Dessert Wine
Senhora do Convento Vintage Port, Douro

Spirits
Absolut Vodka
Bacardi Rum
Bombay Sapphire Gin

Whiskeys
Canadian Club Reserve Blended Whisky
Dewar’s White Label Scotch Whisky
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
Jim Beam Devil’s Cut

Beers
Amstel Light
Heineken
Select U.S. Beers

Brandy and Liqueurs
Baileys Irish Cream
Courvoisier V.S.O.P. Fine Champagne Cognac
DiSaronno Amaretto
Kahlua

Hmm… let’s go with a glass of the Malbec. And for dinner, uh, lemme just double check that menu for a moment!

AMERICAN AIRLINES INTERNATIONAL FLAGSHIP SERVICE

DINNER
Miami to Buenos Aires

Amuse-Bouche
Smoked Chicken Crostini
With Romesco Sauce

STARTERS

Cured Salmon
With poached pear and avocado crème
~or~

Prosciutto and Mozzarella
With honeydew melon

Soup
Creamy Wild Mushroom
With garlic sourdough croutons

Salad
Seasonal greens with fresh vegetables, sweet and spicy pecans and blue cheese
Offered with premium extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Assorted gourmet breads will be served with your meal

ENTREES

Grilled Fillet of Beef
With charred Romesco Sauce

Adobo Chicken
Served with Achiote Truffle Sauce

Grilled Margarita Salmon
With fresh cilantro and lime

Mediterranean Sampler
A selection of hummus, tabbouleh, tzatziki, marinated feta cheese and Kalamata olives
Accompanied by pita bread

Specialty Sundae
Coconut sundae with vanilla ice cream
Toasted coconut and cocoa dusted almonds

Traditional Ice Cream Sundae
Vanilla ice cream with your choice of hot fudge,
Butterscotch or seasonal berry toppings,
Whipped cream and pecans

Gourmet Cheese Plate
An assortment of fine cheeses with garnishes

Grand Marnier Fruit Salad
With raspberry sorbet

Hmm… not bad, not bad... I understood when I booked my flights on American that I wasn’t going to be served a meal on par with what I would expect on Cathay or Lufthansa. That said however, based upon the menu descriptions presented here, this looks to be a perfectly adequate meal offering - particularly for a meal offered this late at night.

Meanwhile, GiGi waited patiently for my order. Oh! Uh, right then, let’s start with the salmon appetizer, followed by the soup and the salad. The oil and vinegar will be fine, thanks. As for the main course… let’s go withhhhh… the Adobo Chicken. We’ll see about dessert after the meal.

To be honest, my first choice would have been the steak but red meat sits heavy in my stomach and is slower to digest. Since I wanted to get some sleep as soon after dinner as possible, I opted to go with the chicken instead. The salmon looked equally tempting but that “Achiote Truffle Sauce” tipped me toward the chicken.

GiGi soon returned with my table setting consisting of a white linen tablecloth upon which she placed a large silver mesh looking placemat. A plastic salt and pepper set, a bread plate, a butter dish and a rolled napkin and silverware set completed the setting. The bread basket was presented and I selected a couple of pieces including a good looking piece of cheese bread. My wine was then delivered with a small ramekin of nuts.

Oh… Oh yeah! Mmm! This is nice!
Dang! I’m gonna have to get me a bottle of this!

What a delicious wine! Full of flavor with good tannins and a long, velvety finish - just perfect by my tastes. I looked it up on the Internet later and though the price of $38.00 is a little more than I usually like to pay for a bottle of wine, I occasionally do and for this one I definitely would.

The amuse bouche was presented first. It was simple but tasty enough - essentially a slice of French bread topped with a slice of pressed chicken, some red stuff and a dollop of yellow mustard. I guess the red stuff must have been the Romesco sauce but it seemed more vegetable like than saucy to me. Was that yellow stuff the sauce? It looked and tasted like mustard… Eh – whatever. It was a simple and decent enough starter though a little surprising by international First Class standards.


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Amuse Bouche with Wine and Bread Plate

The salmon appetizer was presented next. I didn’t detect any poached pear but the avocado crème drizzle complimented the salmon nicely along with bites of the cheese bread.


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A good tasting salmon appetizer

Now then, bring on the mushroom soup! When it comes to cream of mushroom soup, I grade on a generous curve. There were actually some decently sized pieces of mushrooms in there and the flavor was rich and buttery. Good stuff. I could’ve downed another bowl.


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Mushroom Soup

The salad. I loved it! What made this salad so tasty for me was the inclusion of the ever so humble head or iceberg lettuce. So many chefs seem to feel that this lettuce is too lowly for a proper salad but I was raised on this stuff and I was thrilled to enjoy its crunchy goodness compared to the limp textured mesclun leaves found in so many airline salads these days. Topped with red onions, pecans and chunks of musty blue cheese, this salad was nicely complimented by the zesty Balsamic vinegar dressing. Overall, I’d rate this as the best salad I’ve had inflight since last year’s Caesar Salad with Prawns masterpiece served up in Austrian Airlines’ Business Class. Way to go, American!


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I really liked this salad!

Alas, the chicken was a bit of a disappointment. I was really looking forward to that Achiote Truffle Sauce but it didn’t have much flavor and the chicken itself was a tad dry and surprisingly diminutive, even by Ethiopian famine standards. The chicken breast I was served last night on Alaska Airlines between Fairbanks and Seattle was larger and much more flavorful.


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Adobo Chicken Served with Achiote Truffle Sauce

If there was any advantage to being served that tiny, flavorless chicken breast, it was that I still had room for dessert. Having spent the last month as a 1K mileage running on United, I’ve had my fair share of sundaes and didn’t really feel a need for any more. How ‘bout that cheese plate?

How ‘bout that cheese plate? Well, if you’re into bland American Cheddar, Jack and Swiss cheese, then you’d be pleased. The accoutrements of grapes, walnuts, a date and some crackers were okay but the port was sickly sweet and nearly undrinkable save for the most desperate alcoholics. Thank goodness for another glass of that delicious Malbec which washed it all down quite admirably.


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Nice presentation on this cheese plate


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By the time I finished dinner, we were almost to Venezuela

Now then, time for bed. I headed off to the lav while GiGi and cleared my table and set up my suite for sleeping. I never bother changing into the pajamas but I do switch out my button down oxford for a Denver Broncos t-shirt. I know, I know, the Broncos just got slaughtered by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl but hey – once a Broncos fan, always a Broncos fan. Hopefully we’ll be back for another go next year and in the meantime, that t-shirt’s a lot more comfortable than my button-down, especially in a warm cabin.

I returned to find my seat nicely horizontal, topped with a thinly quilted cover topped with a somewhat more substantial duvet. Two pillows - one large and one small – completed the arrangement and, after retrieving my mini mag-light headlamp from my roll-a-board, I bedded down for the night. There were just under six hours left in the flight. A tab of melatonin and a few pages from my latest book soon had me sleeping like Rumplestiltskin. Honestly, I slept really well, awaking about 45 minutes out of Buenos Aires.

Had I woken a bit earlier I could have taken advantage of American’s breakfast offerings, which consisted of the following:

BREAKFAST

American Breakfast
Three cheese omelette served with basil sun-dried tomato turkey sausage
And cheddar and sour cream potato timbale

Continental Breakfast
Organic oat and honey granola cereal
Whole or skim milk

Both options are served with fresh fruit, yogurt and warm breakfast breads

Sleep was more important than breakfast though, and I was quite satisfied with both the length of the Flagship Suite and the comfort of the sleeping surface. After folding up the duvet and seat mattress, I returned my seat to its upright position and headed up to the forward lav to change back into my regular shirt. On the way back I managed to finagle a hot cup of coffee and a Danish from the cabin crew.

Having read many recent reviews of American’s International First Class both here at FlyerTalk and at other sites, I was under no illusions that American’s hard or soft products would ever approach those of airlines like Cathay Pacific or Lufthansa. Be that as it may, I thought that the 62500 miles I spent for First Class on American (as opposed to 45000 for a Business Class ticket on LAN or AeroMexico) was well worth the extra 17000. The food wasn’t fancy but it was generally good and above all the suite was reasonably comfortable and provided a good sleep. Not bad, American. Not bad.

* * * . * * * . * * *

We landed in Buenos Aires on a bright, sunny morning. The temperature was announced as 78°F, just perfect for spending some time outside. With a six hour layover until my next flight, I intended to do just that. Back in 1999, I had a similarly long layover at EZE and while looking for a nearby place to do a load of laundry I discovered the nearby town of Ezeiza, after which the airport gets its three letter code (EZE). I really liked what I saw of Ezeiza that day with its tree lined streets, quaint shops and restaurants and its clean, attractive downtown. It was time for a return visit.

After clearing customs and immigration, I caught the 502 bus into Ezeiza where, after a short stroll around town, I found a wonderful little corner restaurant. Argentina is renowned for the quality of its meat and wines, but from my past experience it should also be renowned for the quality of its cuisine in general. Be it the quality of the meal or its overall presentation, some of the best (and most affordable!) meals I’ve ever been served have been in Argentina. Today I kept it simple - a delicious bife de chorizo (steak) with potatoes and salad accompanied by a couple of ice cold Warsteiner beers.

Member for

13 years 8 months

Posts: 38

February 5, 2014
Lufthansa Buenos Aires to Frankfurt 545p – 1100a 747-400 First Class

The history of air service between Germany and South America dates back to 1931 when Graf Zeppelin airships began flying between Germany and Brazil. By 1934 this had become a regularly scheduled run departing Friedrichshafen in southern Germany every Saturday evening (seasonally) and flying nonstop to Pernambuco, outside of Recife, Brazil. That flight took three days and was very likely the longest, nonstop intercontinental airline service of its day. The Zeppelin continued on to Rio de Janeiro where passengers bound for Buenos Aires would transfer to a Junkers Ju 52 operated by Syndicato Condor, Deutsche Luft Hansa’s South American subsidiary.


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South America by Zeppelin in 1934

These days, the 7,140 mile route between Buenos Aires and Frankfurt is served by a once daily nonstop 747- 400 operated by Lufthansa. It is the longest nonstop flight in Lufthansa’s worldwide route network and for a guy looking to enjoy his first ever premium Class flight with Lufthansa, this would be the perfect flight.

Arriving back at the airport at 3:30pm, I checked in without delay and made my way through security and passport control to the Star Alliance Lounge. This sure doesn’t look like the same lounge I used when I flew United’s Business Class out of here in April 1999. That lounge was much more stylish with attractive furnishings and quality food and beverages available. This Star Alliance Lounge would best be described as a large room with a bunch of chairs and an ambience more in keeping with that of a waiting room more so than a proper airport lounge. There was a buffet area along one wall but the food and drink offerings were minimal and unimpressive. On a positive note, this lounge did have a single shower and amazingly it was available and ready to use when I asked about it. Later, I found some unused table space in a corner back by the single computer monitor and used the next hour to get started on this trip report.


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The Star Alliance Lounge at Buenos Aires

It was just after 5:15pm when a representative from Lufthansa arrived at the lounge to collect the First Class passengers and escort us down to the gate. Three of us followed her out of the lounge and down to the gate where our boarding cards were scanned and we were subsequently boarded.

Now this is exciting! Finally, after years of anticipation and desire to fly Lufthansa’s First Class, here I am walking down the jet bridge onto a 747 named “Dortmund” with a thirteen hour flight to look forward to. In First Class. Upstairs. In seat 81C.


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Jetway to Heaven

I’ve logged one hundred and forty-four flights aboard 747s, yet this would be only the fourth time I’d ever sat upstairs. Two of those flights were aboard United 747-100s outfitted with domestic First Class seats while the other was aboard a Royal Air Maroc 747SP which had modified sleeper seats requiring the flight attendants to bring out and set up individual ottomans for each seat.

By contrast, Lufthansa’s configuration (available only on the 747-400s) was highlighted by eight large armchairs – four on each side of the cabin. Built into the wall alongside each seat was a full length bed, complete with blanket, pillows and four windows. By International First Class standards, this is truly one of the nicest and most innovative seating arrangements to be found aloft.


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First Class cabin on Lufthansa’s 747-400

As I reached the top of the stairway from the main deck, I was greeted by Inga who assisted me with storing my roll-a-board and then offered to hang my jacket and bring me a drink.

“Honey, I’m home!”

Ah… were that it could be this way every day! All that was missing was a hug and a peck on the cheek. The drink – a glass of Champagne of course – was delivered in short order, followed by the amenity kit, pajamas and slippers.

Settling into my seat, I sipped Champagne and took stock of my new home for the next thirteen hours. The seat itself is large, nicely padded and quite comfortable. Calling it a mere “seat” simply doesn’t do it justice. I prefer to think of it as a lounger. As such, I reclined it a bit and perused the booklet describing the seat’s features. It is a marvelously designed seat with everything you’ll need during the flight – from the spacious storage compartments to power and data ports to headphone storage – all of them close at hand. I also appreciated that it was upholstered in cloth rather than leather. I realize leather has a certain cachet of luxury and may be easier to clean but from my experience, the cloth upholstered seats feel more comfortable.


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Lufthansa’s First Class seat and bed


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Lufthansa’s First Class seat and bed


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Lufthansa’s First Class bed


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First Class Champagne Welcome

My reverie was briefly interrupted by the Captain’s welcoming announcement. Uh oh – bad news! He just informed us that a slight tailwind would push us along to Frankfurt at a slightly faster pace, resulting in a flight time of just twelve hours and thirty-eight minutes. The tone of his announcement suggested that he considered this to be good news but from where I’m sat – comfortably ensconced in my plush Lufthansa Lounger with a virtually unlimited supply of fine wines and spirits available - nothing could be farther from the truth! Per the schedule this flight is supposed to last thirteen hours and fifteen minutes. I want to enjoy every minute of it! This will be fun to fill out on the “complaint” form.

As things turned out, that wouldn’t be necessary. The Purser stopped by to introduce herself and explain a bit about the upcoming service. She was an attractive middle aged lady who by appearance reminded me of the actress Linda Evans of “Big Valley” and “Dynasty” fame. She was very professional yet at the same time friendly and caring. In explaining the upcoming meal service, she emphasized that everything would be served per my schedule. “You are the master of your flight experience” she explained. When I later took a moment to “complain” about the tailwind situation, we both had a good laugh after which she said she’d be sure to pass my concerns along to the Captain.

It was a beautiful late afternoon as we pushed back from the terminal and the Captain fired up the four big General Electric CF6-80C2B1F engines that power this big flying machine. Sat way up here at the very front of the upper deck, the only discernable sound was a muted hum as the engines came to life. I guess that’s a good thing but growing up I always reveled in the anticipation that came with the sound of those four Pratt & Whitney JT3Ds spooling up as my 707 or DC-8 prepared to take to the skies.

As we made our way out to the runway I couldn’t help but notice a collection of classic old 747-200s wearing the faded two-tone blue livery of the state-owned flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas. Those planes haven’t moved since the last time I came through in 2010 and a quick check of their registrations indicates that a couple of them have been parked for over ten years. At this point I guess they must be mothballed rather than merely stored. One of them is LV-OPA which I flew between Montreal, New York and Miami back in 1986 when she was a young and frisky five year old airplane. Rust in peace, old girl.

A fully loaded 747-400 can weigh close to 900000 pounds at take-off. That’s a lot of weight to get up into the skies but following a 47 second takeoff roll we did exactly that, climbing away from Buenos Aires’ Ministro Pistarini International Airport with impressive power and alacrity.

Following a few slight course adjustments that put us on a heading roughly north-northeast, we crossed the broad mouth of the Rio de la Plata that separates Buenos Aires from Uruguay. As I attempted to get a better view, I was confronted with the one drawback to having these beds beside the window: Unless you’re in bed, you’re a good three and a half feet from the windows. There were some pretty views to be had as we climbed out of Buenos Aires and made our way up the coast towards Brazil but alas, I’d have to enjoy them at a distance.

Shortly after passing through 10000’, the flight attendant working the forward part of the cabin – Lena – stopped by to deliver the menu and wine list for tonight’s flight. There were only five of us in First and the service was spread between Lena and her partner Inga. Both of those gals were as good at their jobs as any flight attendants I’ve ever encountered, including those from such industry stalwarts as Singapore or Cathay Pacific.

Well alright then – let’s see what’s available from the canteen…


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First Class Wine List

WINE LIST

Champagne
Laurent Perrier Cuvée Grand Siècle, Frankreich

White Wine
2012 Geisenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Erstes Gewächs, Wegeler, Deutschland
2012 Somontano Chardonnay “Fermentado en Barrica” Enate, Spanien
2012 Grauburgunder RS, Weingut Salwey, Deutschland
2012 Stellenbosch Wild Yeast Chardonnay, Stellenrust, Südafrica

Red Wine
2007 Château Latour-Martillac, Grand Cru Classé de Graves, Frankreich
2007 Neuquén Patagonia Malbec, Calafate, Argentinien
2008 “Director’s Cut”, Limestone Coast, Heartland Wines, Australien
2008 Luce delle Vite, Tuscana IGT, Italien
2008 Don Maximiano, Founders Reserve, Errazuriz, Chile

Dessert Wine
Niepoort Portwein LBV

Spirits
Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey Old No. 7
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Bushmills Malt 10 Years Old
Smirnoff Red Label Vodka
Bombay Sapphire Distilled London Dry Gin
Cognac Lhéraud Cuvée 30
Calvados Pays d’Auge AC, Daron
Averna
Etter Zuger Kirsch
Walcher Williams Exclusiv

German Beers
Warsteiner Premium Verum
Warsteiner Premium with 0% Alcohol
Frankenheim Alt
Erdinger Weissbier

Truth be known, I wouldn’t have minded starting off with a Warsteiner but in my experience it’s been extremely rare for any airline – even the Cathays and Singapores of the world – to have a properly chilled beer ready to go early on in the flight. Oh sure, the flight attendants are always happy to put some on ice for later but I’m ready now, and so these days I usually just order something over ice. Tonight, that means a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.


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Johnnie Walker Blue and Macadamia Nuts

My drink was delivered with a small plate of Macadamia nuts. Ahh… recline, sip, swirl and swallow. Mmmmm! Oh yeah…

Now this is First Class…

Really now, life in an airplane just doesn’t get any better than this – comfortably sat in a big wide recliner, sipping one of the world’s finest blended whiskeys while out my windows the beautiful world of the soft blue yonder slowly merges into an evening sky of orange, yellow and gold. This is what it’s all about. This is why we work so hard to earn those extra miles. Moments like this are worth every one of them.


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Cocktail Hour Ambience

As I sat there pondering my lot in life, an amuse bouche was presented. Consisting of a small portion of shrimp salad accented by three colorful dipping sauces, all of them were tastefully presented atop a clear glass plate. It was a nice start to this evening’s epicurean festivities.


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Amuse Bouche

Soon a delicious six course meal will be presented, accompanied by fine wines and liqueurs. The menu booklet is very impressive in its own right –measuring approximately 8” x 13” and sprinkled throughout with pictures of tropical fruits. Dinner and breakfast will be offered on this flight, and the choices are listed in German, English and Spanish. Let’s have a look, shall we?

DINNER
Buenos Aires to Frankfurt

Caviar From The Cart
Served with the traditional garnishes

Choice of Appetizers
Marinated Tenderloin Slices with Eggplant Puree and Pesto
Rice Paper Rolls with Shrimp enhanced by Mango and Mint Tartare
Grilled Asparagus and Roasted Fennel

Salad
Fresh Seasonal Salad with Mozzarella Cheese, Cherry Tomato, Asparagus Tips
and Grilled Artichoke presented with your choice of delicious dressings

Choice of Main Courses

Seared Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Crust
Served with roasted vegetables and bacon wrapped string beans

Grilled Pink Salmon
Presented with vegetable tagliatelle and olive and caper butter

Roasted Chicken Paprika in Jus
Accompanied by roasted vegetables and lemon couscous

Orecchiette Pasta with Mixed Vegetables
Accented with a creamy saffron sauce

Selection of Cheese and Dessert

Roquefort Blue, Brie, Provolone, Gruyère and Parmesan Cheese
White Nut Cake Parfait with Raspberry Sauce
Caramelized Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce

One of the things I’ve always liked about Lufthansa’s First Class service was its use of three tiered serving platforms for its caviar and appetizer service. Alas, this style of presentation appears to have been relegated to history. It’s a shame really because part of the thrill of a traditional First Class meal presentation is indeed the actual presentation. Service styles and standards are constantly evolving however, and these days the standard in international First Class is to tailor meal service to the individual passenger’s needs rather than serving everyone at what would seem the most appropriate time. As such, the use of a trolley is not always feasible.

Although I miss the panache of a good trolley service, I do appreciate being able to dine on my own schedule even more. That said however, I’ll count myself amongst the fortunate few that were able to experience the thrill of seeing my Chateaubriand carved seat side whilst pondering my accompaniments from the colorful side dishes of starches and vegetables. Those were great days aloft.

But hey – Lufthansa still serves plenty of caviar and appetizers. They just present them differently. As such, I requested the caviar service followed by all three of the appetizers. I was surprised to see no soup on the menu but this was of little consequence as there were still plenty of other items to consider. Like the salad. I’ll have that with the Balsamic Vinaigrette, please. As for the main course… Hmm… I had chicken last night and even though that salmon sure looks good, I’m a sucker for blue cheese encrusted meats. The bacon wrapped string beans would be a nice added bonus.

After a second glass of the JWB, Lena arrived with my table settings – a bright white linen tablecloth, a bread plate, two small dishes for butter and olive oil, an attractive metal and glass salt and pepper set and a napkin and silverware set offset by a silver clasp. Last but hardly least was Lufthansa’s famous red Senator Service rose. Water was poured and wine was offered, sampled and poured. For the caviar course I opted to go with the Spanish Chardonnay.

Perhaps it was because there were only five of us in First Class. Then again, perhaps only two or three of us wanted caviar. Whatever the reason, I was presented with as generous a portion of caviar as I’ve ever been served aloft – two heaping piles which sat quite well atop my toast and garlic bread with all the other accoutrements. It was every bit as delicious as it was decadent! That Chardonnay was a great pairing, too, providing crisp and delicious contrast to the salty goodness of the caviar.


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Caviar Lufthansa Style

The appetizers were delivered next. Interestingly, they were rolled out on the trolley, assembled atop a long rectangular serving plate and presented with a small bowl of salad. The small size of the salad was a bit surprising though hardly disappointing given that I still had all those appetizers to eat as well as the main course.


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The Appetizer Presentation

I love that Lufthansa still offers a variety of smaller appetizers as opposed to just one larger one. After all, variety is the spice of life and quite frankly, I could happily make a complete meal out of nothing but these little appetizer plates. The tenderloin and pesto made for a tasty flavor combination, as did the shrimp and mango spring rolls. The grilled asparagus and roasted fennel was a bit disappointing only in that there wasn’t very much of either. All in all though, I came away completely appetized and ready for the main course.

Seared Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Crust… It sounds delicious just saying it and as presented to me this night, it was indeed quite good. The meat was medium with just a hint of pink – pretty good for an airline oven – and the blue cheese crust was every bit as pungent and flavorful as it looked. The bacon wrapped string beans were more artistic than flavorful, but the roasted vegetables – highlighted by squash and pumpkin – were the perfect accompaniment.


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Seared Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Crust


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What a great time to eat dinner!
Photo courtesy of Qantas

I had the SkyMap playing while dinner was being served. It is far and away my favorite inflight programming, mainly because when it comes to watching movies I’d rather see them back home on a larger screen. Lufthansa offers a decent variety of movies, television programs, music and games although its overall IFE has nowhere near the variety of programming that you’ll find on airlines like Emirates or Singapore. That’s alright by me, though. After all, how much time during the flight can one spend watching movies? I suppose that might depend upon the person and the circumstances. While in First Class the journey from cocktails to after dinner aperitifs can take two hours or more, in Economy one might devour their tray meal in just ten minutes. Whereas in First Class a nicely reclined seat and the ambience afforded by all that extra space might be more conducive to reading a good book, back in Economy those who are stuck in a small seat amidst a sea of humanity might find a movie or three a far more effective diversion to the ennui of long distance flight.

By the time the last of my dinner plates had been cleared there were still another nine hours left in the flight. We were making distressingly good time, cruising along at 586mph at a point about one hundred miles west of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Now a lot of people might look at this and groan “Nine. More. Hours…” but I see it as only about three more hours because I’m likely going to be sleeping for five or six of those hours and that’s all time that I won’t be awake and actively enjoying the flight. Mind you, I value my sleep as well as the ability to do so comfortably on this flight but if you’ve read this far you’ve likely figured out that I actually enjoy sitting in that big comfortable seat and reveling in all that wonderful service, not to mention gazing out the window and enjoying the unique perspective of seeing the planet from 38000 feet above it.

At present however, it was dark outside my window and so I chose to take advantage of the Wi-Fi internet connection which Lufthansa makes available for free to all those fortunate enough to be traveling in First Class. Even Emirates doesn’t give free Wi-Fi to its best passengers! I fired off a couple of emails and popped over to airfleets.net to get a bit more information about this airplane for my log.

I’ve logged all of my flights since I was a little kid and one of the things I keep track of is the registration number of the aircraft I fly upon. There’s a lot one can learn about a plane from its registration number such as its age and past operators. I’ve flown aboard some aircraft that have flown for five or six airlines before wearing the livery of the airline I happened to be flying upon that day. By logging the “N-numbers” for U.S. airliners, I know that there are some airplanes that I’ve flown over twenty times upon. I’m not talking about the aircraft type but rather the exact aircraft. In a number of instances I’ve flown on a plane while it was operating for one airline and then a few years later flew upon that exact same aircraft while being operated by a new or different airline. For example, there were a number of North Central DC-9-50s I flew upon back in the 70s and 80s that I later flew wearing Northwest and/or Delta’s colors many years later.

As for today’s airplane, it took its first flight back on April 23rd, 1992, making it almost 22 years old. Lufthansa has owned it from start to present. That’s hardly surprising with a major airline like Lufthansa but I’ve also flown upon a couple of Cathay Pacific 747s that have had one or two owners before Cathay started flying them. The oldest operating jet I’ve ever flown upon was a 37 year old DC-9-14 being operated by Northwest back in 2003. That airplane began its life in 1967 as an Eastern Airlines Whisperjet before being sold to Republic which subsequently was merged into Northwest. That plane was retired to the desert in Marana, Arizona the year before Northwest became Delta.

I only spent about 45 minutes on line before calling Lena and letting her know that I was ready to check out Lufthansa’s dessert options. In particular, I was interested in a serving of the White Nut Cake Parfait with Raspberry Sauce. I cannot tell you how nice it is to have something more interesting and original than an ice cream sundae for dessert. Heck, I remember when U.S. airlines actually served things like hot apple pie with ice cream and sharp cheddar cheese or carrot cake or even baked Alaska. After all the sundaes I’ve been offered, it is such a refreshing change to have something that some pastry chef somewhere took pride in creating.

Whoever put together tonight’s dessert had every reason to be proud. It was delicious but not heavy or overbearing – the perfect dessert after a big meal. I accompanied it with some decaf coffee and a small glass of port while watching as we approached the northwest coast of Brazil, soon to begin the overwater portion of our journey between Brazil and Spain.


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White Nut Cake Parfait with Raspberry Sauce

Lufthansa’s 747-400s have a very nicely sized lavatory located at each end of the upper deck. I haven’t worn pajamas since I was in like, third grade, so after brushing and flossing I changed into a t-shirt and returned to my waiting bed. There was no need for Lena to make it up as it came ready to go right from the time I boarded. All I had left to do was ask Lena to turn down the heat and fetch my headlamp from my roll-a-board. Lufthansa’s seats have a nice reading light, but the beds don’t. As for the temperature, it wasn’t overly warm but back home I turn the temperature down to 63° at night and while I’d never expect an airline to go that low, it doesn’t hurt to try and get the temperature a little lower regardless. Within an hour I was out for the night with instructions to awake me for breakfast two hours prior to our arrival into Frankfurt.

As things turned out, that wouldn’t be necessary. I awoke just a few miles west of Porto Santo, part of the Madeiran Archipelago off the coast of Morocco. Unfortunately it was cloudy down below or I might have been treated to an awesome view. While it wouldn’t have been in good form to open any of my windows, the lavatories were each equipped with a single window for those of us so inclined.

There were just under three hours left in the flight so I requested a cup of coffee and a Danish to tide me over until a full sized breakfast could be had in an hour or so. In the meantime, I plugged in my new laptop and put in some work on this trip report. It was slow going. I hadn’t even got past the introductory preamble which is - for me at least – often the hardest part. I almost never find myself writing about the present. That’s especially true on a trip like this where I’m too busy enjoying either the flights or my ground time activities to put sufficient time into this report. By the time you all get to read this, I’ll have been home for two or three weeks already!

On a positive note, since I haven’t submitted an incremental report you all aren’t left anxious for the next installment and I’m not under any pressure to submit my installments in a timely fashion. That kind of stress I definitely don’t need. I can enjoy my trip and, since none of you even know I’m on it, I can write about it at my leisure and submit the report all at once. And you, dear readers, don’t have to wait for installments that may or may not come in a timely fashion – if at all in some cases. No, you’ll get to read this report at your leisure – either all at once or in installments that suit your schedule. I don’t know why more people don’t also submit their reports all at once. It’s a win-win situation for all of us.

Now then, what about breakfast?

BREAKFAST

Fresh Orange Juice
Fresh Fruit
Cereal and Milk
Muesli with dried apricot
Yogurt
Smoked Salmon, Smoked Turkey Breast and Ham
Brie, Gouda and Gruyère

Hot Breakfast Item

Let’s start with a glass of orange juice and a fruit plate. As much as I like muesli, smoked salmon and any of those cheeses, when it comes to flying in First Class I always opt for the hot breakfast. Lena informed me that today’s selection was a cheese omelet with potatoes and mushrooms. Now, I can pour me a bowl of cereal and slice off some cheese with bread any old time at home but I’m looking for something that’s been distinctly created or prepared by the airline I’m flying upon. That omelet sounded just fine.

And it was, too. Moist, cheesy (but not too cheesy) and flavorful, it really hit the spot in combination with some perfectly cooked bacon (I like it crispy), tasty mushrooms and a deliciously flaky croissant. It was also a nice touch to add a wedge of lime to the fruit plate. Melons in particular taste so much better after being drizzled in fresh lime juice.


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Morning Fruit Plate


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Cheese Omelette with Potatoes and Mushrooms

I’ve always enjoyed the final fifteen minutes of most flights because of the improved viewing of the surrounding countryside as we make our approach into the airport. Unfortunately it was a gray drizzly day in Frankfurt and there wasn’t a thing to see until we were just a few hundred feet above the ground. Nonetheless, I watched with interest as the airport perimeter fence and then the broad white stripes of the runway passed beneath us. Sitting way up high on the upper deck of the 747, I hardly felt a thing as our landing gear caressed the concrete and the 747 braked to a manageable taxi speed. A quick glance at my watch revealed a flight time of twelve hours and forty-two minutes – not bad! Just four minutes over the original estimate!

In all, this was a very nice flight aboard Lufthansa. Based upon some of the trip reports I’ve seen from years past, there may have been a few minor cutbacks in the meal service but overall I was very pleased. I was well fed, I got a good sleep and I arrived in better shape than most after a 13 hour flight. Above all the service from Lena, Inga and the wonderful Purser was as good as it gets. If these women are representative of German women as a whole, I think I could really enjoy coming back in another lifetime as a German man just to enjoy spending more time around these wonderful German fräuleins! Thank you, ladies. And well done, Lufthansa!

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Posts: 38

My onward flight to Seoul doesn’t depart until 6:30pm, which left me with a seven hour layover here in Frankfurt. Some old friends of mine have been traveling through southern Europe this winter but because of how the ticket prices worked out at the time they bought their tickets, it was less expensive for them to get to Spain via Frankfurt than it was to fly a more direct route. They were returning home to Colorado tomorrow but had arrived in Frankfurt a couple of days early to see the city.

Even though my flight got in at 11:00am, I arranged to meet them at 1:00pm primarily because I wanted to visit Lufthansa’s First Class lounge. I already had my boarding pass for the Asiana flight and as a transit passenger coming off a flight in First Class with Lufthansa, I was allowed access to the First Class lounge in Frankfurt.

Now, let’s be sure we understand each other here: Most everybody knows about Lufthansa’s highly regarded First Class Terminal at Frankfurt. What they may not know is that Lufthansa also operates a very nice First Class Lounge in the main terminal that includes many of the features that make the FCT such a desirable destination in its own right. This lounge has showers, sleeping rooms, a restaurant, a full bar and even a cigar room. I’m sure it’s not as large as the FCT but in most every other regard it would seem to be every bit as functional, not to mention enjoyable.

I was amazed when I saw the bar. Oh. My. Gawd. That’s an impressive array of alcohol! The bartender mentioned that there were 140 different whiskeys stocked. Well dang, pour me a Blantons, please! But wait! Let me get a shower, first!


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The bar at Lufthansa’s First Class Lounge


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An impressive selection of bourbons and whiskeys

One of the nicest aspects of First and Business Class travel is the availability of showers at the lounges. I have always lived in a cool dry environment, both in the Colorado mountains as well as the Alaskan Interior. While it’s probably not an issue for most people, I really notice the humidity. I’m reminded of a weather cast I caught one night in a Tucson hotel when the weatherman came on and said that the reason everyone felt so hot and stuffy was that the humidity had gotten up to 34%! That’d be a great day in Atlanta, Georgia! To me at least, it’s not hot, it’s just sticky. I don’t know how most of y’all do it! Thank goodness for showers and airline lounges! Interestingly, it doesn’t take me long to get used to the new humidity in a cooler climate like Frankfurt in the winter. It’s just that initial blast that gets me. After that shower, provided I’m not running wind sprints or something I’m just fine.

The First Class lounge also had a restaurant available that included an impressive buffet as well as a la carte service off of a menu. I was surprised to see Tom Kha Gai soup from Thailand on the menu. It’s one of my favorites, so after stopping at the bar to pick up my glass of Blanton’s, I took a seat in the restaurant and ordered some soup. The soup was presented in a nice wooden container and the flavor – fantastic! It was hot, flavorful and properly spicy, enough so that I required a glass of water because the Blanton’s wasn’t of any help at all!

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The Buffet at Lufthansa’s First Class Lounge

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Hot dishes on offer at the buffet

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Cold salads on offer at the buffet

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Cheese and breads on offer at the buffet

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A nice looking table for two in the restaurant

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Tom Kha Gai Soup Presentation

Even though I knew we’d be stopping off for lunch somewhere that afternoon, I couldn’t help but try out a small slice of this exquisite little multi-layered raspberry cake that I saw in the dessert case. It looked like a little jewel in there and the taste and texture were downright luscious. By now I’d replaced the Blanton’s with a cup of first rate coffee and by the time I left the lounge and headed down to Immigration, I was primed and ready for an afternoon on the Main.

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Delicious Raspberry Cake

And a nice afternoon it was. Following a delicious lunch at a great little restaurant called Morleo’s, we drove over to the nearby Ledermuseum or Leather Museum. The name is a bit of a misnomer because this is actually three fascinating museums in one – The Shoe Museum, the Museum for Applied Art and the Ethnological Museum. Click on each of the links and you will see why only an hour and a half was not nearly enough time to properly visit this wonderful place!

* * * . * * * . * * *

February 6, 2014
Asiana Airlines Frankfurt to Seoul 630p – 1240p 747-400 Combi First Class

It was approaching 5:00pm by the time we finally made it back to the airport. Hugs, kisses and various promises were exchanged before I made my way into the crowded terminal building, exchanged my online issued boarding pass for the real thing and then proceeded through security to the Senator Lounge across from gate 43. I had thought that the Senator Lounge served both Business and regional First Class passengers for Lufthansa and Star Alliance airlines but on my way through the airport I saw a sign indicating a separate Business Class Senator Lounge, so evidently I was wrong.

Compared to Lufthansa’s International First Class lounge however, the lounge I entered seemed more like a Business Class lounge. Mind you, it was a perfectly decent lounge but the way it was set up, it just felt crowded – even when it wasn’t. There were lots of chairs and couches, a fairly decent buffet and a bar that seemed downright barren compared to the one at the First Class Lounge. No doubt about it – I’d been well and truly spoiled by the magnificence of Lufthansa’s First Class Lounge. Oh well. I’d be relocating to a First Class suite soon enough, so I availed myself of a glass of ice water, picked up a copy of the International New York Times and found myself a seat by the window.

Leaving the lounge at 5:45, I made my way down to gate 45 from whence my Asiana flight would soon depart. Boarding was still fifteen minutes away but I wanted to get down to the gate and have a look at my aircraft while basking in the anticipation of yet another long distance First Class flight.

Even as a kid, my primary interest in airline travel was from a passenger’s perspective. Most everyone from parents to classmates always assumed that a kid who was interested in airplanes would want to grow up to fly them, right? No way! I had no more interest in becoming a pilot than I did in becoming a tent maker. Right from my very earliest memories of flying, I was completely enthralled with the entire experience of a trip on an airplane: getting dressed up for the trip, the drive to the airport, the smell of jet fuel outside the terminal, walking out onto the tarmac and climbing up the stairway into the plane, the pretty stewardess greeting passengers at the top, the taxi and takeoff roll, the inflight meals, the sights and sounds of the flight and watching the flaps extend as we made our approach for landing – it was all incredibly exciting and I was driven to do as much of it as I could.

Now, that lifelong drive has delivered me to gate 45 here at Frankfurt Airport where I await my 4,859th flight. You’d think I’d have tired of it all by now. You know; been there – done that (yawn). Well, to be sure, the prospect of hopping on yet another 737 between Seattle and Los Angeles no longer leaves me giddy with anticipation. On the other hand, even though I’ve logged 1,720 lifetime flights in First Class, only 98 of those have come aboard long distance international First Class flights. For a flight like tonight’s between Frankfurt and Seoul, I’d be excited even if this were a flight aboard a U.S. airline.

As it is, this will be my first time flying in First Class aboard Asiana, an airline that as recently as 2010 won the prestigious “Best Airline” award at the Skytrax [url= http://www.worldairlineawards.com/Awards-2010/Airline2010.htm]World Airline Awards[/url]. As recently as 2012 Asiana won recognition by U.S. Business Traveler magazine as the ‘Best Overall Airline in the World’, so I am very much looking forward to experiencing some of that award winning service myself.

Additionally, even though I’ve flown aboard plenty of 747s, this will be my first flight aboard an Asiana 747 so in a sense this is like a new airplane for me. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it looks like inside – what’s First Class look like? What color is the carpet? What color are the seats? I know, I know what you’re thinking. Still, I am unrepentant. This is exciting stuff!

Judging by the assemblage of humanity in the gate lounge, this flight would only be about half full. Sure enough, when boarding was called for Premium Class passengers only a couple dozen of us approached the jet bridge. Perhaps most impressive was almost complete lack of gate lice. With a ten hour flight and sub-freezing temperatures in South Korea to look forward to, perhaps no one was all that anxious to get on board anyway.

Except for me. As tempting as it might have been to have run onto the plane like a contestant on The Price Is Right, I did an admirable job of restraining myself as I strolled down the jetway with relative poise and dignity. A bevy of beige clad flight attendants awaited us at the broad entryway to the 747. Even these days, I am still impressed by the sheer size of this airplane. After spending so much of the year flying about the U.S. on a seemingly endless parade of 737s and single aisle Airbuses, stepping into a 747 is like walking into someone’s home. I love it!

My boarding pass was inspected and I was handed off to a trim young lady with pretty eyes and a shy smile. She escorted me through the First Class cabin to my seat at 2K; then assisted me with hanging my jacket and storing my roll-a-board in the large closet up at the very front of the cabin. No alcohol can be served on the ground in Frankfurt, so I settled for a tall glass of ice water with lemon. To be honest, I rather prefer this to Champagne as it’s a lot more refreshing. Besides, with a ten hour flight ahead of us there’ll be plenty of time for Champagne and whatever else they may have onboard.

Asiana operates a fleet of fourteen 747-400s of which only four are operated in passenger configuration. Of those, two are 747 “Combis” that have a large cargo door just behind door 4L at the rear of the fuselage. While my 16 year old bird would be considered middle aged by today’s standards, her ten First Class suites looked downright elderly compared to the new sliding door suites installed on some of Asiana’s 777s, as well as some of the newer suites on competing airlines.

Unfortunately, with twin engine jets increasingly getting the bulk of the work on long distance flights, these 747s are likely to be converted to full freighters before they’ll ever see upgraded suites. Just off the top of my head, the only airlines I can think of that offer modern, up to date suites in their 747s are Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and a few British Airways birds.

That said, this is still a reasonably comfortable seat. I like the padding and the spacious wooden armrests and paneling around the seat. The IFE monitor looks to be about 15” – more than adequate for enjoyable viewing – and the table is not only sufficiently large but also has the ability to swivel out and away from you. My pre-flight test of the recline function revealed a somewhat balky response time but eventually the seat began to recline more fully, if only grudgingly so.

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The First Class Suite on Asiana’s 747-400

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The First Class Suites on Asiana’s 747-400

Two more passengers arrived as the two flight attendants working up front took turns doling out the usual array of pre-flight goodies. You all know the drill by now so I won’t elaborate except to say that Asiana’s amenity kit is the first one I’ve bothered to keep. I could care less about all that dainty stuff they put in there but I liked the size and accessibility of the zippered bag. I might use it to create my own personal amenity kit with things I actually would use and it would fit well in my daypack.

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Asiana’s First Class Amenity Kit

The first of many rounds of hot towels were passed out and I was pleased to see that this crew knew how to do a proper hot “Oshibori” towel. Hot and moist, but not wet, and lightly scented. Ah…

Menus and wine lists arrived next and I wasted no time in perusing their contents. Before doing so however, I couldn’t help but admire how nice these menus looked. A good airline menu cover should elicit a heightened sense of anticipation for the epicurean delights within, not to mention the journey ahead. As a longtime collector of First Class airline menus, I’ve seen everything from food to seashells to artwork on the covers. Asiana’s menu cover had stylish photo featuring a plate of stuffed oysters that made me hungry just looking at it. Let’s check it out right now!

DINNER
Frankfurt to Seoul

WESTERN MEAL

Appetizer
Caviar
Red Pepper with Eggplant Mousse and Olive Tapenade
Lobster Claw and Prosciutto Ham

Soup
Basil Tomato Soup

Salad
Mixed Greens with Yogurt Mango Dressing or Balsamic Dressing

* * * * * * * * *

MAIN COURSES

Beef Tenderloin Steak with Madeira Sauce
Served with Tomato Garlic Concasse, Asparagus, Cauliflower,
Bell Peppers and Potatoes

Roasted Halibut Fillet with Herb Pine Crust
Accented with Red Pepper Sauce
Served with Creamed Spinach, Grilled Red Peppers and Mushroom Risotto

Lamb Saddle with Brown Sauce
Served with Ratatouille and Pumpkin Puree

* * * * * * * * *

Cheese
Manchego, Red Cheddar, Brie

Dessert
Blanc-Manger with Black Berries and Custard Sauce

_____________________________________________________________________________

KOREAN MEAL

STARTER

Korean Shiitake Mushroom Pancake
Chilled Platter of Poached Chicken Breast and Vegetables
Broccoli Shrimp Porridge
*We are pleased to offer caviar service on your request

MAIN COURSE

Korean Royal Cuisine “Bibimbap” and “Galbijjim”
Steamed Rice, Various kinds of Vegetables and Minced Beef
Mixed with Red Pepper Paste “Gochujang” and Sesame Oil
Braised Beef, Assorted Side Dishes and Soup

DESSERT

Korean Traditional Cookies
Made of Wheat Flour and Walnut

Fresh Fruit
Coffee and Tea

I had my first experience with Bibimbap last November while flying on Korean Air Lines between Hong Kong and Seoul. Even though I was sat back in Economy, I really liked this dish. It was complex, tasty and filling. For those passengers not familiar with this Korean specialty, Asiana included a brief description in the menu:

“It is also called “Goldongban”. “Goldong” means that several ingredients are gathered equally. “Bibimbap” is a mixture of cooked white rice, various vegetables, pan-broiled meat and red pepper paste “Gochujang”. At the Court, Bibimbap was served on New Year’s Eve based on the belief that the remaining food should be emptied before the end of the year. Moreover, it was easily prepared for farmers in the farming season during break time and is a recommended dish since it is a convenient and substantial meal. As a healthy food with several ingredients in harmony, it was accredited as space food. There are various forms of bibimbap by area.”

Very nice, very nice... I’m pretty certain I’m going to go with the Bibimbap for my main and as for the rest of the meal, well, there’ll be plenty of time to figure that out.

When the captain came on over the PA with his welcoming announcements, I couldn’t help but sit up and take notice. Above all, I was trying to understand what he was saying because his English sounded so rough. This was quite surprising because English has long been designated as the official language for commercial airliner communication and since this guy was a 747 captain, I would have expected his English skills to have been much better.

Pilots from large, international airlines like Asiana fly all over the world and to do their job safely and correctly, they must communicate effectively with local air traffic controllers wherever they go. The only way for the system to work properly is if everybody involved can speak the same language. From what I’ve read, as of 2008 all commercial airline pilots (who fly internationally) and air traffic controllers worldwide must meet ICAO Level 4 language requirements. These include:

•Pronunciation
•Structure
•Vocabulary
•Fluency
•Comprehension (Aural)
•Interaction

Ideally, if a Korean pilot flying between Frankfurt and Seoul ran into trouble over Mongolia, he should be able to make himself understood as well as be able to follow instructions from controllers.

There have been a number of past commercial aviation accidents, many of them resulting in fatalities, where language issues are considered to have been a possible or actual contributing factor. After the unfortunate recent incident involving an Asiana 777 in San Francisco, I should think Asiana’s training protocol would put an emphasis on ALL aspects of safe flying, including communication skills.

In any event, I wasn’t worried enough to get off the flight – just surprised. After the rather egregious shortcomings in Asiana’s pilot culture that were exposed after the SFO incident, I should imagine they’ll be under the FAA and ICAO’s microscope for a while. Maybe the Captain just had a poor quality mike on his PA system. In any event, we’ll be landing in Seoul where his foreign language skills should not be an issue.

It was a surprisingly short taxi out to the runway. I’d guestimate we didn’t travel more than five or six hundred yards. The terminal was right beside us and I could clearly see the Air Canada 767 that had been parked next to us as we began our takeoff roll. The sound of takeoff from up in the nose of a 747 is more of a deep buzz than the roar you’d hear from the wing on back. The retraction of the nose wheel however is a different story. On this plane it was surprisingly noisy but once the outer doors had closed the sound became nearly symphonic: A deep bass buzz as if from a covey of cellos accompanied by a nicely harmonic whine that sounded more synthesizer than violin. Add to this the sound of air rushing past the fuselage and it was music to my ears.

The lights of Germany’s largest city quickly disappeared as we climbed through the cold night sky and into a layer of clouds. With nothing more to see out my window, I turned my attention to the wine list which was attractively housed in a large booklet adorned with a frilly red cord and an artistic picture of two wine glasses.

WINE LIST

Champagne
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill
Charles Heidsieck Millesime 2000

White Wine
Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet 2010
Aaldering Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Kabinett 2011

Red Wine
Château L’Arrosée 2008
Louis Jadot, Corton Grèves Grand Cru 2007
Yangarra Estate Vineyard Shiraz 2011
Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Dessert Wine
Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Sawmill Creek Vidal Icewine 2008

ASIANA BAR

Aperitifs
Sweet Vermouth
Dry Vermouth
Campari
Medium Dry Sandeman Sherry

Spirits
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch Whisky
Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey
Canadian Club Whisky
Absolut Vodka
Beefeater Gin
Bacardi Rum

Cocktails
Whisky Sour
Manhattan
Bloody Mary
Mimosa
Screwdriver

Cognac & Liqueur
Hennessy X.O.
Drambuie
Cointreau
Bailey’s Irish Cream

Beers
Ob, Cass, Hite, Max
Heineken, Becks, Budweiser

We were about 20 minutes into the flight when a flight attendant arrived to take my drink and meal order. Ever cognizant of the fact that once I’m back home the complimentary pours of Johnnie Walker Blue will come to an abrupt and disappointing end, I requested a glass of that along with a side of ice water. As for dinner, I decided to go with a blend of western and Korean styles.

In trying to explain my menu selections to the flight attendant, it very quickly became apparent that speaking and understanding English was going to be a bit of a problem for her. Unfortunately, her partner wasn’t any more proficient. It was important however that we quickly resolve the meal order because after a few JWBs, my English skills might very likely become commensurate with hers.

Now I realize that a route like Frankfurt to Seoul may not have all that many native English speakers onboard compared with flights to North America but given the high regard in which Asiana’s service is held by international entities, I was still pretty surprised at the dearth of English language skills exhibited by this cabin crew. On my recent flight between Hong Kong and Seoul on Korean Air, many of the flight attendants back in Economy Class spoke excellent English.

Mind you, I don’t want to come across as the Ugly American with this demanding attitude that English be spoken around the world but for better or worse, English is – for now at least - the official international language. Aboard an airline of Asiana’s international reach and prestige, I would have expected better, especially from a crew trained to work the First Class cabin.

In any event, through a combination of speaking slowly and pointing, I was able to communicate my choices. A glass of JWB should start things off nicely. As for the meal, we’ll start with caviar of course! Now then, let’s also have a plate of that lobster and ham, please. A salad sounds good and for the main course, I’ll go with the Bibimbap.

Five minutes passed, then ten minutes and finally the flight attendant arrived with my table settings. When I asked her if I might have my drink served before the meal, she seemed a bit flustered. I don’t know if she just forgot or if the style of service is just different on Asiana. Either way, I got some nervous laughter and then off she went to fetch my drink. Unfortunately, this was a pattern that would continue throughout the flight.

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The Caviar Presentation Aboard Asiana

As for the food – I’m not enough of a caviar connoisseur to comment on quality, but I very much liked the presentation and the flavor (great on garlic bread!) as well as the inclusion of a yellow rose with the place setting. Next up was the ham and lobster claw – an interesting combination to say the least. Well I’ve never met a lobster claw I didn’t like though I never did figure out what comprised those three dots of brown sauce. They tasted a bit like that staple of Australian cuisine – Vegemite! - and one session with that vile substance is enough for me! The salad was fine – nothing special but tasty enough with a good strong Balsamic dressing.

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Lobster Claw and Prosciutto Ham

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Tonight’s Salad Course

Alright then, bring on the Bibimbap!

Whoa, Nellie! Right away I’ll give Asiana 10 points for presentation! Arranged around a large lacquered tray were a variety of items highlighted by a large bowl containing a variety of finely sliced vegetables and minced beef. In smaller bowls were portions of sliced hot peppers, kimchee, “Gochujang” red pepper paste, sesame oil, a small yellow polenta type cake and some greenish brown slimy stuff that I chose to keep at a distance. A plate of braised beef with vegetables and a bowl of miso soup completed the arrangement.

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An Impressive Bibimbap Presentation

Now the trick is to mix it all together, and this I did with the exception of the slimy greenish brown stuff, the kimchee and the yellow stuff. The result was quite tasty though surprisingly not very warm. Maybe I took too long in putting it all together but even the soup was a bit on the tepid side. Overall though, I was a happy camper and now I’ve got a new dish to look forward to when I get back home to Alaska where Fairbanks has two Korean restaurants.

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Stir It Up!

As you can see from the picture, the bowl of bibimbap is in and of itself quite a large amount of food. Add to that some caviar, lobster and salad and as you might imagine I was well and truly stuffed. As such I passed on dessert but did enjoy a glass of the Shiraz with a small portion of red cheddar cheese and crackers.

I should note here that Asiana does provide a mid-flight refreshments menu, available at any time during the flight. I’ve rarely ever taken advantage of the foods on these menus mainly because most proper First Class meals leave me well sated for a good five or six hours. Still, if for whatever reason I were feeling a bit puckish, here would be my options:

REFRESHMENTS
Provided upon your request throughout the flight

Udong
Ramen
Sandwiches
Assorted Fresh Fruits

With a little less than eight hours left in the flight, I decided to check out Asiana’s impressive selection of movies. I’m not much of a technically minded guy, so I can’t tell you that Asiana’s IFE is one of the very best or not but it had more than enough of all the usual things one would expect on a quality IFE – movies, television programs, music and game - to keep me sufficiently and satisfyingly entertained. Of particular interest to me was Forrest Whittaker’s latest effort “The Butler”, the true story of Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. What a great movie!

Alright then, time for bed. On my way back to the loo to brush my teeth and change into a t-shirt, I notified the flight attendants of my desire to have my bed made up for the night. They were all back in the galley having an animated conversation about something or other and I almost felt bad for interrupting – they looked to be having such a good time! Two of them quickly peeled off from the group however and when I returned I found my bed nicely laid out, looking quite inviting with two pillows and a good looking duvet.

Unfortunately, appearances can be deceiving. The biggest complaint I had with this lie flat seat was that it was uneven. Maybe I’m spoiled after sleeping last night on Lufthansa’s actual bed but tonight I could feel a distinct drop off at the division between the seat back and the seat cushion. It wasn’t hugely annoying but it was noticeable, enough so that I briefly considered unfurling my Thermarest pad and having a go of it on the cabin floor. The only reason I didn’t was because I suspect it wouldn’t have been in keeping with proper First Class decorum for the other passengers to wake up and see some guy sprawled out on the floor. They may have been jealous!

Although I rarely ever have any problem getting to sleep, I’ve used melatonin for years to improve the overall quality of my sleep. On those rare occasions that I do have a problem falling asleep – usually due to my back’s response to an unfamiliar sleeping surface – I have some Ambien on hand. Now I have often heard of people taking Ambien to help them sleep on flights but what surprises me is that it sounds like they take an entire pill. Perhaps Ambien comes in different strengths – I don’t know – but I do know that if I ever took an entire pill, I could sleep sitting upside down in a middle seat in Economy. No thank you. Instead, I bite off about ¼ of the little pill and take it with my usual dose of melatonin. That’s always worked in the past and it also worked well tonight.

One of the first things I do when I wake up on an airplane is turn on the SkyMap and find out where we are. For some reason I’ve always found it fascinating to fall asleep over one continent and wake up over another. Over the past three nights I’ve slept all over the world! Three nights ago I slept between the coast of Venezuela and northern Uruguay. The next night I fell asleep over the northeastern Brazilian coast, only to awake a couple hundred miles off the coast of Morocco. Last night I crashed out a couple hundred miles east of Moscow and awoke this morning just north of Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia.

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Morning Over Mongolia

Tonight I’ve got a hotel room in Bangkok. A discreet peek out my window revealed a world of clouds, so I quickly turned my attention to the much more colorful and interesting breakfast menu:

BRUNCH

WESTERN MEAL

Starter
Fresh Fruit
Cereal and Yogurt

MAIN COURSES

Spinach Cheese Cannelloni
Served with Spinach Cheese Sauce and Grilled Vegetables

Chicken Crepe and Quiche
Served with Roasted Tomato and Sugar Snap Peas

Selection of Breakfast Bread
Croissant, Ciabatta Roll, Nut Puff Pastry, Blueberry Muffin

KOREAN MEAL

Korean Rice Porridge with Chicken Dakjuk
Served with Assorted Side Dishes

Dessert
Fresh Fruit

Coffee and Tea

Excuse me – I guess it’s brunch given that the local time is about 10:30am. No wonder the sun is so bright out there! Whatever you call it, the selections looked pretty good and the wonderful aroma of hot bread and coffee emanating from the galley only served to heighten my anticipation of the hot breakfast soon to be served.

These flight attendants must have some kind of regimen for checking on the First Class cabin in search of life. I hadn’t been awake for more than three or four minutes before one appeared to ask if she could restore my seat to its upright position and then perhaps bring me anything. I couldn’t help but wonder how often they must be checking on us throughout the night. I had to run one off last night because she seemed to be hovering. With only three of us up front and my two cabin mates sleeping a good portion of the flight away, I should imagine these girls are a bit bored, and on a ten hour flight with a passenger like me who’s really quite low maintenance, they may well have been going stir-crazy back there in the galley.

So yes, please, I’d love to start out with a cup of coffee and a fruit plate. As for the main course, let’s go with… the Chicken Crepe and Quiche. And may I add a glass of orange juice to that as well? Thanks!

Trotting off to the lav, I quickly changed back into more appropriate attire (My Denver Broncos t-shirt is decidedly less fashionable than it was just a couple of weeks ago!) and returned to find my seat nicely restored and ready for day use. I don’t particularly enjoy this time of day on airplanes because I really dislike sitting there in a darkened cabin when it’s broad daylight outside. Back home, the first thing I do in the morning is open the curtains and turn on the lights. Even though today there was nothing to see but clouds out there, good natural daylight is – for me at least – far preferable to being cooped up in this darkened cabin. Unfortunately, both of my cabin mates appeared to have taken full doses of Ambien last night and so, not wanting to disturb their sleep, I turned to the SkyMap and this week’s edition of The Economist.

My table was reset with Asiana’s distinctive beige patterned tablecloth and triangular plates, then completed with yet another delicate yellow rose. Coffee was poured, the bread basket was presented and my fruit plate was delivered. I asked the flight attendant for a lime to squeeze on the fruit but we never were able to reach an understanding on just what exactly a lime was. I settled for a refill on my coffee instead.

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A Good Looking Fruit Plate

The Chicken Crepe and Quiche was pretty good, though by my tastes it was a bit odd as a breakfast dish. Still, this is brunch so chicken it is. Truth be known, the real highlight for me was the croissant. Seriously flaky and decadently buttery, it was downright divine. I should’ve grabbed another one to munch on later in the lounge.

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Chicken Crepe and Quiche

As uncomfortable as Asiana’s lie-flat seats may have been, in their day time configuration they were actually pretty comfortable. I could’ve handled another three or four hours of flying time with my windows now open, another cup or two of coffee and a good book. Alas, we had begun our initial descent just as the last of my breakfast plates were being cleared and so I instead took a few moments to put all my stuff away and get ready for landing.

Overall, I thought Asiana provided a decent though hardly award winning service. It wasn’t just the lumpy lie-flat seat or the lackluster English skills. The service presentation often seemed awkward and uncertain, with nervous laughter often accompanying each action. Perhaps the poor English skills was at the root of it, or perhaps it was a difference in cultures with regard to service needs and expectations but compared to the flight attendants I’ve encountered on airlines like Singapore and Cathay Pacific, these Asiana flight attendants seemed unconfident and unpolished.

Now to be fair, these are only a couple of flight attendants out of a much larger group, so it’s unrealistic to paint with too broad a brush. Nevertheless, on a long intercontinental flight in an international First Class cabin, I would have expected better from an airline that was named “World’s Best” just two years ago.

Member for

13 years 8 months

Posts: 38

February 7, 2014
Thai Airways Seoul to Taipei 530p – 710p A330-300 Business Class
Thai Airways Taipei to Bangkok 810p – 1105p A330-300 Business Class

There was a surprisingly long line to clear the security checkpoint for transit passengers, but once I did I was left with about a four hour layover until my connecting flight to Taipei and on to Bangkok. I was thankful that having arrived off of Asiana’s International First Class, I was eligible to hang out in Asiana’s attractive First Class lounge at Incheon. Right on!

My good fortune continued upon discovering that the entrance from transit security into the main terminal put me almost directly across from the lounge entrance. After pausing a moment to brush my hair and straighten up my jacket, I took a deep breath and proceeded through the opaque doors.

When I was through Incheon a couple of months ago I visited the new Business Class Lounge just down a few gates down from here. I loved the interior design and furnishings which incorporated plenty of wooden bookshelves, potted trees, muted lamp lighting and comfortable seating upholstered in complimentary earth tones. The large terminal windows provided an abundance of good natural light and overall I found the lounge immediately homelike and inviting.

Asiana’s First Class Lounge at Incheon is just a slightly smaller but somewhat nicer version of the Business Class lounge. The interior design is essentially the same but the facilities are just a bit nicer. For example, the buffet features actual food rather than a collection of snack items, the little nooks nearby the bookshelves provide more comfortable seating and the selection of alcohol is highlighted by a big bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. A beautiful grand piano dominates one end of the lounge and just down the hall are shower facilities that are much larger and nicer than those found in the Business Class lounge.

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Asiana’s First Class Lounge at Seoul

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Asiana’s First Class Lounge at Seoul

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A Nice Place to Enjoy A Good Book

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The Buffet at Asiana’s First Class Lounge at Seoul

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A Decent Selection of Booze

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Beautiful Grand Piano and Seating

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Best Shower Room of The Trip!

In a lounge this pleasant and comfortable, time has a way of just flying by but over the course of my three hour stay I managed to use just about all the facilities from shower room to Business Center. By the time I left at 4:30, I was well rested, well fed and looking forward to my upcoming flights on Thai Airways.

The last time I flew on Thai was exactly 3100 flights ago, way back in April of 1987. Back then the domestic version was known as Thai Airways while the international division was known as Thai International. I was in First Class aboard what was then a relatively new 747-200B flying between Singapore and Bangkok’s old Don Mueang International Airport. The First Class seats were second generation sleepers and the inflight service was superb. While I’ve logged exactly 3100 flights and over 3.3 million miles since, that particular aircraft was subsequently sold to Atlas Air Cargo in 1996 where it toiled for another fifteen years before finally being retired in 2011. When last seen, it was rusting peacefully at the Industrial Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico, awaiting the scrapper’s torch after 32 years of reliable service.

The aircraft operating my flight tonight was a two year old A330-300 registered HS-TBC. As I mentioned earlier, I log all of my flights, including the registration number. A check of this aircraft’s registration revealed that the original HS-TBC was a Thai 737-200 that crashed into the sea on approach to Phuket back in August of 1987, killing all 83 onboard. Admiring Thai’s beautiful livery on the sleek new Airbus parked at the gate in front of me, I couldn’t help but wonder about the cosmic implications of reassigning to it the registration number of an airplane that came to such a tragic end.

Parked next door was yet another Air Canada 767-300, looking quite nice in what’s come to be known amongst some as that airline’s “Peppermint” livery. With so many 777s and A330s flying international routes these days, the 767 now seems like a small plane for such a long distance flight. Still, it’s a perfectly capable aircraft with a range of near 6000 miles, more than enough to cover the 5080 mile flight across the Pacific to Vancouver. And, now that I think of it, for those sat in Economy at least, it’s probably a more comfortable plane as well with its 2-3-2 seating configuration.

Boarding was called a bit late – at 5:15pm – but it was quite orderly with Business Class and elite passengers called first. Once again there was minimal crowding around the gate area, something I wish we’d practice a bit more back home on our domestic flights. Another nice aspect of boarding at many of these new Asian airports is the use of separate jet bridges for First and/or Business Class and Economy.

According to seatguru.com, Thai operates two seating configurations in the Business Class cabins of its A330s. One has 42 recliners with a 47” pitch while the other has 36 angled lie-flat seats with a 58” pitch. I was thankful that our flight was assigned the more spacious configuration though for shorter intra-Asia flights like tonight’s, I suspect the tighter configuration would have worked equally well provided one didn’t want to sleep. Since the Business Class cabin was only about half full out of Seoul, there was plenty of room to spread out as well as stretch out.

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Business Class Seating Aboard Thai’s A330-300

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Business Class Seating Aboard Thai’s A330-300

A flight attendant stopped by with a tray of orange juice, water and iced tea. The iced tea was the only drink with ice in it, so that’s what I chose. Sweeeeeeeet! Uh… a bit sweet for me, thanks. Fortunately I was able to snag a glass of water before the FA had gotten too far down the aisle.

Hot towels came next – the first of four separate hot towel presentations as it turned out: Boarding, before the meal, after the meal and just prior to landing. To Thai’s everlasting credit, all of the towels were hot, moist and lightly scented. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been handed a hot but essentially dry towel on some of our airlines back home. Do it right or don’t do it at all! Good job, Thai!

Next up was the menu and wine list. Wow! This is a lot of service so far. Compare it with a flight of similar distance back in the States and we’d probably just be getting around to having our coats and jackets hung about now. The menu was specifically catered to this flight with separate pages for the Seoul to Taipei sector and the Taipei to Bangkok flight. Let’s check out the offerings on the upcoming flight to Taipei:

DINNER
Seoul to Taipei

First Course
Grilled Prawn, Bean Curd and Vegetable Roll

Main Course

Grilled Salmon with Pesto
Oven Baked Chateau Potatoes, Carrots and Green Beans

Stir-Fried Prawn with Black Pepper and Bell Pepper Sauce
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice, Pak-choy

Deep Fried Pork Tenderloin with Sweet & Sour Sauce
Steamed Rice and Vegetables

Marinated Chicken Thigh with Hot Spicy Sauce
Steamed Rice and Broccoli

Assorted Bread, Crackers, Butter

Dessert

Vanilla Cream Cheese Cake
Tea Coffee
Espresso, Cappuccino

Our taxi out to the runway provided a good tour of the airport grounds. Korean Air Lines is by far the dominant carrier at Incheon, its attractive tiffany blue, silver and white airplanes filling up an entire half of the main terminal. Asiana and a couple of discount carriers dominate the other half, while all foreign carriers operate out of the so called “Concourse”. A couple of those foreign carriers caught my eye – Business Air and Mongolian Airlines, both of which had 767-300s parked at their respective gates. Business Air appears to be limited to charter work while Mongolian has come a long way since the days when Tupolevs and Antonovs dominated its fleet.

We were less than twenty minutes into the flight when the second round of hot towels were presented followed by the drink cart. Thai uses full sized bottles, so that drink cart was a sight to behold. Let’s check out that drink menu before they get here…

WINE LIST

Champagne
Piper Heidsieck Brut Champagne

White Wine
Château Haut Bertinerie 2011
Montagny Premier Cru 2010
Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011

Red Wine
Château Peyrabon 2004
Grand Enclos de Château de Cérons 2008
Côte de Nuits-Villages 2011
Château des Jacques Morgon 2008

Aperitifs
Mekhong Thai Sabai, Mekhong Amethyst, Campari, Gin Martini,
Screwdriver, Bloody Mary, Black Russian, Vodka Martini, Warre’s Warrior Port

Spirits
Rum, Gin, Bourbon, Whiskey, Vodka

Cognac & Liqueurs
Cognac X.O., Kahlua, Drambuie, Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge

Beer
Chang Beer, Heineken Beer, Singha Beer

I asked the flight attendant what kind of bourbon they had on offer and she replied Jim Beam. Would that be black or white label? Um… black label. Awright! I’ll have a glass of that, please. Lots of ice!

Turning my attention to the dinner menu, I had some tough decisions. Each and every one of the main courses looked delicious but in the end I was smitten by the magic words: “Hot Spicy Sauce”. That would be the Marinated Chicken Thigh with Hot Spicy Sauce, accompanied by steamed rice and broccoli. Yep. That’s the one for me!

The meal service started with the presentation of a tray bearing the appetizer plate. The tray included separate bread and butter dishes in addition to an attractive salt and pepper set. Also included were a packaged portion of kimchi, some hot pepper paste, a portion of Brie cheese and a packet of crackers. As for the appetizer, it was an attractive arrangement of prawns, asparagus and uh… bean curd. As you might imagine, I’m not a big fan of bean curd but this evening’s version wasn’t half bad. Bean curd aficionados would probably give it an enthusiastic endorsement. The asparagus was the standout for me. Large, crisp, delicious! We’re off to a good start.

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An Excellent Appetizer Presentation

The main course was delivered hot from the cart. I can’t say I was overly impressed with the 1970s style Economy Class serving dish that it was stuffed into, but the food is what counts and it was indeed good. Funny though – I didn’t find the chicken all that hot and spicy. I grew up in Colorado, eating homemade Mexican food made by fourth and fifth generation Hispanic folks whose families had lived in the Colorado high country considerably longer than any of the local gringos. Not all Mexican food is hot but there’s a lot to be said for the heat of fresh jalapeno peppers and hatch chiles when used liberally in certain recipes and sauces. Ultimately it’s airline food, so they can’t afford to be too authentic with such a wide mix of passengers. The meal was good though – moist meat and good rice, with a decent amount of heat provided by the container of hot pepper paste. A nice little slice of vanilla cream cheese cake brought this meal to a satisfying close.

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Marinated Chicken Thigh with Hot Spicy Sauce

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Marinated Chicken Thigh with Hot Spicy Sauce

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Vanilla Cream Cheese Cake

The flight time between Seoul and Taipei was only two hours and eighteen minutes, so it wasn’t long after the last of my plates were cleared that we commenced our descent into Taipei. I’ve flown into Taipei three times now and each time I’ve arrived at night. I’m really looking forward to a daytime arrival to I can enjoy a good view of the island from the air.

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SkyMap ~ Seoul to Taipei

Although our ground time was limited to just one hour in Taipei, all through passengers were required to disembark with all of our carry-on baggage and clear security before re-boarding for the flight to Bangkok. Well alright but jeez, why’d they have to park us so far down the concourse from immigration and transit security? I mean, here were all these empty gates much closer in but we get sent down to the second to the last gate on the concourse. Grrrr… Oh well. Better get walking then! All the way down. And – all the way back.

Flight time on the 1540 mile sector between Taipei and Bangkok was projected at three hours and thirty-five minutes, more than enough time to enjoy another cocktail, a late dinner and maybe a bit of time checking out Thai’s inflight entertainment system. Here’s the menu for the flight down to Bangkok:

DINNER
Taipei to Bangkok

First Course

Rosette of Smoked Halibut with Duet of Capsicum Jelly

Main Course

Wok-Fried Beef with Brown Sauce
Roasted Potatoes, Green Peas, Red and Yellow Peppers

Steamed Fish Fillet with Tomato Concasse
Steamed Buttered Potatoes with Parsley and Vegetables

Salted Baked Chicken Hainan Style with Chilli Sauce
Pilaf Rice, Stir-Fried Loufah, Poached Carrot

Braised Minced Pork with Pickles
Steamed Rice, Carrots and Chinese Greens

Assorted Bread, Crackers and Butter

Dessert

An Assortment of Cheese served with Fruit, Crackers and Port
Lime Cheese Cake

Tea, Coffee
Espresso, Cappuccino

I don’t know what kind of fish that is since it’s unnamed (It seems like they always make a point of naming the fish on the menu when it’s something good like salmon, trout, snapper, grouper, halibut or barramundi. Everything else just goes under “fish”) so I think I’ll pass. I prefer my beef in the form of steak, prime rib or half pound burgers, so it looks like I’ll be having the chicken again. No worries! Mongo like chicken!

Another Jim Beam Black got things off to a good start, especially served with a packet of savory roasted cashew nuts. With my meal however, I switched to a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc. The appetizer was an artistically presented rosette of smoked halibut sitting atop a couple of squares of capsicum jelly. I like halibut, but not served cold as it turns out. No complaints here though. I never would’ve known unless I’d tried it. Now I have. Unfortunately, the capsicum jelly did nothing to improve the flavor of the cold, clammy halibut. Nor did the wine, which tasted a bit flat despite its flowery description in the wine list.

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Rosette of Smoked Halibut with Duet of Capsicum Jelly

Now the chicken on the other hand – Ooo-la-la! C’était magnifique! Moist, juicy, and plentiful! The rice didn’t seem like most pilafs I’ve had but it complimented the chicken very nicely. I decided to pass on cheese and dessert but watched with a bit of surprise as a selection of cheese, fruit, crackers and crudités were rolled down the aisle on the trolley. Very impressive. It’s the little things like this that – for me at least – really make a flight stand out, elevating it from mundane to special. Well done, Thai!

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Salted Baked Chicken Hainan Style with Chilli Sauce

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Cheese & Port Trolley Service

Bangkok’s a big city, with a population of 6.3 million. We flew over city lights for a good long while before finally touching down smoothly at Bangkok’s beautiful new Bangkok International Airport. Truth be known, this airport – known more popularly as Suvarnabhumi Airport - isn’t exactly “new”, having opened in late 2006, but compared to musty old Don Mueang International Airport it’s downright fresh and shiny. Why, it still even has that new airport smell!

As much as I enjoy gallivanting around the world in the unique comfort of a First Class airline suite, after spending the past three nights on airplanes I was more than ready to exchange my airplane suite for a hotel suite where I could zzzz-out on a king sized bed in a nicely air-conditioned room. That I did at the Phoenix Hotel where a suite with a king sized bed could be had for the very affordable price of just $51.00 USD all-in.

Now I know that most of you tend to stay in some pretty nice hotels, many of them with bathrooms larger than some of the rooms I’ve stayed in over the years. I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am with some of the pictures I’ve seen posted here over the years, and my hat’s off to all of you who figure out how to stay at these swank digs without having to take out another mortgage on your cabins.

What’s that? You don’t live in cabins? Really! Oh, well uh… that’s different I guess but uh… aw heck, maybe you’ll still enjoy the view I had from my balcony. :D

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The view from my balcony at the Phoenix Hotel

Member for

13 years 8 months

Posts: 38

February 8, 2014
Lufthansa Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur 445p – 740p A340-600 First Class
Thai Airways Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur 440p – 710p A330-300 Business Class

Even though I’ve had some fantastic First Class flights to get this far, I’ve really been looking forward to today’s shorter flight in First Class aboard Lufthansa’s A340-600 down to Kuala Lumpur. It’s been ten years since my last flight aboard the A340’s longest variant, a 790 mile jaunt aboard South African Airways between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Tonight I was looking forward to checking out the First Class – new or old – aboard Lufthansa on the 740 mile flight down to Kuala Lumpur. From there I’d have almost three hours to make my way down to KL’s cavernous Sentral Station for the overnight train to Singapore. So – it was a good, well rounded day of travel and when I awoke from my king sized bed in the Phoenix hotel, I was primed and ready to go.

Two things went wrong today.

First off, my Lufthansa flight got cancelled, or at least the Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur portion did. Apparently the plane departed Frankfurt about twelve hours late and so the decision was made to simply turn it around at Bangkok. Well damn!

So – what are my options?

If I want to make my train tonight, the only flight that’ll work is Thai’s 4:40pm departure to KL, another A330 that meant I’d be downgraded to Business Class. Just getting switched to this flight was enough of a hassle what with reissuing a United issued ticket that I figured bringing up any talk of compensation for the downgrade would only complicate an already complicated situation even more. Business Class it is. Book it, Danno!

Secondly, my memory card filled up. I only keep a little 2G card in my camera because normally on a trip like this I review and download the photos into my laptop every couple of days. Unfortunately, my new laptop is such a piece of dog doo that it won’t even accept my memory card properly (who’d think to check this function before buying it) and even if it would, Windows 8 is such an equally worthless operating system that reviewing pictures on it is way more difficult that it really needs to be. As far as I’m concerned, the entire computer is a piece of junk so when I get home I’ll likely clean it out and donate it to some place that may need one. Assuming they’ll accept it, that is…

In the meantime, I’ve got a full memory card and no back-up. Part of the problem is I generally take anywhere from 4-7 pictures of each food item on the planes. Out of those, I’m pretty much guaranteed to find one that has come out well enough by my standards to be included in this report. Additionally, I take a lot of photos of where I stay, what I’m doing, people I meet, etc. Those pictures never make it into my reports because of my steadfast policy to focus my FlyerTalk trip reports only on the transport aspects off the trip, i.e. getting there.

Additionally, I don’t keep a lot of pictures that I take. The subject might look like it’ll make a good picture at the time I decide to shoot it, but then occasionally when I look at the picture later it just doesn’t come across as very interesting and/or very good. I’m not shy about dumping photos and as many of you know by now, in terms of embedding pictures in my reports I’m a bit of a minimalist compared to the true photo reporters who’ll shoot everything from a bottle of hand cream in the lavatory to their hot towel (So that's what a hot towel looks like!) to multiple pictures of the check-in counter and gate lounge. I know for many people there's a lot of interest in looking at stuff like this but to me these types of photographs hold all the titillation of watching carrots grow. With few exceptions, when I see those types of photos in a report - especially in abundance - I tend to just drop it right there and look for another report. Conversely, I'm sure many people feel the same way about my reports. Too much writing! Why didn't he take more pictures of the crowd at the check-in counter or the bathrooms in the airline lounge?!

Anyway, bottom line is I wasn’t able to get a big new 8G card until I got to Singapore so we’ll have to do without any photos until then. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’ve got some photos from my last trip in 2010 on the night train to Singapore. Believe me, nothing has changed except the arrival station so I’ll go ahead and use those.

Alright then, enough with the explanations. On to the trip!

Thai operates five different Royal Silk Business Class lounges at BKK. I don’t know what I was thinking but when I emerged from security and saw the signs for the Royal Silk Lounge and the C Concourse, I thought that I was just a short way from my gate at C-10. Ha! Not by a long shot. Regardless, I spent an hour or so lounging about, totally clueless as to my actual whereabouts. While I was there though I enjoyed some really good Tom Kha Gai soup along with a plate of Chicken in Green Curry, all washed down by an exquisitely chilled can of Singha Beer. When I finally decided to meander on down to C-10, I found that I had quite a long way to go just to get to the head of the C Concourse, and then – in keeping with most of my recent flights – I discovered that C-10 was way down at the very end of the concourse. In what has become by now a tired old refrain: I’d better get walking!

We had a pretty full load down to Kuala Lumpur, possibly due to re-accommodation of passengers from the cancelled Lufthansa flight. My seatmate was an elderly Asian gentleman who didn’t appear to speak any English and wanted to sleep the flight away. No worries there, mate! I’m just fine on my own and don’t require automatic interaction with folks just because they’re sitting next to me. I accepted the first of my hot towels and put in some time studying the menu. I should mention here that the Drinks Menu was specific to February, so any of you curious about wines, etc. should refer to the transcript posted above. As for the dinner menu, in keeping with today’s weird flow of events, I actually left it onboard the plane. I can tell you that I had yet another chicken dish (I swear, I’ll have something different next time!) Unless it’s dry or undersized, you’ll rarely if ever hear a bad word about airline chicken from me. It’s all good. I do remember the shrimp appetizer was horrible! The shrimp tasted like bad fish. Other than that, everything else including the chocolate parfait dessert was excellent.

Immigration and customs was negotiated quickly and painlessly – after all, I’d only be in Malaysia for a few hours – and soon I was on my way to the KLIA Ekspress platform. During off peak hours, express trains leave every 30 minutes, and the journey into downtown Kuala Lumpur takes only 28 minutes. These guys have got it down! What a great service!

Collecting my ticket was no problem and, after stopping by the local Kentucky Fried Chicken for a late night 2 piece snack, I headed down to the waiting area for the train I booked as Train #25 but locally known as the Ekspress Senendung Sutera. Although there is a lounge available for those of us holding First Class sleeper reservations, we were close enough to boarding time that I decided to just head straight to the gate.

By the way, I rode this train back in 2010 and since I was unable to take any pictures on this ride, the ones you’ll see here are from that ride four years ago. On board the train at least, nothing has changed.

Boarding was called at 10:00pm sharp. Although the temperature inside Sentral Station is cooler than it is outside, it is hardly what I’d call “Air-conditioned”. By contrast, my train car was wonderfully chilled, like stepping into a walk-in fridge. There was a car attendant was at the door, but his primary function, aside from checking my ticket, was to smile. Not like I needed any help finding my room, mind you. Just follow the numbers.

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All Aboard at Kuala Lumpur Sentral

Now if you’re going to travel by night train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, the deluxe sleeper is definitely the way to go. It’s worth noting that the Second Class sleeper is a car full of bunk beds. Though it’s certainly more comfortable than spending the night in a First Class recliner, the privacy your own room in the deluxe sleeper is worth the extra $25.00.

It wouldn’t surprise me if I got the same car I was in four years ago. There’s only one deluxe sleeper car per train and everything looked pretty much exactly the way I left it four years ago. My cabin came with two beds (an upper and a lower) nicely made up with plump pillows and monogrammed wool blankets. Also included was an ensuite shower and toilet but there was no hot water in the shower and no towel was provided regardless. In the good old days – however long ago those were – these cars also included a television. Where the TV used to be was a small platform and some unconnected wires. I wasn’t overly put out however. It was 10:30pm and I was looking forward to a good sleep. As for a shower, I could get one in the airport lounge tomorrow.

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Accommodations in the Deluxe Sleeper

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These beds are quite comfortable

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Ensuite Toilet & Shower

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Instructions for use of toilet

We eased out of Sentral Station with all the punctuality of a Swiss train, slowly picking up speed as we rolled through Kuala Lumpur’s rather far flung suburbs. This wasn’t exactly an “express” train in that we did make three or four stops in outlying KL neighborhoods before finally finding our rhythm, whence we proceeded to rock and roll on down the tracks to Singapore. Sleep came easily with the motion of the train, and I particularly liked the firmness of the mattress. This was as nice a train bed as I’ve ever slept on.

One especially welcome change from four years ago is that immigration and customs no longer take place at the crack of dawn in Johor Bhayu. Back then, we had to gather all our belongings and head into a large building for about 45 minutes to an hour of Malaysian emigration processing. These days those same functions are carried out on board the train at Johor Bahru while Singapore passport and customs formalities are undertaken at the new Woodlands checkpoint after you get off the train.

By the time I cleared Singapore customs, it was approaching 8:30am. I took a cab from the station to the Woodlands MRT station. From there it was about an hour and twenty minutes out to Changi.

February 9, 2014
Thai Airways Singapore to Bangkok 1250p – 210p 777-300 Business Class
Turkish Airways Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City 410p – 530p Business Class
Lufthansa Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok 855p – 1015p Business Class

Check in via Thai’s Royal Silk Business Class counter was quick and efficient. Soon I was on my way to the Rainforest Lounge, conveniently situated at the top of the C Concourse, just a short walk from my departure gate at C-22. Thai does operate a Royal Silk lounge here at Changi but it’s nothing to write home about and, so far as I know, it doesn’t have showers. By comparison, the Rainforest Lounge (accessed via Priority Pass) has showers and a much nicer selection of food though the drinks are from a cash bar. No biggie – at this time of day I’m a water or coffee guy.

Boarding didn’t get underway until about 12:40 but this flight was only about half full so we were buttoned up and ready to go only about fifteen minutes later. The aircraft was a 777-300 and the seating was substantially different from that found on Thai’s A330s. These seats were essentially Business Class cubicles, and depending upon your location, they could be downright claustrophobic. On a positive note, each seat was of decent width and had direct access to the aisle. However, certain seats had an area only about 15” wide through which to access them and once sat, everything was right up on you. Window seats could be either “A” or “B”, with the “B” seats being a bit farther out from the windows. For me, those are the good seats with much wider access points than the “A” seats. That translates into better room for those of us who like to cross our legs now and then while seated.

Now maybe it’s just me, but one of the best pure benefits of sitting up in a premium class cabin is the increased amount of space that you have around you relative to Economy. In the case of Thai and other airlines like Austrian that have gone with these modular seating compartments, I think they’ve sacrificed the spacious ambience in order to provide a lie flat bed while still maintaining direct aisle access.

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Business Class Seat on Thai’s 777-300

Here is a VIDEO produced by Thai about its new 777-300ERs. There’s some decent footage of the Business Class cabin.

As we taxied out to the runway, I saw Airbus’ A350 in factory colors remotely parked. The Singapore Airshow starts in a couple of days and this will be the A350’s first full display at an international air show. I’m sure it’ll garner a lot of attention as the Asia-Pacific region is the fastest growing market for new airplanes. In fact, 30% of the total orders thus far for the A350 have come from airlines based in this region.

Lining up at the head of the runway, we paused briefly before the pilot pushed the throttles forward and sent us hurtling down the runway. 777-300ERs are equipped with the most powerful engines ever installed aboard a commercial jet airliner. That engine would be General Electric’s massive GE90-115B. Recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the "World's Most Powerful Commercial Jet Engine", the GE90-115B is certified as producing 115000 lbs of thrust but recorded an amazing 123,000 lbs. of steady thrust while undergoing initial ground testing in 2001. In late 2002, the engine shattered its original record by reaching 127,900 lbs. of thrust during required certification testing.

Given a half full airplane and all that extra power, we took to the air with considerable alacrity, powering smoothly through the moist, heavy air that perpetually envelopes Singapore by midday. Soon enough we were levelling out in the cool crisp air (-53°C according to the SkyMap) at 30 some off thousand feet and it was time to peruse the luncheon menu in anticipation of a nice afternoon meal.

LUNCHEON
Singapore to Bangkok

First Course
Whole Duck Foie Gras with Verjuice and Rose Grapefruit

Course

Seared Prawn with Sweet Chilli Sauce
Served atop Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice with Carrots and French Beans

Stir-Fried Chicken with Leek and Mashed Bean Sauce
Accompanied by Tossed Healthy Noodles and Sautéed Vegetables

Poached Siam Perch in Red Curry
Served with Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice,
Stir-fried Pickled Turnip and Egg

Bread, Butter

Dessert
Pardan Sago Seed, Water Chestnut and Coconut Cream
Tea, Coffee
Espresso, Cappuccino

The drink cart arrived first and I decided to try my luck with a Bloody Mary. I watched as the flight attendant mixed my drink with vodka and Spicy V-8 but nothing else. As such, I was served a mediocre Bloody Mary. Still, it’s an airplane, not a proper bar but even so, surely it couldn’t be that difficult to stock a small bottle of Tabasco Sauce and/or Worcestershire Sauce. Then again, this is Business Class, not International First, so perhaps the onus is on me to bring along those accoutrements. In fact, I actually have some small packets of Tabasco Sauce along with Cholula and Grey Poupon Mustard and a few other items that I keep in a little zip-lock baggie in my day pack. I just totally forgot about it.

While I’m in a good rant mode, another complaint I have with Thai is their tiny drink glasses. A good deal of the satisfaction derived from enjoying a refreshing drink is having a decent sized portion of it, providing the promise if not the reality that you’ll have a satisfyingly long drink before having to ring for a refill. Mind you, I’m not advocating 16oz tumblers such as those once served aboard Texas International flights, but a good 8-10oz cocktail glass would be appreciated. As it is, the little glasses Thai uses can’t be more than 6oz and when filled with ice, you’re down to about 3oz.

Alright then, let’s see about lunch…

Hmm… If I eat much more chicken I’m likely to start clucking but I don’t much care for the sweet chilli sauce which topped the prawns, nor the pickled turnip and eggs which accompanied the perch in red curry. Sigh… Stir-Fried Chicken, please.

Now this was actually a pretty good meal. I’m a rice guy but the noodles were an interesting change of pace and really quite good. I also really enjoyed the foie gras appetizer. As rare as it is to be served caviar these days, it might be even more extraordinary to be served foie gras. It’s always been one of my favorites though and I have fond memories of United’s appetizer plates in the mid-eighties, one of which was highlighted by decent sized portions of foie gras accompanied by jumbo prawns, cheddar cheese and bread sticks.

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Stir-Fried Chicken with Leek and Mashed Bean Sauce

It’s a 900 mile flight from Singapore to Bangkok, which translated into a flight time of two hours and ten minutes. After lunch I spent some time having fun with one of the geography based trivia games. In concept it was a great game but in practice it was quite frustrating. For example, it would have a picture of the Rock of Gibraltar and to get points for the correct answer you had to touch a world map on the screen where you thought the pictured location was. If I had a pen, I reckon I could have been within five miles of a landmark like The Rock, but using my truly average sized finger tips would result in a response along the lines of “210 kms away. You’ve nailed it!!” or worse, “400 kms away. You’re pretty close!” Points were accrued based upon how close you were and how fast you were. As you might imagine, it was a bit frustrating to quickly yet carefully put your finger on something really easy like Chicago and then get the response “310 kms away. You’re really close!”

In Bangkok we parked out on the C Concourse and I began the long walk up to the transit desk at the head of the concourse. Unfortunately, I discovered that my onward flight to Ho Chi Minh City was departing from F-6 on [url=http://www.bangkokairportonline.com/node/87the opposite side of the airport[/url]. As such, I would need to collect my boarding pass at the West Transit Desk, also located on the opposite side of the airport. It was of little consolation that this would require me to walk across the world's fourth largest single-building airport terminal (563,000 square meters or 6,060,000 square feet). According to a sign posted above the terminal walkway, the West Transit Desk was located just 850 meters away. 850 meters! I should’ve taken a picture with my new memory card. 850 meters translates to just over half a mile away, and that wasn’t even including the 200 yard walk from my gate at C8 to the top of the concourse in addition to the additional 200 some odd yard walk down to my gate at F6. People movers were available on the C and F concourses, but not the long crossover D Concourse. All told, I limped about three quarters of a mile which is nothing for your morning joggers but inside a building with so-so air-conditioning, wearing a 15 pound daypack and trailing a roll-a-board with a sore back and an uneven gait, it felt like quite a long walk.

Which gets me to wondering – what’s the longest distance one can possibly walk between gates for a connecting flight while staying completely inside an airport terminal complex? We’re not counting airports that have trains. Today’s walk might be a personal record but I also remember once coming into Denver’s old Stapleton International on a North Central flight from Minneapolis and walking from NC’s gate at the very end of the D Concourse all the way over to my connecting United flight to Las Vegas located just one gate from the end of the equally long B concourse. That was a lonnnng walk!

Back to the present, I collected my new boarding pass for Turkish Airlines’ flight XXX to Ho Chi Minh City and then decided to use my Priority Pass membership to visit one of the six Louis’ Tavern Lounges spread out around the airport terminal. I’ve used these lounges on two prior occasions and have always left with a good impression. The décor is stylish, the food offerings are acceptable (Not hot food but a nice variety of sandwiches) and there’s a decent selection of spirits and beers. Given my long walk and the muggy day, I quickly availed myself of an ice cold Singha’s Lager and found a comfortable lounge chair just down draft from an air-conditioning vent. Ahhh….

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Lewis’ Tavern Lounge on F Concourse at Bangkok

So I’m booked on Star Alliance partner Turkish Airlines from Bangkok over to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon for you old timers) but the booking indicates that the flight is operated by Jet Airways of India. Oh Good! I’ve already flown on Turkish so now I’ll get to add another airline to my collection, which currently stands at 172 airlines flown and counting.

Not so fast, Bucko! Sitting at the gate was a 777-300 wearing the red and white livery of Turkish Airlines, and upon making my way down the jetway I was greeted at the door by a flight attendant with blond hair, which I believe is a pretty rare sight amongst indigenous Indians. As it turned out, yes – this flight was operated by Jet Airways – but the cabin crew and the service on board was totally Turkish. The plane itself was from Jet Airways, complete with First Class sliding door suites. Back in the Business Class cabin the large, comfortable seats were arranged in a herringbone fashion, configured 1-2-1. Their only drawback from my perspective was that they faced away from the windows. Other than that, I could have easily spent much longer than the one hour and seven minutes we’d spend aloft enroute to Ho Chi Minh City.

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Business Class seating on Turkish 777-300
Aircraft operated by Jet Airways of India

Service enroute consisted of a pass with the beverage cart and a tasty salmon, cucumber and asparagus sandwich on focaccia bread accompanied by a delicious little tiramisu cake. For a one hour flight at this time of day it was just perfect.

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Afternoon Snack on Turkish Airlines

As much as I’d like to have spent a couple of days in Ho Chi Minh City, I was forced to press on due to the fact that the only available First Class seat I could score on Emirates back to the U.S. within the next five days was departing out of Dubai the day after tomorrow. I would have been willing to fly into any US gateway city served by Emirates but alas, Seattle on the 11th was it. Getting a First Class seat from most any Asian city to Dubai was not a problem but it meant I’d have to leave tomorrow. Emirates does fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Dubai but unfortunately that flight was only available in Business Class. The alternative which would have allowed me to stay an extra couple of days in Vietnam would have involved heading back up to Incheon and flying home in “First Class” on American. As you might imagine, I had such fond memories of my First Class flights on Emirates last fall, not to mention my recent experiences on Lufthansa and Asiana, that settling for a Flagship Suite on American was never really a consideration.

I encountered a brief problem at the transit desk because they weren’t set up to issue Lufthansa boarding passes. Apparently not many people flying into SGN are transiting onto Lufthansa’s flight to Bangkok and Frankfurt. They were especially not used to seeing guys like me who’d just flown in from Bangkok and were now turning right around and heading back again. Thankfully, my odd routing didn’t attract any official attention but I had to sit around in the transit area for a half hour or so before a transit desk employee could return from the ticket counter with my passport and boarding pass.

Included with my boarding pass was a separate card granting me access to the CIP Rose Lounge. This lounge was one of two contract lounges on the concourse, the other being the Apricot Lounge. There are three flights that all depart SGN for Bangkok within twenty minutes of each other, and based upon the crowds in the Rose Lounge it looked as if each airline (Thai, Turkish and Lufthansa) used this lounge for its Premium Class passengers. As such, the best pictures I can offer you come via this You Tube video which I found on the internet.

What this video won’t show is that the air conditioning in this lounge was fighting a losing battle with the hot, humid air outside. Although there was a fairly decent selection of food available, I wasn’t particularly hungry, preferring instead to wait and see what Lufthansa had in store for us on the short one hour flight back to Bangkok.

This was only my second flight on an A340-600, the other having come in Economy Class aboard a South African Airways plane back in 2004. Needless to say Lufthansa’s Business Class up ahead of the wings was a huge improvement over having been sat back in row 34 or so on the SAA bird. Even so, I couldn’t help but lust just a bit over those big blue First Class thrones sitting ever so empty just beyond the curtain. These were the old style First Class seats but they certainly looked inviting and – were it not for yesterday’s flight between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur having been cancelled – I would’ve gotten a chance to check them out myself.

Oh well. I was still sitting pretty comfortably in Lufthansa’s spacious Business Class seats, sipping on a nice cold glass of water while reading about Chinese passengers rioting in a northern Chinese airport due to snow delays. Apparently they were unhappy at the lack of information being provided them by the airline personnel and finally the situation just reached critical mass. What I found more interesting – if not slightly entertaining – was that this was not the first time Chinese passengers had rioted over what they perceived to be bad service. My goodness! Apparently some ticket counters and computers were damaged, resulting in even longer delays for everyone. Yeah, but it sure felt good!

Service on this short flight back up to Bangkok consisted of a good looking plate of roast beef and asparagus served with lightly flavored glass noodles. I washed it all down with a glass of Jack Daniels and then reclined my seat a bit to watch the lights of Bangkok was we followed a wide sweeping path around the southern edge of the city before lining up for a surprisingly smooth landing at Suvarnabhumi.

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Evening Snack on Lufthansa

Once again I’d booked a suite at the Phoenix Hotel. My wait time was minimal and soon I was reveling under the blast from not one but two air conditioners as I got my room chilled to a wonderful 18°C in preparation for a good night’s sleep.

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Posts: 38

February 10, 2014
Thai Airways Bangkok to Hong Kong 200p – 535p A330-300 Business Class

You know you’re living well as a flyer when you can leave your hotel and just 18 minutes later be sitting on the other side of security in the airline’s lounge. I kid you not – the transition was so quick that it was almost dreamlike! I started with the 12:00n shuttle from my hotel back to the airport. The drive to the airport took no more than six or seven minutes. Thai has a large and well-staffed check-in area for its Royal Silk Business and First Class passengers. At this time of day the ratio of available counter agents to passengers checking in was about four to one in my favor. Hmm… I’ll take the short haired one with the pretty smile down there at the end.

Two minutes later, I’m on my way through security. Royal Silk passengers have their own private security checkpoint which is conveniently located just at the end of the check-in area. No one was there when I arrived. Just beyond security were four passport control booths; two of which were manned, none of which were busy. Stamp! Stamp! Right – on to the C Concourse lounge. By the time I’d checked in, grabbed a cold beer and settled into a comfy chair with a copy of that day’s Bangkok Post, it was 12:20pm. Swwweeeet!

This afternoon’s flight was conveniently located at C4, just a short two minute stroll down the concourse from the Royal Silk Lounge. My good fortune continued as boarding began within about five minutes of my arriving at the gate. The aircraft for this afternoon’s flight was another A330, nicely configured with the comfy hard shell seats that I’d come to appreciate greatly on my previous two A330 flights. We had a full flight up front, including a gaggle of ancient Chinese women. There were four of them along with their handlers and from what I could see, they looked to be very well looked after. It was just a little bit heartwarming to see.

Flight time to Hong Kong was announced as two hours and twenty minutes, cruising at something or other thousands of feet. That part of the announcement was muffled out under the marvelously invigorating steam and heat from the first of many hot scented towels. Menus and wine lists were presented, safety videos were played, engines were throttled to full thrust and cruising altitude was attained. Now it was time for lunch.

LUNCHEON
Bangkok to Hong Kong

First Course
Prawn and Scallop on Skewer Marinated with Tamarind Sauce
Accompanied by Cherry Tomato Salad and Mozzarella Pearls in a Cabbage Cup

MAIN COURSE

Omelette Stuffed with Shrimp Thai Style
Presented with Oriental Fried Rice

Wok-Fried Black Cod Fish with Yee Heong Sauce
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice, Sautéed Pak Choy, Baby Shiitake and Carrots

Chicken with Winter Melon in Red Curry
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice and Dried Sweet Chicken

Steamed Minced Pork with Preserved Cabbage
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice, Salted Egg, Carrots, Pak-Choy and Abalone Mushroom

Assorted Bread, Crackers, Butter

Dessert
Fresh Fruits
Orange Truffle Cake

Tea, Coffee
Espresso, Cappuccino

Perhaps it was the slightly longer flight time, though more likely it was the cabin crew that was responsible for our luncheon being served in four distinct courses. I started with a can of Ginger Ale and a packet of peanuts, followed shortly thereafter by the presentation of an appetizer that was every bit as attractive on the plate as it sounded on the menu. It was tasty too, especially with the addition of a slice of warm, toasted garlic bread.

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A First Class Appetizer
Prawn and Scallop on Skewer Marinated with Tamarind Sauce
Accompanied by Cherry Tomato Salad and Mozzarella Pearls in a Cabbage Cup

I had made up my mind before the flight that no matter what else might be on the menu, there was no way I was going to have chicken again. When it comes to Thai’s inflight catering, it’s was high time I broadened my horizons. Besides that, this would be my last chance for a while. After this flight, it was on to Emirates and then back to U.S. domestic fare.

The Steamed Minced Pork with Preserved Cabbage wasn’t quite what I had expected but it was good, especially with the addition of some hot pepper paste which the flight attendant was happy to supply upon request. This was also my first experience with Thai’s highly touted Hom Mali Rice. Now I’m willing to concede that I may be lacking in a properly refined Thai palate, but the rice I was served with today’s meal tasted just like every other rice I’ve ever been served. Good – but nothing special. Not like good, short grain brown rice!

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Steamed Minced Pork with Preserved Cabbage
Steamed Thai Hom Mali Rice, Salted Egg, Carrots, Pak-Choy and Abalone Mushroom

The fruit plate presentation was a pleasant surprise, nicely arranged atop something green and tropical. It went down well with the addition of some freshly squeezed lime juice and a cup of coffee. The Orange Truffle Cake looked and tasted more chocolate than orange, but hey – it’s all good!

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First Course of Dessert

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Chocolate Truffle Cake

The rest of the flight passed quickly. I had another go at that geography game, this time using the swizzle stick from my drink instead of my finger. It didn’t make any real difference – I was still an average of 200-300k wide of such easy to pinpoint locations as Honolulu or Cape Town. Arrrgh!

In Hong Kong we parked at gate 48, located way down at the very end of the only concourse I’ve never been on at HKG. Over the years I’ve walked all over this airport, flying in or out on over a dozen different airlines. It never ceases to amaze me just how large and spread out the terminal building actually is. Fortunately, I had only a short six or seven minute walk to get up to the Y where the transit desk serving Emirates was located. The gal working the Emirates desk was certainly lively and we had a lot of fun chatting about this and that and everything else while she issued my boarding passes and lounge invitation. Thankfully my Emirates flight would be departing from gate 60, conveniently located just a short distance from the Emirates Lounge – itself just around the corner at gate 40.

The nicest lounge at most any airport is usually the one operated by the airline that has the most flights out of that airport. This is certainly true here at Hong Kong where Cathay Pacific’s Wing and Pier lounges have no peer. Emirates provide a perfectly good lounge here in Hong Kong, but it’ll never be confused with The Wing.

Honestly, a lot of it for me is just being in an unfamiliar lounge while in such otherwise familiar territory. In having logged twenty-four lifetime flights aboard Cathay Pacific, I’ve had the incredible good fortune to have flown in First Class aboard each and every one of those flights. As a result, while in Hong Kong I’m practically programmed to head for The Wing or The Pier. As much as I look forward to my upcoming flights on Emirates, a part of me definitely misses that Cathay touch. Oh well - like any withdrawal, I’ll just have to tough it out.

The staff at the Emirates Lounge did their best to minimize my “suffering”. Upon entering the lounge, I was immediately set upon by a bevy of attendants, ever so anxious to show me to a seating area, make me a drink, bring me some food, fetch me a magazine or newspaper... Honestly, it was just a bit over the top. There may be some people who require or appreciate that level of “service” but I’m not one of them. I do appreciate that the staff are there to serve and that they are just trying to do their jobs but there is a point at which their efforts – either singularly or combined – can become a bit overbearing. We reached that level very quickly tonight as all I really required was a glass of ice water and a seat in the Business Center.

At one point I emerged to get a cup of coffee. Two of the attendants immediately came over to the coffee area to provide assistance. I joked with them about the coffee – do I get to make my own? All laughs aside, it was clear that they really wanted to bring it to me so I relented and retreated to the Business Center.

Honestly, I felt bad for these girls. It appeared they had been trained to fawn over people rather than to observe and anticipate their needs. Nobody had provided them any sense of nuance and timing for their service. As a result, their perception of my “need” for service resulted in an excess of service that ultimately became more annoying than helpful.

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Emirates Lounge at Hong Kong

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Emirates Lounge at Hong Kong

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Emirates Lounge Buffet

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View of Hong Kong Airport Interior from the Emirates Lounge Deck

I should note here for the benefit of you lounge junkies that the Emirates Lounge included a nice “self-service” buffet with a decent selection of hot dishes. There was no a-la-carte table service and I don’t believe there were any showers either. Otherwise, seating was abundant and comfortable and there was a good selection of reading materials.

My time in the Business Center was well spent – I fired off a number of emails, finished getting some postcards written for various kids back home and even addressed a couple of questions at the Old Timer Airline Quiz on FlyerTalk. Time passed by pretty quickly and now suddenly it was 8:30pm and time to head down to the gate.

Member for

13 years 8 months

Posts: 38

February 10, 2014
Emirates Airlines Hong Kong to Bangkok 915p – 1135p A380-800 First Class

Emirates operates four flights per day between Hong Kong and Dubai. I chose the 9:15pm departure for a couple of reasons. First, it would allow me a leisurely departure out of Bangkok. After all, I’m on vacation here. There’s no reason to be getting up early if I don’t have to. Secondly, this was the one-stop flight via Bangkok on the A380. I’m still excited enough about flying aboard the A380 that I don’t mind an extra stop in the middle of the night if the result is an additional flight aboard this fine aircraft.

The load was light out of Hong Kong tonight. There didn’t appear to be any more than about one hundred people in the gate lounge. I don’t think there were ever more than perhaps a half dozen of us in the Emirates Lounge – much to the dismay of the poor lounge attendants. Unless there was an abundance of cargo in the belly, this was unlikely to be a money-making flight for Emirates.

It’s not very often you get to walk up the jetway to gain access to your aircraft. I can think of one example at Sitka, Alaska, but of course entering an Alaska Airlines 737-400 has nowhere near the cachet of entering the First Class cabin of an Emirates A380. Two lovely flight attendants were positioned at the aircraft door, both of them looking very nice in their beige-colored suits, red hats and white veils. I was warmly welcomed and escorted to my suite at 3A. When I asked about the possibility of storing my roll-a-board in an empty suite, I was informed that I would be the only passenger in First Class between Hong Kong and Bangkok, so I could take my pick of storage suites. A quick check of the manifest revealed that only five of us were booked to enjoy Emirates finest out of Bangkok, and the suite directly across from mine was showing unoccupied all the way to Dubai.

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First Class Cabin on the Emirates A380

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First Class Cabin on the Emirates A380
Looking from the front to the rear

Would I care for something to drink perhaps? Absolutely! Let’s start with a glass of the Dom. I’d heard that Emirates had finally worked its way through its supply of the 2003 vintage, but that the 2004 was already considered a worthy successor. As the bottle and glass were brought out, presented and poured, I could clearly see we were still working with a bottle of the 2003. No complaints here, mind you. The Dom Pérignon brand has provided a reliably elegant and wonderfully effervescent welcome to literally millions of passengers since it was first introduced to the world’s finest inflight wine lists many years ago. I’ll happily drink any vintage, any flight.

Champagne in hand, I took a brief tour of the First Class cabin. Emirates A380s are outfitted with fourteen suites arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. Since they were first introduced aboard the A340-500 back in 2003, Emirates’ First Class suites have been considered by many to be the gold standard for First Class accommodation. Lots of other airlines offer First Class suites, but Emirates was the first to introduce sliding doors, effectively turning the suite into a private compartment much as you’d find in a roomette aboard a Pullman sleeper car. However, Emirates’ suite goes much farther than the roomettes of old or even some of the suites of today. Accented by a classic walnut and marble design with gold trim, freshly cut flowers, carpeted walls and warm ambient lamp lighting, the suite also includes a seat-side mini-bar that’s stocked with a variety of non-alcoholic beverages. A pop-up vanity complete with lighted mirror contains a small selection of creams and lotions for skin care and hydration throughout the flight. A separate drawer contains a writing kit complete with pen, paper and envelopes. The seat side table is huge and lifts out and into position much more easily than many others I’ve experienced. There is ample storage space for a small carry-on bag up front and a couple of seat-side compartments for the storage of smaller items such as a camera or book. The controls for the seat, lights, privacy doors and electronic window blinds are housed in a tablet that’s mounted to the left of the seat. For more convenient operation, this tablet can be removed from its housing and operated wirelessly from your seat. The seat also includes a massage with four different styles.

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First Class Suite on the Emirates A380

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First Class Suite 1F on the Emirates A380

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First Class Suite on the Emirates A380

Then there’s Emirates unparalleled ICE entertainment system, voted the World’s Best Inflight Entertainment System for nine straight years by Skytrax’ prestigious World Airline Awards. Viewed through a huge 23-30” wall mounted LCD screen, the system provides an incredible variety of movies, television programing, new, music and games – more than enough to entertain throughout even the longest flight. Tonight’s aircraft was one of the newer ones in the fleet and as such had been outfitted with the new, larger 30” screens.

Did I mention that there are also two shower spas onboard?

As I was admiring one of the shower spas, a lady from Economy Class was escorted upstairs to have a look. It occurred to me then that I’d never seen the lower deck on Emirates’ A380. A large stairway located at the front of the First Class cabin provided access and soon I was standing near the nose of the A380 looking out on a sea of tiny little seats sprinkled with a collection of comparatively uncomfortable looking passengers. It was positively Dickensian by comparison to the luxurious First Class cabin and so I quickly retreated back up the stairway where a refill of my now empty Champagne glass awaited.

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Looking down the up stairs

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Entrance to one of the two First Class Shower Spas

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The Shower Spa

Taking a seat in the suite’s inviting leather covered lounger, I sipped Champagne while the cabin crew stopped by with pajamas, slippers and an amenity kit. The amenity kit is certainly one of the nicest I have ever seen. Produced by the Italian jewelry and luxury goods company Bulgari and presented in a beautiful leather zippered case, the kit contains everything you’d ever need to help get you through a long flight in comfort and style. Most of these kits I don’t even bother to open but in Emirates’ case I’ll make an exception. I’ve even saved room in my luggage to take one or two of them home with me.

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Suite view looking forward with Champagne Welcome

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In-Suite Personal Bar

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Fresh Orchids in Every Suite

Hot towels were presented, followed by a tray of dates and Arabic coffee. I accepted the hot towel but passed on the dates and coffee. Be it texture or flavor, I’m not a big fan of dates. As for coffee of any stripe, check back in twelve hours. If I were to drink any coffee this late at night I’d never get to sleep!

Pushback was about ten minutes late, but with a flight time of just over two hours and ten minutes down to Bangkok we were actually expecting a slightly early arrival. I had the tail mounted camera turned on and between it and the windows I watched with interest as we taxied out to the runway and then commenced a powerful takeoff roll. The mild G forces pushed my back into the comfortable seat as we accelerated ever faster down Runway 19L. Forty-two seconds later we were climbing toward the heavens as the lights of Bangkok twinkled softly beneath us.

The menu and wine list were presented about ten minutes into the flight. The wine list is presented in a plain white folder while the menu and beverage list are presented in a leather bound binder. Let’s have a look!

BAR SERVICE

Aperitifs
Campari Bitter
Martini Vermouth – Dry/Sweet

Beers
A selection of international beers including Heineken, Budweiser and Amstel Light

Cocktails
Black Russian, Bloody Mary, Bucks Fizz, Champagne Cocktail, Cosmopolitan (US routes), Fantasy Island, Kir Royal, Manhattan, Martini Cocktail Classic, Screwdriver, Vodka Martini

Mocktails
Jumeirah Delight

Spirits
Premium Scotch Whisky - Chivas Regal Royal Salute 21 Years Old, Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Single Malt Whisky - Glenfiddich 21 Years Old
Bourbon - Woodford Reserve
Cognac - Hennessy Paradis
Vodka – Grey Goose, Russian Standard Imperia
Gin - Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks’s Gin
Rum - Bacardi Superior, Ron Zacapa

Liqueurs
Bailey’s Irish Cream
Tia Maria
Drambuie
Cointreau

WINE LIST

Champagne
Cuvée Dom Pérignon 2004

White Wines
Russiz Superiore Col Disôre 2009
Mount Mary Chardonnay 2011 Yarra Valley
Sancerre Le Grand Roc, Pascal Jolivet 2012
Hahn SLH Chardonnay 2011 Monterey County

Red Wines
Château Cos d’Estournel 2000 St Estephe
Coup de Foudre Pinot Noir 2011 Sonoma Coast
Peter Michael Les Pavots 2007 Knights Valley
Château Monbousquet 2004 St Emilon Grand Cru
Amancaya Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Mendoza

Dessert Wines
Château de Suduirat 2007 Sauternes
Grahams Single Vintage Tawny Port 1974 Douro

I’ve been looking forward to a glass of deliciously chilled Woodford Reserve bourbon all week long. Sure, I could’ve had a glass or two at Lufthansa’s First Class lounge but one glass of the Blanton’s was enough bourbon for me that day. Additionally, there’s a lot to be said for enjoying Woodford’s rich and smooth flavor from the unique ambience of Emirates’ First Class suite. It’s a great place to enjoy most any drink that suits your fancy!

My drink was delivered with a small dish of mixed nuts. The SkyMap indicated we were climbing through 30000 feet on our way to a cruising altitude of 37000. With just a little less than two hours left in the flight, it was time to consider the culinary options for tonight’s flight.

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Woodford Reserve – Always a good start to a First Class Flight

For many people who for whatever reason frequently fly internationally, the primary benefit of a First Class suite is the ability to get a decent amount of sleep on the lie-flat seat or bed. Food and drink are secondary to the primary objective – to arrive refreshed. On a long intercontinental flight, many of these folks typically accept a glass of Champagne at boarding and then sleep through the majority of the flight before waking to enjoy a light meal before landing. Even though they missed out on an impressive seven course meal service, a good movie or two and/or some camaraderie in the onboard lounge, from their perspective they got good value on their considerable investment. While I totally concur with their logic, I rarely get to enjoy the luxury of international First Class travel. As such, I want to enjoy as much of it as I possibly can and in order to do that, I need to stay awake.

On a long, overnight itinerary like mine (Hong Kong to Seattle with stops in Bangkok and Dubai) I try to balance enjoying as much of the service as I can with getting enough sleep so that I can enjoy as much of that service as I can while not only conscious but also alert. It’s no fun doing anything when you’re running on fumes. As much as I hate to miss out on any of the wonderful experience that is a First Class flight on Emirates, sleep is really important. So – I need a strategy.

Here’s my strategy: First, I’ll enjoy a nice meal between Hong Kong and Bangkok. Flight time from Bangkok to Dubai is just six and a half hours, all of it in the middle of the night. With a 6 foot 6 inch bed at my disposal, I plan to sleep as soon as possible out of Bangkok, awaking in time to enjoy a good breakfast before our arrival into Dubai. I’ll have a 4 hour and 45 minute layover in Dubai. Between dealing with transit formalities on arrival and the boarding process on departure, I’ll be left with about three and a half hours of down time, during which I plan to as much more additional sleep as possible. By the time I board the 14 hour flight from Dubai to Seattle, I should be physically and mentally alert enough to thoroughly enjoy all or most of the flight.

Alright then – let’s have a look at that menu:

LIGHT MEAL
Hong Kong to Bangkok

APPETIZERS

Marinated Prawns and Scallops
Citrus marinated fresh plump prawns and scallops, elegantly served in a roasted yellow pepper,
with green asparagus tips and sundried tomatoes

Roast Duck with Soba Noodle Salad
Marinated tender duckling breast, with rich oriental plum sauce, accompanied by
a green soba noodle salad highlighted with red chilli

SALAD

Salad Bar
Crisp fresh garden salad leaves and vegetables, tossed in your favorite dressing

MAIN COURSES

Pan-Fried Sea Bass Fillet
Fresh sea bass fillet, pan fried, dressed with a creamy leek and mustard sauce, served
with assorted grilled vegetables, accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes

Roast Chicken with Ginger
Aromatic Asian-style tender roasted chicken, served with spring onions and rich oyster sauce,
accompanied by assorted Chinese vegetables and egg fried rice

Braised Bean Curd Roll
Delicious braised bean curd roll, served with assorted seasonal vegetables,
blanched Chinese greens and thin egg noodles

Stir-Fried Beef in Black Bean Sauce
Prime beef pieces in a rich black bean sauce, served with
seasonal vegetables and steamed rice

Vegetables
We offer a variety of vegetables to your taste, including roasted yellow and red peppers,
fine French beans, golden fried new potatoes and turmeric rice

Bread Basket
Choose soft, crusty, granary, garlic or Arabic from our variety of freshly baked rolls and breads

* * * . * * * . * * *

DESSERT

Rice Pudding Cake
Light rice pudding cake, placed on raspberry purée, accompanied by fresh berries

Chocolate Mousse Cake
Light chocolate gâteau, garnished and served with rich chocolate sauce

CHEESE

Cheese Board
A carefully chosen assortment of the finest boutique cheeses from around the world, served with a selection of crudités, crackers, dried fruits and nuts

FRUIT

Selection of Fruit
A seasonal assortment of the finest fresh cut fruits

Chocolates
A luxurious rich chocolate selection provides the perfect finale

HOT BEVERAGES

Tea
Black and herbal teas from around the world, featuring Ceylon, China, Earl Grey and Chamomile

Coffee
Brewed to order, your choice of decaffeinated, espresso and cappuccino finale

Even a “Light Meal” in Emirates’ First Class provides more variety and content than many full meals on other airlines. I decided to start with a plate of marinated prawns and scallops, accompanied by a salad. As for the main course, since I was flying out of Hong Kong I wanted to try a regional dish. Beef or chicken? Chicken or beef? The roast chicken with ginger won out.

I’ve been on some flights where the complete meal service takes longer to get through than this entire flight down to Bangkok. As such, the cabin crew, led by the marvelous Maureen, wasted no time in setting up my table and getting things started. There wasn’t much to set up. Basically table linens were laid and then the food was delivered. I was a bit surprised to have my appetizer and salad both presented on a tray, much less the same tray complete with napkin and silverware like a Business Class meal. Still, this was billed as a “light meal” so I guess I shouldn’t be too put out. Maureen returned moments later with a big plate of bread. There were two slices of toasted garlic bread along with a couple of rolls – much more bread than I would ever eat with any meal, even on Thanksgiving. Still, it was explained to me on my Emirates flights last fall that all of the uneaten food gets thrown out after each flight. Apparently it can’t be given to charity because of liability issues. So based upon that I guess I understand the logic in providing me such a bountiful plateful of bread and, if nothing else, it certainly looks more photogenic than a single lonely piece of garlic toast on my plate.

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Appetizer & Salad Tray

Ah… the main course. Well let me tell you, “light meal” notwithstanding, what I was presented was quite a substantial plateful of food. The chicken was moist, flavorful and abundant while the egg fried rice made for a delicious starch. With the delightful addition of a glass of Australian Chardonnay, it was just about as good an Asian meal as I’ve been served aloft. Well done, Emirates!

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Roast Chicken with Ginger

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Roast Chicken with Ginger
Aromatic Asian-style tender roasted chicken, served with spring onions and rich oyster sauce,
accompanied by assorted Chinese vegetables and egg fried rice

Dessert? Yeah, why not. Let’s see… the rice pudding cake sounds pretty good. Let’s go with that and a cup of decaf coffee, please. Now this should be interesting… I like rice pudding. When I was a kid we called it tapioca. It would be interesting to see how that translated into a cake.

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Rice Pudding Cake
Light rice pudding cake, placed on raspberry purée, accompanied by fresh berries

Well, I think it translated quite fluently. Somehow they’d hardened up the rice pudding while keeping it still light in texture and managed to place it atop a layer of light sponge cake. The result was heavenly. In another life it’d be fun to come back as a pastry chef, just to have fun creating masterpieces like this. Again, well done, Emirates.

By the time the last of my plates were cleared I was well sated and comfortably reclined while sipping from a glass of Hennessy Paradis. Life just doesn’t much better in the air.

To their everlasting credit, the First Class cabin crew provided an excellent service without overdoing it. The quality of training provided by top flight airlines like Emirates is such that the flight attendants clearly appreciate the fine line between good interactive service as opposed to hovering. Even so, it’s got to be a bit awkward having three crew members and just one passenger up front. As the sole passenger, it’s certainly not my preference. Sitting up front all by myself is just weird – like drinking alone. At the same time, even if this were a full flight, once you zip up those sliding doors on your suite, who would know or care how many people you were flying with? You’re in your own little world.

Looking out my window, I recognized the now familiar sights of Bangkok gliding by beneath us. Next up came the airport perimeter, then the runway and finally the reassuring thump as our cockpit crew brought the big bird down light as a feather.

Thankfully, we weren’t required to deplane during the hour and a half layover in Bangkok. In fact it was specifically requested that thru passengers please remain onboard. This certainly beat having to go through another round of transit formalities, followed by an idle hour sitting around in an airport lounge. Instead, I remained comfortably sat in my plush recliner while putting in a bit of long overdue work on this trip report.


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Where Great Trip Reports Are Made

Member for

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Posts: 38

February 11, 2011
Emirates Airlines Bangkok to Dubai 105a – 455a A380-800 First Class

Four more passengers joined me up front for the six and a half hour flight across southern and central Asia to Dubai. It was one in the morning and we were all tired and ready to go. Unfortunately, a medical situation downstairs resulted in two passengers having to be deplaned. Of course it took another fifteen minutes to locate and offload their baggage as well, so by the time the time we took to the air it was almost two in the morning. Within twenty minutes my bed was made up and I was on my way to a good five hour sleep.

One thing you’ll never have to worry about while flying First Class on Emirates is inattentive flight attendants. They do an excellent job of keeping a discreet eye on the cabin, so it was no surprise that when I returned from freshening up in the lav, my seat had already been returned to its day time configuration with all mattresses and blankets neatly stowed.

I should note here that I suppose I could have indulged in the novelty of an inflight shower but given the amount of time left in the flight combined with my desire to enjoy the full breakfast service, it made better sense to wait until we’d arrived in Dubai.

Yeah, but it’s a shower onboard an airplane! So? Honestly, I just can’t get all that excited about it. Now if Emirates were running an A380 over to Seattle, I’d likely have waited and taken advantage of a shower’s welcome diversion on that fourteen hour flight. But today, all things considered, I passed.

Another perk that’s never excited me is the chance to be driven out to the airplane in some expensive European sedan. Pssht! I’d just as soon ride out on horseback. Then again, the horse might not be too keen on all that noise and activity about, so I’d settle for a ride out in a 1964 Volkswagen convertible. You see why I’m unwelcome at so many FlyerTalk Do’s?

Honestly though, for me at least the real attraction to having been driven out onto the ramp wouldn’t be the exclusivity of having done so in a fancy car but rather the opportunity to be up close to my airplane and if at all possible, board it via a set of portable stairs. I had an opportunity to take some great photos back in the seventies and eighties – looking up two flights of stairs into the forward doorway of a UTA 747 at Papeete, boarding an AeroMexico DC-8 at Acapulco, the crowd of islanders awaiting our LAN 767 as we arrived at Easter Island, looking down the length of a United DC-8-71 at Kona… I’m thankful to have been able to log a couple thousand flights before the turn of the century.

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Boarding my DC-8 at Kona

Checking in with the SkyMap, I noted with interest that we were cruising along at eleven thousand some odd meters just south and a tad west of Karachi. Given the time of day locally (about 4AM) there was nothing to see out my window, but I wish there were. Back in the good old days (in this case about eighty years ago) the old flying boats of companies like Imperial Airways and Pan American only flew during the daylight hours. At night they would put down in exotic locales like Karachi or Midway Island and passengers would be put up in comfortable hotels.

Now granted, this made for a longer trip but since all flying was done during the day, passengers actually got to see all of the interesting and exotic landscapes they flew over along the way. We can heap praise on the magnificent technology that goes into transporting First Class passengers in speed, style and comfort aboard aircraft like the A380 but I think flying has become pretty sterile compared to those days of yore. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but if I could ever go back in time, I’d love to have been a passenger on Pan American’s China Clipper to Hong Kong or Imperial Airways’ eleven day jaunt between London and Sydney.

As I pondered this and other scintillating bits of aviation related esoterica, Maureen delivered a cup of hot coffee and a biscotti while discreetly reminding me that I’d need to place my order soon if I wanted to enjoy the full breakfast service. Right! Let’s have a look at that breakfast menu!

A LA CARTE DINING
Bangkok to Dubai

CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST

Fruit Juices
Refreshing choice of freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, or enjoy the healthy option of our special detox drink combining carrot, papaya and celery, or a banana and mango smoothie

Breakfast Fruits
A palette of ripe tropical and seasonal fresh cut fruits

Yoghurt
Natural or flavored with fruit

Assorted Cereals
Choice of crunchy Cornflakes or nutritious muesli

Breakfast Bread Basket
A variety of soft and crusty fresh baked breads, butter croissants and freshly baked breakfast pastries,
served with butter and preserves

Delicatessen’s Cold Meats and Cheese
Offering a gourmet selection of crumbly feta, mature English cheddar and creamy French camembert cheeses,
served with shaved turkey and succulent roasted chicken breast, dressed with an array of garnishes

HOT BREAKFAST

Pepper and Cheese Omelette
Farm fresh egg omelette, generously filled with peppers and cheese, served with
sugar snap peas, parmesan tomato, lamb burger and straw mushrooms

Spinach Quiche with Feta Cheese
Savoury spinach quiche with feta cheese, served with chunky tomato and pepper coulis,
asparagus spears and cherry tomatoes

Thai-style Chicken Omelette
Thai-style omelette filled with fragrant minced chicken, served with fried rice
and baby pak choy

SNACKS

Instant Cup Noodles
Popular and satisfying, instant cup noodles are available at any time

HOT BEVERAGES

Tea
Black and herbal teas from around the world, featuring Ceylon, China, Earl Grey and Chamomile

Coffee
Brewed to order, your choice of decaffeinated, espresso and cappuccino finale

What better way to start the day at 38000’ than with a banana mango smoothie and a fruit plate? Unable to come up with any superior alternatives, I ordered exactly that, to be followed by a Pepper and Cheese Omelette. The fruit plate and smoothie must have already been plated and ready to go, for within five minutes my table was set with crisp white linens, my coffee was refilled and my food was delivered. The bread basket made an appearance and I selected a banana nut muffin and a croissant.

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A great way to start the day!

Oh yeah! Absolute bliss! I rarely ever get to eat stuff like this at home for breakfast. Typically I’m scarfing down a bowl of muesli and some yogurt, so to be sipping that exquisite smoothie whilst munching on the delicious muffin was just heavenly!

As for the omelette – not bad, not bad. It was pretty much as described and tasted accordingly. Good stuff. I only wish there’d been another portion of lamb burger, which looked and tasted more like lamb sausage to me. Had I asked, I’m sure the cabin crew would’ve happily delivered a good half pound or more to my plate!

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Pepper and Cheese Omelette

Visually, Dubai’s an interesting place to fly into with its distinctive skyline as well as its shoreline development. Unfortunately it was still dark outside and so I entertained myself with perusing the remainder of yesterday’s International New York Times.

Following a typically smooth landing (Under ideal conditions, I can’t help but wonder to what extent onboard computers come into play when landing these newer airplanes) we taxied into a gate at Terminal 3, the largest airport terminal in the world. Built at a cost of $8 Billion US dollars, the terminal covers an amazing 18,440,000 square feet of space, both above and below ground. It’s practically a small city in its own right with two hotels and dozens of shops and restaurants in addition to the largest First and Business Class lounges in the world. The baggage handling system is the world’s largest and has the capacity to handle 8,000 bags per hour.

Perhaps most interesting was this little tidbit I found on a website about the airport: “Dubai International Airport is an important contributor to the Dubai economy, employing approximately 58,000 people. It indirectly supports over 250,000 jobs in Dubai and contributes over US$22 billion to the GDP, which represents around 19 per cent of total employment in Dubai, and 28 per cent of Dubai’s GDP.”

All interesting statistics to be sure but as I walked off the plane and into the terminal, what impressed me most was a brightly lit, clean and well organized terminal. The signage is excellent with the result being that I never had any questions as to where I needed to go or how to get there. After being quickly and efficiently processed at the First and Business Class transit desk, I followed the signs to the First Class Lounge.

Now this is an impressive facility. Located upstairs above the main departures area of Concourse A, Emirates’ First Class Lounge offers everything the discerning traveler could possibly desire. Seating areas are abundant – some of them small and intimate, others large and open. With a total of 1491 seats, there’s more than enough space to handle all the First Class passengers, even if every gate were departing simultaneously. Consider that Concourse A has 18 gates capable of handling the A380 but even if all of those gates were occupied with simultaneous sold out departures, at 14 First Class suites per aircraft that only comes to 252 passengers. Okay then, lets also throw in an additional fifteen 777 departures, each of them configured with 8 First Class suites. There’s another 120 passengers. Now we’re up to 372 passengers. Toss in 28 Qantas Plats and we’ll call it an even 400, leaving us with a ratio of 3.7 seats to each passenger. Realistically only about half to two thirds of those gates would have passengers departing from them (Remember, Emirates also operates out of Terminal 1) leaving us with a seat to passenger ratio in the 6-1 range. And that’s assuming First Class is full on all of those flights. Realistically the ratio is probably closer to 10-1. Did I mention this is the world’s largest First Class Lounge?

Well alright then, so we know there won’t be any problem finding a place to sit down. What kind of amenities does this lounge offer? Here’s a list of them:

• Business Centre with PCs, printers, re-charging facility for laptops and mobile phones
• Wi-Fi connectivity in the Business Centre as well as throughout the lounge
• Conference Rooms = 2
• A la carte dining
• Showcase kitchens
• Juice bars
• Wine Cellar: Operated by Le Clos, provides a unique opportunity for First Class passengers to view, taste and purchase a range of wines not normally available to the general public
• Dedicated duty free shopping area for First Class customers
• Children’s play area
• Prayer rooms
• Relaxation rooms with chaise lounges, pillows and blankets
• TV lounges with 8 single screens and 2 banks of 6 screens
• Dedicated cigar lounge and smoking area

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Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai

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Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai

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Emirates First Class Lounge at Duba

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Children’s Play Room

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Dining Room

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Dining Room

I could easily entertain myself in Emirates’ First Class lounge for many, many hours but alas, the most important thing to me right now was to get a bit more sleep. It was about 5:30am when I arrived and my hope was to knock off about three more hours of sleep, then grab a quick shower and head on out to my gate. Emirates provides a dedicated relaxation room, complete with comfortable leather loungers, blankets and pillows. An attendant was only too happy to bring me a nicely chilled bottle of water and within half an hour I was snoozing comfortably under a warm blanket.

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Loungers in the Quiet Room

It’s really a shame that all three of my visits to this lounge have come in between flights where my primary objective has been to get some sleep and a shower. For my next flights on Emirates I’m going to make sure that I have sufficient time in Dubai – either as a destination or a layover – to take advantage of some of the superb facilities offered in this lounge. Heck, I might even take up cigars just so I can spend a bit of quality time in that beautiful cigar lounge!

Member for

13 years 8 months

Posts: 38

February 11, 2011
Emirates Airlines Bangkok to Dubai 105a – 455a A380-800 First Class
Emirates Airlines Dubai to Seattle 940a – 1205p 777-200 First Class
Alaska Airlines Seattle to Fairbanks 125p – 430p 737-900 Economy Class

My Seattle flight was boarding from gate A5, located down at the far end of the concourse. On most airlines you’d have to leave the lounge and make your way through the crowded concourse to your gate. Not in Dubai, however. Both of Emirates’ First and Business Class lounges offer direct access from the lounge to the aircraft. I took an elevator down two floors and then simply walked from there straight on to the jetway.

Waiting at the gate was A6-EWF, a beautiful 777-200LR looking resplendent in Emirates’ attractive livery, especially with the Emirates name and logo in large gold script along the side of the fuselage. I’ve been looking forward to a flight aboard the LR version of the 777 for some time now because it is the current world record holder for long distance flight. That record was set back in 2005 when a 777-200LR flew nonstop from Hong Kong to London. What’s that?, you say. Hong Kong to London? Pffft! That’s no record!

It is if you fly it in an easterly direction instead of west and north across Mongolia and Russia. The total flight covered 13,423 miles, routing directly across the Pacific Ocean, Los Angeles, New York and on across the Atlantic to London. Total flight time was 22 hours and 22 minutes. You can read all about it right HERE.

Only two of us were set to enjoy Emirates’ award winning First Class service between Dubai and Seattle this morning. Both of us were sat on the left side of the cabin, in suites 1A and 2A. A brief peek between the curtains revealed a Business Class cabin that looked to be about two thirds full. This should be a nice, relaxed flight for both passengers and crew.

Returning to my suite, I kicked off my shoes, stashed my camera and accepted a hot coffee and a nicely chilled glass of orange juice from my lovely Romanian flight attendant. Soon we were on our way out to the runway, trailing behind a trio of Emirates A380s. I must say that watching an A380 take off is much more impressive than actually being aboard one during takeoff. It’s such an amazingly large aircraft that its takeoff roll looks too slow, so much so that – like a bumblebee – flight would seem an impossibility. But then, ever so smoothly it noses upward and climbs quite gracefully into the skies.

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Coffee & Orange Juice Welcome

A glance at my watch indicated it was 10:00am locally as we rotated skyward and powered into the clear blue skies above Dubai. Our initial route of flight would take us due north over Iran before skirting the edge of the Caspian Sea and continuing on over Kazakhstan, Russia and the polar regions. Given the time of day, this really felt like a daytime flight but in Seattle it was 10:00pm. With a projected flight time of just under fourteen hours, we wouldn’t be arriving until noon tomorrow. Now that is a long flight!

Hot towels, menus and wine lists were distributed and drink orders were taken. Hmm… It’s about time I tried out that Jumeirah Delight, the official “mocktail” of Emirates Airlines. Whaaaaat? No Dom Perignon?!No thank you. Not yet, at least.

Now I know for a lot of folks here it’s quite popular and humorous to write or read about drinking everything in sight while flying international First Class, and to be sure I’ve been known to down three or four bourbons in addition to a glass of wine or two during some of these longer flights. Still, the fact that a lot of expensive high quality spirits are being served for free has no real bearing on how much I drink or when I drink. At this hour of day, I have zero interest in any alcohol – even Baileys in coffee. I’m just not a morning drinker, regardless of the circumstances. Beyond that, while I certainly enjoy the flavor and effect of alcohol, I definitely don’t enjoy the effect of too much alcohol. As much as I may write about having a refill or two on my Woodfords, believe me – I do a good job of pacing myself. After all, it’s a lot harder to enjoy all the great food and services if you’re drunk – or passed out.

Outside my windows the view was quite entertaining. We were flying over southern Iran, a rough and rugged landscape dominated by some very impressive mountain ranges. Impressive as it was from thirty some odd thousand feet, I’d love to see what those mountains would look like from the ground up someday.

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Rugged peaks catch the clouds in Southern Iran

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Rugged Landscape of Southern Iran

Clouds began to gather as we approached the Caspian Sea, so I turned my attention to the beautiful leather clad menu in anticipation of the culinary delights that awaited. This flight is catered for breakfast, lunch and dinner so the menu is rather extensive. Indeed, I know of no other airline that provides as much variety as Emirates when it comes to inflight dining. In any event, I should imagine you’re probably starting to get hungry, so without further ado - Shall we?

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Emirates’ Leather Bound Menu with Jumeirah Delight

A LA CARTE DINING
Dubai to Seattle

CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST

Fruit Juices
Refreshing choice of freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, or enjoy the healthy option of our special detox drink combining carrot, papaya and celery, or a banana and mango smoothie

Breakfast Fruits
A palette of ripe tropical and seasonal fresh cut fruits

Yoghurt
Natural or flavored with fruit

Assorted Cereals
Choice of crunchy Cornflakes or nutritious muesli

Breakfast Bread Basket
A variety of soft and crusty fresh baked breads, butter croissants and freshly baked breakfast pastries,
Served with butter and preserves

Delicatessen’s Cold Meats and Cheese
Offering a gourmet selection of Swiss Emmenthal and creamy French brie cheese,
with thinly sliced smoked chicken and strips of prime beef, dressed with an array of garnishes

HOT BREAKFAST

Plain Omelette
Farmhouse fresh egg omelette, served with roasted plum tomato, sautéed leaf spinach,
baked beans, corn cakes and freshly grated cheese

Breakfast Mixed Grill
Selection of succulent grilled chicken medallion, sizzling turkey sausage, tender lamb pepper kebab,
sautéed woodland mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes and creamy Lyonnais potatoes marbled with herbs

Masala Uthappam
Traditional masala uthappam served with Banarasi aloo and coconut chutney

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

LUNCHEON AND DINNER
Dubai to Seattle

Canapés
A selection of hot and cold savouries including Asian-style prime beef cake, spiced chicken skewer,
flaky woodland mushroom vol au vent, marinated Italian buffalo mozzarella cheese, baby bell pepper
filled with cheese, jumbo olives with sundried tomato, and marinated Kalamata olives

APPETIZERS

Caviar
Perfectly prepared chilled caviar presented with a traditional selection of finely chopped onion, chopped boiled egg, sour cream and lemon, served with crisp melba toast and soft blini pancakes

Traditional Local Arabic Mezze
The flavors of our home, presented as a generous spread of traditional Arabic savory dishes including artichoke and mushroom salad, creamy hommous, loubieh bil zeit, tabouleh, baba ghannouj, seafood salad and stuffed vine leaves.
Accompanied by warm potato kibbeh, beef and cheese fatayer, complemented with local garnishes and bread

Seared Tuna
Fresh tuna steak, marinated in a vibrant oriental soya ginger and wasabi sauce, served with crisp green papaya
salad with piquant ginger and chilli, accompanied by marinated asparagus tips and over roasted cherry tomato

Air-Dried Beef
Wafer-thin slices of air-dried beef, served with basil marinated buffalo mozzarella cheese, roasted cherry tomato,
baby leaf spinach, marrow, aubergine, peppers and rich olive salsa

MAIN COURSES

Pan-fried Beef Pepper Steak
Prime beef steak pan fried and flavored with pepper, served with steamed carrots and turnips, seasoned Kenyan beans, roasted cherry tomatoes and crisp golden roasted potatoes

Seafood Machbous
Seafood marinated in distinctive aromatic spices and slow cooked with rice, garnished with roasted pine nuts

Chicken Tawa Fry
Succulent griddle fried chicken, served with mildly spiced vegetable korma and saffron infused pulao rice

Ravioli Pasta
Fresh pasta cases generously filled with leek and woodland mushrooms, served with wild mushroom and parmesan velouté, topped with freshly shaved parmesan cheese

Grilled Herb Marinated Chicken
Succulent chicken steeped in fine herb marinade, browned on the grill and dressed with an aromatic tarragon sauce, served with vegetable ratatouille and a mix of white and wild rice

A la Carte Vegetables
Our chefs have paired each meal with their ideal accompaniments, but we offer a variety of alternative vegetables to your tastes, including rich vegetable ratatouille, creamy mashed potatoes, steamed rice, broccoli florets, asparagus spears and squash

Bread Basket
Choose soft, crusty, granary, garlic or Arabic from our variety of freshly baked rolls and breads

LIGHT BITES

Seasonal Salad
Crisp fresh garden salad leaves topped with your choice of ripe red and yellow cherry tomatoes, marinated crumbly feta cubes with pesto, celery moons, and roasted pumpkin and sun flower seeds, tossed in your favorite dressing

Classic Mulligatawny Soup
Indian-inspired curry spiced soup, served with roasted lentils, garnished with fresh coriander

Double Beef Consommé
Rich seasoned beef bouillon, served with finely cut carrot, courgette and leek

Selection of Sandwiches
An assortment of tempting reception sandwiches, including premium smoked salmon with cream cheese, mustard mayonnaise and spinach in a whole meal roll, creamy French brie cheese with fresh fig and fruit chutney in Kraft corn finger, and prime roasted beef with potato chive salad in French stick slice

Creamy Vegetable Pie
Rich stew of creamy mixed vegetables in a light crunchy puff pastry case, served with sautéed leaf spinach and chunky salsa

Shrimp Crab Cake
Fresh shrimp and crabmeat patty, cooked until golden and served with vibrant Thai chilli sauce and blanched asparagus

Chicken Lababdar
Indian dish of tender chicken pieces cooked in a delicately spiced sauce, served with steamed basmati rice

Oven-Baked Potatoes
Baked potato shells filled with your choice of baked beans, chunky tomato and basil salsa, chilli con carne or a creamy cheese sauce

SWEET DELIGHTS

Almond Financier
Light, moist French tea cake, served with poached rhubarb and almond wafer

Lemon Cheesecake
Smooth creamy citrus infused cheesecake, served with orange zests and fresh cherry compote

Selection of Fruit
[i]A seasonal assortment of the finest fresh cut fruits

Selection of Pe**** Fours
Tempting assortment of delicate small pastries and sweets, including mini fruit tart, chocolate chiffon triangle, pistachio cake, coconut macaroon, four nougat, and mini lemon meringue tart

INTERNATIONAL CHEESE SELECTION

A carefully chosen assortment of the finest boutique cheese from around the world, served with a selection of crudités, crackers, dried fruits and nuts

Vintage Reserve Cheddar Cheese

Capricorn Somerset Goat’s Cheese

Simon Weaver Organic Cotswold Blue Veined Cheese

Chaumes

Yarra Valley Persian Feta Cheese

HOT BEVERAGES

Tea
Black and herbal teas from around the world, featuring Ceylon, China, Earl Grey and Chamomile

Coffee
Brewed to order, your choice of decaffeinated, espresso and cappuccino finale

Chocolates
A luxurious rich chocolate selection provides the perfect finale

Wow! I certainly won’t go hungry on this flight! Having had breakfast on the inbound flight from Bangkok, my primary interest was in lunch and dinner. Clearly there was more than enough in this menu to piece together two excellent meals.

One of the things I really like about Emirates’ menus is that they actually take the time to describe the various courses. I think it’s a lot more exciting and indeed more appetizing to read this about my salad:

Crisp fresh garden salad leaves topped with your choice of ripe red and yellow cherry tomatoes, marinated crumbly feta cubes with pesto, celery moons, and roasted pumpkin and sun flower seeds, tossed in your favorite dressing

As opposed to the more common description:

[A selection of seasonal garden greens presented with your choice of dressings

On the other hand, I’m also quite thankful the flight attendants don’t come to our seats as in some restaurants and verbally describe each course. I was at a restaurant with some friends last fall where the waiter did exactly that and I could hardly understand a word he said because after a while it all blended into a big mishmash. Bill Bryson, one of my favorite travel writers, described this scenario perfectly if not hysterically with this quote from his book I’m A Stranger Here Myself

“Tonight,” our waiter began with enthusiasm, “we have a crêpe galette of sea chortle and kelp in a rich mal de mer sauce, seasoned with disheveled herbs grown in our own herbarium. This is baked in an inverted Prussian helmet for precisely seventeen minutes and then layered with steamed wattle and woozle leaves. Very delicious; very audacious. We are also offering this evening a double rack of Rio Rocho cutlets, rendered at your table by our own flamenco dancers, then baked in a clay dong for twenty-seven minutes under a lattice of guava peel and sun-ripened stucco. Our fresh sea squib comes as a quarter-cut hank, lightly rolled in payapaya, then tossed with oil of olay and calamine, and presented on a bed of chaff beans and snoose noodles.” Eventually, he concluded his presentation with what sounded like, “an oven-baked futilite of pumpkin rind and kumquats.”

How fun would it be to travel with Bill Bryson?! But I digress!

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Northbound along the Caspian Sea

By now we were almost two hours into the flight, meaning it was approaching midnight in Seattle. The Caspian Sea was off to our left while Seattle lay another 6000 miles beyond the horizon. What a great time for lunch! The gentleman behind me had somehow managed to fall asleep shortly after takeoff, effectively removing any immediate competition for entrée choices. After giving the menu a couple minutes of careful consideration, I came up with the following plan for lunch:

We’d start immediately with a glass of Woodford Reserve, to be accompanied by a plate of warm canapés. I love little finger foods like this. Indeed, I could happily make an entire meal out of a large and varied selection of nothing but them along with a few more glasses of the Woodford. Then again, that approach might cause me to sleep the flight away like the fellow behind me.

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Woodford Reserve with warm canapés

Right. Moving on to the appetizers, let’s start with a serving of caviar. It’ll be a good long while before I’ll get to enjoy its salty goodness again. I’ll follow that up with a presentation of the Arabic mezze, always a highlight of any meal on Emirates. I’ve learned from past experience that the mezze as served by Emirates is such a large portion of food in its own right that I won’t be needing any soup or salad. That’s all right – I’ll check those out for dinner. Now then, for the main course… I guess I’ll go with the Beef Pepper Steak again. I know, I know… I feel like Charlie Brown playing kick the football with Lucy van Pelt. One of these days they’re going to get it right and serve me a perfectly cooked cut of meat. Besides, I like steak!

Alright, well that should do for now. We’ll look into cheese and/or dessert after the meal.

My drink was delivered with style and flair. For me, that translates to a small dish of mixed nuts – not the cut-rate ones watered down with cheap Spanish peanuts but rather the good ones highlighted by rich, luxuriant Macadamia nuts! Oh yeah! That first sip of Woodford accented by the buttery crunch of Macadamia nuts and cashews is special. Mmmm! Life is certainly good here at 37000 feet!

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Woodford & Mixed Nuts ~ Ahh….

And to think people wonder what’s so exciting about flying in International First Class. Honestly, all those folks who love to trot out that tired old platitude about “We all get there at the same time” really ought to find a way into a quality First Class cabin at least once in their lives. “Oh, but it’s soooo expensive!” Pffft! I live in a cabin without water and drive a bus for a living and look where I’m sitting. Back in the Economy Class cabin right now, people are squeezed into ten abreast seats approximately 17” wide with about 32” of seat pitch. That translates into a total of about four square feet of personal space per person. Most of them, upon seeing that there are twelve more hours left in this flight, are filled with a sense of dread. Up here in First Class, my suite delivers about eighteen square feet of personal space, highlighted by a comfortable recliner and quality food and drink like this delightful glass of Woodford Reserve. Back in Economy, the seat reclines about four inches and the closest they’ll get to a good bourbon is a miniature of Jack Daniels. I don’t envy their lot one bit.

Now don’t get me wrong here – I certainly don’t mean to disparage everyone who flies in Economy, especially those who can’t afford any better. That’s an unfortunate reality for most of the world’s population. What I do find fault with is the simplistic dismissal of the extra perks and luxury up in First Class because “We all get there at the same time”. It’s not about what time we arrive but rather the style in which we get there. For those of us who can’t afford to throw down $18000 for round trip First Class tickets to Dubai, there are other ways, all of which we discover, discuss and celebrate here at FlyerTalk.

Given that I don’t pull down the six and seven figure incomes typically associated with this style of travel, combined with the fact that my job requires no business related travel at all, I’ve got to work with low fares and favorable routings combined with a willingness to spend many a night on airport floors in order to earn the requisite mileage to allow me a chance at sitting up here. Those of you who’ve read some of my mileage run related trip reports know what I go through and the sacrifices I make in order to spend a few hours of bliss whilst traveling about the planet. If I can find a way to do it, so can many others. The bottom line for those who have to utilize my approach to earning mileage is this: You’ve really got to want it.

Unfortunately, some airlines are beginning to adjust their frequent flyer programs, switching from mileage based status (and its higher mileage bonuses) to revenue based status. That’ll be the death knell for guys like me who’ve had a good run working the system via those low fares, great routings and additional bonus mileage accrual. Who knows what the future holds after that. I’ll just keep on keepin’ on until I can’t anymore and in the meantime we’ll look forward to seeing how this will all shake out. I really enjoy just going places though, and I’ve been figuring out economical ways to do so in style ever since I was old enough to set out on my own as a teenager. I expect that’ll continue even if it might not be quite so often as it’s been in the past.

And now it’s time for lunch! My table was set with crisp white linen followed by all the usual accoutrements that contribute toward enjoying a quality meal in style. We’re talking Royal Doulton fine bone china with Robert Welch cutlery and a never ending supply of quality glassware with which to enjoy a multitude of fine wines and after dinner liqueurs. My caviar was attractively presented on a double plate with blinis and all the traditional accompaniments. For many of us caviar is an acquired taste. For my part I certainly was not overcome with paroxysms of ecstasy after my first bite back at the inaugural U.S. flight of the Concorde in 1979. Over time however, I’ve developed a real appreciation for those little black eggs to the point where they are now a much anticipated and appreciated part of any quality meal aloft.

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Caviar Presentation

The mezze was delivered next. Now this is quite an impressive collection of foods in both variety as well as presentation. In years past I’ve seen mezze presentations where everything was placed on a single large plate or platter. I suppose that’s all well and good but half the fun of a quality meal service – be it at 38000’ or in a nice restaurant down on terra firma – is in the presentation. The Arabic Mezze as presented by Emirates is an excellent example of this. It’s exciting to watch the flight attendant carefully set it up and equally exciting to enjoy the varied flavors and textures of the many foods involved. Well done, Emirates!

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Arabic Mezze Presentation

Alas, the steak was also well done but it was still pretty good, accented with a zesty pepper sauce and accompanied by a delicious and varied selection of vegetables. These included asparagus and broccoli, which were not parts of the original plate as presented in the menu but rather additions that I requested per the a la carte vegetables listing below the main courses.

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Pan-fried Beef Pepper Steak
Prime beef steak pan fried and flavored with pepper, served with steamed carrots and turnips, seasoned Kenyan beans, roasted cherry tomatoes and crisp golden roasted potatoes

Though many fruits have been incorporated into cheesecake, I don’t believe I’d ever heard of lemon being one of them. I decided I’d better check that out. Well now this was a good call, especially accompanied by a cup of Emirates’ pretty good coffee. As for the cheesecake, I think the menu description sums it up just perfectly: Smooth creamy citrus infused cheesecake, served with orange zests and fresh cherry compote. I encourage all of you to book a seat in Emirates’ First Class if only to enjoy a serving of this wonderful dessert!

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Lemon Cheesecake
Smooth creamy citrus infused cheesecake, served with orange zests and fresh cherry compote

By the time the last of my plates were cleared off we had another ten hours left in the flight. So far my pre-flight strategy of sleeping through most of the Bangkok-Dubai flight in addition to catching a couple hours in Dubai was working to perfection. I felt awake and alert, more than ready to enjoy the next ten hours to the fullest. That would start with a stroll to the back of the airplane. The Business and Economy Class flight attendants looked at me with surprise as I made my way back through a collection of curtains, galleys, shoulders and legs. I’ve commented before on this but it bears repeating: As a First Class passenger I continue to be amazed at how easy it is to get so completely wrapped up in your comfortable First Class world that it’s easy to forget that you’re on the same plane as a couple hundred other people sat in decidedly less comfortable surroundings. As nice as a typical international First Class cabin is compared to the comparatively medieval accommodations found at the rear of the plane, the distance between the two cabins feels like it should be measured in miles rather than mere feet.

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Emirates First Class Suite – Your own little world aloft

By now we know that Emirates has arguably the finest inflight entertainment system aloft. It was time to delve into the possibilities therein. Although Emirates offers a fantastic variety of movies both new and old, I am not a big fan of watching movies inflight because I’d rather watch them at home on my ancient 27” solid state TV. Strangely, I don’t feel the same way about watching TV programs, of which Emirates provides an equally impressive collection. One program that I’d never heard of was “The Bridge”. It’s filmed in El Paso and produced by FX. Since I can’t get cable or dish network satellite out where I live, I miss out on a lot of good programming not shown on network TV. Hotels and airplanes provide an excellent opportunity for me to check out a lot of these shows and I must say I really enjoyed The Bridge, which follows two police detectives – one Mexican, one American – and their joint effort to investigate a serial killer menacing both nations along the Texas–Chihuahua border. I generally don’t have much time for dramas revolving around serial killers, but then a couple years ago I would have said the same thing about dramas revolving around methamphetamine dealers and we all know the critical acclaim which has accompanied the series Breaking Bad.

In any event, although I started out with the intent to watch just one, maybe two episodes of The Bridge, I got so caught up in it that I ultimately ended up watching nine or ten episodes, which of course took up most of the rest of the flight. All that television viewing notwithstanding, it’s not a good idea to spend extended periods of time sitting down and so I did take a few breaks to visit the lav, chat with the cabin crew and make a couple more forays to the rear of the airplane.

The First Class cabin crew consisted of three impressive individuals from Romania, Lebanon and Kenya. I remember that in years past there was some question as to whether Emirates’ cabin crews could be considered in the same class as those of airlines like Singapore and Cathay. From my experience in international First Class, and specifically my seven flights in First Class aboard Emirates, I would say without hesitation that Emirates’ crews are as polished and professional as any I’ve ever encountered. I can’t speak for the quality of service in Business or Economy Class as I haven’t flown it but it’s clear that Emirates has put together a very good airline that in terms of First Class service deserves to be included in any conversation about the very best out there.

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Mid-Flight Snack
Shrimp & Crab Cakes

We were about two and a half hours out of Seattle when I put in my request for the second meal. Keep in mind of course that on airlines like Emirates, dining is totally on demand and there are no limitations on how much you can eat. Had I wanted breakfast, lunch and dinner plus one or two mid-flight snacks, the crew would have happily provided them without question. The reality though – as any of you who’ve flown in a quality First Class know – is that a typical First Class meal can be quite a lot of food, often more than most of us ever eat in our normal day to day lives. I mean really, how often do you get to choose from a seven course feast in your normal day to day lives? The only time I ever come close to eating meals this large is at Thanksgiving.

Many people feel that the healthiest way to approach a long flight is to eat lightly, keep alcohol to a minimum and stay well hydrated. They’re probably right but then I say how often do most of us get to sit in the incredible surroundings that comprise a modern day First Class suite while being served – at no additional cost – a broad selection of quality wines, spirits and foods? Why not take full advantage of them?

I pay no heed to those haughty old farts who submit that airline food can’t be good because it isn’t freshly prepared or cooked on the spot. While it’s hard to argue that First Class meals served at 38000 are the equal of those that are freshly prepared in a restaurant, most First Class airline meals certainly aren’t bad and occasionally they’re even surprisingly good. For my part, I tend to grade on a generous curve if only due to my sheer enjoyment of the overall experience of First Class flight.

Another indicator of just how long this flight really is can be found in the fact that it’s been a little over eight hours since I finished lunch. We took off out of Dubai under bright mid-morning sun but as we flew north the sun eventually set over the polar regions and now, as we speed south over Canada’s Yukon Territory, the sun has risen once again and will be high overhead by the time we touch down in Seattle at a little after noon.

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Sunset over the top of the world

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Our route of flight

So – what’s for dinner? Well… let’s start with an appetizer of seared tuna followed by a salad and then for the main course… a serving of Chicken Tawa Fry. I’d ordered this dish on my last Emirates flight between Dubai and Seattle but the crew had mistakenly brought me out a plate of the Grilled Herb Marinated Chicken. This time I made sure there was no misunderstanding before my order was turned in to the galley. Now then, how about a glass of wine? Here is a listing of the wines that were offered on this flight. The rest of the beverage menu is the same as the one offered between Hong Kong and Dubai.

WINE LIST

Champagne
Dom Perignon 2004

White Wines
Condrieu les Cassines, Paul Jaboulet Ainé 2011
Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay 2008 Adelaide Hills
Grosset Springvale Riesling 2013 Clare Valley
Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Montmains 2011 Burgundy
Auntsfield Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough

Red Wines
Virginie de Valandraud 2005 Saint Emilion
Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2010 Macedon Ranges Victoria
Château Siaurac 2005 Lalande de Pomerol
Domaine Clarendon Syrah 2009 McLaren Vale

Dessert
Chateau de Suduiraut 2006 Sauternes

Port
Graham’s Single Vintage Tawny Port 1974 Douro

Earlier in the flight I’d enjoyed a glass of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with hot canapés while watching the TV. Now I elected to go with a glass of the Australian Riesling to accompany the tuna appetizer. It was a good choice that I took note of just in case we might have any available in Fairbanks. (We don’t, unfortunately) Again, I have to give Emirates props for the beautiful presentation of this appetizer. That in its own right made it all that much more appetizing!

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White Wine and Canapés

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Seared Tuna Appetizer

All right then – bring on the salad! Whoa! Now that’s a nice salad – one that any earthbound restaurant would be proud to serve. Indeed, it was pretty much exactly as described: “Crisp fresh garden salad leaves topped with ripe red and yellow cherry tomatoes, marinated crumbly feta cubes with pesto, celery moons, and roasted pumpkin and sun flower seeds. Olive oil and Balsamic vinegar completed the masterpiece.

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A First Class Salad

The Chicken Tawa Fry didn’t look or taste like griddle fried chicken to me but it was still pretty good. I should have asked for some hot pepper sauce or paste to heat it up a bit but overall it was a decent entrée. One item on this menu I can definitely recommend is the Chicken Lababdar. I had it as a main course on one of my Emirates flights last fall and I remember it for being deliciously spicy. I’m not talking hot hot hot! but rather flavorful enough to make you take pause and enjoy each bite that much longer. It was on today’s menu but only as a Light Bite rather than a main course. If it’s offered on my next Emirates flight in any form, I’m definitely going to order it.

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Chicken Tawa Fry
Succulent griddle fried chicken, served with mildly spiced vegetable korma and saffron infused pulao rice

Do I still have room for dessert? Not really but I rarely ever eat dessert at home and since this will be my last flight in international First Class for a while, much less aboard an airline of Emirates’ caliber, I might as well go ahead and splurge. I’d heard of Almond Financier but had never seen or eaten it. Once again, Emirates delivered a plate that was every bit as delicious as it was artistically aesthetic.

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Almond Financier
Light, moist French tea cake, served with poached rhubarb and almond wafer

As my flight attendant cleared the detritus of the meal from my table, I sipped hot coffee with Baileys and watched the SkyMap with interest as we drew ever closer to an on time arrival in Seattle. Thirteen hours into the flight, I should imagine that I was the only person on the plane thinking “Oh no! Only one more hour to go!” Truth be known, what I really would have preferred would have been to land in Seattle, take a hotel for the night and then right turn around and do this trip all over again starting tomorrow. Heck, I could probably do four or five repeat performances of this circuit before I’d feel ready for a few days off in a row.

I know, I know – I’m certifiable but hey – I honestly love this life aloft. If I didn’t I wouldn’t bother to submit a trip report, much less one that’s taken me three weeks to write and another few hours beyond that to proofread, install all the BB code and photo insert language. This trip in particular was very difficult to spend any time writing enroute because I was so busy enjoying myself along the way.

Our approach to Seattle was from the north, which meant those of us on the left side of the airplane were treated to a nice view of Boeing Field and the prototype 787-900 parked at the north end of the facility. Three minutes later we touched down smoothly on the wet concrete of SeaTac’s 11,900 foot long runway 16L. The captain slowed our 209 foot long aircraft to a safe taxiing speed and we then bee-lined it straight into Emirates’ customary gate at S-16.

As the jetway was being attached to the aircraft, I took a couple moments to thank the crew for a stellar performance. They were looking forward to a good rest followed by a couple of days off in the Emerald City before their scheduled return to Dubai two days hence. I on the other hand had a seven and a half hour layover to look forward to but – if things worked well with my new Global Entry status – I just might be able to hurry through customs and immigration and score a seat on the 1:25pm nonstop to Fairbanks. The 1:25 departure time was too early for a legal connection but with no baggage and a little luck, I just might be able to get home this afternoon instead of later tonight.

* * * . * * * . * * *

I’m happy to report that the gods smiled favorably upon me this afternoon. Not only did I breeze through customs and immigration like a zephyr but Alaska’s 1:25pm departure to Fairbanks had been delayed until 2:05pm. Even better, it was only about half full in the back. Unfortunately it was completely full up front but hey – at least I had a seat, and an exit row aisle seat at that!

By the time we took to the air at 2:30pm it was 2:30am in Dubai and 6:30am in Hong Kong. I was asleep within minutes. Hard to believe it had been thirty-three hours since my A380 had taken to the air out of HKIA two nights ago. And to think that some people fly from Hong Kong to Seattle in just eleven hours! Yeah, but who’s had more fun?!

To be sure, “fun” is not a word usually associated with flying but then, most people aren’t flying in First and Business Class aboard some of the world’s finest airlines. Though my preference would have been to have had more time to spend in some of the great locations I passed through, over the years I’ve often wondered what it might be like to just burn some miles and go out and fly for a while. Well, now I’ve done it and it really was a lot of fun. If I had a few million more miles in my account I’d probably go out and do it again. In fact, I know I would. That said however, my next big trip will ideally include a First Class ride across Asia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. If I’m lucky, that’ll happen later this year.

And with that we’ve now arrived at the end of this trip report. I know it’s a long read and nowhere near as easy to digest as the more popular photo reports that dominate the Trip Reports forum these days but I am truly thankful to FlyerTalk for a place to post these reports and especially to those of you who've invested the considerable amount of time it must have taken to read it. As always, if you've any questions or comments about the airlines, the services or the report, please feel free to do so and I'll endeavor to respond as quickly as internet connections allow way up here in central Alaska. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Happy Contrails!