Oman Air, Business Class – Boeing B 787-8: Muscat to Zürich

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Date: 23. December 2016
Departure: 14:30
Arrival: 18:10
Flight time: 6 hours 40 minutes
Seat: 5A, window

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Transfer in Muscat

I have two hours to make my connection to Zürich. From arrivals I head one floor up to the transit and departures area, which is also where the security checkpoint is located. In Oman laptops and liquids do not need to be removed from your bag at security.

The Lounge

Location: Behind the duty free shop.
Type of Lounge:
Oman Air First and Business Class lounge.
Toilets:
Available in the lounge.
Showers:
Available in the lounge.
Food & Beverages: The lounge has a large buffet with hot and cold food, with a selection of Western, Indian and Omani dishes. Seeing as I have only just had lunch and will probably be eating again on the next flight, I do not have anything to eat in the lounge.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available, password required.
Comment:
With the increase of traffic to Oman and the expansion of Oman Air, the lounge in Muscat is seriously at the limit of its capacity. Since I was last here, the area has been extended, but even so, the lounge was simply never designed to handle so much traffic.

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Boarding

On my previous flights with Oman Air there was always a dedicated bus service to the aircraft for Business Class passengers in Muscat. This may or may not still be the case, because today by the time I arrive at the gate, most of the passengers have already boarded, so I just step on the first bus that comes along.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2.
Seat Layout: Much to my surprise, the Boeing 787 has a different cabin layout to the Airbus A 330-200 I just arrived in Muscat with. This aircraft has a more traditional, if not to say old fashioned, configuration. I believe it is the same seat that LOT Polish Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines have installed on the Boeing 787. The cabin definitely looks more spacious than that of the Airbus, but it is also a lot less private. Later on the cabin crew tells me that this particular aircraft in on a long-term lease from Kenya Airways. From what I know, as part of the same deal that saw Oman Air taking over this aircraft from Kenya Airways, they also source a further slot pair in Heathrow from Kenya Airways – allowing Oman Air to operate a second daily flight.
Capacity:

  1. Business Class – 30 seats.
  2. Economy Class – 204.

Pitch: 74 inches.
Width: 31 inches.
AC Power: There is a AC 110V power port and a USB port at every seat in Business Class.
Audio and Video: The aircraft has the same IFE system as the Airbus A 330-200 on the previous flight, which is very responsive and fast.
Connectivity: Wifi is also available on the Boeing 787-8, with the same price plan as on the Airbus A 330.
Comment:
The one thing I really do not like at all on the Boeing 787 are those bloody electric window shades. In particular, what I dislike is the fact that it allows the crew to dictate what you do with your window shades. When I enter the aircraft, the shades are fully dark and I cannot see anything outside. For take-off, the shades are then brightened. However, after take-off I have the sun shining fully in my face and on the video screen, but I have no means of making the shades any darker until the crew release the shade controls.

Other than that, I find the cabin very noisy.

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Configuration of Oman Air’s own Dreamliner
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Configuration of the aircraft leased from Kenya Airways
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The Crew

The crew on this flight are friendly. More over, it is interesting that there are even a few females in the crew too. On the previous flight from KL there was only one female cabin attendant.

The process is the same. I take my seat and then receive the hot towel, the menu, the earphones and a welcome drink. This time I go with the lemon and lime juice, which is very refreshing.

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Amenities

  1. Shaver with shaving cream.
  2. Colgate toothbrush and toothpaste.
  3. Eye shades.
  4. Earplugs.
  5. A comb.
  6. More useless Amouage cosmetics…

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Lemon and lime juice.
Towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel served while still on the ground.
Pre-meal drink:
Diet Coke.
Choice: There are three choices each for the starter, main course and dessert.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Beverages:
Diet Coke and still water.
Comment:
The quality and quantity of the food is good. The crew’s timing and pace of the meal is excellent. There are no long waits in between courses and drinks are constantly replenished.

Amuse Bouche

A canapé with cream cheese and another with smoked salmon.

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The First Course

Selection of Arabic mezze – chicken ball skewer, labneh with a lot of garlic, something with puréed aubergine and parsley, black and green olives, lemon.

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The Main Course

Penne pasta with vegetables and parmesan.

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Dessert

Buttermilk panna cotta with poached dates and caramel sauce.

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The Second Service

Choice: There are two choices for the savoury item.
Delivery:
Individual service.
Type of meal:
Light snack.
Main course:
Grilled vegetable sandwich, served warm.
Dessert:
Chocolate fudge cake.
Beverages:
Diet Coke.
Comment:
The meal hits the spot nicely. To be honest I am still full from the lunch, so I just have half of the sandwich and the chocolate cake, which is very rich and sticky.

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Arrival

Eventually we start our descent into Zürich. When we departed Muscat earlier in the day, the temperature was a balmy 28 degrees Celsius. By the time we land in Zürich it is dark, the notorious fog is already starting to gather on the ground and the temperature is a mere chilly 4 degrees Celsius. The flight arrives 45 minutes ahead of schedule.

It is nice to be home.

Conclusion

On The Airbus A 330 from KL to Muscat I was surprised in a good way with the new seat. I was kind of expecting it to be a sort of anti-climax in comparison to the old First Class type seat. All in all though, I think Oman Air has done a good job refurbishing the A 330.

As for the Boeing 787, I really have to say I do not like this plane. I found it rather noisy and the cabin design and layout is old fashioned and drab.

As far as the service is concerned, I found the crew to be very professional, friendly and competent, although perhaps not quite as polished as the Qatar Airways crews.

The transfer in Muscat is always an experience I enjoy. It is not just the deplaning via stairs, which is very cool, but the old terminal, which reminds me a lot of the old facility there used to be in Malta. I am curious to see what things will be like once the new airport opens.

Without a doubt there is a lot to be said for a nonstop connection between Europe and Asia, like the Cathay Pacific flight I took from Frankfurt to Hong Kong at the start of the week. However, I am starting to appreciate the benefits of a stop on the way, either in Muscat, Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha. It is kind of nice to be able to get off the plane after a few hours, if only just to stretch your legs a bit.

All that is left now, is for me to wish everyone…

Merry Christmas!

Oman Air, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Kuala Lumpur to Muscat

Oman Air Logo

Date: 23. December 2016
Departure: 09:40
Arrival: 13:10
Flight time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Seat: 10A

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Getting to the Airport

In Kuala Lumpur I am staying at the Sama Sama hotel that is connected to the airport terminal building via footbridge. It takes you about five minutes on foot from the hotel lobby to the departures concourse on level 4 of the terminal building.

Check-in

Terminal: 1.
Row: M
Airport check-in:

  1. Business Class – two counters.
  2. Web check-in – one counter.
  3. Economy Class – four counters.

Web check-in: I receive an e-mail from Oman Air the evening before the flight, inviting me to check in online for the flight from Muscat to Zürich, but not for the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Muscat. So I am not quite sure what that e-mail was about and what the web check-in counter is supposed to be for.
Comment: The airport is crawling with people when I arrive for check-in. There are long queues for all airlines and outside, most of the aircraft stands appear to be occupied.

The Lounge

Location: In the satellite terminal, above the station of the shuttle to the main building.
Name of Lounge:
Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge.
Type of Lounge:
Malaysia Airlines Business Class lounge.
Toilets:
Toilets are available in the lounge, but they are pretty old and smelly.
Showers:
Also available, but in equally bad shape as the toilets.
Food & Beverages: There is a selection of hot and cold dishes, with a mix of traditional Malaysian and Western breakfast dishes.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available in the lounge, password required.
Comment:
The lounge is used by all passengers travelling on Malaysia Airlines and a few others, like Oman Air. As a result, the place is completely full and there is hardly a place to sit. Once I do find a place to sit down, I go and get myself a drink, only to find that they have run out of clean glasses.

I think this is a really nicely designed lounge, but I also think it is starting to show its age, it looks tired and worn.

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Boarding

Priority Boarding: Kind of…
Number of Airbridges:
2.
Comment:
My flight is boarding from gate C1, which shares a security checkpoint with gate C3. There are two queues for the security checkpoint. There is no dedicated lane for Business Class passengers but at least the queue moves fairly quickly. Once you are inside the holding pen, there are two separate exits to the aircraft. Business Class passengers use the L1 door, all other passengers use the L2.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2.
Seat Layout: Oman Air has started to renew the Business Class cabin of its Airbus aircraft. Where previously the A 330s had a seat that was more akin to what other airlines have in First Class, the new Business Class definitely makes better use of the available space. Oman Air has installed the same seat that Japan Airlines has on the Boeing B777-300 on long-haul flights. On a pair of two, the seats are slightly staggered, with the aisle seat is slightly behind the window seat to allow the person sitting by the window easy access to the aisle without having to climb over another person.

Apart from the fact that the seat and cabin are obviously still very new, I like the colours Oman Air uses, a combination of light and dark browns with a dash of turquoise to liven things up.
Capacity:

  1. Business Class – 30 seats.
  2. Economy Class – 196 seats.

Pitch: 82 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Length as a Bed: 77.5 inches.
AC Power:
Every seat in Business Class has its own AC power port and two USB ports.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand. The IFE system is operated via remote control. The control reacts very well and is very fast.
Earphones: No name branded earphones.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available on board and there are different price plans for mobile devices and laptops. You can choose between 30 minutes/10 MB for USD7; 60 minutes/25 MB for USD13; or 3 hours/100 MB for USD20.
Comment:
Of course the new seat is not as luxurious and spacious as the old Business Class seat that used to be installed on the A 330. However, having said that, the new seat certainly makes more sense commercially. I like this seat. It offers a lot of storage space and if you raise the privacy screen between you and the person on the aisle, the window seat really is quite private. Besides, on this particular flight only 10 out of 30 seats are occupied anyway.

I was unable to find a seat map with the new cabin layout.

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The Crew

The crew are friendly enough. As soon as I am seated, I am brought a scented hot towel that is so hot it actually has steam rising from it. In short succession I am also brought the earphones, the vanity kit, the menu and an orange juice.

Once the doors close, the service begins with the traditional Omani welcome, which consists of a fresh date and a cup of Arabic coffee.

Amenities

  1. Shaver with shaving cream.
  2. Colgate toothbrush and toothpaste.
  3. Eye shades.
  4. Earplugs.
  5. A comb.
  6. A lot of useless Amouage cosmetics (lip balm, eye cream, hand cream…)

The First Service

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel served while still on the ground.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
First course:
Natural yoghurt with honey.
Main course:
Bowl of fruit (mango, pineapple, grape, kiwi, melon, nectarine)
Breadbasket:
A selection of warm breads, including Arabic bread, a Danish roll, a croissant and a bun, served with butter.
Beverages:
Coffee with cream, orange juice.
Comment:
On the morning flight from Kuala Lumpur Oman Air changes the service order around. Just after take-off the small meal is served, while the main meal is served prior to arrival in Muscat.

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The Meal

Choice: There are three options each for the starter, the main course and the dessert.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Breadbasket: A selection of bread, including Arabic flat bread.
Beverages:
A Diet Coke and still water, coffee after the meal.
Comment:
Ninety minutes out of Muscat the main meal service begins. For the starter I have the Arabic mezze, which are quite tasty. I have to say, this dish is not on the same level as Qatar Airways’ mezze platter, for example. But the food is good enough and the presentation is nice.

For the main course I have the beef curry and this really is quite tasty – the beef is so tender! The meal is served with cucumber and a chilli in case you like your food a bit spicier.

I decide to skip dessert and have the cheese plate instead. As the flight attendant comes to remove the plate from the main course, he notices that I have already demolished all the bread, so with the cheese plate he also brings me some more bread.

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First Course

Arabic hot and cold mezze (labneh, olives, samosa and something red with a tasty, strong flavour of roasted bell peppers.

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The Main Course

Oriental beef curry with a spiced gravy and fragrant steamed rice.

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The Cheese

A selection of cheese with pineapple chutney and poached pears.

Arrival

Our arrival into Muscat is very spectacular and leads us along the cost past Mutrah and the city of Muscat to land in a westerly direction.

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From the outside, the new terminal in Muscat looks nearly finished. However, I ask one of the cabin crew and he tells me the facility will not be opening before the end of 2017 because there is still quite a lot of work to be completed on the inside of the building.

But of course this is all good news for me because it means we will be deplaning via stairs and ferried to the terminal by bus. I always enjoy taking a good look at the aircraft I fly with from the outside. Business Class passengers are bussed across to the terminal in their own, dedicated bus.

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Garuda, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur

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Date: 22 December 2016
Departure: Scheduled at 14:10, departed at 16:30
Arrival: Scheduled at 17:45, landed at 19:25
Flight time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Seat: 8K, window

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Transfer in Jakarta

Upon entering the terminal I follow the signs marked ‘transfer & transit’. The arrows are pointing one floor up, but the escalators and stairs are cordoned off. I look around and eventually spot some dude wearing some semi-official looking uniform. So I ask him what I should do? To which he tells me to just go ahead and take the escalator. He even moves the cordon out of the way for me. But for all I know, he might have been the janitor.

I do not really have that much time to go to the lounge, but I need to go to the loo and figure I might as well go in the lounge and see what it is like. But to be honest, I really do not think I am missing anything much. The lounge is a real dive – dark, gloomy and tatty. But I have to say, the apron views are brilliant!

Boarding

Priority Boarding: Yeah right…
Number of Airbridges:
Remote boarding.
My flight is departing from gate E4. I pass the security checkpoint and head into the gate area, which is really crowded because there are another three flights leaving from the same area. The place is also stiflingly hot.

Eventually, our flight starts boarding one hour behind schedule. In the meantime, there are no announcements or anything of the sort. When eventually boarding starts, complete chaos breaks loose. There are people for the Air Asia flight queuing up for my flight to KL. An announcement is made for SkyPriority passengers to board first, but quite frankly, nobody really seems to give a shit. Neither do the ground crew. Obviously, at this point the easiest thing would be to just sit down and wait for everybody else to board. The only problem is, I cannot move, there are people all around me and I am trapped where I am.

Throughout the whole process, I think what bothers me the most is that there are people everywhere and the ground crew obviously have not got the situation under control.

Eventually, I manage to get on board. By which time the flight is already running 75 minutes behind schedule. By the time we move off stand we are running two hours late and by the time we finally reach the departing runway, the delay has increased to two and a half hours.

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The Crew

The crew on this flight is very similar to the one on the previous flight. The young lady working the Business Class cabin is outstanding – attentive and friendly. She addresses passengers by their name, even without having to consult the flight manifest first.

Earphones and two English language newspapers, a blanket and pillow have already been placed at each seat.

The crew try to bring passengers in Business Class a hot towel and a welcome drink. But somehow, the size of the Boeing 737 with just the one aisle does not really lend itself to this while boarding is in process.

The Crew

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Towel before the meal:
Hot scented towel served with the welcome drink on the ground.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main dish – fish, beef or chicken.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Dinner.
First course:
Bowl of fruit with dragon fruit, grape and watermelon.
Main course:
Beef in a sweet curry with noodles.
Dessert:
Chocolate and coffee cream sponge cake.
Breadbasket:
A selection of bread, including garlic bread.
Beverages:
Still water with the meal, tea with milk after the meal.
Comment:
Again the presentation of the meal is very nice and it tastes good too. It does not happen to me very often that I like all the options served on a plane. But in this particular case, I think I would be happy with any one of the three choices.

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Arrival

Eventually we land in KL. I always find landing in KL Sepang a bit strange because you feel as though you were landing in the middle of nowhere. Everything is in darkness and the airport covers such a vast area that from the touchdown point you cannot see all the much of the terminal.

Eventually, we park at the satellite terminal. From there I just follow the signs for ‘imigresen’. There is a shuttle train to bring passengers from the satellite to the main terminal building.

Conclusion

This is my first experience with Garuda. All in all I think the inflight product is really very good. The layout of the cabin is nice and the presentation and quality of the food is excellent. Where Garuda really is an epic fail though, is with the situation on the ground. While Jakarta airport may be quite nice architecturally, the place is a mess – crowded, old and too hot. The way the flight delay and subsequent boarding is handled is absolutely atrocious. I really do not mind the delay, these are things that happen and that you have to expect when travelling by air. However, what I really find unacceptable is the somewhat lax attitude to safety and security. I am sure any one of the passengers could have walked on to the apron, unnoticed in all the chaos.

The new terminal is nearing completion. Hopefully it will bring an improvement to the situation on the ground. Garuda have come a long way and are really a great airline, once you manage to get on the plane.

Garuda Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Hong Kong to Jakarta

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Date: 22 December 2016
Departure: 09:30
Arrival: 13:00
Flight time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Seat: 8K, window

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Complimentary hotel shuttle.
Journey time:
10 minutes.
Arrives:
Terminal 1, departures level.
Frequency:
There is a shuttle every 15 minutes that runs on a first come, first served basis.

Check-in

Terminal: Terminal 1.
Row: Row G.
Airport check-in:

  1. One counter for SkyPriority passengers.
  2. Three counters for all other passengers.
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The SkyTeam Lounge

Location: Near gate 15, one floor down.
Name of Lounge:
SkyTeam lounge.
Type of Lounge:
First & Business Class lounge for all SkyTeam carriers.
Access:
Passengers flying in Business Class and passengers with status in a frequent flyer programme of one of the SkyTeam airlines.
Toilets:
Available in the lounge.
Showers:
Available in the lounge
Food & Beverages: There is a buffet with hot and cold dishes. In addition, there is also a noodle bar where you can choose between three different types of noodle soups.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available in the lounge, password required. There are also workstations with Apple computers.
Newspapers & Magazines:
There is a selection of international magazines and newspapers at the entrance to the lounge.
Comment:
The SkyTeam lounge in Hong Kong opened just over a year ago and is the common purpose lounge for First and Business Class passengers of all the SkyTeam carriers.

The place is pretty empty when I arrive. It is a very nice lounge, with many comfortable seating options and a bright decor. From what I can tell, power plugs are available at all seats in the lounge. The only drawback is that there are no views of the apron from the lounge. However, if you get bored, there is also a Yoga room for you to do something good for both body and spirit.

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Boarding

There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2
Capacity:

  1. Business Class, 12 seats.
  2. Economy Class, 144 seats

Seat layout: The seat is not fully lie flat. It is more of a recliner, which is perfectly adequate for a day flight of only five hours. The material covering the seats has an intricate pattern design. The seats are kept in grey and dark red and give the whole cabin a very elegant look and feel.
Pitch:
42 inches.
Width: 19 inches.
AC Power:
There is a 110 V power port in every seat in Business Class.
Audio and Video: Audio and Video on demand.
Earphones: No name brand.
Connectivity: No wifi available.

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The Crew

The crew are friendly and all smiles. As soon as I enter the cabin the young lady working the Business Class section shows me to my seats and offers to help me with my hand luggage. Once I am seated, she takes my order for a welcome drink. She returns a short while later with the fresh orange juice, which is served in a tall champagne glass, the vanity kit and a warm, scented towel with a really nice fragrance.

Amenities

A pillow, blanket and the earphones have already been placed at every seat.

The vanity kit is by L’Occitane and contains:

  1. Eye shades.
  2. Socks.
  3. Slippers.
  4. A comb.
  5. Earplugs:
  6. A toothbrush.
  7. Toothpaste.
  8. Eau de toilette.
  9. Lip balm.
  10. Body lotion.
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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Fresh orange juice.
Towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel served before departure.
Pre-meal drink:
Bintang, Indonesian beer.
Amuse bouche:
Crab meat on water melon.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
First course:
Smoked salmon with capers and Waldorf salad.
Main course:
Beef with peppercorn sauce, potatoes and vegetables.
Dessert: Pear tart.
Beverages:
Still water, coffee with dessert.
Breadbasket: A small bowl with a selection of bread is provided with butter.
Hot towel after the meal:
Comment:
The meal is served on a lacquer tray. The presentation of the food is nice and the crockery Garuda uses is very unusual and different to what you usually get on a plane. The tray arrives with the first course, bread and the dessert. Once I am finished with the starter, the plate is removed and the main course is served, again in very nice tableware.

The quality of the food is good and the presentation is very nice. It looks more like a First Class product than a Business Class one.

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After the meal service the crew are quick to remove the trays to allow passengers to spread out. Even so, they pass through the cabin regularly with snack and drinks.

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Arrival

We land in Jakarta pretty much on time after a flying time of four hours and thirty minutes. Our aircraft parks at a remote stand, which I think is always a good idea. There is even a dedicated minibus for Business Class passengers to take us to the terminal. The terminal complex of Jakarta airport has an interesting design, which I suspect is intended to reflect local building traditions.

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I now have one hour and ten minutes to make my onward connection…

Cathay Pacific, First Class – Boeing 777-300: Frankfurt to Hong Kong

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Date: 20 December 2016
Departure: 13:00
Arrival: 06:24
Flight time: 10 hours, 30 minutes
Seat: 1K, window on the starboard side

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Introduction

I awake just before seven in the morning. I open the curtains to take a look outside. It was late when I arrived yesterday evening, so I could not really see anything much. It is a lovely day today, but immediately I am taken aback by just how incredibly ugly Frankfurt airport is. Apart from the fact that the whole facility was designed with everything but the passenger’s convenience in mind, the buildings are quite simply ugly, badly maintained and dilapidated. Paris Charles de Gaulle may not be up there in the top ten of the world’s most convenient airports either, but at least that place has style.

Getting to the Airport

Mode: Shuttle bus
Journey time:
Five to seven minutes, depending on traffic.
Price:
Complimentary shuttle, provided by Fraport.
Frequency: Every five minutes.

I am staying at the Hilton Frankfurt airport, which is perched above the long distance railway station. To access Terminal 2, take the escalator down from the hotel lobby. At the bottom turn left into the covered footbridge that connects the station to Terminal 1. There are a few cafes on the footbridge. When I arrived yesterday evening, they had already closed and there were mice running around all over the bar and tables. So you may want to get your coffee somewhere else unless you fancy a mouse poo macchiato…

At the end of the footbridge, turn left and take the stairs down to the ground floor. The stop for the shuttle bus to Terminal 2 is on your right.

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Check-in

Terminal: 2, sector E
Airport check-in: Check-in counters are open from 09:30 to 12:10. There is:

  1. one counter for First Class passengers,
  2. one counter for Business Class passengers,
  3. one counter for Premium Economy passengers, and
  4. three for standard Economy Class passengers.

Web check-in: Online check-in open 48 hours before departure.
Self-service check-in:
There are red self-service check-in machines available and Cathay Pacific staff are on hand in case something should go wrong.

I have already checked in using the Cathay Pacific app, but I decide to pass by the First Class check-in desk anyway. The lady there is very friendly and chatty. She reissues my boarding pass in paper, together with an invitation to the lounge in Frankfurt, a small map of Terminal 2 for me to find my way around, as well as an invitation to the arrivals lounge in Hong Kong.

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The Cathay Pacific Lounge

Location: Before the security checkpoint for gates E2 to E9.
Type of Lounge:
Cathay Pacific First and Business Class lounge.
Access:
By invitation. The entrance is right opposite the security checkpoint.
Toilets:
Available in the lounge.
Showers:
There are three showers in the lounge that appear to be permanently attended.
Food & Beverages: There is a selection of hot and cold snacks. When I arrive at the lounge just after ten, they are just clearing away the breakfast dishes and replacing them with the lunchtime snacks. There is no noodle bar in this lounge, but noodle soups can be ordered from the staff.

To add a bit of seasonal atmosphere, there is also a plate with Christstollen and next to that a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

Connectivity: Complimentary wifi is available, no password required.
Newspapers & Magazines:
There is a good selection of international magazines and newspapers.

The lounge is fairly large. There is no dedicated First Class section. Other than that, there are dedicated workspaces if you need a bit of privacy as well as computer workstations.

Boarding

There is a priority lane for security. Boarding is first for families with children and then for First and Business Class passengers. There are two airbridges, First and Business Class passengers use the L1.

The Cabin

Configuration: 1 + 1 + 1.
The seat feels very private, despite the fact that it is not a suite type seat. First of all, the window seats are all angled to face towards the window, so you do not have to look at the other passengers. In addition, the shell of the seat is quite high and deep.
Pitch: 81 inches
Width: 36 inches
AC Power:
110 V AC power port available at every seat
Audio and Video: On demand, touch screen enabled., Bose earphones

I cannot really say anything much about the inflight entertainment, because I did not use it.

Connectivity: Cathay Pacific does not provide wifi on the B777-300ER.
Toilets: There are two toilets for the First Class cabin, although one is in fact the crew toilet, which is used when the actual First Class toilet is occupied. The cosmetics in the toilet are by Aesop, the same as in the vanity kit. The actual First Class toilet is large enough for a grown man to be able to change comfortably enough. It also has a proper sink and the faucet is turned on and off manually, instead of automatically.

The cabin is very elegant and spacious. This is partly due to the fact that there are no overhead bins and there are only three seats abreast. Even so, there is more than enough storage space and every passenger has their own small closet, with enough space for a jacket, trousers and shirt.

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The Crew

As I step aboard the plane, I am greeted by a chirpy young lady. She shows me to my seat on 1K and hangs my jacket for me. She introduces herself and in short sequence three other members of the crew stop to say hello, welcome me aboard and introduce themselves. The purser tells me we will have a fairly quick flight today at only ten hours and thirty minutes. Once I am settled, I am brought, in short sequence, my pyjamas, a vanity kit, earphones, the menu and a welcome drink and an amuse bouche.

Amenities

The pyjamas are very comfortable, but they are cut very wide. I am a fairly big guy. But I was given an L and it was still quite big on me.

The vanity kit is by Australian brand Aesop, and there are different kits for men and women. It contains:

  1. mouthwash,
  2. toothbrush,
  3. Colgate toothpaste,
  4. a comb,
  5. earplugs,
  6. a cloth to clean spectacles with.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Towel before the meal:
Hot towel served on the ground.
Pre-meal drink:
Cathay Delight, it is one of the airline’s non-alcoholic signature drinks – made with kiwi, mint and coconut milk.
Choice: There is a selection of Western and Chinese dishes that can be mixed. There is also a vegetarian option
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Lunch
Beverages:

  1. Krug with the caviar,
  2. Evian,
  3. Earl Grey tea with dessert.

Breadbasket: A selection of rolls and garlic bread.
Hot towel after the meal:
Yes, not scented.

Okay, so… Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa you can definitely go home. Qatar, if you don’t mind, I’ll just put you on the back burner for the time being. Because I think I have a new favourite First Class airline. And yes, the meal is definitely what tips the scale. It is quite simply outstanding. First of all, unlike many other airlines, Cathay Pacific will actually give you a whole tin of caviar and not just a sad, small spoon full like Lufthansa does. But apart from that, the size of the portions is very good and the tastes and flavours are simply amazing, especially considering that we are at 37’000 feet! The Chinese main course is fragrant and spicy.

But without a doubt, the undisputed highlight of the meal is the dessert. Oh. My. God. This is divine. It is soft, warm and gooey on the inside, but firm on the outside (yeah okay, so I write a bit of food porn too. Is that going to be a problem…?). This soufflé is so good, it really needs a weapons licence.

Amuse Bouche

Seared tuna on sweet potato mash, served chilled and with a cracker.

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The Caviar Service

Caviar and Champagne with trimmings.

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The Soup

Minted pea and Edamame soup.

The Entrée

Poached Maine lobster with baby corn, asparagus, capers, dried tomatoes and romaine salad, with a French dressing.

The Main Course

Braised Cod, ginger, scallion, mushroom and oyster sauce, steamed jasmine rice, stir-fried pak choy and carrot.

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The Cheese

Gorgonzola, Taleggio, Manchego, and Caciotta with crackers, bread, grapes and dried fruit.

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Dessert

Chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce and dulce de leche ice cream.

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Inflight Snack

Surprisingly, four hours out of Hong Kong I am feeling hungry again. I order the wonton noodle soup, which is served with a glass of still water and a Coke Zero. Even for just a snack, the crew set the table properly, with a napkin and tablecloth. The soup is nice and warm and has this smoky taste. The wontons are delicious.

The Second Service

Hot towel before the meal: No.
Pre-meal drink:
Mixed berries smoothie.
Choice:
There are two Western (one sweet and one savoury) dishes and one Chinese hot dish to choose from for breakfast.
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
First course:
Fresh seasonal fruit.
Main course:
Banana pancake with Mascarpone and maple syrup.
Breadbasket:
A selection of bread, buns or fresh toast, served with butter, honey and jam.
Hot towel after the meal:
Yes, lightly scented.

The breakfast service starts about ninety minutes out of Hong Kong. The plate of fruit is simple enough and serves its purpose perfectly. But then comes the main dish and my jaw literally drops – it is huge! There are three banana pancakes on the plate that are plump and fluffy. They are sweet and syrupy from the maple syrup drizzled over them and in the middle of the plate there is a huge, inviting dollop of mascarpone cream. Divine! Throughout the breakfast service the crew come to check that I have everything I need and top up my drinks. The meal concludes with a hot towel. By this time we only have another fifty minutes to go to Hong Kong.

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Arrival

We land at 06:25, nearly thirty minutes ahead of schedule. The airport is only just coming to life. I disembark the aircraft and head downstairs to catch the automated people mover to bring me to the head of the terminal. The queues at immigration are already starting to form but are still fairly modest by Hong Kong’s standards.

In Hong Kong I will be staying at the Novotel Citygate, which I chose because I will only be here the one night and my next flight will already be leaving at 9 o’clock in the morning.

Conclusion

Well, what can I say and where to begin? As far as I am concerned, Cathay Pacific really clinched the spot as the best First Class experience I have ever had, coming in ahead of Qatar Airways and Asiana Airlines. I am sure if you want to look at the details of the flight there are probably areas that might be improved, but the overall package is really quite overwhelming. The crew are incredibly friendly, chatty and attentive but without being obtrusive. The hardware is great too. The seat is comfortable and provides a lot of space and privacy, giving the entire cabin a very cosy and exclusive feel. But without a doubt the food is really the selling point here for me. Apart from the fact that you certainly do not go hungry on Cathay Pacific, the quality of the dishes and the composition of the meal are outstanding. I shall have to do this again!

Aer Lingus, Economy Class – Airbus A 320: Shannon to London Heathrow

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Date: 03 December 2016
Departure: 08h50
Arrival: 10h10
Flight time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Seat: 10F

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Introduction

I always enjoy the courses in Ireland very much. The people are all very welcoming and friendly and wherever you go, you can always be sure to find somebody or other eager to strike up a conversation. But still I am glad I am on my home. It is the end of the year and I can feel myself loosing steam. Just two more business trip this year, one next week and then the week after and I am done.

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Taxi
Journey time:
30 minutes
Departs from:
Absolute Hotel in the centre of Limerick
Arrives:
In front of the departures concourse at Shannon airport
Cost:
EUR45

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Check-in

Terminal: There is only the one terminal building
Counters: Aer Linugs have their own row of dedicated check-in counters. There is one desk for Aer Lingus frequent flyers, one for Aer Lingus Business Class and another for Economy Class passengers.
Web check-in:
Urgh!
Self-service check-in:
There are four machines at the airport

Well that interface certainly does not work…! I booked the ticket I am flying on via the BA website. But for some reason, although the Aer Lingus flight is operated as a BA codeshare, interline check-in is not possible.

When I try to check in on the BA app I get a message that check-in for the flight is only possible at the airport. When I try to check in on the Aer Lingus app, I receive the message that there is something wrong with my booking. But if I try to check in online via the Aer Lingus website, I can check in but I cannot select any seats or additional services.

So by the time I arrive at the airport, I am still missing the boarding pass for this flight. I try the self-service kiosk, which informs me that there is no booking in my name. Interesting. So I approach one of the counters, where a friendly Irishman swiftly checks me in, no questions asked, and even offers if I’d prefer a window seat over the aisle seat I had originally selected at check-in (I did…?).

Airside

Other than that, Shannon’s terminal is easy to navigate through. I think what impresses me most about the structure is how high the ceiling is in the check-in area – it makes the place feel more like a church than an airport.

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Boarding

Boarding is from gate 4 – which, luckily for me – means the aircraft is parked at a remote stand. Boarding starts forty minutes before departure. My boarding pass is scanned and I step outside into the cold morning air. I walk along the outside of the building to where our aircraft is parked. The crew are obviously not ready for boarding yet, and so we are left standing outside in the cold for ten minutes before eventually we are allowed on board.

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The Cabin

Configuration: Economy Class only configuration.
Seat Layout: 3 + 3.
Pitch: 32 inches.
Width: 17 inches.
AC Power:
Not available.
Audio and Video: Not available.
Connectivity: Not available.
Comment:
The A 320 has a seating capacity of 174 in Aer Lingus’ configuration. The seats are rather comfortable and certainly not as hard as many of those new flimsy Recaro affairs that leave your butt sore after an hour of flying.

Seat pitch is good. Every seat comes with a coat hook and the headrest is adjustable in height. Emergency exit seats can be purchased at the time of booking.

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The Crew

The crew are of course typically Irish. All of them are very friendly and take their time to chat with the passengers. They are actually quite funny to watch during the on board duty free sales as they go cooing over the design of some of the scarves and comparing notes with each other and the passengers on the quality of this facial cream and that Dead Sea mud…

The Meal

Food and beverages are strictly buy on board on Aer Lingus short-haul flights. They have a good selection of hot and cold snacks and on flights departing before eleven o’clock in the morning there is also a traditional Irish breakfast available. Prices are reasonable to me. I have a cheese and coleslaw bap with coffee and a bottle of still water, which sets me back EUR10.50.

The quality of the food is good. The bap tastes fresh and the coffee is strong enough to revive the spirits.

Arrival

Terminal: 2.
The flight time to Heathrow is one hour. In fact we are slightly ahead of schedule, which is rarely a good idea in Heathrow, and subsequently we are sent into a holding for about ten minutes before we are allowed to make our approach into the airport from the west.

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Transfer in Heathrow

In Heathrow I am connecting onto the British Airways flight to Basel, which means I will have to make the transfer from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5. And I really have to say, the journey is really painless and smooth. I step off the Aer Lingus flight at 10h22. By 10h50 I am already in Terminal 5 and through security. The transfer process is fairly straight forward as long as you know which terminal you are looking for.

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Conclusion

Overall I rather liked Aer Lingus. Their strongest selling point is certainly their staff, all of which were friendly and polite at all times. The boarding process is a bit cumbersome and very much had the look and feel of a low cost carrier. But other than that, I would fly with them again.