Air France, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Dubai to Paris Roissy

Airline: Air France
Aircraft: Airbus A 330-200
From: Dubai
To: Paris Charles de Gaulle
Departure: 07h00
Arrival:
11h10
Flight time: 7 hours 10 minutes
Seat:
3C, aisle seat

Air France operates two daily flights from Dubai to Paris. AF655 is the night time service which departs Dubai at 01h30, to arrive in Paris at 06h15 in the morning. This flight is operated by a Boeing B 777-300ER and features Air France’s fabulous la Première.

AF659 is the day time service that leaves Dubai at 06h40 and arrives in Paris at 11h40. This service is operated by an Airbus A 330-200. Air France is currently in the process of refurbishing the Business Class cabin on its Airbus A 330s. In both the old and new versions, the seating configuration is 2 + 2 + 2, seeing as the aircraft are mostly deployed on mid-haul sectors only. The main difference between the new and the old seat is that the old seat is an angled lie-flat, while the new seat is also lie-flat but horizontal.

Theoretically, only aircraft in the new configuration are operated to Dubai. However, for operational reasons it may happen that you will find yourself sitting in an aircraft in the old configuration.

If check the seat map, in the new cabin the first row on the port side is row 1. Whereas in the old configuration, the bulkhead row on the port side is row 2.

I leave the Sofitel Downtown near Burj Khalifa at 04h26. The journey to the airport takes exactly 14 minutes to complete – partly because there is hardly any traffic with it being the weekend, and mainly because the driver clearly has a pressing appointment with death and thinks I might fancy coming along for the ride.

Air France operates out of Terminal 1 in Dubai. Check-in is done in area 2 and there are seven counters open when I arrive.

When I arrived in Dubai a week ago, the immigration officer stored my passport data, so that I could use the biometric smart gates. As a result, passport control for departures is now very swift and painless.

At this time of the day, Terminal 1 is not very busy. As such, security only takes a few minutes and then I’m on my way to the shuttle that will take me to the D gates.

In Dubai Air France uses the SkyTeam lounge for its Business Class passengers. The lounge is very spacious. I’d like to say it’s also quiet, but that would be a lie, because there’s this beastly little squirt making enough noise for ten. Luckily the little creep soon vanishes when the Saudia flight to Jeddah is called for boarding. Peace at last…

Boarding starts at 05h55. It’s still dark outside and the location of the gate makes photos of the aircraft impossible.

Boarding is by zones, with Business Class passengers in zone 1 boarding first.

My first impression of the seat is good. The cabin looks tidy and the seat configuration is practical. There is a stowage compartment right below the video screen and in the side of the seat.

The inflight entertainment has touch screen technology and the picture is very sharp. Complimentary wifi for text messages is available. For more capacity, passengers can purchase individual packages.

The divider between the two seats is good, and in the open position offers at least some privacy.

On this service, Air France serves the main meal immediately after take-off, which I think is rather inconvenient, because most passengers have had an early start and want to sleep, more than anything else. And so I decide to skip the meal and go off to Noddy land instead. In the bed position the seat is very comfortable, and together with the thick blanket and plump pillow makes for a good few hours of sleep.

I wake up halfway into the flight. One of the crew sees me and immediately comes to ask if I’ll have breakfast, which she subsequently brings me with an espresso and fresh orange juice.

The meal consists of a plate of smoked salmon and smoked turkey.

Fruit salad and yoghurt.

And a selection of bread.

There is also a choice of English breakfast or sweet crêpes. But seeing as I already had something to eat in the lounge, I decide to skip the hot meal.

A bit over an hour out of Paris the lights come on and a light snack is served.

It consists of three small canapés with cheese, salmon and grilled vegetables.

A bowl of fruit.

And a strange looking dessert I steer clear of…

The crew on this flight are truly excellent. Throughout the journey they are constantly passing through the cabin and even actively asking passengers if there’s anything they can do for them.

Eventually, we land in Paris ahead of schedule, despite the detour via Saudi Arabia. The flight ends at Terminal 2E. I now have to make my way to 2F for my onward connection.

Garuda Indonesia, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Surabaya to Jakarta

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INTRODUCTION
Had I already mentioned it’s the monsoon season in Java? Goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. No sooner have we left the hotel, the rain starts. This must be what they mean when people speak of the heavens opening. Within minutes the streets turn to rivers and it becomes nearly impossible to see anything up ahead of the car. I think it’s kind of atmospheric though, sitting in the comfort of the car with the rain pelting down on the roof as we drive through the rain drenched streets of Surabaya under a thunderous sky. And the Indonesians? To be honest, I think they hardly notice the rain. At least they all seem to be going about their business as usual – and their driving certainly hasn’t slowed down…

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
My flight to Jakarta will be leaving at 18h00. Given how long it took me to get from the airport into Surabaya when I got here, I arrange for the car to pick me up from the Majapahit at 15h00. Of course I hadn’t considered that this being Friday there would be less traffic. And so it happens that the trip to the airport only takes me fifty minutes to complete instead of ninety.

CHECK-IN
Garuda has its own domestic terminal here in Surabaya, which is Terminal 2. The facility looks rather new and very modern. The check-in area is only accessible for passengers with a valid ticket and you are required to show your ticket or boarding pass to enter the restricted area.

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There is a separate check-in are for premium customers, located opposite the regular check-in counters. The lady at check-in is friendly and obviously in a good mood, and apparently she was expecting me. I was able to check in using the app, but downloading the boarding pass to my Wallet or sending it by mail or text message didn’t work.

AIRSIDE/LOUNGE
The security check point and lounge area are located one floor up from check-in. Much to my surprise, there is even a lounge for Business Class passengers. It’s fairly small. In addition, there are a few weather related delays, making it difficult to find a place to sit. But eventually I manage.

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There are no washrooms in the lounge, and passengers should use the toilets next to the prayer room.

BOARDING
I think it’s safe to say we’re not going to leave on time. The previous service to Jakarta at 15h30 has been delayed due to weather and will now only be departing at 19h00. At some point, my flight shows up with a delay of thirty minutes, for a departure at 18h30.

Surprisingly though, 18h30 is when the boarding for my flight starts, which isn’t too bad. Eventually we close doors and push back at 19h10, with a delay of slightly more than an hour. The flight time is announced as one hour and six minutes. Although eventually, with the holding in Jakarta it’s more like ninety minutes.

CABIN
The cabin and seat configuration on the A 330-200 is identical to Garuda’s A 330-300 that I flew on from Melbourne to Jakarta. There is a pillow at every seat and blankets are available upon request.

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CREW & SERIVCE
The flight is full this evening, so there are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin. Again they’re friendly and polite. The steward approaches me and ask me if I’d like a welcome drink. He returns shortly after with a glass of apple juice and a scented cold towel.

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THE MEAL
As on the flight from Jakarta to Surabaya, the meal consists of

  1. a bowl of fruit,
  2. a bread roll and butter,
  3. a strange dessert which I suspect and hope is made out of rice,
  4. a hot meal with a choice of either fish or chicken.

I go with the chicken, which is quite enjoyable. I have really no idea what the white and green dessert thingy is supposed to be, but it tastes okay actually.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we land with a delay of not quite two hours. The aircraft comes to a stop at a gate on the international concourse, which means that after disembarking, we are bussed to domestic arrivals. There are separate busses for Business Class passengers. I will be spending my last night in Indonesia at the FM7 Hotel close to the airport. Ground transportation in Indonesia really is a nightmare, and the FM7 is only about a ten minute drive away from the airport.

Qantas, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Perth to Brisbane

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INTRODUCTION
At this point you’re probably wondering why the heck I didn’t just fly directly from Bangkok to Brisbane, instead of taking the detour through Perth. It’s a long story and I’m not even going to attempt to explain. It has something to do with a compulsion for flying, a fascination with aeroplanes and probably some deeply rooted neurosis a psychologist would likely have a field day with…

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
To get to the airport, I take the bus line 935, which makes the journey in about 30 minutes. The fare is AUD4.70 and the bus stop is literally across the road from the hotel. In the photo below, my hotel is the tall building in the background.

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CHECK-IN
I’ve checked in using the QANTAS app. If you’re checking in at the airport, QANTAS have these very funky self-service check-in machines at which you can check yourself in, issue the baggage tags and drop off your baggage. It nearly makes me wish I had more than just hand luggage!

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AIRSIDE/LOUNGE
There is a separate queue for Business Class passengers for security. The process is swift and efficient. From security I head straight for the QANTAS lounge.

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I really do think QANTAS seriously has the best lounges of all airlines. Ever. In the world. And the lounge here in Perth is no exception. It’s beautifully appointed and offers a wide range of seating options. Even the loos have style!

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There is a large buffet with an extensive selection of hot and cold dishes. Apart from that, there is a coffee station where they make excellent coffee and a separate drinks bar. Oh yeah, and the apron views are pretty good too!

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BOARDING
Boarding for my flight is from gate 14. Business Class passengers use the L1 door of the aircraft to board, while all others use the L2 door. From what I can tell, the flight is completely sold out in Business.

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CABIN
Qantas operates the A 330-200 in two different configurations. There is one version with a seating capacity of 199 in Economy and 36 in Business Class and another with a seating capacity of 243 in Economy and 28 in Business Class. The lower-density configuration is used primarily on international services but is also deployed on domestic routes, while the higher density configuration is only used on domestic services and to New Zealand.

The international configuration has the Qantas Skybed, which is sufficiently comfortable but offers very little storage space and is really quite ugly to look at. This configuration has angled lie-flat seats that are 21.5 inches in width and have a pitch of 60 inches. The seats are in a 2 + 2 + 2 layout.

The domestic configuration is definitely much nicer and obviously newer. This is a completely lie-flat seat, width is also at 21.5 inches. Stretched out into the bed position, the seat is 78 inches long. The seats are laid out in a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration. On uneven numbered rows, the A, F and K seats are aisle seats. While on even numbered rows only the E seat is directly on the aisle.

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Apart from the fact that it looks much nicer, the domestic configuration also provides a lot more storage space. And fortunately for me, today’s flight is operated by an aircraft in the domestic configuration.

CREW & SERIVCE
There are four female cabin crew working the Business Class cabin. They’re friendly enough I guess, but their interaction comes across as being slightly put on. But at least they are very professional in the way they deal with the passengers. But I have to say, throughout the flight the crew come through the cabin repeatedly to make sure passenger are hydrated and have something to drink, which is something for example the Thai crews didn’t do.

While we’re still on the ground, welcome drinks are served. There is a choice between wine, water and some cranberry juice spritzer, the name of which I didn’t catch.

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THE MEAL
The meal service is something I never really quite get about QANTAS. I’m assuming they think is very stylish and sophisticated. I just think it’s weird and more than just a little pretentious. The menu has a choice of two starters, four main courses and two desserts, which is quite extensive I think, especially on a domestic flight. But the things they have on the menu are just slightly odd.

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For the starter I go with the mozzarella with grilled radicchio, green beans and crushed hazelnuts. This is rather unusual and quite good. So far so good. The dish is served with a minute side order of salad and two slices of sourdough bread.

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For the main course I have the chicken parmigiana, which is also quite good but just looks slightly forlorn, sitting on the plate with just a slice of lemon and nothing else. I mean, some sort of side dish might have been nice.

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And then for dessert I have the cheesecake with berries.

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I spend the rest of the flight watching an Australian film called ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert’, which I can highly recommend. The film is not that recent, but I thought it was hilariously funny in a tragic sort of way.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we land after a flight time of just over four hours. The approach is spectacular and brings us in right past the city of Brisbane on our left.

The temperature is more or less the same as in Perth, but it’s definitely more humid here.

GETTING INTO TOWN
In Brisbane I’m picking up a rental car. My first stop is a small town on the Sunshine Coast that goes by the name of Mooloolaba and which has a lovely sandy beach. I have to say, it really does feel so nice to swim in the sea and feel the heat of the sun on my body again. With the rubbish weather we’ve had back home recently, I’d started to forget what the sun even looked like!

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Qatar Airways, First Class – Airbus A 330-200: Riyadh to Doha

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Date: 10 March 2016
Departure: 04:15
Arrival: 05:00
Flight time: 45 minutes
Seat: 3J, aisle on the starboard side of the aircraft.

INTRODUCTION
The course in Riyadh has gone well and we managed to finish one day ahead of schedule. A quick mail to my travel agent and I am booked to return home one day earlier than expected. Cool!

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Private car provided by the hotel.
Journey time: Around 30 minutes, depending on the traffic situation and your driver’s sanity.
Departs from: Doubletree Hotel by Hilton in al-Muroj.
Arrives: Riyadh King Khaled International Airport.
My flight will be leaving at 04:00 in the morning, so I guess it is best if I check out of the hotel at 01:30 to arrive at the airport at around 02:00, two hours prior to departure.

The traffic in Riyadh is interesting. There are definitely not as many cars here as you see in Dubai for example, so you rarely get the kind of clogged up traffic jams where nothing moves anymore. Even so, the Saudis have an ‘interesting’ style of driving, to say the least. Essentially, their motto is to do what ever you like on road, just as long as you can solve it by honking your horn. Repeatedly.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 1, counters 118 – 121.
Counters: Three Economy Class counters and one Business Class counter.
Facilities: Only airport check-in available.
Check-in is a huge mess. There is only one person ahead of me but he is travelling with eleven heavy suitcases of luggage. The problem is that the luggage belt is having difficulties dealing with the copious amounts of luggage passengers are checking in. So the belt keeps stopping to let other pieces from other counters pass. Eventually, it takes no less than 45 minutes to process the eleven suitcases and that is still a lot faster than the crawling Economy Class lines.

I then head straight for immigration and security, where the queues are surprisingly short and processed in an unexpectedly efficient way.

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THE LOUNGE
Location:
Behind security turn right and right again, there is a set of escalators leading up to the Lounge.
Name: Premier Lounge.
Type of lounge: Contractor lounge.
This is yet another sad excuse for a ‘premium’ lounge. From what I can tell, there is no food available in the lounge. Those dried biscuits do not qualify as food I think. The drinks selection is also somewhat limited and the presentation is positively lousy. I sit down long enough to drink a small bottle of water and then decide to leave the lounge again.

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BOARDING
Boarding starts a whole hour before departure with a first call for Business Class passengers. It is going to be a full flight in Business Class this morning and most of the passengers are looking about as bleary eyed as me.

THE CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 + 2
Seat: 3AJ, aisle seat on the starboard side of the aircraft.
Capacity: Unfortunately it is dark outside, so I cannot make out if it is an Airbus A 330-200 or a -300 that will be taking me back to Doha tonight. In addition, Qatar Airways operates both types in a number of different configurations.

Despite the configuration, the seat on the A 330 is still fairly private. The seat pairs by the windows point outwards. In addition, the seats are staggered, which means that the aisle seat is slightly further back than the window seat. There is also a large divider between the seats. Every seat is equipped with a power socket and USB port.

A pillow and blanket has been placed at every seat before boarding.

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SERVICE
As usual, the crew is an interesting racial mix of nationalities. There are three female cabin crew working the Business Class cabin – they are from Bulgaria, Zimbabwe and Jordan respectively. All three of them do an excellent job interacting with the passengers, making sure they get settled in for the flight. By the time the crew pass through the cabin taking orders for breakfast, I have already nodded off to sleep. But once we get airborne, the Bulgarian notices I am awake again and comes to ask me if I would like to join for breakfast.

THE MEAL
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
Service: À la carte service.
Delivery: Individual delivery service.
Menu:

  • Avocado and date smoothie.
  • Seasonal fresh fruit.
  • Potato and spinach tikki with fig chutney, za’atar labneh, feta cheese, cucumber, tomato, olives.
  • Tea or coffee.

The flight time to Doha this morning is only 45 minutes. Even so, Qatar Airways provide an extensive service. The trays are brought out individually and the meals are served – in theory – whenever the passenger requests to eat, although of course the options are limited given the short flying time.

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ARRIVAL
I have just finished my last bite of food when the captain comes on the speakers and announces our descent into Doha. Everything happens rather quickly. The crew clean up the cabin in no time and shortly thereafter we are already touching down.

As I exit the aircraft, there is a young lady from Qatar Airways ground handling waiting to escort me to the First Class lounge. Our aircraft is parked at one of the farthest contact stands in the terminal and it is a good 10 minutes walk from there to transfer security.

KLM, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Basel via Amsterdam to Kuwait

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INTRODUCTION
Please don’t tell me it’s going to be another one of those trips… I am on my way to Kuwait to attend an ICAO meeting/workshop on the implementation of the language proficiency requirements. I am one of the speakers on Monday morning, so it is kind of important that I actually make it on to the flight to Kuwait this afternoon, it is just that I only notice on my way to the gate that I have left all my credit cards in my jeans, which are lying in the wash basket at home. But I think it it should be okay, I still have my bank card.

The flight to Amsterdam starts out all right. We line up on runway 15 for a departure in a southerly direction. The pilot pushes the throttle forward and for a moment we go rolling down the runway, before the aircraft starts to slow down again a moment later – rejected take-off! Apparently the auto throttle is not working properly. Eventually though, the system is rebooted (What ever happened to hands on flying…?!??!), we line up for departure a second time, and succeed in getting airborne.

TRANSFERRING AT AMSTERDAM AIRPORT
Despite the delay, we still manage to arrive at the gate in Amsterdam on time, at 12h35. The KLM City Hopper flights all use the B concourse. My onward flight will be at 14h25 from the E concourse in the non-Schengen part of the terminal. My first stop though, is at the TravelEx counter where the B and C concourses join up. I have ordered some Kuwaiti Dinar for collection at the airport.

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There is a bit of a hold up, because the money was accidentally deposited for me to collect at the landside counter in the Schiphol Plaza. Fortunately though, the staff are very accommodating and send somebody to bring me the money.

From there I pass through immigration and then on to the E concourse.

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LOUNGE
By this time it is already 13h22 and my flight to Kuwait is scheduled to start boarding at 13h40. So I figure there is hardly any point in me making the trek to the Crown Lounge above the F concourse. Besides, I am still way off from my target of daily steps. So instead I just walk to the end of the E concourse and then back. Occasionally stopping to take pictures of the aircraft parked at the gate.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Yes.
There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers, which essentially includes Business Class passengers as well as gold and platinum members.

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There is a trolley in the airbridge with a selection of Dutch and English language newspapers for passengers to help themselves.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 + 2. There are 30 seats in total in Business Class, with three rows forward of the L2 door and two rows aft of it.
Seat: KLM currently offers four different Business Class products on its wide-body fleet. There is the new fully horizontal life-flat which is installed on the Boeing B 747-400 and is now being introduced on the B 777-300. Then there is the angled lie-flat seat installed on the Airbus A 330-300. If I am not mistaken, this is pretty much the same seat Air France has too. The new B 787 will have the same seat as Cathay Pacific in Business Class. And finally of course, there is the old angled seat on the Airbus A 330-200, which is what I shall be travelling in today. This seat is really passed it. It is comfortable enough to lounge in but it can be a tad difficult to sleep in unless you really are completely exhausted. And there is next to no storage space.
Pitch: 60 inches.
Width: 20.5 inches.
Length as a bed: 75 inches, 30 degrees angled.
Facilities: The seat has a reading lamp in the overhead panel, in addition to a reading lamp installed in the seat itself. In addition, there is what KLM refers to as the ‘privacy hood’, which opens up from the top of the seat back to protect the guy sitting behind you from scrutinising your scalp too closely when the seat is in the fully extended position. A pillow and blanket have already been placed at every seat before the passengers board the aircraft. There is also a power port at every seat in Business Class.
Audio and Video: Noise cancelling earphones, 16 audio channels, audio and video on demand.
Screen size: 10.4 inches.

The flights is full in Business Class but rather empty in Economy Class. The purser even makes an announcement to this effect, asking passengers to refrain from moving until after we are airborne.

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SERVICE
Once most of the passengers are seated, the crew distribute the vanity kits and welcome drinks. The menus are handed out after take-off. The crew are very attentive and make a point of addressing every passenger by their family name.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Fresh orange juice. There is a choice of still water, orange juice, sparkling wine and Heineken.
Hot towel before the meal: Slightly scented hot towels are handed out, they are nice and thick and in much better quality than the ones on British Airways or Swiss.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero. There is a choice of warm nuts or small cubes of Dutch cheese to go with the drinks.
Choice:
There are two choices for the starter, three for the main dish and four for dessert.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Meal:

  • Marinated salmon and salmon mousse with pickled cucumber, turnip and basil cream with a dill vinaigrette.
  • Mixed salad with roast pumpkin seeds.
  • Beef and beetroot meatballs with a herbed veal jus, smoked potato mousseline, , cauliflower poached in a parmesan broth and leeks.
  • Bread and butter or oil.
  • Cheese plate with St. Bernardus and Moulin bleu with a fig and cardamom chutney.

The meal is very tasty, especially the salmon starter is excellent, and the portions are of a good size. By the time the meal ends, I am feeling decidedly full.

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SECOND SERVICE
About an hour out of Kuwait, a small snack is served. There is a choice of either a hummus wrap, croquettes or a warm almond cake/biscuit type thing. I decide to go with the latter and a cup of coffee to keep me going until I get to the hotel.

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ARRIVAL
We land at 21h45, roughly twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Surprisingly, most of the passengers are continuing their journey to Dammam, with only a handful leaving the aircraft in Kuwait.

The visa and immigration process in Kuwait is not quite straightforward: first of all, as you exit the plane, do not follow the signs for immigration and arrival. Instead, follow the signs marked ‘visa collection’. The visa bureau is in the far corner of the terminal, hidden at the very back of the food court. The very first thing you must do, is pick a number for your turn in the queue. Do this before you do anything else. The process is slow and you will have more than enough time to prepare all your documents. To the left of the machine dispensing the tickets with your number in the queue are the vending machines for the stamps you will need to validate your visa. For most countries eligible for a visa on arrival, the fee is 5 Kuwaiti Dinar. The machine accepts most notes, but does not give any change. If you do not have any Kuwaiti currency on you, there is an exchange office near the visa bureau.

You will also need to complete an immigration card with your passport details and contact info for Kuwait. When your number is finally up, the visa is issued on an A4 size piece of paper and the officer will stick the stamps on the visa. Once that is done, go to the counter on the far right to have the visa validated. And then from there, finally, you can head downstairs to immigration. You will not have to queue again and can simply walk through the gate to the baggage reclaim area.

GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Airport shuttle.
Departs from: Hotel booth right outside arrivals.
Journey time: 30 minutes.
Fare: 9 Dinar
As you exit arrivals, there are booths for all the big hotel chains. In most cases, the hotel will pick you up, just as long as you inform them well enough in advance.

Oman Air, Business Class – A 330-200: Muscat to Zürich

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INTRODUCTION
I just arrived in Muscat on an Oman Air flight from Dubai. In a few hours time I shall continue my journey to Zürich.

TRANSFER IN MUSCAT
The transfer in Muscat is easy, convenient and quick. The bus from the aircraft drops me off at arrivals. Straight ahead is the counter for visas on arrival and immigration beyond that.

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Transit passengers however, turn left and then take the escalators one floor up to security and the transfer area. There are quite a few flights leaving around this time of day, even so, the line for security can hardly be described as being busy.

LOUNGE
Location:
The Oman Air lounge is located behind the duty free shop.
Type of Lounge: Dedicated Oman Air lounge.
Facilities: Toilets, showers in the lounge.
Internet: Free wifi, the password is available at reception.

The lounge is a good size. It is not really very big, but then again there do not seem to be that many passengers using it either. The facility is currently undergoing construction and extension.

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The selection of food and drinks is very good, with a wide choice of Arabic and Western dishes, both hot and cold.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate shuttle bus for passengers travelling in Business Class. In Muscat Oman Air boards Economy Class passengers first. Business Class passengers are boarded last. Theoretically you could try boarding one of the Economy Class busses, but the gate dragons are certainly not amused if you try to pull that one on them.

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More than anything, I am just delighted by the opportunities the ramp boarding gives me to get up close and personal with the aircraft.

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CABIN & SEAT
Configuration:
1 x 2 x 1.
Pitch: 88 inches.
Length as a bed: 5 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Facilities: One AC port, two USB ports, Ethernet socket and audio video assumption (RCA) socket per passenger in Business Class. There is also wifi available on board, provided by onair, which is the same provider Emirates uses. So if you have an account already, you will be able to use it on Oman Air as well. However, passengers in Business Class also have to pay for wifi connectivity.
Audio and Video: The selection is limited and the choice of films is somewhat strange.
Seat: There are twenty seats in the Business Class cabin, which is divided in two separate cabins. The larger cabin is located between the front galley and the second galley and has a total of twelve seats on three rows. The rear Business Class cabin is behind the second galley and has another eight seats on two rows.

The Oman Air seat is really very nice for a Business Class product. In actual fact, it is more akin to the First Class seat on many other carriers. The cabin is kept in shades of brown and beige. Upon entering the cabin, the first thing you notice is the smell. I do not know where it comes from, but I think it is quite obvious that it is a smell that is intentionally fed into the air conditioning system. It is very subtle and instantly gives you the sensation of having stepped on board a carrier from the Middle East.

I am seated on row 10, which is the bulkhead row in the forward Business Class cabin. Today’s flight has a good load in both classes. In the forward Business Class cabin only two seats remain empty. In the rear cabin there are also only few empty seats.

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SERVICE
The Business Class crew on today’s flight is made up predominantly of females of southeast Asian descent. They are much friendlier than the crew on the previous flight and interact with the crew in a very pleasant manner.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink:
There is a choice of water, orange juice or lemon and mint juice. I have the orange juice.

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Hot Towel: Hot towels are served before the doors close. And they really are very hot towels!

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Choice: There are five choices for the first course and four choices for the main course, with at least one vegetarian option for the first and main course. For dessert there are three options plus cheese.

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Delivery: Tray service.
Type of meal: Late lunch.
Meal:

  • Drink with warm nuts.
  • Arabic red lentil soup with pita bread croûtons.
  • A selection of cheese with fig bread, served with dried apricot and walnuts.
  • Selection of ice cream.
  • Tea or coffee.

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To be honest, I am not really that hungry yet. I am still rather full from the meal I had on the short hop from Dubai to Muscat. So instead of indulging in another full meal, I go for the red lentil soup and some cheese after that.

The soup is excellent. It is flavourful and quite spicy for an airline meal. The cheese platter which follows is good, although it is way too much cheese for just one person.

For dessert I have the ice cream, which is described in the menu as ‘a selection of ice creams’, which I take to mean that there are different choices. But in actual fact, when it arrives the dessert consists of three scoops of ice cream in one plate, with chocolate sauce drizzled over them and a sprinkling of pistachio nuts.

SECOND SERVICE
Towel:
Hot scented towel.

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Choice: No.
Delivery: Individual tray service.
Type of meal: Light snack.
Meal:

  • Mixed salad with chicken.
  • Crumbed chicken goujons with sweet chilli dip.
  • Grilled vegetable and cream cheese panini.
  • Frosted mini chocolate muffin.

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A bit more than two hours out of Zürich I start to get hungry. I ask one of the flight attendants if perhaps there might be something to eat before the second snack service. A few minutes she returns and sets the table for me. She then brings me a very tasty salad with marinated chicken breast.

By the time I am finished, it is time for the second service and I figure I might as well have that too.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually the flight draws to an end. The aircraft gently dips its nose and we start our initial descent over Austria. Along the way, we pass the Alps, which look beautiful still covered in their coat of white. They are quite a contrast to the landscapes we left behind just a few hours previously.

Like most of the long-haul flights, Oman Air uses the E dock in Zürich.

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GETTING INTO THE CITY
Transport:
Train
Departs from: The railway station is located under the central terminal facility. The station is connected to the Swiss national and international rail network and offers services to many parts of Switzerland.
Journey time: One hour and twenty minutes, there is a direct train to Basel at 4 minutes past the hour. The last train leaves for Basel at 21h04.
Fare: CHF35 one way.

CONCLUSION
I last flew with Oman Air three years ago on the same routing. I think what impresses me most about the carrier is the consistency of their product. In fact, the flights I took with them on this trip were an exact replica of the previous trip, save perhaps that horribly flashy vanity kit they used to have which has since been replace by something a little more subtle.

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The new airport in Muscat is quickly taking shape and will probably open not too long from now. With this new facility, Oman Air will have a hub that will be comparable to the products in neighbouring Dubai or Doha, at least in terms of comfort if not in size. Having said that, I do think it is a pity the old airport at Seeb will be closing down. One of the things I have always liked about Oman is that it is a very traditional country. And to me, to a certain extent, the old airport exemplifies that very well. But I guess you cannot stop progress.

And now what? Now I have the luxury of being able to spend an entire week in the office in Switzerland without travel. And then the week after that I will be going to Luxembourg, the week after that to Bucharest, the week after that to Tokyo and the week after that to Luxembourg again.

Korean Air, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Seoul to Fiji

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INTRODUCTION

The first time I visited Fiji was back in 1997. My memory of the trip is somewhat fuzzy – after all is has been 18 years. But I do remember Cyclone Gavin. Oh yes, how could I ever forget Gavin? In fact, my sister and I are still bickering about Gavin, even after all these years!

But I am sure you will see my point. At the time, my sister and I were staying at the Sheraton Denarau on Viti Levu island. As Gavin approached, the hotel distributed food packages and instructed all the guests to stay in their rooms until somebody came to fetch them or we had to evacuate. My package contained, among other things, two Bourbon Vanilla biscuits, which I have never really liked much. My sister’s package however, contained two chocolate biscuits. Now I know my sister has a thing – okay, let’s call it a fetish – about chocolate. Even so, in the face of adversity, and possibly death, I would have thought she would have had the graciousness to swap at least one of the chocolate biscuits for a Bourbon Vanilla with her kid brother. But no. No swap. Not even a measly crumb…

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Hotel shuttle.
Departs from: Right outside the lobby of the hotel.
Frequency: Every 60 minutes.
Journey time: Roughly 10 minutes.
Fare: The shuttle is complimentary for residents of The Nest Hotel.

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My flight to Nadi will be leaving at 19h25, which gives me nearly a full day in Seoul. The shuttle back to Incheon leaves at 16h45. Part of the journey takes us along the perimeter fence of the western runway. Just in time I notice something big and broody creeping up from behind us, to find it is Asiana’s A 380 coming in to land.

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The shuttle bus will drop you off on the ground floor, which is the arrivals level. Check-in is on the third floor.

CHECK-IN
Location:
3rd floor, Korean Air check-in is on rows A, B and C. SkyPriority check-in for First Class and Business Class is on row C
Counters: There are two First Class counters and two Business Class counters open when I arrive. There is a bit of a queue, mainly due to the copious amounts of luggage the people are checking in. Are they all migrating or what?

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At the far end of row C is security check-point 1. The process is swift and efficient and the staff are very careful and polite in their handling of the cuckoo clock I have with me.

Right behind security is immigration. The agent quickly stamps my passport and boarding pass and sends me on my way.

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LOUNGE
Location:
The entrance is right after immigration. The lounge itself is one floor up with access via an escalator.
Type of Lounge:
Dedicated Korean Air Business Class lounge.
Facilities:
Showers, workstations, newspapers, toilets, hot and cold snacks, smoking room.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi – no password required.

The lounge is rather bland and dark. Moreover, the seating is clearly intended to be functional more than elegant or stylish.

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The entrance to the lounge is a bit confusing. There are two queues, one for Morning Calm passengers, and one for Prestige Class passengers. I am assuming this means there is a dedicated lounge for status card holders with Korean Air that are travelling in Economy Class. Or something like that.

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Well, at least the view is good…

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers. First and Business Class passengers board through the L1 door, while Economy Class passengers use the L2 door.

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The flight this evening is not full, at least not in Business Class. In the forward compartment, where I am sitting, only five of twelve seats are occupied. Originally I am sat on 8C. However, once boarding is completed I move to 7A, which is the bulkhead row.

Our flight is running thirty minutes last this evening, presumably because the aircraft arrived late from its previous mission. In any case, it looks as though the cabin has had to be prepared in a hurry. Some passengers are missing earphones, others slippers and some do not have either. But the crew quickly realise their mistake and check the cabin to make sure all passengers eventually have everything they need.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 x 2 x 2
Seat: 7A
Pitch: 74 inches
Width: 21.6 inches
Facilities: All seats are equipped with 110 volt ac plugs and USB outlet.
Audio and Video: Every Business Class seat has a 15.4’’ LCD monitor. Audio and video are on demand.

There are 24 seats in the Business Class cabin. With six seats abreast that give you four rows of Business Class in total. The configuration on this bird is somewhat odd though. Rows 7 and eight – the first two in Business Class – are located between the First Class cabin and the L2 galley. The remaining two rows of Business Class however, are located aft of the L2 galley. As on the previous flight with the B 777-300, there are no overhead bins in the middle of the forward Business Class cabin.

On a side note, from what I can tell, the First Class seat on this aircraft is only very slightly different to the Business Class seat.

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Let me guess: no urine samples on the LCD? No…

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SERVICE
The crew on this flight are very friendly and chatty, there is a good and welcoming vibe in the cabin. Admittedly, I suspect that may have something to do with the destination. I think I would be happy too if my work saw me flying off to Fiji regularly. It probably also helps that the cabin is far from being full. But apart from that, the crew really impress me with their attention to detail and the seemingly sincere and elegant way in which they go about their duties.

VANITY KIT
Last thing before we depart, the crew distribute the amenity kits. The cosmetics are by DAVI Napa, which, if I remember correctly, is the same brand of cosmetics they have at the Peninsula in Hong Kong and in Bangkok.

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The vanity kit does not contain earplugs. However, these can be obtained from the cabin crew on request.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
There is a choice of water, sparkling wine and orange juice. The drinks are served with peanuts.
Hot towel before the meal: A scented hot towel is served ahead of the meal.
Pre-meal drink:
Diet Coke, served with a mini tartlet of shrimp and sundried tomato.
Choice:
There are four choices for the main course, three of which contain beef and the fourth chicken. Two of the dishes are Korean (Bibimbap and Bulgogi)
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal: Dinner.
Meal:

  • Marinated scallops, served with grilled vegetables and salad with a balsamic dressing.
  • Bibimbap, served with sesame oil, spicy Korean chilli paste, Kimchi and cucumber pickles and a bowl of sticky rice.
  • Clear soup with fish.
  • Cheese with crackers.
  • Chocolate ice cream.

No bread is served to passengers who have chosen the Korean option for the main. The meal concludes with coffee or tea. Koran Air only serve either black tea or green tea.

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Once the meal is over, the cabin crew pass through the cabin distributing landing cards for Fiji, as well as a bottle of still water and mineral water spray to stop you from dehydrating.

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90 minutes after take-off the first meal service has been completed, which is quite impressive, especially seeing as the service does not seem rushed at all.

I manage to sleep for a few hours. When I wake up, we are still more than three hours out of Nadi. One of the cabin crew spots me moving around and immediately comes to ask me if I would like some freshly baked cookies and a cup of coffee. God, this is so good. The cookies really are freshly baked, so fresh in fact, that they still warm.

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Later on, when she comes to clear up, the flight attendant who brought me the cookies suggests that if I like Bibimbap, perhaps I would like to try a Korean style Onigiri with Bibimbap and Kimchi in it. To be honest, I have my doubts about what it will taste like. But I do not want to appear ungrateful either after being taken such good care of. So I agree to the Onigiri. And damn it, it is good. So good in fact that I forget to take a picture of the unwrapped thing before demolishing it!

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SECOND SERVICE
Hot towel before the meal:
A scented hot towel is served ahead of the meal.
Pre-meal drink:
Orange juice.
Choice:
There are two choices for breakfast, the Korean option is rice porridge – which is really bland – or an omelette. I do not really fancy either much, so I ask the cabin crew if I can have the ramen from the snack menu instead.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal: Breakfast.
Meal:

  • Blueberry yoghurt.
  • Selection of fruit.
  • Spicy ramen soup with more pickles.
  • Tea or Coffee

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The ramen are very tasty and spicy, but not overly so. Nonetheless, the cabin crew keep coming round to ask if I am okay with the hot food. One of them gives me some advice to dilute the soup with a bit of water if it proves to be too hot. And once more I am impressed with the warm hospitality displayed by the crew.

Eventually we begin our descent into Nadi and I start to get all excited. I am curious how much I will still remember and if the place will look even remotely familiar.

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ARRIVAL
But in actual fact, Fiji has not really changed that much. The airport certainly has not. The cool thing about Nadi airport is that although they have airbridges, you still have the full on al fresco experience. The airbridge leads to an open air terrace which eventually leads you to immigration.

There is a bit of a hold up at immigration. Because I shall only be staying for a short period, the immigration officer wants to see my onward ticket, which, in theory is not a problem, seeing as I have all hotel and ticket confirmations in my mail account. The problem is though, that I have no 4G reception and there is no wifi at the airport. Eventually I am escorted to the immigration office where I am asked to take a seat among a surprising amount of empty Gordon’s Gin cardboard boxes. The officer checks my passport and once he is satisfied that I really shall be leaving the country, he send me on my way.

GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Taxi.
Departs from: Taxi stand outside the terminal
Journey time: 25 minutes.
Fare: This is interesting. Although all taxis in Fiji have a meter, none of the drivers actually use them. Common practice is to negotiate the price before you get in. In my case, the taxi driver quotes a price of 35 Fiji Dollars to make the journey to the Hilton Denarau resort. Upon arrival, I take the bank notes I have in my jeans pocket. I have a five dollar note, a twenty dollar note and the rest in fifty dollar notes. I hand the driver the fifty, to which he simply says that twenty-five will be fine. Um, okay. I do not think I have ever had that happen to me before!

CONCLUSION
My previous flight with Korean Air from Frankfurt to Seoul was nice, decidedly pleasant. But this flight from Seoul onward to Nadi is an absolute delight. And that is mainly down to the crew. With their friendly manner and easy going but respectful way of interacting with the passengers they set the stage for a very relaxing voyage.

KLM, Business Class – A 330-200: Basel via Amsterdam to Montreal

Folie1

INTRODUCTION
Normally I make a point of arriving at the airport about two hours before departure – just in case. But I have now been travelling for five weeks – sixteen flights later and to be quite honest, I think I have had enough. Besides, this is Basel airport, so it is quite enough for me to arrive just over one hour before departure.

I am on my way to Montreal for another visit to ICAO. I am flying via Amsterdam, as usual. The only difference being – and it really does give me quite a pang to have to accept it – that the flight is no longer operated by the mighty MD-11 and has been transferred to the Airbus A 330.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Bus line 50.
Departs from: Outside the main entrance to Basel’s Swiss railway station on the station square.
Frequency: Every 10 minutes.
Journey time: 15 minutes.
Fare: CHF5.60

CHECK-IN
Location:
In the French sector.
Facilities: Self-service check-in machines and counters.
Counters: Check-in for all KLM flights is done by Air France at Basel airport.

There is a fast track for security if you are a status card holder or travelling in Business Class. But the boarding pass scanner is only able to read the bar code on the boarding passes printed at the counter. Passbook and online check-in boarding passes will not gain you access to the fast track.

LOUNGE
Location:
Near gate 44, where the terminal forks for the non-Schengen area – there is no lounge in the non-Schengen sector.
Type of Lounge:
Swissport Skyview lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets, showers, bar, work stations, hot and cold snacks.
Internet:
Free wifi is available, no password is required but you must provide your details when you log in.

Passengers flying with KLM are entitled to use the lounge, Air France passengers are not because the flights from Basel to Paris are treated as domestic services.

BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There are two lines for boarding and a dedicated queue for SkyPriority passengers. Inevitably nobody bothers to take the right queue and priority is not enforced either.

CABIN
Aircraft:
Embraer 190.
Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat: It is the standard European Economy Class seat with one of the seats on every row left empty. There are two rows of Business Class.

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I am the only passenger flying Business Class on today’s flight, so I have the entire cabin to myself. The Embraer is a strange plane. On the one hand, I rather like the layout and design of the cabin, which feels a lot more modern than that of the Fokker 70, which KLM also operates on this route. On the other hand though, the seat is not particularly comfortable. I always find that the seat is too low. As a result, my legs usually start to ache after just a short while.

SERVICE
The service in Business Class is done by the lead flight attendant, who seems friendly enough. In total there are two cabin crew on the flight.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Bottle of still water.
Pre-meal drink:
With just me in the cabin, the crew take things at a leisurely pace. There is even time for a drink before the meal. I have a Diet Coke and some of those tasty smoked almonds.
Choice:
Vegetarian sandwich (cheese) or beef sandwich.
Delivery:
Cardboard box.
Type of meal:
Light lunch.
Menu:

  • Cheese sandwich.
  • Mixed salad with mozzarella pearls.
  • Speculatius crumble for dessert.

The meal is tasty and perfectly adequate for the duration of the flight.

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TRANSFER IN AMSTERDAM
I enter the terminal building at around 13h20. I now have slightly less than two hours to make my connection to Montreal.

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I already have the boarding pass for my flight to Montreal and my suitcase has been checked through as well. My flight will be leaving from the D gates, passed immigration. The immigration counters are located next to the stairs leading up to the KLM Schengen Crown Lounge and the C gates.

At immigration there are machines available for travellers with biometric passports, but from what I understand, these may only be used by holders of a European Union passport.

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LOUNGE
Location:
The non-Schengen Crown Lounge is located above the F gates, if you are walking at a leisurely pace it may take you about ten minutes to reach the D gates.
Type of Lounge:
Dedicated KLM lounge.
Facilities:
Showers, bathrooms, quiet rooms, work stations, hot and cold snacks, bar.
Internet:
Free wifi, the code changes daily and is displayed in various locations throughout the lounge.

Amsterdam airport is currently undergoing modification and extension. As a result, most of the windows in the lounge have been covered over to mask the constructions site.

BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
The boarding pass shows a boarding time of 14h15, which is exactly one hour before departure. This is due to the fact that passengers will have to undergo a further security screening before entering the holding area of the gate. If you arrive at the indicated boarding time, you usually end up having to queue quite a bit. So it is better to arrive about thirty minutes prior to departure, when most passengers are already in the holding area.

There is a dedicated queue for security for SkyPriority and Business Class passengers. The actual boarding normally starts about thirty minutes before departure with a call for Business Class passengers and then families with children.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 + 2.
Seat: KLM currently offers three different Business Class products on its wide-body fleet. There is the new fully horizontal life-flat, which is only installed on the Boeing B 747-400. Although from what I understand this seat is about to be introduced to the B 777 fleet as well.

And then there is the angled lie-flat seat installed on the Boeing B 777-300 and the Airbus A 330-300. If I am not mistaken, this is pretty much the same seat Air France has installed in its wide-bodies right now.

And finally of course, there is the old angled seat on the Boeing B 777-200 and the Airbus A 330-200, which is what I shall be travelling in today. This seat is really passed it. It is comfortable enough to lounge in but it can be a tad difficult to sleep in unless you really are completely exhausted. It is the same seat KLM used to have on the MD-11 until she was decommissioned. But somehow, on the A 330 it just seems very dated. Legroom on the first row is very good, but nowhere near as good as on the MD-11.
Facilities: Reading lamp, power outlet, noise cancelling earphones.

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Upon entering the cabin, there is already a blanket and a pillow at every seat. Menus are distributed after departure. Luckily enough for me, the seat next to me is one of the few to remain empty on today’s flight.

SERVICE
As usual with KLM, the cabin crew are quite senior and very professional. In short succession one flight attendant comes to hang up my coat before I am offered a welcome drink and a vanity kit. There are different kits for men and women. For a welcome drink there is a choice of sparkling wine, beer, orange juice and still water.

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We push back on time. We shall be departing from runway 18L today and there is a queue of six aircraft ahead of us and another six behind us. As we taxi out, I look across to KLM’s huge MRO facility on the other side of the field. And that is when I suddenly catch a glimpse of her, standing quietly in the shadows. The last time I flew to Montreal it was the might MD-11 that carried me there. Such fond memories… Oh Audrey, Maria, Florence; we could have been happy together…how could you desert me like that?

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Fresh orange juice.
Hot towel before the meal: The scented hot towels KLM has on offer in Business Class are truly excellent, much better than those flimsy little things BA offers in First.
Pre-meal drink:
Another fresh orange juice, the drink is served with a bowl of nuts or a selection of Dutch cheese.
Choice:
Two starters and three mains.
Delivery:
Trolley service.
Type of meal:
Full meal.
Menu:

  • Shrimps with grapes and mint oil with garlic and almond soup
  • Rice salad with beetroot, goat cheese and pine nuts with a raspberry dressing
  • Braised veal with gnocchi and vegetables
  • A selection of warm breads
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Skewer of fruit

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The food on KLM is normally quite good in Business Class, as is the service. And today’s flight is no exception, at least as far as the quality of the food is concerned. But for some reason the service is taking an eternity to complete. In fact it lasts for more than two hours and thirty minutes from the moment I am served a drink and the bowl of nuts to when eventually everything is cleared away. I do not really mind that on a flight of maybe twelve hours. But on a flight of only slightly more than seven hours I really do think it should be possible to deliver a faster service.

Once the meal is over I settle in with my Kindle and spend the rest of the flight reading and gazing out the window. The scenery outside is quite beautiful. We are routing relatively far up north, grazing the southern tip of Greenland.

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SECOND SERVICE
Type of meal:
Snack.
Choice: There are two main dishes to choose from.
Menu:

  • Waldorf salad
  • Vegetarian club sandwich
  • Warm Dutch apple pie
  • Crisps

With slightly less than two hours to go to Montreal the second service begins. Before the meal starts, a second hot towel is offered by the crew. The meal is perfectly adequate for the time of day and the duration of the flight.

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ARRIVAL
The crew clear the trays. The distribution of the famous little Bols houses marks the end of the flight.

We arrive exactly on time. Quite surprisingly, the airport is completely deserted. There is no queue for immigration and the suitcases arrive in next to no time at all.

GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Taxi.
Departs from: Dedicated taxi stand.
Journey time: About 25 minutes.
Fare: Fixed at CAD40.-

CONCLUSION
This was another good flight by KLM today. Their service is perhaps not as refined and elegant was what you get on Cathay Pacific or Swiss. But what always impresses me about KLM is that their service is very consistent and I have as yet to experience a bad crew.

This was my first trip to Montreal on KLM that was not operated by an MD-11. For sure, the A 330 is the more modern aircraft. Even so, personally I think the MD-11 was just so much more fun.

Hawaiian Air, First Class – A 330-200: San Francisco to Kahului via Honolulu

INTRODUCTION

Yesterday I arrived in San Francisco on a United Airlines flight from Las Vegas. I spent the night at the Hyatt Regency close to the airport and today I am finally on my way Hawaii.

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Date: 29. January 2013
From: San Francisco
To: Honolulu
Airline: Hawaiian Air
Aircraft: Airbus A 330-200
Cabin: First Class
Seat: 1A

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

It’s gone six and I am standing outside the entrance to the Hyatt, waiting for my shuttle to arrive to take me back to San Francisco airport.

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The shuttle makes a stop at the Marriott on its way to the Hyatt and is already quite full when it arrives. Most of the passengers are flight crews about to start another working day. There’s one guy who looks like the caricature of a pilot, complete with leather jacket and Frisbee cap.

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All of the passengers descend at the domestic terminal, except for me. Although the flight to Honolulu is a domestic service, it departs from the international terminal.

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San Francisco International.

CHECK-IN

The facility is fairly deserted when I arrive. There is already a small queue forming for the Hawaiian Air counters. Apparently they’re having trouble of sorts with their check-in system. The ground crew apologise for the inconvenience and tell us they shan’t be long. And indeed, a few minutes later the ATB printer is happily printing a test boarding pass.

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There is a separate line and counter for passengers in First Class and passengers with status in Hawaiian’s frequent flyer programme. When it’s my turn the check-in agent welcomes me to the flight and thanks me for flying Hawaiian. She then proceeds to print my boarding passes for the flight to Honolulu as well as the onward connection to Kahului on Maui. She also directs me to the priority lane for security, not that it makes a difference with so few passengers around this morning.

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THE LOUNGE

The terminal is only just opening and most of the shops are still closed. Which is a bit unfortunate as Hawaiian doesn’t have a lounge in San Francisco and I’m dying for a coffee. Eventually I find a place towards the end of the concourse that is already open and is very close to A8, my departure gate for this flight.

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A cappuccino, fresh orange juice and a toasted bagel later and I’m feeling much more alive than I did when I first reached the airport. I switch on the complimentary wifi and give my mum a quick call on Facetime to report on my progress thus far – it’s cold and rainy in Switzerland, the usual. In contrast, the view from where I’m sitting is just fine.

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After I ring off I cross to the other side of the facility to take a closer look at my bird for today. And I am truly smitten. She’s simply gorgeous and I can barely take my eyes off her!

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Boarding starts right on time with a call for passengers with reduced mobility and special needs. Once the passengers with kids and wheelchairs have passed the gate, the ground crew halt the boarding process to give the special needs passengers enough time to settle in. I like that, very sensible. Next it’s the boarding call for the premium passengers. There are two airbridges attached to the aircraft, premium passengers should use the left one.

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THE CREW

I am the first to board the aircraft. I am greeted by a friendly ‘aloha’ and I am struck by how much better looking and, well…happy…the cabin crew look than those I encountered on United. They’re smiles all round and give the impression of actually looking forward to having you on board as their guest! I am mesmerized; thank God I didn’t choose United for this flight!

THE CABIN

The cabin on this bird is either very new or very well kept. The First Class seat is not state of the art and only offers limited recline. The seat controls are mechanical rather than electrical. Still, the seat is comfortable enough for the journey of five hours across the Pacific to Hawaii. The First Class cabin comprises three rows of seats in a 2 + 2 + 2 configuration, making for a total of 18 seats. Twelve seats will be occupied on today’s flight.

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A blanket and pillow are already at my set when I arrive.

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SERVICE

I stow away my things and take my seat on 1A. Immediately a flight attendant appears, places a napkin on the armrest and asks me if I’d like a glass of champagne, guava juice or a combination of both. I ask for the guava juice and have to make an effort to stop my jaw from dropping as the flight attendant actually brings me just what I’d asked for: a glass of juice, not a plastic cup!

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A short while later the same flight attendant brings me the menu for today’s flight. She points out that all the items on the menu will be served.

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DEPARTURE

And shortly after that we’re ready for departure. The ground crew make an announcement wishing all the passengers a pleasant journey and officially hand us over to the cabin crew. Then the doors are closed, the airbridges are removed and we push back. The journey begins!

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Take-off is surprisingly sluggish, considering it’s an A 330. I’m sitting on the left side, so I’m hoping to get a view of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge. But as my luck will have it, we begin a left turn towards the open Pacific before we reach the bridge.

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After take-off service begins with the distribution of earphones. I haven’t tried them yet, but I think they’re rather cool to look at. After that the crew come to ask what we’d like to drink and I have another guava juice, which is brought to me with a small dish of mixed nuts and berries.

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THE MEAL

From my seat I have a good view of what’s going on in the galley, the curtains have not been drawn. I am particularly impressed and quite surprised to find that the plates with the hot meal have not been prepared beforehand. Instead, the flight attendant doing the galley is preparing and decorating every plate individually. The meal consists of:

  1. a warm muffin with orange zest
  2. a selection of fresh fruit – pineapple, melon, grapes, strawberries and mint
  3. a lomi lomi salmon omelette
  4. steamed rice with chicken, taro and shitake mushrooms
  5. a slice of carrot cake for dessert
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And very tasty the meal is too, in particular the omelette is nice and fluffy and full of flavour.

Once I finish the meal, the tray is removed. I take out my Kindle and read until we start our descent into Honolulu. Throughout the flight the crew pass through the cabin a number of times, asking passengers if there’s anything they need or if they’d like to have a drink.

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Just before we leave our flight level, the crew distribute hot towels. They’re not scented, but that’s okay.

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ARRIVAL

After a flying time of five hours our flight draws to an end and we make a lovely approach into Honolulu. Honolulu is a nice airport, a lot of the terminal is open air and it feels good to be able to walk around without a jacket.

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Last turn onto finals.
Last turn onto finals.
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Transit area.
Transit area.

From Honolulu I have an onward connection with Hawaiian Air to Kahului. So I find a nice place to sit outside, take some pictures and wait for my flight to board. There is First Class lounge for the intra-island flights, but to be honest it’s not really that nice.

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There isn’t really anything much to say about the onward connection to Kahului, after all it’s only a 20 minute hop. About thirty minutes before departure I head for the gate and take a seat to whatch all sorts of birds flying around.

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A short while later I see my aircraft pulling onto stand.

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Date: 29. January 2013
From: Honolulu
To: Kahului
Airline: Hawaiian Air
Aircraft: B 717
Cabin: First Class
Seat: 1C

BOARDING

My plane arrives at the gate 20 minutes before departure and I start to think that we’re probably not going to make an on time departure. Little do I know how hard they work those little B 717s.

My plane.
My plane.
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THE CABIN

Boarding starts on time.

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Waiting by the entrance.
Waiting by the entrance.
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Even on these short hops Hawaiian have a dedicated First Class cabin in a 2 + 2 configuration. I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that this is quite an amazing little airline. Little of course only by American standards.

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The bulkhead.
The bulkhead.
Don't forget your manners just because you on holiday, so don't put your feet up against the bulkhead.
Don’t forget your manners just because you on holiday, so don’t put your feet up against the bulkhead.
The front office.
The front office.

THE SERVICE

Despite the short flying time, in Business Class Hawaiian still serve a pre-departure drink and another drink with a packet of nuts inflight. But they’re expecting quite some chop on today’s flight so the flight attendant distributes the nuts on the ground.

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I didn’t take any further pictures of the flight. It was quite turbulent and with the shaking it was impossible to take any decent pictures.

CONCLUSION

Hawaiian Air really impressed me. Their service is truly excellent and the crew are just so nice and friendly. I don’t think I’d want to do the direct flight from JFK to Honolulu in that seat – it’s a ten hours flight – but for the journey from San Francisco it was certainly more than adequate.

EPILOGUE

On Maui I call the Makena Beach Resort home. As I sit here on the balcony of my room writing this up and occasionally looking out to sea, I can actually see and even hear whales breaching in the distance – beautiful!

This concludes the series of reports on my American vacation. America is such a vast country, full of contrast and with so much to see and do. It has been a memorable trip and I certainly hope to return to Hawaii some day. I leave you with some pictures of Hawaii.

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Oman Air, Business Class – A 330-200 / E-175: Zürich to Dubai via Muscat

I’m on the airport train. I’m heading for Zürich again. I’m off on a business trip to Dubai, where I will spend nearly a week. It’s nearly the end of June and the temperature has picked up, the clouds have subsided – finally. And something else is different. The light. My train departs Basel’s main station at 19h40 when the low evening light casts a lovely warm glow, brilliant shades of gold across the land.

Date: 22. June 2012
From: Zürich
to: Muscat
Airline: Oman Air (WY)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Cabin: Business
Seat: 10K, first row of Business Class, window

‘Are there really no direct flights between Zürich and Dubai?’ I hear you ask. Of course there are. Swiss operates a daily A330-300. The last time I was on that flight, we had a ratio of one flight attendant to every passenger in First Class.

And then of course there’s Emirates, operating two daily flights to Zürich. Both of which I believe, are operated with a Boeing B777.  I chose Oman Air out of simple curiosity. That, and because I want to try their new Embraer E-175.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Here are some pictures of the train journey to Zürich Airport. Everything is a lush green and so different from the landscapes I am heading for.

Loads of leg space.

This here is the original castle Habsburg, from where the Habsburgs set out to become the most dominant political power of their day. It’s near Brugg.

A regional train in Brugg station.

CHECK-IN

I arrive at Zurich Airport just before 21h00. The place is fairly quiet. I reach check-in and here too, there are not many people. There is one couple checking in at an Economy Class counter and another, elderly couple checking in at the Business Class counter. There is a thick, lush carpet spread out before the check-in counter. As I arrive, an agent from DNATA, the handling agent, welcomes me to the flight and tags my luggage. Very friendly and polite.

THE LOUNGE

From there I head through security and then on to the DNATA lounge. The lounge is located one floor up from the transit area, next to the Skyteam lounge. The offerings are more or less the same too, perhaps with the only difference is that the DNATA lounge is even smaller.

BOARDING

My stay is a short one. The flight will be leaving from the E dock, like most of the wide-bodies, so I assume there will be a long queue at immigration. And indeed, when I arrive, there are six lanes open and all of them look very busy. But I’m lucky and the queue of passengers moves quickly. After passport control I head downstairs to catch the Skymetro to the E dock.

A quick phone call to my mum later and I’m at my departure gate E46, where boarding for the flight has already started. Although there are two airbridges at the gate, only one is in use today. Even so, I do not have to queue and can go straight on board.

At the door I am welcomed by a friendly Asian female flight attendant and an oriental looking male. He takes my boarding pass and guides me to my seat in the first row of the cabin.

THE CABIN & SEAT

The first impression of the cabin is very good. First of all, I can’t but notice that the seat and stowage space are more like what many other airlines have on offer in First Class. The central bulkhead has two integrated small vitrines showcasing Omani craftsmanship and jewellery.

SERVICE

I stow away my things and sit down. Nick, the cabin manager arrives and introduces herself. She brings me a scented refreshing towel and a glass of Elder juice. While we’re chatting, one of her colleagues arrives with the vanity kit and the drinks and food menu. The vanity kit is an opulent affair in gold. Inside there are the famous Amouage cosmetics, as well as the usual shaving kit, toothbrush and tooth paste, a comb and socks. A nice big white pillow and a thick blanket are already at my seat.

THE MEAL

The experience begins shortly before the doors close, I am served a tasty, sweet date and a cup of Arabic coffee. A nice touch, me thinks!

Departure is to the north and very smooth. As soon as the fasten seatbelt sign goes off, the cabin crew start taking orders for dinner. I ask for mineral water and receive a glass of San Pellegrino with warm nuts. Something tells me I’m going to enjoy this…

Dining is à la carte and there is a rich and interesting selection of dishes. First there is a vol-au-vent filled with a mousse of grilled aubergine, together with a shaving of Tête de Moine cheese and chives. ‘Tête de Moine’ literally translates into ‘Monk’s Head’. It’s a typically Swiss cheese. It gets its name from the fact that each serving is shaved off the top of the slab of cheese, making it look like the bald head of a monk.

After that, I have the creamy spring vegetable soup with garlic croutons and fine herbs. And it is outstanding. The taste is simply amazing, an interesting combination of pea and asparagus. The soup is served with a slice of lemon. The flight attendant explains that the idea is to squeeze the lemon in the soup. It proves an excellent combination!

After the soup I have the tart of red pepper, goats cheese and caramelized onions with a balsamic reduction. This is served on a bed of fresh herbs: coriander, dill, estragon and mint. I am still in two minds if this or the main course was my favourite. The taste is simply outstanding and the pastry is not in the least soggy!

And then comes the main course: pan fried sea bass fillet with lemon-caper butter, braised Mediterranean vegetables and steamed rice with herbs. The lemon-caper butter in particular is exquisite. It is a finely balanced combination of ingredients that complement each other beautifully.

To finish off this outstanding meal, I attempt to tackle the home baked chocolate cake with whipped cream and fresh berries. It’s wicked, but in the end the chocolate cake is invincible. After getting through half of it I must admit defeat and capitulate to its sweetness and richness. A battle I tremendously enjoy losing.

After this epic meal, the flight attendant brings me a pair of slippers and pjs. I head for one of the very clean toilets to change. When I return to my seat, it has already been extended into a bed. Over and out!

My only grippe with this flight is really that it is too short for a good night’s sleep. You depart Zürich at 22h30 and arrive in Muscat at 06h30, which is two hours ahead of Zürich. About 80 minutes before we arrive, I awake and immediately one of the attendants asks me if I’d like breakfast. I say yes, but in actual fact I am still full from dinner. I just have the fruit, a brioche, coffee and orange juice. It is worth pointing out that the milk for the coffee is warmed.

ARRIVAL

And then all too soon we start our descent through the heat haze for our arrival into Muscat.

There is a separate coach bus ready to take the 14 Business Class passengers to the terminal. There are no airbridges yet in Muscat, although construction of the new airport is already quite advanced.

Deplaning via the stairs gives me some excellent photo opportunities. But in actual fact I am too close to capture all of the mighty A330 in one shot.

Transfer in Muscat is an efficient and painless affair. The lounge is very full when I arrive. But a short while later, the Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Frankfurt flights are called and the place quickly empties.

Date: 23. June 2012
From: Muscat
To: Dubai
Airline: Oman Air (WY)
Aircraft: Embraer 175
Cabin: Business
Seat: 2A, first row of Business Class, window

THE LOUNGE

By the time the lounge empties, I’m starting to feel hungry again. The food selection in the lounge is an absolute delight. As they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do. So I treat myself to an Arabic breakfast to revive the spirits. I have a hard time choosing from all the lovely dishes there are.

BOARDING

After the meal I decide to leave the lounge and have a walk about around the terminal. There has been a recent extension to the facility with additional gates. It has a modern feel to it, with an Arabic twist. And the effect is rather nice, with a reoccurring intricate mashrabiya theme.

On my way to my gate I stop at a shop selling Amouage perfume. It is one of the most expensive perfumes that exist today. The young lady there strikes up a conversation with me. Out of curiosity I ask her which is the famous ‘original’ scent. Before I know it she grabs my arm and sprays some of the stuff on my wrist. The smell is, I must confess, quite exquisite. It smells expensive. It also gives me a headache straight away and I am somewhat alarmed when the young lady assures me that it lasts up to two weeks on the skin. As it turns out, that is perhaps a tad overstated. I head downstairs to the ground level of the building extension, where the gates are.

First all Economy Class passengers are boarded, again with a bus, while the Business Class passengers are boarded last, using their own dedicated bus. And again I’m too close for any decent pictures of the whole aircraft, even if it’s a little mini like the E-175.

THE CABIN

The cabin of the aircraft seems new and has a dedicated and very spacious Business Class cabin in a 1 + 2 configuration. I am on 2A, the bulkhead row, which is on the row of single seats.

SERVICE

Service begins while we are still on the ground with the distribution of the very welcome and very refreshing cold towels. Right after this, the male cabin attendant makes a drinks round. I choose a glass of fresh lemonade with mint.

Everything is cleared away as we start our taxi to the runway. The ramp is quite busy at this time of the day. We stop at the holding point for a company E-175 to make its arrival. I can’t help noticing just how dry it looks outside, a vast expanse of desert.

THE FOOD

We take off in an easterly direction. Shortly after departure we make a wide left 180 degree turn over a beautiful green blue sea. Our flight time is announced as 45 minutes. As soon as the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the cabin crew spring in to action. The cabin is full, with 12 passengers in Business Class. Even so, the cabin crew ask every passenger individually what they would like to eat and drink.

I order a Perrier and a coffee. A short while later, the cabin attendant returns with this. Quite impressive for such a short flight:

A mixed platter of (from left to right) pumpernickel with cheese, grilled apple, smoked salmon on a brioche filled with cream cheese, falafel with humus and garlic.

Grilled peppers and olives drizzled in pesto and olive oil.

And for dessert a slice of tasty carrot cake. The size of the meal is perfectly adequate for the duration of the flight and the quality of the food is excellent. Just as I wash down the last of the carrot cake with the coffee, the fasten seatbelt sign comes on again and we start our approach to Dubai.

ARRIVAL

The approach is quite bumpy. It’s very hazy outside so I can’t really see anything much until we are only a few hundred metres above the ground. Fortunately the airport is deserted at this time of the day, unlike the evenings when most of the European carriers arrive in the city. I make my way to immigration and there is next to no queue at all. The immigration officer is a friendly, chatty guy. He checks my visa and passport, and I’m good to go. I pass through customs and then from there head outside to grab a taxi. And I nearly keel over with the heat!

CONCLUSION

So what did I think of Oman Air? From what I understand, Oman Air does and always has run at a loss. To be honest, I’m really not surprised. Their product is outstanding in terms of hardware, the quality of the food and the friendliness of their crews. Basically they offer a First Class product at Business Class prices. Would I fly them again? Certainly! I just hope they will last long enough at Zürich for me to try them again.