China Airlines, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Singapore to Taipei

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INTRODUCTION

I spend 22 hours in Singapore, which just gives me enough time to have a rest, get some food and have a shower. And now I’m off again. This is one of those slight detours I mentioned previously… The reason why I’m taking it, or rather, one of the reasons I’m taking it, is that I’ve been wanting to try China Airlines for some time now and it’s also been a while since I logged a new airline. As I write that, I can literally just see my friend, the wiry R. doing an exaggerated eye roll.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

In Singapore, I’m staying at the Sofitel City Centre, which is on the MRT line that goes to Changi. It’s twelve stops from the hotel to where the line branches off for the airport. The journey from the Sofitel to the airport takes me close to an hour to complete.

My first stop of course, is at the MRT service desk, where I return my travel card and have the depot refunded in cash.

CHECK-IN

China Airlines checks in at Terminal 3 in Changi and their counters are located on row 11, right in front of the escalators that bring you up to the departures hall from the station.

I’ve already checked in online, but seeing as I’ll still have to go to a counter to pick up my boarding passes, I figure I might as well drop off my carry-on suitcase so at least I won’t be carting that around with me.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE

China Airlines is one of only four carriers to use the DNATA lounge in Terminal 3. In all honesty, it’s not a very pleasant place. That last time I visited was with the tall, blond M. and it hasn’t improved much since. It’s also very hot inside. So I leave the lounge after only spending about ten minutes there and head one floor down to the food court for a bowl of noodles.

The views downstairs are much better too, as the windows in the lounge are covered in dots. What kind of cruel soul does that…?

BOARDING

The flight is late arriving from Taipei, which is why boarding is delayed by about thirty minutes. In Singapore, the security check takes place at the gate. In other words, there is no centralised security checkpoint. This can be a bit of a nuisance at times, but seeing as the flight is delayed, most passengers are already in the holding area by the time I reach the gate.

Oh yes, and there are no loos in the holding area. So think twice before you enter… The first boarding call is for passengers in Business Class and passengers with children and other disabilities. There’s a separate air bridge for Business Class passengers leading to the L1 door. Economy Class passengers use the L2 door.

CABIN

As it happens, I’m the first to enter the aircraft, so I take the opportunity to take a few photos before the masses arrive. Initially, I’m on 1A and there’s another person sitting on 1B. But the seat pair on the other side of the aircraft is still empty, so once we’re airborne, I pack up my things and shift to seat 1K, which is also a window seat but has nobody sitting on the aisle seat. So now I can really spread out!

The Airbus A 330 is one of my favourite aircraft, because I think it’s just so elegant to look at. This example though, is clearly starting to show its age on the inside. The seats are in a 2 + 2 + 2 configuration and the inflight entertainment system seems almost prehistoric! The flight time is announced as four hours and ten minutes, so I think I’ll live…

There is one feature of the seat that’s quite irritating: the position of the armrest between the two seats is awkward. On the one hand, it’s uncomfortable to rest your arm on it. But also, more than once I accidentally hit one of the buttons to extend the seat into a bed or raise the footrest inadvertently.

CREW

There isn’t really very much I can say about the crew. Their English language skills appear to be much better than those of crews working for the airlines of mainland China. But other than that, interaction with the crew is limited.

SERVICE

The service begins on the ground with a welcome drink, served with a packet of nuts and Japanese crackers. To drink there is a choice of champagne, water or orange juice. Once that has been cleared away, the crew distribute cold, scented towels.

After take-off, thick slippers and the menus are distributed for those passengers who haven’t already ordered their food. I should perhaps explain that the China Airlines app is really good and allows you to pre-order the meals for all your flights, even if you do not have any special dietary requirements.

THE MEAL

As I already mentioned, the flight time is just slightly more than four hours. This means that in Business Class the first service consists of a drink and three small canapés. The main meal is served about ninety minutes out of Taipei.

The canapés are: duck, crab meat with apricot and bell pepper with tomato pesto.

Exactly two hours out of Taipei, the lights in the cabin are turned on to bright again and the smell of hot food comes wafting through the cabin.

The meal consists of:

Starter

Prawns with a ginger and mango salsa and salmon with crème fraiche and capers.

Main course

Herb crusted fillet of beef in a red wine sauce with mashed potatoes, zucchini and pumpkin.

Dessert

Bowl of fruit and a choice of either ice cream or a coffee and chocolate mousse cake.

I’m not really sure what exactly I was expecting from the meal service on China Airlines, but this is actually very tasty and much better than what I was expecting. The salmon and the prawns are not at all fishy, the beef is perfectly cooked for my taste and tender, and the mashed potato is divine and so creamy!

ARRIVAL

I finish the meal with another cup of black tea from the Sun Moon lake region of Taiwan and then close my eyes until it’s time to land.

Eventually, we arrive in Taipei at 18h50, with a delay of only five minutes. The last time I was in Taipei was exactly 11 years ago. Alas, the airport hasn’t really changed much during that time. It’s still an odd layout, old and gloomy and seriously unattractive. I now have nearly five hours to make my connecting flight.

Scandinavian Airlines, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Stockholm to Hong Kong

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TRANSIT IN STOCKHOLM
I just stepped off an Airbus A 321 of SWISS, arriving from Zürich. It’s just gone nine o’clock in the morning and I now have another six hours to make my connection to Hong Kong.

THE LOUNGE
There is no SAS or Star Alliance lounge in the non-Schengen sector of the F concourse, from where the flight to Hong Kong will be leaving. But SAS has a Business Class lounge and a dedicated lounge for Star Alliance Gold members in the Schengen area.

The Business Class lounge is nice, although it is quite small and tends to get very busy at times. Here too there’s a bit of a IKEA showroom/Starbucks café vibe going on. But given that this is the heartland of IKEA and I’m shameless enough to stereotype, I guess that’s fair enough.

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The food and drinks selection is somewhat limited though. But I’m guessing the lounge had been designed mainly to cater for short-haul traffic, seeing as the number of long-haul flights from Stockholm is fairly limited. But the wifi connection is good.

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BOARDING
One hour before departure the valiant M. has solved yet another series of mathematical somethings that only an engineer could find exciting, and so we head off for our departure gate. The queue at immigration is quite busy, especially seeing as the Thai Airways and Emirates flights are departing ahead of our flight to Hong Kong. But the line moves quickly.

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The non-Schengen area has closed gates, so when the flight starts boarding, that only means that passengers are invited to enter the holding area. But at least there are plenty of places to sit.

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THE CABIN
I must say, I rather like the new SAS Business Class cabin. The colours are admittedly a bit dark, but I think that only makes the cabin look more elegant. The seats are in a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration and there are eight rows of seats, which means a total capacity of 32 seats in Business Class – all of which have direct access to the aisle.

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On the even numbered rows the window seats and the D aisle seats have a bit more privacy because they are not directly on the aisle.

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The seats are staggered, so that the window seats are slightly in front of the middle seats.

The seat is comfortable to sit and lounge in. In the bed position though, it feels a bit tight because there isn’t a lot of height clearance to move the legs.

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The touch screen is very responsive. Moreover, you can touch the screen from your seat without even having to bend forward.

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Apparently, there is complimentary wifi on board for Business Class passengers. But I try a couple of times throughout the flight, and it never works.

A duvet, pillow, seat cover and the amenity kit have already been placed at every seat.

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After take-off the crew also distribute slippers.

SERVICE
The crew on today’s flight is really excellent. They’re very friendly and their interaction with the passengers is relaxed and welcoming. It’s nice to experience a crew on a flight that actually looks happy to be there, for a change.

The service on the ground begins with the welcome drinks. There is a choice of orange juice, water and champagne. While we’re still on the ground, the crew also distribute the nicely designed menu for the flight and an unscented hot towel.

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After take-off, once the service begins, I notice that the crew always make sure to start the service at the same time on both aisles. This is really just a minor thing, but still I think it’s a nice gesture.

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THE MEAL
The meal service begins with a large bowl of mixed nuts and an aperitif. I decide to go with the Apple Must, which is some sort of thick apple juice and very tasty.

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After that, the table is set. For the first course there is a mixed salad, which the crew prepare in front of you. There is also a choice of two first courses. I go with the smoked cod served on a bed of pickled root vegetable julienne and a mustard, dill and brown sugar dressing. During the first course the crew make two bread rounds and actively encourage passengers to take as much bread as they like.

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For the main course there is a selection of four main dishes. Again, I go with the fish and have the baked cod with herb butter, parsley potatoes, cabbage with onions, oven dried tomatoes and a Hollandaise sauce.

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After the main course there is a cheese and dessert service, which is served from a trolley and really looks very nice. I have the rhubarb tart and strawberries, which are served with thick whipped cream. With that I have a Sauternes to drink.

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And then to conclude the meal, I have a coffee.

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All in all, I have to say I really enjoy the meal. I think the quality of the food is very good. What’s more, there’s copious amount of it and the presentation on the trolley is nice. After the meal service the crew set up a self-service bar by the side of the L2 galley. And here too there is a large selection of items to choose from, including crisps, biscuits, instant noodles and fresh fruit.

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THE SECOND SERVICE
Ninety minutes out of Hong Kong, one of the cabin crew comes to wake me up, it’s time for the second service. This consists of:

  • a selection of breads and butter,
  • yoghurt and müsli,
  • a selection of cold cuts, cheese and vegetables,
  • a small Stilton and broccoli pie,
  • coffee and juices.

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The timing of the meal is very good and shows that the breakfast service needn’t take for ever. Again, the quality of the meal is very good.

ARRIVAL
Normally you can expect arrival traffic into Hong Kong to be fairly busy, causing long delays for the approach. But today is different and we’re on the ground fairly quickly. I guess it probably has to do with the fact the SAS is one of the earliest arrivals from the European airlines in Hong Kong, with most of the others not arriving until the afternoon.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Dubai to Zürich

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INTRODUCTION
I check out of the Doubletree in Al Barsha at around 21h00 on Thursday evening and make my way to the airport for the flight back to Switzerland. The departure time is scheduled for 01h35. I really don’t like these flights that leave in the middle of the night. Especially when they’re as short as the one from Dubai to Zürich. By the time you step onto the plane you’re exhausted from a really long day and no matter what you do, it’s a fact that you’re not going to get enough sleep because the flight time is not nearly long enough…

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CHECK-IN
SWISS checks in at Terminal 1, together with all the other foreign carriers at DXB. With the exception of the low-cost carriers and Hajj flights that is, which operate out of Terminal 2.

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SWISS is located on row 5. There are only two counters available: one for Economy Class and another for First Class and HON Circle passengers.

AIRSIDE & LOUNGE
This is the first time I’m using the new D gates. The facility is rather nice, mainly because there are not as many people milling about as there normally are on the Emirates concourses.

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SWISS uses the Lufthansa lounge in Dubai. The lounge looks quite new and is designed in the typical Lufthansa corporate design. It’s a style that either you like or you don’t…

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The lounge is rather small and feels very cramped. So that eventually it gets too crowded for me and I decide to go for a walk through the terminal instead. Along the way, I come across these rather strange containers that I’ve never seen at any other airport. Apparently, if you have excess baggage, you can dump it in one of the containers for Dubai airport to dispose of. But I don’t get it. I mean, who would bother to make the schlep to get airside with an entire suitcase, only to dump it behind security? Is there something I’m missing here?

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THE CABIN
I’m seated on 4A, which is one of the so called throne seats. Rows 4 and 5 are the first two rows of Business Class, located between the First Class cabin and the L2 galley. With only two rows, this mini cabin feels quite intimate and a lot quieter than the larger Business Class section behind the L2 galley.

The first thing I notice about the seat is that it doesn’t seem to have aged all that well. The seat and the cabin are well maintained, that’s not what I mean. But rather, the whole cabin and seat are starting to look a bit old fashioned.

AMENITIES
As for the amenities, there’s a vanity kit at my seat, a pillow and a towel. There have been some improvements here. The vanity kit is in the shape of an aluminium tin that is Victorinox branded. It contains lip balm, a toothbrush and toothpaste, an eye mask, ear plugs and socks. There are additional cosmetics in the toilets.

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But perhaps the most positive development for me are the blankets. They’re really quite nice and thick. And so’s the pillow.

SERVICE
The crews are always SWISS’ weakness, I think. All of them have a rather disgruntled expression and not one of them seems to be overly enthusiastic about their job. There is no drinks service on the ground. Before we depart, the crew distribute flimsy scented hot towels. After that they pass through the cabin with the menus for the flight and the order forms for breakfast. I think this is a really good idea, because is significantly shortens the duration of the service in the morning, giving passengers more time to sleep.

As soon as we’re airborne, I extend my seat into a bed and go off to Noddy land.

SECOND MEAL SERVICE
I awake about seventy minutes out of Zürich, just as the meal service is about to start. So I quickly head for the toilets to change back into my normal clothes, ahead of the usual rush before landing.

The breakfast service consists of plain yoghurt, a bowl of fruit, two buns with butter and cherry jam, a glass of orange juice, a cup of coffee and the hot meal. The latter consists of a pancake filled with scrambled egg, a hash brown and some grilled veg and spinach. The bread is really good. But the egg/pancake thing has this very strange eggy flavour with a hind of plastic. It’s really not very good.

After the meal, I ask for a second cup of coffee, which one of the younger flight attendants brings me. I say ‘thank you’ but all I get in return is ‘I’m going to have to come back to collect that now…’. Was it something I said…?

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ARRIVAL & ARRIVALS LOUNGE
Eventually we land just slightly ahead of schedule. It’s nice to be home again after two weeks. It’s also nice to be back in cooler temperatures again. Our flight ends at the E pier, from where you need to catch the underground metro to get to the main terminal area. But we’re only the second arrival of the day. So the train is not too crowded and immigration is swift.

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As soon as I collect my bags from the belt, I head out through customs and then one floor up, which is where the SWISS arrivals lounge is located. Luckily enough a shower room is available for me to freshen up before I head into the office. The arrivals lounge is nice and convenient. It’s also surprisingly empty and quiet this morning.

CONCLUSION
All in all, this wasn’t a bad flight with SWISS. I don’t think I’ll ever be fan but they got me home in one piece. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to travel with them. I think when I next fly to Dubai Emirates will be my first choice. Simply because Dubai is their hub and they therefore have the superior product on the ground. In addition, I also think Emirates provide the better on board experience. At least their crew aren’t so grumpy all the time.

Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300 Luxembourg via Zürich to Dubai

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INTRODUCTION
Today I’m on my way from Luxembourg to Dubai. As there are currently no direct flights between the two cities, I have a choice of connecting flights with either BA, KL, AF, LH, TK or LX. I’ve decided to fly SWISS this time, for the simple reason that their flight already arrives in Dubai at 20h45. Which is good, because from Dubai I’ll still have to travel all the way to Al Ain, where I’ll be giving a course starting early the next day. Al Ain is about ninety minutes away from Dubai by car.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Late in 2017 Luxembourg introduced a tram to the city. Right now it only runs along a short stretch of about 5km on the Kirchberg plateau. But this year the line will be opened up all the way into the city, and within three years it should also run all the way to the airport. Until then, to get to the airport by public transport I first have to get the tram to LUXEXPO, and then from there transfer onto the bus line 16. The journey from the Kirchberg to the airport takes no more than 20 minutes to complete.

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CHECK-IN & SECURITY
I’ve already checked in on the SWISS app. I’m on 1A on the first leg and then on 4A on the second leg to Dubai. Security is quite busy this morning and the process in not really that well organised either. In any case, by the time I’m through security and take a seat by the windows overlooking the ramp, it’s just gone 09h15. One hour before boarding. Roughly around the same time I receive an text message from SWISS informing me that the flight to Zürich will be delayed by thirty minutes due to the late arrival of the aircraft in Zürich, coming from Paris.

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This all rather unfortunate of course, because even if the flight were on time, I only have 45 minutes to make the connection in Zürich. So this ought to be interesting… A bit later on an announcement is made that boarding for the flight is expected to start at around 11h10, with a delay of about forty minutes. I approach the gate agent and ask her about my connection, to which she answers that the information they received from Zürich is that all connections are guaranteed.

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Eventually we push back from the gate at 11h30, with a delay of just over one hour. The flight time is announced as forty minutes, which means we’ll be arriving in Zürich at 12h10, fifteen minutes before my scheduled departure time to Dubai.

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THE CABIN
This is my first time on SWISS’s Bombardier CS300. Which isn’t that much of a big deal, given that the cabin is identical to that of the shorter CS100. To speed up the turnaround, they obviously didn’t bother to clean the aircraft, which probably explains why there are chunks of apple (I think) on the floor and pieces of red cabbage stuck in the seat.

THE CREW
There are three crew on this flight. And I really must say they’re rather useless. At least the two males up front are. There’s also a female working the rear cabin, but I only notice her towards the end of the flight when she briefly visits the forward galley. But yeah, the other two? Totally vapid. The maître de apparently thinks it’s the height of sophistication to just nod at everyone and give them a curt ‘monsieur’, he doesn’t look you in the eye when he talks to you, smiling is apparently not part of his contract of employment and he quite obviously really couldn’t give a shit.

The other one is just a walking, talking cliché of a male flight attendant. Totally clueless and obviously far more invested in what’s happening on his mobile phone than in doing his job well.

THE MEAL
The meal service consists of three small ramekins, which is the standard on this flight. One is filled with a rice and vegetable salad and topped with bacon/duck/something unidentifiable.

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The second is fish mousse (I think, but I’m not sure).

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And the third one is the dessert – a tasty sweet white chocolate thing.

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No chocolates are served on this flight.

ARRIVAL
By the time we reach Zürich, we miraculously managed to increase our delay. We’re now running seventy minutes behind schedule. The maître de comes on the loudspeaker and advises passengers that those continuing to Montreal and New York will have a direct connection bus. He then gives a whole list of destinations, flight numbers and gates. But he doesn’t mention the Dubai flight once. When I ask him, he tells me that, strangely, he has not received any information about this flight. Which, in hindsight, is just a blatant lie.

Eventually we touch down at 12h20. As we taxi in I switch on my mobile to find a message from SWISS informing me that I’ve been rebooked on the Emirates flight in the afternoon. As if to add insult to injury, we’re parked on a remote stand. And once we come to a stop, it takes another five minutes for the stairs and busses to arrive.

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So instead of heading directly for the E gates, I exit through arrivals for Terminal A and then head two floors up and over to Terminal B for the Emirates check-in. The check-in agent prints my boarding pass and then sends me over to the Emirates counter to book the chauffeur service to take me from Dubai to Al Ain, which is more convenient than a taxi.

PROLOGUE WITH EMIRATES
I won’t bore you with yet another Emirates trip report. However, I’m glad to report that since my last journey with them, Emirates has finally changed the menu. So here it goes:

For a pre-meal drink I have a virgin cucumber and lime gimlet, which is very refreshing. The drink is served with a small dish of nuts.

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For the main course I have the warm smoked salmon, which is served with fava beans. The salmon is a bit dry, but otherwise quite good. I don’t touch the beans though because I’m allergic to them. The starter is served on a tray that also includes a small salad and bread.

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For the main course I go with the chicken cordon bleu, which is served with pizokel and vegetables. Pizokel is a very Swiss speciality from canton Graubünden. It’s basically Switzerland’s answer to the German Spätzle. This dish is quite good. What I like in particular is that the food is still hot, and not just warm, when it is served.

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And then for dessert I go with the chocolate mousse on a dark chocolate ganache and raspberry compote. Dessert is something Emirates does really well I think, and this one is no exception. It’s obscenely rich, with a dense texture that just melts in your mouth.

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CONCLUSION
Eventually, I arrive in Al Ain at 01h30 in the morning. I’m exhausted! Delays happen, and I can hardly fault SWISS for that. Also, they did proactively rebook me onto the very next departure to Dubai. So that’s something. Even so, I do feel that the delay was not handled very well. I got the distinct impression that the staff at the frontline – the handling agent in Luxembourg and the cabin crew – was not properly trained in dealing with such an irregularity. I think next time I’ll just book Emirates to begin with and save myself the agro…

Garuda Indonesia, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Melbourne to Jakarta

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INTRODUCTION
I’ve really enjoyed this holiday. I had a great time and I think Australia is just a brilliant visit. It has so much to offer and the people are really friendly. Just as long as you can ignore the fact that many of the world’s most dangerous animals live here…

I spend that last two days of my trip in St. Kilda, which is a suburb of Melbourne. I rather like the place. Parts of it are quite run down and overall it comes across as the Australian interpretation of the British seaside resort.

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Oh yeah, and the weather was just brilliant!

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
My flight will be departing at 07h45, which is too early for me to catch the Skybus. The first service from St. Kilda doesn’t depart until 06h30, which is too late. So it’ll have to be a taxi this time, which will set you back about AUD80. I think this is rather steep for a journey of not even thirty minutes. But then again, I find that generally speaking the cost of living is quite expensive in Australia.

CHECK-IN
Garuda checks in on row F of the international terminal. There are two separate queues for Business Class and SkyPriority passengers.

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AIRSIDE/LOUNGE
In any case, passengers travelling in Garuda Business Class are entitled to use the priority lane for security. But that is hardly an issue this morning, given that the international terminal is really quiet.

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Once I’m airside, I’m hoping to find a shop that sells Tim Tams, which are, in my view, Australia’s best contribution to the world. Tim Tams are these chocolate covered biscuits that taste absolutely divine. Just a piece of advice though: if you’re thinking of taking some of these delectable goodies home with you from your trip to Oz, get them at Woolworths in the city, where a packet will cost you around AUD3.80. If you buy them at the airport, it’ll cost you AUD6.80 for one packet of AUD5.- if you’re getting four packets.

They call it a bargain, I call it a rip off!

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Garuda uses the Qantas Business Class lounge in Melbourne, which I already covered in a previous trip report pretty much a year ago when I flew Qatar Airways from Melbourne to Doha and then on to Frankfurt.

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BOARDING
Apparently there was a delay on the inbound flight from Denpasar, so instead of 07h15, eventually boarding starts at 07h45. As a result, we depart thirty minutes late. However, the flight time is announced to be slightly over six hours, which is significantly less than the scheduled flight time, which is given as seven hours and five minutes.

There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers.

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CABIN
Garuda operates the A 330-300 in two different cabin configurations. Version 1 has 215 seats in Economy and 42 seats in Business Class, while version 2 has 239 seats in Economy and only 24 in Business Class.

The Business Class seat in the version 1 configuration is similar to the one Air France has on some of its aircraft. The width is 20.8 inches, and the pitch is 60 inches. The seat is comfortable enough. Of course, it’s not as private at the resvers herring bone configuration, but given that this is a day flight of only six hourse, I think it’s perfectly fine. The seats are in a traditional 2 + 2 + 2 configuration.

One draw back though, is that there is next to no storage space on this seat. But at least the seat next to me stays empty on today’s flight, so I can park my things there.

And just one final rant: the armrest in the middle, so between my seat and the neighbouring one, is higher up than the one on the window side, which is just feels awkward.

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CREW & SERIVCE
But despite the seat, a good crew can go a long way to make up for all sorts of short comings. And this is where Garuda really shines, I think. No sooner have I taken my seat that a crew member approaches me, welcomes me by my name and takes my jacket to hang in the closet. She also brings me a cold, scented towel and a glass of orange juice.

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AMENITIES
There is a pillow and a blanket already at my seat. In addition, there are two English language newspapers, the amenity kit, the menus and a bottle of still water at the seat.

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The amenity kit includes slippers.

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THE MEAL
The breakfast service begins with another glass of orange juice and a bowl of cashew nuts.

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Then the tray arrives with the fruit, yoghurt and the pastries. I really like the presentation of the meal and the tray. The only things that is perhaps not so nice is that the yoghurt is still in its original plastic container.

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Once I finish with the fruit, the plate is removed and I am brought a new set of cutlery for the main course. I’ve decided to go with the Western breakfast, which includes scrambled eggs that are freshly prepared on board, a veal sausage, mushrooms, tomato, potatoes and the Australian interpretation of baked beans.

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The meal is good. Moreover, the portions are quite decent. The meal concludes with the coffee. And after that, I think I need to nap. It was an early start this morning.

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SECOND (and THIRD) SERVICE
About two hours later I wake up again feeling hungry, so I order the noodle soup from the snack menu.

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What I don’t realise, is that there is actually a second service on this flight, which is served about 90 minutes out of Jakarta. I go with the selection of satay, which tastes really good.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we start our descent. But the weather in the Jakarta is quite bad. And so we spend quite a while doing circuits in fairly rough conditions before eventually we are cleared for the approach. We land at 10h40, slightly behind schedule.

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As we taxi in, we pass quite a few derelict aircraft is varying stages of repair or decay. A Boeing 747 that is being scrapped very nearly breaks my little heart. How can people do this…?

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TRANSIT
The new terminal is a vast improvement over thew old one. I kind of get the feeling though, that’s it’s not entirely finished yet, and there are closed off areas everywhere.

If you’re travelling on an EU passport, you’re probably going to need a vist for Indonesia. This can be obtained on arrival. You have to have USD35 in cash on you. Fortunately, the terminal is very quiet when I arrive, and so the whole procedure is easy and painless.

To be continued…

SriLankan, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Kuala Lumpur to Colombo

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Date: 14. April 2017.
Departure: 15:05.
Arrival: 16:10.
Flight time: 3 hours 15 minutes.
Seat: 6K.

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INTRODUCTION
At last, a new airline! This will be my first trip on SriLankan and my first visit to Sri Lanka. I must say, every since K., herself Sri Lankan, engineer extraordinaire and purveyor of incredibly spicy food started working for us as an intern, I’ve been rather curious about Sri Lanka. This will only be a short visit. But I can always go back if I like it.

To get from KL to Colombo I have two options for a nonstop flight, either Malaysia Airlines or SriLankan. Given that both are Oneworld members and the fact that I’ve already sampled Malaysian a couple of times – and wasn’t too impressed – of course my choice would be SriLankan.

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CHECK-IN
Check-in for the flight opens three hours before departure and SriLankan has its counters on row M. There is a dedicated Business Class counter and the young lady behind the desk makes quick work of checking me in. She also prints an invitation for the Plaza Lounge in the satellite terminal.

The journey to the C gates in the satellite is via an automated train that runs partly underground and partly above ground. Alas, the windows are all plastered with stickers, so there’s no photo taking on the journey.

LOUNGE
As a Silver member in BA’s Executive Club I have a number of options for the lounge. I’ve been in the Malaysia lounge and wasn’t too impressed with that either. So in the interest of investigative blogging, or something, I decide to try the Plaza Lounge as envisaged by SriLankan.

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Man, what a big mistake! They’re actually queuing outside the lounge entrance for access. I’m sure there are more people inside this lounge than there are outside right now. This seems to be the lounge for just about all carriers operating out of KL’s satellite that don’t have their own lounge. Them and all the credit card companies that give you lounge access if you’re a respectable shopaholic aka good customer. I think it’s time to leave.

Okay, time to head across to the Cathay Pacific lounge which is a) much nicer, b) empty, and c) quiet. The food options are better too. I’m not sure there are toilets or showers in this lounge though.

BOARDING
If you’re departing on a flight from KL, the boarding time for your flight will be one hour prior to departure. That’s because the security check takes place at the gate. It also means that usually it’s better not to arrive too early so you won’t have queue or wait too long inside the lounge. Unless of course, you’re the kind of weirdo who’ll arrive early on purpose to take a few shots of the aircraft you’ll be travelling on…

And thank God I did arrive early! Because there’s been an aircraft change. And what a nice one it is too. The scheduled Airbus A 321 narrowbody has been replaced by an Airbus A 330-300 in the new seating configuration. Oh ye might airline gods, how can I ever thank you enough? I shall have to offer my first born as a sacrifice to thank you.

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CABIN & SEAT
This is what I call the Cathay Pacific seat, which is basically a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration in a reverse herringbone layout. There’s not quite as much storage space as on the Cathay Pacific seat but other than that, this is still one of my favourite airplane seats out there. My only complaint is that SriLankan have gone for faux leather seat covers and within just a few minutes of sitting down, I’m already starting to feel sticky.

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Earphones, two pillows and a blanket have already been placed at every seat. Originally I’m on 3G, which is an aisle seat. However, as soon as boarding is completed it becomes apparent that the Business Class cabin is going to be everything but full. So I ask the flight attendant if it’s okay for me to change seats and then move back to the window on 6K.

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CREW & SERVICE
Ah yes, the flight attendants. Bugger me! The crew on this flight is made up of a group of young men and women. And what a good-looking bunch they are too. The men all look rather dapper in their dark blue suits and the ladies are wearing these very elegant looking dresses in a peacock design. And they look gorgeous!

But apart form all that, the crew all seem really friendly and give the impression of being rather happy in their jobs and well, happy to see you as a customer. Which is always nice.

While we’re still on the ground, a welcome drink is served along with a scented hot towel that is so hot I’m sure my epidermis is about to dissolve… Other than that, I notice when the crew place the glasses down they all make sure the airline’s logo on the glass is visible. This is something they continue to pay attention to throughout the flight. Their interaction with the passengers is charming and easy going.

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MEAL SERVICE
Before departure a menu is handed out and then a flight attendant comes by to take my order. For an aperitif I have a glass of Harvey Bristol cream, which is served with a dish of warm cashews.

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For the starter there is a salad of mixed shredded vegetables with sesame seeds, presented with a wasabi and ginger sauce, which is quite tasty and light.

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For the main course I go with the vegetarian option – vegetable biryani with vegetable makhani and a potato and cauliflower masala with raita. This is really very tasty, and I think K. would approve, even if this is nowhere as spicy as the stuff she normally makes.

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The salad is served with a selection from the breadbasket, which is my queue to overdose on the garlic bread again. For dessert there is a fresh fruit, which is the vile and healthy option, and a bread and butter pudding with almond flakes, the sinfully delectable option, which is served with tea.

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Obviously, this being Ceylon I’m heading for, I decide to go with a Ceylon Early Grey tea to finish off.

ARRIVAL
Eventually we start our descent into Colombo after a flying time of about three hours. There are quite a few CBs around, so it’s quite a bumpy ride. I’m struck by just how green and lush Sri Lanka looks from above.

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The terminal is fairly busy when we arrive. I make my way to immigration where the friendly immigration officer informs me that I need a visa for Sri Lanka which I should have obtained before arrival. Eventually though, we’re able to resolve the whole thing, I pay the fee and I’m in the country. Something tells me I’m going to like it here…

CONCLUSION
So what about SriLankan? Well, if I’m perfectly honest I have to say I really like them very much. The seat and cabin were in mint condition and this really is a much nicer way to travel on a three hours sector than on some narrowbody. The food was good too. But most of all, I think what really impressed me were their cabin crew who were really quite charming in the way they went about their business. I wouldn’t mind flying SriLankan again actually.

Oman Air, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Muscat to Kuala Lumpur

Oman Air Logo

Date: 13. April 2017.
Departure: 10:10.
Arrival: 20:40.
Flight time: 6 hours 30 minutes.
Seat: 10A, window.

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TRANSFER IN MUSCAT
Upon entering the terminal building in Muscat, transit passengers turn left and then head up one floor to transit security and the airside area beyond. As in Zürich, the terminal seems very quiet and is certainly calmer than the last time I was here in 2016.

LOUNGE
The Oman Air lounge is operated by the same company that runs the Chedi hotel in Muscat and it shows clearly in the design of the lounge. The gentleman at reception informs me that boarding for my flight to Kuala Lumpur will be from inside the lounge.

The lounge is also very quiet, with only a few seats here and there occupied. The lounge has all the amenities one might expect, including toilets and showers on the premises and a spa. Complimentary wifi is also available. Lounge access comes with a 15 minutes complimentary massage.

In theory, the lounge has some excellent views of the apron, but the curtains obstruct the view and I’m not about the make a spectacle of myself by lifting them to take pictures…

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The buffet is excellent!

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BOARDING
At 08h20 I go to the boarding desk inside the lounge and the gate agent directs me down the stairs to ground level, where a small mini bus is waiting to take the KL bound passengers to their aircraft.

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Eventually pull up next to an Airbus A 330-300, together with the two regular busses carrying the Economy Class passengers. And then we wait. And we wait. And then we wait some more. Eventually, when our bus does start moving again, it’s to take us back to arrivals. I ask the bus driver what’s up but he’s none the wiser. So I step inside the arrivals hall and ask one of the Oman Air agents there about the status of my flight. To which he tells me to go back upstairs, through security again and then to gate 20 for further information.

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So I do that. At gate 20 nobody really seems to want to be responsible. So I ask some random guy in an Oman Air uniform what’s going on and he tells me that our flight has gone tech. I should return to the lounge and await further instructions. Brilliant! Oh yes, and I’m given the rather funky and very old school Egypt Air transit card. Not quite sure what to do with this though…

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So I return to the lounge and figure I might as well have breakfast. After about thirty minutes in the lounge, the flight to KL is called again and so I head downstairs once more to the waiting bus. This time everything seems to go without a hitch. Eventually we take off form Muscat with a delay of 75 minutes at 10h05.

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CABIN & SEAT
The seat on this aircraft is the same as the one on the Boeing B 787-9. Immediately after take-off I change into my running shorts and lie down to have a nap. The seat really is very comfortable and provides ample space, even for a larger person. I am 184cm tall and could stretch out fully. The seat is also wide enough for me not to hit anything or knock something over when I turn.

Every seat is equipped with USB ports and an AC power port.

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CREW & SERVICE
The crew on this flight are much better than the previous lot. You can tell by the ease with which they interact with the passengers and the efficiency with which they complete their pre-departure tasks. To be fair, they’re probably also in a good mood because there are only eight passengers in the Business Class cabin on this flight.

VANITY KIT
The vanity kit is identical to the one I received on the previous flight from Zürich. I think I forgot to mention in my previous post that the kit for men also includes a one-way shaver with shaving cream.

IFE
Once I wake up again, I make a closer inspection of the inflight entertainment system. The selection is sufficiently large, but even so, I think there isn’t a single thing I would actually want to watch. Then again, perhaps there are people who actually do enjoy watching the untalented Mr Gosling trying to make his mind up whether he wants to talk or sing his way through an entire movie…

FIRST SERVICE
On this flight the service makes a lot more sense than it did on the previous flight and follows the same sequence as my morning flight from Dubai to Amsterdam the week before. Just after departure a small breakfast is served, which I pass on, and then the proper of full meal service takes place before landing in KL.

SECOND SERVICE
About two and a half hours out of KL passengers are starting to stir from sleep so it’s time for the crew to begin their main service. As on the previous flight, there are four options for the first course, main course and dessert. I have the following:

  • amuse bouche
  • cream of asparagus soup
  • seasonal salad with vinaigrette
  • linguine pasta with a creamy pesto and parmesan shavings
  • ice cream selection with pistachios and chocolate sauce for dessert
  • selection of breads served with butter or balsamic vinegar

The soup is served with a cheese stick and lemon, which goes surprisingly well with the fine taste. There’s also something spicy in there to give the soup a bit of a zing.

The main course is tasty, although the pasta is definitely overcooked, which is normally the case when you have pasta on a plane. My favourite though is definitely the dessert.

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ARRIVAL
We land in KL at around 20h40, more than an hour later than our scheduled arrival time. The approach is pretty spectacular. There are storm cells in the vicinity of the airport and with the darkness around us, the bursts of lighting look pretty impressive!

CONCLUSION
Okay. On this flight Oman Air definitely managed to redeem themselves after last night’s rather unpleasant flight from Zürich to Muscat. The delay was not such a major issue for me and we were only a bit more than an hour late arriving in KL. However, I do think the staff on the ground could have handled the situation much better. No information was given at any time unless you explicitly asked for it, which is obviously not the way to do it in case of an irregularity. All in all, Oman Air is a nice little airline but they lack polish and professionalism in my opinion.

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:

  • Business Class – two counters.
  • Web check-in – one counter.
  • 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.

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.

CABIN & SEAT
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:

  • Business Class – 30 seats.
  • 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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SERVICE & 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.

VANITY KIT

  • Shaver with shaving cream.
  • Colgate toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Eye shades.
  • Earplugs.
  • A comb.
  • 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.
First course:
Arabic hot and cold mezze (labneh, olives, samosa and something red with a tasty, strong flavour of roasted bell peppers.
Main course:
Oriental beef curry with a spiced gravy and fragrant steamed rice.
Cheese:
A selection of cheese with pineapple chutney and poached pears.
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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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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Finnair, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Xi’an to Helsinki

FINNAIR Logo Blue

Date: 02 June 2016.
Departure: 10:35.
Arrival: 14:15.
Flight time: 8 hours and forty minutes.
Seat: 4L, window seat on the right side of the aircraft.

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INTRODUCTION
I wake up with a due sense of accomplishment, and as I slowly emerge into full consciousness I remember that yesterday I was able to strike another item from the bucket list: the terracotta warriors of Xi’an. So I guess I might as well go back home then…

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Hotel shuttle.
Journey time: Slightly over 30 minutes.
Cost: RMB500.

The flight to Helsinki will be departing at 10h30 this morning. I have ordered a car to take me back to the airport at 08h30, which means I have enough time for a leisurely breakfast before I head out to the airport.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 3, row G.
Facilities: Online check-in is available, there is also a Finnair app.
Counters: There are eight dedicated counters open for this flight. One is for baggage drop off, two are for groups, three are for Economy Class and two are for Business Class passengers. As it turns out, there are only nine passengers in Business Class this morning, so the two counters do seem kind of over the top.

I have already check-in online. However, I can only download the boarding pass for my onward connection in Helsinki to add to Passbook. Electronic boarding passes are not possible departing from Xi’an, so I have to collect the boarding pass at the counter.

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From check-in I head through immigration and then passport control. There are three counters open, two for passengers and one for staff and crew. Behind immigration is security and there is a separate lane for priority passengers.

I am always amazed at how creative they are in China when it comes to inventing jobs out of nothing and for no reason in particular (other than giving somebody something to do) – mostly in the checking and stamping industry. As I go through security for example, there is one young lady whose job it is to stamp my boarding pass – twice – just because…

LOUNGE
Location:
As you exit the duty free shop behind security, turn right.
Type of Lounge:
General lounge operated by the airport authority.
Facilities:
Three computers (inop at the time of my visit). There are no toilets in the lounge.
Catering: Catering is fairly limited, there are a few strange cold dishes – things like little bowls of cherry tomatoes – and instant noodles if you are after something warm.
Internet:
Wifi is available in the lounge, the code is provided at reception.

The international terminal looks very new and modern. It is also very empty, given that the number of international departures from Xi’an is rather limited.

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Probably the best way to describe the lounge is to say that it is very Chinese, for a loss of a better description. There are fake plants all over the place and the peacock figurine that doubles as a holder for wine glasses is just class! But the views of the runway are good.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate lane for priority passengers and they are invited to board the aircraft first.

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The gate area does not look too crowded, so I guess it is going to be a fairly light load on the way to Helsinki. And indeed, fifteen minutes ahead of our departure time the purser already announces that boarding has been completed. There are only another eight passengers in the Business Class cabin with me.

I am the first passenger to head down the airbridge towards the aircraft. There is a female crew member standing outside the aircraft. She offers me a newspaper from the trolley near the door, hands me a bottle of still water and then welcomes me aboard.

There is also another professional checker standing by the door. His job is obviously to put a tick on my boarding pass – you know, the one with the two stamps from security – just because…

CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 + 1 on uneven numbered rows, 1 + 2 + 1 on even numbered rows.
Seat: Finnair operates the Airbus A330-300 in three different seating configurations. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing, at the time of booking, which configuration you are going to get lumbered with. Fortunately for me, I am in an aircraft today with the ‘better configuration’ in a staggered seating like the one SWISS has installed in its Business Class on the Airbus A330-300. The individual ‘throne’ seats are all located on the port side of the aircraft on the even numbered rows. On the starboard side, there is a single seat on every row, although these do not offer quite as much storage space as the ‘thrones’. One thing you may want to consider is that of the single seats on the starboard side, those in even numbered rows are a bit more private, because they are slightly removed from the aisle. The seat is fully flat when extended into a bed. In this configuration there are 45 seats in Business Class and 218 seats in Economy Class.
Pitch: 60 inches.
Width: 21 inches.
Facilities: AC power outlet. The Airbus A330-300 does not have wifi.
Audio and Video: AVOD.

This seat is only comfortable in the fully upright position. Other than that, it really is a nightmare, honestly. At 184cm, I consider myself pretty much average in size. Even so, I have trouble extending the seat into a bed without crushing my kneecaps in the process. It can be done, but as the seat unfolds you gradually need to move up to keep your legs out of the way. The alternative of course, is to stand up to extend the seat.

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The width is also a bit of a problem with this seat. Lying on your back feels pretty tight. As I lie there on my back, doing my best impression of a sardine, one of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories comes to mind – The Fall of the House of Usher – and I am compelled to sit up temporarily to avoid what I can only describe as a claustrophobia induced panic attack. Okay, very well, perhaps I am exaggerating a bit, but I think you get my point now. It is very tight.

But at least the loos all have a window…

SERVICE
There is only a pillow on the seat when I arrive. Blankets are in the overhead bins and the vanity kit, earphones, slippers and menus are distributed once boarding has been completed.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Blueberry juice.
Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Sparkling water.
Choice:
There are two choices for the starter and three choices for the main dish.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Early lunch.
Meal:

  • Amuse bouche – salmon canapé and black olive tapenade canapé.
  • Starter – orange flavoured pumpkin soup with croûtons.
  • Main course – salmon with shrimps in seafood juice, purée of peas, baked zucchini and asparagus.
  • Cheese – Emmentaler and Camembert with cashews and crackers.
  • Dessert – Black forest gâteau.
  • Tea or coffee.
  • Selection from the breadbasket.

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The service sequence on this leg is slightly different to that on the outbound flight to Beijing. First the amuse bouche is served with the aperitif. Then the first course and salad are served together on a tray. The tray is subsequently removed and the hot meal is served individually with a new set of cutlery. After the main dish come the cheese course and then dessert.

 

All in all the meal is not bad. The soup is good but a bit too sweet. It might have been good to have some salt and pepper, but neither is on the tray.

The salad is nice and big, much better than that pathetic puny excuse for a salad Lufthansa tends to serve up in Business Class these days. However, as far as the dressing is concerned, quite frankly I would not bother. It does not taste particularly good.

The main dish is okay, although the zucchini filled with a minced meat sauce is a bit strange and does not really go well with the rest of the dish.

With the cheese you obviously cannot go wrong. Probably the worst part of the meal is the Black forest cake, which is absolutely atrocious and tastes of something that should not be food.

The service is swift and efficient. By the time everything has been cleared away, we are just over six hours out of Helsinki.

Our routing today sees us skirting the north-easterly fringe of the Gobi desert. It is a very poetic landscape below. The land is barren and flat. Occasionally there is a road or railway line that runs in a straight line towards the horizon. And there are isolated clouds wafting across the scene, casting fluffy shadows across the sand.

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Eventually though, I start to get tired. I twist and turn until eventually I find a position which is not too uncomfortable and then I escape to the Land of Noddy for a couple of hours.

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When I awake, I am feeling a bit hungry again. It has been at least three hours since the last feed! I head back to the galley and ask the cabin crew about those sandwiches they mention in the menu. She tells me she will put something together for me and instructs me to return to my set. A short while later, one of the crew appears at my seat with a Diet Coke, finger sandwiches, roasted almonds and two of those rather tasty chocolates they had at the lounge in Helsinki.

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THE SECOND SERVICE
Hot towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel.
Choice:
There is one Asian and one Western choice.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Extended snack.
Meal:

  • Jacket potato with pieces of beef.
  • Served with steamed vegetables and another zucchini filled with minced beef.
  • Selection from the breadbasket.
  • Strawberry cheesecake.
  • Tea or coffee.

The second service begins about 90 minutes out of Helsinki. There is a choice between an Asian seafood noodle soup of the potato, which I have.

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Generally speaking, one of the things I already noticed on the outbound flight is that Finnair do not seem to provide any special dishes to cater specifically to its Asian clientele. Also, if you are not an out and proud carnivore, you may want to consider ordering a special meal. Despite there being options on the menu, there is not a single dish without meat.

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Once the meal is over, I start collecting my stuff in preparation for the landing in Helsinki.

ARRIVAL
Thirty minutes before arrival our aircraft dips its nose and we start our descent. The captain comes on the loudspeaker. He sounds very surprised as he informs us that the temperature on the ground in Helsinki is around 27 degrees Celsius when we arrive.

Luckily, ours is one of the first long-haul arrivals this afternoon. So immigration and transfer security should not be too bad. However, as the aircraft turns off the runway behind us, I can see four wide-bodies lined up on the approach for arrival behind us.

And the icing on the cake? Our aircraft parks on a remote stand and we are obliged to disembark via the stairs. I just love it when that happens, because it gives you a sense of the sheer size of the aircraft you have just travelled on. I also think the Airbus A 330-300 is rather a handsome looking bird. Just look at the size of those engines!

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Qantas, Business Class – A 330-300: Brisbane to Hong Kong

Folie1 INTRODUCTION
It is time to start the long journey home. Today I shall be travelling from Brisbane to Hong Kong, where I will spend two nights before I continue to Europe.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Taxi.
Journey time: 25 minutes.
Fare: AUD40.- My flight this morning will be leaving at 10:50. So I have enough time to have one last tasty breakfast at the hotel. My taxi arrives to pick me up at 08:30. IMG_5839 IMG_5840 IMG_5841 IMG_5842 CHECK-IN
Location:
Rows 9 and 10.
Counters: There are four dedicated Business Class counters, all of which are staffed. There is a bit of queue for check-in at the Business Class counters this morning. This is mainly due to a large family of Chinese travelling with a hideous amount of luggage. There are boxes, suitcases and trolleys all over the place. And kids. Everywhere. What is more, I suspect that of the eight people standing there, only about half are in fact flying. The others are just there to add to the general chaos. IMG_5844 IMG_5845 My suitcase is checked in to Hong Kong and labelled with a priority tag. The check-in agent prints my boarding pass and hands me an express card to get me through the fast track at security and immigration. I will also have to complete an embarkation card. From check-in I head for departures, which is clearly marked by a huge yellow arch. I pass through the arch and go down stairs, where the security check and immigration take place. IMG_5846 IMG_5847 IMG_5849 The Qantas lounge is located opposite gate 80. Currently the airport is undergoing reconstruction. But everything is clearly signposted.

LOUNGE
Location:
Airside, one floor up from the departure gates.
Type of Lounge:
Dedicated Qantas lounge.
Facilities:
A large selection of hot and hold dishes and drinks, work stations, toilets, showers
Internet:
– The lounge is fairly small and rather crowded when I arrive. Apart from my flight to Hong Kong, there is another A 330-300 heading for Singapore, a Boeing 747-400 bound for Los Angeles and there is also the Cathay Pacific flight which, presumably, also uses the Qantas lounge. The lounge offers some good views of arriving aircraft, which glide past the terminal before eventually touching down. IMG_5850 IMG_5851 IMG_5852 IMG_5853 The lounge has all the amenities one can expect. Moreover, I am somewhat surprised by the generous breakfast offerings in the lounge, which certainly put the SWISS Senator lounge in Zürich Airport to shame. IMG_5854 IMG_5855 IMG_5856 IMG_5857 BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Available and adhered to. Boarding for the flight starts about forty minutes before departure. There is a separate queue for Business Class passengers and status card holders. The first call is for families with children, followed by Business Class passengers, and then passengers sitting in the rear Economy Class cabin. IMG_5859 IMG_5860 IMG_5861 IMG_5863 IMG_5864

CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 + 2
Seat: The Qantas seat may not necessarily look very attractive, but it is very comfortable as a seat and bed. When fully extended, it is of the angled lie-flat type – although the angle is not uncomfortable. The hard back of the seat is very high, so once you extend the seat into a bed, you feel as though you are lying in a cocoon. It is very private for a Business Class seat. In addition, there is also a privacy screen on every pair of seats. However, I tried it out and I really must say it is mostly useless because the screen is simply too small. It is also superfluous because once you are in the lying position, you would have to lean up anyway to take a look at your neighbour. Apart from a pillow and blanket, Qantas also provides a thin mattress to place over the seat, and once the aircraft is airborne and the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the crew pass through the cabin asking passengers if they would like to have the mattress placed on the seat. Perhaps the seat’s biggest drawback is the complete lack of storage space for your personal belongings, which is inconvenient. There is a holder for magazines in the side of the back of the seat, but this is not even wide enough to place my tiny MacBookAir 11’ in.
Pitch: 60 inches.
Width: 21 inches.
Facilities: Reading lamp, magazine holder, electricity outlet.
Length as a bed:
Audio and Video: Touchscreen AVOD – there are about thirty films available to choose from. However, the selection is a bit odd. IMG_5865 IMG_5866 IMG_5868 IMG_5869 IMG_5875 IMG_5879 IMG_5889 IMG_5873 IMG_5876 SERVICE
The service on this flight is excellent and restores my faith in Business Class flying, following my really crap experience with Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane. The crew are all quite senior and very friendly and very professional. Before we depart, the vanity kits are distributed. A menu has already been placed at every seat before the passengers start boarding. IMG_5878 IMG_5877 IMG_5882 After take-off, the inflight service manager – ISM (M., please note the funky abbreviation, nearly as good as the POC…) introduces himself and the crew. He addresses every passenger by name as he distributes the landing cards for Hong Kong. IMG_5884 IMG_5886 IMG_5887 IMG_5888 IMG_5891

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Choice of orange juice, water or champagne. IMG_5874

Hot towel before the meal: Served while still on the ground. IMG_5880 Pre-meal drink: Ginger Ale, served with a packet of cashew nuts and pretzels. IMG_5892 IMG_5893

Choice: Three starters, four main courses, four desserts. IMG_5894

Type of meal: Lunch. IMG_5895 Meal:

  • Salad – Garden leaves with balsamico dressing.

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  • Starter – Blue cheese, walnuts, baby beans and tomato salad with pickled onions. The starter is excellent, it is very tasty and flavourful. The blue cheese goes really very well with the walnuts, which seem to be slightly caramelised and sweet.

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  • Main course – Roasted eggplant and silverbeet lasagne with cucumber, tomato and feta salad. The main course takes quite a while to arrive, in fact by the time I receive my dish, my neighbour has nearly already demolished his plate. But the flavours of the dish are really excellent. The combination of the hot vegetable lasagne with the cold cucumber, tomato and feta works really well. There is also a vinaigrette with the dish which works rather nicely.

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  • Dessert – Selection of cheese served with accompaniments and a glass of sweet wine. After the main course I have some cheese, there is a blue cheese and a Camembert. The cheese is served with a selection crackers, a date and some fog bread.

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  • Bread selection – A choice of sourdough or wholemeal bread.

The set up of the meal service is interesting in that there is no tray. Instead, the crew place a tablecloth and then a napkin with the cutlery rolled up in it a side plate for the bread and the side salad. The dressing for the salad in added by the cabin crew before serving, and there is a choice of two different dressings. With the meal I just have still water to drink. All in all this was a really good airplane meal. The tastes and combinations were interesting, especially the main course was unusual. I only have to complaints really, if I may. First of all, the service takes ages to begin after take off and when eventually it does, it takes a very long time to complete the whole service. The other point is the cutlery. Good heavens, I know it is Alessi design and all that, but who on earth picked that stuff for Qantas? The cutlery sits badly in the hand and apart from all that, it just looks ugly. I finish the meal with a cup of mint tea, which is served with a small Valrhona dark chocolate stick. IMG_5903 IMG_5904

After the meal I settle in for a nap and only awake three hours later as the second service begins. IMG_5899

SECOND SERVICE
The second service starts fifty minutes out of Hong Kong. It is simple but effective. I rather liked it. Basically there are three dishes to choose from. Each one is served in one of those boxes they normally use in Chinese take-aways. I know it may sound a bit strange, but I thought it was rather a good idea. And it is very tasty too. I have the Rigatoni Arrabiata with green olives, capers, broccoli and Parmesan. Delicious! IMG_5905 IMG_5906 ARRIVAL
By the time we reach Hong Kong, the sun is already setting. There is a lot of haze in the air today. Even so, it truly is a very beautiful approach and we descend over some of the outlying islands of Hong Kong. IMG_5908 IMG_5910 IMG_5912 IMG_5913 IMG_5919 GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Hong Kong Airport Express.
Departs from: Terminals 1 and 2.
Frequency: Every six minutes.
Journey time: 24 minutes to Central on Hong Kong Island, with intermediate stops in Tsing Yi and Kowloon.
Fare: HKD100.- To reach the city, I take the Hong Kong Airport Express to Central, from where I will continue my journey to the Hotel Indigo using the MTR. Note that the ticket machines do not accept credit cards. If you are out of cash, you will have to purchase your ticket at the counter, which normally has quite a queue. IMG_5920 IMG_5921 CONCLUSION
This was a very enjoyable flight with Qantas from Brisbane to Hong Kong. The crew were not even overly friendly. But they were competent and they did their job properly. The food was very tasty, with good sized portions too. I also very much liked the seat, at least from the comfort perspective. Now if only there were more storage space… This flight really was in stark contrast to my previous experience on Malaysia Airlines in Business Class on my way from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane.