Cape Air – Cessna 402C: Boston to Provincetown

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Date: 18. August 2016.
Departure: 19h35.
Arrival: 20h00.
Flight time: 25 minutes.
Seat: 3A, as we board we are given specific instructions to take the front seat for balance.

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INTRODUCTION
I spend a lovely day in Boston. In the morning I head for MIT in Cambridge to do a few laps in the pool of the Zesinger Center and then head back into town for some sightseeing and lunch. By 16h00 I am back at the Hostel and fit to drop. Time to move on.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Sliver Line Bus, route 1.
Journey time: Roughly 30 minutes depending on traffic.
Departs from: South Station.
Arrives: Arrival level of Terminal C.
Cost: USD 2.75 per person.

The Silver Line is probably the most convenient way to get to Logan airport using public transport. Travelling by underground from downtown to the airport requires a change of trains and another transfer to a bus which then connects the rail station to the airport terminal area.

There is always the possibility to take the water taxi to the airport, which will pick you up from different locations around town. But this may be cumbersome too if you are travelling with a lot of luggage and also requires a transfer to a shuttle but to take you from the wharf to the terminal area.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal C.
Facilities: Only airport check-in is available.
Counters: There are two counters.

By the time I reach the counter, it is 17h40. My flight to Provincetown will not be leaving until 20h11. More out of curiosity than anything else I ask the check-in agent if by any chance there might be an earlier flight available. She tells me the 18h27 still has seats available and rebooks me on to that flight straight away.

The check-in experience with Cape Air is interesting. It is the first time an airline has ever wanted to know my body weight for the pilot to properly calculate the aircraft’s weight and balance.

From check-in I head for security. I better get a move on because the flight should start boarding at 18h15.

BOARDING
There are five passengers on the 18h27 service to Provincetown. The flight is called and all passengers are invited to stand in queue. Once everybody has appeared, passengers are invited to head downstairs and wait to be picked up by a Cape Air ramp agent. We are also given clear instructions not to open the door by ourselves, as this will trip the alarm.

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After only a short wait a young lady opens the door from the outside and asks us ‘you guys all heading for P-Town’? All five of us nod and then she walks us across the apron.

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You may carry your luggage all the way to the aircraft’s door. But once there, you will have to hand over everything to the ramp agent because the aircraft’s cabin simply is not big enough to hold any luggage.

CABIN
Configuration:
1 + 1.
Seat: The seat is comfy enough. My only complaint is that the seat back has a fairly steep recline. Legroom is good though and probably better than what you get on some carriers on an aircraft the size of an A 320 or so.
Facilities: There is an air vent.

The cabin is fairly hot. It is still warm at this time of day. The pilot’s solution is simple and old fashioned: he just opens the window to let in some fresh air – although the term ‘fresh’ should probably be used liberally here: the queue for departure is huge and we are queuing behind eleven large jets. With the pilot’s window open, the jet blast is blowing straight into the cabin. Admittedly, I have a fetish for anything to do with airplanes, but I’m not so sure what the other passengers are thinking…

SERVICE
…is made impossible due to the size of the aircraft!

Eventually, we take off after waiting in line for about 45 minutes. The flight time is advised as 25 minutes. It is a nice flight across the water to Provincetown and the setting sun provides a very poetic atmosphere. I check the altimeter and see that we’re cruising at 1000 feet!

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ARRIVAL
All too soon we are turning onto the approach. We land and taxi past a line of light aircraft. It really is a matter of reference. Here in Provincetown the Cessna 402C is certainly the big guy on the ramp.

And that is when I spot the terminal, which is dinky. I really have no other way to describe it – so cute! The ramper opens the door and welcomes us to Cape Cod. We then step onto the patio and wait for the luggage to be off loaded and brought over to us.

As I step outside the terminal, one of the passengers from my flight is about the depart in a taxi and there does not seem to be another one waiting. But that’s okay. The driver asks me if I want to hop on, and off we go.

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The charge from the airport to the town centre is a flat charge of USD9.- per passenger.

Air Malta, Club Class – Airbus A 320: Malta to Zürich

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Date: 14. July 2016.
Departure: 14:35.
Arrival: 17:00.
Flight time: 2 hours 25 minutes.
Seat: 3A, window on the port side.

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INTRODUCTION
Our stay in Malta has been a very relaxing and enjoyable one. The weather has held up beautifully, with temperatures in the range of 35 to 40 degrees Celsius. To be honest though, I really do not think I handle the heat very well, and I am looking forward to returning home to Switzerland, where the temperature should be cooler.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Rented car.
Journey time: 20 minutes.
Cost: EUR160 for three whole days, including fuel.

We leave Valletta just after noon. The easiest way to get around Malta is by rented car. However, if you are staying in Valletta, finding a place to park can be a problem. There is a large underground parking just outside city gate, and parking your car there will cost you EUR5 for 24 hours.

CHECK-IN
Location:
The departures concourse is to the left of the terminal when you are looking at it with the car park behind you.
Facilities: Web check-in, mobile check-in or check-in at the airport.
Counters: Dedicated Air Malta counters. There are separate counters for Club Class passengers and for baggage drop.

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LOUNGE
Location:
As you come up the escalators from security, you first pass through the duty free shop. The La Vallette lounge is on the right side of the duty free shop.
Type of Lounge:
La Vallette contractor lounge. If you have lounge access, you are also entitled to use the fast track for security.
Facilities:
Toilets but no showers, work stations with Mac computers, a selection of magazines.
Catering: A good selection of hot and cold dishes with a decidedly Maltese flavour – things like hobz biz-zejt, pastizzi, etc.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi is available in the lounge. The password is shown at various locations in the lounge and is hard to miss.

BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate lane for Business Class passengers.
Boarding starts on time. There is a short queue for Economy Class, but it is obvious that the flight is not going to be full today. There are no contact stands in Malta, so what ever happens, you will board the aircraft via the stairs, which gives you the opportunity to take some good pictures of the aircraft you are travelling on.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 configuration, the middle seat is kept empty.
Seat: There are four rows of Business Class on the flight today, which makes for a total of 16 seats all together. Nine of the seats are occupied today. Initially, I am on 3C, which is the aisle seat on the starboard side. But once it transpires that the Business Class cabin will not be full, I shift to 3A, the window seat on the port side. The aircraft has a maximum seating capacity of 180.
Pitch: –
Width:

Audio and Video: Overhead dropdown screens showing the safety on board video and the moving map.

SERVICE
There are four cabin crew on the flight today and they all seem rather friendly. As we take our seats, one of the cabin crew passes through the cabin offering passengers the Times of Malta to read. The purser is an elderly gentleman, and I am somewhat surprised to hear him making the welcome on board announcement in rather good German.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice or water.
Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Selection from the bar, I have Kinnie of course.
Choice:
No.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Meal:

  • Antipasti plate with feta cheese rolled in zucchini, smoked meat, shrimps and smoked salmon with aubergine, peppers, olive, fennel and salad.
  • A selection of cheese.
  • Apple pie.
  • Two rolls with butter.
  • Tea or coffee.

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The meal is light and tasty, especially the salmon is very good and does not taste at all fishy. The apple pie for dessert is fruity and makes an interesting change to the usual creamy desserts they normally serve on planes.

ARRIVAL
As we approach our destination, the weather outside starts to deteriorate. The captain comes on the loudspeaker to inform us that the expected temperature on arrival in Zürich will be 14 degrees Celsius, 20 degrees colder than it was when we left Malta earlier this afternoon. And it is raining.

There is a bit of a hold up as we fly around a number of nasty looking build ups along the way. Eventually we land with a delay of about twenty minutes. I step off the plane and I must admit, it really is quite chilly. But I am not complaining…

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Swiss International Air Lines, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Malta

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Date: 11. July 2016.
Departure: 12:00.
Arrival: 14:15.
Flight time: 2 hours 15 minutes.
Seat: 1F.

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INTRODUCTION
Well that was quick. Yesterday late afternoon I arrived back in Zürich from Lanzarote. It is now ten o’clock on Monday morning and I am back at the airport. This time, I am on my way to Malta.

I am travelling with two guys from work – the tall, blond M, with whom I previously travelled to Singapore, and the silent, broody S. The latter will be leaving in summer to start a new job in the autumn. So in a way, this trip to Malta is a kind of last farewell.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Check-in 3 above the railway tracks, or Check-in 1, which is the dedicated Star Alliance terminal in Zürich.
Facilities: Online and app check-in, self-service ticketing machines or counters.
Counters: There are separate counters for Business Class passengers in both check-in areas and there is a separate queue to speed things up.

We catch the 10h25 train from Winterthur, which arrives at Zürich airport at 10h38. The summer holidays have only just started, so the queues for check-in are something nasty. Fortunately, there are next to no passenger queuing up for Business Class and I am seen to right away. The check-in agent tags my suitcase with a priority sticker and sends me on my way.

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LOUNGE
Location:
SWISS Business Class lounge on the upper level of the airside centre.
Type of Lounge:
SWISS branded lounge operated by Swissport.
Facilities:
Toilets and showers, workstations with computers, a selection of newspapers.
Catering: A limited selection of rather hot and cold snacks.
Internet:
Available in the lounge. The password is available at reception but there is complimentary wifi available throughout the terminal.

Much to my surprise, the lounge is not at all full. It is still a mess though, and I really think they need to have a word with their cleaning staff.

BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Good question.

When we arrive at the gate, there is already a long queue forming for our flight, even though boarding will only start in about ten minutes. Eventually, when boarding does start, no boarding call is made. The gates just open and boarding starts. Given that the three of us are sitting on row 1, we figure we might as well wait until all the other passengers have boarded.

CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2 in a mixed Business/Economy Class configuration with the middle seat left empty in Business Class.
Seat: SWISS has recently completed reconfiguring its narrow body fleet. As a result, they have managed to squeeze a staggering 182 seats into the Airbus A 320, which is only four seats short of the maximum.
Pitch: 32 inches on the first row, which gradually degreases to 31 inches towards the back of the bus.
Width: 17 inches.
Facilities: Reading lamp and air vent.
Audio and Video: There are overhead screens showing a lot of SWISS ads, short films and the route map.

The cabin looks very neat and clean. Especially the SWISS logo on the bulkhead makes a sharp contrast and adds a bit of colour.

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Seatmap courtesy of seatguru.com

SERVICE
The crew are all Germans from what I can tell. This is something that creeps up regularly in various aviation forums. The lack of Swiss staff apparently tarnishes the airline’s Swissness. To be honest though, I am not quite sure what the big deal is. The four young ladies working the flight today are friendly, charming and attentive. What do I care if they are not Swiss? After all, if you take an airline like Emirates, it may well happen that you have as many different nationalities in the crew as there are crew members. And nobody seems to have an issue with that either.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Small bottle of still water.
Towel before the meal: Scented, pre-packed towel served with the bottle of water.
Pre-meal drink:
No.
Choice:
There are two choices for the main course, one is vegetarian.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Meal:

  • Salad with balsamico dressing.
  • Vegetable ravioli with a creamy tomato sauce.
  • A plate with two different cheeses.
  • A lemon tiramisu.
  • Selection of bread from the breadbasket.
  • Tea or coffee.
  • Chocolate

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The meal is tasty enough and the crew even appear to respect passengers’ status in taking orders for the main course. However, the whole experience does seem a bit lacklustre. I mean, with a flight time of 1 hour and 50 minutes and only 12 passengers in the cabin, surely it would not have been too much to ask to offer a drink before the meal.

ARRIVAL
Our routing takes us from Zürich to Genova and then from there more or less in a straight line across the water to Palermo. Just as we hit Sicily’s southern coast, the descent into Malta begins.

Wamos Air, Economy Class – Boeing B 747-400: Arrecife to Zürich

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Date: 09. July 2016.
Departure:
Arrival:
Flight time:
Seat:

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Chronicle of chaos foretold…
Over the last few weeks Vueling has received a lot of negative press about flight cancellations and severe delays in the run up to the busy summer holiday period. As usual, rumours and accusations were many – with the Spanish newspapers allegedly knowing that in fact the Vueling staff were on strike and that this was the real cause for the many irregularities. The airline’s new management of course, blames everything on the old management, which was pushing hard for expansion at all costs.

The upshot of it all is that when the time came for Vueling to station an Airbus A 320 in Zürich for the summer, they realised that in fact they did not have an aircraft available to do so. But rather than cancelling the flights, Vueling decided to lease a Boeing B 747-400 from Wamos Air, just for the month of July. Of course, I simply couldn’t resist…

And so I find myself in Lanzarote on a sunny Saturday morning. It is just coming up 11 in the morning and I have just stepped off an Air Europa flight from Madrid. I now have four hours before my flight back to Zürich at 15h30, hopefully on the mighty Queen of the Skies.

But then at around 11h30 the messages and e-mails from Vueling start arriving, informing me that there are a few operational issues that will probably see my flight leaving with a delay. To be honest, I don’t really mind. Like this I can spend more time relaxing in the sun.

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The flight is first moved from 15h30 to 16h40. Then a bit later the departure is moved back further to 17h40. I check on the web and I think I can actually hear the crack as my heart breaks – there has been an aircraft change and instead of the 747 they are sending a Greek registered puny little Airbus A 319.

The flight time to Zürich is four hours and Lanzarote is one hour behind Zürich. Zürich airport has a curfew in place from 23h00 to 06h03. Now you do the maths. This is going to be tight. Eventually, boarding starts at 17h30 and I figure if we manage to get airborne by 18h00, we might just manage to squeeze in before the curfew. So all the passengers board the bus to take us to the aircraft – and nothing happens.

After waiting for about ten minutes for seemingly no reason at all and nobody on the ground bothering to tell us anything, a group of passengers disembark the bus and decide it is a really great idea to have a smoke, right there on the apron in front of all the pretty airplanes being refuelled. I tell the bus driver that smoking really is not permitted, to which he simply replies that he is just the bus driver from Swissport. By this time I’ve definitely had enough. I take my bag and walk back into the terminal. Much to me surprise, the gate agents don’t seem at all surprised to see me and instead they just hand me a pink transfer card.

Eventually, all the other passengers walk back into the terminal as well. There is no information provided by Swissport and quite evidently, they really couldn’t care less. By this time it is already past six in the evening, seven in Switzerland, so what ever happens, we will not be returning to Zürich tonight. I inquire with the gate attendant about the delay and she explains that the aircraft is overweight and they are trying to figure out what to do next.

In any case, to cut a long story short, by 19h30 it becomes perfectly apparent to everyone that the aircraft will not be flying to Zürich this evening. So instead, the flight will be rerouted to Barcelona. The passengers will be sent home the next day either via Rome or Barcelona. By this time though, I think it is sufficiently clear just how unreliable and unorganised Vueling is and I am not prepared any more to take my chances with them. I have another flight coming up on Monday from Zürich, which I don’t plan on missing because of somebody else’s bad planning. And so I make other arrangements.

WDL for British Airways, Economy Class – Avro RJ85: Zürich to London City

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Date: 13 May 2016.
From: Zürich.
To: London City.
Departure:
17:05
Arrival: 17:55
Flight time: 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Seat: 11F – window on the right side of the aircraft.

Prologue

Oh shit! I had really hoped I had seen the last of those god awful Avro Regional Jets. But by some cruel twist of faith it looks as though I will have to endure them again – hopefully just this one last time.

CHECK-IN

Location: Check-in 2, row 2.
Facilities: Dedicated British Airways counters staffed by DNATA personnel in British Airways uniforms.
Counters: There are two baggage drop counters for Economy Class passengers and two counters for premium paying passengers.

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Check-in is also possible via the BA app, which works very well, or using web check-in.

It is just gone 05h30 in the morning and I am on my way to work. The train is just pulling out of the station in Basel when I decide to check my phone for messages. Oh crap (Did I just say that out loud?)! There is one message from British Airways, informing me that my flight to London will be operated by WDL, a small German charter company. The usual Embraer 190 has been substituted by an Avro RJ85. Well that certainly explains the rather odd looking seat map when I checked in yesterday using the app.

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LOUNGE

Location: On the top floor of the E dock.
Type of Lounge:
Aspire contractor lounge operated by DNATA.
Facilities:
There are no toilets or showers in the lounge, from what I can tell. Or at least I could not find them. Other than that, there are a few magazines available and a few desks with power outlets to work at.
Catering: Sweet and savoury snack type food.
Internet:
Provided by the airport. The code is issued on request at reception, as you enter the lounge.

The Aspire lounge at the E dock is fairly new and rather elegant. Like all the lounges over in E, it has an excellent view of the apron, runway 28 and the central terminal area beyond. At this time of day, the lounge is pretty much deserted and there are only passengers bound for London, from what I can tell.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Business Class passengers and Executive Club Gold card holders queue separately to the right of the counter, while Economy Class passengers queue on the left.

Just before boarding starts, one of the gate attendants makes an announcement to inform passengers that there is only very limited storage space on the aircraft and therefore, larger pieces of hand luggage will have to be checked in and placed in the hold. Of course, this does not go down very well with the high and mighty wannabes, who all seem to think their rather lame excuses for keeping their luggage are going to work. It is also a bit undignified to see a grown man sulking – ‘it’s not fair, his is much bigger than mine’. Guys, are we still talking about hand luggage here?

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CABIN

Configuration: 3 + 3.
Seat: The WDL website is amazingly uninformative. It is nearly as though they do not want anybody to find them on the web. In any case, the upshot is that I have no data about the seating capacity on their Avro RJ85 nor on the width or pitch of the seat.
Pitch: The pitch on this particular aircraft does not even feel that bad. When I am sitting upright, me knees do not touch the front seat and I can even slouch down and stretch my legs under the seat in front of me.
Width: You really need to like the person you have sitting next to you on this aircraft, because you are going to have them up close and personal for the entire duration of the flight – especially if, like me, you find yourself trapped in the window seat.

I would consider myself an averagely sized, adult male. Even so, I end up with my right shoulder jammed against the wall of the cabin and my left shoulder being given a free massage or a shove every time the big guy next to me decides to raise his arm to scratch his nose.
Facilities: Reading lamp and air vent.
Warning: Rows 8 through 11 are located under the wings of the aircraft. The overhead bins on this aircraft are fairly old school and small. However, on those rows immediately under the wing the height of the overhead bins is only about half that of the standard sized bins.

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SERVICE

The service is done be two young and friendly female cabin crew. They both speak excellent English but with a decidedly German accent. If I had to guess, I would say they are both Turkish. Just like WDL’s website and the white livery of its aircraft, the crew are rather nondescript. They have a run of the mill uniform and that is just about it.

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THE MEAL

Choice: Yes.
Type of meal:
Dinner snack.
Meal:

  • Bulgur and chickpea salad with falafel. From what I can tell, there are a number of options to choose form, because in some cases the passengers refuse the meal they are initially offered and are then given another instead. At least I presume it is different because otherwise they would hardly take it.
  • Diet Coke.

It is really at moments like this that you start to wish the airlines would abolish serving food in Economy Class. Of course my luck will have it that I usually hold my fork in my left hand, despite the fact that I am left-handed, while the guy on my left holds his on the right. But eventually we still manage, by coordinating our respective arm movement.

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ARRIVAL

Eventually, after about an hour of doing a pretty convincing impression of a can of sardines, we begin our descent into London City. We approach the city from the southeast and then turn west and then north to approach the airport from the west. We make our final turn onto the final approach right above the Shard, which looks close enough to touch from up here. And shortly after that we land. And I can finally get off the plane. Thank God!

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CONCLUSION

And so I finally make it to London. In summary, the Avro RJ85 really is quickly turning into an old heap of junk. It’s not just that it’s tight in the 3 + 3 configuration, it just looks and feels very worn too.

Even so, I think British Airways were pretty good in a) that they managed to secure a replacement for the aircraft originally scheduled to make the flight, and b) the way they handled the irregularity by informing passengers both by SMS and, in more detail, by mail. Let’s face it, if this had been SWISS, they probably would have just cancelled the flight without really giving a shit.

Swiss International Air Lines, First Class – A 340-300: Bangkok to Zürich

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INTRODUCTION
Previously, LX180 left Zürich at around 22h45 to arrive in Bangkok early in the afternoon the next day. The aircraft would then stand around in Bangkok until the evening for a departure around midnight, to arrive in Zürich just in time for the night curfew to be lifted at 06h00 in the morning. Thus, the airline offered a schedule that was ideally suited to the business or premium traveller, who tends to prefer night flights.

With the beginning of the winter timetable of 2014 though, Swiss International Air Lines changed its schedule to and from Bangkok. The outbound now leaves Zürich in the late afternoon to arrive in Bangkok in the morning. As a result, the inbound flight – LX181 – now departs Bangkok at 12h45 as a day flight and arrives back in Zürich at 19h30. Of course, for SWISS the new schedule makes far more sense, because it means much less down time for the aircraft. However, it also shows just how insignificant the Thai market has become for SWISS, particularly in the premium segment, if the optimisation of the aircraft’s utilisation takes precedent over offering the customer an attractive schedule. But to be fair, SWISS is not the only carrier struggling on the route and in fact, recently Thai Airways switched its operation to Zürich to a Boeing B 777-300 which does not even offer a First Class product any more.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The Novotel Suvarnabhumi is connected to the airport’s railway station and terminal via a tunnel. Once you reach the terminal, you can either take the escalators or the lifts to the fourth floor, which is the departures level of the terminal.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Row G.
Facilities: Airport check-in, web check-in. There are self-service check-in machines at Suvarnabhumi, but I am not sure if SWISS uses those as well.
Counters: There are three Economy Class counters, one Business Class counter, a counter for First Class, HON and Star Gold passengers and a baggage drop-off counter.

Check-in for the flight is swift, there is nobody ahead of me at the counter. While one agent is issuing my boarding pass, a young lady appears from behind me to escort me through security and immigration. To access the Premium Lane fast track for security, you will need a voucher which you should receive at check-in.

Immigration is right behind security. From there we head one floor down to the transit level, which is where the Thai Airways lounges are.

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LOUNGE
Location:
Near the intersection of the D and C concourses.
Type of Lounge:
Thai Airways First Class lounge.
Facilities:
The lounge has a large open seating area. In addition, there are also semi-private rooms, all of which have their own large TV and a computer workstation. There is a separate dining area and a buffet area with a selection of sweet and savoury dishes. In addition, as soon as you are seated, one of the many lounge attendants will come to ask you if you would like to eat or drink anything. The food is served either at your seat or in the dinning room. Toilets and showers are available in the lounge, L’Occitane toiletries are provided by Thai Airways, although I am not sure if the ladies have the same toiletries.
Internet:
Wifi is available, password required.

I only have about thirty minutes in the lounge. But it has already been at least two hours since my last meal and I am starting to feel a bit peckish. So I order a Coke Zero and a green curry with chicken, which is truly excellent. Which is also the reasons why I forgot to take a picture of the meal.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is only one entrance to the holding area. However, both airbridges are in use; the one to the L1 door is for First Class passengers only.

Just after noon I make my way to the gate at C06. Much to my surprise, the flight is already in the final stages of boarding. So I can walk right up to the counter and then straight on to the aircraft.

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CABIN
Configuration:
1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 1K, window seat on the starboard side of the aircraft. There are eight seats in First Class. The SWISS First Class seat is more or less the same seat that was introduced by Swissair many moons ago before the carrier went bankrupt. The seat is inspired by the design of the famous Eames chair. The seat and the entire hardware are now getting a bit long in the tooth, quite frankly. In comparison to other First Class seats, this one here offers zero privacy. It has started to look dated and somewhat old fashioned.
Pitch: 83 inches.
Width: 22 inches.
Facilities: 110 volt power port available in First and Business Class but not in Economy. That is about it, SWISS currently does not provide wifi on board any of its aircraft.
Length as a bed: 80 inches.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand. The inflight entertainment system is quite simply a shambles. First of all, they have these really cheap no name earphones that have very bad quality. Secondly, the selection of films and music is quite limited, unless of course you do not mind watching Bridget Jones’ diary or Casino Royale – again. The controls of the IFE are also a far cry from what I would describe as state of the art. The system can only be operated by remote control that is now so old the buttons have stopped reacting unless you press on them very hard. And that of course, is if you are lucky and manage to get the screen out, which took me about five minutes, because even the button to release the screen from its holder no longer works properly either.

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SERVICE
There are two gentlemen serving the First Class cabin on today’s flight. For some reason, the whole service seems very rushed from the very beginning. One of the two gentlemen in particular seems a bit flustered. Every time he addresses me, it is in High German, even though he is obviously Swiss. And every time I answer him in Swiss German. But that does not stop him from addressing me in High German the next time he comes around. It is not a big deal, but there is nothing really First Class about the experience either.

In any case, a cushion, the vanity kit, slippers and the earphones have already been placed at my seat. Shortly after I am seated, the cabin crew also brings me a pajama.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice, served with an amuse bouche of grilled shrimp on a papaya and chilli salsa.

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Towel before the meal: A hot unscented towel is served on the ground just as we push back.

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Pre-meal drink:
Sparkling water.

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Choice:
For the starter, passengers can choose from an interesting selection of dishes. The fillet of Balik salmon is SWISS’ First Class trademark.
Delivery:
À la carte service.

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Type of meal:
Lunch.
First course:

  • Balik salmon with crème fraîche and lemon.
  • Crab salad with avocado purée and cocktail dressing.
  • Tomato and mozzarella with Thai basil and pesto.

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Second course:

  • Cream of carrot and ginger soup with croutons and parmesan shavings.

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Main course:

  • Shredded veal Zürich style in a creamy white wine sauce, served with a mini Rösti and broccoli with almond flakes.

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Cheese platter:

  • Wildbachkäse.
  • Glattaler Mutschli.
  • Gruyère AOC.
  • Senneflade.

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Dessert:

  • Basil infused Baba Rhum with a minestrone of tropical fruit and apricot sorbet.

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Over all, the meal is rather tasty. The starter looks very appealing and also tastes very nice. The soup is also good and creamy, although the taste of the ginger is too subtle for me to make out. The main is good. The sauce has a nice flavour but the mini Rösti is only so so.

The service comes to a somewhat abrupt end. I do not really know what is going on, but rather than asking passengers if they would like tea or coffee and offering them one of those delectable Sprüngli truffes – which is what normally happens in SWISS Fist Class – today, the flight attendant just dumps the truffes on the bar, clears the tables and vanishes for the rest of the flight. For those passengers willing to sleep, the crew will graciously make the seat up into a bed and will put down the mattress and duvet. However, if like myself, you are not planning on sleeping, then basically you are on your own. I even have to go scavenging for a blanket because the crew are obviously not interested.

During the entire flight, the crew does not do a single drinks run either.

SECOND SERVICE
There are about four choices for the second service. However, none of these are actually mentioned on the menu, and I forget what all the options are. In any case, I have:

  • Vegetarian quiche, which was in fact more like a pie.
  • With a small salad to accompany the pie.
  • One bun.
  • A piece of warm apple tart with slices of fresh apple, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

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The second meal is adequate, even though the savoury item is placed on rather a small plate, which looks a bit forlorn on the large table.

ARRIVAL
We approach Switzerland from the east. Roughly forty minutes out of Zürich, we start our descent while we are still in Austrian airspace. It is a lovely, late summer’s evening and the landscape below is covered in a golden glow.

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Bangkok Airways, Economy Class – ATR72: Luang Prabang to Bangkok

Folie01

INTRODUCTION
It is time for me to start thinking about heading home. It has been and fun vacation, what with all the flying in the first week and the relaxing and interesting visits to Cambodia and Laos in the second week. My next stop on my way home will be Bangkok.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Shuttle from the hotel.
Journey time: The journey from the Amantaka to Luang Prabang’s new international terminal takes roughly twenty minutes.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Ground floor, the departures level is in the east wing of the building, to the right.
Facilities: Only airport check-in.
Counters: There are two counters checking in the flight to Bangkok.

There is a bit of a queue for my counter, I assume it is because the agent checking passengers in appears to be in training. She takes her job seriously and even calls somewhere to make sure she is allowed to check me in for the flight with my passport. Her supervisor even comments and explains in an apologising tone that he has never seen a passport like mine, and inquires as to which continent Malta is on.

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LOUNGE
Bangkok Airways sees itself as a bit of a boutique airline that tries to make the whole travel experience as pleasant as possible for all passengers – even in Economy Class. Thus, at its homebase in Bangkok the carrier has a lounge that is accessible to all passengers flying with the airline. At outstations the carrier usually has its own dedicated kiosks where passengers can get something to drink or a small snack upon presenting their Bangkok Airways boarding pass. But in Luang Prabang this does not appear to be the case and I find the signage particularly entertaining, it reads ‘Lounge now not available’. Would it then not make more sense to just not advertise something that does not exist?

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BOARDING
The aircraft arrives late from Bangkok, thus boarding starts with a delay of about fifty minutes. Boarding is strictly by rows and I am quite surprised by how strictly this is implemented by the ground staff. As I walk to the aircraft I take my time to snap as many pictures as I can of my aircraft.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2
Seat: 6A, window on the port side. Bangkok Airways operates the ATR-72 in an Economy Class only configuration with 70 seats. At 31 inches the pitch is the same, if not even better, than that on many European carriers. The seats are covered in material, which also marks a pleasant departure from those horrible faux leather seats that seem to be so popular with many airlines these days.
Pitch: 31 inches.
Width: 18 inches.

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SERVICE
There are two cabin crew on today’s flight, one male and one female. The female is excellent and makes a very good and competent impression. The male however is, quite frankly, pretty useless. I am not sure if he just does not care or if maybe he may be still new to the job.

The doors close and the cabin crew come by distributing pre-packed refreshing towels (please excuse the hairy legs in the shot…).

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Luang Prabang airport is surrounded by some pretty high mountains on all sides, which makes for a rather interesting departure to gain height. We take off on runway 23 in a south-westerly direction. We then do a right turn, which brings us back over the airfield heading in an easterly direction. Once we are passed the runway, we do a left turn in a south-westerly direction again, once more bringing us back over the airfield.

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THE MEAL
Choice:
There is no choice, but it is possible to order special meals in advance.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Meal:

  1. Mushroom, bell pepper and corn salad.
  2. Noodles with broccoli, carrots and duck (served cold).
  3. Mandarin flavoured sponge cake.
  4. Coke Zero.
  5. Coffee.

Much to my surprise, we are actually served a full meal and it is not even that bad either. The main dish comes with a plastic sachet with some spicy sauce which really is quite tasty. After the meal coffee and tea are available.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we start our descent, to land in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi at 14h55, only slightly behind schedule. We taxi to an open stand and from there we are bussed to the terminal.

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The arrivals concourse is currently under renovation or reconstruction, so there is a lot of building going on. As my luck would have it, I end up queuing for a visa on arrival behind what looks like a whole aircraft load of Indians. It is quite simply chaos. The passengers, mostly men, seem to be travelling as a group and only a few have printed the PNR/e-ticket confirmation which you are obliged to show in order to get your visa on arrival… Eventually, after 45 minutes it is finally my turn and then I have finally arrived in Bangkok again.

GETTING TO THE HOTEL
Transport:
Complimentary hotel shuttle bus.
Departs from: Outside the arrivals concourse. As you exit immigration, follow the signs for the Novotel shuttle.
Frequency: Every twenty minutes.
Journey time: About eight minutes.

I never quite understood why they even offer the shuttle to the Novotel at Suvarnabhumi airport. Quite frankly, unless you are travelling with copious amounts of luggage, you are probably better off walking to the hotel. It is certainly quicker. To access the Novotel on foot, simply head two floors down from arrivals upon exiting immigration. Follow the signs to the railway station. Once you arrive at the station, just keep on walking straight ahead. Eventually you will reach an escalator that will bring you up to ground level right in front of the entrance to the hotel.

Cambodia Angkor Air, Business Class – A 321: Guangzhou to Siem Reap

Folie05

INTRODUCTION
The trips with the A380 were fun. The A380 always is. No matter how often I fly her, I still find her fascinating every time. But this next flight I am looking forward to even more I think, because I shall be travelling on little known carrier Cambodia Angkor Air, the airline of the Kingdom of Cambodia. It just all sounds so exotic!

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Metro line 3.
Departs from: Zhoujiang Street station.
Frequency: Every two minutes.
Journey time: Fifty minutes.
Fare: RMB8.- per person for a single journey. Only notes of RMB5 and RMB10 or coins of RMB1 are accepted by the machine.

The Four Seasons Hotel is connected to the metro at Zhoujiang Street station via the IFF building. As you exit the hotel lift on the ground floor, turn right into the IFF, then right again and take the escalators one floor down. Walk through the friendship store until you reach the exit for the metro on the other side of the shop.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Departures are two floors up from the exit from the metro station, row H.
Facilities: Only airport check-in is available.
Counters: There are two counters available for check-in for today’s flight – H22 and H24. There is no separate counter for Business Class passengers.

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Guangzhou sees a lot of interesting traffic by the way, two rows further down from where my flight is checking in, I see signs for an Air Madagascar flight to Bangkok and Antananarivo. Ethiopian and Egypt Air also fly here.

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From check-in I follow the signs for the A gates, which are the gates for international departures. After customs and security I turn right for immigration. The airport is fairly busy, although I suspect this is what it is always like here. A new terminal is already under construction on the other side of the apron. The immigration officer stamps my passport to leave the People’s Republic and sends me on my way with a friendly wave.

LOUNGE
Location:
Near gate A112.
Type of Lounge:
Premium Lounge contractor lounge that is used by just a few airlines, including Cambodia Angkor Air.
Facilities:
There are no toilets or showers in the lounge. Other than that, the lounge does have a few computer work stations and a small selection of hot and cold dishes. Apparently this is just a temporary lounge, though.
Internet:
Free airport wifi is available, but you will need a Chinese mobile to receive the password.

Premium Lounges operates two facilities at Guangzhou. The larger one is just a few steps behind immigration. Even though it says so on the lounge invitation, this is not the lounge Cambodia Angkor Air uses. Instead, they use the smaller lounge near gate A112. The place is empty and surprisingly pleasant. The views of the apron are excellent.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
No.
Boarding for the flight starts on time. There are only two of us in Business Class and judging by how quickly boarding is completed, I think Economy Class is probably not sold out either.

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About ten minutes after our scheduled departure time at 13h25, the captain comes on the mike to welcome us aboard. He also informs us that we have an ATC delay and therefore will not be departing from Guangzhou until 15h35, with a delay of more than two hours. We are going to have to wait on board the aircraft.

Quite honestly, I am not really surprised about the delay, given that so far not a single one of my flights to or in China was on time. Eventually though, we depart with a delay of only sixty minutes. By the time we reach Siem Reap, we are only running thirty minutes behind schedule.

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CABIN
Configuration:
2 + 2
Seat: I am sitting on 3A, which is a window seat on the port side of the aircraft. The cabin is in the configuration and branding of Vietnam Airlines, who lease the plane to Cambodia Angkor Air. Only the head covers are Cambodia branded. There are four rows in Business Class, which means a total of sixteen seats. The seat is wide and very comfortable for a flight of only two hours. There is even a foot rest which can be raised quite far up and the recline is decent. But there is something very old school about the seat too: the controls are mechanical rather than electric.
Pitch: No information available.
Width: No information available.
Facilities: Reading lamp, air vent.
Audio and Video: The safety on board instructions are given via the overhead video screens. In Business Class every seat has individual video screens. However, apparently Cambodia Angkor Air does not have an inflight entertainment system.

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SERVICE
The service in Business Class is conducted by a charming and very pretty female flight attendant. As soon as I am seated, she welcomes me aboard and asks me what I will be drinking. A short while later she returns with a glass of orange juice and a cold towel. During the delay on the ground she comes to ask me if there is anything else I would like to drink. And I order a sparkling water.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice, then sparkling water.
Towel before the meal: Cold towel served on the ground.
Choice:
There are two choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Late lunch.
Meal:

  1. Mixed salad with Thousand Islands dressing.
  2. Chicken with rice and vegetables.
  3. Fruit
  4. Something that tastes very artificially of mango.
  5. Bread and butter.
  6. Tea or coffee.
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The meal is interesting, to say the least. The salad tastes of plastic. There is a taste of je ne said quoi that is only amplified by the salad dressing, which is about just as bad as that god awful stuff Lufthansa serve from a jar in First Class. The main course though, is tasty enough, although I am not really a fan of chicken on a plane. The fruit you cannot really go wrong with anyway, but that orange mango thingy…? The meal concludes with a cup of coffee. And then I lean back, read and enjoy the view outside. It is only now that it occurs to me that this is first blue sky I am seeing since I arrived in China. In the cities the pollution is so bad that you rarely see the sun, let along a blue sky.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we start our descent into Siem Reap. From above the place looks very rural. The nice thing about this small airport is that there are no airbridges, Jay! So I am going to have to trundle along the tarmac and take a few pictures along the way. Oh happy day…!

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The terminal is undergoing renovation and the arrivals hall looks very new. In addition to the e-visa I had to apply for ahead of my trip to Cambodia, every visitor must also complete an immigration form before queuing to enter the country. As I enter the terminal building, I am picked up by a gentleman representing my hotel, the Amansara. He escorts me past immigration and asks me to wait while he goes to have my passport stamped. As easy as cutting Swiss cheese…

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GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
This really old vintage Mercedes Benz.
Journey time: The journey to the Amansara takes from the airport takes me right past the temple at Angkor Wat and takes roughly 25 minutes. I think I am going to like it here…

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China Southern, First Class – A 380: Beijing to Guangzhou

Folie1

INTRODUCTION
This flight nearly did not happen. To all good intent, the only reason I chose this routing was to get another flight on the A380. At the time of booking there were two daily flights from Beijing to Guangzhou operated by China Southern’s A380: CZ3000 at 09h30 in the morning and CZ3104 in the afternoon at 15:30.

Originally I booked the earlier flight. However, about two weeks before departure, I checked my itinerary again, only to find that there had been an aircraft change and the flight would be operated by an A330-300 instead. Please do not get me wrong. I think the A330-300 is one of the most elegant airliners out there, while the A380’s looks are – quite frankly – sinful. But that is not the point.

And then the saga began. I shall spare you the gory details. But what I will say is that it took me no less than six calls to the Frankfurt office and another seven phone calls to the Beijing office before eventually I was able to rebook my ticket. I must say though, that while the process itself is absolutely atrocious and not at all passenger friendly, China Southern’s staff were friendly and very polite at all times.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Car provided by the hotel. It is a BMW, but I have no idea what model.
Journey time: 40 minutes.

The journey back the airport is fairly smooth. There is a bit of a traffic jam right outside the hotel, but that soon eases up.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 2, domestic departures.
Facilities: Web check-in is available.
Counters: There is a dedicated check-in area for China Southern’s VIP customers. Unfortunately, the place is not signposted in any way, so eventually I have to ask at one of the airline’s ticketing counters for directions to the premium check-in area.

The VIP check-in area is quite large, with six or seven counters and chairs for passengers to sit while they wait to be checked in. There are no conveyor belts for luggage, just the scales. A porter will then take your checked luggage and put it on a belt for you. In theory it is a nice idea and is very similar to the dedicated First Class area many other carriers have. Quite frankly though, the place here just looks grimy and filthy. The carpets are tread bare in some places, while in other places there are stains and lumps of dust that look suspiciously like the fur balls my cat Boozey used to wretch up.

The exit from the check-in area is to the left. From there a red carpet will guide you to the security check for First Class and Business Class passengers.

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LOUNGE
Location:
Opposite gate 21, from where the A380 flights depart.
Type of Lounge:
Dedicated China Southern First Class lounge.
Facilities:
A limited selection of food and drinks, no toilets or showers available.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi is provided by the airport authority. However, you need a Chinese mobile number to receive the password to access the internet!

I am issued a lounge invitation together with my boarding pass. There is a small map on the invitation, indicating the location of the lounges. There is the ‘normal’ VIP lounge and then there is the ‘A380 high-end passenger lounge’ next to the departing gate for the A380 flights.

I think somebody is missing the point here. Actually, I think somebody is missing quite a few points here. First of all, of course it is nice to have a lounge adjacent to the departing gate, but that really only makes sense if there is a direct access from the lounge to the aircraft, similar to what Lufthansa or Emirates have at their hubs or like what BA used to have in Heathrow’s Terminal 4, where passengers had direct access from the Concorde Room to the aircraft. But this is obviously not the case here. Secondly, you would have thought it is a simple enough calculation: the number of Business Class seats on the A380 dictates the capacity of the lounge. But this is clearly not the case here and at some point the staff actually start setting up folding chairs for all the passengers wishing to enter the lounge.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Dedicated line for First Class passengers.

Boarding is chaotic. Even so, by 15h30 – our scheduled departure time – the airbridges are removed from the aircraft. That is when the captain comes on the loudspeaker to welcome us aboard and inform us about an ATC delay of thirty minutes. Eventually by the time we push back from the gate we are running more than an hour later.

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CABIN
Configuration:
1 + 2 + 1.
Seat: I am sitting on 20A, which is a window seat on the port side of the aircraft. China Southern has the Business Class cabin on the upper deck of the aircraft. There are seventy seats in total. There is a smaller cabin with six rows in the forward section, with the main section behind the second galley. The seat itself is very similar to the one Emirates has installed in Business Class on its A380. It is a comfortable seat and offers a lot of privacy. In the smaller cabin, the window seats on uneven numbered rows offer more privacy, because they are farther away from the aisle. In the larger cabin however, the opposite is the case and the seats on even numbered rows are the ones away from the aisle. Stowage space is excellent, especially if you are sitting by the window. This is mainly due to the curvature of the hull. There is quite a gap between the wall of the cabin and the seat. Airbus has put in extra storage bins in this space which are quite convenient. The seat extends into a fully flat bed. I am 184 cm tall. In the fully extended position I can lie stretched out and even have a little space left above my head.
Pitch: 77 inches.
Width: 24 inches.
Facilities: AC and USB power ports are available in Business Class.
Audio and Video: Audio and Video on demand. The system can be operated either using the touch screen or the remote control.

Just a word of warning here. China Southern has the same strange policy that the American carriers have. Their domestic Business Class is labelled as First Class. As a result, even though I booked First Class I am in fact sitting in the Business Class cabin of the beast. Apparently, the international First Class seats are not available for sale on this route.

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SERVICE
There is not really very much I can say about the cabin crew. They are courteous in the way they go about their duties, but other than that, interaction with the crew is somewhat limited by the language barrier.

The seat looks as though it has been set up for a long-haul flight. There are two pillows and a thick blanket at every seat. Slippers, a shoe bag, water and noise cancelling earphones are also available.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Apple juice.
Towel before the meal: Cold, unscented towel served with the welcome drink on the ground.
Pre-meal drink:
Still water and a bowl of nuts.
Choice:
There are four choices for the main dish.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Early dinner.
Menu:
A menu is available, which the cabin crew will let you have a look at, if you ask nicely. However, she will wait by your seat until you have made a choice and will then disappear again with the menu.
Meal:

  1. Noodle soup with braised beef and pak choy, condiments.
  2. Fruit
  3. Coffee.

Much to my surprise, the meal is excellent! The beef is incredibly tender and tasty. The noodles are chunky and chewy and the spicy sauce and the chilli give the soup a fragrant touch.

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ARRIVAL
We fly a circuitous route into Guangzhou. Apparently there is a thunderstorm in progress. We do a few en route holding circuits at 38’000 feet, which looks pretty cool on the map, and as we start our descent into Bayun airport we are zigzagging around big towering CBs.

Eventually we land with a delay of 75 minutes, which seems pretty good by Chinese standards. Our aircraft is parked at the international pier in preparation for its next flight, which means that all passengers will be bused to the terminal. There are dedicated minibuses for First Class passengers. Most importantly, I get to see the A380 at ground level!

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GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Metro line 3.
Departs from: Airport basement.
Journey time: 55 minutes.
Fare: RMB8.- per person for a single journey. The ticketing machine only accepts cash and only note of RMB5 and 10.

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Baiyun airport is served by the number 3 metro line. From the airport it is about 45 minutes to Tiyu West Road, which is the terminus station of this branch of line 3. If you need to continue your journey on the line 3 in the direction of Panyu Square, exit the train on the right side at Tiyu West Road. The train bound for Panyu Square calls at the opposite platform. From there it is only one stop to Zhujiang Station, where my hotel is.

Korean Air, First Class – B 777-300: Seoul Incheon to Beijing

Folie07

INTRODUCTION
If I had known there was going to be an aircraft change on the Hong Kong to Seoul leg, then I could have gone straight from Hong Kong to Beijing instead. After all, the only point of taking that flight to Seoul had been an attempt to hitch a ride on Asiana’s A380. But never mind. This is but a minor detour. Besides, like this I have a good excuse to make a further attempt with Asiana…

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Complimentary airport shuttle.
Frequency: Hourly shuttle at 45 minutes past the hour.
Journey time: Roughly fifteen minutes.

My flight will be leaving at around 11 o’clock in the morning, so I figure it is probably best to catch the 08h45 shuttle to the airport. The shuttle will drop you off at arrivals on the ground level. The stop for the hotel is at the far end of the terminal building, near exit 14.

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Korean Air checks in on rows A, B and C. First Class, Business Class and SkyPriority counters are located on row C.
Counters: There are four counters for First Class passengers, three of which are open when I arrive to check-in. There is a separate queue for First Class passengers.

I booked this ticket online. Apparently, at some point I should have contacted a Korean Air office somewhere to show them the credit card and provide evidence that I am in fact the holder of the credit card with which the ticket was paid. So I am required to show the check-in agent the card before she can issue my boarding pass. As soon as she is done, she calls one of her colleagues over to escort me through security and to make sure I make it safely to the lounge.

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There is a separate channel for security for First and Business Class passengers, which is just to the right of the Economy Class entrance to security. Immigration is right behind the security check.

LOUNGE
Location:
After you exit immigration, turn left and then left again. Take the escalators one floor up to access the lounge.
Type of Lounge:
Dedicated Korean Air First Class lounge.
Facilities:
Dining area, toilets and showers, a buffet with hot and cold dishes.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi available, no password required.

The lounge is nothing special really. The nice thing about it though, is that it is very big, rather empty and has excellent views of the apron. The food selection is good and the offerings change depending on the time of day. When I arrive just before ten in the morning, they are just starting to clear away the breakfast.

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

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Boarding is completed on time. The load in First Class and Business Class is light. In fact, there are just two of us sitting next to each other in First Class.

At some point, the captain comes on the loudspeaker to welcome all passengers to the flight. He announces that we have an ATC delay of sixty minutes. Two episodes of The Big Bang Theory later, he comes on the mike again to inform us that apparently there is a military exercise in progress in China and thus we should expect a further delay of another 45 minutes. Eventually we push back with a delay of 90 minutes.

CABIN
Configuration:
Korean Air operates the Boeing B 777-300 in two different configurations, both of which feature a First Class. While the -300ER, which serves long-haul routes, has a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration, the -300 serves regional routes with a 2 + 2 + 2 configuration. There is only one row of seats in First Class, so there are six seats in total.
Seat: I am sitting on 1B, an aisle seat on the port side of the aircraft. The seat is more or less identical to the Business Class seat, the difference being that there is no middle seat.
Pitch: 83 inches.
Width: 21.1 inches.
Facilities: 110 volt power port and USB ports available, there is also a small privacy screen between each pair of seats.
Length as a bed: 78 inches.
Audio and Video: The aircraft has audio and video on demand.

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SERVICE
The First Class cabin is served by three cabin crew, which gives an interesting ratio of passengers to crew, given that it is just the two of us. In short succession I receive a welcome drink with macadamia nuts, a scented hot towel and the menu for the flight. I am also offered a newspaper.

A pillow and slippers have already been placed at my seat. Once I am settled in, one of the crew offers me a blanket in case I might be feeling chilly.

During our wait on the ground the crew repeatedly come to ask if there was anything I needed and kept me in a constant supply of macadamias and water.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Perrier with macadamia nuts.
Hot towel before the meal: Scented and served while still on the ground.
Choice:
There is only one choice for the starter and dessert and two choices for the main, one Korean and one Chinese option.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
Meal:

  1. Lobster on a bed of ruccola and sun dried tomatoes.
  2. Spicy beef stir-fry with Chinese noodles and mixed vegetables.
  3. Chinese Bao bun.
  4. A selection of fruit.
  5. Coffee

The starter is very good, the ruccola is fragrant but without being bitter. The lobster is nice and chunky. The main dish is surprisingly spicy for airline food and really makes my nose run. My neighbour is having the Korean option, which is some kind of black sesame soup with noodles and two small dishes with pickles. Apparently, the soup is very bland.

The coffee is, quite simply, atrocious!

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ARRIVAL
Very soon we start our descent into Beijing. The cabin crew all come to say thanks and goodbye and wish me a safe continuation of my journey. As we land we glide past the impressive structure of Terminal 1, which is home to Air China, the Star Alliance and a few others.

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Korean Air uses the old Terminal 2, which receives all of the SkyTeam carriers.

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GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
BMW sent from the hotel.
Journey time: 45 minutes with traffic.

As I exit into the arrivals hall, the representative from the Peninsula Beijing is already expecting me. The traffic in Beijing is quite simply atrocious. The journey to the hotel takes roughly 45 minutes to complete. The main issue appears to be that the Chinese do not abide by any rules when driving. Or rather, their modus operandi is to have one hand firmly on the horn and hope for the best. The traffic situation is further aggravated because there are so many accidents.

CONCLUSION
In comparison to my flight with Emirates from Bangkok to Hong Kong, the experience with Korean Air was much more polished, proving yet again that sometimes less really is more. The seat in nowhere near as garish or as flashy as the Emirates one, but on a flight of not even two hours, do you really need a lie flat anyway?

I really enjoyed the flight. It certainly helped that there were only two of us in First Class. Even so, I must say that quite frankly I really do not quite get it. I assume the flight was not full in Economy Class either. So why operate the massive B 777-300 on such a route when probably even a B 737-800 would have been perfectly sufficient?