Review: American New B767 Business Class Zurich to New York-JFK

It was quite the chaotic morning.  We awoke in Lucerne and headed to the train station for our scheduled 7:05am train ride from Lucern to the Zurich Airport.  I was going to be simple and easy… in theory.

That was until our train broke down.

We had spent the previous week taking trains all over central Europe without incident.  But there we were at 7:30am — stranded on a disabled train — somewhere in between Lucerne and Zurich.

Eventually, we backtracked to the closest station and had to hop the next train to Zurich hbf where we had to catch another train out to the airport.  Long story short, we arrived at ZRH at around 8:50am for a 10:00am flight.

As we approached the American ticket counters, they were about to shut down for the day, but we were able to successfully check in, proceed through immigration / security and take the train ride out to the satellite International terminal at ZRH.  By the time we got to the gate, boarding was underway.

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Oktoberfest… and Three Days in Munich

So this past fall was the sixth year straight that I’ve attended the World’s largest festival — Oktoberfest in Munich.   I’ve been accompanied on these Oktoberfest by a varying number of friends over the years — this year was no exception, as there were six of us including my fiancé, who was making her first trip to the Wiesn.

See this post for ten tips to planning a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich.

In order to combat the ridiculous crowds that are prevalent on the weekends, we decided to arrive into Munich on a Wednesday, and focus our time at the Oktoberfest during the week — on Thursday and Friday.

We arrived from our overnight flight in Lufthansa Business Class from Washington on Wednesday around noon.  From there, we took the S-Bahn directly to the Hackerbrucke station, which is only two blocks from where we stayed — the Four Points Sheraton Munich Central.

The Four Points Sheraton - Munich Central

The Four Points Sheraton – Munich Central

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First Look: Turkish Business Class Istanbul to Washington

After a long, Valentine’s Day weekend in Rome, my fiancé and I flew Turkish Airlines in business class back to Washington-Dulles via Istanbul.  While a full-fledged review is forthcoming, I wanted to share some initial pictures and thoughts of the long haul segment of Monday’s trip — from Istanbul to Washington on the Turkish Airlines A330-300.

I’d heard great things about Turkish Airlines’ catering, and boy — they sure didn’t disappoint, as this was some of the best catering I’ve experienced.  From the shorter, European flight, to the Turkish CIP Lounge at Istanbul, to the long haul flight from Istanbul to Washington, the catering — all day long — was simply fantastic, and first-rate.  I’ll let some of the pictures provide a good teaser for my review, which should be written in the next week or two…

Turkish Business Class Seats on the A330-300

Turkish Business Class Seats on the A330-300

Cute Salt and Pepper Shakers!

Cute Salt and Pepper Shakers!

Appetizers!

A variety of appetizers — these were only three of eight selections!

Amazing entree

Amazing entree – Adana Kebab

Dessert -- what?

Dessert — capping off a fantastic meal

Flying over Northern Canada

Flying over Northern Canada

The catering was amazing.  Simply some of the best I’ve ever had in business class, and even competitive or better than some international first class products that I’ve flown.  The attention to small, cute little details was also appreciated, and made certain aspects of this long flight quite enjoyable.

The business class seat on the A330-300 was a reasonably comfortable way to spend an almost 12-hour flight, but it certainly isn’t an industry-leading product by any stretch of the imagination.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about the service on Turkish, but I experienced completely friendly and accommodating service on this flight — though it wasn’t so much the most polished service I’ve had, it was certainly an enjoyable experience.  I’ll get into much, much more detail when I publish my full-fledged review of this flight from Istanbul to Washington in Turkish Business Class.

Review: American 787 Business Class Tokyo to Chicago

After  leisurely three hours in the fantastic JAL First Class lounge at Narita Airport, my delayed departure time for my return trip back home had arrived.  I made the pretty long haul from the JAL First lounge all the way to the AA departure gate for ORD.  It was the very last gate in the main terminal.  As I got to the gate, it was apparent that there would be an additional delay, so I took a seat.

Thirty minutes or so later, the crew boarded.  Another thirty minutes later, it was time to board.  The queue lined up pretty long for Business Class and Priority Access — and the gate agent didn’t really do a great job in organizing the boarding process, but what else is new?  Anyway, after this somewhat lengthy delay, it was time to enjoy the brand new American 787 Business Class.

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Review: Lufthansa Business Class Washington-Dulles to Munich

We arrived at Dulles much later than previously planned due to some absolutely terribly weather in Washington, DC. What usually is about a 75-90 minute trip to Dulles via taxi and the 5A bus, turned into a 3:15 nightmare of a trip from our home in Dupont Circle out to Dulles Airport.

Luckily, we had planned on leaving plenty of cushion to get there, because we wanted to relax in the lounge prior to our flight. As it turned out, we only had about 30 minutes in the lounge before we boarded our A330-300 bound for Munich, directly from the Lufthansa lounge at Dulles.

I’d previously only been into the Senator Lounge at IAD, but we did not have access for this trip, as we were “only” business class passengers, and I no longer have Star Alliance Gold status.  The Lufthansa Business Lounge is figuratively and literally a few steps down from the Senator Lounge, as it’s located downstairs, below the Senator.  It lacks the tarmac views and hot entrees of the Senator Lounge, but was not nearly as crowded and was perfectly fine for a couple of pre-flight drinks.

Lufthansa Business Class Lounge at Washington-Dulles

Lufthansa Business Class Lounge at Washington-Dulles

Dining area at LH Business Class Lounge IAD

Dining area at LH Business Class Lounge IAD

Food selections at IAD Lufthansa Business Lounge

Food selections at IAD Lufthansa Business Lounge

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Ten Tips for Planning an Oktoberfest Trip to Munich

My favorite trip  of the year is always my annual pilgrimage to Munich for the World’s largest festival — Oktoberfest!

This coming year will be the sixth year in a row that I’ve attended the Wiesn in Germany, so I’ve learned on the fly, but at this point,  I think I know what I’m doing pretty well.

Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival that runs every year,  from the late September to the first full weekend in October.  Plan these dates accordingly.

Planning a trip to this foreign festival can be a daunting task, but here are ten tips along with several guides and recommendations: Continue Reading →

How to Book a Flight to Tahiti with American Miles

American AAdvantage miles are some of the easiest mileage currencies to accrue.  On the other hand, redeeming them can be challenging at times.  One of the places that may be pretty challenging to use AA miles for if you don’t know how is to get to one of the most beautiful places on Earth — the honeymoon and bucket list mecca of Bora Bora.

You’ve seen them.  The lavish resorts featuring elaborate overwater bungalows that are set on top of crystal clear water in a sheer tropical paradise.  Many of these properties are located in Bora Bora or Moorea — both Islands in the Society Islands of French Polynesia, along with Tahiti.  In order to get to these island paradises, one must first fly into Papeete (PPT) — the only international airport in Tahiti.

Getting to Papeete from North America is pretty straightforward when using American miles.  There are exactly two options:  Hawaiian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui — both partners with American, and both are great partners that allow you to fly to Tahiti with American miles. Continue Reading →

Review: American B777-300ER Business Class Hong Kong to Dallas / Ft Worth

We spent about an hour in Cathay Pacific’s “The Bridge” Lounge at Hong Kong’s Chep Lap Kok International Airport after arriving from Singapore earlier that morning.  After a few drinks and a quick bite, it was time to head to the gate to board our flight on American Airlines’ new B777-300ER in business class.

But let’s back up for a second.

Unlike my outbound trip from Dallas to Hong Kong, I did not clear the eVIP Systemwide upgrade for this flight several days ahead of time.  In fact, we did not actually clear this upgrade until 25 hours prior to the flight.  This flight was extremely elite heavy, so there were quite a few (dozens, actually) of Executive Platinum customers on this flight who didn’t clear the upgrade.  We had the advantage since we were on a connecting flight from Singapore (up until late April, connecting passengers had priority on the AA upgrade standby list — that is not longer the case).  Luckily, the three of us appeared to receive three of the last six seats in business class.

We arrived at the gate to see one of the longest lines for the Executive Platinum boarding group that I’ve ever seen.  That group was seriously rolling 75 people deep.  The boarding line was delayed even more by security checking everyone’s carry on bags before boarding.  All water bottles were taken away – that’s always an annoyance when flying back to the States from Hong Kong.

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Review: Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Singapore to Hong Kong

After a fun and delicious two nights in Singapore, it was time to turn around and head back home to the States.   We took an early cab to Changi airport and arrived in plenty of time.  Check-in was a breeze and we since security isn’t until the gate, we had a little bit of time to kill.  So we headed to the Sky View Lounge in Terminal 1 since it was the only lounge accessible to oneworld Emerald members at that hour in the morning (the Qantas and British Airways don’t open until later in the afternoon).

The lounge was quite comfortable with some decent hot and cold breakfast options.  I grabbed some noodles to go along with a Diet Coke and took a seat with my friends by the floor-to-ceiling glass windows just as the sun was coming up.  We checked e-mail and  surfed the Internet for a bit before it was time to head to the gate.

There was a very long line for security and boarding, but we were able to board with business class passengers despite being ticketed for an economy seat (59A).  After security, I went to have my boarding pass scanned by the gate agent, and it beeped a few times.  The friendly gate agent informs me, “Mr. Ryan, thank you for being a valued oneworld Emerald customer.  We have upgraded you to Premium Economy Class for this morning’s flight.”

Score!

Now, I’d heard of oneworld Emeralds being upgraded before by Cathay and other airlines like LAN, but I’d never experienced it before, so this was quite unexpected.  Sometimes, unexpected upgrades like this one are some of the best and most satisfying upgrades that there are.

She re-printed my new boarding passes, and I was on my was to board this A340-300 for Hong Kong!

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Two Nights in Singapore at the Grand Hyatt Singapore

We arrived in Singapore from Hong Kong on a Cathay Pacific flight at around 8pm.  We easily made our way through immigration and Singapore’s beautiful Changi International Airport, out to the curb to hail a cab for our hotel.  We booked a room at the Grand Hyatt Singapore for this short stay.

The cab ride couldn’t have been any more than twenty minutes and I think it ran around 20 Singapore dollars.  When I booked the room a few months earlier, I used one of my last remaining  Hyatt Diamond Suite  upgrades for our two night stay, and we were upgraded to a Grand Duplex Suite.

And it sure was Grand…

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