Review: United Business First Dubai to Washington

After spending an enjoyable three days in Dubai, we arrived at Dubai International Airport where we went through check-in, immigration and security without a hitch.  We had about an hour or so to kill before we needed to go to the gate for another round of security, so we headed to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for a bit.

This lounge isn’t the largest lounge in the world, but there were a few options of cold appetizers as well as beer, wine and soft drinks.  I had a drink and a quick bite to eat as my buddy and I relaxed a bit before our impending long haul back to Washington.

Lufthansa Senator Lounge - Dubai

Lufthansa Senator Lounge – Dubai

It was finally time to get to the gate, so we made the ten minute trek through the expansive Dubai Terminal 2.   Since this was a flight back to the United States from Dubai, there was an additional security screening at the gate.  They took business class passengers first, but that only meant that we were allowed into the holding pen first at the gate, as boarding had not yet started.  Finally, after about thirty minutes of sitting around, we boarded our United B777-200.

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Review: ANA Suite Lounge – Tokyo-Narita

We arrived at Narita Airport after about an hour and 45 minute bus ride from the Hyatt Regency Tokyo.  Since we were on different flights, my buddy and I split up at check-in and planned to meet up again at the lounge.

I proceeded to the ANA Suite Check-In, and WOW, it was nice.

ANA Suite Check-In at Tokyo-Narita

ANA Suite Check-In at Tokyo-Narita

At Narita, there’s a dedicated room where I was able to check-in with a personal check-in agent.  After that, I proceeded through a private security line, and on into immigration.  This entire process from check-in to immigration took less than three minutes… that’s pretty awesome by any standard.

Once immigration was cleared, I chose to head one of the two ANA Suite Lounges closest to my gate, by gate 47.

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Review: Air China First Class Lounge – Shanghai Pudong

We arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport after a quick, 35-minute commute from the Grand Hyatt Shanghai on the metro and the maglev.  First Class check-in was painless and uneventful, as was the short trek through immigration and security.  We made our way directly to the new Air China lounges, located near gate 71 in Shanghai-Pudong’s Terminal 2.

There is one large desk with a ton of Air China agents to direct you to either the First Class or Business Class lounges.  Since I was booked in first class for our short flight to Tokyo-Narita, we had access to the First Class Lounge.

I really hadn’t read a whole lot about this lounge, so I was anxious to see what it was all about.  I must say, my expectations were quite low for this lounge, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

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Review: THAI Royal First Lounge and Royal Orchid Spa – Bangkok

After a wonderful flight from Munich, we arrived well rested a little after 1pm at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi  Airport.  Upon deplaning, we were immediately met at the end of the jet way by a THAI representative who quickly whisked us away on a golf-cart to transfer security and immigration.  In less than five minutes, we were checking into the THAI First Class Lounge.  We had about twelve hours to kill before our redeye flight to Shanghai, so we planned to mix some time in the lounge with a day trip into Bangkok.

THAI Royal First Lounge

THAI Royal First Lounge

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United Global First Class Lounges – Washington-Dulles and Los Angeles

Fifteen Days in Australia

A Trip to Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, and Diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea

TPA-IAD

I awoke on Christmas morning anticipating one of my longest travel days of the year.   My mom dropped my dad and I off at Tampa International Airport where we boarded our first flight of the day, a two-hour flight from Tampa to Washington-Dulles.  We were seated in first class on a B737-800.  The flight was quite nice and went by pretty fast.  There was not a full breakfast service, but scones were served.  I watched some SportsCenter and took a nap, waking up just before we landed at Dulles.

Long couple days of flying!  TPA-IAD-LAX-SYD

Long couple days of flying! TPA-IAD-LAX-SYD

5 hours at Washington-Dulles (IAD)

Due to award availability, we were forced to spend a five-hour layover at Dulles.  Because of this glut of free time, we headed over to Terminal B to spend some time in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge.  Since we had a same day international first class ticket, we had access to the lounge (I also have access as a Star Alliance Gold member).  This lounge is without a doubt the nicest Star Alliance lounge at Dulles Airport, and is one of the better lounges in the US.  We had a couple of drinks and lunch in the lounge,  as Lufthansa has a decent spread that features four hot items and a variety of cold sandwiches and salads.  After a couple of hours, we decided to try out the United Global First Class Lounge.

Food offering in Global First Class Lounge IAD

Food offering in Global First Class Lounge IAD

Upon checking into the Global First Class Lounge, the lounge agent informed us that we didn’t have access to the lounge since our International flight was out of LAX, and not IAD.  I questioned this logic, since that’s not what the United lounge access policy says, so the lounge agent begrudgingly allowed us access to the lounge, but really acted like she was doing us some sort of favor.   This rubbed us the wrong way since we were, after all flying in global first class out of LAX later that day, and were in first class on IAD-LAX later that afternoon.  The lounge itself was completely empty, as my dad and I were the only two people in the lounge.  There was a small food spread, which didn’t look all that appetizing.  We did help ourselves to the open bar for a drink though. The lounge agent requested us to leave the lounge at 2pm since it was the end of her shift.  We found this strange, but we did so anyway and went next door to the regular United Club.  Upon checking into this United Club, the lounge agents here were rather bewildered as to why we weren’t using the Global First Class Lounge.  We explained to them the hassle we were given upon entering the Global First Lounge, and that really upset the lounge agent who offered to escort us back to the lounge and have a word with the agent there.  Since at that point we only had twenty or so minutes until boarding time, we declined, as we just didn’t want there to be a scene since this United employee was pretty bothered that we had been given a hard time.  United just really needs to figure this out and preach more consistency on the education and/or enforcement of policies by their employees.  This whole experience really did leave a sour taste in mouth to start our long day of travel with the airline.

IAD-LAX

Finally, it was boarding time for our flight to LAX.  We were seated in seats 2A and 2C for this flight.  I enjoyed a pretty decent diner of pasta, and then watched a few Anthony Bourdain videos on Sydney and Melbourne before dozing off for a nap.  I must have been really tired since I didn’t wake up until the flight attendant was preparing the cabin for arrival into Los Angeles.  This was actually a very nice transcontinental flight — things were improving!

Dinner on IAD-LAX

Dinner on IAD-LAX

LAX Global First Class Lounge

We only had about two hours at LAX before our long flight to Sydney, so we headed straight to the Global First Class Lounge and were greeted by an extremely friendly lounge agent.   The offerings at the LAX Global First Class Lounge are far superior to that of Washington-Dulles.  Apart from a full bar, there were several warm appetizers and snacks.  We were also provided a limited menu from which we could order a small meal.  We each ordered some udon noodles, which were brought out to us after about ten minutes.  They were delicious, and proved to be a great little snack since unbeknownst to us, it would be more than a couple of hours before we ate again.

Overall, the LAX Global First Class Lounge was far superior to that of IAD.  The employees at the LAX lounge were friendly, accommodating, and provided great service — the complete opposite of our experience at Dulles.  The physical facility, while not amazing was much better than the Global First Class Lounge at Dulles.    At the end of the day, I feel that United needs to vastly improve its consistency.  While lack of consistency is a major weakness throughout the United brand at the present time, it was never more painfully obvious than it was given our two experiences at two of United’s “premier” lounges. Next:  United Global First Class Los Angeles to Sydney

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class – Dubai to Hong Kong to Tokyo-Haneda

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


I arrived at Dubai International Airport about two hours before my departure.  After clearing security and immigration, I made the long walk to the T2 gates at DXB and proceeded to British Airways Galleries Lounge.  This place had decent tarmac views and small spread with a couple fried appetizers and some cold plates.  I used my time in here to catch up on e-mail and charge the laptop, but the lounge was nothing special.  After a brief stop at the duty free shop to buy some postcards, I made my way to the gate where by flight to Hong Kong awaited.

Cathay Pacific (CX) 746
Dubai (DXB) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 17A (Business Class)
Sunday, June 23
5:10PM – 5:00AM
Duration: 7:50

I once again found myself on a Cathay Pacific A330-300, just as I had on my inbound flight to Dubai.    I settled into my seat, a solo seat on the port side of the airplane.

Back to the great Cathay Business Class Seat

Back to the great Cathay Business Class Seat

Me in the seat

Me in the seat

Stretching out prior to departure with a glass of champagne

Stretching out prior to departure with a glass of champagne

The flight attendant came by immediately and offered a pre-departure glass of champagne, which I happily accepted.  Boarding concluded pretty quickly, and we were pushing back from the gate in what seemed like no time.  As we made our ascent, I was treated to some pretty awesome views of Dubai below.  Though it was hazy, this was just about as clear as it had been the entire time I was in Dubai.

Dubai below

Dubai Creek area below

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

En route to Hong Kong!

En route to Hong Kong!

Since I wanted to hit the ground running when I eventually got to Tokyo, my primary goal for this flight was to get some good sleep.  Luckily, dinner service started pretty soon after we reached cruising altitude.  I had a vodka tonic along with the mixed nuts mix to start out.

Relaxing with a V&T and some wasabi nuts

Relaxing with a V&T and some wasabi nuts

The salad and appetizer was brought out together.  I’d never had a “chicken terrine”, but it wasn’t half bad.

Green peppercorn chicken terrine with fig chutney

Green peppercorn chicken terrine with fig chutney

For my entree, I went with the Kung Po chicken, which was decent, but nothing too special.

Kung po chicken with steamed jasmine rice and pok choy

Kung po chicken with steamed jasmine rice and pok choy

A light blueberry cake, which went well with the Hong Kong style milk tea for desert.  The milk tea is a must when traveling on Cathay.

Blueberry layered cake with vanilla sauce

Blueberry layered cake with vanilla sauce

After dinner, I immediately fell asleep, as I was exhausted from a few long nights in Dubai.  I slept a good five hours and was woken up as the flight attendants were starting breakfast service, about 45 minutes outside of Hong Kong.  I had the poached eggs, and found the dish to be excellent. Usually breakfast onboard is pretty bad, but I found the breakfasts on Cathay Pacific to be much better than the dinners.

Poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, chicken sausage, roesti potatoes and grilled tomato

Poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, chicken sausage, roesti potatoes and grilled tomato

We landed in Hong Kong from the east in the middle of a nasty thunderstorm with torrid rain.  We were right on time, so I had about 3.5 hours to kill.  I proceeded through transit security and went right back to The Wing.  I covered this extensively in a previous post, so I won’t go into too much detail other than mentioning that I couldn’t turn down some dim sum and BBQ pork bao at the noodle bar!

Dim sum, noodles, and BBQ Pork Bao at "The Wing" Noodle Bar

Dim sum, noodles, and BBQ Pork Bao at “The Wing” Noodle Bar

As luck would have it, my flight was at gate 50 — which is pretty much the furthest gate possible from The Wing.  I allowed myself plenty of time to get to the gate, and after about a 15 minute walk, I arrived at the gate in plenty of time, as boarding was delayed while we awaited the flight crew.

Ready to go to Tokyo!

Ready to go to Tokyo!

My B777-300ER to Tokyo-Haneda

My B777-300ER to Tokyo-Haneda

Cathay Pacific (CX) 548
Hong Kong (HKG) – Tokyo Haneda (HND)
Aircraft:  Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 19A (Business Class)
Monday, June 24
8:45AM – 1:55PM
Duration: 4:10

Cathay Pacific’s B777-300ER is an internationally configured, three-class airplane.  This actually made a ton of difference.  Everything about this flight was a step above my other Cathay flights on this trip, since those were either regional or only two-class airplanes.  I didn’t think this would make such a difference, but it certainly did.  The hard product (the seat) is pretty much identical.  The cabin in situated in a 1-2-1 configuration, which is as good as it gets for business class.

Once again, the wonderful Cathay business class seat

Once again, the wonderful Cathay business class seat

Stretching out!

Stretching out!

Since this was another morning flight, I would be having another breakfast.  I was pretty stuffed from my previous two meals, but since this flight left from Hong Kong, dim sum was on the menu, and I couldn’t resist.  The most noticeable difference on this flight was the fact that every course was brought out individually instead of a tray being brought out with everything.  I guess this is what you get on a 3-class, internationally configured plane.

Fresh fruit and croissant

Fresh fruit and croissant

Yogurt

Yogurt

Dim sum

Dim sum

The service on this particular flight was spectacular.  I was sorry that it was only a four hour flight, as I would have loved to have this crew on a longer flight.  They were most certainly some of the best that Cathay has.  One particular flight attendant, Cherry, was especially attentive and friendly the entire flight…. she didn’t miss a beat.  I passed time by watching some Anthony Bourdain episodes about Tokyo, and before I knew it, we were starting our descent into the Tokyo area.

IMG_3682

Heading down into Tokyo

We landed into Tokyo’s Haneda International airport about an hour late due to our departure delay.  I transited through immigration and customs quickly and began my journey to the Park Hyatt Tokyo.  This flight was by far the best of my four flights on Cathay during this trip.  This was the Cathay Pacific that I had expected.

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge – Hong Kong

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I cleared transfer security and decided to trek back towards gates 1-4 to try out the newly renovated Cathay Pacific Lounge, The Wing.   There are so many options of things to do in Hong Kong’s airport, but I’d heard good things about this place, so I wanted to check it out.

Entrance to The Wing

Entrance to The Wing

The lounge is visibly brand new, and is very appealing to the eye.  It spans two levels, and the top level is by far the better of the two.  As I arrived, I asked about taking a shower, and I was whisked away to a shower attendant who arranged a nicely appointed shower room for me.  This was especially refreshing considering I’d been in transit from Seattle for well over 24 hours at that point.

Bathroom / Shower

Bathroom / Shower

I grabbed a drink from the downstairs portion of the lounge and checked by email.

Funky seating / workstations

Funky seating / workstations

Afterwards, I decided to head upstairs.  If you find yourself in The Wing, forget the downstairs altogether – the upstairs is where to be.  Up here, there is plenty of seating space, the Long Bar (one of the longest airport bars in the world) with sweeping terminal and tarmac views, a Noodle Bar that serves up a variety of delicious noodle dishes and dim sum, and a coffee bar.  I had some dim sum, noodles, and a BBQ Pork Bao from the noodle bar, and it was delicious.

The Wing

The Wing

Noodle Bar!

Noodle Bar!

BBQ Pork Bao from The Noodle Bar

BBQ Pork Bao from The Noodle Bar

The Long Bar

The Long Bar

Afterwards, I shut down the Long Bar with a couple beers, as I had one of the latest departures of the night at 1:40am.

Shutting down another bar...

Shutting down another bar…

The Wing is one of the best business class lounges I’ve seen, anywhere.  I’d probably rank it a little behind the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge in Istanbul, but it’s not far behind.  Hong Kong is probably my favorite airport in the world, and The Wing is just another awesome addition to it.

 

 

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Review: Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class – Tokyo-Narita to Hong Kong

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


I arrived in the late morning, I had several hours to kill at Narita due to my re-scheduled inbound flight.  As mentioned earlier, I hopped the inter-terminal bus to Terminal 2 and decided to spend the day in the Cathay Pacific Lounge.  There was nothing special about this lounge, but it did have functioning internet, a decent food and drink selection, and sadly no showers.

Cathay Pacific Lounge at Narita

Cathay Pacific Lounge at Narita

Self-Serve Bar at Cathay Lounge NRT

Self-Serve Bar at Cathay Lounge NRT

Self-Service at NRT Cathay Lounge

Self-Service at NRT Cathay Lounge

I proceeded to my gate to see a massive boarding scrum, but because I was flying in business, I got to hop ahead in line of all that nonsense.

Ready to go back to Hong Kong

Ready to go back to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific (CX) 505
Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Seat: 17A (Regional Business Class)
Thursday, June 20
6:20PM – 10:10PM
Duration: 3:45

 

Boarding my ride, a B777-300

Boarding my ride, a B777-300

A few weeks prior to this flight, Cathay Pacific subbed in a B777-300 with the regional business product instead of the lie-flat business seat that they’re known for.  This, of course was a disappointment.  Instead of a 1-2-1 configuration with a fully flat bed, I found myself in a 2-3-2 configuration with decent recline, but nowhere near lie-flat.

Cathay Pacific's New Regional Business Class Seat

Cathay Pacific’s New Regional Business Class Seat

Good IFE and decent leg room

Good IFE and decent leg room

Seat Controls

Seat Controls

For a regional business product, it was pretty good, and it was obviously tolerable considering the flight was only about 3.5 hours.

The flight attendant offered some pre-flight champagne, which I happily accepted.

Pre-departure glass of champagne

Pre-departure glass of champagne

About 30 minutes into the flight, the meal service commenced.  With this being regional business, the appetizers and salad came out together.  The salad was paltry, and barely had any lettuce.  The soba noodles with shrimp was not my favorite, and the ham appetizer tasted pretty funky.

Small salad, soba noodles with shrimp, and a parma ham and melon appetizer

Small salad, soba noodles with shrimp, and a parma ham and melon appetizer

Grilled beef tenderloin with mushroom wine sauce, pumpkin potato mash and sauteed squash with bacon

Grilled beef tenderloin with mushroom wine sauce, pumpkin potato mash and sauteed squash with bacon

For the entrée, I selected the grilled beef tenderloin.  It was tasty enough, but grossly overcooked.  The pumpkin potatoes were great, but it was not a very visually appealing meal in the least.  The steaks I’d enjoyed on United on the flights to Japan were far superior.  Dessert consisted of a small serving of Haagen Daaz ice cream, which is pretty hard to mess up. It was a relatively disappointing meal, but then again, it was only regional business class.

After dinner, I nodded off for a couple hours, and woke up  upon our decent into Hong Kong.  It was quite choppy on our decent, but we landed and arrived at our gate, leaving me with about 3 hours until my connecting flight to Dubai.

Overall, this flight was perfectly fine, but I was expecting more since this was my first flight on Cathay Pacific.  The service was fine, but certainly nothing special or memorable.  My first impression was that the flight attendants, while efficient and kind, appeared quite robotic.  But this was, again only regional business class.  Surely Cathay’s international business would be better.

 

 

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago?: Review: LAN Economy Class – Santiago to Sao Paulo

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


I was not looking forward to this segment of the trip simply because it was breaking pretty much every rule I set for myself when it comes to earning miles by flying.  Simply put:  it earned no mileage.

None.

Normally, I would not write about a short flight in economy class, but since this was my first time flying LAN, I decided to write about it.

I’d originally booked my ticket in November through Orbitz, and TAM changed the schedule a number of times.  Ultimately, for the Santiago – Sao Paulo segment, I ended up on a TAM-marketed, but LAN-operated flight.  What does that mean?  Well, based on the mileage earning rules for United, the miles get awarded based on the award chart set for the Star Alliance operating carrier.  In this case, LAN Chile is not even a Star Alliance partner, so that meant no United miles.   My backup plan was to credit these miles to my American account, but its mileage rule is that the award chart is dictated by the OneWorld partner airline who is the marketing carrier.  In this case, TAM – who is not a OneWorld carrier.  So essentially, I was in no-man’s land as far as mileage earning was concerned.

Anyway, I arrived in plenty time to deal with any potential complications that this codeshare ticket may have.  As it turns out, there were no  problems, but I did have to check in with LAN, as the TAM personnel at SCL were non-existent.   My next problem was that I was holding a ticket on LAN Chile – an airlines whose inclusion in the OneWorld alliance does absolutely nothing for my Star Alliance Gold status as far as lounge access was concerned.

Santiago is without a doubt, OneWorld country.  LAN dominates the airport along with its partner airlines.

Luckily, I recently acquired a one-day American Admirals pass from a friend, and was ultimately able to enter the Admirals Club at Santiago with my LAN ticket.

 

American Airlines Admiral Club in Santiago

American Airlines Admiral Club in Santiago

Admirals Club SCL spread

Admirals Club SCL spread

This was a nice space, and was barely even populated.  I almost had the lounge to myself.  It was a very comfortable space to pass a couple hours and get some work done.

LAN Chile Airlines (LA) 750
Santiago (SCL) to Sao Paulo (GRU)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER
Seat: 12C (Economy)
Sunday, June 16
3:25PM – 8:25PM
Duration: 4:00

My first impressions upon boarding my LAN 767 were that the interior was brand new.  I walked through the extremely spacious and sparkling business class to my bulked aisle seat in the first row of the economy section.  From here I was able to look into the business class cabin for much of the flight.

My aisle, bulkhead seat 12C

My aisle, bulkhead seat 12C

Plenty of legroom - not really restricted by bulkhead

Plenty of legroom – not really restricted by bulkhead

Now, I’ve seen pictures of LAN’s business class before, but in person, it really did look like a fantastic product.

 

Business class from my seat

Business class from my seat

The economy product wasn’t too shabby either, as it featured the new, slimline seats and Panasonic IFE systems similar to what United has been installing in its international fleet.  The interior of the plane was very fresh looking, and provided a very good initial impression of the airline.

Entertainment System

Entertainment System

The meal consisted of a sandwich and some bread – not the highlight of the flight, as it was pretty tasteless.

A blah sandwich and an okay dessert

A blah sandwich and an okay dessert

After a little less than four hours of flight time, we touched down in Sao Paulo, and I proceeded through transfer security.

Flight path:  SCL-GRU

Flight path: SCL-GRU

Overall, I was pretty impressed with LAN.  Though I was still upset I didn’t earn any miles for this portion of my trip, I was definitely glad for the opportunity to try LAN.  Maybe next time I fly LAN, it will be in the front cabin to somewhere really cool – Easter Island, anyone?

 

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago?: Review: TAM Economy Class – New York JFK to Rio de Janeiro

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


TAM Airlines (JJ) 8079
New York (JFK) – Rio de Janeiro (GIG)

Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Seat: 29C (Economy Class)

Thursday, June 13
7:10PM – 6:05AM (+1 day)
Duration: 9:55 

I arrived at JFK about three hours before my flight.  Checkin was a breeze at Terminal 8, and I headed to security.  Since the only priority line was for OneWorld elites, I had to trudge to the back of the security line — it took about 15 minutes, so it wasn’t the end of the world.

I proceeded to the American Airlines AAdmirals Club to kill some time before my flights.  This was a bit strange considering I was given a lounge invitation by TAM because of my Star Alliance Gold status.  American is in OneWorld, so it’s just strange how that all worked.  Last time I flew TAM, it was out of JFK Terminal 4, and I used the Swiss Lounge — that made way more sense.  Anyway, I entered the AAdmirals Club with no issues, sat down to get some work done and have some drinks.  The lounge was very crowded, and it took entirely too long to get a drink.

Admiral's Club, JFK Entrance

Admiral’s Club, JFK Entrance

Crowded lounge

Crowded lounge

As I was finishing up some work and a drink, I watched my A330-200 get towed to the gate — that was my queue to start gathering my things and head to the gate.

My ride to Rio:  a TAM A330-200

My ride to Rio: a TAM A330-200

Before my flight, and again at check-in, I had requested a “Space +” seat, which was essentially an exit row.  They said there were none available, and that I couldn’t sit in an exit row since I don’t speak Portuguese.  Interestingly enough, they gladly booked me in an exit row on my return, and I sat in exit rows on TAM the last time I flew them to South America — so I’m not really sure what their policy actually is.  What this did mean though was that I would be cramped in standard economy for close to ten hours.

TAM economy class

TAM economy class

How cramped?

9.5 hours of this -- my knees were not pleased

9.5 hours of this — my knees were not pleased

Yeah.  Pretty miserable.

We taxied and waited for our takeoff slot for about 45 minutes, and soon enough we were airborne.  Food and beverage service did not begin until about two hours into the flights since we were encountering moderate turbulence as we flew through the nasty front that had just passed by the east coast.  I passed time before the meal by watching “Side Effects.” 

The IFE was on-demand, but looked pretty ghetto

The IFE was on-demand, but looked pretty ghetto

I selected the pasta for dinner, as I usually do in economy — it’s pretty hard to compeltely screw up pasta.  It was surprisingly decent.

TAM Dinner Pasta

It actually tasted better than it looks

After dinner, I watched another movie, “Snitch” before going to sleep.  It was not a comfortable rest, but I somehow managed to get about 4.5 hours of decent sleep.  I awoke about the time the sun was rising and movement started again around the cabin.  The flight attendants came by for breakfast service about 90 minutes prior to landing, while we were approaching Brasilia, Brazil.  The breakfast was a sandwich and fruit.  The fruit was fine, but the sandwich was barely passable as food.

Breakfast sandwich, they say

Breakfast sandwich, they say

After breakfast, we finally began our decent into Rio de Janeiro. Everything was pretty uneventful from there.  We were about 20 minutes early, so that was fine by me.

Approaching RIo!

Approaching RIo!

Overall, this flight was decent.  It certainly was not comfortable, but then again, no economy flight is comfortable for somebody who is 6’4″.  The service was fine, and the food was edible.  The flight attendants were friendly enough, and spoke enough English to provide satisfactory service.  The inflight entertainment was on-demand, and decent, though the physical IFE unit was pretty dated.  Considering the low price of this flight, it was completely acceptable, and I was perfectly happy with it.