American Airlines 737-800 First Class Review

This review has been a long time coming. I have taken several flights the last few months in First Class on AA’s 737-800’s . So this review will encompass many of those flights. All but one of the flights are under 2000 miles and most between the 1000 mile to 1750 mile range.  Some of the routes I flew were ORD to MCO & TPA. DFW to San Juan (2200 miles), JFK, LGA & MCO. SJU to MIA, and several flights between SAN and ORD & DFW. So any flight that falls within that range will have the same service (this also applies to other aircraft on AA) and product.

AA 737-800

The service was for the most part the same on all of the flights. Like any US carrier the flight attendant service can be a bit inconsistent, but more times than not the service in First was positive and professional. The one area American lags behind Delta and United is pre-departure drinks. I would say less than half of the time one was offered, and if it was, it was either just a cup of water on a tray or occasionally orange juice and water. Only once or twice did the flight attendant offer anything beyond that. American does a very good job of boarding First Class passengers first (after passengers in need of assistance and uniformed military personnel), so boarding was always a breeze with plenty of overhead space.  A packaged blanket (no pillow) was always on the seat or in the seat-back pocket on your arrival. The 737-800 has good overhead space and on a few flights the newer 737-800’s with Boeing Sky Interior even provide a little more space. Despite looking smaller the new bins not only have more space, but are also easier to place your bag inside the overhead as the bin pivots down.

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The cabin and seats are the same with four rows in a 2×2 layout. The bulkhead starts at row 3 and the last row is 6. The only difference was on a couple of the flights between SAN & ORD  I was lucky enough to be on an aircraft with Boeing’s new Sky Interior which featured American’s new In-flight Entertainment (IFE) system and seats (not all planes with Sky Interior have the new seats & IFE). These seats are leather as opposed to the cloth seats with leather headrests on the more common and older layout. The new seats also have a headrest and outside the color (the leather seats are gray, while cloth are blue with grey headrest) they are essentially the same. I had seats in every row and both aisle and window.  My favorite is the bulkhead. There is enough leg room that the window seat AA737-800passenger can easily leave their seat without disturbing their seat mate. In fact, the very first thing I noticed on the first flight I took on one of American’s 737-800 was the increased leg room. American has a very generous 40-42″ pitch compared to 36″-38″ on Delta and United. The bulkhead may even have a few more inches of knee room (maybe not leg room, as you can put your AA 737-800feet under the seat in front in non-bulkhead seats) compared to Rows 4-6. All seats have power port outlets (plug doesn’t always work) on the front of the center armrest, while the new seats have both a power outlet  and a USB port in the same spot. The seat recline on AA 737-800American is a little different with the seat back only reclining a little, however, the bottom of the seat glides forward a little. This is good because it lessens (along with the 42″ pitch) the forward seat intruding into your space and it still provides basically the same recline as standard US airline first class seats. Some other unique features on American’s First Class seats is the aisle and widow armrest raises. This not only allows for a little more room (seat width is already a comfortable 21″) but there is also a storage space in this armrest. It may say “no storage”, but it is a great place to store AA 737-800newspapers :)  The seat-back pockets are smaller than the plusher first class seats of old, but there are two pockets that make up for that. One downside of the bulkhead is the seat-back pockets are much smaller (but bigger than other airlines First Class bulkhead seats).  All seats have a small drink tray that comes out from the center armrest, but rows 4-6 have an additional drink tray that comes down from the back of the center armrest on the seat in front, providing more space if needed (actually a little far away to keep a drink there).

AA 737-800

All the flights I flew offered WiFi and some form of in-flight entertainment (IFE). Most had overhead video screens (over seats) and audio. A single prong plug is located in front of the center armrest for headphones. Basic ear-buds where either at your seat as you boarded or a flight attendant would pass them out. The number of audio channels fluctuated from 10 to 12 channels and had a nice selection of music (boarding music is nice as well), with surprisingly clear sound. I used my headphones to access the IFE on every flight and only had an issue with the sound once. What was shown overhead depended on the length of the flight. On flights less than 2.5 hrs (actual flight time) NBC Universal programming was aired and on longer flights a movie was shown along with the NBC shows if time permitted. The one downside to this is there seemed to be no variety in the NBC programming package. The same programs are on regardless of which direction you are flying, whereas the movies do change with the direction and in some cases destination. Hawaii has separate titles as does MCO (Orlando).  I must have seen the same episode of “Mysteries of Laura” and a Jimmy Fallon skit 7 times last month (I only watched once).

AA 737-800Now, the new seats have individual in-seat entertainment which is on-demand (AVOD) and located on the seat back. The screen is touchscreen and a decent 12.1 inches. There is a generous selection of movies, TV shows, and audio (both radio and CD selection), plus a few games and a nice 3D moving map. The hand-set is in the outer armrest (one that raises) and is relatively easy to use (none of these are ever easy for me), however, I found it easier using the touchscreen to maneuver thru AA 737-800the library.  Two other features with the in-seat entertainment that I really enjoy is that the programming can be accessed before take-off and thru landing, plus most movies were un-cut.

As I said, on all flights WiFi was available thru gogo inflight. The prices for internet access varies greatly. Usually depending on flight time. This doesn’t make much sense as you are paying for a set time. 30 minutes was as little as $2.50 for a mobile device and as much as $5 (usually $4), and for a laptop/tablet it varied from $3.50 to $7.50. For 90 minutes the prices doubled (so AA 737-800you get 30 minutes free – sort of). There are also yearly, monthly and daily plans available. The internet speed is ok, but certainly not great (or even good). The one nice feature is you can access for free (I booked an award ticket on my last flight :)). In addition to the internet access, entertainment was also available through gogo on most flights (the exception being on shorter routes and planes with the in-seat entertainment). There is a fee for all passengers (yes, First Class too) to watch both television programs and movies through their computer. TV programs are either $.99 or $1.99 per episode and movies ranged from $3.99 to $5.99. Unfortunately, none of the devises I have  are compatible with gogo, so I never was able to watch a single program or movie (and I paid for 2 sitcoms). I tried four devices; my laptop, phone and 2 tablets. None worked. I tried several times as I was able to download the gogo player, but each time I was unable to view the program I purchased. I was able to speak (write) to the help line and was told my devices were not compatible yet, but will be soon (last week my Samsung Galaxy Tab did work on a Delta flight thru gogo. ** It has been 2 weeks since I wrote this and I flew a few flights on American this week. My Samsung tablet did work and American now has a couple movies and television programs for free thru gogo. Just click the complimentary icon on right of the home entertainment page). I do think all Apple products are compatible.

The service is very consistent in First on American (outside how meal was served). On most occasions, shortly after take-off, the flight attendant would take drink orders and return with your drink and a AA 737-800small, but nice size bowl of warm cashews and almonds. This was almost always done from the galley. Directly before or after the beverage service a scented hot towel was passed-out (not the greatest quality). Two flight attendants worked First Class on the 737-800 for the meal service (afterwards one or both would help in Economy). American has two very unique programs regarding meals in First Class. You can reserve your entree at least 24 hrs before your flight. This is great because if you purchase AA 737-800a First Class ticket you should always get your meal choice. If you do not reserve the entree, then American takes meal orders by a method called “FEBO” (front even/back odd). On even numbered flights, meal orders are taken from the front, and on odd, from the rear. On the occasions when I reserved my meal, with one or two AA 737-800exceptions, the flight attendant confirmed my choice. There was always two choices for the meal. On dinner and lunch flights one was a meat, while the other was a pasta (vegetarian option). I would guess on all the flights I have flown in First (including aircraft other than the 737-800) there was about eight different lunch/dinner entree choices and maybe six breakfast choices. I could not tell AA 737-800much difference between the lunch service and dinner service other than what the dessert option was and if an appetizer was included, and this was based on flight time, not time of day. On flights between 2.5 hrs. and 3.5 hrs (900-1298 miles) a three course meal was served with a chocolate chip cookie for dessert and on flights over 3.5 hrs. (1299 miles) an appetizer was included on the tray and the dessert was either cake (lunch time) or AA 737-800ice cream (dinner time). I read on flights over 4.5 hrs you have a choice for dessert of either a sundae or cheese & fruit plate . The only other difference was how the meals were served (including breakfast). On half AA 737-800the flights, the flight attendant took the meal order in advance and brought the meal from the galley. The other half it was served directly from the cart and that is when you selected your meal choice.  Only one or two meals stood out as being memorable. In fact, I can not say that American has the best tasting domestic first class meals. But, what I am always very pleased with, is the temperature of the meals. Always served hot. This is a pet peeve of mine and it increases my enjoyment of the meal. Of the breakfast AA 737-800entree’s I had, the french toast was quite good. Other breakfast meals I ate were; egg strata, cheese omelette with peppers, cold cereal (only AA 737-800time I saw cold meal choice), and steel-cut oatmeal. Breakfast is always served with a small bowl of fruit, and on some dishes a meat and a potato. Either croissants or biscuits AA 737-800accompanied breakfast. For lunch/dinner the teriyaki beef with rice or beef with macaroni & cheese were my favorite meals. Other meals I ate were; tortellini pomodoro, beef in a mustard sauce, and a couple of different chicken dishes just to name a few (some of these meals may have been other aircraft, but the meal service is the same). Two choices of bread was always offered with the meal. Sourdough, cheese-bread, whole grain, and my favorite, the pretzel roll were some of the choices. Because AA 737-800most of these flights were between 2.5 to 3.5 hrs the main meal was the only service. I do not remember any other additional snack/basket service after the meal on the longer flights, including the DFW to San Juan flight (although, I may have slept through it). I did fly on a few short-haul routes (DFW to AA 737-800IAH and OKC) and a nice snack basket was distributed with Snyder pretzels, small package of premium nuts, banana’s, Kettle brand potato chips, Pepperidge Farm cookies, plus a few others. One nice touch was, before touch-down, mints were offered to the passengers in First Class. and the flight attendant usually thanked them for flying American.

I must say I am very pleased with American Airlines 737-800’s First Class. The leg room is the most generous of any of the legacy carriers and because of the recline it also feels the roomiest. Most of the flights were on-time and storing my luggage was never an issue. While the food didn’t wow me with it’s taste, it was always served hot, and I like that there is a variety of entrees offered between flights. With the addition of the new 737-800’s with Boeing’s Sky Interior (American has a very large order with Boeing to replace their aging MD-80’s) and the updating of seats on older 737-800’s, the First Class (as well as Economy) experience will only improve. It will be interesting to see what happens to the service once American and US Air are completely integrated, but since US Air does not have any 737’s it certainly will not effect this aircraft.


Thai Smile A320 Smile Plus Review Phuket to Bangkok

I am not really sure why I am reviewing this flight other than it shouldn’t take me long to write it. I took this flight back in early May and there have been a few changes with this route. I guess that is a good reason in itself to review this service as well as to clarify if Thai Smile actually has a Business Class. To answer that question; yes, they do. They call it “Smile Plus”.

I flew down to HKT from BKK on Thai Airways on an A330 in Business Class and it had their long-haul seats. So I wasn’t really thrilled with flying Thai Smile back because I knew it was an A320 and certainly wouldn’t have the same comfortable seats that Thai would have. Unfortunately, all the later Thai flights were sold out (in all classes) and I was catching a 1:30 am Qatar flight out of BKK, so the latest available flight leaving HKT was this Thai Smile flight. The fare in Smile Plus was slightly less than Thai’s Business Class fare (600 Baht less), but the real appeal was that it left two hours later than the last available TG flight.

At the time I booked this flight I knew there was some confusion and changes between Thai Smile and Thai Airways. I had a little trouble booking my ticket online, but was eventually able to buy my ticket from their site ( My flight did carry a TG flight number (TG2216) and I was able to earn miles through Thai’s Star Alliance partner United Airlines. But a Thai agent I spoke with told me that that was changing and they would be operated as two separate airlines. I just looked and now Thai Smile flights two letter symbol is no longer TG (like Thai’s), rather, WE. Because of this I am fairly certain that miles will not be credited to one of Thai’s Star Alliance partners. You do however, earn miles with Thai’s Royal Orchid Plus on all fares except for Smile Promotion (and some Smile Saver) fares. Another benefit that may be lost because of the change in codes is Star Alliance Gold members would not receive their Gold benefits; like lounge access, priority check-in, etc. Again, this would not apply to members of Thai’s Royal Orchid Plus program. I was given a lounge invitation on check-in (my boarding-pass had Star Alliance Gold imprinted on it), and I would imagine if you purchase a Smile Plus fare the same still applies.

The other change, and it is a big change, is this flight no longer departs and arrives at BKK. Now the HKT flights to Bangkok are operated out of DMK, the older Don Mueang Airport. Thai Smile flies two other domestic routes out of DMK (Chang Mai and Khon Kaen). The rest of their flights depart from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). If this was the case back in May, I would not have taken this flight as it would have been to much of a hassle to switch airports to catch my connecting flight. But Thai Airways still flies several TG flights from BKK to HKT and CNX.

Check-in was rather hectic with no seperate Thai Smile area.  All Thai SmileThai Smile passengers checked-in with Thai passengers (loosing a little of the benefit flying a smaller airline). Being able to use the Royal Orchid Plus line did save a little time.  As I said, I was able to use the lounge on the domestic side of Phuket’s airport. This lounge was a little old and certainly not as nice as I remembered the last time I flew out of  HKT (a year earlier). I headed out to the boarding area and was a little confused because there were only a handful of people waiting to Thai Smileboard. I knew this flight was sold out, but couldn’t figure where the other passengers were. There was no pre-boarding announcements and what few people were taking this flight all approached the gate agent at once. After a long walk down the corridor, it dawned on me most people were boarding from the international side of the terminal, as they had international connections. I didn’t realize this when I checked-in and was sent to the domestic side. I wished I mentioned I was connecting to a Qatar flight because I may have been able to use the international side and in turn use the Thai Lounge there that I remembered being much nicer than one on the Domestic side (I had two hours to kill before my flight).

The domestic passengers must have boarded after the International Thai Smileconnections, because I was one of the last passengers to board the plane. Thai Smile flies new Airbus A320’s. I was seated in 31 H, the bulkhead aisle. On this flight Smile Plus consisted of three rows 31-33 (AC & HK – 12 seats). On International flights Smile Plus has four rows (16 seats). It is configured very much like an intra-European flight. The seats are the same as Economy, but with the middle seat left free. So you do have more space if you raise the armrest. They also promote Smile Plus as having a few more inches of leg room, but because I sat in the bulkhead it was hard for me to tell. I felt the bulkhead may have had a little more legroom than rows 32 & 33 and I felt a little cramped in my seat. In addition, the tray table in the bulkhead is in the armrest, therefore it does not raise, making the seat much narrower. Despite my late boarding there was plenty of room in the overhead for my rollaboard and briefcase. I was greeted with a smile and offered a lemongrass drink before departure. The one striking difference with Thai Smile compared to Thai was the flight attendants uniforms. Instead of the traditional sarongs the female Thai Smileflight attendants with Thai wear, these flight attendants wore bright orange pants or shorts with light orange tops.  Thai Smile positions themselves not as a discount carrier, but rather, a trendy and fun airline. The interior of the A320 also reflected this. The design was nice and the seats had a more modern color scheme (orange and purple). They were cloth with a small leather headrest. A small pillow was placed on each seat for further comfort.

There were four flight attendants serving this flight. All very young (as were the pilot and co-pilot) and not as proficient in English as you would expect, but it was passable. As the name would indicate, they were always smiling (one of the nicest things about Thailand) and very pleasant. One flight attendant was assigned to Smile Plus while the other three to Economy. Before take-off she brought out the meal options on their trays. So you knew exactly what you were getting. The choices were both cold plates; fried shrimp or a chicken dish. I read on International flights a hot meal is served in Smile Plus. Thai SmileWe pushed 20 minutes late, but were in the air a few minutes after that. Shortly after take-off we were given a hot towelette. This was a little disappointing because Thai usually passes out a nice refreshing soft cold towel, which, when in Southeast Asia, is always a welcome reprieve. After the towelette, the drink orders were taken. The beverage selection was very limited. Just juices, coffee, tea, and a few soft drinks. No beer was available and I assume no alcohol at all for this route. My guess is on International routes alcohol is available. I selected the chicken dish and it was ok at best (the shrimp didn’t look much better). It was more of a pressed chicken (cold chicken plate on Thai flight to HKT was much better). It was accompanied with a small salad and a strawberry mousse cake (which was tasty). I think they even served a lite snack in Economy. I can’t complain about the food too much as the flight time was only one hour. They even managed to have a second beverage offering of orange juice after the meals were collected.

Thai Smile

There were TV monitors throughout the plane that did show some comedy program, however there was no volume and the seats did not have an audio control, nor a socket for a headphone. The show was “Just for Laughs” which doesn’t need to much volume to be able to watch and sort of enjoy. There was no power port, nor was wifi Thai Smileavailable. As this was a newer A320, the overhead light and air-vent worked just fine. The seat-back pocket in the bulkhead was much smaller than the other seats. I tried to get a few minutes of sleep but with the recline being the same as an Economy seat and my seat being so narrow I gave up on that idea rather quickly. We landed in Bangkok a few minutes late and deplaned in the Domestic part of BKK.

Flying on Thai Smile is definitely a different experience compared to Thai Airways, but not that of a low cost carrier to a full-line airline. With Thai Smile you are allowed one bag checked for free (20kg bag allowance for Economy, 30kg for Business), you can select your seats in advance, Smile Plus passengers have priority boarding, check-in, and baggage handling, while Smile Plus and Smile Flexi dates and times can be changed without a fee. All things you can do with Thai Airways. The difference is that of the full-service tradition airline compared to the simplified, fun and hip (or at least trying to be) airline. Personally I would rather spent 20% more and fly Thai Business Class (at least within Thailand where fares are low anyway), but for Economy that may not be the case (smaller aircraft means faster deplaning as well as faster luggage retrieval). I think the other issue I would have flying Thai Smile again from either HKT or CNX would be they do not fly out of BKK on these routes. But if airport preference is not an issue than that would not apply and Thai Smile would certainly be a worthwhile option flying to/from Bangkok.


Austrian Airlines 767-300 Business Class Review Vienna to Washington IAD

I was very proud of myself for booking a one-way award ticket through United from Moscow to LAX on Austrian Airlines. I had an extra night to spend at the end of my trip and was trying to figure out where in Europe I could reasonably fly from Moscow and also find an award seat to So. California from that city. I was having a hard time finding a suitable pair when I realized I could get an award ticket on both segments flying Austrian Airlines (IAD – LAX on United) and just take an afternoon flight out of Moscow and be forced to have a stopover in Vienna. It worked out perfect. Not only did I now not need to buy a ticket from Moscow, now I was able to spend a little time in Vienna and enjoy one of my favorite meals (schnitzel!!).

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The other benefit of spending the night in Vienna is the Hilton Hotel is located directly across the street from the train station Austrianwhere the CAT (City Airport Train) departs & arrives from VIE.  Having checked-in at DME (Moscow) the day before I already had my boarding pass, but after buying candy for my wife in Vienna I decided to check my bag. I noticed Austrian had a counter at the CAT station and asked if I could check my bag there. I was within the time frame allowed, checked my suitcase, and was quickly on my way for the 30 minute journey to the airport. I arrived a little less than two hours before my flight. Once at the airport I wanted to ask about seats and have my boarding pass re-printed. There was no line at the Business Class/Star Gold check-in and security was equally as quick. After security I found the Austrian Business Class lounge. The lounge was small, but had everything you would want in a lounge. Free Wifi, computer station, reading material, snacks and beverages. There was also a HON/First Class lounge and Star Gold lounge as well.

After spending less than an hour in the lounge they announced that OS #093 was boarding. I decided to see if there was more candy I could buy for my wife (she is demanding ;) ) and made a quick stop in the Duty Free. This caused me to be a little tardy for boarding. We had to have our passports re-checked before boarding which took an additional few minutes, therefore I ended up being one of the last to board. So I found boarding to be very easy but not very personable.

I entered the plane to a less than enthusiastic greeting from the flight attendant, found my seat and stored my carry-ons. There was plenty of room in the overheads. When choosing my flight, one of the things that appealed to me was Austrian’s 1x2x1 configuration in Business Class on their 767’s. The single seat is great when Austrian 767traveling alone. I was seated in 3K, and while all seats have direct aisle access, this is really a window seat (all A & K are single seats but not all seats are directly next to the window). There were 9 rows on this aircraft (another version of the 767 has 7 rows) for a total of 36 seats in one cabin. There was a pillow and blanket at each seat and was also supposed to be an amenity kit and headphone. However, neither of these items were at my seat. The cabin was only half full and I could see many of the empty seats also did not have the amenity kit (there was holder at seat for kit) and headphone (did have blanket & pillow). I hadn’t changed my seat so figured they just passed over my seat. I asked the fight attendant when she came by to ask me for pre-departure drink and she brought me these items after she finished with the beverage service. My glass of orange juice was fresh-squeezed and very good. Champagne (Duval-Leroy) was also available as well as any other beverage you wanted. Shortly after boarding the menu’s were handed out and before push-back the chef came by to take orders. Austrian has a Flying Chef to oversee the meal service. He was the one who came by to take the meal orders. Probably better he didn’t interact with the passengers that much as he was a little abrupt and I think a little impatient when I didn’t understand German.

Austrian 767

We departed on-time and after a short taxi we were airborne for our 9hr 20 min flight to Washington Dulles. The in-flight entertainment (IFE) did not start until 15 minutes after take-off, so I took that time to explore my seat. If I hadn’t recently become interested in taking photos for Instagram I would have switched my seat to the middle section as I found my seat to be Thailand-Russia 2014 401slightly cramped. Not so much the seat itself, because while it is only 19″ wide, there was enough room to store your personal items (place for shoes, magazines, and a great water bottle holder) and the pitch was a generous 60″ (although most of that is under the desk portion of the seat in front of you). But more because my seat was at the window and the opening to get into the seat was very tight. The single aisle seats in the even rows had direct aisle access and therefore had a much larger entrance into their seat. The two seats in the middle was the same. One was at the aisle and the other has the desk on the aisle and seat set in a little. I got used to it after a while and enjoyed sort of being on the aisle, but also being able to look out the window if I wanted. There was a power port at the Austrian 767seat  that came in very handy. I used both the power socket (charge my phone) that could accommodate all styles of plugs and the USB port (charged my headphones). This area is also where the headphone socket was for the IFE, an over the shoulder reading light, and a small storage bin for the amenity kit. All these were located next to your seat out in the open above a large desk or table top area. This area gave you the sense you had a lot of room. Of all the new business class layouts I have seen this had the most user friendly power port, headphone jack, and reading light. My only complaint, as with most non US airlines, is there is no air vent above the seat. Luckily on this flight the temperature was comfortable.

Once the IFE came on I quickly searched for a movie to watch. When it came to movies there certainly wasn’t the volume of movies or TV shows other airlines have available. I counted only 26 movies available. However, the selection was good. There was the latest blockbusters as well as Austrian 767classics and Int’l movies (including a few German speaking movies). A fair amount of TV programs, documentaries, audio books, games, and a great moving map. The audio selection was more generous than video, with maybe 100 CD’s available (also German speaking artists). The system was OnAustrian 767 demand (AVOD) and was very easy to use. Despite the smaller library I watch two movies and a few sit-coms and was entertained when I wasn’t sleeping. The hand-set was a little small but very easy to use and responsive. It worked on the screen almost as a mouse does on a computer. The 15 inch TV monitor picture was very clear and was touch screen and also easy to use. The screen was close enough (most of the 60″ seat pitch is under the TV) that it was no problem to make your selections using the screen and not the hand-set. The headphones provided were noise-canceling and despite not being the greatest quality I did use them to watch one movie. I did switch over to my headphones at some point and needed a two pronged adapter to get sound from both sides. There was no WiFi on this flight (not sure they have on any of their aircraft).

Shortly after the IFE started the flight attendants commenced with the service. Austrian 767-300First distributing hot towels (so-so quality) then helping to set-up the tray table. There was some trick to it and I actually was happy with the helping hand (otherwise it was resting on my lap). This was followed by the beverage cart Austrian 767-300and a nice selection of nuts. There was a very generous selection of wines (Three white wines and three red) to choose from, as well as any other beverage you wanted. After the beverage cart made it’s way down the aisle an appetizer trolley was shortly behind. This was very impressive as there was a selection of six appetizers (or antipasti as they called it) on the cart. You had your choice of any or all of the appetizers. I chose deep fried chicken breast and the air-dried beef , which were both very Austrian 767-300good. There was also shrimp, smoked salmon, bacon-wrapped goats cheese, and Mediterranean vegetables available. If that wasn’t enough, a creamy fennel soup was served between the appetizer and the main course. Wasn’t the best soup I’ve ever had, but I enjoy soups, so to me it was a very nice addition to the meal service. Better yet, a bread basket accompanied every serving of the entire meal service!!

For the main entree there were three options. Braised veal with sweet corn moussline and root vegetables, rigatoni (home made, according to the menu) in a light artichoke sauce, which would have appealed to me if not for the artichoke sauce, and stuffed (spinach and ricotta) chicken breast with saffron risotto. I chose the chicken and was very happy with my choice. I’m not sure what exactly the Flying Chef does or how he prepares the meals on board, but the chicken was as good as any meal I have had on an airplane. So he certainly made up for his lack of enthusiasm when taking the order :)

Austrian 767-300

After dinner the trolley and the chef reappeared with dessert. The chef was still a little snarly, but the flight attendant that served me was very pleasant. Again, a nice and plentiful selection was available. Assorted cheese and fruit was on the trolley along withAustrian 767-300 three desserts; traditional sweet curd dumplings, chocolate fondant, and a mango parfait. I had a few pieces of fruit and couldn’t decide between the chocolate fondant and the dumplings, so I took both :) The dumplings were good, but the fondant was great. Freshly brewed coffee or tea were also available on the trolley (and I am sure after dinner drinks as well). I do not drink coffee, but if I did, I would have been a little disappointed to get a cup with my dessert because what came after was one of the nicest touches I have experienced on an airplane in either First or Business Class. A coffee menu welcoming you to a Viennese coffee house above the clouds was handed out with a selection of 10 of the most popular Austrian 767-300Austrian coffee specialties. As I said I do not like coffee, but not wanting to miss out on this unique experience, I asked the flight attendant if they could make a hot chocolate. She said of course, and it was as good as you’d get from a coffee house and came in the same lavish presentation as the coffee’s did. The only thing missing was no chocolate candies were available (or at least I wasn’t offered any).

After the lengthy meal service and finishing the even lengthier movie (Wolf of Wall Street) I was looking forward to some sleep. The seats have a large control area on the armrest which made it very easy to adjust the seats and use all the functions. There was a massage function that I used every once in a while, but it either stopped working after a while or I just tuned it out. But still it was nice to have. There was also a function to make the seat cushion softer or firmer.Austrian 767-300 The seats are in a cocoon (or shell) and you could  adjust your seat to Three settings, including a 180 degree lie flat bed (there is also small seat control on side of shell as you recline). As I have stated on many of my reviews, I actually like sleeping in a cradle position, but I tried the lie flat setting and  found it a little claustrophobic (felt like I was in a coffin and very low to the ground. But to be fair, I think I find most lie-flat airplane seats this way and that is why I like the cradle position). In addition to the three settings, the seat can also be adjusted to any another setting of your choice. I found a comfortable setting between relax and lie-flat and slept soundly for a few hours. The blankets were nice, but I really liked the pillows. The only issue I had was occasionally because the seat is a little narrow I would accidentally change the setting of my seat as my arm would be resting on the controls.

There were two lavatories in the front of the plane. They were clean enough and well stocked with lotion and a basket with stain remover (great idea), packaged refreshing towelette, comb, razor, and shave cream. The amenity kit was in a unique wool package with Bogner face lotion and lip balm, plus eye-shades and socks.

I woke a couple hours before landing and got up to use the rest room. As much to go, as to see if there was any mid-flight snack offerings. I did not see any or any sign that there were any. The flight attendants would occasionally come down the aisle, but more to pick up after passengers than to ask if they needed anything else. I was never asked if I wanted or needed anything else until the second service started. I really didn’t want anything, other than maybe some chocolates (Austria is known for their chocolates, you know ;)) so I really wasn’t bothered by this. The second meal was a choice of either buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes and Austrian 767-300balsamico or a variation of sausages with white cabbage and potato roesti. I ordered the sausages and was pleasantly surprised as to not only how good it was, but also the quantity. It was a full meal and I loved the potatoes and thoroughly enjoyed all three sausages. Of course the bread basket accompanied the meal and a dessert of marinated raspberries in a vanilla creme fraiche was on the tray with the sausages. The dessert was a nice refreshing way to end the meal.

Thirty minutes before we landed the IFE ended and just displayed promotions on the screen. This also meant that the moving map was no longer available, which was a little disappointing. I can not remember if a second hot towel was given out after the second meal or before landing. Despite bad weather in Washington we landed a little early. For some this may have been a blessing as we were bused to passport (we did deplane into terminal) and while I was one of the first onto Dulles’ mobile lounges (bus) I was one of the last off, and therefore, was in line for a significant time at passport (passport was also busy at this time). This would have been a negative way to end my flight as this was my 9th flight on this one week trip and I was getting tired, but I checked a bag and I had a long lay-over before my United flight (actually got on an earlier flight, but only because United screwed up my original flight) to LAX. I wanted to take a shower after I cleared customs and security. But to my disappointment none of the United Clubs have showers at IAD. However, I realized I could probably use the Lufthansa lounge since I arrived on Austrian and was able to shower and grab a bite to eat there.

All in all I was very pleased with this flight and Austrian Airlines 767-300 Business Class. While the service wasn’t the best (it wasn’t the worst by any means either) and the IFE programming a little lacking in content compared to other airlines (but it kept me entertained) the cabin layout and meal service more than made up for it. I really liked the coffee service and I guess the chef on board really makes a difference, because not only were all the meals delicious, but also fresh and nice and hot.

Qatar Airways A320 Business Class Review Doha to Moscow (DME)

In May I took a trip to Thailand and Moscow. I was on ten flights in seven days and was looking forward to reviewing several of these flights. Well, two months later I am finally reviewing one. I was especially anxious to review this Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Moscow because it was the one flight I actually did research on before deciding to purchase my ticket, and I could not find many reviews on this product. I did read that Qatar was upgrading their A320 & A321’s Business Class seats to be more in line with their long-haul Business Class product. Qatar has 31 A320s and 10 A321s, so it is a significant segment of their business. They are using these narrow-body planes not just on routes within the Middle East, but also on longer routes like this Moscow flight. Other destinations being served with these aircraft are Geneva, Belgrade, Male (Maldives), Warsaw, Vienna, just to name a few.

Qatar A320

To show the power of frequent flier programs I originally was going to fly Aeroflot non-stop from BKK to SVO. However, right before I purchased my ticket, I checked to see how many bonus Delta SkyMile’s I would receive for purchasing a Business Class ticket. To my surprise, the fare I was going to pay was not eligible for mileage accrual. No way will I ever fly an airline and not earn miles, unless I am flying on an award ticket. So Aeroflot lost business because they do not allow miles to be earned in that fare class (I believe it was a Z fare). My other two options were Emirates or Qatar. Emirates had more flight choices and flew either an A380 or a B777 into DME (much more convenient airport for me than SVO), while Qatar only flew a A320 into DME. From what little I read about Qatar’s A320, was they did not have an International Business Class seat on this route. Rather, one that was as wide as a US Domestic First Class Seat with a few more inches of leg room (I believe 45″). The seats do have AVOD, but not to the same standard as their long haul fleet. Despite this, I knew that Qatar is one of only a few 5-Star airlines (I also flew Cathay on this trip), so I wasn’t that turned off by the seat, and the BKK to Doha was the longer of the two flights. But ultimately my decision to fly Qatar Airways was Emirates not being a member of an Alliance (and the flight I wanted was not on the A380) and Qatar’s being a member of One World (I’m platinum on American).

After arriving on time into Doha from BKK  (a very pleasant flight, review to follow), connecting First and Business Class passengers are bused to a separate Premium Terminal. A new airport has since opened and therefore any info on this terminal is outdated. The only thing I will say about it is that I wished I had a longer layover. I had less than 2 hours and with the bus times I only had enough time to shower, use the computer for a few minutes, and buy my in-laws some candy. This terminal was a great idea!

One of the great things about this terminal was that you were bused to your aircraft by a Luxury Bus (as opposed to the normal Qatar A320buses were you are packed-in standing and waiting). The bus was very spacious and there were only a few passengers aboard. I took this as a good sign that the Business Class cabin would not be full. We departed to our aircraft less than 25 minuted before departure. giving me a few extra minutes to buy the candy and call my wife. While I generally dislike being bused to the plane, it is nice when you are on the last bus, as you know that no one else will be boarding (and maybe sitting in that empty seat next to you :) ).  The downside to being bused is that weather can be an issue. Luckily, this was a morning departure so the heat was not so intense. Upon boarding the aircraft, I had forgotten about Qatar refurbishing their A320 Business Class seats, so I wasn’t expecting the new configuration. I was warmly greeted by the flight attendant and much to my delight, this plane had the new seats!! You could smell that the cabin was brand new. To add to my good fortune, the seat next to me was free. There were ten passengers in Business Class. On both the old and refurbished version of Qatar’s A320, there are three rows in Business Class in a 2×2 configuration. There was plenty of room for my bags in the overhead.

Qatar A320

After getting settled in and switching my seat (2B) to the window seat (2A), both the purser and the flight attendant assigned to Business Class came by to welcome me and introduce themselves. Asked if I had any question, offered me a newspaper (had both English and Arabic speaking papers), menu, and wine list, and took my pre-departure drink order. I had the orange juice which was fresh squeezed and very good. Champagne (I believe Krug) was also available. A nice hot towel was also distributed as we waited to taxi. Pillows and blankets were on each seat as we arrived. The amenity kits were handed out as we taxied, along with a small pouch containing eye-shades and socks. The amenity kits were a small zipped bag containing Ferragamo lip balm and creams. The flight attendants were from several backgrounds (as were the passengers). The purser was from Qatar and the other four from different nations. None of the flight attendants were from Russia (nor I think, even Russian speaking). All announcements were in Arabic and English. We pushed on-time for our five hour flight.

After take off and getting a spectacular view of Doha I turned my attention to the In-flight Entertainment (IFE) system. Qatar’s Qatar A320system is called Oryx and the IFE on the refurbished A320’s was similar to what was on the 777 I flew from BKK to Doha, with two exceptions. The hand-set was like a smart phone and I had a very difficult time figuring out how to operate it (much like a smart phone ;) ). The purser also had a hard time, but eventually got it to work and showed me what to do. Also there was not the same volume of content that the 777 had. Maybe 30% less programming. But that still leaves plenty of movies and TV programs. The movies were from all genres including Arabic movies. Same with the TV programming. Comedies, dramas, sports, and documentaries. There is also an extensive audio catalog as well as games and an awesome moving map. Besides being disappointed in the difficulty of operating the hand-set, the movies were also edited (pet peeve of mine). Fortunately, I watched “Saving Mr. Banks” and a few sit-coms so it didn’t effect the enjoyment of the film. The TV monitor was very good size (15.4 inches) and was touch screen only for volume and to pause, fast forward, or rewind. All programming was on-demand (AVOD). The headphones were at each seat in a storage area over your shoulder. They were noise canceling and good enough quality for me to use in lieu of my own.

Qatar A320By the time I started to watch the movie, breakfast service had already begun. Shortly after take-off the flight attendant brought out raspberry and lime smoothies along with freshly squeezed orange juice. Both were very good and the smoothie was a nice way to start the meal service. About twenty minutes later (they waited a few minutes more for mine while my IFE was getting Qatar A320worked out) the trays were brought out with yoghurt, a small bowl of fruit, and a salad of smoke trout, cucumber and dill (I passed on the salad). They also served breads, croissants, and muffins from the bakery basket. The fruit was fresh and tasty, and the bakery items were also good and plentiful. There were three options for breakfast. Cheddar cheese omelette with chicken sausage, roasted tomato, and grilled mushrooms (what I opted for), pepper and cashew scrambled eggs, or an Arabic breakfast plate consisting of; feta, shanklish cheese and labneh with za’atar served with foul medames, cheese manakish and Arabic bread. Not sure what that is (I wrote from menu :) ), and I do not believe any of the other passengers ordered it. The omelette was very good and sausage and potatoes ok. The service lasted a good hour (partly because of my IFE issue) and I had more than enough to eat. A refreshing hot towel was a welcome site afterwards.

Qatar A320


About an hour after breakfast I finished watching the movie and was hoping to get some sleep. I only slept a few hours on the Qatar A320overnight flight from Bangkok and we were landing in Moscow at 2pm, so I had a full day ahead of me. But first, I wanted to see if there was any additional service on this route for this review. Just as the movie was ending the flight attendant asked if I wanted anything to drink. I asked if they had any nuts or salty snacks. She brought me a dish with a heaping of cashews and almonds and twenty minutes later replenished it. This was exactly what I was craving.  Unfortunately, this also woke me up a little and postponed me trying to sleep for another 40 minutes as I watched two sit-coms.

Qatar A320

As I said, there are only 12 seats in Business Class. The seats are in a slight herringbone position. Unlike the non-refurbished seats which only have 10″ of recline. These seats recline to a full flat 180 degrees. Unfortunately, I can not find the specs on these new seats. Qatar’s site only shows their old Business Class on their seat map section and only provides this limited info on this new lay-out;    They are however, the exact same seat concept I recently reviewed of United’s ps Premier service from JFK to LAX/SFO ( Everything about these seats are the same (except for the hand-set for IFE), and United also has them on a narrow-body aircraft. So my best guess is the seats are 21″ wide and have between 65″-76″ of leg room. The screen is probably 45″ away. The cabin is very cozy, but maybe a little too cozy for a five hour flight. The color scheme is very smart (and masculine) looking. Mainly charcoal with burgundy accents and wood paneling on the center armrest. Under the center armrest is a power socket for all plug types. It came in handy as I charged my phone (US plug). There is also a USB port over your shoulder where the headphone Thailand-Russia 2014 310(three prong) connection is. This is also a small storage area, which, if the seat next to me was occupied would have been needed. My one complaint with a lot of the new Business Class seats is a lack of storage. Outside of this area, the only other place to store your personal objects, is a small compartment under the screen (holds newspapers or a book, but not on take-off) and under the ottoman (or overhead, of course). By the time I had finished my nuts and used the lavatory (very clean,  and had some supplies Thailand-Russia 2014 324for grooming), I decided to sleep. The seats are cloth and have a good-sized headrest. The blanket and pillow were nice, but not the same quality as my earlier long-haul sector. The 21″ seat width is very comfortable while sitting, but when at the lie-flat setting, I found it to be a little narrow (the magazine holder intrudes a little). I personally do not like to sleep in the lie-flat position on airplanes and I was able to find a comfortable cradle position. The seat controls are in the back of the center armrest and you can adjust your seat to just about any setting. There is also a small center divide to allow for more privacy. Besides the overhead light there is also a reading light over your shoulder that is only visible when the seat is reclined. Next to the overhead light is an air-vent. As luck would have it, after just 15 minutes of sleep, the pilot Thailand-Russia 2014 326made the announcement we would be landing soon (in 45 minutes, not so soon). I decided it wasn’t worth going back to sleep and enjoyed the view out my window. Both flight attendants (the purser assisted with the Business Class service) came by and personally thanked each person in Business Class for their business and wished us a pleasant stay before landing.

We landed ten minutes early and just beat a 777 that was also pulling up to a gate near us. This was great because there was no line at passport control. Domodedovo (DME) is always easier and faster to navigate than SVO. I only had carry-on luggage and was through passport and customs in under fifteen minutes. Of course my sister-in-law was caught in traffic, and I had to wait one hour, which took a little of the joy out of getting though so fast.

I was very happy with my decision to fly Qatar Airways over both Aeroflot and Emirates. Not only because I accrued AAdvantage miles and arrived into Moscow an hour or two earlier than with the other airlines. But also, I truly saw how Qatar earned their 5-star rating. From the Ferragamo amenity kit to the outstanding service, everything is top-notch. Outside the kinks with the Oryx IFE system on this flight, it was a genuinely pleasant experience from take-off in Bangkok to arriving in Moscow. I look forward to having the good fortune of flying Business Class on Qatar Airways again.

United Complimentary Premier Upgrade Update

I have been meaning to write a follow-up to a post I wrote two years ago ( about getting upgraded on United with the Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPU’s). Not so much because I haven’t been upgraded on four flights in a row last month (in fact, I initially planned to write how it seemed to be easier getting upgraded), but rather, to give an update on how getting upgraded has changed since the United/Continental merger has had time to work their kinks out.

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I wrote the prior post on getting upgraded on United in 2012. The year that United and Continental merged. So a few things were happening that year that was causing problems for Premier member’s getting upgraded. First, because of the merger, United’s system had problems integrating with Continental’s (or vica versa) and sometimes people were left off the upgrade list completely or put below where they should have been (even Global Service members). In addition, Continental’s equivalent Elite level to United’s 1K was Platinum, which only required 75,000 miles flown per year (1K  – 100,00 miles per annum). This created a disproportionate number of  the highest level Elite members. Therefore, making it harder for even 1K members getting upgraded. In 2013, I still saw signs that United wanted to curtail the number of CPU’s (I will detail below) they gave away. However, I found that I was upgraded almost as much as I did prior to the merger. I think I was only way down the upgrade list on one flight and received a complimentary upgrade at least 80% of the flights I flew (not counting flights I used Global or Regional certs on). So I felt that things were almost the same as they had been since United did away with the 500 mile upgrade segments and gave complimentary upgrade’s to Elite members.

But again in 2014, I have seen a return of the same scenarios as late 2012. I have been upgraded on less than half of the flights I have flown (not including flights I used Regional or Global upgrades) this year and more telling, I have been number ten or higher on the upgrade list on more than a few flights. I feel there are a number of reasons for this.

United has reduced the number of flights they fly and the aircraft they fly. So there are simply less seats available. As an example, from San Diego to ORD, United used to have at least 5 flights per day. Now it is down to 2 or 3 daily flights. Same from San Diego to Denver. United has significantly reduced the number of flights a day and on some flights fly Regional jets (they have also done away with meal service between SAN & DEN).

The economy has gotten a lot better. Therefore more people are traveling for business and there are way more Premier members on every level (including Global Service – not sure how to even qualify for that). Which means more Premier member’s vying for what seats are left in First Class. Unfortunately for me and many other non-corporate travelers, I think United also feels that they have too many high-level Elite members. While United does not want to loose these members, they say they want to reward those that spend the most money. So United (along with Delta) has instituted a spending component to achieve Elite level for 2015.  So now miles flown is not the only parameter (not sure how this effects Star Alliance partner flights) to become or retain your Premier status ( Personally, I think this (along with how award miles are earned-also based on money spent) will backfire on United and Delta. I will greatly reduce my travel this year with both airlines and not retain my 1K status with United nor Gold Medallion with Delta for next year. If  many others think and do the same it would hurt both airlines (especially how fragile both the economy is now, as well as world events).

Even with these two factors, the biggest reason it is harder getting upgraded on United is that they do not want to give as many complimentary upgrades away as they used to. I do not think United wants to 100 percent do away with CPU’s (it is one of the main reasons they have been able to gain so many Elite members). They just would rather have someone pay or use their miles to get upgraded. I feel that both Delta and United would like to see the main benefit for their mid-level Members be; preferred seating, free checked bags, and priority boarding and only upgrade their very highest members (Global Service for United and Diamond for Delta) or those willing to pay or use miles. The difference with United from Delta, is that United actively promotes upgrades on their flights.  On several occasions this year I have gotten e-mails that upgrades are available on flights I am taking and I can either use miles or pay to upgrade. I guess this is also a way to even the playing field for Gold (who I imagine rarely get upgraded these days), Silver, and general members. They can now leapfrog a Premier Platinum or higher to get a first class seat. Thus, also making it harder for a 1K to receive an upgrade. As an example, these past two months, on three occasions, I was number one on the upgrade list when it checked-in full. On each of those flights there were plenty of seats free in First Class when I bought my ticket and four days prior to departure (on each of these flights I received that e-mail about upgrading, even though I was within the 100 hour window for CPU’s). Now there are other factors that may have also caused me to miss an upgrade by one person, like the fare I payed, when I bought my ticket and when I checked in for the flight. But, I am a 2 Million Miler with United, fly at least 60 segments a year, and have been a 1K for each year for almost the last 20 years (wow, I am getting old :( ) . So I can see trends. Not getting upgraded is one thing, but being #10 or higher on the upgrade list on a flight from MSY to IAH or SFO to SAN confirms that things have changed.

Another example of how United does not want to give free upgrade’s away. Getting upgraded to Hawaii used to be one of the hardest markets to get upgraded on. To United’s credit they offer CPU’s to Hawaii. The service ( is basically the same to their other domestic routes with a few exceptions (they do fly some aircraft with BusinessFirst seating to Hawaii) . But recently it has become easy using miles (or Regional/Global upgrades) to upgrade to Hawaii. I have flown to Hawaii twice this year and was able to use my Regional upgrades with ease. To my surprise, I was even able to secure an upgrade for my wife and I on a flight that only had a few seats free in First Class (something that would never happen on other routes). Again, my take on this was that United just didn’t want to give away a complimentary upgrade on this route (and obviously didn’t feel they could sell those seats). Where it is not easy using miles or Global/Regional Premier upgrades are on United’s International flights and their p.s. Premium service between JFK & LAX/SFO. United does not give away CPU’s on these flights. Because of this, the upgrade list is usually small on these flights. I was unable to gain an upgrade in advance on the three p.s. Premium ( flights I took this year, nor on two International flights I wanted to take (decided not to take the chance and flew another airline), however, I was upgraded at the gate or within 24 hours of departure on all three p.s. flights (another sign the economy is doing better, these flights are not cheap and they do seem to sell most of the seats).

Lastly, in the past few months I have noticed that United has lowered their First Class fares on several routes (another sign they do not want to give CPU’s away). About two years ago both Delta and American started  having more reasonable First Class fares, but never United. Earlier today I went to buy a ticket to ORD from San Diego and a one-way Economy ticket was $225 while the First Class fare was only $365. For that small difference I would probably just buy the First Class fare. This obviously lessens the number of seats that are available for upgrade when the window becomes available.

As I said, I was originally writing this post as an update to my experiences in 2012 (which were light-years different than prior to the merger). But as I write this and re-live the flights I have taken this year. There is not really much to update. Again, I am not complaining about not getting upgraded. I think complaining by high level Mileage Plus Elite members has given United the confidence that they can change the way one earns Premier status (I know this is why Delta decided to change their program and introduced the spending requirements to earn Medallion level). What bothers me and why I decided to readdress this topic is that United is being even more aggressive in not wanting to give away upgrades. I have no problem with them lowering their First Class fares and not getting upgraded because someone actually paid to fly in First Class (although, I think this is a precursor to even worse service in First). Plus, it makes sense that they do not want to give away something for nothing. Except when that nothing is loyalty.

Aeroexpress Review Moscow Domodedovo Airport and Paveletsky Station

I have been having some writers block lately and had a hard time starting a new airline review (I have taken plenty of trips, too). So I thought I would do something a little different (hopefully informative and beneficial as well) and review the Express train from Moscow’s Domodedovo (DME) Airport and central Moscow Paveletsky Station (also Paveletskaya). This review will be as much advice once arriving into Moscow as it is a review of the actual service on the Aeroexpress Train.


Moscow has changed tremendously since my first visit in December of 1998. My friend and I used to negotiate with taxi drivers thinking we were getting a deal with a $50 fare into the Center (they stated the fare at $100).  However, I later learned if you were Russian or booked a taxi thru an official company, the fare could be as low as $20. At that time half the cars on the road would provide taxi service (and to a lesser extent, still do now). But also by that time I was comfortable enough and knew the city & Metro well enough I would take the #48 bus from SVO (in the early 2000’s most Int’l flights arrived at Sheremetyevo) to Rechnoy Vokzal (station) and the Green Line. From there to a stop very near whatever hotel I was staying. This cut the fare down to less than $3 at the time. The problem was the bus was very uncomfortable and Moscow’s traffic was starting to get bad (much worse now). So it was a long journey to the center (but still faster than a taxi). Then, I think in 2007, many of the International flights not operated by Aeroflot or their Skyteam partners moved to DME and the Aeroexpress train started operation. This was a real game changer as far as arriving and departing Moscow. My first Aeroexpress trip was on a very hot June day and was extremely uncomfortable (no air conditioning). But for this review I will just reference my last two trips which were in October of 2013 and May of 2014.

In October of 2013 I arrived into DME on a Friday and was staying at the Leningradskaya Hilton. The Hilton is located across the street from Komsomolskaya Metro Station’s. At Domodedovo the Aeroexpress trains depart at the opposite end of the terminal from baggage claim and customs. I had printed out a timetable ( and after a

Russia-Oct 2013 109relatively quick trip through passport control and customs (more likely to happen at DME than SVO)  I had 5 minutes to make the next train. DME is a long Airport and even with walking very fast I did not make it. At that time of the day trains departed every 30 minutes (on top and bottom of the hour) so I did not have too long to wait for the next train. I did not miss the train by much as I was able to get in a very short line to purchase my ticket. The cost is 400 Rubles and I had Rubles on me so was able to pay cash.  However, if  you purchase your ticket via an electronic channel (Aeroexpress website, Mobile App, and somehow at the turnstile) the cost is only 340 Rubles (self-serve kiosks are also 400 Rubles). I believe this discounted rate was not available at that time. I even heard they now have agents in baggage claim that can sell you a ticket (but better to buy online and save 60 Rubles -$2). This cost is only from DME to Paveletsky Station. You can also purchase a ticket with onward Metro ticket to your final stop. I opted to buy a Metro card when I arrived at Paveletsky. The next train arrived about 10 minutes after the earlier train had left. You need to scan your ticket to enter the platform. It is easy to find the train as it is the only train that leaves from the platform (and only one direction). The faster on the train the better selection of seats (seats not assigned). It is also better to walk as far away from the airport to get into the train as you will be much closer to the station when you arrive. The trains have improved Aeroexpresssince that first train I took in 2007. They are modern trains with plenty of leg room, space for your luggage in racks overhead, as well as some space for larger bags in the front of each cabin (no racks, just space on the floor), and a beverage and food cart that comes thru the train. My only complaint is the cabin is warm (I think still no air-conditioning), and it wasn’t a warm day. Luckily, the seat next to me stayed vacant and we left on-time. There are no stops along the way and the travel time from DME to Paveletsky is 45-50 minutes. Once we arrived at the station you have to scan your ticket again to leave the platform and enter the AeroexpressStation/Metro. There are two Metro lines at Paveletsky. The Brown Line #5 (circle line) and the Green Line #2 (Zamoskvoretskaya). Many of the major hotels in Moscow are not far from the Green Line Stations. Ararat Hyatt, Royal Aurora Marriott, Hotel National, Metropol Hotel, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Tverskaya & Grand, as well as the Sheraton. All a short walk from a station along the Green Line. The Swissotel is very near Paveltskaya itself (5 minute walk) and Komsomolskaya (Hilton) is three stops on the Brown Line. I luckily arrived a little before the late afternoon crush (it can be a crush!!) and was able to get a Metro ticket (I bought 5 trips for 150 Rubles – a small savings from the 40 Ruble per ride) without too much wait. After a long walk to the Circle Line station (easiest way to tell what line you want is to look at # or color. The Moscow Metro is very well designed – just not a lot of signs in Latin script), I was at the Hilton in under two hours of my flight arriving (that compares with a little over two hours in May on a Saturday when my Sister-in-Law picked me up at DME and was late because of bad traffic).

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Last Month I left Moscow on a Monday and didn’t want to inconvenience my Sister-in-Law, so I again took the Aeroexpress from the Hilton Leningradskaya to DME. Again, taking the Brown Line at Komsomolskaya. My flight to Vienna did not leave until 3:45 pm so I knew I would not have to deal with the morning rush. A few years earlier I had a late morning flight from DME and made the mistake of not having a valid Metro ticket. When I arrived at Komsomolskaya Metro, the line was out the door to purchase tickets. So make sure you have at least one ride left on your Metro card before heading to your station. Komsomolskaya has three Train Stations besides two Metro Lines. The Red line is to the right as you walk away from the Hilton and the Brown (Circle) to the left. On this occasion I gave myself some extra time to get to Paveletsky, and as luck would have it there is no 12:30 departure to DME (one of the few times during the day the train does not leave on the half hour) so I could not afford to miss the 1 pm train. Of course the main entrance to the Metro was under repair and closed and it took asking a few people in broken Russian to find another entrance. I made it to AeroexpressPaveletsky Metro Station 20 minutes before the 1 pm train, but had difficulty finding signs for the Aeroexpress. To my astonishment I saw two people at the top of the escalators that appeared to be talking to people and giving information. I asked one girl for directions and in perfect English she told me I needed to go down the adjacent station’s escalators (Green Line) and come up the other side for the Aeroexpress. I do not remember doing this in the past (may have been on Green Line)and without her help it would have taken me a while to find the Aeroexpress. I still thought I would be pressed for time, but it only took a few minutes to make my way thru the station and back upstairs. Upon coming up those escalator’s there were many signs for the Aeroexpress to Domodedovo. AeroexpressLuckily the line was short and I purchased my ticket from a cashier (I was unaware of the online savings then). There are many self-serve kiosks, but remember 400 Rubles at the vending machine. I believe Mastercard and Visa are accepted besides Rubles. After purchasing my ticket there are many signs for the train. I arrived 5 minutes before departure. I had to take an extra bag for my wife so I was a little overheated with taking that, as well as all the walking. I walked as far up as I could (farther up the front of the train – closer to the airport) and found a seat with the middle seat free. I read where there is a Deluxe Carriage that has assigned seats and is available for 900 Rubles one-way. I never saw this carriage on any of my trips. The train left exactly on time and again the cabin was warm (plus I was hot from hurrying). We stopped or slowed down a few times along the route, but arrived at DME 50 minutes after our departure. The check-in area at DME is much closer to the trains than baggage claim. They are doing construction to that entrance so you’re detoured to an entrance right at the check-in area.

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The first thing to keep in mind if trying to decide whether to take the Aeroexpress or a taxi. If it is your first trip to Moscow (or even second or third) and you do not have an understanding of the Cyrillic Alphabet it is probably better to forego the time and money savings and take a taxi from DME (or SVO). While the Moscow Metro has made improvements in their signage and become a little more tourist friendly (only a little), once you leave Paveletsky Station to find the Metro it would be very helpful to have some understanding of the Cyrillic letter’s. That said, the station is easy enough to reach from the Airport itself. Therefore, you could take the Aeroexpress Train and catch a taxi at Paveletsky (again, you should have some familiarity with Russian). I will admit that this latest trip from the Hilton to DME was harder than I expected and if I was with my wife we could not have taken the metro to the Paveletskaya. We would have needed to take a taxi there, or to DME. The key is not having much luggage. The Metro can be very crowded at morning and evening rush hours. So taking any cumbersome luggage would make your journey very difficult. I usually only have a briefcase and a small rollerboard, which are manageable. The additional bag made the commute more difficult. Also, weather is a factor. On almost all the trips I have used the Aeroexpress, the weather has been fine. If it is raining or snowing it would be difficult to schlep a bag in those conditions from the Metro (although I have done it) to your hotel.

Lastly, while the money savings is significant (cost can be less than $11 one-way) in taking the Aeroexpress, the time savings may be it’s best benefit. The traffic in Moscow can be atrocious. At certain times of the day it can easily take well over 3 hours to drive from either DME or SVO to/from the Center. That said, if you are traveling on business or money is no object and you are nervous about what to do when you arrive, have the hotel arrange for your pick-up or drop-off. It will cost a lot more than a taxi, but will give you piece of mind. As I said, Moscow has changed tremendously the last 12 years and for the most part for the better, but it is still intimating, even for the seasoned traveler.

In addition to Domodedovo’s Aeroexpress, Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport also has added an Aeroexpress with the completion of the new terminal (about three or four years ago). Aeroflot flies out of Sheremetyevo (as does Delta) and like Domodedovo’s Aeroexpress, Sheremetyevo also connects to the Green and Brown Lines. But it arrives at the opposite end of town at Beloruskky (or Beloruskaya) Station. Fare is also 340 Rubles if bought online or mobile app or 400 at ticket office or kiosk. Trains typically leave on the top and bottom of the hour, but during peak time every 20 minutes ( Travel time is a quick 35 minutes.

** A quick update for the fares on the Aeroexpress. I flew into Moscow DME last week (Nov. 2015) and purchased an Aeroexpress ticket from a machine at baggage claim after clearing customs. The fare has increased since I wrote this review. It is now 470 Rubles one-way if purchased at the airport and only 420 Rubles if purchased online. However, I tried several times to purchase a one-way ticket online at;  before departing to Moscow and unfortunately I was unable to purchase a ticket using my US credit card. As a side note; I was also unable to purchase a ticket for the high-speed (Sapsan) train from Moscow to St. Petersburg (review to follow) using my US credit card.  The ironic thing was after I exited the baggage claim/customs area, my in-laws were waiting for me and I never needed to purchase the Aeroexpress ticket in the first place (at that time I was happy I couldn’t purchase my ticket online and wished there was not a kiosk in the baggage claim area ;) ). I tried to get a refund from the ticket counter near the station, but that was met with a glum look and a strong NET from the agent!!!

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comment section.

United Airlines 757 Premium Service Review between JFK and LAX & SFO

*** United Airlines announced today (June 16, 2015) that they will end service from JFK Airport and move what few flights they have (they only fly from JFK to LAX, SFO, and a few commuter flights to IAD) to their hub in Newark (EWR). This review and service is still valid through October, 2015 when they make the move and I am sure they will use these same aircraft and the same p.s. Premium Service from EWR to LAX & SFO in October.

United recently updated their p.s. Premium Service between New York’s JFK Airport and LA’s LAX & San Francisco’s SFO Airports. In fact, they have updated their entire 757-200 transcontinental fleet between these airports. Before they had three cabins on their 757’s on these routes. First, Business and Economy Plus. Now they have BusinessFirst, Economy Plus, and Economy. While they did away with all Economy Plus in Economy. The regular Economy seats (and Economy Plus) have been upgraded with complimentary AVOD, in-seat entertainment, on 9″ screens. Economy also has a hot meal for purchase option. This service is only available between JFK and LAX/SFO. It is not available on any other Transcontinental routes (although a few 757’s from EWR & IAD may have their International configuration).

United Premium

This review comprises of three flights I have taken on this aircraft. One in December of 2013 from JFK to SFO and the other two a few weeks ago between LAX & JFK. On all three flights I used Regional Premier Upgrades or Global Premier Upgrades. There are no Premier complimentary upgrades on these routes. So outside of miles, this is the only way to upgrade. Besides the service, each flight was basically the same as far as seats, aircraft configuration, and meal service. The overall flight attendant service was inconsistent. With the JFK to SFO crew being unfriendly and not very responsive. The LAX to JFK flight had tremendous service with the flight attendants being warm, engaging, funny and available. The JFK to LAX return was somewhere in-between. But this is par for the course with United.

There are two cabins of BusinessFirst seats on these 757-200’s. The forward cabin has four rows (1-4) with a 2×2 configuration United Premiumand the rear cabin has three rows (5-7) that start at the second boarding door (the one most commonly used on the 757). Both cabins have a more intimate feeling then United’s old p.s. Business Class. The seats are situated at a slight angle or herringbone. On all three flights a pre-departure drink was offered. A flight attendant also came by with a basket offering eye-shades, a small packet of toothpaste and toothbrush, and earplugs. A very nice pillow and blanket was on the seat as you boarded and on the LAX to JFK flight, menu’s and a bottle of water were also at your seat as you arrived. On the other two flights they were distributed later. I sat in seats 1A, 4F, & 5E. Rows 1 and 5 are bulkheads. There is no space or leg-room advantage to these seats as all the seats are in a shell. However, the ottoman is wider in those seats than the rest of the cabin. Not sure why, but I did find the seat in row 4 slightly less comfortable because the ottoman is small. The other drawback to 4F (or any window seat) is that despite there being a very generous 76 inch seat pitch, if the person in the aisle had their seat in the sleeping position you had to climb over them to get out. The pitch is so long because there is a cut out under the seat in front of you. So the TV monitor is actually much closer (more like 45 inches). The seats are wide at 21 inches, which I liked.

United Premium

The seats are basically the same as United’s International BusinessFirst seats on their planes without First Class (Continental’s BusinessFirst seats). As I have stated on my reviews of United’s BusinessFirst on the 777 (both versions - ) and 787 Dreamliner (, the one United Premiumdrawback to these seats is there is not much room for storage. These seats are no different. There is an area under the TV where you could put a newspaper, book, menu, etc. But on take off, the items will slide out (the in-flight magazine is in a small compartment on the side of center armrest).  There is also an area over your shoulder that has a place you can place your bottle of water and few small items. This area also has a power outlet (110 volt and a few Int’l plugs), USB port (came in handy, as I was able to charge my headphones), and a two-pronged headphone socket. The IFE system is the same as well. Same generous 15.4″ screen and same AVOD programming (can start watching once on board ). There are plenty of movies (new releases, classics, and International), documentaries, sitcoms, and other TV shows to watch. In addition,  there is a a moving map, 20 music channels, hundreds of CD’s and a few pod casts on the audio option (CD’s did not work on any of the three flights), as well as a library of games to play. You can also plug your iPod into the system. The programming is the same as on Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 205international flight. Not sure if the audio not working was just getting the kinks out or if it is a lasting problem. The TV is touch screen or can be controlled by the in-seat control. Both were very responsive. A headphone was offered and is a higher quality than United’s Domestic First Class headphone’s, but I used my own. My one-prong cord worked fine in the two-pronged outlet on two flights, but I had to use a two-pronged adapter on the another. One complaint, because the headphone wire is attached over your shoulder it sometimes gets pulled out as you move your head. Another issue I had is with the TV screen (and not just on this flight, but on most airline’s TV monitors), it is very hard to see dark scenes. I watched Capt. Phillips and had a hard time seeing the final scenes. Besides the standard light and air vent overhead on the 757,  there is also a small light over your shoulder at your seat (only visible if seat is reclined). WiFi is available on all United p.s. Premium Service flights, however, on the LAX to JFK flight it was not working. The other two legs it was. I only used the WiFi to connect to, which is free (I think $6.99 if you want to access the internet), but the connection was a little spotty.

As I said, the service was the same on all three flights. Three flight attendants worked the PremiumPremium cabin. A hot towel was distributed about 25 minutes after take off. This was followed by drink orders and a small cup of heated cashews and almonds. Another flight attendant would take your lunch or dinner order around the same time (one flight was taken prior to take-off).

Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 216Both lunch flights (JFK-SFO & LAX-JFK) had the same menu’s, whereas the dinner flight had different options. While having different items, both were of the same quality and similar selections. The lunch flights started with a chilled appetizer of smoked salmon and sesame-coated tuna that was accompanied with a small side salad. The dinner flight began with an air-dried beef bresaola with roasted tomato and mozzarella. A basket with a selection of breads was also brought around. A Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 460nice selection and variety of bread. I am not a fan of seafood so I can not comment on the salmon and tuna (my seatmates on both flights seemed to enjoy), but the dried beef was good and I enjoyed the garlic bread, pretzel roll, and diner roll.

For the main course the lunch flights had an option of Tenderloin of Beef with United PremiumDelmonico’s steak sauce served with rosti potatoes and green beans. Cajun-style Breast of Chicken in a Cajun cream sauce with collard greens and white beans with chicken sausage. Or Vegetable filled Mezzaluna Pasta in a pomodoro sauce with zucchini. Despite wanting to try the chicken, I opted for the beef on both flights.  Both meals were excellent. Served hot (which can be an issue with United) and very tasty (reason I didn’t try chicken on second flight).

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The dinner menu also had three choices. A Grilled Pork Chop in a green peppercorn sauce with a shiitake mushroom bread pudding and asparagus and broccolini. Osso Buco Breast of Chicken in a mixed mushroom ragout with garlic polenta cake and broccolini (they must have gotten a deal on broccolini and mushrooms). Or a Spinach Cannelloni in a four cheese sauce with roasted tomatoes. I had the Pork Chop and it was also very good. The bread pudding was edible and as I have said in other reviews; Newman said it best “broccoli is a vile weed”. The flight attendants came around with a choice of white or red wines with the meal.

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The one part of the meal service that differed from United’s Int’l service was dessert. It  was the same on all three flights. Vanilla Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 222ice cream with a choice of toppings. Chocolate, caramel, or strawberry with nuts and whipped cream. But no other choices and no cheese and fruit plate. Personally, I was very pleased with the dessert. I enjoyed the ice cream sundae’s very much and rarely select the cheese offerings anyway.

About 30 minutes after dessert was carted down the aisle, a few snacks were placed in front of each cabin in a basket. The same snack items (Cape Cod potato chips, Toblerone chocolate, and Nature Valley granola bar) United distributes on First Class domestic flights was available. But the flight attendants did not walk Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 225through with the snacks. You had to get up a take what you wanted. This was also the time on two of the flights where bottle water was distributed. The flight attendant’s also asked passengers if they wanted any additional beverages. After this they were available, but mainly remained seated.

On each of the flights I was able to sleep a little. The pillow and blanket are the same ones used on United’s International flights. High quality and a huge improvement from United’s Domestic First Class, where only a thin blanket is sometimes available. The pillow is soft and the blanket keeps you more than warm enough.  The seats are 180 degree lie flat. Just like a bed. The controls on the center armrest has a sleeping setting that will take your seat into the 180 degree position. I personally like to sleep in a cradle position and was able to find a comfortable setting on each flight. The seats are cloth with a leather adjustable headrest (although with pillow, not needed) and the outer armrest comes down to give you a little more width while sleeping.

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There are two lavatories in the Premium cabin. In front of each of the two cabins in BusinessFirst (where they always are on United PremiumUnited’s 757’s).  A good ratio for only 28 passengers. Just like on their Int’l flights, Philosophy lotions and soaps were available in each lavatory. But while the rest of the plane feels new, the lavatories show the age of these planes. Clean, but a little worn.

Of the three flights, all were very smooth, two were a little early and one a little delayed by fog in LA (but we made up a lot time). Flight times were a little under five hrs to JFK and a little under six hours to the West Coast. Boarding was very easy and orderly on all three flights (less passengers then a normal 757).

United’s p.s. Premium Service from JFK to LAX & SFO is basically the same product as United’s International BusinessFirst. Which is an improvement on these routes, in not only the seat design and cabin layout, but also in the In-flight Entertainment. It seems like there are still a few kinks to work out with the audio portion of the IFE  and the WiFi. But those issues should be easy to fix. What will never be easy to fix for United (or American or Delta), is inconsistent service. This will always be a challenge for United. However, even in saying that, the service is still better than what you would find on most United First Class Domestic flights. That said, these routes have become very competitive with Delta flying 767’s and 757’s with  BusinessElite seating and American introducing their new First and Business Class seats on their new A321’s. So United can not count on just the seats to get people to pay over $2000 each way on their JFK to LAX & SFO routes.

Lufthansa 747-8 Business Class Review LAX – FRA


It is hard to believe that the 747-8i has been in service more more than a year. I have wanted to try Lufthansa’s new First or Business Class on this aircraft since last June when it was introduced. I finally had the opportunity on a recent trip to Poland. I thought I needed to fly thru Chicago, but was able to secure a seat from Los Angeles to Frankfurt. The only down side to that was I had to make the drive from San Diego to LAX which is something I dread. However, my wife had a doctors appt. in Orange County that morning so it made it a little more convenient. That along with no traffic and a late afternoon flight time got me to the airport in plenty of time. I parked my car at Park Air Express ( and was at the Tom Bradley International Terminal almost three hours before our departure. I gave myself a little extra time on the drive not only for a cushion in case of traffic, but also to see the new Bradley Int’l Terminal and the new Star Alliance Lounge.

Check-in was very quick. There were sections for First Class and Business Class. There was no one in either line. Even with checking-in online, I IMG_2914still needed to get my boarding passes printed and I asked about seat availability.   The gentleman was pleasant enough and I was on my way to security after a few minutes. This part of the terminal looks the same, other than the restaurants before security are all closed. I assume they are being renovated as I know a lot of people eat here before saying goodbye to those visiting them. There was a priority line for Elite, First, and Business Class passengers at security, however, you were then just funneled into the same line as everyone else. So the time savings was minimal. It was a quiet time in the terminal but with only two x-ray machines operating and being put into the general line it took 10 minutes to clear security. Not long, but being the only person in the priority line it took longer than it should have.

After clearing security you are still in the old part of the terminal. As one of the larger airports in the world and an important international hub, LAX’s old Bradley Terminal was honestly, an embarrassment. Compared with other International Airports around the world this was an eyesore. But no longer!! After following the signs and up an escalator you enter the new portion of the the terminal. WOW!! What an improvement. After a quick look around I went to the Star Alliance lounge (review to follow) to have something to eat, shower, and relax. The lounge is equally as impressive and an agent walked throughout the lounge notifying Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 059passengers that LH #457 was boarding. I finished a few e-mails and headed to the gate. By the time I got there most of the passengers had already boarded. There was a separate line for First, Business, and Star Alliance Gold members for boarding. That line was empty and after taking my ticket, the agent escorted me around the general boarding line to the first boarding door, where there was no line. As I walked down the jet-way there was a cart with newspapers (both German and English) to select from. I grabbed the USA Today and boarded the plane.

Upon boarding I was greeted by a smiling flight attendant who asked if I knew where I was seated. I knew I was seated upstairs because one of the nice features on Lufthansa’s web site is that you can select your seat after you make your reservation (unlike some other European Airlines). I had to pass through the First Class cabin to get to the stairs and the upper deck. The last time I flew Internationally on Lufthansa I was  in First Class ( and I could immediately see the improvement in the seats and how spacious the cabin was (only 8 seats). I could also smell that new plane smell and everything looked and felt new. I also immediately saw the improvement in the Business Class seats and lay-out downstairs. There was no middle seat like the 747-400 and the seats and color scheme looked much more contemporary than their old product. The reason I wanted to sit upstairs is the layout is only 2×2 as opposed to the 2x2x2 downstairs. Giving the cabin a slightly more private feel. The one downside to sitting upstairs is the overheads are much smaller than the rest of the plane. While the 747-800 bins upstairs are much bigger than the 747-400 overhead’s they still are not big enough to fit a large carry-on (looks like a bin on a 737 but not as deep). I never got the chance to try to fit my 20″ bag as the flight attendant offered to store it in the closet as I reached the top of the stairs. Besides the overhead bins there is also more storage in bins along side the window seats.

I was seated in 82H which is an aisle seat in the second row. There are eight rows upstairs (rows 81 – 88) and 10 rows downstairs Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 060(rows 4 -14) for a total of 92 seats. There is another version of the 747-8i that has two less rows downstairs totaling 80 seats in Business Class. The flight attendant that took my bag and the one who offered a pre-departure drink of champagne (Jacquart Brut Mosaique), water, or orange juice were both very friendly and set the tone for the flight. On the seat was a pillow and blanket and in a small storage compartment below the seat-back pocket was an amenity kit and bottle of water. The amenity kit was a little cheap looking (plastic case) and a little sparse. Containing only ear covers for the head-sets, socks, eye-shades, ear-plugs, toothpaste & toothbrush, and small tin of Nivea cream. The cabin upstairs was almost full. Despite my late boarding I had plenty of time to get settled in and have a glass of orange juice and make some last minute phone calls before our 9 hr & 30 min flight to Frankfurt. We pushed on time and after a 15 minute taxi to runway 24L we were airborne. The 747-8 is certainly quieter than it’s predecessor.


The upstairs cabin is a little longer on the 747-8, but still has a more cozy feel than sitting downstairs. The color scheme of Lufthansa’s Business Class seats and cabin is gray and brown. A big improvement, in my opinion. Despite being only a year and a half old the 747-8 does not have Boeing’s Sky Interior nor the larger windows like the 787 Dreamliner. The seat pitch is a very generous 78″ and width around 21″ (couldn’t find an exact figure. Seatguru says between 19.7-26.4 inches). The one thing I did not like was there is no air vent that you can control. I was a little warm during the first part of the flight. There are two lights. One overhead that is controlled by the hand-set and another next to the headrest. I found there to be more storage in these seats than other “new” Business Class seats. Besides the small compartment under the seat-back pocket. there is also space for your shoes under the ottoman and some space in center armrest that houses the head-set. To my initial excitement, there is also space at your seat (below center armrest) where the life vest is stored. However, I had two items fall down an opening in the seat as I reclined and was lucky to find them. Again, the window seats have plenty of storage space as there are bins under the windows. To add to the mood of the season there was a Christmas wreath on the wall in the front of the cabin.


Lufthansa has also upgraded their In-flight Entertainment System (IFE). The screen is much bigger at 15″ and the hand-set is very responsive. In fact, the easiest hand-set I have ever used. At first I thought the screen was off-set a little with the seat. Making it difficult to watch. But after a while I realized the screen could be pulled out a little and is adjustable to perfectly align with the angle of the seat. You could access the IFE before take-off on the ground. All programs are on-demand (AVOD). There are plenty of movies and TV shows to choose from. Not as many recent Hollywood movies as I would have liked, but more than enough to keep you entertained. Besides recent movies there are also classic movies, foreign films (many German movies), documentaries, TV drama’s and sit-coms, as well as musical and sports programs. In addition to all the video options, there are also over a 100 CD’s (nice selection too) to listen too, plus 30 programmed channels from all different genre’s. There are also games, surveys, a moving map, and best of all two camera feeds from the plane. One looking down and one forward. Unfortunately I did not discover this until after take-off, but it was nice watching us land. A head-set is provided that is stored and plugged-in in a compartment in the center armrest. It worked fine and had decent sound, but I used my own noise canceling headset. I did find it difficult to plug my headset into the socket. Not much room that far down in the compartment. In this same compartment is a USB port. I could not find another power port, but read there is supposed to be a 110V plug. Lufthansa does have Wifi on several of the long-haul planes, but Wifi was not available on this flight.

About 30 minutes after take-off the lead flight attendant came around and introduced herself to each passenger and ask if you had any special requests. I thought this was a nice touch. Around the same time, menu’s were distributed as well as a hot refreshing Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 069towel (not the best quality), followed by the drink cart. A package of cashews was offered as a pre-meal snack. Two white wines (a 2012 German Riesling and a 2012 Italian Cortinie Bianco) and two red’s (2008 Chateau Mazails from France and an Austrian 2011 Blaufrankisch Hochacker) were available and a selection of four different German Beer’s as well as the usual soft drinks and spirits. There were three to four flight attendants working the upstairs cabin.

After the initial beverage service the flight attendants returned with the drink cart as well as a cart for the salad and appetizer. The salad was in a small bowl with seasonal greens and yellow tomatoes. There wereDec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 070 three choices for the appetizer. Either a Tuna Carpaccio, Caprese Salad, or a Seared Beef Tataki with peanut sauce. I chose the seared beef and it was good. I am not a fan of eating cold beef, but I did enjoy this dish. The meat was very flavorful. A bread basket accompanied the salad and appetizer, and as usual with Lufthansa there were plenty of different breads to choose from. I took the pretzel roll and a multi grain roll. Both nice and fresh.

The main course was served after an appropriate amount of time and again accompanied with the beverage cart and bread basket. I really liked that the beverage cart was with each offering as often times (especially with non US carriers) the glass is small and I am looking for a refill on my beverage. I never went thirsty on this flight :) I also enjoyed another roll (white this time). The main course was also served from a cart and the flight attendant took your order as they came by with the cart. I selected the Tenderloin of Beef with Plum Chutney, Yukon Potato’s and Leek. The beef was excellent!! It was a good sized piece of meat and very flavorful. Was much better than any main course I have ever had on Lufthansa (First or Business). The potato’s were ok and honestly I did not try the chutney. The other entree’s were either Water Prawns with Fennel or Baked Eggplant Cannelloni.


Dessert also consisted of three choices. A selection of Cheese’s, Apple Spice Cake, and a Fruit Salad. This is where I find most Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 075International Airlines are lacking. I had the fruit salad which was very good and the cake which was better than I thought it would be. But being a fan of ice cream, I like a sundae after dinner or a nice piece of chocolate cake. Something decadent. However, along with the dessert each passenger was presented with a small boxDec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 077 with two very good chocolates which satisfied my craving. So in the end I was happy with my desserts and was ready to sleep after I finished watching the movie.

The seats are at a slight angle looking like a V, giving optimal space between passengers (your feet are close together, though). I like this layout very much, as someone who enjoys their personal space. The seats are cloth and not leather, but do have adjustable headrests. They can be adjusted to several settings, but there are three pre-set settings. One for landing, one a slight recline sitting position, and the last, 180 degrees sleeping position (completely flat, not angled flat like the older LH Business Class seats). I prefer sleeping an a cradle position as opposed to the lie flat and I was able to find a comfortable setting for me. Another nice 747-8feature with the new Lufthansa Business Class seats is the outside arm rest completely collapses giving you more room for your arms when sleeping. After I finished watching the movie I took my blanket out of it’s wrapping and got ready to hopefully sleep for four or five hours.The blanket and pillow are nice, but the pillow feels more like a decorative pillow than the soft pillow on your bed. No matter, I was asleep in no time! Unfortunately, I made the mistake of leaving my TV screen on with the moving map. The map is great, but when it changes graphics the screen illuminates and this woke me up after only sleeping an hour and a half. I tried doing a puzzle to fall back asleep, but was unable to do so. The one impressive thing I discovered doing my puzzle is the over the shoulder light isDec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 062 actually bright enough that I was able to do the crossword without the overhead light and not disturbing my seat mate. After an hour of doing a puzzle and trying to sleep I gave up and started watching another movie. Before watching the movie I walked to the toilet to see if there was any mid-flight snack (not so much because I was hungry, but more for this review). There was not. The flight attendants pretty much left the passengers alone as most were lucky enough to be sleeping.

There were three lavatories in the upper deck. Two in the front and one in the back. This is a great ratio for Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 06632 seats. There was a flower and additional toiletries(mouthwash, shave cream, and razors) in each lavatory (may explain why the amenity kit is so sparse). The toilets had the same flushing system as the 787 Dreamliner. You just wave your hand in front of the button. Best of all, because this aircraft is new, the lavatories are nice and clean.

About an hour and a half before landing another hot towel was distributed and breakfast was served. It was also served via a cart. There was no choice for breakfast (other than if you wanted eggs or not). Breakfast consisted of a small bowl of fruit, deli meat and cheese plate, bread basket, and a hot breakfast of an omelette with bacon and fried hash potatoes. They came by twice with the bread basket. The bread was fresh and the muffin was tasty. The orange juice served with breakfast was great, fresh squeezed and much better than the orange juice I was served prior to departure. The eggs were edible.

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I watched the landing on the TV monitor. You could watch both from the nose of the plane or looking down from the belly. We touched down 45 minutes early (smooth landing) on runway 26L and were at the gate a few minutes later. Frankfurt is not the Dec. 2013 - Feb 2014 Post pics 082simplest of airports to navigate, but after a 20 minute walk and a frustrating 20 minutes at passport control (they have a fast lane, and line was short, however they allowed others to cut into line) I still had plenty of time for my connecting flight to Warsaw.

Outside of not being able to sleep this was a very enjoyable flight. There was plenty of audio and video options to keep me entertained, the service was warm and efficient, and the food was very good. The new seats are very comfortable. The announcements were kept to a minimum (which I like) and in both German and English.

The 747-8i is certainly an improvement on the 747-400 and in my opinion a better aircraft to fly on than the A380. I am surprised more airlines have not placed orders for the 747-8. But where the biggest improvement occurs with Lufthansa is the cabin layout and the seats (Business Class for sure and I would imagine Economy and First as well). I flew back on a A340-600 (review to follow) and the 747-8 is a big improvement.

To see a full demonstration of Lufthansa’s new Business Class seats you can visit an older post on the 747-800.




Travel reviews and travel advice from a frequent traveler