I've done a bit more flying than usual this year, and most of the flying has been in F. It's been a bit of a special year for F flying because, after years of F cabins and never being the only F passenger, it happened three times in the space of 6 months in 2012. The flights involved were NRT-LAX on SQ's A380, YUL-ZRH on LX's A330, and ZRH-YUL, again on LX's A330.
The flights also featured a number of the latest products on offer from several airlines—SQ's A380 suite, TG's 77W suite (now superceded by the A380 offering), EK's 77W suite, NH new F, and LX's new F.
There are lots of pictures representing a number of flights, so the commentary will be brief.
We begin with SFO-NRT in new F on NH's 77W. The new F seating is more private, though the "walls" make access to the windows a bit awkward. The catering is still pretty good, although as usual not as good as NRT-SFO. And the canapés are still pathetic, so I won't show them.
From NH we move to SQ, and a bowl of wonton soup in The Private Room at Changi…
…before boarding SQ 12 SIN-NRT-LAX in an A380 suite. There were 4 passengers on SIN-NRT, and just one on NRT-LAX. The catering was good, though I'd have to say that SQ has challengers now. NH ex-NRT—both Western and Japanese—and LX have excellent catering and I would give them the edge over SQ.
First a pre-departure glass of water and a hot towel as we wait for boarding to complete…
…some cabin views…
…and pre-lunch Krug with honeyed walnuts.
Satay was next…
…followed by a few courses of lunch. Really appreciated having the little dish of sliced chillies to go with the prawns! The prawns themselves were a bit too salty, so the chillies helped distract from that.
We landed at NRT after an uneventful flight spent relaxing and browsing through the IFE. While there's a large selection of movies and programs, I had already seen pretty much everything I wanted to see on previous flights. I was allowed to stay on board during the stopover, and at one point the lead FA came to my suite to tell me "There are no joining passengers to Los Angeles". Since the other SIN-NRT F passengers had disembarked, that meant I had the cabin to myself!
We departed Tokyo on schedule, and I chose some sake for my pre-dinner drink (and of course water to keep hydrated).
For dinner, I decided to have caviar to start and then the kaiseki. I felt a bit bad that my solo A380 F experience was going to be on a short, overnight flight. On a daytime flight, I probably would have sampled more of the menu. As it was, I enjoyed the kaiseki—fresh-tasting, interesting ingredients, nice presentation (except for the plastic packet of seasoning on one of the plates—they don't do that in fine restaurants, and if the goal of airlines is to have their F catering product somewhat resemble fine restaurant dining, why the plastic packets?).
I decided to skip dessert and try to get a couple of hours of sleep. The flight attendants were kind enough to make up a double bed for me to sleep on (my assigned suite was at a window; they put two center suites together for me to sleep in). It was great to have the extra space to stretch out in. Unfortunately there was a fair bit of turbulence, and since I generally can't sleep through turbulence my night was fitful.
The next morning, though I was still full from dinner, I couldn't resist having a little taste from the menu. Orange juice to start, followed by the relatively light Japanese option.
We landed at LAX on a sunny day and were towed to our gate. I took a shot of the nose of the beast just after disembarking.
Just a few days later, I was on the move again—this time from YUL to ZRH. I was told right at check-in that I'd be the only F passenger. I spent some time in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, which is just okay. Eventually I got bored and headed to the gate, where I found out that there would be a delay in boarding. No reason was given. About a half an hour past the scheduled boarding time, priority boarding began. We eventually left almost an hour late.
I was given a pre-departure drink and a warm canapé.
After takeoff, I opted for some champagne. This time, although again a short flight, I decided to try to do more justice to the menu, and sampled several items.
Champagne and table setup…
… basket of warm breads…
…and multiple dinner courses.
The ravioli and mushrooms were a main course, but there was an option to have an appetizer-sized portion. Very tasty—if I hadn't had more food coming, I might have asked for the rest of the portion.
The thing that looks like a block of cheese in the main course was a surprisingly dense and slightly overcooked piece of fish. This was really the only misstep in the catering.
…and a chocolate dessert with ice cream is rarely a bad thing.
The flight attendants were just waiting for me to give the word to make up my bed, and before lights out they provided a heavy, rubberized, turbulence-resistant tray for a water bottle and drinking glass. A nice touch—a little more civilized than stuffing a bottle into a seat pocket or having it roam around the cabin during bumps.
Once again, too much turbulence for any meaningful sleep. Breakfast for me the next day was just water, since I had gorged myself just a couple of hours earlier. We landed in ZRH about 25 minutes late, having made up a good deal of the delay.
There was a layover of several hours in ZRH, most of which I spent sleeping in one of the sleep rooms in the LX F lounge. I then had a shower but decided not to eat anything, instead choosing to wander around a bit before boarding TG 971 to BKK. Boarding was a bit disorganized but eventually everyone was on and the doors were closed; the F cabin was completely full.
TG's F was overall the weakest of the F cabins I've flown in this year. The flight attendants are pleasant—one of them even recognized me from a previous flight—but the rest of the on-board product needs improvement. The new seating in the A380 might be a good start; the catering needs to follow. [Aside: Although I did fly in TG's 77W with suites on another flight, the pictures were of poorer quality so I haven't posted them here.]
Lunch was very average, all the more so because they didn't have enough of my choice of main course. They got me something from business class instead.
Table setting with bread basket and champagne…
…then caviar, appetizer tray, and dessert. I didn't take a picture of my business class main course.
The standard of product improved markedly on the next flight, EK 418 from DXB to BKK on a 77W. Flights were delayed due to blowing sand, but the flight attendants made sure we were well taken care of while we waited. I had my traditional breakfast of waffles in the F lounge, but I was happy to have a snack of olives and parmigiano after settling into my suite.
Once we were airborne, out came the Dom Pérignon and hot canapés…
…followed by the rest of the meal service. I chose the light main course, which was fish in a lemon sauce. It could have used a flavor boost.
Nice dessert, although the strawberries were a bit pale and flavorless.
I liked these electronically-operated window blinds better than the conventional shades—more elegant.
Next up was NH 008 NRT-SFO, one of my favorite food flights. It's just too bad that it's a short overnight.
Part of the appeal of NH's catering—especially ex-NRT—is that it's so attractively presented, starting with the canapés.