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Around The World and From Sea to Shining Sea (AA F/Y, CX F, SQ F, UA F, DL F, WN Y)

Around The World and From Sea to Shining Sea (AA F/Y, CX F, SQ F, UA F, DL F, WN Y)

Old Jul 19, 12, 5:23 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: IAH
Programs: UA Gold, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott PP, Hilton Gold
Posts: 1,040
Around The World and From Sea to Shining Sea (AA F/Y, CX F, SQ F, UA F, DL F, WN Y)

Introduction

This adventure started out as a trip to Hong Kong to visit relatives, as I have not been back in nearly 7 years. In the old days, I would have simply fired up any old search engine find the cheapest available flight. It would have been a bonus if I was able to accrue miles. But I’m a FlyerTalker now and I know better. I have opened a checking account here, signed up for a credit card there, and charged everything and anything to those cards. Toss in a few mileage runs in addition to my work travel, and voila I can now travel in style. Of course, this kind of lifestyle does come with scrutiny and ridicule from family and friends, alike.

Friend, “Want to do something tonight?”
Me, “Sure, I land a little before 10. I’m in San Francisco right now”
Friend, “What are you doing in San Francisco?”
Me, “Lunch.”
Friend, “You’re crazy.”

Or

Me, “Wait, don’t use that credit card.”
Another Friend, “Why?”
Me, “Because you only earn X points/miles. Use this card, it earns 3X points points/miles.”
Another Friend *rolls eyes in exasperation* “You’ve got to be [bleep] kidding me. You’re[bleep] insane”

Or

Dad, “You’re in your mid twenties now. If you don’t settle down in one place, you’ll never find a nice girl.”
Me, “I have, they’re just in different area codes, that’s all.”
Dad, “They?”
Me, “Never mind.”

In the words of eightblack, “or something like that.”

Although I have been fortunate enough to fly in domestic premium cabins on a regular basis, I have only been in an international premium cabin twice. Both times were in business class. Business class is nice, but after reading many trip reports about First Class services on many airlines here on FT, I developed a bit of yearning….ok ok obsession…to make that last leap into the true pointy end of the plane. So satisfy my yearning, I decided to book both my outbound and return in First. Scratch 1 item off my bucket list.

I began planning my trip in early February for a departure in December. Since I am based in Dallas, my airline of choice is the airline proud to bear the name American. My tidy pile of AAdvantage miles grew a bit larger after the wonderful DEQM promotions of earlier this year. So naturally I looked to Cathay Pacific to get me to Hong Kong. Using the clunky British Airways award tool, I found a First seat on CX 889 (JFK-HKG) on December 1st. As I was meeting my parents in Florida after my trip and then returning with them to Houston for Christmas, I decided to start my trip in Houston to make the overall logistics a little easier. I was able to easily find availability on AA from IAH to JFK. But why stop at just Hong Kong? Why not explore another country I’ve never been to before. Hong Kong is located in the Asia 2 award zone, which encompasses all of Southeast Asia. No matter where you go in Asia 2, the 67,500 miles are required for a First Class redemption. After some thinking, I decided to go to Bali, as I have never been to Indonesia before and I wouldn’t mind relaxing on the beach for a few days. There was plenty of availability between Hong Kong and Bali, so it's easy to tack the additional segment on. Unfortunately, AA does not allow international stopovers on award tickets so I used an additional 22,500 miles to get back Hong Kong after my time in Bali.

For my return segment, I decided to dip into my Mileage Plus account to experience the best Star Alliance has to offer. Additionally, I would be able to scratch another item off my bucket list: circumnavigate the world on one trip, as United allows crossing the Atlantic to reach Asia on award tickets. I did a good bit of homework on the “new” United’s award booking engine and found award availability on Swiss from Tokyo to Zurich. I was really hoping to find Lufthansa First availability on the transatlantic leg, but Lufthansa had adopted a policy of not releasing award seats to partners until a few weeks before departure. So I had booked Swiss’ Zurich to Montreal service, which was available in First, to hold the award and bide my time until Lufthansa opens up availability. Two flights in Swiss First, a real bummer. Finding flights from Hong Kong to Tokyo and Montreal to Orlando (where I would meet my family) was a breeze. Unfortunately, booking this award ticket wasn’t a breeze as I booked around the infamous date of March 3, 2012. Here is one of the indignities I suffered through:



Yep, true story. But I finally I was able to book it and 70,000 miles and $97 in taxes and fees later I had confirmed my return leg. So I was all set, or so I thought.

In the beginning of June, I received word that one of my uncles had passed away from lung cancer and one of my grand aunts was in and out of the hospital due to colon cancer. I talked it over with my parents and decided to move my trip up as soon as possible so I could so I could spend some time with my grand aunt. Unfortunately, I couldn’t leave until July due to a major assignment at work during June and I would have cut out my jaunt to Bali, as it was high season and everything was ridiculously priced. But family is family. I can visit Bali another time.

Once again, I fired up the BA award booking engine to look for Cathay First availability. But I was unable to find anything. The best option I found was flying AA in business from Dallas to Tokyo connecting to Cathay to Hong Kong. I have seen quite a few TRs lately on both AA international First and Business recently, and I thought it had improved and actually looked pretty good, but it’s still definitely a few notches below Cathay. At that point, I accepted my fate and decided to still depart out of Houston and keep the segment to Bali to avoid the $150 change fee due to a different origination/destination.

So I rang the AAdvantage award desk, and explained the situation to a wonderful AAgent named Kelly. She did a little tapping and said, “Hmmm…Mr. Harrison, I don’t think you really want to lose this Cathay First seat, right? Let me see if I can find something for you in July.” After 5 minutes of tapping, Kelly managed to find one seat on CX 873 (SFO-HKG) that I had apparently missed. Boom! Flights from Houston to San Francisco were found with relative ease, to my surprise, as July is in the middle of the busy summer travel season. At that point, she posed another question to me, “Are you really planning to continue to Bali or will you be terminating in Hong Kong.” That was a bit of d’oh moment for me. I had planned to throw away that Bali segment, to avoid the fee, since it was the last segment of a one way award. But I had mentioned to Kelly at the beginning of the call that my relatives were in Hong Kong. I sheepishly answered it was the latter. She then told me she’d be right back and put me on hold. After 7 minutes, Kelly came back and told me she had talked to her supervisor, who agreed to waive the change fee for changing my destination in light of my loyalty to American and the circumstances that necessitated that change. After a few more minutes, everything was set and sent to ticketing queue. I thanked Kelly profusely and hung up.

I know this is a little off topic, but employees like Kelly are the reason I’m loyal to American. Obviously, there are a few bad apples, but I’ve have significantly more interactions with great employees than I have with the bad apples. Maybe I’m just lucky. Anyways, AApologist hat off. Back to the TR at hand.

Changing my return trip was another chore. Both Swiss and Lufthansa had no availability on the dates I needed. So I settled on Thai Airways First from HKG-ZRH-FRA. Then I would connect to Lufthansa to LHR, where I would have a 23 hour layover before continuing on to IAH on United BusinessFirst. It wasn’t optimal, in terms of maximizing what I could get out of my miles, but I was pleased given the circumstances. So everything was set. Or so I thought. Again. More on that later.

Just like my trip last year, I needed get back to Houston to catch my flight. Independence Day (July 4th in the US) fell on the Wednesday before my departure date. I had planned to go to Houston to spend the holiday with my family and friends, so I requested that Thursday and Friday off. That way, I could just spend the weekend down there and catch my flight on the following Monday. Unfortunately, I got into a little accident in mid-June and my car wouldn’t be ready to be picked up from the body shop (in Dallas) until July 6th. Therefore, I made a run back to Dallas from Houston on July 5th to pick up my car and return the rental and went to work on 6th to tie up a few loose ends. Unfortunately, my car wasn’t ready on 6th. Needless to say, I was pretty ticked off as there was no communication whatsoever. Mais, c’est la vie. I made arrangements to return my rental at IAH and pick up another car on my way back. Crisis averted.

After spending Saturday preparing my place in Dallas for my trip, I drove down to Houston late Saturday night and arrived at my parents’ place just before 2AM, Sunday morning. I was exhausted and fell asleep immediately after I washed up a bit. I woke up around 8 and decided to fire up my laptop to check on a few things. Somehow I ended up on FlyerTalk as well as Lucky’s blog, and my jaw just dropped after I noticed the Singapore Airlines "Award Gate" Threads here and here. After reading through a few pages on both sites, I decided to bite the bullet and pay the redeposit fee (to cancel my original award ticket) and close in booking fee. After all, Singapore F award space doesn’t come along very often and downing a few bottles of Dom would already make for the additional cost. Besides, London will still be there next year and I could take the time for a proper visit then. I gave the Mileage Plus desk a call, and after my credit card endured a $150 hit, 70,000 miles were immediately credited back to my account. Afterwards, I immediately did a quick search on united.com and found I could route HKG-SIN-DME-IAH all in SQ F. After thinking about it for a second, I decided add on one segment to terminate the award in Dallas to save me the drive from Houston to Dallas. That decision turned out to be a huge boon. Anyways, I entered DFW as my final destination instead of IAH. United.com was able to replicate the same itinerary with an additional IAH-DFW leg in UA F. I went ahead and purchased the reservation with the 70,000 miles that were just redeposited into my account and $128 in taxes and fees, and it ticketed within minutes. Finally, everything was completely set.

As far as hotels go, I will talk about that in individual posts.

So my final itinerary looked a little like this:

7/9 AA 3653 IAH-LAX CR7 F
7/9 AA 1798 LAX-SFO 738 F
7/10 CX 873 SFO-HKG 77W F
7/16 SQ 865 HKG-SIN 77W F
7/17 SQ 62 SIN-DME 77W F
7/17 SQ 62 DME-IAH 77W F
7/17 UA 391 IAH-DFW 319 F

Before I decided to move my big adventure up, I had a couple of little domestic trips planned in mid-July and in early August. I decided include those little trips within this report, since 29,000 miles sounds sexier than 21,000. Just a little heads up for y’all who don’t care to read about domestic travel in the United States. Those of you still with me, thank you for reading so far. I promise I’ll get to the good stuff next.

18 flights and 29,061 miles in 4 weeks, here we geaux

Previous Trip Report
Everybody look at me because I'm sailing on a boat (KL J and DL Y)

Last edited by dat4life; Sep 20, 12 at 8:46 pm Reason: Links
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Old Jul 19, 12, 5:27 pm
  #2  
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Join Date: Oct 2009
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Part 1: AA 3653 IAH-LAX

I spent the rest of Sunday hanging out with some friends, whom I haven’t seen in a while, and relaxing by the pool. After retiring rather early that night, I woke up rather early Monday morning and took a good long run, as I needed to keep in shape for my race in Chicago in a few weeks. After showering and getting dressed, I was ready to go by 9AM for my 12:30PM flight. It takes about 35 minutes from my parents’ house to IAH. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t dream of leaving for the airport more than two hours before departure, but I needed to run to the bank to grab some cash and I wanted to give some extra time to return my rental in case I ran into complications from my unexpected one way drop off. On my way to the bank, I received a call from a 210 (San Antonio) number, which I picked up halfway expecting it to be a political pollster.

“Hi Mr. harrison1186, this is Pam from the American Airlines Executive Platinum Desk. How are you today?’
Umm EXP? I just barely made PLT for the first time this year. Whatever, I can roll with this.
“Hi Pam. I’m doing well.”
“Glad to hear that sir. I’m calling because there has been a significant schedule change for your DFW-DCA flight in a few weeks. Orginally you were scheduled to depart at 9:25 AM, but we have you on the 11:25 now. Is that ok?”
“Ummmmm, yeah that works.”

Needless to say, I was impressed and really appreciated the call. I don’t know if it’s because of status, but I have never received this type of call beforehand. Sadly, my account is still showing as a PLT, though I’m not really complaining. Anyways, I grabbed cash, got gas for the rental, and made it to the rental car center by 10AM. Returning the car took a little longer than usual due to some additional calls made by the Enterprise agent about some formalities, but I was able to return it without incident. Afterwards, I waited a few minutes for a shuttle to the terminal and I was deposited at IAH’s terminal A by 10:30. The shuttle dropped me at the lower level of the terminal, so I had to hoof through baggage claim and take an escalator to the ticketing counter. After a very short wait, I was beckoned to come forward by an AAgent.

The AAgents at IAH are a bit of a mixed bag. Some are very friendly, the others are just blah. I got a blah agent that morning. Though, she got the job done. My bags were tagged all the way to Hong Kong and I received boarding passes for all three of my flights. I then made my way to the priority security lane, which was a bit unnecessary that day since both lines were empty, although there was a bit of a wait at the metal detector/imaging machines. I don’t know why, but the TSOs at IAH terminal A tends to play the “name game” more than any other checkpoint I’ve been to in the country. I played along with the agent and got a nice prize: going through the metal detector instead of the imagers. While putting on my belt and shoes back on, I was entertained by father yelling at his son to shut up and just do what agent asks. You gotta love summer travel. I then made the short walk over to my departure gate, A28.

The gate area was rather crowded due to the DFW, ORD, and my LAX flight leaving pretty close to each other.



Eventually, the LAX flight posted a 20 minute delay, so I escaped to the relative calm of the nearby gate A26 to kill time by playing around on Facebook and calling a few friends. The inbound flight arrived at 12:10. At that time, the gate agents combed the gate area and handing out valet tags to those passengers with larger carry-ons. Boarding began about 12:40, about 10 minutes after our scheduled departure. I marched up to the Priority AAccess lane, as First Class boarding was called and handed over my boarding pass to the gate agent. She scanned it and wished me pleasant flight and I was making my down the jet bridge.

AA 3653 (Operated by American Eagle)
Houston (IAH)-Los Angeles (LAX)
Monday July 09, 2012
Depart: 12:30 PM
Arrive: 1:40 PM
Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ-700 (N509AE)
Seat: 2A (First Class)


As I entered the aircraft, I was greeted by one of our friendly flight attendants, Mariah, whom ended up working the First Class cabin. I settled into seat 2A, which I picked due to American’s FEBO practice. This was my first flight in First Class on a regional jet. I found the seat to be comfortable and legroom to be more than adequate. Mariah then came around with a tray of pre-departure beverages consisting of orange juice or water. We then pushed packed from the gate and began our taxi to Runway 15R. After the manual safety demo, the other flight attendant, Chris, came around to pick up the PDB cups. The flight deck added their welcome, as we reached the runway threshold, and announced that a ground stop was now effect due to thunderstorms that were moving from north to south. The estimated hold time was about 15 minutes, so the engines were shut down to save fuel. 10 minutes later, an announcement was made that the ground stop would be lifted in a few minutes. At that point, the engines roared back to life and we taxied into position on runway 15R. Soon after, the flight crew applied take off thrust and we lifted off after a 5,000 feet roll out.

We made a climbing turn to a northeasterly heading to avoid the line of thunderstorms still to the south and west of the airport before setting course to LAX. Despite the storms, we only experienced a few bumps during the climb out. The flight attendants got out of their jump seats to begin service after the 10,000 feet “ding”. After helping set up the coach beverage cart, the Mariah came around the first class cabin greeting passenger by name and taking drink and lunch orders. Choices were a roast beef sandwich and chicken salad. As expected with CRJ flights, meals are cold as those aircraft lack ovens. I chose the roast beef sandwich and ordered an orange juice to wash it down. However, I had second thoughts about my drink choice and cheekily asked if it’s too early to order a Jack and Coke. Mariah smiled and answered, “Of course not. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” Of course it is, Mariah. Of course, it is.

Drinks were delivered with a ramekin of mixed nuts.



After I finished my ramekin of nuts, my roast beef sandwich was served with potato salad, topped with bacon bits, and packaged brownie for dessert. Mariah offered a drink top off as she delivered my lunch tray; however, I ordered a glass of water instead.



The roast beef sandwich, which was topped with a slice of cheddar cheese, was pretty good with provided dijionnaise, aside from the fact the bread was a bit dry. The potato salad was very tasty, especially with the bacon bits, and the brownie was alright. The only disappointing aspect of the meal service was the “enhanced” polyester napkin, which has been discussed in the AAdvantage meal thread. Trays were cleared as each passenger finished up, with the offer of more drinks, which I declined. I watched a couple more episodes of the Big Bang Theory on my iPad and then took a little 40 minute nap. When I woke up, both flight attendants were finishing up another drink run down in coach. As they came back up, I was offered something to drink so I ordered an orange juice. I passed the last 30 minutes of the flight sipping juice and watching the desert terrain of the American Southwest pass by.



Soon, we began our decent and the flight crew made the typical pre-arrival announcements. As Chris was in coach collecting cups, Mariah came around the First Class cabin with a tray of mints and Biscoff cookies, which was a nice way to round out service. One last pass was made to collect glasses and trash in First Class, and we soon touched down Runway 25R at LAX. The taxi to remote gate 44B was quick. The standard connecting gate announcements were made during taxi. I was the second person off the aircraft, thanking the great crew on the way out, and made my way to the main terminal shuttle bus. The ride to main terminal was fun as we got up close and personal with the aircraft on the tarmac. The bus dropped us off in the main terminal near gate 43 and I made my way to the Admiral’s Club across from gate 40 (where the Flagship Lounge is located).

Last edited by dat4life; Aug 19, 12 at 7:58 am
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Old Jul 19, 12, 5:44 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: CGK/LAX/SUB
Programs: KF,JMB, OZ, SPG,AA,UA,AS
Posts: 1,074
I'm so excited for your SQ F report! Great work so far!
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Old Jul 19, 12, 6:40 pm
  #4  
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: IAH
Programs: UA Gold, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott PP, Hilton Gold
Posts: 1,040
Part 2 LAX Flagship Lounge and Admirals Club

It was a short walk from the bus gate to the Admiralís Club. I walked in the double frosted doors and handed my LAX-SFO and SFO-HKG boarding passes to the friendly AAgent, who scanned both boarding passes and handed me a white electronic key to the Flagship Lounge. As an AA Platinum (OneWorld Sapphire), I had access to the Admiralís Club on my international itinerary. My international First Class segment on Cathay granted me access into the Flagship Lounge.

The Flagship Lounge is located across from the Admiralís Club. The entrance is an inconspicuous sliding glass door to the right of the concierge desk on the second floor. After entering the FL, I returned the key to an AAgent who asked if I had been to the lounge before. I said I had no, and she offered me a tour of lounge. After the tour was finished, she told me to let them know if needed assistance with anything and left me to my own devices.

I was quite impressed by FL. It was definitely the nicest lounge Iíve been to in North America. There were quite a few passengers when I arrived (around 2PM), but the lounge emptied out as the afternoon and evening progressed. But even then, the lounge did not feel crowded at all. The lounge is fairly spacious and airy, with moderately sized sitting and dining areas as well as nice views of the tarmac. A quiet zone equipped with Bose QC2 headsets and easy chairs is located in the sitting area near the restrooms and shower rooms. Furnishings are of good quality and are in relatively good repair.


View from seating area toward dining area


Tarmac View


Tarmac View. AA 287 Arriving from MIA.

Dining area.


Buffet area.

Foot options were very good, for a North American Lounge. When I arrived, Flagship Tea was being served. Food options included hot soup (vegetarian chili), basil turkey wraps and sandwiches, salad, sliced fresh fruit, cheeses, and assorted desserts. The offerings were rather tasty and fresh, although there wasnít anything special. A wide variety of drinks (alcoholic and soft drinks) and packaged snacks (chips, etc.) were also on offer. The specialty iced chai tea on offer was absolutely FANTASTIC. I had several glasses of the chai tea along in my five hours in the lounge.


A little fruit, dessert, and chai tea.

Around 6PM, the spread for Flagship Supper was set out. Hot offerings included Cornish hen, sautťed green beans and parsnips, soup, along with the cold offerings of Flagship tea. The food was good, although the green beans were a bit rubbery.



At around 7, I left the lounge to take a walk around the terminal. But the terminal was rather crowded with the evening bank of flights boarding nearly simultaneously. So I returned to the sanctuary of the lounge; however, I did not get a key to Flagship Lounge this time around. It really wasnít a big deal as I only had 30 minutes before boarding. I havenít been in the LAX AC since late 2010, so I didnít mind taking a little peek there. This time around the furnishings and carpeting appear to be rather worn down. However, the view from the lounge is fantastic, as it faces the TBIT.


QF 388 preparing for an evening run back to the land of Oz with an AA 772 preparing for run to LHR in the foreground


Admiralís Club. View from dining area.


Meager snack offering of the AC. Sorry for the blurry shot.

During my short stay, I grabbed a bottle of water with my drink chit and settled in a comfortable chair in the TV room and watched the tail end of Home Run Derby. The last time I was in the room, I watched the Packers pound the Cowboys as my flight back to Dallas was delayed significantly. Ironically, I learned Wade Phillips (Cowboys Head Coach at the time) was fired after we arrived in Dallas around 2AM the next morning. Anyhow, I headed down to my gate after watching Prince Fielder really belt it out in the last round of the Derby.
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Old Jul 19, 12, 7:44 pm
  #5  
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: IAH
Programs: UA Gold, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott PP, Hilton Gold
Posts: 1,040
AA 1798
Los Angeles (LAX)-San Francisco (SFO)
Monday July 09, 2012
Depart: 8:20 PM
Arrive: 9:35 PM
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 (N932AN)
Seat: 4A (First Class)



My flight was departing out of gate 40, which was conveniently located directly across from the lounge entrance. I exited the lounge into a sea of gate lice, just as boarding for AAdvantage Platinum was called. After fighting my way through, I made it to the Priority AAccess lane, where there were five people in front of me. The gate agent turned away all of them as they were in Group 4. When I reached podium, I gave the agent a smile as I handed over my boarding pass. She returned the smile after she saw my boarding pass and thanked me for my loyalty and wished me a pleasant flight. After a short wait in the jet bridge, I made it on board the aircraft.

Just as I could tell my IAH-LAX flight was going to be a good one as soon as I boarded, I could tell this flight was not going to be a good one. There was no greeting from either flight attendant in the forward galley. They were happily chatting amongst themselves. I’m all for camaraderie in the workplace. I used to work in retail for an extensive period of time while I was in college. In fact, I met some of my best friends during that time period. But when it came time to face a customer, I like to think that we served each one professionally, with few exceptions. The moment a customer walks into a place of business, in this case an aircraft, how they are treated at that moment sets the tone for the transaction. I’m not asking to be fawned over and escorted to my seat (a la SQ), but a simple “hello” and/or “welcome aboard” does wonders. Fortunately for me, flights like this are the exception rather than the norm.

My seatmate was already seated and on a phone call when I arrived. After she got up and let me in, I settled my comfortable standard AA 738 First Class seat, with ample storage and leg room.


Legroom shot.


View of tarmac.

As boarding progressed, the aforementioned flight attendants in forward galley continue their conversation until a passenger asked for assistance with a carry on. Only then, did they break off their conversation. Ok…deep breath. Last flight until you’re aboard CX First. The rest of the boarding process was uneventful. We pushed back a minute or two ahead of schedule and the safety video began playing. At that point, I assume the flight attendant realize he forgot about the PDB service and came around with a tray of ice water. He offered them to passengers by wordlessly passing the tray in front of their faces. Cups were collected a few minutes afterwards. We were number 3 for take off when we reached the threshold of the departure runway, 25R. After lining up with centerline, the distinctive growl of CFM 56 engines grew progressively louder and we were soon airborne and flying into the gorgeous California sunset.

Our flight path took us due west for an extensive period of time before turning north toward San Francisco. I specifically chose an “A” seat, hoping to catch some great views of the California coastline. I was certainly rewarded for my efforts. I do apologize in advance for the blurriness of some of the photos. I had forgotten to bring my camera, so I used my iPhone 4S for all of my pictures.





About 15 minutes after take off, flight attendants came around with a drink service and passed out AA’s premium snack mix. I went with water and declined the snack mix. Refills were offered, but I declined.



We were soon descending in to San Francisco. However, the sun had set, so I wasn’t able to get any good views of the Bay Area as we approached SFO. The approach to Runway 28L was very familiar, as I had gone through SFO numerous time earlier this ear on MRs during the DEQM promos. Touchdown was a bit rough, teeth chattering even, as remarked by my seatmate. Taxi was quick to a very familiar gate 56B. I quickly deplaned and headed off to the great SFO AC for a few minutes, just for giggles, before heading to the international terminal.

Last edited by dat4life; Aug 19, 12 at 8:55 am
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Old Jul 19, 12, 8:00 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: DAY
Programs: UA 1K 1MM; Marriott LT Plat Premier (+AMB); Amex MR; Chase UR; Hertz PC; Global Entry
Posts: 7,314
Great TR so far. Really looking forward to your Cathay segment.
Thanks for posting....
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Old Jul 19, 12, 8:00 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
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I keep clicking refresh but the SQ F can't be posted quickly enough!
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Old Jul 19, 12, 10:30 pm
  #8  
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Programs: UA Gold, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott PP, Hilton Gold
Posts: 1,040
Cathay Pacific SFO Check In and Lounge

After my quick visit to the SFO AC, I left the secure area and took an escalator to the upper level to catch the Air Train to the international terminal. As I exited terminal, I was greeted by the cool crisp air, which was a stark contrast to the triple digit temperatures I had left behind in Dallas. The Air Train is located on a platform above the terminal; thus, requiring the ascension of another escalator. A train arrived just as I reached the platform, and I quickly hopped on. During the day, the tarmac views from the train can be absolutely fantastic. But obviously the view is a bit more limited at night. I arrived at the international terminal with minutes and went down two floors to get to the ticketing counters. Cathay Pacific’s counters are located on row 7. I arrived to the find the check in area to be relatively empty.



As I approached the counter, an agent greeted me and came forward to get my passport. She confirmed Cathay had possession of both bags I had checked with AA and proceeded to print my boarding pass. I then asked if she minded printing another copy as a keepsake. At first the agent refused, citing FAA security regulations. Really? I could print 100 copies from the internet at home, if I really wanted to. I remained polite, citing this was my first trip on Cathay. At that statement, she relented and printed me another copy, she had to tear an inch off top for security reasons. This snafu aside, the interaction was very pleasant. To top it all off, the agent came around the counter to personally hand me my boarding passes and lounge invitations and shake my hand. She then gave me directions to lounge and wished me a pleasant flight.

Saying the security checkpoint was a zoo would be a compliment. The line was long due to the several long haul flights that were leaving at approximately the same time. No worries, because I can use the priority lane, right? Wrong. Despite showing my boarding pass the line dragon, she insisted that I enter into the regular line, which was a few hundred people deep. A few hundred people, judging by their behavior, fly every few years and are unfamiliar with the current security process. This really ticked me off. One of my primary motivations for maintaining at least AAdvantage Gold is to avoid having to wait in lines like this. And the fact I was denied access to priority lane on a First Class ticket probably made me a little angrier. Again, deep breaths. It will all be over soon.

You might ask how I came to the conclusion about these families only flying once every few years. The primary reason for the slow down was liquids. From full size toiletries to a thermos of soup, you name a type of liquid, they tried to carry it on. Anyways, I finally got to the ID checker, who eyed me up and down, and asked if I had other carry-on except for my laptop bag and if I was traveling with anyone else. I replied no and no. He called his colleague who ushered me to front of the line, and I was through within a few minutes. I was pretty thankful for this, as the process was extremely slow going. I gathered my shoes and belt made a beeline for the Cathay lounge, thankful to leave the commotion of the terminal. Oh man, see how spoiled I’m getting already…

Although the location absolutely sucks, the lounge itself is pretty pleasant. And the historical photographs decorating the hallway leading to the lounge is certainly a nice touch. As I entered the lounge, I was greeted by another friendly CX agent who asked for my lounge invite and boarding pass. Upon seeing my torn boarding pass, she frowned and asked what happened. Instead of giving the lovely agent the cold hard facts, I told her it was torn when my ID was checked. Hey, it seemed like a great idea at the time. The agent wouldn’t have any of it. She ripped the boarding pass in half and told me with a smile that this was unacceptable for Cathay Pacific First. A new CLEAN boarding pass was printed and presented to me in the same manner as at the ticket counter. FAA regs, my alpha romeo sierra echo. But no harm, no foul. I just slipped my fresh boarding pass into a protected compartment of my bag and used my original marked up copy to board.

The lounge itself is of good size, although it did get full as the evening progressed. However, it didn’t feel crowded despite the plane being full in F and 95 percent full in J. Food offerings were decent with a noodle bar and some curry and rice on the spread. Although not terribly hungry, I decided to order dan dan noodles and grabbed some of the great fruit tarts to round out the meal. My noodles were ready for pick up with a few minutes and were very tasty. I washed it all down with some water. Craving sated, I headed back to reception to get a key to a shower room, for which I traded my boarding pass for. I thought I had taken some pics of the lounge, but I can’t quite locate them. But I did take a few shots of shower room, which I don’t believe I’ve seen before here on FT. There are some very comprehensive reviews of the rest of the lounge in other trip reports.

Shower rooms are located in the far end of the lounge. I believe there are a total of three shower rooms. The usual amenities (toothbrushes, etc.) were available in the room. Water pressure and temperature were great. I truly think that showers are one of the greatest benefits of premium travel. To be able to get on a long haul flight clean refreshed, and have the ability to freshen up afterwards is nearly invaluable in my book. Trust me, I have plenty of long haul non-premium travel under my belt!


Sink


Shower with “rainfall” head

Not pictured, is a long wooden bench opposite to the sink to store things and help change. Anyways, I emerged from my shower feeling like great. I went back to the reception to retrieve my boarding passes and then settled on an open Mac, to check email, etc. To reduce weight, I decided bring my iPad with me instead of my MacBook. But it is nice to be able to use a keyboard and mouse once in a while. At this point, an elderly couple had entered the lounge and took up residence in the easy chairs close to the computer area. This all fine and dandy, but the gentleman kept on wheezing loudly every few minutes, as if he was having difficulty breathing. This continued for the next hour or so, and got to the point where I wondering if he should be denied boarding as it seemed he was medical diversion waiting to happen. In the end, I never saw if he actually boarded or not. At about 12:20, I packed up and headed to gate thanking the lounge dragon on the way out. She expressed concern that I had not fully enjoyed the lounge. I reassured her I did and I just wanted stretch my legs before the flight. As I made my way to the gate, I noticed the lovely, lovely, lovely, did I mention lovely CI cabin crew making their way to their gate for a departure to Taipei.

When I reached our gate, A5, I found pure pandemonium, as Philippine Airline’s 744 service was departing to Manila, from adjacent gate, A6. Both flights appeared to be nearly fully, judging by the number of people in the gate area. Boarding began smack dab at 12:40 for our 1:10AM departure, beginning with pre-boards. Naturally, the entire gate area swarmed the poor agents, attempting to board the aircraft but they were beaten back. First and Business Class passengers were called moments later; however, it was nearly impossible fight through crowd. Hell, Eddie George would have trouble blasting through the crowd. Luckily a gate agent spotted me with my beautiful First boarding pass in hand and motioned for me to follow him as he opened a hole in the crowd. Old ladies may have been pushed out of the way. Babies may have been tossed, but by golly he made sure he got me to the podium. I kid, of course. Or am I…

My boarding pass was scanned and I was on my way down the jet bridge away from all of the commotion.

The real (flying) fun was about to begin…

Last edited by dat4life; Aug 4, 12 at 6:59 am
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Old Jul 19, 12, 10:34 pm
  #9  
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Thanks for encouragement guys. I'll get SQ F up hopefully next week. I'm kind of swamped with work in addition to jaunts to Chicago this weekend and So Cal next week. Go figure, right?

But I will go out on limb and promise a bit of teaser may be up sometime this weekend.
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Old Jul 20, 12, 7:43 pm
  #10  
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Cx 873 sfo-hkg

CX 873
San Francisco (SFO)- Hong Kong (HKG)
Tuesday July 10, 2012
Depart: 1:10 AM
Arrive: 6:15 AM
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (B-KPB)
Seat: 1A (First Class)


The closer I got to the aircraft, the bigger the grin on my face grew. I was greeted by the purser at the door and shown to my seat, 1A. She then wished me a pleasant flight and returned to the doorway. My first impressions of the seat were good. It was very spacious, well provided, and most important of all: private. I could hardly notice any of the other passengers while seated. Storage space was ample with a personal closet as well as space underneath the “buddy seat”. I’m a little shutter shy on board planes, but I did manage to get a few shots of the suite.


Buddy seat

I did try out the buddy seat, just because, and found it to be decently comfortable, although I wouldn’t want to spend too much time there.


Seat and IFE controls. Noise canceling headphones are stored in the compartment visible to the left

A few moments later, my flight attendant, Penny, came to introduce herself and inquired about my language preference. I indicated I could speak Cantonese, but it did not matter to me which language is used. She then offered to fetch me a selection of reading material and a beverage. I declined the reading material, citing the late hour, and asked for a glass of champagne. The request was met with a smile and a “Of course”. As soon as Penny left, the Cabin Service Director came to welcome me aboard and to exchange pleasantries. She left after saying Penny and Desmond (the other First Class flight attendant) would take good care of me. You bet they did.

Penny soon returned with a tray containing a champagne flute and a bottle of Krug. She set the flute down on my cupholder, properly presented the bottle to me, and poured the first of many glasses of Krug on this flight. As sipped my wonderfully chilled champagne and enjoyed the blissfully quiet cabin, I reflected on my journey to the pointy end of the plane, completed in just a few short years. It wasn’t long ago when I thought such a trip would be impossible and the closest I would get to the forward cabin is by living vicariously through trip reports. Boy, what a turn of events.



Pajamas, amenity kits, and menus were distributed next. At about 1AM, 10 minutes before scheduled departure, an announcement was made for all ground personnel to leave the aircraft. I overheard the FAs chat about the flight’s load, which was full in F, 95 percent full in J, and a full house down in economy. Wait, let me get this straight, United needs a full hour to board a domestic 757, while Cathay can board a fully 777 in less than half an hour. Hmm…

Just before the cabin doors were closed, our Australian Captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard and announced a flight time of just over 13 hours. The safety video was played as we pushed back and we were soon taxiing to the departure runway. I entertained myself by watching the belly camera through the IFE system. After a rather quick taxi, we hurtled down Runway 28R and lifted off after a rather long take off roll.

The seatbelt sign was turned off after we climbed through 10,000 feet, and the flight attendants sprang into action. Penny came around taking orders for post take off drinks. I ordered another glass of Krug, which was delivered with a dish of warm almonds and macadamia nuts.



The champagne and nuts were not a bad way to start a meal. Speaking of which, let’s peruse the menu, shall we?

Menu:

Caviar and fine smoked salmon

International Favourites
Mushroom cream soup

Heart of romaine with grilled jumbo prawn and Caesar dressing

Herb-mustard crusted lamp chop with jus, yukon gold mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, baby carrots, and yellow zucchini

Bucatini pasta with white wine truffle sauce and grilled baby vegetables

Chinese Favourites
Doubled boiled ginseng with chicken soup

Cold plate – marinated seaweed with carrot and Daikon radish

Pan-fried sea bass with plum sauce, served with steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried mixed vegetables.

Cheese and Dessert
Cambozola, Yellow Cheddar, Munster, Herb Goat Cheese

Seasonal fresh berries with sweet rose water

Chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream with raspberry coulis

Red bean soup with lotus seeds

Tea and Coffee

Pralines

For those of you interested in a liquid diet:

Wine list

Champagne
Krug Grande Cuvee

White Wines
Estancia Reserve Monterey Chardonnay 2007

Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes 2008

Red Wines

1855 Bordeaux Classification Wine Promotion
Chateau Lynch Bages 2004

Kalleske Greenock Barossa Valley Shiraz 2008

Finca El Origen Gran Reserva Malbec 2009

Port
Barrios Pinto Quinta da Ervannoira 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Aperitifs and Cocktails
Campari
Martini Russo
Martini Extra Dry
Tio Pepe Sherry
Harveys Bristol Cream Sweet Sherry
Tanquerary Ten Gin
Bacardi Rum
Belvedere Vodka
Bloody Mary
Screwdriver

Whiskies
Chivas Regal 12 Years Old
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Canadian Club
Gentleman Jack Bourbon
MaCallan 17 Fine Oak Single Malt Whisky

Cognac
Tesseron Lot 76 XO Tradition

Beer
International Selection

Signature Drinks
Oriental Breeze
A sour plum tea and cranberry juice based non-alcoholic drink with honey and fresh lemon juice and a hint of rose water.

Cloud Nine
A refreshing combination of Vodka, Cointreau and Sprite with a refreshing touch of lemon flavour.

Decisions, decisions… I decided to go with the Western options as I would be eating a ton of Chinese food while in Hong Kong. Ten minutes later, Penny dropped by with the lovely bottle of Krug in hand to top off my drink and take my order. Caviar? Yes. Soup? You betcha. Salad? Yep. I chose the lamp chops for my main, which turned out to be a great decision. As for cheese and dessert, we’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. She then recommended the promotional wine, which was the Lynch Bages, be paired with the lamb chops, to which I agreed to. And she was off to prepare dinner.

As I was finishing up my latest glass of champagne, Penny came by to set up my table. The tray table is recessed in the side wall of the suite, and appeared to be very sturdy and heavy duty. Linen was then laid, followed by a bread plate, butter dish, lemon for the caviar service, salt and pepper shakers, water glass, and finally silverware and the Cathay’s signature bon appetite card. For some reason, she appeared to be a bit rushed. Although the cabin was full, it appeared that only half of us wanted the meal immediately post take off.

This was followed by another top off of my drink. My caviar starter was delivered a few minutes later by the other flight attendant Desmond, who greeted me by name and took the opportunity to introduce himself.



The caviar and smoked salmon were tasty and went well with the garnishes. Penny came to clear my plate a few minutes after I finished. Noticing the plate was picked clean, she asked if I would like another serving of caviar. Is the Pope Catholic? The second plate was delivered a few minutes later, along with another refill. I polished off the second plate in no time.

My soup was delivered next. It too was tasty, with large chunks on mushrooms. However, it was lukewarm, but I’ll attribute that to my second plate of caviar. A bread basket, which included garlic bread, was delivered with the soup.



After my soup had been cleared, the salad was delivered. It too was delicious. The prawns were tasty and tender. Here’s where I ran into my only true gripe about the meal service. The knife provided was ridiculous dull. Although the prawns were tender, it took some serious sawing to cut them into manageable bites.



My main course was brought out a few minutes after my salad plate was cleared along with a mint sauce and hot mustard. The lamb chops were restaurant quality in terms of flavor, quality, and presentation. The Lynch Bages wine went down well with the lamb chops. The mashed potatoes and vegetables were equally as fresh and tasty. I had the same unfortunate problem with cutting into the lamb chops as I did with the prawns.



Cheese and dessert were offered, as my main course was cleared. Since I don’t ever eat like this on the ground, I figured why the hell not. The cheeses on offer were brought out on a cutting board for inspection. I chose a sample of each of the cheeses on offer and order a glass of Port to go with it. The cheese was delivered a few moments later, accompanied by the crackers and some fruit.



Dessert, Mr. Harrison? Well if you insist, Penny. I decided to order the chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream with raspberry coulis. As I was waiting for my dessert, the cabin lights were dimmed as all the other passengers had already finished eating. The ice cream was a bit too frozen to eat initially, but it melted enough in a few minutes. It was really good.



Dishes were cleared soon after I finished. I declined offers of coffee, tea, and pralines. Penny then asked if I would like to take advantage of the turn down service, to which I answered yes. I then headed to the lavatory to change into my pajamas. The Shanghai Tang branded pajamas are very comfortable, but I’m not a fan of its dark brown with red trim color scheme. After I changed, I returned to my seat to find my bed already made up. Cathay uses a thin mattress pad laid over the seat in a flat position. Although it doesn’t look like much, it does help smooth the uneven sections of seat quite a bit. Additionally, the seat is well padded enough to be able to pull this off. A fluffy pillow and duvet completed my bed in the sky.

At this point, there were a little over 11 hours off flying time remaining. I crawled under the covers hoping to get about 6 hours of sleep to mitigate the effects of jet lag. The bed is comfortable; however, I found the foot compartment, which doubles as the buddy seat, to be a bit narrow and restrictive, making it hard to change sleeping positions. Just for comparison sake, I’m 5’10.

I figured the late hour departure would help me fall asleep rather quickly. Unfortunately, I just dozed in and out for 2 hours and woke up for good after a patch of rough air with 9 hours to go. I once again fired up Cathay’s great on demand IFE system, Studio CX, to help pass the time. I had watched Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close during dinner. It was a rather intense movie, so I decided to go with something a little more light hearted: The Big Bang Theory. 17 episodes of the past season were loaded. I had missed the majority of the season due to work and other obligations, and I can’t imagine a better place to catch up on the show than in a comfortable bed cruising in excess of 500 mph at FL380 over the Pacific Ocean. I ordered a tasty Oriental Breeze to sip while watching the show.

The only drawback of Studio CX is that it is defaulted play nearly over a minute of same commercials before each and every TV show episode. Although, I will admit I really didn’t mind the Scotts Tower Commercial for some unknown reason. Anyways, back on topic.The next thing I know, 5 hours of flight are left and I was feeling a bit peckish for no apparent reason. Time to take a look at that snack menu:

SNACKS

Maryland crab cakes with tartar sauce

Roasted beef with sun-dried tomato horseradish mayonnaise on sour dough bread and mesclun salad

Shui gaw in noodle soup

Hot pot rice with steamed chicken and black mushroom, served with chicken broth

Ice cream

I decided to go with crab cakes, as I’ve heard good things about them. After ringing the call bell, Desmond appeared at my seat within seconds. After I informed him of my selection, he advised me that it would take about 10 minutes to prepare and asked if I wanted something to drink with that. I elected to go with another Oriental Breeze. Desmond reappeared within a few minutes with a hot towel and brought the tray with my snack and drink a little while after that. The crab cakes were delicious and the quantity was sufficient.



When he came to clear my tray, Desmond brought another glass of Oriental Breeze and a fresh bottle of water. I decided to watch Hunger Games after finishing up the last of The Big Bang Theory episodes. It was a pretty interesting movie, to say the least. As I was finishing up the movie, Penny came to ask what I wanted for breakfast.

Starters
Orange or apple juice

Strawberry smoothie

Fresh seasonal fruit

Natural or fruit yoghurt

Assorted cereals

Main Courses
Free range eggs-freshly scrambled, fried, or boiled
served with Canadian back bacon, grilled pork sausage, Lyonnaise potatoes, grilled tomato or sautťed mushrooms

Dim sum with chili sauce
Shrimp dumpling, siu mai, mini chicken glutinous rice wrapped with lotus leaf, chiu chow dumpling

Abalone and black mushroom congee, served with pan fried pork bun

Bread Basket
Assorted breakfast bread and fresh toast
served with Mrs. Bridges Scottish preserves. Tasmanian meadow honey and butter

Tea and Coffee

I ordered orange juice, the fruit starter, fruit yoghurt, and the dim sum main course to be served as late as possible. At that time, my empty glass and water bottle was sitting on my console; however, these were not removed until my table was cleared after the breakfast service.

At about 90 minutes until landing, she returned with a hot towel, glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, and proceeded to set up my table for breakfast. The fruit plate was delivered first along with the bread basket, which contained a croissant, bagel, and cinnamon roll. That fruit was without a doubt the best I’ve ever had on a plane (including my later SQ flights). It was fresh, sweet, and well chilled. The bread basket and the assorted jams and honey were another highlight of the breakfast service. Both the croissant and bagel were fantastic and were made even better by the aforementioned jams.



Strawberry yoghurt was brought next. I know some people have complained about how cheap it was serving yoghurt still in the carton. But it really didn’t bother me. After that was cleared, my dim sum was delivered accompanied by a small dish of chili sauce. The dim sum was pretty close to restaurant quality.



After my table was cleared, I waited about ten minutes for the seatbelt sign to be turned off after a patch of rough air. Only then did I head to lavatory to change. Soon we were descending into beautiful Hong Kong. The CSD came around the First cabin to thank everyone again and wish them well. I activated the belly cam again to gain a pilots perspective of the approach. The approach itself was beautiful as we descended just as the sun was rising. Touchdown was smooth and we reached out gate after a lengthy taxi. Thus endeth my first international First flight.

Last edited by dat4life; Mar 3, 14 at 3:50 pm
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Old Jul 20, 12, 10:22 pm
  #11  
 
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Great report on CX F. It never fails to disappoint.

Originally Posted by harrison1186 View Post
The only drawback of CX Studio is that it is defaulted play nearly over a minute of same commercials before each and every TV show episode. Although, I will admit I really didn’t mind the Scotts Tower Commercial for some unknown reason.
CX also shows that ad? I thought it was just SQ ... though I agree, for some reason, I don't mind that one.
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Old Jul 21, 12, 6:52 am
  #12  
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Originally Posted by amolkold View Post

CX also shows that ad? I thought it was just SQ ... though I agree, for some reason, I don't mind that one.
They show that and the incredibly realistic Bank of Singapore commercial.
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Old Jul 21, 12, 4:26 pm
  #13  
 
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Great stuff! Don't be shutter shy on board a plane, you're brightening everyone's day here! Literally, if you use flash.

Very much looking forward to hearing about SQ62 F, since that's what I'm saving my miles for at the moment.
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Old Jul 21, 12, 11:54 pm
  #14  
 
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Now that I have read the teaser on lucky's blog of your SQ flights, i'm even more looking forward to the SQ portion of this report!
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Old Jul 22, 12, 12:24 am
  #15  
 
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Thanks for sharing. I can hardly wait to hear more!
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