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ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Breaking Through the Five Million Mile Threshold in Style

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Breaking Through the Five Million Mile Threshold in Style

Old Mar 28, 16, 3:44 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: Alaska Airlines Million Miler, United Airlines Million Miler, Wyndham Rewards Diamond Level
Posts: 9,674
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Breaking Through the Five Million Mile Threshold in Style

Definition of Impulsive: 1. Doing things or tending to do things suddenly and without careful thought : Acting or tending to act on impulse. 2. Done suddenly and without planning: Resulting from a sudden impulse


I first came up with the idea of taking this trip just sixteen hours ago. I didn’t know for sure that I’d actually be doing so until 10:00 o’clock last night, just 10 hours ago. Now – quite suddenly it seems - here I am strapped into seat 15D on a Horizon Airlines DHC-8-400, winging my way down to Anchorage and beyond in full pursuit of my five millionth mile flown. The fact that I’ll be doing so while cradled in the lap of luxury aboard two of the world’s premier practitioners of the art of International standard First Class service makes this trip all the more exciting.

Let’s back up for a moment and take a look at how it all unfolded…

I live in a cabin amidst towering spruce trees about ten miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. It’s been a good winter here in the Interior with lots of sunny days and temperatures often climbing above 0°F, sometimes even into the teens.

Today was just such a day. As I sat at my desk typing out responses to participants’ answers in the Old Timer’s Airline Quiz & Discussion thread over in the Travel Buzz section of this vast site we call FlyerTalk, I decided to take a break from the action and check out a couple of potential mileage runs to be added on to a train trip that I’m taking in April.

When it comes to future travels in any form, my radar is always up. Like a hungry grizzly snuffling around on the tundra in the spring, I’m always sniffing around for good deals. Whereas the bear does it because it’s perpetually hungry, I do it because it’s fun.

Many years back when I was but a wee lad I used to pull out my trusty OAG (that I’d acquired used from the local travel agency) and plan these awesome trips all over the world aboard all manner of exotic airliners. Back in those days “exotic jetliners” meant aircraft like Air Malawi’s VC10 or an Aerolineas Peruvianas Convair 990. Domestic examples included Braniff DC-8s or North Central DC-9-30s. I’d carefully write out detailed itineraries and then sit back, review them and dream. My $5.00 per week allowance never allowed me to venture beyond the realm of fantasy but it sure was fun to visit that realm now and then.

Fast forward to the present and I’m happy to report that yesterday’s fantasies have become today’s reality. For a kid who at age four became fascinated by airplanes following his first flight aboard a classy golden tailed Continental 707, I’ve done pretty well. As of today I’ve logged 5,125 flights covering 4,972,360 miles aboard 178 different airlines.

Now, as I approach the threshold of my 5 millionth mile flown, I’ve been mildly concerned with when and how I’m going to go about crossing it. It is a significant milestone that I’d like to achieve in a style appropriate to the gravity of the accomplishment. I mean, we’re talking Five Million Miles here. Only a tiny fraction of humanity – even here at Flyertalk – has flown anywhere near that many miles. I want to do it in style. Here’s how I’ve crossed my other “Million Mile” thresholds:

1,000,000: September 4, 1985 in First Class aboard a United DC-10 between Seattle and Denver
2,000,000: May 14, 1999 in Economy Class aboard an Alaska 737-400 between Seattle and Anchorage
3,000,000: March 4, 2005 in Business Class aboard a LAN Chile 767-300 between Caracas and Lima
4,000,000: January 27, 2011 in First Class aboard an Alaska 737-800 between Los Angeles and Portland

At present, the only travels I have booked and confirmed for this spring are a six day train trip and the flights necessary to get me to my start point in Chicago, Illinois. Of course I’ll probably take advantage of my time down in the Lower 48 to book a couple of mileage runs but the reality thus far would seem to suggest that if my spring travels stand as planned, I’ll likely be crossing the Five Million Mile threshold aboard a relatively pedestrian 737 of some type.

Well, as I said I’m always sniffing around for good deals and/or interesting itineraries, especially given my ability to turn fantasy into reality these days. I’m sitting on nearly one million miles in my frequent flyer account and as fun as it’s been to accrue all of that mileage, it’s been even more fun to use it. Over the years I reckon I’ve cashed in over 5 million miles worth of awards. And then some.

A couple of months ago I was in daydream mode, tooling around the Alaska Airlines website checking out potential routings for a spring trip. I was looking at airlines like Hainan, Icelandair, KLM, Emirates and LAN just to see what kind of options might be possible. It was a bit early to have a serious look at premium class availability, but the routings and stopovers were there to be examined and considered.

One routing in particular caught my eye. It was on Emirates between Singapore and Houston. Mind you these aren’t published routings like we used to be able to access on Expedia about ten to twelve years ago. No – these days you’re pretty much at the mercy of the airline website and what it chooses to display. To be sure there are ways for knowledgeable people to work the system but it’s a lot easier when the system hands you a doozy of a routing such as I was presented on that day. To wit:

I’d plugged in Singapore to Houston with my primary motivation being to fly the Emirates A380 from Dubai into Houston – one of the ten longest routes in the world and one that would be an attractive addition to my map of international routes flown. I had fully expected to be presented with a nonstop flight from Singapore into Dubai connecting to the A380 on into Houston. The best case scenario I’d hoped for was a flight arriving Dubai early afternoon leaving me enough time to head into town, enjoy a nice dinner and take a hotel for the night. Imagine then my surprise and delight when the following routing displayed for the day I was checking:

DAY 1: Emirates 432 Singapore to Brisbane Depart: 3:15pm Arrive: 12:45am
DAY 2: Emirates 435 Brisbane to Dubai Depart: 8:45pm Arrive: 5:20am
DAY 3: Emirates 225 Dubai to Houston Depart: 9:05am Arrive: 3:20pm

Oh my God! What an awesome routing! I’d get an afternoon departure with an enroute sunset between Singapore and Brisbane and an entire day to bop around Brisbane at my leisure before heading out to the airport for a fourteen hour flight aboard the A380 across to Dubai

Interestingly, this routing wasn’t offered every day nor in every city pair despite the BNE-DXB flight arriving early enough to comfortably connect with a multitude of departures to a variety of US cities. I know because I checked them all. It’s weird because you could have the flights available in First all the way through from Singapore to Houston and yet when I’d plug in SIN-LAX, SFO or SEA – any of which showed First Class available out of Dubai when checking other city pairs such as BKK-SFO, the routing via BNE wouldn’t be offered.

Over the past few weeks I’ve occasionally revisited this city pair, plugging in random dates just to see if it still would come up. For over a month it never did. My assumption was that perhaps it was offered only to provide an extra option during the busy Christmas and New Year travel period. Still, I kept checking. You never know…

So yesterday afternoon, during a break in the action at the Old Timer’s Airline Quiz & Discussion, I headed over to Alaskaair.com to see what’s goin’ on. Like a bored fly fisherman casting his line into the a favorite fishing hole for the umpteenth time, I casually plugged in SIN-IAH for February 18th (four days hence) and settled back to see what I might reel in.

Whoa, Nellie! There it was! And each flight was available in First Class! Holy Cow, Batman! This was the equivalent of an 80lb King on the line! I immediately sat up straighter and began to consider the possibilities. Today was the 14th. If I left tomorrow, I could head on down to San Francisco or LA and catch Cathay’s nonstop across to Hong Kong with connections into Singapore arriving either the afternoon of the 17th or the morning of the 18th. Hmm…

One thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that when it comes to travel aboard Cathay Pacific or Emirates, for me it’s First Class or nothing. Okay, I’d accept Business Class on a shorter flight such as Hong Kong to Singapore or Dubai to Karachi but for long distance sectors over 3000 miles, only the best will do. Besides, I’ve got a great track record on both of these airlines to maintain.

Starting with my first flight aboard Cathay Pacific back in March of 1987, I’ve since logged 25 flights totaling 149,970 miles – all of them in First Class. On Emirates I’ve logged 9 flights totaling 45,180 miles thus far – again, all of them in First Class. That’s a record I’d like to maintain as long as possible.

So then, what’re the chances of scoring a First Class seat to Hong Kong and on to Singapore with Cathay Pacific? It was time to get on the horn to Alaska Airlines’ Partner Desk and find out. Truth be known, First Class on Cathay Pacific can be a tough seat to come by these days. Two things I had in my favor were that I’m only looking for one seat and this is a last minute booking. It’s been my experience on Cathay in particular that First Class award inventory is often released a day or two out. While this is of little consolation to couples who hope to book their travels a month or more out, for an impulsive single guy like me it means there’s a good chance I can make this work. And if it doesn’t, it’s no big deal because we’re in the middle of a fantastic winter here in Alaska’s Interior. Additionally, we’re gaining six and a half minutes additional sunshine every day. There’s light in the sky at 6:00pm now and sunsets have moved from the southern sky way over to the western sky. Even though spring is a month away yet, its promise is tangible. After the long dusky days of December and January, this is a great time to be in Alaska!

So – I get on the line to Alaska’s Partner Desk and initially it doesn’t look good. All of Cathay’s west coast gateways show zero availability for the 15th and 16th. But wait! Without any prompting from me – mainly because I was unaware you could even route this way – my Alaska agent informed me that First Class was available from Vancouver all the way through to Singapore departing out of Vancouver tomorrow night – the fifteenth. Oh no, I thought. The dreaded 1:25am departure.

But no! It was better. Much better! Here’s the routing:

February 15: Vancouver to New York Depart: 9:50pm Arrive: 6:00am
February 16: New York to Hong Kong Depart: 9:00am Arrive: 2:05pm
February 17: Hong Kong to Singapore Depart: 3:15pm Arrive: 705pm

As an added bonus, the flight from Hong Kong down to Singapore would be aboard one of Cathay’s venerable and soon to be retired 747-400s.

When it comes to First Class air travel, the 747 offers – for me at least – the finest First Class cabin I’ve ever flown in. There’s a wonderful and unique ambience to its forward cabin as the windows taper off toward the nose and allow more forward viewing than is possible on any other jetliner. The upstairs cabin ain’t bad either, as evidenced by Lufthansa’s unique seat and bed arrangement which I had the good fortune to experience between Buenos Aires and Frankfurt almost two years ago to the day.

So – things couldn’t have looked better with two exceptions. There was no space available between Fairbanks and Vancouver. Nor were there any seats out of Houston back to Fairbanks. Dang! It’s always the little things that get you! There was space into Vancouver on the 15th, but only on flights that didn’t connect with Cathay’s departure out of Vancouver. Hmm… We’re so close…

I asked my helpful Alaska Partner Desk agent to please confirm the all of the flights between Vancouver and Singapore – costing me 70,000 miles for a one way First Class award – and then I’d see what I could arrange separately between Fairbanks and Vancouver. Additionally, I was able to switch the Dubai - Houston flight over to a Dubai - San Francisco flight. There were plenty of seats available on well timed connecting flights between SFO and Fairbanks.

One of the most valuable benefits of elite status in Alaska’s Mileage Plan is a little perk called “Same Day Confirmed Standby”. Basically, if you’re booked on a flight arriving Vancouver at 1100pm, starting at 10:00pm the night before your travel date you can check in and request an earlier flight. If the coach space is available – regardless of fare category – it’s yours. And so it was that for an extra 12,500 mile one way FAI-YVR award, I got myself booked on a flight departing Fairbanks at 7:40am, arriving Vancouver at 4:38pm, leaving me plenty of time to connect to my 9:50pm departure to New York and beyond. The only drawback is that I’ll have to suffer the indignity of economy class travel between Fairbanks and Vancouver. After 5,125 flights, 60% of which have been behind the curtain, I think I can handle it!

Once I had the Cathay Pacific flights booked, I sped back over to Alaskaair.com and booked the fantastic Emirates routing. All told, this 33,000 mile orgy of First Class air travel would see me gone from Alaska for just six days – a good thing as I’d promised my neighbor Sharon a ride to the airport for her departure to Raleigh on the night of the 21st. I’ll arrive back home on the night of the 20th.

Finally, it should be noted that one of the great benefits of living and traveling alone is the ability to easily and instantly indulge your wildest impulses. Here in the middle of a long Alaskan winter, I just feel like treating myself to some quality First Class service. So there.

Most normal people would never consider a “trip” like this. The more pragmatic amongst us will likely decry this cavalier redemption of hard-earned miles with terms like frivolous and wasteful. Indeed, only the most diehard of airline geeks would ever want to take a trip like this. Having logged 4,972,100 miles aboard 5,124 flights on 178 airlines – that would be me.

Years ago I would never have redeemed this many miles unless I was setting off on a major trip, as in a month or two long. Back in those days though, it felt like I worked a lot harder for my miles. Back in those days I also remember thinking that a half million miles was a huge amount.

Oh well. What can I say? I’m in the enviable position of having an embarrassment of riches in my mileage account. I can afford it. I’m earning the miles faster than I can spend them. So, to any of youse getting all huffy out there over the perceived waste of time and mileage, I’d advise you to stick a sock in it! And don’t forget - the payoff is going to be cracking that Five Million Miles flown barrier in a style appropriate to the feat – in First Class aboard an Emirates A380. Maybe I'll even have a drink with Jennifer Anniston at the bar...

This is gonna be fun!

Last edited by Seat 2A; Sep 14, 18 at 2:13 am
Seat 2A is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 3:45 am
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: Alaska Airlines Million Miler, United Airlines Million Miler, Wyndham Rewards Diamond Level
Posts: 9,674
Alright then, this trip is on! Now then, the question is: Do any of you want to read about it? I realize that premium class travel aboard Cathay Pacific and Emirates has been reported upon ad nauseum here in the pages of the Trip Reports Forum. Additionally, given the overwhelming popularity of photo reports, most of you have neither the time nor patience to read through the ramblings of an old goat like me who’s long been on record as preferring to write about “getting there” more so than being there.

Hey – I’m cool with it, and I’ll understand completely should any of you have already hit your back buttons in pursuit of more original and entertaining compositions – or compilations as the case may be. There are a lot of great reports out there and I hope you’ll be suitably entertained.

As for the rest a youse, you know the drill by now. Go fetch yourselves something tasty to eat and drink, then take a seat and buckle in for the ride. It promises to be a First Class trip!


February 15, 2016
Horizon Airlines Fairbanks to Anchorage 740a – 905a DHC-8-400 Coach Class
Alaska Airlines Anchorage to Seattle 1000a – 205p 737-400 Coach Class
Horizon Airlines Seattle to Vancouver 350p – 438p DHC-8-400 Coach Class
Cathay Pacific Vancouver to New York 950p – 600a 777-300 First Class


In exchange for promising to be back in time to drive her to the airport next week, my neighbor pledged to wake up at 6:00am and drive me out to the airport this morning. True to her word, she was parked in my driveway with her trusty Toyota Camry warm and ready when I stepped out my door at 6:45am.

Arriving at the terminal just 40 minutes prior to departure, I headed directly upstairs and straight on through the TSA Pre✓™ line without delay. I stopped briefly to admire Alaska’s newest 737 – a -900 model wearing the line’s attractive new livery. Alaska’s new look was introduced just two weeks ago and this was the first example I’d seen close up. It’s a refreshing new look that exudes both purpose and warmth – I look forward to flying aboard one of the newly painted planes soon.

Now I’m sure you didn’t click your mouse on this report to read about a trio of economy class flights between Fairbanks, Anchorage, Seattle and on to Vancouver. Suffice it to say that Alaska’s economy class is a solid product with spacious seating, good affordably priced food options and attentive service. Today’s flights reflected all of those qualities nicely and while I’d hate to think that I’ve begun to take Alaska’s fine service for granted, for me the real highlight was my flight aboard Horizon’s Dash 8 up to Vancouver. It was operated by ship 452 wearing the “Employee Powered” livery.

“So?” You ask. “What’s the big deal?”

Over the years I’ve logged 211 flights aboard Horizon – 157 of those aboard its DHC-8-400s. Up until today I’d flown all but four of Horizon’s fleet of 52 strong. As of this afternoon, make that all but three. I'm sure that for many of you this logging of flights may all seem quite frivolous but - as one who’s been faithfully recording all of my flights since a very young age – I can tell you that as the flights begin to add up over the years, some impressive statistics begin to emerge. In the case of Horizon’s Dash 8s, when you’ve come so close to flying upon the entire fleet, it’s actually quite exciting to be able to add a previously unflown upon aircraft to the collection – especially since it’s all left to chance. It took me eleven years and 201 flights before I managed to fly upon all forty of Alaska’s 737-400s. For one so steeped in airplane geekdom as I am, I can tell you on good authority that it’s a nice feeling to see any Alaska 737-400 and be able to say “I’ve flown on that plane before!”

Having logged 5,127 flights as of tonight, I can also make the same statement about Alaska’s MD-80s, Delta’s DC-8-61s, United’s DC-8-61s and Continental’s DC-10-10s. I’m close to being able to saying that about quite a few other types such as Alaska’s sixty-one 737-800s of which I’ve flown all but two.

These “accomplishments” are all well and good but do they actually mean anything in the great scheme of things? Not unless you’re into it. So if any of you should someday see me in an airport, you can either look the other way and pretend you didn’t see me while backing away slowly (Don’t make eye contact – try to remain calm!) or come on over and let me buy you a drink and we can talk planes and travels.


* * * _ _ * * *


Vancouver International Airport may very well be the most attractive airport I’ve ever been in. Wood, glass, steel, trees and one of the most extensive collections of Pacific Northwest Coast Native art in the world all come together to create a very comfortable and welcoming ambience. Add to that a nice collection of restaurants and shops and a trip to or through YVR becomes a real pleasure.

My Horizon flight parked way down at the end of the commuter wing, resulting in a walk to customs and immigration that had to be at least a half mile. With my slowly deteriorating spinal condition these longer walks are becoming a bit painful but I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. No wheelchair assistance for me! I also refuse to get one of those blue handicap cards to post in my truck window. As long as I can still haul 40lb containers of water into my cabin, I’ll still keep truckin’ on. I used a spare shoelace to rig up a handle on my 15lb daypack (the laptop weights 7lbs all by itself. Then throw in camera, books, magazines, a heating pad and all manner of other goods and trinkets…) which I then attached to the base of the extending handle of my rollabord bag. That made the walk a lot easier.

I’ve driven sixteen roundtrips between Alaska and the Lower 48 (Alaska speak for the contiguous 48 states) and as such I’ve had a good deal of experience with Canadian customs. Two of the more intensive inspections I’ve been subjected to have come courtesy of the Canadian authorities. For the most part however, my interactions and experiences with them have been pleasant and straightforward. Today was just such an instance. The Customs and Immigration hall at YVR is large and well organized. I headed for the appropriate lane and was then directed to an expedited lane where I received assistance and direction from a friendly customs official before being released into Canada with their blessing.

Check in was handled as expeditiously as you would expect for an International First Class flight. There was only one person ahead of me at the Fast Track security check point and soon I was on my way to Cathay’s lounge, located on the mezzanine level just beyond security.

Just outside the entrance to the lounge is a life sized cardboard cutout of a Cathay Pacific Flight Attendant. These cardboard cutouts seem rather popular with the Asian airlines - examples from China Airlines, Singapore Airlines and now Cathay come to mind. A pretty receptionist greeted me from behind a long counter, inspected my boarding pass and then provided me with directions to the First Class Lounge – essentially turn right and you’ll see the doorway just at the far end of the Business Class lounge. Please make yourself comfortable and enjoy the lounge.

It had been ten years since I’d last visited this lounge and – aside from the food offerings – it would appear that little has changed. Polished black marble floors, potted plants, comfortable seating and big picture windows make this lounge a pleasant place to while away an hour or two before departure. That said, there’s no real difference between the Business and First Class sides of the lounge. Why the two sides are divided is beyond me. British Airways also uses this lounge and given the historic British affinity for class distinction, perhaps this is done as a courtesy to their First Class passengers. After all, we can’t have proper First Class passengers rubbing shoulders with “The Great Unwashed” ! We’ll just keep it our secret – you and I – that I drive a bus for a living and happen to live in a cabin with outdoor plumbing.




The First Class side of Cathay Pacific’s Vancouver Lounge


Outside the windows on the ramp below was an EVA 747-400. I thought by now EVA had relegated those -400s to intra-Asia services. It was nice to see that wasn’t the case because for me personally, I much prefer the old fashioned well-padded comfort of the ten year old Business Class seating on the 747s compared to the new molded plastic suites that highlight EVA’s Royal Laurel Class aboard its 777-300ERs.

Turning away from the window, I headed over to the buffet area to take stock of the epicurean delights on offer. Along one wall was a nicely stocked buffet area that included a hot pan with chicken quesadillas and a basket of shrimp dumplings and barbecued pork buns. Inside a nearby display refrigerator was a selection of small sandwiches, veggie plates and slices of carrot cake.




Basket of dumplings and hot buns



A nicely stocked refrigerator


I put together a small plate of food, grabbed a cold beer and retired to a table in the small business center. It was time to arrange for some travel insurance and an Australian visa. While I’m at it, I might as well see about a hotel in Singapore.




Lounge treats


Boarding was called at 9:15pm. By the time I’d broken down my laptop and gotten all of my gear stowed away, I was the last person out of the lounge. The flight was departing from D73, about a quarter mile away. From the time my Horizon flight arrived at the far end of the commuter earlier this afternoon, I reckon I’ve walked a good three quarters of a mile around this airport so far. What’s another quarter mile? Still, this airport sure is spread out!

It’s been two years, eleven months and twenty-six days since I last had the pleasure of flying aboard one of Cathay’s newly refurbished 777-300ERs. Speaking solely from the perspective of a First Class passenger, it’s a marvelous airplane featuring large spacious suites and wide comfortable seats. When reclined into their full 180° flatbed mode, they become the widest bed I’ve yet slept upon inflight. But more on that later.

Awaiting me at the doorway was a full on reception committee of three flight attendants with a fourth one hovering in the background. Judging by the absence of passengers in the gate lounge I figured I was one of the last passengers to board but still, this was an impressive assemblage of cabin crew. I presented my boarding pass to the closest one and was quickly handed off to Angel who escorted me through the small forward Business Class cabin and on through the heavy taupe curtains into the sanctuary of the First Class cabin.




Cathay’s 777 First Class Suite



Cathay’s 777 First Class Suite – One of the widest seats in the sky


Ah… this is so much nicer. Walking into First Class – even from the comfy confines of Cathay’s very nice Business Class cabin – is always a pleasant and cherished experience, full of wonderful anticipation for the comfort and attention that await.

I didn’t have long to wait, either. While Angel was helping me get stowed away – she even wrestled my rollabord into the seat side storage closet all by herself – Kevin stopped by to introduce himself and inquire as to my pre-flight drink preferences. Does Cathay still proffer the Krug? Outstanding! I’ll have a glass of that, please.




Krug Grande Cuvée – A proper start to any trip


Service continued with the usual assortment of pre-flight swag – amenity kit, pajamas, newspapers, etc. By appearances the amenity kit had changed substantially since the last time I’d flown. Tonight’s collection was put together by the Australian company Aēsop and came packaged in a handsome beige zippered case. It included the usual toiletries highlighted by tubes of Aēsop’s Camellia Nut Facial Hydrating Cream and Rosehip Seed Lip Cream.




Cathay’s Aēsop branded amenity kit


As ever, I’m at a loss about what to do with creams like these. Mind you, I think it’s great that Cathay provides these fancy products to its First Class clientele, but when it comes to facial and lip hygiene, I’ve somehow managed to get by all these years on soap and water and saliva. While I’ve never had my facial skin professionally evaluated, I think it looks just fine as is. As for my lips, despite having lived in a dry climate all of my life I’ve never used anything but my tongue to wet my lips now and then with the result being that they rarely ever get chapped. We’re talking like – maybe once a year, if that. I must be blessed or something.

The captain came on over the PA to welcome us aboard and inform us that despite the delay caused by the repair of a small item back in the galley, a nice tailwind would push us into New York right on time – possibly even a few minutes early.

Sigh… Damned tailwinds! They always come at the worst times, too, like these late night flights where I want to have as much time as possible to check out the meal service and then maybe knock off a couple hours or more of sleep.

Honestly, the smart thing to do on a flight like this would be to have eaten well in advance of the flight and then used my onboard time to get as much sleep as possible. The problem a guy like me faces is that I consider inflight dining – especially that of an international First Class standard – to be the epitome of inflight entertainment. Providing a first rate IFE (Inflight Entertainment System) loaded with hundreds of films and television programs is of no consequence to me. I’d rather watch those shows back home from the comfort of my recliner on my larger TV screen.

No – if I’m going fly First Class aboard an airline of Cathay Pacific’s caliber and there’s going to be a meal served, I’m going to be awake to check it out. I can’t help it. I’m just wired that way.

So it was that when fifteen minutes into the flight the menu and wine list were presented, I sat up a little straighter and listened with interest as Kevin informed me of Cathay’s latest wine promotion and described the two wines from it to be offered with tonight’s meal. Of course, these wines would be in addition to the wines that Cathay has already selected for this month’s menu cycle. Let’s have a look at those offerings, shall we?


WINE LIST

Champagne

Krug Grande Cuvée

White Wines

Domaene Gobelsburg Kamptal Grüner Veltliner 2013
Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru 2013


Red Wines

Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago 2013
Hahn Winery Central Coast Meritage 2011


Port

Ramos Pinto Quinta da Ervamoira 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Promotional Wines

We have carefully selected five top quality wines from Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux to complement our First Class selection. Please refer to the promotional wine brochure for the selected wine details. Our cabin crew will be pleased to offer you the promotional wines available on this flight.

White Wines

Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2011
Château Bouscaut 2012


Red Wines

Château Haut-Bergey 2005
Château Olivier Red 2009
Domaine de Chevalier 2012



Here’s the rest of the beverages menu:


Aperitifs and Cocktails

Campari * Martini Rosso * Martini Extra Dry * Tio Pepe Sherry * Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sweet Sherry * Tanqueray Ten Gin * Bacardi Rum * Belvedere Vodka * Bloody Mary * Screwdriver

Whiskies

Chivas Regal 12 Years Old * Johnny Walker Blue Label * Canadian Club * Gentleman Jack Bourbon * Glenmorangie Signet Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Cognac

Tesseron Lot 76 XO Tradition

Liqueurs

Cointreau * Drambuie * Kahlua * Bailey’s Irish Cream

Beer

International Selection

Signature Drinks

Cathay Delight

A kiwifruit based non-alcoholic drink with coconut juice and a touch of fresh mint

Pacific Sunrise
A refreshing combination of champagne and Drambuie with the zest of orange and lemon


Now that’s a very nice looking wine presentation and one that I definitely look forward to exploring during the meal service. First however, it’s time for a pre-dinner cocktail and right now I can’t wait to reacquaint myself with a deliciously chilled serving of Johnny Walker Blue Label on ice. Would I care for some mixed nuts with that? Why, yes of course!

While Kevin returned to the galley to prepare my JWB and mixed nuts, I took a couple of minutes to peruse this evening’s dinner selections.




Cocktail hour on Cathay Pacific


Cathay has a different menu presentation since I last flew with them in November of 2013. The new menu is a bit larger in size and the artistic renditions of epicurean delights that used to adorn the cover have been replaced with a simple Cathay swoosh and the word Dining. The menu is then attached via a thin red ribbon to a slightly larger lightweight wooden pad or platform. I suppose it’s nice in an uncluttered zen kind of way but my personal preference would be to retain the artwork on the menu cover.

That said, it’s what’s inside the menu that really counts, so let’s see what’s for dinner!

The meal is euphemistically described as a “Supper” but short of a caviar course and a proper dinner salad it’s a full meal service offering plenty to eat – especially at this late hour.


SUPPER

INTERNATIONAL FAVORITES

Appetizer

Grilled jumbo tiger prawns, crab meat salad, saffron and tomato sauce

Soup
Chatham carrot and ginger soup

Grilled Angus AAA Beef Tenderloin
Portobello mushrooms, broccolini, zucchini, mashed potatoes
Port wine sauce and Béarnaise sauce



CHINESE FAVORITES

Pan-fried Black Cod

Sweet onion sauce, mixed vegetables and steamed jasmine rice
Or
Wontons in Noodle Soup


CHEESE and DESSERT

International Cheese Selection

Sir Laurier, Aged Cheddar, Goat Cheese, Cambozola

Chocolate Pecan Praline Cake
With vanilla sauce

Afterwards
Freshly brewed coffee, espresso, cappuccino, café latte and a selection of teas

Pralines



Hmm… very nice, very nice…

Be it on the ground or in the air, one of my favorite parts of any meal has always been the hors d’oeuvres and appetizers. The best are like delicious little works of art – some of them so beautifully crafted that I almost feel guilty about tearing into one with knife and fork. Almost – but not quite. I opted to start tonight’s meal with both the prawns and the soup, followed by the superlative Grilled Angus AAA Beef Tenderloin.

Kevin patiently wrote down each of my selections and then we took a moment to discuss the wine offerings.

The description of the promotional red wine designated for tonight’s flight, the Château Haut-Bergey 2005, read as follows:

“2005 was an exceptional vintage for Château Haut-Bergey. The hard work done since 1991 has started to uncover the true potential of the Château, and this wine is proof. Muscular tannins are obvious in its excellent structure, but after ten years of aging, it has now become round and smooth. Flavors have ripened to red and black fruits with hints of undergrowth and tobacco, creating an overall balance. This red wine will pair well with braised meat dishes or roasts.” Grape Varieties: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot

What really caught my attention was “muscular tannins”. I love the earthiness of a good tannic wine, but after reading that ten years of aging had rounded and smoothed those tannins, my interest heightened considerably. Red and black fruits with hints of undergrowth and tobacco… Undergrowth? Hmm… well it all sounds deliciously earthy, so I would love a glass of the Bergey with my main course, please.

We were thirty minutes into the flight when Angel arrived with my table settings. International First Class dining on an airline of Cathay Pacific’s caliber begins with a proper table setting. This means laying down crisp white linen, placing glasses with the airline logo facing you, placing bread and butter plates as well as presenting salt and pepper in real shakers. Bread is not just a variety of rolls presented for your selection from a basket. No – each passenger receives their own personal bread basket. Silverware is properly placed in each side of the service plate.

All of my most recent First Class meals have come aboard U.S. domestic flights. Even on five and a half hour transcons, the majority of the meals – from appetizers through to the main course – are delivered on a tray, sometimes all at once. Silverware is usually presented wrapped in a napkin. In today’s homogenized and dumbed down American society, this kind of service is considered acceptable, even amongst those who pay top dollar for a seat on say – United’s p.s. (Premium Service) flights.

What a shame we’ve fallen to such depths. What a shame that when it comes to inflight dining – particularly on international services, so many people not only don’t have a clue but honestly could care less that the overall experience could be so much nicer. In all I suspect a lack of awareness combined with this overall acceptance of mediocrity - the majority of U.S. based premium class clientele consider the present service levels to be acceptable - contributes mightily to why the U.S. airlines don’t see any reason to up their game relative to their overseas competition. Perhaps the fact that so many people are sitting up front gratis due to status related upgrades or award travel also has something to do with it.

Anybody demanding higher standards – a not at all unreasonable expectation even for International Business Class passengers on many Asian and European airlines – knows to avoid U.S. airlines when it comes to long distance premium class travel. That is unless of course the price is just too good to resist.

It wasn’t always like this. Pan Am and TWA used to provide world class service as good as any in the industry and better than most. I remember long domestic flights aboard the likes of TWA, Eastern, Continental, Western and yes – even United – that featured courteous service highlighted by attractive menus, beautifully set tables and food graciously presented and served course by course with both culinary knowledge and pride.

It had been nine and a half months since my last flight in international First Class, so I was really looking forward to a nice dinner. And of course, Cathay Pacific, Kevin and Angel really delivered!

This meal got off to a nice start with the presentation of my appetizer, an exquisitely arranged compilation of prawn, crabmeat salad and asparagus colorfully accented by saffron and tomato sauce. My only complaint if you could call it such is that there wasn’t another prawn but then that would have thrown off the symmetry of the presentation.




Tiger Prawn Appetizer


Next up was the soup. Chatham carrot and ginger soup… that certainly sounds interesting, even to a guy like me who generally doesn’t care for cooked carrots. This soup had a nice flavor and texture. I especially liked the addition of bacon pieces. Mmmm!




Chatham Carrot and Ginger Soup


Alright then, bring on the main course!

By first appearances, the presentation was a bit underwhelming. While the food was artfully arranged in the center of the plate, there wasn’t very much of it. I doubt there were much more than four or five ounces of meat and just a smidgen of potatoes. Still, given the time of day, perhaps this was just as well. I find it’s not good – for me at least – to sleep on a full stomach.

The Portobello mushrooms, broccolini, zucchini and mashed potatoes made nice accompaniments to the meal, but perhaps my favorite was the addition of Béarnaise sauce and port wine sauce, presented in small pitchers off to one side of the plate.




Grilled Angus AAA Beef Tenderloin


The tenderloin was perhaps the tenderest piece of meat I’ve ever had. I kid you not – it really was rather amazing, almost a melt in your mouth quality that was enhanced deliciously with the liberal addition of Béarnaise sauce. Were it earlier in the day, I might have asked for seconds!

I never eat dessert at home but what the heck - I’ve come this far, I might as well finish this meal off in style. Chocolate Pecan Praline Cake. Ooooo – the name alone just rolls off the tongue. As much as I’d like to accompany this with a cup of coffee, stimulants are out at this hour and so I requested a small glass of Bailey’s Irish Cream on ice.




Chocolate Pecan Praline Cake


Oh yeah! The cake was firm and the frosting exquisite - a sweet and tasty ending to this meal.

Were we in a restaurant the portions would have been a bit larger but I doubt they would have been any more flavorful – especially the tenderloin. Don’t listen to those snooty old stiffs that tell you no airplane food can hold a candle to land based restaurants. While no one would disagree that a freshly prepared restaurant meal is going to taste better than one reheated in an airline oven, at the end of your inflight meal you’ve got to ask yourself –appetizer, salad, soup, main, dessert – did you enjoy it? Was it good? For me at least, the answer to those questions has often been positive.

To be sure, sometimes the airlines don’t get it right, but - for those capable of bringing an objective viewpoint to the dinner table – I think most would agree that when we’re talking international standard First Class catering, the food can occasionally be very good. Indeed, a properly prepared and served meal can be the highlight of your flight.

My all-time favorite was a delicious Barramundi baked in Coconut Curry Sauce served aboard a British Airways flight between Singapore and London. Back in the days of trolley service here in the United States, we used to be served delicious Chateaubriands and other roasts with accompaniments like Potatoes Berny or string beans almandine. They were nicely cooked and uniformly delicious.


* * * _ _ * * *


By the time the last of my plates were cleared off, we were speeding across western North Dakota at 588 mph with a little less than three hours left in the flight. It occurred to me that if I were sitting in Williston, North Dakota on a clear and starry night watching the lights of a distant airliner speeding across the heavens, I would never have thought it was a Cathay Pacific 777. Up this far north, at this hour of night, I would have guessed the skies would be populated with Delta jets making their way from the Pacific Northwest across to Minneapolis or Detroit.

After informing Kevin that I’d like to have my suite set up for sleeping, I headed up to the forward lavs to practice a bit of dental hygiene. Unlike the spacious lavatories found aboard Cathay’s 747-400s, these were more traditionally sized with the only real difference between them and the other classes being the quality of the amenities provided.

Upon return to my suite, I read for a bit and then slept fitfully until our approach into New York. After just a couple hours of sleep I felt like a half charged battery. I had enough power to make my way through customs and the three hour layover but at some point on the upcoming fifteen hour flight across to Hong Kong I was going to have to recharge completely with a few more hours of sleep.


* * * _ _ * * *


Cathay Pacific flights arrive and depart from Terminal 7 at JFK. While I’ve heard many refer to this building as the British Airways Terminal, it actually serves ten foreign airlines. At this time of the morning the only other aircraft I saw were a British Airways 747 and an Aerolineas Argentinas A340. We parked next to the BA 744 at gate 4 and I proceeded inside where I sped through Customs and Immigration thanks to my Global Entry membership.

Since all relevant boarding passes had been issued in Vancouver, I headed straight for the security check point. Surprise! There was no TSA Pre✓™ line. It had been so long since I’d last removed shoes and belt at a checkpoint that it really seemed quite foreign to me. On a positive note, there was a premium class lane and as such I made my way through the checkpoint relatively quickly.

Roight. Where’s that lounge?

Cathay Pacific shares the British Airways Galleries Lounges at JFK. Although the lounge has separate sides for First and Business Class passengers, my understanding is that true British Airways First Class passengers have their own dedicated Concorde Room here at JFK.

Nice as that would have been to visit, I was looking forward more to the upcoming flight to Hong Kong than I was the lounge facilities. At the same time, pre-flight lounging is an integral part of the overall First Class flight experience and so I was curious as to what this lounge might have on offer, particularly for breakfast. Would there be any hot items?

Following a nice greeting and a bit of a chat with the chipper lounge receptionist, I made my way into the First Class lounge.

Hmm… this is definitely different from my last visit to BA’s First lounge here at JFK. That visit was back in 2004 and the facility I visited then was larger and of a completely different design inside – there was more wood, much like BA’s Terraces Lounge at SFO. This facility was a bit darker in ambience with only one window providing any outside light.

Still, I had no real complaints. There were plenty of comfy chairs and a small dining area with perhaps a dozen tables – of which only four or five were in use. There was a small Business Center but it included no work spaces – just computer terminals and a printer. In addition to needing to purchase some insurance for this trip, I also wanted to add to a few of the notes on the trip that I‘d taken so far. I know they call them laptops but I much prefer a flat surface to work on, so I picked a table by the wall and plugged in.

A central buffet island offered a variety of typical continental breakfast items including that old New York deli favorite – Bagels and Lox, with all the trimmings including capers. Oy vey! I quickly put together a good looking plate complete with cream cheese and red onions, poured myself a cup of coffee and then retired to my table to enjoy it all.

It should be noted that there were no hot items such as scrambled eggs, potatoes or breakfast meats available. There was however a nicely stocked oatmeal station off to one side. It included various sweeteners along with raisins and nuts.

Returning for a refill on my coffee, I took note of the extensive self-service bar located along the wall opposite the buffet. What a shame that it was so early in the day for there was a good variety of top shelf stuff here including Grey Goose vodka, Woodford Reserve bourbon and Glenlivet 15 Year Old Scotch Whisky.

Before leaving the lounge and heading down to Gate 4, I stopped by the window to admire the morning sunrise and its effect on the Jet Blue 320s parked next door.




Jet Blue A320s bask in the early morning sun

Last edited by Seat 2A; Apr 1, 16 at 3:35 pm
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Old Mar 28, 16, 3:49 am
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February 16, 2016
Cathay Pacific New York to Hong Kong 900a – 205p 777-300 First Class


BA’s morning departure to London Heathrow was just taxiing away as I arrived at the gate. While I was sat in the Galleries Lounge I overheard a lady who was presumably onboard that flight comment on how much she dreaded those long trans-Atlantic flights.

I remember hearing that and thinking “Hah! Long flight! Pffft! I’ll show you a long flight!”

New York to London checks in at 3,440 miles. Flights heading eastbound across the Atlantic are often pushed along by some pretty impressive tailwinds resulting in flight times of just six and a half hours – give or take a half hour. My upcoming flight to Hong Kong checks in at 8,050 miles, with a projected flight time of sixteen hours and five minutes. Realistically this will usually be a lot closer to 15 hours –twice the time and distance between New York and London and then some.

It’s all a matter of perspective though. I remember when I used to think New York to Denver was a long flight. Of course, back then I was but a wee lad who’d logged only twenty-five flights or so. The amazing thing is how many people there are out there – we’re talking full grown adults now – who’ve only flown perhaps twenty-five times in their entire lives. Or less. Many of us here at FlyerTalk will log that many in a couple of months. Or less.

Truth be known, my preference would be to fly between New York and Hong Kong the way they used to do it in the old days. The airplanes didn’t have the range back then and so we’d likely have been looking at a routing more along the lines of New York to Seattle to Tokyo to Hong Kong.

I remember flying often between the U.S. and Australia back in the early 80s. A typical flight would route through Honolulu and Fiji or New Zealand enroute to Australia. I always looked forward to those enroute stops as an opportunity to get off the plane for a bit, stretch and/or take a walk, maybe enjoy a bite to eat and then get back on board – recharged and ready for the next leg.

Getting back to the present, waiting at the gate was B-KPI, the very same 777 which had delivered me from Vancouver last night. Boarding was just getting underway and I was pleased to see a clearly marked lane for First and Business Class passengers. I presented my boarding pass and strode unimpeded down the premium class jetway. Hong Kong here I come!

The usual reception crew was in place at the door – just two of them this time though – and it wasn’t long before I was kickin’ back in seat 2K, savoring a glass of ice water with lemon while looking forward to an announced flight time of fifteen hours and three minutes.

Now I know what some of you are thinking – What?! No Champagne? It’s Krug, Bro – what’re you thinking?!!

I’m thinking it’s 9:00am and an orange juice and a glass of ice water would taste a heck of a lot better to me right now. Yeah, yeah – I know … I’m a real stick in the mud but what can I say? I’m a morning person. It’s my favorite time of day and I really enjoy it best with a clear head. Alcohol of any type – even a Screwdriver, Bloody Mary or Mimosa – holds no real appeal for me this early in the day, and it never has. Even in my pot smoking daze I could never fire up that first bong hit until mid-afternoon at the earliest.

Speaking of clear-headedness, I’m working on about two and a half hours of fitful sleep at best. Truth be known, I actually feel pretty good right now but I know from past experience that I’m gonna crash hard here in the next couple of hours. I need at least four more hours of sleep.

The good news is that I’ve got a fifteen hour flight ahead of me – more than enough time to knock off a few zzzz’s and then have a glass or two of that Krug. So here’s the plan:

As soon as we level off, I’m going to ask one of the crew to convert my suite to sleep mode. Then I’m going to sleep for however long my body feels like sleeping – I’m usually good for 6-7 hours per night so that means an additional 4-5 hours – and by the time I wake up I expect there’ll still be plenty of time left to enjoy this flight with more than enough energy left over to power me through my Hong Kong layover and the three and a half hour flight down to Singapore.

In the meantime, our long taxi out to the bay runway brought back memories of similar terrestrial journeys aboard the likes of TWA 707s and United DC-8s back in the late sixties and early 70s. And, just like back in those days, we even got caught up in traffic as the captain came on over the PA in mid-taxi to advise us that we were number eleven for takeoff. This morning a profusion of JetBlue A320s had replaced the varied jetliners of yesteryear that – depending upon the time of day – could turn JFK into a veritable plane spotters’ bazaar. This was especially true at about 6:00pm when all the European flights were heading out. I remember well my excitement at seeing the likes of BOAC VC10s or Alitalia DC-8s and I practically peed my pants with excitement at the sight of an exotic Air India 707 or an Air Afrique DC-8. As a kid who grew up in Colorado, I also enjoyed checking out the many domestic jetliners never seen in the Mile High City. We’re talking aircraft like Northeast Yellowbirds (727s and DC-9s), National stretch 8s and Mohawk BAC-111s. Back then each of these airplanes seemed so unique and individual. You could be sure that the inside of a National DC-8 bore no resemblance to that of an American 707. These days, it seems like if you’ve seen one 737-800 you’ve seen ‘em all. This is especially true of the interiors which on most airliners are essentially the same – row after row of dark blue or grey seats.

Finally it was our turn for takeoff. As we turned into position at the head of the runway, you could sense the excitement. I mean, here we are sitting aboard a 242 foot long, 775,000lb flying machine poised to take to the air and deliver approximately 225 souls from one side of the planet to the other; from one distinct culture to another; from one climate to another… Fifty years ago the 8,050 mile nonstop distance between New York and Hong Kong would have required a minimum of three flights to accomplish. Today we are just 15 hours apart on a nonstop flight. Who wouldn’t be excited? Well okay, probably half of the economy class cabin but hey – let’s keep our focus on the front of the plane!

I sat up just a bit straighter as the twin GE90-115Bs powering our steed were throttled up to full power. 45 seconds later the Captain reached V1 and moments later the nose of the 777 pointed skyward and we took to the air. Hong Kong here I come!




Climbing away from New York


This is one of my favorite times of the flight. Here we’ve got the whole flight ahead of us and one of my favorite initial activities is reclining my seat into a more comfortable position. We’re not talkin’ simple recline here either. No – we’re talking full on recliner mode, complete with a touch of leg rest and pillows of which Cathay supplies three. Ahh…




Kickin’ back…


Note the menu in the bottom left quadrant of this picture. You can see the new presentation with the wooden base.

As much as I’d like to have stayed awake and enjoy the view as we sped north over upstate New York and on across the frozen landscapes of Quebec and Nunavut, sleep was paramount. Flight Attendant Nora stopped by to convert my suite while I stopped by the loo for a bit of flossing. A sign on the mirror indicated that the water was not potable, so I made sure to bring a bottle of water along for rinsing.

Like all good five star airlines, Cathay provides sleep suits to its First Class passengers. I wish I could get excited about these but the fact is I’m perfectly content sleeping in my cloths. Or better yet, underwear and a t-shirt.

Cathay’s suites may not have the sliding doors so popular on the newest suites out there, but with only six suites in the First Class cabin and the high walls surrounding each suite, there’s plenty of privacy. Add to that the fact that we had just three passengers up front – none of them across from me – so it was no problem to discreetly change into my preferred sleepwear of boxers and a t-shirt. Now I realize some of you may be aghast at such cheek but chill out – there’s hardly anyone up front anyway and what the hey – if someone does see me in my boxers, they could just as easily have seen me on the beach in my swim trunks.

In sleep mode, Cathay’s suites provide some of the widest beds in the industry. Certainly they are amongst the most comfortable. One of the best parts of Cathay’s beds is that with the addition of a mattress atop the seat I can’t feel any of the divide points between cushions. It is without question the most comfortable suite I have ever experienced. Mind you I’ve only experienced full length beds on perhaps nine or ten different airlines whereas most of you have vastly more experience, so take my comments with a large grain of salt.

As to be expected on such a nice bed, I slept really well over the next five and a half hours of the flight. We’re talking good quality, undisturbed sleep. When I awoke the cabin was dark and quiet. A quick peak out my window revealed a twilight world of purplish-grey skies above a hard frozen landscape below. The skymap showed that we were cruising along a northwest heading about 300 miles northwest of Greenland. There were about 9 hours left in the flight and after such a good sleep I felt totally refreshed and ready to enjoy each and every one of them.




Good Morning over the Arctic


A quick visit to the lav alerted the crew that I was back amongst the conscious. We exchanged good mornings during which I requested a cup of coffee and mentioned that I’d likely be ordering something off the menu. When I returned to my suite it had already been returned to its daytime configuration with the menu kindly placed at my seat. The menu included a full breakfast, a snack menu and a full luncheon/dinner service. Let’s check it out:


BREAKFAST

STARTERS


Orange or Apple Juice
Strawberry or Banana Smoothie
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Natural or Fruit Yogurt
Assorted Cereals


MAIN COURSES

Free Range Eggs

Freshly scrambled, fried or boiled
Pork sausage, slab bacon, spinach, mushrooms and potatoes


Dim Sum
Chicken glutinous rice, chive dumpling, sui mai, har gaw

Lobster Congee
Steamed mushroom rice roll with imperial soy sauce


BREAD BASKET

Assorted breakfast bread and fresh toast,
Preserves, honey and butter


Freshly Brewed Coffee
Also available are espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte
And a selection of teas



Every time I see that term “Free Range” as applied to chicken or eggs, I get this mental image of chickens loping towards each other in slow motion across a vast expanse of prairie – eyes wide, beaks agape, happy as can be with not a care in the world. I have learned however that the reality of “Free Range” as applied to industrial chicken farming means the chickens get to strut around an open area with a few thousand other chickens as opposed to being confined in cages. Regardless, when it comes to eggs my palate is not refined enough to discern between “free range”, “cage free” and/or “organically raised” anyway so I don’t spend too much time pondering the implications. Still, that term always catches my attention. Even up here, high over the Arctic…

As much as I like to take advantage of all aspects of the meal service on long flights in International First Class, I really wasn’t feeling hungry enough to partake of a full breakfast. Indeed, local time in New York was about 3:30pm and so I turned my attention to the Snacks menu.

By now Nora had arrived with my coffee service, so I paused briefly to photograph it so that you fans of photo reports - along with those who are less than proficient at reading anything more than text messages - can take a moment to appreciate the simple elegance of Cathay’s coffee presentation as opposed to that of say, American or United Airlines. It’s the little things like this – done well and done consistently – that make Cathay Pacific such a delight to fly.




Cathay Pacific’s coffee service



SNACKS

Braised Pork and Preserved Vegetable

In noodle soup

Grilled US Prime Beef Burger
Onion confit, Kaiser roll and tomato ketchup

Smoked Salmon Open Faced Sandwich
Horseradish cream cheese, Brie, fig chutney and mesclun salad


Hamburgers are not an item typically associated with international First Class catering. While I’d likely be more than a bit disappointed to see a hamburger offered as a main course on a flight such as this, as a mid-flight snack item I think they’re a brilliant addition. Hot meat, cheese and bread – a hamburger represents comfort food that for routes to or from the United States anyone can relate to. Even me.

Nora assured me that Cathay’s burgers weren’t all that large, so I elected to start with one of those followed by a bowl of the Braised Pork and Preserved Vegetable soup. And yes, I’ll take a refill on that coffee too, please.

Snack service notwithstanding, crisp white linens and silverware were still laid out in preparation for my humble hamburger. When it was presented it was done so atop a standard Cathay dinner plate accompanied by a delicious onion confit on the side along with a separate personal sized bottle of Heinz ketchup.




Hamburger over the Arctic


This is my 27th flight aboard Cathay Pacific and thankfully I’ve had the good fortune to have flown all of those flights in First Class. Over the years Cathay Pacific has earned a stellar reputation for fine dining aloft and one of the real highlight of its meal offerings are its soups. Over the years I’ve enjoyed them in many different styles and they’ve all been delicious and filling.




Braised Pork and Preserved Vegetable Soup


Occasionally, I like a little more heat than Cathay’s chefs have seen fit to include in their recipes. For these times Cathay provides a small dish of hot paste known as Lee Kum Kee sauce. Early on I learned that this sauce is not to be trifled with. Some years ago I blithely added a generous portion to my soup only to subsequently be wracked by paroxysms of hyperventilation as I tried to cool off my burning mouth.

Over the years however, I suspect I’ve begun to develop a tolerance to this sauce. Either that or its been replaced by something less spicy. Today I managed to scrape the entire amount into my soup and found it to be just fine. If anything I could have used a bit more heat.

Plates were cleared, water and coffee were delivered and I turned my focus to the flight map. What a cool part of the world to fly over. Literally. I raised my window shade and gazed out upon a world of snow, ice and high clouds - all bathed under the blueish-grey light of a mid-winter arctic morning.




Enroute to Hong Kong


With a little over eight hours left in the flight, now seemed like an excellent time to take a walk to the back of the plane. First and foremost I do this for exercise benefits but at the same time I feel it’s good to keep in mind that there are a couple hundred other people also onboard today, most of them traveling in decidedly less comfortable accommodations than I am.

The 777-300 sports a cabin that’s194 feet long. That’s longer than an entire DC-10 or 767-300. On my journey to the back of the plane I passed through zones of progressively less comfortable seating with more and more passengers packed into smaller and smaller seats.

I stopped briefly to check out the comfort of an empty Business Class suite. Wow. It was actually pretty comfortable and much nicer than the narrow old Business Class seats in service aboard the last Cathay 777 I flew upon back in November of 2013. Still, compared to my First Class suite this seat was so much smaller and the cabin ambience so much darker that I can’t imagine ever sitting back here on anything longer than a local intra-Asia flight.

Delving ever deeper into the nether regions of the airplane, I passed through a small premium economy cabin – another new addition since 2013. Seating was 2-4-2 and looked pretty good as economy class seating goes.

Finally, I parted the heavy taupe curtains and entered the Dickensian world of Economy Class as experienced on a 15 hour flight. It is in no way similar to Economy Class on a shorter – say, two hour daytime flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok or Denver to Los Angeles - where the mood often tends to be much lighter with an air of anticipation tinged with excitement knowing that you’ll soon be arriving at your destination where loved ones await and/or adventure beckons.

Compared to that of the more spacious cabins behind me, the atmosphere in the back of the plane on this long, dark polar flight was at once dark and heavy, steeped in the sense of dread that comes with the knowledge that you’re not even at the halfway point of this flight and that you’ll be stuck in this dark tube for another eight hours and change. Even so, it was surprisingly noisy back here with people coughing, talking, snoring, etc., all against a backdrop of engine roar much more noticeable than that experienced forward of the wing. Many people stared listlessly at their seatback screens while others were contorted into a variety of uncomfortable looking positions as they attempted to sleep in their narrow blue seats. An elderly Asian woman snored softly with her head tilted back and her mouth opened in an oblong “O” reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. I shuffled on to the very rear of the plane and said a quick hello to the gaggle of flight attendants gathered there before turning around and commencing the long journey back to welcoming space and comfort of my First Class suite.

The next few hours passed quickly as I plugged in my laptop and put in some work on this trip report. At this point I was just getting started and so had to deal with what is for me one of the hardest parts of writing these reports – the introduction and preamble. Someday I’ll get smart and just start submitting photo reports like most everyone else. Then I could be done with all this with a lot less effort. Until that day comes however – if it ever does – I will continue to do things the old fashioned way. Assisting me in this effort were two good sized glasses of Johnny Walker Blue accompanied by a small plate of deliciously salty cashews and almonds.




The proper setting for writing trip reports


There were just three hours left in the flight when Nora stopped by to ask if I was ready for dinner yet. We’d spoken earlier in the flight about meal planning and agreed that three hours out would be a good time to start the dinner service. Or lunch, given the time of day locally. Let’s have a look at that menu again, shall we?


DINNER

CAVIAR AND CHAMPAGNE


Served with traditional garnishes of blinis, chive crème fraiche, chopped egg and onions


INTERNATIONAL FAVORITES

Soup

Wild Mushroom Consommé

Salad
Smoked duck, dried cranberries, rock chive lettuce and raspberry vinaigrette

Braised Veal Cheek
Slow cooked langostino, caramelized baby carrots and celeriac puree

Spiced Black Cod
Coconut lentils, lemon new potatoes and slow roasted cherry tomato sauce


CHINESE FAVORITES

Soup

Kelp, mussel and spiny melon soup

Cold Plate
Pickled turnip

Hong Kong Style Chicken Curry
Stir-fried broccoli and steamed jasmine rice


CHEESE AND DESSERT

International Cheese Service

Stilton Blue, Manchego, Camembert, Taleggio

Fresh Seasonal Berries
and crème fraiche

Orange Sweet Curd Souffle
Dolce de Leche ice cream

Black Sesame Sweet Soup

Freshly Brewed Coffee
Also available are espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte
And a selection of teas


Pralines



This being my first caviar service flight with Cathay since November of 2013, I immediately noticed the absence of Balik Salmon from the caviar presentation. Nora explained that the salmon had been dropped a little over a year ago but that Cathay was now offering a new brand of caviar that been received very favorably by most passengers.

Salmon or no salmon, I don’t believe I’ve ever passed up an opportunity to enjoy the decadence of caviar when flying aboard international First Class. With no real desire to abandon this tasty tradition, I informed Nora that I’d look forward to trying out the new caviar after which I’d like to try both the soup and the salad.

Now then, for the main course… man oh man, that Hong Kong Style Chicken Curry sure sounded good! Still, I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten veal cheek. Indeed, veal of any type has always been a very rare inclusion to my diet. As such I decided to go with the Braised Veal Cheek with all the trimmings.

Twenty minutes later my caviar was presented. Unlike past presentations, this caviar was presented in its jar complete with an attractive mother of pearl caviar spoon. Chive crème fraiche, chopped egg and onions and blinis completed the presentation. I am not a big fan of blinis with caviar, so I asked for and received an extra slice of garlic bread upon which I slathered generous portions of the pearly black eggs with all of the accoutrements. I paired all of this with a glass of the Château Bouscaut 2012, a delicious blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes that paired quite nicely with the soup and salad as well.




Cathay Pacific’s new caviar presentation



Wild Mushroom Consommé



Salad
Smoked duck, dried cranberries, rock chive lettuce and raspberry vinaigrette


Of the three courses pictured above, the salad was most memorable. It had a nice mix of greens and vegetables highlighted by generous portions of flavorful smoked duck and a zesty raspberry vinaigrette. The mushroom consommé, while decently flavored, reaffirmed my love of cream based soups when it comes to mushrooms.

Moving on to the main course, I must admit to a bit of disappointment with this dish. Be it portion size or overall presentation, this meal left me wanting. The flavor was alright but as you can see, the veal portion was tiny – no more than 2-3 ounces, almost hidden atop the splot of celeriac puree. The langostino was the equivalent of a couple of popcorn shrimp sized pieces. As presented, this dish would have made a better appetizer than a main course.




Braised Veal Cheek
Slow cooked langostino, caramelized baby carrots and celeriac puree


I should add here that the wine list was exactly the same as the one offered on the flight between Vancouver and New York. Simply scroll back up to review it. To accompany my veal cheek I took the wine list’s recommendation and requested a glass of tasty Akarua Pinot Noir. It was a good choice.

Now then, after all that, do I really want dessert? To be honest, no. I rarely ever eat or order dessert at home but then – sitting here in seat 2K while speeding across the frozen landscape of northern China, I’m a long way from home. Indeed, it’s amazing to look back and consider that just 48 hours ago this trip was still only a possibility as I was busy putting the pieces together that would ultimately culminate in my sitting here today.

In any event, here I am sat in the lap of luxury while engaged in one of my favorite pastimes – winging around the globe in International First Class aboard one of the world’s finest airlines. Why not have dessert?

Consulting the menu once again, I decided upon a plate of the Orange Sweet Curd Soufflé accompanied by a scoop of Dolce de Leche ice cream. And coffee!




Orange Sweet Curd Soufflé


Once again, this course sounded a lot better than it ultimately looked. Granted, a small soufflé and a scoop of ice cream can only present just so well but on appearances alone I wasn’t overly impressed with what I was served. As for flavor, I’d rate it as just okay. This dessert might have looked and tasted a lot better had it been presented atop a raspberry coulis and been served with ice cream that wasn’t half melted.

Plates were cleared while I savored another couple cups of coffee. Out my window the snow covered terrain of northern China had by now given way to a greenish grey landscape of low rolling tundra dotted with the occasional lake or patch of forest.

Clouds gathered as we commenced our long descent into Hong Kong. Once again it appeared my unfortunate record of never having enjoyed a sunny day in Hong Kong would be extended. Oh well. I’m only here for a brief connection today. If and when I someday do return – hopefully as part of positioning myself for a ride aboard the Trans-Siberian railway – I’ll be able to stay for a couple of days and take in a nice sunny view of Hong Kong Island, Victoria Harbor and Kowloon from atop Victoria Peak.

Following a flight of fifteen hours and three minutes, we returned to earth on a rainy afternoon at Hong Kong International Airport. Interestingly, I never actually felt the tug of either reverse thrust or the brakes. It was as if our inertia just naturally diminished to a manageable taxi speed. Very nice…

For fans of Asian jetliners, Hong Kong is a plane spotter’s paradise. I spotted a good number of Chinese airliners as well as regional Asian airliners. The highlights for me were a colorful Cebu Pacific A320 and a Thai A380. Although Hong Kong is Cathay’s hub, there appeared to be more Cathay aircraft parked around the airport perimeter than there were parked at gates.

We parked at gate 25 and I said a silent prayer that my connecting flight to Singapore would be parked nearby. In this regard I’ve been uncannily fortunate on past trips through Hong Kong where I was connecting to Johannesburg bound flights. On three previous occasions my inbound flight from LA or SFO has parked within a gate or two at most, with The Pier Lounge always conveniently located next door.

Alas, my luck ran out today. As I emerged from the jetway I saw two uniformed Cathay representatives ostensibly positioned to meet and provide connecting information to connecting passengers. However, my query as to the location of the Singapore departure was met with a reply in broken English and a pointed finger indicating that I should head up the terminal to the Transit Desk.

So, off I went until I reached the top of the “Y” – or bottom as the case might be – where a departures board indicated that my Singapore flight was departing from Gate 47, located all the way back down the concourse I’d just walked up, past gate 25 where I’d arrived and on to the “Y” joint, then left down to the very end. It was the farthest possible distance one could walk from the main terminal down to the tip of the “Y”. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t mind the walk but the extra amount of time involved was cutting into my lounge time and I was looking forward to a shower. That wasn’t going to happen now. By the time I’d walked all the way back down to the Y joint and cleared Transit security, I had just enough time to pop in for a quick visit to The Bridge, a relatively new lounge opened in late 2013.

For me the best thing about the Bridge was its location, right at the joint of the “Y”. An attractive pillar style entrance announced “The Bridge” in large electric lettering overhead. Proceeding down the escalator, I presented my boarding pass to the receptionist who informed me that The Bridge was a Business Class lounge, but that The Pier was just a five minute walk away. That’s alright, I said. At this point any old lounge will do. My flight was due to begin boarding in ten minutes and the gate was still a 6-7 minute walk from the lounge. The Bridge would be just fine, thanks.

The Bridge may be a Business Class lounge but by most other airlines’ standards it would qualify as a First Class lounge. Attractive wall mounted lettering indicated directions to a bistro, a coffee bar, a business area, a bakery, a TV lounge, the Long Bar and the showers. Attractive seating areas were bathed in an abundance of natural light courtesy of large floor to ceiling windows overlooking the tarmac. A restaurant offered an enviable variety of salads and hot dishes.

I grabbed a bottle of cold water and a copy of the latest Business Traveller magazine before taking a seat over near the windows. A good internet connection allowed me to quickly book a hotel in Singapore for this evening and the Tried & Tested portion of Business Traveller provided insight into Prestige Class travel aboard Korean Air’s 747-800.

Last edited by Seat 2A; Apr 1, 16 at 5:38 pm
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Old Mar 28, 16, 3:52 am
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February 17, 2016
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong to Singapore 315p – 710p 747-400 First Class



Fifteen minutes later I arrived down at gate 47. Boarding was in process but first I had to attend to an important pre-boarding ritual. As one who not only logs my flights but also records the aircraft registration, I always take a moment to identify the specific aircraft prior to boarding. The registration is usually located toward the rear of the aircraft, in the area of the rearmost passenger door. Depending upon the gate, the available daylight or the aircraft’s position at the gate, getting a clear view of it is not always an easy task. Such was the case today. Thankfully though, Cathay’s aircraft also have identifying letters painted on their forward landing gear or nose wheel doors. There it is – HKT.

Ah, it’s my old friend B-HKT. This will be the third flight I've logged on this aircraft since 2010 and I feel like I've come to know her well. I wonder if my name is still carved in the wall panel beside seat 2K? Just kidding, of course!

The airplane has quite an interesting history. It was delivered fresh from the factory to Singapore Airlines back in 1993. Following eight years of faithful service it was sold or leased to El Al for whom it toiled until September of 2005 when it was parked in the Sonoran Desert at Marana, Arizona. In March of 2006, Cathay Pacific showed up, kicked the tires and decided to buy it third hand. It is now one of four 747-400s still operating passenger flights with Cathay. Sadly, her four thirsty engines can’t compete with the fuel economy of Cathay’s twin engine 777-300ERs so her days of long intercontinental flights are over. Now, in the twilight of her passenger service, she plies shorter intra-Asian routes such as this 1590 mile leg down to Singapore.

As I made my way down the glass walled jetway, it was plane to see that this twenty-three year old airplane looked a bit worn on the outside. Inside however she looked good – indeed she’s sort of a living museum. I’m happy to report that the old Cathay First and Business Class suites are still in place. That’s not such a good thing in Business Class but up front the old suites are just as wide and comfortable as those on the newer 777s.




The First Class cabin on Cathay’s 747-400



The widest First Class seat in the sky



First Class legroom


My hosts today are Roland and Jenna. Roland helped me get settled in and offered me the traditional glass of Champagne. On intra-Asia flights that would be the Amour de Deutz Blanc de Blancs 2005. Beyond that the wine list and beverage offerings were almost exactly the same as what was offered on my previous two flights.


WINE LIST

Champagne

Amour de Deutz de Blancs 2005

White Wines

Domaene Gobelsburg Kamptal Grüner Veltliner 2013
Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru 2013


Red Wines

Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago 2013
Marchesi de Frescobaldi Mormoreto, Toscana IGT 2010


Port

Ramos Pinto Quinta da Ervamoira 10 Year Old Tawny Port


I know I’m going to disappoint a few of you here, but I’m just not a big Champagne guy. Maybe later in the flight… What I’d really like is to reacquaint myself with a nicely chilled glass of Cathay’s delicious non-alcoholic signature drink called the Cathay Delight. The kiwifruit base accented with coconut juice and fresh mint makes for a refreshing and delicious drink at any time of day. Having just spent the past 37 hours traveling from Fairbanks to Singapore, I was in need of a little refreshing.




Cathay Delight


Purser Rebecca stopped by to offer me a gracious welcome aboard along with her thanks for flying with Cathay Pacific. Soon after the Captain added his greetings along with a bit of information about this afternoon’s flight. Flight time was projected at a little over three hours with good conditions reported enroute. Right on. It sure is nice to be sat back in the nose of a 747! The Queen of the Skies…

As we taxied out I took a few shots of the airport as well as a couple of shots of the coast as we climbed away from nearby Lantau Island. Earlier I had also taken a couple pictures from inside The Bridge lounge. None of those photos will be displayed here however.

I’m a firm believer in using photographs to enhance my reports rather than to be the main focus of them. As such, the photos I do choose to employ have to meet certain criteria – mainly, are they of good quality (well composed and clear) and/or are they interesting (to me, at least). If only from having read thousands of magazine and newspaper articles, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good eye for what types of photos will serve my reports well.

Be that as it may, the reality is I’m not that great of a photographer and many of the photographs I do take end up being deleted. Often times a picture that I’ve fired off in someplace like the lounge or terminal will look interesting when I took it but upon further review I’ll decide I don’t like the composition or the lighting or whatever. Just because I took it doesn’t mean I need to keep it, and, even if I keep it, I don’t necessarily need to use it in my report.

In any event, I’ve just used 176 words to describe why I don’t include certain photos. Yawn. In a photo report I likely could have accomplished the same thing by simply not including any photos of it. Ya gotta love the simplicity of that approach!

Meanwhile, here at 36,000 feet dinner is served. The menu refers to the meal service offered on this flight as a “Refreshment” but it looks a lot more like a full meal to me. Here – see for yourselves:


REFRESHMENT

STARTERS

Marinated Prawns

Potato dill salad, edamame beans, chive dressing

Soup
Cream of Chicken

MAIN COURSES

Grilled Australian Wagyu Beef Rump

Red wine sauce, carrots and kipfler potato

Braised Pork and Preserved Vegetables
In rice stick noodle soup

Afternoon Tea Set
Scones, clotted cream and strawberry preserves
Assorted sandwiches and mini-pastries


CHEESE AND DESSERT

International Cheese Selection

Fourme d’Ambert, Cheddar, Reblochon, Tomme

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse Cake
Mixed berry compote

Fresh Seasonal Fruit

Pralines


It’s rare that I’ve ever come across an appetizer I didn’t like. Unless liver or pickles are the main ingredient, I’m all in. Same goes for soup. Cream of Chicken… sound’s great! Now then, for the main course… they both sound pretty good but on Roland’s recommendation I’m going to go with the Grilled Australian Wagyu Beef Rump.

And might I care for a cocktail before dinner? Why not! Johnny Walker Blue, on the rocks please.




Afternoon Delight ~ JWB at 36000’


Linens were laid, the table set and soon I was presented with an aesthetically pleasing plate of marinated prawns that was every bit as delicious as it looked. I paired it with the Austrian Grüner Veltliner, a deliciously spicy white wine that probably can’t be found back home. Um, Roland? Could I have a refill on that wine, please?




Marinated Prawns
Potato dill salad, edamame beans, chive dressing


Next up was the Cream of Chicken soup. Roland apologized that it may have come out too thick but I thought it was just fine in both flavor and consistency.




Cream of Chicken Soup
Hey! Is that me in that wine glass?!


Alrighty then – where’s the beef?!

Ah… Now that is a nice looking piece of meat!




Grilled Australian Wagyu Beef Rump
Red wine sauce, carrots and kipfler potato


Most airlines – including Cathay – are often guilty of serving up dinky little 5oz portions of tenderloin that wouldn’t even satisfy your grandmother. Thankfully the flight kitchen in Singapore saw fit to serve up a properly sized portion of beef. It even came out reasonably well cooked, on the medium side of medium rare with just a hint of pink remaining in the middle.

I so enjoyed the flavorful New Zealand Pinot Noir I’d had earlier in the day with lunch that I decided to stick with it through the remainder of the dinner service. That is one wine I’ll try to order when I get home.

As I savored the wine and prepared for the cheese service, I reclined my seat a bit, took in the pretty view out my window and considered how fortunate I am to be able to enjoy an experience like this…




Cruisin’ on Cathay’s 747-400



The view from on high


Honestly, this entire day has been incredible. It was only 21 hours ago that we were pushing back from the gate at JFK, soon to be speeding north over the barren landscape of northern Canada and the polar regions – and now here I am on the other side of the world cruising along on a sunny afternoon while anticipating a refill on my wine and a delicious selection of fine cheese… Am I blessed or what?!




Wine and Cheese over the Pacific


Dessert? Well I’ve come this far, I might as well go whole hog! After all, it’s not every day I get to enjoy fine dining a la Cathay Pacific. It’s been two and a half years since my last flights with them and word is that Cathay’s First Class award redemption is going to become more difficult in the years ahead. So, yes, I will have that dessert please. I want to enjoy this service for all it’s worth. After all, who knows how long it’ll be until I next get to fly with them?




Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse Cake


Ahh… what a treat! Despite the comparatively short length of this flight, I’ll say this was the best meal on my trio of Cathay Pacific flights.

Roland stopped by and we chatted a bit about his experiences and mine. Like all flight attendants for a large international airline, he was very well travelled. His favorite city was San Francisco, followed closely by Adelaide, Australia. He recalled laying over in Anchorage some years ago when Cathay used to route its Toronto to Hong Kong flights through there but he’d never visited the Last Frontier properly. Like a lot of people he was concerned about the northern climate but after I showed him a few pictures of summertime in Denali National Park and around Fairbanks – including a picture of my thermometer reading in the nineties – he seemed more amenable to the possibility of a future visit.

The sun was just setting as we began our descent into Singapore’s Changi International Airport. I quickly grabbed my camera and fired off a quick photo…




Sunset off the coast of Singapore


We made a wide turn over the ocean just west and south of Singapore and I briefly regretted not having taken a seat on the “A” side where the view of Singapore’s skyline looked very pretty. The one thing that stood out on my side was the huge number of tankers and container ships anchored just off shore. There were literally dozens of ships, more than I’ve ever seen off any other city in the world.

As I stepped off B-HKT and headed up the jetway, it occurred to me that given my flying patterns and the airlines I typically fly, I’ll be fortunate if I’m able to log another fifteen flights aboard 747s. Since my very first flight aboard a Continental classic back in 1971, the 747 has always evoked in me a sense of excitement and elegance. To this day I’ve never found a First Class cabin anywhere near as cozy and pleasant as that found in the nose of a 747. Even the upper deck has an inviting ambience that I just don’t feel aboard an A380 or a 777. For me, the 747 will always be “The Queen of the Skies”.

I paused at the gate lounge windows to give one last look at my grand old Cathay Queen before heading off to Immigration and a pleasant layover in Singapore.
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Old Mar 28, 16, 3:55 am
  #5  
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February 18, 2016
Emirates Airlines Singapore to Brisbane 315p – 1245a 777-300 First Class


With regard to jetlag, I could not have planned it any better. The sleep I got on the flight from New York to Hong Kong was more than enough to easily power me through to11:00pm when I called it a day at my hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown. This morning I awoke at 7:30 feeling great. Following a shower and an impressive cooked breakfast served off the hotel lobby, I headed off to Jurong Bird Park – easily accessed via the MRT train to Boon Lay and the 194 bus to the park.

But enough of Jurong! After all, travelogues covering Singapore and its varied attractions are a dime a dozen. Just google “Singapore Jurong Travelogue” and see for yourself. Much rarer are those reports that provide detail and insight into getting to Singapore and beyond while travelling in First Class aboard the world’s finest airlines.


* * * _ _ * * *


This was to be my tenth flight aboard Emirates – all of them in First Class - and in many ways I found myself just as excited as I was on my first flight aboard this - the world’s fourth largest airline. The anticipation heightened as I strode up to the First Class check-in counter where I was cordially welcomed, efficiently processed and issued a boarding pass and directions to the Emirates Lounge.

Once you’ve cleared Immigration, it’s just a short walk past dozens of brightly lit shops until you reach a bank of escalators leading upstairs to a small lounge pavilion. The Emirates Lounge is one of three up there, all of them sporting very attractive and inviting entrances.

With few exceptions, once you’ve been in one of these lounges you might as well have been in them all inasmuch as they all offer comfortable and attractive seating areas, well stocked self-service bars and a decent selection of foodstuffs.




Comfortable seating in Emirates’ Singapore Lounge




Feel free to fix yourself a drink



Close up of the offerings


This is particularly true of Emirates’ lounges which all appear to have been designed along the same plan, right down to identical furnishings and buffet areas. The lounge in Johannesburg doesn’t look much different from the one in Brisbane which is itself very similar to the one here in Singapore. Where Emirates’ lounges stand out is in the quality of their buffet areas. A refrigerated island serves as an excellent display for a variety of salads, appetizers, desserts and assorted cold plates.




Care for a fresh salad?



How about a decadent dessert?


A hot buffet area offers a nice variety of hot dishes that almost always includes one of my favorites – lamb chops.




There are plenty of options here at the buffet



The Lamb Chop and Satay Area


This lounge also included shower facilities which – after a long morning out and about in muggy Singapore – I quickly made my first priority. I must apologize here to all of you shower photo junkies for not having thought to take a photo of the shower. It really was quite impressive with seemingly more controls and options than even the fabulous Pharo-Hansrohe Hydrotherapy Showers I experienced in British Airways’ Concorde Room a few years ago.

Honestly, with its myriad of controls and settings this shower was like an airplane cockpit inside! I never did figure out how they all worked but then I was content simply to luxuriate under a refreshing deluge of cool water.

Later, I availed myself of a cold beer and a computer terminal where I booked myself a room for this evening in Brisbane. It was tempting to put together a plate of lamb chops but I’d already had lunch and, with seven hours of airborne bliss to look forward to aboard Emirates’ 777 flight to Brisbane, I was confident there’d be plenty of time to enjoy a good meal or two along the way.

Although boarding had not yet been announced, I left the lounge at 2:30pm – forty-five minutes in advance of the flight. The main reason for my early exit was because Changi handles security at each flight’s individual gate. Sometimes it goes relatively quickly, and sometimes it doesn’t. Thankfully I didn’t have far to go as EK 432 was scheduled to depart from C-13, conveniently located just 100 yards down the concourse from the lounge escalator. As for the crowd at security, I was pleased to discover that Emirates offers a separate lane for its First and Business Class passengers. This has not been my experience in past trips through Singapore – none of which have been aboard Emirates. It was very much appreciated though, especially after my speedy transit through security.

I love glass walled jetways! They’re so much nicer than being cooped up in the narrow dark passageways that pass for jetways at most every airport in the U.S. It’s so much nicer to be able to see your airplane as you walk out to it as opposed to being introduced to it via a dark and cramped doorway.

Attending to the door today was a trio of well turned out Flight Attendants, all of them looking quite smart in their beige uniforms with white scarves and red caps. Upon inspection of my boarding card I was cordially greeted and escorted to my suite at 2K. I’d specifically chosen the right hand side of the cabin in hopes of enjoying a spectacular South Seas sunset. My suite presented me with three windows through which to do so and as always, it was a most welcoming sight.




Suite 2K aboard Emirates 777-300ER


Since they were first introduced aboard the A340-500 a few years ago, Emirates’ First Class suites have gone on to become the stuff of legend. Many other airlines now offer First Class suites, but Emirates was the first to introduce sliding doors, effectively turning your suite into a private compartment much as you’d find in a Pullman roomette aboard a railroad sleeper car. Emirates’ suite goes much farther than the roomettes of old however.

Also included is a 30” LCD screen through which to take advantage of the excellent ICE inflight entertainment program. A seat-side mini-bar is stocked with a variety of non-alcoholic beverages and a pop-up vanity complete with lighted mirror contains a variety of creams and lotions to keep your skin fresh and hydrated throughout the flight. A separate drawer contains a writing kit complete with pen, paper and envelopes. The seat side table is huge and lifts out and into position much more easily than many others I’ve experienced. There is ample storage space for a small carry-on bag up front and a couple of seat-side compartments for the storage of smaller items such as a camera or book.




First Class Ambience – The forward view from seat2K



A close up of the snack basket



The controls for the seat, lights, privacy doors and electronic window blinds are housed in a tablet that’s mounted to the left of the seat. For more convenient operation, this tablet can be removed from its housing and operated wirelessly from your seat. The seat also includes a massage with four different styles.

As to the seat itself, I found it comfortable enough but overall I’d say that for me at least, Cathay’s First Class seat feels nicer. The beige leather on Emirates seat certainly gets style points for appearance sake but compared to the plush fabric covered cushioning of Cathay’s First Class seats, it feels a tad stiff.

On a side note, when I think back to the most comfortable First Class seats I’ve ever sat in, I’d say it’s a toss-up between the First Class seats aboard United’s standard DC-8s circa 1980 and the lamb’s wool covered seats aboard Air New Zealand’s DC-10 which I had the good fortune to fly between Los Angeles and Papeete back in 1981. The Premiere De Luxe Class seats aboard UTA’s 747 also deserve mention.

Emily and Abdel were the two flight attendants working the forward cabin this afternoon. With only three of us booked to enjoy Emirates’ five star service, between them both there was plenty of time for an attentive yet relaxed service.

Emily assisted me with getting settled in - hanging my jacket, stowing my roll-a-bord in an adjoining suite and then offering to bring me a welcoming cocktail. A glass of Champagne perhaps?

By all means! What a great way to start off my Emirates adventure!

No sooner had Emily headed up to the galley than Abdel stopped by with an amenity kits, pajamas and slippers.

Tag team service. I like it!

Emily soon returned with a bottle of Dom Perignon 2006, a tray and a champagne flute. Wow! We’re already up to the 2006 vintage? Looking back, it seemed like the 2003 lasted forever – well, two or three years at least. I first noticed the 2004 in February of 2014, enjoyed a glass or three of the 2005 during my flights with Emirates last May, and now here we are drinking the 2006 vintage already.




Champagne & First Class ~ A time honored tradition


Following an on-time push back, we commenced a long taxi out to the runway during which I took notice of all the colorful jetliners representing the regional airlines of southern Asia. Plane spotting during taxi out is always an enjoyable activity for me and the large Asian airports such as Singapore and Hong Kong are amongst my favorites given the wide variety of airlines that serve them.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and as we climbed away from Changi and accelerated out over the Singapore Strait. As I took in the scene below, I suspected that a good portion of my inflight entertainment would come via the view out my windows more so than any programming available on Emirates’ excellent ICE inflight entertainment system.

Reclining my seat a bit, I considered that with its mid-afternoon departure and arrival in Brisbane later this evening, this feels like a short flight. Compared to my next two flights, both of which are approximately twice as long, it is. However, when you then consider that Singapore sits 3,820 miles to the west and north of Brisbane, about the same distance as New York to Frankfurt, it puts it in a different perspective. Regardless, I love flights timed like this where all or most of the flight is flown during times where I’m normally awake anyway. I’m looking forward to enjoying every minute of it.

Thirty minutes into the flight we had leveled off at 33000 feet, cruising sedately along a southeasterly track at 576 mph. At hand was a glass of Chivas Royal Salute along with a small plate of warmed mixed nuts. I should note here that while all airlines offer mixed nuts with your drink, Emirates offer a comparatively deluxe blend that includes almonds, pistachios, cashews and macadamia nuts. It’s really good! As for the Royal Salute, it was nice but I missed the delicious bite that the Woodford delivers. There’ll be plenty of time in the coming days to reacquaint myself with Woodford’s goodness.




Cocktail hour over the Java Sea


By the way, menus and wine lists had been presented shortly before pushback. I gave them a quick perusal then but now, with a little more than six hours still to go in this flight, let’s have a more concerted look:


BAR SERVICE

Aperitifs

Campari Bitter
Martini Vermouth – Dry/Sweet


Beers
A selection of international beers including Heineken, Budweiser and Amstel Light

Cocktails
Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan, Kir Royal, Manhattan (Dry/Sweet/Perfect), Classic Martini, Breakfast Martini, Mojito, Rob Roy, Rusty Nail

Mocktails
Orange Fizz, Apple Spritzer

Spirits
Premium Scotch Whisky - Chivas Regal Royal Salute 21 Years Old, Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Single Malt Whisky - Glenfiddich 21 Years Old
Bourbon - Woodford Reserve
Cognac - Hennessy Privé
Vodka - Grey Goose
Gin - Bombay Sapphire
Rum - Bacardi Superior


Liqueurs
Bailey’s Irish Cream
Tia Maria
Drambuie
Cointreau



WINE LIST

Champagne

Cuvée Dom Pérignon 2006

White Wines
Condrieu L’Octroi Pierre Gaillard 2014, Northern Rhone, France
Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay 2014, Margaret River, Western Australia
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand
Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay 2013, Adelaide Hills, Australia


Red Wines
Ch teau Montrose 2003, Saint Estèphe, France
Jamsheed Seville Syrah 2013, Yarra Valley, Australia
Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir 2012, Central Otago, New Zealand
Ch teau Dassault 2007, Grand Cru Classé, St. Emilion, France
Kilikanoon Covenant Shiraz 2013, Clare Valley, South Australia


Dessert Wine
Ch teau Guiraud 2002 Sauternes, France

Port
Quinta do Portal40 Year Old Douro, Portugal


That’s a nice start on the beverages. How many airlines do you know of that offer 40 year old port? The cocktail list is notable inasmuch as it’s missing old standbys such as the Screwdriver or Buck’s Fizz that were included on the cocktail lists for my flights last spring between Africa and the U.S. Perhaps a Breakfast Martini is Australian for Screwdriver.

Additionally, I can’t say I’m too excited about any of the three featured beers. Even so, I generally never order beer on board airplanes because it’s generally never served cold enough for me. As one whose tastes run towards pilsners, lagers and pale or amber ales, I like my beer as cold as if it had just been pulled from a cooler of ice water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been served airline beer that’s on the tepid side of cool. No thank you.

This all brings to mind the warmest beer I’ve ever been served… It was back in 1994 and I was riding the old overnight train between Santiago and Puerto Montt, Chile. The beer had been stored in the kitchen of the dining car and as such its temperature was about 90°F when it was presented to us. There were no refunds and ice was reserved for cocktails only. We quickly switched to Pisco Sours for the rest of the trip.

My reverie was interrupted when Emily stopped by to inquire as to my dinner preferences. Oh, right! Let’s turn the page on that menu and see what’s being offered on this afternoon’s flight…


A LA CARTE DINING

DINNER

Singapore to Brisbane


Canapés
A selection of hot and cold savories including tempura prawn, chicken tikka skewer, vegetable spring roll, herbed goat’s cheese and marinated olives

APPETIZERS

Caviar

Presented with a traditional selection of finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon, served with melba toast and blinis

Beef Consommé
Accented with mushrooms and parsley

Carrot and Orange Soup
Garnished with baked cheese straws

Traditional Arabic Mezze
A spread of local savory dishes including houmous, moutabel, muhammara, labneh, artichoke salad, Arabic salad and stuffed vine leaves, with warm lamb kibbeh, cheese sambousek and spinach fatayer complemented by local garnishes and breads

Smoked Chicken
Served with feta, roasted pear and citrus dressing

Smoked Tuna
Served with sour Asian-style salad and wasabi dressing

Seasonal Salad
Fresh salad leaves topped with cherry tomatoes, celery, olives and baby mozzarella
Served with your choice of dressing



MAIN COURSES

Singapore Chicken

Poached and served with steamed rice and brown onions, baby pak choi and oyster and chilli sauces

Angus Beef Tenderloin with Rosemary Jus
Served with potato gratin, green beans and courgettes

Seafood Pappardelle
Sea bass, scallop and prawns with fish velouté, braised peas, fennel and red pepper coulis

Pumpkin Tortellini
Tossed in Alfredo sauce and served with sautéed mushrooms and sugar snap peas, topped with parmesan

Poached Cod Fillet
Served with a light red pepper coulis, roasted potato with parsley and green peas à la Française

A La Carte Vegetable Selection
We also offer a variety of alternatives, including steamed broccoli, stir-fried vegetables, roasted potatoes with rosemary and saffron basmati rice

Bread Basket
A variety of freshly baked rolls, Arabic and garlic breads


DESSERT

Chocolate Brownie

Served warm with vanilla bean ice cream

Red Orange Mousse Cake
With raspberry coulis

Seasonal Fruit
An assortment of freshly cut fruits

Cheese Board
A carefully chosen assortment of the finest boutique cheeses from around the world,
served with crudités, crackers, dried fruits and nuts


Chocolates
Fine luxury chocolates


The menu also included a full page of “Light Bites” options…


LIGHT BITES


Sandwiches

Chicken roulade with asparagus, roasted vegetables, smoked salmon with cucumber and cream cheese with walnuts


Hot Meal Selection

Beef and Mushroom Pie
Beef and mushrooms encased in pastry

Assorted Dim Sum
Steamed chicken sui mai, prawn mousse on toast, steamed vegetable dumpling, char siu chicken with sesame and steamed red bean pau, served with chilli sauce

Mediterranean Penne
With sautéed vegetables and sundried tomato and olive sauce


Snacks

Instant Cup Noodles
Available at any time


Dessert

Selection of Pastries
Chocolate brownie, apricot financier and black cherry tartlet


HOT DRINKS

Tea

Chamomile, Ceylon, Earl Grey or Green

Coffee
Freshly brewed or Nespresso (espresso, cappuccino or decaffeinated)


As always with Emirates, the menu and wine list were presented in an attractive leather bound booklet. Although it’s a classy presentation, my personal favorite would be a menu with a bit of artwork on the menu cover. Back in the 1970s it was not at all uncommon to see beautifully presented menus encased in heavy paper stock with beautifully artistic renditions of everything from Clipper Ships (Pan Am) to Hot Air Balloons (Air France) to Historic Aircraft (TWA) to Cities of the World (Multiple Airlines). One of my personal favorites was from TAP’s (Portugal) Navigator Class First Class service between Lisbon and New York in 1973. The outer cover had a beautiful old style world map printed on material that felt downright leather like.

When it comes to wine list presentations, it’s no contest in my book. The hands down winner is LAN (Chile) who presents its wine lists in cork encased booklets.

But enough reminiscing! Emily is waiting patiently…

Given that the local time was only a little past 4:00pm, I opted to first trade in my Chivas for a glass of crisp Australian Chardonnay, accompanied by a selection of both hot and cold canapés.




Chardonnay and Canapés


I didn’t feel quite ready for a full dinner service just yet, so I decided to accompany my Chardonnay and canapés with a plate of the Dim Sum from the Light Bites menu. That should hold me over until perhaps a couple hours out at which time I’d then enjoy the full dinner service. Emily dutifully recorded my dinner choices right then and there. However, in the interest of proper literary flow, I’ll disclose those as dinner comes up.

For now, I sat back and enjoyed watching as Emily went through the ritual of laying the linens and then placing the silverware, glasses and plates in their proper positions with due consideration given to ensuring that the Emirates name and logo on the salt and pepper shakers faced me.




Dim Sum and Chardonnay


The bright sunlight that accompanied our departure from Singapore diminished quickly as we sped eastward. By the time I’d finished my dim sum there were some very pretty scenes starting to develop out my window. As I mentioned earlier, the heat and humidity endemic to the equatorial regions combine to create some impressive cloud formations. This is especially true over large bodies of warm water such as the Java Sea. The sunsets are almost always spectacular. Here are a few views from tonight’s flight:


















As we sped on through ever darkening skies, I turned my attention to the 30” screen mounted on the wall facing my seat. An earlier perusal of the entertainment options revealed an impressive collection of movies and television shows including season four of the television series Longmire about a sheriff in present day rural Wyoming. The show ran for three years under A&E, but then was dropped. Netflix picked it up but as I’m not a Netflix subscriber I could only hope that Season 4 might be offered for sale in the stores. Now, here it was available for viewing aboard an Emirates 777 speeding over the far reaches of southeastern Indonesia. Ain’t modern technology great sometimes?!




Watching Longmire in Wyoming while flying over Indonesia


After knocking off the first three episodes, it was time for a bit of exercise meaning a brief walk to the rear of the plane and back. Unlike Cathay’s 777, there was no Premium Economy section aboard Emirates. Worse yet, the Economy Class seating was configured ten across as opposed to Cathay’s nine across. That said, it’s a testament to Emirates’ fine Economy Class service that so many still speak of it with glowing terms.

Be that as it may, from my perspective it’s not a very nice neighborhood back here and so once I reached the rear galley I touched the wall and – making like an Olympic swimmer – did a quick turn around and made my way back through the four darkened cabins that comprise Economy and Business Class to the comparatively light and airy confines of the First Class cabin. It was time for dinner and like any seasoned First Class passenger, I was ready for a bit of caviar.

Although I didn’t see Emily on the way back to my seat – I assume she was up in the forward galley – she either saw me or was warned of my return because no sooner had I sat down and set the entertainment system to the Sky Map (We were cruising high above northwestern Queensland) than she appeared to inquire if I was ready for dinner. And oh, by the way – might I care for a refill on my wine? Yes, please.




Ready for dinner


Like all world class airlines, Emirates sets a proper table in advance of its meals. This includes nice touches such as actually properly laying out your silverware as opposed to handing them to you wrapped up in a napkin. This costs nothing to the airline and yet amongst seasoned flyers is one of the little things that make flying in premium class aboard an airline of Emirates’ caliber worth the extra money or miles. Other small touches include salt and pepper grinders and bountiful bread baskets as opposed to offering only a single roll that may or may not be restocked in a timely manner.

The big three U.S. airlines have gone on record complaining about the subsidization of the big three Middle Eastern airlines but for the most part I doubt the flying public really gives a big hoo-hah. Occasional travelers who for the most part sit in Economy Class appreciate the price of the ticket. Seasoned business travelers who fly regularly – often in premium class - appreciate a quality service that often goes beyond mere seating comfort.

You can almost guarantee that you’re in for a sub-standard experience the moment that world weary Flight Attendant aboard your U.S. airline starts off by informing you that her primary purpose aboard today’s flight is your safety. That’s nice in theory but for guys like me who’ve safely logged over 5000 flights and five million miles in the air – or even those of you who’ve only logged a mere million miles or so - it all rings a bit hollow and insincere after a while.

Be it in the attitude and training of its flight attendants or the accoutrements intrinsic to their inflight products, all too often the U.S. airlines go about their inflight service with the casual insouciance of a C-average student. If United, Delta and American really want to start seeing more people pay for those expensive First and Business Class seats with money as opposed to miles, a good place to start would be in the quality of their inflight services.

Moving on to the dinner service, Emily had taken my order earlier in the flight and now presented it course by course. First came the caviar, presented with all the traditional trimmings and washed down admirable with another glass of that delicious Australian Chardonnay (Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay 2014, Margaret River, Western Australia).




Caviar over Queensland


I love Emirates’ appetizers! They’re like little epicurean jewels – large enough to provide a satisfying taste of whatever it is you’re eating while at the same time being creatively presented in a way that lends excitement and anticipation to the enjoyment of both the appetizer and the meal ahead. This evening’s smoked chicken offering scored well on all counts.




Smoked Chicken Appetizer
Served with feta, roasted pear and citrus dressing


Next up was the Carrot and Orange Soup, an interesting combination that on the surface didn’t sound all that appetizing given my middling appreciation of the humble carrot. What really sold me on it was the baked cheese straws but I’m happy to report that the soup tasted pretty good as well.




Carrot and Orange Soup
Garnished with baked cheese straws


Now well and truly appetized, I was ready for the main course. Tonight that would be the Singapore Chicken.




Singapore Chicken
Poached and served with steamed rice and brown onions, baby pak choi and oyster and chilli sauces



Singapore Chicken tableside


As nice as this dish looked and sounded, I actually found it fairly bland. As you can see from the above photo I had some chilli sauce delivered on the side to help spice it up. Even that wasn’t enough. What it really needed was an entire dollop of Cathay’s infamous Lee Kum Kee paste.

Still, these are my tastes and I tend to like food on the more flavorful and even spicy side. For someone else this dish may well have been just perfect. Regardless, I ate it all and so, by the time Emily returned to clear my plates and ask if I’d care for any cheese or dessert, I was already comfortably sated and so respectfully declined.

With only about an hour left in the flight, I took a couple minutes to fill out my Australian Immigration card and then fired up my laptop to put in a bit more work on the opening stanzas of this report. As I sit here now almost a month and 20000 words later, it occurs to me that I’ve just devoted a little over four days and 2600 words typing up a description of my experience on this flight – including transcribing the menu – when I could just as easily have photographed all of this – including the menu – in a fraction of the time. One of the comments I hear most often with my reports relates to the amount of time it takes to read them. Had I submitted this as a photo report, you all would have been able to enjoy a recounting of my travels about four weeks ago and in a lot less time.

Now I realize that a select few of you truly appreciate the descriptive benefits of the written word and of course I in turn appreciate that! Honestly though, after having written seventy-three of these reports, I sometimes feel as if I’m just writing the same thing all over again but with a different date. While for the most part I am still okay with that, I can’t help but wonder how many of you still are?

Consider how many people who used to comment on my reports years ago never do anymore. I can certainly commiserate – once you’ve read five or six wordy descriptions of a caviar service or patiently followed along through yet another paragraph or two reminiscing about days of old that for many of you have no more relevance to your personal flying experience than two year old cat food, well - I should imagine it all gets a bit old after a while.

It’s not 2001 anymore when all reports had to be written because there was no means of submitting photos. The world’s a busier and faster paced place these days and - be honest now - how many of you truly have the time, much less the patience, to slog your way through 30000 words or more of a written trip report?

Mind you, I’m not saying I’m gonna stop writing. If anything, this little aside was inspired more by way of apology for my increasingly laggardly ways when it comes to submitting these reports in a more timely fashion. For my part, I still enjoy writing them but the reality is I’m unlikely to change how I go about writing them in either style or punctuality. When it comes to literary ability, I’m a reliable old Chevy, not a sleek and sporty BMW. Years of good drugs and mediocre alcohol have taken their toll, so while I’m still functionally literate it’s unlikely I’ve got the horsepower to inspire anything new or appreciably different in style. That said, if you still want to read them, I’ll still write ‘em – when I manage to get around to it, that is.


* * * _ _ * * *


Following a nice landing at Brisbane International, we taxied into our gate at the International Terminal and parked next to an attractive Nauru Airlines 737-300. Just down the ramp a ways was an equally alluring Jetstar 787-8. Between the three of us we made quite the fetching triumvirate.

Abdel and Emily held back the masses from Business Class while the three of us in First Class disembarked. I took a moment to thank them both for a job well done. Flying First Class on Emirates is always a special treat and service such as they provided on this flight is a big reason why. Good job, A & E!


* * * _ _ * * *


Wow! Did they relocate customs over to the Domestic Terminal? The walk from the gate to Immigration seemed never ending! I later discovered – via my departing flight the next night – the reason why. Emirates occupies gate 75, the very last gate at the end of a very long concourse.

I’ve been to Australia about a dozen times over the years, most recently for a wedding a few years ago. That was a quickly arranged, seat of the pants trip flown in Economy Class because there was nothing else available. While it was great to be able to attend that wedding, flying Economy down to Australia and back is not something I care to do again. I do enjoy these quick trips, though! It’s nice to know I’ll be back in Alaska this weekend, just in time for a nice drive up to Chena Hot Springs.

The Immigrations agent and I had a good laugh over my routing here – 17,750 miles all in from Fairbanks. Thankfully I wasn’t selected for a more intensive interview or a psychiatric evaluation! Soon I was on a shuttle to my hotel for the night – the Kingsford Riverside Inn.

The next morning was enjoyed at a leisurely pace, especially since I didn’t even get to sleep until after 2:00am local time. After taking breakfast at the hotel, I arranged to store my luggage and then followed the owner’s advice by catching the City Cat ferry that runs along the Brisbane River into downtown Brisbane. From there I caught the local TransLink bus out to the Sherwood Arboretum.

I first visited the Sherwood Arboretum back in the 1980s. It remains as pretty now as it was then with hundreds of species of trees set amidst parkland and wetlands. Most notable are Queensland natives such as the Kauri along with a variety of fig trees and pines unlike any that we see back in North America. Well maintained pathways provide easy access around the park while a boardwalk runs along the Brisbane River. Across the river is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – a popular place to visit given that it’s one of the world’s finest zoos with unparalleled viewing of Australian wildlife. Although it’s a lot busier than the arboretum, it’s a place I’d like to visit someday when I have more time.

But today I don’t. The plan is to get back to Brisbane International with time to enjoy a good bit of pre-flight lounging in the Emirates Lounge, which by all accounts is an excellent facility well worth the lounging effort. As such I only spent about an hour and a half at the arboretum before making my way back to the hotel. This was just as well for although the day wasn’t overly hot, Brisbane’s oppressive humidity was out in full force. As one who’s lived all of my life in places that are high, dry or both, I felt ready to head back to the hotel almost as soon as I’d walked a couple of blocks in downtown Brisbane. Thankfully I didn’t lug my heavy daypack along, instead bringing only my wallet and a bag containing a couple bottles of water, a sandwich and a washcloth, the latter well appreciated when it came to mopping my brow, which I did seemingly every three minutes or so.

I should note that my original plan was to ride the train from Brisbane down to Nerang and Broadbeach, then catch a ride on the new Gold Coast Tramway. Alas, that trip would require a bit more time than I had available to me today, but it would have been a lot more comfortable sitting as I would have been in air-conditioned ecstasy aboard those train cars. That said, I highly recommend a visit to the Arboretum for Brisbane bound visitors, and for railfans Brisbane has got an impressive network of trains serving the city and the region as a whole.

Last edited by Seat 2A; May 20, 19 at 11:52 am
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Old Mar 28, 16, 3:59 am
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February 19, 2016
Emirates Airlines Brisbane to Dubai 845p – 520a A380-800 First Class


I arrived back at the airport a bit after 5:30pm and made my way through the pleasantly air-conditioned terminal to the Emirates counters, located down at the far end of the building. My final destination of San Francisco caught the attention of one of the agents, a local man who had once spent eighteen years working for United Airlines with most of those years being SFO based. He was flying back to San Francisco the next week, though doing so along the more traditional trans-Pacific routing. His first year with United was in 1986, the year United purchased Pan Am’s Pacific routes and commenced its first service to Australia and New Zealand. Those were interesting times for United and for me in particular as I was in the last months of my 50 State Marathon benefits which allowed me unlimited First Class system wide air travel around the U.S. aboard United. Thankfully it was still early enough in the day that the counter wasn’t too busy – particularly at the First Class counter – and so we had time for an interesting chat rehashing history both old and recent.

Once I’d cleared Immigration and security I stopped by the airport news store to get rid of my colorful Australian currency. I purchased the latest issue of Airliner World magazine (with the favorable exchange rate it cost me about 50₵ less than it would have back home) along with a couple of postcards. Do you guys sell stamps here? No worries, said the friendly agent. I got a bit worried though when I was given the bill for two postcard stamps to the U.S or Canada: $5.50 AUD or about $2.00 each in U.S. dollars. Whaaaat? Are we talking postage to the U.S. or Upper Volta? I asked the agent. The U.S., he replied. It’s the airport price though. If one were to have purchased the stamps at a regular Australian post office they would have been less expensive.

I’ve heard of price gouging but this sort of egregiously high mark up should be illegal, particularly on a government issued item like a stamp. Shame on the airport for allowing this.

Right. Well then, on to the lounge. Located at gate 75 down at the very end of the concourse, it’s only a short half mile stroll away. Once there, an escalator delivers you up to the lounge where you enter through a most impressive entrance. Once inside you can then truly relax since boarding your plane takes place directly from a dedicated jetway accessed from within the lounge.

After all the walking I’d done today, my first order of business was to clean up for the flight. I had a fresh change of travel clothes I couldn’t wait to get into, just as soon as I washed off under a nice cool shower.

The shower suites were very impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed showing under a quality showerhead that delivered an impressive deluge. It wasn’t until I stepped out of the shower and attempted to dry off that my problems began. The shower room had no fan or vent and this, coupled with the humidity generated by the shower and then exacerbated by Brisbane’s natural humidity combined to turn my shower suite into a humidity chamber.

I couldn’t dry off. Seriously, no sooner had I finished applying the towel to this or that body part and moved on to another than the area I’d just “dried” would develop a fresh sheen of perspiration. For guy who comes from a cool, dry climate, this is a miserable feeling.

Eventually I wrapped the towel around myself, went over to the door of my suite and began to swing it back and forth. This generated a few curious looks from those using the bathroom beyond but more importantly it resulted in the importation of fresh cooler air into my shower suite. After about five minutes of this, things dehumidified sufficiently that I could then get dressed into what felt like clean dry clothes.

Well alrighty then – let’s go out and do a bit of lounging!

One thing I really like in an airline lounge is a good bar complete with a line of stools. For single travelers like me it’s a great way to share the good times via drinks and conversation with fellow travelers. This would be even better in a lounge like Emirates’ where all the booze is free. Better yet, because we’re all traveling in First or Business Class, if we should accidently over indulge we can request wheelchair assistance on to the airplane.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a social bar in any Emirates lounge – even the two big ones in Dubai. Oh well. On a positive note, a quick check of the refrigerated beers revealed a nicely chilled selection of generic Australian pilsners and lagers including local favorite XXXX. I shielded my eyes and grabbed a cold Hahn Premium, then snagged a couple of finger sandwiches and took a seat at a nearby table.

In terms of appearance, this lounge wasn’t any different than the lounge I’d recently visited in Singapore. The chairs were all beige accented with checkerboard patterned cushions, the walls were wood paneled, the carpet was green and the floors were two shades of marble. The chairs were arranged into small groups of attractive seating areas accented with potted palms. The overall effect was quite pleasing – a comfortable and classy lounge. As I’ve stated before, my only complaint - if it could actually be said to be one – would be to have a little more variety of design from one lounge to the next. Oh yeah – a few bottles of Little Creatures Pale Ale would also be welcomed with open mouth.

Speaking of lounges, my only other lounge experience in Brisbane came in 1987. I was flying on a First Class maximum permitted mileage ticket between Auckland and Tokyo. I’d routed through Brisbane and my next leg had me flying aboard Singapore Airlines from Brisbane up to Singapore with an intermediate stop in Sydney.

The old Brisbane International Terminal was nothing like the gleaming new facility that serves the city so admirably today. The old terminal had a very 1970s feel to it – and I mean that in the most uncomplimentary kind of way. I don’t recall if the lounge I was invited into was a dedicated Silver Kris Lounge but it certainly was small and otherwise unremarkable. On a positive note, there was no jet bridge. We walked out onto the tarmac and boarded our 747-200 up the two tiered stairs.

The inbound flight from Auckland was running a bit late, so boarding wasn’t called until almost 9:00pm. Even so, a considerable line had begun to assemble in anticipation of the call. Hanging back at my table, I’m thinking- what’s the hurry? We’re talking First and Business Class here. It’s not like someone’s going to poach your seat or take away your carry-on baggage space. Who knows – maybe all these folks were just anxious to get onboard the A380. Maybe it was their first flight, or perhaps their first flight in one of the premium classes. In those instances I could definitely commiserate with their excitement. Mostly though I suspect it was just sheepish human behavior. Everybody else is doing it – I guess I should go over there and line up, too.

I hung back at the table, had another beer and took advantage of the complimentary Wi-Fi available in the lounge. Although Wi-Fi is available onboard, the connection speed rivals that available in rural North Korea. I was busy copying articles about my Denver Broncos who – for those of you who may not yet be aware – won Super Bowl 50 last month in Santa Clara, California. By the time I finally shut down and headed for the jetway I’d found about a dozen that I’d copied to a Word document for reading enjoyment later in the flight.

Settling in at Suite 3A, I immediately took notice of the worn and scuffed personal tablet that contained controls for the seat, lights, privacy doors, electronic window blinds and entertainment system. This tablet is designed to be removed from its housing and operated wirelessly from your seat. Not only could I not remove it from its housing but the controls wouldn’t work. It was later explained that everything was locked until we’d reached cruising altitude.

Flight Attendant Gustavo stopped by to introduce himself and offer me a drink from a choice of three he had available on a handheld tray. Orange juice, apple juice or Champagne? Orange juice, please. The rest of the pre-flight amenities were delivered in short order, including a super-heated hot towel. Yeee-ikes! That thing was seriously hot! I flirted with hyperventilation while blowing it cooler, and then reveled in its nicely scented goodness. Ahh…

The Captain came on over the PA, welcomed us aboard in a distinctly American accent and then informed us that we could expect a flight time of just over 14 hours along the 7440 mile route to Dubai. During my earlier peregrinations about the internet in the Emirates Lounge, I’d checked out the comparative distances of flying from Brisbane to both Dubai and San Francisco, the latter being my ultimate destination on this Emirates trip. The nonstop distance between Brisbane and San Francisco totals 7070 miles. I’m flying 370 miles farther than that to get to Dubai, after which I’ll then board a fifteen hour 8090 mile flight onward to San Francisco. Am I crazy for this stuff or what?

Honestly gang, I can think of a lot more challenging environments in which to spend 30 hours or travel. People routinely board Amtrak trains between Chicago and the west coast that take a minimum of 38 hours to reach their destinations. I’ve done those trips many times – in coach. I’ve driven sixteen roundtrips between Alaska and the Lower 48, a drive that – for me at least – takes a minimum of three days, and that’s just to the U.S. border at Washington, Idaho or Montana. On a couple of occasions I’ve ridden the Navimag ferry between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales, Chile – a journey covering three nights and four days. One of the tougher trips was riding a bus between Perth and Darwin… two nights and three days. We sure had some fun along the way, though. And then there are all the times I’ve hitchhiked between Colorado and the west coast – lots of standing around and sleeping in whatever out of the way spots I could find. I met some great folks on those trips.

Heck, I once spent nine straight days riding five different connecting trains between Oaxaca, Mexico and Havre, Montana. And you know what I thought about that trip? It was great fun! The same goes for my ten day drive from Key West, Florida to Fairbanks, Alaska. It all starts with attitude. For those of us who approach these journeys with a sense of excitement and adventure, they sure go by a lot faster.

That said, I realize most people would never “waste” their miles on a trip like this, and even if they’d spent a month in Australia they’d never fly home to America via Dubai. That’s fine. Whatever floats your boat. I’m obviously wired a bit differently though, and if you’ve bothered to read this far then I expect you can relate to that – if only a little bit.

As for my current predicament, consider that during the 30 hours of flight required to reach San Francisco via Dubai, I’ll be comfortably ensconced in a state of the art inflight suite complete with a full length bed, a seat side bar and a 23” screen on which to watch literally hundreds of movies and television programs from around the world. During the flight I’ll be wined and dined whenever I like with complimentary meals graciously served atop Royal Doulton China complimented by some pretty nice wines and a nice variety of top shelf spirits and liqueurs. Additionally, I’ll have a fully stocked shower spa available as well as a spacious lounge in which to mingle with my fellow passengers.

Honestly, life could be a lot worse.

We were 25 minutes into the flight before our seats were ever unlocked. Gustavo claimed that the captain had ordered all of the flight attendants to remain in their seats due to potential turbulence during our climb out but if so this was never mentioned – as it usually is – as part of a preflight announcement. Gustavo then made a show of fiddling with something on the outside of my suite, ostensibly “unlocking” the seat. I’ve flown a lot more than most people – including a half dozen flights aboard these Emirates A380s – and I suspect seats can be unlocked from a control panel back in the galley area. In any event our climb out was unremarkable and, as I listened to the flight attendants talking and laughing back in the galley during that time, I got the sense that they’d probably just forgotten.

Unfortunately, this trend of forgetfulness and a basically cavalier approach to service would be evidenced numerous times throughout the flight. Rather than describe each instance to you as it occurred, suffice it to say that Gustavo was basically a friendly slacker, better suited to steward duties aboard an Argentinean bus than a world class airline of Emirates’ caliber. How he ever got assigned duty in the First Class cabin will forever more be quite the mystery to me. Be that as it may, he was my slacker for the next fourteen hours so all I could do was make the best of it and, as the situation called for it, gently prod him toward doing or remembering to do his job.

At fourteen and a half hours in length, this flight is perfectly suited for a relaxed dinner, a leisurely visit to the lounge and then a few hours of sleep. Hopefully I’ll awake with three or four hours left in the flight, during which I’ll have breakfast and put in a bit of work on this report.

We were almost thirty five minutes into the flight before menus and wine lists were presented and drink orders taken. By now it was almost 10:00pm local time, so I was surprised that they cabin crew didn’t get things started a bit earlier. Oh yeah – there was that nonexistent turbulence the captain warned them but not us about.

What’s this? The menu showed a light meal and no dinner. Further inspection revealed the menu was for the eastbound flight serving Auckland. Amazingly, Gustavo at first tried to say that this was the meal service for this flight until I pointed out the origin and destination clearly printed in the menu. Oh. He took the menu and returned to the galley. After a couple of minutes he returned with apologies and handed me a different menu reflecting Auckland – Sydney – Dubai service.

It wasn’t until after I’d pointed out that this menu was for the flight routing through Sydney that he mentioned that our flight was the victim of a last minute aircraft switch in Auckland and apparently the menus never got switched out. He assured me that although a few things were missing or different, most of the items listed on the menu were correct. Fair enough. These things happen now and then.

Case in point - when I pointed out the lack of canapés on the dinner menu, he made a quick trip back to the galley to check and then returned to assure me that there were indeed canapés, but only the hot ones. Great! Those are my favorites, anyway. Let’s accompany those with a glass of the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, please.




Fine wine and canapés over Queensland

But wait! It turns out there are also some cold canapes. Might I care for some of those as well? Oh, you betcha! Bring ‘em on!




Chilled shrimp skewers and balsamic artichoke


Alrighty then – what better time to consider the upcoming dinner selections than when cruising high above the Australian Outback while munching on tasty savories and sipping an elegant white wine? Let’s check out that menu!


A LA CARTE DINING

DINNER

Brisbane to Dubai


APPETIZERS

Caviar

Presented with a traditional selection of finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon, served with melba toast and blinis

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Garnished with herbed crème fraiche

Traditional Arabic Mezze
A spread of local savory dishes including houmous, moutabel, muhammara, labneh, artichoke salad, Arabic salad and stuffed vine leaves, with warm lamb kibbeh, cheese sambousek and spinach fatayer complemented by local garnishes and breads

Peking Duck Salad
With radish, cucumber, chilli and wasabi-yuzu dressing

Smoked Salmon and Crab Parcel
Served with an asparagus and fennel salad

Seasonal Salad
Served with your choice of toppings and dressing


MAIN COURSES

Braised Beef

Served with mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, broccolini and onion gravy

Chilli Chicken
Served with garlic fried rice and stir-fried vegetables with sesame seeds

Barramundi Sayadieh
Baked fish marinated in allspice and cinnamon, served with spiced rice and vegetables

Wok-fried Noodles
Served with stir-fried vegetables and toasted sesame seeds

Sautéed Prawns with Pizzaiola Sauce
Prawns with tomato and red pepper sauce served with saffron linguini, spinach and asparagus

Steak Sandwich
From the menu of our partner Qantas, we are pleased to offer one of the
specialty signature sandwiches created by renowned chef and restauranteur
Neil Perry of Rockpool; a warm sourdough ciabatta bread sandwich with
seasoned minute steak, rocket and tomato and chilli relish



A La Carte Vegetable Selection
We also offer a variety of alternatives, including roasted potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, ratatouille and steamed basmati rice

Bread Basket
A variety of freshly baked rolls, Arabic and garlic breads


DESSERT

Almond Cake

Served warm crème Anglaise

Raspberry and Vanilla Mousse Cake
Served with raspberry coulis

Seasonal Fruit
An assortment of freshly cut fruits

Cheese Board
A carefully chosen assortment of the finest boutique cheeses from around the world,
served with crudités, crackers, dried fruits and nuts


Chocolates
Fine luxury chocolates


The menu also included a full page of “Light Bites” options…


LIGHT BITES


Sandwiches

Roasted beef with onion jam, smoked chicken and cranberry, smoked salmon with lime aioli and feta with roasted vegetables


Hot Meal Selection

Lamb and Rosemary Pie
Served with tomato sauce

Vegetable Moussaka
Mediterranean-style baked vegetables, served with tomato concassé

Salmon en Croûte
Salmon fillet baked in pastry, served with lemon and dill velouté


Dessert

Selection of Pastries
Chocolate mousse, strawberry tart and pineapple gâteau


HOT DRINKS

Tea

Chamomile, Ceylon, Earl Grey or Green

Coffee
Freshly brewed or Nespresso (espresso, cappuccino or decaffeinated)


Wow. This is a nice menu! The incredible variety and quantity of food available is truly amazing, but then that’s just part of what makes a flight on Emirates that much more special. Knowing this, I purposely avoided over indulging in the lounge because frankly I’d rather do so onboard.

I know, I know – I can just hear the whistles and catcalls of all those stuffy old stiffs who insist airline food can’t hold a candle to restaurant food. Those folks would likely have eaten in the lounge and then spent the majority of the flight sleeping. That’s all well and good but then it’s hard to enjoy all the benefits of First Class service on an airline like Emirates when you’re sleeping the flight away.

Flyertalk has plenty of these types who exude a tired and bored with the world attitude towards premium class travel. Oh yes, been there and done that, you know. Most of them really have been there and done that more times than they care to admit. They’ve got bigger and more interesting fish to fry than rehashing something as mundane as their recent experiences aboard First Class. I get it.

My life experience notwithstanding, I’m confident I’ll never lose the sense of excitement and even adventure that comes with flying First Class aboard the world’s greatest airlines. I grew up in an era when there was still a lot of pomp and circumstance to travel – even in coach. We all dressed up because back then travel was viewed as a special experience. Here in America we had over twenty airlines providing jet flights around the country. The Civil Aeronautics Board controlled routes and fares, so the best means those airlines had of differentiating themselves was through inflight service. We had airlines with red carpets leading to the stairway up to the aircraft. Onboard service included steak and champagne - even in coach. Others had fun gimmicks like commemorative shot glasses, free gold ingots or Hunt Breakfast flights. More than a couple offered First Class legroom throughout the plane. Themed services abounded with names like Royal Ambassador, Regal Imperial, Flagship and Royal Hawaiian. It was all very exciting.

This is the world I grew up in and I was fortunate to have logged over 1500 flights before deregulation resulted in lower prices, more flights, fuller airplanes and the steady erosion of the once fine services we all enjoyed. Even after 5000 flights I still feel like I’ve won the lottery just by having been able to sit up here and enjoy a flight like this - flying on the world’s largest jetliner aboard a world class airline in First Class no less. Totally awesome! In the annals of human experience, when measured amongst the almost 7 billion people that inhabit this planet, flying in International First Class is a rare and amazing experience that only a tiny fraction of us ever get to experience. Just look around at your friends and family, many of whom would be thrilled just to get upgraded between Denver and Chicago.

Whatever it is I’m doing in life - be it work or play - I’ll take genuine excitement and anticipation any day over bored indifference. I am so fortunate to have a job I look forward to doing each day, and to be surrounded by people who for the most part feel the same. I am so lucky to live in a place where every day feels like it has the potential to be a great day regardless of the season or the weather. And – I am fortunate and thankful to have an audience here at Flyertalk who share my excitement at the thrill of “getting there”, especially when it’s done in First Class. Thank you!

Now then, about that dinner order…

Let’s start with yet another plate of caviar. After all, the only time I ever get to eat it is when flying in International First Class and for me at least those times are few and far between. In fact, the only time I’ve ever been served caviar when I wasn’t on an airplane occurred at the pre-departure party celebrating the inaugural Concorde flight within the United States. That was back on January 12th, 1979. Braniff International had entered into a promotional agreement with Air France and British Airways to fly their Concordes as part of a code share from Washington DC down to Dallas and back. Of course, flights within the US would have to be operated at subsonic speeds, but hey – it was the Concorde and a flight on it could be had for the very affordable domestic First Class fare rather than the exorbitant international Supersonic Class fare. I paid $156.00 for a Washington DC to Denver ticket routed through Dallas. Prior to the flight, I dined on caviar and other fine treats at the International Room restaurant in the main Dulles terminal building. A beautiful ice sculpture held chilled bottles of fine Russian vodka while around and beneath it sat dishes of caviar and plates stocked with all of the appropriate accompaniments. It was the first time I had ever eaten caviar and I can tell you it was not love at first bite. Over the years however I’ve definitely come to appreciate those little black eggs, so it’s a rare occasion that I don’t take advantage of an opportunity to reacquaint myself with their salty goodness.




Caviar
Presented with a traditional selection of finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon, served with melba toast and blinis


I have never understood the attraction of serving caviar on those soft and chewy little pieces of bread called blinis. By my tastes caviar is especially good on garlic bread. Gustavo was kind enough to bring me a couple more slices along with a refill of the delicious Sauvignon Blanc. I stayed with that wine throughout the meal.

There’s just something really special about sitting at a beautifully set table in a spacious state of the art suite cruising high above terra firma while being served nicely plated food that ain’t half as bad as the naysayers would have you believe. From the appetizer menu I elected to start with the Smoked Salmon and Crab Parcel appetizer. Even saying the name had an appetizing quality to it. In both presentation and flavor, this serving of salmon and crab was most appetizing indeed.




Smoked Salmon and Crab Parcel
Served with an asparagus and fennel salad


As good as the Butternut Squash and Apple Soup sounded, I just had a yen for a salad tonight, especially when Gustavo informed me that one of the dressings available was a Dijon Vinaigrette. Emirates have always served up nice salads and tonight’s example was no different. Very good!




Mixed Green Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette


For the main course the Barramundi was an easy choice. As fish dishes go, it’s about as Australian as you can get, especially out of Queensland. The plate I was served tonight was deliciously moist and tender though I found the cinnamon not particularly to my liking. Even so, by appearance alone this was a most attractive main dish and had I liked cinnamon more as an accent I’m sure I’d be giving it rave reviews. It was still good enough that when Gustavo finally returned to clear my plate, it was clean.




Barramundi Sayadieh
Baked fish marinated in allspice and cinnamon, served with spiced rice and vegetables


Well alright then – I’ve come this far, I might as well go whole hog. So yes, I will have a serving of that Raspberry and Vanilla Mousse Cake. With decaffeinated coffee, please.




Raspberry and Vanilla Mousse Cake
Served with raspberry coulis


Wow! What a deliciously decadent ending to this meal. And check out that coffee press! How many airlines do that for you?

As I savored the remainder of my coffee, I tried to recline my seat and check out the Sky Map for a while. You’ll recall I mentioned the well-worn hand held control tablet housed next to my seat. From this tablet you can control everything from seat position to lumbar support to sliding doors to all of your entertainment options on the big screen. In theory it’s an innovative means of centralizing all of your controls in one convenient place – like a universal remote. In practice it was so old and worn that it had a lot of problems.

First off, the pad sits in a housing where it gets recharged between uses. For convenience sake it is designed to be removed and used in your hands. The problem with my unit was twofold. First, its battery charge lasted less than two minutes. Secondly, the response time when pushing seat or entertainment controls on the screen was so sluggish that two minutes’ battery power was generally insufficient. So I’d place it back in the housing where the response time to push screen commands was no better. It worked, mind you, it just didn’t work very well.

Later in the flight I was chatting with a different flight attendant about this and she mentioned that this A380 was only the second one received by Emirates. Another way of putting that would be to say that this was the second oldest A380 in Emirates’ sizeable fleet of 75. It was delivered new in February of 2008, so that would make it just eight years old. In human years that makes it only 32! Truth be known, aside from the less than responsive control pads, the rest of this plane looked pretty good.

To that end, after the last of my plates were cleared off I took a walk back through Business Class to the rear of the upper deck where the lounge is located. Compared to the 777-300 it’s not that long of a walk. Along the way I took a moment to check out a seat in an empty Business Class suite. Not bad, not bad. If anything, the fabric covered seat actually felt a bit more comfortable to sit in than my leather upholstered First Class seat. The overall ambience in the seated position was much tighter than First Class however.

As I continued on back towards the back of the plane I passed a number of seats in the fully flat position. They looked pretty good, especially for those seated closest to the aisle where your lower legs and feet weren’t jammed into a little box. Singapore’s Business Class still ranks number one in my book though.

The lounge on Emirates’ A380s is as nice a lounge as has ever graced a flying machine. Featuring a centrally mounted horseshoe shaped bar, the lounge is tastefully decorated with comfortable seating, wall mounted lamps and subdued lighting which I’m sure can be made brighter as the situation demands. The bar is nicely stocked with Business Class level spirits, so if you want to enjoy a Woodford Reserve as I did, you’ll have to bring your own up from First Class. Also available is a variety of light snacks such as salmon and cream cheese sandwiches as well as a variety of tasty looking hors d’oeuvres.




Emirates A380 Lounge
Photo courtesy of Emirates



Emirates A380 Lounge
Photo courtesy of Emirates


Perhaps it was the late hour – approaching midnight in Brisbane – but aside from myself and the bartender, this lounge was empty. I chatted for a bit with the bartender, a nice guy from Lebanon who’d been schooled in Europe and of course now lived in Dubai. He’d only been with Emirates for a couple of years and, though he enjoyed his job, he planned to return to school in a couple more years to complete a degree in hotel and restaurant management.

When I asked if the lounge gets much patronage on these longer flights, he replied that it has its moments. Obviously now, this late at night, most people were sleeping or about to do so but during the day on longer flights it could get quite active. This was especially true on flights between London and Dubai and on the trans-Tasman flights between Australia and New Zealand.

I was glad to hear this because most of the onboard lounges I’ve seen or heard about of late have been lightly patronized. It was different back in the seventies when entertainment was limited to pneumatic headphones and a single movie shown on the big screen at the front of the cabin. It was easier to get bored on a long flight back then and so the idea of mingling with your fellow passengers was a lot more alluring. These days you’ve got modern inflight entertainment systems that can keep you entertained for weeks with literally hundreds of movies, television shows and documentaries along with a like number of musical albums from all over the world. Add to that the entertainment options available via personal computers and mp3 players and for many it’s a lot more comfortable to just stay in your seat.

I get it but even so I miss the sociability of the old days. That’s one of the things I enjoy so much about train travel. The lounge is almost always a happening place and good company and good times make a long trip not only more enjoyable but also a lot faster.

Back at Suite 3A, the Sky Map indicated that we were making good time, speeding high over the northern reaches of the Great Sandy Desert. I wish it were daytime outside. I’d love to check out the view. Nighttime is for sleeping though and so I made the call to have my suite converted to nighttime use while I toddled off to the lav to practice a bit of dental hygiene.

The beds on Emirates’ A380s are reasonably comfortable. I usually raise the top end just a bit and this, in combination with the large pillow makes for a pretty comfortable sleeping surface for me. I read for a bit before shutting down the Sky Map and calling it a night. We were approaching the Australian coast at a point just north of Broome. Ahead lay 3000 miles of Indian Ocean before we’d see land again while crossing over the island of Sri Lanka. What a great part of the world for a nap!

And nap I did, sleeping comfortably all the way across the entire expanse of the Indian Ocean between Australia and Sri Lanka – a distance of 3,370 miles according to the mileage calculator at webflyer.com. When I awoke just southeast of Colombo, there were still another five hours left in the flight.




SkyMap BNE-DXB


This was great! Here I’d just knocked off six hours of quality sleep, more than enough to power me comfortably through the rest of this flight, the short layover in Dubai and the first three or four hours of my fifteen hour flight between Dubai and San Francisco. Like I said earlier, First Class isn’t any fun unless you’re awake to enjoy it. I mean honestly, if I’m asleep I could just as easily be Laid up in a bunk on a smelly old banana boat. First Class – as with life in general – is best enjoyed while conscious.

Time flies when you’re having fun! I ordered a coffee and a Danish, then spent the next hour watching a couple of documentaries including the latest America’s Game series featuring last year’s New England Patriots and their improbable last minute victory over the Seattle Seahawks. As a Broncos fan, I eagerly anticipate the next installment in this fine series.

We were about two and a half hours out of Dubai when I decided to check out the breakfast menu and order up a bite to eat. Here’s the menu. See anything you like?


A LA CARTE DINING

BREAKFAST

Brisbane to Dubai

Juice
Orange or grapefruit juice, beetroot, celery, apple and ginger detox drink, or strawberry smoothie


Fruit, Yoghurt and Cereals

Breakfast Fruit
Fresh cut seasonal fruits

Yoghurt
Natural of fruit

Assorted Cereals
Choice of cornflakes or muesli


MAIN COURSES

Cheese and Chive Omelette

Served with grilled chicken sausages, rösti, baked beans and roasted tomatoes

Scrambled Eggs
With Lyonnaise potatoes, sautéed spinach, mushrooms and grilled tomato

Waffles
With vanilla mascarpone and berry compote

Breakfast Platter
Sliced roasted chicken and beef pastrami with cheddar and labneh


BREAD BASKET
A variety of baked breads, butter croissants and breakfast pastries
Served with butter and preserves



Breakfast at home is typically a pretty quick and easy affair – a big cup of strong filtered coffee and a bowl of either oatmeal or cold cereal. Maybe a piece or two of toast once in a while. Eggs are almost always a treat reserved for eating out. That’s how I look at inflight dining. It’s like eating out, with things like caviar, appetizers, smoothies and omelets available – all things that I rarely ever eat at home.

So, when presented with a menu like this, I like to indulge! This morning that translated into a smoothie and a fruit plate, followed by a Cheese and Chive Omelette.

Gustavo must have been taking his break because a different flight attendant took my breakfast order and served the meal. The overall presentation and service was markedly improved. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t want to cast a stain on this report by detailing each and every instance of Gustavo’s shortcomings. Suffice it to say I’m pretty familiar with the service standards one can reasonably expect in International First Class, both aboard Emirates as well as many other airlines. Additionally, I’m not a demanding guy or in any way “high maintenance”. Gustavo’s approach to service – slow to respond, forgetful, totally reactive rather than anticipatory - really stood out if only because of how rare it is to encounter service so lackadaisical.

But enough of Gustavo. Let him rest. Here’s what I had for breakfast:




Fruit Plate and Smoothie



Cheese and Chive Omelette
Served with grilled chicken sausages, rösti, baked beans and roasted tomatoes


I love citrus fruit! The two big wedges of orange and grapefruit really made my day. The omelet wasn’t bad either though for me the real stars were the accompaniments. We rarely if ever see things like baked beans or roasted tomatoes with our egg breakfasts and that’s a shame as I’m sure they’re a lot healthier than fried potatoes. That said, I love the flavor of fried potatoes and so had no complaints with the rösti. The chicken sausage, while not as flavorful as a good pork sausage, packed a lot less fat and calories and was also very good.

Sadly, this flight was made almost entirely under the cover of darkness. Due to our late departure out of Brisbane and some mild headwinds, our total flight time turned out to be about 15 minutes longer than projected us which meant that by the time we touched down in Dubai it was almost 6:15am. Dawn was just starting to color the eastern sky behind us.

After a short taxi, we parked over at Concourse B. After a flight of 14 hours and 28 minutes covering 7,440 miles, I’m almost halfway home. Now then, where’s my connecting flight?
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Old Mar 28, 16, 4:03 am
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February 20, 2016
Emirates Airlines Dubai to San Francisco 855a – 1255p A380-800 First Class


By the time I cleared transit security, took the train across to Terminal A and then made my way up to the First Class Lounge, the time was approaching 7:00am.

Let me start by saying that the two largest First Class lounges I have ever been in are both here at Dubai International. Both of them are operated by Emirates – one in Terminal A and one in Terminal B. Both of them appear to stretch from one end of the terminal to the other. They’re like lounge amusement parks with all manner of incredible offerings.

For example, as you continue past the reception desk you’ll pass by a collection of attractive high end shops that include Le Clos, a seller of fine wines and spirits or VERTU, a purveyor of luxury mobile phones. I recall seeing a jeweler and of course there was a duty free shop.

As you continue down the length of the lounge, seating areas abound. Everywhere are small attractive groups of seats and tables, occasionally offset by larger stylized rooms.




Emirates First Class Lounge Seating Area



Emirates First Class Lounge Seating Area



Emirates First Class Lounge Seating Area


It’s hard to ever imagine this lounge being full. No – it’s scary to imagine this lounge ever being full! As it is now, it’s really rather relaxing to stroll down the length of the lounge, considering the many possible seating areas. Should I sit here? Why n – Oooo! Check out that magnificent room! Maybe I’ll just settle in over there….

My flight to San Francisco was scheduled to depart from gate A-10, located down at the very end of the terminal. One nice benefit for Emirate’s First and Business Class passengers is that all gates are accessible directly from the lounge. There’s no need to return to the main concourse and join the crowds.

As I made my way down the length of the lounge, I passed a sleeping room and a children’s play room.




Emirates First Class Lounge Sleeping Room



Emirates First Class Lounge Play Room


Continuing on, I saw a cigar lounge, a spa and shower facilities. At this point I would like to have taken advantage of a shower but with a fifteen hour flight to San Francisco ahead of me, there’d be plenty of time for a shower on board the plane.

Like all top flight First Class Lounges, this one offered excellent dining facilities. The main dining room offers both buffet and/or table service from an extensive menu of really good sounding items like salmon tartare, prawn bisque, T-bone steak or lamb shank. Still not full? Perhaps some cheese or a slice of Banoffee Pie (described as banana slices layered with dulce de leche, crispy filo pastry and whipped cream, garnished with coffee jelly)




Emirates First Class Lounge Dining Room



Emirates First Class Lounge Dining Room


In addition to the dining room, little food service areas are sprinkled throughout the lounge. These are like little cafes offering things like pastries, salads, mini-sandwiches and fruit plates. Hot and cold drinks – including alcohol, are available everywhere.

I would love to come back someday and take full advantage of this lounge’s many offerings. Honestly, why not make a day of it? Arrive early, enjoy a nice lunch, take in a movie, take advantage of a spa treatment and perhaps a shower, have a nice dinner and then board your flight.

As it is however, my flight will be boarding in just over an hour. Since I’d had breakfast just three and a half hours earlier on the inbound flight from Brisbane, I decided to forego the temptations of the dining room menu and instead made my way down to the Gate 10 lounge area where I settled for a cup of coffee and a pistachio pastry along with a copy of that morning’s Gulf Times.




The lounge area for gates 9 and 10


The lounge area serving gates 9 and 10 is larger than some airline lounges I’ve been in. Certainly with the nearby café area it offers better amenities than any airline lounge in the U.S. Wi-Fi is available throughout the lounge, as are electrical outlets. Time passed quickly as I plugged in, caught up on email and sports scores and enjoyed another cup of coffee.

It was only about twenty minutes from departure when boarding was finally called. An agent showed up to deal with the boarding formalities and then off we went, riding an elevator down one level before continuing down the glass walled jetway to the plane. As I did so, I took note of the aircraft registration – A6-EOM. Ah, much better.

Earlier in the lounge I’d checked out Emirates’ fleet listings over at airfleets.com. It is really amazing to look down those columns representing the world’s largest fleets of 777s and A380s. As to Emirates’ A380s, registration starts with A6-EDA through EDZ, continuing on to EEA through EEZ and finally rounding out with EOA through EOW. Out of a fleet of 75 aircraft (with six more on order), that would make ship “EOM” the 11th youngest A380 in the fleet. She was delivered new to Emirates just eleven months earlier, on March 8th, 2015. Her first birthday was only three weeks away. In the early morning sun she positively gleamed with the vibrancy of youth.

Once onboard I settled in quickly while the cabin crew dispensed with their usual preflight offerings. By the time we pushed back I’d compiled one amenity kit, one set of pajamas, some slippers, two newspapers and a nice Emirates tote bag in which to carry it all.

Menus were presented and I took a moment to admire both the presentation as well as the bounty of foods contained within the impressive leather bound booklet.




Still life with menu and orange juice


As I sipped from the glass of nicely chilled orange juice, Jennifer Anniston stopped by to inquire if I’d be interested in showering with *pop* Oh my! I must’ve dozed off! Sorry – what was that? A shower? Oh yes! If no one else has taken the first slot, I’d love to shower as soon as we level off. No problem. My name was duly recorded at the top of the list. A flight attendant will come round to collect me once the spa is ready.

This is a busy departure time for Emirates and as we made our way out to the runway, we did so amidst a large assortment of 777s and A380s, all of them bearing Emirates’ distinctive green, red and black emblem on their tails. When it came our time for takeoff, the captain ever so gently applied power and off we went – rolling down the runway with ever increasing speed until 51 seconds later we’d achieved sufficient velocity to break those surly bonds and soar into the hazy skies above Dubai.

As we climbed away from the airport and sped out over the Persian Gulf, I caught an interesting glimpse of Dubai’s buildings rising amidst the morning fog…




Good Morning, Dubai


Meanwhile, life in Suite 3K proceeded apace as I reclined my seat a bit and took in my surroundings…




Leaving Dubai



Only ten out of the fourteen suites were occupied on this flight


We were about thirty minutes into the flight when one of the two shower attendants stopped by to inform me that my shower was ready. Normally they’ll take some time to explain the operation of the shower to you but as a seasoned veteran of these showers we were able to dispense with those quickly – mainly you’ve got five minutes of water and a total of twenty-five minutes in the spa. Should turbulence develop, take a seat in the shower and ride it out. Alright then, enjoy your shower!




This spa is larger than many home bathrooms



The nicest wash basin aloft



A nice collection of spa amenities


Twenty-five minutes is more than enough time to enjoy a good hot shower, dry off, dress up and be done with it. One of the best things about this shower was the atmosphere – it was nice and dry, just like back home. Whereas in Brisbane I couldn’t dry off, here I felt cool and dry quickly after toweling off. It was a refreshing feeling.

Returning to my seat, I set the big screen on my favorite program – the Sky Map – and then prepared for my second breakfast of the day. Earlier in the flight a flight attendant had stopped by to take any initial meal orders. The menu for this fifteen hour flight included a wide variety of breakfast, main meal and light meal selections. Even though I’d already eaten breakfast earlier in the day on the inbound flight from Brisbane, that had been six hours ago and hey – you only live once - so why not have breakfast twice? Why not, indeed!


A LA CARTE DINING

BREAKFAST

Dubai to San Francisco

Juice
Orange or grapefruit juice, apple and carrot detox drink, or a strawberry smoothie


FRUIT, YOGHURT AND CEREALS

Breakfast Fruit
Fresh cut seasonal fruits

Yoghurt
Natural of fruit flavored

Assorted Cereals
Choice of cornflakes or muesli


MAIN COURSES

Spinach and Feta Egg White Omelette

Served with baked beans, roasted cherry tomatoes and crushed potatoes with chives

Poached Eggs
Presented atop salmon and rösti, served with sautéed spinach and sour cream with chives

Anda Aloo Bhurji
Spiced scrambled eggs with potatoes, served with potato patties and minced mutton curry with lentils

Breakfast Platter
Spiced grilled chicken and bresaola, with red Leicester and gruyère


BREAD BASKET
A variety of baked breads, butter croissants and breakfast pastries
Served with butter and preserves



It’s been quite a while since I last had poached eggs on an airplane. I still remember my first time – aboard an Eastern Airlines 727 between Evansville, Indiana and Atlanta, Georgia. It was a pretty standard plate of Eggs Benedict but as that is one of my favorite ways to enjoy eggs, I was and remain impressed to this day.

So, why not revisit something similar via Emirates’ offering of poached eggs, which the flight attendant informed me did not come with salmon as per the menu but did come with a topping of Hollandaise Sauce. Sold!

My table was quickly laid with the requisite linens, china, silver and glassware. Added to the initial assemblage was a small appetizer sized fruit plate with a sweet dipping sauce. Nice!




Breakfast table setting


This was followed shortly by the main dish…




Poached Eggs
Presented atop salmon and rösti, served with sautéed spinach and sour cream with chives


What a great way to start my trio of meals for this flight!

Whaaaat? Three meals?!! Now I know what some of you are thinking – glutton! How the heck does he eat so much?! Well let’s stop and take a moment to consider my day onboard this flight before we go casting aspersions.

First of all, most people have never flown on a flight this long. For many, a five and a half hour flight to Hawaii is about as long as it gets. For others, that westbound flight they were on from Europe back home to the U.S. a couple of years ago seemed like it would never end. Had they flown to anywhere in California – a distance of about 5400 miles - they might have been aloft for a mind numbing ten and a half hours!

With the arrival of ultra-long range jetliners starting with Airbus’ A340-500, we now see many flights exceeding 8000 miles and fifteen hours in length. Singapore’s 9520 mile nonstop flight between New York and Singapore was once regarded as the world’s longest but in terms of flight time, the 8760 mile flight between Los Angeles often took longer to fly due to the winds encountered enroute. We’re talking flight times occasionally approaching 20 hours!

Today’s 8090 mile long flight between Dubai and San Francisco has been announced at fifteen hours and four minutes. Now fifteen hours – that’s just a number – but then look at it as the same amount of time as if you woke up at 7:00am, went to work at 8:00am and then put in a full day that had you home by 6:00pm. You then had dinner and enjoyed the rest of the evening until you went to bed at 10:00pm. That’s a full day right there. Now imagine if you woke up at 7:00am and then just sat around the house all day until 10:00pm. Whoa… definitely a long day.

And what about meals during that time? Most people would have all three – breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you take a look at my breakfast plate, that’s really not a huge amount of food, especially since the only bread I accompanied it with was a single slice of toast.

By the time I’d finished breakfast, there were still thirteen hours left in the flight – plenty of time to do all kinds of stuff from checking out the IFE to taking a nap with more than enough time along the way to enjoy a couple more meals. After all, if back home you’d finished your breakfast at 7:30, thirteen more hours would take you all the way to 8:30pm – more than enough time for most normal people to have lunch and dinner without anyone considering them to be piggish.

My favorite thing about flying during daylight hours – other than a propensity toward remaining conscious – is the view out my windows. I mean, I spend the vast majority of my life down on terra firma and so for me it’s rather unique and special to be able to observe the world from 35000 feet above it. Granted, it lacks the detail from so high but in other ways there’s even more to be seen in terms of geological patterns or where rivers flow or neat looking cloud formations.

I always figured windows were put on airplanes for a reason and yet it truly amazes me these days how many people shut their window shades as soon as we take off, immediately preferring the artificial light and manmade entertainment generated via their laptops or seatback screens to even a few minutes of wonder at the world outside their windows.

Take this flight, for example. Soon after departing Dubai we cross the Persian Gulf and continue north over Iran. Iran’s got some wonderfully mountainous territory that on a clear day can be appreciated quite nicely, even from thousands of feet overhead. Unfortunately, clouds gathered quickly as soon as we took off out of Dubai and by the time we reached the Iranian coast the only means we had of knowing it was via the Sky Map.

So then, circumstances like this represent a perfect time to then check out the inflight entertainment system. Emirates have a very good one. Branded as “ICE”, it’s an acronym standing for Information, Communication and Entertainment. You can learn more about it right HERE.

I think it’s great that Emirates has all these great options available for its passengers. Me personally, I don’t generally get all that excited about watching movies onboard flights – 23”screen notwithstanding – mainly because I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy on my laptop. Those things would include everything from listening to music to surfing the net to working on this trip report to actually putting in time on work related projects (Yes, there’s more to my life than driving busses in Denali National Park).

In any event, a quick perusal of the entertainment options led me to the games section where I discovered a couple of different trivia contests. I love trivia and – as one who’s kept up on the news every day since I was a schoolboy – I’m pretty good at it. The only thing I’m not so good on is pop culture and music. I could care less about the personal lives or histories of celebrities and outside of jambands, upbeat blues, modern folk and new grass, my musical tastes don’t generally include anything that has been popular in the mainstream since after about 1980. Thankfully there were plenty of questions in categories like geography, sports, history, science and technology and tv/movies that I was able to entertain myself for a good couple of hours and in the process set hitherto unheard of point records. The only downer was while playing “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” when I got all the way up to playing for 500,000 before finally submitting a wrong answer.

A quick peek out my window revealed the snow covered landscape of the Ukraine. The land was pretty flat with little of anything to draw my attention so I shut my shades and, after a quick visit to the forward lavs reversed course and took a stroll back to the lounge. It wasn’t much busier than it had been the night before on my flight from Brisbane, so I returned to the front of the plane and read the latest from the International New York Times before finally turning my attention to the luncheon menu…


LUNCHEON
Dubai to San Francisco

Canapés
A selection of hot and cold savouries including prawn cake skewer, sesame chicken, a goat’s cheese filo with onion marmalade parcel, crème fraiche and salmon roe tartlet and pesto bocconcini


APPETIZERS

Caviar

Presented with a traditional selection of finely chopped onion, grated egg, sour cream and lemon
Served with melba toast and blinis


Tomato and Thyme Soup
With balsamic braised shallots

Chicken and Lemongrass Consommé
With shredded chicken, water chestnuts and vegetable julienne

Traditional Arabic Mezze
A spread of local savoury dishes including baba ghanouj, houmous, minted labneh ball, lentil rice, okra bil zeit, spinach bil zeit, tabbouleh and stuffed vine leaves with warm lamb kibbeh, cheese sambousek and zaatar fatayer

Herb-Coated Tuna Loin
Presented on a salad of edamame, green beans and roasted red peppers

Roast Chicken with Cumin
Served with couscous salad and preserved lemon gremolata

Seasonal Salad
Fresh salad leaves topped with cherry tomatoes, celery, olives and baby mozzarella
Served with your choice of dressing



MAIN COURSES

Roast Beef Short Ribs

Served off the bone with barbecue sauce, fingerling potatoes and steamed green beans

Sautéed Prawns with Garlic and Coriander
With herbed butter sauce, steamed rice and seasoned vegetables

Mughlai Chicken and Zafrani Kofta
Chicken in creamy gravy, served with basmati rice with green peas and paneer dumplings in saffron sauce

Goats Cheese and Beetroot Ravioli
Tossed in Arrabbiata sauce, with asparagus and roasted red pepper

Grilled Kingfish with Garlic and Herbs
Served with mango salsa, crushed pan-fried potatoes and cherry tomatoes


Vegetable Selection
We also offer a variety of alternatives, including roasted potatoes, blanched green beans, green pea purée and steamed basmati rice

Bread Basket
A variety of freshly baked rolls, Arabic and garlic breads


DESSERTS

Chocolate and Apricot Pudding

Served warm with whipped cream

Fig Cheesecake
With cinnamon sauce

Seasonal Fruit
An assortment of fresh cut fruits

Cheese Board
Wookey Hole Cave Aged Farmhouse Cheddar, West Country Cornish Brie, Yarra Valley Dairy Marinated Feta, Stilton and Kidderton Ash served with traditional accompaniments

Chocolates
Fine luxury chocolates


*** *** *** *** ***


LIGHT BITES


Sandwiches

Smoked salmon with cream cheese, vegetable antipasti with feta and roasted beef with sweet pepper mayonnaise


Hot Meal Selection

Veal Burger
Presented on a sesame seed roll, with Emmental, onion marmalade and baked potato fries

Gramigna Marinara
Twisted pasta with seafood marinara sauce and parmesan

Minestrone
Italian style vegetable soup with beans and pasta


Dessert

Selection of Pastries
White chocolate biscuit, chocolate and cinnamon ganache cup, raspberry tartlet, vanilla macaron and chocolate éclair


HOT DRINKS

Tea

Chamomile, Ceylon, Earl Grey or Green

Coffee
Freshly brewed or Nespresso (espresso, cappuccino or decaffeinated)



It’s not hard to rekindle an appetite after looking at a menu like this. From caviar to cheeseboard it all looked delicious. But first, it’s time for a pre-luncheon cocktail. Let’s start with a glass of Woodford Reserve on the rocks, accompanied by both the hot and cold canapés.




Woodford and Canapés ~ A great start to the afternoon


So then, what to order…

With two more meals off this menu coming up, now seemed like a good time to pass on the caviar course and move right on to a bowl of Chicken and Lemongrass Consommé. We’ll follow that with the chicken appetizer and then for the main course… Ooooo, so many great choices… I was really having a hard time choosing between the Mughlai Chicken or the Roast Beef Short Ribs. Since I’d chosen the chicken appetizer, I went with the short ribs. I’ll have the Mughlai Chicken for dinner.

I live in the forest a few miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. While many people who’ve never been to Alaska might think of it as a place of great natural beauty but one that has otherwise only the most rudimentary trappings of modern civilization, the reality of it is that Alaska, and Fairbanks in particular, is a warm and vibrant place with plenty of entertaining and enjoyable things to do - be it music, sports, dining, drama or seasonal festivals.

One of the things Fairbanks has become rightfully famous for is its Thai food. At last count there were eleven Thai restaurants in the city not including a number of drive up take-away type places. I’ve eaten at all of the sit-down places and so I’m pretty familiar with Thai cuisine, including its soups or which lemongrass is often an essential ingredient.

The soup served today was pretty good. Being a consommé it was pretty mild but I could definitely taste enough of the lemongrass to make it enjoyable.




Chicken and Lemongrass Consommé
With shredded chicken, water chestnuts and vegetable julienne


Moving on to the appetizer, I decided it was time to compliment this meal with a glass of wine. Let’s have a look at that wine list…


WINE LIST

Champagne

Cuvée Dom Pérignon 2006

White Wines
Condrieu Les Cassines, Paul Jaboulet Ainé 2012, Northern Rhône, France
Moone-Tsai Charles Heintz Chardonnay 2013, Sonoma Coast, USA
Robert Weil Kiedricher Riesling 2014, Rheingau, Germany
Antica Chardonnay 2013 Napa Valley, USA


Red Wines
Château Certan de May 2003, Pomerol, France
Saintsbury Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir 2011, Napa Valley, USA
Sloan Asterisk 2012, Napa Valley, USA
Sarget de Gruaud Larose 2005, Bordeaux, France
The Paring Red 2011, California USA


Dessert Wine
Château Doisy Daëne 2006, Bordeaux, France

Port
Quinto de Portaln 40 Year Old Douro, Portugal


The Napa Valley Chardonnay made a delightful accompaniment to a surprisingly good chicken appetizer. Neither I nor the flight attendant knew what lemon gremolata was (a chopped herb condiment classically made of lemon zest, garlic and parsley) but it added great flavor to the couscous salad and really made this appetizer the most memorable part of the meal.




Roast Chicken with Cumin
Served with couscous salad and preserved lemon gremolata


Plates were cleared quickly and efficiently. I also traded in my Chardonnay for a glass of the Napa Valley Pinot Noir. Though it’s tempting to try out those fancy French reds, I also would like a chance at finding a wine that’s accessible in both price and availability.

The ribs I was presented were not the type you’d receive in a typical Kansas City eatery, but they were moist and reasonably flavorful – overall a pretty good plate of food. Corn on the cob would have accompanied this meal nicely. As it is, I haven’t seen corn on the cob served aloft since back in the 1970s when Braniff used to serve it with their famous fried chicken.




Roast Beef Short Ribs
Served off the bone with barbecue sauce, fingerling potatoes and steamed green beans


So here I’ve gone and logged three flights with Emirates and I’ve yet to take advantage of the cheese course. Well that will change right now. I requested a small portion of all five cheeses offered, along with a glass of that 40 year old port. I mean really now, how many restaurants aside from the most ridiculously exclusive and/or expensive even offer 40 year old port? Or Wookey Hole Cave Aged Farmhouse Cheddar?!




Cheese and Port


Now then, dessert? Oh, why not. What’ve you got that’s not too large? Chocolate and Apricot Pudding? Bring it on!




Chocolate and Apricot Pudding


By the time the last of my plates had been cleared off, we were cruising high over a part of the planet that quite possibly no human had ever before set foot upon. In the diminishing light of the mid-winter afternoon, it looked positively bleak out there. With just under eight hours left in the flight, now seemed like an excellent time for a nap.

Before doing so however, I couldn’t resist some intriguing calculations. Here we were cruising high over the Polar Regions. Who knows what time it was down there, but local time in Dubai was 4:30pm. We’d been in flight a little over seven hours. I’d been awake since about 1:15am Dubai time. When I woke up this morning some fifteen hours earlier we were way around the dark side of the planet over by Sri Lanka. Yesterday at this time I was just sitting down to dinner as we sped westward across central Queensland. That seems weird because in the interim I’ve spent less than three hours on the ground – all of it in Dubai. After this flight lands I’ll still have two more flights to connect to before I get home, and as such I won’t arrive for another eighteen hours.

Calculations like this allow sleep to come that much more easily…

When I awoke we were high over British Columbia, speeding south down highway 97. Well, judging by the Sky Map we were actually just north of Prince George. Out my windows heavy cloud cover obscured the land as far as I could see. Oh well – it’s winter in the Pacific Northwest. Conditions like this are pretty much the norm.

Meanwhile, onboard our A380 it might as well have been overcast. The cabin was dark and I appeared to be the only one awake. A gentle snore emanated from the forward left side of the cabin, then abruptly stopped. I’d slept almost five hours and though I probably could have used a couple more hours of sleep, I want to remain conscious for the remainder of the flight. After all, who knows when next I’ll have the good fortune to fly Emirates First Class?

I popped up to the forward galley to request a cup of coffee with Baileys and alert the crew that I was once again up and at ‘em. We’d spoken earlier and agreed that I’d take my last meal as late as possible. According to the menu, that meant an hour and a half prior to arrival. I asked if that were really enough time, because I’d be willing to start a bit earlier. I was assured that an hour and a half would be just fine. So long as the crew knew what I wanted in advance, they could have it prepared in a timely manner resulting in a seamless service. My words, not theirs.

In any event, with three hours left in the flight, coffee and Baileys seemed like a good wake up call.




Coffee and Baileys


At this point in a fifteen hour flight, I suspect quite a few people – especially those sat downstairs in Economy Class - are thinking something along the lines of “Only. Three. More. Hours...” I completely understand. Being stuck inside an airplane for double digit hours is tough, especially when you’re sat amidst a sea of humanity where the seatback in front of you less than two feet away and the person beside you is only three inches away. The inflight entertainment system is a huge help inasmuch as it’s a wonderful distraction. It does nothing though for your comfort or personal space.

As I once again took stock of my opulent surroundings and by extension my lot in life, I am ever so thankful to be fortunate enough to have had the wherewithal to have figured out a way to put myself in this magnificent suite – not just once but twelve times now. Certainly, as a guy who drives a bus for a living and lives in a rustic cabin out in the woods of Alaska’s Interior, I’m an unlikely candidate to ever see more than the backside of an Economy Class seat. And yet – here I am.




Here’s to the good life!


So here I’d been reading this fascinating book called “One Second After” and as happens with me and books, time just flies by much faster than it would watching a movie or working on my laptop. I was effectively transported to the hills of North Carolina when our flight attendant (whose name I simply can’t remember at this point) brought me back to the present – we had just crossed the U.S. / Canadian border over Washington State – to ask if I were ready to eat. Deep in the pages of “One Second After” things were getting very interesting indeed and I could very easily have just skipped dinner and read straight on through to San Francisco. Still, as many of you have no doubt surmised by now, I’m a big fan of inflight catering, particularly as practiced by the world’s best airlines. I’ll have plenty of time to read on my upcoming flights, not to mention in the coming days, so I quickly bookmarked by spot, gave my assent to the attendant and prepared for this final gourmet meal on high.

Of course, I just had to start with a serving of caviar. And, as always with Emirates, I was presented a tastefully prepared plate highlighted by a generous portion of caviar surrounded by all the traditional accoutrements. Mmmm! Dee-licious!




Caviar with all the trimmings


Tempting though another salad was, I’ve always enjoyed tomato soup and really wanted to try out today’s offering of Tomato and Thyme with balsamic braised shallots. Well let me tell you, this soup was thick and rich, every bit as delicious to eat as its name was delicious sounding to type. Anybody who says airline food is inferior to restaurant fare hasn’t had a bowl of this soup. Just excellent!




Tomato and Thyme Soup
With balsamic braised shallots


Tuna loin… I didn’t know fish had loins. Regardless, this appetizer as described in the menu sounded pretty good. As presented on the plate it was delicious. I particularly liked how the crunch and flavor of the edamame beans complimented the tuna. ^^




Herb-Coated Tuna Loin
Presented on a salad of edamame, green beans and roasted red peppers


Alright then! Now well and truly appetized, I was ready to check out that Mughlai Chicken and Zafrani Kofta. When I first read the description I was immediately intrigued. It’s always nice to check out local cuisine and – with few exceptions – I’ve generally always been pleasantly surprised. This dish was no exception. That is to say I really enjoyed both the flavor and the texture of this dish. It’s always nice when no extra seasoning is needed and this dish tasted just perfect as is. Well done, Emirates chefs and cabin crew.




Mughlai Chicken and Zafrani Kofta
Chicken in creamy gravy, served with basmati rice with green peas and paneer dumplings in saffron sauce


By the way, a glass of the Moone-Tsai Charles Heintz Chardonnay proved to be a superb accompaniment to both the tuna and the chicken. A subsequent search of internet wine dealers revealed that this wine retails for about $80.00 USD per bottle – a bit more than I generally like to pay for a bottle of Chardonnay. As such, I was that much more thankful for the opportunity to enjoy its elegance free of charge. Had I known it was so pricey, I would have asked for a refill!


* * * _ _ * * *


Well as they say – all good things must come to an end. Local time was approaching 12:30pm. Out my window the sun shone brightly, and as we made our descent into the San Francisco Bay Area the sun glittered nicely off the dark blue Pacific below and beyond. It’s hard to believe that just five days ago at this time I was inflight between Anchorage and Seattle, on my way to Vancouver and the first of my sextet of luxurious First Class flights. That was 32000 miles ago and if you’ll recall, I started this trip out having flown 4,972,360 miles. That means I broke through the five million miles flown mark about eight hours ago, somewhere over the Polar Regions.

As such, please allow me to present myself as the newest member of the Five Million Miler Club.




Five Million Mile Fireworks Celebration


EPILOGUE

After a flight of fifteen hours and two minutes, our big bird alit softly at San Francisco International Airport. It was a gorgeous winter afternoon and had I had more time, I would love to have taken a room at the Mark Hopkins or some other fine San Francisco establishment and continued a celebration of my accomplishment in style.

As it were however, I had promised my neighbor a ride to the airport tomorrow night. In exchange she not only got up early to drive me out to the airport at 7:30am five days ago, she’ll also be there to meet my flight when I land in Fairbanks at 10:30pm tonight.

Besides, it’ll be good to get back to Alaska and spend a little time at home. I love my cabin in the woods and I also love winter in Alaska. I haven’t been here much of late. The week before leaving on this trip, I’d flown down to Colorado to enjoy the Denver Broncos victory in Super Bowl 50 amidst a partisan crowd. While on that trip I also undertook a tasty tour of local brew pubs at Oskar Blues just down the road in Longmont and the Rock Bottom Brewery at I-25 and US 34. Next week I’ll be out in Raleigh, North Carolina for a day and then it’s off to San Francisco for an airline collectibles convention out at SFO.

So again, I look forward to a bit of down time in Alaska. Wouldn’t you if you lived here?




On the road to Ester, Alaska



My Humble Abode



Cabin livin’ at its finest



Where great trip reports get written


To those of you who read this report in its entirety or simply skimmed briefly through a few pictures, thank you for stopping by! Given the substantial investment in time required to actually read one of my reports from start to finish, I’m doubly thankful to those of you who did just that. Thank you again!

My next big trip is in about ten days but with the exception of flights on my 179th and 180th airlines – including my first flight aboard a Sukhoi Superjet 100 – I’ll just be riding over rails I’ve already reported upon and flying in First Class aboard boring U.S. airlines. That won’t be worthy of a trip report but I do expect it will be a lot of fun.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a plane to catch!

Last edited by Seat 2A; Mar 28, 16 at 3:55 pm
Seat 2A is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 7:40 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
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Fantastic. I appreciate the amount of time you must put in to your reports. I think you're being too modest describing your writing as "a reliable old Chevy" - the report has been put together with a lot of care and attention. The pictures are also great and complement the words.

Congratulations on the five millionth mile! You'll have to start planning what to do for the next milestone!
stu1985 is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 8:20 am
  #9  
 
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Congrats Seat 2A

Nobody does trip reports better.
Beven12S is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 8:48 am
  #10  
 
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Originally Posted by Beven12S View Post
Nobody does trip reports better.
Are you forgetting about SFO 777 and Daniel W . In any event, a first class report brilliantly presented with excellent pics. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.^
mike&co is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 10:55 am
  #11  
 
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Brilliant trip report! Thanks for putting the time in. I enjoyed the whole thing!
rudycantfail0 is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 11:24 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Agoura Hills, CA USA
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Absolutely fantastic. It was as if I were on the plane as well....
RTW4 is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 11:43 am
  #13  
 
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Sweet, another Seat2A report!
blahter is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 11:45 am
  #14  
 
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Thank you for an awesome read. TR's like this are truly inspirational.
And congratulations on reaching your Five Million Miles, wow, some of us have a long way to go. ^^
roadwarrier is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 1:55 pm
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Congratulations to your achievement and my thanks to you for your contributions to the forum. It certainly is an inspiration. . . ^
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