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FROM ALASKA TO AUSTRALIA : In Hot Pursuit of my 198th, 199th and 200th Airlines Flown

FROM ALASKA TO AUSTRALIA : In Hot Pursuit of my 198th, 199th and 200th Airlines Flown

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Old Dec 18, 18, 2:43 am
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FROM ALASKA TO AUSTRALIA : In Hot Pursuit of my 198th, 199th and 200th Airlines Flown

How many airlines have you flown?

For most people in their forties or fifties who’ve taken an overseas vacation or two, the answer to that question might be about twenty to twenty-five airlines. That’s assuming that they’ve bothered to keep track, of course. Most of us can’t be bothered. We’ve got bigger fish to fly – er, fry.

Not me.

I was fortunate to grow up in an age when air travel, particularly jet travel, was still a novelty and flying anywhere was viewed as a special event. At the start of the 1960s many airlines were just entering the jet age with 707s and DC-8s. Unlike today, new aircraft types were being introduced every couple of years. The Convair 880 was introduced in 1960, the 727 followed in 1963, the DC-9 in 1965, the 737 in 1967. The 747 entered service in 1970 and DC-10s and L-1011s followed in 1971 and ’72 respectively. Airport observation decks were popular spots as people flocked to their local airports to see the new jets. It was an exciting time for a young aviation fan like me.

I was twelve years old when I started my first flight log. With less than 20 flights to my credit, I had vivid memories of all of my lifetime flights. My first log was a fairly simple document listing flights by origin, destination, airline, aircraft type, mileage flown and length of flight. As the total number of flights increased, my log became more detailed. I began to calculate total flights, miles and hours flown per airline and per aircraft type as of each flight. I also started keeping track of aircraft registration numbers.

By the time I turned twenty-one I had well over 400 flights on 23 airlines to my credit. I went down to an aircraft supply store in Denver and purchased a Senior Pilot Master Log. This log was designed for pilots rather than passengers but I was able to easily convert the various columns to my needs. With so many columns and way too much spare time on my hands, I began to calculate even more data per flight. Over the years I added such eclectic statistics as flights and miles per aircraft type by airline (i.e. while I may have flown upon 718 Boeing 727-200s, how many of those flights were upon Braniff 727-200s), how many flights per specific aircraft (i.e. how many flights were upon Braniff 727-200 N408BN), how many times I’d flown a given route and the total unduplicated route mileage per airline and in total. Unduplicated route mileage represents the sum of each unique route flown. So as an example, even though I’ve flown the 1448 mile Anchorage to Seattle route over 300 times, my total unduplicated route mileage for that route is counted only once at 1,450 miles. At present, my total Unduplicated Route Mileage is over 900,000 miles, far more than the total combined route mileage of any airline in the world.

But I digress. The focus of this report is the pursuit of my 198th, 199th and 200th airlines flown, not to mention some of the great service I enjoyed in First Class aboard Japan Airlines and Emirates while in pursuit of that goal. The mention of my flight logs is worthy of note for the fact that I’m actually aware of exactly how many times I’ve flown as well as exactly how many airlines I’ve flown upon. Very few people are.

It’s also worth noting that back in the early days of jet service, here in the United States the Civil Aeronautics Board controlled airfares and routes with the result being that most airlines offered the same fares on competing routes. Since the airlines couldn’t differentiate themselves through fare sales or loyalty programs like they do today, the only way they had to distinguish themselves was through the quality of their inflight service. Airline marketing departments put a lot of emphasis on promoting their new airplanes as well as distinctive new service brands. United offered Red Carpet Service aboard its DC-8 Jet Mainliners while American offered Flagship Service aboard its 707 Astrojets. TWA flew Star Stream 707s while Eastern flew DC-8 Golden Falcons and later 727 Whisperjets. Western poured free Champagne on all of its flights while Continental offered not one but three distinct lounges aboard its new 747, dubbed “The Proud Bird of The Pacific”. Not to be overlooked, regional airlines also got in the act. Southern Airways was famous for its shot glasses while Texas International served its drinks in 12oz Texas Tumblers. Frontier offered First Class legroom for all while PSA’s stewardesses were so attractively leggy that aisle seats were in high demand. Airlines were truly different back in those days and many of us who were fortunate enough to have flown back then appreciated the differences.

Having flown aboard 197 airlines so far is an impressive accomplishment of which I’m rightfully proud. While I’m looking forward to my flights aboard the three new airlines that will bring my total to 200, I’m equally excited about the flights I’ll be wrapping around those three airline flights. I’ll be flying from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur via Tokyo aboard Japan Airlines, with seats in the First and Business Class cabins respectively. A Singapore Airlines A330 will fly me down to Singapore from Bangkok and finally, an Emirates 777-300 will deliver me from Singapore to Melbourne in First Class comfort as only it can.

Hopefully those of you who can still appreciate the excitement of flying aboard a new airline or aircraft type will find this report to your liking. If so, now would be a great time to go grab a bottle of an appropriate libation and perhaps a plate of something tasty to nibble on. Then settle back and get ready for a 17,170 mile extravaganza aboard eight different airlines – including my 198th, 199th and 200th.
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Last edited by Seat 2A; Dec 18, 18 at 3:21 am
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Old Dec 18, 18, 2:46 am
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November 3, 2018
Alaska Airlines First Class ~ 737-900 ~ Fairbanks, AK to Seattle, WA ~ 620p – 1055p ~ Dinner


It’s never easy leaving Alaska. This place is so stunningly beautiful and culturally comfortable for me that I’m almost looking forward to that time when I – like 95% of my fellow Alaskans – actually stick around through most of the year. Someday I’ll make just four or five trips Outside per year, and that’ll be a good thing.

That time has not yet arrived however and so it was that I threw my bag in the back of my neighbor’s waiting Subaru Forester and made my way out to Fairbanks International Airport for the 13th time this year. FAI is not a large airport and I typically arrive about 45 minutes prior to the departure of my flight. While this would be cutting it a bit too close at most larger airports, at FAI I usually arrive to a wide open security check point.

Today was downright dreamlike. Nobody was in line or being scanned at the security checkpoint. A cadre of six blue-shirted TSA agents was standing around, with seemingly nothing better to do than wait for me. I was reminded of the old Maytag washing machine ads featuring a bored Maytag repairman just waiting for a Maytag appliance to break down.

Speaking of Maytag, how many of you can name the two airlines Bud Maytag once owned? One was regional, the other a trunk carrier.

Sitting at the gate this evening was Alaska’s 737-900ER registered N277AK. Most people never note the registration number of the aircraft they fly on, but as one who logs his flights and has long included data such as the aircraft registration, some interesting numbers begin to emerge. For example, this is my 1,599th flight on Alaska Airlines. Of those 1599 flights, 281 have come aboard 737-900s. Some of you may recall that Alaska was the launch customer for the -900 way back in the summer of 2001. Since then, its fleet of -900s has grown to 86 aircraft, of which I have flown upon 63. Collect them all, I say!

Flight time was announced at 3 hours and 10 minutes. There was still a lingering glow from the remnants of this evening’s pretty sunset as we climbed away from Fairbanks. We had taken off to the north on Runway 1L and our climb out took us right over Airport Way and the city lights on either side of it. I briefly wished I had taken a window seat, but only briefly. All too soon we left the lights of the city behind and sped out over the dark vastness of the eastern Alaska frontier.

Service started 25 minutes out with drink and dinner orders. Martin – our Flight Attendant – was as good as they come at Alaska Airlines, and that’s saying something. He truly was superb and did a marvelous job of looking after us throughout the flight. I requested a Bloody Mary to start and five minutes later was savoring its delicious tang (aided with a packet of my own Tabasco Sauce) along with a ramekin of warm mixed nuts.

Following its acquisition of Virgin America, Alaska instituted some substantial improvements to its First Class catering. Where Alaska’s flights from Fairbanks and Anchorage to Seattle once offered only one meal option, they now offer two. I’ve seen a few of these catering enhancements come and go over the years. They often last for three or four months before the bean counters alert management to the cost and the enhancements slowly get trimmed or go away altogether. Menu cards made a brief appearance back in April but they didn’t last long. Thankfully the enhanced catering is still being offered though. Tonight’s offerings were as follows:


Persian Spiced Chicken Breast
Accented with a flavorful yogurt sauce and accompanied by roasted yams and saffron rice with raisins and onions

Or


Butternut Squash Risotto Cakes
Topped with smoked tomato cream sauce and roasted root vegetables


I’ve been served both of these meals over the past month and I found them both quite tasty. However, I must admit to a bit of disappointment over seeing them again this month. While it’s true that the Fairbanks – Seattle run was catered differently last month, many of us continue on beyond Seattle and these two options were commonly offered all over the system. It’d be nice if Alaska rolled out completely different meals on back to back months so we’d be able to enjoy a bit more variety. When I worked at Frontier Airlines back in the 1970s we had four different meal cycles, changed each week. That was then, though. These days most airlines rotate their menus monthly. I just think it’d be nice if instead of taking the same four sets of entrees from month to month, we might get a completely different set of four the next month. Then we could go back to the first set, etc.

But enough whining! These are First Class problems and I doubt I’ll garner much sympathy from any of you over these sorts of trivialities. I requested a plate of the Persian Spiced Chicken and found it to be absolutely delicious – even if it was the third time I’ve had it over the past three weeks.



Persian Spiced Chicken Breast



Chocolate Brownie Dessert


After the plates were cleared off, I set to work on this trip report. Ideally, I’d like to get these published in a more timely fashion than my last one which was submitted almost six months after the fact. With seatmate effectively engrossed in a movie on his tablet, I had no extraneous distractions to hold me back and so managed to get a significant portion of the opening preamble fleshed out. I’ll go back over it three or four times in the next few weeks and then do a final edit before finally submitting this report for your approval.

Time flies when you’re having fun – that’s right, I actually enjoy working on these trip reports most of the time – and suddenly the flight attendants were in the aisles, clearing off the last of the service items and admonishing us to unplug our devices and return our seatbacks to the full upright position.

Some flights are too short, and this was one of them. Martin and his crew did a great job throughout the flight, providing ample evidence as to why Alaska Airlines has won JD Powers’ award for Highest in Customer Satisfaction amongst traditional carriers for the past eleven years in a row.

As for me – it’s all good. This trip and this trip report are off to a great start!


November 4, 2018
Alaska Airlines First Class ~ A321-200N ~ Seattle, WA to Los Angeles, CA ~ 850a–1145a ~ Breakfast


I was originally booked on the 6:00am departure down to LA, but was able to reconfirm on the 8:50am flight. When you factor in that daylight savings time had us roll our clocks back an hour last night, this was like a 9:50am departure. Woohoo! However, when you factor in the delay caused by what turned out to be unfounded concerns from the ramp agents of possible damage to the nose wheel exacerbated by the extra time it took to finally get the required paperwork signed off, it was 10:15am PST by the time we finally took to the air.

The aircraft operating today’s flight was N926VA, a six month old Airbus A321Neo equipped with the new LEAP engines. This was my first flight on a NEO variant of Airbus’ single aisle family and it was immediately apparent how much quieter the engines were both on take-off and inflight. It was noticeably nicer than your average everyday A321. Then again, I was sitting up in row 2, considerably forward of the engines but hey – this ain’t my first time flying First Class on an Airbus. Really, ambient noise from the engines was significantly diminished.

Also worthy of note was the distinctive special livery applied to this aircraft. This was the “More To Love” livery, an attractive merging of colors representing the merging of Virgin America and Alaska. The front third of the airplane is a deep ruby red which becomes magenta then purple and finally dark blue representing Alaska Airlines. Here’s a picture I took from the Alaska Lounge as the aircraft awaited boarding at gate D1…



Alaska’s “More To Love” A321NEO


Flight time down to LA was two hours and breakfast would be served enroute. This morning’s options were


Swiss Cheese, Leek and Potato Frittata
Served with bacon
Or

Breakfast Protein Plate


I’ve only ever been served the mid-afternoon Protein Plate so I don’t know what exactly is included in the breakfast version. I do know that I didn’t much care for the afternoon version and honestly, the name alone just doesn’t sound very appealing to me. I want real food with names that make sense to me – not some abstract collection of foodstuffs defined by a name that only a gym rat could appreciate.

As you might imagine, I ordered the Frittata. It was okay but it didn’t really present well on the plate. It would’ve benefitted nicely from some bread and potatoes - or if we want to score points with those health minded Southern Californians – perhaps some sautéed mushrooms or a broiled tomato. Here – judge for yourself…



Swiss Cheese, Leek and Potato Frittata with Bacon


We were blessed with a fairly clear and totally sunny day in California. There was a bit of marine haze (or was that smog?) and the remnants of a fogbank lurking just off the coastline. Otherwise, the peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains and the tall buildings in downtown LA were clearly visible. I thought about taking a picture or two but at this distance and with my little camera, I decided it probably wouldn’t be worth the effort.

We landed rather hard on Runway 24L, the one that requires about fifteen minute taxi around the airport just to get to the gates at Terminal 6. It’s uncanny how often I’ve landed on this runway. I should imagine Southwest Airlines passengers have it made as that airline operates out of Terminal 1, just a short jaunt off the runway.

Following a quick visit to the Alaska Lounge to address a couple of issues requiring internet access, I made my way out to the Red Zone and commenced a 25 minute wait for my bus to the Crowne Plaza. Normally the price of a room at the Crowne Plaza is a bit more than I like to pay but thanks to award funds available via Hotel.com, I was able to book a single room for just $65.00.



My Room at the LAX Crowne Plaza


Later that evening I met up with an old friend who just happened to be in town to visit his daughter who attends Loyola Marymount University. We had dinner at the Proud Bird Restaurant – an aviation themed eatery located just off the airport grounds. I was back at the Crowne Plaza by 10:00pm and in bed by 11. Tomorrow I had a great day of flying to look forward and a good rest tonight would assure that I’d be able to stay awake through most if not all of tomorrow’s 5,440 mile crossing of the Pacific Ocean.
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Old Dec 18, 18, 2:50 am
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November 5, 2018
Japan Airlines First Class ~ 777-300ER ~ Los Angeles, CA to Tokyo, JA ~ 1150a–445p ~ Lunch/Dinner


As one who’s logged over 5.4 million miles aloft including a couple million miles in First Class, you’d think the thrill of First Class flight would have become fairly blasé by now. While that may be true for most domestic flights around the U.S., I still find myself getting pretty excited for a flight in international First Class – even if it were on a lowly U.S. airline.

As such, one of my definitions for happiness is waking up in the morning knowing that I’ll soon be boarding a good long flight in international First Class to wherever. Today that flight will be aboard Japan Airlines’ well regarded First Class service across the Pacific to Tokyo. By well regarded, it’s worth noting that Japan Airlines is one of just nine world airlines to be awarded international air transport rating organization SkyTrax’s coveted 5-Star ranking.

I’ve flown Japan Airlines’ First Class twice now, though on both occasions they were eastbound flights from Tokyo to the U.S. I’ve really been looking forward to checking out JAL’s westbound service for a couple of reasons. First, the midday departure ensures a daylight flight and I much prefer daytime flying to nighttime flying. Secondly, I’m curious to see how JAL presents its meal service over this 11 hour flight. I know we’ll have lunch out of LA but what about the rest of the flight? In particular I'm interested in mid-flight menu and the pre-arrival dinner offerings. As one who has always been interested in inflight service and has long collected First Class menus, these are things that have me really looking forward to this afternoon’s flight more so than most.

As anyone who’s ever appreciated a quality First Class flight knows, the real experience begins on the ground. In particular I really look forward to enjoying the build-up to my upcoming First Class flight with a bit of pre-flight lounging. Over the years the First Class airport lounge has evolved into an integral part of the First Class experience, and many airlines have responded with some absolutely fantastic facilities offering everything from quality pre-flight dining to full on spas with complimentary treatments such as massages or facials.

It wasn’t always so. I remember my first international First Class experience while flying with Qantas between Vancouver and Honolulu in 1976. There was no lounge offered at YVR for that flight. My second international First Class flight came aboard Air New Zealand between Los Angeles and Papeete in 1981. That flight offered a lounge at LAX but space was extremely limited as were the food offerings which consisted of a few finger sandwiches, crudités and cocktail peanuts. The return flight from Papeete to LAX in First Class aboard UTA offered no lounge at all.

These days, International First Class lounges have really come into their own as exemplified by the spectacular facilities provided by:


• Qantas First Class Lounge at Sydney and Melbourne
• Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge at Bangkok
• Malaysian Airlines Golden Lounge at Kuala Lumpur
• British Airways Concorde Room at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5
• South African Airways Cycad First-Class Lounge at Johannesburg
• Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal & Lounge at Frankfurt
• Emirates First Class Lounge at Dubai
• Cathay Pacific First Class Lounges (The Pier & The Wing) at Hong Kong


There are more, of course, but my point being is that the best airlines have clearly recognized the benefits of providing their best customers with calm, elegant places to await their flights while enjoying all the benefits of a 5-star hotel experience.

At Los Angeles International Airport, one of the best pre-flight lounge experiences can be found at Qantas’ First Class Lounge up on the fifth floor of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Some would argue that this is the finest First Class Lounge at LAX, but I am inclined to hold off on such a lofty endorsement until I’ve had a chance to offer comparison via visits to the new Star Alliance Lounge and Emirates’ First Class Lounge.

I visited Qantas’ First Class Lounge earlier this year while flying First Class to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific. I was suitably impressed, especially with the dining area. As for the rest of the lounge, what can I say about a bunch of comfy seats? I tend to prefer lounges that offer smaller, more intimate seating areas and in this regard Qantas’ LAX lounge does just okay. Per my tastes at least - my favorite lounges have been British Airway’s Concorde Room at Heathrow and Emirates’ First Class Lounge at Dubai. But here, you can judge for yourselves…



Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX


Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX


Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX


Now then, with that out of the way, let’s get some breakfast!

The dining area is comprised of about 20 tables set alongside a long, stylish bar. The bar offered an impressive selection of bottled beers, wines and spirits set against a stylish contemporary back bar. Had it not been so early in the day, I would’ve happily toasted my good fortune with a glass of fine Australian wine or an equally delicious American made bourbon.



Qantas First Class Lounge Bar at LAX


Qantas First Class Lounge Bar Offerings


A waiter indicated I was free to sit wherever I liked and then came over with a menu while taking my drink request. Coffee and water, please. Perusing the menu, I didn’t see any main meals that piqued my interest, so I requested a plate of free range, organic eggs accompanied by bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes. I would hope it goes without saying that a crusty old dude like myself would never ask for “free range, organic eggs” because quite frankly I’m happy with just about any old egg, but hey - if “free range, organic” is what they’re offering, who am I to quibble?

Normally, I would have provided a picture of the menu but unfortunately, none of the pictures I took of today’s Autumn Menu met my standards for photographic clarity. Depending upon the subject matter, sometimes you can get away with a bit of blurriness but not with print. The idea is to be able to read the menu, and since that couldn’t be done from my photos, I deleted them.



Qantas First Class Lounge Dining Room


QANTAS First Class Lounge Breakfast


Aside from starting the day with a good breakfast, I didn’t have much else planned for my pre-flight activities. I perused the most recent edition of the New York Times International Edition and then made a couple of calls to friends and family so I could gloat about my good fortune via today’s flight. I mean, how often do you get a call from someone who’s about to cross the Pacific in the sumptuous luxury of a First Class suite aboard a Japan Airlines 777?

All too soon it was time to make my way down to gate 133, the farthest possible gate one could walk to from the 5th floor lounges at TBIT. Sigh… Better get walkin’. For some odd reason, the melody from Junior Brown’s “Long Walk Back to San Antone” stuck with me as I made my way down to the fourth floor and across the central commons before finally locating the concourse for the final 150 yards down to gate 133. If at this point you should suddenly feel a desire to listen to a bit of ‘ol J.B. yourselves, just click right
and enjoy!

I would’ve assumed that an almost full 777-300 scheduled to depart at 11:50am would’ve begun boarding by about 11:20 at the latest. In the case of today’s flight at least, I would’ve been wrong. The plane was at the gate and although the flight wasn’t listed as being delayed, boarding wasn’t scheduled until 11:30am. Okay.

Well, 11:30 came and went. No announcement as to the nature of our delay was ever made, and with none seemingly forthcoming I moseyed on over to the windows and took a meaningless snapshot of the aircraft operating today’s flight. Hmm… ship 736. This is the same plane I flew between Tokyo and Chicago a couple of years ago. What are the odds that out of JAL’s 17 active 777-300s I would get this one again? A quick check at flightradar24.com suggested that they’d be pretty high since this aircraft is scheduled to fly U.S. routes pretty regularly. Nice to see you again, old girl.



Ship 736 Awaits Boarding at LAX


When boarding was finally called at 11:40, it took seemingly forever to board the hordes of elderly and families with children. By the time they finally allowed First Class to board, it was almost 11:55. Given that we had our own dedicated jetway and none of the five of us up front were elderly or with children, I see no reason why they couldn’t have just let the five of us on with the first installment. Eh – whatever…

The usual reception committee was waiting at door 1L – two well turned out ladies wearing JAL’s attractive dark blue uniforms offset by white blouses and stylish reddish scarves. Both smiled effusively as one inspected my boarding pass while the other insisted in taking my roll-a-bord. We didn’t have far to go as I was situated in 1K.

I’m a guy that was raised to make do for myself, so it’s always a bit awkward when others insist on doing things for me that I’m so often used to doing for myself. After flying as much international First Class as I have, I’m used to the service standards and generally just let the crew do their thing. At the same time, when it comes to things like lifting my 25 pound roll-a-bord up into the overhead storage bin, I generally prefer to do that on my own – especially when the flight attendant is all of 5’ 4” tall. Even so, my flight attendant today insisted on doing as much of it as she could so I held back until the final push into the bin.

Now then, might I care for some Champagne or juice? Champagne, please. All of you who’ve read my past trip reports must surely recall by now that I am probably the only trip reporter out there who is not overly enamored of Champagne. However, I am also respectful of the tradition of commencing great travel experiences with a glass of the bubbly and so I can always choke down a half glass or so while we’re on the ground - even brands like Dom, Krug or, in today’s case, Cristal. Truth be known though, I’d be just as happy with a glass of $15.00 Freixenet from Spain. That said, I do have my standards. I wouldn’t even gargle with Cook’s or Franzia Brothers.

I could swear I’d seen Japan Airlines’ brown leather upholstered First Class recliners on sale in the Home & Garden Department at Sears. If not, it was a very close facsimile of them. My grandfather used to have a big brown leather chair like JAL’s as well. It is a classic design as recliners go and looks a bit out of place here on a 777.



JAL’s First Class Recliner


Not that I’m complaining though. Not at all! I like large seats. I mean – we’re in First Class here – they ought to be large, right? And spacious. It’s not really important to me to have the complete privacy afforded by an enclosed suite a la Emirates or Etihad. Mainly I want to be comfortable and enjoy a sense of space around me. JAL’s First Class suite scored well in both of these areas.

Not to get sidetracked here, but for sheer comfort my favorite International grade First Class suite was the one found aboard Cathay Pacific’s 747-400s. Those seats were wonderfully wide but most importantly they were perfectly padded - soft and welcoming but still reasonably firm. The suite provided good privacy without being totally closed in. Honorable mention goes out to Lufthansa for the recliner and seatside bed arrangement on its 747-400s.



Cathay Pacific’s 747-400 First Class Suite


Lufthansa’s 747-400 First Class Suite


And of course, almost all of the First Class seats from the 70s and 80s were supremely comfortable. The fact that they didn’t fully recline never kept me from a good flight’s sleep. Indeed, the best sleep I ever had was in a cradle style recliner aboard a United 747SP flying from Los Angeles to Sydney. Air New Zealand’s first generation Recaro recliners as offered aboard their first 747-200s were also very nice. Gotta love those lamb’s wool covers.



Air New Zealand’s 747 Recaro Recliner


Anyway, getting back to today’s flight, all of the usual amenities were waiting on or nearby the seat including a nice large pillow and a set of Bose QuietComfort® 25 headphones. The pillow had some decent density to it, too. Few things are more worthless to me than a soft, airy pillow. I want support and this pillow felt really good. I placed the pillow and its accompanying blanket in the storage bin above the seat and then accepted a glass of Champagne and a hot towel – the first of about a dozen hot towels delivered during the flight.

Like all airlines JAL provides an amenity kit, in this case presented in a colorful cloth zippered bag. Inside was the usual collection of amenity kit stuff – nothing particularly unusual and amongst the essentials at least nothing that I don’t already carry in my daypack as a matter of course. One difference between JAL and most other airlines is that JAL also provides a gender specific skincare kit. This one is made by Shiseido, one of the oldest cosmetics companies in the world. Photos of amenity kits are a dime a dozen here in the trip reports forum, but how many reporters have taken the time to photograph male skin care kits? To be honest, I haven’t kept track but in the interests of providing you all something completely different, here are a trio of photos detailing JAL’s male skin care kit. Alright then, find something sturdy to hold on to. Ready? Here we go!



JAL’s Shiseido Skin Care Kit for Men


JAL’s Shiseido Skin Care Kit for Men


JAL’s Shiseido Skin Care Kit for Men


You know, it occurs to me that I’ve flown almost five and a half million miles and never once have I slathered any kind of skin nourishing cream on my face. No disrespect intended to any of you that do but I look in the mirror every day and I think my facial skin looks just fine for a guy my age. Granted, I don’t smoke or drink to excess and my life is pretty stress free, so that helps I suppose, but geez, now that I think of it, how good would I look if I did start using those creams? But only inflight. I mean, who’s got time otherwise…

Anyway, enough with the creams! I left all that stuff on the plane anyway after the flight. I need to save room in my luggage for those Emirates amenity kits. It’s been a couple of years since I last flew on Emirates but if those kits are as nice as they used to be with the beautiful leather cases, I’m gonna grab as many as I can carry off the plane.

The next few minutes were taken up with all the usual pre-flight formalities. So many in fact that I was actually starting to get a bit annoyed with it all. Here I just wanted to sit back and enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet but it seemed like for a while there every couple of minutes someone new would stop by to introduce themselves or offer everything from newspapers to pajamas to refills to yet another hot towel. Still, I’ve been through this drill many times before and I’d like to think I dealt with it all reasonably graciously. The timing of all these pre-flight services today was just a bit much, perhaps because of the delayed boarding.

I don’t know when they finally buttoned us up, but finally we commenced the usual long taxi out to Runway 25R, seemingly located halfway down to Long Beach. I do recall that the Captain didn’t waste much time sitting at the head of the runway before putting the coals to his twin GE90-115Bs. Each of those babies puts out 115,300 lbf of thrust. The G forces up in suite 1K were impressive as we rocketed down the runway for a good 45 seconds or so before finally taking to the air. It was a pretty day and I had my camera ready as we passed over the coast and turned to the north.



Playa del Rey Beach with Marina del Rey Boat Channel


Point Dume off Malibu


Unlike flights between Los Angeles and Hong Kong which tend to take a more northerly track and hug the coast all the way up past Canada and Alaska, our route of flight had us leaving North America behind fairly quickly, tacking northwestward at about Point Buchon off San Luis Obispo. While the view of the Pacific on a nice sunny day is indeed pacifying, I’ve always enjoyed the coastal splendor of Canada and Alaska, continuing on down past the volcanoes of the Aleutian Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula. That’s alright though. Sunshine and Pacific splendor are always agreeable.



Today’s route of flight


Afternoon Delight


Now then, how about a drink? JAL presents its wine list and menu (along with immigration documents) in an attractive dark brown leather folder. Let’s have a look at that wine list, shall we?



Wine List


White Wines


Red Wines



WINE LIST

Champagne

Louis Roederer Cristal 2009
Bollinger La Grande Année 2007


White Wine
DuMOL Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2014 – California, USA
Rapaura Springs Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2017 – New Zealand
Jermann Pinot Grigio 2017 – Italy
Coco Farm & Winery “Orange Wine” Koshu F.O.S. 2015 – Japan


Red Wine
Roc de Cambes Côtes de Bourg 2012 Bordeaux – France
Paringa Estate Pinot Noir 2011 – Australia
Ch.igai Takaha “SONO” Pinot Noir 2016 – California
KUSUDA Martinborough Pinot Noir 2016 – New Zealand


Premium Japanese Sake
Dassai, Migaki Niwari Sanbu
Isojiman


Premium Japanese Shochu
Mori Izo
Hyakunen no Koduko


Port Wine
Graham’s Tawny Port 30 Years


BEVERAGES

Aperitif – Cocktail

Tio Pepe Dry Sherry
Martini Extra Dry Vermouth
Campari
Lejay Crème de Cassis
Plum Wine
Martini
Mimosa
Kir Royale
Kir
Bloody Mary


Whisky
Chivas Regal Royal Salute 21 Years
Suntory Hibiki 17 Years Old
L&G Woodford Reserve


Spirits
No. 3 London Dry Gin
Absolut Vodka


Brandy-Liqueur
Rémy Martin V.S.O.P.
Cointreau
Bailey’s Irish Cream



Normally I like to start things off with something stronger, like a scotch or bourbon. Still, it’s pretty early in the day yet. Not only that but it’s a beautiful day and here we are cruising just off the coast of California. All things considered I think I’ll have a glass of the California Chardonnay, please.

It’s worth noting here that service was not limited to just one flight attendant but rather was by committee. As such I never could figure out everybody’s name, but they all introduced themselves and were all very sweet - almost too much so. At times their approach seemed a bit over the top, occasionally bordering on fawning. To be sure, some of that perception may be on me given that I’m I’ve always been a pretty self-sufficient guy, more at home with doing it myself than having it done for me. At the same time, I’ve flown enough international First Class to appreciate that these ladies are just doing their jobs as best they know how, some of which may be influenced by cultural considerations. When it comes to Asian airlines, the one I find whose flight attendants best bridge the gap between East and West is Cathay Pacific.

My flight attendant presented my Chardonnay in a very formal and proper manner. First, she laid table linen and set down a good sized wine glass. Next, she presented the bottle to me with its label out of course. A small amount of wine was poured for my review and approval. Mmm… I nodded my approval. Oh yeah, that’ll do! I asked for and received just a half a glass however. There were other wines I was looking forward to sampling, not to mention at least one glassful of that 21 year old Chivas Regal Royal Salute.

Hey now, what’s this? As an added bonus perhaps, a small plate of canapés consisting of asparagus wrapped in ham and pate mousse on toast was presented. It was explained that this was not on the menu, but hey – no complaints here. Both wine and treats were delicious.



Still Life with Wine & Canapés


Culinary Art on Display


My flight attendant seemed mildly taken aback when I requested that I not start lunch until 1:30pm. Of the five of us up in the forward cabin, I was the only one not eating right away. Still, I’d just had breakfast only four hours earlier, so I was in no rush. That said, I had plenty of time to look over the menu…


LUNCHEON
Los Angeles to Tokyo

JAPANESE MENU

KOZARA

Chicken Roll with Welsh Onion
Simmered Fried Eggplant
Japanese Omelette with Salmon Roe
Snow Crab & Radish in Vinegar
Potato Cake with Steamed Sea Urchin


OWAN
Japanese Clear Soup with Grilled Sea-Bream and Mushroom

MUKOZUKE
Kelp Marinated Sea-Bream & Scallop

AZUKEBACHI
Steamed Savory Egg Custard with Mushroom, Truffle Oil

DAINOMONO
Beef Steak with Miso Sauce
Simmered Radish


HANMONO
Warm Chirashi Sushi
Or
Steamed Rice (We are pleased to offer freshly steamed Koshihikari Rice)


TOMEWAN
Miso Soup
Japanese Pickles


KANMI
MORIHACHI ~ Hodatsu Kudzu-kiri Premium & Kangohri Ichou (Yuzu Flavor)
Green Tea



* * * _  _ * * *


WESTERN MENU

AMUSE BOUCHE

Chilled Porcini Soup
Gougère, Fois Gras Mousse



HORS D’OEUVRE Choice

Caviar

Egg Yolk Mascarpone Cheese Cream, Smoked Sturgeon, Potato Blini

Or


Maine Lobster Carpaccio
Granny Smith Apple, Vanilla Beans Ginger Vinaigrette

Or


Sweet & Sour Granny Smith Apple Tart Tatin
Iberico Ham, Maple Oil


MAIN DISH Choice

U.S. Prime Beef Tenderloin

Taleggio Potato Galette, Spanish Migas Dip

Or


Seared Lamb Loin
Braised Shank Celery Root Cake, Jus, Salsa Verde

Or


Sautéed Sea Bass
Cauliflower & Mussel Veloute

Or


Cheese Sacchettini Pasta
Mushroom Sauce


Assorted Gourmet Breads


DESSERT

Vanilla Crème Brulée
Grand Marnier Tart
Passion Fruit Mousse



That’s a pretty extensive menu. Whatever one’s preference – be it Japanese or Western – it should be a pleasant endeavor to put together a feast amenable to even the pickiest eater. Now myself, I love Asian cuisine but I’m not particularly enamored of raw or lightly cooked fish or seafood based dishes, of which Japanese cuisine seems to have many. I tried the Japanese Menu while flying Business Class between Ho Chi Minh City and Tokyo earlier this year and while it was okay, I think I’ll stick to the western options from now on.

As such, I decided to start with the amuse bouche followed by the caviar and lobster hors d’oeuvres. I was surprised to see that no proper salad was offered, but that’s okay. There are plenty of other things here to take its place. As for the main dish… hmm… that lamb looks good but not so much for the celery root cake. Let’s go with the Beef Tenderloin. What’s that? Oh. Cooked medium rare, please. Oh – and may I trade my wine out for a glass of the Royal Salute? On the rocks, thanks.

I love airlines that not only ask how you’d like your meat cooked, but actually attempt to do so. Try finding a Flight Attendant on U.S. airline these days who’s been trained to make a similar offer, much less been trained to be able and willing to carry it out. Good luck. There are a few, but not many.

1:30 arrived and with all the punctuality of a Swiss train my Flight Attendant arrived with table settings that commenced with the laying of a fresh brown linen tablecloth followed by silverware, a butter and condiments plate, a bread plate and a large white linen napkin which she opened and placed on my lap.

Shortly thereafter the amuse bouche was delivered. Now my past experience with amuse bouches has been that they are small canapé sized morsels that serve as a taste of things to come. The term is French and literally means "mouth amuser". In fine restaurants they often provide an opportunity to showcase the artistry and showmanship of the chef. All of the ones I’ve been served on airlines like Swissair, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Aerolineas Argentinas et al. have been small and artistic. Today’s offering on JAL was unique given the cold mushroom soup. The Gougère, Fois Gras Mousse was more in keeping with most traditional amuse bouches. They were both delicious, accompanied admirably by the Royal Salute.



Amuse Bouche Course


Alright then, bring on the hors d’oeuvres!



Caviar
Egg Yolk Mascarpone Cheese Cream, Smoked Sturgeon, Potato Blini


Traditionally, caviar is served with crème fraiche and chopped up eggs (yolks and white separately) and onions with blinis or melba toast. On flights out of Japan JAL presents its caviar with a delicious egg yolk cream and crispy rice wafers. Though I prefer the traditional presentation, I really liked the flavor of that egg yolk cream and the texture of the rice wafers. Today’s presentation fell a bit short for me. The Egg Yolk Mascarpone Cheese Cream was not as flavorful as its counterpart created in the Tokyo fight kitchens. Additionally, I’m not a fan of blinis. They’re too mushy for my tastes. Thankfully there was a good and seemingly never ending supply of toasted garlic bread, my favorite platform for caviar consumption.



Maine Lobster Carpaccio
Granny Smith Apple, Vanilla Beans Ginger Vinaigrette


The lobster was delicious in both presentation and flavor. Again, artistry played a big part of this dish’s success. Lobster does the rest with its time honored taste and texture. Having polished off my scotch with the caviar, I decided to accompany the lobster with a tasty Japanese Orange Wine.

Alright then – it’s time for the main course. Meat can really be hit or miss with the airlines. We’ve all suffered through the occasional hockey puck being passed off as a steak – those are always memorable. Maybe it’s because so many of us take well cooked food or good service for granted that we tend not to remember those occasions with nearly the same fervor that we reserve for the times when they’ve failed. Still, I’ve had some pretty good meats on airlines though surprisingly the best tasting and best prepared ones were from many years past.

Forty years ago, airlines used to actually serve steak. That’s right – real strip loin that tasted like steak. This was true even when flying Coach aboard U.S. airlines. It’s been many years since I’ve tasted anything that good on an airplane. These days all you get is beef tenderloin – even on the best airlines like Emirates, Cathay and JAL. It just tastes like meat. Oh sure, you can dress it up with a sauce or apply salt and butter but underneath it all, it’s just meat.

Another great meat from years past was Chateaubriand – the aristocrat of roasts. On flights of three and a half hours or longer, Chateaubriand was standard fare in just about every First Class cabin in the U.S. United, Continental, American, TWA – they all served it with aplomb, carved from the trolley at your seat while you watched and tried not to drool. The anticipation was considerable. United used to serve this killer horseradish cream that the menu always described as “mild” but was occasionally strong enough that if you weren’t careful it would send you into paroxysms of sinus clearing ecstasy. And here’s the other great part to it all – the slices were carved to order. If you wanted an end cut or a 1” wide slab, it was yours if there was enough. These days you’re lucky if you get a 4-6oz portion of meat. Most restaurants refer to their 6-8oz petite sirloins as “Ladies Cuts” but what most airlines offer wouldn’t satisfy my 90 year old grandmother. The Airlines would have been embarrassed to serve portions that small in the old days.

True to the current style, JAL served me a fairly meager cut of meat but on a positive note it was very nicely cooked – medium rare just as I’d requested – and the accompanying potatoes, sauce and crunchy orange stuff (I never did figure out exactly what that was, but I liked it) were all excellent. I accompanied this portion of the meal with the French Bordeaux – a wine which by my tastes at least might have been one of those wines that fare better at sea level than in an airplane cabin.



U.S. Prime Beef Tenderloin
Taleggio Potato Galette, Spanish Migas Dip


Still, all things considered this was a pretty nice meal by today’s standards and – it wasn’t over yet. That’s right. It was time for dessert. Looking at the menu I assumed that there were three different desserts being offered, much like you’d find on Emirates – or even Cathay. As such, I requested a Grand Marnier Tart. No, no, said my flight attendant – all three items are offered as one dessert. The portions are just smaller. Well alrighty then – bring it on! With a cup of coffee, please.



DESSERT
Vanilla Crème Brulée, Grand Marnier Tart, Passion Fruit Mousse


I liked all three mini-desserts, though I would have enjoyed even more a properly sized portion of any one of them – especially the passion fruit mousse. Man, am I hard to please today or what? Still, thanks go out to JAL and the crew of flight 61 for doing a nice job. With only five people in the cabin, the service was unhurried yet timely and fairly typical of the standard for which Japan Airlines is held in such high regard.

By the time the last of my plates were cleared we were two and a half hours into the flight, speeding along at a sprightly 573 mph. With almost eight and a half hours still to go, it was time for a stroll to the back of the plane. Still, over the past two and a half hours I’d downed a bit of Champagne, Chardonnay, Blended Scotch, Orange Wine and finally French Bordeaux. As I sat there considering my stroll to the back, I was overcome by a sudden urge to nap.

The Flight Attendant was immediately on top of it – almost as if she’d been lurking in the galley keeping an eye on me – and then, at the first sign of eyelid droop, she sprung into action! I informed her that (unlike all of my fellow passengers up front) I intended only to nap for a bit, and so there was no need for the full bed service. Truth be told, I felt a bit bad that I’d denied her a chance at a service that she seemed to ready and willing to perform, not unlike Matthew Crawley in the television show Downton Abbey where he’s trying to come to grips with accepting the services of his valet Molesley. Still, it was only an hour’s nap – if that – and all I required was a slightly reclined seat.

When I awoke, it was to a totally darkened cabin. A quick check of my watch indicated it was only 5:30pm local time in LA. We still had a long way to go. I got up and made my way forward to the First Class lavatory where one of the flight attendants, perhaps feeling a bit bored, insisted on going ahead of me to open the lav door. It wasn’t locked, she just lowered the handle as I could have easily done and stepped out of the way to allow me to enter.

This is a classic example of a culture clash. For me, it all seems so totally unnecessary. It’s one thing to open or hold a door for someone entering a building, but to rush over and open the bathroom door? Really. Are there passengers out there who actually appreciate or expect service like this? I hope I never meet them. All I require is that the lavs be clean and well stocked throughout the flight. In any event, I hung back and let her do her thing. While I was in there though, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was standing just outside, poised and ready to offer any further assistance…

Right. Let’s take a hike, shall we? The -300 variant of Boeing’s triple-seven is a long airplane – longer even than the 747-400. With an interior cabin length approaching 200 feet, it’s a stroll that from front to back is longer than the entire length of a DC-10 or L-1011. JAL’s 777-300s are configured for four classes of seating: First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy. Each cabin is divided by heavy taupe curtains. I always expect to be challenged at some point by the flight attendants when I pass from one cabin to another but it has rarely ever happened. It’s almost as if all of the flight attendants are provided with pictures of the First Class clientele with the admonition “Let them pass!”

And so I did, making my way through the curtains from First Class into Business Class. Whoa! Business Class on JAL’s 777-300 is comprised of two cabins – the first being a very small cabin directly behind First Class. It contained just a single row of Sky Suites. Behind that was a galley, followed by a larger Business Class cabin comprised of six more rows of suites. “Suiting” was 7 across in a 2-3-2 configuration. Each of the interior suites (the ones not on the aisle) were accessed by a narrow passageway. I don’t think it was even a foot wide – fine for most people but perhaps a bit difficult for anyone carrying an excess of avoirdupois. The suites looked nice and orderly, but otherwise seemed a bit claustrophobic to me.

Moving on, I entered a 40 seat Premium Economy cabin. Now this was impressive! These seats were configured 2-4-2 but they offered excellent seat pitch – 42” according to Seatguru. The seats looked wide and well padded, and with all that extra legroom they looked like a great way to cross the Pacific.

Finally I came to the Economy Class cabin. On some airlines these cabins have a Dickensian air to them with the poor huddled masses therein stuffed into tiny seats with minimal seat pitch. Not so on Japan Airlines. Seating was configured 3-3-3, quite spacious in a time when many airlines are configuring the Economy Class cabins of their 777s in a ten across configuration. The seat pitch of 34” is also quite generous by Economy Class standards.

Like a swimmer doing laps, I touched the back wall of the 777 before turning around and returning to the forward cabin. It was interesting to see the change from the perspective of Economy to First. Those who’ve never flown anything but Economy Class look longingly at those Business Class Suites and perhaps even at the Premium Economy seats. Without doubt they are a big improvement over basic Economy. Still, as one who’s had the good fortune to have logged many flights in International First Class over the past 42 years, I can only say that once you’ve experienced the very best, especially on multiple occasions, it’s very difficult to accept anything less. So it was that when I parted the curtains and returned to the airy spaciousness of the First Class cabin, it was as if a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could just float back to my suite.

I’m sure those of you who’ve flown International First Class – even on lowly U.S. carriers – can appreciate where from I write. The space differential is huge and is a major part of the allure of First Class – especially on long international flights.

Returning to my suite, I decided to order a cheese plate to enjoy while putting in a bit of time on this report. I was far from current. In fact, I believe I was writing about the Seattle to Los Angeles flight at that point. More importantly however, I jotted down numerous observations and impressions about the service on this flight. It may be a few days or even weeks before I get around to writing about it but those notes – and especially the quality and detail of those notes – allow me to come back even weeks from now and still write a fairly comprehensive and detailed description of this flight.

Speaking of detail, more than a few people have asked me why I don’t take more pictures representative of the entire trip - things like the check-in counter, the First Class Lounge, the gate lounge, the cabin, the seats, the seat controls and/or the individual service items such as chopsticks or hot towels. These types of photos are commonly featured in many other reports and would appear to be quite popular. I can only say that after years of writing these reports (and also reading them), I’ve really never had much interest in detailing those sorts of things, either by photo or by writing about them. I might mention them casually in the general context of the service, i.e. “service started with a round of hot towels”, but other than that, well… I just don’t see the point of taking a picture of stuff like that. I mean, it’s a simple hot towel or a seat control panel or a crowded gate lounge. We all know what they are about and what they look like. Unless there’s something uniquely different about an item like that, I’m likely to pass over it.

But that view is mine alone. Clearly I’m in the minority as most others – many of them probably far more intelligent and well-traveled than I - apparently do like those types of photographs. I will say that I can appreciate that many of those types of pictures – be it subject matter or by their sheer volume – do help paint a more thorough picture of what the flight was like from start to finish. Me, I’m just not interested enough in that sort of stuff to photograph it or report on it and so I push it to the fringes or just ignore it altogether when I write my own reports.

By the way, one of the most common comments I get is that people have to look up some of the words I use. What can I say? They seem like the right words for the context in which I use them and if you look them up I think you’ll find my usage to be spot on though I’m always open to correction should anyone know better.

Now then, how ‘bout that cheese plate?



JAL’s Cheese Plate
With 30 Year Old Port!!


Can you believe there were no crackers available to be served with the cheese? The flight attendant had to go back to Business Class where she managed to find a single packet of Water Crackers. That’s all there was. Well dang, I’ve never been able to eat just plain cheese. I need something else to add to both the flavor and texture. I stretched my single packet of Water Crackers out as far as I could, which allowed me to get through most of the Brie as well as the Blue Cheese (I think it was Stilton).

All was forgiven however after that first sip of port. Oh My God! Heaven in a glass! The Graham’s 30 Year Old Tawny may well be the closest I’ve come to matching what is for me the standard bearer for all ports – the Warre’s, 1986, Reserve Tawny Port as served in BA’s First Class between 2002 and 2006. What a treat!

I savored my first glass slowly with the cheese, and my second glass at an even more leisurely pace with a plate of mixed nuts. It is moments like these, comfortably sat in a state of the art suite drinking 30 year old port while cruising serenely over the North Pacific on a beautiful sunny afternoon that create such indelible memories of the magic of International First Class air travel. Ah… it’s a good life.

As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun – especially if you consider flying in and of itself fun. When I was younger, any flight was fun. I’d lay awake for nights in advance of an upcoming flight so excited that I could hardly sleep. Aside from the fact that I simply hadn’t flown all that often back then, the airlines made flying more enjoyable by providing distinctive and quality services. I used to fly from Colorado back to school in New York aboard Trans World Airlines Ambassador Class flights, complete with beautiful menus featuring a choice of three entrees. And this was in Coach! North Central was famous for its picnic lunches. Braniff had its colorful airplanes and served the best fried chicken in the skies, complete with corn on the cob and blueberry cobbler. Continental had five-across seating on its 727s and spacious lounges on its DC-10s while Western offered First Class legroom on all of its flights along with free champagne. Flying back in the 1970s represented flying at its finest and I was fortunate to have logged almost a thousand flights by the time the eighties rolled around.

These days – after over 5,500 flights (This flight is my 5,501st) I’m rather more relaxed for your garden variety U.S. domestic flights. International First Class travel is still cause for considerable anticipation however. I type up complete itineraries for all of my extended trips and in the days and weeks ahead of my travels much time is spent reviewing those itineraries in anticipation of the adventure ahead.



The Itinerary For This Trip


Back in the sixties and seventies, most long daylight flights like this were enjoyed with the window shades up – or, in the case of the DC-8 - with the curtains pulled back. Flying was still exciting enough back then that people actually enjoyed the view, not to mention the sunny ambience of the afternoon sun lighting up the cabin. These days the adventure of flight has long since lost its cachet and this, combined with the advent of digital entertainment in the form of seat back TVs, personal I-pads and the like mean that most modern airplane cabins quickly become little more than dark tubes for most of the flight, regardless of the time of day.

As such, it was with a tiny twinge of guilt that I briefly raised my window shades to admire the beauty of the vast Pacific Ocean on this gorgeous afternoon.



Pacific Splendor


Turning my attention to more modern entertainment, I dialed up the flight map to check out our progress thus far…



Flight Map JL 061


Following another trek to the rear of the airplane and back, I settled in for a bit of work on this report. After a bit, one of the flight attendants stopped by to inquire if she could bring me anything and just happened to notice the picture on my screen, which at that time was of the canapés and wine taken earlier in the flight. We got to chatting about inflight services and I opened up a few more files with pictures of First Class services from the likes of Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Asiana and of course Emirates. By the time we were half way into it two more FA’s had stopped by and we had quite a nice time reviewing some of the services of old via my large collection of airline ads and inflight service pictures from the 1960s and 70s. We all remained remarkably quiet, enjoying the photos with hushed excitement. For my part, it was nice to have such an interested and engaging audience. Back home nobody cares about this stuff and at FlyerTalk with its membership now exceeding 700,000, only a tiny fraction have any interest in airline history, particularly as viewed through the lens of inflight service.

We were about two hours out of Tokyo when I retrieved the menu to consider my options for the light meal service to be offered prior to our arrival. Let’s have a look, shall we?


A LA CARTE

JAL’s Recommendation

Soy Marinated Tuna & Grated Yam Rice Bowl

SNACK

Japanese Delicacies

Soy Marinated Sea Urchin
Whitebait with Spicy Cod Roe
Salted Squid


Assorted Appetizers
Sliced Duck Breast
Dried Fruits Mixed with Grated Radish



LIGHT MEAL

Cheese Sacchettini Pasta

Mushroom Sauce

Vegetable Curry
With Hokkaido Potatoes & Onions

Beef Fajita
Served with Spanish Rice

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Fresh Salad


NOODLES

JAL Original Healthy Ramen Noodles from Kyusyu “Kyushu Jangara”

Healthy Ramen Noodles of Vegetable Origin in Pursuit of Good Taste (UMAMI) without using meat.
Topped with Yuba Roll


Japanese Hot “Udon” Noodles
Seaweed


CHEESE SELECTION
Assorted Cheese with Traditional Accompaniments

REFRESHMENT
Assorted Seasonal Fresh Fruits
Ice Cream
Chocolate





JAPANESE SET PLATE

Dainomono

Simmered Black Cod in Sweet Soy Sauce

Kobachi
Sautéed Lotus Root

Steamed Rice
Miso Soup
Japanese Pickles



WESTERN SET PLATE

Main Dish

Smoked Salmon Cake Egg Benedict

Assorted Gourmet Breads

Greek Yogurt

Mango Sauce


Whoa, Nellie! That’s a lot of options! Well now… let’s start with a salad, followed by… Is the beef fajita plate very big? It’s not? Okay then, I‘ll have one of those. Finally, JAL’s Recommendation, the Soy Marinated Tuna & Grated Yam Rice Bowl actually sounds pretty good, so let’s finish with that. Dessert? Ah… no. I think that’ll be plenty, thanks.

The menu simply stated “Fresh Salad”, so I was expecting a generic collection of mesclun greens accented with a couple of cherry tomatoes and maybe some carrots and/or green peppers. Well I got the mesclun greens and tomatoes part right, but I missed the slivered almonds, olives, orange section and this weird white thing in the middle of it all. At first, based upon taste and texture I thought it was some sort of weird cheese until I hit yolk. Weirdest egg I’ve ever been served. Add to that the fact that the salad dressing was so mild as to be irrelevant and I ended up returning this salad to the flight attendant half eaten.



JAL’s Fresh Salad with Egg


After that salad, I was beginning to have some anxieties about the potential quality of a Japan Airlines fajita but ultimately my concerns were unwarranted. The fajita was served with Spanish rice, two tortillas and a decently spiced portion of grilled and sliced steak meat. I added my own packet of Tapatio® hot sauce and found my fajita to be quite spicy indeed with the additional hot sauce. All that was missing per my tastes were some freshly sliced jalapeños.



JAL’s Fajita Plate


As for the Tuna Bowl – I should have known it would be raw tuna but after rising at 6:30am and having since flown nearly nine hours across the Pacific, perhaps I was a getting a bit punchy. Either way, raw tuna and I do not get along well, although I did try a couple of bites in one last attempt to reconcile our differences. Nope. It wasn’t gonna happen. Honestly, you really have to be raised on food like this to appreciate it. Perhaps I will in another lifetime, but not today thanks.



Soy Marinated Tuna & Grated Yam Rice Bowl


Overall however, the amount of food I was able to eat proved sufficiently satisfying - especially those fajitas – and so by the time plates were cleared and we’d begun our descent into Narita I was indeed well and truly sated.

Although our flight across the Pacific had been relatively, well, pacific, our descent into Narita was through multiple layers of clouds and rain. Fifty shades of gray as it were – meteorologically speaking. We touched down smoothly under a steady rain and taxied smartly to our gate out on the Terminal 2 extension. This meant a long walk over to Customs and Immigration, though thankfully once there I was processed through fairly quickly.

Another long walk ensued out to bus stop 25, the designated stop for the Narita Tobu Hotel, my accommodation for the night. I stayed at this property last year and found it to be okay, with its primary benefits being a nice restaurant off the lobby and a reliable shuttle bus service to and from the airport. After tonight’s stay I will also give props for room quality, given my assigned room in the West Wing which was much nicer than my room last year in the older East Wing.



My Room at the Narita Tobu Hotel
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Last edited by Seat 2A; Dec 21, 18 at 3:37 pm
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Old Dec 18, 18, 2:57 am
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: Alaska Airlines Million Miler, United Airlines Million Miler, Wyndham Rewards Diamond Level
Posts: 8,126
November 7, 2018
Japan Airlines Business Class ~ 787-9 ~ Tokyo, JA to Kuala Lumpur, MA ~ 1150a–645p ~ Lunch/Snack
Uzbekistan Airways Economy Class ~ 767-300 ~ Kuala Lumpur, MA to Singapore, SI ~ 745p-850p


I went to bed at 6:30pm local time last night, which made it easy for me to be up at 4:00am this morning. After a shower and some coffee, I put in some work on this report and then headed downstairs to the Oasis Restaurant for the $19.00 breakfast buffet.

By 8:00am I was on my way back to Narita where I was efficiently checked in and given directions to the Sakura Lounge, conveniently located directly across from my gate – once again in the distant Terminal 2 extension.

Somehow, I neglected to take any pictures of this lounge which is unfortunate as I thought by Business Class standards it was a very nice lounge. It was decorated with warm woods accented with comfy earth tone chairs and large windows allowing in plenty of beautiful natural light. The windows provided a nice view of the tarmac, dominated though it was with only JAL liveried aircraft. You’ll find a link to a You Tube review right

In all other respects, this was a fairly standard International caliber Business Class lounge with a nice selection of food stuffs (I should’ve skipped the $19.00 buffet and eaten over here!) and a well-supplied business center with actual desks to sit at. This is a big complaint I have with many airline lounges overseas – that being that they often don’t provide proper work areas with individual desks and ergonomically correct chairs. Thank you, JAL!

At 11:30am I headed out across the corridor to my gate where the boarding process for my flight to Kuala Lumpur was just beginning. I’ve flown a couple of 787-8s with JAL but this would be my first flight aboard JAL’s 787-9 with its highly touted Sky Suites. Boarding was very organized with two young ladies parading about the gate lounge with large signs, much like you’d see at a boxing match between rounds. Top level elites boarded first, followed by older people and families and then Business Class and so on down the line. The ladies waved their signs and helped direct people into the proper lines. There were a few gate lice around but nothing like the infestation typically seen at U.S. airports.

JAL’s 787-9s are configured for Business, Premium Economy and Economy Classes – no First Class is offered. Now that I think of it, are there any airlines operating 787s of any variant with a proper International First Class cabin? None come to mind…

I was assigned suite 12K, located one row from the rear bulkhead in the second Business Class cabin. This row is so far back that it’s actually midway over the wing. Out the window I got an impressive view of the engine pylon and cowling. The suites are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration as opposed to the 2-2-2 angled flat seats of the 787-8’s Business Class cabin. On paper these Sky Suites sound pretty nice but the reality of it is the same problem I have with most of these modern, prefabricated suites. That is to say you’re squeezed into this tight little molded plastic compartment where the side walls are right up on you and any sense of spaciousness is diminished to such an extent as to be essentially nonexistent. Perhaps I’d offer a more charitable assessment of these suites if I were a 5’6” tall 140lb local instead of being the comparatively gargantuan 6’0” 200lb behemoth that I am. Unfortunately, the bad news didn’t end there…

The seats were rock hard – right up there with the best Chinese Soft Sleeper I’d experienced on last year’s seven day journey between Moscow and Beijing. We’re talking something akin to industrial strength all-weather patio furniture here. I think it’d be fair to say that most decent airlines’ (i.e. non ULCC) airlines’ standard Economy Class seats would be more comfortable to sit in than these. Yes, they do extend to a 180° lie-flat surface but they are quite narrow and your feet are forced into a tiny dark opening down at the very end. Suffice it to say that I took an immediate dislike to these suites and – had Premium Economy not been completely sold out – I would have happily relocated back there after the meal.

Seating issues notwithstanding, the 787 is an otherwise very nice airplane. Big windows, quiet engines, top notch cabin air filtration system and a nice, wide cabin. What a shame some airlines like JAL and Air New Zealand have found a way to so effectively muck up their Business Class cabins on this aircraft. You want a proper example of a great 787 Business Class cabin, see how Etihad or Qatar Airways do theirs.

Take off was 39 seconds of a gloriously powerful charge down the runway until finally we’d achieved sufficient speed to defeat the twin forces of gravity and drag and roared into the cloudy skies above Tokyo. Our route of flight took us due south over the North Pacific before making a slight course correction to the southwest and flying over the heart of the Philippine Archipelago until we turned southwest even more and bee-lined it straight into Kuala Lumpur. Flight time over the 3,350 mile route was projected to be 6 hours and 52 minutes. Luncheon and a light meal would be served enroute.

Hot towels were doled out and collected, followed shortly thereafter by the presentation of the menus. By outside appearances, this menu was the same size and color as the First Class menu from my trans-Pacific flight the day before. Inside however, it was substantially different starting with the inclusion of the Wine List at the front of the menu. Let’s get a drink and then check out the rest of the menu…


WINE LIST

Champagne

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve N.V.

White Wine
Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2016 – South Africa
IGP Collines Rhodaniennes “La Combe Pilate” Viognier 2016 - France
Rapuara Springs Classic Sauvignon Blanc 2017 – New Zealand


Red Wine
Ch.Loudenne, Medoc Cru Bourgeois Cabernet Sauvignon 2007- France
Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Qualitätswein Trocken 2015


Sake
Toyo-Bijin Junmai Daiginjo (Yamaguchi)
Niwano Uguisu Junmai Daiginjo (Fukuoka)



Aperitif & Cocktail
Sherry
Campari
Plum Wine
Martini
Bloody Mary


Whisky
Suntory The Hakushu (Single Malt)
Chivas Regal
Jack Daniels Black


Spirit
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Absolut Vodka


Brandy & Liqueur
`Cognac Rémy Martin
Cointreau
Bailey’s Irish Cream


Beer
International Selection

Japanese Shochu
Imo Shochu”Tomi no houzan” (Kagoshima)
“Isadaisen” (Kagoshima)
Mugi Shochu “Nakanaka” (Miyazaki)



Hmm… I miss that fabulous 21 year old Royal Salute already… Nectar of the Gods… In its place I guess I’ll have… a Jack Daniels on the rocks, please. And you?

Drinks were served with packets of crispy rice thingies, which are okay I guess but still not as good per my tastes as roasted, lightly salted almonds. I grew up in an era when a packet of roasted smoked almonds was de rigueur during cocktail hour in the troposphere. And that was in Coach. Macadamia nuts were served in First Class. I don’t see any reason why I should change my ways now. Thankfully I was able to enjoy my Jack with said almonds as years of experience have taught me to bring along a half-filled Ziploc baggie’s worth on all of my trips. Either that or I’ll purchase in advance a couple of sleeves of the Blue Diamond brand at most any convenience store. Priced at just $1.99 a sleeve, they represent a flavorful and affordable upgrade over cheap substitutes like pretzels and rice thingies. Here, have a handful. Cheers!

Awright then, I can see the Flight Attendants are making their way through the cabin taking luncheon orders. Guess we’d better have a look at that menu again…


LUNCHEON
Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur

JAPANESE MENU

CRIMSON SKY ~ Selection of seasonal colorful delicacies

Flower-Shaped Lotus Root*Simmered Pacific Saury*Japanese Pepper Flavor Rolled Omelette*Taro
Cauliflower Purée & Bonito Broth Jelly Topped with Caviar
Braised Pork Sukiyaki Style*Carrot*Slow Cooked Egg*Shiitake Mushroom*Welsh Onion*”Konnyaku” Noodles
Vinegared Persimmon & Vegetables Dressed with Sesame Cream
Tuna “Sashimi” with Grated Radish Citrus Soy Sauce


Dainomono
Pork Loin Cutlet with Cooked Egg
Deep Fiied Cutlassfish


Steamed Rice
We are pleased to offer freshly steamed “Yukigura Imazurimai” Kohishikari rice

Tomewan
Miso Soup
Japanese Pickles


Kanmi
Rice Wafers stuffed with Matcha Milk Flavored White Kidney Bean Jam

Green Tea



WESTERN MENU

Hors D’Oeuvre

Marinated Mushrooms & Pork Rillettes

Main Dish ~ Choice

Japanese Beef Sirloin Steak

Black Currant Sauce

Paella
With Freshwater Clam, Cod, Scallop & Syamorock Chicken


Special Bread from Maison Kayser
Petit Pain d’Assas
Petit Pumpkin Ekmek


Dessert
Apple Pudding

Coffee or Tea



Not bad, not bad… The Japanese menu looked quite extensive compared to the Western menu. Still, I’ve been there, done that with inflight Japanese cuisine and so I’ll stick with the Western option. To that end, the paella looked different and good. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen paella offered onboard a flight (Maybe it’s offered on Iberia, which I’ve yet to fly), especially with Syamorock Chicken – whatever that is. So then, paella it is. Oh – and I’d like to switch to a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc with the hors d’oeuvre, please.

Meals were brought out and delivered in a very timely and efficient fashion. I mean, here I am back in row 12 hoping I might get served before we hit the Philippines but kudos to the ladies of JL 723 today. They were impressive to see in action. We were probably only an hour into the flight when I was presented a tray bearing small glass bowls of salt crystals and butter, a pepper shaker, two plated rolls and the hors d’oeuvre plate, which contrary to the menu description looked more like a salad with the mushrooms and pork served atop a bed of field greens.



Marinated Mushrooms & Pork Rillettes


So that’s what a “rillette” is. The salad was drizzled in a light dressing with hints of soy and sesame. It was surprisingly tasty, especially for a guy who prefers the zest of a good balsamic vinaigrette.

Moving right along, my tray was efficiently cleared; my wine was refilled and soon after the main course was delivered. Oooo – that looks nice. It smells nice, too. And it was a decently sized portion as well. Here – check out the picture:



Paella JAL Style
With Freshwater Clam, Cod, Scallop & Syamorock Chicken


Visually attractive as this dish was, it was also every bit as tasty as it looked. It was definitely one of the better Business Class entrees I’ve had of late.

Dessert was pretty good, too. Is the U.S. the only country in the world where “puddings” are typically a creamy custard like substance served in a bowl? Maybe not. I’ve had “puddings” on BA and Cathay Pacific that seemed more like small cakes, and this “pudding” on JAL seemed more like a custard. Whatever you want to call it, at the end of the day call it good and wash it down with a cup of so-so coffee. Overall though, thanks to JAL for a very nice Business Class luncheon.



Apple Pudding


After lunch, I commenced the first of several laps around the cabin. Realistically this was maybe three over the course of the entire flight, so it’s not like I was constantly roaming the aisles. Still, I may have been the only one from Business Class to wander back into the nether regions of the airplane. I know, I know… for most people there’s just no reason to go back there - bad neighborhood and whatnot. My reason for doing so is that during a long flight the movement does me good. I’m no spring chicken anymore and extended sitting tends to have a deleterious effect upon my back that ultimately extends up into my right arm and down both legs. Eventually the progression of this issue will likely mean the end of long distance flying for me but for now here I am and I’m enjoying the walk.

The Premium Economy cabin located behind Business Class includes 35 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. The seat pitch is a generous 42 inches and had it not been completely sold out back there, I would have given serious consideration to trading out my rock hard and claustrophobic Sky Suite for one of the open and spacious Premium Economy seats. I did this once aboard Air New Zealand’s 787-9 where the Premium Economy seats were as comfortable as some smaller DC-9 sized First Class seats.

Continuing on back through another set of curtains and into the Economy Class cabin, I was surprised to see that JAL configures this cabin in a 2-4-2 arrangement. So far as I know, regular Economy on every other 787 operator translates to a 3-3-3 configuration. JAL tends to utilize its 787-9s primarily on longer flights, including from Japan to the U.S. Knowing what I know now, I would avoid JAL’s Business Class because of its suites but would not hesitate to fly with them were I economy minded.

We were about an hour and a half out of Kuala Lumpur when the flight attendants came round inquiring if we’d like anything more to eat. The menu had included a further collection of light items listed under “Anytime” selections. If I can find it here, I’ll transcribe the contents. Ah, there it is in the seat back pocket hidden behind the newspaper.


ANYTIME

Cheese Selection

Assorted Cheese with Crackers

JAL Original Snack Noodle
Champon de Sky
Udon de Sky
Soba de Sky


PRIOR TO ARRIVAL

Chinese Rice Dumpling
Or
Ice Cream



Despite my affinity for airline food, oddly enough I wasn’t all that hungry. I’ve never been a big fan of Udon or Soba noodles anyway, and when I asked the flight attendant what a Chinese Rice Dumpling was, the best I could make out was that it was a bunch of rice. When I asked if it contained any meat or other flavoring, that query moved our conversation into an area for which her limited English skills were ill-equipped. I ordered an ice cream instead.

I should note here that I don’t really have any issues with the FA’s language skills or lack thereof. First off, broken Ingrish notwithstanding, she could still speak better English than I could Japanese. Secondly, we were flying between Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur, a route which might not require the same level of English proficiency as routes to the U.S. or U.K.. Then again, amidst all of the world’s languages, English has become – for better or worse – the main default language for communication. If someone from Hungary meets someone from Zambia in the middle of Uruguay, hopefully they both know enough English to muddle through a basic conversation. One hundred years from now, who knows - Mandarin might be the default language.

Unfortunately most of the land and water beneath our route of flight was hidden beneath heavy cloud cover. It was a real shame too because after spending the first four hours of the flight over open ocean, we turned southwest just north of the Philippine island of Luzon and flew along the coast of Vietnam before descending over the Gulf of Thailand into Kuala Lumpur. I wouldn’t have seen much given my seat over the wing, but still…

When we landed twenty minutes early in Kuala Lumpur, I couldn’t have been happier. Per the schedule, I had just an hour and thirty-five minutes to make the connection to my 198th airline flown – Uzbekistan Airways. Prior to the flight I’d attempted to check-in online, but apparently this most rudimentary of functions in today’s modern world was only available to passengers originating out of Moscow or Tashkent, and then only through a third party. As an added bonus, when I tried to access the Uzbekistan Airways (HY) website, the anti-virus program on my computer came to life with all manner of dire warnings. I quickly backed off. (By the way, I made my booking with HY through the online travel agency Trip.com)

Thankfully this situation came to a happy ending. When I had checked in this morning at Tokyo, the counter agent had collected a lot of information about my onward flight from Kuala Lumpur. At the time I had assumed this had something to do with Malaysian Immigration/Transit requirements, but upon emerging from the jetway I was surprised to find a uniformed Malaysian Airlines agent holding a sign with my name on it.

Malaysian Airlines is the ground handling agent for Uzbekistan Airways at KUL. The information JAL had collected this morning had been forwarded to KUL and I was thrilled to be informed that I had already been checked in and that all I had left to do was present myself at the gate in a timely manner to collect my boarding pass. As an added bonus, my departure gate was directly across the concourse at C35. WooHoo!

Now with an hour and forty-five minutes of free time until departure, I had plenty of time to take advantage of my Priority Pass and visit the Plaza Premium Lounge. As a long time Priority Pass holder, I‘ve become familiar with Plaza Premium lounges at airports all over the world. Operated by the Plaza Premium Group, the Plaza Premium Lounge brand represents the largest independent airport lounge network in the world. I’ve visited their locations at a diverse collection of airports ranging from Vancouver to Hong Kong to London Heathrow to Brisbane to Singapore. This would be my second visit to the KUL lounge.

The lounge is located on the mezzanine level of the Satellite Terminal, easily accessed by escalator or elevator. Unfortunately, as with my visit two years ago, I arrived at the entrance to find a line of about a dozen people that extended out into corridor outside the lounge. The reason for this line was the check-in procedure employed by the lounge staff here at KUL. At every other Plaza Premium lounge I’ve been to, you present your card which is swiped and then you sign your receipt. Not so here at KUL. Although the receptionists were essentially following the same procedure, it just took them longer. A manager actually stood by and timed each transaction to ensure that it took no longer than two minutes.

Eventually my turn came and I was processed into the lounge. By the time I finally got in there though, I only had about 30 minutes to enjoy the facilities. In a recessed alcove just off the entrance was a buffet area featuring a variety of good looking hot dishes. I put together a nice plate of peppered chicken and veggies over rice. At the bar, complimentary Carlsberg Pilsner was on tap. Nice. I found a table and enjoyed my quick dinner before once again gathering my gear and making my way back down the concourse to C-35.



Plaza Premium Lounge at KUL


As with Singapore’s Changi, security checks are performed at the gate at KUL. Thankfully the line was short and the process fairly quick. We were about twenty minutes from scheduled departure when boarding commenced. Surprisingly, no boarding announcement was made. An airport employee simply opened the door to the jetway and gestured with a minimal hand wave for people to go ahead and board.



Uzbekistan Airways HY 552 is ready to board


There was no secondary passport and boarding pass check, just a simple gesture to board. The response was surprisingly restrained. Although there were perhaps one hundred people in the gate lounge, nobody got up and rushed the jetway. A couple of people seated nearby slowly got up and ambled on into the jetway. Then a couple more, and then a couple more. Eventually the gate lounge as a whole understood boarding was underway, but even then people seemed in no hurry to rush onboard. It was a refreshing change from the usual stampede that often ensues upon the call to board. Sooooo-wheeeeee!

Uzbekistan Airways is a young airline that got its start upon the breakup of the Soviet Union. Its first flight was between Tashkent and London in 1993. While the initial fleet was made up of older Russian built aircraft and a couple of used Airbus A310s, the current fleet is comprised of modern, all-Western equipment that includes ten Airbus A320s for regional flights and Boeing 757-200, 767-300 and 787-8s for longer flights.
The aircraft operating tonight’s flight was a seven year old Boeing 767-300 registered UK-67004. A check of the aircraft’s history indicated it was bought new from Boeing and was owned by the airline, not leased. Navy blue uniform clad flight attendants greeted us at the door, examined our boarding passes and directed us on our way down one of the two aisles. Inside, the cabin was as modern and comfortable as you’d expect of any proper airline. The blue cloth upholstered seats were well padded and comfortable, much nicer than the cheap leather clad Slimline type seats so popular on many Western carriers.
Seatmate was a rumpled unshaven older gentleman – assumedly from Uzbekistan – who greeted me with a nod and returned to his nap. The flight attendants did a great job of greeting and assisting passengers as they made their way down the aisles to their seats. Once everyone was onboard, trays bearing glasses of juice were brought around. With a flight time of just 42 minutes down to Singapore, this would be the only service offered in the Economy Class cabin.

Once inflight, I took some time to investigate the inflight entertainment options. The 9” seatback screens offered all the usual options of music, movies and games, though the quantity of each was limited. For example, there were four or five Uzbek music albums along with a similar number each of pop, jazz and new age options.



Uzbekistan Airways Entertainment Options


The movies, however, were a different story. The twenty or so selections contained a veritable treasure trove of Uzbek, Russian and European classics, the likes of which we never get to see on our comparatively staid and boring U.S. airlines. Let’s check a few out:



Oh Maryam, Maryam!


Yolki 3


Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka


They can easily assemble magnum with their eyes tied


Under “Airline Info” was an informative piece titled “How to Act in Condition of Turbulence


How to Act in Condition of Turbulence


Some flights are simply too short. If only based upon the quality and content of the movie selection, this was one that I could have enjoyed for a few more hours. Looks like I may have to go to Uzbekistan someday…

We descended through wispy evening clouds and executed a textbook perfect landing at Changi. That is to say it felt like it, at least. Smooooooooth. Very smooth. We parked down at the end of Terminal 1, next to a beautiful shiny A380 from BA. Years ago I used to fly the SIN-LHR route every year on BA, always on 747-400s, always in First Class. The 747 is by far my favorite long distance aircraft but just once I’d like to log a flight in the forward cabin of BA’s A380. I really want to go to Mauritius and the Seychelles Islands while I still can, so Perhaps BA will be the airline of choice to get me there.

I should have booked a room at the convenient Terminal 1 Transit Hotel, but instead I’d booked a room at the nearby Village Hotel Changi if only because it had a complimentary airport shuttle. Between waiting for the shuttle and getting back to the airport in the morning, I was left with just six hours to sleep. Thankfully the bed was comfortable and the air-conditioning blissfully efficient. I awoke the next morning feeling surprisingly good.
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Old Dec 18, 18, 3:02 am
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November 8, 2018
Air Mauritius Economy Class ~ A330-200 ~ Singapore to Kuala Lumpur ~ 900a–1000a
Malindo Air Economy Class ~ 737-900 ~ Kuala Lumpur to Phuket ~ 240p-310p ~ Snack
Thai Vietjet SkyBoss Class ~ A320-200 ~ Phuket to Bangkok ~ 625p – 755p ~ Dinner


I vividly recall the excitement of flying on my 100th airline – a New York to Ft. Lauderdale turn aboard Spirit Airlines. Back then, Spirit still had reasonably comfortable airplanes with reclining seats and decent seat pitch. As an added bonus and one hell of a fortuitous coincidence to wit, the aircraft assigned to my flight was N814NK, a DC-9-83 dressed up in a colorful livery commemorating Spirit’s 10th Anniversary. You can view a picture of that airplane right HERE

It’s always exciting to fly on a new airline, especially when it’s a relatively exotic airline such as Air Mauritius or Thai Vietjet. That these two airlines will represent my 199th and 200th airlines flown is just more proverbial frosting on my prodigious 198 layer cake.

The day got off to an early start with a 5:45am wake up call. 45 minutes later I was on the hotel shuttle, weaving through the early morning Singapore traffic before being dropped off at Changi’s Terminal 1. Check in was a breeze, and I was thankful that the counter agents said nary a word to me about my roll-a-bord bag. From the website I was under the impression that I’d only be allowed one carry-on. I was handed a boarding pass for seat 12A and, after brief visits at security and immigration, made my way up the escalator to the DNATA Lounge.

DNATA is an acronym meaning Dubai National Air Transport Association. It is one of the world's largest air services providers offering ground handling, cargo, travel and flight catering services across five continents. In conjunction with its subsidiary Marhaba, DNATA operates ten airport lounges across three continents. I have visited three DNATA lounges over the years and from my experience they are all uniformly excellent.



DNATA Lounge Seating


DNATA Lounge Buffet


DNATA Lounge Buffet


DNATA Lounge Bloody Mary Starter Set


My pictures don’t do justice to the variety and ambience of the individual seating areas. Pausing to pick up that morning’s copy of the Strait Times, I dropped off my gear at a small table in the dining area and made my way over to the extensive buffet area to inspect the breakfast options. They were myriad and I had no problem putting together an appetizing plate of eggs, sausage, mushrooms and potatoes with a flaky croissant and good hot coffee.

It was about 8:15 when I gathered my gear and began the long trek down to gate D48. Walking through Changi is like walking through a carpeted shopping mall. Where many airports are functionally efficient worlds of glass and steel, Changi exudes warmth and comfort that make any trip through it a real pleasure. Although none of the many stylish shops held any appeal to me, there’s no denying that Changi is one of the most attractively designed and furnished airports in the world.

Down at D48, I got my first view of 3B-NBL, a nine year old A330-200 named Nénuphar. I’d seen one of these A330s – perhaps this very same aircraft – some years ago while strolling down the concourse at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. As one who’s always been attracted to those far flung corners of the earth, Mauritius has long been a place I’ve desired to visit. I remember pausing to admire the aircraft…



Air Mauritius A330 Awaits Departure


Ever since I was a little kid, just looking at beautiful airliners like this was license to daydream. In my younger years, it was hugely entertaining to bicycle 13 miles out to Denver’s Stapleton International, chain my bike to a post and then head down the concourses to check out the airplanes. I watched with fascination as colorful Braniff 720s pushed back and fired up all four of those smoky Pratt & Whitney turbojets before slowly taxiing away to brighten up the skies on their way to Dallas. North Central’s DC-9-30s were headed off to exotic Minneapolis while TWA Convair 880s sped off to a variety of destinations on the east coast. Western Airlines operated a once daily 707-320 out to San Francisco and beyond to Hawaii. What a beautiful airplane, especially in the classic Indian head livery. Standing at those concourse windows of yesteryear, I easily imagined myself someday flying on every one of those airplanes and, over the years, I’ve done a pretty good job of turning most of my airline related dreams into reality.

The load up to Kuala Lumpur was fairly light today. The airplane was only about half full, so boarding was a relatively relaxed affair. We boarded through door 2L, so I was unable to get a good look at the orange upholstered sleepers in the Business Class cabin. Turning right into the Economy Class cabin, my seat was just eight rows back.

I was immediately impressed with the cabin décor. Unlike most U.S. and European airlines that offer relatively staid businesslike cabins with uniformly grey or dark blue leather clad seats, Air Mauritius’ A330 sported 251 nicely padded seats upholstered in an appealing multi-hued tropical blue pattern. The bulkhead at the front of the cabin featured an attractive rendition of blue water and fish while at the rear of the cabin a wall of palm trees added a tropical touch. I remember when U.S. airlines used to have cabins like this, back when flying was still fun for most people. On this airplane I felt like I was already on my way to Mauritius even though my destination was comparatively cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur.



Air Mauritius A330 Cabin Interior


Kuala Lumpur sits just 210 miles north of Singapore. The short distance has allowed me to affordably fly my first and only flight on an A310 as well as my first flights on Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines along with yesterday’s flight with Uzbekistan Airways.

With a flight time of just 40 minutes, service was limited to a variety of juices offered shortly after takeoff. Along the way I entertained myself checking out the IFE available via seatback TV screens. While the movie selections were not quite as eclectic as those of Uzbekistan Airways, the television shows looked to be quite entertaining…



Air Mauritius Inflight Entertainment Option 1


Air Mauritius Inflight Entertainment Option 2


Air Mauritius Inflight Entertainment Option 3


It was sunny but hazy as we descended into Kuala Lumpur. I was reminded of my many spring and summer flights to and from Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport back in the 1970s. You could practically see the moisture hanging in the air.

Thankfully, since I didn’t have to check my roll-a-bord I was able to stay airside as a transit passenger. It was no problem then to visit the transfer desk where I got a boarding pass issued for my Malindo Air flight up to Phuket. Now faced with a three and a half hour layover, I had plenty of time for a return visit to the Plaza Premium lounge. Unlike last night, there was no line out the door though it still took the staff a couple of minutes to complete their lengthy check-in procedure. Once inside I found a comfy chair nearby an electrical outlet and settled in for the wait. The air-conditioning was adequate but a couple glasses of nicely chilled Carlsberg beer helped cool me off that much more. A weight lifting competition was on all of the TVs and I watched with interest for a few minutes.

My Malindo Air flight was scheduled to depart from the main terminal, so I headed over there a bit early in hopes of visiting one of the other Plaza Premium lounges listed on the Priority Pass site. Imagine then my surprise to discover that there were no lounges at all in the main terminal. The Priority Pass site shows four lounges over there but a query at the Information desk informed me that the lounge(s) had closed. I suspect they may well have been in error but I didn’t feel like walking around the large terminal complex to search and so headed to my gate to await the departure of my flight to Phuket.

For those of you unfamiliar with Malindo Air, it’s a young Malaysian premium service airline that flew its first flight just five and a half years ago on March 22nd, 2013. The name “Malindo” signifies a cooperative pact between Malaysia and Indonesia and is derived from the names of the two countries – Malaysia and Indonesia. Over the past five years, the airline has experienced rapid growth having spread its wings from its twin bases at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Subang Skypark to a variety of regional destinations in Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Australia and Pakistan. Having started out with just two aircraft 4 years ago, today it boasts a fleet of 20 Boeing 737-800s, 6 737-900s and 13 ATR-42-600s.

The aircraft operating my flight was a five year old 737-900. With a seat assignment at 7C, I was amongst the last to board. The flight was pretty full and overhead space was hard to come by. I ended up placing my roll-a-bord four rows back from my seat. The under-seat space in front of me was so small that I ended up having to stash my daypack two rows forward. Other than that, my seat was fairly comfortable with good padding and decent legroom.

Shortly after takeoff the flight attendants effectively cordoned off the First Class cabin with a heavy red curtain. Unlike flying in the U.S., nobody felt entitled to go up there to use the lav. Flight time to Phuket was about an hour, so little time was wasted in commencing the food and beverage service.

This flight is about the same distance as Denver to Salt Lake City, a route where regardless of time of day you’ll receive no more than a pass with the drink cart and – if you’re flying on Southwest – a bag of peanuts. On Malindo Air I received a colorful cardboard box containing a 5” chicken and cheese flatbread sandwich along with a container of water. The drink cart followed and I requested a glass of Sprite. Overall, this was a pretty nice service for a $43.00 ticket.

Our descent into Phuket had me wishing I’d taken a window seat for this flight. The coastal scenery and islands were spectacular! I made a mental note to spend a night or three here next time I’m in Thailand. We taxied in to HKT’s modern International Terminal where the ground staff efficiently hooked up the jet bridge and had us on our way to immigration in no time. Fifteen minutes later I was on my way over to the Domestic Terminal, located right next door within easy walking distance from the International Terminal.

Judging by the ticket counters and overall check-in area, this building must’ve been built back in the early days of jet transport to Phuket. Located on the lower level, the entire check-in area had the collective ambience of a well-lit basement. The VietJet counter was well signed and well-staffed. I had just a short wait before one of three agents waved me forward. Unfortunately, my roll-a-bord did not qualify for onboard carriage, so I reluctantly checked it through to Suvarnabhumi.

Continuing up the escalators to the upper level, it was as if I’d entered a new airport. The upper level was a large attractive open space with shops, restaurants, bars and gates along the fringes. The lighting was bright but not overly so and the overall ambiance was cheerful.

My flight was scheduled to depart from gate 6, conveniently located next door to the Coral Beach Lounge, the Priority Pass affiliated lounge here in the domestic terminal. From the outside this place looked more like a nice bar/restaurant with broad double doors opening into the bright attractive interior. I took a few pictures, but didn’t find any of them all that noteworthy and so deleted the lot of them. Again, just because I took the picture doesn’t mean I need to keep it and above all, I certainly don’t need to publish it here if it doesn’t meet my quality standards. Instead, I’ll provide a link to the loungebuddy.com site which provides an excellent photo array that very nicely describes this lounge. Just click right HERE.

This lounge had a nice buffet food island with a impressive selection of local hot dishes including a good looking noodle dish. I passed on it mainly because I wasn’t hungry and I’d preordered a dinner to be served onboard the VietJet flight. I will have a beer, though. On second thought, maybe not. Although the display fridge provided a nice selection of local beers, juices, soft drinks and waters, its temperature was set at about 50°F – unacceptable for beer consumption in my book. I don’t know about you, but few things taste worse to me than tepid lagers and pilsners. So far as I know, these beers are cold fermented and for sure they are best served nice and cold – as in about 38°F. Instead, I grabbed a bottle of water and a glass of ice.

Boarding was well under way by the time I made my way over to the gate. In fact, most people were already onboard. I strolled down the jetway and took my seat in row three, the last of three rows of Sky Boss Seats. These seats offer a bit better seat pitch than the rest of the airplane – I’d guestimate about 35” worth. I took a quick look at the seats behind me though and honestly, I thought they looked very nice by LCC standards, especially compared to the European LCCs which are bar none the absolute worst I’ve ever experienced.



Sky Boss Seating and Cabin


Sky Boss Seating and Cabin


It was just me and one other guy in the Sky Boss seats. The rest of the plane was perhaps two-thirds full. The female flight attendants looked cute in their plaid shorts and hats. There was one male flight attendant who was quite tall by local standards and muscular as well. He seemed to be well aware of this, too. Judging by his body language and expressions, you might think he was actually preening, as if he were a muscle man on Venice Beach. Yeah, okay. Whatever.

Flight time on this 430 mile flight to Bangkok was only one hour, more than enough time to enjoy a nice dinner and a round of drinks. Upon making my reservation, I’d ordered a Massaman Chicken Curry dinner for the very affordable price of about $3.75USD on line. For the equivalent of $1.00USD more, I accompanied my meal with a can of Sprite and a glass of ice.



Vietjet Massaman Curry Dinner


Vietjet Massaman Curry Dinner


An entire booklet – much like a small magazine – was dedicated to items available for purchase inflight. Many of these items were hot entrees and I should imagine most of them would have to have been ordered prior to the flight lest the crew require two carts to handle it all. It sure would be nice if U.S. airlines took a similar approach to inflight service.

As for my Massaman Chicken, it was okay but it certainly didn’t taste anything like the Massaman curries I’ve had back home. Fairbanks has about a dozen Thai restaurants, all of them owned and staffed by real genuine Thais. I reckon I’ve got a pretty good handle on many of the traditional Thai dishes, and I can only guess that perhaps this meal on VietJet was a Vietnamese take on Massaman Curry. For sure, there wasn’t much curry.

Landing at Suvarnabhumi was a routine affair. I was worried that we’d have to park way down on the A Concourse but no – we parked on the B Concourse, leaving me with a much shorter walk to baggage claim.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a mix-up regarding my ride to the Summit Windmill Golf Resort. By the time a van arrived to pick me up, it was near 10:30pm. Still, I reckon it was worth the wait because I’ve always loved this place and it sure was nice to walk into the air-conditioned splendor of my one-bedroom apartment complete with Jacuzzi and breakfast each morning.



Summit Windmill Golf Resort Apartment


Summit Windmill Golf Resort Bathroom


Summit Windmill Golf Resort Balcony & Jacuzzi


Summit Windmill Golf Resort Bar Deck
A great place for lunch and a cold Singha Beer


Summit Windmill Golf Resort Nighttime Golf Course View


The next four days were spent enjoying the resort along with Bangkok and environs, including trips to the Grand Palace and the Bangkok National Museum which I arranged through the resort’s front desk. Unfortunately, the lens jammed on my camera the night before and so I didn’t take it along to the museum. This happened to me last year while riding the train from Moscow to Beijing. As with then, I just kept fiddling around with the camera until finally the lens came to life and retracted back into the camera. I have no idea what I did – maybe took the batteries out and put them back in for the 15th time or manipulated the lens as much as I could or maybe it was when I eared back and hurled the camera against the wall (just kidding!). Whatever the cause, this time it took a lot longer to finally get unstuck. Perhaps the time has finally come to purchase a new camera… Here’s some pictures from Bangkok’s Grand Palace…



Thai Grand Palace


Thai Grand Palace


Thai Grand Palace


Thai Grand Palace


Thai Grand Palace
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Old Dec 18, 18, 3:06 am
  #6  
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Posts: 8,126
November 12, 2018
Singapore Airlines Economy Class ~ Bangkok to Singapore ~ A330-300 ~ 630p – 1000p ~ Dinner


If you’re a Priority Pass cardholder, there’s hardly a finer airport to fly out of than Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The international concourses offer an amazing assortment of lounges to choose from (12 of them), highlighted by the excellent Miracle Lounges (The old Louis Tavern Lounges). As a lifetime member of the United Club, I also had access to all Star Alliance carrier lounges since I was flying on Star Alliance member Singapore Airlines. As such, add five Royal Orchid/Silk lounges from Thai Airways along with dedicated lounges from EVA and Singapore Airlines. I count 19 lounges so far!

Once I’d cleared security and immigration, I emerged onto the long D Concourse which serves as a connector between the A,B,C and D,E,F concourses, each located on opposite sides of the airport. This concourse is a good 500 yards long and with my gimpy gait, I didn’t feel like doing any extensive lounge hopping.

Over the years I’ve visited at least five or six of the old Lewis Tavern Lounges as well as at least three of Thai’s Royal Silk Lounges. Earlier this year I visited Oman Air’s nice little facility at the top of the E Concourse. Today, with about three and a half hours to go until departure time, I decided to split my visit between two previously unvisited lounges – the Miracle First Class Lounge off gate D5 and Singapore’s Silver Kris Business Class Lounge located at D7.

This Miracle First Class Lounge at D5 was far and away the largest and nicest of any of the Miracle Lounges I’d visited so far. The spacious seating areas were highlighted by several small alcoves providing a more intimate atmosphere for groups of three or four. An impressive collection of travel books was available on attractive bookshelves placed throughout the lounge. And finally, this lounge featured a dining room with an impressive buffet offering a nice variety of hot and cold dishes. At this point I’ll let some pictures tell the rest of the story…



Miracle First Class Lounge


Miracle First Class Lounge


Miracle First Class Lounge Entree


Miracle First Class Lounge Entree


As good as the food looked and smelled, I decided to hold off on eating until my visit to the Silver Kris Lounge. In the interim I availed myself of a nicely chilled Singha Beer and some spicy snack mix while perusing that morning’s copy of the Bangkok Post in one of the comfy alcove chairs.



Miracle First Class Lounge Alcove


With about two hours to go before departure, it was time to make my way down the concourse to Singapore’s Silver Kris Lounge. Two nicely dressed receptionists greeted me at the entrance, inspected my United card and welcomed me into the lounge.

It should be noted here that my lifetime membership in the United Club actually started out as a lifetime membership in Continental’s President’s Club. In fact, I am one of the charter members of the President’s Club, having purchased my lifetime membership for $300.00 back in 1980. Factoring in inflation, this would translate to about $1200.00 in today’s dollars – a mere pittance compared to the exorbitant prices being charged for yearly memberships these days. In terms of value for dollars spent, this purchase remains the single best travel investment I have ever made.

I should also note here that my original choice of airlines between Bangkok and Singapore was Scoot – the budget arm of Singapore Airlines. I flew aboard one of their 787-9s last year on the 2000 mile leg between Singapore and Taipei. I did that flight in Business Class, however. Had Scoot been operating its 787 between Bangkok and Singapore this evening, I probably would have flown with them again.

Unfortunately, the Scoot flight that timed out best for me was being operated with an A320 acquired through Scoot’s recent merger with Singapore’s ULCC (Ultra Low Cost Carrier) Tiger Airways. I’ve flown Tiger Air before. It actually wasn’t all that bad – if you were flying a short segment like Kuala Lumpur to Singapore or you had an exit row seat as I did some years ago between Singapore and Perth. I could have purchased a ticket on Scoot with some baggage restrictions for about $90.00 one way.

A little further investigation revealed that Singapore was offering a one way sale fare of $125.00 each way with no baggage restrictions, a dinner served enroute and lounge access in Bangkok. The extra $35.00 was money well spent. That said, let’s check out some pictures of the Silver Kris Lounge:



Silver Kris Business Class Lounge


Silver Kris Business Class Lounge Buffet


Silver Kris Business Class Lounge Buffet


Silver Kris Business Class Lounge Buffet


Silver Kris Business Class Lounge Bar


The buffet island featured a very nice selection of hot and cold dishes, not least of which was an old favorite of mine – Massaman Curry. It is made with coconut milk, beef, potatoes and peanuts and, as Thai curries go, is usually fairly mild but always rich in flavor. I helped myself to a bowl of that and accompanied with it with the perfect accompaniment for a good Thai curry – that’s right - yet another can of Singha Beer. Hooooo doggie! That was a good curry, too. I need to get that recipe over to the chefs at VietJet!



Thai Massaman Curry – one of my favorites!


When I had read the reviews for the Silver Kris Lounge, one of the high points was that it was conveniently located right next door to the departure gates for Singapore’s flights – ostensibly D6 or D7. Alas, that was not the case tonight as my flight was scheduled to depart from D2, located about a third of a mile away, way down on the opposite end of the D Concourse. Sigh… Better get walking…

A few years ago I had a chance to fly Business Class between Beijing and Singapore on a Singapore A330. Unfortunately that flight left at some God-awful hour of the night, and so I opted for a more reasonably timed departure aboard a Boeing 777-300.

Now I know what some of you might be thinking – who cares what kind of airplane it is?! What can I say… when you enjoy commercial aviation as much as I do, you take notice of things like aircraft types, especially when flying aboard rarely flown foreign airlines. Add to that the fact that while I’ve flown aboard a few A330s in my time (Who hasn’t?), they’re not all the same. Singapore’s interior is different from Air Mauritius’ or South African’s. While it was a shame that I’ve had to fly both of the A330s featured on this trip in Economy Class, I was nonetheless looking forward to my first flight aboard Singapore’s model. I’m genuinely curious what looks like inside. Singapore routinely scores high marks in various “World’s Best Airline” surveys and I’m curious to see how its cabin is different from other A330s I’ve flown. I’m not talking structurally but rather configuration and decoration. What color are the seats? Are they cloth? And how about that Business Class cabin? These are all things that make the prospect of a flight interesting for me whereas most everyone else could care less.

It’s always nice to get a preview of your hitherto unflown upon aircraft at the gate, but unfortunately it was dark and the positioning of the jet bridge effectively blocked out any view. My seat assignment was in the forward part of the first Economy cabin, so I was amongst the last to board. Thankfully there was still plenty of space in the overhead bins. On the downside, the bins on these Airbus wide-bodies are so high that only someone with the height of an NBA basketball player could easily place their bag up there.

I liked my seat immediately. In an era when most airlines are investing in lightweight Slimline™ type seats with minimal padding, Singapore has outfitted its A330 with comfortable, nicely padded seats that actually feel nice to sit in. Seatmate apparently liked hers so much that she slept through most of the flight, including taxi and takeoff.

Flight time for this 900 mile flight down to Singapore was projected to be about two hours and ten minutes. Within minutes of levelling off, the Singapore girls got right to work. Meal and drink carts were quickly and efficiently wheeled out and I was offered a choice of beef or something else. There might have even been two “something else”s. I’m usually pretty good with remembering this kind of stuff off the top of my head but for whatever reason I didn’t tonight. This being my 5,507th flight might have had something to do with it. In any event, I ordered the beef.



Singapore Airlines Economy Meal BKK-SIN


By 2018 standards, this was quite a nice dinner for a two hour flight. It interesting though to consider what used to be. Forty years ago, coach meals were all served in porcelain dishes with larger portions and greater variety. I remember two hour flights on Air New Zealand back in the early eighties that included appetizers, cheese and crackers in addition to nicer salads, larger main course portions and innovative desserts such as fruit and custard tarts with full crust and a dollop of whipped cream. I remember a 45 minute flight on CP Air in 1979 that offered a choice of entrees with the full porcelain service – much nicer than what airlines offer today in coach even on long intercontinental flights.

I wish I’d considered photographing some of the great meals I was served in both First Class and Coach back in the seventies and eighties, but of course back then you had to pay for the cost of developing each picture or slide and so on long, international trips I saved the limited number of pictures I had available for more “interesting” subjects.
It’s a classic case of “Hindsight is indeed 20-20” because I would have loved to share some of the great trolley presentations I enjoyed, complete with large salad bowls, full roasts with a multitude of side dishes and enviable collections of French pastries. Those were the days…

Here are a couple of photos from my files of how it used to be…



Air New Zealand DC-8 Dinner Service


Continental’s 747 Gold Table Service


American Airlines 747 Flagship Service


Air Canada DC-8 Dinner Service


In Singapore we parked down at the very end of Terminal 2. Unfortunately it was the opposite end from the Sky Train that connects terminals. Adding insult to injury, the Sky Train stop in Terminal 1 is on the opposite end of the terminal from the transit hotel where I was booked for the night. I’ll bet I walked nearly three quarters of a mile from my arrival gate to my hotel. Maybe more. While I imagine a little exercise never hurt anyone, at this hour of night all I want to do is get to my hotel and get some sleep. Oh well. What can you do? Sigh… Better get walking…


* * * _  _ * * *


Terminals 1, 2 and 3 at Singapore’s Changi International Airport are all equipped with transit hotels. For the most part these hotels offer basic accommodation, primarily designed for short sleep overs with showers available down the hall. Single rooms at Terminal 1’s Aerotel Transit Hotel are sold in an initial block of 6 hours for $55.00 USD with additional hourly add-ons for $15.00 more per hour. However, I found a 12 hour deal available exclusively through Hotel.com for just $90.00.

Every well air-conditioned room comes with a surprisingly comfortable single bed as well as a desk and a wall mounted 32-inch TV. Towels and toiletries are available in the room, and a spacious and good quality shower is available at the end of the hall. The rooms are not large, but then, if all you want is a place to sleep, room size and overall ambiance become somewhat less important. As an added bonus, a swimming pool is also available.



My room at Singapore Changi’s Aerotel


The breakfast room at Singapore Changi’s Aerotel
The swimming pool is just up the stairway


While many travelers might blanch at the thought of staying in a place like this, consider the benefits:


• The hotel is airside, so you won’t have to go through immigration formalities upon arrival and departure
• You won’t have to pay for transport to and from your hotel
• Not having to take the time to get to and from your off-airport hotel will allow you more time to rest
• A full hot breakfast is available in the morning. Other meals are available at other times of day


It was about 11:00pm by the time I checked in. With an 11:00am check-out time, I had plenty of time for a shower, a restful sleep in a blissfully air-conditioned room, another shower and a decent breakfast late the next morning.

Now it was time for the next portion of my trip: First Class to Melbourne, Australia aboard Emirates Airlines.
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Old Dec 18, 18, 3:15 am
  #7  
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Posts: 8,126
November 13, 2018
Emirates Airways First Class ~ Singapore to Melbourne ~ 777-300 ~ 155p-1220a ~ Snack/Dinner


I wish there were a way to bottle the feeling of pleasant anticipation that accompanies a flight in First Class aboard one of the world’s great four or five star airlines. That feeling is especially pronounced if you’ve already experienced premium class services aboard other airlines, which provides you a point of reference from which to greater appreciate the considerable difference in quality you’ll experience on your upcoming flight.

Not surprisingly, people who’ve never flown First Class have no understanding or appreciation of these nuances. Theirs is the usual response – “We all get there at the same time.” Most of them would be thrilled however at the prospect of flying First Class on Sun Country from Minneapolis to New York. A bigger seat, some free booze – it’s all good.

The World Airline Awards from Skytrax represent a global benchmark of airline excellence. The surveys that determine these awards take into consideration multiple facets of an airline’s ground and airport services, cabin service and onboard product. These are not basic questionnaires. For example, in considering an airline’s onboard product, the following aspects are considered and judged:

• Seat comfort
• Cabin cleanliness
• Toilet cleanliness
• Cabin lighting / ambience
• Cabin temperatures
• Cabin comfort & amenities
• Reading materials
• Airline magazine
• IFE screen & interface
• Choice of AV programming
• On demand AV options
• Cabin WiFi & connectivity
• Quality of meals
• Quantity of food
• Selection of meals
• Standard / choice of beverages
• Selection of buy-onboard F&B
• Prices of buy-onboard F&B


Flying First Class aboard one of the nine 5 Star airlines or one of a select few 4 Star airlines is not just a flight, it’s an experience. We’re talking about the very best way one can fly as a passenger. It’s great fun to read reports from our brethren who have flown First Class aboard the world’s finest airlines but it’s quite another thing to actually experience the service yourself. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced inflight service of this stature on multiple occasions and I never tire of it.

I remember how excited I was in the days prior to my First Class flight aboard Air New Zealand from Los Angeles to Papeete back in 1981. I also remember looking forward to leaving Tahiti (after two weeks there) in anticipation of flying First Class back to Los Angeles aboard UTA French Airlines. Years later in 1987 I still found it difficult to sleep in anticipation of my upcoming flights in First aboard Singapore, Thai International, Cathay Pacific and Swissair – all in the span of a week.

I sincerely hope that all of you who’ve ever drooled over a menu transcript from Etihad or imagined yourselves reclining over the Pacific in a Japan Airlines suite will get an opportunity to experience this level of service for yourselves. To anyone out there who has only flown First Class aboard say, United and raved over it, I’m happy for you. Just know that there’s much better service out there. Much better.

It’s not just the space or the food. It’s the training and pride reflected in flight attendants who anticipate your needs, not just come when they’re called. It’s consistently and graciously meeting the expectations and needs of an often sophisticated and seasoned clientele, many of whom have expectations commensurate with their lot in life, a lot that rarely if ever includes Economy or Business Class travel. It’s training and pride that reflect in a meal being properly presented, not just served. It’s a commitment by the airline to provide only the finest in food and amenities and to maintain a high standard of service that insures only the best and most dedicated flight attendants get to work the First Class cabin. It’s class. First Class. It all adds up to the very best service one can expect in the air.

Emirates has enjoyed a 5 star rating with Skytrax in previous years, but now is rated as a 4 Star airline. It’s been my experience however that while all of the 5 Star airlines are uniformly excellent, so too are some of the 4 Star airlines. Truth be told, all of the 4 Stars that offer First Class are pretty good, but some are better than others. For example, Swiss International Airlines is rated as a 4 Star airline. So too is China Southern. And Aeroflot. Anybody who – like me – has an interest in airline service and goes out of their way to read the multitude of reviews out there would be hard pressed to find much similarity in service standards between China Southern and Emirates. Or Swiss.

Not surprisingly, none of the U.S. airlines rate any higher than 3 stars. That’s not to say however that you’ll have a bad flight if you fly aboard American’s Flagship First Class Service between Dallas and London. The real differences between 3 and 4 star airlines lie in the details. Airlines like Emirates will pick you up in a chauffeured limousine and deliver you to the airport. At most airports Emirates will offer superior lounge facilities to American’s Flagship Lounges. A good 4 Star airline like Swiss or Emirates will offer a superior range of inflight libations. You certainly won’t find Johnnie Walker Blue or Chivas Regal’s 21 Year Old Royal Salute aboard any 3 Star airlines but then you’ll be hard pressed to find it aboard most 4 Star airlines as well. As for food, Emirates offers what certainly must be the most extensive menu of any airline, including all of the 5 stars.

Even though I’ve already logged twelve flights in First Class aboard Emirates, the quality of its First Class product – be it airport lounges, the totally enclosed suites, the onboard showers or the lavish variety of foods available onboard its flights – all of them have me looking forward to my upcoming flight to Melbourne with as much anticipation as I’ve ever experienced at any time previously in my many years of flying.

But enough of the preamble. Let’s head on over to the Transfer Desk to check in.


* * * _  _ * * *


As expected, the Transfer Desk I needed was located on the opposite side of the terminal. Sigh… better get walking…

A fully uniformed Emirates representative was on duty at the transfer desk. She checked me in quickly and efficiently, issuing my boarding pass while providing directions to the Emirates First and Business Class Lounge, located upstairs on the mezzanine level near gate C1.

I first visited this lounge two years ago while in pursuit of my 5 millionth mile flown. I thought it was a very nice lounge back then, but it’s apparently undergone a complete refurbishment in an effort to project a more refined and modern look. From what I could see, this involved the installation of some new but similar looking seating offset by artistic dividers that help create a sense of smaller, more intimate seating areas. It’s a nice look:



Emirates Lounge at Singapore


Emirates Lounge at Singapore


Emirates Lounge at Singapore


Emirates Lounge at Singapore


Emirates Lounge at Singapore


The lounge was nearly empty when I arrived. It was just me and one woman who was beset with a horrible, wracking cough. Pity whoever she was talking to on her cell phone because she could hardly complete more than a couple of sentences before launching into another paroxysm of phlegm rattling coughs. I was going to take a seat at a work station in the small business area but given her proximity and the potential for transmission of whatever ailed her, I instead dropped my bag off at a seat on the opposite side of the lounge and took a stroll over to the self-service bar.



Emirates Lounge Self-Serve Bar


The time was approaching noon – a bit early for beer or anything stronger. Then again, when I saw that bottle of Absolut Vodka and a side tray of Tabasco and Worcestershire Sauce, the thought of a Bloody Mary suddenly became much more appealing. When I spied the sliced lime wedges in the refrigerator, my willpower vanished like a mirage at high noon in the Sahara. Soon I was enjoying a perfectly crafted Bloody Mary complete with a small ramekin of mixed nuts. Ah… the good life…

There was a fairly decent Wi-Fi connection in the lounge, so I took a few minutes to check out my upcoming flight on flightradar24.com and update my fantasy league line-ups for this weekend’s games. In the meantime the sick lady had left the lounge while another dozen or so passengers had wandered in. I relocated to an empty work station and then set out in search of a bite to eat.

Along the way I couldn’t help but notice the floor to ceiling windows looking out on the tarmac and the runway beyond. I’ve always been a big fan of natural light but there was also no ignoring the beautiful Singapore Airlines A350-900 parked just below. I can’t believe I still have yet to fly aboard this beautiful airliner. I had a chance to this past spring aboard Cathay Pacific but passed in order to maintain my streak of thirty flights aboard Cathay Pacific – all of them in First Class. That’s alright. The A350 will be around for a good many years yet, and I’m sure the opportunity to fly on one will arise sooner rather than later. As for my streak of all First Class on Cathay, that’s something I’d like to maintain as long as possible. Same goes for Emirates. By the time I get home, I’ll have logged fifteen flights aboard Emirates – all in First Class.

In that regard, I owe a big thanks to Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan which has made these streaks possible. Without Mileage Plan, I’m still that kid looking at the Emirates A380 through the airport window and dreaming of what might be. Thanks to Mileage Plan, I have the dubious honor of being perhaps the only guy ever to fly First Class on Cathay or Emirates who lives in a dry cabin in Alaska and drives a bus in a national park.



Home, Sweet Home


A dining area with tables and chairs was located at the back of the lounge. It was highlighted by an impressive hot buffet line with a multitude of good looking Asian dishes along with a plate of lamb chops and satay. Check it out!



Emirates Lounge Dining Area


Emirates Lounge Hot Buffet


Emirates Lounge Hot Buffet


Emirates Lounge Hot Buffet


A cold buffet island was loaded with everything from salads to appetizers along with a tempting selection of well-crafted and tempting desserts.



Emirates Lounge Cold Buffet


Emirates Lounge Cold Buffet


My tendency is to take full advantage of offerings such as these but I’d had a Club Sandwich in the Aerotel breakfast room just a couple hours earlier and I wanted to come hungry to better enjoy the extensive menu offerings on my seven hour flight to Melbourne. As such, I’d like to think I exercised admirable restraint in limiting myself to just a couple of satay sticks and a fresh fruit savarin that was every bit as delicious as it was photogenic.



Life’s Short – Eat Dessert First!


It was about 1:15pm when I gathered my gear and began the long trek down to gate C-13. Security checks are performed at the gate at Changi and I wanted to leave enough time to check out the plane at leisure from the gate lounge rather than have to rush onboard as soon as I’d cleared security.



My Emirates 777-300 Awaits
An exciting sight when you know you’ll be sat behind the fourth, fifth and sixth windows


The Brand of Quality
That would be me, behind the small case “e”


Alright then, let’s head onboard. A dedicated jet bridge to 1L allowed me to bypass the crowd backing up in the jet bridge to 2L. Friendly smiles greeted me at the door where my boarding pass was inspected and I was handed off to a pretty flight attendant from Zimbabwe who escorted me to my suite at 2K. Ah… it’s good to be back!



Suite 2K on Emirate’s 777-300


When I booked these flights back in July, this flight was scheduled to operate with an A380. The change in gauge to a 777 was noted last month, and I was thankful to have been able to retain my assigned suite 2K, given that the 777 has only 8 First Class suites versus the 14 offered onboard the A380.

When I was in the Emirates Lounge, I overheard a couple bemoaning the change to the smaller aircraft. Given the popularity of Emirates’ A380 driven by its onboard showers and spacious lounge, I can appreciate the excitement many have for flying on it. For some, the fact that it’s the world’s largest passenger plane is pretty exhilarating all by itself.

I may be the only person onboard (aside from one or two of the crew) who actually prefers flying onboard Emirates’ 777. This is driven not so much by the airplane as it is by the airline. That is to say that from a First Class perspective at least, I find the suites aboard Emirates’ 777s to be slightly wider than those aboard the A380. Additionally, the First Class seat actually feels nicer – a bit softer than its counterpart on the big Airbus.

On the other hand, I find the A380 First Class suites on British Airways to be much nicer than their counterparts on the 777 or the 747. The same holds true with Qantas relative to its 747s. So it all depends on the airline. As for showers and lounges onboard, they’re nice but not hugely important to me.

I can’t help but suppress a laugh whenever I hear someone exclaim in anger “I’ll never fly on another (insert jet type here) as long as I live!” Well I wouldn’t either if they were all outfitted in a high density seating configuration. But then, as always, you get what you pay for more often than not.

But I digress. Back here at Suite 2K, Isabella, she of the lovely brown eyes and Catalan accent (she was from Mallorca) was just returning with a crystal clear flute and a bottle of Dom Perignon. Oooo – just half a glass, please. I’ve got a lot of wines to sample, not to mention glasses Johnnie Walker Blue and Chivas Regal Royal Salute to savor.



Welcome Aboard


Since they were first introduced aboard the A340-500 back in 2003, Emirates’ First Class suites have gone on to become the stuff of legend. Lots of other airlines offer First Class suites, but Emirates was the first to introduce sliding doors, effectively turning the suite into a private compartment much as you’d find in a Pullman roomette aboard a railroad sleeper car. Ah, but Emirates’ suite goes much farther than the roomettes of old or even some of the suites of today. Also included is a 27” 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 for skin care throughout the flight. A separate drawer contains a writing kit complete with pen, paper and envelopes. Nearby is your own personal snack basket loaded with a variety of sweets, mints 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 22” roll-a-bord bag up front and a couple of seat-side compartments for the storage of smaller items such as a camera or book. As we had only four passengers in the forward cabin this afternoon, Isabella allowed me to store my roll-a-bord in the empty suite across the aisle.



Your own personal vanity mirror and creams


Your Personal Emirates Snack Basket


The controls for the seat, lights, privacy doors and electronic window blinds are housed in a tablet that’s mounted to the right 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, although from my experience the massage function is so subtle as to be irrelevant.

Over the next few minutes a succession of flight attendants stopped by to offer everything from hot towels to newspapers to Arabic coffee and dates to the coveted Emirates amenity kit. Unfortunately, I am sorry to report that while Emirates’ Bulgari produced amenity kit is still very nice and amongst the nicest and most comprehensive offered by any airline, it is no longer housed in the beautiful leather case of years past. The new case is made of dimpled leather and to me at least doesn’t look nearly as nice. The contents are still top notch though, containing everything you’d ever need (and perhaps even a couple of things you wouldn’t) to help get you through a long flight in comfort and style…



Emirates’ Bulgari Amenity Kit


Emirates’ Bulgari Amenity Kit Contents


The Old Emirates’ Bulgari Amenity Kit


The Captain came on over the PA, introduced himself in a distinctly American voice (with just a hint of what sounded like a North Carolina accent) and informed us that aside from a bit of turbulence reported over the West Timor Sea, we could expect a smooth flight of just six hours and fifty-two minutes down to Melbourne this afternoon.

As we began our pushback from the gate and the engines began to spool up, I was reminded that of one of the things I’ve always liked about flying on the 777-300 – at least from a First Class perspective – is how much quieter it is in the cabin. The -300 includes a 17 ½ foot fuselage plug ahead of the wings in addition to another 15 ¾ plug behind the wings. That extra distance forward of the engines really makes a difference in the overall cabin noise level, both on the ground and particularly just after takeoff when the engines are working their hardest.

By the way, speaking of eclectic 777 stats, the last time I flew Economy Class on a 777 of any stripe was way back in January of 2007. Indeed, out of a total of 61 flights aboard 777s, only 14 have been in Economy Class. Amongst us FlyerTalkers that’s probably not all that impressive of a stat. The 777 is designed for long distance intercontinental travel and most of us are pros at finding ways to fly in the premium cabins. I should imagine many of you have logged way more time up in the forward halves of 777s than I have.

As we followed an EVA 777-300 out to the active runway and turned to line up for our own take off, I paused to catch a couple of pictures from the nose wheel camera…



We’re Number 2 for Take Off


Cleared For Take Off


Unfortunately, it was a cloudy, muggy day in Singapore and so we were deprived of some of the pretty views usually seen on climb out as we sped along a southeasterly heading above the Singapore Strait, Indonesia’s Bintan Island and the Java Sea. At one point the skies opened for a bit revealing a few of the 17,504 islands that make up the world’s largest island nation. My camera was ready…



Our Route of Flight


A Pretty Day Along the Indonesian Archipelago


Oooo – Look at Those Colors!


Shortly after leveling off, Isabella returned to inquire as to my drink and meal preferences. As I mentioned earlier I had intentionally held off from indulging in the tempting foodstuffs on offer in the Emirates Lounge in order to take full advantage of the extensive menu typically provided on all Emirates flights. Indeed, I can think of no other airline that offers anywhere near as much variety of choice as Emirates. ANA (Japan) came close about fifteen years ago but these days Emirates is in a class of its own.

The menu and wine list had been presented as part of the cavalcade of services that made up the preflight offerings prior to pushback. Both are presented in plain white folders but the menu itself is housed in an attractive leather binder. The Wine List is exactly that - strictly wines. Any other cocktails, spirits or liqueurs can be found in the first part of the Menu. Let’s take a moment now to consider the possibilities…



White Wines


Red Wines


WINE LIST

Champagne

Dom Perignon 2009

White Wine
Y d’Yquem 2016 - Bordeaux, France
Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay 2016 - Margaret River, Western Australia
Grosset Springvale Riesling 2017 - Clare Valley, South Australia
Ch teau de Chamirey, Mercurey Blanc 2016 - Burgundy, France


Red Wine
Ch teau Pontet Canet 2006 - Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Craggy Range Sophia Gimblett Gravels 2011 - Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Savaterre Shiraz - Beechworth, Victoria, Australia
Ch teau Olivier Pessac-Léognan 2009 - Bordeaux, France
Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2015 – Barossa Valley, Australia


Dessert Wine
Ch teau Suduiraut 2007 – Sauternes, France
Graham’s Colheita Single Vintage Tawny Port 1963 – Douro Valley, Portugal



* * * _  _ * * *


Cocktails
Bloody Mary
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Aperol Spritz
Kir Royale
Cosmopolitan
Manhattan (Dry, perfect or sweet)
Classic Martini
Breakfast Martini
Espresso Martini
Mojito
Old Fashioned
Negroni


Beer
Heineken, Stella Artois, Tiger or Leffe Blond

Aperitifs
Campari, Cointreau, Drambuie, Amarula Cream and Tia Maria

Spirits
Chivas Regal Royal Salute 21 Year Old Scotch Whisky
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch Whisky
The Dalmore King Alexander III Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whisky
Hennessy Paradis
Tesseron Cognac Lot 29 XO Exception
Bacardi Superior Rum
Belvedere Vodka
Sipsmith Gin



* * * _  _ * * *


Juice
Orange, Pineapple, Apple, Mango, Tomato

Mocktails
Virgin Mary
Orange Fizz
Virgin Cucumber Gimlet
Apple Spritzer
Virgin Mojito


Soft Drinks
Cola and Diet Cola
Lemonade Ginger Ale
Soda Water
Tonic Water
Still and Sparkling Water


Tea
Ceylon, Chamomile, Moroccan Mint, Earl Grey or Green

Coffee
Freshly Brewed, Espresso, Cappuccino or Decaffeinated


As impressive as this selection was to peruse, I pretty much knew what I wanted from the moment I boarded. That’s right – a glass of that delicious 21 year old Royal Salute. And so it was that thirty minutes into the flight we had leveled off at 35000 feet, cruising sedately through high clouds at nearly 600 mph. At hand was my 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 an added bonus, I requested a plate of canapes to enjoy with my drink.



Still Life with Chivas and Menu


Royal Salute and Mixed Nuts


While discussing the dining options with Isabella, I decided that I’d like to start with a light meal and then have a full dinner a couple hours out from Melbourne. Now then, what to order…


Flight Menu
Singapore to Melbourne

Canapés
Confit duck with curried pineapple
Poached prawn and guacamole tartlet
Parmesan and truffle arancino


APPETIZERS

Caviar

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

Chicken Soup
With barley, leeks and green peas

Soto Ayam
Indonesian spicy chicken soup with rice noodles and egg

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

Smoked Salmon
With pickled potatoes, caper berries and herb crème fraîche

Smoked Duck
Served chilled with mango jelly, pickled beetroot and asparagus

Salad
Seasonal leaves served with your choice of toppings and dressing


MAIN COURSE

Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs

With star anise and ginger, served with creamed potato and sautéed broccolini

Roasted Salmon
With puy lentil salad, sauce vierge and seasonal vegetables

Ayam Goreng Kunyit
Malaysian style fried chicken with turmeric, served with green bean sambal
and nasi lemak with coconut and pandan


Rigatoni with Parmesan Velouté
Garnished with seasonal greens

Grilled Tiger Prawns
Dressed with lemon and herbs, served on pappardelle

Side Dishes
Lyonnaise Potatoes
Saffron Rice
Blanched Green Beans
Steamed Carrots

All our meals are served with freshly baked and toasted bread



DESSERT

Sticky Date Pudding

With butterscotch sauce and orange salad

Milk Chocolate Delice
With chocolate shortbread and raspberry coulis

Seasonal Fruit
An assortment of fresh cut fruit[/I ]

Cheese Board
A carefully chosen assortment of fine boutique cheeses from around the world
Served with crackers and accompaniments



* * * _  _ * * *


LIGHT BITES

Sandwiches

Smoked salmon and cream cheese
Chicken with mayonnaise
Roast beef
Egg mayonnaise


HOT SNACKS

Penne with Tomato and Basil Sauce

Topped with parmesan herb crumbs

Chicken Katsu Roll
Wholemeal roll filled with breaded chicken and kewpie mayonnaise
Served with Asian coleslaw


Asian Chicken Salad
Chicken poached in soy marinade, served with coleslaw, chilled rice noodles and palm sugar dressing

Instant cup noodles are available anytime


DESSERT

Selection of Pastries

New York Cheesecake, fruit tart, chocolate brownie and lemon meringue tart




What an amazing assortment of food! From past experience I’d learned that the “Hot Snack” entrees listed under “Light Bites” are generally as large as the main courses offered by most airlines. As such, I decided to see what I might put together from the “Appetizers” section.

Hmm… alright then, let’s start with a bowl of the Soto Ayam soup. That sounds really good. And then… just for old times’ sake, let’s go with the Traditional Arabic Mezze. I’d had the Mezze on my very first flight with Emirates. It is quite a spread, to say the least. At the same time, there are so many different dips, spreads and breads that it is understood that most people will not eat all of it.

Isabella stood by patiently while I cogitated over the menu, noted my requests on a small pad and informed me that it would be about twenty minutes before the soup would be ready. In the meantime, she’d have those canapés out in just a couple of minutes.

Perfect! And so it was that after reclining my seat slightly, there I was comfortably sat in a $150,000 state of the art First Class suite cruising high over the South China Sea while savoring a plate of delectable culinary jewels accompanied by one of the finest blended scotches known to man. This is surely the definition of inflight decadence. Flying really doesn’t get much better…



Royal Salute and Canapés


Inflight Ambiance
Photo credited to Indyra Kloeth


You know, that last comment is worth expanding a bit. Flying really doesn’t get much better. This is of course from my perspective, borne of some 5.4 million miles of flying of which about 2 million have been flown in First Class. Some of you may have experienced other styles of flight which give you cause to feel differently. For some the absolute finest inflight scenario might best be realized aboard a private jet. And of course there’s bound to be a few goof balls who are likely to equate such a scenario with joining the Mile High Club. But let’s get real here. How many of you really get to fly around in private jets or are condom carrying members of the Mile High Club? For most of us a First Class Suite of the standard offered by the likes of Singapore, Etihad or Emirates is as good as it gets. And so I reiterate my point. When it comes to living it up in the troposphere, I’d be hard pressed to think of a finer way to fly that’s accessible to an average Joe like me.

As I finished off the last of the Royal Salute, I consulted the wine list and decided to try out a glass of the Grosset Springvale Riesling. This proved to be an excellent choice that accompanied both the soup and the mezze quite nicely.



A nice Riesling to accompany the meal


When Isabella returned a few minutes later to lay my linens and place settings, she did so with the care and dedication to craft exhibited by only the best flight attendants. The crisp white linen tablecloth was laid and smoothed out followed by the careful placement of the various plates, silverware and accoutrements intrinsic to a well presented First Class airline meal.



Emirates First Class Place Setting


The soup was presented first. Described in the menu as an “Indonesian spicy chicken soup with rice noodles and egg”, it looked to be all that and more. My picture doesn’t show it but the bread basket contained a couple slices of warm, toasted garlic bread and these, along with the Riesling, combined to create a wonderful mix of flavors and a delicious start to my meal.



Soto Ayam Soup


Alright then, bring on the mezze! “Bring on” is an apt term to be employed for the presentation of the Mezze. Let’s take a moment to review the ingredients.

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

There are a lot of plates and dishes that need to be properly placed. Once everything was in place however, the result was impressive and appealing to say the least.



Emirates’ Traditional Arabic Mezze


So too was the taste. I’ve always liked hummus in all of its various forms and flavors, and the three types on offer today were very good indeed. I polished them off in short order, using the thin flat bread as a flavorful platform for them. In the large dish at the top of the service were a variety of warm items that included the lamb kibbeh, the cheese sambousek and the spinach fatayer. The Riesling washed these down admirably. The artichoke salad was okay, but I never did figure out what those little white balls on the right side were. Some kind of cheese, perhaps, but the texture was odd. I had just a nibble and left it at that.

Plates were cleared off in a timely manner and, with another five and a half hours to go before arriving Melbourne, I took a few minutes to hike to the back of the plane. Emirates’ new Business Class cabin – be it on the 777 or the A380 - is the nicest of that genre that I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Economy Class, given the 10 across seating configuration that’s become so popular with many airlines these days. When you consider that such a high percentage of its flights are longer than 6 hours in duration, I’m a bit surprised that an airline of Emirates’ ostentatious service standards wouldn’t go with a bit more spacious seating arrangement in Economy. Additionally, unlike many airlines, Emirates does not yet offer a Premium Economy product. Word is that it has plans to do so in 2020.

Sorry for trotting it out again, but that old saying “Time flies when you’re having fun” seems particularly appropriate to this flight. The distance between Singapore and Melbourne is 3,750 miles, about the same as New York to Paris. Oddly though, perhaps because this is an afternoon flight where sleep seems inappropriate given the time of day, this feels like a much shorter flight.

Emirates ICE inflight entertainment system was voted the world’s best by SkyTrax. I can certainly commiserate. Emirates recently tripled the media storage on ICE with the result being that the airline can now offer 2,186 channels of on-demand entertainment, which includes over 50 full TV box sets and close to 600 movies. The system also offers a choice of 1,230 music channels. And, just as impressively, ICE also features a multilingual interface in 14 languages, making it the most versatile and accessible of any of the excellent IFEs out there.

I watched an excellent movie called “Kodachrome” starring Ed Harris and Jason Sudeikis. It’s based on a true story and I really enjoyed how the movie played out. Later, I went on Amazon to buy a copy only to find it’s not even available in the U.S. yet.

I also took a few minutes to update my flight log with this flight’s aircraft registration number and length of flight information. When you’ve flown as much as I have (This is my 5,508th flight for a total of 5,417,320 miles) the statistics can become both interesting and entertaining. Some might even say fascinating. Allow me a moment here to submit a few additional stats. I do this not to brag but rather because the numbers really are pretty cool. At least to me they are. If you feel otherwise, please request that the moderators delete this report and suspend me from FlyerTalk.

Amongst other things, I log not only my aircraft registration numbers but also the manufacturer’s serial number (Construction number) and line number associated with that aircraft. So while my log shows that this is my 61st flight on a 777 for a total of 200,660 miles, if Emirates should someday sell this exact aircraft to another airline and I then fly it again under a different registration number, I’ll still know that I flew on this exact airplane previously via the msn and line numbers.

There are multiple distinct aircraft in my log that I’ve flown under the banners of two different airlines. There’s one DC-9-30 out there that I’ve flown while being operated by three different airlines. There’s one Alaska 737-400 on which I’ve logged 33 flights totaling 19220 miles. Indeed, I’ve logged 497 flights aboard Alaska 737-400s totaling 352,610 miles. When you factor in all airlines however, I’ve logged 509 flights on the -400 for a total of 358,600. Here are a couple of tables reflecting those totals.



777 Flights


Alaska 737-400 Flights


My totals on Emirates are considerably more modest – 15 flights for a total of 83,660 miles – which equates to a total of 158 hours and 20 minutes aloft – almost an entire week. Although I don’t keep track of every stat, I can easily display or discover whatever I want through simple math. For example, in considering all of my flights on Emirates, my average flight distance is 5577 miles with an average flight time of 10 ½ hours. In considering airlines upon which I’ve logged multiple flights, that is far and away the highest average miles per flight of any of them.

Maps are also interesting. As you can see from clicking on the Flight Memory link at the bottom of my posts, my maps are pretty intense. So too are those from a few other FlyerTalkers here. Check out Kiwi Flyer’s International Map sometime. Amazing! He’s a fellow 5 million miler, too. For domestic U.S. travel though, I doubt anybody’s maps come close to mine. If you think yours does, drop me a line. We should get together sometime for a drink. I’ll buy. I’ll bet we could share some great stories!

In checking out my maps, what stood out to me today was the diversity of routes I’ve flown emanating from Singapore, particularly to Australia. Although this is the eleventh time I’ve flown the Singapore to Melbourne route, I’ve flown to or from Singapore to five Australian cities – the big three, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne - plus Perth and Darwin.

Getting back to the flight, the main reason I like sitting on the right side of the airplane on these afternoon departures between Singapore and Australia is that the sun sets on this side. Any of you who’ve ever flown over the equatorial regions of the planet know that the sunsets – particularly as seen from the troposphere – can occasionally be incredibly pretty. The main reason for this would seem to be the heat and humidity – especially over water - that combine to create some amazing clouds. Here are a couple of the nicer ones I’ve witnessed over the years:



Sunset while flying just off the coast of Somalia


Sunset while flying between Singapore and Brisbane


Unfortunately, heavy cloud cover – both high and low - obscured most of the potentially great views on today’s flight, and so while I could see the sun, the overall beauty resulting from the combination of sun, clouds and shadows was missing from this afternoon’s flight. I did manage a couple of late afternoon “ambiance” type shots. Now if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’m going to request a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue with canapés and leave you with these two photos…



Late Afternoon Cabin Ambience


Sunset


Alright then, where were we? Ah yes – speeding southeast through the dark night sky over the Great Sandy Desert while enroute to Melbourne, Australia. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for dinner. Let’s give Isabella a ring, shall we?

I had placed my dinner order earlier this afternoon during our initial round of discussions over drinks and meals. To wit, I had decided to start with that time honored tradition of inflight First Class cuisine – the caviar service. Very few airlines still serve caviar these days, either due to economics or the drastically reduced availability of good caviar due to environmental contamination and over harvesting of sturgeon in the Caspian Sea and other regional fishing holes. Quite a bit of caviar available today is from farm raised sturgeon but whatever its origin, I was looking forward to reacquainting myself with its salty goodness.

Following the caviar, I opted to go with the smoked salmon appetizer. Isabella assured me that it was not too large a portion, which was a good thing because my main course selection of Ayam Goreng Kunyit sounded fairly filling. Described in the menu as a Malaysian style fried chicken with turmeric, served with green bean sambal and nasi lemak with coconut and pandan, it also sounded delicious.

Once again, my table was set with precision and wonderful attention to detail. I like that Emirates actually sets your silverware as opposed to handing you a napkin wrapped around the silverware as some airlines do.



Another beautifully set table


Ready for dinner


I miss the days when the caviar service was done in the grand old tradition via the trolley. It was great fun to watch with anticipation as the stewardess set up your plate with generous spoonfuls of caviar, chopped red onions and eggs, crème fraiche sprinkled with finely chopped shallots and toast points. Some airlines also offered chilled vodka.

That said, I’m thankful that Emirates even still serves caviar and I am doubly appreciative of the effort Isabella put into making up a plate as good looking as it was potentially delicious. Indeed I was so taken by it all that I forgot to photograph the finished plate. Oh well. There are worse transgressions in the world of trip reporting. Hopefully I can appease you with this photo of caviar as I like it best – slathered with all the fixings atop a slice of toasted garlic bread. Mmmmm. Heavenly.



Caviar a la Seat 2A


The salmon was presented next. There was a simple artistry to the delicate presentation that included pickled potatoes, caper berries and herb crème fraîche. I’d like to think the artistically appreciative crews aboard Japan Airlines would have been proud to have served this dish. It was of course delicious, especially as accompanied by a wee taste of that Australian Chardonnay.



Salmon Appetizer


For the main course of Malaysian Style Fried Chicken I elected to switch to a glass of the Two Hands Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley. The wine list description indicated its “full bodied palate displays a gloriously thick texture with plenty of exotic spice and an incredibly long finish. Great with rich, flavorful and spicy dishes such as barbequed ribs or peppered steak”.

Well now, allow me to add Malaysian style fried chicken to those recommendations as well. I’ve had fried chicken dishes before on airplanes, and they’re easily overcooked. Not so today. The chicken was moist with a nice mildly spicy coating that frankly I was hoping would be just a bit spicier. Still, it was very good. I even enjoyed the green beans – never my favorite accompaniment – but as cooked with the sambal sauce they were surprisingly palatable.



Ayam Goreng Kunyit
Malaysian style fried chicken with turmeric, served with green bean sambal
and nasi lemak with coconut and pandan



Dinner Table Ambiance


Man oh man, I am starting to get pretty full here. I reckon I’m not 19 years old anymore when I could’ve esily handled twice this amount. That’s alright. These days a little less will do me good. So now the question is – do I want the cheese service or one of the delicious sounding desserts?

This one was pretty easy to sort out. I mean, I can find some pretty tasty desserts just about anywhere on the planet. It’s not just anywhere though that I can be served a first rate selection of cheeses from around the world accompanied by a 55 year old port.

I’ll have the cheese plate with a glass of the port, please.



Cheese Tray with Accompaniments


Cheese Tray with Accompaniments


Graham’s Colheita Single Vintage Tawny Port 1963


Now I wish I could tell you that just one sip of this port was a transformational experience for me but – truth be told – it wasn’t. It was very good, yes – but the Warre’s, 1986, Reserve Tawny Port as once offered by BA remains my holy grail of ports. My second favorite would have to be the 30 Year Old Graham’s Tawny Port currently being offered in Japan Airlines’ First Class. Third is a toss-up between tonight’s 1963 and the KWV Classic Cape Tawny that I was served aboard South African Airways on a flight between Sao Paulo and Johannesburg three years ago.

Even so, I’ve had the good fortune to have been served a lot of pretty nice ports over the years whilst cruising high above the planet, and for this one to be ranked in the top three or four is still a great way to bring this meal to a close. And who knows – if you should be so fortunate as to one day find yourself sitting aboard an Emirates jet savoring this very same port, you may well consider it to be the very best port you’ve ever had. We’ll never know until you do, so here’s hoping that happens for you and yours sooner rather than later.

I’m sure by now most of us have seen the Emirates commercials featuring Jennifer Anniston. My favorite is the one in which she asks the bar tender to ask the Captain if there’s some way they could circle around for another hour or so to make the flight last a bit longer. That’s how I feel now. Seven hours is way too short for an Emirates flight. It’s not fair…

With less than an hour remaining in the flight, I paid one last visit to the rear of the plane. When I returned the cabin lights had been dimmed and the effect was quite enchanting with the starry night reflected on the ceiling above.



Nighttime Cabin


Evening Suite


As we made our final approach into Melbourne, I savored the last of my second glass of port and watched as the lights of the city passed by beneath us. Although this flight was almost over, I had an exciting few days in Tasmania to look forward to, followed by a pair of 14 and 16 hour flights aboard Emirates’ A380 to look forward to.

Out my window the lights grew ever larger. The airport perimeter fence swept past followed by the runway threshold. A gentle bump signaled our return to terra firma. Surprisingly, I never heard the thrust reversers leading me to assume that carbon fiber brakes had done such an admirable job of slowing us to a stately taxi speed.

A trio of flight attendants including Isabella was on hand to wish us well as we disembarked through door 1L. I thanked them all for an excellent flight and we exchanged best wishes for our future travels. Inside the terminal I squinted at the bright lights but otherwise was thrilled to be back in Australia again, especially since I had a hotel reservation for tonight and a casual day around town tomorrow before catching the evening ferry to Devonport. Tasmania has always been my favorite island in the world and I was very much looking forward to spending the next ten days there.

Now then, where is Immigration and Customs? With my luck, probably way down on the opposite side of the terminal. Sigh… Better get walking…
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Last edited by Seat 2A; Dec 18, 18 at 3:20 am
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Old Dec 18, 18, 7:55 am
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I haven't read anything but the opening post yet but this is a real holiday treat!
Congrats Seat 2A on one hell of an achievement.

Time to tuck in and devour all of this.
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Old Dec 18, 18, 8:35 am
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outstanding sir
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Old Dec 18, 18, 8:37 am
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Really great trip report Seat2A!! Congratulations on your 5,501st flight, and 200th airline Thank you for sharing and taking us along.
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Old Dec 18, 18, 9:42 am
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Love the written style and graphical embellishments Mr. Seat2A! Another masterful and engaging report. Bravo.
I can recommend you give the Air France La Premiere service (in the 773 though) a real good go. The lounge experience on its own is well worth the trip. This week will see me excise my craving for such excess
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Old Dec 18, 18, 10:53 am
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What a fantastic trip report. I enjoyed reading every line, as always.

Thank you.
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Old Dec 18, 18, 12:32 pm
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Just finished reading. What a lovely experience! So glad you found some fun airlines to cross the 200 barrier. I think I'm at a bare dozen. Emirates looked incredible as did JAL.
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Old Dec 18, 18, 12:55 pm
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As always - my favorite rabbit hole on FT. Thanks for delaying my afternoon of work.
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Old Dec 18, 18, 1:51 pm
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Thanks for this report. I'm impressed by both your choice of airlines and your schedule. It helps when one travels in style though.

I couldn't help thinking of Alaska's Persian Spiced Chicken, I can imagine the conversations if it had been named Iranian Spiced Chicken instead. I also realize I have missed an opportunity to fly an interesting airline between SIN and KUL. I have own travel lined up early next year onboard Scoot but Uzbekistan or Air Mauritius would have been something else.
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