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A New Yearís Travel Extravaganza Featuring AF, CI, SQ, LX, BA, EI, EY, LH, KM and KL

A New Yearís Travel Extravaganza Featuring AF, CI, SQ, LX, BA, EI, EY, LH, KM and KL

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Old Jan 17, 19, 5:06 pm
  #16  
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Yeah, it is kind of cool. Everytime I think 'I don't wanna go home', I tell myself: 'you'll be back pretty soon...'!
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Old Jan 18, 19, 5:30 am
  #17  
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Part 10: Sydney to Singapore in Singapore Airlines Suites

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS.

INTRODUCTION

I was going to start by saying that Iím on my way home. But given that Iíll only be home for something like 22 hours, letís just say that, sadly, itís time for me to leave Sydney and head back to Europe. Iíve enjoyed being here! Fortunately, I know Iíll be back next year and then Iíll be able to spend a bit more time. Otherwise, I think Iíd be seriously depressed at the prospect of returning to the cold, snowy weather!

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
One last time, I make the journey on the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay. And what a lovely day itís turned out to be for it. At Circular Quay I change onto the train, which pulls into the station just as I reach the platform. The only difference is that today I will be going one stop further, to the international terminal.

CHECK-IN
Singapore Airlines checks in on row K, which is the remotest row of check-in counters from the escalators that bring you up to the departures concourse. There is a separate line with two counters for Suites passengers. When I arrive, both counters are already occupied, so Iím swiftly ushered to one of the Business Class counters instead. From check-in, you have to make the schlepp all the way back to row C, which is where the entrance to the fast track is located. Although in this case, I might as well not have bothered, because the e-gate reader cannot identify my biometric passport. As a result, I have to walk all the way back in the direction from where I came, because thatís where the staffed immigration counters are located. And then once Iím through immigration, Iím ushered all the way back again in the direction of the e-gates, because thatís where theyíve just opened a new queue for security that the queue manager wants to me to join.With that done, Iím finally airside and head straight for the Singapore Airlines Kris Lounge near gate 61, from where my flight will be leaving. And thatís quite a schlepp too.

LOUNGE
Singapore Airlines operates its own lounges here in Sydney, and there is a dedicated First Class lounge. Itís a fairly big lounge, and I even manage to grab a seat by the windows overlooking the apron. Cool!Once Iím seated, the waiter brings me a refreshing hot towel and the ŗ la carte menu. Thereís also a buffet with warm dishes to choose from. The lavatories seem to be a bit of a problem at Sydney airport, in that theyíre the cleanest. And those in the lounge are no differentÖ

BOARDING
Boarding starts at 11h45. Suite passengers queue with the Business Class passengers for the upper deck. All in all, I find the Singapore Airlines Suites experience on the ground somewhat underwhelming, especially if you compare it to Air France (sorry, I canít help itÖ). In fact, it feels a lot more like Business Class than First Class, but maybe thatís just me.

CABIN
Currently, SQ 232 is the flight out of Sydney that is operates in the new First Class configuration. The key feature of the suite is that there is a separate bed, in addition to the seat. At a glance, the suite looks very nice. There is a lot of storage space and the video screen is positively enormous. There are a few things which seem a bit strange though, such as the fake orchids in every Suite. I think either they should go for real orchids or otherwise not have a holder to put one in. Another thing that strikes me, is that during the meal service, when the seat is turned towards the table, youíre facing the aisle, which has the effect that during the whole meal service you and the person sitting in the Suite opposite, are looking at each other. I suppose you could keep the door to your suite closed while you eat, but that somehow just seems strange. You also canít recline your seat when itís in the forward facing position. And finally, it should also be noted that the Suite is not really that private, because the dividers donít really reach that far up. Iím 184cm tall and could actually look over the top. The Singapore Airlines Suite very much reminds me of what Etihad has installed on its A 380s. But I prefer Singapore Airlinesí solution, because despite the things I mentioned above, this still is a very nice product. Whatís more, with all the available space it feels more like an actual room than a seat. B&O earphones, the amenity kit and the menu are already at my seat when I arrive. There are also socks and slippers, which are stored in the large closet of each Suite. Once Iím seated, the crew come to welcome me on board and bring me, in short sequence, a glass of Perrier with lemon, a refreshing towel and the pyjamas. The lead flight attendant in the red kebaya introduces herself to me and explains how everything in the suite works.

CREW
The crew seem friendly enough. Theyíre chatty and engage easily with the passengers. Thereís not a hint of the robotic behaviour the Singapore Airlines crews are sometimes criticised for. I think what it is, is that the whole service comes across like a highly optimised process. As a result, it doesnít really feel so exclusive.

SERVICE
As I already mentioned, while weíre still on the ground the crew offer refreshments and I ask for a glass of sparkling water with lemon.Once weíre airborne, another crew member comes to take my order for lunch and asks me at what phase of the flight Iíd like to eat. Given that itís already gone lunch time, I tell her Iíd prefer to eat straight away.A short while later, she returns with the Singapore Sling I ordered (I mean, what elseÖ?) and a small bowl of warm nuts.

THE MEAL
The meal service on this flight is swift and timed at a pleasant pace. Clearly the crew want to make sure passengers have enough time to rest on this flight. About one hour after our departure from Sydney, the table is set for the meal. There is no amuse bouche to start, but there are so many courses that itís probably better that way.
First course: seared salmon with pickled Kohlrabi with an edamame and wasabi purťe.The salmon is good, but the rest of the dish is a bit bland. I think maybe the food is still too cold, because I can hardly make out any of the other tastes.
Soup: Sweetcorn and shellfish soup with herb oil. Now this is a very flavourful soup with a hint of saffron. It tastes like summer on the Mediterranean.
Salad: Honey roasted beet salad with feta cheese.The salad is also very good, with the feta complementing the beets nicely.
Main course: Pan roasted grouper with salsa verde.I chose this one despite the fact that itís served with fennel. I just didnít much feel like meat. The taste is very good, itís a nice piece of fish and theyíve managed to keep it moist. But again, I canít really make out the taste of the salsa verde.
Dessert: Chocolate marquise with caramelised pecans.The dessert is okay. Itís your standard creamy chocolaty airplane dessert.
Selection of cheese: Shadow of blue, Maffra cloth bound cheddar, Woombye triple brie, Savourine goats cheese.The cheese is served with fruit bread and crackers. Itís a good cheese selection and I particularly like the Shadow of blue.
To drink I stick with the Perrier and also have a glass of the 2004 Krug.

After the meal, I request for the bed to be made up for me and lie down to read.

AMENITIES
The amenity kit is by Lalique and looks rather nice. The only thing though, is that its content is utterly and completely useless. There is a small bar of soap, lip balm, body lotionÖ and a scented candle?The slippers and pyjama that are provided are also by Lalique. I am given an XL for both the slippers and the pjs, which are just a bit too big for me but still comfortable.

SECOND SERVICE
For the second service, there is a choice of either an Angus beef burger or a selection of dim sum. Seeing as Iím not much of a carnivore anyway, I decide to go with the dim sum. The dish is served with a small bowl of a suitably spicy red sauce and something which I think the flight attendant said was a sort of mashed celery cake. Whatever it was, I like it.

ARRIVAL
After a flight time of seven hours and twenty minutes the flight draws to an end. I must admit, even though I still think the A 380 is ugly as sin, itís still an impressive piece of machinery. After we land, we slowly trundle along until eventually we arrive on our parking stand at Changiís Terminal 3.

CONCLUSION
In the sum of all things, I enjoyed the flight. But I think a lot of that also has to do with the A 380. As for Singapore Airlines, I liked the new First Class cabin because itís spacious and roomy, although perhaps not very private. The service was okay, I guess, but nothing more. And the food was rather bland.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 11:16 pm
  #18  
 
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Love the TR. thanks for posting. BTW your photos are beautiful.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 11:34 pm
  #19  
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Hi rkaradi

Thanks, glad you're enjoying the trip report. These days I just use the camera on my iphone. The other passengers tend to give you less of a nasty look than with a proper camera...
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Old Jan 20, 19, 6:25 am
  #20  
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Part 11: Singapore to Paris CDG in Air France Business Class

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS.

INTRODUCTION

In Singapore Iím staying at the Changi Crowne Plaza Hotel, which has direct access to Terminal 3. I spend a blissfully lazy Saturday by the pool. I mean, what else could you possibly ask for? I have a room that opens directly onto the pool, itís warm outside and all I have to do to watch the aeroplanes taking off is to look up from my Kindle whenever I hear one thundering by.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
To get from the hotel to Terminal 1, I exit the hotel on the second floor level and do two right turns, which brings me to the Skytrain station for the short trip across to Terminal 1.

CHECK-IN
The Air France check-in counters are on the very first row of counters when you enter Terminal 1 coming from the direction of the Skytrain. You really canít miss them. Online check-in is available, but it is not possible to save the boarding pass to Passbook or to have it printed. Still, it makes no difference to me, seeing as Iíll be checking in a suitcase anyway. There is one counter for La PremiŤre, four for SkyPriority and two baggage drop-off counters for Economy Class passengers.Thereís a bit of a hold up checking in. Iím not sure whatís going on, but the agents are taking their sweet time processing the passengers. Although admittedly, it probably doesnít help that thereís one woman travelling on her own with, and I kid you not, five large Rimowa suitcases, four rucksacks, two laptop bags and one handbag. When the check-in agent breaks the news to her that, surprisingly, sheís exceeded her baggage allowance, she looks totally surprisedÖ

LOUNGE
Air France uses the DNATA lounge in Terminal 1, which is fairly big but also very busy when I arrive. Thereís hardly anywhere left to sit. The lounge has a good selection of hot and hold dishes and a wide selection of drinks. Other than that, itís not a particularly memorable lounge.

BOARDING
The flight will be departing from gate D34, and on the boarding pass it says that boarding will commence at 22h30 for the 23h10 departure. I figure 22h30 indicates the time to report at the gate for the security check. Luckily, there is a separate and much shorter queue for SkyPriority passengers. Just as Iím packing away my things, boarding for the flight starts, with an invitation for SkyPriority passengers to board first.

CABIN
On the Boeing B 777-300ER Air France has a reverse herringbone configuration, with the window seats facing towards the windows for more privacy. The seat is fully lie-flat and has more than enough storage space. USB and electricity plugs are also available. The seat is quite wide, so that when in the fully flat position, thereís still enough space to toss and turn in your sleep. There are two Business Class cabins, one forward of the L2 door and the other aft of it. I am sitting in the forward cabin on 4A, which is the second row in the forward cabin with four rows of seats. The cabin and seat are kept in Air Franceís colours Ė white, red and blue Ė and look very attractive and fresh. When I arrive at my seat, a pillow, blanket and slippers have already been placed at my seat.

CREW
The crew on this flight are excellent. Theyíre quite senior and they do an outstanding job. Throughout the flight theyíre checking that the snack bar is replenished and the toilets are regularly checked, kept stocked and clean.

SERVICE
Once boarding is completed, the crew pass through the cabin with the welcome drinks. There is a choice of champagne or fruit juice on the tray, but other drinks are also available on request. After that, scented hot towels are handed out.The flight time is announced at thirteen hours and twenty minutes.Once weíre airborne, the crew distribute the menus and pass through the cabin with a tray offering more champagne.

THE MEAL
Originally, the plan was that Iíd eat in the lounge and just go straight off to sleep once weíre airborne. Which is why I nearly overdosed on the creamy mashed potatoes they had in the lounge. That and the fact that Iím just a sucker for a good plate of mashÖ In any case, I make the mistake of looking at the menu and decide that it does all sound rather interesting. And Iím not really tired yet anyway, soÖ bugger it. Iím in!

The tray arrives with the first course, the salad and the cheese already on it.
First course
Semi-cooked tuna in a black pepper crust, served on quinoa salad and poached shrimp on a citrus salad with cucumber and a yuzu vinaigrette.This is a tasty dish and the presentation works well. Itís also properly seasoned (which is something Singapore Airlines didnít manage quite so wellÖ).
Salad
The salad comes with a small bottle of balsamico mixed with olive oil. Itís mostly leaves but itís still a fairly large salad. With that the crew offer a selection of breads.
Main course
Penne with a mushroom ragout, roast tomatoes and garlic oil. There is a choice of four different dishes for the main course. The pasta is good and has managed not to go all hard and rubbery as it sometimes tends to do on a plane. The ragout is flavourful and creamy.
Selection of cheese
Unfortunately, it doesnít say anywhere what the cheeses are, but theyíre very good!
Dessert
Chocolate praline ťclair, violet mousse, yuzu meringue tart and strawberry sorbet. For dessert there is a choice of either ice cream (banana, vanilla or strawberry sorbet) or three small pastries. I initially go for the pastries, but then the flight attendant tells me that the strawberry sorbet out of Singapore is usually rather nice too. Just in case Iím interested. Oh very well then, bring it on. Je souffre en silenceÖ

After the meal, the crew set up a fairly substantial buffet in the galley with a good selection of some delectable French sweets by Fauchon, sandwiches, noodle soups and fruit. And I go off to the land of nod for a solid seven hours. Incidentally, the blankets Air France provides in Business Class are lovely. Theyíre cosy and warm and fluffy.

AMENITIES
The amenity kit is some special edition to commemorate Air Franceís 85th jubilee. It may not necessarily look like much, but at least it contains some useful items, including eye shades, ear plugs, a toothbrush and Signal toothpaste, a comb, and a pen.

SECOND SERVICE
The second service begins ninety minutes out of Paris. The lights come on and passengers are given a scented hot towel to revive.The tray arrives with the hot meal and all the other items already on it. There are three choices for the hot meal. My meal consists of:
Fruit salad
Yoghurt
A selection of bread, croissants and pain au chocolat
CrÍpes in vanilla sauce with a passion fruit and mango salsa.

The breakfast is quite substantial and the hot meal is simply divine. This is total comfort food. The vanilla cream is rich and not overly sweet and the pancakes are light and thin.

ARRIVAL
Just under forty minutes out of Paris, we start our initial descent into Paris. The captain comes on to inform us that weíll be doing an automatic landing in Pairs because visibility on the ground is very bad. We touch down, the mighty triple seven gives us one last impressive roar as the reversers open to slow us down, and then itís done. Weíve landed and Iím back in Europe. By the time we arrive at our gate in Terminal 2E itís already 06h10. I now have just slightly over an hour to make my connection back to ZŁrich from Terminal 2F.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 11:36 am
  #21  
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Next trip: ZŁrich to Luxembourg in SWISS Business Class

Here's the link to the photos.

INTRODUCTION
Itís Monday morning. The holiday is over and Iím back to work. Today marks the first in a number of business trips that will see me travelling more or less nonstop until March. Still, never mind. If I close my eyes and listen carefully, I can still hear the waves breaking on Manly BeachÖ

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I take the 06h07 train from Basel, which is an ICE Ė my favourite. At ZŁrich main station I change to the 07h05, which ejects me at ZŁrich airport just fifteen minutes later.

CHECK-IN
Iíve checked in using the SWISS app as usual. The boarding pass still wonít show up on my locked screen and I suspect thatís not about to change any time soon. The check-in area and security are surprisingly quiet. The flight to Luxembourg leaves at 09h05, so maybe I just managed to miss the morning rush.

LOUNGE
Iím in dire need of a coffee, which is why I head straight for the SWISS lounge to re-caffeinate. I try using the e-gate to enter the lounge, but the display is showing an error message. So I approach the desk and explain my predicament to the lounge dragon. She smiles and explains in a mocking tone that itís not working because everything at SWISS is of such superior qualityÖ I get that she was probably going for some comic relief with her apology, but I still find it somewhat alienating that she would take the piss at the company she represents to do so. Other than that, I donít know what it is about this lounge, but for some reason I really donít feel comfortable here. The place just feels a bit sterile. Other than that, thereís hardly any space left to sit, unless you feel like making a new acquaintance and sitting at a table with strangers. So I quickly down my coffee and head for the gate, which at least has the much better views.

BOARDING
Boarding starts with an initial call for the premium passengers to board through the manned exit on the left. Once thatís done, the remaining passengers are invited to board using one of the electronic gates.

CABIN
Iíd really like to know just how much time and money SWISS invests in all the aircraft changes it does. Since I booked this flight, the aircraft type operating the flight has changed at least five times, but it now looks as though an Airbus A 220-300 will be deployed. The cabin is in pristine condition. The two benefits for the passenger when flying with the A 220 are the large windows on the one hand, and the fact that the seating configuration is 2 + 3. Iím seated on 1A, a window seat. The aisle seat on 1C is kept empty in Business Class.

CREW
Iím assuming there are three cabin crew on the flight today. The Business Class cabin is served by the maÓtre de, a young man who is probably German, at least thatís my guess based on his accent. The crew seem friendly enough, although clearly the young man is probably more interested in flirting with one of the female flight attendants than in attending to the passengers.

SERVICE
When I arrive at my seat, a small bottle of still water as well as a pre-packed wet towel have already been placed at my seat. We push back on time. The flight time to Luxembourg is announced as 45 minutes.

THE MEALThe meal consists of the usual three items: a brioche with salmon, which is always good, a small ramekin of Bircher MŁsli and another ramekin with fresh fruit. To drink I request a coffee, which is served in a cardboard cup and tastes just vile. The highlight of the meal, of course, is the small chocolate bar.

ARRIVAL
By the time we reach Luxembourg, the weather has improved significantly. Itís a lovely day up here. We land at 09h55. One of the nice things about flying SWISS to Luxembourg is that SWISS always insists on having a contact stand, which mean you can avoid the tedious bus shuttle from the aircraft to the terminal building. Generally speaking, I donít mind taking a bus, because at least that allows you to take photos of your aircraft as you disembark. But here in Luxembourg, they donít actually have proper airport busses and instead use what appear to be decommissioned public transport busses, which are usually too small for all the passengers disembarking from a plane. Once Iím landside again, I catch the bus 16 which takes me directly to my office in Kirchberg.
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Old Jan 26, 19, 4:48 am
  #22  
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And home again: Luxembourg to ZŁrich with Helvetic Airways

Here's the link to the photos.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Itís only just gone 13h on Friday afternoon and the flying Dutchman P. offers to drive me to the airport. I suspect he probably just took pity on me after Iíd been nagging the whole week about how cold it was in Luxembourg...

CHECK-IN
At Luxembourg airport, Lufthansa and SWISS check-in on rows 15 to 17. There are also self-service machines available. Iíve checked in on the app.Before the security checkpoint in Luxembourg, Luxair ground staff check to make sure that passengersí hand luggage is within the permissible dimensions and weight. And theyíre actually quite strict about it.

LOUNGE
The lounge is still quiet. It gets a lot busier after 17h. So I grab myself a seat with a good view of the runway. And then I while away my time reading and watching the landing and departing aircraft. The lounge in Luxembourg is nice, but in order to accommodate all the passengers that use the facility, seating in the lounge is rather tight.There are no showers in the lounge and as far as catering is concerned, only cold snacks are available. Although they do have some tasty cakes on offer tooÖ

BOARDING
The flight is delayed arriving from ZŁrich. No reason is given for the delay by the gate attendants or the cabin crew. In any case, as a result, boarding starts about fifteen minutes behind schedule.Once boarding is completed, the captain comes on to inform us that there will be a further delay of ten minutes because weíre going to have to de-ice on stand first. Eventually, we depart with a delay of thirty minutes.

CABIN
This aircraft has a cabin divider to separate the Business Class cabin from Economy. Iím not sure what the logic here is. I suspect that perhaps those aircraft assigned to SWISS are equipped with a cabin divider, whereas those operating for Helvetic Airways are not.There are two rows of Business Class and three of the four available seats are occupied.

CREW
There are three crew on this flight and the maÓtre de serving the Business Class cabin is an absolute delight. Sheís still quite young and seems a bit reserved or formal. But her manners are flawless. Every time she addresses one of the passengers, she uses their family name. And later during the short flight, when she comes to clear the tray tables, she makes a point of asking each passenger individually if they enjoyed the meal.

SERVICE
As usual, the small bottle of still water and the packaged refreshing towel are handed out once boarding is completed. Once de-icing is done, we push back from the gate. The flight time to ZŁrich is announced as 45 minutes. But somewhere along the line we receive a shortcut or something, because eventually we land in Luxembourg after a flight time of only 39 minutes.

THE MEAL
The meal is more of a snack really, and consists of the usual three ramekins. Today we have salmon tartar, a cheese mousse with beetroot and apple crumble. The salmon tartar and the crumble are quite good, but the cheese mousse thing is horrible and has a rather unappealing texture.

ARRIVAL
As we approach Switzerland, the weather starts to improve. At some point during our steep descent, the aircraft banks left to fly in an easterly track. As we come out of the bank, the Alps come in to view. Theyíre all covered in snow and look so majestic, towering above the clouds.We land at 16h09 and make our way to one of the open stands alongside runway 28. Fortunately, SWISS has remembered to send out the Business Class bus to pick us up (which isnít always the caseÖ). And with only three passengers weíre soon off towards the terminal.
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Old Jan 27, 19, 5:49 am
  #23  
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Onwards and upwards: British Airways from Basel to London Heathrow

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS.

INTRODUCTION

Next round. Itís Sunday morning and Iím on my way to the airport again. This time though, my trip will be starting from Basel instead of ZŁrich. Iím on my way to give two courses back to back. I will be joined on both trips by the flying Dutchman, P.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The journey by car from the main railway station to Basel airport takes about fifteen minutes to complete. Being early Sunday morning thereís hardly any traffic and I seem to be hitting all the green lights.

CHECK-IN
Because Iíll be gone for two weeks, Iím travelling with a suitcase this time. Which means my first stop once I get to the airport will be at the check-in counters. I did try checking in online, but apparently the interface between British Airways and Aer Lingus doesnít work very well, because the BA website is unable to generate a boarding pass in the app to download into the passbook app, and the Aer Lingus app canít do it either because they have no ticket data.This also means that Iím randomly assigned a seat on the Aer Lingus flight that I canít change in the app. They actually want to put me on an aisle seat!But allís well that ends well. The check-in agent tags my suitcase to my final destination and also changes my seat from an aisle to a window seat.British Airways checks-in in the Swiss sector of the airport.

AIRSIDE & LOUNGE
Many moons ago, the benefits of flying in and out of Basel were that a) the airport is much smaller than ZŁrich and therefore b) less busy and c) only fifteen minutes away from my home. But ever since the Schengen treaty was suspended at Basel airport, itís really not so much fun. Security has been tightened, so that at any given time, the queue is rarely shorter than fifteen to twenty minutes. Whatís more, the lounge is located before you go through immigration. And with all the additional flights that are now being handled as non-Schengen departures, the queues at immigration have increased too.Of course, it doesnít help that humanity appears to have a natural compulsion to herd like sheep the moment they step into an airport and also seem to think that, surely, the 100ml rules canít possibly apply to them tooÖThe SkyView lounge is fairly busy when I arrive, although admittedly, you wouldnít think so to look at the photo Iíve posted. Itís just that most passengers tend to go upstairs where all the food, the views and the open air viewing terrace are located. Although the latter seems to be functioning more as the smoking area in this cold weather.

BOARDING
British Airways seem to have this paranoia about starting the boarding process as quickly as possible in order to avoid any departure delays which could see you holding over London for what seems like an eternity later on. Which is why boarding for todayís flight start forty minutes before departure.British Airways has this nifty boarding process, whereby status holder and Business Class passengers queue according to the group indicated on their boarding pass. Only once the queues for groups 1, 2 and 3 have been cleared does boarding for the general riffraff begin.

CABIN
Fortunately, Iíve managed to secure an emergency exit row seat for the flight to London. And thank god for that, because since the European fleet has been refurbished, your only chance as an average sized adult to squeeze your legs into a standard row is either to sit sideways or spread your legs wider than is modestly acceptable in publicÖOn a positive note, the headrest has sides that can be folded up to support your bonce if you need to nap.Luckily, the flight is not full today, so the middle seat between me and the guy on the aisle stays empty.

CREW
The crew are friendly enough. Their service is polite but very formal. I canít really say anything much else about them.

THE MEAL
Service in Economy Class is buy on board. British Airways has teamed up with British retailer Marks & Spencer to provide inflight catering in the back of the bus.I have a Twining mint tea and the box set of vegetarian sandwiches. There are four sandwich quarters in the box. The sandwiches are: boiled egg with tomato, cucumber and cream cheese, cheddar cheese and tomato and boiled egg with lettuce.

ARRIVAL
The flight time to London is one hour and ten minutes. Surprisingly, thereís no hold up at all, despite the fact that weíre running early. By the time we reach the gate, weíre just over thirty minutes early. And now, I have to transfer to Terminal 3.
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Old Jan 27, 19, 9:59 pm
  #24  
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London Heathrow to Shannon with Aer Lingus

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS

TRANSFER IN HEATHROW
My flight from Basel arrives in Terminal 5, which is served only by British Airways and Iberia. My flight with Aer Lingus will be departing from Terminal 2, the Queenís Terminal. I follow the signs for flight connections to other terminals, which eventually takes me one floor down to ground level. From here, there is a regular airside shuttle service to Terminal 2. The journey time by bus is roughly ten minutes. Itís kind of nice, a bit like taking a tour of the airport. On the way, we pass British Airwaysí impressive line-up of long-haul aircraft parked at the B satellite of Terminal 5.Once the bus arrives at Terminal 2, I head one floor up for security and another floor up to immigration, even though Iím only changing planes in Heathrow. On a side note, there is a separate channel for passengers continuing their journey to Ireland and the UK, although Iím not even sure there are any domestic flights out of Terminal 2. And then once thatís done, Iím airside.

AIRSIDE & LOUNGE
The Aer Lingus lounge is located one floor up from the public airside area. The entrance is opposite the escalators. The lounge is fairly large and the interior is welcoming, if somewhat worn in places. Thereís a decidedly Irish touch to the place, with bright green carpets that have been designed to look like grass.And the toilets are certainly better than those in the British Airways lounge back in Terminal 5! Other than that though, drink and food choices are limited. In fact, there is only a pot of creamy chicken soup by way of proper food. Other than that, itís really just biscuits and packets of crisps.The location of the lounge gives you a good view of the outside and the threshold of runway 09L. Unfortunately though, there is this metal construction in front of the windows which kind of obstructs the view. But itís still good enough.

BOARDING
Boarding for the flight starts at 14h40 for a 15h20 departure. In fact, by the time I reach the gate at 14h45, the flight is already in the final stages of boarding. The flight has a good load, but is not fully booked, and there are still a few empty seats. Luckily, the middle seat on my row also stays empty.

CABIN
Aer Lingus operates its short-haul fleet in an Economy Class only configuration. Although I recently heard that they were considering reintroducing a sort of Business Class on some routes.The seats are in dark blue leather and are nicely padded and comfortable. The seat pitch is also very good. The headrest is adjustable.

CREW
The crew consists of five middle aged ladies. Theyíre not overly friendly, but their service is professional and polite towards the passengers. The flight time is given as one hour.

THE MEAL
Food is buy on board on Aer Lingus. Once weíre airborne, I order a cup of tea for EUR 3. The one thing that strikes me about Aer Lingus, is that the atmosphere in the cabin is always quite pleasant and relaxed. And todayís flight is no different. I wonder if perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Aer Lingusí passengers are just used to the concept of buy on board. As a result, you donít get that undercurrent of resentment from both the crews and the passengers about having to fork out for a drink and a snack.

ARRIVAL
We land in Shannon on time and the weather is horrible. The apron is fairly quiet, save for two Ryanair flights that are in the final stages of boarding, with passengers hurrying along to get out of the pouring rain. I guess thatís one way to speed up the boarding processÖ At least Aer Lingus has the decency to use an airbridge.The terminal building at Shannon airport really is exceptionally ugly. Itís old and any work that has been done in recent years has been done primarily to expand the facility, but obviously not to embellish. But never mind, itís a passenger terminal, not a five star hotel.The flying Dutchman has rented a car, which weíll need to get from Limerick, where the hotel is, to the venue of the course. The journey by car from the airport into Limerick takes under thirty minutes.
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Old Jan 31, 19, 3:10 pm
  #25  
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Time to move on: Shannon to London Heathrow on Aer Lingus

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS!

INTRODUCTION

Itís Thursday afternoon. The course with the IAA in Shannon went well. My job is done, and so itís time to move on. The next course will be starting in two days. Shannon airport is located about fifteen minutes away by car from IAAís HQ. We arrive at the car park for the car rental returns and itís pouring with rain. Although that isnít really worth mentioning because it seems to be the normal state of affairs in Ireland. Which makes it all the more impressive how everyone here manages to stay so friendly and easy going. There is a shuttle from the Hertz office to the terminal, but given that itís only a two minute walk, that hardly seems worth it Ė even with the rain.

CHECK-IN
The terminal building is a strange place. The check-in area is in a part of the terminal which looks as though itís much newer than the rest of the building. There are four rows of check-in counters, but half of them look as though they havenít been used in years. Iím also not really sure what to make of the seventies style wood panelling everywhere. In any case, Iím already checked in, but I still need to drop off my enormous suitcase. My first stop is at one of the Aerlingus self-service machines, but apparently they will only issue a boarding pass but not the baggage tag. So eventually I just head over to the check-in counter. Aerlingus has six counters in Shannon, but only one is manned when I reach check in.

LOUNGE & AIRSIDE
The departure gates are located one floor up from the check-in area. Luckily, the security check point is deserted when I arrive, which, as far as the Irish are concerned, is another great opportunity to have a little natter before sending me on my way. This must be just about the friendliest security check Iíve ever undergone!

Aerlingus does not have its own lounge in Shannon, but Executive Club Silver passengers flying on Aerlingus are entitled to use the Boru lounge that is operated by Shannon airport. The lounge is small but nicely laid out. The toilets are clean and thereís even a shower. As far as food goes, itís just hot and cold drinks and snacks to eat Ė things like scones and cake.

BOARDING
There are two separate queues for boarding. One for Priority passengers, and one for everyone else. Boarding for the flight starts thirty minutes before departure.

CABIN
This aircraft is in the same layout as that of my inbound flight. In fact, if Iím not mistaken, I think itís the same plane. Today Iím seated on the emergency exit on 12A, which is the first of the two emergency exit rows on the A 320. Row 12 is the best place to sit, I think. On the one hand, because in addition to the extra legroom, the fact that itís an exit row means the passengers in the row before cannot recline their seats. While at the same time, because the next row is also an emergency exit, the extra pitch means you wonít have the person sitting behind you grinding their kneecaps into your lower back. Unless of course, the person behind you is the tall, blond M. with his awfully long legs.

CREW
The crew are friendly, like everybody else I met on this trip to Ireland. The purser in an elderly gentleman who, quite frankly, looks as though he started his flying career back in the days of the elegant Vickers Viscount. Perhaps that also explains his excellent manners and customer care. I think heís brilliant!

THE MEAL
Once weíre airborne, I buy a Coke Zero which sets me back EUR2.50. Which is reasonable for a 0.33l can.

ARRIVAL
Initially, the flight time is announced as one hour, which would have meant us arriving in Heathrow at 18h30. But then weíre kept circling for a while before we make the approach. So that eventually, by the time we come to a stop on our designated stand, itís already 19h05.The Aerlingus gates in Terminal 2 are very conveniently located a very short walk away from the luggage belts. If youíre arriving from Ireland you will not have to go through immigration in the UK. At least not until the end of March.

My first stop after I exit through customs is at Marks & Spencerís to get some food. And then from there I head down into the bowels of the Queenís Terminal to catch the complimentary rail shuttle to Terminal 4. All in all, from exiting the aircraft to entering my hotel room it takes me slightly more than ninety minutes. Mainly, because the shuttle to Terminal 4 only runs very thirty minutes, at 03 and 33 past the hour.
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Old Feb 2, 19, 12:10 am
  #26  
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A visit to the new customer: Etihad Airway Business Class from London to Abu Dhabi

HERE's THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS.

INTRODUCTION

I spend the night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Terminal 4. The hotel only opened in October 2018 and still retains that smell of new building and new furniture. The rooms are comfortable and spacious and the staff are obviously still eager to please. The only issue I have, is that I mistakenly booked a room in the quiet zone of the building, which by default means a room away from the airport. So no airport views.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
This must be one of the shortest airport transfers ever! I exit the hotel at 11h15 and make my way up the escalator onto the foot bridge to Terminal 4, which is about two minutes away if youíre walking at a leisurely pace. The foot bridge ejects me on the departures level of the terminal.

CHECK-IN
Etihad Airways checks-in in sector C, which is at the opposite end of the terminal from where I entered the building coming from the hotel. There is one counter for First Class passengers, three for Business Class passengers and five for Economy Class. The check-in agent tags my suitcase and, seeing my passport, chats idly about how nice she thought Malta was when she visited... But then for one horrible moment I think Iím royally screwed as she informs me Iíll need to apply for a visa for Abu Dhabi before I enter the country. But then she realises that sheís made a mistake and used the country code for the Maldives instead of Malta. So weíre good after all.

AIRSIDE & LOUNGE
Thereís a fast track for security, which is pretty much empty when I arrive. One thing they do really well at Heathrow, is the security check Ė itís well organised, quick and efficient. Before I visit the lounge, I decide to take a stroll around the departure concourse. The whole length of the terminal is littered with luxury boutiques from all the well-known brands, with the occasional restaurant thrown in for good measure. The glitzy shops are all empty though, while the PrÍt ŗ Manger is the only place thatís busy. Other than that, architecturally Terminal 4 is not likely to win any prizes any time soon. And Iíd also like to know what sort of cruel soul designs a terminal in such a way that most windows will not give you an unobstructed view of the airplanesÖ? Along the way, I pass a sign pointing passengers in the direction of the all-purpose prayer rooms. I find the sign rather odd though, because it uses the plural Ďablutionsí but with a singular verb. The House lounge is located opposite gate 10, from where my flight to Abu Dhabi will be boarding later on. The entrance to The House is to the right of the SkyTeam lounge.The receptionist welcomes me in and then shows me around. The lounge has a separate dining room. The tables are all nicely set, with a small vase of flowers on each table. There is a choice between an ŗ la carte menu and a selection of hot dishes from the buffet. Figuring itíll probably be a while before I get to eat on the plane, I order the Tortelloni with truffle oil, creamy pumpkin and hazelnut pesto, which tastes excellent. The staff in the lounge are polite, friendly and very attentive. Once Iíve finished the meal, I find myself a quiet corner to sit and relax a bit with my Kindle. I only realise once I sit down that Iím actually sitting next to actor Bill Nighy!

BOARDING
Boarding starts at 13h20 for our 14h05 departure. First and Business Class passengers are instructed to take the exit to the airbidge on the far right, which leads to the upper deck.

CABIN
Upon entering the cabin, there are two cabin crew welcoming passengers aboard. The flight attendant acknowledges my status as one of their frequent flyers with a very formal Ďwelcome back, sirí and points me in the general direction of my seat. The cabin lights are dimmed and the mood lighting is set to a warm glow. Etihad Airways has an interesting configuration in the Business Class cabin of their A 380, in that the seats are arranged in pairs facing each other. The advantage of course, is that every passenger has direct aisle access.The window seats, so A and K, face in the direction of travel, whereas the C and H seats are on the aisle and face in the opposite direction. Obviously, this also means that the window seats have more privacy because they are not directly on the aisle. The seat itself is easy to get in and out of and in the sleep position itís wide enough to be able to turn easily. The seat also has a lot of storage space, partly also due to the large bins on the side, under the windows. The inflight entertainment system is touch screen enabled and can be operated either directly or using the hand held remote.The cabin is nice enough. And once again, Iím impressed by how quiet the A 380 cabin is. My only issue, and this is something beyond Etihadís control, is that there is a woman sitting right behind me whose perfume is so heavy and overpowering itís actually starting to give me a headache.A pillow, a blanket, a bottle of water, the menu and the vanity kit have already been placed at my seat when I arrive.

CREW
The crew are a mix of Eastern Europeans and nationals of the Indian subcontinent. Their service seems quite formal. As a result, theyíre quite unobtrusive and not all that noticeable in the cabin, and Iím not sure if this is intentional or not. I find it quite pleasant.

SERVICE
The service on the ground consists of a welcome drink of my choice and a scented hot towel. Unlike many other airlines, just the one hot towel is offered during this flight. To drink I go with a glass of fresh orange juice. Just before we push back, the crew come through the cabin taking orders for lunch. I notice that they approach passengers for their choice in order of their frequent flyer status.

THE MEAL
After take-off, the crew pass through the cabin with drinks. I have a glass of sparkling water and a ramekin of nuts that have a distinct hint of cardamom.
First course: Arabic mezze. The first course is served on a tray which also has on it the bread, salt and pepper as well as butter and olive oil with balsamico. The mezze are hummus, stuffed vine leaves, pickled vegetables, tabbouleh and a pastry filled with spinach, the name of which I donít know.
Main course: the fish.The main course I chose is a nice piece of grilled salmon, served with spinach, asparagus and mashed potatoes.
Dessert: the hot chocolate lava cake. The lava cake is served with a small pot of warm custard.The meal is good. The mezze is tasty, although perhaps not quite as good as that served on QR. The size of the portion is also much smaller. The grilled salmon is nice and juicy on the inside and the asparagus have managed to not go all soggy. For me though, the hot chocolate lava cake is definitely the highlight of the meal. Once the crew have cleared away my table, they bring me a mug of Moroccan mint tea, which is served with two small biscuits.

AMENITIES
The amenity kit is by Acqua di Parma. It contains a small tube of hand cream, a sample flacon of perfume as well as ear plugs, socks, eye shades and a toothbrush with Colgate toothpaste. No slippers are provided on this flight.

ARRIVAL
After a flight time of just under six hours, the engines are gently eased back and we start our descent into Abu Dhabi. Luckily, the airport isnít too busy, which means there are none of the holding delays that seem to be getting more and more frequent in Dubai. Eventually we land after a total flight time of six hours and ten minutes. Abu Dhabi is currently in the process of building a new terminal. The facility should have opened a few years ago but got repeatedly held up. Apparently, itís now expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2019. And itís about time too, because the current facility was clearly not laid out to handle the amount of traffic and the size of aircraft currently operating into Abu Dhabi. But the process is swift. Etihad Business Class passengers are given an access card to the fast track immigration and within thirty minutes of landing, Iíve retrieved my suitcase and sitting in a taxi on my way to the hotel.
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Old Feb 2, 19, 1:44 am
  #27  
 
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Are you getting sick of flying yet?
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Old Feb 2, 19, 4:59 am
  #28  
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Not sure I'll ever get tired of the flying. But the travelling, being away from home - definitely.
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Old Feb 4, 19, 8:06 am
  #29  
 
Join Date: Nov 2018
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About your experience with "the thongs" at the Qantas Lounge in BNE.
As you are probably aware, being a linguist, flip-flops in French translate into "Tongues" = same pronunciation as the mucosal / muscular appendage in our mouths.
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Old Feb 4, 19, 10:39 am
  #30  
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Hi John Chiefofstaff,
Thanks. Not sure I'm ready to find out more about the etymology of that one...
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