Tag Archives: first class

Thailand 2014: Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul Incheon (ICN)

Given that my fake red-eye from Hong Kong on Asiana landed before 5am, the airport was empty when I arrived.

Empty ICN

Empty ICN

It also meant that the lounges weren’t open. The Asiana Airlines first class lounge doesn’t open until 6am, but I even had to wait for the business class lounge to open since my flight arrived a smidge early.

:(

ūüė¶

I thus spent about an hour in the business class lounge waiting for the first class lounge to open (here’s a prior review of the business class lounge, albeit in the remote terminal).

A380!

A380 model! This was more exciting when I took this trip 6 months ago since their A380 hadn’t yet been delivered.

6am soon rolled around and I made my way to the first class lounge where I rightfully belonged. ¬†The lounge is tastefully decorated with a library theme. It’s large and open with private TV cubicles, loungers, and massage chairs. Maybe I just felt cold because I was sleep deprived from the fake red-eye that I took, but I thought the lounge was pretty chilly while I was there.

Good-sized lounge

Good-sized lounge

Seating

Seating

Massage chair

Massage chair

Private-ish lounging area

Private-ish lounging area

Since I was going to get on a long flight to JFK, I took a shower in this lounge. They have three giant shower rooms with Japanese-style toilets, which I love, and they had some of the best toiletries I’ve seen in an airport lounge with things like actual shaving cream and a razor that I would actually use at home.

Shower room

Shower room

Pretty good amenities on offer

Pretty good amenities on offer

The food options in the lounge weren’t super appealing to me, but that’s maybe because the breakfast foods on offer were things like Yorkshire pudding, abalone porridge, and sad-looking dim sum. I think I actually preferred the slightly simpler options available in the business class lounge.

Booze

Booze

Hot food

Hot food

More food

More food

More food

More food

Ice cream

Ice cream

There were a number¬†of things that I had trouble identifying. In particular, I had a hard time understanding what all of the beverage options were since everything was in Korean. Yes, I was in Korea, but the lounge attendants that I asked also didn’t speak very good English. So I ended up just getting some cereal and some Johnny Walker Blue (I was definitely inspired by secret breakfast ice cream from Humphry Slocombe).

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

While I understand why people don’t rave about this lounge like some other first class flagship lounges, the Asiana first class lounge at Seoul is tasteful and definitely feels premium to me. The nice amenities in the shower room are one example of something that seems pretty obvious but is often lacking in other premium lounge experiences. I also received an escort from the lounge to the aircraft, which is always a nice touch.

Advertisements

Thailand 2014: Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong (BKK to HKG)

TG 606
Bangkok (BKK) to Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 4:00pm
Arrive: 7:45pm
Duration: 2h 45m
Aircraft: Boeing 747
Seat: 1A

After my lounge hopping to four different lounges at BKK, I went to my departure gate to board my flight to Hong Kong.

The beautiful 747 that would take me to Hong Kong

The beautiful 747 that would take me to Hong Kong

I received a warm welcome on board. The crew was older than I’m used to seeing on Asian airlines, but they were extremely friendly. The main flight attendant who would be taking care of me this flight greeted me and confirmed that I had pre-ordered a meal, and she remarked how good it looked. She offered me a pre-departure beverage and a hot towel.

As far as I know, this is the shortest route that Thai serves that has a first class cabin. I was lucky enough to get a 747 with a refurbished first class cabin of only 9 seats, and the seats are quite similar to what they have on their A380. The carpet in the cabin is extremely purple, but otherwise, I really enjoyed the cabin and the seats. There was a large closet at the front of first class for larger bags and coats, and the cabin felt spacious. I also appreciated the small touches like the fresh orchids at the seat, and there was plenty of storage at the seat.

My seat, 1A

My seat, 1A

More of the seat

More of the seat

Seat and IFE controls

Seat and IFE controls

View of the center seats

View of the center seats

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

View of the cabin

Unusual galley location

Unusual galley location

As I was taking pictures, a flight attendant offered to take a picture of me. This is always a small touch that I’m grateful for (I’m not a huge fan of selfies, even though I’m guilty of them too). She was even attentive to small details like making sure my bags were out of the picture.

Even though I had pre-ordered a meal, I was still handed meal and drink menus. Of note, they were serving 2004 Dom Perignon, instead of the 2003 that’s more common on other carriers.

Food menu

Food menu

Wines

Wines

Champagne

Champagne

Dom 2004

Dom 2004

Once we were in the air, meal service began promptly (after all, the flight is only a little bit over 2 hours long).¬†The meal that I had pre-ordered was essentially the only vegetarian option that I saw that wasn’t a vegetarian special meal. First up was a potato leek soup and a full bread basket. I’m generally not a big soup person, but this soup was tasty.

Potato leek soup

Potato leek soup

For my mains, I got a basil mushroom dish and a spicy sour curry. The basil mushroom was decent and pretty spicy; the curry mostly reeked of fish sauce. I would have eaten more of both, but the portion of rice was inadequate for the amount of saltiness. I’m sure I could have gotten more rice, but I didn’t ask.

Basil mushroom dish and spicy sour curry

Basil mushroom dish and spicy sour curry

Next up was a cheese plate, which I initially declined but the flight attendant insisted. She particularly recommended the cheese with the fruit in it, but cheese isn’t really my thing.

Cheese plate

Cheese plate

Finally, I was plied with many Thai sweets. I definitely have a sweet tooth, but I thought that everything that was served was pretty tasty and slightly unusual in a good way.

Thai sweets

Thai sweets

Overall, the food itself was fine, but the service was great. I felt like I was being doted on by an Asian auntie who keeps on plying you with food. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it.

The load on my flight ended up being 9/9, which was perhaps due to the numerous flight cancellations that Thai was doing at the time due to the civil unrest (this flight occurred in February), as my friend’s flight on Thai got cancelled and he had to be rebooked.

All in all, I really enjoyed this flight. People often say that Thai isn’t quite as good in the air, but I was honestly blown away by the service (I ended up writing in to Thai about how great my flight attendant was), the hard product was great, and I’m pretty confident that the food on Thai is better if you eat meat.

Thailand 2014: Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong (SFO to HKG)

CX 879
San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG)
Sunday, February 2nd
Depart: 11:50am
Arrive: 6:50pm
Duration: 15h
Boeing 747-400
Seat: 1A

When planning this trip, I specifically chose to take the day flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong to make sure that I flew Cathay’s 747 before they retire them all. In addition, since it was my first time in Cathay Pacific first class, it’s a bit easier to enjoy the experience more fully on the daytime flight than the nighttime flight since you’re more awake for the daytime flight.

Always so impressive

Always so impressive

When I walked into the cabin, my first impression was that these are really spacious seats. It’s not a suite, but the seats are ridiculously wide and each passenger has a ton of personal space. ¬†This product is relatively old for a first class product, but it’s easily one of the best hard products out there.

My seat, 1A

My seat, 1A

View of the first class cabin

View of the first class cabin

Front of the cabin

Front of the cabin

Seat 2A

Seat 2A

Sitting in seats 1A and 1K is definitely a treat for any aviation geek, and these seats are great for people traveling together. It’s quite novel to get an almost forward-looking view out of the plane because of the curve of the nose, and seats 1A and 1K are paired without feeling like you’re giving anything up (like a window seat).

Seat controls

Seat controls

Foot area and forward-facing window

Foot area and forward-facing window

The IFE has to be latched in seats 1A and 1K, but the screen tilts a little bit when it comes out

The IFE has to be latched in seats 1A and 1K, but the screen tilts a little bit when it comes out

Menu

Menu

Wine list

Wine list

Bathroom

Bathroom

We were welcomed on board and offered a pre-departure beverage of orange juice, water, or champagne. When I asked for sparkling water, I was told that they can’t open the bar before takeoff for duty reasons. Do you really need to pay duty on sparkling water?

We were then given an amuse bouche of tropical fruit and shrimp, which was fine. They handed out pajamas and amenity kits, and honestly, the new Cathay Pacific PYE pajamas are probably my favorite airline pajamas to date. They’re super soft, not too warm, and made of 100% organic cotton. The pajama pants have pockets, which are totally underrated, and I’ve even laundered them and they didn’t shrink too much. (TMI: I’m wearing these pajamas right now as I write this trip report). The slippers are also really soft and seem well-made.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

I really enjoyed drinking Cathay Delight throughout the flight, which is a kiwi-based non-alcoholic drink that they have.

Warm nuts and Cathay Delight

Warm nuts and Cathay Delight

For the meal service, we decided to dine together, and they have a table extender that they add on to create more room. As a warning, it’s not particularly comfortable to sit on the foot rest, and you’re a little trapped once they add on the table extender. I’m a pretty small guy, and it wasn’t very easy for me to get in or out.

First up was caviar, which I love. I prefer blinis with my caviar (as well as a separate caviar spoon), but Cathay serves the caviar with potatoes and smoked salmon, which I won’t complain about.

Caviar service

Caviar service

The soup was a butternut squash soup, which was pretty tasty but quite sweet. They offered to add some freshly ground pepper, and when I told the flight attendant that I loved pepper and she could go to town on the grinding, the below picture shows what I got.

Butternut squash soup

Butternut squash soup

Now, when I was ordering, I asked if I could also get the Chinese cold plate of marinated gluten and cucumber, but it never appeared, and the flight attendant never mentioned it. I’m not sure what happened. But next up was the Chinese cod and bok choy for me. The cod was well cooked and tender, the rice was cooked properly, and the bok choy was fine.

Chinese entree of cod and bok choy

Chinese entree of cod and bok choy

My friend had the beef tenderloin, which was a little overdone, but the sides were very crispy, including the potatoes. I don’t think they cooked the sides correctly.

Beef tenderloin

Beef tenderloin

For dessert, I asked for one of everything, which I think confused the flight attendant, but I’m a fatty and like my dessert. Unfortunately, there appeared to be a catering issue as there was no black sesame soup or Hong Kong style milk tea loaded on to the flight. The horrors!

Bread pudding

Bread pudding

Berries and cream

Berries and cream

To make up for the lack black sesame soup, the flight attendant brought out a cheesecake from business class which was pretty good. In general, all of the desserts were pretty tasty.

Business class cheeseckae

Business class cheesecake

Overall, I thought the meal was pretty good. Nothing extraordinary, but good, solid food.

I changed into the supremely comfortable pajamas and asked for turndown service. It’s hard to compete with Lufthansa’s separate bed on their 747, but Cathay Pacific comes close. The mattress pad is thick, the duvet is great, and they provide lots of thick, fluffy pillows to make any position you want to sleep in comfortable. The numerous pillows also make lounging in the seat comfortable, as I sometimes find it awkward to watch movies in bed mode.

Bed mode

Bed mode

After sleeping soundly for a couple of hours, I decided to get the wonton noodles as a snack. These noodles maybe weren’t quite as good as the Ippudo ramen that they serve on ANA, but they were superior to the noodles that I had in the Cathay Pacific lounge at SFO.

Wonton noodle soup

Wonton noodle soup

My friend had the hot pot rice as a snack, which he enjoyed.

Hot pot rice

Hot pot rice

The in-flight entertainment on Cathay is great. There are lots of choices, the system is responsive, the screen is high quality, and the headphones are good. The only thing I didn’t like were the ads they played before movies and during the moving map, but you can at least fast forward through them.

We were asked for pre-arrival meal choices about three hours prior to arrival, which is really quite early. I asked for the ravioli, which the flight attendant confirmed.

Unfortunately, after waiting quite a while, my ravioli was nowhere to be seen. Turns out, the flight attendant served it to the wrong passenger, and they didn’t have any more loaded. I mean, this wasn’t a huge deal, but it was another service miscue of the sort that I haven’t experienced in other premium cabins. I’m not sure if this was exacerbated by the apparent catering issue. As a solution, they ended up giving me the pasta from the main meal service, which was fine.

Stir-fried beef

Stir-fried beef

Artichoke and cheese cannelloni

Artichoke and cheese cannelloni

Mango mousse cake

Mango mousse cake

In general, this crew was possibly the worst crew that I’ve had in first class, which honestly isn’t saying much because this is a relative statement and first class crews are generally superlative. The flight was still wonderful, the hard product is fantastic, the food is good, the pajamas are my favorite airline pajamas, and the IFE is great. But I was a bit surprised that the service wasn’t superlative as well since Cathay is supposed to have one of the most consistent in-flight products, and one of the flight attendants looked like she wanted to constantly shank someone and made the errors of failing to fulfill a food request and then later delivering my entree to another passenger. Overall, I had a great time, and I’d love to fly Cathay more.

Quick Thoughts on Thai and Asiana First Class

I’m at JFK now after flying both Thai and Asiana First Class for the first times. Both flights were quite good, and I figured I’d share some quick thoughts since a full trip report will be a long time coming.

Thai First Class:
Definitely exceeded all of my expectations. I was lucky enough to get a refurbished first class cabin on a 747 for the short hop from BKK to HKG, which features essentially the same product that Thai has on their A380s. The seats are new and spacious and the cabin looks much better than their older first class product. What was so great about the flight was a wonderful flight attendant who was warm, friendly, attentive, and doting in a way that just makes first class so special. The crew in general was much older than is common amongst Asian airlines, but the service was incredible. I’m looking forward to my flight in Thai First on the A380 later this year!

Asiana First Class:
I’ve never been handed cash by an airline, but the escort from the lounge literally handed me a booklet of money. It was a booklet of ten $1 bills, and I’m still slightly confused as to what it was for since the website that’s listed on the booklet to find out more information doesn’t work.

I specifically flew ICN to JFK to get the new Suites First Class product, and the suites are definitely spacious and private. The most noticeable feature is the massive in-flight entertainment screen. The screen is just about the width of the suite, and it’s by far the largest screen I’ve ever seen in a plane. It’s so big that your mom would probably tell you not to sit so close to the screen when you’re just sitting in your suite.

The service was attentive and friendly. Not particularly warm, but I can’t really fault the service in any way. I had pre-ordered a Korean meal, and the food was pretty darn delicious. If you like Korean food, I definitely recommend pre-ordering a Korean meal out of Seoul. The caviar service also had a separate caviar spoon, which I appreciated.

My nitpicks with Asiana are with the bedding. For the bedding, the mattress is pretty insubstantial, the blanket was extremely staticky (like I was afraid to use it and touch things in my suite after getting shocked several times), and the pillows are tiny. It’s a little surprising to me that so much about Asiana is great but they’ve skimped on bedding in first class. Of course, this didn’t substantially detract from my experience as I was still able to sleep soundly, except for the constantly being shocked part.

Overall, I feel like people don’t talk about Thai or Asiana as much as carriers like Sinagpore and Cathay, but I had great flight experiences on both, and I’d highly recommend both. It also helps that both carriers release much more premium cabin space to partners than airlines like Singapore and ANA.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


LH 404
Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK)
Monday, November 4th
Depart: 5:25pm
Arrive: 8:20pm
Duration: 8h 55m
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 83H
Load 4/8

After the shortest car transfer ever from the First Class Terminal, we were ready to board the 747 that would take us to New York.

Boarding from the van

Boarding from the van

One of the biggest reasons why I chose this flight was to fly the Boeing 747-400 config which has a separate seat and bed for first class seats. While I had the opportunity to have a separate seat as a bed anyway on my previous flight since I was the only passenger in the cabin, this is the only config that guarantees that luxury.

Even though there were 5 people in the van from the First Class Terminal, only two of us headed to the upper deck to the first class seating area. First class was half-full on this flight, with the other three passengers sitting in the front half of the cabin while I had the back half all to myself.

Front of the cabin

Front of the cabin

Back half of the cabin to myself

Back half of the cabin to myself

The 747-400 definitely feels older and it’s much noisier, but I think this is the most comfortable seat configuration you can fly (assuming you only get one seat, of course). The seat and bed for each passenger is excessive, but the bed itself is the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in on a plane since it’s actually a bed and not a seat masquerading as a bed. And then there’s the fact that you can easily switch between seat and bed. In other cabins, once I ask to get my bed made, I’m generally not going to ask to have it unmade until landing, so I find myself eating in bed if I want a mid-flight meal or I’ll be working in bed, which I find a little bit awkward at times. With this configuration, you can sit in a proper seat to eat your meals, or you can sit down and pull out the tray table to work if you like.

Seat and bed combo

Seat and bed combo

Entertainment screen and extra blanket if it gets cold next to the windows

Entertainment screen and extra blanket if it gets cold next to the windows

The most comfortable bed I've slept in on an airplane

The most comfortable bed I’ve slept in on an airplane

Seat controls are simple

Seat controls are simple

Ample side storage

Ample side storage

Entertainment control

Entertainment control

Underbed storage

Underbed storage

I also appreciated that the beds are located next to the windows, which makes for some awesome lying-in-bed-looking-out-the-window moments since you can just turn your head and you have a perfect view out the window, as well as the fact that it’s generally slightly cooler next to the windows and most of the time I find airplane cabins to be too hot. The underbed storage is also extremely convenient as you can reach it while strapped in to your seat, as opposed to the ottoman storage on the A380 which I can only access after unbuckling my seatbelt.

After settling in, I was given pajamas, an amenity kit, and the menu for the flight. In an attempt to adjust back to US time, I decided to sleep immediately after takeoff and hold off on eating. I asked a flight attendant to save me some caviar, the gnocchi, and the roast goose, which she happily obliged.

Van Laack pajamas and Rimowa amenity kit

Van Laack pajamas and Rimowa amenity kit

Menu for the flight

Menu for the flight

I slept soundly for a couple of hours, and it was honestly probably more comfortable than the bed that I have at home. I never felt overheated, and it was amazing to just turn my head and be looking out of an airplane window.

I think it’s worth mentioning that on this flight as well as on my previous Lufthansa flight, I felt that one of the two flight attendants was superior to the other, and in both cases, the better flight attendant was the younger one. It’s not that the older flight attendants were bad per se, but the younger ones seemed to be slightly more on top of things, more attentive to detail, more conscientious about what passengers would want before they asked for things, and friendlier. After I woke up, the older flight attendant was the one to serve me my meal, and there were a couple of miscues in the service. For example, the bread served with the caviar was really, really crusty and dry, the caviar was served with lime instead of lemon (yes, I feel like such a dick to be criticizing the caviar accompaniments), I was given two pepper grinders instead of a salt and a pepper one, and my glass wasn’t refilled regularly.

Generous portion of caviar

Generous portion of caviar

Caviar with lime?

Caviar with lime?

Walnut gnocchi

Walnut gnocchi

Roast goose

Roast goose

Who needs salt anyway?

Who needs salt anyway?

Almond panna cotta

Almond panna cotta

Fruit plate and tea

Fruit plate and tea

The meal was objectively good, but I shared my thoughts about Lufthansa’s catering in my trip report of my previous flight. The caviar was delicious as always, even if it was served with crusty bread and a lime, and I appreciated that they served me a generous portion of caviar when I had told one of the flight attendants before sleeping how much I enjoyed eating it. The gnocchi was quite heavy and chewy for gnocchi but still tasty. I ordered the roast goose on the recommendation of a flight attendant on my previous flight as he told me that it was a good representation of German holiday cuisine, and it was a little dry but hearty and flavorful.

I didn’t really use the in-flight entertainment system, but the options seemed a little limited to me (disclaimer: all I want to watch on planes is animated children’s movies or rom-coms). There was also wifi available on the plane, and the other three first class passengers seemed busy at work on the internet for most of the flight.

With about 90 minutes until landing, the younger flight attendant came around with the pre-arrival snack trolley. I selected a couple of items, and the flight attendant sold me hard on a goulash served in a bread bowl that wasn’t on the trolley. I’m glad that she did, as it was probably the best non-caviar dish that I had on either of my Lufthansa flights.

Snacks and goulash in a bread bowl

Snacks and goulash in a bread bowl

After we landed, the younger flight attendant told me that I could go visit the cockpit if I wanted, as she saw how much I loved planes and flying. So I had the brief opportunity to check out the cockpit while everyone else was disembarking, although the pilots clearly just wanted to get off the plane.

B747-400 cockpit after landing

B747-400 cockpit after landing

Overall, I think the seat and dedicated bed combination is the most comfortable first class configuration that I’ve flown. While I prefer almost everything else about the A380 (e.g. the larger bathrooms, the quieter plane), I’m not sure how you can get much better than Lufthansa’s 744 if the first class cabin is more than half-full.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


LH 721
Beijing (PEK) to Frankfurt (FRA)
Monday, November 4th
Depart: 11:30am
Arrive: 3:00pm
Duration: 10h 30m
Aircraft: A380
Seat: 2A
Load: 1/8

I was super, super excited for this flight. It was my first time flying Lufthansa First Class, it was on the A380, and when I was selecting my seats online after booking my flights, I noticed that all seats were marked as available for selection, which made me think that there was the possibility that I’d have the whole first class cabin to myself. This turned out to be true, so I had an entire first class cabin and two flight attendants on the A380 to myself. I’m not sure how much more aspirational you can get.

After leaving the somewhat bizarre Business Traveler’s Lounge, I headed to the gate and took some pictures of the bird that I’d be flying to Frankfurt. Lufthansa’s been flying the A380 for over 3 years now, but there were still plenty of people also taking pictures of the plane at the gate. I wonder when the novelty will wear off?

The A380 I'd be flying to Frankfurt

The A380 I’d be flying to Frankfurt

Even before boarding was supposed to commence, there were long lines for both the economy and premium cabin boarding lines. I saw a sign for first class passengers, but there was no obvious line. One of the gate agents recognized me from check-in, though, and beckoned me to cut the line and board before they announced boarding for anyone else.

Lots of gate lice even for premium cabins

Gate lice even for premium cabins

Tripe boarding action

Triple boarding action

Upon boarding, one of the flight attendants who’d be serving the first class cabin greeted me and informed me that I’d be the only passenger in first class, so I should essentially feel free to do whatever I wanted. This flight attendant turned out to be awesome and probably the best flight attendant I’ve ever had. He was detail-oriented, considerate, personable, and extremely knowledgable. He’s been flying on the A380 since Lufthansa started using the plane, and he had actually helped design aspects of the A380 and had been on some of the test flights. I had a great time throughout the flight chatting with him and picking his brain.

I soon settled in and was brought pre-departure nuts and drink and menus for the flight.

Pre-departure nuts and drink

Pre-departure nuts and drink

Food menu part 1

Food menu part 1

Food menu part 2

Food menu part 2

The seat was spacious and comfortable, and I appreciated the small touches like having extra padding on the headrest. There was plenty of storage with several small compartments next to the seat, the ottoman for slightly larger objects, and a personal locker for each seat. I found the overall design to be classic and functional while being stylish.

My seat, 2A

My seat, 2A

Side view

Side view

DSC03438

Seat controls

Seat controls

Entertainment controls

Entertainment controls

Lots of outlets

Lots of outlets

Guide to the seat

Guide to the seat

Seat storage (and Rimowa amenity kit!)

Seat storage (and Rimowa amenity kit!)

Personal storage lockers in lieu of overhead bins

Personal storage lockers in lieu of overhead bins

My other A380 experience was on Emirates, which has a completely different feel to their first class cabin. Emirates uses fully-enclosed suites, which I feel makes the cabin feel a little bit claustrophobic in exchange for lots of privacy; on the other hand, the Lufthansa first class cabin is open and airy but not as private, but I guess that doesn’t matter if you have the whole cabin to yourself.

Empty cabin all to myself

Empty cabin all to myself

I was brought Van Laack pajamas, slippers, and a Rimowa amenity kit. The pajamas were comfortable, but definitely not my style. The amenity kit was Rimowa, which is usually all that there is to say about Rimowa amenity kits.

The takeoff roll began, which I think is pretty special on the A380. For one, you can see the tail cam view on the in-flight entertainment screen, but it’s also such a large yet quiet plane that it feels like the plane is just getting started when you actually lift off the ground.

What a great view

What a great view

Soon after takeoff, I was brought a glass of champagne, 1999 Cuvée Louise, and an amuse bouche of feta and watermelon.

1999 Cuvee Louise champagne

1999 Cuvée Louise champagne

Amuse bouche of feta and watermelon

Amuse bouche of feta and watermelon

Before the meal service, I decided to check out the bathrooms. On the A380, the first class bathrooms are huge. While there’s no shower like on the Emirates A380, they do have a urinal. But it’s nice just to have a large space to change and make you feel like you’re not even on an airplane.

Spacious bathrooms

Spacious bathrooms

I think I'd take the Emirates shower over a urinal...

I think I’d take the Emirates shower over a urinal…

La mer products in the bathroom

La mer products in the bathroom

Other amenities available in the bathroom, including facial mist?

Other amenities available in the bathroom, including facial mist?

I decided to eat right after takeoff, so the flight attendants started with the appetizer and caviar cart. They told me that the flight was catered for two people (except for the cheese cart, which is always catered for 8 people for presentation purposes). I didn’t partake in any of the appetizers, but I did get a hearty portion of caviar which I quickly demolished. And so they served me another large portion of caviar, and I was a very happy camper. The caviar service is apparently the only part of the food service catered out of Frankfurt as everything else is supposed to come out of Beijing.

Table setting for the first meal service

Table setting for the first meal service

Appetizer and caviar cart

Appetizer and caviar cart

Caviar serving #1

Caviar serving #1

So delicious

So delicious

Caviar serving #2

Caviar serving #2

I decided to take an entree from the pre-arrival meal as my appetizer and then do a main course. The dumplings were okay, probably on par with the dumplings they had in the lounges at the Beijing airport. The tortellini was flavorful but very heavy.

To be honest, while I loved almost everything about this flight, the food was a little bit of a disappointment. Part of this could be the fact that it was catered out of Beijing, but in general, I feel like Lufthansa’s catering isn’t that compatible with my palate. In my everyday life, I eat vegan, so I get a little tired of eating slabs of meat, cheeses, and creamy or port sauces. Objectively, everything tasted fine/good, but it’s just not for me most of the time.

Dumplings as my appetizer

Dumplings as my appetizer

Ricotta-herb tortellini

Ricotta-herb tortellini

Fruit for dessert

Fruit for dessert

After the meal service, I decided to get some sleep. A flight attendant had already set up the adjacent seat as a bed right after takeoff, but as soon as he saw that I was ready to sleep, he sprinted around the cabin to close all of the window shades and turn off any lights, and he offered to lower the cabin temperature for me.

Separate bed

Separate bed

The bed itself was pretty comfortable, although the crease in the seat is definitely noticeable. The pillow and comforter were nice and fluffy and didn’t make me overheat. With the privacy shades up, I think there’s definitely enough privacy in the cabin for sleeping. If all the shades are up, you won’t be able to see anyone unless you’re specifically trying to, so I think Lufthansa has figured out a good compromise between privacy and the feel of the cabin.¬†I was able to sleep soundly for about 4 hours, at which point I decided to have a mid-flight snack.

Mid-flight snacks

Mid-flight snacks

Chocolates

Chocolates

Lufthansa doesn’t offer an extensive snack menu like other carriers do in first class, and in fact, there weren’t any hot options available for snacks, although I’m sure that I could have asked for anything off the regular menu if I’d wanted. But this is another aspect of the food service that I find less than stellar on Lufthansa compared to some other carriers.

Otherwise, the rest of the flight was great. I spent a lot of the remaining time on the flight chatting with the flight attendants and reading, and I didn’t actually touch the in-flight entertainment except to look at the tail-cam view. I also had the chance to walk through the rest of the plane: business class looked fine, but slanty flat instead of full lie-flat (although they’re going to start refurbishing the A380s to have fully flat business class seats); coach was massive and cramped, taking up the entire first floor of the A380, although a flight attendant told me that people seemed to like it better even though there are so many seats because the novelty of the aircraft.

Overall, except for my small qualms with the food, this was an amazing, amazing flight. You can’t get much better than having an entire first class cabin and two flight attendants to yourself on the A380, especially when said flight attendants are wonderful as well. I am so grateful to have had this experience‚Äďthis is what collecting points for aspirational travel is all about!

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


NH 1
Washington Dulles (IAD) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Saturday, November 2nd, 2013
Depart: 12:20pm
Arrive: 3:25pm +1
Duration: 14h 5m
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (First Square seats)
Seat: 1A
Load: 5/8

First, a quick story: When I checked into the Lufthansa lounge, the lounge attendant told me cheerily that I would have the last meal choice. Or rather, she started off cheerily, but as she was reading the comment to me, I think she realized that she probably shouldn’t have read the comment to me and ended not so cheerily. Apparently, since I booked my ticket less than 24 hours in advance of the flight, the flight was only catered for 4 first class passengers, and there was a comment on my profile that I would get last meal choice, which was a major bummer since I really wanted to try the Japanese kaiseki menu, and the lounge attendant told me that all of the other passengers were Japanese and likely to order the Japanese menu.

I expressed my disappointment to the lounge attendant and told her that I really, really wanted to try the Japanese meal, and she eventually got her supervisor to talk to me. The supervisor contacted the onboard crew, and when I boarded, the purser came up to me and told me that she would try her best to get me a kaiseki meal. In the end, I did get a Japanese meal, but it was just an odd customer experience interaction with the lounge attendant, although this was the only major service miscue that I had with ANA.

Seat/Suite

I really enjoyed the new First Square product on the 77W. The seats are extremely private (i.e. you can’t see anyone else unless you’re trying), without making the cabin feel claustrophobic like I feel the Emirates suites can be on the A380.

My seat, 1A

My seat, 1A

Large screen, Rimowa (!) amenity kit, noise-canceling headphones, pajamas, cardigan, and slippers

Large screen, Rimowa (!) amenity kit, noise-canceling headphones, pajamas, cardigan, and slippers

The suite felt smartly designed, with intuitive controls and a minimalist decor. I also appreciated the storage space for glasses.

Entertainment controls with mirror and plugs

Entertainment controls with mirror and plugs

Seat controls, which I really didn't use

Seat controls, which I really didn’t use

Storage space for glasses

Storage space for glasses

My biggest qualm with the suite, though, is that it’s hard to look out the window. While each suite takes up the space of 4 windows, 3 of the four are blocked by the walls of the suite. I can understand why the walls are there to help with privacy and to include things like the entertainment and seat controls, but it’s not good for people who like to see what’s going on outside.

View across the aisle; you can see that most windows are obstructed

View across the aisle; you can see that most windows are obstructed

The seat is comfortable while seated, and it’s also extremely comfortable while in bed position. ANA provides something akin to an egg crate mattress pad that makes you feel like you’re on an actual bed instead of a seat-turned-bed, in addition to a great comforter and two large pillows. Although not as wide as the Emirates suite on the A380, I found ANA’s bed to be more comfortable.

Bed mode

Bed mode

Food

The food on the flight ranged from good to great if you like Japanese food. I ate and ate and ate some more, and I was super glad to have not eaten in the lounge. ANA posts their menus to their website (see here for first class menus and here for business class menus), so I had an idea of what to expect. Here are links to my specific menus: ANA IAD-NRT First Class Food Menu; ANA IAD-NRT First Class Drink Menu.

Prior to meal orders being taken, a flight attendant came around with champagne and amuse bouches.

I'm not a big drinker, but I couldn't say no to a glass of Krug

I’m not a big drinker, but I couldn’t say no to a glass of Krug

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

For the first meal service, the purser informed me that I could have the kaiseki menu, and she proactively suggested that I start with some caviar. How could I say no to that suggestion? I appreciated that ANA’s caviar service comes with a caviar spoon.

DSC03240

Caviar service

After caviar came the kaiseki meal service, which was course after course of interesting Japanese food. My favorites included the squid with sea urchin, the chestnut compote, the soup of sea bream, the grilled sablefish, and the dessert. I also had ANA’s original “Aromatic Kabosu” drink, which I quite enjoyed.

Squid with sea urchin, and selection of seasonal morsels (squid in soy sauce, salmon, dried persimmon in ham, fishcake with beans, chestnut compote, gingko nuts, and red pimiento)

Squid with sea urchin, and selection of seasonal morsels (squid in soy sauce, salmon, dried persimmon in ham, fishcake with beans, chestnut compote, gingko nuts, and red pimiento)

Soup of sea bream and matsutake mushrooms

Soup of sea bream and matsutake mushrooms

Salmon, spotted gizzard shad, scallop sashimi

Salmon, spotted gizzard shad, scallop sashimi

Simmered turnip, shrimp and surf clam, pickles, grilled sablefish, rice, miso soup

Simmered turnip, shrimp and surf clam, pickles, grilled sablefish, rice, miso soup

Dessert of adzuki paste spread between wafers

Dessert of adzuki paste spread between wafers

After sleeping for a couple of hours, it was time to eat again, so I chose the Ippudo ramen off of the snack menu and asked the flight attendant to choose a sake to pair with it. The ramen was delicious, as was the sake. To follow up, I had some fruit and a dessert off of the western menu, which were both perfectly acceptable, and my requested pot of tea came with some unrequested petit fours.

Ippudo soy sauce ramen

Ippudo soy sauce ramen paired with sake

Fruit plate

Fruit plate

Cheesecake with mixed berry sauce

Cheesecake with mixed berry sauce

Tea and petit fours

Tea and petit fours

For my third meal/snack of the flight, I asked if there was any caviar left, and the flight attendant told me there was and obliged me with my second serving of caviar. I followed that up with the deep-fried taro, which was an item on the snack menu specifically designated as a good pairing with sake. The deep-fried taro was not quite what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it.

Caviar serving #2

Caviar serving #2

Deep-fried taro with crab meat

Deep-fried taro with crab meat

Finally, prior to landing, I chose the Petite Japanese course. The flight attendant seemed somewhat apprehensive serving me natto, which is slimy, fermented soy beans, but I assured her that I knew what it was and enjoyed it from time-to-time, and she seemed delighted to hear that.

Petite Japanese course: fiddlehead ferns, arabesque greenling, rice porridge, miso soup, pickles, and natto

Petite Japanese course: fiddlehead ferns, arabesque greenling, rice porridge, miso soup, pickles, and natto

I think ANA has some of the best food that I’ve had on an airline, but I’m (of course) partial to Asian cuisines. For what it’s worth, the purser asked how I was getting back to the US, and she was disappointed when I told her Lufthansa, as she wanted me to try ANA’s catering out of Narita, since she said it was superior to the catering ANA got out of non-Japanese airports.

Service

While there was a bit of a language barrier, I thought that the service was impeccable throughout the flight, if a bit more formal than I expected. As an example, since I was sitting in seat 1A, the flight attendants would bow to me whenever they came through the curtain for service. But I appreciated a lot of the small touches: providing a caviar spoon, offering me a taste of a wine before pouring a full glass, making sure that logos faced my direction, smiling during every interaction, etc, and the fact that all of the flight attendants seemed genuinely interested in making sure that everyone enjoyed the flight.

Present from a flight attendant

Present from a flight attendant

Near the end of the flight, one of the flight attendants brought me a small gift, which included decks of cards featuring ANA’s 787, a nice note with origami, postcards, and leg refreshing sheets. I had mentioned to her earlier that I was really excited to fly ANA’s 787 later this year to Seattle, as well as how curious I was about the leg refreshing sheets provided as amenities, so I was touched both that she made a small gift for me at all and that she was thoughtful in what she included.

Amenities

ANA provides a Rimowa amenity kit for first class, which is probably the most sought-after kind of amenity kit. The pajamas were comfortable, although extraordinarily large and baggy on me (I’m not sure how they chose the size, since the pajamas were waiting at my seat for me). I didn’t try the cardigan as the cabin was kept pretty warm.

The entertainment system is large and responsive, but the selection isn’t as good as I’ve seen on other carriers. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising on a foreign carrier, but it appeared as if there were a fair number of shows that were inaccessible to non-Japanese speakers (i.e. no dubbing or subtitles provided). The noise-canceling headphones provided were good and effective.

Finally, ANA has a large number of additional amenities that they offer at the beginning of the flight in first class and for self-service in business class. Some of these are pretty straightforward like ear plugs, lip balm, and lotion, but there are also items like humidity masks, leg refreshing sheets, and aromatic scents.

Self-serve amenities in business class

Self-serve amenities in business class

The humidity mask is essentially just one of those medical-looking masks, and it provides “humidity” by making you breath the moisture you’re exhaling. While a bit awkward to wear at first, I could feel quite the difference after wearing the mask for a little bit and then taking it off. It was enough to make me keep the mask on for much of the remainder of the flight, including when I slept.

The leg refreshing sheet is probably the oddest of the lot, as it’s like a gel compress that you adhere to your leg (or I guess to any other part of your body). The “refreshing” aspect is that the gel is cool to the touch, but it was slightly unclear to me how long to leave on the sheet or whether or not there was anything else going on (nicotine?). Definitely worth trying at least once (it doesn’t leave a residue or rip out leg hairs).

The aromatic scents came highly recommended to me by a flight attendant. Essentially, they’re small pieces of paper with scent beads that you crush to release the aroma. They smelled fine, but I didn’t feel relaxed or renewed depending on the scent that I used.

Overall

ANA First Class is a wonderful experience. The food is good, the seat is private, the bed is incredibly comfortable, there are fun amenities, and the service is great. I’m glad that I had the chance to fly them in first class before it becomes that much more unattainable.