Tag Archives: vgml

Thailand 2014: Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok (USM to BKK)

Koh Samui has one of the coolest airports that I’ve been to. It feels like a resort, with almost everything being outdoors. Of course, the flip side of this is that it can be extremely hot and humid if your flight is departing in the middle of the day, but hopefully you’re somewhat adjusted to the temperatures by the time you’re leaving Koh Samui.

Koh Samui airport

Koh Samui airport

One tip if you’re flying Bangkok Airways is to make sure that you check-in online prior to your flight. It doesn’t matter if you can’t print out your boarding passes or you need to check in bags, but if you check-in online prior to arrival at the airport, you can skip the normally lengthy economy class line and use the much shorter (i.e. non-existent) online checkin line.

Security is a breeze, and you can actually go through customs at Koh Samui even if you’re just on a domestic flight depending on your itinerary (make sure to keep the sticker they give you!). The gates are all open air and because Bangkok Airways is a “boutique” airline, there’s free snacks, drinks, and wifi for all passengers. This gives the whole thing a much more civilized feel, where even economy passengers get decent amenities. Again, one potential downside to the open-air concept is that there are mosquitos, so don’t think that you can abandon your bug spray even though you’re at an airport.

Bangkok Airways waiting area

Bangkok Airways waiting area

Seating in the waiting area

Seating in the waiting area

Food options

Food options, including some attempts at authentic Thai snacks

More food options

More food options

To get to the plane, you take a tram, which adds to the whole resort feel. I enjoy the trams because they allow for better close-ups of the planes.

Walking up to the plane

Walking up to the plane

On board, the flight was unremarkable, which is how I like my economy class travel. Of course, since this is a foreign airline, they serve a meal on a 50-minute flight, and they even cater special meals. Given how short the flight was, they served cold meals, and neither my VGML or my friend’s normal meal was appetizing. Both of us picked at the fruit and left the rest uneaten.

All economy seating

All economy seating

VGML

VGML

Normal meal

Normal meal

Bangkok Airways dominates flights to/from USM, but at least their product is decent and they try to provide amenities to all passengers, so you don’t feel completely gouged by their monopolistic prices. I’d happily fly them again, and in many cases, flying is much more practical than any other form of transport in Thailand.

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Review: Finnair Economy Class New York JFK to Helsinki

In order to hit American Executive Platinum status, I did two mileage runs, one to Shanghai and one to Helsinki. For my trip to Helsinki, I flew American from SFO to JFK and then Finnair between JFK to HEL.

Upon boarding the plane, the first thing that I noticed was that I was being pushed. I’m not a slow walker by any means, but there were people blocking the aisle in front of me, and yet someone behind me was literally trying to push me past the blockage. I was also pushed multiple times when I was in Helsinki–they weren’t violent pushes, but rather sustained nudging/force that was clearly intentional–so I’m not sure if this is a Finnish thing or if it’s a passive aggressive racial thing or what. For what it’s worth, the vast majority of people on the flight were Finnish (or at least speaking Finnish), and I was the only Asian person that I saw on either of my Finnair flights.

The seats were typical coach seats, but they at least have personal screens and video on demand. Just a note: it’s probably a bad idea to watch “The Notebook” on a flight, unless perhaps you’re in an enclosed suite where no one can watch you bawl.

Economy class seats

Economy class seats

In-flight entertainment system

In-flight entertainment system

I ordered a VGML as I usually do on coach flights. The first vegetarian meal on my flight out was surprisingly tasty: eggplant in tomato sauce with greens and rice, a potato corn salad, and some decently ripe fruit.

Surprisingly tasty vegetarian meal

Surprisingly tasty vegetarian meal

But the rest of the food on Finnair went downhill from there. The pre-arrival “meal” was two slices of pita with a couple of vegetables in it. On my flight back, the first hot meal was a little bland and odd, consisting of some sort of beet patty, potato balls, peas, tomato salad, and fruity syrup. The pre-arrival “meal” was similarly disappointing as it was mostly just a large piece of bread. I think there were supposed to have been vegetables in it, but I couldn’t find any.

Very disappointing pre-arrival meal

Very disappointing pre-arrival meal

Mediocre vegetarian meal

Mediocre vegetarian meal

Another disappointing pre-arrival snack

Another disappointing pre-arrival snack

The service was fine for an economy class flight. They seemed to be pushing the duty-free sales quite hard (I think due to high liquor taxes in Finland), which was slightly problematic because it meant that the cabin was pretty noisy and there were multiple extraneous announcements on a red-eye flight to Europe. Brutal if you’re trying to maximize your sleep on the way over.

Overall, it’s coach, so what do you expect?

Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines

Breaking Down Two Mileage Runs for 30,000 EQMs to get AA Executive Platinum
Getting a Chinese Visa
Planning a Mileage Run to Shanghai
Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines
Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Shanghai
Eating in Shanghai
Getting a Chinese Massage aka Tui Na
First Class Lounge (No. 69) Shanghai Pudong PVG
Concluding Thoughts on My Mileage Run to Shanghai


On my trip to Shanghai, I received 6 distinct VGML (strict vegetarian) economy meals/snacks on American Airlines. American doesn’t offer that many special meal options, but they have the basics.

First up was curried chickpeas with rice, broccoli, and a single carrot. This entree was the exact same entree as what I received on my flight on AA’s Flagship Service between JFK and SFO, but in a smaller portion and with sadder accompaniments. The carrots were still both mushy yet unchewable, a scientific feat if there ever were one, and they’re still serving a non-vegan margarine. But in all fairness, the entree is perfectly edible, except for the carrot.

I've had this meal before

I’ve had this meal before

For the mid-flight snack on flight number 1, I got some sort of wrap with wild rice and cranberries and other vaguely unidentifiable objects in it. It was confusing.

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Meal #3 served prior to arrival was some sort of pasta dish with cherry tomatoes and yellow peppers, but I have no idea what the white cheese-like curds were. They were flavorless, so that supports the idea that this dish was still vegan, but I can’t fathom why they chose to use flavorless unidentifiable white things as sauce instead of something like a basic tomato sauce. As a plus, the cantaloupe was sweet.

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All in all, the meals for my flight from ORD to PVG were unimpressive, but the meals on the way back were slightly better.

The fourth meal didn’t look promising, but it was surprisingly tasty. The couscous had flavor even without the tomato sauce, and the dessert was more interesting than a piece of fruit, but I’m not sure why they even bothered with the salad, and the bread roll was one of the toughest things I’ve ever tried to eat. I tried to rip off a piece with my hands and gave up.

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The mid-flight snack was a mini sandwich with pesto, green pepper, and squash. Somehow, the bread for this sandwich was edible while the bread that came with the previous meal was not.

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Finally, this wasn’t the strictly VGML meal since the flight attendant just gave me the normal meal as she said that the vegetarian meal was the same thing but much, much sadder. But again, given how terrible the roll in meal #4 was, I was surprised that the croissant and muffin were quite edible in this meal.

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Overall, I’d say that this was probably on par with the VGML meals I got on Air Canada, which is to say not that great. Surprisingly, I think that United does a pretty good job with their VGML meals.

Thoughts on Lufthansa Coach Class

Holy shit, a travel blogger who’s writing about Lufthansa in coach?!?? Crazy, right? From reading some blogs, it seems like Lufthansa only has a first class cabin.

I flew Lufthansa from Athens to New York JFK, with a layover in Munich (no First Class Terminal either???). And yes, I flew in coach, and it was a pretty good experience, especially when compared to the less-than-stellar Air Canada ride I had on the way over.

The biggest difference between Air Canada and Lufthansa was in the service. Well, I guess there’s also the fact that the flight attendants on Lufthansa were as a whole much younger and more attractive. But really, it seemed like the flight attendants on Lufthansa liked their jobs and wanted to serve people. Fancy that?

The short hop from Athens to Munich was perfectly enjoyable, largely because I slept through most of it. The flight wasn’t that full, which helped with comfort, but I was also surprised by how much room it felt like there was between rows. This is probably because of the slimline seats, which offer more legroom as the seats take up less space. While this was very much appreciated on a short flight, by the end, the lesser amount of padding was getting more noticeable, and I can’t imagine sitting on these seats for prolonged periods of time.

Given that the flight was a little over 2 hours, we were served a hot breakfast. As opposed to the pretty tasteless and unappetizing breakfast I had on Air Canada, this was pretty tasty.

VGML hot breakfast

Hot breakfast on Lufthansa

On the flight from Munich to JFK, the service was generally superb. It’s sometimes just in the small things, like saying, “Certainly” or “It’d be my pleasure”, when responding to a drink request, but it makes the world of difference. I will have to say that it did seem like the flight attendants spent more time talking to the German-speaking passengers than to the other passengers, but I never felt that the service was deficient in any way because I didn’t speak German.

The food was also decent, although the snack they served prior to landing was downright puzzling. Of course, I inflict this upon myself by ordering vegetarian meals, but it was some sort of sandwich with dry bread and a greenish vegetarian pate. Not recommended, but the main meal was perfectly edible.

VGML main meal

VGML main meal

Dry sandwich as a pre-landing VGML snack

Dry sandwich as a pre-landing VGML snack

Overall, I’d definitely fly Lufthansa again in coach. Of course, I aspire to fly them in first class one day, but until I get there, I’ll be happy with the great service you can also get in coach.

Aegean Airlines Economy Class Snack Boxes (Regular, VGML, Kosher)

When I booked flights for my friends and myself to fly from Istanbul to Athens on the Aegean Airlines website, I reserved a strict vegetarian/vegan/VGML, as that’s my normal dietary preference. But since it was so easy to request special meals, I decided to request a Kosher meal for one of my friends because hey, why not?

The flight itself was fine for a short hop. One of the flight attendants was quite attractive, but she also looked like she hated life every time she interacted with customers. It didn’t necessarily result in poor or lacking service (except for lacking a smile), and her face was hilarious to look at every time.

It’s always a treat when flying non-US airlines on these short hops because they always manage to do so much more in such a short period of time. In this case, for our roughly hour-long flight, they did a beverage service and served snack boxes, which I found impressive (although I guess not as impressive as the full meal service I received on the 40-minute flight from Doha to Dubai on Qatar Airways I took earlier this year).

Regular snack box

Regular snack box

Up first was the regular snack box, which had a chicken sandwich and something along the lines of a honey cake for dessert. Verdict from my friends: surprisingly delicious, especially the dessert.

Kosher snack box

Kosher snack box

Next up was the Kosher snack box, which had orange juice, tuna, crackers, and an apple compote. Verdict: confusing, but tasty. It was a little unclear why they chose the things they did  (I’m guessing for shelf life?), as it was slightly unclear what components were supposed to go together (tuna on crackers? apple compote on crackers? apple on tuna?). Individually, though, the items were tasty.

VGML snack box

VGML snack box

Contents of the vegetarian sandwich

(Meager) Contents of the vegetarian sandwich

Finally, we have the VGML aka strict vegetarian aka vegan snack box, which had a roasted vegetable sandwich and a Nature Valley granola bar. Verdict: okay, but lacking. The bites of the sandwich that actually had roasted vegetables were pretty delicious, but there weren’t many roasted vegetables to speak of. And for what it’s worth, many vegans don’t consider honey to be vegan, so the granola bar isn’t strictly vegan (although it’s at least not blatantly not vegan like some of the things I’ve received in VGML meals from United…).

Overall, surprisingly tasty snacks from Aegean Airlines on the short hop from Istanbul to Athens. I’d happily fly them again, although it’s a little sad that the tickets I booked didn’t accrue miles on United and only accrued 50% mileage on US Airways.

Some Thoughts on Air Canada Coach Class

I am currently in Istanbul, having gotten here on Air Canada via Toronto in coach (I know, the horrors of coach).

I’d never flown Air Canada before, and I was excited to try them out as they’re supposedly the highest-rated North American airline, at least according to the oh-so-reliable Skytrax. But at the very least, they provide in-seat power and on-demand entertainment, even in coach, so those were both promising.

The flight from SFO to Toronto was quite pleasant. The seats were comfortable, the in-flight entertainment had a decent selection and was started on the ground (which I always appreciate), and the in-seat power meant that I could get some work down without worrying about my laptop battery. All good points in my book.

The flight from Toronto to Istanbul was one of the most disappointing flights that I’ve taken, largely because the service and food were both terrible. I never thought that I’d say that I missed United for its food, but eating Air Canada’s meals made me feel that way. Granted, I did order a vegetarian meal (AVML, which was not Asian at all but just a VGML), but the non-vegetarian food did not look appetizing either.

Dinner of very bland quinoa, cold vegetable salad, and a gluten-free vegan cookie (always a dangerous combination)

Dinner of very bland quinoa, cold vegetable salad, and a gluten-free vegan cookie (always a dangerous combination)

Breakfast of rubbery tofu scramble, potatoes, dry bagel, and fruit cup made in China

Breakfast of rubbery tofu scramble, potatoes, dry bagel, and fruit cup made in China

The real problem throughout the flight was the service. This was the first flight I’ve taken where I felt that the flight attendants actively disliked passengers. There was never any courtesy extended, never any outreaches of helpfulness, and there were several times where I was surprised by their behavior. For example, rather than moving the service cart a couple of rows back to let people into their seats, the flight attendants would just leave passengers stranded in the back of the plane until that part of service ended, which was often up to 15 minutes later. Or when people were waiting for the bathrooms near the galley, I saw flight attendants physically push people out of the way without saying “excuse me” or asking if they could move first. And to add insult to injury, the service was extremely slow, even with these behaviors. I can understand being brusque in the interest of finishing service quickly on a red-eye, but it took about 4 hours for the lights to be completely dimmed in the main cabin.

(As an aside, I would avoid the middle seats in row 19 on the 767-300. Although it’s a bulkhead, it’s a bulkhead where it’s a solid wall in front, but the pitch is only very marginally bigger on these seats, so there’s not enough space to stretch out your legs in front of you. This means that there are only 8 seats in the exit rows with additional leg room, those being the pairs of seats on the sides of the two exit rows.)

Overall, while the hard product itself was decent for coach, I would probably have a slight preference to avoid flying Air Canada in the future. Their premium cabin product isn’t particularly aspirational, and the bad service and food I experienced are enough to outweigh the good hard product.