Tag Archives: 747

On the road again to Rio: Lufthansa 747-8i Business Class Review

On the road again to Rio: Introduction
Singapore Airlines Business Class SIN-FRA
Lufthansa Premium Economy FRA-GIG
Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort
Star Alliance Lounge Rio
Lufthansa Business Class GIG-FRA
Sheraton Frankurt Airport Hotel
Singapore Airlines Business Class FRA-SIN


GIG airport isn’t exactly laid out in the most centralized of fashions- from leaving the Star Alliance lounge it was a further 10-15 minute walk to the gate. I reached gate C55 just in time for the commencement of boarding.

The flight that Saturday evening would be just over half full, I presume the bulk of the business travelers had flown out on Friday’s flight. I was surprised that premium loads to Brazil were still fairly decent given the country’s overall economic recession.

This evening we’d be on Lufthansa’s 747-8, the spiritual successor to the 747-400. This was Boeing’s stop gap answer to the A380, and although it’s sold fairly poorly (there are only 33 passenger versions in operation by Lufthansa, Air China, Korean Air. Oh, and this guy). On the plus side for Boeing, because the 747-8 was a derivative of the 747-400, it didn’t require quite the same amount of extensive R&D costs that Airbus ploughed into the A380. It looks increasingly likely that the best that Airbus can ever hope for on the A380 program is to break even. Twin engine, fuel efficient A350s and 787s are the future, it seems, and it’s sad that our generation could be the last to see any double decker planes in operation.

All LH aircraft have been upgraded to Lufthansa’s latest business class seat, a project that finished sometime in late 2015. The new business class class seat is certainly an upgrade of the previous iteration, but is already hopelessly obsolete.

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LH’s old business class seat. Can you feel yourself sliding off it?

Direct aisle access is the gold standard for business class, and given that Lufthansa does not intend to introduce a new business class seat until 2020, it looks like they’ll be playing catchup for a while.

There is a certain visceral thrill to being on the top deck of a 747, because of the privacy it affords. I believe there aren’t any bassinet seats on the upper deck, so you’re guaranteed not to have any baby noise. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a private jet experience (on account of the fact you’ve got 31 other people up there with you), but it’s way better than being on the main deck.

Lufthansa uses a 2-2 configuration on the upper deck (I often wonder how an airline would implement all aisle access on the upper deck of a 747- it’s way too narrow for a 1-2-1 configuration, and a bit too spacious for a 1-1 configuration. Maybe a 1-1-1 with somewhat squeezy aisles?)

As mentioned earlier, I had confirmed with the check in staff that the seat next to me would remain empty. This is critical to your enjoyment of a product like Lufthansa’s, because the design of the seat means that if you’ve got a seat mate, you better hope it’s someone you know.

The seat has absolutely no privacy from your seatmate. There’s not even a token privacy divider, the likes of which you’d find on many angled flat configurations (eg SQ’s A330s). You can turn to your right and see everything your seatmate is doing.

It gets better.

Yup, that’s where your feet go. Now imagine the awkwardness of playing footsie with a stranger, because that’s what you’re going to be facing the entire time you’re in this seat. When you go to bed, it’s more likely than not that your knees will bump your neighbour at least a few times.

I suppose the counterargument to that is this seat is great for couples. I know a few people (weirdos) who say that business class has become too solitary and insular. Those are probably the same people who like this cringeworthy ad by ANA about networking in the air. Or this absolutely horrible Tube Chat campaign (you have to love the riposte though). Why can’t the world understand that some of us prefer to be left alone and not have to make eye contact with other people. Go away, you.

The seat, in and of itself, isn’t terrible. It goes full flat and although it isn’t very wide, that wasn’t a problem for me (yet). The seat material may feel scratchy to those who don’t like sweaters though.

Seat controls are on the center panel with 3 preset configurations.

Each seat also had an amenities kit and bottle of water awaiting in the stowage area under the seat infront of it.

Inside the amenities kit you’ll find earplugs, a toothbrush set, some socks and creams.

LH’s amenities kit has improved from the last time I flew them (they previously gave this flimsy plastic piece of plastic. I wondered how the Germans, who are capable of great industrial design, could conspire to deliver something so shoddy)

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photo credit: onemileatatime

Lufthansa offers Bose headphones in business class. They’re not the fancy QC-15/25 version that airlines have in first, but they’re definitely excellent quality still. It’s certainly a step up from the horrible ones they have in premium economy.

Lufthansa hasn’t upgraded its IFE systems to the newfangled Panasonic touch screen controllers, which is just fine with me given how often those things hang. However, their existing controllers also seemed to have issues with sticky buttons- my controller wasn’t able to register inputs pretty frequently, and in the end I just gave up and watched my own Netflix.

If you’re on the upper deck of the aircraft and in a window seat, you get the added benefit of additional storage space below the window.

The crew came around with pre-departure drinks. Champagne was served too. There’s an increasing trend of airlines not serving alcohol on the ground to avoid duties.  While I understand that rationale, and haven’t hit the stage of alcoholism where I need a drink RIGHT THIS MINUTE, it still takes something away from the boarding process.

The champagne Lufthansa serves in business class is a Dual Leroy. I’ve been progressively learning more and more about champagne since I started drinking it a year or so ago, and one thing I know is that Dual Leroy is probably towards the cheaper end of the spectrum. I know because it always seems to be on sale when I go to the wine stores (I’ve seen it retail for as low as $50 a bottle in some places)

The crew lead came around to introduce herself. As a general note, Lufthansa’s cabin crew try hard, but they’re definitely nowhere near as polished as SQ’s. No passenger was addressed by name (I think LH’s service standards only require that in First Class), and it’s hard to think of any instance where they did something above and beyond what would be expected. Service was functional at best, and although the crew certainly wasn’t unpleasant, it does make you think if we complain too much when we say SQ’s service standards are slipping.

Nuts were served and meal orders taken after takeoff.

Here’s the menu

And the drinks list

Let’s get one thing straight- Lufthansa’s catering is horrible. No two ways about it. You might argue that it’s a function of the station we were flying out of, but I’ve now tried Lufthansa catering ex-FRA, ex-MUC and ex-GIG and I can say that I have never had anything resembling an edible meal. Heck, even my First Class meal with Lufthansa was rather icky.

So it was no surprise that this meal followed suit.

The starter of octopus cubes was a chewy mess that somehow managed to be slightly mushy within.

The salmon main was similarly unimpressive- mushy rice, vegetables that were so soft they turned into glop the minute you put any sort of pressure on them. The salmon was cooked so much that any semblance of flavor had vanished.

I gave up on the salmon and asked for the pasta instead. That was..somewhat unwise.

The pasta was nuked, totally soft and lacking any sort of flavor. It dissolved as you put your fork into it. And as a side note, if any Italian saw you cook pasta, then put sauce on the pasta afterwards as a dressing, you’d be sleeping with the fishes. Pasta is meant to be cooked in the sauce. It is, as my amorous Italian colleague has once told me with great conviction from the heart, the marriage of the sauce and the pasta that makes it true pasta. On another side note- what the heck is that white stuff on the pasta?

For desert I elected for the safest option- fruits.

I paid a visit to the washroom after the meal to get ready for bed. Lufthansa hasn’t done anything fancy with their loos, they’re pretty much as stock as they get. The tapes and flushes are no-touch sensors, which always appeals to the germophobe in me.

There’s a well stocked tray of non-alcoholic mouthwash, combs and wet wipes in the loo too.

Returning to my seat, I put the bed into full flat position and tried to get some rest.

And here’s the thing- I slept great. I’m sure this is all to do with having no seatmate, because if I did I’d have to deal with things like him/her having to step over me to get to the aisle, or light pollution from when he/she decides to turn on his/her reading light, or noise pollution if he or she snores etc. You’d be surprised how wound up people can get in a confined environment- I once had a seatmate glare at me and ask me to stop “making those noises” (I was sniffling, as I often do on planes).

I woke up with about 90 minutes to go to landing.

What Lufthansa does so much better than SQ is the timing of the breakfast service. You can get breakfast any time you want before you land. I opted for 90 minutes, but people who asked for it at the 60 minute mark were still accommodated. Contrast this to SQ, which insists on turning on the cabin lights full blast at the 2.5 hour mark prior to arrival.

To be fair, Lufthansa’s breakfast service is single tray, versus SQ’s where they’ll serve you fruit, then cornflakes, then the main course. But I’m pretty sure a lot of passengers would be more than happy with a one tray service if it meant maximizing sleep.

Not that it made the food quality any better though. The scrambled eggs were overcooked beyond recognition. I know people will tell me that I have too high standards for airplane eggs. But I’ve had poached eggs that were perfectly runny, in ANA economy class no less. So it can be done.

We were all set to land on time in Frankfurt, where it was currently 6 degrees. In my infinite wisdom, I had not brought a scrap of warm clothing with me and would have to hide in the airport hotel throughout my 24 hour layover.

Although LH has pretty snazzy ground services for first class passengers, and its first class hard product is as good as they come, Lufthansa’s business class product is clearly nowhere in the same league as SQ, ANA or Eva. It’s at best a middling hard product, and the service isn’t world class enough to make up for it. Catering continues to be a weak point for Lufthansa, and its business cabin refresh can’t come soon enough.

I now had a 24 hour layover in freezing Frankfurt as I sought out the safety of the airport Sheraton…

The Long Way to New York: Thai Airways First Class BKK-HND

Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, Singapore
Singapore Airlines Business Class SIN-BKK
Thai Airways First Class Lounge & Spa, BKK
Thai Airways First Class BKK-HND
Getting from HND to NRT
ANA First Class Lounge, NRT
ANA First Class NRT-ORD
United Club ORD
United Economy ORD-EWR
Visiting the US Open
Sheraton New York Times Square
Hilton New York Midtown
Wingtips Lounge JFK & Delta to DC
Exploring Washington DC
Element New York Times Square West
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, JFK
Singapore Airlines Suites JFK-FRA
Lufthansa Senator Lounge FRA
Singapore Airlines Suites FRA-SIN


Although it is old and on the brink of retirement, the 747-400 still holds a special place in my heart, as I mentioned in my review of the Asiana First Class product during my RTW trip. There is something quite special about boarding an aircraft as culturally important as the 747. The recent passing of Joe Sutter, the manager of the design team for the original 747, reminded me how the aircraft single-handedly revolutionized the way we travel. To put things in perspective, the predecessor to the 747 was the 707, which carried 110 passengers to the 747’s 360. The 747’s length is longer than the Wright Brother’s first flight.

Unfortunately the 747 is not long for this world; the 747-8 has sold poorly and more and more airlines will be phasing out their 747-400s in the near future. Cathay Pacific, for example, will be retiring theirs in a matter of weeks. So if you’re a child of the 90s or earlier and want to say a final farewell to this glorious machine, no better time than the present.

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My flight to HND was departing from Gate A6 on the far end of BKK airport. We were escorted there by a lounge staff member, which seemed to me to be sort of redundant given that it’s pretty much impossible to get lost in an airport.

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Thai Airways has a total of 11 747-400s in its active fleet. 5 of them have the old Royal First and 6 have the new, Suite style product.

Helpful information from this FT thread

The old seats:

Boeing 747-400 (5) | HS-TGO, P, T, W and X | Seat map
Also referred to as: 74R, 7443, Boeing 747-400, «10F»

Royal First (10) | First row: 1-1, second and third row: 1-2-1 | Full flat «pods» | PTV AVOD AC | View
Royal Silk (Main deck: 14, Upper deck: 26) | 2-2 | 1st gen angle flat | PTV AVOD AC | View 1 View 2
Economy (325) | 3-4-3 | Standard | PTV AVOD AC | View

This is how the old Royal First looks. The seats are full flat, but don’t have a lot of privacy. The throne style seating sort of reminds me of SQ’s old Skysuite product, without the leather.

Photo of HS-TGX Boeing 747-4D7 by Patrick Teubner
photo credit: jetphotos.net

The new seats:

Boeing 747-400 (6) | HS-TGA, B, F, G, Y and Z | No seat map available
Also referred to as: 74N, Boeing 747 All series, «9F»

Royal First (9) | First row: 1-1, second row: 1-1-1 and third row: 1-2-1 | Full flat «suites» | PTV AVOD AC USB | View 1 View 2
Royal Silk (Main deck: 14, Upper deck: 26) | 2-2 | 2nd gen angle flat | PTV AVOD AC USB |
Economy (325) | 3-4-3 | Standard | PTV AVOD AC USB | View

Photo of HS-TGY Boeing 747-4D7 by Pawarin Prapukdee
photo credit: jetphotos.net

Although we were booked to fly with the new First Class, Thai is notorious for doing last minute equipment swaps, so I was relieved when I entered the cabin and saw that nothing untowards had happened.

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There are a total of 10 suites in Royal First on Thai’s refurbished 747s. I had seat 1A in the nose of the plane.

1A offers a good degree of privacy because of the way the nose is curved. Unless someone is standing right next to you, it’s impossible to look into your suite.

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Each suite is spacious, with a ton of leg room to stretch out into

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The seat has a good amount of storage area for everything you need. There is a nifty tablet built into the seat that lets you control all the different features. really though, it’s a duplication of the buttons below the tablet so I’m not sure why they felt it necessary to include. Maybe at one point the tablet was supposed to be integrated into the IFE system but they gave up.

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Each seat also has its own flower vase just off the side of the TV screen with an orchid in it. Lufthansa has roses, if I remember correctly.

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Thai gives out Rimowa amenities kits to First Class passengers. The only other airline I know who does this is Eva (they don’t have First Class, so Business Class passengers get them). I believe Lufthansa used to offer them but on my latest flight I received a different branded one so they might have changed.

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There is mouthwash, a comb, Monteil branded facial moisturizer, lip balm, hydration spray, a pair of socks and a cheap toothbrush kit (although to be fair I haven’t seen any airline go all out on the airline toothbrush- why not?)

I read conflicting reports about whether or not Thai offers PJs in First Class. Fortunately they were available on this flight. The PJs are not branded, like Cathay Pacific’s Shanghai Tang, but they were comfortable enough and still better than nothing.

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Thai’s headphones are supposedly noise cancelling, but the sound quality was very poor. They don’t offer the same high quality headphones that SQ has (Bose QC15s).

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The attendants came around to introduce themselves and serve pre-departure drinks. Dom was offered and accepted.

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Menus were distributed and orders taken for dinner. Even though this was First Class, dinner would be a very short affair. I suppose it’s more similar to the supper service on SQ, even though SQ’s abbreviated supper service is still somewhat longer than this.

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For comparison’s sake, here’s the SQ menu for a Suites flight (albeit on a longer, 13 hour route)

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Here’s the drinks list. The only name you’re really interested in is Dom Perignon 2006

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With red eye flights like this maximizing sleep is the name of the game, so I was interested to see how quickly the crew could finish serving a full First Class cabin of 10 people.

Within 30 minutes of taking off the first course was delivered. So far so good. The scallops were nicely done, the cream of fennel soup was passable.

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After this was cleared, I waited for the main course to be served.

And waited

And waited

30 minutes later I asked the stewardess about the main course. She looked completely surprised and said “we serve it before landing, would you like to have it now?”

I was completely taken aback. I mean, I had never encountered a situation where an airline split one meal into two parts, and I certainly wasn’t told about it when ordering. I suppose if you look at the menu you might be able to tell that it’s split into two, after all it’s a bit weird to serve yogurt and cereal for supper. But still, I was quite annoyed that I had basically waited another 30 minutes for nothing, which on a short overnight flight makes a difference to quality rest.

The main took another 15 minutes to arrive and was decidedly mediocre. There were exactly three pieces of Sanma fish, the accompaniments of deep-fried fishcake ball, simmered prawn and konnyaku were soggy and stone cold. The best part was really the steamed Japanese rice.

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I do regret not trying the rice vermicelli noodle soup with pork balls, something that sounds a lot more Thai and should have come out better but by now I just wanted to sleep.

I ate as quickly as I could and asked the crew to turn down the bed so I could get some rest.

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The bed is actually really comfortable. There is a special mattress pad they put on the seat and a softer blanket is provided (not the scratchy woolen one you find at the seat). With earplugs I managed to sleep about 3 hours in total. I ended up sleeping through the breakfast service (but in any case already had my “breakfast” the night before.

I think that TG’s First Class hard product is solid, although the older 747 invariably has issues of its own with engine noise, toilet quality and the disconcerting tendency for everything on the aircraft to creak when it banks. Soft product wise, the crew definitely don’t speak to non-Thai passengers as much as they interact with Thais, I’m going to put that down to a lack of confidence in English ability. But they were always available for requests.

Although TG is definitely not in the same league as the Star Alliance’s MVPs of NH and SQ (possibly a strong case to be made for BR too), it’s pleasant enough to take for short flights. I’ve never experienced long haul TG on their newer aircraft and that might be a good route to review in the future if Lifemiles availability shows up.

We landed on time in HND. I now had about 4 hours to get to NRT.

The Milelion’s RTW Trip: Asiana to NRT, and a reunion with an old friend

The Milelion is embarking on a round the world trip over the next 4 weeks to more than 10 different countries. En route I will be doing reviews of different airlines and hotels. This will be one really, really long trip report. Thanks for keeping me company.


Introduction: Around the world in 28 days
EVA Air Business Class Singapore to Taipei
EVA Air Business Class Taipei to Los Angeles
Silvercar LAX
Avenue of the Arts Costa Mesa
Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles
United First Class Los Angeles to Mexico City
Le Meridien Mexico City
United First Class  Mexico City to Houston
United Business Class Houston to Sao Paulo
Sheraton Sao Paulo WTC
South African Business Class Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
Hilton Sandton
Ten Bompas Johannesburg
Turkish Airlines Business Class Johannesburg to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class Istanbul to Zagreb
Westin Zagreb
Croatia Airlines Business Class Zagreb to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Riyadh
Four Points Riyadh
Air India Business Class Riyadh to Mumbai
St Regis Mumbai
ANA Business Class Mumbai to Tokyo
Asiana Business Class Tokyo to Seoul
Westin Seoul
W Seoul
Asiana Business Class Seoul to Tokyo
ANA Business Class Tokyo to Singapore


The 747 always holds a special place in my heart because of its links to my childhood. When I was young my father was posted to Silicon Valley to work. Whenever we shuttled back and forth between the USA and Singapore, we’d take one of SQ’s many 747s. Sometimes it’d be the Big Top (-300). Sometimes it’d be the Mega Top (-400). Sometimes we’d be seated in business class on the upper deck (companies were way more generous with expatriate packages back in the day) and sometimes we’d be cramped in the rear, but all the time the stewardesses would fuss over me (My career as a charmer started early) and bring me model aircraft, games and other distractions.

I’d get to go to the cockpit and meet the pilots, who would sign my Young Explorer booklet. For the uninitiated among you, Krisflyer used to have a special Young Explorer program just for kids. It even had various tiers (good to get them started on the status race early in life) which gave better benefits that I can’t quite remember. There was definitely a requalification gift and once I got tickets to watch Space Jam. It was a different time.

So being on a 747 definitely brings back a lot of memories for me. Unfortunately,  the heyday of the 747 is long over, as the former queen of the long haul skies gets replaced by more fuel-efficient A380s and 77Ws. And although the A380 is certainly a formidable replacement, you don’t get that same feeling of privacy by having a small mini-cabin at the top of the jet.

SQ’s upper deck on the 747. This version has the angled flat Spacebed seats, but I’m old enough to remember when they used the reclining Ultimo series | photo credit: ashutterbugslife.wordpress.com

As of January 2016 there were about 220 747-400s left in passenger service, and over a third of them were with three airlines (BA, UA and KLM). This aircraft used to account for almost 50% of Asia-Europe and Asia-North America flights in the first half of 2006, but 10 years later it now accounts to less than 10%. Take up of the 747-400’s spiritual successor, the 747-8, has been poor, with only three passenger operators. So it’s likely that within the next 5-10 years we’re likely to see the familiar shape of the 747 disappear from airports altogether (or confined to the cargo terminals).

Asiana too, is in the process of gradually phasing out its 747 fleet. It has four left in commercial services, flying short distance/high traffic routes like ICN-NRT.

The best thing is that even though Asiana’s 747s have three cabins, they only sell business and economy seats on this route. Therefore, if you book business, you can use the manage booking function to select a first class seat in the nose of the 747 (the service level on offer however will still be business).

In other words, if you’re booked in business you can either pick one of the 10 first class seats in the nose of the plane

Or one of the 24 business class seats in the upper deck

Although the upper deck is always an amazing experience, no prizes for guessing which section I took.

I departed from the W Walkerhill very early anticipating a minimum 90 minute journey to the airport, but because it was early on a Sunday morning (and the driver ignored all stop signs speed limits and traffic lights) we were there in just over 45 minutes. This gave me plenty of time to explore ICN airport.

Check-in was really silly. Even though I already had an e-boarding pass on my phone, the security people insisted I go back to the counter and get a physical one. Because physical is so much more legit. There were crazy lines at the counter, even for business class, but I just wandered up to a vacant first class station and asked if they could print out my pass for me, which they happily obliged.

Asiana’s flagship lounge in ICN was functional but not outstanding. It’s located up an escalator from the main concourse

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Up the escalator you’ll find reception, but access control isn’t very good and during busy times when every counter staff is preoccupied I can see it being very easy for someone to come up the escalator and automatically turn left to enter the lounge (the lounge is split into two halves with the reception counter in the middle)

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I scanned my boarding pass and went into the far end of the lounge (away from the escalators). This is the larger lounge area.

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There is plenty of seating in the lounge and a sit down dining area.

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The buffet selection was actually really poor, with only two hot items, cereal, bread and the curious option of a salad bar. 5 o’ clock somewhere, I guess.

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The alcohol selection was already out even though it was 8 in the morning. Nothing sparkling on offer.

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Behind the dining area was a TV area with sports on mute.

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Elsewhere in the lounge you could find a selection of Englisha nd Korean reading materials

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Some workstations (note the privacy glass separating each workstation from its neighbor)

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And a random grand piano. Mostly for ambiance, not for music.

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Ultimately the lounge didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I actually thought it was slightly poorer than SQ’s SilverKris business class section in Singapore, given that SQ has a much wider variety of hot dishes and alcohol on offer.  It only struck me later that I could have gone to find SQ’s much better SilverKris ICN lounge instead of waiting here. Then again it might not have been open so early in hte morning.

When the time came to board I headed down to Gate 30 to prepare to meet an old friend. I was excited to see that it was a 747 Combi, which takes both passengers and cargo. You can see in the photo below that a large flap towards the rear of the aircraft is open. This is where they load the cargo pallets.

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Boarding started exactly on time. The ICN-NRT route, as you might expect, is very popular among business travellers.

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I had never been in the nose section of the 747 before, only on the upper deck. There are 10 seats in the nose section of Asiana’s 747

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I had seat 3K, on the starboard side of the aircraft.  I could imagine this seat being quite the luxury 10 years ago, but products have changed and innovated so much since then that the seat just looked very old and tired. More than sufficient for a 2 hour 10 minute flight of course.

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It’s interesting how the seat design speaks volumes about how design priorities have changed over the years. You can see that the seat is really not very private. I could look across the entire cabin from where I was seated. That would be unthinkable on modern-day first class cabins where you’d get high walls and movable partitions to give privacy.

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The most private seats in this cabin are probably those towards the front, 1A and K, simply because your blocked by the large rear of your own seat.

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That said, I suppose if you sit at the correct angle you could still be seen (as this view of 1A from 3K shows)

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The wear was visible on the seat controls especially around the edges

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As well as around the tray table slot, presumably from suffering many bangs over the years by frustrated individuals trying to get the trays back in.

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Some other minor cosmetic defects could be seen on the leather.

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Fortunately, the IFE controller worked just fine (and I think is the same model used on SQ’s A330s)

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And despite being an old aircraft, Empower plugs and USB outlets were still available.

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I got the same amenities I got on the NRT-ICN leg on the A330, given that the service standards would be business class despite first class seating.

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The service was alright but not spectacular. The chief stewardess came over to introduce herself, but subsequently disappeared and passengers were not addressed by name.

We pushed back on time and I heard those four majestic engines spooling up to get this ~400,000kg beast into the air. The aircraft made a very loud, groaning noise on takeoff, which was always very reassuring. I could hear the rattling and the creaking coming from the front and from the seats, parts presumably loosened after more than a decade of service.

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Shortly after takeoff the crew started to serve lunch on this short flight. I can’t remember whether a menu was presented, I’m quite sure it must have but I didn’t get a photo. In any case it was your typical Asian vs Western option. I went with the Asian which was beef with rice. It was pleasant but I was saving my stomach for a little adventure I’ll touch on in a bit.

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The bathroom was adequately stocked for a small flight. The standard L’Occitane amenities were on offer.

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The seat reclines full flat, as you would expect from a first class seat from 10 years ago. It’s not going to win any awards today of course, and I couldn’t help but feel the entire fabric hadn’t been cleaned in eternity, but a flat seat on a 2 hour 10 min flight is already more than anyone can ask for.

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We started our descent before I knew it and were flying over the farms near Narita.

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Everything else was without drama. An on time landing gave me a  four hour layover and I wasn’t about to spend it at the very average ANA lounge.

I had made plans beforehand to leave the airport and explore Narita City. I didn’t fancy being able to squeeze in Tokyo in that four hours, given I was at Narita not Haneda. Most people think of Narita as an airport not a city, but I had two objectives: have sushi and visit a Japanese supermarket. Both could be fulfilled at Narita City…

The long way to New York

I’d been brainstorming a few ideas on how to get from Singapore to New York for my September mecca to the US Open. I could

  1. Fly SQ26 SIN-FRA-JFK, but there was no first or business saver seats available and I’d have to pay $950 of surcharges even if anything opened up
  2. Fly Cathay through Hong Kong, which cost the same number of miles as SQ but with only ~$100 of surcharges. However, no seats are currently available for immediate confirmation
  3. See what creative searching on Lifemiles turns up

I was playing around with the Lifemiles search engine today when I realized that Chicago (ORD) is only a 2 hour flight from New York. I can live with that, I thought. So I started entering different permutations into the system and this is what happened-

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When I showed this routing to my mother, she thought I was crazy. Then again, she doesn’t understand why I need to have 10 different credit cards either. As those of us in the hobby know, sometimes getting there is half the fun.

And this is a convoluted way of getting to New York, but I’m really excited about this routing because it lets me try some really good premium cabin products…

Singapore-Bangkok: SQ978, Business Class

The trip starts off with SIN-BKK on SQ978. SQ, as you remember, very rarely releases anything other than its regional business class product for partner redemptions. But this is more than sufficient for the short 2.5 hour flight.

And besides, it’s essential to get to Bangkok, where something better awaits…

Bangkok-Haneda: TG682, First Class

photo copyright: airteamimages

thai

That something better is the Thai Airways new first class product. I have never flown Thai in First, so this is something I’m really looking forward to. I have a 3 hour transit in Bangkok so that should be enough time to do a review of the first class spa there and try out their first class lounge. Detailed reports to follow.

And, I get to fly with a very old friend ,the B747. The last time I flew the B747 must have been more than 10 years ago, back when it plied the SIN-SFO routes. I was very careful to make sure that the equipment indented had the new, Suites-style first class and not the older product, shown below.

But then again, Thai is infamous for last-minute equipment swaps, so you can never be too sure.

This will bring me into Haneda airport, where it will be time to make an interesting transit…

HND-NRT, Limo Bus, which seat can I take?

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Yup, that’s right. I need to transfer from the HND to the NRT airport to get on the next flight. Fortunately I have 4 hours to make the connection.

There is a wealth of options to get from HND to NRT, but I think I’ll take the limo bus which takes 90 minutes and costs JPY 3100.

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I’m tempted to make a quick stop in the city to have some amazing french toast at Ivorish, but there’s extra impetus to get to Narita airport early to enjoy the lounge for my next leg…

Narita-Chicago: NH12, First Class

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I’ve reviewed the ANA First Class product before from Seattle to Singapore, and I think it’s an excellent hard product. I’m also looking forward to the chance to have Ippudo ramen onboard.

IMG_20150510_081138Unfortunately, ANA no longer issues Rimowa amenities kits, but their replacement Samsonite ones aren’t half bad (doesn’t stop the weeping and gnashing of teeth on FT though)

ANA old Rimowa kit
ANA new Samsonite kits

ANA will take me to Chicago where it’s time to finish off the great trip with…

Chicago-New York: UA385, Economy

Well, I didn’t say the routing was perfect. (I had to manually add this on and pay cash because the Lifemiles engine wouldn’t offer me the final leg to EWR/JFK)

Summary

Total Cost: 99,000 Lifemiles (@ 1.375 US Cents + US$92 fees) +  US$184 (ORD-EWR)= ~S$2,200

Does this routing take away precious vacation time? Well I depart SIN at 635pm on Friday and arrive in EWR at 1.50pm. If I took SQ26 I’d be touching down around 11am (because the flight leaves much later on Friday), so it’s really not that big a difference.

This routing was only possible because Lifemiles recently started making mixed-cabin class redemptions available, which was a really positive development. I’ve not arranged the flight back to Singapore, but I imagine I will try my best to redeem some Krisflyer miles (given that it’s generally easier to redeem tickets into SIN than out of it)

Any way you look at it, to get to try both Thai and ANA First Class on the same trip for under S$2K (I’m excluding the cost of the ORD-EWR leg) is a miracle in itself.  So if you haven’t done so already, please go and open up a Lifemiles account so you can take advantage of the next sale.

Now, if only there were a way to hack US Open tickets…