Tag Archives: airlines

The Turkish Airlines status match that isn’t

I’ve written before about the different status match opportunities open to people who already hold elite status with one airline.

  • Alitalia (no longer available, and why would you want that anyway?)
  • Air Berlin (be careful to put your country as one of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Poland, Netherlands and the USA before you send in your status match request)
  • Delta
  • Singapore Airlines (strict limitations apply, see article for more details)
  • Turkish Airlines

The TK status match has always been one of the flakiest around, with some people reporting an easy match and others having to jump through untold hoops.

Image result for turkish airlines miles and smilesIt appears, however, that even if you are granted a status match with TK, you need to be hypervigilant when it comes to requalification.

In theory, the terms of the TK status match (they call it “Miles&Smiles Turkish Airlines’ advantageous Frequent Flyer Programme. Elite card trial period”. But bombastic naming really isn’t that surprising for an airline which renamed its lounge “July 15 Heroes of Democracy Lounge”. No, really.) are as follows

  • Upon approval, you get TK Elite status (*A Gold) for 4 months
  • During this 4 month period, you need to fly 1 TK international flight (in any cabin)
  • Upon doing this, your TK Elite status is extended to the rest of the first year
  • To enjoy status in the second year, simply fly 15,000 status miles with any Star Alliance carrier and credit the mileage to your TK Miles and Smiles account

You can see the obvious attractiveness of this- instead of having to fly 50,000 miles to requalify for *A Gold status (as you would have to with Krisflyer), you only need to fly 15,000.

However, there are reports that TK has unilaterally changed the T&Cs of the status match to require the 15,000 miles to be flown with TK only.

Loyalty Lobby has written about some experiences here (have a read of the comment section too)

Now, a Milelion reader has sent in his own account

One year past and I had accumulated thereabouts of 25K status miles (note: the reader indicated he needed 25K status miles to requalify, but both Loyalty Lobby and Flyertalk posters indicate they only needed 15K. In any case that’s not the main point of this post). I expected to receive my TKG card sometime in March 2017 however I was puzzled when I did not get it. The disadvantage about TK is that any enquiry has to go through their customer service form on their website that will give you a reference number. Any future correspondences must make reference to the reference number or it will be treated as a new ‘query’.  The customer service officer said they will refer to the membership department for investigation. After close to 2 weeks of no news, I decided to call them. Calling them requires you to make an international call to their Turkish hotline and the waiting times are horrendous.

The Customer service officer is of no help at all and keeps on creating new reference numbers for my inquiry. However, the customer service officer I spoke to mentioned that renewal is only granted if the status flights are on TK airlines.I argued and insisted that at the point of statusmatching, it was only indicated 1 TK full fare flight and 25K status miles can come from any *G airlines. I was aghast and horrified that they would do this to me and rescind on our earlier agreement that they had sent me via email. I promptly created yet another reference number on TK website with the welcome email from TK airlines in 2016 to show proof.

One fine day, while still waiting for my outcome of investigations, I was horrified to see that they had gone ahead and mailed me a TK Classic Plus card! I immediately called them to ask them about promised qualification criteria and received the same answer that the membership team will get back to me. I gave up and resigned myself to fate that I had wasted those precious status miles on TK that had rescinded my offer. Approximately 1 month after my initial inquiry (early April), I received an email reply from TK that status they were unable to accede to my request. So much for customer service!

Have a read of more experiences here.

I think that TK has a very good hard product and quite an impressive lounge, but it sounds like they can’t be trusted where keeping T&C is concerned.

So if you’re looking to do a TK status match, or have already done one, take note!

Orchid, Elephant, Turtle: Thai Business Class SIN-BKK Review

Orchid, Elephant, Turtle:
Touring the Thai Conrads

Thai Airways Business Class SIN-BKK (A350)
Conrad Bangkok (Executive Corner)
Thai Airways Business Class BKK-USM
Conrad Koh Samui (Oceanview Pool Villa)
Thai Airways Business Class USM-BKK-SIN


Trip Planning

When the (amazing/short-lived) Visa/Conrad promotion went live last year, I’d obsessed over how I could make the most of the deal. Having never been to Conrad Koh Samui (often mentioned as one of the aspirational properties in the Hilton Portfolio, also previously lauded by Aaron), I decided that March 2017 would be as good a time as any to check it out, swinging by Bangkok on the way while enjoying another 50% discounted Conrad stay there.

Thai Airways seemed like the logical option to get from SIN to USM with a BKK stopover; I enjoyed the experience (especially flying on the new A350) but looking back I kinda wish I had saved on the air ticket and got “a la carte” direct flights instead. For such short trips, flying business class is really rather unnecessary – especially if the hardware for regional flights is not particularly great.


Thai Airways Business Class SIN-BKK (A350)

Since Thai Airways was operating the A350 on some flights between SIN-BKK, I made sure that I was able to get on board one of them for my outbound flight.

I don’t know about you, but when flying on business class around lunchtime I try to make it a point to get to the airport earlier to grab some food at the airline’s lounges, which tend to serve better food than the contract lounges that Priority Pass gets you into.

Changi Airport Terminal 1 Thai Airways Royal Silk Business Class Lounge

So, immediately after checking in, I headed straight for the Thai business lounge in T1.

Since (if I’m not mistaken) Thai Airways is the only Star Alliance airline operating in T1, and there are only a handful of flights to Bangkok daily, the lounge doesn’t seem to get all that crowded – a good thing, in my book.

[Edit: Clearly, the internet is full of people eager to point out just how mistaken I was – Air China, Shenzhen and Turkish fly from here too. Thanks to Avinash and Nick for pointing that out!]

I was actually pretty impressed by the offerings at the lounge – the drink selection was a bit more limited than I’d have liked, but the food spread worked well as a quick bite before boarding the plane.

 

 

 

After stuffing my face with lounge snacks, I proceeded towards the plane in the hope of continuing to stuff my face with in-flight food. The new(ish) A350 was clearly visible from the boarding area.

The Hardware

You can tell how new the plane is from the state of its interior.

The seat was pretty comfortable, with more than adequate legroom.

Other than the large screen in front of the seat, there was a touchscreen to the side of the seat. The seatbelt resembles the type you find in cars (fastened diagonally) – while I’m sure this is more secure, I did find it more uncomfortable. I usually keep the seatbelt on when flying, but found myself unbuckling whenever possible during this flight.

The dining table is stowed away in plain sight pretty much in front of you, to be unfolded diagonally when food is served. A rather elegant approach, I thought.

The Food

The fare was pretty good, but nothing earth-shattering. I opted for the Squid Ink Spaghetti for myself. It was… okay, but not all that memorable.

Towards the end of the flight they started giving out orchids for the ladies on board. While a clearly sexist move, Griffles ended up a happy beneficiary when The Wife opted to pin it on him instead of in her hair.

All in all, a pleasant flight – I left the plane feeling rather pleased that I’d opted to fly Thai business for this trip. That said, for a quick 2h flight it’s not really that big a deal – I didn’t even manage to try switching the seat to flat bed mode!


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.

What you need to know about Norwegian’s new Singapore-London flight

Budget carrier Norwegian Airlines has announced that it will start non-stop service between Singapore and London from September this year.

CNA’s article on the launch- which, incidentally, features the wrong type of airplane. Not all aircraft are the same, guys

According to the press release, one-way fares from Singapore to London will start at S$199 for economy and S$839 for premium-class with the following schedule

Footnote 4: From 29 Sep to 06 Oct 2017 Footnote 5: From 13 to 27 Oct 2017

It looks like that the press release was incomplete, as from November 2017 the Friday departure from Singapore moves to a much more sensible 10.50pm slot, allowing you to start your vacation on Friday without taking an additional day of leave.

The route is expected to start in late Sept/early October, but in the meantime, here are a few things you should know about the new Singapore-London route.

You’re flying to Gatwick, not Heathrow

Image result for gatwick obviously
from LGW’s campaign to have Gatwick expanded at the expense of an additional runway at Heathrow

One of the ways that Norwegian can keep prices low(er) is by flying to London Gatwick (LGW) instead of London Heathrow (LHR). LHR is a major international hub and as you can expect, landing slots sell at an obscene premium ($75M for a prime slot, anyone?)

What does that mean for you as a traveler? Well, let’s look at where the two airports are on a map

1=LGW, 2=LHR, 3= Paddington Station

I’m taking Paddington Station as the de facto centre of London for the purposes of this illustration. You’ll see that Heathrow (dot 2 on the map) appears to be closer than Gatwick (dot 1 on the map)

But that’s not the whole story- in terms of public transport (trains in particular), Heathrow and Gatwick have very different options

Heathrow is served by

  • Heathrow Express (15 mins to Central London, GBP 5.50 one-way if booked 90 days in advance for weekends, otherwise GBP14-25)
  • Tube (1 hour to Central London, GBP5-6 any time)

Gatwick is served by

  • Gatwick Express (30 mins to Central London, GBP 17)
  • Thameslink (80 mins to Central London, GBP 20)
  • Southern ( 80 mins to Central London, GBP 20)

The biggest difference is there is no tube option for Gatwick (although Oyster cards are accepted for payment). Anecdotal stories on Flyertalk suggest that Gatwick is less congested than Heathrow as well.

Landing at Gatwick also means there will also be implications for Singapore passengers looking to use the Norwegian flight as a means of connecting to the rest of Europe- depending on where your connecting flight departs from, you may need to budget more time or money.

Fortunately, Gatwick has a wide variety of carriers like Ryanair, Vueling, WOW Air and Norwegian Air Shuttle that can connect you to your onward destination, which should minimize the need to change airport.

Norwegian has 5 types of fares

If you’re flying in economy, you’ll have a choice of booking a Lowfare, Lowfare+ or Flex ticket. If you’re flying in premium, you have the option of Premium or Premium Flex. You can see the differences in each ticket above.

It obviously defeats the purpose of buying a budget airline ticket if you opt for Flex. I mean, SQ’s promotional return economy rates to London are S$1,218, so a one-way Norwegian ticket for S$1,190 just doesn’t make sense.

Based on what I can see, the cheapest possible option for a Norwegian round trip to London is about S$520.

In case you were wondering, it will cost you 76,000 Krisflyer miles and ~S$240 of taxes to travel round trip to London in economy. Despite the removal of fuel surcharges during the recent Krisflyer devaluation, surcharges on UK award flights remain high because of the Air Passenger Duty that the UK authorities charge.

From a quick search on Kayak, the cheapest flights to London are with Air France at S$878. These aren’t direct, however, and require a 90 min layover in CDG. Direct flights would start upwards of S$1,200.

So on the surface, Norwegian appears to be offering a very good deal for a direct flight.

Of course, there’s always the add-ons…

Prepare to be upsold

I suppose it’s part and parcel of opting for a budget carrier that you’ll be upsold left right centre. That said, Norwegian isn’t half as egregious as some other carriers– for starters, none of these add ons are gotcha style pre-selected options.

Bags

Where luggage is concerned, it costs you S$45 for 1 bag (max 20kg) and S$100 for 2, per way (the prices are the same SIN-LGW and LGW-SIN).

Seats

It costs S$45 to select a seat, but interestingly Norwegian does not seem to discriminate among “better” exit row seats and regular seats. It costs you the same amount of money to pre-select a middle seat at the back of a plane as it does an exit row one.

Note that Norwegian has 3-3-3 seating in economy and 2-3-2 in premium.

Meals

Meals on Norwegian aren’t cheap at S$45 (this covers 2 meals on the SIN-LGW flight)

As per the Norwegian website, here’s what you can expect.

    • A hot meal including beer, wine or mineral water during the service
    • You get to choose between two different dinner options. Which one of the options you want you decide on board.
    • You’ll get a small starter, a main course and something sweet to go with your coffee afterwards.
    • Got a special dietary requirement? Don’t worry. We’ve got alternatives for you.
    • On flights with two meal services you’ll also get a light meal

You should also be aware that the second “meal” isn’t much of a meal, more like a cold item.

First Service

  • A cold pasta/salad starter
  • For the main course you have the choice between either a meat or fish dish with vegetables and potatoes or rice
  • The meal is rounded off with a dessert
  • Coffee/tea is served after the meal

Second Service

  • A snack bag which includes a sandwich, a sweet or savoury treat and a juice box

Just what is the Norwegian Air experience like, anyway?

Image result for norwegian air 787

Given that the flight is blocked at 13h 40 mins outbound and 12h 40 mins inbound, I imagine a lot of people want to know what they can expect on the aircraft.

Image result for norwegian air 787

Here are trip reports from Norwegian Air’s 787 economy and premium cabins respectively to give you some idea. All seats on the 787 have free IFE and every 3 seats share 2 power sockets. Each seat will also have a USB socket under the IFE screen. Norwegian offers free Wifi on some flights, but it doesn’t look like they’ve extended this to long haul international yet.

Again, it’s difficult to describe the product without actually trying it, but it seems like apart from the absence of a free meal, your cabin experience would not be too different from flying any other full service carrier.

Would I take it?

The flight definitely looks like a spectacular deal to London. 13 hours is a long time, but Norwegian’s cabin doesn’t look particularly punitive in the way that Ryanair or Spirit try to make theirs. In fact, with free IFE and presence of charging outlets, you could argue this would be no different from any other long haul flight.

Image result for norwegian air 787

I think it’s great that long haul budget options are finally coming to Singapore, and I hope the additional competition compels SQ/BA to reduce their cheapest economy fares on this route.

That said, I would probably look to redeem miles (for premium cabin travel) to London, then take a cheap flight to Paris to avoid APD on the return leg to Singapore.

#notaprincess