Tag Archives: trip reports

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B772 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


If it was RAM’s intention to temper expectations for their flight through their extremely underwhelming lounge experience, all I can say is “mission accomplished”. I left the lounge thoroughly convinced that if the airplane did not catch fire and spontaneously combust, I  would consider it to be a good trip.

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Casablanca to Accra is a 4.5 hour flight, but thanks to our detour to Lome (see previous post) the total trip time would be just under 6 hours. That’s quite a bit of time to be on a narrowbody 737 with recliner seats, although I firmly believe that once you’re in business class you lose all right to complain about such things. Think of the poor souls in the back.

We were boarding at the furthest gate of Terminal 2. Terminal 2 isn’t that big, for the record, so it wasn’t more than a five minute walk from the lounge.

Boarding was delayed but when it started the ground crew were quite good about enforcing priority boarding.

Although there were a few people in the business class queue, I was the only passenger in the cabin (I assume the rest had frequent flyer status of some sort). Shortly before takeoff, two off duty pilots boarded as well and took up two additional seats, probably being deadheaded to Accra. I can’t imagine premium load factors would be great to such destinations.

As mentioned, the seats in business are 2-2 configured recliners. You don’t see a lot of hard product innovation on narrowbody aircraft (with some notable exceptions), and that’s a shame. But narrowbody aircraft are mainly used to service routes where the load factors don’t justify the economics of widebody deployment, so it’s unsurprising that the form factor of seats has remained largely unchanged since the beginning of air travel.

Legroom is adequate, and unless you’re in the last row of the cabin you’ll have unrestricted recline.

Each seat has an old fashioned footrest. Unfortunately the mechanism that is meant to hold it in place doesn’t work on some seats, presumably due to wear and tear. I had my pick of the cabin though so it wasn’t an issue.

No seatback entertainment in these dated seats.

Every seat had a scratchy red blanket wrapped in plastic waiting.

Plus a flimsy pillow with the type of covering you usually find in hospitals.

The crew came around to introduce themselves. Unlike most of my experiences in Morocco, I found they had pretty good English. I’ve always found communication in Morocco to be a big problem, and vaguely remember reading one World Bank critique of the education system that went to the tune of “it sets out to teach students English, French and Arabic and ends up doing none particularly well.”

Pre-departure beverages were served, but all alcohol was kept sealed until we were airborne. Juice, soft drinks and water.

A loud mechanical whirl buzzed in the cabin as the video displays came down for the pre-flight safety briefing. I mistakenly assumed that this was also going to be the IFE system (See more on that later).

Takeoff was uneventful and after about 30 minutes the crew started dinner service. Nuts were served, but in a packet instead of a warmed ramekin. I wanted to summon my inner Heather Cho but got lazy.

Given the awful quality of catering in the lounge, I was surprised they had champagne on board, and a pretty decent brand if I may say so myself. Laurent Perrier Brut is not going to win any awards soon, but I’d personally take it any day over NVs from Cattier, Nicolas Feuillatte or Canard-Duchêne.

The glasses they use are really small though. “More ale, wench” was the order of the day.

Menus were distributed by the crew. They were printed on surprisingly high quality paper. I was expecting maybe a flimsy sheet or even no menu.

Dinner was…well…it was dinner.  Served over two courses with the appetizer and desert brought out at the same time, then the appetizer switched out for the main.

The starter of a single prawn and mixed veggies wasn’t too bad. At least the prawn wasn’t. I realised later on that this was mean to be “asian prawn”. It’s always marvelous to see what other cultures make of your food.

The main, on the other hand, was optimistically described as chicken tagine with lemon sauce accompanied with potatoes and purple olives. Something probably got lost in translation. The chicken was dry with mushy veggies.

After dinner the crew gave out amenities kits. I was keen to see which brand RAM would partner with. Surely this would be a great chance to highlight some local boutique brands in a region known for argan and other minerals?

No, no it was not. I had a fetching resealable bag with eye shades and a pair of socks which I promptly lost.

I didn’t expect any inflight entertainment, so I was surprised to receive this handheld device from the stewardess. It was a (very heavy) tablet loaded with movies, TV shows and even some games. Fortunately the device had a built-in stand that allowed me to prop it up on my table.

The movies loaded on to it were pretty first rate stuff.

As were the TV shows.

The games were simple, no PS Vita stuff here. I do miss the days when airlines had those Super Nintendo games. Super Bonk and Super Maro Bros were easily two of my favourites, and they really made those long haul trips to SFO go by quickly.

I decided to re-watch the Lego Batman movie. When I first heard of it I thought: oh no cheap sequel cash-in. But having watched it, I now think it’s one of the better movies I’ve watched this year. At least I love how subversive it tries to be.

I love the dig they took at Suicide Squad too. Don’t know how many people caught that one.

Batman: What am I gonna do?
Get a bunch of criminals together
to fight the criminals?
That's a stupid idea.

Read more: http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=the-lego-batman-movie

The seat was alright for sitting but as we all know a recliner seat on a late night flight isn’t ideal. When I was done with my movie I managed to catch about an hour of shut eye before we landed in Lome.

It was pitch dark outside (worryingly so for an airport) when we landed, and we taxied to a remote part of the apron. The lights in the cabin went on. And we waited. And waited.

No one got on or off the plane, which confused me even more. It seemed to be a refuelling stop, but why would you need to do that when it seems more straightforward to fly to ACC?

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Some ground crew came onboard the plane, the pilots got out to stretch, some documents were filled and handed over. But there was no crew change, no luggage offloaded, no nothing. It was altogether strange.

After 30 minutes on the ground the aircraft doors were closed and we taxied again to takeoff. After that it was barely another 30 minutes before we were landing in Accra. The IFE tablet was taken away before we landed in Lome, and no further drinks were served between Lome and Accra. I thought and thought about it and couldn’t figure out what the stop in Lome was for.

One last order of business was to snap loo shots.

There were flowers in the loo. Real ones. I think. I didn’t touch them because I have a constant fear of touching anything in an airline loo.

The toiletries weren’t anything special- they were branded with RAM logos.

Royal Air Maroc wasn’t outstanding  nor was it terrible. I think the best word to use would be “forgettable”. I realise a narrowbody aircraft is not really the place for an airline to show off its best stuff (unless you’re on a Qatar A320…more on that in the weeks to come) but I suppose the flight was comfortable enough on the whole.

Miami, no vice: The EVA and SQ Taipei lounges- in daylight

Miami, no vice: Planning
EVA Air Business Class SIN-TPE
Decoding the lounge situation in Taipei
EVA Air Business Class TPE-IAH
Red Roof Inn IAH Airport
United Economy IAH-MIA
Renting with Sixt Miami
Element Miami International Airport
Miami, the Keys and everything inbetween
Jetblue Economy MCO-JFK
Revisiting the Taipei lounges


I thought I’d wrap up this trip report (a few months late) by revisiting the lounges in Taipei. The flight back to Singapore was with EVA, which was excellent as usual but pretty much the same as the previous reports.

However, my previous review of the lounges in Taipei was blighted by horrible lighting and photography. The way the Taipei airport tweaks the lighting in the evening means the lights are bouncing off every shiny/reflective surface, resulting in gems like this

This is not my fault as I am an awesome photographer and have been asked by many women to photograph them like one of my french girls. Besides, we all know that people read The Milelion for award winning, visually stunning photographs and not the dreck that passes for writing.

My flight from JFK to Taipei landed in the wee hours of the morning, and my Ansel Adams senses told me that the lighting at this hour was much different and more conducive to photography. So I decided to give it another shot-

EVA Air Lounge (Infinity & Star)

The Infinity lounge was deserted this early in the morning, which made photo taking a lot easier (remember the difference between the two is that the Infinity lounge is for EVA Air’s business class passengers, whereas the Star is for Star Alliance Gold passengers. If you’re a Star Gold flying EVA Air Business Class you can access both). You can see that, for whatever reason, my camera isn’t producing those weird lens flare things now. Here’s the main sitting area in front of the buffet, just before the Tron Tree.

And the Tron Tree itself! So much easier to photograph now.

The row of chairs that lines the wall facing the public departure area.

I came early. Like really early. So early the food for the buffet wasn’t even out yet. That was fine, as I wasn’t particularly hungry.

I decided to cross over to the Star lounge to attempt re-photography. They were also in the process of setting up breakfast.

There was tons of seating when I first arrived, but the place gradually filled up as more early morning flights landed.

The Star lounge has a quiet area with recliner seats. No separate sleeping rooms, sadly, but hey, we can’t all be the Al Safwa lounge.

Eventually the buffet was set up and I wandered over to take a look. There was a good selection of cooked and cold items, with a strong emphasis on vegetarian stuff.

But there was also back bacon, which made everything better.

It was early but the deserts and cheeses were out too.

As well as the full range of drinks.

I had the quintessential lounge meal- a bit of everything. The pasta was surprisingly passable, although and the broccoli was fresh and crunchy.

The Infinity & Star lounges are good enough to pass an hour or two, although they wouldn’t be in the “come early for this” category. They’ve got a good selection of food and places to work, but there’s no wow factor like a lounge, day rooms, video games or any bells and whistles. Kind of reminds me of the SilverKris lounges, come to think of it.

That brings me to…

SQ SilverKris Lounge

After taking my photos in the EVA air lounge I realised that it was just about opening time for the SilverKris lounge. As a lowly KF EG member, I am cast out from the SilverKris lounges in Singapore, but welcome to the ones overseas. Quite frankly, I’ve not met a SilverKris lounge I didn’t like- the one in London is amazing, the Bangkok one just got refurbished and I must be one of those rare few who appreciated the one in SFO before it got closed down.

I went on over to discover that I was the first person in the lounge! I could do whatever shenanigans I wanted and there’d be no one to give me puzzled looks. I could compose artistic angles, painstakingly document the buffet and take the sort of high impact photography people have come to expect of The Milelion. I felt like setting up a scaffolding and painting the roof.

The lounge hasn’t had its makeover to match SQ’s new Home theme, but it’s still a very pleasant place to be nonetheless. There is no separate First Class section (SQ doesn’t operate first class to Taipei anyway), so the entire lounge is one big room with plenty of seating by the windows, at the marble tables and by the TV.

They also had a wide selection of reading materials

I was so early the buffet hadn’t even been put out. But when it had, I made a beeline to photograph the food in its perfect virginal state. I was giddy with excitement, to be able to take proper photos without someone nudging me out of the way with a serving spoon.

The food options were substantial- scrambled eggs, dumplings and what I think is chicken.

And two kinds of veggies plus fried noodles

A steamer had a limited selection of baos and siu mai.

There was surprisingly good bak kut teh. I don’t know if they imported the mix from Singapore or made it in house, but it was nice and peppery and had an excellent kick.

They had cheese and cookies out as well.

And you could try and toast some stale bread to bring new life into it.

The full alcohol selection was out, with the usual hard liquors and wines.

The fridge was full of soft drinks, juice, fruit, yogurt and beer.

I assembled a plate and felt sophisticated sitting at the marble table, reading my favourite government mouthpiece and praying I wouldn’t run into a Sumiko Tan article.

The other great feature of the lounge was this display case which shows off all sorts of kitsch SQ accessories. I can’t believe they don’t have something similar in the Singapore lounge.

Have you seen SQ monopoly?

Or the SQ Hello Kitty dolls?

Or kebaya-patterned monkeys (not for sale sadly)

Or the SQ A380 playset?

On the whole, I actually slightly prefer the SilverKris lounge to the Infinity and the Star, simply because it’s less crowded. The majority of Star Gold passengers transiting through Taipei would be directed to the EVA lounges, and the SilverKris facility is relatively more under the radar. Yet it still has good food, comfortable seating and shower facilities.

So this wraps up Miami, no vice. For a novice to Miami (see what I did there), it was a great trip and full of places I’d love to re-visit (especially the Keys. Pity Bloodline Season 3 was such a steaming pile of refuse). I know I originally planned to do something on Disneyworld, but I think I’m going to save that for a special occasion…

Orchid, Elephant, Turtle: Thai Airways Business Class USM-BKK-SIN

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


So it was when flying back from Ko Samui to Singapore that I started regretting doing the entire journey on Thai Airways – since Ko Samui is located pretty much halfway between Bangkok and Singapore, having to transit at Bangkok effectively quadrupled the travel time required.

Still, an interesting experience, even if one I’m unlikely to repeat in the future, and I’ve captured some highlights below.

Samui Airport

Being rather used to flying through air-conditioned city airports, Samui Airport was a bit of an eye-opener for me. There’s something quaint and charming about an airport that decides to place aquariums in the toilet to entertain you while you… go.

Most of the airport was very much open, with not an air-conditioner in sight. There’s something about walking within the airport towards your departure gate without a roof over your head.

I’d hate to be there when it’s raining, though.

When you finally get to the gate, there are some trams to bring you to the plane. Since we had some time to kill, we decided to check out the lounge first.

Blue Ribbon Club (Bangkok Airways Lounge) USM

The Thai Airways business ticket granted me access to the Blue Ribbon Club, which appeared to be the only lounge(s) in the airport (according to an old FlyerTalk thread, there’re an international and domestic one, and I’d visited the rather lacklustre international lounge).

It’s essentially just a small room with a rather limited range of items you can order off the menu.

There’s also a bunch of snacks – nothing particularly appealing, really.

I did enjoy being able to get a whole coconut while in the lounge.

All in all, a rather skippable experience. Think I’d rather have spent more time walking around the airport!

USM-BKK (Boeing 737)

The flight back to Bangkok was on the same Boeing 737 hardware that I took from BKK.

Again, no in-flight menu was provided for the domestic trip, though the meal looked rather less offensive/bewildering to non-Asians.

Royal Silk Lounge BKK

Unfortunately, due to lack of foresight, the 1h transit time in BKK did not really offer much time in the lounge, other than to snap some quick pictures before running off to the departure gate.

All in all, it seemed like a rather serviceable place. Wish I’d had more time to stay there!

BKK-SIN (Boeing 777)

The flight back was on a Boeing 777. Though not the swanky A350, as an international (albeit short-haul) flight the hardware was pretty decent, with a good amount of legroom.

There were in-flight menus again! After the regional flights I was getting used to life without them. I ordered the green curry with fishballs – it was tasty enough, though nothing fantastic.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, while I enjoyed the A350 experience, the bulk of Thai’s hardware for short-haul flights fails to impress. Unless you’re flying long-haul on newer hardware, I’d suggest saving your miles/money for better usage!


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.