Lufthansa A330 Old First Class DFW-FRA
Driving the Nurburgring Nordschleife
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Oslo to celebrate Chris Guillebeau
Singapore A380 Suites Class FRA-SIN
Singapore Airlines Private Room and Singapore 777-300ER First Class SIN-HKG
Hong Kong and the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui
Cathay Pacific’s The Wing Lounge and 747 First Class HKG-SFO
“All good things must come to an end” -Some Pessimistic Jerk
I slowly awoke from an incredible night of sleep, opened my windows, and thought “man, there’s nothing like Hong Kong under a blue morning sky”. It’s true, and I someday hope to experience that, since it was really cloudy that morning. It didn’t look Airline Delay Cloudy, so I lazily threw on some clothes and scampered up to the Regency Club for a light breakfast with one of the great urban views in the world.
Between the breakfast, the great night’s sleep, unmaking my bed to take a picture of it to frustrate all those who are annoyed by those pictures, and packing, it was almost time to leave for the airport. This trip was going to be different for a lot of reasons. First, I was crossing off another Travel Bucket List Item: flying at the front of a 747. Seat 1A was mine for my flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Second, the reason I decided to route through San Francisco was to see a client in Palo Alto for a few hours on my layover. This meant the unthinkable: I’d have to dress like a businessman for my flight. So it’d be an interesting survey, would I be treated any differently because of my attire?
I said a hearty goodbye to the impressive and luxurious Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui, after being personally apologized to by three different managers for the unfortunate experience I had the evening before (without getting into too many details, it), which was a nice touch. I hailed a cab and told them to make way for Kowloon Station. We encountered a bit of traffic on Nathan Road, and I saw why moments later: a Lamborghini Gallardo had rear-ended a Hong Kong taxi. My taxi driver and I jointly went “OOOOOOOOOOOhahahaooooooooo” as the poor Lambo’s front bumper had a nice smear of the red paint common to Hong Kong’s taxis all over it. Everyone appeared to be fine, which is why it was ok to laugh, I justified later.
Back at Kowloon Station, I made my way for the MTR station and arrived at Hong Kong International Airport a short 23 minutes later. I found the check-in areas for Cathay Pacific and made my way towards a regular desk, where I was promptly greeted by an attendant, “Good morning, how can I help you sir?” I had a sudden mental lightbulb and said “HI, OOPS, SORRY, NO YOU CAN’T HELP ME” and businessmanishly walked away, leaving a bewildered attendant. I had almost forgotten a crucial piece on the Travel Blogger Checklist: using First Class Check-in Areas whenever possible. I remembered that Cathay has a nice area set apart from the rest of the check-in area, and thank goodness I remembered, or else I would’ve been courteously and professionally assisted by the man at the other check-in desk!
If you’re facing the check-in area, all the way to the left is Cathay Pacific’s First Class Check-in area.
Similar to my experience at the First Class Terminal, I was greeted promptly and customer serviceishly by one of the staff members, while another whisked away my baggage, tagged it all the way to Dallas, and presented me with the luggage tag. The check-in process didn’t take but 2-3 minutes, and I made my way through security and immigration, which was very barren at about 11:30am.
Cathay Pacific has a variety of lounges in the expansive Hong Kong airport, all named after inanimate objects: The Wing, The Pier, The Cabin, The Arrival, The Slightly Less Large Lounge Similar In Design To The Cabin, etc. I was particularly excited (that’s the life-stage I’m at: Excited To Visit Airline Lounges) to visit The Wing, as it had recently undergone The Closing, followed by The Renovation, and recently The Re-Opening. It’s located just after the requisite duty-free lounge complex after customs. The duty-free area reminded me of Frankfurt’s airport, in that I was constantly heading towards what I thought was the way out yet ended up getting lost amidst all the booze and tobacco.
Eventually, I found The Exit, turned left, and found The Cardboard Cutout of a Cathay Pacific attendant pointing you to The Lounge. I walked in, and The Staff greeted me, checked The Boarding Pass, and gave me The Access to The Wing. It’s brand new and has a very classy feel, almost like an old lounge you’d imagine Frank Sinatra singing in if he was fond of singing at airports.
As you can see, classy to a fault. As you walk in, the first thing that catches your eye is The Champagne Bar, because there’s an attendant there, and I bet she’ll give me some. She asked which of The Champagnes I preferred, and, upon The Selection, poured a pretty healthy glass for me. I walked around, and due to The Forgetfulness didn’t take that many pictures (#fail), but was very impressed by The Renovation. I had intended to visit some other lounges, but seeing as my flight was departing from Gate 4, which was literally one floor below The Wing, I decided to stay and wing it (HA).
First stop after The Champagne Bar was the dining area, called The Haven. They had The Lunch available from a nice buffet, and the attendants were nice enough to ensure The Champagne Glass remained full, and even indulged me in a Bailey’s on The Rocks. Very well-liquored and well-fed, I thought my readers would appreciate seeing what The Business Class side looked like, but before I could, my name was called on The Intercom. I made my way to The Desk up front, and was informed there was a couple who would like to sit together, and would I mind switching my seat with one of them? I felt really bad, but politely gave the lady The Rejection, as I really wanted my seat, and, after all, had paid a pretty large amount of nothing (67,500 AAdvantage miles and $10-15 in fees) for this flight.
I really did, despite my obnoxiousness in the preceding paragraph, feel bad for splitting up a couple, so I tweeted at a few mileage bloggers, who confirmed that I had done nothing wrong. Their responses gave me The Confidence, and I decided to grab a shower to freshen up a little before the flight. One of the highlights of The Wing are The Cabanas. They’re simply fantastic, even better than the First Class Terminal.
They also had a cabinet where you could hang a shirt, press a button, close the door, and someone would use a hidden door to get the shirt and press it for you. Very nice service, since I’d be doing business when I landed it was very appreciated.
After I was sufficiently freshened, I complained to myself about the lack of a rubber ducky and decided to leave The Wing, but not before catching a glimpse of my 747 landing and making its way to The Gate.
After a moderate wait (which consisted of me overpaying for some cigars at the Duty-Free shop), we were ready to board (really quick turnaround for a long-haul international flight, I thought). First Class guests, just like Singapore, weren’t paged to board, rather were ushered to the front of the line (savoring The Glares from the other passengers) and onto the plane. My flight attendant welcomed me aboard, taking note of my proper attire, and guided me to Seat 1A.
I love Cathay Pacific’s seat. It’s very well-cushioned, and is a bit more versatile than Singapore’s seats, even the Suites. It’s very wide, almost too wide, and I’m embarrassed to say I missed out on a crucial detail when I flew on Cathay last year: the armrest that folds down.
I was ceremoniously presented with some Shanghai Tang pajamas (in a nice blue color, I liked them better than the black ones I got last year) and went to change in the restroom to beat the rush. As I walked out of the restroom, my flight attendant was waiting with hangers for my clothes and insisted on hanging them for me. Ok, if you insist.
I sat back down and another attendant went through a demonstration I called “3 Steps To Happiness”.
Now, after my Singapore flights I found I preferred Dom to Krug, but in a pinch I’ll settle for whatever premium champagne someone offers me. I proceeded to Krug my face while boarding was completed. The only difference between the First Class seats in the 747 vs. the 777 is there are 9 seats on the 747 and 6 on the 777, with the same number of flight attendants, so some claim you get more attentive service on the 777. We were a full 9/9 on this flight.
I was really looking forward to the flight, and before I knew it we made our way to the runway, the massive engines on the 747 kicked into gear, and we flew through some initial turbulence into some beautiful flying weather.
After a refill of everyone’s glasses, the moderately paced dining service began.
It began with a caviar service, and, the caviar veteran I now am, I confidently scarfed it down with class.
I had the soup, and remembered after the attendant took my bowl that I should’ve gotten a picture of it. But that was ok, because STEAK.
The steak looked appetizing, but was just overcooked like whoa. Maybe when I said “medium rare” my flight attendant heard “in no way close to medium rare”, in which case bravo. Next time I’ll try saying “I want the meat just on the dead side of mooing” and see if that gets me medium rare. I could only eat a bit of it before it was just too tough. I was still pretty full, but went ahead and made room for The Dessert.
I watched a few TV shows on the in-flight entertainment system, then had the attendant turn my seat into an incredible bed. Turned out I was still tired I guess, because I was out for about 8 hours! In the interim, tail winds picked up, and we had a consistent 175mph tail wind back to San Francisco, so by the time I awoke, breakfast was just about ready to be served.
I know a lot of you are probably wondering why I didn’t take more pictures. I just wanted to be selfish and enjoy this flight. I took a tour of the plane, escorted by a flight attendant who told me all the various features of the seats (annoying the passengers in lower classes), joked around with them in the galley, and just made the best of everything. I knew what to expect from Cathay Pacific from flying them before, and I’m happy to report this flight was just as good. I knew this time that Cathay does not like walking around and disturbing passengers, they prefer you ring your call button and they will almost sprint to your side to help. I knew this time to change into my pajamas early. I guess in summary, I’m not sure if this flight was better than last year’s (LAX-HKG), but I sure felt like I was a better passenger.
Reminiscing about a great trip, I changed back into my civilian clothes, stowed all of my baggage, and enjoyed the views as we passed the western coast of the USA.
We started our descent, and my last little bit of preparation paid off: I knew to sit on the left side of the plane, for a great view of some great tourist attractions.
We touched down ahead of schedule (dang it) and I had a really dumb smile on my face from how much I enjoyed the flight. The rental car desk is easy to find at San Francisco, you just get on the inter-terminal train and take a train about halfway to Los Angeles, which is where the rental car desks are. I made quick work of my client in Palo Alto and returned to the airport for my last flight, on American Airlines Domestic First Class
You know what? I loved it. The service didn’t compare to Cathay, Singapore, or Lufthansa, but it was something I’m used to and I guess just felt like home. The food available on these international First Class flights is great, but the descriptions for each are about 2-3 paragraphs long, talking about how the chicken was “ethically raised, cage-free, organic, vegetarian-fed, valedictorian of its class, of high moral quality, and managed its finances well”. My flight attendant on American simply and politely said, “Mr. Travel Blog, we have chicken and pasta.” Made it easy. I don’t know why, I guess the flights that take you home are sometimes the sweetest, but I loved this flight almost as much as all the others.
I landed at DFW airport, made my way to the parking lot, and drove home to many texts welcoming me home and my mom calling to make sure I landed safely. I was finally home. But, all of you flyers know what getting home means: time to plan the next trip!
Some of you are reading this for the fun of it, and some of you are close to booking travel and need to know which airline to select. Singapore Suites versus Cathay Pacific will probably be the most asked question. It all depends on the route for me. If you’re on a Singapore Suites flight with a full dinner service (versus the supper service they offer from SFO-HKG, for example), go with Singapore. It’s a unique experience and the service was great. Sometimes people say the attendants on Singapore are robotic, so if you’re looking for a very consistent level of service on comfortable, private seats, go with Cathay. You really can’t go wrong with either. I don’t feel like it’s fair to compare Lufthansa to the other two, as I was flying on a dated hard product. The service was on-par with Singapore and Cathay, just with a different style.
I guess my summary would be: Singapore Suites was the most exciting experience, Cathay Pacific was the most comfortable flight, and Lufthansa’s service and food service made up for outdated seats. If you’re on a 777, choose Singapore Business over Singapore First Class.
I wanted to say thanks to all of you for reading this and for your comments and thoughts. I have a mostly sarcastic and irreverent writing style, and hopefully it made you laugh at least once or twice. I didn’t quite realize how much work went into putting these together, which makes me admire the trip reports of Gary Leff (http://boardingarea.com/blogs/viewfromthewing/), Ben Schlappig (http://boardingarea.com/blogs/onemileatatime/), and Brian Kelly (www.thepointsguy.com) even more. They’re some of the guys, along with Chris Guillebeau and Matt Harding, who helped me learn the miles game (not to mention the inspiration to travel) and have been incredibly helpful with tips along the way.
Until, next time, I’ll see you in the skies!