Skytrax 2018 Awards Announced – Here We Go Again

I’ve never put too much weight into Skytrax ratings. They’re mainly based on votes from people who have favouritism towards a single airline just because they’ve had a good experience on them before. Most of the people voting have never flown another airline in the same cabin class before.

That being said, it’s always exciting to see the opinions that the general public has towards airlines, which is why I continue to see and report on Skytrax’s rankings, despite the fact that I don’t actually value them at all. Additionally, while the rankings themselves are based on flawed data and results, the rankings actually have quite a large impact on airlines, as Skytrax rankings are quite highly-esteemed.

img_5506Lufthansa being a 5-star airline was probably the industry joke of the year

Today Skytrax released some rewards for this year’s winners in multiple categories. Having flown a number of airlines since this last happened, I’ve been quite…entertained by some of the rankings that Skytrax has released this year. Here’s a roundup of some of the thoughts that I have from Skytrax’s new rankings – for the full list of awards, click here.

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Thai Airways Introduces Yet Another Business Class Product

Thai Airways currently has more different business class products than any other airline. Their A330s, 747s, and select 777s feature angled flat seats (two unique types, actually), their newer 777s, A380s and A350s feature Solstys-style staggered business class seats, some of their 787s feature forward-facing fully flat business class seats, their other 787s feature reverse herringbone seats, and they still have an active 737 with recliner seats in business class.

Since Thai doesn’t operate any 787s to Hong Kong, the Hong Kong to Bangkok route is served exclusively with their planes with angled flat seats and Solstys-style staggered business class seats. I’ve had the chance to fly their A330 and 747 with angled flat seats, though haven’t tried their Solstys-style staggered business class configuration (I’ve flown a similar configuration on Hong Kong Airlines, who has a virtually identical seat apart from the finishes).

Thai Airways Boeing 747 Business Class Seat

Well, apparently someone went to Thai Airways’ CEO and said “you know what, Charamporn, I don’t think six unique business class configurations are enough for our airline. I think passengers would like less consistency, and more variety. Let’s introduce a seventh business class seat configuration, just to mix things up.”

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There’s A Pet In The Business Class Cabin!

I’ve flown countless flights over the past few years, but this is a first for me.

I’m slated to fly Korean Air’s new 747 business class in the coming weeks. It’s not the first time I booked myself on a Korean Air 747-8, but last time our flight was swapped out for an older 747, so naturally I’ve been on my toes this time hoping that something similar doesn’t happen.

So today I found myself checking the seatmap, only to see something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

Korean Air Boeing 747-8 Hong Kong Airport

Continue reading “There’s A Pet In The Business Class Cabin!”

Emirates Reduces Flights Out Of Dubai For Runway Upgrade

Emirates operates out of one of the world’s largest hubs, Dubai International Airport. While I’ve never been, I know for a fact that it’s one of the world’s busiest airports. It’s also one of the most hectic, as the airport’s been around for a while, and the airline has had exponential growth throughout the past decade.

Emirates operates a hub-and-spoke model, which means that they focus on serving one-stop flights between a wide variety of destinations at high capacities (they have, by far, the most A380s in operation out of any airline, and have 6.75 times more A380s on order than the next biggest operator, Singapore Airlines), which further adds to how busy their Dubai hub is. They seem to be doing quite well – from Hong Kong alone Emirates offers three daily A380 flights (the most of any airline out of Hong Kong), one of which routes through Bangkok, and an additional 777 flight, and they’ve done so for many years. They also have quite a good reputation in Hong Kong, as many more have heard of Emirates compared to their Middle Eastern counterparts, Etihad and Qatar Airways (both of which also fly to Hong Kong).

img_2580Emirates Airbus A380 Taipei Taoyuan Airport

That’s why they were impacted pretty severely when Dubai Airport announced they’d be upgrading a runway, restricting capacity out of Dubai Airport. For that reason, next year Emirates will be cutting hundreds of frequencies per week out of Dubai Airport, which I thought was worth writing about.

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Review: L7 Hotel Myeongdong Seoul

Last year, I took a trip to Seoul. Unfortunately, it was cut short by a last-minute family emergency. However, I was able to snap some pictures during the 3 hours inside the hotel that I had booked for our trip, the L7 Hotel Myeongdong. L7 is a trendy new brand under the massive Lotte Group. I was excited to check out the hotel and see if it all the hype was deserved. 

We made our way to the hotel using an Airport Bus service, which dropped us off one block away from the hotel. After being greeted by some staff on the first floor, we were directed to the lobby which was on the third floor where we were able to check in and given rooms despite the fact that we arrived 5 hours before the published check-in time. The overall process was efficient enough and the associates were quite friendly.

The hotel is located in Myeongdong, which is one of the main touristy areas of Seoul with plenty of great shopping and dining, so I have no complaints there.

IMG_2007L7 Hotel Myeongdong Lobby 

While my mother handled the check-in formalities, I decided to explore the gorgeous lobby area, which was quite honestly the perfect place for an Instagram photoshoot. Right behind the front desk were a couple of decorative benches.

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Shenzhen Airlines Will Launch Flights Between Shenzhen and London

I’m a frequenter between Hong Kong and London, and plan to find the best premium economy product between Hong Kong and London. When I created that goal, I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d fly Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class anytime soon, but now that I have, I’m also keen to fly British Airways’ business class product, so I can compare and contrast the business class products flying between Hong Kong and London as well.

One city that I’m also fine with originating from is Shenzhen. It is quite aways from Hong Kong – it’s a 90-minute, HK$100 bus ride from Sheung Wan, nowhere as convenient as the 25-minute Airport Express to Hong Kong Airport – and customs isn’t the most pleasant (they’re much more thorough with checking your belongings, e.g. if your portable charger doesn’t clearly list its capacity, you won’t be allowed to take it onboard). However, the airport experience is quite pleasant, and the terminal is absolutely stunning – and most importantly, the prices out of Shenzhen are usually cheaper, as it’s less of a premium market compared to Hong Kong.

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Austrian Will Stop Flying To Hong Kong

In 2016, Austrian launched a direct, five-times-weekly flight from Hong Kong to Vienna. This was the fourth route flown between Hong Kong and Europe by the Lufthansa Group, adding to Lufthansa’s daily flight each between Hong Kong to Munich and Frankfurt, and Swiss’ daily flight between Hong Kong and Zurich. Austrian’s actually the only of the three airlines I haven’t flown, though I’ve heard that they have a great product, with a decent hard product and superb catering.

Austrian Boeing 777

On the route, Austrian flew a decent staggered business class seat (similar to the one I’d experienced on Swiss), a premium economy seat similar to Lufthansa’s, as well as an economy cabin featuring a 3-4-3 configuration. When booking connecting flights to secondary cities in Europe, Austrian’s prices were usually (but not always) lower than what Lufthansa and Swiss offered. I actually listed their business class product as one of the ones I wanted to try most, due to the good things I’ve heard about their catering in business class.

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Korean Air’s Interesting Premium Arrivals Service

As competition for premium air travel continues to get stiffer, airlines are trying to tailor the ground experience as much as they can for first and business class passengers, from departure to arrival. One way they’ve done this is by opening arrival lounges, so people can grab a coffee, have some a-la-carte breakfast items, and catch up on work. I’ve visited (and reviewed) the arrivals lounges at the hubs of Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic, and Swiss. That said, not every airport has the luxury of space to accommodate an arrivals lounge.

Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge London Heathrow

I was doing a bit of research yesterday and came across an interesting service offered by Korean Air. Although Korean Air operates most of the flights departing from Incheon’s brand new Terminal 2 (ever since they moved their operations there), they haven’t opened an arrivals lounge, which I get, since airlines don’t normally have the luxury of space at airports (plus, their lounge game prior to Terminal 2’s opening was pretty crappy).

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Review: Cathay Pacific A330 Economy Class Hong Kong to Seoul – How Is Cathay’s Redeye Service?

Last summer, I flew with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Seoul on their daily red-eye service and checked out their watered down “midnight service”. Cathay Pacific operates a handful of redeye flights to cities in North Asia, including Seoul, Osaka, Tokyo, etc., as well as from a few southeast Asian cities to Hong Kong, such as Singapore and Jakarta. If you’re booked on one of those flights, this is along the lines of what you’ll get.

I had checked in online, although an error message meant that I had to head to the check-in counter to collect a paper boarding pass which was quick and efficient. As it turns out, the flight was slightly overbooked and there was a chance that I would be upgraded. Afterwards, I made a beeline for The Pier, where I enjoyed a short nap in the relaxation rooms and took a quick shower.

IMG_0092Cathay Pacific The Pier Business Class Lounge Food Hall

I left the lounge at around the published boarding time and arrived at our departure gate, only to find that boarding hadn’t even started. After a lack of boarding announcements for another 30 minutes, an announcement was made that the flight would be delayed for a further 40 minutes due to mechanical issues. While I understand the reason behind the delay, the lack of communication was irritating and really annoying. The fact that the aircraft was on the ground for five hours before our flight only added insult to injury.

Continue reading Review: Cathay Pacific A330 Economy Class Hong Kong to Seoul – How Is Cathay’s Redeye Service?”

Review: Virgin Atlantic 787 Economy Class London to Hong Kong

Introduction: Spending The Night With A Virgin
Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class Hong Kong to London
Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge London Heathrow
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room
Virgin Atlantic 787 Economy Class London to Hong Kong

While I’d flown Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy class on the 787 countless times, I’d only flown their economy product once prior to this trip. Since we didn’t have any bags to check and had already checked in online, we got straight off the Heathrow Express and made a beeline towards immigration. My dad headed towards the Upper Class immigration channel (he couldn’t use the Upper Class Wing, since the Wing is used as a drop-off point for car transfers only).

After that and waiting for a while at the VAT refund stand, he guested me into the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, which is hands down my favourite airport lounge in the world. While the experience I had was exemplary, I’ll refrain from reviewing it again here, so check out my review from last year to learn more about the lounge.

The gate was scheduled to open at 8:55 PM for our 9:55 PM, though Heathrow’s Terminal 3 has one of those annoying holding pens where boarding doesn’t start for another 30 minutes. I figured I’d just head over around the half-hour mark, and got to gate 17 at around 9:30 PM. At that point everyone in the holding pen had already lined up to board.

From the holding pen I was able to grab pictures of our 787 under the sunset. One of the friendly gate agents approached me so she could look out of the window as well, saying “beautiful, isn’t it?” I asked if she was referring to the sunset or the 787, to which she replied, “both”.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 London Heathrow Airport

There was quite a hold-up at the jetbridge, which I’m not used to, since I usually race to be first onboard for cabin photos.

Continue reading Review: Virgin Atlantic 787 Economy Class London to Hong Kong”