Happy new year! Last year, we thought it would be fun to create a post on our “best” and “worst” travel of 2014. After updating our trip report index, we decided to make this thing annual so it would be cooler (i.e. scrolling down and going “woah, that’s Alvin/Jason/Nat’s worst flight of the year”).
Obviously, this is just a follow-up and all relative, as I’ve enjoyed all my flights this year – each and every one.
Best overall flight of 2015: Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to New York John F. Kennedy
It’s really kind of hard to not put Cathay Pacific at the top of your list when you’re flying business class. While I didn’t find my flights particularly enjoyable (a few things were a “miss” from both Hong Kong to London and Paris to Hong Kong), Jason’s flight was a complete knock-down, and that’s why his flight is going up top this year as the best flight of 2015. A full review will come soon, but Jason’s been busy lately.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Business Class
Worst overall flight of 2015: Air Canada Economy Plus New York LaGuardia to Montréal
While Jason liked most of his flights around America both times, this economy plus flight wasn’t one of them. Jason deemed the service “depressing”, which pretty much explains it. (The woman behind the photographed seats looks pretty pissed to be flying Air Canada, no?)
Air Canada Embraer 175 Economy Plus
Best business class airplane food of 2015: Korean Air Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon
Korean Air has a decent hard product, but the food is top notch. For those who don’t like bibimbap (like my parents), Korean Air’s meat options were nice as well, but for those who do, it definitely took the cake for my year as the best business class meal I’ve had this year. Everything was perfect, from the presentation, down to the taste, down to the hot sauce, the rice and the soup.
Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Business Class Bibimbap with minced beef, seasonal vegetables, sesame oil and Gojuchang
I had perfectly cooked steak on the way back, but the overcooked vegetables made the dish just so slightly less polished for the title of the BEST business class dish I’d ever had. It was still pretty amazing, though, and shows consistency between Korean Air’s food quality. Nom nom!
Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Business Class Sautéed beef tenderloin with Meaux mustard sauce, chive mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables
Best premium economy/economy class airplane food of 2015: Cathay Pacific Premium Economy New York John F. Kennedy to Hong Kong
Chinese food is less about food that’s cooked completely perfectly, but more about food that may be overcooked, but is packed full of flavour. Jason’s first meal on his flight from New York wasn’t that attractive but was packed full of flavour so intense that it deserved the best premium economy class airplane meal of the year.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy Chinese Meal
Worst business class airplane food of 2015: Cathay Pacific Business Class Paris Charles de Gaulle to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific really let me down with their main course coming back from Paris. I’ve had some pretty good chicken on Dragonair, so had similar hopes for Cathay Pacific. The “pan-roasted” chicken breast was so stringy, I could see it from the photo. It looked like Frankenstein, being torn to bits. Did the sandy dry polenta help? Not really.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Business Class Lunch Pan-roasted Chicken Breast, Asparagus, Polenta and Tomato Mushroom Sauce
And if there are people thinking that was a one-off, the burnt pancakes in the morning didn’t fare any better.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Business Class Breakfast Blueberry Pancake, Vanilla Mascarpone and Maple Syrup
Worst premium economy/economy class airplane food of 2015: China Eastern Economy Class Kunming to Hong Kong
Admittedly I feel evil critiquing food that’s been served out of western China, but the food we got was hideous. I’m not laughing at the simplicity as that was kind of expected, but more on the “Merry Christmas” wrapper on one of the cupcakes on this flight operated in May. That said, the rest of the flight was pretty much good, so this doesn’t shed any negative light on China Eastern, especially with the phenomenal lunch I got on the outbound.
China Eastern Boeing 737-700 Economy Class Lunch
China Eastern Boeing 737-700 Economy Class Lunch Muffin
Best flight service of 2015: Thai Airways Business Class Phuket to Hong Kong
This is an interesting one – I think out of the whole year, surprisingly, I’ve been most impressed by the service Thai Airways delivered on my inbound from Phuket. Apparently it was a one-off (my flight there only had “meh” service), but the purser’s 1980s American waiter style and the rest of the crew’s concerns throughout the flight, such as them bringing the cheese course up to me to clarify when I declined it, rocked the flight for me. As much as both flights on Korean Air had pretty awesome service, and as much as I like Cathay Pacific’s service ethic, nothing this year was as stylishly laid back as this.
Thai Airways Airbus A330-300 Business Class Cheese Course
Worst flight service of 2015: Dragonair Economy Class Kaohsiung to Hong Kong
Jason had some particularly bad service from Kaohsiung to Hong Kong when a flight attendant yelled at him for spilling something. After both of us have had subpar service experiences on the Dragonair A320, neither of us have plans to touch it anytime soon.
Dragonair Airbus A320 Economy Class
Best business class hard product of 2015: Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to London Heathrow / Paris Charles de Gaulle to Hong Kong / Hong Kong to New York John F. Kennedy
While I didn’t find the padding to be particularly impressive, it’s impossible in good conscience to not say that Cathay Pacific offers the best business class hard product of 2015. The amount of space is kind of unbeatable, especially out of all those we flew, and while I didn’t find the seat to be the best, I’d say I was critical because of its future potential of being a world-class product, and not at all because it wasn’t nice.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Business Class
While I put the same seat on last year, I think after a late night and a redeye in the seat I can only strengthen how much I like the seat. Good padding is a huge plus, and I found everything else about the seat to be impeccably designed. It’ll be hard to find a different seat up here next year, especially with the way Cathay Pacific seems to be advancing with its new A350 product.
Dragonair Airbus A321 Economy Class
Most interesting flight of 2015: China Eastern Economy Class Boeing 737-700 Kunming to Lijiang / Cathay Pacific Economy Class Airbus A330-300 Bangkok Suvarnabhumi to Hong Kong
While I’ve had a few interesting flights this year, this flight was the only one with a riot on it, when we got delayed for over an hour apparently without notice (it was our fault, as you have to clear customs upon your first port of arrival in China, and our first segment on the same plane came in pretty late, and we had 38 people, and…). The sole passenger in business class was pretty pissed off because he wanted to get to Lijiang as soon as possible, which didn’t really see eye to eye with the passenger load that night.
China Eastern Boeing 737-700 Kunming Changshui Airport
Well, from Jason’s flight…
When cabin crew are supposed to be pointing out the nearest exits of the aircraft in the safety demonstration, the crew member seated in my aisle did so…except he kept scratching his behind while pointing out the nearest exits.
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Economy Class
Best hotel stay of 2015: Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok
While most of my stays this year impressed (one example was the Hotel Umbra Bagan), I have to give this one to Jason. His hotel in Bangkok, the Siam Kempinski, was amazing on all counts, from the service to the food to the stunning room itself.
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok Executive Suite
Worst hotel stay of 2015: The Bell Phuket
While Jason’s had a few crappy stays in the US, nothing’s worse than having dengue fever symptoms and an oedema infection coming from mosquitoes that were creeping into our rooms. In a place like Phuket, mosquito block out kind of is worth considering (and that’s more than running a tractor through the hallways with mosquito repellent smoke even though that was well-intentioned). The rooms themselves were fine though nothing special.
The Bell Phuket Presidential Pool Villa Pool Area
The Bell Phuket Hallways Pesticide Smoke
Best hotel food of 2015: JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul
While there wasn’t much to eat here, Jason really enjoyed his food at the JW Marriott in Seoul. According to him:
Now, the spread was rather limited. But the quality was amazing. I mean, f*cking amazing. All the food was beautiful and fresh, and was delicious. Cathay Pacific has a thing or two to learn from them.
Need we say more?
JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul Breakfast Spread
Worst hotel food of 2015: The Bell Phuket
While, like you, I see redundancy in putting the same hotel in the “worst” category twice, I really can’t think of any worse food. It’s not saying that the Bell Phuket had food that was intentionally horrible, it’s just that I’ve had great food basically everywhere else, with The Bell being the only active exception I can think of (and to do this justice, my sister’s sickness could have come from the food).
The Bell Phuket In-Room Breakfast – Eggs Benedict
Best chain hotel of 2015: The Hotel Indigo London Kensington
While I wasn’t impressed of the “hard product” as such, the service was pretty amazing. I tend to like smaller properties as you tend to build closer relationships with management, and this hotel edged out the other small hotel I stayed at on the trip, L’Empire Paris, with the actual room.
Hotel Indigo London Kensington Lights
Best airline lounge of 2015: The Qantas Lounge Hong Kong
Both Jason and I visited the Qantas Lounge this year, and our choice for the best lounge when we started discussing was pretty much unanimous. From the decor to the food to the service, the Qantas Lounge fired on all cylinders and more. Not only that, but it’s six times larger than it needs to be, which adds to the privacy (if not the profit).
The Qantas Lounge Hong Kong
Best outstation lounges of 2015: Cathay Pacific Lounges Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and Charles de Gaulle
While I always knew Cathay Pacific had pretty solid outstation lounges, it took me until this year to realise how upped their game actually was. While the lounge I visited at Paris deserved honorable mentions for being a spacious lounge that definitely was airier and made Charles de Gaulle less obnoxious, the new lounge at Bangkok, according to Jason, is truly spectacular.
Cathay Pacific Lounge Paris Charles de Gaulle
Cathay Pacific Lounge Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
Worst airline lounge of 2015: Thai Airways Lounge Phuket
While I’ve heard good things about the lounge prior to my stay, I was pretty much let down by the lounge, from how drab it was, to the unworkable WiFi, to the number of people in the lounge. I realise my expectations were probably 6250325% higher than they were supposed to be, but I think that if Thai wants to make Phuket a profitable destination, they probably need a better lounge for premium passengers. I stand by what I said back then:
Otherwise the lounge confirmed where THAI was going with Phuket – another destination, instead of a mini-hub (like Koh Samui is to Bangkok Airways). I don’t blame the airline given how bad the airport is, but it’s definitely not a lounge I’d want to spend time in.
While I wouldn’t call this lounge in the very bottom in absolute terms, my sample size this year (consisting of the now-closed Korean Air Lounge Hong Kong, the Singapore SilverKris Lounge Hong Kong and the amazing oneworld lounges at Hong Kong) brought this lounge right down the bottom of the list.
My favourite trip of 2015: Engaging Myanmar
I got to take my first (and second) turboprop flight(s), I got to teach my nine amazing kids and I got to hang out with some of my closest friends near the world’s most famous tourist spots – what more could I ask for?
Kids peeking into the classroom in Myanmar
Overall, this marked another amazing year for all three of us (including Nat who’ll be writing shortly!), and especially with the flights I have booked for this year, I’m very curious to see what I’m up for!
What were your highlights/lowlights of 2015, during travel or during other times?