Showing posts with label First Class. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First Class. Show all posts

Friday, August 12, 2016

British Airways A380 First Class

OR Tambo Airport (JNB) leaves much to be desired. As the main international gateway to southern Africa, the airport should at least provide some basic comforts. Things it’s missing include decent air conditioning, practical signage, genuine copies of Microsoft Windows, and basic queue management. It does have an observation room (good idea) upstairs (bad idea) and down a winding administrative hallway. The duty free shopping was spectacular because the booze prices were ridiculously low.
A380 Stairs Up To Business Class
My flight from Cape Town landed on time and I retrieved my checked bag (bags weren’t making connections due to a strike) and went for a 15 minute walk to the British Airways (UK) check in counter. It was closed. To kill time I took a stroll to the observation deck. There was little to see, so I went back to the check in desks and read a book while sitting in front of the first class check in counter. Check in starts 3 hours before the first departure, not a minute sooner despite staff being present.  
My Aircraft to London
Check in didn’t take long and the trip through security and customs wasn’t terrible (it’s a zoo in the evening). After my disappointing lunch on my flight to JNB, I went directly to the BA first class lounge for a proper meal. I was one of 5 people there and found a nice seat with an outlet and view of the terminal (only view offered). I grabbed a Scotch and some cold cuts.  The hot food buffet didn’t look appetizing. I wound up being hungry enough to not mind snacking and Castle Lager. As departure neared, the lounge filled up. Really, there were 28 first class seats on BA flights that day and there were easily 60+ people in the small space. There were 5 open seats and 0 open outlets when I left for a stroll. The business class lounge was standing room only and a mess. The customs line seemed more relaxing.
First Class Seat
This ground experience was not up to Lufthansa standards. My trip in 2013 on Lufthansa is my only time on a proper international first class. They set the bar very very high. From arrival at the airport through baggage claim, the experience is superb. BA could still win me over because I was booked on an 11 hour A380 flight with a connection at their new Heathrow terminal. 
Ample Space Up Front
Power Window Shades
BA’s A380 first class cabin is massive. Other airlines fit 52 economy seats it the lower deck between doors 1 and 2. British Airways only accommodates 14 first class seats in the same area. The personal space is wonderful and there is a strong sense of privacy. There is also ample storage space with a personal closet and overhead bins. I was offered Champagne after storing my stuff then presented with a pajama set and amenity kit. I settled in and started to familiarize myself with the gadgets. Power window shades, large tv, the seat adjustment knob (it was milled aluminum and felt great to touch), and on and on. I was in for a treat.
Seat Adjustment Knob
View From my Seat
The captain’s welcome about announcement mentioned that our aircraft was two months old. Soon after the lead flight attendant came by to welcome me, give an introduction to the service plan, and ask if there was anything special I might require on the journey. I was excited and ready to take it all in.
Evening Meal Service
Blue Cheese Pear
The drink service started right after takeoff. I went with Johnnie Walker Blue. First class passengers can dine when they wish. I wanted to dine as soon after takeoff to maximize my sleep. The service and food were great. I also enjoyed listening to A History of English Speaking Peoples over dinner. My flight was oozing of British-ness. I easily slept for 7 hours after the meal service. I enjoyed the English breakfast before landing and was sad my flight was ending.  It was an outstanding flight with a great onboard product.
Beer For Breakfast - I Had a Long Connection

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I Won A FCT Ducky

Lufthansa's First Class Terminal runs a weekly twitter contest and awards the winner a rubber ducky. Here's my new ducky:
Bear Acquired Separately

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lufthansa 737 Business Class Seats

Lufthansa has the same seats from nose to tail on their 737's.  Business class gets better catering and an open middle seat on every flight.  It's not the large recliner seat like in United Airlines' first class, but on short hops, it is still comfortable.
Blocked Middle Seat Every Trip
Thin Seat, But Still Relaxing

Monday, May 18, 2015

Frequent Flyer Program Points / Miles Inflation

Airline Award Price Inflation
Inflation is a great way for governments to take wealth and reduce their debt. It happens continuously, but no one really notices, so it's a low risk political move.  By creating more currency, the government receives the full value of the new money while everyone's existing money is worth slightly less.  It's something everyone endures, but no one enjoys. 
South American Style Currency
Recent Inflation Victim
Airlines also manage a currency and create inflation. Airlines created their own currency with points programs and have been adding more currency than is being redeemed.  This creates an over supply of currency against a static (more or less) supply of awards.  The unbalanced supply and demand creates an opportunity for point inflation. Airlines manage their currency like Venezuela or Argentina.  There is constant inflation by creating more currency with fixed award opportunities.  They also engage in large and sudden devaluations periodically.  Venezuela has inflation every day, but they will also suddenly change exchange rates.  Both destroy currency value, but the gradual devaluation stings less.  Airlines do the same when they change their award charts (British Airways most recently).  Awards that cost 80,000 miles yesterday can cost 100,000 points today when the award chart changes over.  These massive changes are usually, but not always, announced several months in advance.
More Miles Pursuing Same Seats
Hyper Inflation Airlines
Airlines create new currency, point or miles, at no cost to them.  They sell this currency to partners, like credit cards or hotels and receive real money for their proprietary money.  United Airlines sold $2.9 billion of frequent flyer miles in 2013 and has about $4.9 billion of frequent flyer miles outstanding.  They expect 20% these miles to expire, so the mileage expiration policy creates $1 billion in profit.  They did not disclose how they value a frequent flyer mile.   

“Five million and 4.7 million MileagePlus flight awards were used on United in 2013 and 2012, respectively. These awards represented 7.7% and 7.1% of United’s total revenue passenger miles in 2013 and 2012, respectively. Total miles redeemed for flights on United in 2013, including class-of-service upgrades, represented approximately 80% of the total miles redeemed.” (UAL annual report)  20% of mileage redeemed was used for partner flights, merchandise awards, and other ground based awards. That’s a massive amount of miles chasing relatively few awards and creates a great inflation opportunity.
Costs More and More To Sit Up Front
44% Inflation over 9 Years
When I started collecting United miles in earnest, a round trip to Europe in business class was 80,000 miles.  Then it became 100,000.  Now it's 115,000 on United or 140,000 on a partner.  1,000,000 United miles was worth 12.5 round trips, but is now worth 7 trips.  This is a massive currency devaluation of 44% over 9 years.  Frequent flyers should be marching and banging pots in front of United's corporate office, but I doubt many realize their miles are worth so much less.  Most customers measure their balance by the number of miles in it.  This is a poor indicator of value though.  Viewing it as the number of awards you want (business class tickets to Europe in my example) is a better indicator of value. 
Program Changes Can Reduce Award Balance Value
Reducing Inflation Risk
Collecting miles and points creates an inflation risk.  The more you collect, the larger the risk.  Inflation can't be eliminated, but the risk can be managed.  Here are a few tactics to help support an inflation hedge strategy:
  • Collect Points in Multiple Programs – All programs have inflation, but at different rates and different times.  Diversification reduces your exposure to a single program's risk.  It also creates more reward opportunities.
  • Spend Points Regularly - A smaller point balance lowers the potential loss of value to inflation.  Also, why bother collecting miles if they are never used?
  • Be Aware of Pending Award Price Changes - Don't be taken by surprise, read emails from your programs.  If a change is coming, book at the lower prices if able.  I booked a round trip to Europe before British Airways changed their award chart this year.
  • Change Programs if Required - Most airlines have partners and one partner may have a more rewarding and stable award structure.  Alaska miles seem more stable than Delta miles and you can earn either on a Delta flight.
  • Set Award Based Goals - Don't set a balance number as a goal.  1,000,000 United miles has a nice ring to it, but it isn't an end in itself.  4 round trips to Europe in business class is a better goal because it has a fixed value while the miles could change value.  Redeem when you reach your goals.
  • Create A Single View of Your Assets – Take a look at your award balances on one screen.  Copy and paste into Excel or Gmail if needed.  Looking at your assets on the same page will help you understand where your risks are.  It also may help you be more creative with your awards. 80,000 Delta miles and 62,500 American miles is a round trip to Australia in business class.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Southwest Airlines First Class 737-800

Southwest has two first class seats on every 737-800.  The service isn't any different and they are the same narrow width as all the other seats, but these two seats do offer unlimited leg room.  I was able to claim one with boarding position A43 and B2 last week.  They are considered part of the exit row, so they can't be occupied by pre-boards, children, or the elderly.   
Seat 16A
Exit Rows 15 and 16
Seat 16A Leg Room

Saturday, March 21, 2015

US Airways A321 First Class Review

I wanted to use my United miles for a trip to Europe before United changed their prices.  I also wanted to try the US Airways business class product before they switched from Star Alliance to oneworld.  Luckily US Airways had great availability to Europe.  I was able to book a flight from Denver to Madrid with a 90 minute connection in Philadelphia.  The trip was booked about four months in advance and included a free stopover in Brussels and an easy trip back to Denver with a direct on Lufthansa from FRA.
US Airways A321 First Class Seat
The flight from DEN to PHL was in a newer US Airways A321.  US Airways, soon to be American Airlines, has a basic first class offering on domestic flights.  There is no in flight entertainment, but WiFi is available to purchase.  The seat is acceptable, but feels a little cheap, under padded, and I was not able to take a nap.  
US Airways Airbus First Class Seat - Full Recline
The meal service on the three hour flight was much better than expected.  The first class cabin flight attendant provided attentive and friendly service.  He was so good, I filled out a US Airways online complement form for him before the aircraft parked at to gate so I wouldn't forget.  US Airways offers Dos Equis, a great option to break up the Budweiser / Miller Lite routine.  The steak was tasty and tender and everything was flavorful.  The red velvet cake was moist and springy too, a great end to a great meal (and what turns out to be the only in flight entertainment).  My dinning review is helped by never having an empty beer glass.  
Beer and Mixed Nuts Starter
Steak and Sides
Red Velvet Cake
I had a great experience with US Airways on my flight to PHL and was excited to hop onto the A330-200 to MAD and settle into the Envoy flat bed seat and experience US Airways' international business class offering.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

United Airlines First Class Late Night Snack

United Airlines serves full meals in first class on flights longer than 900 miles, but don't try too hard for departures after 7:00PM and only offer one cold plate meal option. Here's a recent example of humus and some other stuff.  I liked the cold chicken and pasta salad, but I guess budget cuts make every meal the vegetarian option. 
United First Class Snack - Humus and Other Stuff

Saturday, June 28, 2014

United Airlines First Class Breakfast Snack

United Airlines serves a fairly good breakfast in first class, but the flight needs to be about 2 hours or longer.  On shorter flights they serve a light snack, like this scone I received. They also have the full bar open, so they aren't cutting back everywhere.
First Class Breakfast Snack

Saturday, September 21, 2013

United Airlines First Class Sundae Dessert

United changed from a cookie to a sundae bar for dessert on long flights in first class.  A generous helping of vanilla ice cream topped with your choice of chocolate, caramel, walnuts, strawberries, whip cream, and cherries. It was an amazing surprise.
My Sundae on IAD-SAN

Sunday, May 19, 2013

United Airlines 757 First Class Steak Dinner

I grabbed an upgrade heading home from Mother's Day in South Carolina.  The IAD-DEN flight on a 757 had an option of steak or pasta. I went with the steak and it was very tasty and tender.  It also came with a salad, shrimp seviche, and chocolate chip cookie.  United has been serving higher quality meals in first class recently and the trend is continuing.  I hope this is the quality I can rely on soon.
Steak Dinner IAD-DEN

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

United Airlines A319 First Class Seat 1A

I have mixed feelings about United's A319 aircraft.  Seats 21A and 21F do not have a seat in front of them, so you have about 50 in of leg room.  The first class cabin however has only 8 seats.  It's always a difficult flight to clear an upgrade, especially when flying hub to hub or at peak times.  On my most recent flight, my upgrade cleared at the gate (1K on a Q fare flying on a Sunday morning DEN-SFO if you are interested).
United A319 Seat 1A
The first class seat in United's Airbus fleet is very comfortable and has plenty of recline.  There isn't too much legroom, but the bulkhead for 1A and 1B has a cutout for a little more space.  No meal was served (United A319 lunch review) and I was able to get in almost two hours of work on the flight.  The flight went fast and was a nice trip all around with some fun views coming into SFO.
United Airlines A319 Parked at Denver

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt & A330 First Class to Detroit

This is the return part of my Lufthansa first class adventure (Lufthansa A380 first class review).  The centerpiece of this part of the trip was the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.  Only passengers flying in first class on Lufthansa, SWISS, and Austrian airlines that day.  The First Class Terminal is the cornerstone of Lufhansa's strategy to elevate the entire first class experience to make it beyond compare.  It worked.

Some quick highlights:
  • Personal assistant to take care of everything for your trip, concierge for everything else.
  • Full service restaurant plus buffet plus ice cream.
  • Cigar lounge with complementary cigars.
  • 80+ Scotch options, the average age of my drinks was 15 years.
  • Shower and bathtub facilities. The bathtub comes with a rubber duckie with Lufthnsa First Class Terminal logo.
  • Chauffeur service to flight.
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Seating
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Cigar Lounge
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Restaurant
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Buffet
Chauffeured To My Plane
The A330 was parked at a stand position with two sets of stairs for the front two doors on the left side.  As my Mercedes pulled up to the front stairs, a bus from the terminal started unloading passengers on the rear stairs.  I got stares from everyone on the rear steps as I hopped up the front steps and my driver followed with my carry on bag.
Lufthansa First Class A330 FRA
The seat on the A330 is a large recliner, antiquated by current standards.  It's comfortable, but I would prefer a lay flat option for overnight flights.  It worked great for an afternoon trip to Detroit. The service on the flight was the best I have ever experienced.  The crew was outstanding and surpassed anything I've ever experienced in air or on land.  The meal service was great too, the best I had the whole year.  Really.  The pigeon strudel was ineradicable.  I ate every bite despite having fill up in the FCT 90 minutes earlier. It was a truly unmatched experience. I was first line line to customs and cleared in less than two minutes. 
Lufthansa First Class Caviar Service
Pigeon Strudel For Lunch - Lufthansa First Class
Mmmmmm....Roquefort Cheese
Lufthansa Chocolate Yummies
Light Salad Mixed At Your Seat Before Landing
Unfortunately I had a connection on United to get home that was cancelled.  I'm glad I didn't have the perfect trip, otherwise I could never fly again.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lufthansa A380 First Class Review

I flew on Lufthansa's A380 in first class before I started this blog and it was an amazing experience.  A friend asked me to write a post on it and let the pictures tell the story, so here goes.

In 2011 I used some United miles for a Luftastic flight experience and a few days in Copenhagen.  I was able to find a first class seat on the new A380 from SFO to FRA and I quickly built my trip around that award space outlier (I used ANA to search, but would work too).  I also wanted the Lufthansa First Class Terminal experience in Frankfurt and grabbed a FRA-DTW flight in the antiquated A330 first class (more later).  The DEN-SFO, DTW-DEN, and FRA-CHP-FRA flights were wide open and easy to make work.  A quick call to reservations and I was booked.

Lufthansa's A380 first class is an amazing product that puts United to shame.  The seat is outstanding with ample space.  It reclines into a fully flat bed and the flight attendants will make your bed while you change into your special Lufthansa PJ's. 
A380 First Class Seat and Personal Space
View From 2A
Flight Attendants Made My Bed, Then I Messed It Up
Lufthansa's flight attendants are the best I've encountered. The crews always proper and polite.   They also seem to genuinely care about your flight experience. I wish I could fly with them every trip.  They even helped explain the caviar service (it was my first time). The food was amazing.  The eggs and super crispy bacon (by request) were cooked fresh and better than room service.  
Post Departure Snack and Blue Label
Caviar Service
Salmon Fillet
Made to Order Breakfast, With BACON!
The cabin is unlike anything else.  There is increased humidity to help you feel refreshed.  The sound absorbing material was great, it was as loud as regular airliners when I wear earplugs or Bose noise cancelling headphones.  The bathroom is epicly huge.  The electric window shades were a fun touch too.
A380 Bathroom, It's Huge
First Class Lavatory
First Class Cabin Forward Section
I was disappointed to hear the captain announce we were 20 minutes from landing and I can't wait for my next Lufthansa A380 flight in first class.  
Morning Light