Tag Archives: business class

Berlin Part 1: Getting There

We flew United business class from Washington D.C. to Dublin, and then economy Aer Lingus from Dublin to Berlin. There are no direct flights from D.C. to Berlin, and while there are better business class options – flying United cost 57,500 miles versus the pricier 70,000 mils required for United partners.

First, the United lounge in Dulles airport. Dulles is not slated to get a new Polaris lounge until 2018 or 2019. The current version is not the best lounge, but also not the worst. Comfortable, free wifi, plentiful snacks… it’s hard to complain.

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United’s Boeing 757-200 doesn’t have the fancy new Polaris hard product that some planes do, but at least we didn’t get stuck with United’s terrible 2-4-2 business class configuration. With a 2-2  configuration, the seats were perfect for traveling couples like us, with lie-flat seats and plenty of space to get comfy.

The service was friendly and accommodating. The new Saks Fifth Avenue blankets and pillows worked great (though I’m not exactly picky), and we managed to sleep for a couple of hours.

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Once in Dublin, we settled into the Dublin Airport Executive Lounge thanks to our Priority Pass card. I was exhausted so I curled up into a ball and fell asleep. But first, I took some pictures.

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Spain, Here We Come

Finally.

I finally have a big trip booked and placed on the calendar. With the crazy election cycle this year, I haven’t taken a big trip since Vietnam in November. There was a short jaunt to southern Utah over Memorial Day weekend, and a few weekend trips planned to various U.S. cities revolving around work. But you know that adrenalin pumping, saliva watering sensation when you book the flights for a big trip? I finally have that feeling.

I asked M where he’d like to go and he picked Spain. Being the art aficionado that he is, that makes perfect sense. He’s dying to spend hours (if not days) in the Prado in Madrid. We are both fascinated by religious history and can’t wait to hit up Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada. And I can’t wait to see the crazy modern Gaudi houses in Barcelona.

We will start in Barcelona, make an oddly shaped U down to Andalucia, and end in Madrid. The map below shows our basic itinerary with potential side trips included.

I booked an amazing business class flight from Washington, D.C. to Barcelona on American Airlines. It costs 115,000 miles (57,500 per person) and a mere 11 dollars. Even better, we fly out of DCA – only 10 minutes from my apartment. There are no direct flights to Spain from DC (who knew?), so we have a short stopover in JFK.

M has never flown in business class so I am over the moon about sharing this experience with him. That American has an amazing business class product will make this trip that much sweeter.

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Our flight home is less than ideal, but we were dealing with mileage constraints and limited award inventory since it’s Christmas week. I booked two economy seats on Lufthansa for 60,000 United miles and $142 via Frankfurt. Not the best flight, but pennies compared to what a ticket would cost.

And now comes the fun part – the planning. The hotels, the trains, the sights, the little off-the-beaten track stores and markets – I love the process of putting a trip together.

There are so many things we want to see and so many parts of Spain we had to leave off the list. We are not so young that we can hop from city to city every day, and we both like to travel at a more leisurely pace – getting to know the nooks and crannies of cities apart from the major tourist attractions. And so I crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and a ferry to Morocco off of our list, and M begrudgingly acknowledged that we probably won’t make it to Aragon. We will just have to come back a second time!

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Part #1: Off to China!

Two weeks ago, I set off for my second trip to Asia. My itinerary included four days in Beijing, six days in Shanghai, and five days in Kyoto, Japan.

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Step one: Getting to Beijing. My sister and I booked Saturday night flights (me from DC, she from NYC) that had us meeting in Frankfurt. My first leg was United business, and while comfortable enough, it was one of the worst international business products I’ve tried.

Now, I almost feel bad writing this. Flying in business class is a luxury most people can’t afford, and the only reason I can afford it is with miles. And the truth is, as long as I can lie down and sleep, I’m pretty happy. And by that extremely low bar, United passed with flying colors.

But I’ve flown several different business class products now, and my newfound knowledge demands an honest comparison.

The seats were lie-flat with a two-four-two configuration. Some of the better products – like Cathay Pacific – have a one-two-one configuration. At the very least, most planes have a two-two-two setup. While the seats lay flat when fully extended, they were only 20 inches wide. I was fairly close to my neighbor and did not have a lot of personal space for my stuff. Many of the newer products have pod-like seats that afford greater privacy and space.

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That said, the movies were good, I slept about three hours, and it sure as hell beat economy.

Air China was surprisingly better. For starters, they offered a two-two-two configuration, with wider seats (22 inches of pitch) and a lot more space and privacy. Unfortunately, the English movie selection left something to be desired, but the hard product was a significant improvement over United.

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And, they provided slippers! I love when airlines give me slippers so I don’t have to put my shoes back on every time I go to the bathroom.

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When you wake up at 3 AM for a 6 AM flight…

Our big trip to Asia started with about 1 hour of sleep. That was okay because we had 25 hours of plane time ahead of us and not much to do but watch movies, check the airplane map and sleep.

Check-in at JFK was relatively painless. There were no lines, but it took 20 minutes to convince United to check our luggage all the way through to Cambodia. After security, we were off to the lounge, which, to my surprise, was open at four a.m. in the morning.

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But the best part of our flight leg to San Francisco was United’s new transcontinental business class seats. Domestic business class seats are usually nice, but not meant for heavy duty sleeping. And by the time we boarded the plane, I desperately needed some heavy duty nap time. Luckily, United’s new transcontinental business class seats are comparable to international business class, complete with a full array of media options, lie-flat seats, outlets for our many gadgets, comfortable blankets, etc.

This was just what I needed. Somewhere between New York and Colorado, I managed to sleep for three hours.

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A REVIEW OF MY SECOND AND THIRD BUSINESS CLASS FLIGHTS (YEAH I’M KEEPING COUNT)

Two years ago, the thought of flying business class would have been unthinkable. It would never occur to me to distinguish between different types of business class seats — what does that even mean? Business class is just waaaaaaay better than economy, right? That’s what the old me would have said.

Thanks to the points/miles game, I’m slowly morphing into one of those annoying people who says things like, “The Lufthansa Airbus 330 is not half as nice as the Boeing 747.” Don’t you just hate those people?

But this is one of the “downsides” of flying business class more than once. I now have a point of reference. And that point of reference was so incredible, other business class flights don’t live up to it.

Don’t get me wrong. Our flight to Frankfurt and our return flight to New York City on Lufthansa’s Airbus 330 were great: Lots of leg room, reclining seats, personal entertainment centers, gracious flight attendants, etc. But compared to my inaugural business class flight to Croatia on Lufthansa’s new Boeing 747, there were some important difference.

The 747 has more space, including handy compartments in the armrest and in front of my legs to store useful carry-on items so they don’t end up in a mess on the floor. It also contains brand new lie flat seats, which means the seats recline completely flat so you are horizontal with the floor. I also enjoyed the extra room in the shared armrest on the 747 and the plethora of entertainment options.

The Airbus 330 contains angled seats, which means the seats lie at an angle to the floor when fully reclined. I still managed to fall asleep, but the lie flat seat is definitely an upgrade. The entertainment options were sufficient for an eight hour flight, but the wide selection on the 747 is far more impressive and the screens are bigger. The Airbus 330s also have less armrest space and fewer cubby holes for personal belongings.

At the risk of sounding like a complete spoiled brat, let me reiterate that the the Airbus 330 is an enjoyable and restful flight. But if you have the opportunity to fly business class in Lufthansa’s new B-747s, grab it.

Some pictures:

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