Oct 192019
 


Having had a great four hour nap, I finally left for the airport around midnight for a 02:50 flight, just in case there was traffic or other snafus. The flight appeared completely sold out in all classes, so I definitely didn’t want to risk it!

As it turned out, there were no problems at all, and I was at the airport a good 2.5 hours before the flight. Even immigration and security were unusually quick considering how full the flights all seemed tonight, so I was left to kill time in the lounges.

Now, I really don’t like the lounges at Delhi late at night. They always seem to be heaving with people, and a pain to even find a seat. Tonight I decided to try the Singapore lounge first, and it was completely empty…maybe five people total. I have to wonder if it’s because United and Air Canada both still had their flights cancelled, so having 100+ less people spread across the lounges helped?

Either way, it worked out charmingly, and I headed off to the gate about an hour before flight time. Gotta take a selfie with the giant statue!

Boarding for this full A380 was a bit nightmarish. Despite getting to the gate an hour before departure, I was at least 50th in the queue for boarding group one. Fortunately, no problem finding storage for my bags once on board.

Lufthansa flight 761
Delhi, India (DEL) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 02:50, Arrive: 07:40, flight time: 8:20
Airbus A380, Registration D-AIMJ, Manufactured 2012, Seat 22G
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 117,958
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,810,546

Something about Lufthansa’s pre-departure sparkling wine (or is it actually champagne?) is so much classier than United’s.

What’s for dinner on this very late night/early morning flight?

Snack was fairly substantial, and served all at once if you wanted to eat. I would say about 90% of the cabin opted to go straight to bed instead. It wasn’t the most appetizing looking, but was reasonably tasty.

About 90 minutes before landing all the lights were turned on, and breakfast was brought by. I imagine even if you wanted to sleep it really wouldn’t have been an option.I like the alternating colours in the melon…

With six hours between flights, I thought it was worth getting a room to get just under four hours of sleep, which turned out to be a good decision and helped me beat jetlag a bit.

I even had time to stop by the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for a snack on the way to the gate. I never tire of the cheesy pretzel with a sausage and potato salad! Yum!

Off to the gate, where in direct contrast to the flight from India, I was wondering where everyone was! The gate area felt really empty for a 747, and I hoped my looking at the seatmap was really accurate.

Lufthansa flight 418
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 13:15, Arrive: 16:05, flight time: 8:50
Boeing 747-8, Registration D-ABYT, Manufactured 2015, Seat 82A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 122,039
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,814,627

I know lots of people love to sit upstairs on the 747, and I admit that I love to as well, however, I refuse to sit in climbover class if at all possible, so on Lufthansa I always skip it. Plus, downstairs, the seats in the middle section have much more space between them and are much roomier than the side seats.

However, today’s flight was under 50% full in business class – something I’ve never seen on Lufthansa before…and not only did I get two seats to myself upstairs, the two seats behind me both stayed empty as well.

The strange part? I saw at least three groups of seats where strangers were sitting next to each other. With this much extra room why wouldn’t you want to spread out?!

What’s to eat and drink on the way to Washington?

Today’s mixed nuts after takeoff….almonds!

Marinated black angus beef….tasty, but served almost TOO cold….

The salmon, however, was excellent. I’ve been eating a lot more fish in-flight lately, and really wonder why I was so stuck on the terrible beef courses for so many years. Healthier AND better prepared almost every time!

Even the cheese course was above average for Lufthansa…and look at those crackers…in their own cute little plate/bowl and not wrapped in a package. *MIND BLOWN*

So, I admit it: to me this was better than United’s sundaes. Yes, it’s still ice cream, yes, it’s in a package and not a bowl, but it’s nice to have adventurous flavours instead of the exact same desserts that United has served on every flight for years and years. Mango & Maracuja crème brûlée?! YES PLEASE!

We took a super northerly routing for a Frankfurt to Washington flight, and passed right over Greenland….not a Trump Casino as far as the eye can see!

Even the pre-landing meal was much better than normal! A nice salad with parma ham, crayfish soup, and a pretzel! Normally, Lufthansa business class flights are just kind of “meh” in my opinion, but this one really stood out for me.

Part of it was being upstairs in a semi-empty cabin for sure, but the food and definitely the crew really stood out. Once the flight attendant working my section found out I’m working on my German she made a point to speak only German, but also clearly and slowly so I could follow along. It was really a treat and left me with a great impression! Unfortunately, I need to fly as much United as possible the rest of the year if I want a chance at Global Services….

With that, seven weeks of crazy back to back travel with less than five total nights at home was over. Switzerland, South Africa, India…what an adventure it was. I was really looking forward to four weeks at home until I had to head to Ghana for work.

…and then I woke up on my birthday and thought “I wonder if I could go around the world in first class for my birthday on a long weekend?”

Oct 172019
 


After a whole 24 hours at home (which, let’s be honest, was mostly laundry and taking care of errands I could only do at home) it was time to head back to Dulles and fly to India. The good part is: I woke up at like 05:00 thanks to my body still being on Africa time, so in theory the jetlag wouldn’t be too bad and despite my flight being at 5pm I should be able to sleep on it…right?

Thanks to CLEAR security was a breeze, and soon I was in the United lounge. I find it extremely insulting that Newark, Houston, LA, Chicago all have Polaris Lounges, and at Dulles if you buy a C fare you get this. I get the construction delays are somewhat out of United’s hands, but couldn’t they at least give a few coupons for premium drinks? I know DC has a ton of government clients so maybe they take the market for granted, but come on…this just says “we don’t care.”

Off to the gate which fortunately was right next to the lounge, and boarding right on time.

United flight 106
Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD) to Munich, Germany (MUC)
Depart 17:25, Arrive: 07:40 next day, flight time: 8:15
Boeing 777-200, Registration N220UA, Manufactured 2001, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 110,475
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,803,063

I was actually looking forward to this flight, because it might be my last chance to fly in the old Global First seats. Everything else could be mediocre about this flight (and pretty much was) but having the old Global First seats made it a huge treat!

Tonight’s dinner options – a whole menu of meh.

The best thing about early evening departures? Great twilight lighting at Dulles for planespotting out the windows.

After takeoff, the usual – mixed nuts that were over-warmed and soggy and a glass of Château l’Oscar 2019:

I can’t decide if the Polaris cart covering says fancy or “corporate cafeteria” to me. I remember the first few months of Polaris when it really seemed United wanted to make an effort to step up the “class” of its offering. I do wonder what killed this: the extra (maybe?) $1,000 per flight total it cost them, or the realization that none of their customers actually choose them over competition based on food so why bother.

That said, the duck appetizer is actually decent (way better than the shrimp!) although the salad was wilted and had lots of brown spots tonight. Mostly inedible.

The salmon, on the other hand, was actually really tasty and I’d be happy to order it again. I know it’s a super minor nitpick, but could we please have reusable/nicer ramekins for sauce instead of environmentally-nasty disposable foil ones? For an airline that brags about “EcoSkies” this is pretty disappointing.

The usual cheese. We’re not on Lufthansa anymore.

Today’s sundae choice was caramel which was actually sort of watery, and four cherries. Hmmmmm.

I actually love the little mini apple pies, however. Temperature gauge in the background confirms it’s a nice and comfy temp on top of the comfy Global First seats.

Landed a bit early in Munich, and since I had a pretty long layover I decided I’d exit immigration, walk around a bit, enjoy the cool air, and stretch my legs a bit. Got a few questions from the immigration officer about why I was leaving on a five hour connection, but was proud that I managed the exchange in German without him switching back to English. Small victories!

Love this Lufthansa ad outside the arrivals area:

After enjoying a cool, brisk walk and some Starbucks (of course) it was off to the Lufthansa First Lounge to enjoy a bit of brunch and a shower. I decided to eat first since I was having a difficult time cooling off (jetlag gets my core temp up every time) so first it was brunch time. Opted for a glass of orange juice out on the outdoor terrace as I cooled down, and then some eggs benny followed by more espresso and a glass of rosé. Also stopped back with my duck after a shower for a pastry, because, hey….

Soon enough it was time to leave the lounge (and Schengen Area) which conveniently can all be done while exiting the lounge thanks to an immigration desk, and off to the gate to board my first Lufthansa A350!

Lufthansa flight 762
Munich, Germany (MUC) to Delhi, India (DEL)
Depart 12:10, Arrive: 23:15, flight time: 7:35
Airbus A350-900 Registration D-AIXC, Manufactured 2017, Seat 3D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 114,148
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,806,736

First impressions were pretty much what I expected. I knew people weren’t happy with the A350, and it was easy to see why. Exactly like Lufthansa’s A330s, it was super crowded in business class, with the middle two seats feeling almost right on top of each other, and the two sides featuring climbover class. I need to make the case to United that since I was supposed to be on the EWR-DEL nonstop they should give me full Global Services credit for this C fare!

Cabin felt almost identical to the A330 on Lufthansa.

What’s for lunch….and pre-arrival dinner:

Today’s meal started off with a ramekin of almonds and a nice glass of wine.

I went with the chicken carpaccio for a starter which was pretty good, but could have used a bit more flavour as it was relatively bland.

The salad…felt more like something from a north american airline, as it had way too much iceberg lettuce in it!

More chicken as a main. Again, could have used a bit more flavour, but felt slightly healthier than the usual suspects? Overall, pretty forgettable.

All was forgotten, however, when dessert arrived. The blueberry and coconut cream dessert was outstanding!

Sadly, however, I was told “cheese OR dessert, you can’t have both” which was a first for me. No big deal, I’d already eaten more than enough, so I spent the rest of the flight catching up on work (I was behind on preparing for this trip since it was back-to-back with the previous one) and soon enough it was time for the arrival meal.

Dinner was a choice of “meat” or “asian vegetarian” and I asked for the meat option, which was supposed to be “andhra mutton roast” with avial (not sure what that is), coconut pulao, savory lamb stew with chili, and some other things. Pretty sure that’s not what I got, but since I also don’t know what “gobi mirch masala, dal hara moong, palak pulao” is, maybe I did? I didn’t see anything “meaty” and it was tasty, so really didn’t matter!

Overall, the flight was exactly what I expected from Lufthansa. A sadly disappointing hard product on the A350, good crew who were more or less as expected, and reasonably tasty food. Nothing special, but I can imagine if you don’t get to travel often – or fly business often – it’s a pretty nice experience!

Now, off to work in India for a few days so I’ll share just a few photos from the time there…and then it’s time to fly home and finally be done with almost seven weeks of back to back travel with less than five nights at home!

Oct 122019
 


After just a few days at home, it was time to head out again and cross the Atlantic back to Switzerland. In this case, it was a total coincidence that I was connecting in Switzerland, but keeping in the spirit of maximizing time at home I left for the airport at the last possible minute.

An Uber to National Airport takes me about 12 minutes, and with CLEAR at the A Terminal only taking two to three minutes, I can easily be door to gate in under 20 minutes. So when I left home 55 minutes before the flight, and got to the gate before the incoming had even arrived, I knew I had maxed out every possible minute at home!

I stalked the gate a little bit, since the biggest problem sitting in 1A is no storage space, and you really have to be one of the first one if you want to find overhead space near you. No problem, and off we go.

Air Canada flight 7615 operated by Sky Regional
Washington, DC, National (DCA) to Toronto, Ontario (YYZ)
Depart 12:45, Arrive: 14:12, flight time: 1:27
Embraer ERJ-175, Registration C-FXJC, Manufactured 2009, Seat 1A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 87,495
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,780,083

Takeoff on runway 1 today, and another great view of the Pentagon as we climbed:

Air Canada was mixing up the snack today, and we were offered smoked salmon which was good. Not amazing, and certainly not filling, but good. I feel like this “meal” could have used a small sweet to go with it.

After relatively quick transit security in Toronto it was off to the Air Canada Signature lounge for a more substantial snack and some champagne. Horror of horrors they were out of rosé champagne today (something to do with LCBO being out of stock) but the smoked meat sandwiches more than made up for it!

After finishing up some work it was off to the gate, where the usual chaos of rush-hour boarding at YYZ was already well-underway.

Air Canada flight 878
Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) to Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH)
Depart 18:05, Arrive: 07:40 next day, flight time: 7:35
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration C-FRAM, Manufactured 2008, Seat 11K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 91,540
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,784,128

Having changed my departure date rather late, there was only one window seat left, so I was curious to see how sitting in the last row – 11K – would be. Turned out, it was actually nice and quiet. The folded napkins were a bit weird to me – is this supposed to be fancy or something?

Shortly after takeoff was the usual warm nuts with some wine.

Sigh. Shrimp appetizer yet again. At least there were five of them so it was a reasonably substantial amount…and they were relatively tasty.

None of the other options sounded all that good today, so decided to go with the beef which was as expected rather overdone.

The usual Air Canada cheese course. Nothing adventurous, but it was tasty enough with a bit more wine.

Ahhhh the absolutely amazing Air Canada brown sugar tart. Absolutely delicious as usual.

Managed about three hours of sleep which is pretty good for me on such a short flight, especially when I knew I’d be napping shortly after arrival.

Woke up in time to have a little bit of breakfast – which I really didn’t need, but it’s just so hard to resist the Air Canada omelet with that unusual salsa and cottage cheese concoction.

Landing was right on time, and there was no line for immigration this morning and soon I was in the train station and headed straight to my hotel where I planned a solid five hour nap before getting up to enjoy a little bit of time in Switzerland.

Had no trouble at all sleeping, and woke up early afternoon and headed out for a short walk around Zurich to enjoy the city a bit and stretch my legs. The hotel had been kind enough to agree to a 6pm checkout (this was the same hotel I’d left just four days prior and I’d arranged this with them in advance) so I also enjoyed a small snack in the executive lounge before catching the train back to the airport with plenty of time before my flight.

I had a bit of drama with my return seats (SWISS had for some reason canceled my “throne” seat and put me back in a regular seat) and spent some time at the airport trying to solve it – but was unable to as the return flight was completely full.

Admitting defeat, I headed to the gate in the satellite terminal to wait for my flight. At least I would have 4A tonight – a throne seat – so I would have an enjoyable flight to Johannesburg.

Wanting something a bit more substantial I found these unusual turkey roll-ups in the lounge that were basically deli turkey, cream cheese, and a bit of pickle all rolled up in a tortilla. What’s not to love!

I spent my time in the lounge obsessively checking the seat map to make sure they didn’t take my throne seat away again tonight, and everything seemed on the up and up, so headed off to the gate to board.

Waiting to board, I chatted a bit in line with the passenger in front of me, an older gentleman who was headed to Zimbabwe. We talked about life in Zimbabwe a bit, how hard things are with the currency situation these days, and soon enough it was time to board.

The gentleman boarded first, and the machine made all sorts of angry noises when his boarding pass was scanned. The agent informed him “I’m terribly sorry sir, but we’ve changed your seat to 1A in First Class. I hope that won’t be a problem.”

I joked with the agent that if it was I’d be happy to take that seat instead…and then scanned my boarding pass…which was also met with angry noises…and an upgrade to seat 1K!

I have no idea what process SWISS uses to do upgrades when business class is full, and maybe it was a psychic wavelength, but I wasn’t going to argue – my first operational upgrade to First Class on SWISS and I couldn’t wait!

SWISS flight 288
Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH) to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB)
Depart 22:40, Arrive: 09:10 next day, flight time: 10:30
Airbus A340-300, Registration HB-JMH, Manufactured 2004, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 96,751
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,789,339

Warm grüezi on board from the super friendly crew, and was promptly welcomed with a glass of Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle and an amuse bouche which set the mood for what was sure to be a lovely flight!

Tonight’s menu:

Being quite a late departure, the table was set right after takeoff, and it was perhaps the most elegant table setting I’ve seen in quite a while. Loved the wooden salt and pepper shakers.

Decided to go with the balik salmon as a starter. Slightly disappointing that there’s no longer caviar in SWISS first class, but the salmon was absolutely delicious.

The flight attendant was a little hurt I didn’t want a second appetizer, so I decided to go with the meat platter from the Canton of Vaud. Super tasty, and just small enough it wasn’t too filling.

I decided in for a penny, in for a pound, and decided to risk the veal. OMG I’m glad I did, because it was cooked to a perfect medium rare with an absolutely delicious sauce. One of the best steaks I think I’ve ever had in flight!

I was getting pretty full by this point, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to try a cheese plate on a new first class product. I was very glad that I did, because it was an absolutely delicious sampler of Swiss cheeses – once again from the Canton of Vaud. I think that may have been tonight’s theme….

I really didn’t need desert at this point, but it sounded way too delicious to pass up. Layered chocolate cake with salted caramel, praline ice cream, and caramelized hazelnuts. I could have eaten several of these!

Hard to say no to a few pralines with a glass of Johnny Walker before heading off to dreamland.

Still six hours left in the flight, so plenty of time for some shut-eye!

Woke up and wasn’t all that hungry. so decided to have a mini pain au chocolate, some fruit, and being SWISS of course a bit of Muesli. I decided to skip the heavy caffeine in favour of a diet coke since I was hoping for one more short nap upon landing.

With that, a wonderful treat came to an end. I knew how fortunate I was to receive this upgrade, and it really is all about expectations. When you have no expectation of it happening it really is a wonderful treat, and your mood can go from zero to one hundred in an instant.

Now, if only the same could happen on the return….off to my Johannesburg hotel!

Oct 112019
 


After a bit over three weeks in Switzerland, it was finally time to head home. I would have just a bit under four days at home before heading out on the road again for a couple of back-to-back trips, but after three weeks away every day matters!

Got to the airport, and what better way to say tschüss to Switzerland than to pose for a selfie against the SWISS sign. Not really goodbye, however, since just four days later I would be connecting through Zurich again!

Strangely, my United flight would be leaving from the B Gates today (which I’ve never seen before) and while it would save me a train ride out to the E gates, I wondered if there was a respectable lounge on the other side of immigration in B.

Yes, it turns out there was, but there was no air conditioning! According to my temperature gauge, it was 81 degrees in the lounge too. Ouch! Fortunately, they had brought in a few fans, and sitting in front of one of them it was just barely tolerable.

You know what makes it tolerable, though? Swiss chocolates and Mövenpick ice cream! Mmmmm!

Off to the gate after about 30 minutes in the lounge. I’d never actually been to the B Gates before, so wasn’t sure just how long it would take to the gate…or how long and confusing the boarding process might be. Every day a new adventure!

United flight 53
Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 11:55, Arrive: 14:45, flight time: 8:50
Boeing 787-8, Registration N29907, Manufactured 2013, Seat 1D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 87,136
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,780,083

Boarding was relatively chaotic, with people not really line up well or the agents controlling things well, so it was unclear where to queue up. It’s one thing I really like about the newish boarding is that as a 1K you can pretty much stand anywhere you want, and hopefully if the agents are good you’ll still be called ahead of group one.

Worked like a charm today, but it didn’t really matter since we were at a remote stand and it would be a bus gate anyways. Off to the plane, easy boarding, and time to explore what’s to eat!

Pre-departure beverages. Trying to be positive and remember for someone that doesn’t get to do business class often this is still considered a real treat. However, unless it’s a special occasion I need to start giving the pre-departure sparking plonk a pass. It’s just not worth the calories on a regular basis. I do, however, appreciate the real glassware now.

Meal started off with some Spiderman socks from the amenity kit and mixed nuts and wine. I’ve started requesting water more regularly inflight now to survive the crazy mileage I’m flying this year, and this crew was great and proactively offered lemon or lime with a stirrer to make it easy to fish out and squeeze. Oh, and some shiraz, but that was probably a given.

I like the salads United has been serving out of Switzerland lately, and they’re relatively fresh, light, and tasty. Throw in some garlic bread and it’s delicious. In principle, the tomato, basil, and mozzarella caprese would make a nice starter, but every time I’ve had it the basil has had rotten spots and the tomatoes have been bland and underripe.

I went with the chicken breast and polenta cake as a lighter option, and with the skin off (and skipping the polenta) it did the trick without being too fancy. Kinda looks like institutional cafeteria food.

Note to self: ice cream sundaes for dessert are always worth the calories, especially with cherries and fudge. Cheese was decent without being too memorable, but I wish they would try some more memorable crackers to go along with it. Maybe something nice and savoury?

After a bit of a nap, decided to hit up the snack cart because I was craving the little pastries they always have. Goes well with a side of Ebola monkey on the iPad as well.

Was curious about the pre-landing chicken ragout option, and while it was pretty tasty and would make a great domestic dinner, it actually felt a bit heavy for a second in-flight meal on a relatively short flight.

I have to admit – I was starting to miss the relatively heavy “hamburger wellington” that’s been around for a lot of this year.

The flight passed relatively quickly, and just like that I was home after more than three weeks away. Time to see if four days is enough at home, or if I would really be craving getting back on the road sooner.

I had originally booked just one night at home, and then three days vacation at my next work stop before the work began, but I gave up that three day mini-vacation in favour of the time at home. I was very glad I had, but four days, well, I might start craving travel….

Sep 272019
 


After a whole 68 hours at home (well, closer to 65 if you count the travel time from and to the airport as well as waiting time) it was time to get on the road again. 18 days of vacation was a nice break, and slightly under three days at home was just enough to catch up on the essentials before heading out of town for more than three more weeks.

Unfortunately I had to book this trip rather late and wasn’t able to take either the Geneva or Zurich nonstops out of Dulles, so had to “settle” for Air Canada out of DCA which meant leaving home about two hours earlier. Every hour matters when you only have three days at home in six weeks!

I always forget how convenient DCA is. I can be there by Uber in about 12 minutes if nothing goes wrong, through CLEAR in less than five minutes from the time I step out of the Uber, so in theory it would be possible to leave home about 50 minutes pre-flight and still be there before boarding starts.

I chickened out a bit (and I was packed and ready) so left about two hours before the flight which left me plenty of time to grab a real lunch at DCA. I’m a pretty big fan of the restaurant in Terminal A at DCA, so on the occasion I do fly Air Canada I try and stop by for what passes as a Cholesterol Madame…I mean Croque Madame…and a beer. I mean, even the iPad told me soda was the wrong thing to drink when flying!

I love Terminal A at DCA. It’s incredibly nostalgic for me. Back in the old days when I used to nonrev during university Northwest flew out of Terminal A and I was there multiple times most months headed home…or to other exotic locales. I even remember when Northwest did their giant expansion at DCA (whose slots did they buy again?) and suddenly they were flying to Hartford, Boston, LaGuardia, and if I remember right some places in Florida as well. Of course, I tried as often as possible to take these odd connections as opposed to the nonstops to Minneapolis!

The terminal has modernized slightly with a big restaurant in the waiting space, and has certainly changed with the introduction of Spirit and Southwest to the terminal as well.

Got to the gate right as the door was opening to let incoming passengers off, so I was right on time to be the first to board…essential when you’re in Seat 1A as you have no underseat storage space. You do have more legroom and nobody reclining into you, however, so it’s still my seat of choice whenever possible as someone who’s 6’4.

Air Canada flight 7615 op. by Sky Regional
Washington, DC, National (DCA) to Toronto, Pearson (YYZ)
Depart 12:45, Arrive: 14:12, flight time: 1:27
Embraer ERJ-175, Registration C-FUJA, Manufactured 2009, Seat 1A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 78,934
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,771,522

One of my favourite parts of DCA is that 90% of the time you take off to the north on runway 1 and do a sharp bank to the left right after takeoff which affords those in A seats great views of the Pentagon.

This is always a snack flight, and I definitely didn’t need it after the cholesterol bomb at the airport, but I’m a sucker for a deli plate…especially when there’s pickles!

Uneventful flight…until the last minute. So, seriously, what is it about YYZ? Today we had a go around, and from the picture below you can see why. There was still a plane on the taxiway under us! Seriously!

I ask “why YYZ” because I’ve had probably 10 go-arounds or other unusual experiences in-flight (yes, I know that’s not a lot given how many I fly) and at least half have been at YYZ. This was my third go-around at YYZ, which is half of the total go-arounds I can remember.

I also remember an incident climbing out of YYZ on a US Scareways CRJ-200 years ago when we hear a loud BANG and the plane pitched pretty violently to the right. It felt like we were at a 45 degree angle (was probably a bit less) and the captain – very professionally and calmly – as soon as he’d fixed the situation came on and told us what had happened: ATC hadn’t spaced us far enough behind a 747 on takeoff, and we hit its wake at around FL20 which is what caused the bang…who knew wake could be that strong?

Right, well, this was a pretty short go around as the map above shows, and soon we were on the ground and I was through the transit area (basically scan your passport at a kiosk and good to go back to the transit/departures international area) and time to enjoy a couple hours in the Air Canada Signature Suites.

I still really like this lounge, though I can’t help but feel it’s much more crowded these days and the food offerings from the buffet are quite a bit poorer in quality. I know there’s a dining menu, but since I planned to eat on the plane I just wanted to drink and nibble.

The staff, however, were fantastic as always and I enjoyed a couple of glasses of rosé champagne and a cocktail called the “J Class.”

Boarding was absolutely mayhem, as it always is between 5-6pm at Pearson. The departures area is simply not large enough to handle around 10 widebodies going out full all at once, and it took me a few times, but I’ve finally realized generally you should just go up to the podium and ask where they want business class to board from.

Air Canada flight 878
Toronto, Pearson (YYZ) to Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH)
Depart 18:05, Arrive: 7:40 next day, flight time: 7:35
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration C-FIVQ, Manufactured 2008, Seat 7K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 82,979
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,775,567

I do love the Air Canada business class seat. Private in that you have lots of space to yourself and nobody next to you at the window, and even more private in row 7 (my first choice after row 1) because nobody is looking at the back of your head. (Us tall people worry about such things sometimes.)

Lots of big poofy clouds on takeoff. For years, I was never much of a window person, but lately I’ve really enjoyed watching the cloud formations and sunsets.

Warm nuts (too warm, mushy a la United), and some red whine and noisy water to start things off. Short flight today, barely 6.5 hours to Zurich! I wasn’t going to be getting much sleep!

Sigh, shrimp starter. I hadn’t been paying attention, so I took it for the greens (which I dumped on the salad and enjoyed), and a bit of garlic bread. Seriously, why does everyone think a few cold shrimp are a nice starter these days? At least Air Canada serves four while United cheaply serves only two.

Decided to go with the chicken pesto main since it sounded healthier than the beef. The chicken was a really weird rubbery consistency, but seemed to be completely cooked so I risked it. Tasted ok, the texture was just odd. I haven’t ordered chicken on planes much lately…but lately feel like the fish is often the best option – beating out overcooked beef and rubbery chicken.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of Air Canada’s cheese course, because it’s just boring. Today was no exception. Tasty enough, yes, but in-flight when things lose a bit of their flavours something bolder than cheddar and mozzarella would be nice.

All was forgiven, however, when the brown sugar tart was served. OMG delicious…

I did manage about three hours of sleep before landing, but I’m not sure many others did since the windows were all thrown open and breakfast served about 90 minutes before landing. This isn’t a comment on the crew, more on the other passengers who already seemed to be up.

Not a problem, however, since I have a soft spot for the Air Canada omelet with that weird cream cheese sauce they serve it with. Plus, they always serve a really fresh and ripe fruit plate which is delicious.

I used the wifi during breakfast to book my onward train, as pre-booking in Switzerland can save you as much as 75%. Last minute to Bern is often nearly 90 francs, but I found if a took a train two hours after landing I could get it for 29.90 francs.

I decided I could enjoy some coffee at the airport even if the immigration line was long and save over $60, so it was an easy decision. Landing was nice and smooth, zero line at immigration, and it was coffee time before heading to Bern for three weeks!

Sep 272019
 


Talk about a bit of an anticlimactic end to a trip. I had been all excited to fly two long segments with EVA Airways in their Hello Kitty service on the 777, but due to crew strikes the flights were canceled. At least I had an option that would get me home comfortably. No, it wasn’t exciting or new, and certainly not the way I wanted to end this really cook AvGeeking trip, but hey, make lemonade from lemons and all that jazz!

Woke up early after only about six hours of sleep, figuring I could always sleep on the super long flight and crossing 12 time zones my body wouldn’t really know the difference anyways. Grabbed an early coffee before heading to the airport, and what Hong Kong Starbucks called a “croque monsieur.” Close, but no croque…

Off to the airport by train again, and one thing I was looking forward to was checking out the American Express Lounge. The United Lounge in Hong Kong is known to be one of their nicer ones, but I’d also heard great things about the American Express Lounge.

I know everyone loves the AmEx lounges in the US, but they frustrate me a bit. I find them very crowded most of the time, and hard to find a seat. It also really bothers me that as a Centurion Card holder I can barely find a seat when some guy and his family of six with a Platinum Card are taking up seven seats. Anyways, rant over.

So, why was I looking forward to the AmEx Lounge then? Hong Kong, like Buenos Aires and Mexico City actually have Centurion Lounges within their “Centurion” Lounge. I always found it weird that “Centurion” lounges let platinum card holders in, but whatever.

The lounge in Hong Kong was pretty quiet, and had a nice menu to order from. How can I say no to eggs benedict and champagne in the lounge? That’s right…I can’t.

Service in the AmEx lounge was amazing, and it was easily one of my top AmEx Lounge experiences ever. Next time, I’m going to have to make much more time to stop by than just the 45 mintues or so I had before this flight.

Fortunately, my gate was not far from the lounge, and caught this view of my chariot as we waited to board:

The plane was named the “New Spirit of United” but beyond Polaris seats (which I do actually really like) I wasn’t expecting too much.

United Airlines flight 180
Hong Kong (HKG) to Newark, New Jersey (EWR)
Depart 10:25, Arrive: 14:10, flight time: 15:45
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration N2331U, Manufactured 2016, Seat 11L
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 78,376
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,770,964

Somehow I think this 8,063 mile flight is going to take a bit longer than 0:00 as the screen seems to promise:

Pre-departure sparkling plonk and water were offered. I commend United on upgrading to actual glass glasses for PDBs, but the Spider Man napkins and terrible sparkling wine were a stark reminder I wasn’t on Emirates anymore…or Qantas…or Thai…or Cathay…or, well, you get the point…

I love planespotting outside the US where I get to see lots of airlines I don’t see every day…today it was Air Mauritius:

Warm nuts were served right after takeoff, with more Spidey napkins. I honestly have always wondered what United “does” to their almonds. They always seem kinda mushy to me and stale.

The salad was a pretty below average offering today, and the appetizer was two rather sad looking shrimp with “yellow mushrooms”. Way to put the class in business class, United. *frown*

I felt like something was fishy with this meal, so I went with the “pan-fried halibut” with lemon caper butter sauce. It was pretty decent, and less heavy than the overcooked beef options, so overall it passed muster.

Cheese and deserts finished off the exactly-as-expected United meal. I would say the cheese was just average today (I never really find interesting or adventurous cheese on United) but the bonus cherries on the sundae were definitely a win!

Having only gotten about six hours the night before, I decided that after lunch was a perfect time for a good long nap….which lasted nearly six hours!

Woke up at exactly the perfect moment! I looked outside and the sun was just rising over extreme northern Alaska. Absolutely gorgeous views!

Pre-landing breakfast was served, with the usual offer of congee, “smoked salmon and spinach frittata” (aka cholesterol and sodium bomb) or “fruit with cereal and milk.”

There was nothing high-end about it, but the fruit and cereal were nice and light and did hit the spot, so overall it was the right choice for me.

Landed at the B Terminal at Newark, which seems to be where all my international Star Alliance flights have been coming into lately. I know SAS always lands there as does Lufthansa, but even my United flights seem to land there now. Is immigration and customs at Terminal C just that busy?

Caught the AirTrain over to Terminal C, and fortunately my flight to DCA would be leaving out of C today and not A so I could spend my layover enjoying the Polaris Lounge, which I hadn’t visited in Newark before.

I asked the bartender for a Paper Plane, but made with Mezcal (thanks ORD Polaris Lounge for introducing me to this) and the bartender gave me the most perfect Jersey “what’s wrong with you” look. She made it though, and it was delicious, and she was an absolute hoot to chat with, so bonus!

All too soon it was time to head to the gate for the short hop to DCA.

United Airlines flight 3434 op. by Republic Airlines
Newark, New Jersey (EWR) to Washington, DC, National (DCA)
Depart 15:45, Arrive: 17:17, flight time: 1:32
Embraer ERJ-170, Registration N642RW, Manufactured 2005, Seat 1C
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 78,575
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,771,163

When I booked, only economy was available on this flight for an award, but the great agent did waitlist me for first. Oddly, 24 hours before the flight, there were still five seats unsold but still no upgrade for me….it dwindled to four, then three, then two…and held at one…and finally cleared for me at the gate. That was a close call.

Nothing to say about this flight. No drinks, no snack basket “due to the short length of the flight” but I really didn’t care for barely 40 minutes of flight time.

Most notable part of this flight was the beat to hell United plane at the gate next to our arrival at DCA. Get this thing a new paint job!

…and just like that, I was home from an epic 18 day vacation….and when I say home, I meant for 68 hours…because it was already time to head out to Switzerland for work….for three whole weeks! Next segments, coming up soon!

Sep 242019
 


Decided to take the train to the airport in the morning despite my early flight, mainly because the train station was only a five minute walk from the hotel and based on previous taxi experiences it might actually be faster to take the train.

Everything was on tie and worked out really well, and soon I was at the Thai Airways check-in desk and getting my boarding pass. Nothing unique about check-in, security, or immigration, and soon enough it was into the scary duty free area before you could get to the gates and lounge.

When I say scary duty free, I mean it: complete with M&M wearing a genuine aussie cork hat:

Had just a little time to enjoy the Singapore Airlines lounge, but despite being a little bit after 8:00 in the morning it was time for a glass of champagne. I mean, it was….oh wait, even earlier in Bangkok, but I suppose 5am doesn’t justify a glass of champagne…unless you subscribe to my theory that champagne is always appropriate.

Always liked the work/etc cubicles that the Singapore lounges have:

Soon it was time for boarding, and when I got to the gate people were swarming, so I walked up to the podium and introduced myself as a first class passenger, and they were happy to board me right away. I love the service with Thai!

Thai Airways flight 476
Sydney, Australia (SYD) to Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi, Thailand (BKK)
Depart 10:00, Arrive: 16:20, flight time: 9:20
Boeing 747-400, Registration HS-TGG, Manufactured 2003, Seat 01A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 67,849
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,760.437

This wasn’t my first flight in Thai first on the 747, and the seat was pretty much as I remembered. Reasonably private and comfortable, but very open – reminds me a lot of the Lufthansa First seat, but with a bit more colour:

Pre-departure Dom Perignon bubbles are always welcome, especially with an orchid:

Tyler Oakley is extremely amused at the macadamia nuts and hors d’oeuvres that were served shortly after takeoff. I totally wanted to keep the mini cocktail sticks, but had no idea what I would do with them!

Next up was the caviar service, which scored an A+ for me for presentation. Mother of pearl spoon, amazed curved condiments tray, caviar in a classy glass jar, silver trimmed plate…it just oozed class. Well done Thai! I think this is my new favourite caviar presentation in-flight…sorry Lufthansa…I still love you!

I don’t do shellfish on a plane. Ever. One too many bouts of food-borne illness, but I decided to take one for the team since I do love me some scallops and lobster…and oh, look, duck too! How can I say no! It was pretty darn tasty…

Next up was Thai beef soup with tomato and chili…it was good, but not super to my taste, so I just had a few tastes of it and saved my room for other courses. I do love the classy silver-rimmed service-wear though!

I decided to go with the “Samrab Thai” main course, which was described as “Pork Tenderloin in Pa-naeng Curry served with Som Tam Kung (Thai Papaya Salad and Prawn), Thai Northern Style Chicken and Tomato Dip, Stir fried broccoli, grilled mixed bell peppers, steamed jasmine rice.” It was pretty delicious, and I really liked the curry….

I wasn’t expecting much from the cheese course, which in my experience on Asian airlines never lives up to their European counterparts, and this was pretty much confirmed. It was ok, but not really worth leaving room for.

Dessert was Thai pumpkin custard, which was absolutely amazing!

Watched a little more tv, took a nap, and soon we were 90 minutes from Bangkok and the crew was insisting that I had to try a snack before we landed. Not one able to resist Thai hospitality, I gave in to a light snack.

Chicken satay, of course with a splash of Johnny Walker Blue on the side.

Second dessert of a frangipane raspberry tart with vanilla sauce was astounding, and paired very nicely with my friend Johnny.

There were agents waiting for first class passengers when we landed, ready to whisk us to immigration in buggies. I insisted I preferred to walk and stretch my legs, but they would have none of it and insisted I have a ride. Which was kind of weird, because when we got to immigration they just dropped us off and sped off – no indication where the premium immigration lines were. Very well-intentioned, but lacking in execution.

Grabbed a taxi to my hotel…and here’s where I confess that Bangkok is probably the only place in the world where I intentionally give in to the airport taxi service. It’s hot, it’s humid, I’ve just landed, and the last thing I want to do is take a “normal” taxi with questionable AC…or walk to the train to take that. It’s well worth the extra money to me.

Arrived nice and early at my usual hotel, the W Bangkok, which I’ve come to like because of the reliable suite upgrades and fabulous breakfast spread. I mean, how can you not like a suite upgraded like this:

I was exhausted at this point, but dragged myself out to at least enjoy a little of the city before crashing. The Skytrain is less than a five minute walk from the hotel, and was absolutely packed tonight:

Stopped by the Siam Paragon Mall, where this absolutely delightful t-shirt was for sale. I was really tempted to buy one, but figured they probably wouldn’t have “westerner sizes”

The mall was also home to the world’s saddest Zamboni. Growing up, every little kid dreamed of being a Zamboni driver, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this guy and his attempt to maintain ice inside a shopping mall where the temperature was way, way too high for it.

I made it until maybe 10pm, despite a series of disappointments that included my usual dinner restaurant having shut down…and my favourite “New Zealand Ice Cream” shop also shutting down. I was so used to some hokey pokey ice cream! That’s not to say I didn’t eat well in Bangkok:

With that, my all-too-brief stop in Bangkok was over, and it was time to head to the airport and catch my first-ever flight on the A350-1000!

So long Bangkok! Off to the airport we go!

Sep 142019
 


After getting to my hotel it was still relatively early, so I figured I had a bit of time to head out and get some drinks with friends. Couple of pints and a relatively early night, and I was hoping that I would finally be more or less adjusted to the time zone. Tried to make sense of cricket at the pub, but it still completely mystifies me.

Woke up, found a decent-looking place I forgot the name of that made a pretty respectable french-press coffee, and I was caffeinated and ready to make the most of my full day in Melbourne!

Friend picked me up in the (wrong side of the) car, and off we went to the Yarra Valley for a day of exploring outside Melbourne. One thing I think I never make enough time for is getting out of large cities when I travel, and it seems to be where I always have the best time so I was looking forward to this mini adventure!

First stop was the Yarra Valley Dairy which served up an amazing and huge platter of fresh farmhouse cheeses. I can’t believe I neglected to take a picture of all the cheese, but possibly that’s because we were so busy devouring it.

I did, however, remember to take a picture of the amazing cow at the entrance to the tasting room:

After stuffing ourselves with cheese (and of course a couple more delicious flat whites) it was down the road a bit to go to the Chandon Winery. For those of you who don’t know (like me) Chandon is indeed related to Moët and Chandon, and was born when they decided to try and produce some sparkling wines outside of France. The Chandon Winery is the result.

It was truly a gorgeous day to be out in the vineyard (although a bit chilly and windy) but was nice to walk near the vines before headed to the main event…the wines!

Decided the most proper way to explore all they had to offer was the tasting tray…and I swear I didn’t do this just because it made an amazing picture!

Super tasty wines, and even better company. It’s always great when travel allows the opportunity to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a very long time, and honestly that was much more fun than any sparkling wine or cheese…and if you know how much I love sparkling wine and cheese that’s like the biggest compliment possible!

Back to Melbourne, walked around a bit, and I was starting to get a bit sleepy, so what better than another flat white…and a delicious mango and lemon tart. A bit more on the posh side than it needed to be, but absolutely delicious nonetheless!

Fuelled by caffeine and sugar, it was off to stroll randomly around Melbourne a bit more, and ended up outside a theater where some Harry Potter nonsense or another was just ending and it seemed half the city was outside taking pictures of some things I had no idea why I should be interested. So, I just took a picture of all them taking pictures instead.

More walking, random palm trees, seemed very out of place on this evening that was becoming rather cool and windy.

Ended up at some place that a colleague wanted to go where we literally ate squid, drank beer, and were entertained by aged hipsters. It was a rather strange environment, but also one of those cool and unique experiences you would only have when traveling!

Off to bed, more catching up on sleep….and after a good long rest it was time to get up and randomly stroll around trying to find somewhere intriguing to find a good coffee.

This random sculpture on the street was far too terrifying before I’d had a proper caffeine fix:

Caught the tram to the train station (cool fact about Melbourne: trams in the City Centre are completely free!) and then the bus to the airport which was rather convenient. In no time at all I was at the terminal and through security, and ready to enjoy one final Qantas lounge.

It was just about lunch time, and I was rather hungry, and the Qantas buffet definitely didn’t disappoint. Can you imagine a selection like this in the US, on a domestic flight, solely by virtue of purchasing a business class ticket? Oh, that’s right, in the US you’d get no lounge at all!

Qantas, however, had a make your own toastie machine, proper sparkling wine, and delicious pickled veggies and lemon bars. Grilled cheese? Beetroot? Sparkling wine? AND lemon bars? I was honestly in heaven…

Off to the gate, where we were a little behind schedule in boarding. Our incoming aircraft was late from Tasmania due to some weather nonsense or another, but soon enough we were aboard our 737 for the rather short hop up to Sydney.

Qantas flight 440
Melbourne, Australia (MEL) to Sydney, Australia (SYD)
Depart 14:30, Arrive: 15:55, flight time: 1:25
Boeing 737-800, Registration VH-VYH, Manufactured 2005, Seat 02D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 63,187
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,755,775

Super impressive three choices of meal on a flight that was barely an hour long, however, despite being in the second row there was only one choice when they got to me which was a “vegetable lasagna.” It wasn’t all that impressive, except it was a hot meal with great bread on a one hour flight! That alone was impressive!

Despite the late start we got to Sydney right on time, and it was time to catch the train back to the Marriott again and enjoy the first of several nights in Sydney.

Sep 022019
 


So, right, off the plane in Singapore after back to back flights and straight for a walk around the airport. Singapore is cool because T1, T2, and T3 are all connected, but if you have a long way to go and don’t feel like walking you can take the train between terminals.

After back to back flights I definitely needed the walk, so walked for about 45 minutes around the terminals to stretch my legs before heading to the lounge. Fortunately, I had done my research online before visiting, and knew that there was no dedicated first class lounge in Singapore for Qantas. It will be opening later this year, but for now I would have to share with the masses in business class. Oh the horrors!

Now, that said, if you have to spend time in a business class lounge, a Qantas lounge is an excellent place to do it. I was feeling the need for a brief detox at this point after two flights of back to back champagne-fuelled nonsense, so went with the coke light along with a little bit of curry and some dragonfruit.

After a quick snack, I felt like I should walk a bit more, so went out for another 30 minute or so stroll around the terminal before coming back for a shower. Fortunately, the Qantas showers were a much more reasonable temperature than the horrendous Emirates ones, and I actually would be heading to my Qantas flight feeling a bit fresher.

…which was definitely a good thing, because I think my Qantas flight was boarding from Malaysia the walk to the gate was so far! Oh well, it was good to get more of a stretch in before boarding!

Qantas flight 2
Singapore (SIN) to Sydney, Australia (SYD)
Depart 19:30, Arrive: 05:10 next day, flight time: 7:40
Airbus A380-800, Registration VH-OQK, Manufactured 2011, Seat 03A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 59,026
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,751,614

The signs in the boarding area weren’t clear, and I hadn’t researched, so I followed the jetbridge to the upper deck…only to discover the saddest first class seats I’d ever seen in the front of the plane. Fortunately, it was just a momentary confusion and I was able to trudge back downstairs where I found a seat much more to my liking!

This definitely takes the cake as the most unique first class seat I’ve ever been on. Faces forward for takeoff and landing, but then you can swivel the chair about 45 degrees to the light so it lines up with the monitor and foot rest. Definitely unusual, but I really enjoyed the spaciousness of it!

Nothing says welcome aboard quite like a glass of Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2004. This is actually one of my favourite champagnes, and I know I’ve said it before but it’s always nice to see airlines taking a “risk” in first class and deviating from the common offerings of Dom Perignon or Krug.

After takeoff, I must feign confusion. I remember the amuse bouche of a caviar tart…but I have no idea what this glass of what appears to be white wine is. Maybe it’s the angle of the pic, but I’m certain I would have been enjoying champagne at this point!

So what’s to eat? That’s a good question, because I also don’t have a picture of the menu! I know I was exhausted on this flight, but it’s very not like me to forget to take so many pictures. At least you can see what’s to drink!

Note that despite serving the Sir Winston during departure, they actually had Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame during the flight. That much I remembered and actually added in my trip notes!

Probably one of the largest tables I’ve ever seen, even in first class! I do remember switching to the rather nice syrah for the main event.

Delicious appetizer, if I remember right it was a thai style spicy shredded chicken salad.

After all the eating the past few days I decided to go with the lighter fish option, which was absolutely outstanding. I’ve been ordering fish a lot more lately on flights, and so far have had mostly excellent luck with it!

Of course, I couldn’t skip the cheese. It pales in comparison to Emirates’ or Lufthansa’s offerings, but was a reasonably solid showing.

The desert, however, was a lemon tart that was out of this world. If I wasn’t so stuffed from all the flights I might have shamelessly asked if there were more, but my waistline thanks me. Plus, despite all the time zone confusion I was feeling pretty tired so decided to chance a bit of sleep.

I must have been exhausted, because I had absolutely no trouble passing out for a solid four hour nap. At this point, after two consecutive redeyes, my body had no idea what time it was anyways, so I was definitely in “nap when you can” mode.

Woke up with just enough time for a light breakfast, and enjoyed some muesli and a tasty cinnamon roll. Before anyone judges me, yes, that’s Coke Light and not red wine with breakfast. Unfortunately, the strawberries with the fruit were seriously underripe, but other than that it was the perfect light breakfast right before landing.

…and just like that it was 5am, and we were arriving into Sydney. Fortunately no queues at immigration at this hour, and had no trouble catching an airport express train straight to my hotel.

The stop was just about a three minute walk from the hotel, and despite showing up at 6am they were ready for me, and let me check in super early. Another solid four hour nap, and around 11am I was ready to head out and make the most of my day in Sydney!

Aug 302019
 


Woke up reasonably early, and headed up to the Sheraton lounge for breakfast, although I didn’t have high expectations based on the previous night. The espresso machine worked well, there was reasonably fresh orange juice, hard boiled eggs, and most importantly nice and warm pain au chocolate, so overall it was a success!

On the way up to breakfast, however, I made sure to stop by the concierge desk and order a taxi for an hour later so I could make the most of my time and head to the Bardo Museum.

Taxi showed up right on time, we negotiated a price by the hour so he could wait for me, and we were off.

Got to the museum, and there was an extremely ominous sign on the front: apologies, due to some sort of construction work, there was no air conditioning in the entire museum. That might have been nice, but it was 90F and climbing and it was sweltering hot inside.

The museum has an amazing collection of mosaic tiles, and it’s really sad the facilities that are housing them. These are an international treasure, and it was hard to think they’re not being damaged by the harsh elements. That said, they did survive hundreds of years under the desert, so maybe not?

I managed about 90 minutes in the heat, and got to see a fair amount of the museum – there’s only so many mosaics you can be interested in if you’re not some sort of art historian! Perhaps most interesting is the second picture below, that shows where a bullet hit a glass case when the museum was overrun by ISIL terrorists a few years back killing two dozen tourists.

Driver was waiting for me and back to the Sheraton for a quick shower and to cool down after the hot museum, and soon it was off to the airport. I had agreed to take the hotel shuttle since it beat trying to get another taxi, and soon I was there and checking in.

No problems at all with my slightly unusual itinerary, and immigration and security were both remarkably efficient. Soon I was in the departures area, free to roam the duty free shops and explore the lounges.

Not often you see two flights to Libya on the departures board!

Another mosaic outside the TunisAir lounge…I’d seen enough for the day, and headed inside.

Honestly, the lounge was a really pleasant surprise. During my previous visit, I remember it being super unremarkable with broken air conditioning, but today there was plenty of space to sit and it was nice and cool. I wouldn’t go early for the lounge, but it was definitely a comfortable place to wait!

Knowing there would be a feast waiting on Emirates I only had a small snack to tide me over, and a but of Coke Zero. There was quite a buffet spread, but none of it really looked all that good…

Walk to the gate was relatively short, and with no additional security or anything it was relatively straight forward.

Of course, everybody in the gate area was mobbing the door thinking they needed to be first on board, and the gate staff did a terrible job of anything resembling priority boarding, so I proactively went up to the counter and asked if first class could please board first…so the agent shouted out “ok, we’ll board first class now” and that’s where things got interesting.

A rather angry woman in an abaya and her young (I assume) daughter of about 10yo mobbed the door and were shooed away, told they were in economy and would have to wait. Lots of yelling in Arabic ensued along with arm waving…and when I say yelling, top of her voice yelling to the point airport security and several guys in suits came over. I have no idea what it was about, but at one point in english she yelled “I NEVER SIT IN ECONOMY!” No clue how, but she ended up in first in the end…with the kid… (fortunately both slept the entire flight)

Emirates flight 748
Tunis, Tunisia (TUN) to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB)
Depart 14:05, Arrive: 23:10, flight time: 6:05
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration A6-EBW, Manufactured 2006, Seat 01K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 51,485
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,744,073

Although it wasn’t my first time in Emirates First, I was still giddy about the whole thing, seat and all! The over-the-top bling definitely isn’t my thing, but hey, you can’t argue it’s an amazing seat!

Bit of welcome aboard Dom Perignon? Don’t mind if I do!

Warm cashews and almonds were served on the ground, and then after takeoff the crew suggested maybe I’d like some savoury Japanese crackers with another glass of champagne. Who could say no to that?!

Since the second flight would be a redeye to Singapore I decided to max out the dining this flight and enjoy the entire experience. First up was a starter combo of buffalo mozzarella with pea cream and smoked olive oil, salmon with panko herb crumble, and bresaola with feta and cinnamon poached pear. YUM! (Yes, I’m talking about the appetizers…)

Moving on from the starters…as distinct from the appetizers…next up was smoked fois gras with chicken and mushroom terrine and asparagus. More yum!

The main event was Bzar Lamb with emirati spices with aromatic rice, fried onions, and pistachios. This was absolutely amazing and the lamb was so juicy and tender. I could have eaten two… Delicious with a glass of Château Lynch-Moussas 2008 Pauillac.

So, anyone whose read my blog before knows I like cheese, and that nobody does an in-flight cheese plate quite like Lufthansa in first class. Well, I have to officially announce that Lufthansa has some serious competition with Emirates. Especially the soft cheese in olive oil…wow…it was absolutely out of this world.

Sad to move on, but there was dessert to be had. But first, a glass of Johnny Walker Blue to aid with digestion…and for science of course. Of course, some apricot pudding was also in order…

Stuffed, I watched some tv, and then later in the flight when it was dark the turned on the in-cabin stars on the ceiling so we could have a landing under the stars. Awww… I’m not a cognac drinker generally, but when Hennessey Paradis (which retails for over $900 a bottle) is on offer, it would be insulting to my hosts not to try it…right?

Landed on time, but ended up at a remote stand at the C gates, which is pretty much the world place to end up in Dubai! Oh well, it’s not so terrible when you get your very own bus to the terminal! Fortunately I didn’t have to share it with angry lady who had forced her way into first class.

Meanwhile, if you’re going to East Sketchistan, please take the bus below:

I had a few hours, so I was determined to head to the A gates where there is an entire FLOOR of the terminal dedicated to the first class lounge!

Next up: Emirates A Gates First Class Lounge Dubai, and the A380 to Singapore!