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If you happen to follow American Airlines on any of its social media channels, you may have noticed the ubiquitous hashtag #NewAmerican — usually accompanied by a picture of a smiling cabin crew or snaps of a flashy new Dreamliner. The slogan came about with the merger of AA and US Airways, to suggest a united company soaring toward new horizons. Still, the term is now tossed around like a rag doll — and this contributor wondered what it truly meant in real-life terms. That is, until I flew a simple domestic leg from Las Vegas to Chicago, one that opened my eyes to a brand new experience that supersedes any new lounge, refreshed inflight menu or brand-spanking new aircraft. This experience captured the heart of any personal interaction: The Care Factor. It's something intangible — you can't carry it off the plane — but it's what makes me really think an airline can get us excited about flying again.
Here's what happened.
Flight Reviews / Air New Zealand / Premium Economy / In-Flight Entertainment / Airplane Meals / → All Tags
Since upgrading was a snap decision (we did it at the airport when the thought of 11 hours sitting in the second-to-last row of the plane was too much to bear), we weren't all that familiar with the premium economy product on Air NZ. We did walk through the seats at the end of our first flight and we admired the cool-looking "spaceseats", as they call them. (This is on the 777-300 planes, FYI.) But everything else was a bit of a mystery.
A few years ago, Air New Zealand debuted the SkyCouch, which is comprised of three seats in a row in economy with foot rests that extend all the way up to create, well, a little couch on the airplane.
In theory, it is amazing and to some extent very democratic as it costs way less than premium economy and first class. But is SkyCouch comfortable? And can you really sleep in it? Yes and no.
In 2011, Jaunted contributor Eric Rosen took a nap on SkyCouch on a flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, so sleeping is definitely possible but he warned that SkyCouch was not meant for two people trying to get a full night's sleep during the flight. So when we upgraded our two economy tickets to SkyCouch for a trip from Los Angeles to London the other week (for about $500), we were skeptical of the sleeping situation.
Indeed when this editor and her husband made up the SkyCouch, it was not comfortable for the two of us to lay down at the same time.
Flight Reviews / Wow Air / Iceland Travel / BOS / KEF / LCCs / Budget Travel / Airlines / CPH / Europe Travel / Photo Gallery / A321 / → All Tags
We know, we know. $99 for a flight from the U.S. to Europe is simply too good to be true. Obviously, with a fare as low as that, something must be wrong, right? Well, wrong. Not only is Icelandic ultra-low-cost airline Wow Air offering such deals, but there's nothing suspicious at hand here.
To prove it, and to test the airline's transatlantic service (we've flown them from Iceland to London previously), we purchased said $99 fare and flew it ourselves. Here's what happened.
Flight Reviews / Delta Airlines / Virgin Atlantic / London Travel / First Class Travel / Upper Class / Business Class / → All Tags
The other week we told you about a very cool in-flight message that popped up on our screen during a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Los Angeles that made us fall in love with Virgin and long-haul travel all over again. Now we're here to tell you all about this airline meet-cute that we had.
See, we didn't intentionally book a Virgin Atlantic flight. This editor actually cashed in American Express points and Delta Skymiles to fly Delta business class over to London. But through a code share agreement, I was put on a Virgin Atlantic flight for the return trip. Which I felt "Meh" about. I had flown Upper Class back in 2010 and definitely liked it, but I fell in love with Delta business class on a flight to Chile last summer. The lie-flat seats truly impressed me. So I was slightly bummed I wouldn't have that experience on the way home. But now, I'm glad I didn't.
Here's my breakdown between the two airlines for the approximately 11-hour flight from Los Angeles to London and back.
Last week was a bit of a travel whirlwind. We took a red-eye on Sunday night from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, then on to LaGuardia Airport. Less than 48 hours later, we were back at John F. Kennedy International Airport headed straight home to Seattle. Our roundtrip tickets were booked on Delta Air Lines in the Main Cabin aka Economy.
Since we were stuck flying cross-country on our birthday, we decided to spend an extra $99 and upgrade the return route to Delta Comfort+. Here’s how the two seating experiences stacked up:
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Let me preface this review by saying that, these days, when an airline gets my family and I safely to our destination, it was a successful flight and I’m deeply grateful. Get me there on time to boot and bonus points ensue.
But, we do have the choice about which airlines to fly and one can’t help comparing the amenities that are offered and extra fees that are charged when spending hundreds of dollars (or valuable airline miles) on flights.
That said, we flew United Flight 1251 to Montego Bay from Chicago O’Hare April 4 - which arrived safely and on time so the major tenets of a good flight were, indeed, accomplished - and the WiFi wasn’t working, the crew ran out of immigration forms, there were no free snacks (no surprise here), and the ones they were selling ones were rather overpriced (Pringles for $3.99, for example).
Flight Reviews / SWISS / Business Class Travel / YUL / ZRH / Seats / In-Flight Entertainment / In-Flight Meals / Zurich Travel / Montreal Travel / → All Tags
We had the chance to fly with SWISS Airlines from Zurich to Montreal in Business Class not so long ago and all we can say is that we wanna do it again.
Aside from the tasty food and good service, their new international biz class seat has it all going on. Done in a stylish grey tartan and light wood, it’s a generous size for generous hips, becomes a 6’7” lie-flat bed and has a spot to plug in your electronic gadgets. We liked the fact that each seat has a large side table that not only gives you separation from your neighbor, but can hold all of your books, mags, water, wine, headphones and No Jet-Lag tablets (we do like to spread out!). If you’re traveling solo, have a good look at the seating chart when you’re selecting your seat: Some of the single window ones have not one, but two tables per seat. You’ll feel like you’re King (or Queen) of the Universe.
Besides the expected array of movies and music that is part of the in-flight entertainment system is the unexpected ability to use the screen to view your own stuff from your cell or iPad. The system is controlled by a convenient handset that you can, as well, leave handy on that large side table.
We recently declared our undying love for Southwest Airlines. But now that Southwest has gone international, are we still feeling lovey-dovey? Here's the scoop on our recent Jaunt on Southwest from Chicago Midway to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic:
The Food: Peanuts and pretzels are still among the snacks served for free, and during our four and a half-hour flight they threw in some other choices too -- cheese sandwich crackers, packets of vanilla cookies and Chex mix. But here's the beauty. The flight attendants didn't just ask us to choose one. No! They displayed the basket full of goodies in front of each person and encouraged grabbing several.
And then they repeated this process three times during the flight. Some people were kind of
greedy hungry but the flight attendants just smiled politely. There was nothing available for sale but if you've tried some of those over-priced snack boxes on other airlines perhaps you, like us, consider that a good thing.
Flight Reviews / PEOPLExpress / PHF / Williamsburg Travel / BOS / Budget Travel / LCCs / Virginia Travel / → All Tags
Newport News-based budget airline PEOPLExpress flew for only three months in the middle of 2014, and was itself a re-launch of a 1980s airline. They abruptly ceased operations on September 26, and were finally evicted from Newport News Airport in late November. We booked a ticket and flew with them from Boston to Newport News and back before that untimely end, and this is the flight review we wrote at that time.
PEOPLExpress. What it sounds like: A new social media network for Adderall fans. What it is: An ‘80s-born, revived low-cost airline brand that launched direct flights between Boston’s Logan International Airport and Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, where the company is based. In September we scored a sale fare of $39 (inclusive tax and fees) each way; the standard fee was $79.
There’s certain poignancy to connecting Boston and Williamsburg, Virginia. Boston is, after all, where the American Revolution began. (Shot heard ‘round the world, and all.) And it’s down in the so-dubbed “Historic Triangle” of Virginia, which is anchored by Williamsburg, where the war wrapped up: Specifically at neighboring Yorktown Battlefield, where we kicked British booty and finally got them to surrender. #MURRICA.
Flight Reviews / Vienna Travel / Zurich Travel / Austria Travel / Air Berlin / flyNIKI / NIKI / VIE / ZRH / Europe Travel / Oneworld / → All Tags
What can you expect of an airline started by a race car driver? If you're flying NIKI, you'd never guess that this small Austrian airline of A321s, A320s, and E190s only began in 2003, by Grand Prix legend Niki Lauda. It's now a subsidiary of Air Berlin and partner with Etihad, operating out of Vienna International Airport to cities around Europe.
Our recent flyNIKI flights weren't something we chose, but were chosen for us as part of booking a normal American Airlines ticket to Vienna. You see, American doesn't fly to Vienna, and so have enlisted another Oneworld partner to fly the portion they can't. In our case, we flew AA from New York nonstop to Zurich, and then flyNIKI from Zurich to Vienna and back.
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"OMG, you're going to have such a great time" isn't the typical response to someone saying they're about to spend over 14 hours on a plane...in Economy.
Alack and alas, we find ourselves reacting in this way when said travel involves flying Cathay Pacific.
Since Cathay Pacific is based in Hong Kong, a "Special Administrative Region" under China and only 426 square miles in size, it has no domestic flights. Every flight from Hong Kong International Airport is truly international, and thus Cathay is an airline completely equipped for long-haul travel, with a fleet of all wide-body aircraft. On top of that, Cathay only introduced their new Economy seats in 2012, so the interiors aren't as tired as you may have come to expect from long-haul aircraft.
While other airlines may offer some of these perks, it's Cathay's particular ratio of comfort to friendliness that may help travelers be least anxious about spending a 14-16 hour nonstop in coach.
How Cathay Pacific makes Economy Class special: