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The Higher Flyer

United Airlines Polaris Business (Diamond Seat) Review

Until the new Polaris hard product makes its way on to United’s entire longhaul fleet, higher flyers will more-often-than-not be stuck in a forward cabin seat that’s past its prime. There’s the legacy United first class (really very nice for what it is) and the dormitory-styled seats in business class (nightmarish by all accounts), and then also Continental’s old premium offering. My outgoing leg to Europe featured that third alternative: a B/E Aerospace-designed “Diamond” seat that’s competitive in the crowded transatlantic market. Couple that with a much-improved soft product, and you have what amounts to a solid ride across the pond…although it isn’t without its faults either.

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A Weekend To Europe

A number of The Higher Flyer Consulting obligations had me jetting off from the East Coast to London on a Friday, taking the train to France on a Saturday, and then returning home on a Sunday. A weekend like that, in theory, sounds absolutely brutal… And, well, sitting down at my day job desk that Monday morning was a struggle. The trip was well worth it though, and thankfully, premium accommodations all the way through to the end made it all the better.

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United Airlines Polaris First Review

After our excellent flight in Thai’s Royal Silk, my father and I were eager to see how United’s Polaris First compared. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect when we were boarding; United has been rather transparent about its plans to ditch first class. The new, super-business Polaris is the future, and at the time of our flight, United was (and still is) awkwardly juggling the various premium cabins it has across its fleet. Would Polaris First be a comfortable way to travel, or would it be a forgotten flop of a product? Turns out we were in for a pleasant surprise, and our final flight to complete the Southeast Asian Summer Vacation trip was both a winner and an incredible value at only 80,000 MileagePlus miles… but it wasn’t without some glaring indications of the end of United’s first class. Be sure to enjoy it while you can!

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Thai Airways Royal Silk Review

As much as we enjoyed indulging in the Thai Royal First Lounge, my father and I had to leave rather quickly. Our departure gate, C10, was quite far away, and we nearly had to sprint just to get there in time. Out of breath and in a tizzy, we arrive to find the boarding area a jumbled mess. The ground crew was totally overwhelmed by a mass of economy class gate lice who were all swarming the business line. That chaotic scene wasn’t the best first impression, but we made it on the plane eventually, and settled in for what would develop into an exceptional regional flight.

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Thai Royal First Lounge Review

Finding the Royal First Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi was a bit of a challenge when we first arrived for our departing flight. While the airport is physically stunning,  actually navigating it is more problematic. It doesn’t help that everything is just so spread out. We entered the terminal at the wrong end, and had to walk what seemed like miles (it was actually a quarter mile, but still, that’s pretty far) until we finally found what we were looking for: the premium check in desk. It only got better — much, much better — from there.

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Airline Guide: Emirates

Introduction

The past two decades featured Emirates transforming from an ordinary regional carrier into one of the most iconic brands in the entire industry. While it’s headquartered in a tiny Middle Eastern country, the United Arab Emirates, everything else about the company is huge. Continue reading “Airline Guide: Emirates”

Plaza Premium Siem Reap Lounge Review

When it came time to return to Bangkok after visiting Siem Reap, we were preparing for another ordinary, unremarkable experience courtesy of AirAsia. We certainly weren’t expecting something luxurious during any part of the leg, and we didn’t anticipate anything more after we learned that there is a Priority Pass lounge at the Siem Reap airport. Discovering its existence was a pleasant surprise — we figured something is better than nothing — but we didn’t get our hopes up. “How good could a contract lounge at a regional airport in the middle of a jungle really be?” we thought to ourselves. Turns out, we were in for another surprise.
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Airline Guide: Air France/KLM

Introduction

While Air France and KLM are the respective flag-bearing carriers of France and the Netherlands, they merged together in 2004 to form one of the largest airlines in Europe. The partnership has been, by and large, hugely successful, although the travel experience is rather inconsistent. Continue reading “Airline Guide: Air France/KLM”

Airline Guide: British Airways

Introduction

At one point, British Airways was considered to be the carrier for higher flying. It was the first to debut lie flat seats in business class, its route map was one of the furthest reaching in the world, and its expansive, sprawling hub at London Heathrow airport was loaded with world-class amenities. The prestige and reputation BA earned as an industry leader in the beginning years of this millennium have regrettably since faded.

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