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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Continue reading “Plaza Premium Siem Reap Lounge Review”
A few days before we were set to arrive in Siem Reap, we received an email from the management of the Aviary Hotel with some exciting news: they were arranging a complimentary airport transfer for us. Seeing that we landed just as the daily monsoon was rolling in, we were really happy that we didn’t have to find our own way to the property. The driver who met us in the arrivals hall was a hotel employee, and he was kind and welcoming. He took our bags and offered us bottled water and cold towels… all before we settled into the van! In hindsight, we shouldn’t have been so surprised by the high standards of service; such hospitality is the norm, not the exception, at the Aviary.
My father and I landed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport at around 11pm, capping off a whopping 33 hours of nonstop transit time. I love flying, but United Economy class gets old after a while… It was time to go to bed for a long time. The Okura proved to be a worthy place to do just that!
After our exhausting 13 hour flight from Washington, my father and I were eager to visit the United Club at Tokyo Narita for some food, some drinks, and some showers. We made our way from our arrival gate, 36, to the transfer desk to collect boarding passes for the next leg. We were directed to clear security again, but thankfully, the lines were short and the officers were efficient. Soon enough, we were on our way down an escalator, and at the bottom of it, we found ourselves in front of the entrance to the United Club. Continue reading “Tokyo Narita United Club Review”