A crew member, as is typical on international flights, offered landing cards and customs declaration forms during our final approach in to London. She strolled through a second time shortly thereafter, but now presenting pamphlets informing premium passengers of access to expedited immigration and a (mysterious) arrivals lounge. I was eager for the former — Heathrow is notorious for its long waits early in the morning — and curious about the latter. Because there wasn’t a lot of available information, the cynic in me expected a lame continental breakfast stuffed in to a closet. That would’ve been better than nothing… but man, this was even better than something!
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.
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.
Singapore is a modern day city-state, and despite being no more than a tiny island at the tip of Malaysia, it is home to one of the world’s premiere airlines. With help from its centrally located hub, Singapore Airlines connects passengers to and from every inhabited continent. It is efficient in its operations, and is considered to be the second largest carrier in the world, as measured by market capitalization. Continue reading “Airline Guide: Singapore Airlines”
Despite enduring significant financial troubles throughout the 2000s — it entered bankruptcy once and had another close call later on — Air Canada has since rebounded and is currently in the middle of a renaissance. With brand new planes, kind service, and a decent loyalty program, Canada’s flag carrier is far and away the best North American legacy carrier. Continue reading “Airline Guide: Air Canada”
Alliances play huge roles in higher flying, and in order to really elevate your travels, it’s best to understand how they operate and shape the industry. The strategic partnerships formed between airlines all over the world create unique opportunities and easily allow passengers to go to places in ways that would otherwise be much more difficult and/or expensive. Despite how useful alliances can be, they’re not particularly easy to understand, and I often get a number of questions about their basic functions. To help clear up some confusion, here’s a list of FAQs!
For higher flyers, United Airlines arguably offers the greatest potential for enhancing your travel experiences and flying higher. Not only is it the best among the Big 3, it’s also one of the best in the world. Continue reading “Airline Guide: United Airlines”