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BOOKED: Singapore New Suites & Business, China Eastern First, China Southern Business

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With 2018 right around the corner, I spent the past several days finalizing some trips that have been in the works for a while. After all, I want to make sure I start 2018 off right in terms of the products I review. I just finalized my latest trip that includes travel in China Southern business class, Singapore’s new A380 business class, Singapore’s new A380 Suites, and China Eastern’s 777 first class.

Here are the details:

The Singapore A380 tickets I already had booked

Singapore Airlines began offering their new A380 premium cabins between Singapore and Sydney as of December 18, 2017. They didn’t provide much notice in terms of introducing the product, as they only revealed the cabins in November. Prior to that they did drop some hints as to what the first routes with the new cabin would be, but that’s it.

When Singapore introduced these new products my concern was that they wouldn’t make any award seats available, as was the case when they first introduced their last generation of premium cabins over a decade ago. That’s why I tried to make some speculative bookings, especially given what reasonable award redeposit fees they have.

I booked two sets of these tickets — one for early February, and one for late March. While I wanted to try and review the new Singapore Suites earlier, this blog is largely about miles & points, and there’s certainly some pride I take in reviewing products using miles whenever feasible.

I redeemed 58,000 KrisFlyer miles to book Singapore to Sydney in Singapore’s new business class.

Then I redeemed 80,000 KrisFlyer miles to book Singapore’s new Suites from Sydney to Singapore.

For my second trip I booked the cabins the other way around, with Suites on the outbound and business on the return.

How I’m getting to Singapore

The above flights have been booked since August, though just in the past few days I’ve finalized how I’m getting to Singapore, so I wanted to share that in this post. I’ve reviewed most transpacific premium cabin products, and I’d say the two transpacific products that can be booked with miles that I most want to review are China Eastern first class and China Southern business class.

My top priority was China Eastern first class, given that it’s one of only a few international first class products I haven’t yet tried. The most practical way to book China Eastern first class between the US and Singapore is using Korean Air SkyPass miles — they charge 200,000 miles for a roundtrip first class, and one-way redemptions aren’t allowed. I transferred over the points from Chase Ultimate Rewards (transfers are instant), so this is a great use of points earned on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardInk Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, etc.

I managed to even get the flight between Shanghai and Singapore in first class (as it’s also operated by a 777-300ER), meaning that in one direction I could try China Eastern’s first class twice.

Since I primarily fly with the purpose of reviewing new products, there’s diminishing marginal return in the third and fourth flights in a given product. So I figured I might as well fly China Southern business class across the Pacific in the other direction, even if it’s a bit of a “waste,” since I’m paying the first class price for business class. Until recently you could redeem Korean Air miles for China Southern first class, though unfortunately that’s no longer possible.

Since Korean Air SkyPass only allows roundtrip redemptions on partner airlines, I paid the roundtrip first class price, which I’d still consider to be a good deal, given what I was getting. I had to book this award by phone, and the fees totaled about $250 roundtrip, which I thought was pretty decent.

As of now, the only international first class products I haven’t flown are Cathay Dragon (which I’m counting separately from Cathay Pacific), China Eastern, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air, and TAAG Angola. I’ve now booked flights in first class on Cathay Dragon and China Eastern, meaning I only have three airlines remaining to review in first class. I’m getting there!

Bottom line

I can’t wait to try Singapore’s new Suites & business class, and also to be able to check out two new products enroute to Singapore. I’ve had very interesting experiences in China Southern first class and China Eastern business class, so we’ll have to see how these flights compare. Between now and that trip I’ll be doing two other big trips, so stay tuned for the details of that, as I’m in the process of finalizing those tickets.

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What Are The Odds Of Air France Honoring Cheap First Class Fares?

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A few hours ago we saw Air France publish some incredible first class fares from Los Angeles and San Francisco to London. The fare was about $1,500 roundtrip, or you could book a one-way ticket for just under half the cost of a roundtrip. It goes without saying that this is an insane fare for what I consider to be the world’s best first class product.

At this point the fare seems to be dead, though it was around for a decent amount of time. The natural question now is what the odds are of Air France honoring these tickets. It goes without saying that this was a mistake fare. I suspect this was either intended to be a premium economy fare, or they simply left off a zero — one or the other.

I’ve already received several questions from readers asking whether the airline has to honor the fare, whether I think it will be honored, etc. Of course I hope these tickets are honored. I managed to book a few tickets, and this would easily get me to Delta Diamond status thanks to the number of Medallion Qualifying Dollars you earn for these fares.

Does Air France have to honor these tickets?

Back in the day the US Department of Transportation was strict in requiring airlines to honor mistake fares that touch US soil, though they changed their policy in 2015. This was part of a policy against post-purchase price increases. Originally the relevant part of the policy was as follows:

The Enforcement Office explained that if a consumer purchases a fare and receives confirmation of the purchase and the purchase appears on the consumer’s credit card statement and/or online account summary, then there has been a purchase whether or not it was a mistaken fare and the post purchase price prohibition in section 399.88 applies.

In 2015 that policy was updated as follows:

As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, the Enforcement Office will not enforce the requirement of section 399.88 with regard to mistaken fares occurring on or after the date of this notice so long as the airline or seller of air transportation: (1) demonstrates that the fare was a mistake fare; and (2) reimburses all consumers who purchased a mistaken fare ticket for any reasonable, actual, and verifiable out-of-pocket expenses that were made in reliance upon the ticket purchase, in addition to refunding the purchase price of the ticket. These expenses include, but are not limited to, non-refundable hotel reservations, destination tour packages or activities, cancellation fees for non-refundable connecting air travel and visa or other international travel fees. The airline may ask the consumer requesting out-of-pocket expenses to provide evidence (i.e. receipts or proof of cancellations) of actual costs incurred by the consumer. In essence, the airline or seller of air transportation is required to make the consumer “whole” by restoring the consumer to the position he or she was in prior to the purchase of the mistaken fare.

In other words, if you book a mistake fare and it touches US soil, the airline does have to reimburse you for any verifiable out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of reliance on the fare. Now, while that’s what they’re supposed to do, they may not make it easy, and you may even have to take the airline to court… and that might not be worth it, especially when we’re just talking about non-refundable expenses.

I’ve actually never heard a firsthand report of someone going after airlines under these rules, so at some point that in and of itself may make an interesting story.

What are the odds that Air France honors?

Personally I think it’s highly unlikely that Air France honors these fares. Air France is known for trying to keep their first class elusive, to the point that it’s only available on miles if you’re an elite member in their own FlyingBlue program, and then you still have to pay the insanely high “flex” mileage cost.

On top of that, keep in mind that Air France has pretty small first class cabins — their 777s have just four first class seats, while their A380s have nine first class seats.

So I think the odds are slim. I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see them honoring the tickets.

Aren’t you just wasting everyone’s time?

I shared my philosophy on this in a post back in October. The reality is that airlines do honor mistake fares a surprising amount of the time, even if they are obvious mistakes. Earlier this year ANA honored $700 roundtrip business class tickets between Vancouver and Sydney, while Qatar Airways honored super cheap business class tickets from Vietnam to just about everywhere in the world.

Those were obvious mistake fares, yet they still honored. To take it a step further, Qatar Airways is generally one of the most arrogant airlines out there and unilaterally does whatever the heck they want, so I’m sort of shocked they honored those fares.

There’s always the risk of wasting your time when you get involved with these mistake fares, but personally I love the rush of booking them, and enjoy seeing what happens. If you’re not patient (or book same day travel, when you have the best odds of the tickets being honored), chances are good you may be disappointed.

Bottom line

All that’s left to do now is wait and see what happens. Hopefully Air France honors these incredible first class fares, which were obviously a mistake. If they choose not to honor, I hope they communicate with passengers quickly and transparently. To those who booked, at this point just be patient, as it’s all you can do.

Anyone more optimistic about Air France honoring these fares?

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My Incredible Week Visiting Israel

 


It’s not often that I write about destinations, though since I spent a week on the ground in Israel I wanted to briefly share my thoughts. This is easily one of the most incredible trips I’ve taken, and I’m so fortunate to have been able to share the experience with both of my parents. You never know how many more opportunities you’ll have to travel with loved ones, so this is a memory I’ll always cherish.

So here are some general thoughts, in no particular order:

Israel is a hot topic

Before I talk too much about our time on the ground, I’ve already had several people email and message me urging not to write about Israel. I understand a lot of people have a lot of strong opinions on Israel, and just as I’ve had good things to say about the UAE, etc., (and I’ve been called a lot of names for that), I have a lot of positive things to say about Israel. So I understand most of you won’t agree with all of my opinions, and that’s fine.

I let my mom plan the entire time on the ground

I ended up taking this trip with my mom because it has always been her dream to visit Israel. She was really excited about the planning process, and for my own sanity I encouraged her to take charge of that, while I’d take charge of the flights and hotels. She spent hours a day planning the trip for our time leading up to our departure, and I knew it wouldn’t end well if I tried to meddle.

What this also meant is that I did a lot more sightseeing than I’d traditionally do. I’m lucky to be able to work from anywhere in the world, though the flip side of that is that I also work just about every day. Go figure my mom scheduled us for about 12 hours of sightseeing per day. So I’m very proud of what we saw, though I was way behind on work by the end of the trip.

What I didn’t connect with in Israel

When I was in Israel I quickly discovered that a vast majority of the tourists there were visiting for religious reasons (primarily Christians and Jews). For the record, I’m agnostic (or something) while my mom is Christian. Since I left the planning to her, we spent the first three days in Israel touring all kinds of religious sites.

I respect that this is incredibly meaningful to some people, though as a skeptic and someone who isn’t religious, there were some things I struggled with a bit. “Hmmmmm, so is there actually evidence that Jesus walked through this field, or…?”

So I did all the religious sites with my mom for the first few days, and I was drained and frustrated by the end of it. I understand religion is important to many people, but the amount of pushing and shoving and crowded spaces and crying was all a bit much for me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s worth seeing the highlights. For example, I found the Western Wall to be moving. It’s just that to me there’s a diminishing marginal return on seeing some of the more obscure sights.

Why Israel is incredible

While the religious sites weren’t really my cup of tea, the next three days we toured the historic sites of Israel. While Israel is popular with religious tourists, the next three days made me realize how underrated of a destination Israel is for those who just want to see an all around incredible country. Seriously, I thought I understood Israel’s “situation” pretty well before my visit, but after touring the country I feel like I have such a better understanding of the geopolitics, etc.

Israel is a stunningly gorgeous country. Even though it’s a tiny country, the amount and variety of natural beauty was nothing short of breathtaking. What’s even more amazing is the amount of history every corner of the country has. It’s one thing to be able to see a beautiful mountain or the desert or the sea, but I was blown away by the combination of history and natural beauty.

From Masada…

To the Dead Sea…

To Wadi Qelt…

To Jaffa…

To Golan Heights and the border with Syria…

To a Kibbutz (which impressed me a lot more than I was expecting)..

To Jerusalem’s Old City…

To Palestine…

The crazy part is that we did so much sightseeing around the country that we ended up having only one evening to explore Tel Aviv, which was a shame, since I think the city in and of itself is worth a visit.

From the restaurants to the bars to the general energy of the city to the most amazing food stall place I’ve ever seen, I was sad I didn’t have more time in the city.

The people & the food

The food in Israel was probably among the best I’ve had anywhere in the world. My biggest regret with this trip is that we didn’t have more time to visit restaurants, given how much touring we did. However, the food I did have was exceptionally good across the board.

Then there’s the people of Israel. It’s tough to put exactly into words what makes Israelis special. They’re not like Fijians or Balinese, in the sense that they’re not outwardly the friendliest people on earth. However, there’s something collectively inspiring about everyone I spoke to in Israel. I just felt like they had such a positive approach to life, were easygoing, etc. I don’t know, it’s tough to put into words.

Did I feel safe visiting Israel?

As a tourist I felt incredibly safe. Two things were most obvious as a tourist:

  • There’s very little petty crime, so it’s safe to walk just about anywhere anytime
  • Since joining the military is compulsory, it’s insane the number of people you see walking around, sitting in restaurants, sitting in parks, etc., with machine guns; at first it was a bit jarring, but I pretty quickly got used to it

But yes, as a tourist I felt incredibly safe. Your mileage may vary.

Our amazing tour guide

For our last three days in Israel my mom had hired a tour guide. I don’t know how she found him, but she did a damn good job. I’m not really a people person, so it’s not often that I wholeheartedly recommend someone. However, I can’t say enough positive things about our guide, Michel Kahn.

There are great tour guides, and then there are all around great people who are just fun to be around, and he was both. Michel was incredible on so many levels:

  • He pushed us so hard to see more, and I appreciate that; there were times where I wanted to just go back to the hotel, but he told us “no, you have to see ________ still.”
  • The way he treated my parents, and in particular the way he balanced all of our sightseeing desires, was nothing short of a miracle; he has the patience of a saint
  • His scheduling was incredible; on our last day we had reservations at different places at 9AM, 11AM, 1PM, and 3PM, and somehow we showed up at each place within five minutes of the start time, despite us never feeling rush
  • There are tour guides who endlessly share facts that and don’t have a sense of when people are interested in hearing things or not, but Michel tailored his commentary perfectly
  • Michel is hilarious

So if you’re in Israel, do yourself a favor and hire Michel. I’ve never in my life had a tour guide I’d recommend so much. You can visit his Facebook page and email him at followmichel@gmail.com. He’ll pick you up at your hotel in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and show you around all day. Give him a general sense of what you want and let him handle the rest, because he really exceeded our expectations. If you do use him, please send him my regards and gratitude for how well he took care of us (hopefully it’s obvious, but I’m not being paid anything for saying this — I just really liked him).

Bottom line

This was an indescribably special trip for my family. This is a memory I’ll never forget having with my parents, and I’m even more excited to return to Israel now and see more of Tel Aviv, etc. However, as I was told before I visited, Israel is really a country where you have to get out of the big cities. Between the amazing historical sites, great food, etc., Israel has to be one of the most underrated tourist destinations out there. I can’t recommend it enough.

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Fairmont President’s Club Is Being Discontinued In July 2018

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In late 2015 it was announced that Accor would be acquiring Fairmont, Raffles, And Swissôtel. Accor was interested in acquiring these brands as it would help them increase their footprint in the luxury market, which is an area where Accor historically hasn’t been strong.

Up until now, Le Club Accor and Fairmont President’s Club have been run as separate programs, though we’ve known that eventually the programs will be merged. We now know when that will be happening. It will be business as usual for Fairmont President’s Club through July 1, 2018, and membership will renew as usual on March 1, 2018, based on qualifying activity in 2017. At that point members will receive their annual e-certificates, valid through February 28, 2019.

Then Fairmont President’s Club will be discontinued as of July 2, 2018. At that point, status will be matches to the Le Club Accor program, as follows:

Meanwhile if you have status with both programs, your status will be upgraded as follows:

I’m not a huge fan of the Le Club Accor program, as you basically earn rewards in the form of vouchers that you can use towards stays.

For example, members earn the following number of points for stays at luxury hotels:

  • Classic members earn 25 points per €10
  • Silver members earn 31 points per €10
  • Gold members earn 37 points per €10
  • Platinum members earn 44 points per €10

Then you can redeem 2,000 points for a €40 voucher. In other words, a Classic member would have to spend €800 for a €40 voucher, while a Platinum member would have to spend ~€450 for a €40 voucher.

Accor also doesn’t offer much in the way of guaranteed elite benefits. You get a lot of benefits (upgrades, late check-out, etc.) subject to availability, which is very different than Fairmont, which offered guaranteed upgrades (when using vouchers), etc.

 

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Free Gogo Passes & Other Gifts For Google Fi Subscribers

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Like last year, Google’s Project Fi phone service is giving out holiday gifts to subscribers. In many cases these are Gogo wifi passes, so it’s worth taking a few moments to collect yours.

Some people have received an email from Project Fi (the subject is “Here’s a holiday treat from your friends at Project Fi”), but even if you don’t receive the email directly you can participate.

To get your gift, log in to your Google account (you may need to use Chrome) and open up Project Fi’s Holiday With Google.

Thoughtfully, Project Fi is allowing you to skip the holiday game this year. Which you may want to do, because it’s not even as fun as the Chrome Tyrannosaurus spacebar game.

It’s an easy game though, where you just use your arrow keys to move a little skier down the page. I intentionally crashed into a barrier after about 45 seconds of boredom, but I suppose it’s possible that the game gets more interesting as you progress.

Once you either end the game (or if you’ve skipped ahead), you’ll be given your gift. Everyone I’ve talked to has received a wifi pass, but please share in the comments if you get something different:

The gift will be emailed to you as well, which helps keep things organized. And I don’t see anything in the terms to suggest otherwise, so I believe these passes will work on Gogo-equipped international flights as well.

So if you have Project Fi, might as well take a minute to pick up your gift, as we don’t know when this promotion will end, or if quantities are limited, etc.

(Tip of the hat to Jimmy)


 

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Two Days Only: JetBlue Is Offering 15% Off Flights

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At the moment JetBlue has a 15% off sale. This promotion is valid for bookings through 11:59PM ET tomorrow, Wednesday, December 13, 2017, and has the following restrictions:

  • You must use promotion code RECESS
  • The 20% off applies only to the base fare, and not taxes and fees
  • Valid for travel between January 10 and February 14, 2017, and February 26 an March 14, 2018
  • Excludes travel on Fridays and Sundays
  • Not valid on previous bookings

The promotion is only valid for flights (and not vacation packages, etc.), and unfortunately flights in JetBlue’s excellent Mint cabin are excluded.

JetBlue has a revenue based frequent flyer program, meaning that the number of points required for a redemption is correlated directly to the cost of a revenue ticket. However, since a promotion code is required to take advantage of this promotion, award flights wouldn’t be discounted. That’s because award prices are based on the published, public costs, and don’t factor in any promotions.

 

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Malaysia Airlines Backtracks, Won’t Retire A380s After All

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Malaysia Airlines really is all over the place. The airline is on their third CEO in three years (Mueller was there from May 2015 through June 2016, Bellew was there until October 2017, and now Captain Izham Ismail is the new CEO), and it seems like the airline is having yet another change in strategy.

Malaysia Airlines is just now starting service with their brand new Airbus A350. By next year the airline will have six A350s in their fleet, and their plan was to use these to replace their A380s, which just offered too much capacity for the airline. Initially Malaysia Airlines was hoping to sell their A380s, though due to the lack of interest they had to shelve plans for that. Then their plan was to use their six A380s to create a sister business, where they’d wet lease A380s to other carriers on a short term basis, and possibly also use A380s for some Hajj and Umrah charters.

Well, I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Malaysia Airlines has a new plan for their A380s. AusBT notes that Malaysia Airlines now plans to keep all six A380s in their fleet, and use them to add capacity to various destinations during peak season.

For example, even though all of Malaysia’s flights between Kuala Lumpur and London were expected to be operated by A350s as of March, Malaysia Airlines has now scheduled the A380 on the route (specifically, flights MH2/MH3) between July 20 and September 3, 2018.

Apparently we can also expect to see the A380 flying to Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, and Melbourne. For flights where the A380 is replacing the A350, you can expect that they’ll sell first class as usual (the A380 has twice as many first class seats as the A350). However, for other routes the plan is apparently to just seat oneworld Emerald & Sapphire members in the first class cabin, and sell it as a two cabin plane. I suspect that like everything else at Malaysia Airlines, that remains subject to change.

Malaysia’s A380 first class

This actually represents a significant downgrade for business class passengers. While A330s and A350s feature fully flat staggered seats, the A380s feature fully flat forward facing seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. Apparently Malaysia Airlines is considering whether it makes sense to retrofit A380s with these new business class seats as well.

Malaysia’s new business class

Malaysia’s A380 business class

Malaysia Airlines’ lack of vision here is concerning. The airline has been saying for a long time that they plan to fly the A350 to London because it offers the right capacity, and now they’re starting to backtrack on that. Will Malaysia really only fly the A380 to London seasonally? It’s my understanding that this is the route that has way more demand than any other Malaysia route, so if they don’t keep the A380s on London, is there another route where it could even make season, even if just during peak season?

The A380 has about double the capacity of an A330, so doing a seasonal upgrade on other routes is a questionable move.

Interestingly both of Malaysia Airlines’ two previous CEOs were foreigners who were both hired to try and turn the airline around and make tough decisions, Malaysia’s new CEO is a local and a veteran Malaysia Airlines employee. As I said when he was appointed:

What’s interesting here is that they’re appointing someone to the position who is both a local and has also spent their entire career at the airline. This could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. On the plus side, chances are he’ll have an easier time getting employees to rally behind him, given he has dedicated his life to the airline, and they’ll also view him as one of “them.”

But on the other hand, Malaysia Airlines has had so many issues with corruption and mismanagement, so you’re not really getting an outside perspective here. While a CEO coming from the outside who is tasked with turning around an airline might be willing to make tough decisions and go against other parts of the management team, someone who has spent their entire career at the airline might not be willing to make such bold decisions.

I can imagine that a lifelong employee and local would be much more likely to have the goal of making the airline as big as possible, creating as many jobs as possible, maintaining the legacy of the airline, etc., rather than showing discipline and making tough decisions.

Clearly market conditions haven’t changed overnight, so one has to wonder what Malaysia Airlines is thinking here.

What do you make of Malaysia Airlines’ decision to keep their A380s?

 

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Review: Singapore Changi New Terminal 4 Arrivals Process

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Late last month, I flew Cathay Pacific from Tokyo to Singapore via Hong Kong. I was surprised by how fantastic my two flights were. The best part was the crew, who were among the best I’ve ever had on both flights. After arriving at Changi’s new Terminal 4, I snapped a quick picture with one of the Singapore-based crew on my flight.

Then, I headed toward immigration. For some reason, I didn’t think to take pictures until I arrived at the immigration hall, so I compiled a video of footage going from the aircraft to arrivals.

Surprisingly, Terminal 4 is mostly intended for low-cost airlines. The majority of the gates were occupied by AirAsia or Cebu Pacific. The four gates at the far end of the terminal house wide-body aircraft, so that is where Cathay Pacific and Korean Air usually park.

The walk didn’t feel too long, though. As you can see in the video, the ceiling lights have this cool effect where you only see them from a short distance. There are plants along the side of the terminal, and restrooms at several points along the walk.

I didn’t react to how incredible the terminal was until I took the escalator down to the immigration hall.

Live trees are dispersed throughout the terminal. There are stunning geometric shapes hanging from the glass ceiling, allowing natural light to brighten the hall. The immigration desks look more like airline check-in desks, as you can see straight ahead in the picture.

Above the desks for Singaporean passport holders, there is a beautiful arrival sign.

There were no lines for immigration, despite the busy arrival time, and I was through in less than a minute. After walking past a duty-free store, I was in the baggage claim area.

It’s a shame the ceiling is so low, which makes baggage claim look a lot less special than the rest of the terminal. However, the inner wall sets it apart.

I wouldn’t mind taking a seat and waiting for my bags here. This is how to do airport arrivals – and talk about a good welcome to Singapore!

The wall between baggage claim and the public area is made of glass. This means you can see through it and identify/wave to your friends and family before you’ve even collected your bag. And, the terminal is equally beautiful once you clear customs.

Bottom Line

Singapore Changi’s new Terminal 4 has the best arrival process I have ever experienced. The terminal is beyond stunning, wait times are short and the vegetation is invigorating after spending hours and hours in-flight.

Have you been to the new Terminal 4 yet? 

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French Blue Flying From Paris To San Francisco To Tahiti In 2018

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French Blue is a small French low cost carrier that operates longhaul flights using their fleet of one A330 and one A350. Up until now they haven’t flown to the US, though that will be changing as of next year, sort of.

French Blue will be operating 2x weekly flights between Paris Orly and Papeete as of May 11, 2018, and the flight will route via San Francisco. The flight will be operated by an Airbus A350-900, with the following schedule, per @airlineroute:

BF710 Paris Orly to San Francisco departing 7:15PM arriving 9:25PM

BF710 San Francisco to Papeete departing 11:55PM arriving 5:15AM (+1 day)

BF711 Papeete to San Francisco departing 7:30AM arriving 6:30PM

BF711 San Francisco to Paris Orly departing 8:45PM arriving 4:20PM (+1 day)

As you can see, there’s a layover of over two hours in each direction, which is because passengers will have to clear immigration in the US — unfortunately the US doesn’t offer sterile transit.

The catch for the time being is that the stop in San Francisco is strictly a technical stop, so French Blue doesn’t have the authority to sell tickets exclusively between Paris and San Francisco, or between San Francisco and Tahiti. However, that’s expected to change very soon, as the airline is working on getting approval from the DOT.

This is a very long journey, and French Blue has among the densest A350 configurations so far. French Blue’s A350 has a total of 411 seats, including 376 economy seats (in a 3-4-3 layout — that’s right, they went 10 abreast rather than nine abreast), plus 35 premium economy seats in a 2-3-2 layout.

The flight is blocked at 22 hours westbound and 20hr50min eastbound. French Blue is ultra low cost, so you have to pay for food, drinks, etc. I sort of feel like a 22 hour flight on an A350 that’s in a 3-4-3 configuration with no free food or drinks might just be the world’s most uncomfortable flight?

On the plus side, French Blue does have what they call Premium Class, which looks more competitive. It comes with free food, drinks, etc., so I imagine that could be a good value.

As it stands, Air France and Air Tahiti Nui already both operate flights from Paris to Tahiti, though they route via Los Angeles. As a result, the only two options between the US mainland and Tahiti are on those two airlines, and fares tend to be high, despite the flight not being that long.

Here’s to hoping that French Blue gets authority from the DOT to sell tickets to & from San Francisco soon. Not only would it probably help lower fares to/from Tahiti, but it’ll also be nice to have another US gateway offering flights to Tahiti. Besides, I think flying economy on this particular A350 is a lot more manageable on a single nine hour flight, rather than on a 22 hour journey.

There have also been rumors of United adding flights between San Francisco and Tahiti as of September 2018, though I remain skeptical…

 

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Eurowings Is Introducing A Real Business Class Product

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Given the competition from the likes of Norwegian and WOW Air, many major European airlines have new ultra low cost carriers, which are expanding rapidly:

  • IAG, the parent company of British Airways, has LEVEL, which operates a fleet of A330s from Barcelona and soon also from Paris
  • Lufthansa has Eurowings, which has been expanding most quickly, and operates both shorthaul and longhaul flights; Eurowings has grown even more than initially expected lately, due to airberlin going out of business
  • Air France’s latest venture is JOON, which isn’t really a traditional low cost carrier, but rather is marketed at millennials, and seems to be a way for them to keep their staffing costs down, as cabin crew are on lower pay scales

Eurowings has grown significantly lately, and now has a fleet of almost 90 planes, consisting of Bombardier Q400s, A319s/A320s, and A330s, which they use for longhaul flights.

Eurowings’ A330s feature a total of 310 seats, including 21 premium economy seats and 289 economy seats. It looks like Eurowings will soon be changing their business model a bit, per a hint they dropped on Twitter this morning:

Something new is coming up! Can you guess? Stay tuned for more!

Okay, this doesn’t exactly leave much to the imagination. It would appear that Eurowings is installing a proper business class cabin on their A330s, as the seats pictured are identical to Lufthansa’s current business class seats.

While Eurowings initially only flew leisure routes, the airline is now taking over some airberlin routes, including Dusseldorf to New York and Dusseldorf to Miami, and clearly there’s some demand there for a business class cabin.

At the same time, I can’t help but feel like at some point all these airlines blend together. If you’re going to go out of your way to create an ultra low cost carrier, you’d think you’d stick to that, rather than adding the same business class you have in the rest of your fleet. But if nothing else it seems that ultra low cost carriers are worthwhile in terms of lower labor costs.

We’ll have to wait to learn the full details of Eurowings’ new business class, as they haven’t revealed all the details yet. I’m curious what we can expect in terms of onboard service, what the timeline is for these planes being reconfigured, and whether all A330s are getting business class, or just some.