Initial Thoughts On China Eastern’s 777 Business Class

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I just got off my first ever China Eastern flight, and figured I’d share my initial thoughts about the flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai (other than the fact that the crew was smoking throughout the flight).

Prior to taking this flight I was optimistic about China Eastern. I recently flew China Airlines and was very pleasantly surprised, though I realize they’re Taiwan based (though both airlines are in SkyTeam with similar hard products). Furthermore, my last flight on a mainland Chinese carrier was on Hainan, which was excellent for the most part — the crew was friendly and the service was great.

While I knew China Eastern had a bad reputation, I figured maybe they were trying to turn that around. They’ve invested in gorgeous new 777-300ER aircraft, so with the amount they’re spending on the hard product, presumably they want to impress with the soft product as well, right? Wrong…

China Eastern has reverse herringbone seats in business class, which I consider to be among the best hard products out there. So they get high marks for that.

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Review: Hyatt Regency Toronto

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Late last week I spent a couple of nights in Toronto, which was planned fairly last minute. Hotels were outrageously priced, most going for $500+ per night.

During my previous trip to Toronto I stayed at the Park Hyatt, where I got the hotel’s one renovated room. Otherwise I’ve heard the rooms are past their prime, and not really up to Park Hyatt standards. However, all rooms should be renovated pretty soon.

This time around I decided to try the other Hyatt option in Toronto, the Hyatt Regency.

Why? Because while all other hotels were outrageously priced, the Hyatt Regency was available using a Points + Cash rate. Since this is a Category 4 property, a redemption cost just 6,000 points plus 75USD per night. That’s a much better deal than outright spending 12,000 points, since I’d basically be saving 6,000 points per night for 75USD, plus I’d be earning elite night and stay credits, which I wouldn’t earn for an outright points redemption.

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We Tried To Call Out Our Flight Crew For Smoking…

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Hello from Shanghai! Matthew and I just flew China Eastern from Los Angeles to Shanghai, and as I wrote about several hours ago, every 15-20 minutes a strong cigarette smoke odor filled the cabin. We did some investigating throughout the flight, and never actually saw anyone smoking, which leads us to believe the smoking was going on in the cockpit, and the smell circulated throughout the plane.

Upon writing about it, it seems that this is actually very common on Chinese airlines. I’ve flown Chinese airlines quite a bit and never noticed it, though several commenters mentioned they have experienced the same.

We wanted to do a bit of digging, more out of curiosity than anything else. So Matthew and I strategized for a bit, and he came up with a good idea. We wanted to see if we could get the crew to admit that someone was smoking, because we found their complete denial of there even being an odor to be so strange (it’s one thing if they agreed they smelled the odor but said it wasn’t them, but they denied the existence of the odor altogether…).

Matthew asked one of the flight attendants to call the cabin manager. She sort of refused, and asked what the problem was. When Matthew explained the smoking situation, she said “oh, you want to smoke?”

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Air France Cabin Crew Are Starting A Week-Long Strike

Air-France-A380

It’s a day that ends in “y,” which means European aviation is experiencing a major strike.

This time around it’s the Air France cabin crew on strike, and it’s expected to last a week. The dispute is over their new contract, which is supposed to kick in as of November 2016.

Air France flight attendants will be on strike from July 27 through August 2, 2016.

You can find the full details of Air France’s strike on this webpage, which will be updated with the most up to date flight cancellation details. Here’s how Air France describes the strike as of now:

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Emirates Will Soon Fly The A380 To Johannesburg

Emirates-Shower

Emirates is by far the world’s largest operator of the A380 (they have almost half of the world’s A380s on order), so their threshold for sending an A380 to a destination is much lower than at some other carriers, which have to be much more selective.

That’s why I’ve always found it odd that Emirates doesn’t fly the A380 to Johannesburg, given that Air France, British Airways, and Lufthansa do. You’d think it’s a pretty big market for Emirates, given that they have four daily flights. But I guess that frequency is more important than aircraft type to them, given that they exclusively use 777-300ERs on the route.

That’s about to change. It has just been announced that Emirates will begin flying the A380 between Dubai and Johannesburg as of February 1, 2017 for one of their daily flights.

Specifically, Emirates will operate an A380 for the following daily flight:

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Malaysia Airlines Deactivates Their Reactivated Deactivated 747

Malaysia-747

As I first wrote about in March, a few months back struggling Malaysia Airlines brought a 747-400 back into service. Malaysia Airlines used to have a fleet of Boeing 747s, which they retired in 2012. This coincided with the airline taking delivery of their six Airbus A380 aircraft, which they used primarily for their London and Paris routes.

Following the terrible tragedies of MH370 and MH17, Malaysia Airlines has been forced to restructure and downsize, and as part of that they’ve retired their entire 777 fleet.

That means the only plane which Malaysia Airlines can still operate to many points in Europe is the A380. As of now, Malaysia Airlines just operates their A380s on their two daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and London Heathrow (I’ve reviewed the route in first class from both London to Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur to London).

Over the summer these planes started going through maintenance checks, and someone at Malaysia decided it would make sense to bring back a single 747-400, in case they needed a spare plane.

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Live From 34,000 Feet: Someone Keeps Smoking On My China Eastern Flight

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Hello, live from a China Eastern flight enroute from Los Angeles to Shanghai. I’ll have more thoughts on the flight once I land, given that the wifi is super slow. Suffice to say that China Eastern has a great (though very bland) reverse herringbone hard product, and a soft product that gives China Southern a run for their money.

Despite the slow wifi, I have to share the most bizarre aspect of this flight.

Before flying China Eastern I had heard rumors that their crews will smoke inflight, though I always assumed that wasn’t the case, or was perhaps an isolated incident.

Well, after over four million flown miles, this is a first for me — the smell of cigarette smoke has filled the cabin no fewer than a dozen times over the past five hours of my China Eastern flight.

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Here Goes One Of My Craziest Trips Yet!

Crazy-Trip

One of the main reasons I travel is to review new airlines, which is why many of my trips are quick and have crazy routings.

However, I think this might just be one of my craziest trips yet. Over the course of the next week I’ll be flying:

— China Eastern business class from Los Angeles to Shanghai to Colombo (70,000 Delta SkyMiles)
— Royal Air Maroc and Qatar Airways business class from Colombo to Doha to Casablanca and back (~$620 fare)
— Saudia business class from Colombo to Jeddah to Manchester (~$700)
— Pakistan business class from Manchester to New York (~$900)
— JetBlue Mint Class from New York to Los Angeles (~$600 fare)

That’s over 33,000 flown miles over the course of seven days.

So not only is this trip rather crazy in terms of the airlines I’m flying, but it’s also crazy in terms of the quantity of flying, especially since about half that trip is being done without spending a night in a hotel.

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Why It’s Worth Being Picked Up At The Airport In A Hotel Car

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For cities without good public transportation, one of my biggest frustrations is getting from the airport to the hotel. Maybe I just have horrible luck, but I seem to consistently have issues with this. From drivers nearly falling asleep on me, to drivers getting lost (even in a city with supposedly the most competent cabbies), to drivers claiming I damaged their car, to drivers refusing to take me to my desired destination, to drivers taking me the long way, it seems that more often than not getting from the airport to the hotel is an adventure.

While I generally have good luck using Uber to get from my hotel to the airport, I find it a bit tougher the other way around, since it’s often challenging to arrange an airport meeting point in a country where the driver doesn’t speak any English (and where I don’t speak their language). It’s easy if you enter a hotel as an origin, but not so easy when you enter an international airport with several arrivals areas.

With that in mind, lately I’ve started using hotel cars for getting from the airport to the hotel, at least in countries where most people don’t speak English. I’ve found it to be extremely worthwhile. Why?

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Rumor: Chase To Introduce Competitor To Amex Platinum & Citi Prestige

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In general the cards from three of the biggest US issuers — American Express, Chase, and Citi — match one another:

— Each has co-branded hotel and airline credit cards, which offer special perks
— Each has cards that accrue a transferrable points currency
— Each has cards that accrue bonus points in many categories and are among the best for everyday spend, with annual fees around ~$100

However, if you look at the card portfolios from issuers, you’ll notice there’s one area where Chase doesn’t compete.

There’s The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Citi Prestige Card, both of which are “premium” cards issued by American Express, and Citi, respectively:

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Emirates Permanently Downgrades Dallas Route From A380 To 777

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Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the A380, with 81 A380s already in their fleet, and a total of 142 A380s ordered. As a result, they’re not especially selective with the routes on which they deploy the plane, since it makes up almost half of their fleet.

As far as their US destinations go, Emirates operates A380s to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington Dulles.

For a while they also operated A380s to Houston and Dallas Ft. Worth, though earlier in the year both of those routes were downgraded to Boeing 777-300ERs.

This doesn’t really come as a surprise, given that the two times I took the Dallas to Dubai route it was almost completely empty. On one flight there were more cabin crew than passengers on the upper deck. This is probably a function of the amount of competition from Gulf carriers in Texas, and also decreased activity in the oil industry.

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One MAJOR Change To American’s Newly Reconfigured 777s

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Yesterday American quietly put a Boeing 777-200 into service with their newest business class product, featuring B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats. This caught me off guard, since I thought American’s Boeing 787-9 would be the first to feature American’s newest business class seats.

There are several things that I found strange about this:

— The 777-200 that American reconfigured with their newest business class seats was one that was only recently reconfigured withAmerican’s previous version of business class seats, rather than them reconfiguring a 777 with American’s oldest, angled business class seats
— American plans on installing premium economy on their 777s, so despite reconfiguring this 777, they didn’t add a premium economy cabin (that means it will have to be reconfigured yet again)

One of my biggest issues with American’s longhaul fleet is that there’s no consistency as there are so many varieties of their business class seat, and with this change there’s yet another configuration.

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American Adds More Checked Bag Fees On International Flights

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While free checked bags used to be the norm on domestic flights, that has changed over the past decade, and is now the exception rather than the norm. As a matter of fact, Southwest is the only major US carrier to not charge for checked bags anymore, and they market the hell out of it.

This has become a huge revenue opportunity for airlines for a variety of reasons. For one, the airlines want to keep their fares as low as possible at the time of ticketing as a way of getting people to book, as often people don’t factor checked bag fees in when they’re considering purchasing a ticket. Airlines even have an incentive to add checked bag fees rather than including them in the ticket cost, since they’re not subject to the typical federal excise tax that airfare is subject to.

While checked bag fees on international flights have also been added over the past several years, it has been a while since I’ve seen any changes on this front.

However, per the always awesome JonNYC, American is adding additional checked bag fees for travel to some destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America, including seasonal “surge pricing.” Here’s what JonNYC posted on FlyerTalk:

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Game Over: US Government Sides With Gulf Carriers In Open Skies Battle

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Since early last year there has been a huge battle between the “big three” US carriers (American, Delta, and United) and the “big three” Gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar) regarding their Open Skies agreement.

Essentially the US carriers have argued that the Gulf carriers aren’t competing fairly, given that they’re government subsidized.

While I see where they’re coming from in theory, the argument has always struck me as being especially convenient. There are tons of government subsidized airlines out there, so why single out these three carriers? Furthermore, should US carriers really be the ones to call other airlines out for government subsidies, when they’ve benefited from billions of dollars worth of subsidies over the years?

Anyway, there has been a ton of politicking on both sides. US carriers have made the argument that the Gulf carriers are stealing American jobs. Meanwhile on the Gulf side, Qatar’s CEO has lashed out against the US carriers (and especially Delta) endlessly.

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