Last US Airways Star Alliance Award: What Product(s) Should I (we) Review?

Last year I ran a giveaway sponsored by American Airlines whereby a lucky reader got to join me on a free trip to Helsinki (to be clear, the prize was the trip to Helsinki, while having to endure my company for nearly three days was the unavoidable punishment).

Reader Andrew B submitted a hell of an entry for the contest and ended up winning based on your votes.

Now, the thought of going on a trip with someone I had only previously met in blog comments was mildly terrifying. Though I lucked out, because Andrew was awesome, and we had a lot in common (I’m boring and he’s into bored board games… kinda the same thing, right?). šŸ˜‰

Anyway, Andrew was in Seattle this past weekend visiting friends and we hung out for a couple of (intense) nights. Eventually we decided it might be fun to do a US Airways 90,000 mile business class award to North Asia together. Andrew has a bunch of US Airways miles he wants to redeem and I’m always looking to review new business class products, so I’m game. Especially now, since we only have a couple of weeks remaining to redeem US Airways miles for travel on Star Alliance carriers.

With that in mind, I agreed under the condition that Andrew will share his thoughts here, much as he did on our trip to Helsinki, since I find him to be pretty damn hilarious. So I’ll turn the “mic” over to him. We’ll go with whatever you guys decide (to the best of our ability).


Losing My North Asia Virginity: What Product(s) Should I Review?

Andrew B here again — the dude who got to go to Finland thanks to the power of internet memes.

So, here’s the deal. I’ve been loyal to US Airways for quite some time (primarily because they are the largest carrier at DCA, my nearest airport). I only fly about 25,000 miles a year, and I’ve found they treat their low-tier elites pretty well (I get upgraded more than half the time, and on domestic flights over 16 hours long I even get meal service). Despite Lucky’s advice to “earn and burn,” I’ve been mindlessly stockpiling Dividend Miles like a doomsday prepper hoarding ammo. With US Airways’ exit from the Star Alliance just a couple weeks away, I wanted to burn some of my miles on a 90k business class trip to North Asia, as Lucky has done many times.

Lucky even agreed to come along for the ride, on the condition that I write a guest post about the experience. So I wanted to see what you guys thought might be good products for me to review. You’ve heard Lucky’s perspective on many of these, but I may have a different take on them, as someone who hasn’t done much international premium travel and will likely be in awe of the luxurious touches, such as free cabin pressurization and a complimentary second checked bag so I can bring along my board game collection (I’m only half joking). Which of these do you think I should try?

LOT 787 — Last year, Lucky’s plans to try out this product were thwarted, so this might be a good chance for him to try it again. Truth be told, it does seem like a really nice hard product, and I would love to take my first 787 flight, but there are some potential drawbacks. For one, I’m something of a picky eater (they pretty much know me by name at all local Cheesecake Factories — I love that place because of the dictionary-sized menus), and I have heard less-than-stellar things about LOT’s catering. Also, Warsaw isn’t quite at the top of my list of cities to visit.

ANA 787 — If I were to pick, I would love to try out this product. I’ve also never visited Tokyo. Ever since I was a child, it has been my dream to buy all of life’s necessities from vending machines and sleep in a coffin-like capsule (who needs the Park Hyatt, right?), and I’m pretty sure Japan is the only place where I can accomplish both of those goals.

Lufthansa 747-8 — Basically I’d love to fly this, but the odds of finding availability are about as slim as the chances of winning a free trip to Finland.

Ethiopian 787 — Could be a fun exotic choice, although they may have a staffing shortage after one of their pilots recently left the airline for personal reasons.

[EgyptAir 777 — WE AREN’T EVEN INCLUDING THIS IN THE POST BECAUSE THERE IS NO EFFING WAY I WOULD EVER DO IT. MY MOM WOULD MURDER ME.]

Swiss — My feelings on Switzerland? Pretty neutral. (Get it?) But seriously, Swiss looks like a gorgeous product and one I’ve been itching to try.

Asiana — People always rave about Asiana, but from my perspective it doesn’t look too intriguing. Maybe I should give it a try, just to see what the fuss is about?

Thai A380 — I love the A380, and have heard amazing things about Thai. Plus I would REALLY like to learn once and for all how to pronounce and spell the name of the Bangkok airport (Suvburnbighghtnti?). Political stability has been a bit iffy in Thailand lately, though…

EVA — It seems like every other post on this blog is about Hello Kitty. So doing a trip on one of EVA’s Hello Kitty-themed 777s might be redundant, as you guys have already read about that experience on here ad nauseam (perhaps even ad vomitum). Although I’m sure I would enjoy luxuriating in the softness of Kitty-themed toilet paper at first, anthropomorphized felines aren’t really my thing.

Air Canada — I would giggle with glee every time a flight attended said “eh?” or “aboot.” Also, their new 787s are coming into service soon in the coming months!

Whether I end up flying to Asia on a five-star carrier or on the back of a rabid pterodactyl (actually, please don’t make me do that), I’ll try to have an interesting and entertaining report for y’all. So, comment on what product(s) you think we should try out!

And now, this really cute corgi dressed as a lawyer has a question for all you miles and points experts:

Andrew-B-Ridiculous-Meme

Comments

  1. Re: Thai A380 to Suvarnabhumi — the business class product looks okay. And the political unrest really isn’t an issue – I was in BKK for 36 hours in late January when major intersections were closed and I felt fine. I’m currently in BKK right now and the protests have all moved to Lumphini Park and it’s business as usual.

    I’d love to see LOT 787, Ethiopian’s 787 (though there have been many switches to 767s), and Air Canada.

  2. My voted is ANA 787!! I would love to hear all about life from a vending machine and the coffin-like capsule hotel experience.

  3. ANA 787 for Tokyo for sure……my first pick would be Thai but not really a good time to Bangkok…”HOWEVER”..if you pick Bangkok..you can book another ticket direct to Phuket..(or just fly Korean air as they have direct flight from ICN to Phuket)..that was our rescue flight/airport the last time they had BKK shut-down due to the political protest in 08 ….wonderful place if you want to avoid the cold weather

  4. I just hope you won’t sleep in a capsule hotel when you’re visiting Japan. If you would really like to try that: take your closet, put it on the ground and sleep in it!

    Anyways, I would rather enjoy reading Ethiopian and Thai.

  5. Too answer the question posed by the corgi:

    Not likely in any program that I know of. However, if he wishes to route EAT-POO-NAP-PEE, he could likely do it with a one-world explorer award from AA.

  6. My picks:
    AC 787 – no reviews out there yet!
    ET 787 – because it’s rare
    TG 380 – because you need a 380 and TG is awesome.
    OZ – I love them. Go see what the fuss is about.
    LX – If you can’t do OZ, do LX instead. Another GREAT airline.

    My “stay away”:
    LO – the airline isnt that great, and you have other opportunities to try the 787. And you’re right, Warsaw isnt that great.

  7. my thai friends told me the airport is pronounced

    soo-WAH-nah-boom

    the last “i” is supposed to be silent

  8. I recently completed a trip both in Asiana’s Quadra Smartium and in their First Suites. Both are top-notch hard products and I’ve found Asiana’s soft product hard to beat.

    I lived/worked in Japan (Yokohama) for 3 years and have flown extensively intra- and ex-Asia on JAL, ANA, Asiana, and Thai (I’m a Star Alliance) kinda guy – can you tell?) in both Economy and Business. Personally, I’ve found Asiana’s service to be better than all the others in the two classes in which I’ve primarily flown. I’ve not been in ANA’s or JAL’s first class, unfortunately, so I can’t comment.

    As mentioned in multiple trip reports from various people, the language barrier on Asiana is definitely there and while my Japanese is passable, my Korean stops at “hello”, “yes”, and “thank you”. However, I’ve never really had an issue with service as a result. Some confused looks, a bit of rewording to simpler terms, and I’m golden. Plus, I’ve had many similar experiences on Thai, sometimes worse; they either don’t understand me, or I can’t understand them.

    If you’re looking for business class, too, the Quadra Smartium is a pretty swank set up. It’s similar to what a lot of other airlines are starting to install, so it loses some uniqueness points there, but the service more than makes up for it. En route to Hong Kong via Seoul, I slept for a solid 7-1/2 hours after a huge portion of bimbimbap, dessert, and a few of their specialy cocktails. Easily the best business class flights I’ve been on.

    So, bottom line: go with Asiana. Until that little issue at SFO, they were a hidden gem. Despite this recent incident, I still think they’re one of the best airlines out there. And don’t get me started on the First Suite…while it can’t compare to my experience in the Emirates Suites on the A380 (they have a shower for goodness sake!), it’s an amazing hard product and the soft product just takes the cake.

  9. Personally, I’d do it in first. An all business class itinerary will still be possible via lifemiles. This could be the last time you’ll be able to fly a combination of business / first with readily purchasable miles. Just my 2c worth.

  10. Ethiopian!
    Ethiopian!
    Ethiopian!
    Ethiopian!
    Ethiopian!

    Their award availability tends to be better than South African, they fly modern planes, and I don’t think you and Lucky have traveled that extensively in Africa (compared with Asia and Europe).

    And hey, if the pilot decides he needs asylum, at least he chooses a nice place like Switzerland. Very thoughtful. You can’t go wrong with that kind of customer service.

  11. Not LOT. Please try the ANA 787, I’d like to hear your perspective of the ground experience.

  12. IĀ“d vote for Ana, Asiana, Ethiopian and Swiss or Austrian. But if you have that much USairways miles, why not go over the board for first class? It would be more comfortable and fun. Than you could fly Ana, Thai, Asiana and Lufthansa and enjoy ThaiĀ“s fishnet underwear massage and try to grab more rubber ducks than Lucky at the FCT.

  13. Air Canada? Boring. Swiss? The beige on the color pallette of world airlines. Asiana? ANA? Thai? EVA? Just a continuation of the Asian airline lovefest. Lufthansa? Please..not again. Ethiopian? THAT has the potential for being an awesome trip report! But..please! I beseech the two of you! EGYPTAIR! OMG! I am salivating at the thought of an Egyptair review written through Lucky’s & Andrew’s hilarious eyes. What a great aviation adventure it would be! I bet it would be something the two of you would fondly remember, even if the flights are a hysterical mess. And a stopover in Cairo! I personally like Cairo; it’s a fascinating city. So..EGYPTAIR! EGYPTAIR!

  14. Ethiopian please!!! It would be such a contrast to your other reports and really add some value for the growing number of business travelers to Africa!

  15. ethiopian or turkish (which has been getting rave reviews from colleagues of mine even in Y)… please no more LH. love the existing trip reports but little is left to the imagination at this point for them.

    as for MS, i’m not sure i follow the extreme trepidation? their J offering looks pretty decent to me. haven’t seen any depictions of F cabin.

    i’d also like to see an AC long-haul report. most of the reports i’ve seen are trans-con or to LHR.

  16. Lucky convinced me to go on MS rather than SN and TK (it is on Ask Lucky’s page) so I am with Imperator on this: MS.

  17. My vote will be egyptair as well. It would be interesting to read a review on a dry airline for once!
    If business class, would love to see you fly ethiopian 787, egyptair a330 or 777, thai a380 business, LOT 787.
    If first class, would love love love to read a review on egyptair 777 (jfk-cai), thai first, air china first, asiana first.
    Have fun with lucky! Are you going to ftu seattle?

  18. Been on ANA 787 and Thai A380, both in biz. If you’re choosing between either, definitely go with ANA 787. Would love to get a review of Asiana’s Suites class.

  19. I’m voting either ANA 787 or Asiana. I’ve been flying to Asia since I was a kid and I’ve only been on United metal. Now that I’m in the miles game and can choose my own carriers, I’m curious if ANA or Asiana would be good options to fly on.

  20. Maybe book an Air NZ 787 from AKL to Perth in Oct šŸ™‚ would be well worth it lol

  21. Swiss, since we can’t get FC with them anymore, so I’d love a report on their bus class. Or AC, not up to date on them either.

  22. Definitely do OZ C. They’re my favorite carrier, then you can see what everyone is raving about. I’ve found decent availability on ORD-FRA and MEX-FRA for LH 748 C. Personally I think NH C is overrated. There’s also regional C on SQ for intra-Asia flights. I’d also like to see a TR on TG 388 C. I’m doing AC 787 C in July from HND, so that’s probably not a bad one to review either. LX C is also awesome. TATL wise I’m not sure what routes it’s going on other than YYZ-TLV. I will say MS C really isn’t bad and their seat is decent for sleeping as well.

  23. Air Canada.
    ANA.
    Air NZ, as noted.

    Swiss is NOT worth it – they are great at catering but their hard product isn’t fantastic.

  24. So last night I was reading some of our trip reports as I was falling asleep, and I had a strange dream… I had a car with 5 first class seats (OZ, SQ, CX, AF, and EK), but without their suites. I was driving, and lucky was writing a live trip report as he was trying out each seat side by side from the comfort of this rather large car that was clearly bigger on the inside.

    Anyway, based on your list and my dream, I would go with OZ, which lucky said had the best food… though I had no idea how he received the food as there were no pursers on board my car. šŸ™‚

  25. I would do LOT although not too many people on here like that idea. I’ve seen most of the flight crews at the Radisson outside of ORD so I guess after seeing many of the FA’s out by the pool I’m biased.
    My other vote would be for Egyptair with travel insurance. Come on you only live once. Think of the excitement.

  26. So, I have to comment that I just made a trip February for this reason. I got my mileage worth in this business class trip to Asia:
    -ANA Short-haul
    -Lufthansa 747-8 to FRA
    -Thai A380 to BKK (my traveling buddy’s favorite)
    -Austrian 777 to NRT (my favorite)
    -Air China short and long-haul business class (my least favorite)

    Love USAirways minting those cheap Star miles now let’s hope there is some bright spots in OneWorld.

    BKK is safe even with the unrest as I was there three days working with our Embassy and found nothing to be worried about in the region of BKK.

  27. A few folks have suggested you take first class rather than business. I’d like to take the other side – while you’d obviously enjoy F more, I’d really prefer to see a business class TR. It seems like the vast majority of your TRs are in F these days, while J seats are (generally) way easier to come by and more “achievable” for many of us.

  28. No opinion on where you should travel but excited at the prospect of another trip report chronicling the adventures of Ben and Andrew B! Will there be more unusual evenings in bars? šŸ˜‰

  29. I’m not sure which says less about you….your seeming affection for Cheesecake factory (people know you by name there, and your purportedly picky eating needs being satisfied there) or your preconceived notions about EgyptAir.

  30. Andrew – You’re making lucky travel in business? You may want to make sure it’s a two class plane, as I don’t know how Lucky will survive.

    What about another option? What about trying out AA’s new service from DFW to HKG? 77W, and you get those nice reverse herringbone seats. Top of the line model – a touch nicer than EVA and US Envoy (but the same seat). You can book with US miles, but can’t combine with a star award.

    At HKG – you get access to CX lounges, and with Lucky’s EXP status, you can enter into the first class lounge (the Wing or the Bridge)

    Less exciting to review – but you get to go to one of Lucky’s favorite cities.

    If you do end up doing HKG – let me know and i’ll take you guys out for a fun night.

  31. By “North Asia” do you mean Russia, Mongolia, Tokyo or Hong Kong?

    If I’d choose, I’d really go with LOT 787 just for trial. If you feel like the flight’s terribly boring, remember the shot glasses you had on your 767 flight, Lucky?

    LO 004 ORD – WAW 21:00 – 12:55 788 Business (Star)
    LO 091 WAW – PEK 14:50 – 06:35 788 Business (Star)
    ——few days in PEK——
    CA 1281 PEK – CIF 19:10 – 20:20 738 First (Star)
    ——few days in CIF——
    CA 1282 CIF – PEK 21:20 – 22:25 738 First (Star)
    ——overnight/few days in PEK——
    HX 313 PEK – HKG 19:20 – 23:05 333 Business (paid)
    ——few days in HKG——
    CX 520 HKG – NRT 10:25 – 15:55 333 Business (oneworld)
    ——few days in NRT——
    JL 006 NRT – JFK 11:10 – 10:55 77W Business/First (oneworld)

  32. I have done EgyptAir Business Class on both the 77W and A333 and to be honest it’s not as bad as people think it is. Sure the food was more akin to a mediocre Economy Class meal than Business, and crew was a little reserved. But I didn’t really mind the lack of alcohol, and seeing that Lucky isn’t a big drinker it shouldn’t be a problem. They do have Diet Pepsi which should help you get through the flight šŸ˜‰

    Business Class seats were very comfortable and the IFE offering was acceptable. I’ve had worse flights on other carriers. Most notably SASā€¦

    Ethiopian is also an alternative. Decent product on the 77L and 787. Cabin crew is amazing, but the catering was bad.

  33. i’m booked on the TG A380 biz class in 2 months, so wouldn’t mind seeing that.

    was in bangkok three weeks ago when the bomb went off killing 6. very sad, but as tourists you’ll be perfectly safe like my group was.

  34. OZ to ICN for sure. Best food and service. Not to mention the hottest FAs and lounge attendants šŸ˜‰

  35. ET out of YYZ is my vote, seen the bird lots and wonder what it looks like inside, they have some decent connections as well.

  36. For my final US/Star redemption to MEL – I got the US Agent to confirm for 110k this J routing – PHL/ORD/ICN/SIN/MEL/BKK/CDG/FRA/PHL and tried OZ/SQ/Thai for the first time.
    I flew the old Asiana biz seat from ORD and the service and food were plentiful even for a Cheesecake Factory fan (my post goes up tomorrow actually), I’d fly them again to try the Smartium biz seat.

    Now for Thai A380 – that would be my choice from BKK to Paris (a bit of Europe on the way home never hurts) – I mapped my redemption to fly the A380. As for BKK, I was there at the start of the protests and my guide canceled so I spent 18 hours at the Novotel (lucky hates the hotel, I believe calls it “a dump”, I disagre) sadly not seeing BKK at all.

    Not sure if you can pull it off but I’d do the Asiana flight Smartium class connect in ICN for your Asia visit and then position yourself at BKK for a short layover -get a massage in the lounge and fly A380 to Paris with a return via Frankfurt on LH (my intention but due to a LH strike at CDG I ended up on the new US 1-2-1 Envoy product direct to Philly which was a surprise).

    Look forward to reading about your trip – have fun

  37. Flying through either Europe or over the Pacific via an Asian gateway, if you manage to make it to Tokyo, I would be happy to arrange a local’s “backstage pass” tour of the city. After all, you don’t necessarily have to fly ANA…

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