Review: Swiss Business Class A330 Zurich To Beijing

Introduction
Around the World on 90k Part I: Warsaw and Beijing with Nothing But a Passport and a Dream(liner)
Around the World on 90k Part II: Blowing Through the Horn of Africa
Korean Air Lounge New York JFK
LOT Polish Business Class 787 New York To Warsaw
Westin Warsaw
LOT Polish Business Class Lounge Warsaw
LOT Polish Business Class ERJ-170 Warsaw To Zurich
Swiss Panorama Lounge Zurich
Swiss Business Class A330 Zurich To Beijing
Grand Hyatt Beijing
Ethiopian Airlines Business Class 787 Beijing To Addis Ababa
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa
Ethiopian Airlines Business Class 767 Addis Ababa To Frankfurt
Lufthansa Business Class Lounge Frankfurt
Lufthansa Business Class 747-8 Frankfurt to Washington
Park Hyatt Washington DC


I’ve flown Swiss many times before, both on shorthaul and longhaul flights. Up until now my longhaul flights on them have been limited to first class. Back in the day they released a ton of first class award space, and they’ve long had a great first class product. Unfortunately not only do they not release first class award space to partner airlines anymore, but they don’t even release first class award space to all of their own Miles & More members. Instead you have to be at least a mid-tier Senator member in order to even book a Swiss first class award.

As a result, I was curious to check out Swiss’ business class product, since it’s the best that most of us can hope for from hereon out on award tickets.

Swiss 196
Zurich (ZRH) – Beijing (PEK)
Tuesday, July 1
Depart: 1:20PM
Arrive: 5:15AM (+1 day)
Duration: 9hr55min
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 9K (Business Class)

We boarded through door 2L at around 12:50PM, where we were greeted by the friendly purser and crew members, who alternated between “hello,” “gruezi,” and “ni hao.” We were pointed right towards out seats, which were 9K and 10K. The first thing I noticed, before even getting to my seat, was that the crew was gorgeous. Three of the four business class flight attendants were in their early 20s and almost uncomfortably attractive.

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Swiss business class A330

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Swiss business class A330

Swiss now features the same business class product throughout their longhaul fleet. Their A330s feature 45 business class seats, alternating between four and five seats per row. The seats are fully flat and in a staggered configuration — the Vantage variety, specifically.

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Swiss A330 seatmap per SeatGuru

The product is similar to what Austrian and Brussels offer, for example. One thing I prefer about Swiss’ configuration is that on the right side of the aircraft they exclusively have single seats, which are similar to the single seats that Delta offers on their 767s. The advantage of these is that they’re not the “throne” seats, so do have a bit more room for your feet when you’re trying to sleep.

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Swiss business class A330

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Swiss business class A330

Andrew was seated in 10K, right behind me. That’s the seat closer to the aisle.

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Swiss business class A330, seat 10K

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Swiss business class A330, seat 8K

I was seated in 9K, which is the window seat closer to the window, though in the case of row nine there’s a missing window, which is unfortunate.

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Swiss business class A330, seat 9K

To the left of the seat were the seat controls, which were fairly intuitive, though had a few extra “features,” like being able to increase or decrease the firmness of the seat.

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Swiss business class seat controls

Separately, to the side of the seat were more controls, which were convenient when in the reclined position. You could also control the massage function from there, which is a pretty cool feature of the seat.

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Swiss business class seat massage and light controls

Also to the left of the seat were the entertainment controls.

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Swiss business class entertainment controls

Then to the left of the seat and up a bit from the controls were the Empower adapter and headphone jack.

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Swiss business class power port and headphone jack

The seatback pocket was located to the left of the seat, and there was an upside down clothes-hanger in there with my seat number, which I thought was smart, rather than the flight attendants having to write out the seat number each time.

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Swiss business class seatback pocket

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Swiss business class entertainment screen

While there wasn’t a massive amount of “foot space” for sleeping, there was definitely more than in the comparable “throne” seats. And at least there was additional knee room thanks to the space between the seat and the fuselage.

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Swiss business class legroom

Waiting at my seat were a pillow and blanket. The blanket was light and pillow was firm.

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Swiss business class pillow & blanket

There were also headphones, though they weren’t especially comfortable; I used my own.

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Swiss business class headphones

Shortly after settling in a flight attendant came around with the amenity kits.

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Swiss business class amenity kit

They were fairly basic, and featured socks, eye shades, earplugs, toothpaste, a toothbrush, etc.

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Swiss business class amenity kit contents

Shortly thereafter bottled water was distributed.

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Swiss business class water bottle

Pre-departure beverages were then served. I selected champagne, which was a glass of Duval-Leroy Brut. It wasn’t the best airline champagne in the world, but perfectly drinkable.

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Swiss business class pre-departure champagne

Hot towels were then distributed.

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Swiss business class pre-departure hot towel

And then menus were distributed by the purser.

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Swiss business class menu

Around our scheduled departure time the captain came on the PA to inform us that we were still waiting on a few bags. He told us that our flight time would be 9hr25min, which would put us into Beijing on schedule.

At 1:35PM we finally pushed back, right as a Qatar Airways 787 was pulling into a gate near us. At this point the safety video began to play.

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Zurich Airport planes

We taxied out to runway 34, which took about 15 minutes.

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Pushing back Zurich Airport

I love taxiing around Zurich Airport, not only because of the variety of traffic, but also because the landscape is so beautiful.

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Swiss A330 Zurich Airport

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Crossing runway Zurich Airport

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Taxiing to runway Zurich Airport

At around 1:50PM we made it to runway 34, where we were immediately cleared for takeoff.

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Ready for takeoff Zurich Airport

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Ready for takeoff Zurich Airport

Our climb out was smooth, and as usual I was glued to the window for the first 15 minutes of the flight, enjoying views of the surrounding landscape.

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After takeoff from Zurich

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After takeoff from Zurich

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Airshow after takeoff

After that I took a look at the entertainment system, which was easy to use though not especially extensive, in my opinion. I always bring my own entertainment so that wasn’t an issue for me.

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Swiss business class entertainment system

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Swiss business class entertainment system

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Swiss business class entertainment system

About 20 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began. The crew first came around to take orders, asking for everyone’s first course and main course preference.

The lunch menu read as follows:

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And the wine list read as follows:

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All the service was done by carts, starting with a drink service. I had a glass of champagne and still water to start, which were served with packaged almonds.

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Swiss business class drinks and nuts

I had ordered the salmon for lunch, but after the drink service a flight attendant came around to tell me that they were short on salmon, and asked if I wouldn’t mind switching to another option. The beef sounded equally good to me, so I gladly switched to that.

Within a couple of minutes the friendly purser came by my seat to offer me a first class amenity kit and slippers as a thanks for switching meals. It of course wasn’t a big deal, so I thought that was a nice touch (compared to my recent Etihad flight, where I didn’t get my choice of starter or main course, and no apology was made).

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Swiss first class amenity kit and slippers

Soon enough the lunch service began, starting with the appetizer and salad served on a tray.

To start I had the sea bass tartare with smoked halibut and seasonal salad, both of which were excellent.

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Swiss business class appetizer and salad

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Swiss business class appetizer

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Swiss business class salad

For the main course I had the beef with fondant potatoes, which was also excellent.

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Swiss business class main course

After that it was time for dessert. I had an espresso, raspberry compote with lavender cream, and a glass of Baileys on the rocks.

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Swiss business class dessert, espresso, and Baileys

Shortly thereafter a cheese course was offered.

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Swiss business class cheese

Lastly, service finished with a selection of pralines from a box.

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Swiss business class praline

Service throughout the meal was excellent. The crew was enthusiastic, friendly, and attentive. While all the service was done from carts, the crew still passed through the aisle several times between courses to see if anyone wanted more bread, drinks, etc. The meal pace was also good — the entire meal took maybe two hours.

After lunch landing forms were distributed.

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China landing form

I browsed the duty free magazine, and noticed they were selling Schlappis, a small stuffed animal dog. There are three things I collect — Rimowa amenity kits, Lufthansa rubber ducks, and airline branded stuffed animals. So I had to pick one up not just because it was an airline branded stuffed animal, but because his name was only one letter off from my last name.

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Swiss duty free magazine

While this was technically a redeye flight, as you’d expect there was daylight for all but roughly two hours of the flight, given what a northerly flight this was in the peak of summer.

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View after lunch

After lunch I changed in the lavatory. They had some additional amenities there, including refreshing towels and Valmont toiletries.

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Swiss business class lavatory amenities

There was also a little snack setup in the galley, consisting of fruit, packaged chocolate, breadsticks, etc.

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Swiss business class galley snacks

I decided to take a nap at this point, and slept very well for about two hours. Room for your feet when sleeping is somewhat limited with these seats, though not horribly so. Of course I’d take a reverse herringbone seat over this any day, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid this seat.

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Swiss business class bed position

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Swiss business class bed position

I woke up after about two hours and figured I’d stay up since I really wasn’t tired.

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Airshow upon waking up

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View upon waking up

I decided to watch a couple of TV shows on my iPad. One of the flight attendants passed through the aisle and offered me Movenpick ice cream. I took him up on the offer.

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Swiss business class Movenpick ice cream

I got a bit of work done on my laptop, and before I knew it we were a couple hours out of Beijing.

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Airshow

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Swiss A330 business class cabin view

At this point I decided to once again take a look at the entertainment system, and found a pretty cool documentary about Peninsula Hotels. I learned a lot about the chain I didn’t know.

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Swiss business class entertainment selection

About two hours out breakfast service began, which seemed awfully early on a fairly short redeye flight with a one course breakfast (of course it didn’t bother me since I was up anyway).

The breakfast menu read as follows:

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The breakfast consisted of a plate with cold cuts and cheese, some muesli, and a hot small egg side dish. Bread was offered along with breakfast as well.

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Swiss business class breakfast

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Swiss business class breakfast cold cuts and cheese

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Swiss business class breakfast eggs

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Swiss business class breakfast muesli

After breakfast I decided to watch a show about “the secret life of dogs.”

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Swiss business class entertainment selection

About 45 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to give us an updated arrival time and inform us of the weather in Beijing.

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Sunrise view shortly before landing

Shortly thereafter the seatbelt sign was turned on.

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Airshow before landing

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Airshow before landing

Our descent into Beijing seemingly took forever, because we passed the airport flying east, then turned around to fly west, and then finally turned north to land on runway 36R, where we touched down at 5:25AM.

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View on approach into Beijing

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View on approach into Beijing

Our touchdown was smooth, though as is the norm at Beijing Capital Airport, the taxi took forever.

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View upon landing in Beijing

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View upon landing in Beijing

At least the traffic on the taxi in was interesting, including a cargo 747 and Transaero 747.

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View upon landing in Beijing

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View upon landing in Beijing

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View upon landing in Beijing

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View upon landing in Beijing

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Taxiing to gate in Beijing

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Taxiing to gate in Beijing

We finally made it to our gate at around 5:45AM, where we parked next to an Air China A330.

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Taxiing to gate in Beijing

Bottom line on Swiss business class

I was pleasantly surprised by Swiss business class. The seat is kind of average for “modern” business class, in my opinion — it’s not my favorite and not my least favorite — but the food was good and service spectacular. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Swiss business class again anytime.

Comments

  1. PakiFan says

    We need a pic of the crew to verify your claims…..otherwise it’s just heresay

  2. danny says

    This trip report is missing a few pics of the attractive flight crew. Don’t leave us hanging!

  3. adi_t says

    haha, i second that –

    great report as usual, lucky.

    I’m curious as to how many times on your travels the crew recognize who you are, and whether that makes them treat you differently (given that you’re going to be blogging about them imminently!)

    I have mixed feelings about Swiss (have never flown F though, nor with the new J class seat). I find them efficient and elegant and reliable, but lacking that ultimate fabulosity of service.

  4. adi_t says

    Also (sorry to double post), but there is something austere looking about the cabin. Did it feel so in person?

  5. Neil S. says

    Man oh man. We get pictures of fat naked people in lounges but not the hot flight attendants? NOT FAIR.

    And looks like a clear day in Beijing.

  6. Moritz says

    Is there any possibility that you write your articles in German? Especially your tips about earning miles will be more interesting and understandable for your young german supporters, but also your awesome Trip Reports. At the time there is no other german travel blog comparable to your one !
    Greetings from Germany

  7. says

    I’m saddened by the non-pictures of 3 of the 4 crew. I’d like to compare my thoughts of “good” looking to yours. Ha Ha. Secondly the lovely smog in Pek, makes me so sad to travel through China when you can barley see 200 yards in front of you. Oh BTW were you luck enough to see Smog inside the terminal too? I have before and it was a treat.

  8. Mark says

    In my opinion, these Swiss business flights do not serve enough food. I found the portions for too small between Tokyo and Zurich. Also, I sat in that same seat that you did, and I despised it. I hugely regretted choosing a single window seat with the side able on the aisle side. The seat was a claustrophobic box, uncomfortable for sitting, bad for sleeping, and a horror to get in and out of, especially when the seat was in bed mode. I probably have a bigger body and wider shoulders than you though.

  9. lucky says

    @ meegabroad — Whoops, I should have mentioned that it was noisier than most other seats. Definitely quite a bit of engine noise.

  10. Marco Biagini says

    Right now China (Bejing) is on Sale, my sister go a Business class ticket from GVA PEK for a little over CHF 2000, sale for me out of LAX to PEK on Cathay Pacific $3000 – note this is only good for PEK, so if you want to go to any other City consider buying 2 tickets.

  11. @Orlijr says

    Ben,

    I flew Swiss last year in J. I found the seats very narrow for a J product. I prefer AA’s slanted seats. Honestly. I also found the inflatable feel of the cushion kinda uncomfortable. I did not sleep well at all. Did it seem narrow to you? I really did not care for Swiss. The food and Nespresso were very good however.

  12. lucky says

    @ Mark — Seat? I’d say anything not flat, whether it’s angled or just a recliner seat.

  13. Imperator says

    Just got off a Delta flight from LHR to ATL. My flight attendant in Business Elite was a lovely, perfectly groomed delight to the eye. Unfortunately her attitude was that of a snarling old hag. Eight hours I endured her perfectly putrid demeanor. I doubt she uttered more than one syllable at a time: “Soup?” “Drink?” “Snack?”

    So I am envious of the service the boys received on Swiss. It sounded so nice. ((Sigh)) However, I also would have enjoyed pics of this delectable crew.

  14. Ginny says

    Lucky,

    A little off topic, but how did you like BJ? Was the smog really bad at the time you visited? I see some fog or smog? in the photos upon landing…and was just curious…

  15. says

    I hope you try Dragonair’s new first class when it rolls out (or maybe new/old biz/economy if you want to) – their new F is reverse herringbone and their new biz are quite modern (if not perfectly comfortable) recliners.

  16. Santastico says

    Wow!!! I started coughing just by seeing those pictures from landing in Beijing with all that smog. That can’t be good for your health.

  17. Siggi says

    Sigikid-meine name ohne das zweite G! Ich wusste nich das es ein Produkt mit sölchen Namen gab :)
    But seriously, this is a sign of the appocolapse

  18. Matt says

    How did you get the right side seat closest to the window? I just flew a couple legs on Swiss business and it wouldnt let me select either those seats (closer to the window) or the throne seats, saying they were reserved for HON elites or something.

    Also, their bread salad is delicious, and out of Zurich they serve a nice Swiss beer.

  19. JustSaying says

    ZERO tolerance for an arrogant airline who snubs their nose at frequent flyers and says we only fly the uber rich and “those who are laundering money into our easy money country” I think that says it all…..

  20. Kevin says

    We were in the “mini-cabin” (rows 4 & 5) on a Swiss A330 from DAR to ZRH then same ZRH to LAX a couple weeks ago, and were a bit disappointed in the service. Everything you described was right on the money, but in those two rows we literally had to flag down flight attendants (and I agree with the 3 out of 4 comment!) as they bounced between F and the galley. Next time I’ll sit in the main C area.

  21. Daniel says

    As I live just next to the airport I should be use to the surrounding and views. But every time I take off from or come back to ZRH there is nothing more interesting and beautiful the looking out of the window and sucking in the landscape! This is one reason why I’m looking forwards flying SWISS Business Class to MIA in September.

  22. lucky says

    @ Matt — I know they block some of the window seats, but they weren’t blocking this one.

  23. Bgriff says

    While I would hate for the secret to get out and for competition to be increased, Lucky, the next time you are flying this style of staggered seat, you should really try the bulkhead row, which has much more legroom (at least in DL’s implementation). But then don’t write about it in your review or tell anyone :)

  24. lucky says

    @ Bgriff — While true, I do find the bulkhead to be a bit claustrophobic, since you feel like you’re sleeping under a wall (at least in my opinion). Great tip, though!

  25. Mike says

    Its so weird. I heard so many things about great Swiss crews flying East. I have been travelling westwards ZRH-JFK like a dozen times now and one crew after another has been simply rude…

  26. Kacee says

    Not an impressive breakfast or wine selection at all. Those are $10 bottles.

    I found the LX seat pretty hard and uncomfortable.

    Overall, not a particularly impressive experience.

  27. John says

    Ben- “Three of the four business class flight attendants were in their early 20s and almost uncomfortably attractive.” Are these three female or male?

  28. Ivan Y says

    It’s a bummer there is no easy access to LX F anymore. If you have a ton of M&M points you can upgrade from J to F without status but upgrade costs are so high, those points are better used on LH F flights, I think.

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