A Fascinating Perspective On Why My Airline Reviews May Be Biased

Over the past couple of days I’ve shared the incredible experience I had with Garuda Indonesia in first class, including on the ground in London, in the air, and on arrival in Jakarta. On the most recent post, reader Jake P left a comment that I found especially interesting.

He made a point about how I review airlines, and perhaps he’s onto something. I’m sharing this because I’m curious to hear whether you guys agree or not. Here’s the comment, in its entirety:

Meh. Looks lovely, but I think your review may be biased. Their soft product looks amazing (AMAZING), but I think your experience flying (literally) every single world class first class has numbed you to what should make the (top five or top two, etc.) rankings. Of course your thoughts are your own, but a few of my opinions:

  • Things like free wifi are ok for some, but most of your readership will be splurging to fly F on vacation. As such, it’s less valuable. I don’t bother to open my laptops on intl. F
  • A standard suite will never compare to the luxury of SQ Suites or the EY Apartment, or even the QR A380 bar or the EK bar/shower combo. Those things (all hard products) set the airlines apart
  • Gate to gate (or immigration to street, rather?) hand holding is awesome. But once again, I think you’re biased. (ie, you just wrote about how the luxury of flying is seriously changing. Nowadays, you highly appreciate a fast track through immigration despite a crappy lounge. Me? I’ll take 4 hours in the $400 per bottle/open bar, with my bath, with my rubber ducky, with my cigar.)

Overall–I think the travel is starting to wear on you, causing you to appreciate the little things (like very personalized service) more so than most readers might. Just my two cents!

Keep up the great work!

It’s a fascinating perspective, and I can totally see where Jake is coming from. It’s almost like he’s channeling my inner 21 year old. After putting some thought into it:

Everyone travels for different reasons

I have a friend who is a purser for an airline with one of the world’s best first class products, and he always teases me that I don’t have the perspective of “the true first class passenger.” As he always says “the true first class passenger goes right to sleep after takeoff and just orders a coffee before landing.” He partly says that to give me a hard time, though perhaps it’s not entirely untrue.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-39

However, I think the reality is that nowadays there is no “true first class passenger.” Everyone travels for different reasons, and first class is filled with people ranging from those on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, to those who just view the flight as their weekly commute.

I’m trying to provide reviews that are useful for a wide audience. While of course you guys (who check the blog all the time) are the most important to me, a majority of my views actually come from Google searches, so it’s a diverse crowd reading my reviews. I don’t want to isolate either group with my reviews.

I am starting to appreciate the little things more

Don’t get me wrong, I love onboard showers, bars, being driven to the plane, etc. It puts the biggest smile on my face to think that miles can be redeemed for this kind of stuff, and I still consider Emirates first class to be the most fun way in the world to fly.

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-077

However, at the same time I can’t help but somehow shake my head at how airlines drop the ball when it comes to the ground experience. I realize in some instances it’s due to government regulations at certain airports. But for example, when you get off a Korean Air flight at Incheon Airport and then have to wait in an immigration line for an hour, or when you’re departing Hong Kong Airport and have to wait to clear immigration and security for 30 minutes, the experience feels decidedly not premium.

For some airlines the first class experience starts the minute you arrive at the airport and leaves the minute you leave the airport, while at other airlines it starts when you get on the plane, and ends when you get off the plane.

While the concept of being escorted around is nice in terms of feeling “special,” the real value add is when they can save you time and make your experience more seamless. And it’s true, that’s something I definitely am starting to value more.

Air-France-First-Class-Lounge-Paris - 1

In many ways, flying Garuda Indonesia helped me recalibrate what a good first class product should be. They had the basics right more than any other airline I’ve flown. Ever. When you have an experience like that, you’re reminded of the flaws of many other airlines, which seem to be disproportionately focused on little details rather than the big picture.

Bottom line

When I write trip reports, my goal isn’t to say that “this is how I feel, and you should feel this way too.” Instead it’s to share what I value most, and then people can decide for themselves what they value most, and how that factors into the experience.

The reality is that even among those who love miles & points, I don’t think there’s a single type of first class passenger. Some people fly first class and look forward to partying the whole flight, some look forward to sleeping the whole flight, and others take a hybrid approach. Jake’s perspective is just as valid as anyone else’s.

However, I’m curious where you guys stand on this, and whether Jake is the exception or the norm. When flying first class, what’s more important — that the product is well rounded, or that it has over-the-amenities/luxury/bling?

Comments

  1. I had the pleasure of comparing AA F, TG F, CX F and LH F within 12 days, and I gotta say, the flights I enjoyed the most were TG/LH F mostly because of how well passengers are treated on the ground. Personally, I give TG an edge over LH.

    Even though the on-board experience with CX is high quality and consistent, the experience at HKG is mediocre and similar to SQ, which i experienced in June. CX’s lounges were mostly packed with OW Emeralds not traveling in F. I do prefer SQ’s Private Room over The Wing / Pier though.

    I won’t even discuss AA’s ground experience that involves ONE voucher for ‘premium drink’ at their lounge.

    I side with Ben on this one.

  2. This is your blog – and I would like to think that those who come here (regularly) actually appreciate your opinion. Over the last 5 years I have been reading it – and I know it is your personal opinion. And the day it stops being, it stops being your blog.

  3. Suites aside,, the ground services are really what distinguish F from J. Otherwise a bed is a bed is a bed.

  4. @Lucky – I value ground service tremendously, especially when travelling to a foreign country for the first time with kids. Knowing that we’ll be whisked from plane through immigration, assisted with luggage and ground transport quickly after a long haul is invaluable. Even better when connecting through one country to the next. HOWEVER, it is also a commodity. At many airports around the world, these are services you can buy relatively cheaply regardless of airline or class of service. We’ve used it at TLV, BKK, and others and the cost is minimal (less than $200 for a family of 5). Obviously it’s nice when that cost is baked into the cost of the ticket (by points or $$$), but I’d personally remove ground service as a metric for your determination of airline rankings as it can be purchased independently (and relatively cheaply). You obviously can’t “buy” an onboard shower or bar on airlines other than those that provide them. Just my 2-cents.

  5. I don’t fly first class, I really have no desire to pay for first class and don’t have an employer I can dump that bill on, and honestly find many of your posts more pretentious than enjoyable… sitting here wondering whether it’s worth my while to put up with these kind of posts which I’m sure others enjoy, to hang around to see some of your posts that I do value and relate to…

  6. Great post Lucky. I think both you and Jake are correct. It’s a matter of personal perspective and everyone has their own priorities.

    I’m in Jake’s corner on many items… I love the bling, fancy lounges, expensive drinks/food, being pampered, etc. And I also have very little value for wifi on planes. It’s one of the few times I can disconnect. (Especially since I probably pay attention to my phone too much anyway. Hi Twitter!)

    But then I also agree with you wholeheartedly on the ground service and seamless experience. Flying without Pre-Check or Global Entry sounds like a nightmare to me. I’m flying into HKG for the first time in February and will probably sign up for e-channel, even though I’ll have only one additional exit and two entries from immigration during the span of my trip. One of the features of premium cabin travel I value the most is faster access in + out of the airport, planes, immigration, security.

    Really interested in everyone else’s comments.

  7. I think you’re absolutely right there’s no such thing as a normal first class passenger these days and therefore different things matter to different people.
    Personally I love Lufthansa’s first class terminal at Frankfurt because that gives you a really special end to end first class service. By contrast with BA at Heathrow you have first class check in, security with the masses, first class lounge, to the airplane with the masses, first class seat, disembarkation and arrival at destination airport with the masses. Totally takes the shine off what I consider to be important, namely the totality of the first class experience.
    So I loved your Garuda trip report cos it highlighted the amazing end to end experience which would be important to me, but I can understand how different people would value different things.

  8. This is really interesting – I read all your posts because they have a unique perspective, I don’t really mind whether they’d match mine or not. I was thinking about this on a flight today having chosen NOT to pay the 700USD to upgrade and the reasons I would choose to travel with international first or business instead of just relying on top tier status.

    What I weigh up is…
    Firstly, to be honest, If I am run down and really need a seamless end-to-end experience… that’s the biggest thing, stress-free, no risk of any hassle, not being treated rudely, and just being able to switch off a little and relax. I would not do work on J either, other than emails on my phone. AVOD is often fantastic now on most airlines.

    But in choosing to fly first/biz on a particular airline it is… in no particular order…
    The level of genuineness in the service, attention to details but also to just the overall ambience.
    The hard product – I will NOT pay more than 500 extra for a seat without direct aisle access.
    The soft product – I don’t avail of most of it but I like that it’s there.
    The ticketing conditions and flexibility – this is crucial – you get away with a lot more changes even on non-flexible tickets – combining status with ticket obviously).
    The baggage allowance. (if you didn’t have status, flying F makes a LOT of sense)
    The lounge access. if I am connecting.
    The fast tracking through various elements of airport hassle particularly the avoidance of ANY queue, and the ability to be speedy, to time precisely how long things will take.
    The additional points (to maintain tier level).

    In Europe, on short haul though I would have a different primary focus, where First is the same seat as economy, it comes down to the extra personal space of the blocked seat / side table (so you can work on your laptop and sip a coke), the ability to get dinner (i.e. to travel straight from a meeting to the airport, swoosh through fast track, onto the plane, mayyyyybe stop at lounge – generally not), eat, go home, sleep), and then if I need to bring lots of luggage or are unsure of my return date that pips it as well.

    Your reviews though share what the experience is like and allow us to judge for ourselves based on our own criteria by answering in your own way each of our own set of questions.

  9. I agree that your reports are biased but everything is written with bias, you value different things than I do in travel, I would much rather have a shower in an arrival lounge than showering with 5 min of water on the airplane (although I have never flown in shower class).

    I do agree you and most travel bloggers are biased when you say that UA and BA 8 across business is horrible. If you are someone that has never flown in business just being able to have a flat bed and a semi-decent meal is a godsend compared to coach. I think LH was in a similar position when they decided to out 7 across in business (although travel bloggers don’t rag on them too much :). When a company decides to put in 8 across business seating it allows them to maximize space and put more coach and business seats in, if BA went to 4 across they might loose ~30% of the business seats (because they want a certain number of coach seats) which would increase the cost of the business seats and probably reduce award availability. You also have to consider that business on these planes are usually full so there is little incentive to better the product, especially when BA is the dominant carrier in the UK.

    I don’t agree that your are ‘spoiled’ that some people say but when you can try every first class product you get biased, same as if you drive a Lamborghini even a BMW at that point is going to seem like a crappy car. I am perfectly happy flying in an 8 across business (knowing I can lay down and am not in coach) just as I would be if I drove a BMW.

  10. @Lucky
    Hi Ben,
    I don’t think you’re being too biased in your reviews. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being able to spot out how an airline has a well rounded product. There is also nothing wrong with appreciating the small things. While being able to redeem miles and points for a blingy experience such as on Emirates will surely make anyone giggle, a lot of the times its also consistency that counts. The word consistency is what has always echoed off of your posts after a Cathay or Singapore flight.

    I personally find it awesome that you found your experience to be enjoyable and well rounded on Gruda Indonesia. I can’t wait to read your upcoming trip report. Have fun and enjoy your holidays with Ford! 🙂

  11. Lucky-

    As someone that is sitting at JFK preparing for his first EK 380 first class flight, I tend to agree with Jake. With that, I agree most with his last statement. “Keep up the great work!”. I find your reviews to be extremely helpful and fun, regardless of what I find to be important relative to what you might find to be important. Thanks for logging the miles:)

  12. This is all laughable to me. Your blog has proven valuable to me in that I now understand more of how to leverage my points/miles to achieve what I want. Sure, I’d love to fly F all over the place, but that’s just not feasible for me. I also value the 11k RT DL award tickets I picked up for a 2 hour flight in coach…because it’s getting me where I want to go AND I get to bring my family with me. Not to mention that, with kids, it’s tough to get away for those awesome blowout trips. Each reader will value points/miles differently, I certainly do. But I also appreciate skimming through these trip reports, not only to see Airlines and Hotels that I’ll probably never frequent but also to see how to get to amazing places on the planet. I probably value the city specific blogs more than anything else. So thanks for contributing what you do and please continue to evolve; I love that you’re involving readers’ opinions.

  13. For me the hard product is the most important thing. I don’t drink alcohol and am more “meat and potatoes” than foofoo food. So maybe a lot of F class is lost on me. But I do appreciated personal space and privacy and being able to get some sleep. I like a good entertainment system too. You can get a lot of those things in C class these days depending on the airline.

    I also don’t really like being fussed over too much. But fast track immigration is a nice perk when you can get it. I do agree that wifi isn’t important at all to me.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you appreciating the little things, so I’m not sure I understand the criticism.

  14. You’ll get a lot of responses for this (and that’s a good thing) so hopefully you can sort through it and get good feedback. Feedback is always good. Online trolling and comments are not.

    I don’t fly first class. I did it once, overnight, and I’m pretty sure it was US or Continental transcon, so nothing exciting beyond a larger seat. But I do regularly read your blog because I want to be that kind of traveler. I’d echo your thoughts about there not being one type of first class traveler, but I don’t think you should stop acknowledging amenities like wifi just because someone’s taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I personally enjoy internet connectivity when I’m relaxing, so free wifi is a major plus. Don’t stop reporting because he doesn’t like when you post something [that doesn’t apply to him]

    My big picture point here is just don’t lose sight of your goals. If your idea is to review premium products for your readers to have an idea before they book or fly, you/they/we want a complete picture. Readers will decide what’s important to them [and pick out those pieces from your posts]. If you’re flying for yourself (pleasure, not explicitly for the blog), then you post what appeals to you as a traveler. Just maybe add a disclaimer that that trip was centered around your needs/desires.

    And don’t let anyone tell you that less time at border/passport control & customs is EVER a bad thing. The more time outside of that place, the better.

  15. I think a huge amount of your google footfall comes through your reviews having very good pictures. That’s what sets OMAAT aside from the other reviews – I don’t think it’s the commentary/perspective that brings in the numbers to be blunt. But my word you have the best picture content -flights and hotels.

  16. Its stating the obvious. Everyone’s review of any product is biased, its tainted by experiences, exposure, demographics, and personal tastes. It is 100% impossible to be impartial and more than 100% impossible to view things the same way as someone else.

    I will point out a couple examples.

    Lets take Yelp. It really is really such a poor tool for rating a place. Its best used as a yellow pages to find stuff near you. As an example, someone in Nixa, Missouri may write a review stating that the Chinese restaurant there “Is the greatest and most authentic, 5 stars!” Why it may be true to them, it obviously isn’t the truth to someone that has lived in China or even a large city. Even in large cities you find people rating certain restaurants 5* and “most authentic” that certainly aren’t by most peoples opinion. Its based on experience, perspective, demographics and familiarity with the food and culture. I have seen people, in L.A., say a Mexican restaurant isn’t authentic because it didn’t have runny white cheese dip and crunchy tacos.

    Cars are another thing tainted by experience and viewpoint. I owned a Mini and talked with Mini owners before buying one. They all raved and glowed about the car, said “its the best car I have ever owned”. After owning one I found it to be the least reliable car I have ever owned. I talked to the other owners after buying one and they all said “well yeah the timing chain is a problem” (plus several other problems) “but its really a great car!”

    On an airline some value the food, some don’t and even those that value it do so in a different way. I am from Asia and value very spicy food, others would find it inedible. Some value sleeping while I get very sick when sleeping on a plane so I seldom have my bed made up. Some love to be pampered and some just want efficient service and to be left alone. Some love WiFi, others don’t.

    So in the end you can only give your opinion. Any regular reader of the blog can pull what is valuable to them from your reviews. I am very different from you, and travel and value things differently, but still find a lot of value in your reviews.

  17. I agree with both points of view. I value different amenities depending on whether I’m traveling alone or with friends/family or if the trip is for work or for vacation.

    If I’m by myself, I’m more concerned about the hard/soft product in the air. (Unless if it’s a night flight whereby all I care about is the comfort of the seat/bed)

    If I’m with friends/family, most of whom rarely get to travel….more rarely in First, then I want the whole pampered experience from check-in, lounge, in flight, and post arrival.

    I travel so much that the flights themselves when I’m traveling alone, almost meld into one another. But when I’m with friends/family, I want to make sure they get the wow factor and take advantage of all the amenities available to them.

    As the other posters have said….a bed is a bed…so between First and Business it doesn’t really make a difference for me….unless there’s a significant difference in between the two in terms of hard/soft product.

    Wifi is something I haven’t been to keen about….even on work trips….I still try to be totally unplugged when I fly…unless there’s a deadline or big project we’re trying to finish at work.

    That’s my $.02. Love reading your reviews so that I get a good idea what to expect and who to fly depending on the nature of my trip etc. I agree with Jake on some points that you may be biased…but I don’t feel at all that you’re saying we should feel a certain way because you feel that way about a certain aspect of your experience. I take more of your factual observations and I use that to determine which one I’d prefer over the other.

  18. As someone who does not often get a chance to fly in first, I go for the cool experience. That being said, I think I still get a very accurate review of the products from your reviews

  19. Meh. Its your opinion which is fine. As long as you highlight your reasons for your review score/ranking etc then people can make an informed decision based on the factors you report on. I’ve flown first class international on CX and Singapore Suites twice. My flights are point/mile redemption since I would not be willing to pay the costs to fly F on my own. I do it because I enjoy the special experience. For a long haul would I consider paying for J? Possibly if there was a sale. The lay flat bed is worth it to me, but F is usually just J with a bit more privacy and a lot more frills. I like it to make the trip memorable, but its not necessary. If I was just hoping on the plane and going to sleep the entire time I’d be hard pressed to ever justify F over J even as an award redemption.

  20. I’m in the middle of the road. I agree with Jake in that many of the things you think are important I do not (wifi for example). That being said, I never considered the ground based amenities before I started reading your blog. I think perhaps that is where the disconnect is for many travelers. They thin the international first benefits start with the lounge and then when they get on board, where in reality it starts back when checking in.

    I think one blog benefit to consider is a FAQ section with printable fliers (pun intended) of what you get for each airline in both business and first. Would be great to be able to look at a page that listed all amenities and see what I should get. When traversing 2-3 airlines, its hard to keep track.

    Keep up the great blog!

  21. I would say the value of the added first class ground experience changes relative to how much inconvenience you endure at a particular airport as a premium cabin/elite status passenger. For example, JFK Terminal 1 is a zoo even if you are in the premium security lane. But at CDG or AMS, I have never had to wait in line with Sky Priority and enjoy taking a leisurely walk through the duty-free on my way to the lounge.

  22. Stick to writing what you think. Let the readers parse as they wish. You can’t please everyone, nor can you imagine the different preferences that others may have. You’re worrying too much.

    If the readers can’t parse what they like and don’t like in comparison to you, then the readers are too stupid to bother trying to please.

    Everyone is jaded in their own way. Your reader who criticized you likes to spend hours in a lounge spa. I could care less about that. I always want the most comfortable seat for sitting and sleeping…with the best possible IFE..and with good to solid food that sates my appetite and makes me happy. A shower is lovely…but it doesn’t make or break a F flight for me. Wifi is nice…but it doesn’t make or break a F flight for me. A wider seat/bed is always nice…but it doesn’t always mean I’m more comfortable sleeping.

    So focus on your own likes and dislikes and be done with it.

  23. I always appreciated the thoroughness of your trip reports. They’re so through that any given reader will see details they don’t care about, but scrolling isn’t hard.

    As long as you keep including the facets of the trip that us “normies” are interested in, no harm no foul.

  24. Perhaps you appreciate the more homey aspects, or what most people would appreciate in a home-environment (since you really are at home in the sky), while most people appreciate the thrill of the escape from the mundane..

  25. My big issue with your blog these days is that nearly every airline is given a heads up on your planned travel making your review of the services experienced extremely biased. Your blog is still useful for the photos or the hard-product and food, but I disregard any comments on the service you experience because i’m convinced that a lot of the great service you have is due to the fact that they know who you are and go the extra mile to make sure you have a pleasant experience.

  26. Good thoughts. Personally, I’ve gone from double helpings of caviar on East Coast to FRA flights to getting to sleep as soon as the plane takes off–maybe after a short DIY meal (I often ask for the entree right away or maybe to be served with 1 appetizer at the same time) and waking up at the last second.

    Given that I’m paying miles anyways – and have millions of them – the marginal difference of 20-30k to fly F is much more worth it to be able to able to customize my experience to suit my needs and ultimately maximize my vacation (not by the value of consumables on the plane but rather spend as much time as possible relaxing).

    That said … I do enjoy your reviews … It’s good to know what’s available … and when I’m flying, say, IAD-FRA-SIN-DPS, then yeah, it’s nice to know what to expect on different legs since inevitably I won’t sleep the whole time.

  27. Nothing fascinating about his perspective. He values what he values and you value what you value in a first class flight. What’s important will be different for everyone. For someone who doesn’t drink, being able to spend 4 hours drinking in a lounge serving up $400 bottles of champagne will mean nothing.

  28. I read your reviews not your opinions. Just like i vote after thinking through by myself, unlike most of the USA which are just a bunch of lemmings.

    So your articles don’t bother me, affect me or influence me too much. May not be the case for rest of your readership, but most of them do seem to be bright, educated and clear minded.

    So don’t worry about being biased, it won’t influence us.

  29. The key point is that everyone is going to have different desires and expectations when flying in a premium cabin.

    I was a giddy tourist on my first flight in long-haul first class. It was aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from JFK to Narita. I wanted to experience every element, to savor every second of that thrilling adventure. It’s funny that this 1980s version of first class would be considered primitive by today’s standards.

    The novelty of flying in a premium class wore off a very long time ago. Nowadays, I’ll board the plane, settle in, stare out the window till after takeoff, order my first bloody mary, and then lose myself in the pages of a really good book. For diversion, I’ll nibble on whatever beef dish is available. Maybe I’ll take a nap. At some point I’ll hope for a bit of turbulence; I don’t know why I’ve always enjoyed turbulent skies. If I’m lucky I’ll be on a flight that will feature a view of a gorgeous sunset. My most prized inflight amenity is personalized, friendly service. I don’t give a damn about an onboard bar or the number of movies are on the IFE; I’m quite content with having my book, the bloody marys, and some peace & quiet for a few hours. As for ground services, I do appreciate a fast track through security & immigration; but, otherwise I enjoy just wandering around an airport, looking at the planes and watching all the people.

    As you can see, I am not a glamorous flyer. Nonetheless, I still enjoy flying. Long-haul flights are ‘me’ time and I look forward to them.

  30. I’m new to this blog and I’m interested in different views on flying and airports. The only time I’ve flown first or business class is when I got upgrades to my tickets. The last few years I flew Delta quite often to China as I was working there. I always paid extra for economy comfort seats for the extra room. I’d fly business more often if I flew international as the better food, service, and room make a big difference.

    As far airport experience, one thing that always bugs me is when are transfer with international flights and never plan to leave the airport you always have to through security. I mean you just got off eight hours in the air and you hit security before your connecting flight. Oh well.

  31. There is a third type of passenger, which is where I would fit in, and regardless of the first class amenities or ego-flattering recognition, this person sees the flight as simply a means to get to a destination and, while seeking comfort, doesn’t look forward to the flight at all. I would no thrill from showering onboard (which should probably be outlawed as for safety reasons passengers should be seated with their seat belts fastened as much as possible). I don’t begrudge a decent first class meal, but live in a city with fine restaurants. And while being able to sleep on a plane is healthy, it is something to facilitate my health and comfort, not something to which I look forward. In fact, come right down to it, I don’t enjoy the “getting there or getting home” experience..but I love to travel for both the cultural and business opportunities it allows. That doesn’t totally negate the relevance of this blog, but more often I am left bewildered by your life priorities and, as with Trump, with whom you share many values, left amazed at the importance to you of style over substance, self indulgence over ideas and the quest for money as an overriding value .

  32. Perhaps you differ from your readership in that 99% of them (us) would rather not be on a plane and rather view flying as the necessary evil to endure in order to get to the destination. One the other hand, you still seem to get a kick out of the flying. Flying up the front in F or J , at least for me, just takes the edge off the pain…soon forgotten if the destination is worthwhile.

  33. I will concur with the idea that there’s no such thing as a “true first class passenger.”

    Truth is, most of us are inconsistent.

    If I’m slated to arrive at bedtime, I’m staying up, no matter how tired I might be. If I’m arriving in the morning, I’m going to try and, at least, pretend to sleep, even if I’m not at all tired.

    If I’m going somewhere to do a presentation or negotiations, I’m probably going to work. If I’m heading home or heading to a meet and greet, I’m going to relax.

    If my body or my destination’s time zone says it’s morning, I’m going to want some coffee. If either is early evening, I’m likely going to want a cocktail or a glass of wine.

    Truth is, I think that covers most people. Only the very most jaded travelers, flying a single route, back and forth on a regular basis, are going to behave in a consistent manner. For most people, flights in international first (or even business) aren’t part of their weekly schedule. When I was traveling extensively for work, intercontinental flights in First and Business occurred 8-10 times a year. Not enough to count as “routine”, especially since it was rarely the same airline or city pair.

  34. Ben you are outrageously experienced in premium travel, totally opinionated in your views and appallingly biased.

    . . .and these are exactly the reasons why most of us regulars love your blog. If we want beige, ‘objective’ reviews – we would read SkyTrax ratings (yawn).

    Years ago when I used to fly regularly and a lot for work, I found it a very lonely experience both on planes and in hotels.

    It was work, work, work, so it was the little things that made you feel loved, and made the stress bearable. A flight attendant recognising you and remembering your preference for red wine, or slipping you an extra bottle without requesting payment. A 4 star hotel that always placed an empty vase in the room, knowing that one of the first things you would do was to buy flowers to make your 5 day stay more homely. Or in one case – a hotel that would re-arrange the room so that the desk faced the window, and provide a proper office chair, just the way I liked it.

    That’s what I think most service is ultimately about – making you feel loved. That can be the efficiency of ground transfer, or the quality of champagne. The comfort of your lie flat bed, or the sincerity of a smile. For others it will be the ease of points transfer, the availabiltiy of points bookings, or the bonus points gained on a credit card application.

    Keep writing reviews as you do. Regulars know your style, and have an insight into your biases. The one timers – well, they are one timers.

  35. Don’t change a thing – we read and parse as we go along and nobody put a gun to my head. Enjoy all your work so please keep it up.

    And please ignore the idiots who regularly show up for some reason. If they don’t like what you write they should just not read your site.

    I also totally agree that passing seamlessly through security is high on my list while Wifi is not even considered if I am enjoying an upgraded flight. (Hint: when passing through IST on TK make sure you find the little door on the left which gives direct access to the lounge and has a dedicated security/immigration station for the very few people who know about it). The longest delay is finding your passport 😉

  36. I took my wife first class last year. Afterwards she said “I can’t really tell the difference from business class” and she was right – in F the staff are more obsequious and the service is more “over the top”. But in reality it’s all irrelevant.

    Luxury travel is an indulgence and the snobbery attached to it is stunning. I doubt that anyone here or elsewhere has any genuine need to travel in First and the airlines are really making a fortune from peoples’ insecurity and vanity.

    Will I travel in First if offered a free upgrade? Sure. Will I pay thousands more for it? Never. And I suspect at some point there will be an uprising and First class will be seen as the last vestige of an outdated class syste, and an indicator of how inequality got out of hand.

    I don’t begrudge the author of this site him excesses, and if I were a trust fund kid I might do the same. But is it important work? Noper.

  37. I think it all depends on the person. I recently started this job that has kept me on the ground more days than I wish which means I only have time for 2 vacations or big trips a year. Of course I want to ensure I fly First class on the international legs (I’ve come to the realization that I’ll only spend my hard-earned miles on First class or important last minute economy flights) and thus to me, onboard wifi doesn’t mean much. The ground services and onboard luxury is what wows me. 🙂 I still want to fly Garuda F though. 😉

  38. I think that while I enjoy reading about an amazing first class experience that someone had, the reality is that most people fly second-class and it would be more beneficial to know the best there.

  39. I tend to side more with Jake. I don’t travel for business. I save up my credit card points or look for great flight deals so that I can fly in F or J as part of my vacation, which means I care a lot more about getting the most bang for my buck as opposed to getting the best possible service at a bit of a premium, since I am the one footing the bill and I only get to travel like that maybe once or twice a year. I’m actually pretty new to using points this way ( I only just had my first international flight in a premium cabin last week (SQ C)), but expensive or absent wifi doesn’t bother me at all, because the IFE had enough options that I didn’t even end up watching the shows I downloaded to my phone in case the IFE was broken. On the other hand, booking a bulkhead seat and booking the cook turned out to be super important because they both improved the trip significantly for me. The only way I could lie down stretched out when the seat was a bed was lying across it diagonally, so having the full bulkhead there made a huge difference. And while the regular business class food was good, the book the cook options were IMO much much better. I suppose a person traveling for business purposes might care about that bed issue, but I doubt anyone other than a vacation traveler would value the book the cook option as much as I did.

  40. @Lucky. So many great, very thoughtful comments from the readers – I enjoyed reading them. Just one comment from me: I like the way you acknowledge when perceived “underdogs” impress you. Like the excellent service on Aeroflot. Since I experienced the same great service from them, knowing that they impressed you as much as the other great (aka Gulf) airlines, I no longer “crave” that (Etihad/Emirates) experience.

  41. I guess I don’t understand the question. All I want is:

    A fully functional website, with great FC award space availability for a reasonable number of miles. No fuel surcharges, low taxes, and minimal fees for changing your flights or even redepositing miles if necessary.

    The personal escort to security like at the LAX AA Flagship lounge, where they put your luggage on a cart and whisk it off, then walk you to a dedicated security line. A private FC Terminal with wonderful cooked to order food from an extensive menu, $200 a bottle and up whiskey, scotch and rum, and no crowding. Not to mention a ducky.

    Then driving you to your plane across the tarmac without worry about arriving “on time” at the gate for boarding, only to find it’s being delayed for an hour. A gracious welcome on the plane, with top flight Champagne arriving quickly. Caviar, followed by genuinely gourmet food, preferably pre-ordered from a long menu. Served by FAs who seem to think it’s a privilege taking care of you.

    A private fully flat bed, with good bedding, where you aren’t woken up by folks walking by, and FA’s who are happy to bring you drinks and snacks when you awaken on your own. Fast track immigration, and suitcases that are already waiting for you, lifted down from the carousel, the moment you arrive at baggage claim.

    That’s really all I need. 🙂

  42. Where is it biased, you document your five cents, even Jake P documents this with his 5 cent.

    “•Things like free wifi are ok for some, but most of your readership will be splurging to fly F on vacation. As such, it’s less valuable. I don’t bother to open my laptops on intl. F
    •A standard suite will never compare to the luxury of SQ Suites or the EY Apartment, or even the QR A380 bar or the EK bar/shower combo. Those things (all hard products) set the airlines apart
    •Gate to gate (or immigration to street, rather?) hand holding is awesome. But once again, I think you’re biased. (ie, you just wrote about how the luxury of flying is seriously changing. Nowadays, you highly appreciate a fast track through immigration despite a crappy lounge. Me? I’ll take 4 hours in the $400 per bottle/open bar, with my bath, with my rubber ducky, with my cigar.)”

    You like, he like, I like we have different “needs” with WiFi i think WTF, just fill up my glass take a nap and then fill up my glass.

    “hand holding” through security, i would say that is first class service, ex. connecting when flying BA on first or business is the same.

    Again you like, he like and I like in many comments, but its a review.

    As i see it the Garuda review is an ex. on first class treatment, but surely someone would disagree and call me biased even though I’m not preconceived or unreasoned in my opinion.

  43. I love your blog and it has helped me a lot to get good deals in the most comfort but I get it’s not for everyone. What I don’t get are the rude comments – if you don’t like it don’t read it. After over 30 years’ flying I still get a huge kick on taking off to go somewhere. In F or C I go to straight to sleep on night flights but I do enjoy all the trimmings on a day flight. As for paying for the class of travel, yes the same metal tube gets everyone from A to B at the same time but if you can afford it and want it then why not travel in style? Please keep the reviews coming and us followers entertained.

  44. I think you nailed it when you said ‘Everyone travels for different reasons’. For example, I only care about hard product and often don’t even eat the meals on International F/J. I just want to get some work done, get some sleep, and be left alone.

  45. I love your perspective and reviews. Don’t change a thing.

    Everything from ticketing, complimentary drive to airport, first class check-in, escort through immigration to lounge, lounge, escort from lounge to first class boarding, flight, amenity kit, landing escort, etc. are very important to me, and presumably, others.

    Keep up the great and informative work.

  46. The first problem is for you to decide for whom you write this blog. Is it yourself? Is it for F class passengers? From reading you for two years it is clear that you identify with the F class mindset and there is nothing wrong with that approach, but…
    The second problem is whether you are leaving the vast majority of your readers in the dust as you compare one F Class lounge to another when we mortals are outside of the lounge looking in at the F class travelers. Throw us a bone by dumbing down your blog to advise us Tiny Tim’s on how to get more bang for the buck way back in economy. You see this is not as aspirational situation. Many of us want to stretch our dollars and points for more travel in economy; not to accumulate enough points to fly F class. I will give you a couple of examples. I have the Prestige card primarily due to your praise of that product and I enjoyed the $250 times 2 benefit. But now I am coming up on the anniversary and wonder if I should pay $350 for another year with only one $250 and other diminished benefits. How about a column suggesting ways to transition to AMEX Platinum. More specifically, can I use the $250 credit in January, 2017 before I cancel the card on February 1?

  47. I have flown in business 4 or 5 times, never in first. My best business experience was – some of you will laugh – UA LHR – IAH Business First some years ago. I found it AMAZING. Why? Because it was my first long haul real business experience. Best food I have ever try in a plane, great seat, great soft product. Now that I have been reading Ben´s blog for several months I have learn LOTS about the best business and F products out there, so I know what to expect in several airlines the next time I take a plane with a C class. I also know all the services that they offer, so I could choise following my own bias. A bling ring lounge?? Nah, that it is not for me, except if I want a shower or a VERY long connection. Great hard product going to Europe?? That is for me, so I could choose Austrian Airlines great product (I prefer Star Alliance since I have a Life Miles acount).

    I barely flight C, and never F, but anyway, I enjoy this blog and reading Ben´s and the other writters opinions, even if that could include some bias, but hey! that is normal when we are talking about opinions. And Ben knows about C and F class, so I could take Ben´s opinions for good

  48. I enjoy all your reviews even though I have some different priorities. I’m a business traveler and I am most interested in a lie flat bed with aisle access, WiFi, a working outlet and acceptable food. I’m rarely impressed with airline food in J or F and often the wine is a disappointment. I don’t value being escorted on or off flights very highly. As for lounges, I’m glad to have access but the shorter the layover the better. And I never use the showers in a lounge.

    Since I have the freedom to fly with any airline in my work, I greatly value the wide range of products you review. Just keep doing what you’re doing – you seem to cover all angles and we can select the information that is meaningful.

  49. @Lucky —> some of us get more excited than others, and I think that it’s *you* who may be channeling your “inner 12-year old” (the only reason it’s a 21-year old is the Champagne). But that aside . . .

    I am old enough to remember when flying was truly an adventure, and when people got dresses up in suits and dresses to fly. That said, I only fly for work some 3-4 times a year, *always* domestic (w/in the continental US), and always in Coach — unless I paid for the upgrade myself. So, with the exception of *domestic* First Class, which I will fly from time to time¹, I don’t fly First Class internationally. I *will* however fly Business Class — again, it’s because I’m too damned old to be cooped up from SFO to LHR, CDG, or NRT in Economy!

    Most often, it’s been Virgin Atlantic into LHR. “Upper Class” is Business class, as we all know, but the perks of private security line, the VS lounges at SFO, JFK, and LHR, and the “fast track” for UK immigration/passport control are things that MAKE the flight worthwhile! Then again, so too are the ability to stretch out on a lie-flat bed overnight, the higher quality/selection of food, and being able to “hang out” at the bar . . . ALL of this makes Business Class so much more worthwhile than Premium Economy. But if I have to rank what’s most important to me, it’s ground first; in the air, second.
    _______________
    ¹ I’ll occasionally pay for short-haul First Class, and then use the extra points afforded by my elite status for trans-con First Class flights which are typically too expensive to afford.

  50. I agree there is no true ‘type’. My opinion is a little based on my experience but also because of your blog. At times it is about how hard it is to sleep, but you also write about how people chatted about this or that all flight. My first first class flight I was pretty young, one of my first business trips, was going solo. It was a day trip within the US so an early morning flight. I got on and buckled up and passed out cold (I live far from the airport so was up super early to get there and didn’t sleep well as I was anxious as hell about the trip). When I woke, literally on landing, the steward said that I slept thru it all and ‘missed’ it all. I’m thinking I go to sleep and get to the meeting refreshed? I didn’t miss anything. But on a return flight from Europe I didn’t want to sleep so I could adjust back to States time and if I slept I’d be up all night at home. I loved lying back and watching movies and chilling out but not sleeping. I didn’t have wi-fi but I’d have liked to have had the option. I understand the big vacation splurge means no laptop but if you are splurging for your family, I’m sure the kids want the wi-fi (as well as the other passengers that don’t really want to hear how bored the kids are, lol). So no, there is no ‘type’.

    That said, priorities change as you get older and yes, experience more and more. I’m sure it’s quite easy to become desensitized to the general things that will still wow the infrequent traveler. But when you get to the airport, to your next terminal, and out at your destination as seemlessly as possibly, you will have a lovely feeling about the overall trip. How often do you have a good lounge, a decent flight but it’s a cluster-F when you land. It is a buzz kill when it’s over and again. So when you age you tend to value your time more than when you’re younger, and that’s the priorities shifting.

    It doesn’t make the act of flying, or lying down, at 30000 feet any less insanely awesome. (PS my favorite part often about flying is watching couples bicker and be all annoying to each other, I laugh because I will never get over how amazing it is we’re about to sit in the freaking sky and these people just won’t ever get it. I’m very happy I have never gotten over my inner dorkiness).

  51. Ben, if you flew economy long haul, you would have a better perspective on what makes first great. Most of your posts are in business or first. The majority of people can only dream of that. Fly long haul economy and review that for a change.

  52. Yes, you’re biased…but as some people have hinted already, it’s par for the course for a blogger that reviews things to be biased. It’s your point of view and I think the only responsibility you have on that end is to own, recognize, and be truthfully transparent about it rather than others who may try to maintain some aura of ‘objectiveness’.

    And, as you hinted at, your POV changes over time. Things you enjoyed earlier are not necessarily the things you look for later. It happens to my boss and friends who may have loved flying for their jobs early in their career but now just want a flight at a reasonable time of day, with wifi for work, and at least some extended legroom so they are mildly comfortable. It happens to me as a person who writes about food where my tastes, spending levels, and knowledge of subjects have changed that influence what I review and write about. I try to be as transparent as possible about it while also engaging my audience.

    The one critique I might have is your 10 pictures posts. They seem to have crept higher and higher in word count to where they seem to be reviews lite. Perhaps a better way to distinguish them is to have those focus on the big pictures, amenities, etc. that are short and concise while the longer reviews focus more on the little details.

  53. Hey Ben. Maybe you’re biased. But you did inspire me to book an airline that I will normally not try. I’m just a poor boy travelling on economy (Q or U fares ) and I’ll probably never get to experience business or first class. But your review of Xiamen airlines business class good service inspired me to try out the airline even though I always have reservations about flying on Chinese airlines from all the horror travel stories on the internet whether they are true or not. Most of the time they are true though.

  54. Jake has pretty good points.
    Someone who flies international business or first class all the time simply has different values and views compared to someone who flies in premium cabins once or twice a year.
    You belong to the former group, so you value priority security lanes, priority immigration, onboard wifi, etc, because you deal with this stuff every day, while someone like me who doesn’t fly as often as you is OK with slow security lanes and immigration processes.
    I don’t mind at all waiting in line: I still enjoy the overall experience of flying in premium cabins and the fact that I have to wait in line at the airport (*gasp*) doesn’t ruin my flight.
    I also don’t need any onboard wifi because I am busy sampling different food, drinks, movies, etc that are provided onboard, but you are probably bored out with airline food and drinks.
    You value onboard wifi to get work done, but I value other things that are provided onboard because the last thing I want to do onboard is working.
    Your reviews are definitely different from the ones you used to write years ago: they feel more business traveler minded nowadays.

  55. I have travelled extensively internationally in first and business. My preferred airline is United primarily given their routes, Star Alliance, and that I am Global Services. I appreciate your posts as they cover everything. Each of us travelers can pick and choose what is important to us. For me, it’s more about the ground services and on board hard product. I want to arrive with minimal airport time, have a comfortable and private seat, and get off the plane and out the door as soon as possible. Cavier, champagne quality, amenity kits do not interest me. A flight attendant who takes my needs list up front and delivers is appreciated. A good lounge when connecting is important though. So, from your reviews I know more about the things that interest me. So, I fly United first when they have those horrible 2-4-2 business class seats, but will fly business the 2-2-2 on former Continental planes and 787s. For personal reward travel, I often try out other carriers having been in 20 Star Alliance airlines, and non-SA such as British, American and others. These flight selections are in part of your reviews, as well as notification of.award mile deals. So, keep doing what your doing. We’ll pick and choose as you go along.

  56. I’ll agree with most people here saying that it’s your own blog, so you’re entitled to your own opinions and it’s great go have them whether we agree or not. As you said, the goal for us is picking from your reports whatever matters to us and adapt that to our own situation, somewhat stripping your own opinion from it. My only criticism: will you, for the love of god, stop using the words “fascinating” or “fascinated” on every other line of every other post :D… ?

    So to answer the question, I definitely value a well rounded product (consistent service whether you are on the ground, in the air or on the phone), over crazy amenities. As much as the latter can be fun, I would prefer to pay for a guaranteed streamlined and seamless experience from check in to destination than an onboard shower (5 minutes of hot water in a cramped space? thanks but no thanks), wifi (a great pleasure of flying, for me, is being unavailable to the rest of the world!), or someone putting each of my shoes in a shoe bag ;). If I can have someone escorting me form check in to boarding, then it takes all the anxieties I have off my mind and that is invaluable – to me.

    Something I usually don’t read from your blog are lounge reviews. As far as those go, the only things I value about them is being able to shower before a long haul flight, and be able to relax if I feel like it – I also do love walking around international terminals and watch planes and people.
    For the rest, I’d rather arrive shortly before my flight than spending hours at the airport in a glorified waiting room for the sake of eating free cheese cubes and stale sandwiches. And for First class lounges, how do people manage to have a full blown meal AND another full blown meal in the plane a mere 2 hours later?!

  57. Ben,
    I read three blogs daily, the three that I have culled from the numerous blogs out there, and I consider yours the best. Maybe I just relate to your likes/dislikes more than the others, maybe it is because you appear to lack an over the top ego, maybe it is your clarity of your reviews. Keep the the great work and thank you for the priceless knowledge.
    If you haven’t reviewed TN LAX-PPT by the middle of next May I’ll send you a review. Thanks to you my wife and I will be in the front of the plane using miles. And thanks to you I only had to pay for 4 of my 9 nights, the 5 other nights booked with points and certificates.

  58. Well, yes, your reviews are biased. So are mine. So is every review on every aviation blog and every review on Yelp. That’s kind of the whole point of reviews. But your reviews are also thorough, comprehensive, come with pictures, and while they emphasize the things you value, they give a snapshot of the entire experience – which is really what one looks for in a review, so that they can then decide what things matter to them.

  59. I agree with you – each person has different expectations. And it also depends on the situation: On a business trip, having a shower on arrival from an overnight before going to a meeting is mandatory and I value speed and efficiency over most other things and will sleep most of the flight to be ready for work when I arrive. On a leisure trip, I want to be pampered and enjoy a glass of champagne at the lounge and personalized service on board, enjoying the meal service and entertainment.
    In general, I think the “best” airline will deliver a first-class end-to-end service. SQ for example has great onboard service, but the ground experience is seriously lacking. They don’t even have arrival lounges at all airports for First Class!
    It’s your blog and I value your opinion. And you can still share lots of details and photos of the end to end experience, even if it’s not that important to you, so people can form their own opinion. I for one WANT to know whether it’s $5 sparkling wine or Krug, so keep the photos & details coming!

  60. Reviewers (of anything: airlines, movies, computers) who bend over backward for neutrality far too often come off cold and dry… like Hillary Clinton! Teehee!

    I appreciate that your reviews have personality, even if I would see some things differently.

  61. Great follow up–and very interesting discussion from all your readership.

    For reference, everyone, I love and obsessively read the “biased” reviews! Just pointing out that Lucky’s old age might be getting the better of him! 😉

  62. @Steve if you don’t like the blog don’t acess it. There are many blogs you can read. You sound like a jealous twat. Lucky has helped me a hell of a lot re miles and I’m sure thousands of others.

  63. i would value components of an F flight in the below order

    1. Hard product
    2. Food and Drinks
    3. On board service
    4. Ground experience

    I’m not sure I would place much emphasis on the fact that 2 busses came to pick up 7 F passengers (as you reported from your recent Jakarta experience). I would be perfectly happy with one. While I’d appreciate a ground experience where I’m whisked through immigration saving me 20 minutes, I’m much more interested in the comfort of the 14 hour flight.

    We all of course value things differently and our priorities also change over time but I do think Jake has a point. This is also evident if one reads your reviews over the years. Your reviews over the last year or so seem to be just reporting on the flight and lack a bit of the excitement that was clearly present in the earlier reviews.

  64. Hm, honestly I “mark as read” most of your flight reviews without looking at them. They all blend together. I read your blog for the practical information about how to redeem miles, changes in rules pertaining to miles, funny stories you sometimes share, etc. Yeah, I’ll flip through the pictures of your flight reviews to see what to expect if I ever fly Singapore or Cathay or Emirates first class but otherwise it’s not where the value is (for me).

    Your willingness to hear Jake and even post his comment shows an openness to dialogue that is really awesome. So, yes, as others have said, be yourself. At the same time, if you’re looking for guidance, Jake’s advice is pretty good – that you’ve gotten a little too wrapped up in your work and somehow don’t have the average readers’ priorities any longer. That you’re focusing on details and missing the big picture.

  65. “Lucky, you’re biased.”

    Well of course you are. Everyone is. But most of us keep coming back because we’re in tune with enough of your biases that we can skip over the ones we’re not so fond of. For instance, while I love all the info about different F and C class products, and ways to earn and use miles for them, I really don’t care much for your hotel choices. So what? I just skip those posts.

    “…travel is starting to wear on you, causing you to appreciate the little things (like very personalized service) more so than most readers might…”

    Oh, come on. Who DOESN’T appreciate personalized service? The personal touch ALWAYS makes a travel experience better.

    I’d just call it growing up.

  66. Ref Hong Kong, next time passing through get yourself registered for e-Channel. Then you can breeze through the automated immigration gates without having to queue up with a thousand tourists.

  67. My gut reaction is that I disagree with Jake, but on further comtemplation, I’m not sure that I do. You are biased by having flown so many different F products, however that is what makes your opinions educated and valuable. If all it took to fill your reviews with superlatives was that it’s not absolutely miserable then with the exception of one or two, they would all be amazing.

    Also, he then used his opinion of what is important in premium airline service as a benchmark to find your opinion lacking in substance. What’s important is highly subjective and so it’s just a weak argument.

    He’s not wrong that you’re biased, but I believe he’s missing the bigger picture in the value you provide to your readers.

  68. I love your blog. Instead of using the word “bias,” I would say that you have a point of view, which is essential to good writing. Also, you are up-front about what your point of view is – you tell us what you value, and give us context. Just as important, you give readers enough detailed evidence in your trip reports (pictures, written descriptions, etc.) that we can make our own decisions.

    For example, the one point I agree with Jake on is Wi-Fi. I’ve read a number of trip reports where it came down to Wi-Fi being the dealbreaker on whether you prefer one product to another. I often find myself thinking “Really?” As Jake points out, when international F or J travel involves 1-2 aspirational trips a year (as it does for me), Wi-Fi is irrelevant.

    On all the other stuff…well-rounded vs. over-the-top bling, hand-holding vs. in-the-air experience…I think it all comes down to personal preference (and of course the same could be said of Wi-Fi, too). I used to work on designing premium services in a different industry. My experience was that different people value different things, so if you want to appeal to a broad audience you weave together a variety of different “features,” from warm service to gourmet food to gifts, knowing that some features will delight one person while the next person won’t even notice they’re there, and vice versa. That’s how you develop a wide customer base.

    Ultimately, that’s why I think the high level of detail you give us is important. We get to see all the “features” of these great products. Then, even if we disagree with your judgments, we can look for ourselves and make our own decisions.

    Anyways, those are my thoughts. Good to reflect, ignore the haters (there are a lot of them around here), and keep up the great work!

  69. I don’t use WiFi – it can wait until I hit the ground.
    I don’t use alcohol.
    On a long night flight, I eat dinner in the lounge first. Then, upon boarding, I change into my AA PJ’s and ask the F/A to keep my ‘dinner’ on ice. When the wheels are retracting, my seat is reclining. On goes the sleep mask & ear plugs & I sleep (once 9-ours straight on the QF DFW-SYD flight).
    Oh, and I prefer the BA J seat to QF because every seat has aisle access IMHO.

  70. As an infrequent leisure traveler, I think that Jake is spot on. Wifi, unless it’s free, is unimportant. It’s about the amenities — fully enclosed suite, onboard bar, shower, etc.

  71. You nailed it. I’m 17 and I already have tons of airline miles (Avios-you can get a junior account). I was brought up around flying and fly around 5 or 6 times a year either to our ski chalet in France or to see Aussie relatives. I love to read this blog and it gives me so much confidence that I will make a good FA from what you and other bloggers like from the crew. Although I have flown C 1 or 2 times in my life, I want to have more opportunities to fly premium cabins as flying is my life. Thank you very much Lucky!

  72. I agree that there is no one “true first class passenger.” In that same light I also believe that my needs and perspectives change from flight to flight. What I would like in First Class on a IAD-LHR late night flight vs. a IAD-NRT day flight are profoundly different. A great airline matches the needs of every traveler in ways that are seamless and adaptive to every person’s fundamental needs. An example of failing is American and their first class product. Yesterday on the late flight from DFW-LHR there was no premium check-in open at Terminal D and I waited for 30 minutes to check-in at the regular counter. Sure, I went right to sleep in 2J upon taking off and while I could have cared less about the dinner at 11:00PM I would have liked proper bedding (it’s better in Delta business class). So the one meal that would have been nice for me was breakfast – which consisted of a disgusting domestic style first class omelette and cheap yogurt served in a container. No table setting – nothing to distinguish. It felt like a morning flight from DCA-ORD. I don’t care about a shower or bling…but as airlines like ANA prove you can have a less than amazing soft product and ground experience but still compensate enough in other ways to make up for any short falls. As did Garuda it seems in Ben’s experience. Where airlines fail are like American who over promise their product and under deliver in every way possible with nothing distinctive to make it feel “worthy.” And while I can’t stand Delta’s antiquated planes…I find they at least price and promise what they deliver in business class.

  73. When I fly, which is not often enough, my main thing I want is to arrive alive and unharmed.

    I read your blog for seeing things I’m unlikely to. I’m far more likely to spend on other things than premium cabin. I like to see what the food is (and it’s unlikely to be vegan in F!).

  74. Your nothing more than a family trust fund parasite who blogs your ppretentious jew travel tips.
    Truly vile rodent!

  75. Dr. Bongo’s comment is one more example of why there needs to be accountability and real identity on the interweb. Beyond just ISP information of a user – one should be required to show their identity in society to avoid cowards inciting and shouting racist comments from the safety of a hidden closet. We can say “just ignore them” but as in the case of the restaurant in DC this week that was targeted by bizarre conspiracy theories online (and generated by hate groups) it is clear that the system of “ignore and delete” is not working. We will never change crazies…,but it seems that like in public society they should at least be held accountable by name for their actions.

  76. 1st, no disrespect, but Jake can start his own blog – and I would subscribe.

    2nd, what I value vary for each trip and depends on: destination, schedule, purpose, connections, length of trip, etc…. In general I don’t value wifi on planes or entertainment systems. I can watch a movie but rather relax with book or catch up on my podcasts.

    If I value any one thing across the board it’s the service during flight.

  77. Your trip reviews are fine and useful. The CC propaganda is useless fo non-americans.
    For F its all about the bed and non crowded cabin. Nice food is a + but I don’t really care. Groundexperience like GA and AF is great but I would not pay a lot more for it.

  78. Commenting from the perspective of a 28 year old female, that has never travelled on anything but economy, short haul flights (infrequently at that!) and that will probably never get the opportunity to travel first class, I really, reeeeally enjoy reading your blog. I, too, probably wouldn’t value some of the things that you do, but haven’t ever once felt that you are dictating to me what I should appreciate. I enjoy your perspective and I think that you provide fair, interesting, well composed and thoughtful reviews. You should be congratulated and appreciated rather than criticised, you’re obviously conscientious about your content and have created an interest in travel in myself from nothing! So… thank you!
    Maybe people can write their own blogs if you’re not providing them with their opinion.

  79. I love reading your blogs. Of course you will value certain things really highly that may not rank on my ‘top five’. And everyone has difference preferences.

    An example – you gave the GA F seats a con because they weren’t fully enclosed suites. I HATE the fully enclosed suites more than anything and much prefer the more open cabins of LH/CX/GA etc. But then again i’m one of those ‘freaks’ that enjoys flying BA Club World – provided I get a window seat. I love that they have a completely consistent (yet mediocre) fully flat bed product across their entire (large) long haul fleet. And I love the privacy of the window seats. I hate these staggered Business Class seat types that make you put your feet in ‘cubby holes’ when flat. I much prefer just a flat open space (JAL 777-300 seats are my favourite). Lots of people hate the whole jumping over someones feet. It’s not something that bothers me at all.

    Different strokes for different folks and all that.

  80. I’m not an ultra experienced F flyer. So far, I’ve flown F on GF, TG, LH, LX and BA. All have their pluses and minuses.

    Ground experience: my number one is LH @ FRA, closely followed by TG @ BKK. BA @ LHR was probably worst in terms of ground experience at the carrier’s principal airport.

    Lounge: I think TG’s BKK lounge and LH’s FRA lounge are equally impressive.

    Cabin: LX, followed by TG. I do like open cabins; if I want a cubicle, I go to one of my company’s US offices…

    Food and drink in the air: TG wins, LX number two (no caviar, otherwise I would place TG and LX both on number one).

    I always like your reports, but I always read them thinking about my own “needs” in the air (for example, I could care less about wifi on board, but I do like my champagne and wines).

  81. I would love you to do a 2016 roundup summarising all your travels. What are the Top 10 components that make up the end to end journey experience (and put them in your order of priority) and then do a Top 10 for each of these ranking the airlines (or airports as part of a journey) which provide the best experience. You have so many great experiences that at the end of the year its truly hard (sort of getting back to Jake’s comment) as to what is the best of the best travel experience.

  82. As many others have said, personal bias is inherent in blogs – that is what makes them interesting!
    People travel, and people travel in F and J, for many different reasons. For us, we choose to travel in J to make vacations and trips to family more comfortable. Add in travelling with a child and limited vacation time, that means as few connections as possible is the first thing we look for. So is BA Club World the best product? No – but when it means 2 flights rather than 3, we fly it…..
    So for me in practical terms – Your review of Garuda F was amazing and I enjoyed reading it…but the likelihood of me flying it is minimal unless/until we decided on a trip to Bali – and even then, it might not logistically work for us. Likewise with the ME carriers – I would love to try them, but it doesn’t make sense for where we are going on vacation.

  83. Isn’t there some sort of responsibility for the reader to make the distinction between “need” and “want” here? I rarely take a flight longer than 4 hours, so the concept of a shower doesn’t appeal to me (especially because I’m not a fan of using public showers). Food and alcohol, comfort, VOD are all appealing things. I’ve never flown a lie-flat so it may be nice, but I’m sure I could fall asleep in the angled. Privacy is cool and everything, but in my eyes, I’m not doing anything that warrants the need for it.

    However, reading this blog allows me to aspire. It’s something that interests me and something I want to experience. What’s most important is when that opportunity or chance comes, I’ll be able to pick and choose which features I’d want to enjoy for my life’s inaugural Intl F.

  84. My views are with Lucky, but I will explain:

    When one is an usual Y class passenger, ramping up to J class, then to F class, the visible “upgrade” is in the bling factor, the wow-factor; more & better Champagnes, caviar, shower in the air, etc.

    Because, in Y class, there is hardly any service. So the most visible upgrade is in your drinks, your food.

    But after you have experienced the expensive alcohol, the caviar, you realise that if you spend 200USD, you can have the same alcohol and caviar on the ground, and the 5-min shower is just for giggles, what you cannot spend 200 USD and buy, is the ground experience that can save you a lot of time.

    What is the point to fly F, and get stuck in queues like an Y passenger?

    Hence the ground experience, the service, is the true F experience. How much do you need to pay CX, for them to do the same ground experience and save you 45 mins for immigration? (is that even available, for sale?)
    How much do you need to pay, to experience Krug+caviar on the ground? (200 USD perhaps?)

    If you are after a better champagne, and will fly many F itineraries just to get more F class drinks, you simply have not flown enough, and hence is just after more alcohols and caviars.

    Once you have flown enough (and enough is enough), you realise the best experience is to minimise the waiting+travel time, and for those time you cannot save, you then hope for the best possible service to make your waiting+travel time less painful – i.e., better food, better wine, better movies, better wifi.

    So this is the level of progression.

    Lucky is not biased from this perspective. Lucky has simply evolved. And yes, from this perspective, I am with Lucky that Garuda has done a marvelous job, and worthy of number one in service, and probably no.1 overall as well.

  85. Reading your review for Garuda F, the most I remember was really the way they treat you: being so attentive and kind, putting on gloves to wrap up your shoes upon boarding, having 4 flight attendants, the way the escort you in and out etc. It’s also important to have a seamless full package first class product, from begin to end. I remember the most I am impressed about on CX F was the personalized note card and the hangers with your initials. Those little things make the experience more special than having expensive champagnes or wine.

    However, the wifi is also worthless for me.

  86. I place virtually no value on soft product. Lounges don’t matter, food doesn’t matter, champagne doesn’t matter, the food doesn’t matter. An onboard shower sure as heck doesn’t matter to me. Getting through customs/immigration is certainly a positive, and one I wouldn’t say has no value to me. But, not enough to choose F over J if I have the choice.

    I am a a straight “Give me a comfy seat and some extra space” kind of guy. And plenty of water to drink. This is why I am far more of a business class guy than first class guy.

  87. I’d like to start by pointing out that I really, really appreciate the self-reflexivity of this post. It’s inevitable that your perspective changes the more you fly, and let’s be honest, was anyone meant to tough it out in first class as much as you do? It’s bound to ware on you after a while. (jokes)

    In all seriousness, my perspective is this: I notice everything. When I have a conversation, when I meet someone for the first time, when I work, when I travel. Details are important to me, yes, but I’ll take it a step further and say that details are inevitable to me. I’ll notice them whether I want to (usually I do) or not. Therefore, I want all details (onboard and on the ground) absolutely 100%, or even greater. There’s no better feeling than a pleasant surprise. There’s no better feeling than exceeded expectations.

    For me, the primary reason to fly first over business class is comfort. That said, don’t take the word “comfort” at face value. Specifically, flying international first provides two amenities that business never does: privacy and peace of mind. It’s no fault of an airline, but most international business has over 75 seats, sometimes upwards of 100. Business on Lufthansa’s A380 houses 92 seats. There is no way to provide personalized service to 92 people without more flight attendants than an A380 can hold. In contrast, first’s eight seats are private and offer the individualized service you’d expect. So, back to my first “pro” of first: privacy. On a long flight, whether I want to work or relax, I want to feel home. The fact is, home is private, and to recreate that feeling on a plane, especially if the goal is to make that space your own for 10+ hours, privacy is key. I’ll note that I don’t even consider myself an especially private person, and I do like to take a stroll through the rest of the plane (mostly because I’m an AV geek, partly to stretch my legs), but when I’m at my seat I don’t like to be bothered. My second point, peace of mind, is equally as important. If flying international first, the trip will end in another country. Maybe it’s a new place. The idea that the Purser will come around and help to make individual arrival arrangements, or that there’s a seamless ground experience awaiting you, is a blessing when visiting somewhere new (and far away) for the first time.

    On that note, ground experience. I began this post by speaking of my attention to details, and I’ll go as far as to say that a poor ground experience almost completely ruins a top-notch flight. Business is about comfort (if evaluating the primary “jump” from economy), and first, in my mind, is about experience. This doesn’t have to mean an over-the-top experience, but it does have to mean a unique experience, either on the ground, in the air, or, ideally, both; one that only 14 (ish) other people on your flight will know. It’s baffling to me that some airlines offer little to no first class ground experience, both for departure and arrival, especially when there are so few people flying first.

    As for any bias in your posts, it’s called a writer’s voice. I feel like it’s a no-brainer. You’re the writer, they’re your opinions, you’re sharing them, we’re reading them, done. End of story. Unless you’re providing false information, which does not appear to be the case, what’s the problem? I welcome others’ opinions. When writing a review, I would hope that you notice everything, and, in turn, write everything down and add your exact opinions when necessary. It’s up to the reader to value what’s important to them (or not).

    Lastly, while this blog does indeed provide general information to folks interested in maximizing their miles and points, it is also specific to your interests, especially when it comes to reviews. It’s no secret that your goal is/was/has been aspirational travel, and, consequently, this blog highlights the pros of using miles and points for experiences that would have otherwise been out of reach. Personally, I love that about your writing and about the opportunities highlighted on the blog. This post, for me, is most important because it represents your growth, both as a traveler and as someone writing about travel. I’m a fan. Keep up the good work!

  88. When you fly a lot (premium or not) you start to notice things that, if you flew once or twice a year, you might miss. One reason I enjoy reading your blog – you are detailed in what you report. As a highly experienced premium flyer, you recognize things that most would not.

    That said, if I had a choice between reading a post by you or one by Tiffany, I’ll always read hers first – not because I don’t enjoy what you write (I very much do), but I am more interested in the types of things she generally writes about.

    Are you biased? Yes – but that’s not terrible because we all are in our own way. It’s already been said – we all value different things when we travel, and we all travel for different reasons. It’s also your blog. Yours. You write whatever and how ever you see fit.

    I wish you all the best and hope you keep doing what you do for a long time.

  89. I agree with others that there is no “True” first class flyer. Per @ericnyc, different passengers will want different features so airlines need to appeal to different needs to accommodate different customers (or same customers on different flights).

    Personally, on my first few J/F flights, I tried to take advantage of as many features as possible. Having realized the food is almost never great, I usually eat light (appetizers/salad, dessert) and try to maximize rest. I used to fly int’l. J weekly for work and my feeling was that they couldn’t clear my tray fast enough for me to maximize rest.

    Although I sleep very well in most J products, if F is available on miles, I always go for it for the following reasons: 1) bigger bed with mattress pad = better sleep, 2) more personalized attention means the service is customized to my priorities/needs (I just tell the FA that I’d like to eat light if possible to maximize rest once at the beginning of the service and they go out of their way to make that happen), 3) extra space and privacy. I do enjoy champagne, but usually have a couple of glasses and en switch to water. Ground services, when well executed, are awesome but don’t make or break the experience (I do find it annoying when priority boarding isn’t enforced – thinking of my last Swiss F experience!). Lounge is much appreciated when a layover is inevitable, in which case a descent meal option and a good shower are a big plus.

    All this to say, I feel very fortunate to be able to use miles for J when flying internationally, but due to the service model personalization of is much less likely in J, so when F is available, its a no brainer to me. Like many, i don’t value wifi much because I’m looking to rest, not work, on the plane. Most of my experiences were thanks to what I’ve learned on this blog, so thank you Ben and please keep the great reviews coming!

    One more thing: I’ve also been fortunate enough to earn a lot of SPG points over the past couple of years and have increasingly been finding myself optimizing for experience rather than value per point (eg redeeming for LH F via M&M to grab seats in advance, willing to pay “devalued” AA rates for CX F). Anyone else prioritizing comfort/convenience over points maximization?

  90. @Dan C — First of all, great post, and I agree with just about everything you’ve said/posted.

    Secondly, with regards to your final question (“Anyone else prioritizing comfort/convenience over points maximization?”) — as I stated in my original post, when I’m flying long haul on my own dime (or points), either coast-to-coast or trans-oceanic, I’m flying in business; I’m just too damned old, and I refuse to be “sardined” into an Economy seat for that long¹. So certainly from that viewpoint, I’m prioritizing comfort and convenience over maximizing points.

    Regarding short-haul flights and/or hotel stays, I’m usually maximizing my points; so, too, of course with spending — not only opting to use the credit card(s) that will allow me to rack up the most points, but using airline shopping portals (when convenient) and other “tricks” that will allow me to prioritize my comfort and convenience. ;^)

    But isn’t that true for most of us?

    ______________
    ¹ OK, two exceptions: 1) when flying with our kids — e.g.: next week, OAK-OGG (Maui) — we *are* flying Economy, but a) I paid cash, and b) cannot afford four seats up front; and 2) my wife and I *are* flying Economy on an Emirates A380 JFK-MXP, but the fare for “Black Friday” was too low to pass up, so we made a spontaneous decision to take a European vacation and, again, paid cash. That said, of the 22 nights, one will be spent on that A380, and I think another 10 (so far) have been booked using points.

  91. I sometimes pay for upgrades with points, but I mostly get the cheapest tickets with the best dates/connections, rarely favouring a particular alliance. I fly maybe 4-5 round trips per year.

    The reason I find the reviews interesting is not because I want to hear your opinion (i.e. it was good, worth the money etc) but to see what is offered. So while I appreciate reading what you thought of a particular part of the service for example, I always put that sort of information in the “subjective” box. It’s not unimportant, but it is less important than seeing what the seats are like, what kind of food is served, what’s the IFE like etc. That’s why the detailed photos are my favourite part.

    The reason I also pay less attention on the subjective opinions is also because we are obviously very different flyers. I get upgrades as a treat sometimes, and you have travelled much more and on a wide range of airlines. So I tend to take the bias in consideration when reading the blog.

    All in all, from my point of view, your reviews cater for a very different flyer (and presumably also for someone who mostly flies F) and that is thanks to the level of detail you give in the reviews. I really enjoy reading the blog and hope to do so for a long time in the future!

  92. Ben, as usual you’re thoughtful and constantly evaluating the value of your product, as any smart businessperson does, and I, as your consumer truly appreciate it!! Since I only get to do the very occasional first class long-haul, the fun part of the trip is most important, so I agree with the gentleman you were talking about who says that 4 hours in the FCT is worth more than wifi 🙂

  93. Hey all…thanks for the reports and loved reading the comments. When travelling in first class, its about seamless,effortless and fast speed in and out of the airports. Having never travelled abroad not even to mention first class, let me just mention TRUE first class is all round. It starts the minute you pay for your ticket and ends the minute you’ve reached your hotel door. Seamless….no interuptions. Effortless…with full grace. Fast…your in and out. The last point I want to mention is that when your travelling in first class…it should almost be like you can’t do anything for yourself…so maybe you have become numb.
    Just my 2cents..

    Thanks.
    E. R. M.

  94. Eugene? First of all (sorry, can’t help myself!), it’s “you’re,” as in “you are” — not “your,” as in the possessive: “Fast…you ARE in and out,” and “when you ARE traveling in first class.”

    Secondly, when you write/say that, “TRUE first class is all round. It starts the minute you pay for your ticket and ends the minute you’ve reached your hotel door,” I admit to being confused. More so, given the fact you admit that you have “never travelled abroad not even to mention first class.” What does purchasing a first class airline ticket (either for cash, points, or a combination thereof), have to do with reaching my door of my hotel? If we are limiting ourselves to the experience of flying first class, I find the process of buying a first class ticket — again, for cash, points, or a combination thereof — typically is no different than buying a ticket in coach. The bill is higher, of course, but it’s essentially the exact same process online — you click here, you click there, and you’re done . . . UNLESS you need to book an award seat on the telephone, in which case traveling first class is actually far more complicated and time consuming — often taking multiple telephone calls to see if seats have opened up. It can be a royal pain-in-the-a$$ . . .

    For me, the first class experience NEVER starts when I buy my ticket, but rather, it starts when I arrive at the airport and extends through picking up my luggage at baggage claim . . . unless the airline is providing a limo to whisk me to my hotel’s front door. (In that case, you are correct, but FWIW, that has never happened to me in first class; Virgin Atlantic once provided a limo to get me TO Heathrow from my London hotel, but that was in business class. It wasn’t worth the extra cash/points, and I generally take the Heathrow Express — cheaper, faster, easier.) Upon retrieving my suitcase, I’m typically either heading to the taxi rank or to the rental car counter (where I may have some form of elite status there, too; that depends upon the agency) — no limos for me.

    To extend this for a brief moment, a hotel’s first class experience starts at check-in, rarely at the curb (unless they recognize me, and I don’t flatter myself so much as to think I’m that recognizable or well-known). And it ends, again, at check-out, at which time I’ve made whatever travel arrangements needed to get back to the airport (taxi, ride share, train, friend, and only once, the above-mentioned limo) for my return flight home . . . or wherever that flight is taking me.

  95. For decades I always flew to Asia in economy class. I still fondly remember the first time I flew First Class on SQ.
    There was a line of Business Class passengers that had formed. I stood back away from them and was not close to the gate. However I had strategically put my red boarding pass in my shirt pocket. The SQ gate lady from a distance saw my red boarding pass in my pocket. She then waved at me with a smile to come up and came to me to escort me on to the plane. As she escorted me to the front, everyone in the business class line was just looking at me, probably thinking: who is this guy getting priority service? How do I get service like that? It was fun to be treated like someone important for a change. 🙂

  96. Hey…no problem.
    Any service provider in general will tell you that their service starts when you pay for it…in that case…anything that has to do with first class should start the minute you purchase and pay it…
    Thank you and Regards…
    E.R.M

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