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After a brief stay in Paris, it was time for me to finally return home. I visited my parents before traveling to Dubai and Europe with Ben, so as I left Paris it had been nearly a month since I had been in Los Angeles. Traveling is awesome, but I was ready to be home. Initially, my plan was to leave Paris and go to New York in Lufthansa first class. I redeemed 62,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles for the trip. Shockingly, space opened directly to Los Angeles on LH450, the 2:05 pm flight, which — like my flight to New York — was on a 747-8.
This route is next to impossible to redeem points for, even in advance using Miles & More points. I decided to go home before going to New York, that way I could do laundry, repack, etc. Good thing I decided to leave earlier instead of later, since Lufthansa’s longhaul pilots are on strike now! By switching, I also ended up sharing the cabin with two famous female singers.
Even non-religious readers of OMAAT know that Ben loves Lufthansa. He likes it so much that Tiffany had to step in and share her own opinion of Lufthansa first class, lest readers suspect Ben was sugarcoating his reviews. I’m happy to report that my experience on Lufthansa, including a visit to the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, was incredible — and not just in a Park Hyatt Vienna kind of way.
I finished my tour of Europe in Paris. I won’t digress, but I will say that Paris is by far the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. I’ve visited it more than any other international city — I think this marked my 13 visit — and it just never gets old. I have also stayed at the Park Hyatt Vendome on three separate occasions. This is a magnificent property. Unlike the Park Hyatt Vienna, it has consistently good, but not great service. By Parisian standards, the service is top notch, and there’s no doubting that it’s the best luxury option in Paris that one can reasonably obtain on points. The thing I love most about the Park Hyatt Vendome, however, is the hotel’s signature scent.
I’m a sucker for fragrances. Anyone who has been to my apartment in Los Angeles knows that I have a large tray of fragrances in my bathroom featuring in excess of a dozen fragrances, and these are just my favorites. I also have quite a collection of candles. Maybe it’s just me, but I love it when airlines and hotels have a signature fragrance. Perhaps this is because substantial research suggests that smells have an ability to recall memories better than other senses. (The linked CNN article is the most accessible, not the most scientifically persuasive article on the subject.)
With respect to airlines, Emirates does an amazing job pumping Bulgari’s more feminine scent into the lavatories and cabin of first class.
Greetings from the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. Just so you all know, unlike Ben, I got a remote gate, and so was driven in an S-class Mercedes Benz. The driver first brought me to the B gates, but then upon my request he took me to the FCT. I’ll get a car transfer to my flight to LAX as well, so I’m batting 1000!
The point of this post, however, is the Park Hyatt Vienna — the last hotel on our trip throughout Europe (including an efficient stop-over in Dubai). Ben has already dubbed the hotel “incredible” in two different posts. The property was incredible, I won’t disagree with him there. This is his blog after all. And really, who the heck am I? (Please, don’t answer that.) Seriously though, the hotel was absolutely stunning. It is unquestionably as gorgeous as the Park Hyatt properties I have visited in Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, and Buenos Aires — which are among the most visually delighting hotels I have had the pleasure of visiting.
Each of these hotels, and especially Sydney and Tokyo, offered amazing service on top of excellent hotel design. I would not consider the service at the Park Hyatt Vienna to be incredible. It was at best inconsistent. There were highlights, which I will not undershadow, but at its lows (and there were many), the only thing that was incredible about it was just how bad the service was. This is so, I think, even setting aside that it is meant to be the — or one of the — most upscale hotels in Vienna.
As some readers may know, I just flew a couple segments in Emirates first class with Ben, and then hopped around Europe on British Airways, airberlin, and, within the past day, Austrian Airlines. I’ll be returning home via Frankfurt on Lufthansa, and will be reviewing their first class product. That is, unless the pilots decide to strike without much advance notice in the next day or two. For me, flying economy, coach, “euro traveler,” or whatever its called intra Europe is no big deal. The flights are generally no longer than a couple hours, and I’m not especially tall so the leg room isn’t an issue for me.
Depending on where you live in the United States, things might be more or less the same. If you are based in Chicago, for example, there’s not that many U.S. destinations that are more than a few hours from Chicago. The west coast is the furthest, but that’s still less than four hours of flight time away from Chicago.
It’s somewhat different when talking about someone who lives on the west coast and travels frequently to the east coast (or vice versa). My family lives on the east coast, in a city I have no choice but to connect to if flying any legacy carrier, and many of my friends are located in New York. Flights between JFK and LAX/SFO can take nearly as long as JFK-LHR, especially during the winter. And to the extent they’re shorter on the outbound, that only ruins any chance of sleeping on a redeye. Factoring in that I often want to leave in the early evening on Sundays, i.e., I’m usually number 25 or so for departure at JFK, it should come as no surprise that I’m concerned about seat comfort.
We give things names so that we can readily identify them. It’s obvious that a bike isn’t a car. And we can explain that fairly easily. Though not all that efficiently. Realistically, we’d need to explain that a car is powered by an engine and not peddles, and has four wheels instead of two (generally). By giving it a name, we avoid needless comparing and contrasting.
This is even more important when we’re not talking about the difference between a bike and a car, but between different brands of cars. This is of course where trademark has emerged to protect against source confusion — whether intentional or otherwise.
Where consumers are concerned, however, there’s a compelling argument that a name is most important when its purpose is to distinguish between various products lines offered by the same company. This is not so much an issue of trademark as it is one of internal branding.
As a relatively long-time Angeleno, I am well aware of what it’s like not to have much in the way of reasonably accessible public transportation. I have lived in Chicago (for undergrad) and New York (briefly after undergrad), however, and thus am well aware of how convenient it is to be in cities with more practical modes of transportation. At the same time, like anyone, I’ve started to get used to just taking Uber and/or my own car when needing to get from point A to point B.
When Ben said we were going to take the Arlanda Express into Stockholm I was like: “Oh cool that’s great!” Then I was like, hmm, is this really a good idea? So I asked Ben if it was close to the hotel? Ben replied that it was “only a block.” Hmm, ok. Well that isn’t far. I can walk a block! Ahh, but maybe the train was slow. After all, ARN is about 25 miles from the heart of Stockholm. Ben had an answer for that too. It was “fast.” Whatever that means. I was defeated, though. Arlanda Express had won.
Guten tag from Berlin. After an amazing stay in Stockholm we jumped on an airberlin flight to Berlin for a few days. But as far as my review goes, we’re still in Manchester! We stayed in the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, which is the tallest and most iconic building in the city. Ben will be reviewing it very shortly, so I won’t go into much detail on the hotel experience and instead will focus on Manchester itself and the MAN airport experience, which was a painful yet comedic experience, or something like that.
Manchester itself is a very cute city that has a somewhat “small town” feel. Given that Emirates has thrice daily service (two on an A380), and that Etihad and Qatar have two daily flights, I have to wonder where all the people go! One of the nicest aspects of Manchester was the weather! After Dubai, there was nothing I wanted more than to walk outside without feeling like I was three inches from the sun. You might think of the UK as being dreary, but the slight bit of rain and 65 degree weather was very very welcomed after the 110+ degree weather in Dubai. It’s also very easy to walk around the Deansgate area, which was also a pleasant change of pace after sprawling Dubai.
We had lounge access the second day at the Hilton, and the views were quite nice.
Manchester also has a number of scenic canals running through it. I tried to capture a few of them, but I’m not a very good photographer so you’ll have to forgive me and visit the city yourself to understand what I am really talking about.
Greetings from Stockholm. But lets not get too far ahead. In terms of my review, we have only just escaped the Tropicana mostly unscathed. We hadn’t even lost any money, unlike last time Ben and I were in Las Vegas (fortunately not at the Tropicana), where Ben made generous donations to the Cosmopolitan foundation.
Upon boarding, I was taken to my seat by Patricia, the flight attendant that worked my aisle for the flight. It was slightly before 7:00 am, and I had been up for around 9 hours already. Patricia’s welcome was warm but professional. She escorted me to my seat (2F) and inquired as to whether I had flown Emirates first before. Of course I had! A few days earlier. Since I had already flown Emirates first, she said she wouldn’t give me a tour of the cabin, unless I wanted another one. I decided not to have a second tour, but thanked her for the offer. She invited me to make myself comfortable and assured me she would be back shortly to offer me drinks.
Moments later the purser, Toby, came over. After he introduced himself to us, he advised us that the only other passengers in first class were sitting directly in front of us in seats 1E and 1F. For that reason, he told us we were welcome to move to 3E and 3F if we wished. We decided that made the most sense. Not only would we achieve added privacy, but our neighbors to the north would appreciate not having to hear our drunken banter.
As I mentioned previously, I’m currently on a trip with one of my best friends, Matt. We’re planning the trip day-by-day, which means I’ll be writing the trip report more or less live. Matt will be sharing his thoughts as we go along as well — here’s his third installment.
After indulging in seven course tea at the Burj al Arab, Ben and I headed back to the Park Hyatt Dubai to try to get some sleep before our relatively early 7:20 am departure on EK17 to Manchester. That started off swimmingly, but we were both wide awake about two hours later. Fortunately, Ben had also just received good news from his family, which meant our trip could continue for the duration initially planned.
We proceeded to spout off potential destinations and airlines for a few hours until we ultimately decided on our post-Manchester destinations (which will remain nameless for now). At this point, it was around midnight. The morning call to prayer was happening in under five hours and we had barely slept. Any self-respecting person would have gone to bed. We had a better idea. The Emirates lounges at Dubai Airport are operated around the clock, so it only made sense to go straight to DXB and enjoy the Dubai Mall @ DXB EK lounges!
Greetings from Manchester. Flying Emirates really helps set the stage for Dubai, because the city is as over-the-top as the first class experience on Emirates. And that’s hard to do. Although we weren’t in Dubai for that long, we managed to squeeze in many of the major Dubai experiences. The blingy-ist (and most filling) of them was tea at the Burj al Arab with our British/Australian ex-pat friend Robert. Ben has reviewed the tea here on more than one occasion, so I decided to share my thoughts.
Most readers are probably familiar with the hotel. It is the world’s only self-proclaimed seven star hotel. I’m not really sure what that means, however, since hotels from the Westin (and maybe even Best Western) to the Four Seasons George V identify as five star hotels. Stars aside, the hotel is certainly stunning. The lobby boasts what might be enough gold to irritate Midus — perhaps this is the hallmark of a seven star hotel? But there are fountains on the ground level that focus your attention up towards the atrium, which actually detracts from the gold because the ceilings of each floor are painted in different pastel colors. There’s something surreal about the atrium in that it appears almost flat.
As I mentioned previously, I’m currently on a trip with one of my best friends, Matt. We’re planning the trip day-by-day, which means I’ll be writing the trip report more or less live. Matt will be sharing his thoughts as we go along as well, so this is the first of his installments.
Greetings from Dubai. Ben wanted me to share my thoughts about Emirates A380 first class with you. That’s a little shocking after my champagne post, but I assume he’s just being nice. Or maybe he just wanted me to leave him alone for a few minutes on the trip. Probably both.
This was my first time flying Emirates and also my first time flying the A380. Those of you that have seen any of Ben’s previous reports on Emirates know that it’s the blingy-ist airline in the sky. Ben has been telling me for years that I had to fly Emirates. I basically hadn’t — according to him — lived until around noon on Saturday when I boarded the plane. (Or maybe it wasn’t until they opened the 2005 Dom once we were in the air?) Going into the flight, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I generally trust Ben’s judgment on all things travel-related, though, so I figured I had to do it.
I have obviously read Ben’s reviews of Emirates. I mean, we all know that the first class cabin looks like #richkidsofinstagram on crack. My initial impression was basically the painted nails emoji and the tongue-out emoji with one eye squinting. The suites themselves are not huge, but they’re certainly more than large enough. There is more (high gloss) wood in the first cabin than in every gentleman’s club in London combined. But it’s actually less over the top in person than it looks in pictures, if that makes any sense.
It has been just over 18 months since my last champagne post. That’s a really long time. In that time period, we’ve seen multiple airlines go to revenue based frequent flyer programs, Emirates has taken delivery of roughly 7,000 more Airbus A380’s, the Boeing 787 has become so commonplace it bores me (also – it’s apparently not hail-proof), and Ben has started talking much more about Etihad and Emirates than he has Lufthansa. OH, and United.com apparently decided to wave goodbye to the early 1980’s. (Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about nearly all United Clubs – hope springs eternal, however.)
A lot has happened in the champagne world, too! So it’s time to update the prior “Airlines that Serve the Best Champagne” post. I’m going for quality over quantity, and only pointing out what I think are the five best first class champagnes. I’ll also highlight the best domestic champagne currently on offer, and point out a few great lounges for champagne lovers. Check out the old post for additional offerings.
On Monday I asked the (admittedly) ridiculous question of whether it’s worth rerouting an award trip to get on a flight with better champagne. As it turns out the question was moot, since apparently Korean Air has changed the champagne they serve, but it was interesting to read the reactions nonetheless. Anyway, reader EggSS4 left…