Piecing Together My Next Airline Review Trip

As many readers know, I often take trips for the sole purpose of reviewing airlines. After all, that’s what I largely write about, and in turn, how I make a living. Oh, and I also really enjoy it.

I’m trying to get better about planning these review trips further in advance, so that I’m not scrambling to book last minute. I know some of you enjoy reading about the booking process I go through, so I figured I’d share my latest plan, and you guys can tell me what you think (and what you’d change). I’m working backwards on this one, based on my goal.

Getting from Dubai back to the US in Kuwait Airways first class

I’m trying to review every single international first class product in the world, and I’m down to just three airlines — Cathay Dragon, Kuwait Airways, and Oman Air:

I’m working backwards here, and my immediate plan is to review Kuwait Airways first class. Their best first class fares are from Dubai to New York, where they charge ~$1,850 (and you can knock that down further by going through some online travel agencies):

How to get from New York to Dubai?

A while back I flew UIA’s business class between Kiev and New York. It was awful, probably the worst transatlantic business class flight I’ve ever taken. The food and service wasn’t particularly bad, but rather the plane was just so outdated.

It’s exciting to me that Ukraine is starting service with some 777s, and as of May they’ll start flying 777s to New York. These planes will feature flat beds in business class, so this should represent a huge improvement for the airline. Given their reasonable paid business class fares, I think it’s useful to see how their updated product is.

What I’m also tempted by is that the airline allows free stopovers in Kiev, so you can stop there for a few days before continuing to your final destination. I’ve never been, so would love to visit. Here’s a sample fare from New York to Paris:

From Paris to Dubai I see two interesting options (and in both cases I see lower paid fares than displayed below, but rather I’m sharing this purely for the itinerary). The first is to fly with Lebanon-based Middle East Airlines, which is a SkyTeam airline. I could even redeem Delta SkyMiles for this flight. This would also allow me to have a stopover in Beirut, which I haven’t yet visited, but has been high on my list.

Alternatively there’s Air Algerie, which has been on my radar for a while. They fly between Montreal and Algiers using an A330 with reverse herringbone seats, though I can’t seem to ever get a good fare on that flight. They seem to have similar fares to Dubai, and that flight is roughly the same length.

If I did this trip, the routing would look something like this:

I’m curious what you guys think — would these airlines be interesting to read about, or how would you modify this trip?

Comments

  1. I would totally do that trip. Book it! But try and spend some time on the ground to explore both Kiev and Beirut.

  2. I would highly suggest a few days in Kiev. Depending how adventurous you are feeling you could do a 1 or 2 day trip to see Chernobyl. I did the 2 day and it was absolutely amazing. I wish I would have had more time in Kiev. Its an amazing city. I spent about a day and a half there. 2 or 3 days in Kiev would be ideal. There’s a pretty nice Hyatt Regency just a few blocks off of Independence Square that I stayed at.

  3. Definitely stay a few days or longer in Ukraine. Chernobyl is an interesting tour, and I definitely recommend it, but also don’t miss Lviv. It’s a few hours by good quality highway from Kiev and is one of the most gorgeous cities I’ve ever visited in Europe. See if you can find the secret Masonic restaurant there – if you’re lucky like I was, you’ll be able to bluff your way in.

    I’d be interested to see an MEA review, because airlines that are bookable with points are more interesting to me.

  4. I will totally do KA an KU. As I have not tried them yet,it will be great to read your experience. The F seat is the same as CX C longhaul seat so nothing new here. The soft products will be interesting to know. Will they better than other chinese carriers?
    Than KU F will be also interesting to see comparing to SV F. Let us see which is the best “dry F class” out there!
    Regarding WY F, you are right, wait till the new F has arrived. The existing one has only a different seat than the C seat. It is solid but nothing like an EK suites. The soft products are also quite the same. Probably the typical curse of an outstanding C product like QR which makes F obsolete
    About PS, I am eager to read your report about the new C seat and hopefully better catering.
    Regarding AH, this is one airline I have not heard of. This will be interesting to read! Will it be more a dreadful one like TU or a surprising good one like AT.
    Yes, Ben..you have my support try all of the above. Oh, I forgot ME..well, there are still time in the future.
    About planning all these in one trip? Yeah, Ben..I believe in you!

  5. Instead of UIA, I’d prefer a trip report on Air Europa on the outbound since that seems more relevant to the frequent flyer crowd. They fly to FCO, MXP, and FRA which Air Algerie and MEA both fly to, so depending on options. Seems MEA will resume MAD in a few months and Air Algerie flies there already. Although what does MEA fly to their European destinations and to Dubai? I know they have A330s… And if you go via FCO or MXP, perhaps that may be an opportunity to check out the Casa Alitalia lounge?

  6. If you’re gonna try Oman Air be sure to try their new 737 MAX as well. They introduced a new J on it, and it looks fantastic. And while you’re at it, you could also do FlyDubai’s 737 MAX. IIRC it flies to BKK.

  7. @Ben I’m a loyal, longtime fan and reader of OMAAt, and would like to express my suggestions. While these uncommon airlines are certainly interesting to read flight reviews about, perhaps you could aim to review as many products of more common airlines? I think that would be beneficial to the entire OMAAT community. Since most of the world still fly in premium economy or coach most of the times, perhaps you could do some of those? I hope my sincere, friendly feedback can help One Mile At a Time be the best blog it can be- and will continue to show my fullest support to you! 🙂

  8. Flying from Europe to Dubai in Biz is usually only 42.5k skymiles (on KLM, Air France or MEA), which is really good value/ point for skymiles, typically.

  9. Only Americans would find these airlines “exotic”, but to most people these reviews have real practical meaning.

  10. As far as I’m concerned you have not tried Etihad’s 787-9 first class so you still need that to complete your list of First class products out there

  11. Just a question..you came up with that route on your own ?i ask as I sent you that exact routing last week per mail, but never got an answer

  12. Well ok then .. no problem. Don’t forget to credit the miles to their oasis club then. You will get 300%miles resulting in around 25k miles for your one-way. They have a very lucrative award chart, especially for upgrades, and maybe you can make use of Them in the future. For example an one-way Upgrade KWI-Europe is just 20k miles

  13. Fly to Kiev but fly ORD-KRK (LOT Polish kinda new route to the second biggest and the most beautiful Polish city – UIA have started flying there daily and LOT have really upped their game when it comes to service and also they recently took their first 787-9). Or do LAX-WAW-KBP.
    Please, do try LOT once again!

  14. Do it as is with the flights on middle east airlines. They are on my list too and plan to fly them this summer. I read they have a decent business class soft product.

  15. Wow sounds fun! Personally I’d do MEA, since that seems the most random. I’d also add stopovers in Kiev and Beirut.

  16. @Ben, I would wait on Kuwait Airways First Class. KU is going to move into a new terminal (Terminal 4) in May/June of this year. Would be nice to see a review of their first class and new terminal as well.

    The new terminal will be used by KU exclusively until the new terminal “T2” designed by Foster + Partners opens in 2021-2022.

    Here’s some pics of the new “support” terminal:
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BgiVg0zAfUl/?taken-by=mashro3y_q8y
    https://www.instagram.com/p/Bf-mzGJDmUN/?taken-by=in.aviation
    http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=2036667

  17. Myles:

    That´s not the point. All these reviews of nonsense airlines dont have any practical value. None whatsoever. Neither do these reviews that cover e.g. The Residence or stuff that 99.999% of the readers will never afford, even if they could. Those are at least entertaining. But what does it help to read about some pittyful airline? It´s neither entertaining nor of practical use. And certainly, if I need to go to Kuwait or Kiev or whatever I may just fly Delta or United and connect with one of their well established European partners.

    I understand a blog wants to have an edge by producing reviews that others dont have, but maybe they dont have them for a reason? And I´m writing that because I like this blog and it would be a pitty if it would turn into an airline freakshow.

  18. @ Flieger

    Point noted! understandable that some or most readers would take the conventional airlines and be more interested in having more newest infos about them.
    But isn’t it not interesting also to open your horizon and try some airlines which you might see als exotic and later after trying them will suprise you that even small or niche airlines can deliver a great service which conventional airlines already has forgotten.
    Yes, I find the concept of EY Residence amazing, but even I would not just splash money out for just having a bed and a private bathroom for a few hours. But it is part of the evolving airline industry that we have and should be interested in as well as informed about the innovations surrouding this world. I believe Ben’s blog is big enough to handle both innovations in all spectrum the industry can offer..sometimes with a pinch of salt…
    I personally prefer a mix of exotic and conventional airlines like Ben is doing for years now and to be open minded eventhough sometimes in some comments here… it is a struggle !

  19. @Lucky, you recently visited Israel, did you get your passport stamped? If you choose to fly MEA, do not use that passport as Lebanon will deny you entry. Use whichever one you did not use for Israel.

  20. Do it! This would be an awesome trip report to read about. Both MEA and Air Algerie are airlines I’d love to read a review about, UIA’s new business class would also be cool to read about. As a loyal reader I’d say best trip reports you do are when you review unusual or obscure airlines so this fits the bill. If I want to read about the usual airlines I could go to any other review blog. Look forward to this trip report, sounds great.

  21. I loved Kiev (and Chernobyl, did a 2 day tour there and thought it was well worth it) so here’s another vote for checking it out.

  22. UIA’s new 777-200ER is very good. You made a right choice to fly with them. When you’ll be in Kiev, visit Pechersk lavra, walk on Khreshchatyk street and visit Aviation museum near IEV airport. Btw, if you’re going to stay a few nights in Kiev, best hotels are: Premier Palace, Hyatt Regency, Fairmont, InterContinental. ( Fairmont and InterContinental located far from city center ). When you’re going to fly KBP-CDG, the Business class seats will be the same as economy but with blocked middle seat. Food in UIA’ European business is better than other airlines’ European business. Have a good trip!

  23. You’re routing seems amazing. Do it!

    That said, lately it feels like you’re trying to increase your website content with news stories and obscure routings.
    Thus, we might get a trip report every 5-10 days and a lot of news stories (which I like). But your bread and butter (trip reports) happen less often

    Why not increase your content with “boring” trip reports?

    I love your aspirational trips. Gives me something to daydream about. But I also use your blog as a research tool. What to fly and not fly.

    Let’s face it, Few of us will ever fly on Angola Air, or route through the Middle East to get to Europe. I call these “fantasy aspirational trips”… fun to think of but unlikely to ever happen. Like flying to the moon.

    Then there are “practical aspirational trips” (for the masses) Like getting from US to Prague in J.

    So I’d love it if you continue your more colorful routings and quirky airlines

    But please mix in some boring legs too.
    Like US to Europe on the US3 or the big European carriers
    US to South America (which is very underrepresented on OMAAT)
    Domestic flights

    You’re taking these flights anyway, why not post the LAX to Tampa flight? Or a DFW to DTW positioning flight?

    This way we can build more comparisons from your point of view about what’s better… US to Europe on Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Swiss, Austrian, LOT, WOW, Air Transit, Air Canada, US3, Turkish, etc

    I’m really hoping your new hire will doo this as well (add trip reports)

    MANY thanks

  24. I’d advise you to think long and hard where you want to take your blog. Clearly you’ve reviewed all the airlines and products that matter and now you’re starting to hit the low end of the long tail. While still interesting to read as a sheer curiosity, you are more and more drifting astray from what your readers would actually care about. I doubt many would fly MEA or Air Algerie or Kuwait First. They’re just so rare that, truth be told, they don’t really matter.
    I know it can be hella boring to review Lufthansa First a hundredth time or Emirates business or whoever. But I’d think hard on where you can add real value. Flying way long-tail ain’t it I’m afraid.
    Just my 2 cents because I do care about you and what you’re doing.

  25. @ TT1234
    nailed it? That is exactly what Ben should do! Enough blogs with conventional airlines. Try to see what the world can show you, do not stay ignorant and narrow minded!

  26. I believe that Ben has found great success with this blog because he writes from a place of passion, he works extremely hard, produces a lot of daily content AND values his readers’ input.

    He could not have written this blog for years (I believe it was years) without making money if he did not maintain great interest in his subject matter. Similarly, without passion for his subject matter, his reviews and articles would not be so detailed.

    It just so happens that so many of us enjoy his work (and that of OMAAT’S other writers, like Tiffany). It’s wonderful when a writer finds his voice and his passion AND that voice and passion resonates and finds an audience.

    Ben seeks feedback from readers, as he does with this article, so it’s fair and good to give feedback. But I, for one, am happy with how Ben walks what is a thin line. He balances articles oriented around readers’ requests with articles born out of his lifelong interest in aviation.

    I think that balance sustains the blog and I think if Ben only writes according to the demands of readers, there’s a risk this blog will turn into a grind for him. Then, there may be no more blog. Hope that doesn’t happen.

  27. Hey lucky, could you perhaps do a review from either MDE or BOG to JFK via AV? I’ve heard the BOG one is interesting because AV is apparently using a ULCC airline for that flight, and that the service is extremely awful, even for AV standards.

    Im planning to do a business class flight on november, so i really want to see what i’ll have to face in that time. MDE flight uses A319 while BOG one uses A332.

  28. MEA is meh, but Beirut is worth the trip if you can stay for a few days. Their A330 has angle flat seats that are a few generations old. The food is decent. The size of the J cabins are huge though. I actually really like the openness of the cabin (you’ll hate it because it is the opposite of private suites). Definitely stay a few days in Beirut. It is an amazing city. There are some nice luxury chain hotels you could probably review too.

  29. As a travel advisor with clients that frequently want to fly more obscure airlines due to scheduling to the destinations they need, I find the less conventional reviews to be invaluable, and I greatly appreciate the variety of information available on this blog.

    Regarding this routing in particular, please make a reasonably long stopover in Beirut because Lebanon is an amazing country. I would also recommend making your sure you’re there over a Sunday to take advantage of the walking tours offered by Walk Beirut. The guide, Ronnie, is passionate about his work, and will help you fully appreciate the complexities of Beirut.

  30. I love reading about the more obscure airlines chiefly for the reason that I probably wouldn’t fly ’em! Having said that, as a travel blogger myself, I would go to the destination as I enjoy travelling to the -OMG-where-is-she-going-again destinations!

    I’m not your typical OMAT reader & I don’t choose airlines on whether (horror), I’d get airmiles or not!

    I like reading this blog and find great value in Lucky & the interest of an aviation geek, ‘cos he’s different & quite frankly, a very good read!

    Carry on mate!

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