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Tim Foolery

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Tag Archives: Airlines

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

I love Airline Amenity Kits.  A Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit made it’s way to me – after some issues on Austrian Airlines forced a flight change.  Amenity Kits are really hit or miss nowadays.  You’ve got airlines like EVA and Thai who still offer the beautiful Rimowa kits and then you’ve got United who will sometimes provide a tin.  The sign of a good amenity kit for me is two fold: 1) The design itself and it’s reusability and 2) The contents and their immediate usefulness.

The Kit

I love to reuse an amenity kit.  Currently, I’m using a simple Lufthansa Business Class kit to house my various cables while traveling.  It’s compact, sturdy and strong.  The current First Class Amenity Kit is quite a bit larger and is in a strange quasi-heart shape.  The two-toned color looks good at day one, but I’m sure with regular use, the light suede will really start to show the wear.

 

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

The quasi-heart shaped First Class Amenity Kit.

As you can see there is a folding snap in addition to the proper zip closure.  The flap appears to be just decorative, which I don’t care for.  It is just another piece to get in my way or get damaged.  It does add a nice aesthetic though.

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

Sunburst detail on the flap.

The Contents

Like any good amenity kit – either in First Class or Business Class, I think you’ve got to have an eye mask, ear plugs and socks.  Those are the absolute bare minimums, otherwise it’s just a complete waste.  This kit included those items, of course, and they were quite nice.  The eye mask included a velcro adjustable strap and the mask itself was quite broad, easily covering the area around my eyes.  The earplugs were pretty standard, but they came in a great little carrying case.  I think this case was pretty useless, but I thought it really upped the presentation.  The socks were traditional thin airline socks, but they were much longer than normal – traditional sock size.

In addition to the minimum requirements, this kit also included a plastic shoe horn, a compact brush and la prairie moisturizing creams.  The brush isn’t at all useful for me (have you see a recent picture??), but I love the shoe horn – I keep one in each of my suitcases, backpacks and briefcases.  They are strong, compact and lightweight – you can always use a shoe horn.  The moisturizing creams were pretty creamy and smelled fresh, but they took a while to properly absorb into your skin.  I felt a little greasy.  Nice effort – use these before you pull down your eye mask and take a nap.

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

The contents of the kit – even tied so elegantly with ribbon.

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

The kit, fully unpacked.

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

The interior of the heart-shaped amenity kit

The Results

The contents were spot on for in-flight use, but the kit itself missed the mark for reuse.  It was a bit too big for what I would use it for, plus that extra flap just frustrated me.  After a few weeks of traveling, I am confident that the light brown suede would look a bit dingy.  So unbecoming of a lovely First Class Amenity Kit.

What do you think of this kit?  Do you like to reuse the Amenity Kits you get whilst traveling or do you leave them behind?  What other purposes do you task you kits with?

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Duration versus Frequency of Travel

As an American working at an American firm, I get a very limited amount of vacation time. After being at my current employer for more than a decade I get just 15 vacation days each year. That’s three weeks total. That’s not enough to go and do what I want to do, so I have to really plan my trips.  People often ask me if the frequency of travel is “worth it.”  Why go away for such a short period, they ask? For only three full days in Europe is it worth the expense of the airfare, the jet lag and everything else. To that, I say a resounding YES!  If I didn’t love short, frequent trips, I wouldn’t have flown to Singapore for 68 hours last month!

Singapore Gardens by the Bay

Singapore by night

You don’t have to have a month long sabbatical to disconnect and recharge your batteries. Taking a few days can help you reset and re-energize. You just need to be in the right mindset.

Frequency of Travel

Last year, my best friend got married. We had a couple of quick trips to associated with the wedding, but each time we added just a single day to the festivities and made a proper vacation out of the time. Weddings are always busy, but we came into the weekends knowing that we had a single day for a proper vacation and we fully used that day.

For example, the ceremony was in Palm Springs. The wedding events were from Friday through Sunday (not all day though). We arrived on Thursday morning and spent that day and most of Friday properly vacationing. With only two days away, we planned and we executed. Our offices knew we completely out of pocket. We didn’t do any work once we landed in Palm Springs – we disconnected; not even email. We ate; we drank; we didn’t really DO, we just were. It was fabulous.

One of my favorite podcasts, Happier, with Gretchen Rubin, focused on Duration versus Frequency this week. Gretchen and Liz talked about their trips to see each other, their parents their friends and even trips just with their spouses. They posited, and I agreed, more frequent vacations or contact is much better than long duration and much less frequent.

I’ve been a firm believer of this for years and have even written about it here before. If I felt I had to take a two-to-three week vacation each year, I would take just a single trip – and that would kill me.

What do you think? Do you prefer frequency or duration? I know, I’d rather have frequent, long trips, too, but that’s not really an option for most of us. What has been your favorite small duration trip you’ve taken this year?

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

United Airlines just announced changes to their passenger boarding process. Every couple of years it seems like the airlines (not just United, of course) try a new method for boarding their planes. For a while, it seemed like every airline had an elaborate queueing process, with half a dozen or more boarding zones. These zones caused people to line up long before boarding actually began. Sometimes the passengers getting off the arriving plane were met with a wall of people eagerly lined up to board. It was a mess.

United is trying to fix that issue. How many of you have been to O’hare, SFO, or EWR recently and had your path obstructed by dozens of people in the boarding line, snaking into the main concourse? Well, United’s plan to fix this is simple. Passengers should only line up if they are in Boarding Groups 1 or 2. Groups 3-5 remain seated and then they’ll be called once the first two Groups are on board. That part of the plan seems fine, although I really don’t think it will work. See, if you are in Groups 3-5, you’ll end up boarding through Lane 2…which means you’ll likely still be fighting for your spot in that line.

United Airlines' New Boarding Process

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

Reorganization

My biggest issue is how the new Boarding Groups are organized. I’m a Premier Platinum flyer with United, meaning I fly 75K+ miles each year and spend $9K with them. Currently, I board in Group 1. Group 1 consists of Premier 1K (100K mile flyers), Premier Platinum and First Class Passengers. We are the first to board the plane after the pre-boarding folks (Uniformed Military, Families with small children, Global Services and people with mobility issues). This is great for me. I board and get situated; I never have a problem finding overhead bin space near my seat for my roller bag. Group 2 included Premier Gold (50K mile flyers), Star Alliance Gold, and certain credit card holders. When I use to board with Group 2, I had a hard time finding space for my bag near my seat – often times I’d need to go back 4-5 rows to properly stow the bag. Now I don’t usually need my bag while in flight, it is just problematic when we deplane. Swimming upstream to get my back is always a pain the neck.

The New Process

The new process adjusts who is in Group 1. Now Premier 1K is part of pre-boarding. Group 1 consists of Premier Platinum, Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold and Premium Cabins (First and Business Class passengers).
Now I know that on the grand scheme of things, this is a minor issue. The most important part of flying is arriving safely and close to the schedule. One of the benefits for hitting 75K miles each year was to board a bit earlier. If I’m not traveling with my roller bag, I don’t board early.  I wait until the bitter end as I don’t want to sit on the plane any longer than I have to.

The best part of this change is that it keeps the credit card passengers a Group behind us. Once I get a couple more trips under my belt, it may all work out just fine and I’ll actually enjoy this new structure. I’m not sold on it now though.

If I were designing the boarding Groups (purely for selfish reasons of course), I’d have Global Services continue to pre-board. Then Group 1 would be First Class, Premier 1K and Premier Platinum. Group 2 would be Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold and credit card people (I believe that United makes decent money off these folks). Group 3 would be Premier Silver, Star Alliance Silver and people who purchased Priority Access. The rest of the Groups would remain unchanged.

How will this change at United Airlines impact your travels? Are you boarding sooner or later? Do you not care at all because you just check your bag and don’t have to worry about it?

EVA Air Royal Laurel Class (Business Class) TPE-SIN

Walking down the gate, I take the first left turn and board our Boeing 777-300 through door 1L. Like my last flight, from Chicago, I was seated in a window seat in the second cabin on EVA Air Business Class. This time I was on the right (starboard) side of the plane – I like to mix it up from, time to time, ya know.

The Flight

I neared my seat, a stew approached me, welcoming me on board.  As I got settled she immediately took my drink order. She returned with my drink and took my briefcase from me to stow in the overhead. Such different service than United, huh? I sit down and was handed a warm, moist towel and a glass of champagne. This shorter, non-flagship service, served Delamotte Blanc de Blanc 2007, and not Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame. It was good, but you could definitely tell the difference in their long-haul vs medium/short routes.

Champagne in EVA Air Business Class

Pre-departure champagne

EVA Air Welcome Message

Welcome Aboard

This flight was also quite empty, with only 12 of 38 seats occupied. The four and a half hour schlep to Singapore was pretty damn efficient. I really am not a breakfast guy in general and don’t like congee.  When I saw the beef noodle soup as a breakfast option, I knew that was my selection! It had been 20 hours since I left home, I wasn’t in the breakfast mood.

Beef Noodle Soup

Beef Noodle Soup with all the Accouterments

Beef Noodle Soup

Beef Noodle Soup for Breakfast

A simple fruit dessert

A simple fruit dessert

The beef noodle soup was amazing. I did pull out the 4 inch piece of giggly beef fat immediately though. The soup was a bit bland at first, but after mixing in the condiments (or as the menu says traditional delicatessens), it was great. I usually steer clear of soups on a plane, the turbulence and spilling or burn issues, but I am so happy I didn’t here.

Pajamas are not provided on such a short flight( which is really a no brainer, why would you need them?) We were not provided an amenity kit, which was disappointing. Since I didn’t get the Rimowa kit out of Chicago, I was hoping I’d get one on this leg. A bit disappointing.

After the meal was cleared, I ordered another glass of champagne and a water. Dropping the seat into a bed I decided to get some more rest.  I knew I’d have a long day ahead of me (landing at noon meant I had at least 10 hours of activity ahead of me).

I snoozed off and on over the remaining three hours of flight time. We approached Changi Airport and unlike the last leg, the stews were calm and gracious, closing out their pre-arrival duties about eight minutes before the wheels touched down.

Since we deplaned from door 2L I was the third person off the plane and quickly made my way through immigration, customs and to the airport’s train station.

Changi Airport

Changi Airport

In Conclusion

I was really looking forward to experiencing and comparing EVA 777-300 service on both long and short haul flights. The hard product was the same, which I love. The service and food was really top notch as well. The real differences were the PJs, amenity kits and the really awful entrees on the long-haul.

The only other time I’ve flown a regional Business Class product in Asia before was between Bangkok and Hanoi, Taipei and Bangkok, Bangkok and Rangoon and Bangkok to Soeul all on Thai Airways. Those Thai products differed greatly and of them all, I’d prefer to stick with EVA. I’m flying Singapore to Bangkok later this trip and can’t wait to compare that product.

What do you think about EVA’s Regional service? Does it seem crazy to you that an airline would fly an internationally configured long-haul aircraft in a short 4.5 hour hop? I wish United would fly Polaris Business Class flights from Chicago to the west coast!

EVA Air Infinity Lounge

After hurrying off the flight from Chicago, I quickly made my way to the EVA Air Infinity Lounge.  EVA Air has several lounges available in Taipei, but I decided to visit just one.  As I made my way to the lounge, I was struck by how absolutely dead this major airport was at 04h15.  Empty hallways as far as the eye could see!

The Airport

The Departure Board

The departure board – no flight departures for hours.

Empty hallways at TPE

Early morning and empty terminal

Empty hallways at TPE

Soon these halls would be filled with excited travelers, not so much at 04h30.

Entering the EVA Air Infinity Lounge you are greeted by several staffers, plus an inquisitive robot.  The robot seemed mostly to distract people entering the lounge.

EVA Air Infinity Lounge

EVA Air Infinity Lounge

The Lounge

My first order of business was to grab a shower.  It had been nearly 20 hours since I had last showered.  While I wasn’t working out, I did feel quite gross.  Maybe the gallons of champagne I drank had something to do with that.  I immediately swapped my boarding pass for a shower key.  Every time I take a shower at TPE, I struggle to figure out how to actually enter the shower area.  I can’t offer guidance either, as I try a dozen different ways to get in and then it finally clicks.  Just ask for help. I’m too stubborn to do that though.

The shower room isn’t anything fancy, but it is clean and has hot water.

Accessories in the shower room

The private shower room is stocked with fresh toiletries and towels.

Bulk Products in the Shower

Bulk shampoo, conditioner and body wash were waiting in the shower.

Private Shower Rooms must have a toilet, right?

Not too fancy of a toilet, but it did have several bells and whistles, that I didn’t try out.

After the shower, I felt like a new man.  I wasn’t very hungry, but I did force myself to grab some water, more champagne and some ice cream.  The lounge was relatively quiet this early in the morning, which allowed me to get a little work done and relax before my next flight.

Video Arcade or Lounge?

EVA Air Infinity Lounge looks like an arcade from the 1980s.

Video Arcade or Lounge?

The EVA Air Infinity Lounge has ample room for guests.

I had spent the last 15.5 hours eating and drinking, so I wasn’t too keen on the idea of breakfast food.  Plus, I had another 5 hour flight in Business Class in just a couple of hours.  I’ll skip this meal.

Self-serve beverage station.

Self-serve beverage station.

Breakfast Pastries

The breakfast pastries weren’t all that appetizing

Chilled Breakfast Case

Yogurt, butter and other chilled breakfast items

En Route to the Gate

I got a little tired of just sitting around the EVA Air Infinity Lounge, so I headed off to explore TPE and make my way towards the gate.

Pilot Hello Kitty

I don’t understand the infatuation with Hello Kitty, but I do dig the aviation themed kitty.

Boeing 777-300

My flight from TPE to SIN. Love this Boeing 777-300.

Sanrio Planes Crack Me Up

While not exactly THE Hello Kitty Plane, this Sanrio livery was hot.

I’ve never had much time to spend exploring TPE, but I’ve been pretty pleased with my time there.  Unfortunately, EVA Air doesn’t offer any stellar ground services like Thai Airways, Singapore or Lufthansa does, so there really isn’t any reason to push for a longer layover.

Have you spent much time in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport?  What should I be on the look out for next time I transit?