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Tim Foolery

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Tag Archives: Chicago

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

EVA Air boards Business Class passengers directly from the Air France / KLM Lounge for our flight to Taipei. I was the third person on board and quickly took my seat of 9A. As I was getting situated (you know, tablet, headphones and chargers out), Daisy, the flight attendant working my portion of the cabin approached, delivering menus and a warm moist towel to help you get refreshed before the 15 hour flight.

On the Ground

EVA doesn’t serve champagne on the ground, at least in Chicago. Cook County taxes are very high and they don’t want to pay them, so they serve an inferior sparkling wine, they wouldn’t even tell me what kind it was.

Champagne and chocolate with a view

Pre-departure champagne and chocolate

Daisy asks if I want the seat cover – not a mattress pad mind you, just a quilted cover over the seat. I took it. I’ll take any additional padding I can get on airline seats. Pajamas were delivered and I immediately hopped up and changed. The lavatory between the two business class cabins is much more roomy, making it much easier to change. The front lavatory is a standard sized room…small, very small.

1-2-1 Business Class Configuration

These private business class seats are some of my favorite in the sky.

1-2-1 Business Class Configuration

Loves these very private seats.

1-2-1 Business Class Configuration

These private business class seats are some of my favorite in the sky.

Leg room and pop-out IFE

Lots of leg room on EVA Air’s Business Class Seat

New Pajamas for Me

New Pajamas!

Boarding continued and I sat back and enjoyed my drink, in my new pajamas, and thought about my trip. Was I crazy for flying so far for just a couple of days? Maybe, but I am going to enjoy the journey. The door closed at 00h20 and we were pulling away from the jet bridge at 00h23. It was fast. Then we sat on the tarmac for about 20 minutes.

Amenity Kit + Champagne + Airport = Happy Tim

Business Class Amenity kit. Not the fabulous Rimowa kit, but Georg Jensen was still nice

Amenity Kit Contents

The amenity kit was a little lean

Copa Airlines

Departure – Copa Airlines off to Panama City

In the Air

Once airborne, the crew sprung into action. It was late, people wanted to sleep and the sooner they can put us to bed, the easier their flight will be.

I had preordered the duck for my entree, which was easy to do on the EVA website. EVA offers some additional entrees that aren’t normally stocked on board, but they are catered upon request.

Another glass of champagne arrived as did the amuse bouche. It was quite lovely, Turkey Ham (huh? What’s turkey ham?) with Asparagus with champagne was a great way to kick off this Business Class Meal.

Appetizer of Turkey and Onion Tart

Prelude
Turkey Ham with Green Asparagus – Brie and Gouda Cheese with Onion Chutney Tartlet

The lobster appetizer arrived fifteen minutes later. It was served with drawn butter and a quinoa salad that was just packed with flavor. I skipped the quail egg though

Lobster Appetizer

Hors D’oeuvre
Maine Lobster – Quail Egg – Quinoa Salad

Lobster Appetizer

Hors D’oeuvre
Maine Lobster – Quail Egg – Quinoa Salad

Right at 01h30 my duck arrived. I asked for a glass of Bordeaux to accompany the duck, but it never arrived. The duck looked…well…strange. I’m not sure what happened to it, but about three-quarters of it looked and felt like it had been eaten by someone else then spit back onto my plate. I was disgusted. I couldn’t eat it. Daisy came by and saw that I wasn’t eating and she asked a couple of questions, then took it away. The purser came back to talk to me and she was mortified. She suggested I choose a different entree, which I did. The kung pao chicken sounded good to me and it was delivered moments later.

Special Ordered Duck Breast Entree

Duck breast with rice and broccolini

Special Ordered Duck Breast Entree

Duck breast with rice and broccolini

The chicken looked strange too. It was stuffed with a truffle brioche that just seemed off when paired with a kung pao truffle jus. I scraped out the stuffing and ate the chicken. Quite a disappointing entree selection.

Second Entree - Chicken

Main Course
Truffle Brioche Stuffed in Pan Friend Chicken Brease with Black Truffle Jus – Mixed Vegetables

The fruit and cake plate and was delivered. There was no cheese course. When I asked about it, the matter of fact answer was that “There was no cheese course tonight.” Hmmmrph.

The disappointing dessert

Sweets
Fruit – Blueberry Cheese Cake

At 02h00 the dinner service was over, plates and linens cleared. I was a bit disappointed.

It was time to turn in, so I laid my seat out to a bed and put on the EVA provided headphones and listened to the Big Bang Theory as I slept. It is a great plane show – as it always makes me want to sleep.

I woke up after about 5 hours of sleep and decided to watch a movie I brought (Indiana Jones) and get some work done. The internet was slow and cost $16.95 for three hours of service. It did what I needed it to do, but it was soooo slow.

At 08h00 I ordered the vermicelli with pork, which was a great choice. I should have had three of those for dinner.

Amazing Mid Flight Snack

Snack
Stir Fried Vermicelli with Pork in Taiwanese Style Sauce

I napped intermittently until breakfast, which was served promptly at 12h30. The lights popped on with a never before seen intensity! I’m not a big breakfast guy, so I skipped the cereals and I chose to have the fruit, pastry and the bread pudding. It was all pretty great. The fruit was a little under ripe, but it was still flavorful.

Croissant with Butter

Breakfast Pastry – Croissant

Simple Breakfast of Bread Pudding.

Breakfast
Butter Bread Pudding with Cherry Ragout

At this point, breakfast is done and we are still two hours from Taipei. US and European carriers don’t start serving arrival meal until 90 minutes before landing. We had lots of time left, but now I wasn’t really in the mood for sleeping.

Landing

As we come into Taipei, the flight crew sprung into action. Unlike the rest of the trip, they seemed like chickens with their heads cut off. Seemingly executing their landing procedures in a near panic mode. For example, I had five sheets of paper stored in a cubby behind my shoulder. I was told that I couldn’t stow anything there and as I was grabbing it another stew comes over, repeats the request, then the first grabs the paper, ripping it, then shoves it in another cubby (that also said No Stowage During Taxi, Take Off or Landing). Theses were just notes I had taken to prep for my trip – not a big deal, but the service sure went south fast. The crew all took their seats and we still had 30 minutes until we touched down.

We rolled into TPE at 04h05, 11 minutes early. Despite this flight being more than 15 hours, I wasn’t ready for it to end. I really do love EVA. The flight timing is great – I can work a full day, leave at 00h30 and be anywhere in Asia by noon the next day. That’s no small feat from Chicago. The seats are among my favorite in Business Class. If you are traveling with someone it is a bit difficult to chat, but for a solo traveler, you can’t beat these seats. The food is usually pretty good – the entrees on this flight were pretty abysmal, but the other courses were enjoyable.  Loved the noodles.

The Cost

I used 90,000 United Miles (Saver Award) on this Business Class flight (including the next one), the value can’t be beat. I haven’t ever checked the actual cost of the flight, because I’m not expensing these flights back to a third party. I’m not paying thousands of dollars this flight (likely) costs in Business Class.

Have you flown EVA Business Class before? Do you dig their service? What do you think was wrong with that duck entree I had? Have you ever not wanted to get off a flight after more than 15 hours of flying?

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Global Entry Renewal

Global Entry is a godsend for frequent international travelers.  This government program can save you hours each and every time your return from foreign travels.  The program last for five years, then you need to renew.

The Program

Global Entry and the Trusted Traveler Program is managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  This program allows you to bypass the sometimes enormously long lines at Customs and Border Patrol at US Border Crossings.  You must apply for and be approved for this program and generally, it’s a pretty painless process.

Basically, you complete an online application, including your name, previous addresses, employers and foreign countries you’ve recently visited.  DHS reviews your application and if approved, they clear you for an interview.  The interview is quick and painless, unless you lied on your application!  My original interview lasted about 10 minutes and the Officer just asked a couple questions about my travels, like:

  • Why would you travel to Trinidad?
  • What was your favorite part of Luanda?
  • Why do you visit London so frequently?

Once approved, you can bypass the long lines at Customs and Border Patrol and enter the US by using simple kiosks.  You also don’t have to fill out that little blue slip of paper either – all those questions are answers via kiosk.

The Cost

The program isn’t free, of course.  The program costs $100 for the five-year membership.  $20 a year!?  It’s totally worth it.  What’s even better, many luxury credit cards will reimburse you for this expense.  Just another reason to love the American Express Platinum Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige cards, as if we needed another reason!

The Renewal

Department of Homeland Security changed the website a few months ago, so for your renewal you’ll need to create a new login.  Grab your Trusted Traveler ID Number (found on your Global Entry ID Card) and it’ll take you about five minutes to recreate your account.  After confirming your name, address, employer(s) and countries you’ve visited, you just pay your fee and wait.  This was the toughest part.  Once you submit your application, you can’t do anything until you’ve been fully vetted.  At that point you can schedule your renewal interview.  Surprisingly, I didn’t need to have a second interview!  My renewal application was approved – the review took DHS nearly six weeks.  Three of my colleagues all had to go in for renewal interviews though, so don’t count of getting off without an interview.

Global Entry Status

Global Entry – APPROVED

Do you have Global Entry?  How much time does it save you?  It has saved me over two hours sometimes on arrival – to me it is totally worth it.

Preflight at O’Hare. Lounges and Why Does T5 Suck?

Our flight departed at 00h30. EVA doesn’t allow you to print boarding passes at home for flights out of Chicago, so that means I had no way of getting into the Polaris Lounge (usually flying Star Alliance Business Class will gain you entrance, but the lounge closed before the EVA desk even opened up). I’ve written before about how the other Star Alliance and Priority Pass Lounges are just awful at O’Hare’s International Terminal. So this trip, I didn’t leave the house until 22h00.

EVA Air Check-in Counter

EVA Air Check-in Counter

There was no traffic and I rolled into Terminal 5 at 22h25. One man was in front of me for check-in at EVA and he was finished within 90 seconds. My check-in couldn’t have been smoother. The agent was confused as to why I wasn’t flying back home with EVA. After his colleague explained in intense detail how this is indeed allowable I was on my way to security.

I never go through the full body scanners. I’ve always joked that if you want to see my junk, just ask, you don’t need to have a fancy nude-o-scope to do the dirty work. Plus it is a bit of a non-violent protest to security theater in the US. Usually It doesn’t matter because Pre-Check works fine for me. EVA does not participate in Pre-Check, so it was either the nude-o-scope or the pat down. I opted for the pat down, as always. The frustrated TSA agent started to explain how the nude-o-scope is perfectly safe and I should just deal with it.

Nope.

Frustrated more at me now, he decides to let me go through the metal detector. An interesting choice, but one I am okay with. Now if that isn’t security theater, I don’t know what is.

Empty Terminal Five at ORD

Terminal 5 at O’Hare on a Tuesday night was quite dead.

Departure Board

The departure board is quite disappointing on a Tuesday night.

Norwegian Airlines

EVA Air 777-300

EVA Air 777-300, my ride to Taipei.

EVA Air 777-300

EVA Air 777-300, my ride to Taipei.

Through security and into the duty free area by 22h35 left me 90 minutes before boarding. I walked around the terminal, checking out the restaurants – not that I would want to eat before my flight, but I sure didn’t want to sit in the dismal lounge for an hour and a half.

Restaurants in Terminal 5

Post security food outposts

Restaurants in Terminal 5

The Food Court after security theater.

Restaurants in Terminal 5

Post security food outposts

Restaurants in Terminal 5

Post security food outposts

After a while, I decided to hit up the lounge, because now EVA boards lounge passengers directly from the lounge. Now if that isn’t a little piece of heaven, I don’t know what is. I snag an uninspiring glass of prosecco and wait for my flight.

Pre-Flight Champagne

Kicking off the long trip with a glass of sparkling wine.

EVA uses the Air France / KLM Lounge for their flights. Unlike the last time we flew EVA this lounge was pretty empty. Evidently the Friday night flight is much more full. The lounge was quiet and allowed me to get some work done.

The lounge food is abysmal

The KLM/Air France Lounge had dismal offerings.

Boarding started promptly at 23h50. We queued up in a very civilized manner (sometimes flights to China can feel a bit like Lord of the Flies when it come to boarding or deplaning).

Do you have a preferred lounge in T5 at O’Hare? How do you kill time at this disconnected terminal?

68 Hour Visit to Singapore – Introduction

I’ve always wanted to visit Singapore. Really for two main reasons 1) the mix of cultures blend together for some amazing food and 2) the infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The stars and the moon aligned and made a trip this year possible. I had already taken a good portion of my vacation time, so I needed to plan judiciously. If I’m taking a quick trip to Asia, I want to fly in a premium cabin which will likely necessitate the use of miles.

First of all, I spent a couple of days of searching for award fares with no luck.  Eventually I found Star Alliance Saver Awards that worked out quite well. Unfortunately I’d be trying out only one new airline: Singapore Airlines for a relatively short hop from Singapore to Bangkok. The other four flights would all be on airlines and products I’ve flown before. That being said, I really loved these repeat products and was looking forward to experiencing their service again.

Over the next few weeks, you can look forward to the following detailed posts about my trip.

Visit Singapore Gardens by the Bay

Singapore by night

You’ve read my thoughts on the preferred length of trips and I know so many people would think I’m nuts for flying so long for such a short period in Singapore. but remember, life is about the journey, not necessarily the destination (hell at the end of the day, we all end up in the same place, might as well enjoy the ride).

Would you go to Singapore for 2.5 days on the ground? Am I crazy? What has been your craziest trip you’ve planned?

Singapore: By the Numbers

Regular readers know that I had a quick trip to Singapore – returning home last Monday.  This was indeed a whirlwind trip.  My better half was in Singapore for work and since I had never been and always wanted to go, I found a way to make it work.  I’ll have much more details notes coming soon, but here are the high level numbers and stats.

  • Airlines Flown: 3
  • Flights Taken: 5
  • United Miles Redeemed: 180,000
  • Miles Flown: 20,288
  • Hours in the Air: 44
  • Time in Singapore: 68 hours
  • Time in Vienna: 15 hours
  • Airport Lounges: 6
  • Hotels Nights: 4
  • Hotels Stayed: 3
  • Cities Explored: 2
  • Meals Eaten: 6
  • Restaurants Dined: 1 (everything else was Street Food / Hawker Stalls)
  • Cocktails / Wine / Champagne Consumed: Countless
My Route to the Singapore for the weekend

My route to Singapore

It was a quick trip, but with more hours on the ground than in the air, which is always a key metric for a trip like this.  That being said, spending 44 hours flying (excluding layovers) in some great business class products isn’t too bad of a way to spend a the dog days of summer.

Give me your honest opinion – would you go to Singapore for just 68 hours?  Does the fact that it cost nothing (other than points and time) change your opinion?  What’s the longest you’ve traveled for the shortest stay?