Random notes - almost a RTW trip using UA miles

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by r0m8470, Jul 24, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. r0m8470

    r0m8470 Silver Member

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    Not sure if I am posting at the right place, so for the moderator, please feel free to move.

    I thought I share some of my thoughts from a near round-the-world trip using UA miles.

    Background:
    Me and my wife traveled from US to Asia (Seoul), with stopover in Europe, and a separate excursion to Vienna. My wife has an open jaw return from Asia. I have a unique - trans Atlantic - route to go home from Seoul to Seattle. My goal was to get as much lie flat seats as possible.

    Quick notes and observations:
    1. Air Canada lounge, specifically the international one at YYZ is better than most US airline lounges, even in their main hubs. We got in using my AC Elite 50K status.

    2. AF lounge in Paris, in terminal 2F, is nothing to write home about. Certainly beats sitting by the gates, but the design feels like an afterthought. We got in using my Delta SkyTeam from status match.

    3. CDG airport is one of the most confusing airport and disjointed for us to fly out of. We arrived at 2A with Air Canada, and took us 45 minutes to wait for luggage. Then we went outside to ride the bus to 2F, and the bus was having difficulty stopping at its designated bus stop due to taxi cabs blocking the space. The driver (both the bus and the cab) seemed very non-chalant about the whole thing.

    4. VIE is much nicer than CDG (albeit much smaller). Our bags were out in no time, and we just walked down, bought CAT train tickets and in 16 minutes, we arrived in the city, crossed the street from station to check in at Vienna Hilton. Overall, a much better experience than CDG.

    5. On the way out of Vienna, we used CAT again and checked our bags at Wien Mitte. Really love the service, super convenient. The food court in VIE is super! Love the liver dumpling soup!

    6. We used UberX out of CDG. Despite all the news about Uber difficulties in Paris, we had no issue getting UberX. The driver and the car are both super nice.

    7. We stayed at PH Vendome, while the Mexican president is staying there. Rue de la Paix was blocked off, so our Uber driver had to help us with our bags 1 block from the hotel. PH Vendome can do better management of guests coming in during this kind of VIP/head-of-state visits.

    8. We underestimated Paris traffic. Getting to the Montparnasse station using Metro is a lot faster to go places than taking a cab. Especially when the cab had to negotiate street closures due to VIP/head-of-state street closures and random delivery and garbage trucks. We ended up missing our TGV train to Tours.

    9. Terminal 1 at CDG is the weirdest looking terminal that we've ever been to.

    10. My Air Canada 50K status is worth its weight in gold. We were flying from CDG to ICN via PEK, and we got to use the Elite check in line, with no queue, and use the Star Alliance lounge at CDG, and saving us Euro from having to eat at the airport. We also got priority line to queue to board at the gate. Same with SkyMiles Gold. Much better to wait in a bad lounge, rather than in a bad crowded CDG 2F terminal.

    More later ......
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2015
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  2. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    This implies that you were flying in premium cabins on this award. If that's the case then status has nothing to go with getting in to the lounges or priority lines as part of the award flights. :confused:

    Glad you enjoyed the trip.
     
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  3. r0m8470

    r0m8470 Silver Member

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    I did on the way back. On the way in, I flew coach. That's where the status came in handy. I should have mentioned that earlier.
     
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  4. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    That makes much more sense. :)
     
  5. r0m8470

    r0m8470 Silver Member

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    11. PEK airport is architecturally stunning, but that's the end of what's stunning about it. The crowd flow management is bad, bordering on pathetic. There is only 1 international transfer desk open when we arrived. And the officials seemed to not care .... When I passed through it on the inbound leg, it's about as bad. The passport line looked like a zoo. Minimal people flow control.

    12. Air China is good when it's good, it's terrifyingly bad when it's bad. The worst thing is that they are very inconsistent. On our leg, from CDG to ICN via PEK, we got on A330-300 with really old IFE equipment. Note that I mentioned equipment. The system itself is not only old, it's ancient. To switch between different screen choices sometimes took more than 30 sec - yes, that long - no exaggeration. But the service on that flight is ok. The flight attendants are all smiling, and quite attentive. Actually, it's a notch above US legacy big 3 airlines. The PEK-ICN leg was on a better A330-300, still old system, but the equipment itself is in better condition. The screens are newer with noticeable resolution difference.

    On my inbound leg, I flew ICN-PEK-VIE-ZRH-YYZ-SEA. The ICN to VIE legs were on Air China again. The ICN-PEK leg was good, same level of service. The business cabin is on 2-2-2, lie flat. Lots of space, good catering, relatively clean cabin. I sat on a business cabin that was filled by 4 pax, so service attention was never an issue. When we arrived at PEK was the issue.

    We parked on a remote stand, due to airport congestion. No special transport for business class. The bus was late for 45 minutes to the stand. Zero apology from the crew or the staff. What made it worse, on the way to the terminal, we saw lots of empty jetways. WTF?

    Same scenario was repeated with the PEK-VIE flight. It was mind-boggling that a flight that's leaving at 150am, when most jetways are available, they had to use a remote stand. No business class or Star Alliance Gold boarding. The coach boarded first, you read that right. No special transport either. Finally the gate agent just told us to join the crowd. The remote stand was also very very remote. I seriously thought that the bus was going to stop by a PLA labor camp first.

    Onboard, the lie flat seats were gone, replaced with angle flat. How can they schedule an angle flat on a 9 1/2 hr flight, and lie flat on 2 hr flight is beyond me. The plane looked like it was 30 years old. Peeling upholstery, equipment door requiring 2 flight attendants to close, and same old IFE system. Flight attendants spoke little English, only the purser seemed to be fluent. No menu, none, no wine list, etc. I know, first world problem, but in the company of other long haul business class, not so good.

    13. I don't know how Austrian people do it, but the VIE airport, again, is so darn efficient and convenient. I only had 40 minutes from the time I stepped off on the jetway to the scheduled departure of my Austrian Air flight to ZRH. The airport is well-signed, passport control is a zip, and the gate attendant printed the rest of my boarding passes, even passed along tips of which duty free counter has the best chocolate - since I still have 15 min to spare.

    14. Austrian Air catering is great! I mean, seriously .... how can they make a croissant that flaky and buttery ... ? I sat on intra-Europe business class, got fed a tray with cheese, cold cuts, hot ham, egg and cheese toast, yogurt, fruit plate, coffee and juice, and bread selection from a bread basket. And they all taste marvelous. I had really good breakfast spread at Vienna Hilton, and this breakfast tasted just as good. Did I mention the croissant ... ? I really want to try their long haul now.

    Oh ... and the flight attendants are all gorgeous .... like European runway models. Sorry, I have no pictures, but trust me .... they are!

    15. ZRH felt like a bigger VIE, same cleanliness, same efficiency, same ease-of-navigation. How do these countries do it? Either one of these cities will be my next Euro-trip gateway. Both airports is much better than CDG or LHR. I know scale-wise, they're not the same thing, but still ......

    16. Air Canada Dreamliner business cabin is the batman, excuse the language. I flew Cathay reverse herringbone cabin, and I thought that's as good as it gets. Granted I have not flown the ME3 business cabin, or SQ business (the latter in a long long long time), but darn ... Air Canada got it right. The hard products are spectacular, and the soft products are just as good as one can hope a trans-Atl flight. The food is not bad either.

    The seat is super comfortable, with massage feature, firmness controls on cushion, and plenty of storage space and work space. AC is my favorite choice now for trans-Atl flights. I would pay close attention to award availability out of YYZ and YUL, especially for Dreamliners flight.
     

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