On the Ground: I got on the road from Philadelphia early enough to arrive at IAD two hours prior to my flight. Having never flown out of Dulles International Airport before, I was interested to see how busy it is compared to the surrounding D.C. traffic on a Sunday morning.
On the Ground: It is safe to say John F. Kennedy International Airport on New York’s Long Island is typically a madhouse. My flight’s departure time of a brisk 1:15 a.m. meant my commute to the airport was pretty light once I reached the subway.
On the Ground: Having spent the better part of 50 years traveling by air, I have grown to dislike airports. Security checks are absolutely necessary; but even if one uses the fast lane, they can be frustrating. Virgin Atlantic Airways has done its best to make check-in as easy as possible by having its own dedicated check-in channel. On this journey I arrived on foot rather than via the transport provided by the airline, and it was only a matter of minutes before I was through the security check and on my way to the lounge.
On the Ground: New York’s JFK Airport presented the usual hustle and bustle as I parked my vehicle, with Global Traveler CEO Francis X. Gallagher in the passenger seat. We were flying together to the Middle East, first stop Cairo, to meet with clients. Originally we planned to use off-site parking, but a heavy rainstorm altered our plans, and we parked in the covered garage near the International Terminal entrance. We collected our luggage and made our way to the EgyptAir check-in counter. Fran had checked us both in the evening prior, and the friendly EgyptAir staff greeted us, reviewed our destination and checked our bags quickly.
On the Ground: Flying out of JFK can be challenging; however, Saudi Arabian Airlines’ location in the front of Terminal 1 makes it easily accessible. Check-in was swift, handled by a friendly team. Although TSA screening was busy, the line moved quickly, and I headed to the lounge to unwind and check emails prior to departure.
On the Ground: I spent a few days in Honolulu on business and, like many travelers, extended my trip for a little R&R on the neighboring islands. This trip, I was heading to Maui for the first time. Honolulu Airport, the major hub for airlines into the islands, lies just 20 minutes from downtown Waikiki. Hawaiian Airlines’ interisland connections allow travelers to experience every island easily, with more than 20 flights per day out of HNL for a convenient price. Check-in and TSA screening were busy but moved quickly, and I was headed to the Plumeria Lounge in the Interisland Terminal within 10 minutes.
On the Ground: I always suggest leaving your hotel with plenty of time to spare on your return trip to Benito Juárez International Airport; as in most metropolitan cities, traffic can be unpredictable. Aeromexico has plenty of ticketing counters with friendly staff, and we checked in within five minutes. In my experience at MEX, security lines are never long, so we had plenty of time to find Aeromexico’s temporary Premier Salon lounge. The older VIP lounge was under final reconstruction at the time (it opened April 6 and now includes spa services and a kids’ lounge). The temporary lounge, although crowded, had all the necessities, including a large circular bar, snacks and WiFi.
On the Ground: My trip to Belgium came just a few months after the tragic terrorist attacks at Brussels Airport in March 2016, so extra security measures were in place. My bus transport was required to drop off a certain distance from the airport’s entrance, meaning I had a longer walk to the terminal and I passed through an additional ad hoc security screening prior to entering the airport, but I was not pulled aside for any screening at that checkpoint. After a bit of a wait to check in, I was on my way through the priority security lanes. The airport was crowded, but everything ran smoothly and without disruption, despite the number of people.
On the Ground: Because it was a late flight, I avoided the stress of dealing with the usual traffic from Manhattan to JFK. And as expected, only a few people stood in line for Saga Club check-in. I had checked in online, so I just needed to drop off my suitcase at the counter. It was taken care of without any delays, and I headed straight to the security line.
On the Ground: Once I arrived at Incheon International Airport, I headed to Asiana Airlines’ first-class desk and received swift service, my credentials reviewed and my boarding pass delivered. I was eagerly anticipating my first flight on Asiana’s Airbus A380 in its first-class suite. An Asiana employee stood ready to help me through security and to the first-class lounge. I have enjoyed the Asiana Airlines’ first-class lounge many times — a welcoming and restful place where you can sit back, work, recharge your electronics and have something to eat and drink. (I am particularly fond of the steamed dim sum.) I stepped out for a few minutes to purchase some traditional items and gifts from Incheon Duty Free and returned to the lounge. When my flight was ready to board, my Asiana representative escorted me onto the plane and to my first-class suite. Pre-Flight: As I boarded, the flight team greeted me by name and offered reading material — newspapers and, of course, Global Traveler magazine. They hung up my sport coat and offered a pre-flight drink, Johnny Walker Blue on the rocks, served with warm nuts. On this flight, specialty cocktails ranged from Manhattans to mimosas. I planned to watch a movie while enjoying lunch and then take advantage of the comfortable flat-bed suite and sleep my way to JFK. In-Flight: First class occupies the front of the A380 on the lower lever and consists of 12 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. I was located on the left side in a single window seat. Each suite can fully close with a sliding door to provide privacy for sleeping. The 32-inch TV screen — nearly the size of the standard house TV a few years ago — makes watching a movie a must. I immediately hooked up the supplied headphones and plugged in my laptop, ready to turn everything on once we achieved cruising altitude. The first-class suite includes a great number of compartments as well as a large area along the windows for storage. The tray tables are massive and easy to put into place. Electronic amenities feature easy-to-use controls and plentiful audio and video options. For lunch, the traditional Western menu offered Wagyu beef or roasted chicken, with starters of caviar and other canapés. Instead, I chose the Korean Royal Cuisine menu, bibimbap with poached king prawn. Bibimbap is a traditional meal of rice, vegetables and meat served with gochujang (red pepper paste). Fresh fruit and Korean cookies followed. Asiana flight attendants volunteer to join many specialty teams, such as the Magic Team, which performs magic tricks to entertain children on long flights, and the Charming Team, which offers facials and manicures on board. The Sommelier Team on my flight specialized in educating passengers about wine and proper serving. My flight attendant expertly decanted the 2007 Louis Jadot Corton-Pougets Grand Cru (Burgundy) I ordered, and we discussed the many wine awards Asiana has received from Global Traveler over the years. After lunch, I took full advantage of the comfortable suite and closed the door while I restfully slept until it was time for a light breakfast before landing. The Experience: Asiana Airlines has always provided wonderful service, and its flight attendants are known as the best in the world. Add the A380 first-class suite to this mix, and you have a traveler’s dream come true.
On the Ground: Upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport for my flight to Singapore, I waited about five minutes in line at the China Airlines business-class counter. The attendant was helpful and handled my bags with care. I needed a lock for one of my bags, and he gladly tethered it with a plastic tie. He provided thorough instruction on where to go and how to get to the China Airlines lounge. I was off to a good start for my 15-day tour of Asia.
On the Ground: Just into my fifth week with Global Traveler, I was fortunate to experience my first business-class trip to Dubai — one of my bucket-list destinations. The day of the trip, my colleague and I met at GT headquarters and headed to Washington Dulles Airport via car service. The three-hour road trip delivered us to the airport right before check-in time for our 10:15 p.m. direct flight to Dubai. The self-check-in was painless; we checked our bags and headed to the United Club lounge to relax with some snacks and drinks prior to boarding.
On the Ground: Weeks of careful deliberation went into deciding whether I should travel to Egypt following a recent botched terrorist attack on a popular tourist site in Luxor. I chose to go after discussing the pros and cons with colleagues, family and friends. I headed to JFK with a mix of excitement and anxiety, but my eagerness to explore the country and see the only remaining member of the Seven Wonders of the World outweighed my apprehension. Following an uneventful commute from Pennsylvania, I arrived for my evening flight in the early afternoon; any lingering unease was allayed by EgyptAir’s simple and quick check-in process for premium passengers and my relaxing experience in the SWISS Business Class Lounge, shared by Star Alliance members.
On the Ground: I was traveling with my wife and daughter, and we were excited to fly British Airways, an airline that has been a leader during my entire career in the business/luxury travel industry. I checked in online the night before and forwarded the boarding passes to the front desk clerk at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower for printing. We were dropped off at the wrong side of Terminal 5 at Heathrow, which meant a long walk with a lot of baggage. Checking luggage was swift, as was security, and frankly, I was excited to spend some time in the British Airways Galleries Lounge South. However, it was crowded and we found it difficult to locate three seats together. The lounge was filthy with cups, drinks and dishes everywhere, and the floor was equally dirty with napkins, wrappers and crumbs. I assume this was a combination of insufficient staff and messy passengers. On the upside, Aaron Paul, an actor from Breaking Bad, was in the lounge, and he agreed to a photograph with my daughter — very cool, nice guy!
On the Ground: Upon arrival at JFK two hours before my scheduled departure, I noticed signage was not terrific within Terminal 8. I was directed to the Royal Jordanian Airlines counter and greeted by a professional and pleasant ticketing agent who quickly checked me into Crown Class business class. I received a pass to the Crown Class Lounge (shared through American Airlines’ Admirals Club) plus two complimentary drink vouchers; there I awaited the first leg of my journey, which entailed an 11-hour flight to Amman, Jordan, followed by a four-hour layover and a three-hour final leg to Dubai.
On the Ground: With construction at the LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal finally complete, traffic was easy, and I found the China Airlines business-class priority check-in counter quickly. While checking in my one bag, the flight attendant gave me directions to the SkyTeam lounge. Breezing through TSA security, I made it to the lounge in a surprising 10 minutes. It offers light snacks and basic drinks, but the real perk is the upper-level seating outside the lounge doors — if you can snag a seat — offering a perfect perch from which to people-watch but still quiet enough to get some last-minute emails done.
On the Ground: As I arrived at Abu Dhabi International Airport, a friendly baggage attendant immediately greeted me, placed my luggage on a cart and escorted me inside the terminal to the check-in desk. There was no line, and I checked in within five minutes. I encountered another short process at security, so I had time to enter the first- and business-class lounge. The lounge is quite large and spacious but also offers private areas ideal for business travelers who wish to work. I checked out the assortment of food and beverages and enjoyed a quick breakfast and a latte at the lounge’s coffee bar. Before proceeding to the gate, I went through the U.S. preclearance facility for customs and immigration. After a five-minute wait in line, I was directed to a customs officer who welcomed me home within a minute. I was satisfied with the efficient and seamless preclearance customs process.
On the Ground: My colleague and I arrived at JFK after an easy drive from our office in Pennsylvania. We parked the car and headed to Terminal 1, where we immediately checked in. A Brussels Airlines representative escorted us through the thinly populated first- and business-class TSA security line and on to the Lufthansa lounge, where we whiled away 45 minutes until boarding. The lounge had the usual workstations, easy chairs, and warm and cold snacks and beverages. Once our flight was called, we took off for the gate.
On the Ground: After arriving from LAX, I had a good chunk of time at Newark Liberty International Airport before departing on United Airlines flight 25 to Ireland, so I headed straight to the business-class lounge. The Terminal C lounge is the largest at EWR, offering plenty of seating, workstations, showers and a large bar area. I booted up my computer in one of the many private cubicle spaces — accessing the WiFi to check email and chat with family via Face Time — then headed to the main lounge to check out the provisions. The food options were snacks, consisting mainly of individually wrapped cheese and crackers, fruit and cereals. I was disappointed to find few gluten-free options (medically necessary for me), even upon request. At boarding time, I hoofed it to my gate and quickly boarded the Boeing 757-200 from the priority group line.
Arrival/Check-In: My colleague and I were flying back to New York (JFK) on Brussels Airlines in business class and had access to its new lounge, The Loft, at Brussels Airport. We cleared security, always a fun experience, and headed to the lounge on the next level, where the reception staff welcomed us with a smile and a warm greeting.
On the Ground: With LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal now open after major reconstruction, traffic around the terminal is much more organized. Inside the terminal, I was second in the business-class line for China Southern Airlines, and the friendly staff performed a quick check-in. I was disappointed the new SkyTeam VIP lounge inside the newer terminal had not yet opened; however, the original lounge offered lots of available club chairs, electrical outlets and finger foods for guests to enjoy. About 45 minutes before the flight, I explored the new impressive terminal and made my way to Gate 148.
On the Ground: My flight out of Mexico City was on a Friday evening, and due to heavy traffic, I arrived at the airport only 45 minutes before boarding on an international flight. After running into the terminal, I was luckily checked in within minutes and, as usual, I sailed through the security lines. The Aeromexico lounge is on the second floor of the terminal, with natural light streaming through the glass ceiling. The space is large enough to accommodate hundreds of passengers, but the comfy couches and chairs around the bar fill up quickly. After grabbing a ginger ale and crackers, I headed to my gate just a few minutes before the pre-boarding announcement.
On the Ground: I arrived at JFK early, excited to experience KLM’s new World Business Class. One passenger was ahead of me in line, but I was immediately ushered to another counter, where I picked up my boarding pass. Another agent kindly accompanied me to the lounge, where I enjoyed some light snacks and water. Since I was so early, I had a chance to finish some work before heading to the gate.
On the Ground: I was so happy to be out of the cold rain drenching the New York City area, I didn’t mind the 45-minute wait in the carrier’s line in JFK’s Terminal 8. The former Star Alliance partner officially began services as a oneworld member two days after my early-evening departure at the end of March, joining LAN Airlines, TAM’s partner in LATAM Airlines Group, and the 13 other current member airlines. When I reached the counter, check-in was quick, and a friendly TAM agent informed me I would be upgraded.
On the Ground: My flight to Madrid involved an earlier connection to Chicago from Denver via American Airlines, and the transfer to the Iberia gate at Chicago O’Hare International Airport for my international flight was fast, pleasant and stress-free. Upon landing in Chicago, I was met by a gate attendant who had my boarding pass ready, enabling me to go directly to O’Hare’s Terminal 3 to relax in the lounge before departure. Iberia shares the Admirals Club Lounge in T3, and the space was a quiet refuge with a nice selection of light fare. Departures were clearly announced, and my gate was located conveniently adjacent to the lounge entrance.
On the Ground: After a swift check-in at Logan’s Air France counter, I headed through the security fast lane and bee-lined for the Air France Graf Lounge, named for long-term employee Daniel Graf and accessed from a dedicated elevator or stairs opposite Gate 4. It’s the only lounge on this end of the terminal and also the only one with windows. A selection of mostly French newspapers and magazines is available. Seating includes high-top and regular tables as well as club-style chairs in conversational groupings. TV is available. Guests have access to a self-serve bar and buffet; at the time of my visit, food options included a hot vegetarian chili along with cold items such as prepared salads, sandwich fixings, rolls and a few sweets. I was hoping for French cheeses but settled for Tillamook’s packaged Cheddar and Monterey Jack. Electrical outlets are few, and I had to muscle a table to the wall to share one with another lounge guest. The WiFi is the generic Logan service, which requires viewing an ad or other intermediary step for free access. The lounge offers restrooms but not showers.
On the Ground: Allowing myself extra time to pass through EL AL’s award-winning security checks, I arrived at the airport three hours prior to my scheduled departure. I was also coordinating my arrival with train times from New Jersey, but I was happy to pass the idle time doing work in the lounge once I arrived at the airport. I’m glad I allowed added time, as I was questioned for 15 minutes before being permitted to check in for my flight. Once I passed through the screening, check-in was swift and my luggage was priority tagged; a dedicated airport security lane meant I was on my way to EL AL’s lounge quickly, as well.
On the Ground: I was especially excited to have my first experience flying the United Boeing 787 Dreamliner. For this trip, I flew into Denver International Airport from Los Angeles International Airport on an early-morning flight to catch the noon departure of the 787 to Tokyo. I arrived at Denver a few hours early and took advantage of the United Club lounge. The club was conveniently situated in the middle of the terminal, and I was happy it held a full-service counter to help United MileagePlus Premier members since I’d lost my connecting flight ticket. The lounge was spacious, with a light and airy feel. Although the breakfast items were basic, the coffee was strong and the many club chairs in the lounge offered multiple electrical outlets for my many tech gadgets. The previously scheduled 787 had service issues, so a large crowd of passengers was trying to get seats on my flight. Although it was sad to see the Dreamliner have problems, the gate agents looked like they were in control and getting everyone on flights.
On the Ground: Arrival at JFK via the AirTran was fast and comfortable. Royal Jordanian shares Terminal 8 with American Airlines, and those flying Crown Class or Royal Plus members get full access to AA’s T8 lounge. Crown Class passengers can check bags at the curb, obtain boarding passes and go through immigration processing without queuing, allowing them to proceed through Royal Jordanian check-in quickly. The T8 lounge at JFK has a large selection of food and beverage items, and the space is open and adequate, even at busy periods. Private work booths are a nice touch for businesspeople who prefer to have a little more room and privacy to work.
On the Ground: Check-in at Porto International Airport was pleasant and stress-free. Though there was only one agent handling Executive Class and only one person ahead of me in line, that passenger was having some issue related to luggage weight. Anticipating the possibility of a delay, a second TAP agent immediately stepped forward to assist me, with a smile, and I was on my way in minutes. The security line was short and efficiently handled. Total time from check-in to stepping into the elevator going to the lounge one level up was less than 15 minutes.
On the Ground: Arrival at Heathrow’s T3 via the Heathrow Express was fast and efficient, followed by an expedited check-in at Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class desk. I was ushered through the private security line and was quickly on my way to Virgin’s Clubhouse. I had purposely arrived early in order to enjoy the spa services at the in-lounge Cowshed Spa — some of which are offered on a complimentary basis, including a 15-minute seated back massage, a 15-minute facial and several hair services with Bumble & Bumble products. There are also full shower facilities and spacious bathrooms.
On the Ground: Check-in at Helsinki’s Vantaa Airport Terminal 2 was easy-breezy. I was ticketed through to my connecting flight from New York to Washington, D.C. The gracious and efficient counter agent, who had information that my onward flight to D.C. on a separate airline was canceled due to a winter storm, was already prepared to help me make alternate arrangements and secured a train ticket for me. I was then whisked through the priority security line. From there, the lounge was a short stroll away between Gates 36 and 37. I had only a carry-on bag; had I checked luggage, it would have been tagged priority.
On the Ground: Flying out of LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal in the afternoon can be tricky when dealing with local traffic. Luckily, the roads were pretty clear, and I arrived a few hours before my flight. After a few moments’ wait in the business-class line of Turkish Airlines, I was quickly checked in and given my boarding pass. The security checkpoint was a mess as usual, but I got through in about 15 minutes and headed to the Star Alliance lounge. I am very familiar with the lounge; and as I was so early for my international flight, I commandeered a club chair near a plug and enjoyed free WiFi, fresh fruit and strong coffee for a few hours.
On the Ground: I flew Aer Lingus round trip between Boston and Dublin, and after swift check-ins in both airports, I headed for the Aer Lingus lounges. Both have a similar décor, with the highlight being an Irish wall of fame. Boston’s lounge is small, somewhat spartan, but adequate, with restrooms located outside and down the hall. Dublin’s lounge sprawls over two floors, with an open balcony, restrooms and shower rooms. Boston’s lounge has no windows; Dublin’s has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the gates and tarmac. Both feature a stone wall listing famous Irish events, but it’s far more dramatic in Dublin, where it soars two stories and doubles as a waterfall. Both have free WiFi, desk areas with outlets and lighting, and conversational seating arrangements; Dublin also has a quiet area, a TV area, and a second coffee bar upstairs. A small selection of self-serve, mostly packaged foods — including sandwiches, sweets and cheeses as well as coffee, tea, wines and alcohol — are available in each lounge. Dublin’s selection was more extensive and also included a hot soup. Reading material was limited to Cara, the Aer Lingus magazine, and Irish newspapers.
On the Ground: For years I have suggested travelers who do not live close to an airport with direct service should look to Air Canada as an option. If you have to transfer through an airport in the United States to connect to your flight to Asia, Canada might be a better option. I found it easy and less congested than many of the airports in the United States. My flight was a quick 55 minutes from Philadelphia to Toronto Pearson International Airport, where you land and connect in the same terminal. All I had to do was go through the connecting immigrations desk and walk to my gate, no additional security. The flight out of Philadelphia was at 6 a.m., and checking in online was easy with aircanda.com. I was at the gate in plenty of time, checking emails.
On the Ground: I was eager to experience EVA’s Royal Laurel cabin, upgraded last year. Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is one busy place; as the airline’s hub, many flights depart at the same time and even with several premium check-in counters, there was a wait. The staff was friendly, courteous and extremely helpful. Once I reached the counter, check-in was quick.
On the Ground: At Shanghai Pudong Airport Terminal 2, a large family was checking in at Air Canada’s business-class counter, but I was helped in less than five minutes. Although I had checked in online at aircanada.com, I still had to secure boarding passes at the check-in desk. I immediately went through security and exiting procedures for China and walked to the shared Star Alliance lounge; 45 minutes prior to takeoff, I went to Gate 87 for priority boarding with the other business-class passengers.
On the Ground: The 83-mile trip from my home in Pennsylvania to JFK can be a hassle, but this time there were no traffic delays, so I made good time and arrived at the airport with time to spare. Check-in was pleasant and uneventful. The sun and the moon and Earth must have been in alignment that day because I was through security in no time and made a beeline for the Lufthansa lounge.
On the Ground: My early-evening departure meant the afternoon drive to New York’s JFK from Pennsylvania was uneventful, and I made good time. Check-in was a breeze, and before I knew it, luggage checked with ticket in hand, I was given directions to the lounge. The security line, located directly behind the Iberia check-in, offered premium access; I was traveling with a friend and we were both through security easily.
On the Ground: I checked in at Durban (DUR) airport for a South African Airways flight connecting to Johannesburg and my New York flight. The process was swift, and the agent priority tagged and checked my bag through to JFK. Once in Joburg, I headed for the Baobab Business Class Lounge, which is separate from the Cycad First Class Lounge. I was greeted warmly, and one of three staffers manning the Business-side desk briefed me on the layout. The expansive space featured several lounging areas, including one for smokers; a business center with computer terminals; an audio-video lounge; a children’s room; three self-serve food areas; a staffed bar; secure luggage storage; and rainfall showers. WiFi was free. Food options included munchies, fruit, cheeses and crackers, soup, sandwiches, hot entrées and sweets. Business-class customers were escorted to the head of the secondary security line and boarded via a separate ramp and entrance.
On the Ground: Arriving in Osaka after my China Airlines flight from JFK, I was a bit apprehensive about what the “one stop” on my journey to Taipei would entail. My uncertainty was alleviated before landing, as the crew explained that Taipei passengers would be guided to their next flight. As we exited the plane, multiple China Airlines attendants separated the Taipei passengers from the rest and handed business-class passengers a card with step-by-step instructions guiding us to the Sakura Lounge, just next to our gate.
On the Ground: Flying out of LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal can be hit or miss with the recent construction. Luckily, the foot traffic was flowing and I was helped right away in the first-class line. I was quickly checked in and given my boarding pass. The VIP lounge security checkpoint was efficient and got me to China Airlines’ shared lounge on the fourth floor within 15 minutes of walking in the door of the terminal.
On the Ground: There is no way you can beat Virgin on the ground. Business-class passengers are offered limousine service to Heathrow; as you approach the airport, your driver calls the private check-in desk to prepare your boarding pass and luggage tags. This service comes close to what the president receives: You pull up to a private unloading area where you are greeted, your bags are taken and check-in is completed inside. If you think this is as good as it gets, you are mistaken — you go through Virgin’s private security and you are in the airport. The only shocker was a request for volunteers to downgrade to premium-economy class in exchange for a round-trip economy ticket, as the flight was oversold. I found this insulting and declined. How does that equal a business-class seat?
On the Ground: I arrived at Abu Dhabi International Airport from Dubai in no time; I used the same driver for most of my trip, and we had become fast friends. At the airport, I was immediately met by a friendly ground agent and was whisked to the first-class check-in, as the business-class counter was busy. From here, I went through security and was soon shopping at the duty-free shops. Once I made all my purchases, I went into the business-class lounge and found a single seat where I could leave my roller bag next to me. The lounge was busy, as flights depart in every direction of the world at this hour. Etihad could use a significantly larger lounge based on the traffic I encountered. The lounge cuisine was tasty, and I made sure I had a little bite pre-flight.
On the Ground: I arrived at Newark and parked my car in the overpriced, $25-a-day monorail parking lot. There was a short line at the first- and business-class check-in that only took a few minutes to clear and I was quickly offered my boarding pass. At security, I used the first- and business-class line and I was in the Continental Presidents Club lounge in no time. I find the Presidents Club lounge invaluable; it offers a great opportunity to catch up on my reading, including Global Traveler, which is available in the lounge! (19/20)
On the Ground: SAS business-class check-in was a breeze and one of the fastest I’ve experienced.Within five minutes of taking my place on the short line, I was checked in by an exceptionally friendly and informative SAS employee. Soon, I was settled in the colorful, bustling lounge that SAS shares with Lufthansa and other airlines. I used the lounge WiFi to check my email, and enjoyed a leisurely snack from the Scandinavian-style spread. (18/20)
On the Ground: Our flight to Johannesburg was scheduled to depart at 12:50 p.m. and we arrived at Dulles with plenty of time. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as it turned out), when we arrived we discovered that our flight was now scheduled to depart at 5 p.m. The good news was that we were flying on a new route, which would eliminate a scheduled stop in Dakar and cut three hours off the flying time.We headed for the check-in counter, hoping to deposit our luggage and get some work done in the lounge. Unfortunately, no one was there. About an hour later, an agent from another airline arrived and began checking in the now growing line of travelers. Once through security we went to the lounge South African Airways shares with British Airways. The lounge attendant snippily told my companion he could not enter, as only I was flying business class. She suggested I ask at the SAA counter for a pass for him. I tried, but the SAA representative refused and said he would have to wait outside the lounge for me. Instead, we both waited outside the lounge and charged our laptops at a nearby electrical outlet. (16/20)
On the Ground: I was eager to experience Alitalia’s Magnifica Class. I easily found the Alitalia business check-in counter in Terminal 1 of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport; I was happy I didn’t have to wait in line, and the friendly staff quickly priority-checked my bag and directed me to security. I made it through in 15 minutes.
On the Ground: There is nothing luxurious about arriving at JFK, but the Lufthansa check-in desk made me forget I was there. I stepped up with my carry-on and one bag to check. The agent was the epitome of efficiency. I had passport, boarding pass and lounge pass in hand within seconds. I wouldn’t have minded a smile from her, but I was in good hands for my imminent departure to Seoul via Frankfurt.
On the Ground: I stepped up to the TAP counter at Newark without a wait. I was traveling with a carry-on only. The attendant looked at me skeptically but issued my boarding pass and lounge pass promptly since the bag was within regulations. TAP shares the Virgin lounge at Newark, which offered nothing special in terms of food but was a place to escape from the hustle-bustle of Newark Airport.
On the Ground: The Emirates check-in desk at JFK’s Terminal 4 is a step above the rest. A helpful and friendly agent at the business-class counter had me heading to the lounge in no time while a second attendant, looking after business- and first-class passengers, helped take my checked luggage through the mandatory security screening at JFK.
On the Ground: From Pennsylvania, my commute to New York JFK can be arduous, usually including at least three modes of transportation. When I arrive at the airport, I hope for prompt check-in and a comfortable chair in which to collapse in the lounge. My on-the-ground experience with Etihad Airways met those expectations. I enjoyed pleasant conversation with the attendant as I checked in, after zero wait in the priority check-in line. In about 15 minutes (my upgrade was being processed), my bag was tagged and I was escorted to the lounge.
On the Ground: With virtually no wait in the designated check-in line for Premium Voyageur passengers, we were quickly assisted by pleasant and efficient agents. We happily checked our bags with their priority tags attached, passed quickly through the designated security line and made our way to L’Espace Lounge.
Air Canada TELL OUR READERS ABOUT AIR CANADA’S EXECUTIVE FIRST SERVICE. Our Executive First Service provides the ultimate in comfort, convenience and privacy and has helped Air Canada win the prestigious Skytrax Award for Best North American Airline for International Travel two years in a row. Upon boarding, passengers receive a choice of refreshments (including Champagne), amenity kits, large pillows and duvets. Each suite has direct aisle access and converts to a fully flat bed measuring 6 feet 3 inches. Each suite has its own plug for powering up a laptop and a 12-inch AVOD touch screen with hundreds of hours of programming. We offer a wide choice of meals with special attention to premium Canadian ingredients. If you prefer to ease quickly into sleep, the Flexible Meal Option offers a premium meal at any time throughout the flight. Wines are selected by Ken Chase, a world-renowned wine expert and lecturer.
Arrival/Check-in: I arrived at the airport two hours prior to departure to find a swift-moving line at the check-in counter. With no luggage to check, I was on my way through security, boarding pass in hand, within minutes. I was initially dismayed to join the line of passengers snaking its way through the checkpoint with no designated queue for first- and business-class passengers; but the process moved along quickly, and I emerged into Incheon’s airside shopping mecca with plenty of time to spare prior to boarding. (30/30)
©British Airways On the Ground: I’ll be the first to admit that no matter how many times I fly first class, the corners of my mouth go up ever so slightly into a smile every time I check in for my flight. The smile is usually subdued for the first few moments of check-in at JFK, but British Airways made even that experience a premium one. Business- and first-class flyers have a dedicated check-in desk and access to a 24-hour concierge. I was early for my flight, and the desk was not busy. The check-in agent was polite and professional. She had my details sorted within minutes and told me I would enjoy the newly renovated lounges. I was escorted through security. This security checkpoint holds nostalgia for any longtime frequent flyer — it was once the boarding gate for the Concorde. As a first-class passenger, I had access to the Concorde lounge, which was gorgeous, decorated in dark wood tones with a separate white-tableclothed dining area. I enjoyed a healthy salmon entrée, finishing just as my flight was called to board. (30/30)
On the Ground: Virgin Atlantic's complimentary ground transfer to the airline's Upper Class check-in area at Heathrow, known as the Upper Class Wing, is pure James Bond and highly ego-boosting. My VA-arranged car pulled up to a private gate at the terminal, where a security guard asked the driver for my name. After checking his computer to confirm my reservation, the guard released a concrete roadblock that lowered itself into the roadway, allowing the car to approach the Upper Class Wing entrance. After a no-line, two-minute check-in, I fast-forwarded through the wing’s security lane and walked to the Clubhouse, a large, busy lounge with dozens of windows letting in afternoon light. Upper Class passengers were in constant motion here, walking between the massage station; the wait-staffed restaurants, where you can order meals from an extensive menu; the Cowshed revitalization treatment; the hair stylist; and an extensive Champagne, wine and cocktail bar — all complimentary. Just about any type of edible item a human could ingest — from Jing teas to organic muesli to grilled sardines on toast — was offered self-service or brought by a waitress. Complimentary laptops and free WiFi were available around the room. My senses were totally overwhelmed, and I was thankful to have arrived at the lounge three hours before my 4 p.m. flight. (30/30)
Pre-flight Perks for Preferred Passengers Priority check-in and in-cabin pampering are givens, and complimentary luxuries of premium lounges — Qatar's hot tub and sauna in Doha (DOH), Iberia's fine dining in Madrid (MAD) — are taken for granted. Hoping to encourage flyers to buy upgrades instead of free flights with their miles, airlines are adding even more pre-flight perks to make that first- or business-class boarding pass more alluring.
Yardley, PA, June 2, 2011 – Global Traveler, the only monthly magazine for business and luxury travelers, added the Airline of the Year and Hotel of the Year awards to its annual list of the best in business travel.
On the Ground: I checked into the flight at EWR’s Terminal B about three hours early, the only passenger in the designated Première Class check-in line. I was given an invitation to the airline’s lounge, on the ground floor level just outside the TSA security area. The lounge is shared with Open Skies and was quite crowded. I was surprised that the bathroom facilities were outside the lounge, in a public area of the terminal. But the room, designed by architect Robert Sargenti and interior designer Kati Curtis, was comfortable, with a selection of assorted dips and crackers, cookies, pastries, cold sandwiches and beverages. The complimentary WiFi used a password provided by the reception desk. When the Jet Airways flight was called, an airline representative escorted about 10 passengers to a nearly empty security lane off to the far side of the security area with less passenger traffic. (26/30)
On the Ground: My return trip from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, involved a plane change in Addis Ababa and stops in Rome and Harare, Zimbabwe — multilegs that offered an excellent opportunity to observe the airline’s business class. Following the four-hour flight from Lusaka to Addis Ababa, where a delicious full meal was served, those of us going on to the United States relaxed in the airline’s conveniently situated lounge. While not a large space, it is furnished with deep leather armchairs and café tables and offers a quiet zone, separate partitioned rooms for smoking and for dozing in chaise longues, a buffet, complimentary Internet, TV and a showcase of local artifacts. While I poured myself a gin and tonic and sampled the beef stew, lasagna, fruit and cake, an efficient receptionist handled my upgrade with no additional prodding required. (29/30)
photo: United Airlines On the Ground: Recently, the new United Airlines, the world’s largest commercial carrier, added its first new route — Washington, D.C., to Lagos, Nigeria — and I had the good fortune to secure a berth on the inaugural flight. I also had the good fortune to get out of Atlanta as snow blanketed the city. Arriving at Dulles International just minutes before the 10:43 p.m. take-off, I was whisked through the terminal to the waiting aircraft, a Boeing 767-300, and took my seat — I mean suite — next to the Nigerian ambassador. (30/30)
On the Ground: I was departing on an early-morning flight, so the airport was relatively quiet when I arrived. I stepped up to the check-in desk and, with no bags to check, I had my boarding pass in hand in no time. I proceeded to the security area and, again, passed through quickly with no crowds to delay the process. When I entered the gate area, though, it was like I had passed through a portal into another world. Dubai Duty Free, renowned for its world-class shopping, was bustling like the day before Christmas at a U.S. city mall. (30/30)
On the Ground: Arik Air, Nigeria’s largest commercial airline, launched service between Lagos and New York in November 2009. I had the chance to experience the airline’s Premier Class cabin on that same route last December. Though Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed International Airport can be every bit as chaotic as the megacity it serves, check-in was fast and friendly. When I inquired about the executive lounge, an Arik Air employee escorted me directly to it on the airport’s second floor. The lounge in Lagos is comfortable enough, with a full bar, plenty of snacks and free Internet; but it pales in comparison to the Arik lounge in JFK’s Terminal 4. (28/30)
On the Ground: I arrived at LAX expecting the terminal to be lifeless before take-off for my midnight flight. I could not have been more wrong. The airport was buzzing, and the ANA counter had more energy than I do after a cup of coffee. I went to the business-class line and only had to wait a few minutes for the next available agent. I was checked in and given very exact directions on where to board. The staff was accommodating and excited to welcome guests on board the flight to Haneda Airport.
On the Ground: We had a long layover at JFK and were pleased to learn that Air Europa opens its check-in counters earlier than the usual three hours before flight time. There was already a line when we arrived, but a representative greeted us, scanned our passports and immediately escorted us to a dedicated Club counter. After a quick check-in, we were given directions to the Oasis Lounge, shared with several other airlines and outside the security checkpoint. The large lounge is long and narrow, located along a wall of windows, allowing lots of light and cutting the noise level. We were offered coffee (20 varieties), Tazo teas and a full range of drinks from an open bar. The complimentary buffet included fresh fruits and berries, salads, sandwiches and three hot dishes. The business center offered computers, and there was WiFi throughout. Although we were outside security, as soon as our flight was announced we went straight through the priority line and onto the plane, bypassing the boarding line as well. (30/30)
On the Ground: I arrived at JFK with plenty of time to spare for my 9 p.m. departure from Terminal 7 and was quickly checked in and on my way to security. At that time of night — 7:30 p.m. — security is not too crowded, so the process did not take long. Iberia uses the British Airways lounge in Terminal 7, and as I entered I learned my flight was now scheduled to depart at midnight. Due to a second ash cloud drifting toward the South Atlantic, the plane from Madrid had to take a more southerly route that added at least an hour or two to its flight. Ultimately, I ended up spending close to five hours in the lounge. The BA lounge was pleasant and the receptionists were great at updating us on the status of the flight, but even the best service in the world starts to pale after so long a wait. (29/30)
On the Ground: Since Turkish Airlines joined Star Alliance in 2008, they have expanded their fleet and flight routes three-fold, focusing on bringing leisure and business travelers to Istanbul in non-stop flights from all over the world. I was lucky to be on their new Boeing 777-300ER ceremony flight, straight from the Boeing factory in Seattle to Istanbul, so we did not have the usual check-in procedures. (30/30)
On the Ground: We were concerned about the traffic on the way to JFK, as we would have to travel through Staten Island and cross the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Of course, there was none, and before we knew it, we were in front of South African Airways’ Terminal 4. Luggage in hand, we checked in at the convenient desk located just inside the doors — none of the typical searching for the check-in desk. We had one scare at check-in: My passport is so full of stamps that the clerk was not sure the South African government would let me in. A manager was brought to the desk to check; he confirmed the one remaining page was sufficient. The Swiss lounge, which SAA shares, is very comfortable, with a buffet of breakfast items including fruits and breads. One recommendation for the lounge: Add more electrical outlets for charging laptops. (28/30)
On the Ground: JAL appeals to business travelers through its well-served Executive Class tier, also known as Seasons. The airline’s efficient service, as well as its use of representative Japanese design and cuisine, begins after boarding passes are issued at JFK’s Terminal 1 with an invitation to visit the Sakura Lounge, a large, quiet room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the runways. There are six lounge laptops available to guests, along with several desktop PCs attached to free printers. Free WiFi is available for passengers with personal computers. A mid-day buffet is stocked with Asian snacks, including Japanese noodles, kelp wraps and various gourmet hot and cold teas, along with the standard American cookies, peanuts and finger sandwiches. I was comfortable in the soft, black leather chairs that faced the bank of windows. (28/30)
On the Ground: SWISS began flying nonstop six days a week between San Francisco and Zurich in June. I took the first flight to Zürich, Switzerland’s financial center and largest city. SWISS, a member of Star Alliance and the Lufthansa Group, shares United Airlines’ Red Carpet Club. The 10-year-old lounge, located just past security to the right in the International Terminal, has aged fairly well, though it doesn’t match offerings from top international carriers. Two drink coupons are available, and there are plentiful power outlets and work stations with desks. Food offerings are sparse; two of the five options on a coffee-making machine were out of order. Happily, the sparkling, two-level SWISS lounge in winningly modern Zürich Airport, 10 minutes from downtown, more than compensated on my return flight. (25/30)
On the Ground: I arrived at the counter at JFK with plenty of time. The check-in agents were busy with their own conversations regarding the flight, but check-in was quick and efficient. I received a pass to the business-class lounge located before security and went on my way. The lounge is spacious and comfortable; it is shared by several other air carriers with flights also departing for the Middle East at the same time. I got a bit of work done and headed for security. (28/30)
On the Ground: Virgin America shares the Clubhouse at SFO with Virgin Atlantic Airways, from which it licenses the Virgin brand. The Clubhouse — located in Concourse A, level 5, before security — wasn’t open for my early-morning departure (hours at SFO are 1–4:15 p.m. daily), but I have used the San Francisco lounge for trans-Atlantic flights on Virgin Atlantic and enjoyed the full bar, restaurant-style meals and vivid color scheme: blue at the bar, where I sipped a proper martini (shaken, not stirred), red for the swivel chairs along the big, sound-proofed windows overlooking the runway. The lounge offers free WiFi, a juice bar and a shower when it’s open. The lounge isn’t free. Virgin America’s first-class, Main Cabin Select and Elevate frequent-flyer members can buy access to the SFO Clubhouse for $35. (25/30)
On the Ground: Air Tahiti Nui service is located in the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The vast size of the terminal and courteous port employees allayed any concerns I had regarding my long flight to Tahiti. Check-in was fast, thanks to the dedicated business-class stations. The lounge, shared with other airlines, is a peaceful oasis to prepare for the flight. (29/30)
On the Ground: I arrived at JFK in late afternoon following a taxi transfer from New York–LaGuardia (LGA). The airport was bustling, but I was a bit early for check-in, so I made my way to the food court for a quick late lunch. Check-in, once I got to the desk following a group of travelers with massive luggage, was efficient and friendly. I didn’t yet have my seat assignment, but the agent took care of that in short order. However, when I asked about confirming a return seat assignment, I was directed to customer service where one harried agent was doing her best to accommodate the needs of multiple travelers while balancing hierarchy, including a group of three traveling together in first class. While she did a fabulous job given the circumstances, the process was a bit bumpy. (27/30)
On the Ground: Because our original flight from Recife to Miami had been delayed by weather and we would miss our New York connection, we were offered a flight to São Paulo, from which we could take an overnight flight to New York. Due to the resulting wait, we received vouchers for the airport’s best restaurant, Bonaparte, where we enjoyed a leisurely — and delicious — dinner from a menu of a dozen entrées and as many salads and desserts. Following dinner, we adjourned to the Admirals Club, a spacious area with a well-stocked, self-service bar; comfortable leather chairs; WiFi; showers; a business center and food service that included light meals and snacks. (29/30)
On the Ground: I didn’t mind having a long layover between flights in Miami because the Admirals Club in Concourse D is well appointed and comfortable. A number of small, well-lit seating areas are spread along its circular glass wall overlooking the main lobby, along with larger lounges and separate rooms for working or listening to music. Tea, various coffees, cookies and fruit are always available; and roomy showers provide a place to freshen up. Flights are not announced unless there is a change, so peace and quiet prevail. (29/30)
On the Ground: I arrived at Cointrin International Airport, delivered by Geneva’s unfailingly punctual bus system, in plenty of time for my noon flight. Cointrin is petite, and lines are typically quite short, even on weekends. From check-in, I proceeded through security to the Swiss business lounge, which United shares as a Star Alliance member. I checked my email on the computer terminals (gratis), snacked on cheese and croissants from the hot and cold buffet, and read the paper in the calm of that sanctuary. But I nearly missed it entirely — the lounge isn’t well marked, and it’s easy to pass through customs before you realize your mistake. (29/30)
On the Ground: British Airways check-in at Newark is located on the bottom level, near baggage claim. It was a bit difficult to find, as it is far removed from most check-in counters, but the process was quick. Security was a nightmare, which was not in any way British Airways’ fault, and as soon as I was behind the closed doors of the dedicated lounge, all the chaos from outside was soon forgotten. I had a drink, checked some emails (with free WiFi) and made my way to the gate for boarding. (28/30)
On the Ground: When I first stepped into the busy terminal, it was difficult to distinguish between the lines for assistance and the lines for premium check-in; at some point they seemed to merge together. Needless to say, I ended up waiting in the wrong line for about 10 minutes. Once I proceeded correctly, both check-in and security were a breeze. The three-tiered Lufthansa lounge is new, located directly after security. The first level is for business-class passengers. I enjoyed a drink, some small snacks and caught up on email while waiting for my flight. The floor-to-ceiling windows offered great views of planes taking off and landing. The second-floor Senator Lounge features a staffed bar and seating for 124. The top floor is for first-class passengers and HON Circle members (frequent flyers with the highest status level). Guests can relax or enjoy a pre-flight meal in the dining area there. (28/30)
On the Ground: Arriving at London City Airport, just 10 minutes from the Four Seasons Hotel in Canary Wharf, I quickly learned that everyone on BA 001 is treated like a VIP. Check-in and security were the fastest I have seen since the 1970s: less than 10 minutes from curbside to gate. A gate agent is even positioned outside the main airport entrance, and there are multiple self-service kiosks just inside. (30/30)
On the Ground: If I had done a little more research about my Economy Extra ticket to Stockholm, I would have known that I was able to check in with the business-class passengers. But when I showed the attendant my e-ticket she took me right to the business-class check-in. My bags were checked to Oslo, my final destination, and I was on my way in less that two minutes. I went through security and had more than three hours to go over emails and make some calls. (30/30)
On the Ground: My husband and I arrived in Madrid for our connecting flight to Boston hoping we had been cleared for a space-available upgrade. Anticipating a 7.5-hour flight, we grabbed a quick snack, just in case we didn’t make it into business class, and approached the gate agent with our fingers crossed. A cursory glance at the flight list showed that we had not been cleared. Disappointed, I asked her to check one more time. The double-check did the trick: We made it. (27/30)
On the Ground: My transfer from Hong Kong was easy, and I was swiftly on my way to the new Asiana/Star Alliance firstclass lounge, where I enjoyed the buffet — a visiting chef from the Westin Chosun was grilling beef. Asiana recently rebuilt its first- and business-class lounges, each quite different. The firstclass lounge had a quiet and relaxing feel, while the businessclass lounge was full of passengers involved in different activities. (29/30)
Construction is booming at the three major airports in the Persian Gulf region. The largest, Dubai International Airport, carries on its expansion even as it plans for a completely new facility to be completed in 2017. A New Doha International Airport will begin to replace the existing facility in Qatar next year. And at Abu Dhabi International Airport, the master plan calls for a new Midfield Terminal Complex to be completed in 2012.
On the Ground: Walter was the lone ticket agent and was painstakingly slow, causing a bit of a backup for four other people and myself. I was the second in line. It took about 15 minutes to navigate the check-in process. I waited in the public lounge with all other passengers, including a group of college students who were dressed — cowboy hats included — and ready for spring break chaos the minute they stepped off the flight. I was a bit annoyed by the unnecessarily loud cell phone ringtones that were going off repeatedly, way too early in the morning for my patience. (17/30)
On the Ground: The mounting do-it-yourself approach to everything has even infected premium-class service in airports. Continental Airlines’ economy and EliteAccess lines both lead to the same self-check-in kiosks, several of which needed maintenance the morning I flew out of LAX. After trying two kiosks unsuccessfully, I waited patiently while three agents handled another passenger’s check-in woes. I was issued a boarding pass in time to race to the President’s Club Lounge and gulp down a cup of coffee and a few minimuffins before boarding. The President’s Club Lounges in both LAX and Honolulu (HNL) were well-equipped with beverages, snacks, entertainment and powerful WiFi. (26/30)
Arrival/Check-in: Our TAP flight from Porto brought us to Lisbon well before check-in time. The apologetic receptionist saw that our luggage was swiftly stowed and invited us to have a complimentary drink on the hotel’s top-floor terrace while our room prep was expedited. We had just time to enjoy a glass of wine and the view over the Tagus River before a bellman arrived to escort us to our room. His thorough tour included placement of all the light switches and the location of the complimentary umbrellas. He made his smiling exit before we could reach for euros. (30/30)
On the Ground: We arrived at the dedicated Top Executive check-in counter at EWR too late for the Lisbon flight we were booked on and without our baggage, which had not arrived on our delayed incoming flight. Since the ticketing was separate, TAP was not responsible for fixing either of these problems, but that didn’t stop the charming agent. “I’ll find them,” she assured us, as she rebooked us on to that night’s flight to Porto and the onward to Lisbon. Skeptical, we went off to the lounge. Several hours later, this same agent met us at the gate and handed us our baggage tickets. “They’re on the plane,” she told us — and they were. A TAP agent told us as we boarded that previous agent had been all over the terminal tracking down our bags, locating them only minutes earlier. (30/30)
On the Ground: Wondering if weather might delay my flight, I went to BMI’s Web site to find its origin, only to find that the site is Anglocentric and phone center hours limited. Encountering connection problems, I spent most of the day waiting for my United flight between Tampa and Chicago. Although United is nominally a codesharing partner with BMI, its schedules don’t dovetail. United personnel knew nothing about BMI, and in the process of changing my connection, cancelled my entire itinerary. (22/30)
On the Ground: I arrived at the Etihad counter with time to check in, but not much time to spare. I did not have to wait long in the business-class line, but when the ticket agent started to check me in, I needed a little patience. Midway through the process the agent stopped working. I asked if there were a problem, and he said the supervisor froze the flight for a few minutes and we would just have to wait. Not having much control over the situation, I followed my agent’s relaxed example, and within a few minutes the computers were running and I was on my way through security. (27/30)
On the Ground: Iberia’s dedicated check-in for premium classes is separate and not easy to spot, but a helpful representative directed us to the secluded area behind the bay of check-in counters facing Iberia’s. While I checked in, one of the three good-humored agents checked the next morning’s weather in Málaga to see if I should pack my warm coat or carry it for easy access. (29/30)
Arrival/Check-in: After an all-night flight to Madrid and short hop to Málaga, I could be forgiven for not noticing where I finally dropped my head onto a pillow. But Villa Padierna is an attention-grabber, a pink palazzo (think Tuscan villa sired by Biarritz grand hotel) set on a brilliant green golf course. I was greeted by name and registered quickly. No one accompanied me to my room, but with one small rolling bag, I clearly didn’t need help. (28/30)
On the Ground: Despite long, disorganized lines and a late departure from Sicily, my flight landed in Milan on time and allowed me a chance to visit the premiumclass lounge before my connecting flight to New York. Inside, however, the lounge was “standing room only” and the bar service backed up with passengers ordering cappuccinos and other such beverages. I stayed just long enough to grab a Diet Coke and drink it. I knew I would get no work done in the noisy lounge so I made my way to the gate, wandering in and out of stores along the way. The gate area was just as crowded as the lounge, but luckily boarding was about to begin. (25/30)
On the Ground: I was returning with my family, four of us in total, after a relaxing trip to Fiji. This was a true “Family Business” trip, much like our regular column in Global Traveler (see page 82). At Nadi International, the line for Tabua (business) Class was short and we checked in swiftly and pleasantly. As I do for all flights, I carried my roller bag to the departure and security points. At security, I was told that my bag weighed 26 kilos and the maximum for carry-on was seven. My attempts at negotiation with the security staff were unsuccessful, so we played along and transferred two-thirds of my clothing to my family’s carry-ons. Once inside the Air Pacific Tabua Class lounge I transferred it back and, of course, my hand luggage was fine for the overhead. Unfortunately, this is where Air Pacific lost some points. In the lounge there was a little buffet and a full bar. (15/20)
On the Ground: Silverjet, a new transatlantic, businessclass airline, offers customers its Silver Lounge in Newark Liberty International Airport. Located on Level 2 at the end of the B terminal, it’s a bit tricky to find, especially if you’re connecting from another flight. And unlike the airline’s sleek private terminal at London Luton, the Newark version is very much a work in progress: Service is friendly but a bit slow, and the buffet of finger sandwiches, Oreo cookies and apples falls shy of the fare one expects at this level. Still, my leather chair was equipped with a foldout desk, and I could plug my laptop into the wall outlet behind me. Although I had to leave the lounge to use the restroom — located around the corner and up a flight of stairs — I checked in and boarded my 7:30 p.m. flight without a problem. (17/20)
Arrival/Check-In: We were met at the airport by a driver from The Westcliff — just one of the many services that the hotel arranges. After a drive through dense traffic, we arrived at the gates of the hotel, where we were greeted and ushered through to the main registration area, a spacious colonial building complete with zebra-skin couches and sumptuous dark wood tables. Despite being busy, the staff greeted us warmly, offered us a refreshing drink and presented us with our key yes, a real key; on a leather tab, not a piece of plastic). From there, we were driven up to our room in a cart. The Westcliff, as its name implies, sits on a cliff and the ascent can be pretty steep. (18/20)
On the Ground: The representative at the Asiana first class check-in counter was dressed in a white uniform to distinguish her from the representatives checking in business and economy class. That’s not the only thing that makes Asiana’s first class service stand out. Because I was a first class passenger, my bags were tied with a red and white striped ribbon before I was escorted to the lounge and they were taken in a different direction. Asiana shares its lounge with other carriers at JFK. Since it’s located before the security checkpoint, an Asiana attendant made sure I left the lounge with plenty of time to pass through security and swiftly onto the plane. (20/20)
On the Ground: Before getting in line for ticketing at LAX, passengers first must line up in a separate area to get their luggage screened, then a porter brings the luggage to a holding area near the counter. Only then can you check in. It’s a bit confusing, but after checking in to Royal Silk Class, a Thai Airways attendant whisked me away to a temporary business lounge to wait. (Royal Silk Class serves as first class on most Thai Airways flights as only a few select planes have Royal First Class cabins.) The 16 international business class lounges at LAX are all being reconfigured into four mega-lounges, based on airline alliances (the realignment should be completed this year). While the Thai Airways interim lounge isn’t glamorous by any means, I still had complimentary drinks, snacks and access to three computers with Internet service. Close to boarding time, the same attendant came in and escorted me from the lounge to an express security line.Within five minutes I was onboard and contemplating the delicious-sounding menu. (17/20)
On the Ground: I arrived at Heathrow early to avoid the lines at security, nevertheless the terminal was crowded and I anticipated a backup. After retrieving a printout of my flight itinerary at the Gulf Air information desk, I proceeded to the check-in counter where my luggage was tagged and I was asked to wait. A few moments later, to my pleasant surprise, a Gulf Air representative escorted me through security to the Gulf Air lounge — truly an oasis in Heathrow. This was only the beginning of my premium experience. (15/20)
On The Ground: Pack light. I cannot stress this enough.We had picked up a few souvenirs in Cape Town, thinking they were great bargains. They seemed light enough. At the check-in counter for Air Seychelles in Johannesburg, however, my suitcases and I were weighed together on a ramp-like device, and a stern-faced agent told me my suitcase could not go with me. I think it was good cop-bad cop routine, because when I looked perplexed, another agent told me I could pay for the extra weight (if only that worked in life). She scribbled some numbers on a sheet of paper and directed me to a long line of passengers clutching checkbooks and credit cards. I paid 800 rand (roughly $108) to take my cheap souvenirs with me.
On the Ground: A uniformed Singapore Airlines bellman greeted me as I arrived at the first-class curbside drop-off at Changi Airport. He whisked my bags away while a Singapore Airlines hostess escorted me to the first-class check-in lounge. The entire process was quite efficient. I was completely relaxed. I received my boarding pass and proceeded to do a bit of duty-free shopping before retiring to the first-class lounge to await departure. The lounge offered an array of conveniences including Internet-wired computer stations. Singapore Airlines does not make boarding announcements in the lounge, so I headed for the gate about 40 minutes prior to scheduled departure. 18/20
One of Palm Desert, California’s, signature hotel properties recently finalized its biggest-ever redesign. The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa is home to 884 guestrooms and nearly 250,000 square feet of event space. Every facet of the property has been redesigned ahead of the property’s grand re-opening in January.
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CRUISING HAS CHANGED DRAMATICALLY over the past century, first providing travelers with a means of transportation and then ushering in a new era that attracted leisure travelers looking for variety in the midnight buffets and activity on the shuffleboard courts. The new generation of cruisers takes cruising to an entirely new realm, where passengers split their time on and off the boat for an equal mix of time on the water and on the shore.
IT IS IN THE NATURE OF THINGS we love to want to trace them to their beginnings. It is also in the nature of things we love to enjoy sharing them with others. Put the two together, add a ship, and that is what wine enthusiasts can expect on a wine cruise. Sail along historic rivers, disembark to visit wineries, walk the vineyards, taste the wines and later, on the ship, enjoy dinner with other wine lovers while sipping wines highlighting your meal. A wine-rich day ends with a peaceful night’s sleep as the ship sails on to tomorrow’s vinous treat.
United Airlines’ environmentally friendly efforts lessen the impact on local U.S. communities.
TIME IS NOT ON THE SIDE of taxpayers who failed to report their Bitcoin and other virtual currency transactions to the IRS. The IRS recently announced it is sending letters to virtual currency owners who have not reported transactions on income tax returns. By the end of August, more than 10,000 taxpayers received these letters.
TAP Air Portugal is adding 15 new weekly flights from the United States and Canada by summer 2020, a new record for the carrier of 71 weekly flights between North America and Portugal.