Singapore Airlines Suite Class JFK-FRA A388

I booked this as the return leg of the crazy Etihad outbound. Normally the Suite Class is very difficult to book on award, but since I'm only doing the JFK-FRA fifth freedom segment, I got lucky. Calling everyday for a few days also helped. I was able to have the agent manually send in a request and open up availability.

Before the gulf carriers got their act together, Singapore Airlines Suite Class was THE first class product to beat. Not only do you have the privacy of a suite, if you book the two seats in the center with someone, when you fold both seats down into a bed, the seat divider can be lowered and you can have a double bed. On top of that, you have Singapore Airlines' world famous hospitality and service.

Suite with the door closed. After a lifetime of flying economy and being able to try various business and first class products on occasion, I cannot overstate just how amazing it feels to have privacy on a plane. I think that is the ultimate luxury

Suite with the door closed. After a lifetime of flying economy and being able to try various business and first class products on occasion, I cannot overstate just how amazing it feels to have privacy on a plane. I think that is the ultimate luxury

The double bed setup for a couple sitting together

The double bed setup for a couple sitting together

I am perfectly content with my single bed. The flight attendant made the bed in the unoccupied seat across the aisle from me so I can come and go as I please

I am perfectly content with my single bed. The flight attendant made the bed in the unoccupied seat across the aisle from me so I can come and go as I please

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If you look at only the hardware, compared to Etihad, Singapore isn't the best or most novel first class product anymore. However, if you look at the service, Singapore's service, along with Cathay Pacific, are still the best in the world.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, New York JFK

I got access to this lounge since I'm flying Singapore Air Suite Class and Singapore has an agreement with Virgin to use this lounge for their premium passengers. I'd heard very good things about this lounge and I have to say I wasn't disappointed.

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Air Berlin Business Class TXL-AUH A332

Air Berlin isn't exactly know for their premium product, but they are also not exactly a premium airline. They have this staggered business class product where if you are lucky and grabbed a window seat, it is extremely private, but if you got one of the aisle seat, it is very exposed to the aisle. Thanks to my last minute ExpertFlyer alert, I was able to snag the window seat right before I boarded.

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Etihad Airways First Apartment AUH-JFK A388

I'm starting this post with a selfie of me showering on a plane at 36,000 feet, flying at 509kts over Eastern Greenland.

Because really, nothing is going to top this from this point forward.

At the end of March American Airlines is updating their award chart. Almost always this means the cost of award redemption is going to up...way up. I've been meaning to try the famous First Apartment on Etihad, but never got around to it since Abu Dabhi, their hub, is out of the way. With the impending devaluation, I got off my ass, found availability, and booked the flight. Ended up booking a long circular route: UME-ARN-TXL-AUH-JFK-PIT-JFK-FRA-ARN-UME.

But really, it ended up being UME-ARN-TXL-AUH-IAD-JFK-CLT-PIT-JFK-FRA-ARN-UME thanks to diverted flight + misconnect.
 

First class check-in, Abu Dabhi

First class check-in, Abu Dabhi

Gate. Abu Dabhi has US CIS pre-clearance, which means you clear US CIS before you get on the plane, and when you land you don't need to deal with immigration anymore

Gate. Abu Dabhi has US CIS pre-clearance, which means you clear US CIS before you get on the plane, and when you land you don't need to deal with immigration anymore

2nd biggest first class cabin in the world, after The Residence on the same Etihad flight

2nd biggest first class cabin in the world, after The Residence on the same Etihad flight

Like the Lufthansa First Class that is being phased out, it has a separate seat and bed

Like the Lufthansa First Class that is being phased out, it has a separate seat and bed

Couch with pullout bed to the right

Couch with pullout bed to the right

Your own vanity in your "apartment"

Your own vanity in your "apartment"

And a mini-fridge too. No, the drinks aren't gonna cost extra

And a mini-fridge too. No, the drinks aren't gonna cost extra

One central aisle in the first class section. Apartments to either side. The Residence to the left in the front. Shower to the right

One central aisle in the first class section. Apartments to either side. The Residence to the left in the front. Shower to the right

Couch folded out into a bed

Couch folded out into a bed

Starter

Starter

They emphasize that the meal service is anytime, on-demand. Here is a made-to-order omelette

They emphasize that the meal service is anytime, on-demand. Here is a made-to-order omelette

I will say that I've had better steaks on other airlines. It is still quite good

I will say that I've had better steaks on other airlines. It is still quite good

The shower control. Each passenger gets 5 minutes of water. The bar shows you how much water you have left. Showing by far is the most decadent thing I've ever done

The shower control. Each passenger gets 5 minutes of water. The bar shows you how much water you have left. Showing by far is the most decadent thing I've ever done

Between first class and business class is a nice little lounge area

Between first class and business class is a nice little lounge area

Some of the alcohol selection by the lounge

Some of the alcohol selection by the lounge

This is one of the most amazing flight I've had. Better flash a faux gang sign and represent the west coast.

This is one of the most amazing flight I've had. Better flash a faux gang sign and represent the west coast.

Etihad flies the First Apartment between Abu Dhabi - London and Abu Dhabi - New York. I decided to book the New York flight because it gives me 13 hours to enjoy this cabin and service instead of just 6 to London. Funny enough, as we are about to land in New York, the airport was closed due to weather, so we had to divert to Washington. However, Washington didn't have the facilities to service an A380 and Etihad probably didn't want to let us off anyway, so we sat on the plane in Washington until we finally took off and headed back to New York.

Total time on the plane: 21 hours. I definitely got my 90,000 AA miles + $35 worth.

Can you imagine how much it would suck to be stuck in economy for 21 hours?

Travel Summary 2015

Travel Summary 2015

Actual miles flown: 147,849
Miles / points redeemed: 187,000
Status earned: AA EXP, UA/*G
# of segments flown: 81
# of trips: 17
# of trips forfeit (VX:LAX, DL: SVO)
# of airports / (new): 38 / (17: TMP, ARN, UME, PHL, PEK, CLE, MIA, GIG, SJU, PHX, LCY, VIE, BMA, GVA, NCE, MCM, ZRH)
# of airlines (new): 13 / (6: SK, OS, DY, TF, LX, YO)
# of int'l premium cabins: 4 (AA-J, BA-F, AY-J, UA-J)
# of trip in rotary aircraft: 1 (MCM-NCE)
# of states / (new): 19 / (7: ID, MT, WY, SD, IA, IN, OH)
# of territories / (new): 1 / (1: PR)
# of countries / (new): 16 / (3: BR, CH, MC)
# of continents: 4
$ spent on airfare & fees: Don't even ask (info missing and too lazy / scare to look up bank statements)
Most popular route: UME-ARN (11)
Most popular airport: ARN (23)
Total time spent on planes: 14d, 3h, 12m.

The mysterious world of Op-up

So I got op-uped on my flight to Washington DC from Heathrow. These are the best upgrades you can have. Because it costs you nothing. I board my flight as usual, found my seat in Economy. I got settled in, waiting for the rest of my flight to board. 10 minutes later I saw the gate agent come on board. She stopped by my seat, handed me a new boarding pass and said "Here is your new seat Mr. Lee. Happy holidays!"

What the hell is an op-up? An op-up is a shorthand for operational upgrade. The airline upgraded you based on their operation need. The easiest example is that Economy is oversold and there are empty seats in Business. Instead of bumping people, they decide to upgrade certain passengers based on various factors, usually booking class of the ticket or elite status.

Here is the thing: Airlines have gotten really good at managing their load factors. Operational upgrades don't happen much anymore. On top of that, on this flight I was only United Silver, the lowest tier in MileagePlus. If I was upgraded because of status, that would mean there were no other Gold / Platinum / 1K / GS, which I find unlikely. I also talked to the gate agent before boarding, and while I was nice enough, I didn't have enough of a conversation with her to make a lasting impression.

This was only the 2nd time I've been op-uped. Who know why it happened. Not going to complain!`

1 Night in Monaco + Monaco to Nice in a heli

After a long and painful project, I decided to do a quick overnighter. I've been meaning to go to Monaco for a while and thought this would be a a good time to get some Mediterranean warmth in December. Year ago my friend Brian mentioned how his family took a helicopter ride between Monaco and Nice. I checked the price, and it was a relatively reasonable €141. After years of wanting to try a flight in a helo, this was the perfect opportunity. I can get from Monaco to Nice Airport in 7 minutes!

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Finnair Business Class HEL-AMS A350-900 inaugural

Finnair got the first Airbus A350 in Europe. I figured I'd book myself on the inaugural revenue passenger flight.

People getting anxious

People getting anxious

Lots of excited airline nerds

Lots of excited airline nerds

One of the best features of this IFE, I wish I had a better picture of: It shows the time under both cities in both time zones. So simple, yet no one did it until now

One of the best features of this IFE, I wish I had a better picture of: It shows the time under both cities in both time zones. So simple, yet no one did it until now

Gorgeous tailcam view

Gorgeous tailcam view

Since this is only a short haul flight for crew training, the plane is only catered like an intra-European flight

Since this is only a short haul flight for crew training, the plane is only catered like an intra-European flight

When we landed we got a water cannon salute

When we landed we got a water cannon salute

Quite a crowed gathered to see the first European A350 in service

Quite a crowed gathered to see the first European A350 in service

United Premium Economy SFO-ICN Status Run

I need StarAlliance Gold before I move to Europe, so I flew from San Francisco to Seoul and back with a 3 hours layover. Basically got off the plane, ate, got right back on the same plane.


Yes I have a problem.

BTW I forgot my passport at home, so when I almost reached SFO I had to drive back to San Jose to get it. Good times.

16 Hours in Rio

When a $600 SFO-GIG fare came up, I couldn't resist. What I didn't count on was getting a rush Brazilian visa was gonna cost me $300. Then AA cancelled my outbound so I had to depart a day later. My original trip was 2 days 1 night, which was already short enough. Now I arrive and leave on the same day.

No hurry.

Mistake fare: Two days in Beijing, x2

So AA had a mistake fare. Washington to Beijing for $440. In business class. At that rate I had to book it. Hell I booked two trips for all the sweet sweet RDM and EQM. Ended up doing two tue-thurs trip to Beijing over two weeks.

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Nordic Tour 2015

I applied to a few graduate school in January, and they are all in Sweden and Finland. I figure I make a trip out there in the winter to see if I can survive the cold.

Highlight: Had the whole plane to myself between Tampere and Stockholm, finally meeting Rebecca and Anna, and saw a VW XL1.

Travel Summary 2014

Travel Summary 2014

Actual miles flown: 99,564
Miles / points redeemed: 310,000
# of segments flown: 46
# of trips / (PNR): 10 / (14)
# of airports / (new): 26 / (11: STR, AMS, GOT, BNE, SYD, HNL, AES, DTW, FCO, BUD, PHX)
# of airlines (new): 12 / (6: LH, KL, AF, QF, HA, AZ)
# of int'l premium cabins: 3 (LH-F, QF-J, BR-J)
# of states / (new): 8 / (1: HI)
# of countries / (new): 15 / (5: NL, AU, VA, HU, AT)
# of continents: 4
$ spent on airfare & fees: $3,664,67
Total time spent on planes: 9 days, 1 hour, 40 min.

Mistake fare: Around the world in 132 hours

8 flights
7 countries
6 days

Alitalia had a one way ticket from Los Angeles to Tokyo for $360. Guess what? It routes through Europe via Paris, Rome, Budapest, Amsterdam before finally arriving in Tokyo. A $60 ticket from San Jose to Los Angeles plus another 20,000 miles + $45 for a one way ticket from Tokyo to San Jose via Honololu. Total cost: $465 + 20k AA miles.

Bonus: I was able to convince Cherie to come along too.

First stop: Lunch with Erin in LA

First stop: Lunch with Erin in LA

#vaticanselfie

#vaticanselfie

Budapest

Budapest

Absinthe shot

Absinthe shot

Daytripping to Austria

Daytripping to Austria

Shy panda

Shy panda

Yes, that  schnitzel is bigger than my face

Yes, that schnitzel is bigger than my face

Amsterdam canal tour

Amsterdam canal tour

Taking the monorail from Tokyo Haneda

Taking the monorail from Tokyo Haneda

Honolulu...almost home

Honolulu...almost home

Weekend in Ålesund

$700 fare San Francisco to Ålesund, Norway. Yes please. Erica would you like to come? Of course you would!

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Weekend in Sydney

Cousin got married in Australia. Good excuse to go for a long weekend and fly Qantas business class on the outbound.

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