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An avid world traveller and an enthusiast of the aviation industry. Has been to over 50 countries, on paths well and less travelled. Always on the lookout for luxury travel at economy price.

Hotel Review: Premier Inn London Heathrow Terminal 4

Premier Inn Heathrow T4 Room
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 Room

If you have an overnight or a very early flight the next morning, limited budget and want a hotel that is attached to London Heathrow Airport, Premier Inn London Heathrow Terminal 4 should be your default choice.

It is the only budget hotel that you do not have to lug your bags onto a bus or jump into an expensive taxi. Premier Inn is not a small dingy outfit; it is the UK largest hotel brand with more than 785 hotels. This Premier Inn is relatively a new hotel, opened in May 2017.

Premier Inn Heathrow Terminal 4, as the name suggests, is located by London Heathrow Airport Terminal 4. It is physically linked to Terminal 4. There is a fully covered walkway from the terminal to the hotel. From the underground tube (train) station, it took 11 minutes to walk and dragging a bag, point to point. From the departure floor, it took 6 minutes to walk. (Yes, we timed our walks – not fast, just leisurely.)

If you are arriving at Terminal 4 by underground tube, follow the exit sign and walk to the lift. Take the lift to the Departure floor, then walk towards the end of Zone F where the entry to the walkway is located. The hotel sign is quite small, hard to spot from the centre of the terminal. If you are arriving by flight into Terminal 4 itself, all you have to do is to make your way to Departure floor and walk towards Zone F.

Continue on the covered walkway and follow Premier Inn’s sign. The walkway is akin to a huge tubular tunnel. The same walkway also leads directly to three other hotels: Hilton Terminal 4, Crowne Plaza Terminal 4, Holiday Inn Express Terminal 4.

Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Signage
Hotel signage at Heathrow T4 Departure floor
Walkway from Heathrow Terminal 4 to Hotels
Walkway from Heathrow Terminal 4 to hotels : Premier Inn, Hilton, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Express
Signage to Premier Inn Heathrow T4
Signage to Premier Inn Heathrow T4
Signage to Premier Inn Heathrow T4
Signage to Premier Inn Heathrow T4

The room rate is what I loved most about this hotel. For this stay, I booked a family room and paid £29 inclusive of taxes. I have consistently scored £29 per night; the most I had paid was £49.50 per night. If you booked well in advance, these rates are usually available. Do not get fooled by some budget and premier hotels that tag on the word ‘Heathrow’. They are offsite from the terminals and you have to spend quite a bit of money and time to ride on cabs, or jump on a bus which is inconvenient if you have heavy bags.

Check-In and Lobby
After completing the walkway, I took the lift to the first floor where the Reception is located. You can either go directly to the Reception or to one of the self check-in kiosks. I used the kiosk; you would need your reservation number for the check-in. A billing receipt was issued and the room key card was dispensed from the machine shortly after.

Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Lobby
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Lobby: Check-in kiosks to the left, Costa Coffee to the right, Thyme Restaurant to the end

The lobby itself is quite large, bright and colourful. Costa Coffee and Thyme Restaurant are located on this floor.

My bedroom was on the 4th floor. It overlooked another section of the Premier Inn. The bedroom was very spacious. It accommodated a large king bed (UK sizing), a big sofa sleeper and a long counter / working desk with lots of space in between. The room was pleasantly furnished, and was bright, aided by natural and artificial lighting.

Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Corridor to the rooms on Level 4
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Corridor to the rooms on Level 4
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Double Bed in Family Room
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – King bed in Family Room : pleasantly furnished
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Family Room
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Family Room : King bed (UK sizing), sofa bed, blackout curtains. Spacious room.
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Sofa bed
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Sofa bed in family room

The main bed itself was comfortable; the mattress was on the firm side. There was plenty of bedside lighting available. Power plugs were at hand on both sides of the bed but unfortunately, there was no USB chargers. If you do not like sleeping in total darkness, you can turn on the purplish nightlight, emitted from the top of the headboard.

Flooring was carpeted and quite comfortable to walk on. The window had blackout curtains.

Heating for the room can be adjusted via the wall mounted temperature controller. As it was winter, I did not test the air conditioning.

The countertop/working desk was well equipped. It had a kettle and coffee/tea making facilities, a VOIP landline telephone and a side lamp to boost the lighting. There were two power sockets towards the left side. It also had a built-in audio-visual connections (HDMI, RCA phono connectors, audio analog connector and USB play port). These features make it very handy to connect the laptop to the TV via the digital or analog connections as long as you have your own cables with you. A large LED television was mounted above the working desk and there were lots of channels (not the typical 4 or 5 channels usually available in budget hotels).

Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Desk / Countertop
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Desk / Countertop : Well equipped
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - AV Connections
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – AV Connections

There was not much space for hanging out the clothes. There were only five hangers in an open cupboard. Close to it was the hairdryer.

Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Storage
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Room entrance, open cupboard

The room was neither equipped with a safe nor a refrigerator. I did not recall seeing the iron and ironing board, but I am quite sure it can be requested from the housekeeping.

Wifi Connection
Free wifi was provided. You have to create an account and sign in. The speed was decent enough to browse and work. However, it did take a long time to download files. It took 30 minutes to download a 100MB file. Premier Inn does offer a supercharge speed (Ultimate Wifi) for an extra fiver.

Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Wifi Connection
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Wifi Connection

While the bedroom was nicely furnished, the bathroom on the other hand, was very basic. There was no toiletry/amenity kit, not even a bar of soap. A generic liquid soap was supplied from dispensers mounted by the wash basin and another one by the bath tub. The toilet paper were not exactly friendly for use either. Despite all this, the bathroom was spacious, pleasingly tiled and very clean. The shower was also quite powerful.

Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Bathroom
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Bathroom
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Bathroom
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Bathroom with tub and shower
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 - Bathroom
Premier Inn Heathrow T4 – Bathroom

Other Conveniences & Facilities
Coffee shop and restaurant are by the reception floor. Continental breakfast was priced at £8.50, while full breakfast was at £10.50. Car parking was also available at £16.50 per day, provided by a third party company.

Overall, it was a comfortable and peaceful stay and I gained a restful sleep. Both bedroom and bathroom were very clean and spacious (at least by European standards). Be mindful that it is no Hilton or Marriott and you are not paying their rates either. At £29-£50 for a good night sleep with the convenience of being attached to Heathrow Airport, in my view, it was a brilliant value and hard to beat.

Hotel Review: Premier Inn Heathrow Terminal 4
Sheffield Road, London Heathrow Airport, Heathrow, TW6 3FH, England

Last Date Stayed: 1-JUN-2019 (plus four times in the last 12 months)


Tip – How to travel from Premier Inn Heathrow Terminal 4 to Heathrow Terminal 5 Departure Level:

  1. Exit the hotel (use the lift, press for the level marked ‘Terminal’).
  2. Walk towards Terminal 4 using the covered walkway.
    Time: 6 minutes’ leisure walk
  3. Once you arrive the Departure level in Terminal 4, walk to the lifts located at the centre of the terminal. (Note: There is a lift/elevator immediately after the walkway, but this one leads to Heathrow Express trains, NOT the London Underground trains.)
  4. Take the lift to the London Underground level and walk to the train platform.
  5. Take the train to Terminal 1, 2 and 3 station. There is no direct train from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5.
    Time: 6 minutes’ ride
  6. Disembark at Terminal 1, 2 and 3 station. Change train here for Terminal 5.
    (Changing train here is not a hardship. It is on the next platform, 5 seconds walk.)
  7. Take the train to Terminal 5 station.
    Time: 5 minutes’ ride
  8. Once at Terminal 5 station, exit and take the lift to Terminal 5 Departure floor (Level 3).

Total time:
From leaving Premier Inn Terminal 4 to reaching Departure level of Terminal 5, the total time was 24 minutes. Allow more time during peak hours (I was travelling off-peak hours at 10:30 am).

Nothing to pay. All travels within Heathrow area including transfers between terminals are totally free on London Underground trains, Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect and the red buses. You must tap your Oyster Card to get the entry and exit barriers to open. If you do not have an Oyster Card, you can use your contactless credit card (as long as it has contactless payment symbol). Overseas credit cards work too. See London Underground website – paying for the fare.

Heathrow Free Travel Zone
Click here for a map of the free travel zone; map provided by Heathrow Airport.

London Underground Train
London Underground Train on Piccadilly Line
London Underground Train Route - west side
London Underground Train Route – Piccadilly Line (western end) : Note the direction of travel between the five Terminals

London Underground Train Heathrow

Additional Tip
You can also take the red bus from Premier Inn Terminal 4 to Terminal 5. Go down to the car park level. After the steps, head to the main street, turn to the right for the nearest bus stop. Overall distance is about 100m. The bus stops at several places. I have done this before and did not find it to be a time saver. It took about 30 minutes. Also be warned, if you think you will have an empty bus at 5 am in the morning, you will be very mistaken. It is packed with travellers and local people going for their early morning shifts.

You can also take the Heathrow Express train (also free). Once again, I have done it before and did not find it that convenient either. Heathrow Express does not run as frequent as the London Underground trains, and it also involves changing of train.

All considered, in my opinion, the London Underground trains are the most convenient and fastest.

Flight Review: British Airways Premium Economy Boeing 747-400 – Vancouver to London Heathrow

British Airways Boeing 747-400
British Airways Boeing 747-400

This flight, BA84, has a 9:10 pm departure time from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to London Heathrow with a scheduled flying time of 9 hours and 20 minutes.

Check In and Security Check
I arrived at the check-in counter about two and a half hours before departure. The check in process was a breeze. I was on a one-way BA Avios redemption ticket in economy class. At check-in, I was asked if I wanted to upgrade to Premium Economy for C$450. I declined because I knew that the aircraft was old and that the cabin had not been revamped. I flew BA’s premium economy several times before and made the conclusion that it was just not worth the money.

Security was painless and fast, even without fast track. Vancouver Airport is typically quiet after 7 pm. Most of the international long haul flights tend to depart between 12 noon and 6:30 pm.

Lounges at YVR Airport International Terminal
I had three choices – the default British Airways Club/First Lounge (for BA Silver/Gold members) or Plaza Premium Lounge (using Priority Pass) or SkyTeam Lounge (also using Priority Pass). I chose Plaza Premium because of the availability of hot foods. The BA lounge is nice and staffed by friendly people but it is relatively small and can be crowded. SkyTeam lounge, in my opinion, is soulless. At quiet times, you can barely get decent food there. The Plaza Premium in YVR is more than a decent lounge. It offers hot dining; I especially like the noodle station. The seating is adequate in numbers and quite comfy. As long as you can avoid the Qantas’s departing crowd, you can usually have a peaceful time there. 

Much to my surprise, at the gate, my name was called out. They had swapped my economy boarding pass with a premium economy. The flight was quite empty, so to get an operational upgrade was a pleasant surprise. I accepted it graciously. Boarding was by group number, 1 to 5. I was on Group 1 (being BA Gold / One World Emerald) and was amongst the few who boarded first. Boarding was efficient and completed well ahead of scheduled time. The aircraft left the gate 10 minutes early at 9 pm.

The Aircraft
The aircraft was a Boeing 747-400, a four engine aircraft with twin aisle cabin, registration G-CIVP, which came into service in 1998. (Source: The BA Source) That makes it a 21 year old aircraft. I am sure, the interior has been refreshed a couple of times.

Cabin and Seating in Premium Economy
The premium economy (also known as World Traveller Plus) cabin is sandwiched between the first class and the lower deck business class cabins. See seat map below. This invariably means the first class passengers will disembark the aircraft after the premium economy passengers.

Seat Map BA 747-400 G-CIVP
Seat Map BA 747-400 G-CIVP Premium Economy in green
BA B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin (small)

It has a total of 36 seats in a 2-4-2 layout. To give you a general idea on the spaciousness, the standard economy cabin seating layout is 3-4-3. Essentially, two seats were removed per row to make it into ‘premium’ economy. The seat pitch is 38 inches and the seat width is 20 inches; compare that with standard economy at 31 inches and 17.5 inches respectively.

The seat did recline but by not much, but sufficient enough to disrupt your back-seat viewing and comfort level if the passenger in-front decided to do the maximum recline. There was an adjustable headrest and footrest for added ‘comfort’.

The seat-back pocket had two large pouches to store your cables, glasses and other small personal items – a very convenient feature.

There was no USB outlet to directly charge the mobile devices. A multi adapter power supply is available to power the laptop and devices.

The eating tray was stored inside the seat’s armrest.

In my opinion, the seat was quite hard. Overall, the cabin had a very year ‘2000’ feel. However, to be fair, I think it probably did receive a minor refresh a few years ago because the carpets were not totally worn out and the seats were not totally sunken in.

Bear in mind that British Airways has another variant of the premium economy cabin on its Boeing 747-400 fleet. This article refers to aircraft G-CIVP. The other version has smaller number of premium economy seats and better features.

British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin" width="979" height="734" /> British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Window 2 Seaters
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Window 2 Seater
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin" width="979" height="734" /> British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - 4 Seater Middle Column
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – 4 Seater Middle Column
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin" width="979" height="734" /> British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Recline Control
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Recline Control
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin" width="979" height="734" /> British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Seat Pitch
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Quite generous seat pitch. Back seat pouches.
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Inflight EntertainmentBritish Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Wash Room
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Wash Room
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Inflight EntertainmentBritish Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Wash Room
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Wash Room

Inflight Services
I self-guided myself to my seat. I was seated on 15G, an aisle seat in the middle column. No one was sitting next to me. Needless to say, the entire flight was much more comfortable as a result. The premium economy cabin was less than three-quarters full. Interestingly, I noticed that the demographic group of the passengers in this cabin was mostly the over 50 years old.

There was plenty of overhead cabin storage. On the seat itself, they had already placed the headset, amenity kit, a small pillow and a standard blanket sealed in a plastic bag. So, in order to be seated comfortably, the first thing you have to do is to remove these items to the side.

The amenity kit consisted of basic inflight conveniences, all sealed in an unimpressive BA branded plastic bag. Inside, there were cabin socks, an eye mask, earplugs, a tooth brush, a small tube of toothpaste and a pen. The latter was handy to complete the UK landing form.

The headphone was a bit flimsy, definitely not noise cancelling, despite BA claiming it to be on its website. The personal entertainment screen, mounted on the forward passenger’s backseat was very tiny, about 5.25 inches (same size as in the standard economy seat). Amazingly, it was a touchscreen (sarcasm)! To clarify, it was not touchscreen. There was also a handheld media control to operate the entertainment system. The inflight entertainment was adequate with the usual offerings of Hollywood movies, TV shows and radios. But in all frankness, it was hard to enjoy them on a screen size that was no larger than the length of an iPhone 6/7. Real time flight navigation information was also on offer to track the progress of the flight.

British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Back Seat Screen
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Back Seat Screen – Width is about the same size as iPhone 6/7 length
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Inflight EntertainmentBritish Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Inflight Entertainment
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – In Flight Entertainment
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Inflight EntertainmentBritish Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - IFE Handheld Control
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – IFE Handheld Control
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin" width="979" height="734" /> British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Headset and Amenity Kit
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Headset and Amenity Kit
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Amenity Kit
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Amenity Kit

We were offered a pre-flight drink, limited to a choice of water or orange juice only. Shortly after, a menu was distributed in the form of a small postcard size. After reaching the cruising altitude, a warm towel was handed out. I was warmly greeted and addressed by my last name. The UK landing card was distributed shortly after, followed by drinks and snack, served from a trolley. Alcoholic drinks were offered including wine and champagne. The snack was just a packet of pretzels. She came back a short while later to take my choice for the entrée. Apart from myself, I did not see her approached other passengers in the premium economy cabin.

The dinner menu was limited in choice. It was either chicken or pasta. I selected the chicken ‘coq au vin’ which is a variation of French dish of chicken braised with wine, lardons and mushrooms. The entire dinner set (starter, main and dessert) came in one single tray, and it was quite congested. The cutlery set was a proper stainless steel and the dishware was in the form of fine china.

British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Menu
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Menu
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Inflight EntertainmentBritish Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Dinner Set
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Dinner Set

I was also served dinner first before others. This led me to conclude that I must be the only BA Gold member present in this cabin. (Not complaining – certainly nice to receive a little special treatment.)

The starter was a fresh salad, nothing much to shout about. My main, the chicken ‘coq au vin’, was surprisingly tasty. It was complemented with French green beans and rice. The dessert (maple berry cake) was uninspiring.

British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Inflight EntertainmentBritish Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin - Main Entree Chicken
British Airways B747-400 Premium Economy Cabin – Main Entree Chicken

After dinner, I watched a newly released Hollywood movie, “Peppermint”, starring Jennifer Garner. The very small screen and sub-par audio headset did take some enjoyment away.

I then slept nicely for a good five hour! The fact that I did not have anyone sitting next to me added exponentially to my comfort level.

Breakfast/snack was served 1.5 hours before landing. It was a simple croissant bun and crunchy bar, along with beverage of your choice.

The premium economy cabin was serviced by just one dedicated cabin crew. She was professional, warm and had cheerful disposition, always smiling. She intuitively knew when to strike a conversation and when to leave the passengers alone.  I was so impressed with her service that I gave away my first British Airway “Golden Ticket” to her. I had it for many years but never felt compelled enough to give to anyone. There were a few marginal cases where I could have dished it out, but I refrained at the last minute. (Note – Golden Ticket is British Airways’ recognition method for passengers to award its crew for outstanding services. It can be awarded by BA Gold members only.)

Our flight arrived 1 hour and 5 minutes early! BA84 was scheduled to arrive at London Heathrow Terminal 3 at 2:30 pm, but touched down at 1:25 pm. The scheduled 9 hours 20 minutes flight was accomplished in 8 hours 15 minutes. The aircraft must have rode in a jet stream with a very strong tailwind. I now wish I had paid more attention to the navigation system, especially to the tailwind speed.

Post note: A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 plane set a new speed record on February 18, 2019 by clocking 801 mph, riding on a tailwind of 231 mph. The flight completed the Los Angeles to London journey in 9 hours and 14 minutes, much less than the 11 hours scheduled. Story here.


Overall, I enjoyed this premium economy flight. Firstly, I had no one sitting next to me; that instantly elevated the comfort level. The cabin staff who serviced the cabin was very pleasant, warm and professional.

On the other side of the argument, British Airways’ premium economy is not created equal across its fleet. The newer aircrafts (Boeing 787, Boeing 777 and Airbus A380) have a much more modern cabin and sleeker inflight entertainment. The Boeing 747, on the other hand, is stuck with early 2000’s technology and features. In my view, the hard product must go hand in hand with the soft product in order to make it very desirable.

If I had to pay to fly premium economy, it would be a resounding no, especially on a Boeing 747. The price differential between a standard economy and premium economy is not small. Typically, it ranges from 2 to 2.5 times the standard economy fare. It is hard to justify paying more than double for a little extra space, marginally better food and a cheap amenity kit. As I said earlier, it was not worth the money.

Seat Tip
BA’s premium economy cabin in the Boeing 747-400 has a couple of configurations. If your flight has the same configuration as aircraft G-CIVP, go for first row seats on the right – 11J and 11K. Or the last row of the two seater – 16J and 16K. The seats are very private, especially for couples (no neighbours to your left).

Airline Review: BA84 British Airways Boeing 747-400 Vancouver to London Heathrow Premium Economy Class
Date Flew: 21-JAN-2019

Flight Review: Qatar Airways QSUITE Airbus A350-1000, Doha to New York JFK, Business Class

Qatar Airways QSuite Cabin A350-1000
Qatar Airways QSuite Cabin A350-1000

I was pretty excited to get on this ultra long haul flight for two reasons. Firstly, it was a QSUITE. Secondly, it was on a brand new A350-1000 aircraft. Both were my first; so, to fly first time on a A350-1000 with Qsuite would be quite an experience.

Transit and Boarding

We were transiting from another Qatar Airways flight from Colombo. It was a long seven hour transit in Doha Airport, but with the privilege to use the Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge, the transit was relatively painless. I am not reviewing Al Mourjan lounge now, but simply put, it is simply one of the best airline lounges in the world. During the seven hour layover, we had two meals, slept quite comfortably in the rest area and had a refreshing shower. We were fresh and clean by the time we walked to the departure gate.

Qatar Airways Doha Airport Business Class Lounge Al Mourjan
Qatar Airways Doha Airport Business Class Lounge Al Mourjan – a grand and impressive lounge
Qatar Airways Doha Airport Business Class Lounge Al Mourjan - relax and snooze area
Qatar Airways Doha Airport Business Class Lounge Al Mourjan – relax and snooze area

Gate C7 was assigned to our flight and it was just a short stroll from the Al Mourjan lounge. As this flight was US bound, documents check was more stringent, all bags were X-rayed, passengers went through the metal detector, and a body pat-down was also conducted. This security screening process is only typical for US bound passengers, definitely not to other parts of the world. In my numerous Doha transit experiences, the only inspection performed for flights to other parts of the world was the one immediately after disembarking the arriving aircraft, and then a quick document check at the departure gate.

Just as we cleared the security, we were informed that our aircraft had experienced technical problems (yes, on a brand new aircraft) and it would be a two hour delay from the original schedule (0800 hours). We were allowed to leave the secured area, and we returned to Al Mourjan lounge. After an hour and a half waiting in the lounge, we proceeded back to the gate, just to be sure. The ground staff was not volunteering any information, but we gathered it was a technical problem with a faulty cabin door. After another hour of waiting by the gate, we went through the same security screening and finally boarded the plane at 1120 hours. Priority boarding was enforced with business class passengers allowed in first, followed by elite frequent flyers (One World Emeralds and Sapphires).

The staff on duty by the aircraft’s door were not totally ready for the passengers, but we were allowed in, nonetheless. Inside, I was warmly welcomed by the cabin crew in charge of our section. After receiving a hot towel and welcome drink, I unintendedly nodded off to sleep. The prolonged delays and time differences had got the better of me. I was woken up shortly after by a commotion. The cabin staff were busy removing their luggage from the overhead cabins and dragging the bags and themselves off the aircraft. I then realised that they were being replaced by a brand new set of air and cabin crew! Due to the delays and long duration of the flight, the initial crew would run out of legal hours partway of the journey but it defied logic as to why the management decided to do the crew swap after all the passengers had been loaded.

I was getting very agitated at this point because no information was forthcoming from the captain, and for the first time, I feared that I would miss my connecting flight from New York JFK to Vancouver. The change of crew further aggravated the delay by another hour. In the end, the aircraft left the gate at 1300 hours – five hours late, and it was airborne fifteen minutes later.

Flight Path

The flight path was over Europe and the Atlantic. The published flight time was 14 hours and 25 minutes (presumably with time padding) but our flight managed to complete the trip in under 13.5 hours. It landed at 1835 hours New York time and after a long taxiing which felt like eternity, we reached the gate at 1905 hours. Point to point, we arrived 4 hours and 40 minutes late.

Business Class Qsuite Cabin

The aircraft deployed on this Doha to New York route was a new Airbus A350-1000. The A350-1000 has the longest fuselage in the Airbus’s family of twin engine jets and reputed to be the quietest aircraft out there. It is seven metres longer than the A350-900 (see my Stockholm-Doha flight review here).


The cabin interior was distinctly modern and pleasant with LED ambient lighting setting the mood. The layout in the business cabin was 1-2-1, all enclosed in a suite with a sliding door, more popularly known as Qsuite. Qatar Airways clearly upped the game with its Qsuite and led the way in business class innovation. As it is now, you will almost certainly have to fly first class with other premium airlines in order to get a suite.

Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Cabin Layout
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Cabin Layout
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Safety Card
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Safety Card

The seats were in staggered layout. All odd numbered seats were rear-facing, while even numbers were forward-facing. There were nine rows of the single window suites and ten middle row suites in the main Business cabin. After the galley, the aft cabin had another two rows of window and middle suites.

The middle seats had movable panels that can be transformed into a quad configuration, assuming there were four of you, or in double configuration if there were two of you. They can then be reverted back into a single private suite (if preferred) when you are ready to retire.

Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Cabin Layout - Middle Row Suites
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Middle row suites can be configured into double or quad arrangements

Overhead Storage

There were ample overhead spaces, but somehow, I struggled to find a space just above my seat for my carry-on. They were monopolised and occupied by the cabin crew’s personal luggage. I was in suite 1K, a rear-facing seat by the window. By design, there was no overhead storage compartment above the middle row suites.

Seat Features

All the seats have sliding doors. The doors and compartment panels were stylishly designed and featured prominently in burgundy – Qatar Airways’ corporate colour.

All the seats transformed into fully lie-flat beds. Various pre-programmed seating modes were easily accessible via the control console. The footwell was quite deep but narrow-ish. When the seat was transformed into totally lie flat, I found it quite comfortable to sleep in.

The seat was complemented with two pillows and a soft, plush duvet. The White Company, a British company, supplied the sleepwear and slippers.

There was a specially built storage for the headphone, inflight magazines and water bottle. On depressing the storage cover, the whole storage unit raised up and became an arm rest (which was very comfortable).

The dining tray was just below the screen and can be pulled towards you. It was flexible enough but I find it hard to get into a natural eating position (without bending the body forward when eating).

Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Suite Sliding Door
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Suite Sliding Door
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 Window Suites
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Window Suites
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Window Suite 1K
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Window Suite 1K, reverse facing
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Suite 1K
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Suite 1K
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Window Suite Foot Well
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Window Suite Footwell
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Storage box. When closed, it becomes an armrest.
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Storage box. When closed, it becomes an armrest.
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Reading light and hanger
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Reading light and hook for light coat/clothing
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Door, reading light and hanger
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Sliding door. Reading light and hook are thoughtfully placed for added convenience.
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Front
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Screen with HDMI and USB connectors. Folding tray just underneath it.
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Amenity Kit Blanket Pillow
Qatar Airways QSuite – Inflight essentials – all ready! Premium hard case amenity kit, duvet and extra pillow.
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - chilling out in suite 1K
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – chilling out in suite 1K

Inflight Entertainment System

The inflight entertainment was powered by Qatar Airways’ Oryx One. A huge touch screen was permanently affixed above the footwell. As it did not require folding away during take off and landing, you can, in theory, enjoy the entertainment from the point you step in to the point you disembark. The latest spread of Hollywood, along with Arabic, Bollywood and world cinema were available for viewing. Apart from movies, there were audio channels and TV shows. You could also monitor the flight’s progress and view the external cameras.

Qatar Airways QSuite Oryx One
Qatar Airways A350-1000 QSuite – Oryx One Inflight Entertainment System

The media control console was amazing. It had a slew of neat features and new technologies. Apart from the pre-programmed seat modes, it included a “Do Not Disturb” indicator, handheld inflight controller, power plug, two USB chargers and a NFC controller. The latter (Near Field Communication) was the first I had seen in any aircraft, presenting the capability to make wireless data transfer between devices that have NFC capabilities. I am not exactly sure what Qatar Airways has in mind for installing the NFC, but as of now, NFC is primarily used in contactless payments (such as Android Pay and Apple Pay).

Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 Media Control Console
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Media Control Console
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 Seat Control
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 Seat Control
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 NFC Capable
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – NFC Capable

Attached to the display was another USB reader and HDMI connector. Once again, I cannot recall any airline providing an HDMI connection. It was not available on other Qatar Airways’ aircrafts, not even on the A350-900 or the Dreamliner. In my case, it was a life saver for me. I was having problems with my laptop’s screen. By connecting my laptop to inflight screen via the HDMI connector, I could replicate my laptop display onto the inflight screen and managed to get some urgent work done. Thankfully, with the inflight wifi connection, I was able to download and send urgent emails.

Inflight Wifi

On this flight, the wifi was free for the first 60 minutes, but for USD10, you could have it for the whole duration of the flight. It did not specify the data size (unlike in my previous flight Stockholm to Doha, the Ultimate Plan costing USD20 had 200MB fair usage policy). Unfortunately, the satellite wifi was poor and sketchy with slow download, and in some areas, there were no satellite coverage.

Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 Inflight Wifi
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Inflight Wifi
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 No Wifi
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – No Wifi


You can control the window’s shade electronically with a touch of up or down button, located just above the window. The shade can be turned into semi-transparent or fully opaque state.

Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 Window
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – window’s shade controlled electronically


They were quite spacious and equipped with a generous array of quality amenities. These included dental kit, body mist spray, shaver kit, hand lotion, wet wipes and soft tissues. The washrooms were immaculately clean, and in each of my visit, I noticed that the seat had always been lined by a flushable toilet seat cover, suggesting that the cabin crew did check and clean the washrooms frequently.

Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Washroom
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Washroom
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 - Washroom Amenities Cupboard
Qatar Airways QSuite A350-1000 – Washroom Amenities Cupboard

Amenity Kit

Qatar Airways partnered with two Italian manufacturers for the supply of the amenity kit. The travel case was made by BRIC’s – in the form of a premium structured hard case. Mine was a bright blue case. Enclosed in the elegant case were various inflight necessities and skin care products. They included a pair of cabin socks, eye mask, ear plugs, lip balm, anti-aging moisturiser and hydration facial mist spray. The skin care products were furnished by Castello Monte Vibiano.

QR172 Amenity Kit by BRIC'S. Skin products by Castello Monte Vibiano.
Qatar Airways Qsuite – Amenity kit by BRIC’S. Skincare products by Castello Monte Vibiano.

Inflight Services

Before airborne, the Cabin Service Director (CSD) stopped by my suite to introduce herself and thanked me for flying Qatar Airways. I took the opportunity to voice my concern with the prolonged delays and the possibility of missing my onward connection (which I had built in a 6 hour buffer for transfer). She noted my onward flight number and said she would try to coordinate with the arrival ground staff.

On-demand dining was offered on this flight. Prior to take off, I was asked for my meal and drinks preferences. I chose to have my first meal as soon as cruising level was reached, and the next one, two hours before landing. Apart from the main menu, they also offered “Snack Platters” – a variety of light meals/snacks.

For my first meal, I selected a platter of fresh fruits for my starter. Along with it, came a selection of freshly baked breads. This was followed by Malabar Prawn Masala from the Light Options menu. It was served with pulao rice in a white porcelain bowl, accompanied with some pickled vegetables. The masala meal was tasty. My completed dish was promptly cleared, and since I did not want anything else, I was given a hot towel, followed by a box of Godiva chocolate.

Qatar Airways' non-alcoholic bubbly, So Jennie - served with warm mixed nuts
Qatar Airways’ non-alcoholic bubbly, So Jennie – served with warm mixed nuts
Qatar Airways QSuite - Main Menu
Qatar Airways Business Class Main Menu
Qatar Airways QSuite - Snack Platters Menu
Qatar Airways QSuite – Snack Platters Menu
Qatar Airways QSuite - Prawn Masala
Qatar Airways QSuite – Malabar Prawn Masala

Shortly after my meal, the CSD came by to inform me that they had relayed a message to their ground staff in New York, requesting connection assistance for me.

Throughout the flight, there was not a single announcement from the captain except before landing. I was expecting an update at the beginning of the flight, especially after a long delay, but nothing came from him.

Regretfully, during much of the flight, we were bombarded by a child who cried incessantly. The parents were indifferent, the nanny tried her best and failed, and the cabin crew were left helpless. I pumped up the audio volume but could not blank out the noise; so, it was a case of either the noise cancelling headphone was useless or the child cried dozens more decibels that he managed to render the headphone ineffective.

I was quite sure that the airline offered turn down service but by then, I was too tired and agitated to care.

I woke up two hours before landing. Shortly after, the cabin crew set my tray with white cloth and cutlery sets. For dinner, I had soup, followed by chicken kabsa skewers with yellow rice. The soup was nice, but I found the chicken too dry and only mildly tasty.

Qatar Airways QSuite - Soup
Qatar Airways QSuite – Soup
Qatar Airways QSuite - Chicken Kabsa Skewers
Qatar Airways QSuite – Chicken Kabsa Skewers – a little on the dry side

Before landing, the CSD came around and thanked me again for flying with them.

Overall, the cabin services were good, cordial and polite. But I could not help thinking that they were ill-prepared for this flight. They were a bunch of standby crew who were yanked out from somewhere to do an ultra long haul.

The flight arrived the gate 4 hours and 40 minutes late. Our Cathay Pacific’s connecting flight (on a separate ticket) from New York JFK to Vancouver was at 2035 hours. The minimum time for check-in/bag drop was 70 minutes. That meant we had to be at Cathay’s check-in counter by latest 1925 hours. Essentially, we had only 20 minutes to disembark, clear immigration, get the bags and sprint to the departure floor.

Incidentally, the ground assistance for our connecting flight was non-existent. There was no Qatar Airways’ ground staff waiting to help us. It was just by sheer miracle that we got through JFK immigration and customs in 20 minutes that saved our day, and due to our insistence to the one and only Qatar Airways’ staff on duty by the baggage belt to radio ahead to Cathay Pacific’s check-in supervisor of our imminent arrival, and luckily for us, our departure and arrival were all in the same Terminal 8.


Qatar Airways’ Qsuite is without doubt the best long haul business class available out there today. It is innovative and sets the standard that even premier airlines like Singapore Airlines will find to beat. Qsuite is essentially a premium lie flat seat in an enclosed personal compartment, and it is simply outstanding for privacy. You may argue that it can be quite claustrophobic, but you can always leave the suite door open.

Despite an outstanding hard product and lovely cabin staff, this flight was not as enjoyable as I would have liked it to be. (Read my Stockholm-Doha flight review here). It was marred by extended delays, poor communication, unplanned crew change and a screaming child.

All said, for ultimate privacy and comfort, Qsuite has my vote and I would fly it again in a heartbeat.

Airline Review: QR701 Qatar Airways, Airbus A350-1000 XWB, Doha to New York JFK, QSUITE Business Class
Date Flew: 29-NOV-2018
Duration: 13.5 hours

Cathay Pacific’s Bonanza First/Business Class Fares: Vietnam to Vancouver & USA from USD674 Return

Bikes in Hanoi
Bikes in Hanoi

For a brief period of 4-5 hours on New Year’s eve (or New Year’s day, depending on where you were), you could have grabbed a return business class ticket on Cathay Pacific from just US$674. This was from Vietnam (Da Nang, Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City) to Canada (Vancouver) or States (San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, New York or Washington). For first class cabin, it was a mere US$1,100 return. And we are talking about Cathay Pacific, one of the best airlines in the world.

I happened to be at the right place (i.e. by my computer) at the right time, and I managed to snatch two sets of tickets, one for June and the other for October 2019. There wasn’t much time to ponder on perfect dates and itineraries. It was a case of grab the seats and get them ticketed immediately, then worry the consequences later.

I managed to snatch Hanoi to Vancouver via Hong Kong return for just US$878 in business and first class combination. Three sectors were in business class (Hanoi to Hong Kong, Vancouver to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Hanoi) and one sector in first class (Hong Kong to Vancouver).

Call whatever you like, it was definitely a mistake by Cathay Pacific. Typically, first class fares would run into five digits for these long haul flights. I wasn’t sure if Cathay was going to honour the tickets/fares. It was a case of ‘wait and see’ if Cathay would act honourably. Much to its credit, Cathay Pacific acted swiftly and decisively, and in just 24 hours, it announced publicly that it will honour all the tickets! Kudos to Cathay Pacific!

As for me, it was a relief as I did not have to anguish over a decision for prolonged period (like the Iberia Avios fiasco). I can now get on with planning and acquiring my repositioning flights and hotels, and at the same time, build in a nice holiday around the dates. But above all, as we enter a new year, I need to start gathering my British Airways Executive Club tier points in order to maintain my elite status (BA Gold / One World Emerald). My calculation shows that I will get 960 BA tier points from my two sets of tickets, which means, I am almost two-third of my way to retaining BA Gold. The other third, I guess, I will wait for a good sale from Qatar Airways.

RouteCabinClassTier PointsAvios Collected
Hanoi to Hong KongBusinessJ40676
Hong Kong to VancouverFirstA2409,555
Vancouver to Hong KongBusinessD1607,963
Hong Kong to HanoiBusinessD40676

A great start to 2019. Thank you, Cathay Pacific!

Flight Review: Qatar Airways Airbus A350-900, Stockholm Arlanda to Doha, Business Class

Qatar Airways Airbus A350
Qatar Airways Airbus A350

Qatar Airways was awarded the world’s Best Business Class Airline 2018 by Skytrax, outdoing close rivals such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Emirates. I have flown numerous times with Qatar Airways in the front cabin, and it is really hard to disagree with the award of this accolade. Qatar Airways truly has the best business class seats with equally impressive inflight services to match.

I booked my flights five months ahead of my trip, and within this period, there were three aircraft changes. At one point, it was changed to a QSuite, which got me excited, but two weeks before departure, it was reverted back to the standard business seats.

Check In
My departure was from Stockholm Arlanda Airport Terminal 5. The check-in counter opened promptly three hours before departure. Check-in was a breeze, and so was the security checks (using fast track). After passing the duty free shops, I reached the Immigration. Again, it was a quick process and I was off to the lounge in minutes.

Qatar Airways ARN Business Class Check In
Qatar Airways Stockholm ARN Business Class Check In

Stockholm Arlanda Lounge
There was only one lounge available in the whole of Terminal 5 (not a big terminal). Stockholm Arlanda Lounge is operated by an independent company and its entry is by invitation. Business class passengers and OneWorld Alliance elite members (Emerald and Sapphire) can access the lounge. I also noticed that Singapore Airlines and Priority Pass passengers use this lounge too. The lounge was basic and not well-maintained as a lounge should be. The flooring was dirty with food waste scattered all over. The chairs and sofas were stained. Food and drinks were minimal; whatever little food there was, it was unappetizing and by 8pm, the food was removed. If you have a late flight and are thinking of having a shower before your long onward flight, you are out of luck. There was no shower available. This is not a lounge that you want to spend many hours inside but by all accounts, it is not exactly a dump either – just dirty and basic.

Stockholm Arlanda Lounge
Stockholm Arlanda Lounge, operated by a third party
Stockholm Arlanda Lounge - these were about the only food available, in addition to some snacks.
Stockholm Arlanda Lounge – these were about the only food available, in addition to some snacks. Totally uninspiring.

QR172 was attached to an aerobridge at Gate F58. As usual, business class passengers and OneWorld elites were boarded first. The whole process was well-organised, fast and efficient with all the passengers loaded in good time. I was warmly welcomed by a team of cabin crew and was shown to my seat by the Cabin Service Manager himself.

Cabin and Seating
The aircraft used on this Stockholm Arlanda to Doha route was an Airbus A350-900. The A350 is my favourite long haul aircraft because it is quieter and spacious, at least perceived in my mind. The layout of the business cabin was 1-2-1. The single seaters were reverse herring bone with the seats angled towards the windows. The centre two seaters were positioned slightly angled towards each other. The main front cabin had six rows, with another three rows after the bar/galley.

I was seated in 3A, a window single seater on the left side, which afforded me a lot of privacy.

QR ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Cabin
Qatar Airways ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Cabin
QR ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Cabin
QR ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Cabin
QR ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Seat 3A
QR ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Class window seat 3A
QR ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Seat 3A
QR ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Class window seat 3A

The business cabin had the full LED mood lighting on which created a nice ambience. The cabin was immaculately clean and organised to the last details, including the washrooms. Overall, the cabin felt very spacious and private.

All the seats were fully lie flat complemented with plush pillow and a premium quality blanket/duvet. There were plenty of overhead compartment spaces. There was also a drawer for storing shoes, and purpose-built storage for water bottle, magazines and headphone.

The inflight entertainment was channeled through a very large touchscreen display. It was non-foldable, so in theory, you could watch your movie right until disembarkation (ground to ground). A USB charger and power plug were available next to the seat, in case you need to energise your mobile devices and laptop.

Inflight Services
As soon as I was seated, I was asked what I wanted for a pre-flight drink, and whether I preferred hot or cold towel. My drink and hot towel came very promptly. The Business Class à la carte menu and drinks menus were handed out shortly after, followed by a set of pyjamas, furnished by The White Company, a British company. The pyjama set consisted of throw-away slippers, a bottom and a top. My meals and drinks orders were also taken before take-off. Qatar Airways offers ‘dine anytime, on demand’ service. You can specify when you would like to have your meals served. I typically prefer my meals shortly after take-off, and another one about one and a half hour before landing. This, in my view, maximises my downtime.

QR172 ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Class Menu
QR172 ARN-DOH A350-900 Business Class À La Carte Menu
QR172 Business Class Beverage Menu, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available

After reaching the cruising altitude, my drink “So Jennie”, a delicious pale pink sparkling beverage made mostly of grapes, was served along with a small bowl of warm nuts (almond, cashews and pistachios).

While I was munching on the nuts, the cabin crew started preparing the dining table-tray with white-cloth and white napkin. The white dinnerware, stainless steel cutlery and condiments were positioned and aligned with precision.

My starter was sweet corn soup. It was complimented with a selection of fresh white and brown artisan breads. I tried the spicy lemon vinaigrette for my dip; it was surprisingly nice. This was followed by my chosen appetiser – smoked salmon with horseradish and chive. My entrée was a spicy Thai green curry vegetable with jasmine rice, red chili and kaffir lime. Altogether, the meals were fresh and delicious, and presented beautifully and meticulously served. My finished dishes were cleared promptly. I declined the dessert as I was too full, but if I had wanted to, I could have had the molten chocolate cake with blueberry compote. Instead, I settled for a freshly brewed cup of macchiato, along with a couple of Godiva chocolates.

QR172 Appetiser – smoked salmon with horseradish and chive
QR172 – Appetiser – smoked salmon with horseradish and chive
QR172 Sweet corn soup
QR172 – Sweet corn soup
QR172 Vegetable Thai Green Curry with Jasmine Rice
QR172 – Vegetable Thai Green Curry with Jasmine Rice
QR172 – Godiva Chocolates

The inflight amenity kit was furnished by BRIC’S, a renowned Italian maker of luxury travel bags. The contents included a pair of cabin socks, eye mask, foam ear plug, lip balm, anti-aging moisturiser and hydration facial mist. The three skin care products were from the Beauty line of Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio, another Italian manufacturer. All these items were enclosed in an elegant and premium hard travel case.

Qatar Airways - BRIC'S Amenity Kit
Qatar Airways – Amenity Kit by BRIC’S
QR172 Amenity Kit by BRIC'S. Skin products by Castello Monte Vibiano.
QR172 Amenity Kit by BRIC’S. Skin products by Castello Monte Vibiano.

Qatar Airways’ Oryx One provided the inflight entertainment. A large monitor sat above the table tray. The touchscreen provided easy navigation for movies, audio and flight maps. A good selection of the latest Hollywood, Bollywood and other world movies were on offer, amongst which, included Mission Impossible – Fallout, Mamma Mia 2, Equalizer 2 and Annihilation. The noise cancelling headset worked effectively, providing good quality audio.

QR172 Inflight Entertainment - Latest Hollywood Movies
QR172 Inflight Entertainment – latest Hollywood movies

You can also monitor the flight progress by tuning to the flight navigation map, and if you so desire, you can also take an exterior peek through the A350 cameras. You can also control the inflight entertainment using the wired portable hand control, located immediately above the hand rest. This was particularly handy when you were already in your ‘relaxed’ seating position and the touchscreen was a bit of a stretch to reach.

In between the main front business class cabin and the smallish rear business class cabin was the bar/galley area where fruits, snacks (chocolate bars, potato chips, etc) and drinks were freely available on self-help basis.

There was onboard wifi, provided by Ooredoo. It was complimentary for the first 30 minutes. If you wanted more, it was USD10 for three hours or USD20 for the whole duration of the flight. There was a fair usage data policy – the three hour plan was constrained to 100 MB, while the whole flight plan was limited to 200 MB. To me, the limit was too low, almost unworkable for a long flight. I had no idea what happened if you exceeded the data limit. I tested the complimentary wifi on my laptop. It was slow; I think satellite wifi has a long way to catch up with the land technology.

The washrooms were quite spacious and very clean, equipped with an extensive array of amenities such as shaver kits, toothbrush kits, wet wipes, soft tissues, hand lotion, body mist and power outlet. The toilet’s flush and water tap were non-touch on this A350-900 aircraft, activated by hand gesture – the first I have seen on an aircraft. In fact, the toilet cover closed automatically when flushed. The cabin crew also dutifully cleaned the toilet and ensured the toilet paper seat cover was replaced after each visit.

QR172 Washroom with latest non-touch technology
QR172 A350-900 – Washroom with latest non-touch technology
QR172 A350-900 Washroom with latest non-touch technology
QR172 A350-900 – Washroom
QR172 A350-900 – Washroom amenities

Onboard turndown / seat cover service was not offered on this flight, or rather not voluntarily offered. (On one of my previous flights to and from Tokyo, the crew pro-actively went around the cabin to offer a turndown service.)

The seat had some 14 pre-programmed seat modes, and with a little tweaking, I found a comfortable position. I slept about three hours out of the six hour flight. Personally, I found the lie flat bed to be a bit on the hard side but certainly tolerable.

QR ARN-DOH A350-900 Programmed Seat Modes
QR ARN-DOH A350-900 – Programmed Seat Modes

Forty-five minutes before landing, the cabin’s ambience lighting was brightened. A hot towel was offered, and I was asked if I wanted anything to eat or drink. I opted for a cup of hot English breakfast tea and some ginger snap cookies.

Our flight landed on time in Doha.

It dawned upon me that after numerous business class travels, this must be easily one of the best and comfortable flights I had taken in a premium cabin of any airlines. The fine dining was most enjoyable, the cabin crew were very attentive and warm, and their pursuit for attention to details was top notch. I wish all Qatar Airways’ flights can be consistently and equally good as this. And for the aircraft – the Airbus A350-900 was fabulously comfortable, clean, spacious and private. I would rate this flight 9.5 out of 10, if I am pushed for a quantitative rating.

Airline Review: QR172 Qatar Airways, Airbus A350-900 XWB, Stockholm Arlanda to Doha, Business Class
Date Flew: 11-NOV-2018
Duration: 6 hours

Flight Review: British Airways Airbus A320 London Heathrow to Stockholm Business Class (Club Europe)

This flight, BA776, was an early morning departure at 07:15 am from London Heathrow Terminal 5. I arrived the terminal early around 5:30 am and it was relatively empty at this hour.

Check In
Being a British Airways’ Gold member, I proceeded straight to the First Class check-in area on the south side of the terminal (Zone J). As I was travelling without a check-in luggage, I bypassed the check-in counters and went straight to the pre-security zone. There was absolutely no queue. The staff scanned my boarding pass which was downloaded from my BA app, then immediately I progressed to the auto-barrier. Once again, with my BA app, I scanned my boarding pass over the scanner. Successfully verified, the gate opened and I continued to the dedicated main security. The usual routine – liquids out, laptop out, belt off, coat off, etc, and put them through the x-ray machine. I was through security in less than three minutes. It should be noted that this First Class check-in, also referred as First Wing,  is only available to first class passengers, BA Gold members and One World Emeralds. The latter two can use this exclusive access regardless of the travelling class. After security, it was a very short walk along a wide corridor flanked on both sides with digital advertising. This led straight to the British Airways First Class Lounge. The whole process was seamless; from landside to airside, was accomplished in less than ten minutes. Impressive!

BA First Class Lounge
This lounge is quite large and spacious. Facilities included showers, spa, business centre, hot/cold food buffet and self-service hot and cold beverages, amongst others. The hot breakfast on offer was a typical English breakfast (sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes) along with breads and cakes. I have patronised this lounge for many years; the menu have remained the same throughout – be it breakfast, lunch or evening meals. The menu has not changed one bit.  I wonder how hard could it be to refresh the menu occasionally!

BA776 was assigned to Gate 10, which was in the middle of the terminal. It involved going down one level, then through the boarding checks. A bus then whisked us off to the aircraft. When a bus is involved, priority boarding becomes non-existent.

Cabin and Seating in Club Europe
The interior cabin was fresh and very clean with newish looking dark leather seats. On this flight, the first five rows were turned into business class cabin. British Airways operates a variable cabin size in accordance to the demand of the premium seats. Essentially, all the seats in the aircraft are the same. On the business class (Club Europe) seats, they simply blocked off the middle seat.

British Airways BA776 A320 Row 1
British Airways BA776 A320 Row 1

I was seated in 1A. The seat did not recline at all; this is a standard feature on BA short haul flights. Where I was, when seated and legs rested, there was at least 16”-18” of gap before reaching the galley partition. While the seat pitch was generous in row one, you cannot stretch your legs because of the physical wall of the galley, but it was perfectly fine for a short two-and-a-half hour flight.

British Airways BA776 A320 Seat 1A Pitch
British Airways BA776 A320 Seat 1A Pitch

Overhead compartment spaces were plentiful in the front cabin.

The flight departed on time but the taxiing and queuing consumed over forty minutes before we were airborne. Early morning is a busy time for landings in Heathrow; long haul flights tend to arrive at this time. The captain did a god job updating the passengers on the progress.

Inflight Services
I was greeted warmly by a bubbly male cabin service purser. He actually shook hands with all the business class passengers and greeted them in person individually. (A rarity these days!)

We were not offered drinks or morning papers before take off. There was no in-flight entertainment and no wifi. A small screen unfolded from the overhead compartment provided the visual display. Safety demonstration was by way of a very entertaining and amusing inflight video, featuring an all-star cast of British actors and actresses (Michael Caine, Asim Chaudhry, Olivia Colman, Jourdan Dunn, Naomie Harris, Joanna Lumley and David Walliams). It was a clever and creative way to convey safety messages in a humorous manner. But admittedly, if you are not exposed to the British celebrities or culture or familiar with its humour, you will almost certainly have little appreciation on the content. And if you do not speak English (as with 80% of the 7.6 billion world population), you will totally be in the dark (yes, even the subtitles were in mighty English).

The screen remained visible throughout the flight (except towards landing time) providing useful navigation information (flight position, altitude, distances, times and map).

A very professional sounding female captain welcomed the passengers and relayed the pertinent information about the flight. The business cabin was manned by a team of two including the purser. They were very pleasant and friendly, and were always smiling (must be the happiest crew that I have seen in BA flights for a long time).

Shortly after reaching cruising altitude, hot breakfast was served. We had a choice of omelette, English breakfast or vegetarian option, along with beverages (tea, coffee and juices). I chose the English breakfast. Overall, it was nicely presented and tasted pretty decent but the bacon was too ‘steamed’ for my liking. The hot food was individually prepared and served straight from the galley, not through the mass trolley. The dishes and empty cup were cleared promptly after I finished the meal.

British Airways BA776 LHR-ARN - Hot English Breakfast
British Airways BA776 LHR-ARN – Hot English Breakfast

Despite the delays in getting airborne, our flight arrived right on schedule in Stockholm Arlanda Airport Terminal 2. Disembarking was swift and it was just a short walk to immigration.

Overall, this BA776 was one of the better and pleasant flights that I have experienced on British Airways’ short hauls. The cabin was fresh and manned by courteous and friendly professionals who were genuinely happy to serve (particularly for an early morning flight). OK, this was no Qatar Airways or Singapore Airlines long haul business class, but it was a nice change.

Airline Review: BA776 British Airways Airbus A320 London Heathrow to Stockholm Arlanda Business Class (Club Europe)
Date Flew: 09-NOV-2018

Hotel Review: Hotel Madrid Centro by Melia

Hotel Madrid Centro is a 3 star rated hotel that used to be part of Tryp hotels but is now under the management of Melia Hotels.

Hotel Madrid Centro is centrally located in Madrid. It is situated at the north-west end of Gran Via, near Plaza de Espana. In this vicinity, there are numerous theatres, restaurants and shopping centres. The major tourist attractions are also nearby. To name a few, Plaza Mayor, Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, Mercado San Miguel, Cathedral Santa Maria and Royal Palace of Madrid are all within walking distance, around 10-12 minutes’ walk. The main shopping area at Plaza del Callao is less than 5 minutes by foot.

Check-In and Lobby
The reception area was on ground floor and tiny in size. It did not take more than a small group of people to check in to overflow this area. When we checked-in, there was only one person on duty and we had to wait ten minutes for him to finish his telephone conversation. Otherwise, our check-in went smoothly. The main elevator was just a few feet away from the reception counter. It can be dauntingly slow during busy periods. Oddly, there was a casual foyer on the first floor with brightly coloured sofas and rugs. This was like an extension to the lobby, but totally segregated from the reception as they were on different floors.

Hotel Madrid Centro – First Floor Foyer
Hotel Madrid Centro -First Floor Foyer

Our bedroom was on the 11th floor, the highest in this hotel. It overlooked some blocks of buildings which were not that exciting (but not a dump either). The bedroom was small, barely manageable with two people. It was also very basic. It had a narrow working counter/desk but with no available power supply unit for charging the laptop. A power outlet was available by the bedside table on each side, requiring an European round plug. There was no USB charger. The 25” television sat on the desk too, competing for the limited space. Only two channels were in English (CNBC and Bloomberg).

Hotel Madrid Centro – Double Bedroom
Hotel Madrid Centro – Work Desk / Counter

The room was equipped with a safe. Flooring was of wood laminate. There was no refrigerator or coffee-making facilities.

The biggest disappointment was the bed itself. It was creaky and the mattress was hard and had definitely seen its better days. The comfort factor was definitely lacking here. The centrally-controlled heating and air conditioning unit was also very loud. The thermostat control in the room was as good as useless. Overall, it was a challenge to get a restful sleep.

Surprisingly, the bathroom was nicely fitted with marble/granite tiles and countertop. It even had a bidet. The bath was a shower-bath combined unit. Towels were ample and fluffy. The hair dryer was wall-mounted and worked well. Apart from hand soap via a dispenser, there were no other amenities provided.

Hotel Madrid Centro -Bathroom
Hotel Madrid Centro -Bathroom

There was not much space in the bathroom. There was no way two people can be in the bathroom at the same time. If someone was using the toilet, access to the bathroom was practically impossible.

Hotel Madrid Centro – Bathroom – Space Constrained, note the door clearance against the toilet

Despite my negative comments, I have to say that overall, the hotel admirably maintained the cleanliness of its room and public spaces. Both the bedroom and bathroom were very clean.

As for other facilities, the hotel has a fitness room and restaurant. I did not use both. For dining, you are spoiled for choices offsite in the neighbourhood. Expectedly, there was no swimming pool, being a three star hotel.

I booked directly on Melia’s website for €115 plus 2000 Melia Reward points per night, prepaid and non-cancellable. You can get free 2000 Melia Reward points by simply signing up for its membership.

The hotel is OK, but I will certainly not be coming back here any time soon. A hotel room, for all its intents and purposes, should provide the guest a good night’s sleep. The inability to enjoy this convinced me it was not worthy of a repeat.

Having said that, if you are torn between budget and location, Hotel Madrid Centro is not a bad compromise, provided you can put up with some discomfort. It is a place that you would not want to stay for a long period. 2 or 3 nights should be bearable, as long as you will be spending a lot of time outside. The one thing going for this hotel is its good central location and its room rate affordability when compared to others in the same area.

Tips for Madrid:
It is easy to get from and to Madrid airport using the Metro. Simply take Line 8 from the airport and change at Neuvos Ministerios for Line 10 to Plaza de Espana station. Take exit 3 Gran Via; the hotel is less than 100 metres from the station. The cost is €6.25 one way from the airport (inclusive of Metro card). The return journey costs €5 one-way.

Churros at Chocolateria San Gines
Enjoy churros at Chocolateria San Gines. It is open 24 hours daily, only 10 minutes walk from Hotel Centro Madrid. Dunk the churros into a cup of hot chocolate. One helping of six churros and hot chocolate with a cup of cappuccino is €6.50. Chocolateria San Gines is the oldest churro café in Madrid.

Churros and Hot Chocolate
Churros and Hot Chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines

Dining at Sobrino de Botin
Sobrino de Botin is the oldest restaurant in the world, a title confirmed by Guinness World Record. It is located by Plaza Mayor, only 12 minutes walk from Hotel Madrid Centro. It is famous for its roasted suckling pig and roast lamb. A roast pig and soft drink will set you back about €30 per person.

Roasted Suckling Pig at Sobrino de Botin
Roasted Suckling Pig at Sobrino de Botin

Flight Review: American Airlines Embraer RJ-175 Main Cabin Extra – Short Haul International Flight Vancouver to Los Angeles

American Eagle
American Eagle

Flight AA6072 from Vancouver to Los Angeles was operated by Compass Airlines on behalf of American Airlines as American Eagle. The route was operated with an Embraer RJ-175 jet aircraft with a scheduled flight duration of 3 hours 12 minutes.

I did not pay outright for this flight. I redeemed my British Airways Avios which costed me 7,500 points and a surcharge of CAD $53.

The check-in at Vancouver Airport went smoothly, but it took almost an hour to clear US Immigration. (Vancouver Airport has US pre-clearance facility; this means you clear US Immigration and Customs in Vancouver itself, arriving into US as a domestic flight.)

Boarding was by group number, 1 to 4, then 5 to 7. I was in group 2. Boarding was accomplished quietly and with minimum fuss.

There were four rows of business class seats with 1-2 configuration, five rows of Main Cabin Extra (MCE) with 2-2 layout, and the rest (11 rows) were standard economy (also 2-2). There was no physical divider between the MCE and business class cabins, merely a half-length curtain separating the two.

The interior of the aircraft looked new, smart and very clean. All the seats were with dark leather upholstery. They were on the firm side but comfortable. The overhead compartment was small; you would find problem stuffing a big carry-on in it.

The flight departed the gate early at 0616 hours (scheduled at 0623). Once airborne, complimentary beverages (soft drinks, coffee and tea) were served. Alcoholic drinks were available at a surcharge. Inflight entertainment was also complimentary and this was by wifi streaming to your personal mobile device.

As a One World frequent flyer with top tier Emerald status, one of the perks, is being able to select my seat ahead of time for free, including the Main Cabin Extra (MCE). Without this privilege, MCE seat would cost CAD $48 extra. I was seated in 8A, the first seat in MCE, immediately after the business class cabin.

What blew me away was the seat pitch on row 8. The legroom was mind-bogglingly generous; in fact, all the seats in row 8 had more legroom than the business class itself. Seated and with my knees rested at right angle, my 14” laptop did not even touch the seat in front. See pictures.

AA6072 Seat 8A Embraer 175 Legroom
AA6072 Seat 8A Embraer 175 – Generous Legroom!
AA6072 Seat 8A Embraer 175 Legroom - Sizing Up
AA6072 Seat 8A Embraer 175 Legroom – Sizing up with 14″ Laptop

The flight arrived Los Angeles thirty minutes ahead of schedule. It taxied to a remote terminal where I then took a shuttle bus to Terminal 5 to collect my luggage.

A very pleasant and peaceful morning flight with comfortable seat and ambiance.

Seating Tip:
8A, 8D and 8F are great seats, probably worth paying the extra CAD $48 seat surcharge. Avoid 8C; although the pitch is great, the trolley path cuts into it, constraining your freedom to stretch your legs at all times.

Airline Review: AA6072 American Airlines Embraer RJ-175 Vancouver to Los Angeles – Economy Class, Main Cabin Extra
Date Flew: 17-OCT-2018

Hotel Review: Delta Grand Okanagan by Marriott

Delta Grand Okanagan by Marriott
Delta Grand Okanagan by Marriott

The Delta Grand Okanagan is part of the Delta Hotels, a Canadian hotel chain. It was acquired by Marriott in 2015. The Delta brand continues to be maintained by Marriott as part of its global lodging portfolio. It is rated as Category 5 in Marriott Rewards.

Delta Grand Okanagan by Marriott
Delta Grand Okanagan by Marriott

This Delta Grand Okanagan is located by the Okanagan lakeside and is blessed with outstandingly beautiful scenery. The expansive and serene blue lake is complemented with mountain views in the background. Occasionally, you can watch float planes taking off and landing unobtrusively.

Water View from Delta Grand Okanagan Hotel
Water view from Delta Grand Okanagan Hotel, Kelowna, BC, Canada

Lobby & Check-In
We arrived at the hotel at 8.15 am and was attended at the front desk promptly and politely. There were rooms available and she checked us in immediately. She acknowledged our elite status and upgraded us to a Club Floor room with access to the executive lounge. (We later found out that she was the Assistant Front Office Manager). The ninth and tenth floors are the Executive floors.

The lobby floor is not very grand, kind of darkish, and is anchored by its large restaurant, Oak+Cru. The lobby area can get very crowded, especially when there are special functions happening (as it did during our stay). It is a strange layout. The main entrance does not lead to the hotel reception, but to the restaurant. The reception is obscured to the right side.

Delta Grand Okanagan Lobby Floor
Delta Grand Okanagan Lobby Floor

Despite being on the club floor, our room did not have the water view; instead, it was a dull and boring city view, overlooking a dead mall. The room itself looked gloomy, overwhelmingly because of the very dark carpet. The first impression, for an expensive hotel, it did not immediately exude quality. The bedroom was spacious though, equipped with many standard features, but surprisingly, it was missing a safe and sofa seater. For a ‘grand’ hotel, these should have been part of the standard features. I checked the photos in Marriott website; it did show a sofa seater, so this room must be an odd one.

Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Room
Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Room

The work table is of decent size but located directly below the 48” television. Say, if your other half wants to watch the TV and you want to work, it could be very distracting for both.

Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Room - Work Desk
Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Room – Work Desk

There were two bottles of mineral water on the work table initially, but they were not replenished the next day.

The cooling and heating of the room is individually controlled in the room itself, but the unit was noisy and disruptive to a peaceful sleep.

The bathroom is on the smallish side but equipped with full amenities. There is no bath, just a narrow shower unit that also has both the handheld and overhead rain showers; all functioned admirably.

Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Room - Shower
Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Room – Shower
Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Room – Bathroom Amenities

Executive Lounge
The executive lounge is on 9th floor, and access to the lounge is by room card. It opens from 6.30am to 10pm. Outside the hours of breakfast and evening cocktail, there was nothing much in the lounge. Continental breakfast is served between 6.30am and 9.30am. The evening hors d’oeuvres starts at 4.30pm to 7pm with food servings in the form of spring rolls, samosa, nuts, cheeses, salad and various biscuits. The lounge has gorgeous views of the Okanagan Lake and mountains.

Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Lounge
Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Lounge
Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Lounge
Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Lounge
Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Lounge
Delta Grand Okanagan Club Floor Lounge

Car Park
The self-car park is located independently on a separate tower. (They do have valet parking.) It would take a good 3-5 minutes to walk to the lobby. The daily parking charge of $24 was pretty steep for Kelowna standard, and more annoying when you were already been forced to pay $20 resort fee per day.

The restaurant Oak + Cru is really the focus piece of the lobby floor. It gets very busy during the Happy Hours. The restaurant is very big and extends to the outside patio, and has nice views of the purpose-built lake and the Okanagan mountains.

Delta Grand Okanagan Restaurant Bar
Delta Grand Okanagan Restaurant Bar
Delta Grand Okanagan Restaurant Patio
Delta Grand Okanagan Restaurant Patio

Resort Fee
The daily resort fee gives you the entitlement to use the recreational boats and bicycles. The City has friendly bike lanes by the lake shorelines – biking is a highly recommended mode to explore the beautiful shoreline by the City Park and Waterfront areas.

Delta Grand Okanagan - Rear View
Delta Grand Okanagan – Rear View

Overall, this is a modern and beautiful hotel in a good location which has outstanding natural beauty at its doorstep. The staff was polite and attentive. My room could have been better; despite this, Delta Grand Okanagan is a quality and clean hotel that I would not mind coming back to. However, I disliked paying the daily resort fee, especially when I had no need to use the recreational facilities.

Cathay Pacific Gets An “F” For Paint Job

Cathay Pacific Spelling Error
Cathay Pacific Spelling Error

Just a light hearted post for a giggle.

Would you like to fly on Cathay Paciic?

Cathay rolled out its plane from the paint shop and got its own name spelled wrongly. Amusing it is, but more baffling, how could anyone not spotted it even before leaving the hangar?

So…Cathay Pacific, the next time I spell my name incorrectly on my air tickets, would you be kind enough to waive the cancellation penalties?