SOFITEL LIBERDADE, LISBON, PORTUGAL

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Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade adds sophistication and classic luxury to one of Lisbon’s most stylish avenues, Avenida da Liberdade. If shopping is your thing, then you won’t be disappointed here, as the hotel is surrounded by high-end fashion boutiques. The hotel’s décor blends its French origins with a local touch, giving it a discreet elegance and refinement. Use of dark exotic woods and gold accents; along with some Asian antiques and works of art harking back to the period of the Portuguese colonies lend the hotel a warm and welcoming atmosphere.


These touches make this French chain hotel feel more like an intimate boutique hotel, rather than a big brand. I was greeted in a charming way at check-in and as I am an Accor Club member everything was done efficiently and fast. I was assigned a room facing Avenida da Liberdade with a nice view. 

The room was spacious with a large, comfortable, soft bed where I slept very well and a rather small bathroom which featured French Hermès products. There was a minibar, a coffee maker and water kettle available. Turn-down service was also done and little chocolates left on the pillow before the night rest. 


I found the breakfast room in the basement rather dark and uninviting; and decided to skip breakfast and rather have lunch upstairs at the popular AdLib restaurant where the service was super friendly and the food tasted ok.

I tried to contact the hotel twice before my arrival for some enquires and both attempts were unsuccessful with no replies, except for the usual e-mail receipt confirmation. I found this rather bad service for a 4 star hotel.


I had a satisfactory stay at the Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade. There were no surprises and if you are able to get a decent rate it is certainly not a bad choice.

https://sofitel.accor.com/hotel/1319/index.en.shtml

THAI AIRWAYS ROYAL ORCHID LOUNGE + SPA, BANGKOK, THAILAND

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Royal Orchid Lounge, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, open since November 2019:

ROYAL ORCHID LOUNGE:

Thai Airways offers their First and Business Class passengers a separate check-in located at gate Door 1 on Departure Level 4 at Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport. Porters are available and separate areas for First and Business Class passengers are provided for check-in, security screening and Fast Track immigration.

After passing through immigration, an escalator takes passengers down to the lounge level near gate D1. The First Class lounge, and the former Business Class lounge (now used for Star-Alliance partner airline’s passengers), are located in the west zone on the left and the new Royal Orchid Prestige Lounge is located in the east zone on the right and is used exclusively for Thai Airways Royal Silk Class passengers. 

The lounge was opened in October 2019 and is approx. 2000 sqm. The lounge offers various seating options (restaurant-style seating near the buffets) and lounge areas as well as rooms for child-care and showers.

There are two bars and a main buffet area plus 2 small corners with a more limited food selection. Comparing this new lounge to the “old” one, the food and drinks options are much more generous and more delicious items are available. Frequent visitors of the old lounge remember the triangle sandwiches and the hot dog sausages that were served for decades. 

A fresher look and a wider choice of food offering is now available. This was urgently needed as there are plenty of excellent alternative lounges available at this airport.

I found the new lounge to be pleasant, even though it was a very busy night. This is not the most luxurious lounge that I have experienced but it serves the purpose well. 

ROYAL ORCHID SPA:

Thai Airways offers a unique facility to its premium passengers which is the Royal Orchid Spa. This spa offers separate treatments for First Class passengers (full body massages in separate luxury rooms) Herbal Spa or Steam rooms and short neck/shoulder or foot massages are available for Business Class guests. There is a resting area where relaxing Thai music is played and healthy beverages are served. The relaxation and rejuvenation treatments offered a wonderful way to get in the mood before a long flight. I find this a fantastic place to visit, especially in the evening before long night flights.

The Thai Airways Royal Orchid Spa is consistently voted number one airline spa by Skytrax and I find it a true heaven in the busy airport world. I always enjoy this special THAI experience.

AIR BALTIC

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Air Baltic is the flag carrier of Latvia with its head office on the grounds of Riga International Airport. Its hub is Riga, with further bases in Tallin Airport and Vilnius Airport. The airline was established as a joint venture between Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)  and the Government of Latvia. In January 2009, SAS sold its entire stake in the company.

Air Baltic operates 12 Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft with 76 seats, 4 Boeing 737-300 aircraft with 142 seats and 22 newer Airbus A220 aircraft with 145 seats. 

I took a morning flight from Zurich to Riga and checked-in online. As gate seat changes cost extra (12 Euro) I waited to board last and then took an emergency exit seat which offered a fantastic legroom. The aircraft was a 20 year  old Boeing 737-300 and Air Baltic offers BOB (buy on board) menu offering food and drinks for purchase.

The crew conducted a manual safety demo and a special “overwing” exit briefing which I found to be very professional.

Most passengers did not buy anything from the options so the flight was very relaxed. 

Air Baltic offers low fares and I found the service in a good price/performance ratio representing good value for money.

They will start nonstop flights between Zurich and Vilnius and Tallin this Spring (2020) and I hope I can soon try the newer A220.

https://www.airbaltic.com

AIR DOLOMITI, ITALY

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Air Dolomiti is a 100% owned subsidiary of Lufthansa with its base in Munich, Germany. The airline’s name derives from a section of the Alps known as the Dolomites. It started operations in January 1991 and mostly operates flights between Munich and Italy as well as some other destinations which allow operations with Embraer aircrafts.

I flew from Zurich to Munich and I found the aircraft appearance to be clean and comfortable. However the seating was on the narrower side. The configuration is 2-2 where in Business Class always 1 seat per seat-pair will be kept unoccupied for privacy reasons. This procedure is well known by carriers such as Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian.

Service consisted of a pre-departure bottle of water, a refreshing towel and a pack of sweets. During the flight a cold tray was served with a full range of beverages including coffee and tea. The flight was half empty and I expected a friendly service, but the crew seemed to be annoyed working and made a rather depressed impression. What I really liked is that there was free wifi available on board. This is a nice feature, even though most of their flights are an hour or less flight time.

The Flight operated on time and arrived in Munich at an outside tarmac position. There was no separate bus for Business Class passengers available. I took Air Dolomiti on the same route back to Zurich, it was a similar experience.

https://www.airdolomiti.eu/

ALASKA AIRLINES

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ALASKA AIRLINES, FIRST CLASS, LAX-LAS, LAS-SFO

LOUNGE AT LOS ANGELES AIRPORT:

 

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AIRCRAFT A320 CONFIGURATION 8 – 138

 

I flew Alaska Airlines First Class from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Las Vegas to San Francisco. Both flights were on aircraft of the former Virgin America Airlines which was taken over by Alaska last year (2018).

Check-in at Terminal 6 was a breeze and Alaska sports a nice small premium-lounge which offers a bar, a few breakfast items (including their own branded pancake making machine). The lounge was very busy this early morning but offered plenty of seating, a nice tarmac view and super-clean rest rooms.

Both flights were very short so the food and beverage offering was limited. The was a pre-departure drink, a drink inflight and a snack basket. Flight Attendants were professional and charming and made it a pleasant experience. Early booking rates for First Class are very competitive, and were only US$ 40 more than tickets in the main cabin. (Bear in mind that you have to pay extra for each check-in bag on US-domestic flights). The flights departed on time and Alaska Airlines has a 20min baggage delivery promise.

I really liked the fact that First Class had only 2 rows and really comfortable recliner seats which makes even a short flight very comfy.

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https://www.alaskaair.com

EDELWEISS AIR, SWITZERLAND

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HAVANA – ZURICH

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I flew on an Edelweiss Airbus 330 with a configuration of 27 Business Class and  298 Economy Class seats.

There was a long check-in queue line for Economy Class passengers at Havana Airport but the Business Class counter was free and check-in was a breeze (There were only 11 Pax booked in C-class)

The Edelweiss Airbus 330 features the same Business Class seats as offered by  SWISS/Austrian with a full flat sleeping option and the same layout as well.

I found the Edelweiss in-flight service very pleasant. There was a pre-dinner drink service followed by a first course, a main course and cheese and dessert. All return flight food items were catered in Zurich so the quality and taste was very good. After a good sleep a nice breakfast was served and the famous swiss Biberli (Biber cake) were handed out before landing.

I enjoyed the service from the Edelweiss crew a lot. They were attentive and charming and, of course, the flight being half empty made it a very comfortable experience.

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http://www.flyedelweiss.com

 

CONDOR GERMAN AIRLINES

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FRANKFURT – HAVANA

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Condor is a German airline with a long history. The airline used to be part of the Lufthansa Group but is now owned by Thomas Cook International. While the Condor aircraft tails carry the Thomas Cook heart  on them, the airplanes show the Condor name on them and many things reminded me of the Lufthansa times. The crew uniforms are still LH-style, the menu cards and the service still show the signature of Lufthansa.  Condor is also part of the Miles-and-More program. This makes it easy for collecting and spending miles and getting good connecting flights as well as a check-through bag arrangement.

My flight to Havana boarded from a bus gate at Terminal B in Frankfurt and when boarding the airplane through the aircraft steps a true holiday feeling came up because many passengers were taking pictures and everything was very relaxed.

The aircraft was a 21-year old Boeing 767-300. The Business Class seating was 18 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. The seats were angle-flat but reclinable to 170 degrees. Economy seating was: 237 in 2-3-2 configuration.

After a welcome drink, menu cards and immigration forms were handed out. The purser took the menu choice and after take-off they served the first course right away. After the first course, the entire tray was cleared and the hot dish, cheese and dessert were served separately. Then duty free sales was done, followed by ice-cream and a rest period before another meal was served. The landing in Havana was on-time and after walking from the aircraft to the terminal building immigration was done in a matter of minutes.

I enjoyed my flight with Condor very much despite the lack of wifi and the rather “vintage” seating. The  crew was very pleasant and I felt well being taken care of. Condor offers a solid product at very competitive fares.

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http://www.condor.com

QATAR AIRWAYS, Q-SUITES

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DOHA-BANGKOK, B-777-300ER

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Qatar airways sells its new business class under the slogan “First in Business” with a new concept called Quad suites. There are forward and backward facing suites which can be combined into a “family suite” when the TV panels are pushed away.

If used alone, there is a generously large suite waiting for you where you have a large TV monitor,  a seat that turns into a full bed and a door to close for complete privacy. Various mood lighting and nice pillows are also waiting. The famous dining anytime service is available and is enhanced with “candle lights”, a choice or hot and cold towels and warm desserts. (pyjamas are also available)

I found the suites very private and comfortable, and I loved the setting with the private door. The service was excellent and the product offered to Qatar Airways business class passengers is considered First Class on other airlines.

In my opinion this is the best business class product on the market at the moment.

 

 

https://www.qatarairways.com/en-hk/homepage.html

PRIVATE JET EXPERIENCE

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This review is about the growing private aviation industry. There are numerous private airlines operating all over the world, from the smallest 4 to 6 seater aircraft to the larger up to 12 passengers aircraft which can fly long-haul.

I recently tried a German carrier called Hahn Air. They operate a fleet of aircraft which are available for hire on a charter basis. They can be chartered for short flights as well as longer trips. Some of these private airlines also operate scheduled flights on a seasonal basis. Hahn Air offers flights from Düsseldorf to Palma de Mallorca once a week and some scheduled flights from Düsseldorf to Luxembourg and return.

On my flight there were only 2 passengers and the captain gave us a safety briefing before take-off. The aircraft was a six seater Cessna Citation and there was a small monitor on which flight information was displayed. The cockpit door remained open and some pre-recorded  announcements were played before take-off and landing.

There is no flight attendant on board but there is a catering box which has soft drinks, coffee and small snacks for self-service.

The flight was short and the large windows offered a nice view. It was a unique experience for me as I am used to commercial aviation only. I liked the comfort and exclusivity as well as the ambiance and the feeling of being a VIP.

Private aviation is a costly business so careful planning is necessary. According to the company’s website, they offer nice deals for smaller groups or regular customers.

HahnAir

 

https://www.hahnair.com/en