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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Flying in Style: The Business Class Experience

I have always flown "Economy", just like 85% of the average flying populace. But once in a while, good luck will strike and give you a taste of a world you previously thought to be out of reach.

Even if I could afford it, which I couldn't, flying "Business Class" is not one of the things I would shell out my money for. The same way I wouldn't book the Presidential Suite at a hotel or splurge on a Herm├Ęs Birkin. But for free, I will definitely grab these. How can I say no?:)

Not so long ago, my husband's company gave us the opportunity to experience the luxury of Business Class on our way home from an assignment in the USA. I couldn't even describe how perfect the timing was for a stressed out new mom like me who had to fly with her one-month-old newborn baby for 19 hours straight.

Air travel has always caused me endless distress. Not because I have flying anxiety, but due to my vertigo.  Oftentimes, I would be nauseous and would feel like vomiting myself into oblivion. I didn't realize that seating way in front of the aircraft would change all that.:)

UNITED AIRLINES  
(Chicago-Hong Kong)

Apart from the privilege of being boarded first, our carry-on bags were immediately taken from us by devoted flight attendants who usually ignored us in Economy Class. I can still remember the time I flew all by myself in coach from Chicago-Manila, when I asked for a glass of water which never came until the end of the flight. I even buzzed for the flight attendant thrice but for some reason they just kept forgetting my request. Good for them, I was vertigo-stricken then and had no strength left in me to pick an argument.

The Business Class seats in this Boeing 747-400 United Airlines aircraft has an interesting configuration. Like those on buses or trains, some of the business class seats are rear facing. 


With the extra spacious elbow and leg room, the sense of space is just terrific. The seat provides  extraordinary comfort and when reclined, converts into a fully flat bed. The remote passenger seat controls are also very easy to use. 

Seat console.

Several pillows and a very soft blanket accentuate the seats' sleep-inducing appeal. The headrest is huge and the flexible armrests can be lifted up which allowed me to place my peacefully sleeping newborn in between my seat and that of my husband's. We were initially provided with a bassinet, which looked more like a travelling bag, for placing the baby on the floor. However, this wouldn't allow me to take advantage of the aircraft's fully-reclining seats. Moreover, I find it a little disturbing to leave my baby where I don't see him. 

The in-flight entertainment system has a state-of-the-art menu with a great selection of TV shows, movies, music and games. There's a 15-inch video screen in front of each seat. Cutting-edge noise-cancelling headphones are also distributed for our viewing pleasure.

In-flight entertainment system remote control device.

Keyboard/Game Controller.

An amenity kit is also provided with things to enhance our in-flight comfort. The elegant pouch contains a Murad moisturizer, toothbrush, toothpaste, oil blotting sheets, earplugs, sleeping eye cover, socks and ball pen.


The meals are of course the highlight of this experience. Drinks in elegant glasses and premium nuts are served even before the flight took off. There's also a table with an amazing assortment of snacks (biscuits, chips and chocolate bars) in one corner. After almost an hour, a stewardess handed out menus and took our orders just like in a fine-dining restaurant. 



The menu is concocted by a world-famous chef to suit any palate; a full-course meal of appetizers, salads and a choice of fish, chicken and steak dishes to satisfy every craving.

Fresh Seasonal Greens/Smoked Salmon and Vegetable Crudite.

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Three Peppercorn Sauce.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Teriyaki Ginger Sauce.

During the meal, several attendants roamed around offering trays of delightful desserts, alcoholic beverages and specialty cocktails.

Fluffy Cheesecake.

Mid-flight snack and breakfast are also served after an appropriate interval.

Fresh Seasonal Fruit Plate.

Roasted Chicken with Pepper Jack Cheese on Country Roll.

When I got up in the middle of the flight to change my infant's diaper, I was half expecting a line of people  outside the aircraft lavatory. But not a single soul was waiting and I was immediately assisted inside a roomy  toilet with a wall-mounted diaper changing station. There's even a hydrating facial spritz, facial wash and a moisturizing skin lotion which I have never seen inside the less spacious lavatories in Economy Class. 

The rest of the flight breezed through comfortably. Without my usual vertigo attack, I was able to enjoy a couple of movies, catch up on some much needed sleep and tend to my baby who surprisingly enjoyed the flight as much as we did. He didn't complain a single bit even during the times he was fully awake. 


After our plane landed in Hong Kong, I didn't even have to get up and fight my way over to the center aisle in order to retrieve my baggage from the overhead bin. A friendly steward assisted us and made sure we were able to alight comfortably with our complete belongings. This is my first time to fly with a baby and immediately my standards have already been set so high.:) In fact, I usually leave a plane with a sigh of relief,  but not this time. I was actually a little bit disappointed that our 19 hours in the lap of luxury flew by so fast.:) 


THE WING, HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
(Cathay Pacific's Premium Airport Lounge)


While waiting for our flight to Manila, we decided to relax in comfort at The Wing, Cathay Pacific's flagship lounge. The Wing offers luxurious facilities to give First Class and Business Class passengers a secluded getaway from the bustle of a busy airport. 


The plush interior design gives the lounge a trendy hotel appeal. The nice seating areas provide a pleasant relief for tired travelers. 


It also showcases fully-equipped business and entertainment facilities with high speed Internet access, several IT stations and a huge selection of gaming consoles, viewing areas with large Plasma televisions and a wide collection of international magazines.

Video Gaming Stations.

There are also private shower cabanas where weary passengers can wash away their stresses with a quick shower. I would have loved to try this one if only I wasn't carrying a baby.:) 


Complimentary food and drinks are served throughout the day. There's a Noodle Bar where guests can enjoy hot noodle dishes and dim sum. Another bar also dishes up snacks and offers a wide array of beverages.



The convenience of staying in this exclusive lounge made our 4 hours wait time between flights such a delightful treat. From the coziness of Business Class, this place certainly completes our VIP experience all the way.


CATHAY PACIFIC
(Hong Kong-Manila)

The first thing I noticed was that the seats were a far cry from the more comfortable and high tech seats in the luxurious Business Class of United Airlines. But since this is just a 1-hour flight, I wasn't really expecting the same kind of oozing extravagance that we relished on our earlier trip. The seats, though not fully adjustable, still offer the maximum comfort of a larger space and a remarkable leg room.


This time, our baby was provided with a real bassinet that was mounted on the wall since we were seated in the front row. This made a huge difference and allowed me to enjoy our meal with more gusto. 


My baby, looking snug and perfectly cozy.

I was a little surprised when we were served a full course meal during this very short flight. The high quality food presented on "real" dinner plates and crystal glasses filled with sparkling champagne and specialty cocktails rounded off this 5-star experience very nicely.


Chicken Curry with Potatoes.

Meat Lasagna.


It's noteworthy to mention that the Business Class of United Airlines was quite full that day. And here I thought less than 20% of people fly First Class or Business Class.:) I wonder how many of them flew Business Class all their lives and didn't realize how exceptional their accommodations are compared to the majority who are in coach. But my biggest question is, how many of them are just like me? Flying in style for the first time and enjoying every single bit of comfort with a deeper level of appreciation and excitement than I could ever have imagined.:)



United Airlines
Cathay Pacific
The Wing, Cathay Pacific's Premium Lounge

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