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Flight review – Air Canada Business Class, Paris – Montreal

After my flight to Paris and a short stopover it was time for the first long haul flight of my 5-month travel season.

A fortuitous deal meant that this would be in Air Canada’s Signature Business Class.

As my flight was leaving from Terminal 2, I started my travel day in the Extime contract lounge rather than the Star Alliance Lounge in Terminal 1.

The lounge was located after security but before passport control and offered a reasonable selection of food and drink.

After around an hour in the lounge I boarded the flight and settled in.

This flight was operated by a 777-300ER with business class seating in a 1-2-1 configuration. All business class seats on this aircraft offer a fully flat bed and direct aisle access.

I was given a small amenity kit and a pre-departure glass of champagne.

The dinner service began shortly after take-off with nuts and another glass of champagne.

The menu and choice of drinks offered an impressive array of options.

The appetiser was tasty and the salad was fresh.

For the main course, I was informed that the beef cheeks were not available. This was not an issue for me, as I had already chosen the chicken curry.

The curry was tasty and unusually for an airline meal, had a nice spicy kick.

I chose the Côtes du Rhône white wine to accompany the main course and this was generously poured and regularly topped up.

I finished off the meal with the cheese platter, a glass or two of port and a couple of brandies.

By this stage there were only around four hours left of the flight, so I decided to put my seat into flat-bed mode for a short nap.

I had a nice two-hour sleep before a light pre-arrival meal of Arabic mezze with fruit and coffee was served, along with a couple of tasty little chocolates.

After this, we began our descent to Montreal, where I had a one-night layover before continuing to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Air Canada’s Signature Class was a very relaxing experience and a thoroughly civilised way to begin my long-haul travels.

I can recommend this product as a very solid option for a trans-Atlantic flight.

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Flight review – Air France Economy Class, Zurich – Paris

After my first normal Summer at home on the shores of Lake Constance for four years, it was time to take flight again for another five months on the road.

My journey started with a short flight to Paris, from where my next long-haul adventure would begin.

For this short flight, I had booked myself in Economy Class with Air France, using 7,000 Flying Blue Miles. During the online check-in I was offered an upgrade to Business Class for €79 (£69/$83). For a one hour flight, I declined this offer.

My flying day started in the Marhaba Lounge, accessed via Priority Pass.

After a decent lunch in the lounge, I boarded the aircraft for the short run to Paris CDG.

The flight was very lightly loaded and I had a row of three seats to myself.

The legroom was perfectly fine for a short flight.

A snack and drinks were served shortly after take off.

Almost as soon as I finished my coffee, we were descending into Paris for an on time arrival.

I was glad that I had decided to decline the €79 upgrade offer. Some time ago, I wrote a piece on whether business class travel is really worth it and at times I believe it is.

On this occasion, however, I was glad I kept my credit card in my wallet.

This flight was one of the better short-haul experiences I have had in recent years and an easy and painless way to begin my Winter travels.

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A very poor experience with Swiss

Last Monday, I decided at the last minute to take off to Barcelona for a few days.

Barcelona is a lovely city and I will be reviewing it in the coming days, but getting there and back was far from straightforward.

I was booked on a direct flight from Zürich to Barcelona on Swiss, returning via Munich on Lufthansa.

I got to Zürich a few hours early and checked out a couple of the Priority Pass lounges, which again I will review in the next few days.

Around an hour before the scheduled departure, I got the dreaded cancellation SMS from Swiss. I had been rebooked on a connecting flight via Frankfurt, with a 28-hour delay. Needless to say, on a 4-day trip, this was totally unacceptable.

By this stage, Zürich Airport had descended into chaos, with many Swiss and Lufthansa flights cancelled. As I waited in the 2-hour queue for the transfer desk, I researched other available options.

I found a Vueling flight some 4 hours later, bookable under an Iberia codeshare, which I know that Swiss are capable of booking. Mindful that there were very few seats left on this flight, I called Swiss Customer Service while standing in the queue.

Unfortunately, Swiss flatly refused to rebook me on that flight, regardless of their obligation under the EU261 Regulation to rebook passengers in the most expeditious manner possible.

As this was clearly in contravention of that condition, I took matters into my own hands and booked myself on the Vueling flight at a cost of €329.79.

The last step was to make sure my return was not cancelled when I no-showed the unacceptable rebooking option. This was done when I finally reached the transfer desk.

The final insult was delivered when I was informed that the cancellation was due to “weather”.

Forgive me if I am somewhat sceptical of this, when the only cancellations were from Swiss and their parent company Lufthansa, but every other airline was flying with short delays.

Are Swiss claiming they were subject to different weather conditions than British Airways, Finnair, SAS, Tailwind, Sun Express and Vueling?

Either way, a reasonable attempt to mitigate the delay was clearly not made, as I managed to beat their rebooking option by 24 hours.

As it happened, I arrived at my hotel in Barcelona at 1am, a delay of around 5 hours. Actually not a disastrous result, but only because I fixed the issue on my own initiative.

Naturally, this required me to pay upfront for the replacement flight, but this is recoverable under the relevant regulations, when the airline has failed to provide a reasonable alternative.

Most Ombudsman services and regulatory bodies will generally back up your claim if the airline has refused to rebook a clearly available same day alternative.

I will write an update with the result of my claim from Swiss, which will include the cost of the replacement flight plus €250 cancellation compensation.

As a side note, the Vueling flight, which I will also review in the coming days, was a pleasant experience and exceeded my expectations.

Swiss however, which is usually a very good airline, left a lot to be desired on this occasion.

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Flight review – LOT Business Class, Warsaw – Chicago

Finally it was time to get into the long-haul phase of my travels, starting with a 7,000 mile US road trip.

But first, there was the small matter of crossing the Atlantic.

I managed to pick up a reasonable deal with LOT Polish Airlines, coming in at a little over €1,600 (£1,400) for the Business Class round trip from Stockholm to Chicago.

After my short connection from Stockholm it was time for the transatlantic leg.

Business Class seats on LOT’s 787-9 are in a 2-2-2 configuration. As a single traveller, I chose 4D in the centre pair, to avoid the climbover factor in the window pairs.

As my seatmate had already settled in by the time I boarded, I snapped a quick photo of the inoperative 3C-D pair in the next row, which are identical.

Shortly after take-off, the meal service began with a choice of drink and a small amuse-bouche, while meal choices were requested.

I chose the onion soup, which was tasty and came with a side salad.

For the main course I chose the pork neck, which was nicely presented, tender and tasty.

The meal was rounded off with a selection of fruit and cheese, followed by a well presented latte macchiato and a couple of sweet, but delicious cherry vodkas.

After lunch, the effects of my early start began to show (or maybe it was the cherry vodka) and I settled down for a short nap.

LOT’s Business Class seats recline to a fully flat position and a “short nap” turned into four solid hours of undisturbed sleep.

Shortly before arrival in Chicago, a second meal was served, this time all on one tray rather than course by course.

The pasta dish was accompanied by salmon and meat appetisers and fresh fruit.

Overall, this was a pleasant flight and certainly felt shorter than the 10 hour block time.

LOT’s Business Class is a solid product and offers a civilised way to cross the Atlantic.

At the price I paid, I would definitely not hesitate to book it again.

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LOT Embraer 195

Flight review – LOT Business Class, Stockholm – Warsaw

After my summer tour of Scandinavia, it was time to head off on my long-haul winter travels.

But first, there was the short connection to Warsaw in LOT Polish Airlines’ Business Class.

LOT Embraer 195

LOT uses the SAS Norrsken Lounge in Stockholm. However, as this was an early morning flight and I had already had breakfast at my hotel, I decided to skip this in favour of a quick transit through the airport.

Boarding was swift and efficient and I soon found myself settled in.

Business Class on this Embraer 195 was economy seating in a 2-2 configuration, with one of each pair kept free. I found this comfortable enough for the short flight.

LOT shorthaul business class seating

Although this flight was only 90 minutes, there was time for a pretty well varied breakfast selection.

LOT Short haul business class breakfast

On approach to Warsaw, we circled over a blanket of very low and heavy cloud for around 15 minutes.

View out of plane window

Fortunately we were able to land in Warsaw on time and in plenty of time for the next leg of my winter season, which sees me heading to Chicago and a 7,000 mile US roadtrip.

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Flight review – Nordic Seaplanes, Copenhagen – Aarhus

Whilst in Copenhagen, I was presented with an interesting opportunity to try out a new style of flying – a 45-minute flight with Nordic Seaplanes to Aarhus, one of the oldest cities in Denmark.

At a one-way price of around €95, this seemed too good to turn down.

Unfortunately I was advised 24 hours in advance, that my planned 8:45 departure was cancelled and offered a seat on the afternoon flight.

As this was only a day trip, I opted to take the following day’s morning departure instead and I was quickly rebooked.

The flight departs from the company’s city terminal, a short distance from the iconic Little Mermaid statue.

The experience started with check-in 20 minutes before departure and a coffee in the small, but comfortable, lounge a very short distance from the boarding area.

The cabin is laid out in a 1-2 configuration and on boarding I was pleased to be assigned to one of the single window seats towards the rear.

Flying by seaplane certainly gives a different perspective from flying by jetliner and it was nice to experience the take-off over the city of Copenhagen.

The landing in Aarhus, with a steep nose-down angle was even more exhilarating.

The arrival was at the small terminal a short taxi ride from the centre of Aarhus.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and time efficient way to travel and involved none of the usual annoyances of air travel, such as time consuming check-in procedures, long security queues and extra travelling to and from airports.

My flight from Copenhagen to Aarhus was an enjoyable and trouble free way to travel and I would definitely use this service again.

Flight review – Widerøe Tromsø – Bergen

Following Tromsø, my next destination was Bergen, necessitating another flight.

The only direct flight between Tromsø and Bergen is operated by Widerøe, an airline I had never flown before.

Other options are Norwegian and SAS, but bot require at least one change if flight in Oslo.

With this in mind, I decided to give Widerøe a go.

The ground experience is very basic, with self service bag drop and no security fast track or lounge.

The on board experience is also basic, but no more so than economy class on just about any other carrier operating within Europe.

At an even six feet, I found the 29-inch seat pitch rather tight.

A buy-on-board menu is offered, although this short 10:35am flight was a little too soon after breakfast and not quite beer o’clock, so I settled for the complimentary coffee.

Overall, this experience was comparable to the better low cost airlines in Europe, such as easyJet. Given the convenience of the direct flight I was satisfied with the experience, although at around £225 or $270 it was rather pricey for what it was.

Flight review – SAS Oslo – Tromsø

As my tour of Scandinavia continued to the Arctic North, I decided to leave my car at Oslo Airport and fly to Tromsø, rather than take a three day drive each way.

There were several options for this route, including Norwegian and Widerøe. However it turned out that the best deal was on the direct afternoon flight with SAS.

The flight was quite expensive for a domestic one-way at €226 for the most basic hand luggage only ticket.

I, however, chose to upgrade to the SAS Plus fare at €270, including checked luggage and access to the SAS Domestic Lounge at Oslo Airport.

This proved to be a good choice, as the American Express lounge to which I would normally have access was located after customs controls and therefore not accessible to domestic passengers. It also allowed me to check in my small rollaboard rather than fighting for overhead bin space.

The lounge was pretty basic in terms of its food offerings, but offered wine and both draught and canned beer and provided a comfortable place to sit while waiting for boarding, so it suited me fine.

The on board experience was not up to the standards of even intra-European Business Class, in that middle seats were not kept free and refreshments were limited to a snack and drink. However, given the short length of this flight and the small premium that I paid, I was perfectly happy with it.

Overall, this was a nice, easy little flight and “upgrading” was worth it in my very specific case.

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