Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Big PINK Flight for Sydney Mardi Gras

Air New Zealand will have a Pink Flight from SFO to celebrate Sydney's Mardi Gras. Now talk about supporting the GLBT community and creating a great marketing event!

The flight and fares are available here

Here is more information...

A special flight all the way to Oz, just for us.

We’re not in Kansas anymore, my pretties! The Pink Flight is a special Air New Zealand flight, open to anyone who wants to get an early start on the revelry at the 2008 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival in the best company imaginable. Conde Nast listed Sydney Mardi Gras among the 10 most spectacular costume events, right up there with Venice and Rio. The flight will depart on 26 February at 11:30pm from San Francisco, arrive in Sydney on 28 February at 9:30am, and the parade is on 1 March.

Party your way to Oz, detox in 100% pure New Zealand.

After all that revelry, who wouldn’t need a bit of pampering? And what better place to spoil yourself than in gorgeous New Zealand. Your return travel dates are flexible, on scheduled flights through Auckland, New Zealand. Fly Business Premier and the lie-flat bed will let you get your beauty rest, or swoon in conspicuous luxury. Enjoy our award-winning food and wine, as well as outrageous one-time Pink Flight frills and activities. For details on schedules, airfares and connecting fares from other North American cities, use the booking engine to the right. For full terms & conditions, click here.

The Party before the Party that takes you to the Party.

Show up early so you don’t miss a second of the Gate Pre-Party at San Francisco Airport, complete with entertainment, goodie bags and rampant merriment. Air New Zealand will be giving away spaces on our very own float in the Mardi Gras parade. The plane leaves at 11pm and there will be helpful staff on hand to scoop you up and guide you gently into the plane. Please come back to this site for future updates about the party and the flight.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Trip Report - Seattle (via SFO) to Sydney on United

After a quick London trip on United, it was another trip to Sydney to finish out the month. I have done this trip on United about six times in two years. I prefer to travel via Honolulu on Air Canada, but it was more expensive routing for some reason -- so I booked the cheaper non-stops.

I was starting to dread another trip in coach on this 14 hour flight, but got a surprise upgrade at the Seattle Airport. I was able to get SFOSYD business class confirmed at the ticket counter for the normal 30k miles -- plus she even gave me a choice of window or aisle seating. I quickly chose the aisle and got 8G.

Now 8G is an "ok" business class seat. Its in the shorter cabin behind first class. It CLEARLY has much less legroom than the business class rows in the 20's. The other major downside is the flight attendants put their bags behind these seats. On the plus side, I like the smaller cabin and you have access to a bathroom forward and aft. The bathroom aft is far enough back where you are not bothered by it.

Above is the view of this mini-business class cabin from seat 8G. As you might be able to see I spotted a handwritten sticker on the bathroom on the other side of the cabin. This looked a bit "tacky" to be in business class -- but kind of typical for United these days.

I couldnt quite read what it said, but I think it says "Lav Out" and something else. Anyway - I wasnt sure what was wrong with the the lav, but for a 14-hour flight you would think Untied would try and fix a premium cabin bathroom or at least put a more official looking sticker on it.

We were delayed for two hours due to a cargo warning "light" not working. There were only two announcements made during our 2 hour wait -- first by the captain, and second (nearly 2 hours later) by a random flight attendant. I was very disappointed the captain did not make more updates, it doesnt cost her or the airline anything to keep us informed.

The business class service was fairly poor on this flight. Since we had a two hour delay before leaving the gate, it seemed like the flight attendants tried to rush the service so they could take their breaks. While the United Menu had FOUR white wine choices, the flight attendant said he only had "a White or Red...or a Riesling". I am just amazed that the Flight Attendants feel like the can be so casual about the service. Even Qantas has some "class" when it comes to premium cabin service.

Not once did I get addressed by Last Name and it was rare if they asked if there was anything else I needed -- it was all about put out trays, cleaning up the trays and taking things away.

The audio didnt work on a couple channels of the video, but I had seen Shrek 3 a couple times already, and it gave me a chance to watch Hot Fuzz -- which is great.

The service on my return flight (SYDSFO) in Economy Plus was better. The flight attendants were more visible and seemed much happier.

In any case, I can't wait until United upgrades the audio/video equipment on those old 747-400s. Having a pull down movie screen for all of coach is just plain embarrassing!

Business Class SFO-SYD: B- (the food was ok and I liked the mini business class cabin)
Economy Plus SYD-SFO: C+ (extra credit for open seat next to me)

Mini Trip Report - London-IAD in Business Class on United

I flew back from London to Seattle via Washington Dulles on United. It was a bit of an odd routing, but I liked it since it provided a decent layover time at IAD -- so I knew I could make my connection.

I went to the Red Carpet Room in London before my flight. This is one of the better clubs, its got a great view and the room is clean and spacious. There is also tmobile WIFI (but at a surcharge).
The bar is well stocked (better than the SYD or US clubs I have been to thus far).

My flight was on a 767-300ER aircraft with business class seating. I had pre-selected 5C (bulkhead seat) to experience the extra legroom. The Business Class seats on the 767-300 are narrower than the 777 or 747 seats. It does seem like much, but they are a bit more snug and the space between the seats is much smaller.

A couple with an active infant sat in the 5AB seats -- urgh. Since the child did not have a seat, I could tell this was going to not be the best flight. Luckily there were open seats and a very aware flight attendant moved me to 7B ( and 7A was open) so it turned out to be a great flight.

Since this was a day flight, the service was relaxed and not "rushed" like a red-eye. The flight attendants were London-based and very nice and cheerful.

Above is the 767-300 business class seat on United. Notice the center armrest doesnt provide much space between you and your seatmate.

I really enjoyed this flight: Open seats in Business Class, relaxed and professional inflight service, video/audio equipment worked and departing London at noon was much easier than the early morning rush.

United Business Class LHR-IAD: A-

Couple quick notes on United at IAD:

United uses these International 767-300 aircraft to fly select transcon flights at night, so I was on a similar aircraft in Business Class from IAD to Seattle.

Connecting passengers clear customs/immigration at United's mid-field concourse, while Local Washington DC passengers are bussed to the main terminal to clear there.