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We knew it was a very silly plan when we dreamed it up.  We just didn’t know HOW silly. In any case, the very silly plan involved crossing the Atlantic six times this summer, which provided a nice opportunity to compare business class travel on three distinctly different airlines.

The verdict?  Swiss Air wins hands down by miles.  Then lufthansa comes in fifth of three.  And united?  Tenth of three.  LOL.  Not even close.

Here are more details.

The Lufthansa 747-8 upper deck is fun.  The pods are not particularly roomy, but it is nice to have a dedicated business class bathroom or two and a distinctly private environment away from the scrum.

We flew to Frankfurt and got picked up in a red camaro.

Some of the time was spent in Heidelberg.

A train took us to the airport to depart Germany.  Getting a train directly into Frankfurt airport is very easy and convenient.

 

The flight back on a Lufthansa A330-300 was more cramped than the 747-800 and really was not as nice.  Not a big fan of the airbus.  Much less room to get comfortable.

We flew back to experience the closing of the digital psychedelic art show and to give a talk for the locals about Machine Learning Security. (Always keep your promises!)

And then it was a ridiculous two day turnaround to fly to Milan (through Frankfurt again).  This equipment sure seems familiar!  Upstairs again for a flight that was late once again but very comfortable.

We did some music in Italy.

My art face.  LOL.

The art itself: Into the Unknown.

Since my flight from Milano to Zurich was cancelled (Swiss Air has decided not to fly the northern Italian routes any more), I opted for the fast train through the alps.  Just beautiful and very fast.  The only issue was all the stuff I had (a huge guitar, a violin, a mandolin, a tube of art and a big roller bag).

Getting all the stuff on the train to Zurich and finally getting a taxi to the airport was a thing. The Zurich train station was under construction and a pain in the ass to negotiate.  Finding the taxi stand was a serious challenge and nobody seemed to want to help.

So we were grumpy, but everything was very smooth at Zurich airport in spite of our SSSS security status. TIronically, the SSSS actually speeded me through security faster.  And a surprize upgrade came through!

Upgraded on a Swiss Air hop to Boston!  Wow.  The seat was enormous and the service was a blast!  Best by far.

Even the food was great.  Like you might even eat it not on an airplane.

Actual espresso macchiatto

Standard issue mimosa.

 

What to do with all this room on the card table sized table?  Wine tasting!

The crew was a blast (see more below).

The food was delicious and not overcooked.

Cheese for dessert.

Even Grappa.

The silliest thing that happened in all of these cross-Atlantic hops was the wine tasting.  Since the card table sized table was so huge we decided to fill it up.  Much fun was had.

So it was off to NH for a day to play music, and then a hop down to repack suitcases through Dulles.

Poor moonshine was sad to see me go again.

Finally the time came to take some actual United business class flights.  This plan was a B767-400.  The pods are a bit tight and the service is nowhere near as good as lufthansa or Swiss Air.  On our way to Madrid, our flight attendant was unable to remember that we requested expedited service.  And god forbid you know that you can request slippers and an extra pad for sleeping!

 

We’re spoiled and we know it. Madrid and Barcelona were great.

We postponed our return trip in order to shake the COVID that we caught in Spain.  Other than the trip was magical.

On the way home, the crew was better than on the way out (though the captain was the same and she played the same beach boys music).  All in all, United was inferior service on all fronts.

Time to step it up, united!

Moonshine was happy to have us home!

 

Delta Business Class

May 4, 2017

Is Tumi better than Saks Fifth Avenue? That’s the main branding difference between United’s Polaris thing and Delta’s Business Class. All told, NPS still prefers the Virgin Atlantic business class to Europe experience. All of this is complicated by the fact that Virgin America was bought by Alaska in 2016. Every one of the alliances is re-aligning. No real loyalty left out there in airplane-land for NPS.

Delta and Tumi are a thing

The Delta pods are not quite as advanced as the United pods are these days, but they do lay flat. The tiny just out of reach touch screens need some ergonomic work (or a remote control).

Delta business class pod

The Virgin arrivals lounge at Heathrow (a Delta partner) is worth a visit. Hot showers and food that is slightly better than what you get on the airplane.

So delta will do. Pods make all the difference.

NPS flies all the time, and our current airline of choice is Virgin America. We’re sad about the upcoming merger with Alaska which will make yet another crap job of a platypus of an airline. Remember what happened to both United and Continental when they merged? Disaster. But that’s all domestic. We’re talking Europe in this post.

We aimed the points firehose at Virgin America this year and accumulated vast piles of points which we have cashed in to fly West for college looking and East to Europe. Getting a Virgin Atlantic ticket in upper class with Virgin America points was non-trivial but not that onerous.

NPS has flown Virgin Atlantic across the pond and back twice. Upper class does not suck.

Virgin Atlantic

Our special ops NPS spy also flew upper class but 10 days later.

Lufthansa

Internally, after some nice train rides (including the Disney Eurostar to Lille), it was back in the air for Frankfurt to Prague. Being a Star Alliance Gold member does not do diddly for seating on Lufthansa.

When in Frankfurt there is always a large chance of bus.

KLM

To get from Prague to AMS, we flew KLM which was very Dutch about the whole thing. Most uncomfortable flight of the entire trip.

The AMS hop was not much better, but the seating mistake was our fault.

It was nice to get to Oslo and find some modern world again.

We ended up in Bergen via train.

SAS

Complex scheduling craziness ended up with SAS from Bergen feeding Air France. Avoid this complexity even if it costs more cash.

Air France

Then it was Oslo to Paris on Air France, which just plain sucked. The flight was fine, but they lost one of our key bags for 4 days. When they found it, we were already back in the states. Amazing that it took Air France so long to rectify their mistake. They’ll be paying for some clothing and for the very expensive VAT refunds we could not get when we left London since the goods were not with us. Big fail Air France, you are now off the list.

Virgin Atlantic

After 20 days in Europe and perhaps just a few too many cocktails the night before, it was back home on an 8 hour flight from London. Upper class continues not to suck.

Access to the Virgin Atlantic Club comes along with an upper class ticket as does an interesting checkin procedure at Heathrow.