Lufthansa – Premium Economy

Just finished my first Premium Economy experience with Lufthansa and I am very impressed.  It surely was not only two extra inches of legroom like I was expecting.

Boarding my A330 was normal.  No special treatment for Premium Economy, which is fine by me as we all get there the same time, no matter how early you board(Amazing how many people do not seem to understand this).  On board all was excellent as is normal with Lufthansa.  Spotlessly clean and everything in good nick.  Passing two rows of business class seats and the bulkhead row of Premium Economy I arrived at my aisle seat.

The overhead bin swallowed my two carry-ons and coat with ease.  Moving my blanket, pillow, and amenities case(toothbrush, blindfold, ear plugs, socks, headphones), I sat down.  What a difference from Economy.  The seat felt much more comfortable and wider.  Legroom was outstanding, but the star of the moment was the recline angle.  As I leaned back I assumed my seat was broken as it just kept going and going and going.  It was beautiful.  No complaints were heard from the seat behind me, unlike in Economy where anyone over six feet tall hits their knees if you lean back.  Beyond this the video screen is huge and beautiful.

As I got comfortable the flight attendant offered me a refreshing towel and then an orange juice while still at the gate.  This equated to business class on domestic flights.  I was very satisfied as I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and napped.  Before landing breakfast came around and put a cherry on the whole experience.  Usually I am displeased with Lufthansa food but my omelete plate was outstanding.  Now perhaps it is the same food Economy had and I fooled myself into thinking it was better than it really was but I don’t think so.

I can highly recommend Premium Economy on Lufthansa.  It is a much nicer experience than Economy and not too much more expensive.  It is especially worth it if you need two checked bags, as two are included in the price but in Economy you only get one.  Give it a shot, you can thank me later.

RyanAir

No….and no.  It is just that simple.  You get what you pay for has no truer example than RyanAir.  Do the right thing and fly EasyJet or WizzAir, or gasp, a national carrier.  Everything from top to bottom about this airline is rotten.  From the creepy CEO to the poor flight attendants selling scratchcards on board.  It is a quagmire how such a beautiful nation(Ireland for those that don’t know where this airline is based) can cause so much harm to the world.  This airline, the financial crisis, the IRA.  It is incredible.

Don’t do it unless you really enjoy being treated as a piece of meat and really need to save every copper.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is probably the best carrier in the USA, full stop.  I have heard good things about JetBlue but have never flown on them.  Though it is considered a low-cost carrier it beats the pants off of the major American airlines.  It is incredible how bad the major American airlines are.  It is difficult for me to say that as my father retired as a pilot from United Airlines.

Let us begin with Southwest’s best perk, two free checked bags.  All airlines now charge for checked bags on domestic flights, except for Southwest.  Not just one checked bag, but two heavy checked bags.  It is incredible.  Fares are reasonable and they have sales often.  Then there is their route network.  It covers the country quite well and as long as you are just flying domestic there is no reason to fly any other airline.  The employees are usually quite friendly and fun(especially in comparison to the ancient and bitter national carriers cabin crews).  The seats are comfortable enough except when you have two whales sandwiching you in, as happened on my last flight, and actually happens quite often in the USA.

The only disagreeable thing I have found is the boarding process.  It is a bit of a mess.  But then again since people on all flights always crowd the jetway and ignore their boarding zone there really isn’t much of a difference.  Their fleet is all Boeing 737’s which is a very old plane, but they take good care of them and are updating with the newer versions.  It is true their pilots are young and aggressive but I have never had an uncomfortable or scary ride.  Just fast taxiing and landings.  So I truly have nothing bad to say about flying on Southwest.

My father hated them when he was flying but that was back in the golden age when there was a difference between major carriers and low-cost carriers.  Now that they are on the same level of service I have no qualms about being a fan of this airline.

 

Saudia Airlines

Saudia most likely will not be on your radar of flight options if you are not a Muslim.  This is simply because Saudi Arabia is not a big tourist destination for non-Muslims and there are much better and more convenient connecting flights through Istanbul, Dubai,  and other Middle East gateways. But if you are a Muslim or contract worker there is a good chance you will fly on Saudia.

Their fleet consists of small Airbuses for domestic routes and Boeing 747s and Airbus A330s for long haul.  They have also received new 787 Dreamliners.  Domestic flights are quite disgusting.  The planes are beat up with broken arm rests and tray tables,  disgusting carpet, filth everywhere, and no entertainment system. The cabin crews are excellent foreign workers but appear burned out as most of the customers do not listen to them.  So on some flights they just hang out in the galley chatting with each other.  I don’t blame them.

Food is good but only if you like rice and chicken.  I believe I have gotten the same chicken and rice every single time.  Orange drink is in unlimited supplies and is what most people have.  Not orange juice mind you, orange drink. Juices are also available.

I detest mobile phones for many reasons but in public spaces and especially the confined space of an airplane cabin I hate how people share everything they do.  Headphones are a rarity on these flights and phones only have one volume, maximum.  So you will have to listen to everybody’s conversations, Youtube videos, and children playing games.  Noise cancelling headphones are a life saver on these flights.

If you are a male traveling alone be prepared to move from you assigned seat if a Muslim woman has a seat in the same row.  A Non-Muslim is not allowed to be close to a Muslim women.  This might mean losing your nice window seat and instead settling into a middle seat between two big sweaty blokes.

The larger aircraft are slightly better.  They are just a faction cleaner and in better repair plus they include an entertainment system.  Be warned that any films you watch will be shortened quite a bit as the Saudis censor very liberally.  Anything that hints of sex is gone.  Violence is fine, but not sex.  So enjoy John Wick but not any women being anything less than fully clothed.  Kissing and touching are also out.

I have gotten to fly the new Dreamliner a few times and it is fabulous.  Clean and perfect.  I do not expect this to last much longer though.

Saudia does have one benefit over other airlines and that is its baggage allowance.  Two large heavy bags for International flights and sometimes three.  This is because Saudis shop like mad on vacation and bring back luggage stuffed to the point of blowing off a zipper.  So the airline does have one thing going for it.

But here we end with the biggest reason to not fly Saudia.  No alcohol.  Not a drop on any flight anywhere.  So if you enjoy a twelve hour flight without even a glass of wine with your dinner go right ahead.  But if you enjoy a little taste on your flights stay well back.

 

 

Malev – The Hungarian Airline

Malev was the Hungarian national airline.  I say was because in early 2012 it stopped flying and disappeared.

I had the opportunity of flying on this airline once shortly before the end.  It was a completely normal experience.  No better and no worse than other national airlines.  The cabin and cockpit crew were good and the cabin comfortable.  A simple sandwich for my short flight was quite large and tasty.  Actually, I say the food was better than average.

I give my highest regards to the Hungarian government of 2012 for letting a loss making airline fail and not bailing it out.  It is the only airline I have heard of that was actually allowed to fail.  Unlike KLM, Air France, and especially all the American airlines that are allowed to declare bankruptcy every five years completely screwing their employees and the taxpayer.  So kudos for that.

I do wish the government would revive the airline now.  Budapest airport has recently been updated and is large and nice.  The country is advancing quickly, becoming a hot tourist destination and is positioned perfectly to become a hub for international travel.  Air China has recently started flights as well as Emirates, EgyptAir, Qatar, Airways,  and others.  It would be difficult to compete with WizzAir for short haul routes except to major airports, and I think long haul opportunities are there.

It is a shame that an airline with a rich history of starting with Russian equipment in 1946 and ending with a Western fleet in 2012 just disappeared with hardly a murmur.

WizzAir

WizzAir is my favorite low cost carrier in the world.  I fly out of Budapest, Hungary quite often and since the folding of Hungary’s state airline, Malev, many years ago WizzAir has taken over and made it one of its bases.

WizzAir, like all low cost carriers sticks with one type of aircraft to save on maintenance and training costs.  So you will be flying on an A320 or the newer and lengthened A321neo.  The planes are easy to spot as they are a colorful pink and purple.  They carry this theme inside as well and the crew are equally colorful.

Attention to detail begins while searching for your ticket on their website.  They have many levels of tickets and options.  There are two different clubs to join for discounts, Wizz Discount Club and Wizz Flex.  They offer different discounts so read about them to see if either helps you.  They are only worth it if you will fly on WizzAir more than a few times in the year.

Once you find your flight you must decide if you want the Basic, Wizz Go, or Wizz Plus ticket.  Again you must read the description to see what works best for you.  A free 23kg bag, larger size carry-on, seat selection and so on.  I cannot stress enough to do your research.  WizzAir has two sizes of cabin bags.  Bring one too big and they will charge you a fortune at the gate.  Make any mistakes and you will incur a big fee at the airport.  Plan your flight out correctly and it will be beautiful and low stress.

On your departure date be sure to print out your boarding pass before heading to the airport.  This is a requirement.  They do not look your ticket up by your identification like the major carriers do.  The line will probably be an unorganized mess or it might be orderly.  This depends more on the airport than on WizzAir.  Everything will go smoothly if you have everything in order.  Don’t blame the ticket agents for mistakes you made.  Everything you chose and paid for will be listed right on your boarding pass.

After checking in you will go the waiting area.  I don’t believe I have ever had a gate with WizzAir.  Expect a bus to your flight or as is the case in Budapest, a walk.  Boarding is a free for all affair unless you paid for an upgraded seat.  You still get an unassigned seat but you get to board first and pick from specially marked rows.

All the planes I have been on have been well kept and clean.  The crews are young, efficient, and friendly.  They even clean the toilets in-flight.  You do have to pay for food and drinks but the prices are fair.  One euro for a soda and four for a beer or wine.  Again they have discounts for buying certain combinations.  The pilots are also outstanding.  All my flights have been smooth and without incident.  WizzAir runs a tight ship as they refund the ticket price to Wizz Plus ticket holders if their flight is delayed too long.  I have always been on-time or just a few minutes late.

I cannot recommend WizzAir enough.  If they fly the route you are taking give them a look.  If you have had a bad experience with them, which I’m sure some have as nobody is perfect, please comment and let me know about it.  I enjoy all stories and want to know how my luck has been.