Introduction: The Long Way Between LA And London

Filed Under: Air India, American

Welcome to my first new trip report of 2016, as my goal for this year is to sample as many new first & business class products as possible. And I’m sure you guys will agree this is a good start. šŸ˜‰

The way this trip came to beĀ is sort of funny. In mid-December I wrote about how Finnair was flying the A350 to the US for a limited time in January. They just recently took delivery of their first A350, and are flying them exclusively to Asia as of now. So when FinnairĀ announced they’d fly the A350Ā to the US for a bit over a week in January and there was plenty of award space, I couldn’t help but book.

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Finnair A350 business class cabin

Not only is the A350 a gorgeous plane, but Finnair has a new reverse herringbone business class product on their A350s, which looks excellent. I decided to take that award a step further, though.

While intra-Europe business class is typically only marginally better than economyĀ (it’s usually just economy with a blocked middle seat), I noticed that Finnair was flying an A340 to London Heathrow the day after I’d arrive in Helsinki. Finnair’s other longhaul aircraft are the A330 and A340, and both feature the same business class product. So I figured this flight would be a great opportunity to sample Finnair’s other business class product, which they usually fly to the US.

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Finnair A340 business class cabin

I also added on positioning flights from Los Angeles to New York, which I unfortunately had to route via Dallas. The entire Los Angeles to Dallas to New York to Helsinki to London ticket cost me 50,000 AAdvantage miles plus $26.60 in taxes.

Then I had to figure out how to get back to the US from London. For years I’ve been talking about how I want to review Air India, and the perfect opportunity presented itself.

Avianca’s LifeMiles program is known for historically allowing some “creative” routings due to how their system works, though nowadays they’ve blocked most of the better “creative” options. Air India recently launchedĀ a new flight between DelhiĀ and San Francisco, so I went to LifeMiles’ website and selected Air India as my preferred airline for a flight from London to San Francisco. This itinerary popped up:


Now, 30 hours on Air India might not sound like everyone’s idea of a good time, but it sounded to me like a great opportunity to thoroughly review their first class product. Furthermore, I was actually saving miles by flying them from London to Delhi. The Delhi to San Francisco flight alone would have cost 111,000 miles. So I savedĀ 24,000 miles by adding on the London to Delhi flight, since it meant the award cost would be based on a Europe to US award, rather than a Central Asia to US award.

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Air India 777 first class cabin

The one “catch” is that since I was originating in the UK, I had to pay the UK Air Passenger Duty. So in addition to the 87,000 miles I had to pay a total of $315.30 in taxes and fees.

Lastly, I booked a paid positioning flight on American from San Francisco back to Los Angeles, which cost $72.10.

In the end, my entire itinerary looked as follows:

01/20 AA2404 Los Angeles to Dallas departing 5:03AM arriving 10:05AM
01/20 AA1345 Dallas to New York departing 11:50AM arriving 4:20PM
01/20 AY6 New York to Helsinki departing 5:45PM arriving 8:50AM (+1 day)
01/22 AY831 Helsinki to London departing 8:00AM arriving 9:10AM
01/23 AI162 London to Delhi departing 8:45AM arriving 10:25PM
01/24 AI173 Delhi to San Francisco departing 2:35AM arriving 6:00AM
01/24 AA5922 San Francisco to Los Angeles departing 8:00AM arriving 9:42AM

Here’s myĀ 20,000+ mile, four day jauntĀ on a map:


As you can see, the amount of time on the ground was limited, so I only needed to book a hotel for one night in Helsinki and one night in London.

Given that I’m warm blooded and that I’d be in Helsinki in the dead of winter, I decided to just book a hotel near the airport. This seemed like a good opportunity to knock out my IHG Accelerate Promo, where I could earn 45,000 IHG Rewards Club bonus points for a one night stay at the Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport. While it wasn’t cheap at 120EUR for the one night stay on the eligible rate, it still seemed like the best option.

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Holiday Inn Helsinki Airport

Then for my one night in London I booked the Hilton London Heathrow T4, which is extremely convenient. I used to avoid Hiltons as much as I could, but now that I’m at least a Diamond my stays are a bit more pleasant. Air India flies out of T4 atĀ Heathrow, so being able to walk directly from my hotel to check-in is awesome, especially given that my flight departed at 8:45AM, and I wanted to arrive plenty early so I could review the lounge. For that stay I booked a pre-paid rate of ~90GBP.

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Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 4

Bottom line

I was extremely excited about this trip, given that it would allow me to review two new airlines I hadn’t yet flown. While it’s admittedly a totally crazy way to spend four days, I hope you guys find the experience enjoyable/amusing to read about. Air India surprised me quite a bit, both in a good and bad way.

Lastly, I should note that I approached this trip report differently than past ones, as I wrote it “live.” On each day I wrote the parts covering my travel for that day, so my memory doesn’t get fresher than this. Hopefully it’s reflected in the level of detail. In other words, the trip report is already completely written, and now I just have to publish the installments.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments/questions, please let me know!

  1. Looks very similar to ACs new int’l biz that I flew to Asia and back recently – except I prefer the color tones and aesthetics in AC over Finn’s. Also don’t know about your view, but I preferred long haul on the 787 over the 350. But I’m biased since I am a Boeing fan and expect that MEA is the future.

  2. Hope you took advantage of the Finnair City Bus to run in to the city for a bit. I did on a recent layover between NYC and AMS. Really convenient and Helsinki is charming.

  3. How are you able to book good flights on LifeMiles?
    I can never find anything good there. i keep hoping and even bought some points.

  4. “Given that I am warm blooded” Hahaha..

    Cannot wait for your review Lucky. Really looking forward to the Air India reviews! Keep it up

  5. Hello,

    Can someone sort of explain how LA to Dallas to NYC to Helsinki to London only costs 50,000 miles?

  6. Longtime blog reader, first time commenting: Cannot wait to see the trip report, I’m very excited about seeing both of these airlines. Keep up the great job, looking forward to more unique reports in 2016!

  7. @Ever

    “Can someone sort of explain how LA to Dallas to NYC to Helsinki to London only costs 50,000 miles”


    It’s a simple North America to Europe AA award, notice that the LA to Dallas to NYC to Helsinki part took place on the same day. Does not matter if it’s direct flight to Europe from the west coast or with multiple stops due to that being the only award space open, it still just one award.

    Then Lucky arrived in the morning in HEL and had a layover of less than 24H before boarding the flight to LON make it one standard AA J award for the whole trip.

    Had he booked a flight to LON more than 24 hours after arriving in HEL he would have needed a second award inside EU.

  8. “Can someone sort of explain how LA to Dallas to NYC to Helsinki to London only costs 50,000 miles?”
    A business class flight from the US to Europe costs 50,000 aadvantage miles, no matter if it’s a direct flight or if you have stops, as long as the layovers are not over 24 hours.

  9. @No Name

    “Then Lucky arrived in the morning in HEL and had a layover of less than 24H before boarding the flight to LON make it one standard AA J award for the whole trip.”

    Oh, I see. One more question. If I wanted to book something like this, is it booked separately? LA to Helsinki and Helsinki to London?


  10. @Ever

    If you book it separately it would end up as 2 awards.

    Lucky had a post on using AA miles last year goolge “How To Redeem American AAdvantage Miles onemileatatime” that will explain a lot.

  11. I was in the Air India 162 business class London to Delhi this Saturday, January 23. My first time on a long haul AI business. United rerouted me after my flight to EWR, from where I was supposed to go in business to Delhi direct, was canceled due to the storm. The Air India lounge at LHR T4 looked new. The flight was alright excpet for the outdated angled flat seats in their 777. Business class was about 3/4 full. Food was average. Service was outstanding. I thought there were more flight attendants per business passenger than any airline I have seen. Entertainment selection was good. Headphones could be better. One thing I was not impressed with at all was the cheap looking cloth seat covers on their business class seats. Why not leather? Overall the experience was nothing out of the ordinary. But definitely not a bad flight as the AI impression is made out to be.
    Looking forward to your review.

  12. Life is short Lucky…keep doing it while you can. Love reading the trip reports! I can only dream to accompany you on one of these trips.

  13. With all the new hotels in Delhi, wouldn’t it have made sense to review a Starwood or Marriott (or other) property in Delhi – or did the flight timings not work out that way?

  14. @ Deo: Yea of course I saw that, but I meant why not cut a night just to experience – guess the ticketing doesn’t work that way with rewards.

  15. Indians love to vandalize AI interiors, it is their fundamental right written in constitution.

    They tear up upholstery, pry open panels, break armrests/food trays, peel off any stickers, chew on (or) steal safety cards and scribble on plastic/leather. Their physical ability is the only limit.

    Only way AI can keep up with it is to have vandal proof interiors, some what like Ryanair.

    Interestingly, same folks behave very well on private/foreign carriers.

  16. Lucky, it’s too bad you didn’t stay in the city of Helsinki. I was there in ’07 and had a wonderful time. The nightlife was a lot of fun. They really like Americans and are very curious about how things work here. The Hotel Glo was fantastic with a beautiful spa – you might have been able to catch some shut eye upon arrival then hit the spa to recover – go out for dinner and some nightlife then return to the hotel and head back to the airport. I really enjoyed it there and the shopping is to die for.

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