- Introduction: Transatlantic Insanity
- Review: Aeroflot Business Class 777-300ER Los Angeles To Moscow
- Review: Aeroflot Lounge Moscow Airport
- Review: Aeroflot Business Class 737 Moscow To Belgrade
- Review: Metropol Palace Hotel Belgrade
- Review: Belgrade Food Tour
- Review: Air Serbia Lounge Belgrade Airport
- Review: Air Serbia Business Class A330 Belgrade To New York
- Review: Air France Lounge New York JFK
- Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class 787 New York To Baku
- Review: Hyatt Regency Baku
- Review: Baku Airport Lounge
- Review: Ukraine Airlines Business Class 737 Baku To Kiev
- Review: Kiev Airport Lounge
- Review: Ukraine International Airlines Business Class 767 Kiev To New York
My biggest blog goal for the year has been to review as many new premium cabin airline products as possible. While I started off the year with what I thought was an aspirational list at the time, I’ve found reviewing new airlines to be so fun that I ended up expanding it significantly.
Earlier in the year I managed to review a lot of mainstream business class products for the first time, though all along there have been some seemingly random airlines on the list (at least from a US perspective) that I’ve wanted to try.
Tiffany and I hadn’t yet taken a big trip together this year, so since we both love flying and visiting random places, we crafted an itinerary that would allow us to try four transatlantic products over the course of about 10 days.
Funny enough part of the motivation here was that we both needed to get from the west coast to DC for a conference this past weekend, so rather than flying nonstop, we routed via Moscow, Belgrade, New York, Baku, Kiev, and New York… as one does. 😉 In the end, the routing looked as follows:
With that in mind, here’s how we booked the trip:
I’ve reviewed most transatlantic SkyTeam airlines, including Air France, Alitalia, Delta, KLM, etc. Aeroflot is an airline that has always fascinated me, and they have surprisingly decent award availability nonstop from Los Angeles to Moscow. So we managed to book the following flights from Los Angeles to Belgrade:
10/25 SU107 Los Angeles to Moscow departing 4:55PM arriving 2:45PM (+1 day)
10/26 SU2092 Moscow to Belgrade departing 8:10PM arriving 10:05PM
Cost: 62,500 Delta SkyMiles + $328.10 taxes and carrier imposed surcharges
As you can see, the downside is that there are hefty carrier imposed surcharges on Aeroflot, though I still figured it was worth trying their product… and boy, am I happy I did!
The motivation for making Belgrade our destination was that Air Serbia began flying between Belgrade and New York earlier this year, and I’ve been wanting to sample their product. Air Serbia’s frequent flyer program is Etihad Guest, so we were able to redeem Etihad Guest miles for the trip, as follows (see here for an explanation of how to redeem Etihad miles on Air Serbia):
10/29 JU500 Belgrade to New York departing 12:55PM arriving 5:25PM
Cost: 64,082 Etihad Guest miles + $57.53 taxes
Now back in New York, we saw a decent opportunity to book some paid business class tickets to Baku and back, on two airlines that aren’t really practical to book with major mileage currencies. But the airlines still interested me, so we made it work. Specifically, we managed to book AZAL Azerbaijan on a paid business class ticket, as follows:
10/31 J2102 New York to Baku departing 12:30PM arriving 7:30AM (+1 day)
Then for the return we booked Ukraine International Airlines via Kiev, as they had a business class fare that was half as much as what Azerbaijan charges (for good reason, as we later found out). The routing looked as follows:
11/03 PS602 Baku to Kiev departing 6:15AM arriving 8:05AM
11/03 PS231 Kiev to New York departing 11:05AM arriving 3:45PM
In the end we got to try four fascinating products, none of which really matched my expectations. For a teaser on the flights, check out the posts I’ve already written about our flights on Aeroflot, Air Serbia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine.
With this itinerary we ended up having three nights in Belgrade, two nights in New York, and two nights in Baku.
In Belgrade we decided to book the Metropol Palace Hotel, which is a Starwood Luxury Collection property. The nightly rate was 80EUR per room, which made paying a better option than redeeming points, given that this hotel would have cost 7,000 Starpoints per night.
Then in New York we stayed at the Andaz Wall Street, which I won’t be reviewing, since I’ve reviewed it many times before.
Then in Baku we booked the Hyatt Regency Baku, which is the only Hyatt or Starwood property in the city. The nightly rate was $105 per room.
This was such a fun trip, both because I was traveling with Tiffany, and also because these were four airlines I’ve long been intrigued by. Unfortunately I caught a cold halfway through our trip, which made the whole thing a bit more challenging, but we still had a great time. Stay tuned for the full review, and also for some more installments from Tiffany about the trip.
Also very interested to hear more about all aspects of the Southeast Asia trip. Heading there in about a month.
How did you manage to find a 62,500 Delta fare from LAX to SVO on Aeroflot?
I actually need to fly that route and in the dead of January, Feb and March 2017 can only find 70,000 tickets.
Any advice would be welcome. Most welcome.
@ Ted -- 62,500 is the 2016 price, for 2017 the lowest price you can get is 70,000: https://onemileatatime.com/delta-business-awards-europe/
Another vote for Cambodia/Laos trip reports. I, too, would enjoy reading the boys' impressions of their NH flights.
I think there is much value to Ben's reports on some of the more obscure carriers. These airlines often have very attractive premium class air fares and it's nice to know what one may expect from flying Ukraine International or Air Serbia.
Can't wait to read these reports.
I'm definitely looking forward to the reviews on Air Serbia, as well as your time spent in Belgrade.
/Lived in Belgrade for 2 1/2 years.
Very excited for this review! Let me just say, Ben, that this blog is an invaluable resource. I have been reading literally every day for two years. I know that there are many pressures on your time, but if you were able to also review the birthday trip with Ford (or at least key parts of it like the NH legs), that would be phenomenal!
Credit, you mean "one and only"?
While reviews of little known airlines make for interesting reading, it's not particularly useful for most people. I'd like to see, alongside the reviews of obscure airlines, updated reviews of more popular routes.
Hope this doesnt mean you're skipping the TR on Cambodia/Laos. 2 amazing countries. I've only done them with more budget minded accomodations (of course, these means I dropped $30 on a 4* hotel) so i'd be curious to hear about them from a lux traveler perspective.
I second Alvin's comment, Laos & Cambodia are new destinations for the blog and VN is a new airline.
still can't believe you didn't just drive from JFK to DC.
I hope you will fly Biman Bangladesh very soon!!
I love these airline reviews and find the. very useful to pick and choose for my own travels.
Looks interesting looking forward to reading this
Shame you chose the Hyatt in Baku, which is old and dated. There is a Starwood property at Baku Airport.
JW Marriott, Hilton, Four Seasons, Fairmont and several others would have been a far better choice and much better located.
Time to head out again. These trip reports are the best and only reason I come to the blog.
I'd be surprised if you got round to posting about Ford's birthday trip. A lot of good reviews that would make...