- Introduction: Four Times Across The Atlantic
- Review: ITA Airways Business Class A350 (MIA-FCO)
- Review: ITA Airways Lounge Rome Airport (FCO)
- Review: Prima Vista Lounge Rome Airport (FCO)
- Review: ITA Airways Business Class A320 (FCO-CAI)
- Changing Terminals At Cairo Airport: Still Complicated
- Review: EgyptAir Lounge Cairo Airport (CAI)
- My Rough Night At Cairo Airport, Made Better By EgyptAir’s Osama
- Review: EgyptAir Business Class 787 (CAI-CDG)
- Review: Sheraton Paris Airport (CDG)
- Review: YOTELAIR Paris Airport Priority Pass Lounge (CDG)
- Review: Air France Lounge Paris Airport (CDG)
- Review: New Air France Business Class 777-300ER (CDG-JFK)
- Review: Hyatt Regency JFK At Resorts World New York
- Review: AA & BA Greenwich Lounge New York (JFK)
- Review: AA & BA Soho Lounge New York (JFK)
- Review: AA & BA Chelsea Lounge New York (JFK)
- Review: Amex Centurion Lounge New York (JFK)
- Review: British Airways Lounge Newark Airport (EWR)
- Review: New British Airways First Class 777 (EWR-LHR)
- Review: Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel (LHR)
- Review: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow (LHR)
- Review: Amex Centurion Lounge London Heathrow (LHR)
- Review: No1 Lounge London Heathrow (LHR)
- Review: Virgin Atlantic A330neo Upper Class Business Class (LHR-MIA)
- Is Virgin Atlantic’s Retreat Suite Worth It?
Welcome to my next trip report series, which will include business class reviews on ITA Airways, EgyptAir, Air France, and Virgin Atlantic, and a first class review on British Airways. On top of that, there will be several airport lounge and hotel reviews.
Why I took this trip
This was a “pure” review trip, which is to say that I took this trip exclusively to review as many airlines, airport lounges, and hotels, as possible, all while minimizing my time away from home. I know many OMAAT readers enjoy the reviews on the blog, so as a new parent I’m trying to keep that going while being away from home as little as possible.
I have a long list of products I’m looking to review, so when I started planning this trip, I did so with the goal of reviewing as many of these experiences as possible, while being efficient. My top priorities were reviewing ITA Airways, Virgin Atlantic’s new A330-900neo, Air France’s new business class, and the new American & British Airways lounges at JFK (Chelsea, Soho, and Greenwich).
The airlines I flew on this trip
On this trip I flew a total of 20,043 miles, spread across six segments. I had transatlantic flights departing from and arriving in Miami, meaning I didn’t need to take any positioning flights within North America, which was convenient.
I booked this trip as five separate one-way tickets. This trip cost me a bit more “out of pocket” than my typical review trips, both due to my one paid itinerary (on ITA Airways), plus the hefty carrier imposed surcharges and taxes for travel on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Nonetheless, I figured it was worth it, as I know there are several products here that people are interested in reading about.
I kicked off the trip with my only cash itinerary. Italy’s new national airline, ITA Airways, doesn’t have any real award redemption partners (despite belonging to SkyTeam), so the only way to book flights on the airline is with cash. Fortunately I found a fairly decent fare sale from Miami to Cairo (with the first flight on the A350 and the second flight on the A320), and managed to book the following in business class for $1,436:
2/06 AZ631 Miami to Rome departing 8:00PM arriving 11:40AM (+1 day)
2/07 AZ894 Rome to Cairo departing 10:10PM arriving 2:25AM (+1 day)
From there I decided to fly from Cairo to Paris in EgyptAir business class. Specifically, I booked a flight on the carrier’s Boeing 787-9, featuring its newest business class product. I managed to book the following for 20,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points, plus $79 in taxes & fees:
2/08 MS799 Cairo to Paris departing 9:35AM arriving 1:25PM
Next up, I decided to fly Air France’s new Boeing 777-300ER business class from Paris to New York. I booked the following for 55,000 Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles, plus $377 in taxes & fees:
2/09 AF22 Paris to New York departing 8:30AM arriving 10:50AM
While I had initially planned on ending the trip here, I decided I might as well have some more fun, and knock out two more interesting reviews. First I flew British Airways’ new Boeing 777-300ER first class from Newark to London. This is a long story, but I was initially going to fly out of JFK, but due to a last minute aircraft swap, I instead flew out of EWR, as that route featured the new first class. I’ll explain more about that in the actual review post.
So I booked the following in first class for 85,000 American AAdvantage miles plus $731 in taxes & fees:
2/11 BA188 Newark to London departing 9:30PM arriving 9:10AM (+1 day)
Last but most certainly not least, I flew from London to Miami in Virgin Atlantic’s new Airbus A330-900neo Upper Class (business class). I booked the following for 47,500 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, plus $748 in taxes & fees:
2/13 VS5 London to Miami departing 12:20PM arriving 5:40PM
In addition to flight reviews, you can expect reviews of the following lounges:
- The ITA Airways Piazza di Spagna Lounge Rome Airport (FCO)
- The Prima Vista Lounge Rome Airport (FCO)
- The EgyptAir Lounge Cairo Airport (CAI)
- The YOTELAIR Lounge Paris Airport (CDG)
- The Air France Lounge Paris Airport (CDG)
- The Chelsea Lounge New York Airport (JFK)
- The Soho Lounge New York Airport (JFK)
- The Greenwich Lounge New York Airport (JFK)
- The Amex Centurion Lounge New York Airport (JFK)
- The British Airways Lounge Newark Airport (EWR)
- The No1 Lounge London Airport Terminal 3 (LHR)
- The Amex Centurion Lounge London Airport (LHR)
- The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Airport (LHR)
Suffice it to say that there were some highs…
…and lows to the lounge experiences.
The hotels I stayed at on this trip
During this trip, I spent a total of four nights in hotels. I had one night in Paris, two nights in New York, and one night in London. While those are all cities with iconic hotels, I ended up just staying near the airport in all cases, as my primary goal was to catch up on rest and minimize further travel time, given how much I was moving around already. I also think airport hotel reviews are useful sometimes, since not all airport hotels are created equal.
In Paris I decided to stay at the Sheraton CDG Airport. This is the most convenient full service hotel at the airport, as it’s connected directly to the terminal.
Then for my two nights in New York I decided to book the Hyatt Regency JFK. This is a hotel that has intrigued me since it opened, since the name suggests it’s an airport hotel, though in reality it’s a hotel attached to a casino without an airport shuttle. This hotel really surprised me, so stay tuned…
In London, I decided to stay at the Renaissance Heathrow Airport. I had heard that this hotel has incredible views of the runway, and they didn’t disappoint. That’s about the only reason you’d want to stay here, though.
2023 is off to a good start when it comes to review trips! I completed my whirlwind Aeroplan adventure in January, and then had another awesome review trip in February. In this series you can expect reviews of business class on ITA Airways, EgyptAir, Air France, and Virgin Atlantic, as well as a first class review from British Airways.
I have to say, this was also (to me) an especially interesting trip in terms of lounges and airport hotels, as there were some real surprises in there.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!
Consider that airport hotels are not really looking for return business and nobody expects them to be amazing. They are usually for the purpose you are using them for.
Was hoping you'd review the St Regis Cairo if only because of how many times you wrote about its impending open over the years but maybe another time.
looking forward to the reviews, and especially thoughts on the JFK chelsea/soho lounges and if there was any food available and if you had issues gaining access like they are making for BA GGLs!
Really looking forward to the CDG Sheraton review! I've had a lot of early flights out of CDG over the past couple years and have considered the Sheraton. But the price tag always kept me away and I chose to deal with the hotel shuttles at the various hotels in Roissy-en-France instead.
I'd love to see if you think it's worthwhile!
Re: The Heathrow Renaissance, aka the Runway Renaissance, I suggest the series "Luther" in which the final confrontation between Idris Elba and Steven MacIntosh takes place in a room there. I was happy that I saw that after my BA assigned stay.
Can’t wait to see your review of the Renaissance Heathrow Airport. I stayed there last weekend after a missed connection at Heathrow and British Airways put as there for a night. Definitely some highs and lows! I commented to my partner that it looked like the embassy of a Warsaw Pact country from the 80’s and once inside we felt like we had been transported back to the 80’s.
Sounds like the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square. Straight out of a bygone era. I hope it never changes, honestly.
When I lived in London my Dad and his friends from his working men’s club would come down by coach and stay at The Imperial Hotel.
What was the total cost?
@ Pat -- The cash outlay for the tickets was ~$3,370, including the paid ticket and all the carrier surcharges. I mostly used points for hotels, and I'll cover more of that in the individual review installments.
Can't wait! Looking forward to it.
Do you ever get any suspicion from immigration officials on these trips? I know you have GE so you may get to avoid unpleasant US officials, but what about other countries? I have had unpleasant experiences in the UK and Canada and I know for a fact some of those officers would view stuff like this with huge suspicion.
@ S -- Funny enough I always think I'm going to be given a hard time, but rarely does it happen. That's probably partly because I get to use Global Entry in the United States, and the e-gates in the UK and EU. Come and think of it, during this trip I didn't really have to directly interact with any immigration officer.
Years ago during the 2008-2009 economic meltdown when status was granted by miles flown AA had dirt cheap fares to Europe. A bunch of FTs flew ORD/FRA (when AA flew that route) for something like $250. Even at that J was half filled. We flew to FRA and back to ORD the next day. I was the first to arrive at Customs at ORD and the Custom Officer started questioning why I had spend less...
Years ago during the 2008-2009 economic meltdown when status was granted by miles flown AA had dirt cheap fares to Europe. A bunch of FTs flew ORD/FRA (when AA flew that route) for something like $250. Even at that J was half filled. We flew to FRA and back to ORD the next day. I was the first to arrive at Customs at ORD and the Custom Officer started questioning why I had spend less than 6 hours in Germany. I explained there were about 30 people behind we that did same. He just laughed and stamped my passport.
FWIW, while on a blog trip, if an immigration officer asks why my stay is so short, I tell them the truth about my intentions. With the exception of one incredibly nasty CBSA agent in Vancouver, they laugh at me and wave me through. Said CBSA agent referred me to her colleague - who proceeded to laugh at me and wave me through. My guess is border agents have seen enough mileage runners over the year that they just don't care that much.
cant wait for your EgyptAir lounge review! :) planning to book an EgyptAir J Class trip and if thats the case, we will be stuck in a 10 hour layover in CAI. I dont know if thats worth it tbh.
don't do it. Not worth it.
EgyptAir lounges are uniformly terrible. However, if you have ten hours during the day you can easily see the sights of Cairo including the pyramids. If at night, the Meridien hotel attached to the terminal is very nice. But don't spend 10 hours in an EgyptAir lounge...
The traffic in Cairo is epic.
No estimated travel time is accurate.
At night no one uses headlights since all the vehicles are bumper to bumper.
I would not gamble a 10 hour layover to just get to Giza.
Contact an incoming travel agent and have pick you up at the airport. You can visit so many sights in Cairo in just one day! Pyramids, Islamic Cairo, Old Cairo, Egyptian museum.
I love your approach to taking these trips Ben. You seem to book the perfect itinerary for what you do. It leaves me enthusiastically awaiting your full reviews. Good job Ben, hope you and your family are doing great and enjoy your travels!
Thanks for clarifying your JFK-EWR situation. You should discuss how you did the transfer.
That can be a trip in itself.
As a New Yorker, I’m glad I never had to make that transfer.
@ Pete -- It's usually a rough transfer, especially if trying to use public transportation. I ended up using a Lyft, and while it was pricey, there was almost no traffic on a Saturday, so it was pretty easy. I decided to prioritize a direct transfer so I could get to the British Airways Lounge when it opened, to be able to snap good pictures.
How did you visit the 3 JFK lounges before flying BA out of Newark? Were you in the airport already when the aircraft swap happened?
@ SubwayNut -- Yep. I arrived at JFK at 4AM for my 11PM flight (I get to the airport *really* early so I can get empty pics of lounges when they open). The flight hadn't yet left London at that time. Even though my flight was scheduled to be operated by a 777-300ER, it ended up getting swapped to a 777-200ER with the old first class. Fortunately I saw that the Newark to London flight...
@ SubwayNut -- Yep. I arrived at JFK at 4AM for my 11PM flight (I get to the airport *really* early so I can get empty pics of lounges when they open). The flight hadn't yet left London at that time. Even though my flight was scheduled to be operated by a 777-300ER, it ended up getting swapped to a 777-200ER with the old first class. Fortunately I saw that the Newark to London flight had been swapped from a 777-200ER to a 777-300ER, and it had first class award availability. So I switched to that. That worked out in terms of being able to review lots of lounges.
The things you do for us! Seriously can’t thank you enough for not only taking the time away from your new family, but the craziness you put yourself through on the trips themselves. 4am wake up for empty lounge photos; we are spoiled readers!
So BA allows you to check-in anytime before your (same-day) flight to LHR? I have a F flight to LHR in March dep JFK 8.55pm; sounds like I can check-in anytime on the day of travel?
So excited for the ITA review despite it being inaccessible with miles
Were you able earn any miles from the ITA flights? If so where did you credit them.
@ AnishReddi -- I ended up crediting them to ITA's Volare program, given that I have top tier status with the program (through a status match) and there was also a promotion offering double miles on the Miami to Rome route. I have no clue how I'll use this small sum of miles, but I didn't see any other great options for crediting the flight.
Ben, I really have to give you credit on the hard work of keeping up review trips while having the new family responsibilities. Life / work balance is always a challenge, and you and Ford are figuring it out. Cheers to you!
@ Jimmy’s Travel Report -- Thanks, I really appreciate it! :-)
Technically you went across the Atlantic four times?
Came here to say this
@ Alvin | YTHK -- Hah, fair point, and that makes for a better title anyway. Good now? ;-)