The (Slightly) Insane Trip I Plan To Take Later This Week… I Think?

Filed Under: Travel

Recently I shared the details of a review trip I was planning on taking, which would have me flying Saudia and RwandAir. This is because I’ve been interested in Saudia’s new first class product, which actually looks fairly decent, and have also been intrigued by RwandAir, as well as the country of Rwanda as such.

However, in the meantime I’ve modified the trip a bit, though I figured I’d run it past you guys before finalizing it, in case anyone has any better ideas.

Part one: Saudia first class to Dubai

This is easy enough. When redeeming Korean Air SkyPass miles, Saudia first class award space is readily available out of the US. Most flights have 4-5 first class seats.

The catch is that Korean Air SkyPass miles can only be redeemed for roundtrip tickets on partner airlines. My initial plan was to use all four first class segments (since I’m connecting from Saudi Arabia to Dubai) now, but instead I figured it might be more fun to use the return flight from Dubai back to the US at a later date. Why?

  • Because it would allow me to try another airline on the return for now, and avoid the electronics ban
  • Generally there’s diminishing marginal return with reviewing the same product several flights in a row, so I figure you guys may enjoy two first class reports about Saudia now, and then two more in 6-9 months, to see how the product is holding up
  • While I don’t have any safety concerns with the current situation in the Middle East, the situation is also changing rapidly

So Saudia first class would take me from the US to the Middle East…


Part two: RwandAir business class from Dubai to Kigali to Mumbai

Then I figured I’d pick up RwandAir’s excellent A330 business class product from Dubai to Kigali. This really looks like a top notch product. I figured I’d spend some time in Kigali, and then rather than returning to Dubai, I’ll go to Mumbai.

Unfortunately this flight is operated by a 737 rather than an A330. On one hand that’s bad, since the plane isn’t as nice, though on the other hand it gives me the chance to try another business class product that they offer.

I’d book these tickets in business class for cash, as they’re reasonably priced, at under $1,000 for both segments.

Part three: Jet Airways first class from Mumbai to Europe

Last year I flew Air India first class from London to Delhi to San Francisco, so I’d like to compare that to India’s other big airline, Jet Airways. They operate 777s with first class on select routes to Europe. Funny enough I’ve flown this exact plane several times before, as Jet Airways has leased their 777s to Turkish, Thai, and Etihad. So I’m curious to see what the planes are like with their original owner.

Part four: Europe to the US on…

This is the part I’m leaving open, as I’m hoping to visit a few countries in Europe during this time. I was considering visiting Estonia, Belarus, and Latvia, possibly. To get back to the US I was considering:

  • Uzbekistan Airways from Riga to New York
  • Meridiana from Naples or Palermo to New York
  • Tunisair from Tunisia to Montreal
  • Aer Lingus from Dublin to any of their North American gateways
  • Condor from Frankfurt to any of their North American gateways

I’m planning on booking this shortly, so if anyone has any thoughts, recommendations, or suggestions, speak now or forever hold your peace! 😉

  1. An Uzbeki review would be quite interesting to see. Especially how it compares to Air Astana or Azerbaijan

  2. Uzbekistan from Riga. They’re flying their 787 there. Also you should consider Air Algerie to Montreal, they have fully flat seats unlike Tunisair.

  3. HY, please. There is so little info out there. Maybe treat yourself to some time in Riga. Your timing could hardly be better for this beautiful city.

  4. You should fly from your Jet Airways destination to Riga on Belavia with stopover in Minsk for a day or two.
    When in Minsk, I suggest you stay in the city center. Unfortunately, most of chain hotels bookable with points are 10-15 minutes away. Crown Plaza is the only exception.

  5. Tunisair to Montreal is an interesting option as I believe YUL is Tunisair’s only gateway to America. Don’t know when you’re planning on flying this leg but it’s the Grand Prix week here in Montreal. (Weather hasn’t been nice though)

    Cheers from a YUL guy.

  6. I flew Condor J last year from Frankfurt to the US. Food was excellent. I’d recommend trying it. That would be first choice. Second would be Aer Lingus. Have fun

  7. Save Uzbekistan for our trip! 😉

    Save Tunis until the Four Seasons opens.

    Therefore, I say Aer Lingus or Meridiana.

  8. I second Uzbekistan. There are plenty of reviews online regarding Aer Lingus and Condor. But it would be quite interesting to read a review about HY and their fifth freedom route RIX-JFK sounds quite interesting as well.

  9. How about Condor – FRA to PIT? Thinking about booking this flight for a trip next year and would enjoy a preview.

  10. You should route through South America and try Azul and LATAM! It’s been a long time since you reviewed South American airlines. That would make it a (very) insane trip.

  11. Doesn’t Condor fly directly from FRA to Whitehorse, Yukon? That seems like such a random flight.

  12. I’d be most interested in Condor due to the mileage earning potential now thru Alaska. Second place would be Meridiana. Or you could finally review premium economy on one of the AA routes that have it from Europe. A daytime flight back from Europe would be less painful than red-eye to Europe.

  13. Think it’s time you bite the bullet and fly Norwegian Premium Lucky.

    Considering how many planes they have on order, in less 5 years time they will be major operator across the Atlantic. The other airlines you mention will still of little use to most travelers.

    Sorry, but Daniels reviews just don’t cut it. If TPG could rough it across the Atlantic so can you, even if he has interns to write the reviews for him.

  14. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Kigali, try the Milles Collines. Nice hotel with an interesting and important history.

  15. Sense Condor flies to alternate markets that would get you some new visitors to the blog.

  16. Hey lucky
    I know you have already reviewed Emirates business class but it will be good to review them again either from Athens to Newark or Milan to JFK.
    This can be then directly compared to the service of the 3 US carriers as they also operate from Europe to US

  17. Wow – your Rwandair flight to Kigali should be fun! As you notice you should be able to experience their business-class in both the 737 and 330. I wonder if Rwadnair will offer a local beer or coffee on board. Then Saudia and Jet should be interesting contrasts too.
    Would be interesting to read your impressions on Kigali,
    cheers from Shanghai

  18. Would honestly love to see your opinion on Aer Lingus’ business class, particularly given the fact you’ve flown the old hard product.

  19. Air Europa (which happens to be a member of SkyTeam) seems to have some semi-reasonable business class fares on MAD-JFK, around $1,400. Otherwise, go forUzbekistan, Meridiana or Tunisair – the review should be an interesting read.

  20. Estonia is a great idea. Spend 4 days in Tallinn last summer and found it to be one of the most incredible cities I’ve ever been too. Riga is right on par with that. That being said, Tunisair review would be fascinating.

  21. You should fly Condor to Yellowknife. Then you can say you’ve been to Yellowknife, and you’ll have a fun time figuring out how to get home from there. 🙂

  22. I gave Condor a try I think two years ago out of FLL to FRA in business class because they were offering good one way fares. I think they discontinued that route since. Flight got cancelled, pushed back to next day, then leaving so early that we had to circle over FRA in order to not land before 5am. Very poor communication, no priority check-in, very much forgettable flight, still much more of a vacation charter airline than anything else.
    Air Europa was mentioned a few posts up, that should be an interesting option, they fly 787s with flatbed I think and frequently offer low fares.

  23. Meridiana pls! And can u enquire on the award availability situation for their intra europe flights as well as italy-US flights with BA avios miles.

  24. Tunisair or Meridiana would be interesting. I know Tunisair has either lie-flats or angle flats to YUL, but Meridiana only has a recliner.

  25. Where are you staying in Mumbai? I live here and have been a long time follower and reader of your blog! Feel free to get in touch if you need any advice.

    PS: Jet airways has the stingiest frequent flier program in the world.

  26. Do Condor or Are Lingus as they are more revelant as most people reading this blog are more likely to fly one of those two, personally I would vote for Condor to Fairbanks

  27. I would also recommend Vilnius in Lithuainia. Both Kigali and Mumbai are places where you need to know where to go and where to stay. If going for Silverbacks in Kigali you need an advance reservation. I would highly recommend it though it will mean a couple of nights away from Kigali. Mumbai is a somewhat long straight line from the airport to South Bombay and your experience if staying at the airport will be wildly different than if you stayed in the middle (the BKC area) or if you stayed in the South.

  28. Why not also fly from Kigali to Mumbai via Kenya Airways? And then back from Europe via Air Europa? Otherwise my pick would be Uzbekistan or Aer Lingus.

  29. Lucky… Rwanda air is a new route to Mumbai . Yes it’s 737 but it flies for a longer duration one way. You may review all the services you get for this flight.
    Jet to Europe awesome.

    Welcome to Mumbai soon. I like reading your blogs or rather a fan of your blogs and would like to meet you up in person while your stay in Mumbai.

    Any help, pls do not hesitate to ask.

    (You have never replied to any of my comments earlier. Look forward to hear soon)

  30. Why not going through South America? The DXB-GRU leg on Emirates is now flown on an A380, or maybe the 773 on DXB-GIG (do a stopover in Rio!). From there take Azul on VCP-FLL or VCP-MCO (A330 with flat beds like AZ or IB) back to the US.
    Second, there’s south African on JNB-GRU with an A333 with the same seats of Rwandair’s A332. The award seats’ availability is pretty good on that route. From GRU you could take AA on the GRU-LAX back home, the non-stop GRU-MIA on Avianca Brazil (formerly Ocean Air) or even CM on GRU-PTY-LAX (loooong trip on a recliner seat in a 737).

  31. Hey Ben, sounds like a great idea. While in Mumbai stay for a few days and may be see the city around and not just the new terminal? May be fly Vistara Business from Mumbai to Delhi and then take Jet to Europe?

    If you do decide to be in Mumbai you have a host to show you the city. I.e. Me!

  32. Aer lingus or Uzbekistan, but I think Uzbekistan is the better option now because they will be discontinuing their Riga-NYC service, and I don’t think it will be easy to route a trip via Tashkent

  33. Hey Lucky I love reading your trip reports, your travel and life style is very inspiring. If you were thinking of visiting Europe, maybe consider Astana, Kazakhstan. The 2017 expo is starting in a couple of days and it looks spectacular. I can’t wait to hear about your trip with Saudi Airways!

  34. @lucky – and how do you plan to get to Dubai on Saudia, now that the direct flights have been suspended?

  35. Ah! Mumbai finally. Get ready to be wowed by the Mumbai Airport and the fantastic GVK lounge! Apart from the seat, there is not much difference in Jet J and F.

    Cant wait for the review!

  36. @Lucky You spell it RwnadAir above.

    @Traveler I think you’re thinking about Doha, Qatar. Saudia still flies to Dubai.

  37. I’d be avoiding the Middle East for a week or so until things are a little more resolved.

  38. Uzbekistan since RIX-JFK will be suspended soon.

    For Condor, make sure they are using Condor metal. I’m on BWI-FRA next week and it’s a wet-leased Thomas Cook UK 767 in charter config, due to lack of planes.

  39. Hi Ben, I may be in Mumbai around the same time. You’ve really helped make my life better. Please let me know if you would be free so I can show you around my city.

  40. Uzbekistan! If you have time to spare you could travel back from Europe to TSE, fly new LO product TSE-WAW and then go to RIX 😛
    Or fly new LO product WAW-LAX directly 🙂
    You could also try KRK-ORD, a new route they have.

  41. Another vote for Tunisair. It’s been *decades* since I last flew them, but at that time they were a respectable operation.

    And Tunisia is among the most democratic and liberal of the Arabic-speaking countries, so always good to support it.

    Have fun.

  42. @Lucky: I now live in Kigali, and would be happy to give you advice on where to go or even show you around a bit. It’s not exactly a big tourist mecca, but is still a nice, unique city.

  43. I always wondered what it’s like to fly from Europe to Cuba. London to Havana ? Or Frankfurt – Havana ??

  44. Condor.

    Or alternatively the new A350 planes in LH from MUC to BOS with your seating advice.

  45. hi Lucky, why not the brand new KLM 787? Wifi, reverse herringbone seating, etc. It should be on your list :). They fly it to JFK and SFO

  46. Meridiana will be more like your review of Ukraine, they offer a very non competitive product and it should be expected to be taken with a laugh

  47. Uzbekistan.

    Not much to find about them on the internet, would make an interesting read for sure.

  48. @ Thomas the A350 BOM-Munich is a great Idea, it is also something Ben has not tried yet( I think). But the point of landing in India to transit in a foreign airline, may not be the best of the ideas. Also @Ben you have the option of flying to London/Amsterdam in Jet 777 with options of 12:55 PM(LHR) and early 2:45 A.M( AMS & LHR) departures. This will also give you an option to Hilton Mumbai Airport or Taj Santacruz( Which allows you utilize points from partner cards for free nights). Some one also mentioned the GVK First Class Lounge, there is lack of comprehensive review of the lounge allowing you to fill the void. These reviews should be exciting! Good Luck Ben

  49. Lucky

    Sounds like an exciting trip! May I make a suggestion? From Dubai, fly Rwandair to Lagos (both segments on A330 – so you can experience as well the A330 on an inter africa route. The Biz fare is around $1000 all the way to LOS. Then take AWA (Africa World Airlines) to ACC, where you will get on SAA’s 5th freedom route back to IAD. They have put the new SAA 330 on that route three times in the last month, so you may even get lucky enough to review a new product. Rwandair also has just started a 5th freedom route between LOS and ACC, but it’s on their 737.

    Just a thought! BTW, My wife and I (along with our 6 month old son) were in the FCT last Tuesday – I think we just missed you but were driven by the same Porsche to our 330 to LOS.

  50. Hi Ben. Nice to hear that youre going to visit Mumbai. My only recommendation is to spend a couple of nights in Mumbai at the Taj Mahal Palace. Indias first, and still its finest hotel. Book a Luxury Grande Sea View Room in the Palace Wing. They are an Amex FHR partner, so you can get those benefits,
    One piece of advice. Book a Lux Grande Sea View Room, but ask them to only give you the Taj Club amenities, not a Taj Club Room. Those rooms have lower ceilings due to the structure of the hotel.
    Do reach out to the hotel concierge prior to your arrival and book the Taj Heritage Walk, which helps get an insight into all the guests who have stayed at this great hotel. John Lennon, Muhammad Ali, Dubya, Obama, the Queen, Sir Roger Moore, are just a few of the guests who have stayed at this lovely hotel.
    DISCLOSURE : Use to work there. Not any longer.

  51. What about a connection from somewhere in Eastern Europe via Vienna to the US on Austrian? Been a while since your last review of Austrian.

  52. Do try Aer Lingus. They are a major airline that you haven’t reviewed yet, and they seem to have a solid product.

  53. You should visit Skopje, Macedonia. It is an interesting city with a very nice Marriott that is really reasonably priced. Plus it would knock out another European country off your list. If you enjoyed Serbia, you should definitely check out Macedonia.

  54. Fly Uzbekistan Airlines another time directly to Tashkent and fly with Meridiana to JFK or with Condor to Whitehorse

  55. Do the Uzbek one,i’ve always wanted to know what’ s their service like,i usually flew LH with one connection instead of direct HY.

  56. Definitely go for Uzbekistan or Merdiana!
    Those are quite random, and need to be tested out 😀 (No current tripreports online)

  57. Will you leave the airport in Mumbai? I’m curious to hear about the about the airport arrival, check-in and ground service experience for Jet Airways first class.

  58. Hi Lucky,

    Why not try KLM’s newest Business class product on their 787 Dreamliners.
    KLM flies their Dreamliner on:
    – KL 643 to JFK (on Monday/Tuesday/Friday).
    – KL 607 to SFO (on Wednesday/Friday/Sunday).
    – KL 609 to SLC

    I see you haven’t reviewed KLM’s newest business class yet, so this will be a plus on this trip.
    It’s a good product with 4 seats across and direct aisle access.
    I’ve flown the 787 Business redeye from Dubai to Amsterdam (where I slept for the entire flight), and I’m flying again from AMS to SFO soon. So a review would be nice to know what to expect.

  59. I’m as big a junkie for interesting airlines as anyone, but of all the miles ice traveled my favorite trip was a combination Rwanda + Tanzania trip. Don’t go to Rwanda without doing gorilla trekking. It’s hard to know how long this animal and this kind of trip will be possible. And adding a trip to the Grumeti Reserves is so close by. Then you can fly out of Kilimanjaro or Nairobi. The gorilla trekking requires a special permit and the safari (Singita is the best) won’t be cheap, but you should really look into these options!

  60. Lucky,
    if I’m not mistaken, weren’t you supposed to fly Meridiana from the US?

    If you stick with your original plan, it might be your very last chance to fly AZ’s new J before it becomes another LH subsidiary…

  61. Take the Uzbek option!
    That way you might get the chance to fly on airBaltic’s CS300 to Riga. That way you can review a new airplane. How about BOM-AMS on 9W F, AMS-RIX on airBaltic’s CS300 (J ?), and then RIX-JFK on Uzbekistan J

  62. Air India B787 Dreamliner – LHR to EWR please – It’s high time you review AI 787 in J now – It would also give you a good connection from 9W in LHR!

  63. Or you can also take 9W 777 F to SIN and try SQ’s A350 on SIN-SFO nonstop which is also pending for you!

  64. Ben
    Why don’t you fly Klm airline from Amsterdam to San Francisco(or any other place you deem suitable). You haven’t reviewed it’s long haul product for sometime now and I suppose they’ve introduced 787 on some routes so it may be worth a shot. Also since you’re planning to fly on Jet airways they’ve been using Amsterdam as there new European hub instead of Brussels these days so you won’t have to take a connecting flight and can fly directly to San Francisco or any place you may like. Just Suggesting.

  65. You tried many Asian carriers from the West Coast. How about from Europe with different timings? I would be specifically interested on a comparison of Asiana’s A380 route from Frankfurt as I have never flown it on the A380 – I think they have good award availability as well.

  66. Just spent three days in Minsk and really enjoyed myself. You can likely see most of the main sights in Minsk in a day though, if you want to get in an out quickly.

  67. 1. Stay at the grand Hyatt in Santa Cruz, Mumbai. I stayed there last summer and would be interested to hear your thoughts.
    2. AER lingus! I’m in the middle of a Europe trip and have been flying them in the back, would love to know what it’s like up front.

  68. Meridiana has a very cheap fare from JFK to Naples in business but I just saw the seats are not even angle-flat seats. Is that correct? I am booking business from JFK to either Italy, Spain or Greece and found a $ 2088 fare with Meridiana on google flights.

  69. I think Uzbek from europe to us would be the most interesting. How about from Kigali to Mumbai you use Ethiopian as they fly their new a350’s to Mumbai.

  70. First of all, let me tell you that I just visited to know why the site is so popular. Hats off to you, I clearly understand why!
    Will look forward to the review of JetAirways, planning on flying on it soon. While in Mumbai, do visit and review the Taj Mahal Palace if you haven’t already.
    Wish you a happy and safe journey.

  71. It might be a bit out of your comfort zones, but why not try one of the many LCCs while you are India.

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