Here Are The Details Of My Next 5 “Big” Trips

Filed Under: Travel

As most of you probably know, my goal this year has been to review as many new airlines in premium cabins as possible, and I’ve found it to be immensely enjoyable. I’ve tried even more new products than I was hoping to, so a few weeks back I shared an additional list of 13 more airlines I want to review in the coming months.

With that in mind, I’ve shared my travel planning process in great detail, given that I get a lot of my inspiration for reviewing new airlines from you guys. When I talk about airlines that interest me I always get great comments with new ideas I hadn’t previously considered.

I have several of these review trips coming up, and I’ve had quite a few readers ask when these reviews are going to be published.

With that in mind, I figured I’d recap the next five big trips I have booked (primarily for the purpose of reviewing new airlines), in order:

Korean Air first class, Air Astana business class, United first class

I booked this trip a few weeks ago, and it was primarily motivated by my fascination with Air Astana, which looks pretty quirky. This will also allow me to visit Almaty and Astana, which I’m curious about.

I’ll be flying Air Astana between Seoul and London. Then I’ll be flying Korean Air’s new 747-8 first class on the way there, and United’s 777 first class on the way back.



Xiamen Air business class

Xiamen Air will begin flying between Seattle and Shenzhen as of next week, and it’s their first route to the US. I’ve been reviewing a few Chinese airlines lately, so I’m curious to see how Xiamen Air compares. They had cheap introductory business class fares of ~$1,580 roundtrip, so I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to try them.



Laos and Cambodia on…

Okay, so this isn’t a review trip per se, but I imagine it’ll include some very interesting hotels and airline products. It’s Ford’s birthday in a few weeks, so we’re going to Laos and Cambodia for it. He has never been to Southeast Asia, and while I’ve been many times, I’ve never been to Laos and Cambodia, so it seems like a fun trip.

As of now I have Korean Air first class award tickets on hold (thank goodness they allow almost endless award holds). I might switch to pre-devaluation American AAdvantage Cathay Pacific awards if there’s space, or maybe to something more interesting. If anyone has any unique ideas, I’m certainly open to them!

Aeroflot, Air Serbia, AZAL, and Ukraine business class

Tiffany will be joining me on this trip, and it should be pure madness. Individually these are all airlines that fascinate me, so shuttling across the Atlantic four times on unique airlines sounds like a lot of fun to me! I’m especially excited that I’m not doing it alone.



Air Tahiti Nui business class & Swiss first class

In early June, Swiss made first class award space available to partner airlines, including on their 777. Swiss ordinarily restricts first class award availability to elite members of their own program, so this was a unique opportunity.

For the outbound I decided to book Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Paris in business class. I was supposed to fly them recently, though had to change plans last minute, so this seems like a practical way to make up for that.



Bottom line

I’m so excited about all the new airlines I’ll be reviewing over the next six (or so) weeks. The above is the order in which I’m taking the trips, so stay tuned for the reviews. I’ve never had this many unique airline journeys to look forward to.

Which airline are you most curious to read about?

  1. Instead of flying KE to Laos and Cambodia, here are a few “better” options
    1- Philippine Airlines LAX to MNL then Vietnam Airlines MNL-SGN-PNH
    2-UA Island Hopper from HNL-GUM-HKG then Cathay to PNH
    3- Gulf Air through BAH-BKK then Thai to PNH

  2. @Lucky – You might try to squeeze in a Gaurda Indonesia First Class NRT-DPS and onward to your final destination or try on the return, however it is feasible?

  3. Looking forward to all those reviews! I really hope Tiffany is also going to add her own thoughts as well, as her posts are also wonderful

  4. How about the new JAL business class in the it Dreamliner? The existing one (that still fly out of San Diego) is the crappie angled lie flat seats, but their new product looks much better.

  5. Really curious to hear about XiamenAir. Had great service when I flew them a few times within China a few years ago – friendly crews on all flights, and during one of the flights (Hangzhou to Tianjin) put everyone on the plane up in a four star hotel to wait during a 3.5 hour delay. Will be interesting to hear what they’re like internationally.

  6. Good luck with Xiamen Airlines, I hate to say I told you so , but you will find it has no difference from other “China” airlines.

  7. Pack your gas mask. Serbia, Russia and China have among the highest rates of male smokers in the world. Hopefully you’ll get lucky and get the crews who don’t smoke in flight.

  8. Luang Prabang, Laos is one of the nicest small towns in all of Asia, hope you have time to visit and a few days to soak it up.

  9. If you’re visiting Angkor Wat, I recommend not going with a guide for the day. Yes, you’ll get great info, but it can become too much… and usually the guide feels obliged to keep talking the whole time, which can be tiring.

    I recommend hiring a tuk tuk for the day as I found that to be a lot of fun. Make sure in advance that the driver will provide cold towels and water!

  10. Looks like you are flying the new Korean first class out of Vancouver to Seoul? Do they use that plane regularly for that route?

  11. I really like @Brad B’s suggestion of trying Philippine & Vietnam airlines on the trip to Laos and Cambodia.

    Hmmm…I’m wondering (and hoping) if Ben & Ford will be hitting up Amansara and Amantaka.

  12. I second the notion of dueling trip reports between you and Tiffany for any shared portions of the itinerary. You both have interesting, well thought out perspectives.

  13. You should spend a few days in Siem Reap in Cambodia. There is a Park Hyatt there. If you go you should try a 3-4 hour atv/bike tour of the countryside. It was one of the purest cultural experiences I have done in my life. Let’s say it will make you appreciate how lucky you are (and frankly everyone who visits this blog.)

    Phnom Penh has interesting sites of the dark Khmer Rouge era. The Raffles is a fine hotel in a true French Colonial building.

  14. @Steven, would have to disagree. I thought a guide added a lot to our experience of Angkor. If you want less information I think you can always let the guide know.

  15. In Siem Reap you can get templed out. So get a guide then pick three, say Bayon, Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat. We did that in a day. Some say you need three days minimum but I don’t buy that. I recommend a guide – ours happened to tell us about his experiences during the Khmer Rouge.

    We also liked having drinks at the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) both in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

    One thing I loved about Cambodia is that the locals really wanted to tell us their stories. Fascinating and heartbreaking.

  16. For Seim Reap I second the suggestion for a guide and picking 3 temples. I’m headed back at the end of October staying at the Le Meridian using SPG points of course. (Bangkok Air from BKK as it’s only 50 minutes) Try to catch the Apsara dancers in the evening. Quite beautiful as well. P.S. Bring Dollars….

  17. Siam Reap Cambodia ? … be interested in Hotel side of things as they’re aint much on offer ..think you’ll be shocked with the amount of unpaved roads still..

  18. Aeroflot would be of minor interest…many moons ago I flew an Ilyushin dme to Len, complete with softig matrons dispensing tea from samovars.
    One nice thing back then was a window in the Lu…only now being revived in some aircraft…

  19. Wow! That is a lot of travel in six weeks, even for you. How about Delta to NRT, then Vientam’s 787 to SGN, then Vietnam A321 for the 45 min hop to Cambodia? Should be able to get for 80,000 SkyMiles if you can get an agent to price over the phone. Doesn’t seem to want to do online due to overnight layover in NRT.

  20. Ben, I’ve been living in Cambodia (Phnom Penh) for the past 8 years. Let me know if you need any tips, re hotel, restaurants or places to visit. In addition to what suggested by others above, there are a few nice islands off the coast of Sihanoukville (and Kep). Internal travel might be time consuming, unless you want to fly Cambodia Angkor Air, or Bassaka Air between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh or, why not, Bayon Airlines!

  21. I’d go YVR – ICN on Korean Air, ICN – HKG on Air India 787 business class, HKG – PNH on Dragonair, PNH – BKK – LPQ on Bangkok Airways, LPQ – VTE – SIN on Lao Airlines and SIN – SFO on Singapore A350

  22. We lived in Vientiane for three years some time ago and while we enjoyed living there, we really, really enjoyed visiting Luang Prabang. We spent 15 years living in SE Asia and its probably our favorite destination- you have to add it to your itinerary.

  23. Love love love Cambodia. I was there a few months ago. Make sure its Siem Reap you visit…hundreds of temples surround Angkor Wat, makes for an unforgettable day or two. I recommend 3 days there, so you can also enjoy the downtown Siem Reap area.

    Phnom Penh is ok, but its just another city.

    Cambodia is all about the people/food and of course, ancient temples that will blow you away!

    Honestly, Siem Reap is not to be missed…you both will never forget it! The feel of the air is pure MAGIC!! No other way to describe it really. I did not want to leave.

    Also, check out the non-chain hotels luxury hotels, there are many. Not sure what fellow poster, Nev is talking about….tons of hotels (mostly boutique) but there are plenty of 5 star resorts, all very interesting. Of course if you want the Hyatt it’s there, and a Le Meridien.

  24. Hey Lucky! I am a quiet reader from Switzerland. In case you have spare time while in ZRH I’d be more then happy to show you around! Let me know.

  25. Highly recommend Luang Prabang – it was my favorite place in Laos. There was nothing interesting about Vientiane. In Cambodia, I second the recommendation for going to a boutique hotel Le Pavillion d’Orient is exceptional

  26. I do have to add that Phnom Penh captured my heart. If you want to be depressed you can go to Tuol Sleng (prison, was a high school – watch the Killing Fields) but otherwise just wander around and talk to people. We stayed in a nice budget hotel a block from the river, and the workers chatted us up while we were eating at the sidewalk cafe there. That was Christmas Day. The FCC was a nice place to take it all in as well.

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