Up Next: United, Austrian, EgyptAir, Oman Air, Air Belgium, And More!

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Travel

I’m pretty lousy at planning my own travel. Perhaps more accurately, I’m too much of a perfectionist when it comes to redeeming miles, because I always say to myself “well, I’m sure something better will open up.” Before you know it, it’s a few days from when I need to be somewhere, and I have nothing booked.

I spent much of the day yesterday putting together an itinerary for my upcoming review trip, which I’m excited to share the details of.

My starting point: Oman Air’s new first class

The whole motivation for this trip is trying Oman Air’s new first class. I needed to position for a one-way ticket I booked in Oman Air first class from Cairo to London. Oman Air has excellent paid first class fares for travel originating in Cairo, and I wanted to review their new first class shortly after it goes into service, on July 1, 2018.


Oman Air’s new first class suite

So I booked a ~$1,200 one-way first class ticket from Cairo to Muscat to London.

While I booked that a while back, I didn’t put much thought into my itinerary beyond that, including how I’d get to Cairo, and also how I’d return from London to the US.

In this case maybe procrastination worked in my favor?

Next up: getting from New York to Cairo

EgyptAir had nonstop award availability in business class, but I reviewed EgyptAir’s 777 business class between Toronto and Cairo last year, so what would have been the fun in that?


EgyptAir’s 777 business class

Since I was leaving New York, I decided I had to come up with a Star Alliance itinerary out of Newark, so I could review United’s new Polaris Lounge. I’ve reviewed United’s new Polaris business class seat as well as their old business class seat, so ideally I wanted to try a different partner.

Austrian had award availability from Newark to Vienna on their 767. It has been years since I’ve flown Austrian longhaul, and on top of that I’ve never reviewed their 767 business class, so I think this will make a useful review.

From there I’ll be flying EgyptAir’s 737 business class from Vienna to Cairo. I’ve only flown their 777, so I look forward to experiencing their short-haul 737 business class.

Finally: getting from London to the US

Why fly West when you can fly East? That’s my philosophy. Well, at least when flying East would be quicker than flying West.

As you guys know, I’ve had a bit of an (unhealthy?) obsession with Air Belgium, the startup airline that flies between Charleroi and Hong Kong. While getting from Heathrow to Charleroi isn’t exactly easy, this seemed like as good of an opportunity as ever to try Air Belgium.

After all, who knows how much longer they’ll be around in their current form.


Air Begium’s A340 

The last piece of the puzzle

So, how do I get from Hong Kong back to the US? There are a few directions I could go:

  • I see award availability on ANA in business class from Hong Kong to Tokyo to several US gateways, and I haven’t reviewed ANA’s longhaul business class in a very long time
  • I could fly from Hong Kong to Tokyo on ANA, then Tokyo to San Francisco on United, and then connect somewhere so I could also review the Polaris Lounge San Francisco
  • Instead of flying from Hong Kong to Tokyo direct (in case anyone was concerned my overall routing was too direct), I could fly from Hong Kong to Singapore in Singapore’s A350 business class, from Singapore to Tokyo Narita in Singapore’s new 787-10 business class, and from Tokyo to the US on either ANA or United


Singapore’s new 787-10 business class

Bottom line

I’m really excited about all the new products I’ll be reviewing, in particular Oman Air’s new first class and Air Belgium business class. If anyone has any predictions about any of the flights or experiences, I’d love to hear them. Also, let me know which of the return options you guys would most like to read about out of Hong Kong.

Comments
  1. You can fly from Hong Kong to Newark on one of United’s trashy 777s with 2-4-2 business class. Surely that would make an interesting review!

  2. Can you somehow fit both ANA and Korean Air in this series? I’m interested in your opinions on ICN’s new terminal and KE lounges.

  3. How will you review the polaris lounge at Newark? The lounge is in terminal C whereas Austrian departs from Terminal B? Will they let you access the lounge with Austian Boarding?

    Also, someone above commented regarding United 777 from HKG-EWR…they actually fly the Continental 777 (2-2-2 in biz class). Much better than the 2-4-2.

  4. Austrian and United departs from a different terminal that are only connected by bus at Newark. Just something to keep in mind.

  5. @ Utkarsh — There’s a bus connecting terminals, so while it isn’t the most convenient, it should be possible. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  6. My vote is HKG-SIN-NRT on SQ reviewing both the A350 and 787 and then NH from NRT-US! Three products I’d really like you’re opinion on, Ben! I don’t care much for more TPAC UA reviews, and would always take a new product review (or updated, in the case of NH) over a lounge review.

  7. In all reality, while I realize that this is an extra step, I would definately like to see the report on SQ 359 J & 78J new J. It is a new product and it would probably be the most useful.

    An update on ANA would be appreciated, but you already have that review in the archive and I am sure we would rather see a new product than an update on an existing one.

  8. The third one in the list. Gives the most variety. Can you maybe incorporate NRT-BOS on JL?

  9. Ben – The air train between terminals is probably the most convenient option. But that means doing security twice and depending on the day/time…security can take awhile at Terminal C (even with TSA Pre) . I just hope they let you thru the lounge! . Look forward to the review.

  10. @alvin. I just rechecked it on United website and it shows the 2–2-2 -777 for July 10th. I ve also personally flown this route few times and never came across the crappy 2-4-2.

  11. Definitely the last option with the SQ products. Very interested to read how the 787-10 compares to the A350.

    Now, the other interesting part is how to get to Brussels Charleroi (Just in case you haven’t booked that segment yet)…….
    1. Aer Lingus LHR to Dublin and from Dublin to CRL on Ryanair!!!!!
    2. Flybe LHR to Edinburg and from EDI to CRL on Ryanair. Regional carrier Flybe partners with Virgin Atlantic and i believe you can redeem miles for that routing. That would mean 2 extra reviews – Flybe & Ryanair or Aer Lingus short haul.

  12. You could take Eurostar from London to Brussels, and perhaps even review the “premium cabin” experience they offer. It’ll be a hassle to get between the airport and the train station on both ends, though probably not too much more of a hassle than any other way to get between the two points.

  13. @Ben @Utkarsh

    You do not have to go through security twice. There is a bus. I think you just have to enter airport via Terminal B and then take bus to C (and back).

    Just not sure you can enter airport via Terminal C.

  14. how about HKG-KUL-NRT with MH now NRT has A350 service with F. you can also try MH’s newly renovated golden lounge at KUL.

  15. Since Charleroi is a huge Ryanair base, it would be great to read a review on them – if only for contrast with the usual content 🙂

    The Eurostar suggested above is certainly a very good option, too. There is a 1 hr shuttle bus from the terminus at Brussels South railway station to CRL.

  16. @Lucky – I suggest flying the last option, as it gives you an opportunity to fly Singapore’s A350 biz class which is the same that will be used on the SIN-EWR/LAX flights, as well as the opportunity to fly the new SQ 787-10 regional biz and ANA 77W biz class, which is there aren’t too many reviews of out there. Thanks!

  17. I will look forward to finding out how you go from Heathrow to Charleroi. I think a Ryan Air flight from Edi or Dub would be easier then train/bus to Charleroi.

    Also would be a great review to also hear how you get from the Polaris lounge at Newark. I would like to know myself for next time I transit there.

  18. Lucky – I suggest booking the last option, as it gives you the opportunity to fly the SQ a350 J class, which is the same seat that will be used on the SIN-EWR/LAX flights. Also a review of the SQ 7887-10 regional biz class and NH 77W biz class would be super useful. Thanks!

  19. @ Utkarsh – My bad. Just got on ExpertFlyer and you’re right. I do swear though that I checked just last week and everything was showing 2-4-2 over all of July. Well, there are other routes with 2-4-2 that Lucky can try!

  20. Walking from EWR B to C and v.v. landside takes 5 minutes too if light on luggage…it’s pretty pedestrian friendly.

    Smart move visiting the Polaris lounge while NOT flying United!

  21. @Alvin UA’s 777 that operates between HKG and EWR is a 2-2-2 configuration. The HKG-ORD is 2-4-2. I do like your suggestion! Lucky, fly HKG to ORD in 2-4-2.

  22. Since Delta is cancelling their Hong Kong service, you could fly it one last time to SEA.

  23. +1 for SQ’s 787-10, A350, and NH 777. Persomally, I find airline reviews a lot more helpful than lounge reviews

  24. Another idea would be:
    US -> AMS with KLM B789
    AMS -> CDG with KLM or Air France
    CDG -> CAI with Joon A343
    CAI -> MCT -> LHR with Oman Air
    London (LHR) -> Brussels (CRL) with the Eurostar
    CRL -> US with Air Belgium and so on…

  25. For LHR to CRL, how about brussels airlines from LHR to BRU and then the train to Charleroi from there? Have you reviewed an intra-European Brussels Airlines flight yet? And they are usually just as cheap as Ryanair 😉

  26. UA 869/862 has been my quarterly route since 1999.
    I’d like to hear your take on the change of the International First Lounge to a United Club in the middle of terminal G.
    This puts the Polaris Lounge farther from the gates than the United Club.
    As for reviewing the new SFO Polaris, let me save you the trouble…
    Inconsistent hot/cold water in the showers just like in the former KrisFlyer Lounge (the only showers in the entire G terminal aside from International First).
    Crowded dining room with limited seating.
    Inconsistent food availability and quality.
    Best area for quiet is the Studio wing.
    Great design elements and shower suites for the most part, but lags far behind other carriers as one would expect.

  27. Yeah try the Eurostar train in business class + their lounge att St Pancras. They just started new service to Amsterdam.

  28. I just got off a couple of ANA long hauls in J FRA-HND-SYD. Worth doing, I’d say it’s good but not as good as JAL. Service is very friendly and personable, very warm and Japanese. Seats are OK, food was OK but someway behind JAL. Lounge was a bit of a zoo, long wait for good showers, bad food, No Sake which was a bit odd but made up for a Sochu tasting selection.

  29. I’d like to see you review

    1) Eurostar London to Brussels
    2) RYANAIR London to Charleroi
    3) ANA business on the way back.

    #TeamANA

  30. Just attempted over weekend talk g the airside bus to visit lounge in B while departing flight was from Terminal A. They refused to take me.

    On the other hand, they had no problem letting me enter the wrong concourse in Terminal A when I said I was going to the United Club there, so I think going through security at Terminal C and then transferring to B airside should be doable. Also, Newark security in A and B is pretty bad; and if you don’t have Pre, or the line is bad, the biz/first line in C is rarely long.

  31. I love the plan Ben, but I feel like you will be very dissapointed and underwhelmed with Air Belgium. My expectations for their business class product are very very low – their target audience is not business travel whatsoever and they are a brand new airline with probably an extremely small investment budget for their premium cabin (I assume). I expect a similar experience as what you experienced on the 767 you flew from Mongolia to Europe.

  32. Awesome upcoming trip!

    Excited about the Austrian review as I’m taking Austrian from Vienna to JFK in September

    I’d be happy with your SQ routing, however I’m more likely to fly JAL or ANA and thus those would also be nice

  33. Like Don say, why you never do actually anything fancy for avgeeks? I mean, biz and first is good but it is A to B, Island Hopper is something that have to be flown once in a lifetime. Come on, you can survive it even in economy. It isn’t that big deal, dont be princess.

  34. Unless you are checking bags you can start in Terminal C at EWR and then take the bus to B. I would never exit security to take the AirTrain. I used to do this when leaving from A as there didn’t used to be pre-check in A.

  35. Flew Egyptair 737 Business a few times last year.. Old seats, crappy food but way better than the alternative in the back.

  36. Timely as I’ve been considering the Austrian-Egyptian route myself for later this year.

  37. Having flown on SQ A359 J a couple of months ago, I think you should experience it and publish a review. It will also be nice to read a review of the B787-10 J, I hope to fly it early next year and would be interested in your review beforehand.

  38. Or:
    HK Express/Vanilla Air A320 HKG-NRT (if you want to do all 787s, interchange this with JAL for the route)
    Singapore Airlines B787-10 NRT-SIN
    Scoot B787 SIN-MEL
    Qantas B787 MEL-LAX

  39. Last but not least:
    Singapore A350 HKG-SIN
    Singapore B787-10 SIN-KIX
    Scoot B787/AirAsiaX A330 KIX-HNL

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