Back in December, as most of you know, my Cousin and I went to Asia for 2 weeks.
The trip was semi-spontaneous in that I had 100,000 US Airway Miles that I wanted to use pre-merger and knew that I wanted to go to Asia.
Back in October, US Airways just happened to run a 100% bonus promotion for sharing miles, so I “shared” 100,000 miles with my Cousin and he paid the $1,000 transfer fee. While $1,000 is not small change, it is about the same price as it would have cost had he bought an Economy ticket, but instead he got 100,000 US Airways miles which he could redeem for Business Class!
While getting the miles was pretty easy, redeeming them was a whole separate story!
Thanks to my school and my Cousin’s work schedule, we could only go for 2 weeks and wanted to leave on a Friday and return on a Sunday, which of course is what everyone else traveling wanted to do!
Needless to say in October (2 months out), availability was non-existent. Our thinking was if we waited closer to departure in December, award availability would open up.
Outbound availability eventually opened up and we had to pay the stupid $75 close-in ticketing fee but return flights from the US to Asia over the Pacific never materialized, so we ended up going “the long way” over Europe.
After we created an itinerary with the extremely limited flight options, we called it in to US Air, fed our flight numbers and were told by the US Air Agent, “Oh I don’t see that Lufthansa flight over the Atlantic”.
Apparently US Airways started blocking Lufthansa Award Flights in recent months. While this wouldn’t normally be a big problem, since US Airways website sucks and doesn’t show international partner options, there was no way to know what US Airway agents could see on their end, so it turned into a guessing game.
Eventually we figured out it was mostly flights across the Atlantic that were blocked. Intra-EU and EU-Asia flights were fine.
Anyways, after spending literally 20+ hours on the phone with US Airways and about to give up, we ticketed the following itinerary for 90,000 US Airways Miles + $275 in taxes + $75 booking fee in Business Class!
Chicago – London – Munich – Zurich (12 hour layover) – Hong Kong (Stopover) – Bangkok – Beijing – Zurich – Brussels (26 hour Stopover #2) – Washington D.C – Chicago
Chicago – Hong Kong
Since Lufthansa was blocked over the Atlantic, we had to fly United to Zurich by going thru London and Munich…
I personally find United’s lie-flat business class seats great and could care less about the “service”, but after this flight, I have concluded that United is really the front runner in the big 3 Domestic Carriers “Race To The Bottom”.
After checking-in, we first hit up the Chicago O’Hare United Lounge and were dismayed that now United only offers Bud Light as their complementary beer. If you want Heineken or really anything else, it will cost $3. Whereas hard alcohol costs anywhere from $9 – $11.
I am not even a big drinker but the fact that this is a “benefit” that United provides to their TOP TIER ELITES who fly at least 50,000 BUTT-IN-SEAT MILES YEARLY or pay the ridiculous $500 United Club Card annual fee is unreal…
Anyways, the bar (no pun intended) was set pretty low after departing the Red Carpet Club but United somehow managed to drop it even lower.
While my last United Business Class flight to Amsterdam was surprisingly good, this flight was pretty bad!
My Cousin had never flown Business before but even he wasn’t impressed.
To start off, the “champagne” that they serve pre-departure was served in plastic cups. Literally cannot even make this up…
Normally silly “decorative” stuff like this doesn’t bother me because at the end of the day, Business Class is about the seat, but once again it just BLOWS MY MIND that for Passengers who have paid $5,000+ for a Business Class ticket, United can’t even afford to use real glassware!
At that point, honestly why even offer champagne? Might as well switch to 2 Buck Chuck and serve it in red solo cups…
Things only got worse from that point…
During dinner, when we inquired to the flight attendant which of the 3 dinner options she would recommend, she told us nonchalantly that since she has been a flight attendant for 18 years, she doesn’t eat airplane food anymore. End of statement.
It is hard to imagine a flight attendant on Lufthansa, Thai, or really any other Carrier answering our question like that. Even a simple response like, “Although I’ve never had it before, the chicken is a popular choice with other passengers” would have been fine.
Anyways, not surprisingly, the food we got (pasta and beef) was pretty bad and the service equally as terrible.
Thankfully United’s lie-flat seat was good and the Philosophy products in the amenity kit were good, otherwise the flight was mediocre at best.
Although we had a 12+ hour layover in Zurich, thanks to some heavy weather delays at Heathrow, we got delayed to Munich and made it to Zurich on Christmas Day with ONLY 6 hours to spare!
If you haven’t been to Zurich Airport, it is beautifully built, as is the lounge!
My favorite part of the lounge had to be the “art” installation of planes taking off!
While the lounge was nice, it wasn’t 6 hours nice, so we opted to venture into the city and stroll around for a couple hours, which was great since it was 50 degrees and all decked out in Christmas cheer!
Thanks to the efficient Zurich train system, you can get from the Airport to Downtown Zurich in 8 minutes, for around $14 round-trip!
Zurich – Hong Kong
I had never flown Swiss in Business Class (or Swissness Class as I call it) but given how low the bar was set by United, figured it couldn’t be much worse.
Swiss exceeded expectations instantly by providing champagne in REAL GLASSWARE!
As for Swiss’s lie-flat seats, they are a bit different from United’s. Swiss’s are definitely a bit better for sleeping but not as good as United’s for lounging or watching movies. Similarly United’s IFE screens are quite large, whereas Swiss’s are quite small in comparison (about the size of an iPad).
As for the food, since we were flying on Christmas, Swiss actually had an entirely separate Christmas menu for the flight, which was a nice touch! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of all the courses, but needless to say it was all pretty great.
Although booking this award was such a huge pain in the butt, I am glad we were able to ticket it for 90,000 miles and thankful that I will never have to deal with US Airways again in my life!
While most of us have come to expect nothing from United in terms of service, they have really sunk to a new low by charging Elites for beer in the lounge and using plastic glassware in Business Class. I am just happy the flight was more or less free because I can’t imagine paying that much money and getting that kind of service.
Although I wasn’t looking forward to laying over in Zurich, thanks to their extremely efficient public transit, it was awesome going into the city for a few hours and I recommend it! As for the actual Swiss flight, I was fairly impressed and they are probably my favorite European Star Alliance carrier after Austrian! Although it was a long 10+ hour flight, it was extremely enjoyable and relaxing.
Coming up next is Hong Kong, Thai Airways A380, and Bangkok reviews!