Most times I've flown to China, it's been on United, flying from Newark to Chicago, then on to Beijing. The car service picks me up at 4am, and I'm at the hotel at what is roughly 2 or 3am the following morning, so it's about 24 hours door to door.
Because the main flight is so long - about 13 or 14 hours - we fortunately fly first class, either by paying for it outright or by upgrading if possible. Thanks to help from a travel agent, the fares have been much better than just going online and booking it, trade secrets and all.
But now, even with airline bankruptcies and the populace's general hatred of flying, the airlines are still charging outrageous prices for service. So, with a United ticket hovering around $22k, we decided to look elsewhere. Dubai, actually.
We decided on an Emirates flight that goes from JFK to Dubai, then on to Beijing. A much longer trip, but at half the price of a ticket on UAL. I hate the drive to JFK, which can take anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours, but we left around 6p so traffic was pretty good. The flight leaves at 11:30p, so I figured I'd spend most of my time asleep. That is, until I got seated.
This is the first class cabin on certain Emirates flights. Fortunately, mine was one of them. It's actually an individual cabin, with electronically-controlled sliding doors and all. No roof, but who would want one when you have this to look at?
Oh, and it's not just a nice little TV to watch pre-selected movies on...
Nope - a 22" LCD. Controlled by:
A wireless control panel that also controls your chair and cabin environment, and...
a phone-slash-remote stored in the arm rest. Also doubles as a controller for the video games available.
And what can one watch on this display? A rough estimate would be about 200 various movies and TV shows. Not just recent movies that you could likely catch on other flights (I caught much of "Transformers"), but also a whole library of classics, anywhere from "North by Northwest" to "Finding Nemo".
Thirsty? Push the button to raise the refrigerated drink selection.
Care for a small traditional snack? A delicious date and some imported Arabic coffee with saffron.
If you can find a valid reason to work, will there be enough space for your laptop? Probably.
Ready for some sleep? Just press the button and the doors close and lights turn off...
But not until you've chosen what you want for dinner. Only when the rest of the cabin is served? Not here - just give them 20 minutes to heat up your food, and dine whenever you want. Which is fine, because it will take you at least that long to figure out what you want anyway:
Start with some of the best champagne ever? Why not?
Maybe they'll have wine from one of my favorite vineyards...
Feel guilty about overfishing for caviar and force-feeding for foie gras (which I am)? Then just have a more traditional appetizer. Plus it'll just taste better than any other airline, and most restaurants.
Curry you say? How could I not?
I'm always hesitant to eat bread on airlines, because it's so often hard as a rock. These rolls tasted fresh out of the oven. Oh, and is that an actual metal knife I see tucked in the napkin?
Some dessert, if there's any room left (there wasn't).
Unfortunately, I did need to get some sleep, as there was still a lot of traveling ahead. After a few hours' rest, it was time to change out of the complimentary lounge-wear (which I kept) and freshen up:
Seat backs up and tray tables stowed. Welcome to the richest place in the world:
On the way to the lounge for a 6-hour layover, but not without some window shopping first. It was even busier on the way out at 2am.
A fine place to lounge indeed. But wait... what happens if I get hungry, again?
Just some appetizers here. To complement the multitude of dishes like:
Chicken jalfrezi, lamb rogan josh, blue cheese ravioli, and vegetarian spring rolls. Plus the best lemonade ever, with a great mint taste.
The second flight, from Dubai to Beijing, was about 8 hours, and was very well serviced and also had great food and entertainment selections, but was a more common business-class type of cabin. I slept through most of that flight. After some Thai-style spicy chicken before landing, of course.
I've been pretty good this trip in doing my best to not eat too much, but I have the feeling there will be no stopping me on the flight home.
Two words... In. Sane.