As 2016 draws to a close, I have to look back and chuckle. Every year I write in January that I am going to curb travel in the coming year and every year I just end up traveling more than before. Here is a recap of my best flights in 2016.
Luxurious first class travel was limited in 2016, but there was still enough to fill this list. You’ll notice I have not written about these wonderful flights — these are a preview of the trip reports you have to look forward to in the next year, hopefully before they become obsolete!
1. JAL First Class – Tokyo to Jakarta
In a batte between JAL and ANA First Class, JAL won. In what was perhaps the best flight of my life, FAs pampered me on the 7hr journey to Jakarta with the warmest, gracious and most polished service I have ever experienced. It did not hurt to have the first class cabin to myself!
2. Qatar Airways First Class – Doha to Paris
Flying the A380 in first class is always fun, but Qatar made this relatively short flight extremely memorable. All FAs were great, but Sahar at the bar was simply the FA of the year. Incredibly friendly and kind, she took wonderful care of each passenger. Qatar has great food in first class and the brunch service on this flight was also delicious.
3. JetBlue Mint Class – New York to Los Angeles
The only domestic flight to make the cut is JetBlue and my what a great flight it was. Lucky and I had just flown from Casablanca to Doha (Royal Air Maroc) to Colombo (Qatar) to Jeddah (Saudia) to Manchester (Saudia) to New York (Pakistan) without leaving the airport and were exhausted. This was my first time flying Mint and it was the easily the best domestic flight I have ever had. An incredibly comfortable seat, really good food, the warmest of service, and even good cappuccino!
4. ANA First Class – Chicago to Tokyo
Japanese hospitality is a wonderful thing and everything about this flight was great, except for the non-functioning wi-fi. Food was remarkable, the coffee menu wonderful, and FAs were genuinely kind. The ANA First Class “Square” seat is unique — not my favorite — but I still slept very soundly.
Crews make flights and the crew on this particular flight shined. I also love the SAS in-flight kitchen and the food overall was superb. SAS’ latest business class seats are a tremendous improvement over the old recliners.
6. Finnair Business Class – Helsinki to Beijing
I booked this flight specifically to fly the A350 but found just about everything about Finnair positive. FAs were warm, food tasty, reverse herringbone seat comfortable, and the A350 is always worth flying.
7. Etihad Airways First Class – Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles
After our holiday in India and the Maldives to start the year, Heidi and I flew back to Los Angeles in Etihad First Class. Although this was not the A380 Residences we had flown from London to Abu Dhabi, the suites were spacious and it was nice to have meals on-demand during the long journey home.
8. Gulf Airways – Bahrain to Amman
Gulf is not one of the major players in the Middle East, but a 2hr flight in the late afternoon showed what great potential this carrier has. Really, really kind service and a better meal than I would have on regional Etihad, Qatar, and Royal Jordanians flights (on the same day…that will be quite a report). Bahrain is, to put it nicely, not memorable. Nor is the airport. I expected the same thing for the national airline, but was proven wrong.
EgyptAir may not win awards for the best business class seat, but the service on this flight blew me away. The ladies working business class were nothing short of fantastic. Food, catered by Do & Co, was also great.
9 (tie). Malaysia Airlines First Class – Kuala Lumpur to London
There is a lot to like about Malaysia Airlines — a wonderful hard product on the A380, a great caviar course, and the option to pre-order meals. While I cannot help but to list this flight as one of my best of 2016, service was disappointing. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but FAs seemed to just go through the motions, even though I again had the first class cabin to myself.
10 (tie). Royal Air Maroc Business Class – Doha to Casablanca
I flew this with Lucky in August and remember being surprised by the full meal service on an overnight flight. Two full meals actually — perhaps a bit much. But with warm service, a comfortable (albeit odd) seat, and good food, this flight was a winner.
This should be the flight with the asterisk on it. The hard product was terrible and the food was frankly inedible, but Lucky and I were treated like kings. Guess it helps to complain about smoking…If all China Eastern FAs were like the team on this flight, China Eastern would be my favorite Chinese carrier.
Not surprisingly, great service always makes a flight most memorable. I’ve flown some incredible products in 2016, even some which did not make the cut here, but if an airline has a great seat and great food, but hostile service, it will not make my list.
What were your best flights in 2016?