United Say No to Leggings, but Were They Wrong?

What do you get when you a mix a controversial decision related to the clothing of a young girl, an activist with 35,000+ followers, and a poorly managed corporate twitter account? Well, you may want to ask United to find out. Yesterday, United found itself in very hot water after it was reported that the airline denied boarding to two young teenage girls for simply wearing leggings. But as more facts have been revealed, it doesn’t look like United was quite the bully some thought they were.

What happened?

In short, two girls (young women?) were attempting to board a flight from Denver to Minneapolis yesterday but were told that they could not board based on their attire (i.e, the fact they were wearing leggings). Another parent saw that his young girl (girl # 3) was wearing leggings and took proactive measures to ensure she’d be able to board by giving her a dress to put on. Apparently, an activist and founder of a gun control advocacy group, named Shannon Watts saw the situation unfold and tweeted about it. It then went viral.

Trying its best at damage control, United continued to reply to users on Twitter, citing to its “contract of carriage” for justification for its decision.

The problem with United’s response is that the reason the two girls were turned away is that they were boarding on a company benefit travel ticket (United pass). These are those ridiculously low priced fares that employees and family members of airline employees are eligible to take advantage of. However, in order to do so, they must abide by a stricter dress code.

Here’s what the dress code states:

Dress code

  • Pass riders’ overall appearance should be well-groomed, neat, clean and in good taste.
  • Attire should be respectful of fellow revenue passengers, employees and pass riders.
  • Pass riders may wear denim attire (such as jeans), shorts that are no more than three inches above the knee and athletic shoes when traveling in Coach or Business cabin.

The following attire is unacceptable in any cabin but is not limited to:

  • Any attire that reveals a midriff.
  • Attire that reveals any type of undergarments.
  • Attire that is designated as sleepwear, underwear, or swim attire.
  • Mini Skirts
  • Shorts that do not meet 3 inches above the knee when in a standing position.
  • Form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses.
  • Attire that has offensive and/or derogatory terminology or graphics.
  • Attire that is excessively dirty or has holes/tears.
  • Any attire that is provocative, inappropriately revealing, or see-through clothing.
  • Bare feet
  • Beach-type, rubber flip-flops


Via Flyzed.

As you can see leggings are clearly banned since they would fall in the “Form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses” category. Thus, United was simply enforcing its established policy for company benefit travel in this instance. (The other little girl who put on the dress was not flying with company benefit travel and was thus never told to change.)

There are a couple of problems here that I think are worth mentioning.

Twitter management gone wrong

The first problem is the mismanagement of the United Twitter account. Someone likely didn’t have knowledge of the full set of facts before firing back on United’s Twitter account and citing to the “contract of carriage” for the reason for the ban. That was just flat out misleading and United’s come out and cleared that up by saying that spandex pants are fine for regular paying customers. So much of this mess could’ve been avoided if United had acted more tactfully in their early responses.

Also, United may have considered dealing with the situation at the ticketing booth a bit more privately. I wasn’t there so I’m not sure what they could’ve done differently but some reports are saying that this situation was not dealt with discretely at all and as a result, it led to more embarrassment for all parties involved than might have been necessary.

The policy seems targeted to women

I realize we live in a society where we’re quick to jump on anything and anyone that appears to be engaging in any type of discrimination, especially when it comes to something resembling sexism. For that reason, I try to hear out all of the facts before arriving at a judgment.

In this case, however, it does look like the dress code for company benefit travel is targeted more towards keeping women up to a certain standard than men. For example, there are 5 different criteria that apply overwhelmingly to women, while the others could easily apply to both sexes.

  • Any attire that reveals a midriff
  • Attire that reveals any type of undergarments.
  • Attire that is designated as sleepwear, underwear, or swim attire.
  • Mini Skirts
  • Shorts that do not meet 3 inches above the knee when in a standing position.
  • Form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses.
  • Attire that has offensive and/or derogatory terminology or graphics.
  • Attire that is excessively dirty or has holes/tears.
  • Any attire that is provocative, inappropriately revealing, or see-through clothing.
  • Bare feet
  • Beach-type, rubber flip-flops

I understand United wants to uphold a certain standard for the passengers riding on these tickets since they are associated (to a degree) with their company. I also understand not wanting these passengers to look raggedy or to come on board half-naked and there’s nothing wrong with that. But not being able to wear an article of (comfortable) clothing that’s probably considered a staple for a young girl or women in general these days just seems excessive.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to think “less” of United even if I knew two girls were wearing leggings while traveling on a United pass.

Still, there is some blame that goes to the parents or whoever held the special relationship with United. They should have a duty to inform the passengers that they must abide by a strict dress code in order to take advantage of this benefit. I don’t blame the girls for not knowing about the dress code, but somewhere along the line there’s an adult who could’ve avoided this problem for everyone.

In the end, I think this story is just another story that got blown way out of proportion. In many ways, it was a perfect storm. You had a controversial decision related to the clothing of a young girl, an activist on site to witness it all, and mismanaged (borderline tone-deaf) Twitter use by United. It’s no wonder that this story blew up so badly.

It is good that it’s drawing attention to this dress code that I think is out of date/touch, but I don’t think United was anywhere close to being the evil corporate monster that so many people are looking for. Still, if there’s any lesson United could take from this, it’s how to deal with situations like this with more tact since these scenarios can easily ignite into a media firestorm.

Cover photo by Anna Zvereva via Flickr

Air New Zealand Offers “Aurora Tour”

Air New Zealand recently offered passengers the “chance of a lifetime” to see the Southern Hemisphere’s version of the aurora known as the “southern lights.” Led by Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin, this was the first aurora-viewing charter flight out of New Zealand and the first of its kind that I’d ever heard of.

The flight took passengers from the town of Dunedin located on New Zealand’s South Island close to 9pm and flew them on a 767 all the way down near the edge of Antarctica. The total experience was an eight-hour journey. Economy tickets went for $1,400 and business class went for $2,800.

Personally, I don’t think I’d pay that much for this type of experience and it’s not because I don’t think the northern lights are fascinating. I’ve actually had the experience of viewing them both from the ground and seeing them from an airplane, and I can say from experience the latter does not compare to the former.

When I viewed the lights on an Iceland Air flight from Boston to Reykjavik, it was an exciting experience but could hardly compare to my time spent in Norway chasing the lights.

Northern lights over north Norway.
Northern lights over north Norway.

The main reason is that it’s not easy for your eyes to adjust to the light in order to get a great view of them. I actually had to throw a jacket over my head and suction myself to the plane window to even get a slight glance at the northern lights (lights from the wings still interfered with my view).

And even then, I only saw the faintest shade of green and it mostly looked like a large cloud, although as you can see from the image below my Canon 6D did a great job of capturing the color my eye couldn’t.

The northern lights from a plane.

Some passengers on this expeditionary flight weren’t thrilled by what they saw with the naked eye. According to Stuff.co.nz, one passenger stated:

“Was pretty disappointing. Unless you had a three thousand dollar camera couldn’t take a pic of anything. Could barely see it with your eyes, didn’t get told any of this before the flight either. Was guttered when after 5 hours on a plane it just looked like a cloud. Honestly felt it was a massive let down,” the commenter, identified as MrSafetyCatch, said.

And that doesn’t surprise me considering how faint the aurora is to the naked eye, especially from a plane. It’s possible that Air New Zealand may have done something to enhance the experience like blackout the lights in the cabin and that could’ve helped some, but I’m not aware that they did. 

The other issue is that if you don’t have a DSLR or even if you do but don’t know how to properly use one, it would be difficult to get quality photographs of the lights. I consider myself to be pretty experienced with low light settings, and it was tough for me to get any photos of the aurora from a plane that were worth anything, so I could imagine how poor many photos turned out from people taking photos with lower-end point and shoot or camera phones.

The fact that some paid at least $1,400 for an 8 hour economy ride to capture subpar images of the aurora had to sting for some.

While I wouldn’t do it, I could see how this could be worthwhile for some. If you just really wanted to see the aurora for the sake of seeing them or to check that off your bucket list, then I could see how this would be enticing. Or if you’re skilled enough in photography, this could be worth it as well, since you could come away with some stunning shots like the time lapse below.

Considering how difficult it could be for many people to get to Norway or Alaska from New Zealand, this could also be one of the more practical options for many to see the lights.

While you can see the aurora from the southern tip of New Zealand you’re still only near 45º south which would put you in a similar location as being in the northern US, which definitely is not ideal since you typically need strong solar storms in order to see the lights at that latitude. Plus, in many instances you only get a view of the lights along the horizon.

This type of tour is still a cool concept, however, and one that I was not familiar with. I think the cost of the ticket is still too high for me considering that I could probably fly roundtrip to Tromsø, Norway in economy for that price. But I think it could be worth it for some people, as long as they’re made aware of what to expect.

H/T: Smithsonian.

Hit Marriott Platinum Elite Status with a Status Challenge

A “Platinum status challenge” is a promotion that Marriott offers to select members to allow them to obtain Platinum status from Gold by hitting a specific number of stays within a specified timeframe. For example, the challenge I previously completed required 9 stays (not nights) by June 30th.

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!

I believe these offers are sometimes targeted but other times they are available to Marriott Gold Elite members who have not completed a challenge in past year or two. If you don’t get an email offering you the challenge, you can always call up Marriott to inquire to see if you’re eligible. Sometimes to be eligible you might need to have a recent stay with them.

Why would you want Platinum status? 

One of the reasons I was attracted to obtaining Marriott Platinum is that there are many other elite statuses that some along with Marriott Gold. In total, you will receive:

  • Marriott Platinum
  • Ritz-Carlton Platinum
  • SPG Platinum
  • Delta crossover rewards
  • United Silver

Read here for more on the benefits of Marriott Platinum status. 

Marriott Platinum and Ritz-Carlton Platinum

To be honest, Marriott Platinum doesn’t offer a whole lot that Marriott Gold doesn’t offer. The main difference is the additional 25% in bonus points earned (for a total of 50%) and better odds of getting upgraded. The same goes for Ritz-Carlton Platinum since the programs are interrelated.

Ritz-Carlton welcome letter.

SPG Platinum and Delta crossover rewards

SPG Platinum offers complimentary breakfasts to Platinum members and upgrades which include suites.

Suite at the W Dubai, a Starwood property.

The other big perk is that you can earn one Starpoint per dollar spent with Delta Crossover Rewards on eligible Delta flights. Plus, you get elite benefits when traveling with Delta, such as Priority Check-in, Priority Boarding, Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades, and first checked bag free.

So it’s essentially like having status with Delta. I personally don’t fly with Delta much but for someone who does these would obviously be nice additions. (There are also similar benefits offered for Emirates and China Eastern.)

United Silver

United Silver offers a number of different benefits which I cover in this article. The most worthwhile benefit is probably getting upgraded from economy to economy plus. This is not 100% guaranteed on each flight but in practice, you often receive the upgrades. You’re also eligible for upgrades to business/first (much more rare) and get other bennies like priority check-in, boarding, security, access to more award space, and waived or minimized fees for changes in booking.

Marriott Platinum can be “bought” at a reasonable price 

Another thing that attracted me to getting Marriott Platinum status is that it’s not hard to get it for a reasonable price when you complete a status challenge. I’ll show you how it can be done.

Depending on where you live, you can find some very cheap Marriott properties for category one and two properties. Many of these properties are Fairfield Inns and TownePlace Suites and even Courtyards can be very cheap, so look for those names.

Marriott TownePlace Suites.

For example, here’s a sample cost breakdown for one night at a TownePlace Suites on the outskirts of Houston.

To book this night, I went through the TopCashBack portal to earn 5% off Member Rates. In some instances, it might make sense to pay the higher non-member rate and get 7% back but you’d typically be only scraping pennies.

So you would get 5% back on $64 (since tax is not included). It’s not hard in Houston to find these low rates for the above properties on weekends, so it’s very doable to bounce around town paying this much each every weekend night for a few weeks to get 9 stays. Stays during the week (when business travelers are in town) tend to be little more pricey but still not bad.

So with 9 stays at $64 and at 5% cash back, that’s $28.80 off the total. 

Now also factor in the Marriott points earned at 10 points per dollar and that’s 640 points per stay and 640 X 9 = 5,760 points. Throw in the bonus for Gold status at 25% and that’s a total of 7,200 Marriott points.

At about .8 cents per point in value that’s $57.60.

And finally, if you book the room on a Chase Sapphire Reserve that’s 3X on the entire cost of $74.88 so that comes out to 224 points for each stay. 224 x 9 = 2,021. At 2.1 cents per point, that’s $42 in Ultimate Rewards earned.

So the total cost spent would be $673.92.

But we’ll subtract:

  • $28.80 5% cash back 
  • $57.60 for Marriott Points earned 
  • $42 in Ultimate Rewards earned

That comes out to $545 worth of out of pocket costs.

Now I personally already had a few nights at more upscale hotels booked for trips already planned so I didn’t book all of my nights at hotels like the one above. But it’s just to show that you could do that and come away with earning Platinum status while only shelling out a net cost of $545.

And that’s without factoring various Marriott promos that you can often utilize to further your savings. To see an even more extreme example, read how you could use Marriott promos to complete a Platinum status challenge for as cheap as $318! 

Is it worth it? 

In the end you’ll be the only person to judge whether or not it would be worth it for you to jump on the Platinum status challenge. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all of the benefits of each program (Marriott, United, Delta, etc.) and see if those perks are perks that you’d normally pay for.

For example, if you’d normally pay for economy plus upgrades a couple of times a year for you and your partner, that could easily amount to $200 or more. In that case, you’d already be close to halfway breaking even.

Final word 

Marriott Platinum and SPG Platinum are unique in that they offer multiple ways to achieve elite status or elite status-like perks for multiple programs. Status challenges can be great ways to achieve these elite statuses but you should do some math and research into the benefits of the programs before jumping on them.

British Airways’ Parent Company Launching Low Cost Carrier “Level”

British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), launched its new low cost carrier called “Level” that will serve a number of transatlantic routes. This is IAG’s fifth major airline in addition to Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling and fits in line with what both Lufthansa and Qantas have done with Eurowings and JetStar respectively.

The routes 

Level is expected to begin flights on June 1, 2017, and those flights will be serviced by two A330s, fitted with 293 economy seats and 21 premium economy seats. Interestingly, the flights will at least initially be serviced by staff from sister carrier, Iberia Airlines. In fact, bookings are currently made through Iberia’s online booking service (which I despise).

The current routes being offered are from Barcelona (BCN) to LAX, OAK, PUJ, and EZE, with flights departing two or three times a week. Barcelona is also the hub for IAG’s other low cost carrier, Vueling, which serves Europe and will be used in conjunction with Level to offer connecting flights throughout the continent. Combining forces with Vueling seems like it was a major part of IAG’s strategy and seems like it could be a great move as evidenced by the extensive European network of Vueling shown below.

Vueling destinations from BCN.


Fares on Level from BCN to LAX are starting as low as $149 one-way and some sources have even spotted fares as cheap as $105 for the inaugural flight. Since Iberia’s search feature is currently not functioning properly, I can’t look up other rates but it will be interesting to see where they come out.

The cabins

The economy section will be arranged in a 2-4-2 formation with each seat having a 10 inch personal TV for in-flight entertainment. Premium economy will be feature a 2-3-2 formation featuring 37 inches of leg room and will also come with 12-inch TV screens and noise-cancelling headphones.

Passengers in economy will have to pay for in-flight meals, in-flight entertainment, seat selection, and checked luggage. However, premium economy passengers will be allowed entitled to those items on a complimentary basis. All passengers will be allowed a carry-on and will also earn Avios on flights.

This is undoubtedly IAG’s response to the emerging scene of low cost carriers picking up  transatlantic flights. Most notably, Norwegian Air and WOW Air based in Iceland are two competitors who have recently made a lot of noise with their cheap tickets across the pond. Norwegian Air currently offers a number of routes from London-Gatwick to major US cities, such as New York, Fort Lauderdale, Boston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, Oakland, and others.

Just last month in February, Norwegian Air had one-way routes to Europe for as cheap as $65, allowing folks to book roundtrips for $147 inclusive of all taxes and fees! Norwegian is also steadily expanding its transatlantic routes through many secondary airports located throughout the East Coast of the US this summer, such as PVD (Providence, Rhode Island) and SWF (New York). These flights route to European cities, such as Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, and Shannon.

And while the prices have gone up since the introductory rates offered, as of today, Norwegian Air is still offering roundtrips to Europe as low as $340. And many of their one ways are right in line with Level’s as evidenced by the one-way routes from London-Gatwick seen below.

Norwegian Air pricing for one way flights.

Some of the new transatlantic Norwegian routes from the East Coast will be serviced by the new 737 MAX, however, which will not feature a premium economy section or even TV screens in the seats like Level will feature in its A330s. Thus, Level may be able to offer a much more comfortable experience even in standard economy if they tap into those routes in the future. (I should note that Norwegian flies the 787 on other routes and it doesn’t look that bad and premium economy even has more leg room than Level.)

It will be interesting to see how many more low cost carriers enter into the market in the near future, and ultimately, I’m wondering if and when “basic economy” fares will begin to factor into the transatlantic market.

Southwest Airlines Announces First Routes for Its New 737 MAX

Southwest Airlines just announced its initial routes for the its new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft that’s being rolled out in the fall of 2017. Southwest is planning on having 10 737 MAX 8 aircrafts in their fleet around that time with a total of 14 to be in operation by the end of 2017. The low-cost carrier also has 200 737 MAX aircrafts on order, which include 30 737 MAX 7s and 170 737 MAX 8s. With this addition, Southwest will be retiring its 737-300 fleet.

The new routes: a throwback 

The routes for the 737 MAX are scheduled to start on October 1, 2017 and will run from:

  • Dallas to Houston (WN 1),
  • Houston to San Antonio (WN 2), and
  • San Antonio to Dallas (WN3).

(These are the three original routes that Southwest ran when it started its operations back in the 1970s when it began with only three 737-200s.)

Although Southwest will be among the first carriers to operate the 737 MAX they’ll be beaten to the chase by Norwegian Air Shuttle, who will be the first airline to take delivery of the MAX coming this May.

Eventually Southwest intends on keeping the MAX aircrafts on its longer flights with overnights stops at hubs like Dallas for maintenance. These permanent routes haven’t been announced as of yet, but with the extended range we can probably hope for more non-stop routes.

New interior and galley space 

The 737 MAX will be similar to the 737-800s already operated by Southwest but will feature new improved galley spaces and a new “heart” cabin decor. The new galley spaces are said to make things easier for the Southwest flight attendants who had some issues with limited space in the 738. The number of seats will be the same (175) but will feature the new “bold blue” seat manufactured by B/E Aerospace. The seat, already featured on some 737-800s, is about .7 inches wider and is also a lot lighter, saving about 200 pounds of weight on the aircraft.

I always prefer the 800 over the 700 because it gives Brad and I a better shot of grabbing the emergency exit rows, since the 800s have a pair of 2-seater rows, so I suspect that same layout will continue.

More effecient aircraft 

Although appearance will be similar the new aircraft is expected to perform much more effeciently. It’s said to be 14 percent more fuel efficient and able to increase its range by 300 to 500 miles. In fact, Boeing is calling the Max the most efficient single-aisle aircraft on the market.

A large reason for the efficiency is the new engine, the CFM International LEAP-1B, which in addition to burning less fuel and producing less emissions, it’s also quieter. The aircraft also features a new winglet technology with a split tip, allowing for an additional 1.5% improvement in fuel economy by maximizing lift.

New winglet technology.

Southwest is one of my favorite airlines due to the possibilities offered by the Southwest Companion Pass that Brad and I are still enjoying this year. Although Southwest’s product is pretty basic in terms of its seating product, it will be interesting to see how much quieter these 737 MAXs are in the sky and it’s always nice to have a little bit wider seats to relax in.

Cover photo by Ann Fisher via Flickr.

Etihad to Fly Its A380 from Paris to Abu Dhabi Between July 1 and October 28

According to the AviationTribune, Etihad will operate the A380 “on one of its twice-daily services to the French capital between July 1 and October 28 […] With the aircraft upgrade from a 328-seat Boeing 777, Etihad Airways is able to offer an all-A380 daily service from Paris to both Melbourne and Sydney via the airline’s Abu Dhabi hub.”

Etihad First Class Apartment
The Etihad Apartment.

The A380 will operate on one of its twice-daily services to the French capital between July 1 and October 28.

The City of Lights is the latest A380 long haul destination following London, Sydney, New York and Melbourne. (The A380 also flies to Mumbai but it’s only a 3 hour flight, so I’m not sure I’d go for that.) With the aircraft upgrade from a 777, Etihad Airways is now able to offer an all-A380 daily service from Paris to both Melbourne and Sydney via its Abu Dhabi hub.

Etihad First Class Apartment
The Etihad Apartment “Lobby.”

“The new route will also support the strong connecting traffic running to and from many cities across Asia and Australia including: Brisbane, Perth, Bangkok, Chengdu, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Manila, Shanghai, Seychelles, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai.”

Flight EY31 will depart from AUH at 0215 hrs, arriving at CDG at 0750 hrs, and  the return flight EY32 will depart CDG at 1040 hrs, and arrive at AUH at 1930 hrs.

Etihad First Class Apartment
The Etihad Apartment.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer, said:

“Flying our flagship product to France with additional seat capacity helps fulfill growing demand and meet our guests’ expectations for an even greater travel experience with unmatched luxury, comfort and service.

“Paris is one of our busiest and best performing European routes, so the deployment of this upgraded service will benefit travellers to and from Abu Dhabi, and our popular connecting cities across Asia and Australia.”

Etihad First Class Apartment

Booking possibilities

This route can be booked for as few as 62,500 AA miles in first class and for 42,500 in business class. This opens up a great new oppurtunity for others to experience the coveted Apartment or even the business class studios, especially if travelers are trying to put together a round the world trip with one way itineraries, although they need to note the seasonal nature of the route.

Link to press release.

My One Major Reservation for the Qatar Q Suite: the Double Bed

On March 8, at the ITB travel exhibition in Germany, Qatar Airways announced its new Q Suite business class product. I wrote about the new changes and came away thoroughly impressed with the photos and features described in reports, and I even stated that this was a “game changing” product. After reading more into the product, though, there’s one feature that I’m not sure I’m sold on yet: the “double bed”

The Q Suite “double bed”

The more I look at photos of the “double bed” in the Q Suite, the less I think of it as a double bed.

Take a look at my photo from my Singapore Suites experience, the first true double bed that rolled out almost ten years ago. It’s long, wide, and there’s room on either side of the bed and the cabin doors. That, my friend, is a true double bed.

Singapore Suites First Class A380
Singapore Suites double bed.

Now take a look at China Eastern’s first class double bed, the only other major commercial airline besides Singapore Airlines offering such a feature. Again, there’s no restricted space on the bed, besides the negligible indentions in the middle where the partition would otherwise come out.

China Easter double bed.

Finally, let’s take a look at the bed found on the Etihad Apartment.

While not a true double bed because of the partition, it’s still nearly there. The major feature that I’d like to point out is that once again, your lower body is not restricted. Yes, there’s a giant partition in the middle but there’s no cubby for footwell that restricts your leg movement. To me, that makes a world of a difference since it’s much easier to get comfortable like you would in a normal bed because you can rest in just about any natural position (unless you’re one of those diagonal sleepers).

Etihad First Class Apartment
Etihad Apartment bed.

Now take a look at the Qatar Q Suite’s “double bed.”

It looks like a much tighter fit and what worries me the most is the potential for restricted legroom in a cubby. I think this could make it much more difficult to find a comfortable position on this so-called double bed.

I know that it’s not fair to compare a business class cabin to a first class cabin, but I’m not trying to make the comparison to show one is more superior than the other. I’m just trying to show that the “double bed” feature in Singapore Suites and others works and is special because of the space you’re afforded, which lends itself to a truer “I’m sleeping on an actual double bed on a plane” feeling.

I don’t suspect that will be the case on the Q Suites.

Instead, I think the experience is going to be like a condensed version of the Etihad Apartment bed only with restricted space for your legs. For the Q Suites, the partition looks like it doesn’t intrude as much as it does on Etihad’s Apartment, but I still wonder about how the restricted lower leg room will affect the “double bed experience.”

Enough space?

The space issue especially worries me because Qatar has not reduced the number of business class seats in this new cabin that will be installed on the new 777s and eventually A350s. This makes me wonder how spacious these suites can truly be. Suites work wonderfully in first class because there’s plenty of room to allow them to work, and at a certain point, I think suites can become confining if they aren’t spacious enough.

I don’t think that will necessarily be the case with the Qatar Q Suites, but for purposes of the “double bed,” I am skeptical about the comfort that some will experience.

This may just be my personal preference, though.

I’m already not a fan of middle section business class seats that are all-but conjoined. I flew on these so-called “honeymoon” seats (reviewed in full here) from Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi and it was a huge mistake!

Brad and I both agreed the seats were way too confining and the picture below shows how easy it is to rub elbows in such seats. It’s similar to economy, actually. (I am leaning in a bit in the photo but it it’s not far off from how it felt the entire ride.)

And while it looks like the Q Suites middle section seats will have a little more space between them, it still could be a tighter fit than desired (especially for two grown men like me and Brad).

So now when I think about sleeping in the “double bed” on the Qatar Q Suite, I honestly don’t know that I would enjoy it.  I think that it would be a very different sleeping experience from a true “double bed” due to space restrictions of the footwell, and I also think that Brad and I would be too close to each other (snuggling in a tight space for 6 hours straight doesn’t appeal to us). For smaller folks, this probably won’t be an issue but for us, I have my doubts.

Now, I could be completely wrong about all of this and will only be able to tell when I see the product in person, but for that reason I think I would go with the window suites if flying these on a long-haul flight for the first time.

I still love the Q Suites

With all of the previous said, I still feel like these seats are game-changers.

For one, I like the fact that Qatar introduced a patented design and innovative seating arrangement. This product feels new and feels like they really did spend their three years of development getting creative. That in and of itself is refreshing and nice to see because that’s what makes cabins like the Etihad Apartment special: they’re different. I think that the trend of reimagining designs and layouts will be what separates products in premium cabins from each other in the future.

However, I think that if and when I fly this new cabin, I’ll definitely be sticking to one the window suites.

Amex Centurion Lounge Guest Policy Changing

Offers contained within this article maybe expired.

American Express just announced new changes to its Centurion Lounge admission policy. The previous policy allowed Centurion and Platinum Card cardholders to bring in two guests or immediate family members. So if you you entering with your spouse and two children all four of you were allowed entry without any additional fee. But not any longer.

Amex Centurion Lounge American Express
Centurion Lounge entrance at LGA.

The new policy restricts admission to only two guests per card holder, regardless of whether or not they are family members. If you want to bring in an additional guest, you’ll need to shell out $50 per person. The changes will come into effect on March 30, 2017. 

The new changes are already posted to the Centurion Lounge website and read:

Please note: Beginning March 30, 2017, The Centurion® Lounge guest policy for Platinum Card® Members will change. All Platinum Card® Members will be limited to two total guests at no additional charge. One-day passes for any additional guests, including immediate family members, may be purchased.

In a statement explaining the rationale for the changes to The Points Guy, an Amex spokesperson stated:

“As our Centurion Lounges have quickly become one of our Card Members’ favorite Card benefits and continue to increase in popularity, we have increasingly heard from our Card Members that our lounges are becoming overcrowded at times.

Our new guest policy is intended to help alleviate the overcrowding issues and ensure that more of our Card Members are able to continue to enjoy the great space and amenities that our Centurion Lounges have to offer.

Under the new policies, Platinum Card Members can enter our lounges with up to two family members for free, as well as continue to purchase day-passes for any additional guests or family members.

Please also note that the two family member policy applies to all our lounges (with the exception of Delta), so it’s now consistent across most of our 1,000 plus global lounge collection.”

The issue of overcrowding in Centurion lounges is not anything new and has been a major complaint for some time. It’s not uncommon to struggle to even find one place to sit during peak hours. Luckily, in my hand full of visit to the Centurion Lounge here in Houston, I’ve found the crowds to be mild. However, I’ve had some pretty miserable experiences at other Centurion lounges like at LGA.

Empty Centurion Lounge at IAH.

So there was a real need to do something to curtail the crowding issue. I personally thought Amex would limit the guest policy to just one guest (and I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all), but I think they like the idea of keeping things consistent with the new Priority Pass guest access which as of last week allows two complimentary guests.

Others have proposed implementing annual limits on visits and forcing people to pay after they surpass their limit. I’m not sure what the best policy would be but restricting families to only two guests will at least do something to thin the crowds (although on the surface it doesn’t seem like much). 

Cocktail at the MIA Amex Centurion Lounge.

This is obviously a blow to families of four or larger who frequent these lounges. I’ve only had one bad experience where a family (of four) single handedly ruined a lounge experience for me by allowing their kids to run and scream throughout the lounge but that was in Tokyo at a first class ANA lounge. Outside of that, I haven’t noticed families being bothersome inside lounges, so I don’t definitely don’t think they are a rampant problem.

While I do feel for families who this policy will affect, at the end of the day someone had the feel the brunt of a policy change, and I don’t think families are atop the list of customers that the Centurion Lounge experience is meant to cater to (although there’s certainly overlap). So from a numbers perspective, I imagine this makes sense for Amex.

Amex Centurion Lounge
Centurion Lounge bar.

If you have four or more members in your squad then you might consider adding your spouse as an authorized user for $175 (you can add up to three for that price). Each authorized user will be able to bring in two guests so you should have no issue taking the whole family along.

Hopefully these changes will do some good and many people will start experiencing less-crowded Centurion Lounges. With the newly increased annual fee on the Platinum Card that might just happen a lot quicker, too.

ANA Reveals Special Livery for New A380 to Hawaii

On March 6, Japan’s largest airline, ANA, announced a special livery for its new A380 flights that will fly between Tokyo and Honolulu.

This special livery was designed by Tokyo resident, Chihiro Masuoka, and was selected out of a pool of 2,197 submissions from around the world that were part of an open competition, organized by ANA. The design features a large Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (along with its little ones), which the airline says is a sign of “prosperity and good luck.” For the winning design, Chihiro Masuoka was also given roundtrip business-class tickets for ANA’s Tokyo-Honolulu route… not bad.


The design titled, Sea Turtle Family, will be painted on ANA’s first A380 which will be delivered by Airbus in early 2019. ANA will then become the first Japanese airline to fly the A380. Two more A380s are set to be delivered later in the year of 2019. In Hawaii, they call the green sea turtle “Honu” and so ANA is dubbing its A380 the “Flying Honu.”

There are actually four runner up designs that ANA revealed. The Kirkuma design looks interesting to me but I definitely think that the right winner was chosen based on the other designs. Although I love the “spirit” of the design of the Stephen+Cayden (I’m assuming painted by a kid in MS Paint), I don’t think a lot of people would “get it,” so I think ANA chose the right design.


Anything new for the A380 cabin?

According to the press release, “ANA is moving forward with preparations to offer new passenger services to coincide with the introduction of the A380, and will provide updates as they become available.”

It doesn’t sound like any revolutionary seating design is on the way by the sound of that language (emphasis on “services”), so it looks like ANA will be sticking to its current product for now (which is quite good). 

If you’re not familiar with ANA they are one of my favorite airlines because they offer such great redemption rates (often with little fees) and are a partner of American Express Membership Rewards. For more on ANA, read here about reasons why they are a powerhouse airline.

New Stunning Qatar Business Class “Q Suite” Revealed!

It’s no secret that suites are what it’s all about these days when it comes to premium cabin innovation, and at the ITB Berlin travel exhibition, Qatar Airways just revealed a game-changing business class product dubbed the “Q Suite.”

The new product, which has been in development for three years, has fully enclosed suites and is expected to bring “a new level of luxury” to business class.

Like many suites coming out these days, the suites are in a 1-2-1 layout. But the design of these suites make them extra special. That’s because the middle seats in some of the suites can be converted into a double bed!

As far as I know, Singapore Suites and China Eastern are the only other commercial airlines to offer a double bed (and those are both in first class). The double bed doesn’t look like it will be quite as roomy as the one on Singapore Suites, but it’s still a pretty spectacular feature to see in business class.

Each of the inside suites will have seats facing both backward and forward, with one pair next to each other and another pair separated by a partition that doesn’t look movable. So there will be lots of different degrees of privacy for your seating, depending on how close you’d like to be to your travel companion.

It seems this was Qatar’s goal as they stated to Future Travel Experience, “What is very important for us is what we’ve designed can cater to everyone, whether it’s a family, business travellers, people going on celebrations like honeymoons and so on, or whether it’s an individual who is travelling alone with us. It has been designed all around the different types of customers we know we have travelling with us in business class.”

I think this was a key concept for Qatar and I also think they nailed it with the Q Suites.

And interestingly, you’ll be able to slide the (very large) television screen panels to the side and face the two passengers right across from you. This presents a unique opportunity where groups of four can essentially share a little private cabin together. To me, this is real innovation and the kind of thing I like to see from airlines leading the industry.

I also love that you’ll likely have room to get up out of your seat since you can place your food on your counter or push your tray away from you. I’m not a fan of being “stuck” under your tray table as dish after dish is rolled out to you and it looks like you might be able to avoid that here.

The suites themselves look perfect to me, especially for solo travelers. I absolutely love business class seats with counter space and large pockets of space to store or just set your large belongings in (like a fancy DSLR camera). Judging by the look of the suites, you’ll have plenty of nook and shelf space.

The walls to the suite will offer a lot privacy, although based on the renderings I’m not sure they’re quite as tall as Singapore Suites. And of course, the cabin will be properly lit with mood lighting.

The Q Suites will fly on the Airbus A350-1000, and they are also expected to see a “rapid rollout” on the Boeing 777 fleet. Business Traveller is reporting the first roll out to begin this June with routes on the 777 to London. Australian Business Traveller states that Qatar Airways will retain first class only on its A380. Also, this seat will not be available on the 787 (although a new product will be).

The soft product is getting upgraded, too.

Business class passengers will be give new amenity kits and pajamas with product from products from Italy’s Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio.

According to Business Traveller, upgrades are also to come to the business class food and beverage experience and will involve “sharing foods,” which look like snacks and treats that can be placed on the tables between conjoined suites.

Also, the in-flight entertainment system is getting an overhaul and passengers will be able to choose from 3,000 entertainment options utilizing “Oryx One” which is said to offer a more user-friendly experience. .

Qatar Airways was already the leader in business class travel but now they’ve stepped up their game even more. I think it’s safe to say that Qatar is pulling away even further in the lead of business class now and hopefully some changes eventually make their way to the first class seats on the A380.

Check out Andy’s Travel Blog for exclusive photos of the Q Suite from ITB.

Watch the video below for more:

H/T: Australian Business Traveller.

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