An impartial and candid review of the First and Business Class cabins and services of the world's airlines. Savvy Traveller maintains a tight zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bad service in the air - especially towards travellers who pay premium prices for a comfortable seat in the sky. It takes a lot to impress us. But at the same time it doesnt take much to recommend a switch in carriers.
Jet Airways Business Class - Flight 229
Toronto (YYZ) - Brussels (BRU)
The Business Class cabin of a Jet Airways A330
Jet Airways Business Class customers are invited o use Air Canada's Maple Leaf Lounge in the International Wing, which is just above the gate area and duty free shops. Howevere AC staff awill deny entry to top tier members of other frequent flier programmes (including Air Canada Aeroplan!) flying economy.
This flight was a code share with Brussels Airlines and Air Canada - however there was significant confusion at check-in as to eligibility for Air Canada Aeroplan miles accumulation and lounge access.
However, the check-in staff were exceedingly friendly, efficient - even charming. We were taken by the smart uniforms, especially the gold trim on the aprons of female cabin crew.
Configuration is 18 seats in a 2x2x2 configuration, with ample overhead bin storage. The washrooms are spacious, very clean, frequently refreshed and with plenty oif useful amenities. The in-flight entertainment system on this Airbus A330-200 was up-to-standards - with many films, shorts and other video and audio selections in multiple languages and on-demand. The seats offer extremely generous leg-room and recline to the full-flat position. Blankets and pillows are warm and comfortable. Small touches such as water bottle stowage and designated hangers are appreciated. The response time to the cabin crew call button was the fastest we have seen in the industry - without fail!
Food and Wine
A "banquet in the sky" is how we describe Jet Airways meals
Pre-take-off drinks consisted of juices, water and soft drinks. Alcoholic drinks are reserved until after take-off. We were surprised that the champagne was served pretty much at room temperature, though the cabin crew were apologetic and did their best to chill the bottle. The serving of drinks was initially slow but then refills came regularly. Water should be served more frequently.
The highlight of the flight was the dinner, served about one hour into the flight, which departed on time at 1815. An impressive selection of appetizers, soups, main courses and cheese and deserts were offered. There were at least two Indian main courses, and we opted for the lamb which came with impressive sauces and sides. The Jerusalem Artichoke soup was sublime! The cutlery, glass wear and dishes are of excellent quality. Indian cuisine selected from the menu is a virtual banquet in the sky!
The over-all cabin condition of this Airbus A330 was good however some wear and tear could be spotted in the seats. The quality of the in-flight magazine is extremely poor, and the overnight kits require some upgrading. The cabin crew appeared generally young, somewhat shy - but their efficiency and dedication made up for any lapses.
One major let-down was the lack of Indian-made, quality products in the in-flight duty free selection.
A Jet Airways A330
In a deft move, Jet Airways has made the calm and modern Brussels Airport its main European hub - funnelling passengers from Toronto, New York and Washington onto its connecting flights to major points in India and codeshare destinations to elsewhere in Europe and to Africa. However we do have some reservations about Brussels Airport - especially the arduous transfer to T Gates, extremely poor signage, and the lack of carts and wider F&B and shopping outlets.
The overall impression of Jet Airways was very favourable, and would lead us to choose the airline for another long-haul flight. In fact we regretted having to disembark in Brussels and transfer to the much less enjoyable Brussels Airlines.
Lufthansa Business Class – LH469
Portland (PDX) – Frankfurt (FRA)
LH gives its premium passengers use of the United Airlines lounge, located at the opposite end of the Portland Airport concourse. Light snacks are available, and beer, wine and spirits are on a cash basis. Broadband, wireless internet service is pricey but free in the main concourse terminal. Despite the Star Alliance affiliation, lounge staff are unable to issue LH boarding passes.
The flight - using an Airbus A340-300 - departed about one hour behind schedule due to “late arrival of aircraft” and added security screening of luggage. Boarding was quick and efficient though a confirmed window seat (Seat 1A) was given away to another passenger. Pre-flight champagne and juices were offered.
Configured in a 2x2x2 design, the new long-haul Business Class seat is remarkable for the lack of personal space to store items such as newspapers and laptop computers. The seat-beds are 78-inches long but the width feels stingy. However the lumbar massage function is a welcome perk on long-haul flights. One of the biggest problems is that the beds are angled (not lie flat), so that sleeping passengers tend to slide down them. Many online reviews by LH passengers slam the seat design for making sleep difficult or impossible. The fold out tray is large but does not swivel for eased access to the aisle.
One of the biggest design flaws is the positioning of the socket for the headphones (which do not have a noise cancelling function). Located deep in the armrest it is almost impossible to access when the headphones unplug – as happened twice on this flight.
Food and Wine
The biggest single letdown was the in-flight food. This is surprising given the hype that LH has created around its new Business Class menu.
(Lufthansa and The Peninsula Hotels launched in November 2006 an arrangement that chefs from The Peninsula’s three U.S. properties will create menus for the airline’s "Connoisseurs on Board" food and wine program. First and Business Class menus from each chef are featured on a two-month rotating basis on-board flights from Lufthansa’s 16 U.S. gateways.LH says the partnership is meant to “provide exceptional experiences for the discerning traveler” and transform the celebrity chef’s signature dishes into “premium on-board fare.”)
On this flight the menu featured items from Chef Gordon Maybury of The Peninsula New York with dishes inspired by his “Fives” restaurant menu. One of two appetizer choices was Maybury’s pistachio-crusted shrimp with mango salsa - which was very good but stingy on the portion side (a nice touch is that the recipe for some menu items is reproduced on the menu).
The main course of grilled Atlantic salmon with celeriac puree and sweet pea-fava bean jus was a let-down. The salmon dry, lacked flavour and had unappealing colour. After a complaint to the Chief Purser a second salmon was produced but with no improvement. “This is airline food so what can I say,” the purser said apologetically. A chicken dish was then produced but proved equally dry, if not worse. A neighbouring passenger agreed that the cooking process had rid the salmon of most of its moisture. Serving sub-standard salmon on a flight departing the Pacific Northwest - which has some of the best salmon in the world - could irritate passengers.
To complement the menu, LH boasts a “Vinothek Discoveries” - the wine and spirits component of Connoisseurs On Board. Both flights featured only white wine on the Vinothek menu and the two red wines advertised in the menu - including a much anticipated 2002 Presidents Selection Shiraz by Wolf Blass - were not available. This was also the case on a connecting flight from Frankfurt. On the plus side, flight attendants came around frequently to re-fill glasses.
The pre-landing breakfast feature three entrees, including one hot dish of an omelet. This could best be described as uninspiring.
Amenities in the washroom were sparse, limited to unbranded hand cream and mouthwash. The container for the toilet seat covers was broken and placed on the counter. Amenities in the generic toiletry kit were also unimpressive.
The in-flight entertainment system offers a healthy selection of movies, documentaries and music but captions on documentaries are in German only.