2015 as a travel year for me was awesome. Between my trip to Japan in April, Tahiti in February, and my ongoing trip around the world, as well as several little domestic hops, including Hawaii and Florida, I went to so many new places and had more awesome experiences than I can count.
Over 2015, I flew these segments:
That’s 20 segments, 10 of them international. I flew United first and Cathay business class for the first time. I visited four countries, three of which I had never been to before. I flew the 737-900 and A321 for the first time. Overall, it was an awesome year of travel, and I thought I would rank some of my favorite aspects of my 2015 travel year. So here they are!
Best Flight- Cathay Pacific Business Class Los Angeles to Hong Kong
While I had flown Cathay Pacific way back in the day in economy, the true place five star airlines like Cathay shine is in their longhaul premium cabins. We booked this flight using American Airlines AAdvantage miles, and, for the bargain 55,000 AAdvantage miles it cost us, it was a great deal. For articles about the planning process, as well as a review of the flight itself, see:
WTF Cathay?– Me complaining about the lack of award space
Score!– Me being happy after finding award space and booking four tickets in Cathay Pacific business class, LAX-HKG
Trip Report: Around the World on Oneworld- Introduction– the introduction to the trip report the review is featured in, with some details about the planning process
Trip Report: Around the World on Oneworld– Cathay Pacific Business Class Los Angeles to Hong Kong- My review of the flight
Without making you read the trip report, let me some up Cathay’s awesomeness. The seat is excellent, certainly better than United’s first class offering. Despite the fact that UA’s first class seat is an inch wider, Cathay’s seat is softer and more private, the food is better, and the service makes UA seem like a gas station. The service is wonderful– press the call button and a flight attendant will be by your side in about nine seconds (I timed it). Every passenger, even in business class, is addressed by name. There are some airlines (looking your way, United) where you can’t even get that in first class. The service and excellent seat is what makes Cathay stand out.
Best Airline Seat- Cathay Pacific Business Class
Again, Cathay takes the prize. The cabin is set up in a 1-2-1 configuration, with all seats having aisle access. The seats angle slightly towards the window, meaning your head is closer to the aisle than you feet. In the flat bed position, Cathay’s seat is quite comfortable, with no creases in the seat that would make it hard to lie down without something digging into your side. The bed is soft, certainly softer than UA’s seat in first. The seat is comfortable in all positions, from upright to lounging to flat.
Best Airline Food- Cathay Pacific Business Class
This is getting kind of boring. Bare with me, though. Fish on an airplane is almost never good. It is almost always too dry, to hard, or something that makes it seem more like a brick than food. But Cathay pulls fish of wonderfully. I had the sweet and sour cod for my dinner, which was excellent. It wasn’t too dry, which often happens, given that the fish has to be refrigerated. It was moist and soft, one of the best meals I have ever had on an airplane. There food in economy is pretty good as well.
Best Airline Service- Cathay Pacific Business Class
I know, I know. But the fact that you can ring the call button and nine seconds later someone will be standing by your seat and addressing you by name and asking what you want is kind of awesome.
Best Airline First Class Lounge- Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul
The Asiana first class lounge in Seoul is awesome for a number of reasons. Firstly, it has awesome views of the tarmac. Secondly, the food selection is great (They service the Japanese drink Pokari Sweat, the funniest thing drink in all Japan). Thirdly, the seating is quite comfortable. There are plenty of nice armchairs with views of the tarmac, from which you can see everything from 787’s to A380’s. The lounge was quiet, had comfortable seating, a great view, and a wonderful food selection, Pokari Sweat included. Reviewed here.
Best Airline Business Class Lounge- Oneworld Business Class Lounge LAX
The Oneworld business class lounge in Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX was recently remodeled, and is new, clean, modern, and elegant. We were there around breakfast (6:30-7:45), so it wasn’t very crowded, and we had the large buffet almost to ourselves. The lounge is large, though there are plenty of subdivided little areas, so you aren’t overwhelmed by the size of the place. The seating is comfortable and the buffet is extensive, even during breakfast, when some airlines have a pretty sparse offering around that time, with fruit, cereal, potato, sausage, and even fixings for a miso soup.
Worst Airline Lounge- KAL Lounge LAX
I wasn’t going to do a “worst” anything categoru, though I just had to comment on this lounge. Korean Air has an international reputation as a pretty good airline, and their moto is even “Excellence in Flight.” I suppose that their excellence is limited to the flight, because their one-the-ground services at LAX is beyond lackluster. As the de facto Skyteam alliance lounge in Tom Bradley, the lounge is nowhere near on par with the Oneworld and Star Alliance lounges, which I reviewed here and here, respectively. The seating areas are sad: the seats out on the balcony are just little spinner chairs. But the most disappointing thing was the food spread. There were a couple of plates of celery and carrots, some chips and crackers, and some soup you could reheat, but it was like a United Club without the Snack Towers of Sadness.
Best Hotel Stay (Tie) St. Regis Osaka/Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso.
Let’s start with the St. Regis. When we were visiting Japan in April, the St. Regis Osaka was bookable via an extremely cheap combination of SPG points and money. It was 6,000 SPG points plus 110 dollars per night, coming out to 36,000 points and 660 dollars, which is awesome, given that this is a five star hotel in Japan, where space is hard to come by. The hotel was located in downtown Osaka, right above a subway station. There was 24 hour butler service, you could order free drinks whenever you wanted, and the staff went above and beyond to make you feel welcome. They would open doors for you and even say “Welcome back!” when you walked back through the door. The staff spoke English and was more than happy to help plan a day of sightseeing.
Next we have the Intercontinental. Located on an outlying island in the lagoon surrounding the island of Bora Bora, the Thalasso is composed entirely of overwater bungalows. The rooms are spacious, and, with our complementary Ambassador room upgrade, we got a wonderful room with a large deck and plenty of space. The staff was friendly and the food was excellent, and the breakfast buffet was wonderful.
I can’t decide which is better because they are both wonderful in different respects. Our room at the St. Regis was wonderful, and the service was great, though we didn’t have a meal included, so I can’t speak on the food. However, the food at the Intercontinental was amazing, the room was large, and the service was nice, in a Polynesian kind of way.
All in all, it was an awesome year. I earned a good amount of miles, most of which I credited to Lufthansa, because crediting United Airlines flight to United makes no sense. Tickets for me this year cost a total of 92,500 miles, 55,000 of them American Airlines AAdvantage miles, 37,500 of them British Airways Avios. It was an awesome year of travel, and I hope next year will be even better. Happy New Years, and, as always, happy travels!