Archive for June, 2015

Premium

June 3, 2015

I´m 75% of the way through a night flight from Paris to Hong Kong. On this route it´s a no win situation. You can leave late at night, maybe get some sleep en route and arrive refreshed in Hong Kong in time for bed and ready for a full day ahead. Otherwise you can leave around noon, get no sleep, and arrive first thing in the morning, deprived of sleep ready for bed and a full day ahead of you.

This is a trip that is purely for work. There will be no time for gallivanting around on the Star Ferry, getting soused in Jockey Club (even if I could get in) or taking the tram up to the peak. The plan is to pick up the bag from the carousel, jump on a bus to Tsing Yi and spend the night at some oversized hotel on the outskirts of the town – since I´m not doing any sightseeing, there doesn´t seem to be a lot of point paying premium for a nice view. The next morning, I will head into Central, meet a former student who is now working at HKU and then we will head across the border to meet another guy who is planning to come and work for me in Norway. In the evening I will hop on the last high speed train to Wuhan which will get me there around 10.30, so I should be at my hotel before midnight.

To soften the blow, I´m flying Premium Economy. I shopped around the airlines and settled for Air France, primarily because they were the offering a cheapest premium, rather than any desire to negotiate terminal changes at Charles de Gaulle. If I´d looked a little closer on the itinerary, I might have caught the 8 hour stop over, but I still would have had that pleasure if I´d been flying regular economy.

Business class customers are a major source of income for the airlines and each time I fly long haul international it seems the cabin has expanded a little more. Sitting in Premium, I count five rows premium to about 20 for business. We may have less legroom back here, but we are more exclusive

I was sitting in my aisle seat before take off, watching the affluent business customers ahead of me struggling to load their oversize carry-ons into the overhead, quaffing their complimentary glasses of champagne and generally being made a fuss of by the cabin crew (who were walking around with iPads to help them identify the customers and greet them by name). I did have my moment when one of them glanced down at their screen, then looked down the aisle to us Premium boys and girls and crossed over to give me the personal greeting. It was only then I realized that I´ve never travelled back in standard economy on Air France and have generally spent my time between transfers sitting in their lounges and gorging myself on their snacks.

Once the flight attendants got the single ping to alert them to get off their arses and into the aisles, the curtains were closed off front and back to block off the respective riff raff and we were in our own little five row cocoon.

I spent the first few minutes trying to figure out what I was getting in return for splashing out those extra Euros. Premium Economy on Air France offers a little shelf for our complementary bottle of Evian, and a second shelf below which was so small it might have been there for storing a flip phone, not unreasonable since we were flying on an aging 777. We also had a slightly larger screen in the back of the seat and noise cancelling headphones. These were wired into the seat, presumably the fact we haven´t coughed up the extra cash for a proper bed is sufficient indication we are not be trusted completely.

For me, the premium advantage of premium economy is the bigger seats, more legroom and the seat in front doesn´t recline into your face. I even had the benefit of an empty seat on one side and the aisle on the other. Unlike regular economy, you can´t lift the armrest and curl up across both seats, but it is nice to have your bag within easy reach.

After take off they tried to make us feel special by handing out cosmetic bags and menu cards. Later, while everyone in the back of the plane was being served up some heated up slop on a tiny plastic tray, we were served up the same heated up slop on a larger plastic tray and drank wine out of real glasses. We were also offered unlimited bread rolls from a bread basket. I think they manage this by making them sufficiently inedible to ensure no one comes back for seconds. After dinner, we were presented with what looked like grenade size party poppers which, after a bomb squad style cursory inspection, turned out to be a selection of inedible sweets. Presumably this was to help us wash down the undrinkable coffee.