Welcome back to the travel portion of our regularly scheduled programming because sharing is caring! Travelling solo, with friends, as a couple or with children and as a family – no matter what, you want your travel experience to be as smooth as possible. Despite having everything booked just as you wish there’s still room for foils in the plan. Even the seasoned pro lets things fall through the cracks. And, as we are currently experiencing, a global pandemic can come out of thin air! Don’t get down on yourself should you find yourself in a learning experience regarding travel. When you know better, do better. That’s the point!
If you’ve ever taken a flight and ended up on an aircraft you thought would be a different type of aircraft, you may discover you forgot to read the fine print. The same goes for seat type and lounge access. I’m here to share a few tips to support you nailing the travel portion of your sojourn so as to not endure frustration unnecessarily – and to get it right!
Tips we are going to chat today include
- Aircraft types
- Class of travel
- Lounge Access
Tips I will write a separate post on include
- Nexus, Global Entry, etc.
- Travel insurance
- Cancellation policies
1. Aircraft Type and 2. Class of Travel
So you’ve found the perfect flight and you may even have business class booked! But, what you may not realize is that first class, business class, premium economy and economy are different on different aircraft types. Punchline: always check what type of aircraft you are flying on. This isn’t necessarily an obvious detail that gets pointed out even though it does clearly state on the screen when you’re booking (in many cases) what type of aircraft you will be flying on.
You may now be asking yourself, “does this really matter?” Yes it does on a couple of accounts.
a) It makes a difference when you’re choosing to upgrade
…and think you are upgrading to first (higher level of service & lay-flat seats) when in fact you are upgrading to business (reclining seats but not lay-flat). In this case, there’s a price you’re willing to pay for first but not business. Also, the jump from premium economy to business on some flights isn’t that significantly different in experience, just in price. Of course take into consideration flight duration – but you get the point. Punchline: first class and business class are different experiences on different types of aircrafts.
Rule of thumb on aircraft type and seat/class selection: the most clear distinction between first class and business class (in misunderstanding what each truly is labeled and refers to per specific aircraft) is that first class international (on major airlines) is a lay-flat bed, and first class domestic is simply reclining seats (business class, more or less). Not always the case, hence – check what type of aircraft you are booking to fly on!
I share this with you so as to set you up for success! – and not for disappointment. There’s nothing worse than hopping on a plane with the excitement of stretching out fully (and laying down) when you end up in business class (not what you thought was first) and ended up paying a first class price tag. Travel is a luxury in itself, I’m simply sharing my experience for you to make your own, educated choices.
Something else I will say, sometimes it’s really not worth it to upgrade! I booked a flight on a whim to Paris last year and didn’t want to pay the asking price for a business class ticket on a redeye I was going to immediately fall asleep on. Alas, I was flying on an incredible and new aircraft, and service in premium economy was near just as good – one row behind business with a ton of legroom and a full two meals (although I generally don’t eat plane food). I didn’t need to wake up crazy refreshed hence laying down and changing, etc, was not necessary. Truly, no complaints and this was the first time in my life I’d not flown business or first on an 8 hour+ flight.
b) It makes a difference on the flight pattern
Where is the aircraft coming from and where is the aircraft going to? Is the aircraft old, falling apart or small or is the aircraft spacious and new? Small & old and new & spacious not being synonymous, of course. You’re going to want to weigh out your flight choice by time duration and aircraft type (if possible) considering these facts as well. There are some routes that get premium (newer) aircrafts and there are other routes that get older, bottom of the barrel, amenity-stripped aircrafts.
Ask yourself these few questions:
- a) Do I need the amenities?
- b) Can I survive the duration (if an older aircraft)?
- c) What kind of experience do I want to have?
Sometimes 2.5 hour flights can feel like 4 hours if you are on a very small plane – especially if travelling with a furry loved one. Sometimes the extra amenities are not necessary and you just want to get where you’re going, and it’s a short flight. Check the aircraft and see what size it is, what amenities are on board/in flight and make your decision from there. There’s not a huge distinction within Canada (although yes, for longer flights) but there are some big distinctions among airlines and aircrafts in the USA and across Europe. I can’t speak to the rest of the world (Asia, Africa, etc, as I have not been there).
2. Lounge Access
a) What Type of Access Does Your Ticket Get You?
I’m thinking of a couple of experiences, so stick with me 🙂
You’ve nailed the flights and all is well until you get to the lounge and you are not eligible or it’s simply in another terminal. This has happened to me before. En route back to Canada from St.Barth on flight leg #2 from Puerto Rico to Chicago with a layover in Chicago travelling business class I was ineligible to spend time in the lounge on my few hour layover. Why? Because the lounge is only for business class INTERNATIONAL travel. Ok. I get it, and Puerto Rico is part of the USA, but I was on a multi-leg flight that began from an international destination. This is the only time this has happened.
Moving on, because it’s not about the shortfalls! Sometimes the stars are aligned and the lounge welcomes you with open arms – AND there’s an equal to or greater than option waiting for you! Many a time travelling Cathay Pacific or British Airways I’ve been welcomed to the first class lounge which is different than the business class lounge. You’ll want to pay attention to this because there is a big difference and the detail in experience is welcomed. That’s really all I’ll say about that, but know that there are differences between the two and if you’ve paid for it, use it. Another lounge favorite: the American Express Centurion Lounge. More on that in another post.
b) What Terminal is the Lounge In?
This has happened multiple times. I.e. The lounge I was headed towards was not in the same terminal or had moved, and the point of spending downtime in the lounge thus became defeated. Pre-boarding, if possible, double check where the lounges are with regards to your airline. You’ll save yourself time and the point is smooth sailing and relaxation when possible.