Round the World Trip 2014: Part 5
Part 5: Returning Home
AUH-JFK Etihad EY103 Suite Class: I was ready for a comfortable flight back to the US after touring around Dubai for 36 hours. I arrived to the airport early to make sure I could take advantage of the lounge and I didn’t want to miss this flight. It was scheduled for a 2AM departure from Abu Dhabi. I enjoyed a nice complementary massage at the Etihad First/Business Class lounge in Terminal 3. The 14hr flight was on a Jet Airways 777-300ER plane but operated by Etihad Airways. Etihad is expanding so rapidly that don’t have enough planes in their possession so they are wet leasing them from other airlines. Security screening was done at the gate which delayed the flight by about 1hr but it gave me time to get situated in my onboard Suite. Upon boarding, I was immediately escorted to my seat and shown around. The Suite was simply amazing! I couldn’t believe I’d be spending 14 hours in this “seat”. This was my 1st International First Class flight and it was on one of the world’s best airlines. I enjoyed a glass of Champagne prior to takeoff and shortly after cruising altitude I was served a Manhattan with dry ice plus a side of ice cream. Once I finished, I was off to sleep. While changing into the provided PJ’s the flight attendant made up my full size bed. It was so comfy I was able to sleep for 7 hours. Upon waking up, Chef Sanjay stopped by to offer me breakfast. The omelet he made was cooked to order and delicious. I then proceeded to watch a few movies on the massive 23″ TV. The final meal of lunch was offered about 3 hours prior to landing which included a grouper in banana leaf appetizer, smoked lamb main dish and a fancy raspberry dessert. Chef Sanjay went above and beyond to make sure the dish was made to perfection. It was the best onboard food and presentation I’ve experienced. Just 30 minutes prior to landing I was offered tea and madeleine cookies. When we landed into JFK I didn’t want to leave! It was the best flight of my life to date!
JFK-DFW American AA65 First Class: After an enjoyable stay at the Wingtips Lounge JFK, I was off to Dallas. What a difference boarding a 737-800 on a US domestic airline. It was nothing special after my last flight. The food was decent for a domestic First Class flight but after a “quick” 4 hour flight I landed into DFW. It was uneventful and I spent time reminiscing my trip through photos on my iPhone. The service was OK but I was still shocked at how this is what most travelers believe is the standard for airlines.
DAL-SFO Virgin America VX715 Main Cabin Express: Virgin America had just moved their operations from DFW to DAL earlier in the week. This was an excellent choice as flying into DFW I could just tell how inefficient the airport was and how they needed much improvement throughout the terminals. DAL was brand new and very easy to navigate. The rental car shuttle only took 3 minutes whereas DFW took 20 minutes. The gate area had some pictures from Virgin America events and Richard Branson which made it a special touch. The flight departed on time and I was back on my favorite domestic airline for my final flight. No upgrade available as a Silver Elevate member but it was just fine. I was able to finish reading Richard Branson’s latest book (The Virgin Way) on the flight. Upon landing at SFO, I was back to reality!
Conclusion: Starting with just a “mistake fare” and turning into this amazing Round the World Trip was truly a special experience. I’d highly recommend flying Etihad Suite Class and visiting the Maldives before they sink if you get the opportunity. Also, if you are in Tokyo and have time for a side trip give Kyoto a visit.