Long Haul Flying – it ain’t what it used to be!

I remember (now, THAT”S an old person’s saying!) when flying was quite a luxurious experience – smaller planes, more individual attention, Business Class was pretty good, First Class was superb. And I know because we used to be able to upgrade to Business Class with air points (just try that THESE days), and were once then upgraded to First Class. A memorable experience.

As the years have gone by, and we have flown to Europe 23 times, First Class has mostly disappeared to be replaced by Business Class (probably the like First Class, but how would I know), then there’s Premium Economy, which doesn’t look that much better than Economy and to my mind wouldn’t be worth all that extra money (only on observation from walking through to cattle class at the back of the plane) and finally Economy, which is not too bad a way to travel (if one hadn’t experienced the bliss of Business or First Class in other years!) So my first words of advice – NEVER fly First Class or Business if you can’t afford to keep doing it for the rest of your life!

Our favourite airlines have been Emirates or Singapore Air, and earlier on Air NZ until flying through the USA became just too horrendous, so Cathay Pacific seemed worth a try (to say nothing of the great price offered if you booked 9 months in advance). We’ve flown them before, but this time we definitely noticed that they were downgrading. Firstly, no little amenities bag!  Ouch!  I was counting on the little toothbrush & toothpaste kit. I already had an eyemask courtesy of Emirates, and the socks I never use anyway, having been converted to pressure socks, but I do remember when we used to get little tubes of hydration gel, maybe some moisturising cream – sigh.

I guess we don’t really need attractive printed menus, but the plainly typed sheet of paper was to be shared between two people – well, not a problem, we were a couple. It did say on the menu “tea or coffee” but I certainly wasn’t offered any, maybe we had to specially ask. So at breakfast I did ask, and then requested a refill, which came in a paper cup. I have to say, the food was the best I have ever had on an airline, even if we did have to eat with plastic cutlery, and there was never any salt or pepper supplied.  The Movenpick icecream was delicious!

Interestingly, the drinks came with the food trolley, so I and the ever-loving asked for a gin and tonic – yum. But that seemed to be it, no wine offered with dinner – again, maybe we had to ask specially.  What was really difficult was waiting a couple of hours after we boarded at Hong Kong before we were offered a cold drink. We felt really dehydrated and again, I guess we could have asked but being the considerate travellers that we are (!) we thought the cabin crew might be rather busy!

Now for the seating : the A350 was OK, large screens, and an innovative double layered tray system with a higher drink holder so you didn’t bump it in the night; the 777 actually seemed to have a greater seat recline (though I could be mistaken as I found it difficult to even get the A350 seat to recline at all). But my problem was that I really like it when we can go on line & choose our seats well in advance – oh no, sorry, you bought the cheap rate tickets, no choice allowed! And they had our money for all that time! Then we like to choose an aisle and a window seat, hoping that the middle seat won’t be taken ( well, it worked on Emirates & it was great!). But Cathay won’t even ALLOW you to book separate seats like that. And being in the middle, which I usually am, is not easy!  Especially if there’s a large man in the aisle seat with nowhere to stretch his legs except in your space, and nowhere to put his arms except on your arm rest. And I really can’t blame the guy, what else can he do? I’ve got really good at shrinking myself & sitting motionless for many hours! Lucky I don’t need any toilet breaks!

This might sound as if I really hate flying.  I really don’t, and I know it’s the only way to get where we need to get to in the shortest time. But I do like to feel a little pampered on a long haul flight – so Emirates & Singapore Air, offer some nice cheap flights for next year & I’ll see if you’re still as good as I remember!

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