Happy Valentines Day!
In concordance with the sentimental feelings that Cupid bestows on mankind this time of year, I am pleased to share that I have officially published my outbound trip report to Europe from Summer 2011. Because the outbound journey was on Air France via Paris (and everything French is stereotypically “romantic” and “poetic,” I themed it as such. And, of course, to give them a positive review on their in-flight services in spite of such difficult patches they are going through these days.
But don’t hold your romantic expectations too high; the TR itself really isn’t mushy.
A little background on the concept of trip reports, and why I do them: back in January 2008, I decided to join airliners.net, which is a fabulous resource to use as a point of reference for commercial air travel. You can view (or participate, if you are a subscribed member) in discussions on Civil Aviation topics, post photos, chat and collaborate with an aviation community that is truly international. I would say that a healthy majority of its contributors hail from outside of the United States, and offer multi-faceted perspectives on how the industry has evolved in the global realm.
A few months after joining, in May 2008, I was traveling to India solo, and found an inexpensive economy class ticket on Air India from New York to Delhi, on one of the carrier’s first new nonstop flights operated between the two countries. I made an inquiry to discover more about the type of service I could expect to receive in economy class on this ultra long-haul (ULH) flight since I would be spending 16 hours on it, in both directions, and I was directed to the Trip Reports forum.
Despite the fact that the flight was only a few months old in existence, a user pointed me towards a beautifully written report by a Venezuelan Airline Economist named Alex, who performs client work in some of the remotest corners of the world. Alex’ report on this flight, much like his other phenomenal trip reports, sets the bar fairly high in terms of recounting the information I needed to know before beginning my journey, so that I could know what to expect when I flew on Air India, such as:
- Booking: background history on the carrier, and ease of use of their distribution methods (phone, ticketing office, website, mobile), airfare value and what the competitor was offering
- Ground handling: courtesy services available, friendliness and efficiency of check-in staff, what to expect during security screenings (wait times)
- Airport amenities: information on premium lounges, food/beverage/duty free options, caliber of facilities, ease of navigation to gate, walking distances, quality of boarding area and demeanor of gate agents
- On-board services: initial impressions of crew interaction, seat comfort, visual appeal of cabin and state of cleanliness (esp the lavs!)
- In-flight: punctuality of departure, quality of services such as meals and beverage options, duty free, personal entertainment (audio, in-seat video screens), attentiveness and professionalism of crew, sustained seat comfort, pillows and blankets
- Post-flight: punctuality of arrival, amenities in arriving or connecting airport, ease of customs/immigration (if applicable) and baggage handling
- Extras: fleet type, flight path route, aircraft registration, amenity kits, luggage tags
To accompany these features, the trip reports are often replete with photos to give the reader a visual image of what the reporter actually received or saw during their journey. Some, like Alex, take it a step further and assign the carrier a weighted overall score factoring in some of the above metrics together and scaling the airline (based on expectations for different classes of services) accordingly.
I myself have published eleven trip reports over the past four years, spanning my journeys around the globe. They range from short haul to long haul, economy cabin class service to business class and first class. You can find an archive database linked here to read more about my experience and reviews on these trips.
Premium meal I received on UA 239 from LAX to ORD, June 2011
As such, trip reports serve as crucial mediums of feedback for several reasons:
First, we may be used to a more “nickel-and-dimed” on-board experience these days, but there are still PLENTY of premium travelers who fly, and airlines invest HEAVILY in retaining the business of their high-paying customers by continually making sure their products and overall in-flight experience remain up to standard. Given the competitive nature of the industry and the fact that there are still many options to choose from, differentiation here is absolutely key.
Bottom line: carriers need to know the areas in which their product is failing, improving, or succeeding in order to compete.
Second, even some of the most seasoned travelers have to eventually experience uncharted territory, flying an airline or into an airport/country they are unfamiliar with. Trip reports can provide a visual guide on how to navigate one’s way through the journey with minimized stress and fewer surprises along the way, in order to not compromise safety or other comfort zones.
Third, people get easily bored on long journeys, particularly when stuck in coach class. It’s helpful to know if the aircraft used on a certain route has good or subpar entertainment options (let’s be honest, nobody likes the onset of a sore neck straining to watch the film displaying on a crappy, outdated, shared overhead cabin monitor), but at least you can be prepared for that misery ahead of time instead of experiencing a cruel awakening when you step-onboard, and your heart flutters.
Finally, (and you’ve probably guessed this is the prime reason by now) they are read by aviation nuts with gusto. Nothing is more thrilling or satisfying than feasting your eyes upon a hundred-thousand character reminiscence, written by some lucky son-of-a-gun aboard a First Class Suite lounge on an Emirates Airbus 380, where rose petals are literally falling from the ceiling in synchronization, champagne is flowing from bottomless bottles of Dom and flight attendants are feeding you exquisite truffles and Argentine steak.
And you think to yourself, “one day I will be wealthy enough to afford that seat to experience it first hand and I will not be living vicariously behind my computer screen as I drool on my keyboard!!”
But alas, at least I did receive free (economy class-branded) champagne, beef with wild mushrooms, and strawberry cheesecake on my Air France flight in Voyageur class.
And for that, I can be grateful for now.
To learn more about the servies on Air France Voyageur class on its intercontinental flights, click here.
To book a ticket on Air France or one of its SkyTeam members, visit www.airfrance.us.
To access my other trip reports, click here.
Below is a sneak preview of some of the images from my outbound trip report, but I encourage you to read the full version here. And, once again, Happy Valentines Day!