Saturday, September 8, 2012

Part 3: Taipei to San Francisco in business class

This is the third and final installment of my multi-city trip to Asia last October.
San Francisco to Tokyo
Tokyo to Taipei
Taipei to San Francisco

After 3 weeks in Japan and Taiwan, it was time to head home.  Currently, Star Alliance doesn't offer any nonstop flights between Taipei (TPE) and San Francisco, so my option was to either stopover in Narita with United or in Seoul (ICN) with Thai Airways.  Because I have yet to fly on Thai Airways and have never been to ICN, I opted for the Seoul stopover.

TPE to ICN on Thai Airways business class
My flight was delayed by 45 minutes, which would cut my connecting flight in ICN very close as I only had a 1 1/2 hour layover.  Thai Airways scales down on their hard product for short-haul flights.  Whereas long-haul flights from Bangkok to LAX will have premium flatbed seats, 2 1/2 hour flights such as mine were nothing more than large recliner seats.
Thai Airways is famed for their service and food.  The appetizer presentation was good for such a short flight.
After this, I expected a grand main course presentation.  Boy was I in for very a disappointing surprise.
The food tasted as good as it looked: unsatisfactory.  This "main course" was hardly better than what United offers to its economy passengers on long-haul flights.  I don't even want to know what the economy passengers in my flight were offered (if anything).  The dessert, on the other hand, was small but acceptable.
Despite offering sound service, Thai Airways missed the mark on this one.  Perhaps I was expecting too much out of a 2 1/2 flight.  It would appear that Thai Airways garners its exquisite reputation from their long-haul product.

ICN to SFO on United Airlines business class
Thanks to Thai Airways' delayed flight, I nearly missed my connection and arrived at the gate just minutes before boarding began.  This was a bummer as I missed out on Asiana's Lounge at ICN.  Surprisingly, United Airlines' business class is one of the better transpacific hard products.  The seats were long and offered 180 degrees of true flatbed.  The biggest gripe about the seats is the lack of any type of storage.  United expects any and all carry-ons to be held in the overhead bins.
The audio and video were on demand, meaning that you could watch whatever and whenever you wanted.  12" screens are conveniently placed right in front of the seat, negating the need to comprise your sitting position to find the best viewing angle.  The downside is that you end up watching everything your neighbor is watching as the seats are all closely positioned adjacent to each other.
As expected, United's food offerings and service were horrible.  Flight attendants were barely attentive, valuing the letter of the law over the spirit of comfort and hospitality.

Conclusion
I saved the worst for last.  If anything, I learned that food and service are more valuable than having a good flatbed seat.  Subpar service kills any flight experience, and United really hits the mark on that one.  If you're planning on using your award miles for transpacific travel in a premium cabin, go for the legacy Asian carriers as United almost never fails to disappoint.  Eva Airlines, which offers nonstop service from TPE to SFO, LAX, and New York, is scheduled to join Star Alliance by mid-2013, and their new business class suites are sure to impress.  United Airlines will initiate nonstop service between SFO and TPE in March 2013, but no thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great report. I always liked travel reports because it is better than other experimental reports.Thanks for such a post. I will keep visiting your site once a week. :)
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