Because a vacation shouldn’t start only after you touch down in a foreign land. We take on the good, the bad and the ugly of flying international.
Best Business Class: Singapore Airlines
Biased as it may seem, we’re going to have to go with Singapore Airlines. While it may not have the best in-flight entertainment (the catalogue isn’t quite the largest) or the best seats (Sean’s long legs make it an issue for any plane really), the airline makes up for it with impeccable service.
Everyone wants to feel like a lord every once in a while and Singapore Airlines caters to that whim perfectly. Checking in never takes more than a minute (all the time) and in-flight, the stewards and stewardesses can make any passenger feel like they’re the only ones on the plane. We have to mention, whoever is teaching them to smile deserves an award on his or her own too; we’ve never seen a fake smile on board SQ.
Singapore Airlines’ new Business Class seats also come with more positions than the Kama Sutra, obliging every angle you like watching your films in. While we do prefer the beds that recline all the way at the push of a button (yes, we’re lazy), the flip-to-sleep SQ Business Class beds are probably the most comfy we’ve ever had a night’s sleep on.
Best Economy: Qatar Airways
In tough times, flying Economy is good enough to get your places. On Qatar, service is far from dreadful and unless you’ve put on more holiday weight than desired, the seats are some of the widest and most comfortable around. Apart from an extensive entertainment system and the USB and power outlets, Wi-Fi is also available onboard so you can stay connected with friends and family in case of an emergency.
Best Budget Airline: Scoot
Sure, there are many gripes about low-cost carriers: long delays, lost luggage and seats that smell faintly of gym socks and sour cheese. But you do get what you pay for, and in Scoot’s case, you’re definitely getting more value than the price you paid for the ticket.
The first thing that goes in budget airlines are the legroom but that’s not the case with Scoot. The seat pitch is a decent length, which means more legroom for you. And now that Scoot has replaced its entire fleet with 787 Dreamliners, you’ll get to experience mood lighting and remote control window shades. The budget airline also introduced more moisture into the air so that your skin doesn’t feel like a stretched-out dry tarp at the end of your flight.
Its food is also surprisingly tasty, albeit a little overpriced (but that’s the case with any budget airline, isn’t it?). Go for the nasi lemak, braised chicken with rice and beef casserole.
Best Value: EVA Air
If you’re looking to fly business class on a budget but not willing to compromise on comfort, Taiwan’s EVA Air has done a pretty darn good job at balancing out the two. Good seats, good champagne (the airlines now serves Krug for three of its long haul flights) and good food – all for a rather reasonable price. EVA Air’s Elite Class is also another value for money choice, with more legroom that its Economy class.
Photo: Pat Guiney
Best Food: Air France
The fact that Air France used to offer seven course meals on long haul – think foie gras, cheeses and sizeable birds – in the ’60s makes us decidedly jealous on the times. While those days may be gone, Air France is still serving some of the best food in the air. First Class offers menus designed by the likes of Joël Robuchon and Guy Martin but there’s no disappointment in Economy either. We’ve had trays of Camembert, pâté, pasta al dente complemented with small bottles of Merlot and tawny port that made the meal very complete.
Best Up and Coming Destination: Phú Quôc
The best part about living in Southeast Asia is the ease at which we get to hit sunny beaches around the region. A long weekend? Phuket, Bali and Bintan are all less than half a day’s trip away. In keeping with the tradition of finding the most untouched beaches, the most searched destination on Skyscanner in 2015 has been Phú Quôc, Vietnam. Largely serene beaches with white sands and clear waters, this vanilla version of Phuket will appeal to the beach bums who want to get away from the touristy traps that the rest of the region have grown to be.
Best Window Seat View: Northern Lights
If you’ve managed to snag a window seat, the last thing you want to be looking at is a view of cities (unless you’re the sort that likes imagining you’re a God).
In our travels, we’ve been lucky to catch a view of Mt Fuji just as the Sun rises but we’re sure that the Northern Lights beats that hands down. On a trip between Paris and San Francisco, a passenger managed to catch a timelapse of the green, shimmering lights against the backdrop of a star-littered sky. Nothing is bound to make you feel smaller yet inspired at the same time.
Worst Airport: Port Harcourt International Airport
Last year, travel website Sleeping in Airports (www.sleepinginairports.net) held a poll to conclude the world’s worst airport. At number one was Port Harcourt International Airport, Nigeria. Its crimes? No seating, broken air-conditioning and a tent for an Arrival Hall.
Worst Airline: RyanAir
If the CEO of your airline thinks that seating should be removed from planes since they’re just buses in the air, you know you’re screwed. RyanAir has been voted worse time and time again thanks to measures like charging for printing a boarding pass and bad service all around.
Worst Business Class: United Airlines
No, you don’t want to fly the red eye on United Airlines, much less pay to do so. The seats are arranged in a manner where half the passengers are seated backwards, forcing them to come face-to-face with a neighbour, exactly the same thing you’d get on the train.
World’s Dumbest Pilot: Yaroslav Kudrinsky
In 1994, on an Aeroflot Flight from Moscow to Hong Kong, Yaroslav Kudrinsky figured it would be ok to let his teenage children into the cockpit. Unknowingly, his son took a turn at the steering, plummeting the plane right into the Siberian tundra. End of story.
World’s Most Unsafe Airline: Tara Air & Nepal Airlines
Besides Kazakhstan’s Scat Airlines and Afghanistan’s Kam Air, half the world’s most dangerous airlines lie in Nepal. In 2010, a Tara Air flight crashed only five minutes after take-off while in 2013, a Nepal Airlines plane skidded off a runway into a river.
World’s Longest Flight: Singapore to the USA
Singapore Airlines will be re-launching its non-stop flights from Singapore to the United States come 2018, once it receives deliveries of new ultra-long-range variants of the Airbus A350 aircraft. That’s a whole 19 hours of being up in the air.
Ugliest Flight Attendant Uniform: Air New Zealand
We don’t mean to be the fashion police, but we find it such a waste for Air New Zealand to clothe its female flight attendants in frumpy pink and black dresses that look good enough as table cloths or curtains for Great Expectations’ Miss Havisham. It’s time for change.
World’s Only Celebrity Airport Terminal: LA International Airport
Dodging fans and the paparazzi will soon be a thing of the past at the Los Angeles International Airport. A special terminal will be built for celebrities and the wealthy to be transported from their limos to their first-class seats without being harassed.
World’s Lamest Celebrity Outrage: Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin likes the game Words with Friends, but his addiction was what caused him to be kicked off an American Airlines flight. Before takeoff, he had refused to turn the game off, and despite the seatbelt sign, he locked himself in the toilet before continuing with it.
Worst Plane Food: Juneyao Airlines & Air China
There aren’t many airlines that put in much thought into their food. Examples include Juneyao Airlines, which was proud to serve grey gruel as well as Air China, which served a starter of several slices of cucumber and chicken-flavoured Whiskas (cat food).
The August Man Airline Awards was published in our 2016 February issue