I finally made it back to Asia for more adventures and I wanted to let you know how I got here, via my first major Business class booking. Best of all, I made the booking on airline points, so almost free! I will get into the cost a little later but first I want to talk about my good fortune (planning?) of the trip.
After being grounded in Canada for over a year with a good many canceled plans along the way, I came up with one that might just work. Asia had been steadfastly refusing entry to tourists (without extreme quarantine measures) since covid began, hence I kept delaying my departure from Canada. Finally, as summer was winding down, I decided I better try one more booking. as I surely did not want to gut out another Canadian winter, brrr. I planned to travel via Europe as it was generally more open to tourists/ transits than on the Pacific side. This stung a little bit as there are more luxurious options in Business class going over the Pacific. I guess I will save that treat for another trip. On the plus side, I was able to include a month-long stopover in Eastern Europe, basically two trips for the price of one!
At the time of booking, Thailand was not open without an overly long quarantine but I was gambling that it would be more welcoming by the time I was done in Europe. If not, I believe I could have canceled the Asia portion of my trip and gotten a decent points refund. Always good to have a plan B. Here’s how the flights worked out.
Part 1 Toronto (YYZ) to Zagreb (ZAG)
For my trip to Zagreb, Croatia, I did not require any covid testing but for my brief transit in Portugal on the way, Air Canada was insisting everyone needed to have a negative rapid test. It was a minor deal to get the test done but almost became a deal-breaker. I got the test done at Toronto Airport where I arrived over three hours early to give time for testing. The test was quick and easy, so I went on my way as they would email about the results. I made the long walk from the pop-up clinic to the check-in area but needed the result before I could proceed. I was expecting an email with test results in it but that would be too easy, right? After about 20 minutes, I got their email which said my results were ready and gave me a link where I could get the results which I clicked on. Long story short, I had to muck around 20-30 minutes, sweat beginning to flow until I figured out I could get the results by opening my email in two places simultaneously. Results were negative. Finally, I could check in!
Fortunately for me, I got to use my first Business perk, Priority check-in. The ratio of agents to passengers is much better and there was little lineup to deal with there. I then found my way through the Priority security check and I was good to go, wahoo! Still, I had lost some precious time so as soon as I got through security, I flagged down one of the airport buggies and said “On to the Maple Leaf Lounge, and don’t spare the horses!” (or something like that, you get the picture).
This brings us to another major perk I was looking forward to with Business class, namely the free-flowing drinks and snacks in airport lounges. We got to the lounge quickly and after a brief wait for a seat to open up I was in! I got a bit of food and a few drinks, a great celebration/chill out before my first international flight in over a year.
At last, it was time to wing my way to new global adventures. Now to check out the best benefit of the Business class, all that extra space! I was happy I snagged a window seat. The seating was four seats across in a herringbone pattern, giving more privacy from your neighbors. Besides that, it was a lie-flat seat, making sleep a much better prospect. With a pandemic going on it is kind of nice having passengers around me a lot fewer and far between, though theoretically, the flight should have been fairly covid-free with the test requirements to board.
I was given a little amenity kit with a toothbrush, lotions, earplugs, socks, etc. as well as a covid care package (which I imagine everyone got) with a mask, hand sanitizer, etc. I really like the cleaning cloth for glasses and the little case itself is a nice memento of the trip. We also got some noise-canceling headphones to use for the flight.
As it was basically a night flight, once we got airborne the flight attendants worked to get us our main meals as soon as possible. The food/drink menu was definitely a step up from economy. I went for the smoked duck salad appetizer and the cod main course, both pretty good for flight food.
After mealtime, I watched a bit of TV, then tried to get a little sleep. There was a big bag of bedding at each seat which included a pillow, blanket and something to cover the seat. I probably should have got a flight attendant over to show me what was going on with the bedding and how to get the seat flat but I managed to bluff my way through. About an hour before landing we got served breakfast which was also decent.
We landed early in the morning in Lisbon, Portugal where I had a short transit. I went through the transit security check and they barely glanced at my boarding pass, let alone ask about the test I struggled to download in Canada. C’est la vie. I had little time but I still inquired about airport lounge availability. Sadly at that early hour, there were no lounges open.
I didn’t expect much from my short TAP (the national carrier of Portugal) flight as they more or less treat flights within Europe as domestic. Even still, I was a little disappointed. For boarding, we had to get on a bus that was jammed full of people then drove to the plane which was kilometers away from the airport. The seats in business class are in a 3 and 3 arrangement, just like in economy class, with no reclining to speak of. The one blessing was not many people booked in business so no one was sitting beside me. About three hours later, we were touching down in Zagreb where my European adventures kicked off but that is a story for another day.
Part 2 Zagreb (ZAG) to Bangkok (BKK)
Fast forward a month and it was time to say so long to Europe and make my way back to Asia. As luck would have it, Thailand played right into my hand., dropping the quarantine requirement down to a mere one day (until negative test results are confirmed). This is a plan I could get on board with. I got my approval to enter Thailand just a day or two before departure which was a big relief, then a negative Covid test just before flying and I was good to go. . I arrived plenty early at the quiet Zagreb airport to catch my first flight on Air Croatia. Check-in involved a lot of document checking but all went well. I quickly went through security and, even though it is a fairly small airport, I was on the hunt for lounge eats/drinks. Sure enough, I found a nice little lounge that was available to all Air Croatia Business passengers. I got in my share of coffee, croissants and pastry, that’s for sure.
The first flight was a quick jaunt over to Copenhagen on Air Croatia and like the TAP flight from Portugal, I wasn’t expecting too much. Seating was very basic but again, not many people booked in Business class so I had plenty of space. The flight was only about 90 minutes but we still got a bit of a meal.
I arrived in Copenhagen in the transit area of the lovely airport. I had about four hours to kill and of course, I was hunting for more lounge time. I found the one and only open lounge in the transit area but sadly it was not affiliated with my flight plan. Too bad because it was a beauty. I asked some SAS staff and found I could go to the SAS lounge but it would involve me leaving the transit area and officially entering Denmark. I wandered around the big, eerily quiet transit area to ponder this but when I saw zero line up at immigration, I went for it. The immigration agents got a kick out of my reason for visiting Denmark, for an hour or two of lounge time. The lounge was just opposite immigration so I could make a quick exit when boarding time was near.
The lounge was pretty impressive both in size and design. It was spread out over two floors with many different areas. The drinks and food were mainly self-serve with beer/wine free-flowing and some decent food. I had herring and salad along with beer and wine to wash it down. There was good coffee available as well. After an hour or so I had my fill, it was time for the main event, my flight from Copenhagen to Bangkok.
There was more document checking at the gate and then I was aboard my Thai Airways flight, direct to Bangkok. The Thai jets definitely have a bit of age on them, the setup did not have as modern a feel as the Air Canada jet I took from Toronto. The seating arrangement was similar to AC as there were 4 seating pods across the row but they were not in a herringbone setup so not quite as much privacy. No complaints from me as I had plenty of room at my window seat to stretch out.
A plus for Thai Air is the service, with plenty of attentive flight attendants buzzing around. They gave us an amenities kit in a bright yellow case.
This was considered an overnight flight so like on my AC flight, the attendants worked to get the main meal out soon after takeoff. The menu was not that fancy, I had Thai curry. The good news was that during meal times, the champagne was flowing freely. The attendants informed us that drinks were only allowed during meals on this flight, which ruffled some grumpy old Danish men.
After mealtime, it was a bit of TV time then I got my seat into the lie-flat mode to try to grab a nap. Their bedding only consisted of a blanket and a pillow, it would have been nicer if there was something to cover the seat. Still, I managed to catch a bit of rest. There was a full breakfast spread in the morning, then before I knew it, I could see the rice paddies outside of Bangkok, back in beautiful Asia!
This was my first Business class booking using airline points and I am over the moon with how well it went. Though I wasn’t on any of the super luxurious airlines like Singapore Airlines, both my long-haul flights with Air Canada and Thai Airways were really comfortable. If I had to pick a favourite, I would give a slight edge to Air Canada as their product was newer and the dinner menu is a little more impressive. On the ground, I was loving the free drinks and snacks in the airport lounges. Priority check-in came in handy for me too, especially when I was running out of time at Toronto Pearson airport.
In total, I flew 11,018 miles on my four flights. The great thing about my booking was I not only got transported fairly luxuriously to my beloved SE Asia, I also got in a great stop-over in Eastern Europe. How much did this dreamy booking cost? I booked it all for a total of 90,000 Aeroplan points and paid fees of about $300. When I priced this same itinerary out in cash, it came out to over $12,000!
I spent a year plus in Canada because of covid restrictions and I used the time planning this journey and earning enough points which, honestly, I did not find difficult. If you are interested in how I did it, drop me a message and I may be able to help you to wing your very own Business class adventure.