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The recovery has begun, but…

The Daily Flyer

Welcome to the ninth edition of “The Daily Flyer,” The Higher Flyer‘s newsletter that gathers up and summarizes some of the day’s most important travel-related happenings.  Today, May 20, 2020, we’re venturing out of our coronavirus slumber (it’s been two months!) to cover the measures airlines and hotels are taking to prepare for the post-outbreak “return-to-normalcy,” and the hurdles that some must clear to get there.  Read further for coverage on a potentially interesting service concept from Delta, a guide to aspirational hotels worth visiting after this is all said and done, and the story of a single man living in a massive luxury hotel.

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American Airlines First Class Shuttle Review

A convenient, comfortable, and cost-effective way to hop through the Northeastern United States.

In a very, very crowded field of competitors all vying for the customers who transit the lucrative Northeast Corridor, American Airlines has perhaps the most robust offering.  Just about every hour on the hour for fifteen straight hours — from 6am to 9pm to be precise — every single day, you can fly AA between Washington, New York, and Boston.  It couldn’t get more convenient than that and, if you’re running late to the airport, no worries!  You can just get on the next flight without changing your schedule too drastically.  This level of flexibility is great for the business travelers who frequent these routes, and the comfortable seats and relatively cheap fares are just icing on the cake.

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On perceiving “good” value

The most recent review published on The Higher Flyer evaluates international business class onboard American Airlines’s now-retired fleet of Boeing 767s.  There’s nothing particularly exciting nor noteworthy about the experience, but with lie-flat seats, direct aisle access for all passengers, and upgraded dining options on offer, your expectations for a product marketed as “Flagship Business” are likely going to be met but not exceeded.  It delivers all that you could want in decidedly-average fashion, but because the fares are prohibitively expensive, it’s nearly impossible for me to recommend it.  When compared to significantly cheaper, if not better, alternatives, it’s the textbook definition of a terrible deal… although some might disagree with that assessment.  There’s an inherent ambiguousness to higher flying reflected here, and that poses an interesting question:  what makes a “good value” good?

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American Airlines 767 Business Class Review

A recently-refurbished plane remains retro thanks to an underwhelming premium product

Across its expansive fleet, American Airlines features eight different kinds of business class seats.  Naturally, as you might expect, some are better than others.  On one end of the spectrum you have excellent reverse herringbones found on its Boeing 777s and 787-9s.  On the opposite end, on its Boeing 767s, you have staggered seats that would’ve been state-of-the-art 15 years ago.  Of the these two extremes, they share unlikely commonalities:  AA installed them on its planes only as recently as a few years ago, and it typically charges comparable, astronomically-priced fares for both.  If the airline brings the goods — so tasty dining options and warm, amicable service (among other things) to complement a comfortable chair that reclines 180 degrees — then it can get away with this pricing model.  If it doesn’t, well, such a poor value isn’t “higher flyer” and it probably isn’t worth your time.  By those metrics, the business class experience on AA’s 767s is, while more pleasant than economy, probably one to avoid.

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Waiting for Life

Photo of the Week!

F 7.1; 1/80; ISO 100; 79mm.

Shot at Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Back to Life

Photo of the Week!

F 5.6; 1/250; ISO 100; 135mm.

Shot in Hong Kong.

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Navigating Madrid-Barajas’s Terminal 4

How far is too far to walk?

It feels weird to be writing a review — even if it is just a mini-review — of walking through an airport.  There’s hardly anything noteworthy (let alone higher flyer) about these experiences, but Madrid-Barajas’s Adolfo Suárez is a special case.  Its Terminal 4, which serves as the home base for the Spanish flag carrier Iberia, is big, beautiful, and kinda controversial.  The building’s aesthetic is top-notch, but the sprawl of it can be overwhelming.  If you’re flying out of Madrid, well, you’re going to want to prepare for it more than you otherwise would… hence the reason for The Higher Flyer to publish a guide!

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Coronavirus claimed FlyBe. Who’s next? What’s next? That remains to be seen…

The Daily Flyer

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Welcome to the eighth edition of “The Daily Flyer,” The Higher Flyer‘s daily newsletter gathering up and summarizing some of the day’s most important happenings in the world of airlines, hotels, award points, and other travel-related things.  Today’s feature — for March 18, 2020 — covers the fall of FlyBe, the role of coronavirus in the collapse, and the future that this outbreak could bring.  In addition, read on for coverage of a a political thought piece (of sorts), a follow-up to United’s repeatedly revised refund policy, and an amusing play on negative Yelp reviews.

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Cathay Pacific A350 Premium Economy Review

For better and for worse, an embodiment of both “premium” and “economy”

Most passengers on Cathay Pacific’s long and ultra-long haul flights have to cram in to too-tight seats in the backs of the planes for hours upon hours.  What miserable fates they have!  Fortunately there’s premium economy, which serves as a pain-easing option for some.  You’ll pay more for such relief, sure, but at least the increased comfort comes in the form of a generously-pitched and padded recliner, and what the airline claims to be improved meals, and better, more-attentive service.  Cathay’s offering is no bargain though; it costs more cash than a modestly-priced upsell, and so the return on investment should be abundantly apparent all the time.  That’s regrettably not always the case.

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