Trip Report: DAA Executive Lounge at Dublin Airport Terminal 1

The T1 DUblin Airport Authority (DAA) Executive Lounge has been open for many years but it has been recently refurbished and had a complete makeover. It’s still located airside, one floor up, just after Security in T1 (although it is equally accessible from T2 since both terminals are connected airside).

This lounge is not the most luxurious compared to other lounges, but it is more than satisfactory. You can access the lounge using a Priority Pass card or if you are travelling in a premium cabin or have status with any of the airlines flying from T1 (although not Aer Lingus, since they have their own lounge in T2).

The biggest change in the lounge since its previous incarnation is that the food area is on the right hand side of the lounge and the alcoholic bar is on the left hand side. The lounge opens at 4.45am so is handy for a quick breakfast if you are taking an early flight. I was doing just this and there was a very pleasant breakfast spread: pastries, cereals, fruits, juices, and coffee, and the usual soft drinks.



Around the dining area there were very many small tables and chairs. Actually, the smallness of the tables was a problem. If you had any number of people around the table there was vey little space to put down more than a few plates and cups. 

The effect of the changes at the lounge has been to dramatically increase the number of seats and hence the number of guests that the lounge can accommodate. This is most evident over at the left hand side of the lounge: there are myriad chairs and tables.


Another change in the lounge is at the new bar area. Previously it was a self service bar area, but there is now a manned bar. The drink selection seems the same though, but perhaps the amount served will be limited in some way.


For those not wishing to drink, but perhaps do some work, there are numerous workspace areas and plenty of power outlets at desk level and even around all of the tables. As ever, the staff were very friendly and helpful at the reception desk, where it should be noted there is an excellent selection of newspapers available.

On balance this is an improvement to the old lounge: it’s more roomy, brighter, and generally just much fresher. Well worth a visit if you are passing through.

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Flight Deal: Venice to Bangkok in Business Class on Qatar Airways for €1328/£1170

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There’s (yet) another excellent deal out of Venice to Bangkok on Qatar Airways in Business Class. A mere €1328 for the roundtrip ticket. There’s lots of availability for the next few months, and of course both the hard and soft product on Qatar are excellent. You can even go tomorrow and you don’t even need to stay for a full week!

There are several routing options to choose from, and I’ve included a screen grab below.

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 15.35.15

You want to choose the Business Promo Fare. As you can see, it’s not available every day. For example, you can’t select it on Saturday 1 July. However, even tomorrow, there are lots of options for the cheaper fare of €667.42 (outbound only). There are at least five options available, all with different departure times from DOH to BKK. Choose carefully. There are several different aircraft types available on this routing, all showing at the same discounted price. For me, the obvious choice would be to take the Airbus A380 aircraft option from DOH with the onboard bar area, although you could take a 777 or a 787 if the timings suited you better.

Discounted fares from VCE have been around for a while and they tend to come and go, so book soon if this is of interest. You might also be able to get an extra 5% or 10% off if you enter the code ‘ONTHEGO’ into the Promo Code field if you are booking from the mobile app.

Hotel Review: Hilton Dublin Kilmainham

The Hilton Kilmainham is a little bit out of the city, over towards the west and in a quiet area. It’s convenient to Heuston Station though, if you are coming or going by train, being just a 15 minute or so walk away.

It’s a modern construction with a small lobby area. When I arrived to check in, it wasn’t busy and the staff quickly got my details and I had my room key within about three minutes.


As a Hilton Honors Diamond member I was thanked for my loyalty, but that was about it: no room upgrade, no lounge access (there isn’t one at this hotel), and no fancy amenities or gifts in the room. I did get two small bottles of water, a voucher for a single drink in the bar, and a small chocolate gift. The days of half bottles of wine and fruit basket are well gone from this hotel.


The room was small and basic, but clean and modern, and although I wasn’t upgraded to the next category, it served its purpose, although this hotel really does need to work on its Hilton Honors Diamond member recognition. The standard toiletries were on offer, but only one of each—is money that tight? I should also not that while the bed was comfortable the room was far too warm and the air conditioning didn’t work. The staff seemed nonplussed when I mentioned this at checkout the next morning.


I had a pint in the bar area later that night. The service was quick and friendly and the area was comfortable and relaxing. To be honest there isn’t a lot going on in the area so it was not surprising to see many business types having lonely dinners by themselves in the bar.

Because it’s in a quiet area, there was a calmness and serenity in the hotel that I really enjoyed. This is probably because it’s mostly a few travellers and business people staying at the hotel rather than fully fledged tourists and families. Nevertheless, I would consider staying here if I was visiting the city for pleasure: it’s convenient to bus stop that gets you into the city center within 15 minutes and the rooms rates are very good value for Dublin. Another plus is the excellent leisure facility at the hotel: a pleasant pool area, steam rooms, and sauna, all in tiptop condition. Oh, and I should mention that the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Kilmainham Gaol Museum are a stone’s throw away.


Leaving early the next morning I scarcely had time for breakfast, but the staff did let me into the dining room a few minutes early and I really enjoyed the excellent selection and quality of food that they had on offer. The breakfast area was nicely furnished and very roomy. All in all, this was a pleasant enough hotel offering great value, even if a little of the beaten track.

Flight Deal: Stockholm to Auckland in Qatar Business Class £1826/€2076

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Qatar Airways is generally regarded as one of the best airlines around, especially in Business Class and First Class. The very frequent sales that they offer, mostly Eastbound from Europe, offer some of the best value luxury flight deals around.

While there is no global QR sale on at the moment, there is a very reasonable Business Promo fare available from Stockholm to Auckland in Business Class. It weighs in at around SEK20,281: that’s approximately £1826/€2076, which while not amazingly cheap is darn good price to get to Auckland in Business Class from Northern Europe.

There is good availability for the next few months. You can find sample routings and fares here.

Those sample flights are operated on the relatively new Boeing 787 aircraft from Stockholm to Doha. The cabin interior is wonderful on the 787, one of the best in the industry.qatar-airways-boeing-787-dreamliner-business-class-review-19

And on the Doha to Auckland sector it’ll be the Boeing 777. The interiors here are no so up-to-date, but they are more than satisfactory for this, the world’s current longest flight. It’s a huge 16 hours from Doha to Auckland (non-stop!) and a whopping 17 hours 40 mins on the way back thanks to those pesky jet-streams!

All-in-all, a reasonable value flight and plenty of time to enjoy the on-board service!

The British Airways World Sale is Now On

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British Airways launched its summer sale yesterday. You can read all about it here. but there is not a lot to get really excited about.

From a luxury flight perspective, there aren’t so many good deals. Here are a few that I noticed that seem OK, especially since they depart from the UK (London), but they are not really stand out fares:

Tampa for £1495
Philadelphia for £1744
New York for £1813
Miami for £1870

There are some slightly better prices to the Caribbean. Kingston for £1195 isn’t too bad and there is good availability right through to May 2018. Punta Cana at £1196 isn’t too shabby either. Heading further east is quite disappointing: Bangkok for £1859 and a remarkable £3256 for Kuala Lumpur is quite the poorest value I’ve seen in a BA sale for some time.

If you want to include a hotel and select a Club World Holiday then there is some slightly better value to be had. You can book the 4-star Occidental Punta Cana hotel on an All-inclusive basis for seven nights with Club World business class flights from London for £1399 per person (based on at least two people sharing). That’s just an additional £203 per person. You would probably spend that on food alone. The other benefit of booking a Club World holiday is that you don’t need to pay the full amount when you make the booking, just a deposit. Apart from that, there are’t so many great holiday deals around, but if you find any gems do let me know!

You can see all of the Luxury flight and holiday offers here. Bookings must be completed by 11 July 2017 and for the most part is for travel up to around June 2018.

 

 

Trip Report: The Levity Lounge Nice Airport Terminal 2

It had been some time since I had visited Nice Airport T2. They’ve been doing a lot of remodelling in this terminal and they have introduced a completely new lounge. The Levity Lounge is located at the B Gates, beyond Passport Control in the non-Schengen area of the terminal. It’s an impressive looking lounge from the outside, as you can see from the picture above.

Inside, it’s impressive looking too. It’s quite large and very roomy, with space for easily 200 or so guests. It’s also modern and fresh in terms of its seating areas and also its general design and appearance. Below are some pictures I took.


This was the view from the front desk. I really liked the spaciousness that was immediately apparent.

This seating area in the middle seemed quite suitable for small groups and if you were looking for lots of light and comfy chairs, there is a third long seating area just past this.


I settled myself in here for a while, but although it’s beside some windows, there isn’t much of a view: nothing more than some roads and a terrace where people seemed to be walking past and staring in.

There’s a more communal work area with charging points as well.


And as well as this, the majority of the seats had power sockets and USB charging outlets.


The food offering was pretty average. The same as what was typically offered in the other lounges in NCE. Some cheese and tomato rolls, mini pizza slices, and a modest variety of drinks and snacks.



The cold soup didn’t do much for me, but I selected a couple of things to sample. None were great to be honest.


There were a few beers and numerous soft drinks to sample, spirits as well, and champagne available upon request.



This does seem a refreshingly new lounge with nice decor and stylish touches, but as you can tell from my pictures, it was very quiet when I was there and really lacked any atmosphere. Perhaps the calmness is a good thing. In any event, if it all gets too much for you, there is small rest area with very comfortable looking loungers!


Certainly this lounge is well worth a visit. I accessed it via a Priority Pass membership, but you can pay at the door too.

Flight Deal: Germany to Malé in Air France Business Class for €1696

airfrance-business_04.jpegThe Air France BEST Business Class seat

Air France is launching a new service (twice per week) from 1 November 2017 from Paris CDG to Malé, the capital of the Maldives on its Boeing 777-200 aircraft. This is not news per se: it was announced back in February by Air France. You can see the February announcement here.

But what is interesting, is that some good value fares for this routing have appeared, although you would have to start your journey in Germany. I priced up a flight for January 2018 for €1696 departing from MUC with relatively short layovers in CDG. See here on Google Flights for the routing. There’s quite a bit of availability over the coming months.

This is probably not the best price you will ever see from mainland Europe to the Maldives, but the AF business class seat and service is one of the best around and that reasonable value.

Trip Report: No 1 Lounge London Gatwick North Terminal


The No 1 Lounge at LGW’s North Terminal is generally regarded as the best ‘regular access’ lounge at the Terminal. By that, I mean the type of lounge that you can get access to either by paying at the door (£30, if you’re interested) or courtesy of membership of a Lounge Scheme such as Priority Pass, rather than a lounge that grants access based only on class of ticket or frequent flyer status.

It’s a popular lounge for sure. When I visited on a Sunday morning it was jammed and I struggled to get a seat, let alone a table. Perhaps it’s because it’s the start of the holiday season and it’s certainly true this lounge was packed to the gills with leisure travellers. (Others have reported limitations on access when the lounge is full for non-paying guests, but that didn’t happen today and I wouldn’t like to see how busy it would have to be before that happened!)

With all of that said, it’s a large lounge complex. There are multiple areas, some focused on dining, and others just for relaxing.


The main seating area has good views of the runway and arriving/departing aircraft. To the right of this is the main dining area. I was there at breakfast time and there was a reasonable cold buffet of fruits, cereals, and pastries, with a selection of fruit juices and tea/coffee options.



If you don’t find anything here that takes your fancy, there is a limited menu from which you can order a hot meal. The options available for breakfast were bacon rolls, porridge, beans on toast, toast and preserves, or crêpe Florentine. They make it clear on the menu you can only have one item per person. After 11.00am there’s a lunch menu with other dishes. It was unclear if you could nab a breakfast and a lunch from the menu and my schedule didn’t permit me the opportunity to try! The setup was fairly relaxed so I suspect that you could, especially if you switched seats and perhaps ordered from some else. (You order from the bar, see below.)

I went for the crêpe, and while the presentation leaves something to be desired it was edible, although it all tasted pretty bland.


There’s no self service area for alcoholic drinks, instead you can order from the bar, which has a few seats around it and some comfy-looking benches.

Despite the lounge being pretty packed, there a little Library area that is hidden away and that has escaped most people. It’s certainly much quieter than the main area, so much so that many people were sprawled out on the sofas having a sleep. To my mind, this was the most pleasant area of the lounge and where I spent most of my time with some water and browsing through the free Sunday papers. (There were several different titles and it appeared you could take them from the lounge if you wished.)



Certainly this is a nice lounge, but its main drawback, at least when I was there, was how busy it was, so much so that many of the tables hadn’t been cleared. However, there’s no doubt that it’s a much better place than the general terminal area if you need to kill a few hours before your flight.

Flight Deal: Dublin to New York in Business Class £1108

Business Class Deals to New York

There are some good business class deals from Dublin to New York JFK at the moment. The cheapest is available at £1108 (€1266)  on Delta. 


This is a direct flight and there is plenty of availability for the next few weeks and for some months after that. A quick search on Google Flights will show you the best deals. 

If you would rather fly on a One World carrier, they are almost matching these fares. 

The AA direct flight from DUB to JFK, coming back via LHR, comes in at £1216 ($1556), booking on AA.com, sample routing and dates below. 



However, if you book on BA.com and prefer to route via LHR you can pick up some BA sectors and mix and match with AA across a variety of options. The prices for these flights come in at £1144 (€1309); again, sample routings and prices below. I’ve included the direct DUB-JFK outbound, but there are lots of options around the same price point. 


These aren’t the best ever prices, but they’re not bad given the dates. Cheap positioning flights from the UK might make these especially attractive too. 

Trip Report: British Airways First Class London to Miami

British Airways Airbus A380

I suppose it’s rather ironic that on this, the first substantive post on UpperDeckFlyer, for the flight I’m reviewing I was on the lower deck! However, it was in First Class and I hope you’ll forgive me!

I was very pleased about this flight long before I even boarded it. I had managed to snag some tickets in the BA sale from Dublin to Miami via Heathrow. Frequent travellers will be well aware of the many so-called ‘ex-EU’ deals to be had when starting long-haul journeys outside of the UK. In any event, it was a very reasonable £730 round trip for DUB-LHR-MIA in Business Class and I had some BA ‘Gold Upgrade’ (GUF) vouchers to use to upgrade to First. It was a very good deal indeed.

We were travelling on the BA209 departing LHR at 13.50. Unfortunately, MIA-bound flights on BA from LHR depart from Terminal 3 so we didn’t get to sample the delights of the Concorde Lounge in Terminal 5. However, the new Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge had opened in T3 by this stage and it was a very worthy alternative. We had brunch there and a drink to get us in the mood for travelling in the BA First Class Lounge in T3 just before departure. (I won’t review these lounges here, but instead I’ll save that for another post.)

Boarding was a little chaotic given the volume of passengers on the A380, but priority passengers were well looked after and we got past the desk, onto the jetway, onboard, and seated relatively quickly. As is usual with BA at the door of the aircraft, First Class passengers are escorted to their seat. I always find this a little pretentious and to be honest quite unnecessary: it’s as if they think that people in First will have difficulty finding their seats! I generally find it to be quite the opposite!

Anyhow, we got settled in and pre-flight drinks were offered. I never refuse a glass of champagne, day or night! The MIA flights are operated by BA’s Mixed Fleet crews and their enthusiasm and energy was a real credit to the airline this time. Kate, who was serving in my section was super attentive and looked after us from right before take-off. It was also a nice touch for the Cabin Service Manager to stop by shortly after we got airborne to say, ‘Hi!’.

We were seated in Row 2. I like this row when travelling as a group. It’s quiet enough towards the front, is private, and you are one of the first to get served.

BA’s wine selection in First has gradually declined over the years, but the offerings on this flight were palatable enough. I had a more than adequate Meursault and then moved over to the Haut-Médoc when the food got serious.

British Airways First Class Wine List

This turned out to be a great pairing with the food choices. I opted for the Duck rillette  to start and the beef for my main. The starter was excellent, but as usual, it’s tough to do beef properly at 35,000 feet.

British Airways First Class Lunch menu

Nevertheless, I managed to force it down with plenty of that Haut-Médoc!

Some very well-done beef

After the usual disappointment of the beef it was time for dessert and cheese. But not in that order. Much to the typical annoyance of cabin crew, I like to do it the French way: cheese before dessert. (The French say you should always finish your meal with something sweet!) There was lots to choose from.

British Airways Dessert Menu

Anyhow, the very generous cheese portion nearly was the undoing of me. It was huge.

A beautiful selection of cheeses

Standard operating procedure for many is to go for the Port with the cheese, but when flying, if there’s a good red onboard I tend to stick with it, which is what I did on this flight. We moved around a little before the desserts came and I had a guest dine with me for the final course: my daughter. I know the ‘buddy seat’ for dining is a much touted feature of some carriers, but it’s a cramped enough space to sit in throughout the whole meal; if you’re a child it’s a little easier, even if it is only for a few minutes! (That’s why you see two desserts on my tray: I wasn’t being greedy!)

Some delicious chocolate goodness 

With all of the serious eating out of the way, it was time to get some shuteye. We were about three or so hours into the flight by now with about another six to go. I changed into my BA pyjamas and flattened down my seat to get some rest. The cabin crew will make up a bed for you, but I prefer not to do this on daytime flights. Eye mask on, earplugs in, over and out for a good four hours. I think the wine helped.

With just a couple of hours of flying left it was time for… more food. BA’s much-heralded Afternoon Tea is not to be scoffed at, just scoffed. And that’s what we did! This time it was my turn to be the dining buddy and I moved over to sit with my son, who, it must be said, is a great fan of Afternoon Tea. I think he ate most of mine while I made do with a bite and some peppermint tea!

The scrumptious Afternoon Tea menu
When one set of calories isn’t enough!

It dawned on me around this stage that it was physically impossible to eat anything more, so I settled back with some water and a movie as we made our way closer to MIA.

The crew on this flight couldn’t have been more helpful and professional, especially with all of the trouble we caused them moving from seat to seat. Overall, it was very enjoyable and relaxing experience. Not all flights are perfect, but this one was pretty close! Oh, and we landed 30 minutes early too!