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Around the world in 72 hours

via American, Qatar and Cathay First Class
Around the world in 72 hours
via American, Qatar and Singapore First Class
August 2014
When we visited the Maldives last year, we returned on the last of our ex-CMB First Class tickets... an amazing now gone $4,000 round trip First from CMB to anywhere in the US with stopovers and free changes.  On our outbound, we flew CMB-KUL-LHR-LAX-DEN on SriLankan, Malaysia and British Airways.  But when Mrs. SFO told me that "no, I am not going to fly home from Paris via Sri Lanka" I knew that the gig was up.
But the deal was too good for me to cancel my return and pass up a great mileage run opportunity.  So I decided to fly the return to insure my Executive Platinum re-qualification for this year.   I planned my itinerary to fly the new American 77W and the new Qatar A380.   After debating a variety of CMB-DEN options including Air India, I decided on a discounted Male-HKG-LAX Business class ticket and upgraded HKG-LAX with AsiaMiles.  Hope you enjoy the next 72 hours of planes, lounges, food and drink.
• Admirals Club Denver
• American First Class Denver-Dallas 
• Admirals Club DFW
• American First Class 77W Dallas-London
• Qatar First Class Lounge LHR
• Qatar First Class London-Doha
• New DOH Terminal
• Qatar First Class Lounge DOH
• Qatar Business Class Doha-Colombo
• Lounge CMB
• Galle and Colombo, Sri Lanka
• SriLankan Lounge CMB
• SriLankan Business Class Colombo-Male
* Leeli Lounge MLE
Original Itinerary...
• Cathay Pacific Business Class Male-Hong Kong 
• The Wing First Class Lounge HKG
• Qantas First Class Lounge HKG
• Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong-Los Angeles
* American Flagship First Class Lounge LAX
• American LAX-Denver
Actual Itinerary caused by IRROPS...
• SriLankan Business Class Malé-Colombo
• SriLankan Business Class Colombo-Singapore
• Singapore Airlines The Private Room at SIN
• Singapore Airlines First Class SQ2 SIN-HKG
• Lounge Hopping in HKG
• Singapore Airlines First Class SQ2 HKG-SFO
• Delta Airlines Economy Comfort SFO-MSP
• Delta Airlines Economy Comfort MSP-DEN
Another beautiful Denver morning as I headed out to DIA.  With lots of time as my flight showed an hour delay, I decided to save some money and get some exercise by using the Long Term parking lot.    
My itinerary was too much for OLCI so I had to stop at the American counter.
Big lines at North Security but there was no one in the PreCheck lane and I was thru in a couple of minutes.
By the time I got to the Admirals Club, my flight was now showing a two hour delay.  Always wonderful AAngel Laurie quickly rebooked my on the next DFW flight, bagging the last F seat.
The Denver Admirals Club.

At T-40, I headed out to the gate.
My original flight.   Boarding in 22 minutes? 
With no plane, I don't think so.  
Whoa.  Gate lice?  Not usually the case here at AA.
Denver-Dallas/Ft. Worth
American 125
11:45A-2:30P (sked)
12:10P-2:45P (actual)
August 4, 2014

With a last minute flight change, I was in 3B, the left bulkhead aisle.   

No PDB, but pleasant and efficient lunch service on this short 80 minute flight.   Choice of chicken salad or beef wrap.  The chicken was very good.

The beef wrap in 3A.
I'll be sad when the Mad Dogs are retired.  It's still one AA's most comfortable rides.
We arrived at C30 and less than 10 minutes later via Sky Link was at Terminal D.  
With nearly two hours prior to scheduled departure, I again decided to try the BA contract lounge.
But again was summarily denied access, as it was reserved today for BA 192 customers, or BA Gold and Silver cardholders.  Sufficiently chastened, I opted for the adequate D Admirals Club instead of the Centurion Lounge.
With a nice long line to get it.


As usual, great airplane watching from high above the tarmac.
I headed for the Business Center to do a little work.  Unfortunately, the old tried and true and reliable Printspots printer has been replaced with a new digital model.  No so good.  How about getting something that works, or even something that speaks English?? 
At T-50, I headed out to the D27 and my first up close look at American's 777-300ER, the 77W.
American 50
4:55P-8:05A (sked)
4:50P-7:40A (actual)
August 4, 2014
First Class
Seat 2J

Boarding had already started when I arrived.  I navigated modest gate lice and followed the crowd down the jet bridge to 2L.


Couldn't resist this one.

Crossing thru the galley and a left turn thru the J mini-cabin to First.   First impression?  Meh, this is the best they could do??

Seats were OK but I found them a little narrow compared to other real First Class seats/suites.  Some of the controls were in strange or inconvenient positions.  But the worst part was personal storage, or rather the complete lack thereof.   Sorry, but this almost feels like J+ seat.  Indeed, United 777 First to be more comfortable and more functional.  And no curtains between the galley and the cabin means daylight all night long. 

Another problem is the staggered cabin configuration which means that seats 2A and 2J are almost in the J cabin.  Seriously, who designed this??

Still with the plastic PDB glasses... not very First Class.

All in all, a good crew led by Purser Brian but between the casual US attitude and AA soft product limitations, it's still AA.  And of course the fact that our two FA jump seats were on opposite sides of the plane, the usual American chit chat so all can hear.  Ugh.

Most quality airlines leave a big buffer space between and the cabin, and use CURTAINS to block the view, light and mute the noise.  Not AA, who didn't even think to install curtains.

And quite possible the thinest, cheapest "curtain" between F and J on an international flight...

AA continues to compete ith BA for the smallest, cheapest hot towel in the skies...

Although American offers Dining on Demand, and I was given the option, I decided to have dinner "right after take-off".  My bad, as "right after take-off" meant just that... right after take-off.  Yikes.  One round of drinks and our crew rushed right into dinner.  In an attempt to slow the pace, I ate slowly indeed not starting some of the appetizers for a few minutes after they had been presented.  Today's menu.  I had pre-ordered the beef. 

And the wine list.   I've said it before and will say it again, Ken Chase must have something on AA, for I have no idea how he can keep his job with garbage like this.  Most of these are $12 wines.  

First Class salt and pepper shakers.  Seriously??

The mushroom soup was very good.

Naturally, my beef was well done and not very good.  Can't imagine how well done it would have been had I waited to eat.

My specialty sundae was excellent.

The vaunted First Class snack counter.  Meh.

At least the lav is attractive.

After dinner, I tried out the Wifi, priced at $18 for the flight.  Well, you get what you pay for.  Connectivity and functionality was next to useless.  Even emails took forever to download.  And forget about surfing the web.  Purser Brian converted my seat to a bed and I slept for a couple of hours.

Middle of the night and light is streaming in from the galley.  Why does this airline have to be so stupid sometimes??

Still full from dinner, I passed on breakfast.  Great views of London on our approach this morning.

We arrived at Heathrow about half an hour early, apparently before the gate folks were ready and it took 15 minutes to hook up the jet bridge,
A tour of the J mini-cabin while waited...
All in all, American's new 77W is a big disappointment.   I think the old 772 First Class seats and cabin is a better hard product.   American could have done so much more with this plane and cabin.   In the end, it's still American and a North American service attitude.  You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy.  Service is too casual and lacking in the detailed training that you see on Asian and Gulf airlines. And the hard product it simply not very good.  Who on earth approves and signs off on a First Class cabin without curtains to block light and mute some of the noise?  Who designs and approves a First Class cabin with two seats partially in the Business Class cabin and then installs flimsy curtains between the two cabins?
AA uses Terminal 3 at LHR while Qatar uses Terminal 4.   That means one needs a lot of patience and gets a lot of exercise on this terminal change and connection.   No need to clear customs as inter-terminal bus service operates point-to-point service between the terminals.  It's a long walk just to get to that bus, although signage is quite good.
Once in T4, another security check to get in.   IMO, Britain has to rank right up there with the worst, most clueless and inefficient security screening on the planet.
With good signage, it was easy to find the Qatar Premium Lounge, a very attractive lounge with lovely and attentive staff.  
With what you would expect from a 5-star airline that understands service.   Numerous comfortable seating areas and a full bistro restaurant with martini bar and beautifully stocked wine "cellar".   
I wasn't very hungry and figured I'd eat on the LHR-DOH flight.  Opted for a refreshing shower in one of the four attractive showers.
At T-50, I headed out to the nearby gate to maximize my on board time.
Qatar 12
August 5, 2014
First Class
Seat 2A
I had originally booked this flight because it was supposed to be the new A380.  Originally scheduled for a June launch, QR kept pushing the delivery date to be point where there is now no fixed date.  So the old QR A340 it is.    While somewhat dated, for all the years and miles, it was still very attractive and comfortable.  
But what was even better for me today was that I was only First Class passenger today. And wonderful FAs Eun and Abegail pampered me for my seven hours on board.
A peek into the Business Class cabin, and teh obligatory "evil eye"

Now this is a First Class menu.


And a real First Class wine list

Always great plane watching at Heathrow.
Once in the air, showtime.  Staring with a glass of Krug.
Knowing that this will be my last chance for good sleep for a few days, I decided to get as much sleep as possible.  Two hours of good sleep as Euw made up a bed for me next door.
The only negative I can think of is the antiquated and awful IFE system.  It is essentially unwatchable.  Even the Flight Info system has flaws.
Our approach to DOH.
And a nice touch closing the F-J curtain on my side of the plane to prevent J pax rushing me to exit.
What an outstanding flight, truly First Class and way better than my American experience.  Qatar is in the same service league as EY and EK.  The only thing that is disappointing is that they only operate two class planes to the US.   While I'm sure QR Business Class is better than AA First, I simply would not pick them ex-North American when EY and EK offer First Class service.
Talk about a wow!  What a spectacular new facility that catapults DOH to the top of the big three Gulf airports.  Big, spacious and open with all the bells and whistles that make this one of the easiest international connection airports.
A look back at our A340-600.
High marks for excellent signage throughout the terminal.
With premium class transfer screening lanes that had no lines.
With a main central area with fingers that go to the various concourses, after a few drinks vaguely reminiscent of Pittsburgh, but obviously on a far grander and spectacular scale.
The million dollar teddy bear.
That's what I'm looking for.
To a grand escalator to the skies with agents manning the base.  This must be the place.  I inquired about the First Class Lounge and and told that unfortunately, it is not yet completed.  But I am most welcome in the Business Class Lounge.  LIttle did I know that Qatar's DOH Business Class lounge is better than most other airlines' First Class lounges.
Up the escalator on the entire mezzanine level is the most incredible Lounge one can imagine.  It spans acres.  Bear in mind that this is only the Business Class lounge.  The size, scale and opulence is jaw-dropping. 
Hundreds of comfortable seating areas, most seat coming with ipad, water and snack.
Game Room
The lounge features two full service restaurants, one at each end of the complex.  The more formal restaurant at one end...

And the more casual restaurant at the other end...

A functional Business Centre...
But Wifi is a frustrating work in progress.  Medium speed but the worst part was getting kicked off every 10 minutes with the need to re-log in.  Seriously??  I can't tell you how many posts I lost because of the 10 minutes and you're out stupidity.  Yo QR, spend some money on your own Lounge Wifi system instead of piggy-backing on the free airport system.
Baggage Room with lockers!! 

At around T-50, I decided to head out towards nearby Gate B2.

Qatar QR658
August 6, 2014
Business Class
Seat 1A
Although priority boarding was announced, I was working on my laptop at the gate so decided to wait to board.

Very attractive, clean cabin with comfortable reclining seats.  I was originally assigned 2C, but with 1AB unoccupied moved over to 1A after boarding was completed.

Doha skyline.

Outstanding crew provided flawless inflight service.

With an outstanding regional Business Class wine list, better than many airlines First Class wine lists. 

My usual G&T to start.

The pan grilled dakshin prawn appetizer was sensational.

The coconut paneer masala delicious.

Ladurée chocolate dessert sensational.

After the meal, I got a couple hours of so-so sleep in the semi-reclining seat.

Crosiing the Sri Lanka coastline.

Back to Colombo, where for the first I am actually planning on leaving the airport!