First Class: The Only Way to Fly Especially Hawaiian to Hawaii and Eos to England

 

Now this is First Class Flying

If you’ve been reading my blog you should know by now that I am a First Class snob. For me flying coach is down right dumb.  So when I heard about Eos Airlines it roused my aristocratic senses. The all top cabin carrier flies 48 pax in cushy style in a specially-designed 757-200 aircraft between England’s Stansted Airport (STN) and New York’s JFK.  We’re talking bed-like seat, staggered “suites” that afford privacy and utmost comfort, gourmet cuisine, turndown service, DVD players with Bose noise-canceling headphones, curbside escort check in.They even throw in a stylish travel case from Cornelia Day Spa in New York City (www.cornelia.com/eos) stuffed with a toothbrush,  ear plugs, socks, eye mask, lip balm, hand cream, mini hair brush, emery board. I haven’t actually sampled the fare (which is hardly astronomical for what you get at $3,150 roundtrip for a 42 day advanced purchase and $6,850 for unrestricted booking. Check it out at eosairlines.com or 888-357-3677.

 

Confessions Of A First Class Snob, Or Flying Coach is Dumb

While not exactly among the ranks of the rich and famous, there is one luxury I can’t live without, a First Class Ticket, especially on any flight over four hours.  I am fortunate to have amassed enough frequent flier miles to use for upgrades. However I will the premium even if it means taking out a second mortgage on our house. Gratefully I haven’t had to go that far, but flying top cabin is worth it.

 

Why? Let me count the ways.

First of all checking in.  Most carriers allocate special check in not only inside the terminal but outside where you can be dropped off and go right in. Once in it’s usually a breeze going through the first class check in line. After which you are often escorted to a faster, dedicated first class security line. Then you get to board before coach passengers and can settle into your cushy seat, often with a beverage while you await take-off.

And speaking of seats, depending on the flight designation: i.e.: Premium Class, Deluxe First, or simply First, seats can recline anywhere from 60 degrees to flat. 

 

When I am flying solo on Delta I often go online to check out the aircraft because certain ones have one seat in the middle which means you are all by yourself for peace and quiet. I like to take domestic flightsthat are heading abroad because the airline usually uses planes that have more luxurious first class sections. This means better seating arrangements, food and more premium wines (I enjoy the grape when I fly).

 American, which I also fly often, has seats that go way back to almost bed configuration on domestic flights, usually those flights that are heading for Europe.

 

Disembarking is also more pleasant when you’re a First Class pax. You get off the plane before everybody and your luggage is also the first to arrive at baggage claim.

 

Refunds or itinerary changes are also easier when you purchase or use miles for an upgrade. Most carriers allow no fee changes or at least give you back the value of the fare.

 

Of course there are times First Class fails. One such instance was a recent flight on USAir to Philadelphia. It was a morning trip and I ordered an omelet. When the flight attendant brought me my tray it had cereal and fruit. “I didn’t order this,” I explained. To wit she nastily replied, “We had to serve our “premium passengers” first, and you don’t have enough miles so you get second choice.” Obviously this did not go over well with me having forfeited 30,000 miles for my upgrade.

 

There have been a few instances when due to mechanical problems I have had to land in a airport that wasn’t my destination and overnight.  In those cases, when I had a First Class ticket I was always put up in a hotel and given food vouchers. Some coach passengers weren’t as fortunate.  A few times when this happened on American the company actually refunded me miles for the inconvenience.

 

But most of the time you are treated better in the front of the plane.  Hawaiian Airlines, which has a fine reputation of Aloha-like service throughout its Ocean-crossing flights, goes out of its way to please First Class passengers. I have flown them manytimes and was never let down. The food is created by top Island chefs and almost always excellent for airline food. They pour decent wines and are very generous and attentive. The seats recline comfortably.

 

First Class is a non brainer when flying to Europe, Asia or the South Pacific. It’s just too many hours to be cramped in coach.  What’s more many carriers now sport full beds, some covered in down comforters, and they even provide night clothes.

 

Taking Momma to Maui  First Class All the Way

Two decades ago.  I gave my mother a trip to Maui for Mothers Day. She had never been to Hawaii and was thrilled by the idea. We booked first class seats, of course.

 It turned out to be one of the best experiences of her life and mine. She marveled in everything we did—from driving in a jeep to heavenly Hana on the far reaches of the Island, to visiting Lindberg’s grave. “Oh my I never thought I would be standing next to Lindberg’s grave,” she sighed. She was also fascinated by new experiences such as eating sashimi for the first time. “I can’t believe I am eating raw fish,” she remarked.  Mom was swept away by the awesome sunsets, the sweet scented plummaria that permeate the islands and of course the pure beauty of verdant mountains melting into the azure colored sea..

 

The trip proved so successful we decided to make a practice of traveling with Mom. We took her on her first cruise aboard the Pacific Princess in the late 1980s. “I just can’t believe I am sailing on the “Love Boat” she remarked. “Butwhere is Captain Steubing,” she half-joked.

 

We escorted her on the CostaRomantica where Momma Covello was a hit with the mostly Italian crew.  She so enjoyed the ship’s Italian flair, but was frustrated that she could no longer speak the language she learned as the child of immigrant Italians.  Still the waiters took to her, politely helping her with their native tongue. They loved her big brown eyes and infectious smile.

 

As time went by my mother’s health began to fail. It became necessary to push her in a wheel chair wherever we went.  I got adept at steering (although sometimes when the ship rocked it wasn’t so easy navigating narrow hallways). “You’re drunk,” she laughed one particularly bumpy night as we slid from side to side along the hall. I wasn’t and she knew it.  I even wheeled her over the cobblestone streets of Cozumel and maneuvered her in and out of museums in San Jose, Costa Rica.

 

What makes every trip most poignant is that my Mom passed away recently and I am left with warm and wonderful memories neatly recorded in photo albums, which I leaf through regularly. Each photo recalls the fun times we enjoyed together and the happiness they brought to her.  I also have a video of our CostaRomantica cruise—my most precious souvenir of our travels since my older brother Tony joined us for that Mothers Day celebration.  It was his first cruise and the first time the family had traveled together by sea. Tony recorded the entire two weeks on video tape capturing scenes of our Mom dancing on deck to the music of the Calypso band, decked out in a toga on ‘Toga Night,” sunning by the pool, and sipping Margaritas at a little beachfront palapa in Cozumel, Mexico. She came with us on the inaugural of the Grand Princess in Venice. A voyage she would never forget, nor would we. Twice a year we went to Las Vegas where she garnered comped rooms and meals in return for her “high rolling” slot machine action.

 

Dad Might Enjoy It Too

With Mothers Day on the horizon and Fathers Day not far behind, you might want to consider giving your parents a gift of travel.  It’s something you’ll never regret and will remember well after they are gone.

 

So many adult children are too busy these days to spend quality time with their parents. But a trip together, whether a weekend at the seashore, a long cruise or a journey abroad, allows for leisure moments and new experiences.  While we took Mom to places we had been before, they were new to her. And seeing them again through her eyes was exhilarating.  She was always appreciative, interested and eager.  She never complained even on the bumpy, windy jeep ride on the road to Hana, or during long delays in airports. However, like her daughter she hated it when the coffee was weak (we both prefer espresso).

 

Memories are Made of This

My snapshots documented both in my mind and in albums include sipping cappuccinos at sidewalk cafes, spending endless hours in shipboard casinos while she plied the one arm bandit with silver dollars, when she won big jackpots onboard a ship or in Atlantic City of Las Vegas. I have a photo of her beaming as she received a big payout in the casino of the Dawn Princess. Another snap shot shows Mom floating in Zihuatanejo Bay with the Pacific Princess in the background. I remember her remarking, “I can’t believe I am swimming in the same water with the Love Boat.”

 

While this could prove an expensive gift, it truly is priceless. My mother’s gratitude, enjoyment and her beautiful smile were payback enough. 

 

What’s more, it’s the gift that just keeps on giving.

 

 

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