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October 26, 2011

Insider's Guide to Asian Airlines

By Departures Dispatch | Travel

The preferred Asian airlines, routes and other tips from some of our frequent fliers.

Singapore Airlines’ all-business-class, 100-passenger flight from Newark airport to Singapore is the best-kept secret among seasoned travelers to Asia. Not only does its nonstop route shave nearly five hours off 22 hours of travel time, its flatbed seats are extra wide with two large pillows and super-soft linens.” —Deborah Frank, managing editor of Departures

“My all-time favorite route is Virgin Atlantic Airways’ upper class [its version of business class] from New York to London to Shanghai. There’s personal, one-on-one service—a driver can pick you up from your home in a Mercedes-Benz—and on some flights you can choose to sit up in the Snooze Zone on the second level, where you can sleep so peacefully with nobody bothering you. During the layover at Heathrow Airport, you can shower and get manicures and pedicures at the Cowshed Spa in Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse.” —Han Feng, designer

“I recommend taking the
Airport Express train to and from Hong Kong International Airport. It’s convenient and comfortable and takes just 24 minutes from the city’s center—much faster than by car. You can take the train straight to terminals 1 and 2, and most of the airlines have a baggage check-in counter at the entrance of the station.” —Richard Chang, director of Tira Holdings

“Flying between Europe and Asia in first class on
Thai Airways is always a marvelous experience. From the moment you arrive outside the airport, you are assisted every second by the same butler. Check-in is done in an individual salon, and you have a special lane for immigration and customs and then a superb lounge with a complimentary Thai massage. It also has the best onboard service, delivered with the very unique manners, style and kindness of the Thai people.” —Guy Bedarida, creative director of John Hardy

“If you fly out at night from Hong Kong, only one side of the plane gets to see the stunning skyline. It depends on which way the plane is taking off—if toward the east, then passengers on the right side get the good view; if toward the west, you want to be seated on the left side. And the
Dragonair flight from Beijing to Hong Kong serves Mediterranean dishes like smoked duck breast with balsamic mustard dressing from Sureño, the flagship restaurant of the Opposite House in Beijing.” —Sheila Donnelly Theroux, publicist

Cathay Pacific Airways is my favorite because of its caring service and continuous improvement, like the evolution of its seat design. The food is delicious—I especially love the barbecued pork noodles. Its flights are seldom delayed, but if they are, Cathay constantly keeps passengers in the loop via airport announcements and even text messages.” —Rainy Chan, general manager of the Peninsula Hong Kong

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