Air travel can sometimes be a bumpy ride, especially when you've got a bad back and a long haul flight ahead of you. So which seat is the most comfortable, and what happens if you forget something as important as your wallet on the plane? We've got answers to these and other pressing travel questions.
Q: Which airline has the most comfortable business class seats to the U.K.? I have a bad back and first class costs too much but I would like to recline as much as possible. I’ll be flying from Los Angeles.
A: As long as the plane you’re flying has fully-lie-flat seats as opposed to those that merely recline, you should be in good shape. But even all lie-flat seats are not created equal in business class. All airlines flying nonstop between LA and London now have fully lie-flat seats.
There are basically two types: one type reclines from fully upright to lie-flat while you’re in the seat; these seats offer an infinite number of positions between sitting up and lying flat. The other kind requires that you get up from your seat, flip the seat cushion over or down, and then provides a different (usually cushier) surface for sleeping on. Many people find this type more comfortable (one side is an upholstered sitting surface, the other is more like a mattress).
In the first category, American Airlines flies LA to London nonstop on its new Boeing 777-300ER planes, and I find their business class seats to be Goldilocks-approved: not too firm, not too soft (the entertainment system is also excellent); all seats have aisle access, so no climbing over your neighbor.
In the “flip-over” category, Virgin Atlantic has a very comfy business class (it’s called Upper Class) that has recently been re-imagined on some routes (not from LA yet, however). All seats have aisle access, which isn’t true of all business classes. If I had to choose, I’d go with either Virgin Atlantic or American.
Q: I left my wallet in the seatback pocket of a Delta flight to Amsterdam. I contacted Delta through its lost and found website. Fortunately, the wallet was found in Amsterdam but Delta would not send it to me unless I could give them a FedEx account, which I didn’t have and which I wasn’t able to sign up for because the FedEx website in Europe wouldn’t let me sign up with a U.S.-based address and credit card. Finally, Delta agreed to sent my wallet back to my home address, where it arrived two days after I returned home. My trip was ruined by not having my own credit card and cash (I ended up using my daughter’s credit card to get by). What should I have done differently to prevent all this from happening?
A: Oh, so many things. First, I truly sympathize with you because the same thing has happened to me. I put my passport in a seatback pocket on a Virgin Atlantic flight and although I knew it was in there somewhere and I searched for 20 minutes before the flight landed, I couldn’t find it to save my life. It must have fallen into a black hole. I had to talk my way into the U.K. without a passport. Not fun. Luckily, Virgin found my passport (in Miami!) and delivered it to my London hotel in time for my return home. And without charge. It would have been nice if Delta had done the same for you.
So what should you have done differently? First, pretend that the seatback pocket isn’t there. Never, ever put anything in the seatback pocket. It’s filthy for one thing, and for another it’s a recipe for disaster.
Second, I can’t imagine why you couldn’t have accessed the U.S. FedEx website even in Europe (rather than the European website). Or have called FedEx by phone and established an account. Although if you didn’t have your credit card, I’m not sure how this would have been possible anyway.
Third, never put all your credit cards and cash in one place. I always put one credit card and some cash in my passport holder along with my passport, and the rest in my wallet.
Fourth, you know the old advertising slogan American Express used? “Never leave home without it?” I never leave home without my Amex card because on more than one occasion I’ve either lost or misplaced my wallet and Amex either issued me a credit card at one of their offices on the spot, or delivered a replacement card within 24 hours and covered my hotel expenses with just a phone call while waiting for the card to arrive. Credit cards issued by banks typically can’t issue replacement cards immediately or they can’t overnight them to you in 24 hours.
Q. My family and I (4 people in total) are traveling to London in early April and while planning our itinerary. After reading numerous books and blogs about how to get to central London from Heathrow, I am still confused about my options. Can you please clearly list my options for getting to the city? I did read taking a taxi into is quite expensive, and they charge by person? Hope this is not true.
Also, we are also planning day trips to Oxford and Cambridge and decided to travel by train. I noticed during my search for tickets that the fare to Cambridge is far more expensive than Oxford. Is there any reason why?
A. The cheapest way to get to London from Heathrow is the Tube. It takes about 45-60 minutes. Get an Oyster Card (a stored value card) if you’re going to be using the Tube or buses a lot while in London. You’ll save money that way. The fast trains to London Paddington Station will be almost as expensive for a party of four as a taxi would be, since you’ll still probably have to take the Tube to your final destination unless your hotel is within walking distance of Paddington. I’m not aware that black cabs charge for each passenger. But the Tube will definitely be cheaper than a taxi and almost as fast if there’s traffic.
As for Oxford, you might consider a coach instead. It’s not quite as fast or comfortable but often cheaper. If you buy an advance purchase non-refundable fare (either train or bus), it’s going to be quite cheap and train and coach fares vary depending on time of day and date. I saw London to Cambridge by train for as little as six pounds each way in April and trains to Oxford for 5 pounds 60 pence, so prices can be similar depending on time of day and so on.
George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and founder of the low-airfare listing site Airfarewatchdog.com.