Luxury and Discounter Brands at 40,000 Feet

My love of discounters (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Filene’s Basement, Century 21) is well established.  The rush I get when finding the Balenciaga Paris blouse for 90% off is simply inexplicable. However, finding that one gem among the thousands of tons of crap in these stores is not a regular occurrence.  Rather,  you dig through tons of polyester, rayon, bad styles, even worse color palettes and probably a lot of damaged items.  But, if all you really need is a basic white t-shirt and don’t care how much you sweat in the unbreathable material or how flattering, or unflattering the cut is, or how ugly and disorganized the store you buy it in is, then a discounter is your dream.

During all of my travels, I realized that the concept of discounters is ready and alive around the world, even at 40,000 feet in the air and its name is Air China.  However, in order to really appreciate the “discounting” of one airline, you must have the luxury counterpart to which it compares. Enter Emirates Airline.

The official airlines of the United Arab Emirates, Emirates Airline is unlike any thing I have ever experienced. From the personal escort you receive upon arriving to the airport who accompanies you through check-in and immigration, to the business lounge so well appointed you can have a massage while drowning your pre-flight jitters in Vueve, to the in-flight bar and lounge so famously depicted in Sex and the City 2, flying Emirates is the biggest luxury experience one can have.

Oh yes, how pleasant is it when you can board the plane already satiated from some champagne and the best hommos ever while sitting in an overstuffed leather chair!  Well, on Emirates this is only the beginning.

I love that everyone talks about pitch (the room between seats), but this is what I call real legroom and comfortable seats!

Wonder what is on the Air China discounter side?  Wonder no longer:

For some reason when I see this picture, it makes me think of the old rickety pickups that have people, chickens and produce all shoved in the back traveling from village to village in Mexico.  Not exactly how I want to spend 10 hours flying from Beijing to London.

Independent of seat class, everyone enjoys a liquid refreshment pre-flight, no?

Luxury:

Discounter:

The paper cups are a classy touch.

How about the in-flight meal?  Both Emirates and Air China are leading airlines from countries with very distinct gastronomy. Surely, the governments would like to highlight it to passengers.  Let’s see how they did:

Luxury:

Discounter:

The above needs to explanation.  Maybe dessert options can even it out?

Luxury:

Discounter:

Maybe not.  Air China gives you drinkable yogurt or orange juice and tea as dessert.  Hmm, not really hitting the sweet tooth for me.

I could go on and on comparing things such as in flight entertainment, but the 600 movies on demand available on Emirates puts the Chinese films with Italian subtitles featured on Air China to shame. Or how about the bathrooms. Air China basically has port o potties that don’t even use running water.  Emirates?  Marble with fresh freesias.

The best part of this whole thing is the price tag associated with the luxury and discount airline.

As of today, Emirates round trip flight from London to Beijing is $1163.00 and Air China is $1350.00.  No mistake here, you actually pay more for the crap airline with waterless flushing than you do for great food on a comfortable and service oriented airline, as is the case with Emirates.  Moral of the story: a discounter who actually has inferior product and charges more for it no longer is a discounter, its a rip-off!  Down with Air China.  I know wave the Emirates flag!

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