Farewell the Qantas B747 on domestic routes in Australia

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For 50 years the Queen of the Skies aka the B747 has been a staple of Qantas’ international operations. Admittedly I’ve had some fond memories flying her to the USA, the UK and even Germany (when QF used to run their Frankfurt leg). Sadly however as time goes on, so do improvements in technology and great dames like the B747 become in the aviation world (certainly not in the passengers hearts) redundant. Qantas recently has acquired several B787s which are more fuel efficient and as such means the B747 is being retired by the company in late 2020.

Now for the not so sad new folks – all I can say is forget the passport! To recognise how crucial the B747 has been to Qantas (and the aviation sector in general), the airline has announced it will operate the jumbo on select domestic services across four Australian cities. The domestic B747 services will run between November and February 2020.

Below for the list of 747 domestic routes:

  • SYD-BNE  QF524  9 Nov 2019
  • SYD-ADL  QF743  23 Nov 2019
  • SYD-MEL  QF417  31 Dec 2019, QF439 15 Feb 2020
  • BNE-SYD  QF529  11 Nov 2019
  • ADL-SYD  QF736  25 Nov 2019
  • MEL-SYD  QF438  1 Jan 2020, QF400 17 Feb 2020

As an aviation geek, whilst I’m saddened by the B747s retirement, I’m also heartened by the fact that Qantas is giving the general Australian community (and internationals should they be in town), the opportunity to fly the Queen for a reasonable price without having to fork out large sums for an international leg.

Will you be booking in a domestic service on the Qantas B747? Get in touch. I’m keen to hear your thoughts. 

Qatar QSuite – Seat Comparison Roundup (B777-300ER) vs A350-900)

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Last year TAT compared the variants of Qatar business class seats that were being operated from the herringbone of the A380 to the forward facing, 2-2-2 hop over configuration of the A330. A year on and this time around due to the opportunity of flying back to back on two QSuite flights, we thought we’d compared the experience of the A350 vs that of the B777. So how does the QSuite experience fair between aircraft? Is the overall flight journey on par across the board or are no two QSuites the same? TAT took to the skies to find out…

A350

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The seat

The A350 features 46 QSuites in its business cabin, which are configured in a staggered 1-2-1 layout that offers each passenger direct aisle access. There are different types of seating configurations, with odd-numbered rows featuring rear-facing seats and even-numbered rows having forward facing ones.

The QSuite is beautiful designed with shoulder height doors that close while at the same time not making the space feel claustrophobic. On this flight I sat in 3A, which was a rear facing window seat. All suites are adorned with grey upholstery, hand-stitched Italian leather and satin rose gold finishing. Despite each seat having a width of 21.5 inches (55 cm) which extends to a 79 inches (2m) long bed, I found the seat generally a little tight in terms of comfort. Due to this being a relatively short 3 hour flight, I didn’t have the opportunity to test the lie flat bed.

Also in the suite was a hard shell BRICS amenities kit which contained the usual suspects for long haul travel, such as socks, eyeshades and ear plugs as well as some nice skincare items from Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio.

Entertain me

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Entertainment is the best of the Oryx One system by Qatar. It’s a comprehensive but not exhaustive range that’s on offer here. Entertainment is delivered on a large and clear 22” HD screen. Control also via the screen or remote by the seat. Oryx One branded noise-cancelling headphones were also provided during the flight.

The A350 also offers onboard WiFi. On this flight, the first 60 minutes of WiFi is complimentary and for those who wish to surf the net beyond this timeframe there’s a handful of wifi plans depending on your usage/ needs. Using the complimentary wifi, I found that just general browsing without downloading anything was quite slow. If this was the case for the paid option too I would feel frustrated and frankly ripped off.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Qatar’s soft product is just as amazing as their hard product. Despite being a three hour flight, the food and drink options were not skimmed over. A lot of detail and attention was placed on the food and beverage presentation and taste. On this flight was a simple a la carte menu. To properly compare service, I order a three course dinner onboard by having the seared scallops for starter, the grilled prawn and cod fish for main and the fresh berries with almond syrup for desert. I complimented this with the delectable Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose which enhanced the dining experience with its lovely raspberry and salmon hues.

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All of the dishes were tasty and beautiful presented (I loved the quality dishware used). On the A350 the service was speedy but attentive. Given the relatively short flight I could understand the FAs sense of urgency however that did not impact the warmth or friendliness of the onboard service.

777

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The Seat

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The first thing one notices about the QSuite on the B77 is the sense of space, especially compared to the A350 layout. In this aircraft there are 42 Qsuites spread across two minicabins. Like the A350 the cabin is a 1-2-1 configuration, offering each passenger direct aisle access. Like before I was seated in 3A and facing the rear on the plane on the window side.

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Due to the timing of my flight being overnight, my suite contained two pillows, a blanket, amenity kit and set of headphones at the seat. The seat itself was quite comfortable, measuring 21.5 inches wide and 79 inches (2m) long, roughly the same as the A350. Despite the seat being the same in size the suite itself felt larger.

After the a la carte meal service I reclined to a full flat position to get some sleep during my nine hour flight. Whilst I didn’t have an FA do a turndown service for me, I found simply laying on my back with a blanket over me on the seat more that comfortable and didn’t require the mattress topper at all.

Pyjamas from The White Company were provided for this flight as well as the hard shell BRIC amenities kit, which contained the same toiletries as the A350 leg.

Entertain me

Without trying to sound repetitive, entertainment is provided through the Oryx One system. Again what was on offer was comprehensive but not exhaustive. Entertainment is delivered on a large and clear 21.5” HD screen which can be controlled via the screen or remote by the seat.

Also like the A350 there was wifi onboard with sadly the same connectivity issues.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Being a nine hour flight two meals services were issued. Being a late night flight the menu had an emphasis on late night dining through some lighter dish options. On this flight I order the mixed garden salad, prawn wonton noodle soup and the baked coconut pudding with chilli chocolate. I accompanied my dishes again with a glass of the Laurent Perrier rose. Yes there were other options in terms of some great NZ and Napa Valley whites and reds but that Laurent Perrier seems to pair well with anything! All of the dishes went down a treat and like the A350, all beautifully presented on charming dishware.

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The breakfast service was equally impressive. I’m a sucker for an arabic mezze and order that alongside a platter of seasonal fruits, a glass of mint lemon juice and an assiette of cold cuts. To toast in the last hour or so before landing I chose to go a champagne breakfast with a glass of the Pommery Brut NV.

Service throughout the flight was outstanding and despite the relatively full cabin the flight attendants had strong attention to detail.

Conclusion

Qatar is a highly regarded airline, and the reputation is justified. Its Business Class products are well designed, comfortable and for the most part offer a consistent experience despite the seat variations. The pillows and blankets provided are lush and comfortable. Amenity packs universal and pyjamas are comfortable to lounge and sleep in (when provided). Food on board is always to a high standard and service generally warm and attentive.

It was a struggle to decide which aircraft I liked more as the service, seat and food/ beverage options were all on par. In fact I was surprised they aligned so well considering I’ve been on different aircraft for another airline and their service/ seat was worlds apart. I’m calling this one a tie. You are on a winner regardless of which aircraft you fly the QSuite on!

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Comments

Have you experienced flying QSuite on either the A350 or B777 or both? Did you love or dislike the experience? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

 

 

BRITISH AIRWAYS B777 CLUB WORLD LHR-TLV: REVIEW

Flight: BA167, LHR – TLV

Loyalty Scheme: The Executive Club (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple daily

Duration: 5 hours

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Unlike a number of people, I don’t have a real axe to grind with British Airways. Perhaps I’ve been fortunate but my flying experiences with the airlines have been genuinely pleasant and dare I say it, even enjoyable. Due to some fortunate operational reasons, BA quietly upgraded my LHR – LTV flight prior to check in from a not so bad premium economy seat to their Club World cabin. For a five hour flight this was quite a nice way to arrive in Ben Gurion Airport and an upgrade is an upgrade. I was keen see some of the changes that BA announced last year to their Club World cabin. Sure the new direct aisle business class seat wasn’t on this flight but some of the ‘soft improvements’ that they touted were now in operation. So how did BA’s Club World fare? TAT took to the skies to find out…

The Seat

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The first thing one notices upon entering the cabin is the weird yet crowded business class layout of the cabin which is configured 2-4-2 (8 seats abreast in a 56 seat cabin). Now in today’s business class flying terms, that’s rather ancient in terms of layouts. The middle central seats are couple seats whilst the rest are staggered individually (either facing forward or backward). On today’s flight I had a direct aisle, centred seat. The seat felt quite exposed and lacked privacy. Not only could those walking down the aisle see me clearly but also those with their partitions down in the central part of the Club World cabin. Those fortunate to be seated on the window seats had more of a privacy cocoon.

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The seat also lacked storage and I found myself having to leave my mobile charging on the floor next to my seat. Against the power outlets was a small compartment underneath the centre console. I’d struggle to put anything in there other than a slim tablet. Due to the flight not being an overnight flight, bedding was not provided but the seat does convert into a fully lie flat bed. A lovely Elemis amenities kit was handed out by flight attendants which contained the usual suspects such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, cream, etc.

There’ were four restrooms allocated for business class and during the flight when I did need to go there was never a line up for the bathrooms.

Entertain me

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The seat had an odd 12 inch flip out flat screen, which was poorly aligned for those who wish to recline back a little to enjoy their entertainment viewing. Aside from this small gripe the actually catalogue of movie, TV and music options was rather decent despite it being no Emirates ICE. Moreover with the screen being surely around for some 10+ years, the resolution and sound from the entertainment system was still surprisingly strong. All seats also came with noise cancelling headphones to enhance the viewing experience.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Upon seating down a flight attendant (FA) approached me to offer a hot towel and champagne or water. I went with the NV champagne which was from the house of Canard-Duchêne (the drop is also served in their first class lounges). Once airborne the FA came around again tom take meal orders as well as top up drinks. I decided to switch my champagne to the Besserat de Bellefon brut rosé champagne, which had some rather lovely smokey notes fused with a delicious salted almond, lemon meringue flavour. 

Other drinks on offer was a selection of Austrian, Argentinean and NZ white and red wines as well as a host of teas for those seeking a belated British afternoon cup of tea.

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Gone were the trolleys as part of the new Club World revamp late last year. Instead FAs would come out dish by dish with people’s selections. Traditionally I’m a three course man on a business class flight so the progressive dining service was a nice touch compared to the all in one service delivery of old. For starter I went with the Loch Fyne smoked salmon which did not disappoint. The dish was followed by a Scottish beef short rib main, which was equally impressive and wasn’t dry like some beef dishes I’ve experienced on other airlines. To finish I had the apple and blackberry compote which had a delicious almond crumble. All up the dining experience whilst a little delayed between dishes was very good. The promise of BA lifting their business class dining standards was very evident on this flight, from the presentation to the taste of the dishes.

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Verdict

I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this flight. The cabin isn’t as horrid as some of the stories I’ve read online but then again isn’t anywhere near as good as some its rivals like Qatar’s superior QSuite and Emirates’ direct aisle A380 business class suite. Overlooking the lack of privacy, the seat was comfortable and the entertainment offering was solid. The stand out for me was the food and drink service which felt personalised, well presented and more importantly tasty. The rollout of soft improvements around the dining service was clear and made all the difference (even if it seemed minor on the surface in terms of enhancements). You could say the flying experience overall was a pleasant surprise. I would have no hesitation flying the Club World cabin again on BA should the option arise.

Comments

Have you experienced flying business/ Club World on British Airways? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge – Bangkok: Review

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Suvarnabhumi Airport Concourse G, Level 3

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Cathay Pacific as a brand is doing all the right things in terms of the overall flying experience. What the airline provides is a unique and understated sense of luxury without being too OTT, which is sadly lacking in a lot of airlines today. During a transit in Bangkok I noticed Cathay had a lounge and for me it was a no brainer, especially when the majority of offerings are paid entry lounges which if you’re lucky will offer you maybe a basic house wine and/ or a shower to refresh in. Having enjoyed the Cathay lounges in Hong Kong and London I was hopeful that I’d have a similar lounge experience. So how does the BKK lounge stack up? Is it worthy of the Cathay name or has it put the airline to shame. TAT checked in to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon first and business class passengers, plus first and business class flyers of Oneworld partners British Airways, American Airlines, Qatar and Japan Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Diamond, Gold and Silver frequent flyers travelling on a Qantas or Oneworld flight
  • Connecting passengers arriving on long-haul first class Oneworld flights
  • Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers
  • American Airlines Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey members
  • Single-use Qantas first class lounge pass holders
  • Air France first class passengers

Lounge location and opening hours

After clearing security, proceed to Concourse G and go to level 3, where you’ll find the lounge amongst a number of paid entry lounges The lounge is open daily from 04:00 – 18:20.

Ambience

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True to the signature Cathay style, the lounge oozes a sense of understated luxury. Whilst the space isn’t overly large like The Pier or The Wing in Hong Kong, one immediately feels at ease upon entering this space. After clearing concierge there’s a small kitchen/ buffet area in front of the entrance. Being a morning flight, the buffet was stocked with cereals, breads, cold meats and fresh fruits. Adjacent to the buffet space is a long bar to sit and have a social drink (if it was the right time of day for it – clearly not at this stage!).

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Despite being smaller lounge layout, the lounge at no point feels cramped on busy. The choice of furnishing especially around the main seating area are smart and well designed. Space isn’t wasted nor lost. It’s truly a testament to great lounge design. The abundance of light streaming through the large terminal windows adds to the sense of space.

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There are also well appointed and private bathrooms/ toilets stocked with my favourite Aesop amenities to keep passengers looking and feeling refreshed before their flight.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

It wouldn’t be a Cathay lounge without its renown Noodle Bar. Despite being a breakfast session the bar was offering delicious options from wonton noodle soup, fried egg rice to dim sum and fried egg with bacon (more a western influenced dish). The breakfast menu sounded so tantalising that I ordered one of everything and did not have any food regrets!

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If an Asian influenced breakfast doesn’t tickle your fancy there’s the small buffet area with a large number of western dishes. Adjacent to the buffet is a drinks station with juices and a coffee machine as well as a fridge stocked with soft drinks and water. Like the seating area, big things come in small packages and for Cathay it’s all about the quality and choice of dishes/ ingredients. The dishes on offer when I was there looked fresh and visually well presented. If I had an criticism, it’s the lack of a barista but then again a coffee machine is better than no coffee!

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Verdict

The Cathay lounge continues the Cathay understated luxury story. The visual look and feel of the lounge is warm and inviting and more importantly spacious. The Noodle Bar is always a delight in the Cathay lounge and did not disappoint. The buffet and drinks area whilst nothing outstanding, was simple and stylish.

Seating was ample but I could imagine would be a struggle in terms of finding a seat during peak periods. A solid offering by Cathay. It is truly one of the better lounges to frequent at Bangkok International Airport.

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Comments

Have you experienced the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge in Bangkok? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

EMIRATES B777 FIRST CLASS SYD – BKK: REVIEW

Flight: EK418, SYD – BKK

Loyalty Scheme: Emirates Skywards (partner with Qantas)

Frequency: Daily (sadly axed now)

Duration: 9 hours and 30 minutes

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The lustre of first class never fails to excite me. Airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Korea, Lufthansa and Cathay are renown for their superior F product. Recently Emirates launched their new first class suite but sadly the roll out of that product has been slow. Normally I fly J, especially in reward bookings but my connection between Sydney and Bangkok was a struggle with only F showing up in my searches. Surprisingly the amount of points required for the current F on Emirates was quite reasonable and the idea of flying their highly regarded first suite sipping unlimited Dom Perignon was quite the lure, so naturally I booked. Does Emirates first (even if it isn’t the newly launched suite) stack up? Is the experience truly first class? TAT hopped onboard to find out…

The Seat

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The first thing I noticed upon entering the first cabin was amount of space. The lack of overhead lockers provides more ceiling height. The storage space is instead cleverly crafted around the seat itself with ample space around the foot area and as well as a larger storage compartment on the side against the window. Unlike the business class layout on the B777, first class has a much more passenger accessibility friendly 1-2-1 configuration.

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As soon as I’m seated down a flight attendant (FA) is there on hand to offer me a glass of champagne which I happily apologise even if it Moet and not the Dom Perignon (they don’t serve the grand dame until after take off). Aside from the bevy of storage compartments on hand, there’s a nifty little mini bar for those who don’t want to disturb the FA mid flight. Personally whilst a nice to have, with the drink list on offer, I’m more inclined to have an FA make up a drink for me.

Now for those wanting to look a little ‘Hollywood glam’ after their flight, Emirates has you covered with its flashy ‘open and closed’ lit up makeup mirror. Inside the mirror case is a personal spa kit consisting of various Byredo branded creams, mists and oils. Sure this doesn’t make up for the lack of onboard shower that makes the A380 a much more enticing option, but it will ensure you don’t leave the flight looking like you’ve been rolling around in the hay.

Now flashy distractions aside, let’s talk about the seat. The rather well padded, leather seat has a width of 29 inches and possesses some fabulous setting to recline or lie flat to, especially with the massage option on. Speaking of the lie flat mode, the seat transforms into a 201cm (79-inch) fully-flat bed, which the Emirates crew will happily make up with a mattress, duvet and pillow (whilst leaving slippers, eye shade and pyjamas on top for a nice touch).

All in all quite impressive and makes for quite a nice way to recline into for a short or long journey.

Entertain me

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The first class suite comes with an impressive 32 inch touch screen TV, which provides access to a variety of movies, TV shows, games, music, and the aircraft’s external cameras. I found the clarity and sound great with my entertainment system although as per usual the IFE in general lacked a large choice of entertainment options (something that Emirates has continuous performed poorly in for years).

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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I love my food and for me especially in premium, this can make or break an experience. In my time I’ve had some really poor premium fare and thankfully today, Emirates was all class. I guess you could say it all started in the form of an arabic coffee and date sampling upon boarding, which for me always puts me in a happy mood. It’s a great pairing. On the ground Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial NV is poured but once in the sky the Dom Pérignon 2009 was waiting to be popped and I was onto it like Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous (minus the embarrassing side antics). I think I enjoyed at least a bottle of the prestigious NV.

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What sets the first class dining experience apart is naturally the canapes and appertisers. On offer was caviar and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to enjoy it with the iconic french bubbly. The caviar was well presented and was an absolute treat. The only downside is that there simply wasn’t enough on the dish to enjoy! A true first world problem!

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Settling into the rest of the menu I went to my go to arabic mezze (which didn’t let me down) and for main enjoyed a succulent and well cooked lamp chops dish that was seasoned with lavender chimichurri. Upon finishing that dish I was on the verge of full but I couldn’t complete my meal without at least savouring a desert. I decided on something (somewhat light) with the apricot frangipane tart). Coupled with the vanilla bean and raspberries, I found myself in desert heaven without my stomach feeling like it was in food hell.

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Throughout the meal service and whenever I requested a snack, the FAs were more than friendly and welcoming to my requests. They were highly attentive and were more than obliging to happily posing with a bottle of the Dom Perginon for this review story. If anything I found that my biggest regret from the meal service was that I didn’t have enough room in my stomach to sample more of the dishes on offer. The dining was truly first class!

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Verdict

The flight overall was simply heaven. Words cannot describe the feeling of being in that seat. It was first class without the attitude. FAs were a standout the entire flight and were attentive to most of the needs. The food and drink options were standouts.  Whilst I stuck to the Dom Perginon and water that flight, there was an excellent selection of wine, beer and cocktails on the menu. The food served onboard not only matched but exceeded my expectations. The quality was quite exceptional and delicious! If given the opportunity I will definitely get onboard again with this great Emirates F product.

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Comments

Have you experienced flying first class on Emirates? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

 

 

 

 

 

Qantas launches new Frequent Flyer Program changes

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Qantas a couple of days ago without notice announced cryptically that it would be overhauling its frequent flyer program. Like many I was in a bit of a sweat about it thinking the potential was endless for the airline to come in with the wrecking ball and make the program to be frank, a lot worse. Today, I am glad to report that it isn’t anywhere near the doom and gloom that was reported online. So what has been announced and how will it affect you?

First up Qantas has announced there’ll be more seats up for grabs, with those dreaded carrier charges on most international Qantas flights reduced by as much as half. This is a big win for many as the carrier charges for QF currently have a large sting to them compared to their rivals when redeeming. You” require fewer Qantas Points when booking an economy seat on international flights but here’s the sting. Those looking to book something with a bit more leg room will be hit with higher amount of points for seats in premium economy, business class and first class.

The next bit of news is something I was apart of in terms of research late last year by the airline and this is the Qantas Points Club. Details are still sketchy but basically the Qantas Points Club will operate adjunct to the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme, unlocking flight and travel benefits for non-flying members including lounge access and bonus status credits. I think this has a lot of potential and am keen to see how it is delivered when it is launched December 2019.

Thirdly Qantas has earmarked five million seats on Qantas domestic and international flights annually, with up to 30% more premium economy, business class and even first class seats to popular destinations such as Singapore, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo. This is on top of 3-5 million seats on partner airlines, including new partners such as Air New Zealand, KLM Bangkok Airways and Air France.

Finally Qantas has opened up a new level of lifetime status, the coveted Lifetime Platinum but the catch is, to achieve it, it’s an eye watering and almost impossible 75K status credits to achieve. The new Lifetime Platinum status will commence in September 2019.

So what do you think of the announcement? Anything that excites or annoys you? Keen to hear your thoughts…

 

A321XLR to join Qantas fleet

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Qantas Group has inked a deal with France’s Airbus for an order of up to 36 of the new A321XLR jets, which are due for delivery from 2024. The deal also sees the conversion of 26 existing A320neo Family orders, plus a new firm order for 10 A321XLRs. The order comes on the back of American Airlines announcing that an order of 50 A321XLR aircraft (including the conversion of 30 of the 100 A321neos that they have on order). For Airbus this is a big news day!

The new fuel efficient aircraft will give Qantas Group new flexibility that it currently doesn’t have to be able to fly routes that current narrow body aircraft cannot such as Cairns to Tokyo. Whilst it is widely speculated that the order would see the majority of the aircraft go to Jetstar so that the airline would release its B787 fleet to Qantas, there is also strong potential for some of the aircraft to be paint with the red roo.

It’ll be interesting to see how the order is divided up. Qantas has a habit of purchasing conservatively (and rightly so in a market that changes continuously), so it wouldn’t surprise me if they snap up in the end around half of the agreed order. From that the likely destinations that the A321XLR would feature on for the red roo would be a trans-Atlantic route or the popular East-West Australia routes. 2024 is a long way from now (especially in aviation years), so naturally time will tell what happens next.