QANTAS BUSINESS CLASS A380 SYD – LAX: REVIEW

Flight: QF11, SYD-LAX

Loyalty Scheme: Qantas Frequent Flyer (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple daily

Duration:  13.5 hours

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Qantas has a stranglehold of the USA market between the Australian east coast and key cities such as NYC, San Fran, Dallas and Los Angeles. Recently the airline announced it would also be pushing into new routes like Chicago from 2020. With that in mind I knew going to the States with Qantas was always going to be a sound choice. So how did the A380 stack up on the long haul flight from Sydney to Los Angeles? The Australian Traveller hopped onboard at the top end to find out…

The Seat

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Qantas has a stranglehold of the USA market between the Australian east coast and key cities such as NYC, San Fran, Dallas and Los Angeles. Recently the airline announced it would also be pushing into new routes like Chicago from 2020. With that in mind I knew going to the States with Qantas was always going to be a sound choice. So how did the A380 stack up on the long haul flight from Sydney to Los Angeles? The Australian Traveller hopped onboard at the top end to find out…Qantas has a stranglehold of the USA market between the Australian east coast and key cities such as NYC, San Fran, Dallas and Los Angeles. Recently the airline announced it would also be pushing into new routes like Chicago from 2020. With that in mind I knew going to the States with Qantas was always going to be a sound choice. So how did the A380 stack up on the long haul flight from Sydney to Los Angeles? The Australian Traveller hopped onboard at the top end to find out…

One thing that’s instantly noticeable compared to Qantas’ new B787s and converted A330s is that the A380 retains the older generation Skybed II business class seat. This means for those playing at home it’s not very private and is configured in a 2-2-2 seat layout (which means that delicate hop over the neighbour mid flight when they’re reclined and asleep) .

Despite the seats possessing a generous amount of  leg room (78-inch pitch), storage space was seriously lacking around the seat itself. When the bed lays fully flat it offered a sense of privacy thanks to the cocoon of the hard shell surrounding the seat. Sadly the seat was showing its age with the end sagging slightly which in turn made my sleeping position a little uncomfortable at times.

On my seat when I first boarded was a rather charming amenities kit which has all the essentials including some lovely Aspar products as well as a pair of the iconic Qantas pajamas. It was rather ambitious for Qantas to leave a pair there considering they were making an assumption on what size I am.

Entertain me

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Qantas without fail always has a strong selection of film and television to enjoy on their IFEs. All business class seats have a 12.1-inch touchscreen which pops up the side of the seat and then swivelled into position to sit in front of you. The quality of the screen which is perfectly fine to view, is no match for Qantas’ better A330 and B787 business class IFE screens. All business class passengers are provided with noise cancelling headphones.

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For those not wanting to watch a screen and more want to go for a stretch or do some socialising, Qantas has a small lounge space in the front of the top deck. Unlike Emirates and Qatar, the space is a wasted opportunity. There’s no bar but rather a long lounge running along the length of the wall. At the time I entered it was heaving with young children and their mothers. It was clearly not a space I wished to relax in. It’s believed that the new revamp of the A380 will include a new lounge area which I hope will be a lot more aligned with the Emirates lounge space on board than what is currently offered on Qantas.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Qantas is one of the best when it comes to food and wine presentation and this flight was no exception. Sure it wasn’t on par with Qatar’s incomparable meal service, it was still a highlight. Being a morning flight out of Sydney, there were two key meal services; lunch and breakfast (in preparation for landing into the US the day same day during the breakfast rush). Prior to take off Qantas offered passengers a glass of still or sparkling water or Duval-Leroy Brut champagne. I went with the champagne as a way to toast in the beginning of my getaway to the USA.

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Lunch was served an hour into the flight. For appetiser I went with the dumplings which were quite succulent and full of flavour. The main followed and the choices were a lot more abundant  from a seared barramundi, a chicken breast with potato gratin and roasted vegetables to a spicy beef tagine. I chose the barramundi. It went nicely with my topped up glass of champagne. Served alongside the main was a simple salad (which lacked any real flavour). Dessert closed the meal off nicely with some seasoned fruit and Maggie Beer ice cream.

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Flight attendant came around with breakfast cards for passengers to fill out before they closed out the lunch service. Being one who likes to start off the day with a big meal to power through I made sure I ticked a few of the boxes before getting in a movie or two and some shut eye.

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After sleeping six hours I awoke half an hour prior to Qantas commencing their breakfast service, which was abut two hours out from Los Angeles. Instead of the staggered dish serving process of the lunch service, the breakfast meal was brought out all at once.

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The breakfast was akin to what I would be served in an Australian cafe which is quite a delight. The ingredients and food offering looks not only delicious but rather healthy. I went with the poached eggs with pearl barley, kale and spinach salad as well as a serving of the buttermilk pancakes with baked rhubarb and cinnamon yoghurt. I accompanied the dishes with a cappuccino which came out nice and frothy, a green juice and a final glass of champagne (because it was 12pm somewhere in the world).

All in all the food and drinks were solid, tasty and the best part of my flight experience. If Qantas was a restaurant I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars for its culinary side alone.

Verdict

I was initially apprehensive to fly the old Skybed II to the States. The idea of hopping over someone mid flight, let alone the lack of privacy was a concern. That said the seat was surprisingly still comfortable ten years on despite a little sagging in parts. I slept a solid six hours and felt rejuvenated for the rest of the day once I landed.

The entertainment was good but slightly disappointing due to the screen showing its age. The highlight however was the meal service for both lunch and breakfast. Qantas has a reputation for its dining and it did not falter. With the A380s set for a revamp later this year to the new business class seat, I cannot wait to see what a difference a better seat will do to enhance what is an already enjoyable experience. I will definitely be back onboard with Qantas if given the chance in the future!

Comments

Have you experienced flying business on the Qantas A380? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

Qantas to fly B787 daily on Sydney-Santiago route

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It’s always sad to hear when another B747 route bites the dust, replaced by something newer, shinier and in this current aviation space smaller. This was the case when Qantas announced this week it would be replacing its 4 x weekly B747 Sydney-Santiago flights from late June 2020 to a daily Boeing 787-9 flight.

Business class passengers are the big winners here with the B787 fitted with Qantas’ newest business class seat, which transforms into a fully-flat bed and offers direct aisle access. This removed the awkward hop over of the B747s 2-3-2 business cabin, which features the classic Skybed.

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The announcement comes as part of a wider initiative by Qantas to retire its older B747 by the end of 2020. Obviously a newer, fresher plane is always welcomed and flying long distance in a B787 does have its health and sleep benefits but there’s no denying that B747 is where the fun in flying is. If you are keen to fly the Queen before her retirement to Santiago, I would hop onto it now before mid 2020.

Are you excited or disappointed by the Qantas announcement? Will you be booking a B747 flight to Santiago before its retired mid 2020? Keen to hear your thoughts. 

 

American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK – NYC: Review

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Terminal 8

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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I have this love/ hate relationship with AA. Sometimes their lounges, service and aircraft are on point and other times it’s frankly dismal. Some of AA’s lounges are tired and the food/ drink quality is sometimes better in the food court within the terminal. American has been in turn going through a revamp of late and are slowly changing the look and feel of their lounges, particularly around their Flagship lounges.

Last year American opened their new Flagship lounge at JFK and the feedback from those who have frequented it have been quite positive. Naturally being at JFK I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and if the fuss was justified (all whilst enjoy a champagne or two).

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Lounge access options

  • Traveling in AA intercontinental business or first class
  • Traveling to Los Angeles LAX or San Francisco SFO in first class
  • AA Concierge Key
  • oneworld Saphire and Emerald members traveling on any oneworld flight in any cabin of service
  • oneworld passengers traveling in business class on an intercontinental flight

Lounge location and opening hours

After clearing security, proceed to the Admirals Club signage until you reach the main entrance. You’ll find the Flagship Lounge off to the left, under the flags as you walk down the ramp from TSA screening. There is a lift and staircase that lead up to the Flagship Lounge. The lounge is open daily from 04:15 – 01:00.

Ambience

The feeling the moment you walk into the lounge is a warm and welcome. The use of colour tones and smart, yet simply furnishings add a lovely touch to what AA lounges usually don’t offer…inviting. Initial impressions is that it’s on par on an international level (yes finally AA!). It features a solid buffet, real champagne (hello lover!) and a make your own cocktail bar. Throughout my time spent in the lounge there never a moment that it felt crowded, instead it was rather peaceful, a rarity in such a bustling building like Terminal 8.

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At the back of the lounge was a quiet room/ space which is great for those who want to enjoy a drink/ bite to eat but without the noise of people traffic as they work away on their laptop. Next to that space was the bathrooms and shower suites which were nicely designed and well appointed with C.O. Bigelow toiletries; the same brand AA stocks uses in the business and first amenity kits.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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As mentioned there’s a large buffet section which has some rather decent offerings including a number of  hot options for the lunch/ evening session during my visit including potatoes, pasta, salmon and even beef stir fry. There were also a number of cold options from meats and cheeses to salads. The food quality was tasty, fresh and much better than anything Admirals Lounge could produce.

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However the centerpiece of the Flagship lounge for me was the rather large communal table with a self-serve wine bar in the middle. Additionally there’s was an impressive selection of both red and white wines available. However I was disappointed they had one away with the Taittinger, instead choosing to serve Champagne Besserat de Bellefon. The drop itself was fine but nowhere near the standard or opulence of the Taittinger.

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Verdict

The AA Flagship lounge definitely sets a high standard for American based airport lounges but on the world scale compared to Emirates, Qatar, Cathay and Qantas to name a few, it falls slightly short. However the lounge is a great space to relax and enjoy some food or a drink in comfortable surrounds with a rather spectacular tarmac vista. The food and drink quality is way above the Admirals Club (not something difficult to achieve) and the design is fresh, clean and quite a showpiece for American. The airline should be proud! I’ll be back here for sure (note: I’ve visited once more since this review).

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Comments

Have you experienced the AA Flagship Lounge in NYC? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

Lufthansa Group expands its wings on seven new routes

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I always love an expansion rather than a rescind from an airline, so when an airline as great as Lufthansa says it wants to spread its wings further, I’m all ears! This week the German airline announced it’d be undertaking some significant transatlantic expansion from during the US summer in 2020.

Lufthansa will be launching three new routes, two of which will be within the USA and one interestingly into Bangalore. All three routes will be operated by A350-900 aircraft. One of the USA routes, the Seattle leg will fly 6x weekly flights between Munich and Seattle (except Thursdays) whilst the airline will also fly into Detroit 5x weekly flights from Munich. Finally the airline will launch 5x weekly flights between Munich and Bangalore, which is aimed to support capacity demand from the Frankfurt – Bangalore route.

Additionally Lufthansa Group has announced three new routes for its budget airline, Eurowings. There had been talk in the sector of the airline being withdrawn from a number of routes so the news here of an expansion for Eurowings is surprising but welcomed. The new route for Eurowings are the following:

  • Frankfurt to Phoenix – 5x weekly flights
  • Frankfurt to Anchorage – 3x weekly flights
  • Munich to Orlando – 3x weekly flights
  • Munich to Las Vegas – 2x weekly flights

The news is exciting and I’m quite curious to understand the thinking behind the expansion into some of these destinations, particularly Detroit and Anchorage. The fact that they will be serviced by A330s and A350s means that the fleet will be generally fresh and the standard quite high. As usual, time will tell if the expansion plan for Lufthansa Group pays off.

Will you be flying Lufthansa on any of their newly announced routes? I;m keen to hear your thoughts. 

 

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…