QANTAS TO LAUNCH PERTH-JOBURG FLIGHTS FROM DEC 2018

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For a long time I had wanted to visit South Africa due to my family’s heritage being linked there but getting was a bit of a problem with limited airline offerings being fairly slim to/ from there. A few years back Virgin Australia gave it a red hot go but pulled out of the market quickly and instead placed emphasis on a partnership with South African Airways.

Now Qantas has all but formally announced that it will expand their flights to Johannesburg by offering passengers a chance to connect on new non stop flights out of Perth.

Word on the tarmac suggests direct flights from Perth to Joburg would run four times per week from December 7 on an Airbus A330-200.

Flight QF65 would depart Perth at 12:45pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and touch down in the evening in Joburg whilst QF66 would depart Joburg at 10:25pm on the same calendar days and touch down in Perth at 2pm the following afternoon.

The move would see Qantas adding additional direct flights to Joburg on top of their existing Sydney-Johannesburg B747 flights which fly six days a week.

It’s likely that business class passengers on Qantas’ Perth-Johannesburg flights will be able to relax and unwind in Qantas’ new Business Suites as opposed to the older SkyBeds in a 2-2-2 layout which is still operating on a handful of the Airbus A330-200.

Despite the flights operating from the new international wing of Qantas’ Perth T3 terminal rather than the T1 international terminal, it is understood that passengers and frequent flyers will not have to the ultra cool newly opened Perth International Transit Lounge. Instead these passengers will have to make do with the Qantas domestic business lounge at Perth’s T4 terminal. Whilst initially disappointing, I am hopeful that Qantas in time will better manage the flow of traffic in the new lounge and be willing to expand passenger accessibility to new international routes out of Perth.

A formal announcement is expected to be made over the next few weeks.

 

CATHAY PACIFIC BEIJING INT BUSINESS LOUNGE: REVIEW

Lounge: Cathay Pacific Business Lounge

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Beijing International Airport

Lounge Rating: 3/5 Stars

 

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Beijing International Airport is monolithic. So large in fact that you find yourself spending hours either trekking across terminals or sitting on runways. The impression one first gets when entering the airport is the stunning architecture and I can definitely say it is one of the best airports in terms of design globally.

With an airport so large one could a) spend their time pre-flight merely exploring it or b) hit one of the lounges with tarmac views at the end of the terminal. Going with option B I hit up the Cathay Pacific Lounge before my flight to Sydney to see if lounge was the place to be at Beijing Airport.

 

Lounge access options

  • First and Business class flyers with Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Dragonair and other Oneworld airlines
  • Gold, Platinum and Platinum One Qantas frequent flyers travelling with the airlines above
  • Marco Polo Club Silver members flying with either Cathay Pacific or Dragonair
  • Marco Polo Club Gold and Diamond members travelling with Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Dragonair or other Oneworld airlines
  • Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members of other programs travelling onwards with a Oneworld airline

 

Lounge location and opening hours

Once you have cleared customs and taken the second stop on the train line to the International terminal make a detour to Terminal 3E, opposite Gate E21. The opening hours are00:30 – 03:00, 05:30 – last flight departure.

 

Ambience

 

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The experience from the beginning at the lounge was strange at best. At reception I handed over my boarding pass and lounge invitation, and was promptly admitted before being shown an automated machine that produced me a wifi code. It was from there that I was left to my own devices and didn’t not experience any form of contact from staff for the rest of my stay in the lounge.

Having arrived a few hours earlier to my flight, the lounge was empty and felt rather sterile. The furnishing were pleasant and the setting intimate but the lounge ultimately lacked atmosphere. The lounge has a number of partitions dividing the rectangular space and whilst this allows the creation of more peaceful break out areas it also creates a design issue with some the spaces not even noticeable to the majority of passengers.

The bathrooms were also slightly disappointing with only two toilets each for both the men and women across the entire lounge space. On the occasion that I was in the lounge there was no toilet paper in the men’s room and the liquid soap had almost run out. The neglect of these showed a lack of attention given to the daily upkeep of the lounge.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

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In terms of the food and drink I was quite disappointed as Cathay Pacific standards are generally quite high. When I arrived into the lounge I just missed the chef A chef serving up Hong Kong culinary delights like wonton noodles and fishball noodles as the service for these delicious delicacies finished at 8pm. I arrived in at 8:05pm.

 

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With the noodle bar closed I had one of two buffet areas to choose from. There was a small buffet on the right side of the lounge which featured instant noodles, packaged snacks, soda, water, juice, liquor, and  wine. Everything in this section was limited and lacked any real diversity nor any hot dishes. I went with the packaed noodles but found after pouring hot water in it, the noodles seemed stale and I questioned how long they had been sitting on the shelf.

 

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On the far left of the lounge (where the noddle bar was) is a larger  buffet which contains a handful of soups, dim sum, croissants, and three hot dishes. Again hardly appetising but does hit the spot (just). The dim sim option of the buns was the best of the hot dishes with its doughy meat texture going down well with my green tea.

 

Verdict

I was expecting more from the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge after previous experiences with Cathay lounges in Hong Kong. The one I walked into felt like a world away from the brilliance and class leading product that Cathay is renown for. Perhaps it is something to do with the fact that the lounge was formerly a DragonAir Lounge and that the product offering was merely an update rather than a total renovation.  Whatever the case the lounge interior was basic at best.

In addition the lack of customer service and personalisation is almost non existent once you walk through the lounge doors.  Again this is something Cathay prides itself on and would be seen as the norm at their Hong Kong lounges.

If there were any positives to the lounge it was the sense of privacy thanks to the partitions and small break out spaces. Sometimes some lounges can often feel more like shopping centre food hall than a premium business and dining space and this lounge certainly puts the ‘quiet workspace’ into this space.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge at Beijing PEK International? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – was it a star or was it a dud?

 

Air NZ cuts ties on its alliance with Virgin Australia

 

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Air New Zealand gave notice this week that it intends to end its seven-year strategic alliance with Virgin Australia.

The alliance created in 2010 on services between New Zealand and Australia will see regulatory approval for the alliance expires at the end of October 2018. Air New Zealand says the two airlines will not apply for renewal.

Signs that relations between the two airlines had started to fray go back in 2016 when Air New Zealand announced it planned to sell its share holding in Virgin Australia. The move left Virgin with a bloody nose but the move was simply seen as more a formality than something more impacting .The relationship was further hampered late last year when Virgin slashed points and status credits for travellers on flights other than those on Air New Zealand’s trans-Tasman and domestic flights. At the time Air NZ said it was ‘business as usual’.

 

Air New Zealand sites the move as necessary due to the change of market dynamics on the Tasman route with the airline now possessing a strong enough presence in Australia that it did not need to really on the alliance with Virgin Australia. The announcement also comes on the back of Emirates having quit the majority of their flights between Australia and New Zealand, in turn entrenching Qantas and Air New Zealand as the biggest players in the market.

The airlines are working through arrangements for codeshare, scheduling, lounge access and frequent flyer programs.

Current alliance arrangements will remain in place until 27 October 2018.

 

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QANTAS BRISBANE DOMESTIC BUSINESS LOUNGE: REVIEW

Lounge: Qantas International First Lounge

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Sydney International Airport

Lounge Rating: 5/5 Stars

 

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For years I had been intrigued by the Qantas International First Class Lounge. Perhaps it was something to do with the number of glowing reviews about its outstanding service, design and food or the amount of celebs like Hugh Jackman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ellen DeGeneres and Pink to name but a few, who would cheekily check into the lounge on their social accounts. Whatever the case, the lounge was a goal of mine that I had to tick off my bucket list and when I turned Platinum a few months back I knew my chance to finally experience its opulence was a reality especially with my trip to China.

So what is the lounge like and does it belong on the pedestal on what is regarded one of the best airport lounges in the world? The Australian Traveler checked in to find out.

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Lounge access options

  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum or Platinum One members travelling in any class on a flight with Qantas, Jetstar, Emirates or any Oneworld partner airline (flying out of Sydney and Melbourne. That roster currently includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific, JAL, LAN, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways.
  • First class passengers (travelling on Qantas or Emirates International First Class)
  • Oneworld Emerald members (travelling on flights marketed and operated by Qantas or a Oneworld airline)
  • Emirates Platinum Skyward Members

Lounge location and opening hours

Once checked through immigration, head towards the escalators at the end of the duty free area and make your way to level 4. Here is where both the Qantas Business and First lounges reside. Hours of operation for the lounge are from 5am to 10pm daily.

 

Ambience

 

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There was quite a bit of passenger traffic when I arrived at the lounge due to my flight flying out during the airport morning peak hour. Despite it being busy it by no means felt crowded, instead feeling quite private with the amount of large partitions through the lounge.

Marc Newson’s architecture is stunning from the self watering walled garden at the entrance to the lofty wooden ceiling spars. The furniture throughout the lounge is stylish, functional, and versatile and are bathed in an abundance of natural light with fantastic tarmac views to match.

The bathrooms are designed as individual suites and are completed in a beautiful marble finish. All of them are kitted with a shower and luxurious amenities, ideal for those who may have forgotten their toothbrush or want a shower prior to boarding.

 

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One thing that I loved about the lounge design was the flipping departures board which had a retro nostalgic charm to it.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

This is by far one of the best selling points of the lounge. If you are a foodie or simply one that enjoys a bite, there is something for everyone here and will please even the fussiest eater.

The lounge features an inspired menu, which changes seasonally by renown Australian chef Neil Perry. His touches to the menu are quite evident and adds an aspect of both class and gastronomic delight.

 

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Having checked in for the breakfast run I wanted to find a spot within the seated restaurant to enjoy a decent bite and perhaps a champagne before wheels up. I was sat down and attended to by a staff member who provide this very extensive menu (see above) and upon first impressions the list of food and beverages was impressive with some decent drops in the mix. After all it is after 12pm somewhere in the world.

 

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Having saved my stomach for the lounge I was quite peckish and ordered the signature breakfast (two eggs poached with bacon, chipolata, hash brown and roasted tomato) and the sweet corn fritters dishes. I struggled with the amount of great champagne choices but in the end decided on the Pommery as it has been a while since we were acquainted. I followed up my dishes with a fruit platter and a barista made soy latte.

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Everything I ate or drank was well presented and tasty. Accompanied with the stunning views overlooking the airport and Sydney CBD, this was by far one of the best cafes for breakfast I had ever experienced. The only downside to my dining experience was realising that this sadly couldn’t be my normal weekend brunch hang out.

 

Verdict

The lounge name says it all – first class and you wouldn’t expect anything less from it. Qantas delivers it in droves here from the service to the delicious menu. No wonder this lounge was voted over the last decade as one of the top 10 best lounges in the world.

The only thing I could fault about my experience here was that the Spa treatment was down one staff member and booked out the whole day. As such I was unable to review this section as a result (next time hopefully).

After my time here in the lounge, I have learnt that this place requires more time and I will endeavour to try and arrive a few hours earlier so that I can thoroughly immerse myself in what is truly a unique and wonderful Qantas lounge experience.

Fun fact to close on: Did you know that more Champagne is consumed in the Sydney First Lounge than anywhere else in Australia (per capita) on a weekday night?!

 

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Comments

Have you experienced the Qantas International First Lounge in Brisbane? Did you love your experience there as much as I had or did you find something off about the lounge that put its reputation to shame?

 

CHINA EASTERN SHANGHAI BUSINESS LOUNGE: REVIEW

Lounge: China Eastern Business Lounge

Alliance: Skyteam

Location: Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Lounge Rating: 4/5 Stars

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China Eastern has a shocking reputation for doing a whole lot of nothing. No customer service, no decent aircraft, etc.  With no prior experience or exposure to their product a lot of stories I had heard were tales that until now were for me unproven and wanted to give the airline the benefit of the doubt.

Using the China Eastern lounge for the first time in its Shanghai hub, The Australian Traveler was eager to check in and see if it would be wowed or not surprised by the lack of ‘premium’ about the lounge.

 

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Lounge access options

  • Business and first class passengers.
  • Eastern Miles Gold and Platinum members (SkyTeam Elite Plus) departing on a SkyTeam carrier.
  • Associated third party lounges may be available in certain locations where a SkyTeam partner lounge is not available. Due to its partnership with Qantas, certain Qantas elite status members may be eligible for lounge access at China Eastern locations when flying with China Eastern.

Lounge location and opening hours

Once you have cleared security turn left inside the International terminal and the lounge is there. The China Eastern Shanghai Pudong Business Lounge is open daily from first to last departure.

 

Ambience

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Upon walking into the lounge I was surprised by how sparse it was. Whilst there wasn’t any natural lighting in sight, the lounge still managed to have a buzz about it, even at 11pm at night. The seating arrangements were comfortable but I found that the number of chairs on the floor made the lounge feel crowded. Bathroom were also well maintained and appointed, offering shower facilities for those going between work meetings.

 

A bonus (which may seem tacky for some) is the massage chairs. Yes there is some debate on whether the chairs work or not but at the end of the day if you want to simple recline especially after a days work or a transfer between airports than these big ‘sofas’ do the job to unwind and ease into the evening.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

A number of food and drink stations scattered toward the back of the lounge. Despite the number of stations there wasn’t a lot of food options on offer (ie. salad and a handful instant packaged food like sandwiches). There seemed to be more of a focus on desserts with a number of sections stocked with weird and wonderful delights for this with a sweet tooth.

 

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Drinks wise there was a couple of decent drops there to be enjoyed but again the range was limited in terms of wine and spirits. Coffee, tea and soft drinks were also available.

 

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The wow factor however has to go to the noodle station where a chef is on site to make noodles to your liking. The noodles are tasty and quite filling with your choice of spicy beef or pork. The only downside was the weird cafeteria tray that was handed to you whilst lining up for a bowl of noodles. I felt the experience made it feel more primary school canteen than premium lounge.

 

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Verdict

I was expecting to write a negative review around this lounge based on previous experiences with some Chinese lounges but was more than pleasantly surprised with what I experienced. Sure it isn’t up there to the lofty standards of Qantas or JALs lounges but it did provide a decent space for those wanting to work or unwind.

The downside was the limited food and drink range. If it weren’t for its outstanding noodle bar this section would have been extremely disappointing.

Overall this lounge is by far one of the best in China (not difficult considering some of the shoeboxes they call lounges littered through Chinese airports) and a hopeful sign of things to come for other lounges across China in the future.

 

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Comments

Have you experienced China Eastern Business Lounge at Shanghai Pudong International? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – was it outstanding or did the lounge fail to take off on your expectations?

China Eastern Shanghai – Beijing: One of the worst flights I have experienced (REVIEW)

Flight: MU5186, Shanghai – Beijing (29 March 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Eastern Miles (a partner of the Skyteam program) 
Frequency: Numerous flights daily
Duration: 2 hours and 50 minutes

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For a few years I had heard and seen online poor reviews and feedback around China Eastern. Rarely had anything been glowing of the airline. On route to Beijing from Sydney this month I stopped over in Shanghai and connected from there to Beijing but being Shanghai meant flying straight into China Eastern’s hub and therefore the natural choice for connections domestically.

The Australian Traveler test flew the airline’s A321 across China and the results won’t surprise you.

 

The Seat

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Economy 53L. Being a non-Skyteam frequent flyer, I was seated towards the back of the plane, even after this was purchased as a QF numbered flight. The flight took forever to board and the seating plane seemed quite confusing to most passengers. Upon observation the interior and seating was drab, dated and in desperate need to updated. As a self confessed avgeek, being on this plane was testing my spirits with the tired blue and white colour scheme leaving me depressed.

Seat comfort was also appalling with my seat feeling quite hollow through the back of the seat. I was just waiting for that moment through my flight for the seat to finally give way and send me backward onto the passenger behind me.

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Entertain me

No wow factor here – no seat back or even drop down screen entertainment. Be prepared and armed with a laptop or tablet or you’ll find yourself twiddling your thumbs the whole time.

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Again nothing to really see here but on the plus at least a food offering was provided at a time where so called premium airlines like BA were scaling back this simple basics. On offer on the flight was a choice of soft drinks or water as well as a packet of salted peanuts. Admittedly on a long domestic flight such as the one between Shanghai and Beijing a larger snack would have gone down better here.

The service seemed rushed and looked as though the two attendants were throwing snacks and drinks at their passengers. Impersonal at best comes to mind here. I noticed when staff were asked for a top up or a second drink the casual roll of the eyes was given.

 

Verdict

China Eastern really puts the no frills in flying. Considering the airline is one of China’s leading, this is a really sad precedent in terms of Chinese aviation standards. I don’t know if their local passengers expect this kind of service but other countries such as Australian travelling passengers would come to expect more, if not better under the circumstances.

The underwhelming/ lack of customer service coupled with an extremely delayed plane (1.5 hours late) and you find yourself quietly frustrated and ready to get the hell off this tin can. The only redeeming feature was the complimentary snack and drinks service.

Avoid China Eastern at all costs if you don’t want to be a) delayed and b) bitter for the rest of the day.

Comment

Have you ever flown China Eastern domestically within China? Was your experience comparable or better than expected? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

Qantas on the road looking for new pilots

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Qantas is set to undertake a large recruitment drive for new pilots. The airline will soon host a number of roadshows in April for job opportunities available within their Qantas Group of airlines (Qantas, Jetstar and Qantaslink).

There are limited spots available and those interested in registering need to possess the following attributes:

  • Hold a Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL)
  • Hold an Instrument Rating (IR) and;
  • Currently working (or have recently worked) as a commercial pilot.

The roadshow will visit a number of cities and town centres over a period of two weeks. The list of locations include the following:

  • Sydney 5 April 2018
  • Brisbane 8 April 2018
  • Launceston 8 April 2018
  • Melbourne 9 April 2018
  • Perth 9 April 2018
  • Adelaide 10 April 2018
  • Broome 10 April 2018
  • Alice Springs 11 April 2018
  • Kununurra 11 April 2018
  • Cairns 12 April 2018
  • Darwin 13 April 2018

To register your interest as a Qantas pilot visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/qantas-group-pilot-roadshow-ti… or alternatively email grouppilotroadshow@qantas.com.au .

Good luck to all those wanting to spread their pilot wings with an iconic airline such as Qantas.