Virgin set make Velocity fully Virgin owned again

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Loyalty programs are a cash cow for airlines to the point that some airlines sell a stake or the whole cow for a quick profit hit. Those who have taken the gamble tend to not seen it pay off and more often than not find themselves paying for it, or in the case of Air Canada creating a whole new competing loyalty program.

In 2014 Virgin sold part of its Velocity business to Affinity Equity Partners (AEP). Since the sale the program it has grown to be the third biggest loyalty program in Australia behind Qantas and Woolworths. Virgin now has sellers remorse and has enter an agreement to buy back the 35 per cent of its Velocity program it sold to AEP for $700 million. This is more than double what they sold it for to the group five years earlier.

Virgin has experienced some rocky annual results of late but the shining star of their company has been the Velocity division which saw earnings (before interest and tax) up 12 per cent to $122.2 million.

Personally I think this is a smart move by Virgin which in the end after a initial financial hit see the company not only in a stronger position financially but increase value with its customers for years to come!

Qantas eyes off Haneda flight expansion

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It’s been reported that Qantas is considering adding new flights to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport after released two new airport slot pairs to Australian airlines.

The recent expansion of Haneda Airport has created four new daytime slots for flights to and from Australia. Two of these slot pairs have already been allocated to ANA and Japan Airlines, with two remaining and available for Australian airline use.

Bids for the landing and takeoff slots at Haneda Airport slot will close 31 October 2019 and become available for use from 29 March 2020. It’s expected Qantas will take up the slots as Jetstar’s Tokyo hub is based out of Narita and Virgin is currently in a state of reassessing its entire network.

Qantas currently flies the Boeing 747 daily from Sydney to Haneda Airport. If the airline were to take up these slots it would empower their business and leisure travellers with greater options in terms of landing and departures

Additional Haneda Airport slots would be a win for any Australian airline as its closer proximity and transport options to Tokyo makes it the preferred choice for business travellers.

Time will tell if Qantas takes flight with the new Tokyo Haneda options. Considering Haneda slots are as rare as hens teeth Qantas would be foolish to pass this unique opportunity up.

Virgin set to experience turbulence following recent net loss

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Virgin Australia has announced this week a program to cut 750 head office and corporate roles after posting a $349 million full-year loss. The result is a surprising drop for Virgin following their slender thing profit of $64 million the previous year. The plan to slash jobs is estimated to save the airline $75 million annually in costs. The cuts would impact seven per cent of Virgins current workforce.

On top of labour costs Virgin has advised it would be making an urgent assessment of all its current routes and capacities to see where further savings can be made. It’s expected there will be a strong focus around leisure routes. The move would ensure better route profitability for the airline.  Virgin has also decided it would hit pause on fleet renewal until July 2021.

The recent loss has not made new VA CEO Paul Scurrah’s life any easier since he landed into the tough job following the departure of John Borghetti. The new CEO pointed to tough trading conditions as well as rising fuel and the lower Australian dollar.

The news follows rival Qantas posting earlier this month a 6.5 per cent fall in annual net profit. Like Virgin they attributed the loss to higher oil prices and a weaker foreign exchange.

 

 

Qantas popular Points Plane returns…this time LA

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Before the wheels have even left the ground on the first Qantas Points Plane, the airline announced this week it would be doing another Points Plane…this time to Los Angeles!  What adds a bit more excitement to this announcement is that the B747 will be used, a rare appearance on the  Australian – American route hop! It’s a great opportunity for B747 lover like myself who wants to see the Queen of the Skies off in style by flying her one last time (naturally).

With Qantas set to retire all its beautiful B747 fleet by the end of 2020 I cannot stress how great of an opportunity this is. Flight QF99 will depart from SYD for LAX on Sunday 13 October 2019.

Here’s what you need (points wise and excluding those pesky taxes) that you’ll need to secure the seat of your dreams:

  • 96,000 Qantas Points for business class
  • 72,000 Qantas Points for premium economy
  • 41,900 Qantas Points for economy

Qantas as part of its transition fleet plan will gradually replace its 747-400s with the company’s favourite plane of late, the B787 Dreamliner (I’m still yet to be a fan like Mr Alan Joyce).

Comment

Will you be booking an seat on the second Points Plane? Keen to hear your thoughts.

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?