UNITED TO OPEN HOUSTON POLARIS LOUNGE JUNE 29

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United has had a checkered and messy start with the Polaris concept. The concept is brilliant and rather beautiful for a brand like United but it is flawed in terms of its roll out. They opened the first Polaris Lounge in Chicago and for almost 16 months did not open up another. Suddenly it’s as if United has awoken and is rolling them out of the production line in a quick manner with the San Fran and Newark lounges opening within the last three months. Now United is set to open two more with Houston the next cab off the rank on June 29.

The Polaris Lounge Houston will be open to all  United long haul business class passengers, as well as other Star Alliance first and business class passengers travelling out of Houston to a long haul destination.

Located in Terminal E the new lounge will be smaller than the Polaris Lounges recently opened at SFO and EWR. It will be interesting to see how it turns out in the end but whatever the case, the lounge will be head and shoulders quality wise compared to the United Club Lounge.

Anyone flying first or business long haul on United out of Houston soon? Are you excited about the new Polaris lounge and will you make time for a visit?

I, SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, WE ALL SCREAM FOR EMIRATES ICE CREAM

Passing through Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport between June 15 and August 31? Love ice cream? Well you are in luck because the good folk at Emirates are  offering free ice cream.

Yes you heard correctly. Emirates will have carts throughout the terminal offering free ice cream cups daily from 12-3am, 12:30-2:30pm, and 6-9pm. Made in-house by Emirates Flight Catering, it’s expected over two million of these cups will be served to customers this summer.

For those who like to plan ahead there are five delicious flavours available:  chocolate, vanilla, date & arabic coffee, mango sorbet, and lemon sorbet.

It’s a shame I’m not passing through DXB anytime soon (unless a spontaneous trip pops up) to be able to take advantage of this offer.

Good job Emirates on this deal. It will surely leave people wanting more!

 

QANTAS BOLSTERS FLIGHTS TO JAKARTA, SINGAPORE AND NOUMEA

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Qantas will operate additional Airbus A330 services on the Sydney-Singapore and Sydney-Jakarta routes from December 2018.

From 14 December, a third Sydney-Singapore service (QF83/84) will be added on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays. This brings the total Sydney-Singapore services to 17 a week, up three on the previous amount.

From 13 December, Sydney-Jakarta services (QF41/42) will also be bolstered from five to six weekly with the additional service operating on Thursdays.

From 12 December, the Sydney-Noumea service will increase from three to four times weekly with the additional B737 service operating on Wednesdays.

The new schedule is as follows:

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The new flights will be available for purchase next week.
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JAPAN AIRLINES ‘SKY PREMIUM’ 787-800 TOKYO (NARITA) TO SYDNEY: REVIEW

Flight: JL771, Tokyo (Narita) to Sydney (11 June 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: JAL Mileage Bank/ Oneworld
Frequency: Daily
Duration: 7.25pm (+9) ATD: 7.35pm (+9) Delayed 10 mins; STA: 6:10am (+10) ATA: 6.23am (+10) Delayed 13mins

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Japan Airlines operates the lowest density 787 Dreamiliner in the world. In fact, the three class configuration of the JAL 787-8 has only 161 seats. That’s comparable to other airlines that have greater than 200 seats on their 787-8s. The seats are split between 38 business suites (Sky Suites), 35 premium economy (Sky Premium) and 88 economy seats (Sky Wider).

I had previously flown the JAL economy seats which frankly feel like premium economy compared to other airlines. Indeed JAL has a 2-4-2 layout in economy, with the only other airline to choose the more spacious configuration being it’s domestic competitor, All Nippon Airlines (ANA). Premium Economy is in a 2-3-2 layout. Business is 2-2-2 layout with each seat having a wall and direct aisle access for privacy. I booked last minute and as economy wasn’t available, I booked the last remaining seat in Premium Economy, hence I was stuck in the dreaded middle seat, 20E.

The Airport

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JAL operates out of Terminal 2 at Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT). Terminal 2 is the terminal used by JAL and its oneworld partners (ie. Qantas, Cathay, American, British Airways). Terminal 1 is split between Skyteam and Star Alliance (including home airline ANA) with Terminal 3 dedicated to low cost carriers like Jetstar and Vanilla Air.

Lounges in Terminal 2 include JAL First and Sakura Lounges as well as Cathay Pacific First and Business Lounge, Qantas Business Lounge, Admirals Club, China Airlines Dynasty Lounge and an Emirates Lounge. As a passenger in Premium Economy, I was entitled to use the Sakura Lounge. The lounge is located conveniently immediately after security, sharing the entrance with the First Lounge (to the left) and the Sakura entrance (to the right).

Down the stairs and inside, there is plenty of ample seating along windows, with nice views of the gates from almost anywhere in the lounge. The main floor of the lounge has drink stations and nibbles, with the main dining area one floor up. Here, there was a modest buffet, drinks, tables and plenty of seating for both groups and singles. Also in the lounge were shower rooms. Originally on arriving I was told that a shower would be an hour wait (which was really how long I had in the lounge. Luckily, my buzzer went off about half hour into my visit. This was perfect timing as I’d just finished eating and meant I could shower right before boarding my plane.

The Seat

 

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As I previously mentioned, I had booked this flight less than a week out and so by this time, all seats other than middle ones had been assigned. I consider myself lucky enough to even be able to score 20E. The seat itself was wide and offered ample legroom. The seat has a fixed shell meaning you don’t actually recline, but rather your seat slides down and the seat base moves forward. In this position, the seat was fairly comfortable though I did find myself sliding down throughout the night. Each seat has a privacy divider between other seats and this made a comfortable place to rest against with my pillow.

Waiting at my seat were slippers, a thin blanket, pillow and headphones. To be honest, everything was fairly economy grade and the cabin felt more like economy plus rather than business minus. Newspapers were offer prior to doors closing and flight attendants came around with immigration forms for Australia. The seat was comfortable, though having sat in a regular economy seat between New York and Tokyo, I have to say it’s an incremental improvement and I’d be happy in either (a testament to how comfortable their economy seat is).

Entertain me

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At the seat are reading lamps, remote or touchscreen controlled IFE screen and small storage spaces beside the seat as well as beside each screen. Power points and USB outlets were also available at each seat.  The screen was large and bright, with the content showing in fairly high definition (though not crystal clear).

Entertainment content was rather good, with a fair number of western films including some quite recent releases. There were a few TV series with a number of episodes of each series though the variety could have been better. In addition there was a decent selection of English music. While adequate, it was certainly not extensive.

Wifi was available on board this aircraft with prices starting at $10.95 USD for 1 hour to $18.96 USD for the entire flight.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Once in the air, flight attendants came around with hot towels which were then followed by drinks and a packet of rice snacks. I chose the JAL Signature Drink which is called ‘Skytime’. It’s a kiwifruit based cordial which was quite refreshing.

Menus had been handed out prior to take off and there were two meal choices available. On tonight’s flight between Japan and Australia, these were either a beef or chicken dish. The Gyudon was a beef bowl done in Sichuan style, accompanied with pumpkin. I chose the chicken dish which was Chicken Kuwayaki, soy-glazed and sautéed accented by yuzu-citrus flavoured chili paste. The main dishes were accompanied with chilled Winter Melon, savoury Okara Soy Pulp with anchovy, fresh salad with dressing, lychee pudding and finished off with Haagen Dazs ice cream (custard pudding flavour). Everything was served on one dish and would have been identical in economy. JAL catering is usually pretty good and this was no exception – basic food but done well.

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Roughly 90 minutes prior to landing, I awoke to find myself surrounded by those sitting next to me eating breakfast. One thing I love on JAL is that if you’ve missed a meal service, they’ll actually place a post-it note on your IFE screen which lets you know you’ve missed a meal. I wish more airlines did this! On request, I was given my meal promptly and this consisted of a seven vegetable quiche, pumpkin salad, yoghurt, bread and butter. It was again a solid meal, if not exceptional.

Verdict

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JAL’s 787-8 is the lowest density configuration out there in the world. As such it delivers a premium experience. Boarding commences 20-30 minutes prior to departure, which isn’t long for any international flight but it’s simply all part of the experience. No matter which seat you’re in, its comfort all the way. Premium economy had just that extra personal space compared to those found in economy. That said it was incremental rather than leaps and bounds ahead the economy product.

Japanese service as you’d expect is exceptional and polite, with nothing being too much or too difficult. The touches throughout the flight are thoughtful and considered like the rest of Japanese culture, and I found the entire experience relaxed and calm. What more could you ask for on a red-eye flight?


About the writer

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I’m a well travelled 30 something who blames it all on his father (though really, I’ve taken it to the next level). Travelling from a young age and continuing to do so independently from the end of high school, I am happy to step on a plane headed anywhere. Indeed my colleagues at work don’t ask me if I’m going away in holidays, but where I’ll be headed. They don’t even bat an eyelid when I pop down to Melbourne for the weeknight just to see some show that takes my fancy.

All of my travel is self funded. Through a mixture of great fares and frequent flyer points I’ve developed a penchant for sitting at the front of the plane. However let’s be honest; I’ll just about sit anywhere if it means I get to fly somewhere.

 

JOHN BORGHETTI TO LEAVE VA

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This week’s best kept secret in the aviation sector goes to the resignation of Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti. The catch is he won’t be stepping away effective immediately but will stay for another two years, with his contract expiring 1 January 2020.

The early announcement was made so that Virgin was given ample time to headhunt a new leader and allow a smooth transition.

Having spent 45 years in the aviation industry, Mr Borghetti was appointed as Virgin CEO on 8 May 2010. Previously he was Qantas’s executive general manager for six years but made the move to Virgin after he lost the CEO leadership opportunity to rival Alan Joyce.

The news whilst somewhat surprising is not at all unexpected. Virgin in recent years has struggled turning a profit with the company posting a loss of $220 million for the full year ended 30 June 2017.

In addition the loss of key partnerships has hit the company hard with the Air New Zealand divorce and Qantas-Air New Zealand partnership announced recently in its place being the final straw in his downfall.

It will be interesting to see where Virgin heads from here. It is a very tough act for anyone to navigate and I will give Borghetti some kudos where it is due as it would not have been easy. That said Virgin does need a strong and decisive future, something that has not been evident lately with the company in a confusing budget/ premium model mindset.

Whatever the case the next couple of years will be key to Virgin’s future.

 Comments

What do you think of John Borghetti’s resignation? Do you think he acted in the best interests of the company or was this a poor decision at a time when they needed him most?

Emirates to introduce premium economy from 2020

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Emirates President Tim Clark has announced the airline will launch a premium economy class on its aircraft from 2020. Premium economy will be on the 20 new Airbus A380s the airline ordered in January this year as well as its B777 aircraft. There are also plans to retrofit some of its existing fleet with the new seat.

An exciting (but yet to be confirmed) feature is that the new seats will offer 38 inches of pitch and transform to a deep recline to become a railway-style ‘sleeperette’ as opposed to the traditional angled recliner. In addition it’s rumoured that the new premium economy seats will feature 56 seats in the front of the bottom deck of the A380 and 26-28 in the B777.

Premium economy has for many travellers become the sweet spot between economy class and business class. The announcement means that Emirates will be the first middle eastern airline to introduce that type of class seat, in turn placing competitive pressure on rivals Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways to develop something similar.

Other airlines that already offer a premium economy product include Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas Airways and British Airways.

In my opinion I feel the news from Emirates this week is positive but I’m curious as to what will be compromised in the process. Will there be a reduction of business class seats and therefore business seating reward redemption or will they look at culling some economy seats (the bread and butter on seats)? In addition it all comes down to price. If the price is relatively expensive and the difference is not much more to jump into business class, why on earth would people want to pay a premium to lay in what is essentially a economy hammock?

Time will tell I guess. I will keep you guys posted when I hear of new developments regarding the Emirates premium class offering.

Comments

What do you think of the news of Emirates offering premium economy? Would you be inclined to purchase one? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

QANTAS AND AIR NZ SURPRISE AVIATION SECTOR WITH NEW CODESHARE DEAL

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In aviation you don’t often get ‘surprised’ as rumours seem to circle for months if not years about something newsworthy. So when Qantas announced its new codeshare deal with Air New Zealand, many (including me), were taken aback by the news.

This is a great win for both of the airlines. The deal would see QF coded onto 30 domestic AirNZ services across NZ, whilst Air NZ would see the NZ code on 85 domestic Qantas flight in Australia.

In addition the new deal would allow Qantas and Air New Zealand business class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers reciprocal airport lounges access as well as the ability to earn points and status on each airline’s loyalty program.

However it is understood that the new codeshare deal will not include Trans-Tasman and other international flights.

The biggest loser from the announcement is Virgin Australia who is still probably shell shocked by the announcement more than anyone else. Their partnership with Air NZ has tanked and is due to expire 28 October, the same day the QF and Air NZ alliance starts up. Talk about a kick in the teeth. John Borghetti must be fuming, yet again throwing another dart at his Alan Joyce dartboard in this office.

I am excited to see how this partnership will evolve but it does sound quite promising and even more reason for me to book a trip or two across the ditch.

Comments

What do you think of the new Qantas and Air NZ codeshare deal? Will you benefit or lose out from it? Keen to hear your thought.