Like many of you I’m a fan of the B747 but unfortunately her days are numbered with several of airlines. The Queen of the skies is heading for retirement with Qantas by the end of 2020. Some routes will see her depart sooner in the interim with Qantas announcing that she will be replaced by their Dreamliner B787 on its Sydney – San Francisco route. The B787 will move take off daily from 4 December 2019.
Whilst it’s sad to see the Queen disappear from this route there’s no denying the level of technological (as well as comfort) improvements that’ll be given to passengers flying on the B787. Gone will be the 2-2-2 business class seating arrangement, replaced instead by Qantas superb business suite in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Like anything there’s a downside and it’s Qantas’ new premium economy cabin. The leg room and space feels worse than its economy section yet you’re paying more for the pleasure of feeling squashed. Personally I would rather fly economy over that seat or upgrade to business (yes the design flaw is really that bad).
Mixed feelings of sorts on the new Qantas dreamliner route but at the end of the day, it is an upgrade!
For years I heard numerous things about the North Korean national carrier Air Koryo. Frankly the feedback wasn’t great! Frequently the airline has been named one of the worst airlines in the world alongside the likes of Lion Air and Ryan Air. Besides the thrill I was experiencing from going into the unknown with North Korea, I was equally enthuiastic about the prospect of flying their airline. Was the airline really as terrible as it was made out to be or was it simply misunderstood?! I flew to DPRK to find out…
Economy 26A. Seated in the middle of the first section of economy the fitout was as I had expected, retro! Surprisingly the red and grey leather chair was comfortable despite probably being fitted years ago and the leg room more than ample. No other wow factor here but more satisfactory than I expected in terms of comfort.
Whilst there wasn’t any seat back entertainment, there was a drop down screen option that played some rather interesting North Korean films and poor soap operas. There was also the odd propganda video or two thrown in for good measure. It just wouldn’t be DPRK without one now wouldn’t it?!
The Bread and Butter (food and drink)
Again another food/ drink rumour that was debunked on this flight. I had seen a few images online of the infamous ‘Koryo Burger’ where the meat was unidentifiable and the burger inedible. The repulsiveness of the burger had garnered itself a cult following with many who had flown Air Koryo coming there for the burger.
The Air Koryo staff came through with a decent meal and drinks service. I was offered water, sparkling soda (basically soft drink), tea and coffee. I ordered some of the grape soda which I admit is delicious addictive. Now to the burger that was placed on my tray. On observation it didn’t look as bad I had imagined. The ingredients were simple; meat patty, lettuce, cheese and sauce. I went to take a bite and wow, it was packed full of flavour. The burger at best reminded me of a ramen burger in terms of flavour. It was slightly peppery yet had an asian beef zest to it. Admittedly I enjoyed this burger quite a bit and would have easily ordered a second. Yes the burger was that good!
A little later into the flight staff came through with a second drinks service. I ordered a coffee and a cup of the orange soda. Both quenched my thirst and were nothing out of the ordinary in terms of what you would get onboard anywhere else. Again the service was efficient and friendly, something I did not expect considering their so called one star SKYTRAX rating.
Air Koryo really did surprise me. The staff were well dressed, the presentation of the plane was clean and the service was relatively good. I don’t believe for a minute that the national carrier warrants the one star rating it has been unfairly given. Perhaps some people have rated this too harshly without taking into consideration the competition. To be frank I got more bang for my buck and better service on here than I have done with a number of low cost (and even some full service) carriers.
The food and drinks whilst nothing to write home about, were satisfactory. I believe the asian flavour of the burger for some travellers may have been a little too left of field for their tastebuds. The burger certainly did not deserve the tag of inedible that it had been given.
All in all my experience flying Air Koryo was smooth flying. I would without hesitation fly this airline again.
Have you ever flown with Air Koryo or dared to try one of their Koryo burgers? Was your experience better than expected like mine or was it turbulent like the airline’s SKYTRAX rating? Keen to hear your thoughts.
Flight: MU2112, Beijing – Xi’an (18 April 2019)
Loyalty Scheme: Eastern Miles (a partner of the Skyteam program)
Frequency: Numerous flights daily
Duration: 2 hours and 05 minutes
Last year I reviewed China Eastern on a domestic leg between Shanghai and Beijing. The flight was delayed by an hour and the aircraft was extremely tired at best. Having come off the Qantas A330 to hop onto the tired old girl I found the entire experience from the aircraft itself to the staff and food, one of the worst flying experiences I had ever encountered. When I was in China again this year China Eastern was the best option between Beijing and Xi’an.
Initially I bulked at the choice as the idea of sitting on MU again made me want to stick needles in my eyes. Preparing for the worst it was booked and all I could think to myself was that I was a glutton for punishment. So how did the flight compare to the one from last year? Well even I was pleasantly surprised…
Economy 32A. Sitting toward the front of the economy section I found the seating a lot better than the previous aircraft. Although it wasn’t new, the aircraft was in a lot better shape. The seat has a pitch of 31 and its width is 17.7 (not the largest but far from a squeeze). Notably the seat padding sadly was a tad thin but for the journey was bearable. Had this flight been longer than two hours I would have started to feel uncomfortable.
Whilst there wasn’t any seat back entertainment, there was a drop down screen option that played a stock standard Chinese film and some TV programming with English subtitles. Nothing to rave home about but better than nothing. That said more personalised entertainment would be welcome here, especially when flights like this one go beyond tow hours in duration.
The Bread and Butter (food and drink)
This is where China Eastern really knocked it out of the park for me. Unlike the last time I flew with them where I was given a paltry small bag of nuts and a juice, on this flight I was given a full service international style meal with a main as well as a snack box and drinks service. The food not only was presented well but was also quite tasty. On offer was a delicious chicken Chinese noodle dish as well as a tuna entree and fruit. Staff came around for a second and even third drinks service offering passengers either soft drink, beer, tea or coffee. For the short amount of time we had in the air I was quite impressed by the offering.
China Eastern really redeemed themselves on this flight. Maybe it was pot luck that I had a poor flight last time or that this flight was extremely good in comparison. That said the bench was quite low after the previous China Eastern flight so anything had to be better than what I endured. Overlooking the lack of entertainment and slightly uncomfortable seat, the flight was generally enjoyable and the food and drinks offering going above and beyond a lot of their international rivals on similar flight legs back in their home country. If this is the type of offering the China Eastern offer their customers, I will definitely be considering the airline going forward next time I need to fly internally within China.
Have you ever flown China Eastern domestically within China? Was your experience comparable or better than expected? Keen to hear your thoughts.
Location: Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1, Level 6, near Gate 63
Lounge Rating: 5 Stars (I would go beyond 5/5 if I could!)
You would’ve come across those top 10 First Class Lounge lists or best lounges in the world articles where some typical points hack would have written up online for you to salivate over. They become the desirable among the frequent flying elite and are in themselves a must go to destination. For me one of those lounges is the Qantas Sydney First Class International Lounge. It’s exquisite and worth arriving early for.
For a while now I had heard great things about an equally (if not more) impressive lounge, The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong Airport. So impressive is its offering that I was more looking forward to visiting the lounge versus revisiting Hong Kong again. So how did The Pier stack up? Was the lounge worthy of the hype. I simply had to check in and find out…
Lounge access options
- Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
- Cathay Pacific/ Dragonair first class passengers
- First class flyers Oneworld airline travelling passengers including British Airways and Qatar
- Marco Polo Club Diamond, Diamond Plus and Diamond Invitation frequent flyers
- Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers such as Qantas Platinum prior to flights with Cathay Pacific Qantas, etc
Lounge location and opening hours
The Pier is located at Level 6, Terminal 1, near Gate 63 and is open from from 5.30am, closed at 00.30am daily.
One of the first things you notice when you step into The Pier is the sheer size yet privacy of the place. This isn’t your normal lounge fit out. It truly is a space to relax, enjoy a meal or be productive without the distraction of the overall airport. The separation of the different, beautiful colour scheme and greenery add to the sense of luxury. This feels more like a 5 star hotel than lounge; again a testament to the work that Cathay has put into making the lounge the experience that it is today.
For those wishing to be productive, there’s a great office space called’ The Bureau’ which offers business travellers desks with computers and space for laptops as well as multiple AC and USB power ports for those who need to be fully charged and tapped into all devices.
On the flip side for those wishing to be as unproductive as possible there’s a Library with some reading materials as well as eight Day Suites which include a single bed for those wanting to get some forty winks. Yes this lounge really has something for everyone!
Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)
Having had a rather long day lining up and walking in the heat around Honkers, I made a b line to the bathroom to have a shower before my lounge meal and flight. Unlike other lounges I was able to get a shower instantly. The 14 shower suites are adorned with gorgeous brass fittings and my favourite, Aesop amenities. Let’s say that after my shower I was feeling more than refreshed but rejuvenated.
I applied for a spa treatment but sadly the appointments were booked out right until 11pm that night, well after my flight had taken to the skies (so sadly could not review that aspect of the lounge).
Bread and butter (food and drink)
One of my favourite aspects about the First Class Lounges like Qantas and now Cathay is their dining room space. Yes there is a buffet area option for those who do enjoy the ability to self serve and are time poor but for me, these spaces provide a chance to indulge in some truly great cuisine. The Pier did not disappoint with the lounge offer a restaurant space and bar at the back of the lounge. Simply pull up a chair and experience restaurant quality service. On the menu was a staggering amount of food and wine options, including three champagne choices. Due to the Easter period there was an additional Easter themed menu which in the end tempted me and found me mixing it up between some renown dishes and some more holiday spirit cuisine.
For the starter I choose the Easter a la coque egg and smoked salmon with fennel salad. Both were equally delicious and beautiful presented. Moving onto the mains I had the succulent mussel marinere with white wine and julienne fries. If I had an criticism here is that the dish was rather small and in turn I found myself order more, which lead me onto my second main the roasted leg of lamb. Again both were tasty, well cooked and looked divine.
To finish I couldn’t go past the Easter themed chocolate dessert which was a rich chocolate mousse Easter egg with orange marmalade….simply delicious! I complimented my dishes naturally with a mix between the vintage Thienot 2008 Brut and the Perrier Jouet NV (which is also served in the Qantas First Class lounge).
Throughout the dining experience the lovely waitress who served me was accommodating, friendly and very conversational. She was great in terms of offering insight into drink and food choices, even getting me onto the Cathay cocktail speciality Blue Dream which was quite a treat! I did not have to wait long nor struggle to get the attention of wait staff. This really was the perfect lounge dining experience. I could not fault it.
The Pier is one of those experiences where you don’t feel you are in a lounge. The atmosphere here is warm and inviting and never feels for a moment crowded. Normally you have to do a hot shoe shuffle to scramble for a seat in another lounge but not here at The Pier. The breakout spaces and use of lighting and fixtures is truly genius. For me it has become one of my favourite lounges in the world after one visit – yes it was THAT good! I will be back for sure and am willing to look at flight options that detour as a stopover in Hong Kong just to make it happen!
Have you experienced The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong? Did you find the space as inviting and beautiful as my experience or was your time not as enjoyable? Love to hear your thoughts and what you think has been your best lounge experience to date.
Lufthansa is ready to upgrade their aging aircraft of A340s, B747s (and surprisingly the not so aging A380) with a fresh order of 40 new aircraft from Airbus between 2022 and 2027. That’s right, the aging rockstar of the European skies is getting a makeover to a more youthful image thanks to a fresh batch of planes.
So how does the order stack up?
- Lufthansa will add an addition 20 A350s to its already ordered 25 A350 order; in total 45 aircraft
- Lufthansa will add an additional 20 Boeing 787-9s to its fleet
- Lufthansa will remove six of their 14 Airbus A380s in 2022 and 2023, instead replacing them with their newly ordered A350s
The reasoning behind such a sweeping change is that the Lufthansa Group have identified a need to invest in more fuel efficient aircraft going forward as part of their commitment to sustainability. It is a pity that the A380 has come under this as their version of the aircraft in my opinion is one of the best in the skies. Thankfully not all of their A380 aircraft are being sold on (in fact it less than half of their total A380 fleet).
In addition having visited the Boeing factory last year I am surprised about the B747 announcement considering that Boeing has further orders for the aircraft from Lufthansa at the time (October 2018).
I’ll be curious to see how the fleet evolves for Lufthansa but will hold my breath on this one as the airline has had some mixed results in the past when it comes to new fleet rollouts.
Now here is an announcement or more ‘enhancement’ that I can get behind. Qantas this week announced that domestic passengers will soon be able to board flights with heavier carry-on bags after responding to pressure from passengers over its ‘limiting’ 7 kg allowance.
Commencing March 25, travellers will be allowed to carry on one item weighing as much as 10 kgs and a second piece up to 4 kgs, bringing the total cabin allowance to 14 kgs per person. In addition passengers are allowed to bring one small personal item bag (ie. handbag or laptop bag).
This is quite generous and shows for once an airline actually listening to what people want rather than telling people what they should have. That said any cabin baggage weighing greater than 10 kg will still need to be checked in.
Well done Qantas. This is one move that I hope other airlines won’t be weighed down in making a reactionary decision and following.