AIRBUS A380 TO END PRODUCTION IN 2021

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For an Airbus and moreover A380 geek like myself, the superjumbo is and remains my favourite aircraft to fly. I purposely go out of my way to book an airline offering the A380 over another aircraft type due to the space, comfort and experience. If B747 was the queen, A380 was certainly the princess. On Valentine’s Day Emirates and Airbus decided to kill my aviation love affair with the airliner by announcing that it would cease production of the aircraft from 2021.

Emirates has scaled back its order of the aircraft, instead option for additional 30 A350s and 40 A330neos as part of a 70 aircraft deal. The airline expressed their disappointment at the change of heart but remained committed to the A380 stating that the aircraft would be a pillar of their fleet well in the 2030s.

Debuting in 2005, the A380 was meant to be a competitive rival to B747 but the landscape changed quickly due to improvements in two engine aircraft like the A350. The aircraft despite being popular with the travelling public sadly wasn’t so popular within the aviation industry.

Airbus will produce 17 more of the planes including 14 for Emirates and three for Japan’s ANA.

Despite being saddened by this development (I feel compelled to make that Airbus factory visit in Toulouse I’ve bene holding off happen much sooner than expected), I’m heartened that Emirates will continue to fly this aircraft well into the 2030s and as such I’ll continue to fly Emirates based on this very aircraft!

How do you feel about the A380 cancellation? Are you feeling this is the last gasp in terms of excitement when it comes to flying? 

 

LATAM FINALLY GOES BUSINESS CLASS DIRECT AISLE ACCESS FROM 2018

Who loves direct aisle business class? I do and so does LATAM Airways apparently with the South American airline set to roll out a dramatically improved business class seat across its international fleet from late 2018.

LATAM has chosen the Thompson Aero Seating Vantage XL seat with styling by London-based PriestmanGoode. The changes will be noticed on their Boeing 767 and Boeing 777 fleet as well as their new fleet of Boeing 787-9s and Airbus A350-1000s.

In addition to direct aisle access, the seats will offer passengers to rest easy on a new fully lie-flat bed. The design is very similar to fellow Oneworld partner Qantas who has a similar layout and design on the A330, 787 and soon A380 fleet.

Having flown the current LATAM business class 2-2-2 configuration I can say the new changes will really enhance their product offering. Sure the current seat hasn’t aged and still provides some decent space but there’s a lack of privacy, let alone the not so fun game of hopping over your neighbour should you be seated against the window.

I look forward to seeing their new product rolled out across their network as it’d really give not only Qantas a run for its money on that hop between Australian and Santiago but also offer passengers another decent business class option when travelling abroad.

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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Qantas to launch wifi on domestic A330s in June

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It was quite a while back when I first tested Qantas’ trial onboard wifi. The experience at the time was thrilling especially as it had been the first time I had used wifi aboard a Qantas aircraft. Since then Qantas has pushed ahead and rolled out wifi ‘slowly’ across its network. The latest news on the wifi front is that Qantas will launch inflight wifi on its domestic Airbus A330 jets in June.

The roll out follows wifi upgrades to its 737 fleet and will be welcomed by those making the transcontinental trek on the Airbus A330-200s.

Qantas has fitted the first of its 12 domestic A330-200s with the same satellite technology as the B737. A second wifi equipped A330 will take to the skies by June 30.

The A330 rollout was originally scheduled for early 2017 but constant delays by Qantas has seen the product rolled out until now.

Qantas envisions the majority of its B737 and Airbus A330-200 jets will be equipped with wifi by the end of 2018, with remaining aircraft to be equipped in 2019.

You can read my review of the Qantas onboard wifi here.

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.

 

QANTAS ECONOMY CLASS A330 SYD – HONOLULU: REVIEW

Flight: QF3, Sydney – Honolulu (24 January 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Qantas Frequent Flyer (a partner of the Oneworld program)
Frequency: 4 flights weekly
Duration: 10 hours

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Qantas operate a number of A330 aircraft (200 and 300 series). The aircraft predominately operates on flights domestically within Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Honolulu. The A330 operates in a two class configuration. This particular aircraft consists of 28 full flat business class seats and 272 standard economy seats.

 

 

The Seat

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Economy 26A. Upon entering this particularly A330, I was fortunate to experience the new generation Qantas interior which was kitted out with the Boeing 787 seats. The new seat does look the goods with a dropdown shelf built into the back of the seatback to support your own device, meaning you no longer have to hold your phone or tablet, or lie it on the tray table. 

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Despite Qantas claiming the new seat would offer better space (and to a degree it does), when reclined, the seat in front almost touches your knees and as a result makes it impossible to watch the TV screen nor be able to get out of ones chair.

Sleeping wise I really did struggle in this seat. Again with the seat reclined out in front I felt quite claustrophobic, hot and unable to really stretch out comfortably enough to allow my body to rest despite feeling drowsy during the flight.

 

Entertain me

One of the x factors about the new seat is its new entertainment screen. Much larger than previous Qantas economy seat variants including the current A380, the display is better for the eyes when viewing entertainment in the dark. The selection of movies, tv shows and audio onboard is extensive and good. I found myself struggling to view everything I wanted to watch during the flight.

Sadly there was no wifi on board. Power ports and USB charging ports were available at each seat to charge your devices.

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Qantas is one who doesn’t do food and wine in halves, even in economy. I have always found the Qantas economy dining product to be very strong in this area. Soon after take off flight attendants came around and offered passengers a refreshing Bickford’s lemon, lime and bitters drink.

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An hour into the flight and dinner service was served. There were three choices for main including a vegetable lasagna and a southern style chicken with polenta. I went with the chicken option and the dish was flavoursome and delicious. However the chocolate pudding for dessert was a tad too sweet for my liking. I couldn’t even finish it despite its small size.

The service during dinner was odd at best with attendants impersonal, rushed and rather rude. When I went to order my dinner the flight attendant did not look at me once even when he went to hand me my dinner. I found that rather rude, no matter how swept off his feet he may have been.

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Before landing Qantas served a light breakfast. There were two choice on offer – a fresh fruit platter and a hot dish of a feta and spinach omelette with pork and apple sausage, bacon and braised beans. I went with the hot option and was not disappointed. It was the ideal meal to hit the spot before our decent into Honolulu.

 

Verdict

Qantas’ flight to Honolulu in economy was adequate but could have been better in terms of the service and comfort. The flight went like a blink of an eye (which is great when one is flying cattle class) but long enough that a bit of sleep would have been great. Sadly this was not the case with the seat generally uncomfortable, especially when the passenger in front is fully reclined.

Food, drink and entertainment earned top marks but again lacked the selection of its 747 and A380 counterparts (ie. no snack bar). I found myself struggling to get an snack other than rice crackers throughout the flight when I was peckish between meals. Again not great.

Overall the flight experience was decent but there was a lot of room for improvement.

 

Comment

Have you flown on the newly converted A330? I would love to hear if your experience was similar or better/ worse.

Qatar Business Class – Seat Comparison Roundup

Qatar has many differing Business Class seats depending on the type and age of aircraft. With Qatar offering multiple frequencies for its most popular routes, finding the right seat for your trip makes all the difference between thoroughly enjoying versus simply passing the time. So how do they compare?

A380

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The Seat

The Qatar A380 features forward facing reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 layout with direct aisle access. The seat can also be found in the A350 and 787. The open and airy configuration looks daunting with so many seats spread out before you when you first board. Once settled in the seat does provide a reasonable amount of privacy if not completely shielded away from others. It converts to a flat bed with good space around the knees and is comfortable for both those who prefer to sleep on their sides or their backs/bellies.

The standard Qatar pillow and blanket are provided; both being plush and comfortable. Pyjamas are provided on overnight flights but it would be nice to see daytime flights provided with this as well as many passengers would appreciate changing into something comfortable during a 7 hour flight.

 

Entertain me

Entertainment is on the comprehensive Oryx One System with plenty of movies and TV on demand, showing through a bright HD screen. Controlled directly through the screen or the remote control, the selection whilst not exhaustive does offer enough to pass away the time. In addition, wifi is available on board with 10mb free to all passengers.

Also onboard the A380 is a bar and lounge which is great for socialising with other passengers or for groups of friends/colleagues to spend time together over with drinks and food in a space other than their seat.

 

777 – Q Suites

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The Seat

The Q Suite is the most recent iteration of the Qatar Business Class seat and is currently found only on the newest B777-300ER aircraft (and soon the A350-1000 aircraft). It will eventually trickle down to other aircraft in the fleet like the B787 and A380. There is no other word to describe this seat other than gorgeous. Beautifully designed, it makes you excited the moment you see it and has numerous thoughtful little touches that really speaks to the way every aspect of the design has been considered.

It has shoulder height doors that close while at the same time not making the space feel claustrophobic. Arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, seats on the outside alternate between window and aisle. All seats have direct aisle access.

If I had one bad thing to say it must be the table. Sticking out from under the TV right in front of the seat, it creates an issue where it impinges on space for the knees. So much so that I found it quite difficult to get into a comfortable position whether it was lying down or resting reclined watching TV or a movie. In fact, the table made resting so uncomfortable that on my flight between Doha and Paris (some 7.5hrs), I only managed an hour or two of sleep. Highly unusual considering I struggle to stay awake on flights! Pyjamas by The White Company were provided on this flight and a turn down service consisting of a pillow case and mattress pad is also on offer.

One great thing about this seat is that a family of four (or four friends travelling together) can share a four-way suite and dine/lounge together. Couples can also share two centre Q Suites and in a sense sleep side by side (it technically doesn’t convert into a double bed, but two singles aligned to one another with some parts of the bed divided).

 

Entertain me

Entertainment is the best of the Oryx One system by Qatar. Again a comprehensive but not exhaustive range is on offer. Entertainment is delivered on a large and clear 21.5” HD screen. Control also via the screen or remote by the seat.

On a side note, there is a special tasting platter that is available on the Q Suites in addition to the standard menus. A nice touch for an aviation foodie.

 

777 – Forward Facing pairs

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The Seat

This is one of Qatar’s oldest seats in their long haul fleet but just because it’s old doesn’t mean it is necessarily a bad thing. The seat is still in good condition and arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. Offering plenty of space the seat transforms into a long, comfortable flat bed. If you don’t know the person you’re seated next to there is a small divider that provides a little privacy. While some travellers prefer more privacy and direct aisle access, these forward facing seats allow for a comfortable sleep, particularly on long haul and ultra-long haul flights.

One complaint about these type of forward facing seats is that you need to step over the aisle passenger to get into the aisle if you are seated by the window. I personally don’t have an issue with this as the gap between the seats allows is more than ample to easily step over your seat mate. Storage wise there is not as much space as the reverse herringbone and Q suite seats yet I managed to stow away my laptop, headphones and shoes.

 

Entertain me

While the plane also has the Oryx One system, the screens offered in these seats are a generation behind and aren’t as clear as those found on newer aircraft. One downside of having so much legroom is that the screen is further away from you and hard to view. Screens can be operated by touch (if you can reach that far forward), or controlled from the remote. No wifi or lounge available on board.

 

A330

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The seat

This is by far the least spacious of the medium/long haul seats offered by Qatar. Arranged in a 2-2-2 setting, not only do they have less legroom, but are narrower and more compact. The seats face slightly to the left and right towards the windows, depending on the respective side of the aircraft. Those in the centre angle slightly towards the middle. As the seats dovetail into the side of the seat in front, this creates a narrow foot-well, restricting the amount of space for your feet.

In bed mode, the seat while not long as others, the bed is still decent. It lays fully flat and is furnished with the standard Qatar pillow and blanket. Having flown this product twice I have managed to get a decent (if not deep sleep). So, whilst the seat isn’t industry leading, it is still comfortable. As with forward facing paired seats, those by the window need to step over the passenger in the aisle to get out. Again, I don’t have an aversion to this seat but obviously direct aisle access is preferable.

 

Entertain me

At the risk of sounding repetitive, Oryx One is in-flight entertainment found on this product and the content virtually identical to those found on the other seats. The screen is HD and bright, so much so that even at the lowest setting it is too bright to sleep with the flight map running. Controlled again by the screen and remote. No wifi or lounge offered on board.

 

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 even when average is always good and well intentioned. The A380 does get an edge with the lounge and bar area, but for me the seat is the most important aspect.

 

Fourth Place – At the bottom of the list comes the A330. Narrow, tight and not as spacious as the others, this seat comes dead last. Not the end of the world if you can’t avoid it and definitely a #firstworldproblem.

 

Third Place – The Q suites. Now hear me out – it’s the newest, its beautifully designed, its spacious and it’s just damn amazing. BUT (and it’s a big but), the issue around knee space really put me off the seat. I just couldn’t find a comfortable position to lounge or sleep in and getting plenty of rest is probably the most important thing I’m looking for from a flight in Business Class.

 

We have a tie!

The final two comes down to who I’m travelling with. If I was travelling with a friend or partner, I’d surprisingly choose the forward facing pair on the 777. Its spacious, comfortable and allows for couples to travel together and share the experience. However travelling solo the reverse herringbone wins hands down – it might not be breath taking like the Q Suites, but it does everything on an exceptional level. Therefore I declare it a tied first!

 


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.