Etihad to introduce Economy Space on their A380, B777 and B787 fleet

Etihad Airways for the last two years has been looking at ways to milk the cow so to speak in a bid to recoup costs and get themselves back in the black. The latest announcement will add a few more dollars Etihad’s way with the airline launching ‘Economy Space’. What is ‘Economy Space’ you ask?’ Some are claiming it’s their version of premium economy but it isn’t even close. It’s more akin to United’s Economy Plus, a seat simply with extra leg room.

By December this year, ‘Economy Space’ will be implemented onto 10 of their A380s. The seats will feature an increased pitch of up to 36 inches whilst bolstering the number of extra legroom seats they currently have in Economy from 20 to 80 on the A380. In the new year the airline will focus on redesigning 12 Boeing 777 and 21 Boeing 787 jets with a completion date slated for late 2019.

The airline says it has made the move due to an increase in demand for more space but without the hefty price tag of business or first class.

All ‘Economy Space’ seats will be sold at a premium to passengers. The airline is yet to release details on how much the seats will be priced at. In addition to ‘Economy Space’, Etihad will offer a Neighbour-Free seating option in Economy as well as a range of buy-on-board products.

Emirates downgrades Australian flight experience temporarily

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A couple of months ago Emirates announced it would be undertaking a large network reduction from now until June 2019 due to runway works at Dubai Airport. As a result of the airport operating out of one instead of two runways, flights have been impacted. Unfortunately, Australians haven’t been spared with the airline set to make changes to several Australian routes.

The biggest changes will affect Melbourne and Sydney with both cities set to be downgraded from the A380 to a B777. The daily Melbourne via Singapore route will be impacted during the period of 2-20 Nov and 15 Jan to 30 March 2019. Likewise, the Sydney via Bangkok (EK418/EK419) route will switch to a 777-300ER. Whilst this aircraft retains first class it loses the first class shower and more importantly the on board bar and lounge space. Note that the daily non-stop Dubai routes from Melbourne and Sydney will continue to operate on an A380.

Perth will be hit the hardest with the airline seeing a reduction in flights from 14 to 11 per week from 7-28 November 2018 and 7 Feb to 30 March 2019. In addition EK424 will not run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays whilst EK425 won’t run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Th aircraft type however won’t be affected.

As they always say there’s a silver lining in some of this news and that goes to Adelaide. The SA capital is the winner out of the changes with the route set to receive the newly reconfigured B777-200LR which possesses the brand new business class seat. A win for customers despite the aircraft still retaining the not so great 2-2-2 configuration. The dates Adelaide will be impacted is 8-30 October and 1 February to 30 March 2019.

All I can say is that I hope these reductions are what they claim ‘temporary’ and not a mere testing of the waters for something more permanent. The Australian market is a strong one for the UAE based airline and the A380 is the best aircraft to service that market from its Dubai hub. Anything less is really a slap in the face of customers, particularly the business class arrangement of a 2-2-2 configuration. As I stated before the only one benefiting here is the Adelaide route.

Consider this a downgrade and if you are on a business class ticket and have had the aircraft changed from an A380 to a B777, I would get in touch with Emirates as soon as possible to see if they can offer another A380 alternative.

Comments

Booked on a downgraded flight? Like to hear your thoughts on this.

 

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.

ETIHAD DOWNGRADES SYD FROM A380 TO B777

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Ah Etihad Airways you’ve done it again! The Abu Dhabi based airline of late has been putting the knife into his product offerings, slowly killing off its ‘premium’ experience in a bid to fast track its way back to profitability after posting losses the last two years in a row.

What I thought was a cash cow for Etihad, the Sydney – Abu Dhabi leg, is not safe from its cost cutting measures. This month the airline announced it would remove the crowd favourite A380 with a downgrade to a B777 on one of its two daily Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights from October 2018 to late May 2019.

The flight affected is EY451 which departs Sydney 3pm and the returning EY450 leg back. The downgrade will take place 20 October 2018 to 4 December 2018, and then again from 7 February 2019 to 30 May 2019. Between the December-February dates listed above, EY451/EY450 will get a reprieve with the return of the A380.

The airline’s other daily service (EY454/455) will continue to feature the superjumbo, so if you are planning on flying the superjumbo note this before making a booking.

The change particularly isn’t great for passengers across the board with the B777 displaying the last gen seats for all classes. Moreover the B777 lacks the A380s lobby social lounge/bar area.

Etihad Airways announced that the change of aircraft was due to routine maintenance and has said  it’ll notify guests booked on these services of the changes.

Whilst disappointed by the news (I’m an avid A380 fanboy), it sadly isn’t unexpected. My concern is how much further or for that matter low can the airline go in order to cut costs?!

QANTAS STRUGGLE FOR ROOM AT THEIR SINGAPORE LOUNGE

When Qantas first entered its partnership with Emirates, it in turn saw the removal of Qantas using Singapore as its stopover hub between Australia and London. Instead that honour was given to Dubai. During that time Qantas opened a new lounge in Changi Airport, creating a single class premium lounge.

Fast forward to 2017 and Qantas as part of its Emirates 2.0 partnership decided that it would give Dubai to Emirates for QF coded flights and fly Qantas metal back into Singapore. Whilst this is quite strategic (due to the important Singapore business market for Qantas), it in turn has shot Qantas in the foot with the airline’s Changi lounge not built to meet the requirements of the new influx of people traffic into the lounge.

With three daily flights from Singapore on an A380 service ( Melbourne, Sydney and London), Qantas lounge capacity of 460 passengers was certainly going to experience issues. Added to the fact that Oneworld lounge options are slim unlike Hong Kong or the hotel-esq space of the Dubai Lounges, hundreds of passengers were bound to descend onto the Qantas lounge.

The struggle is real for Qantas with the airline now having to take measures in restricting access to the lounge. Before the restrictions came into play those travelling from first class right down to Qantas Club members (and even single use lounge passes) could enter.

To address peak crowding Qantas will turn away Qantas Club, lounge pass and to a degree some  Gold members from the lounge and direct them to the nearby SATS Premier lounge, also in Terminal 1. Qantas says that the redirection of traffic will be in place until September this year but judging by the lounge and what they can do in this time period I believe the restriction will be in place well beyond this time.

To compensate, those Qantas Club and Gold members who are redirected will receive 5,000 Qantas Points for their troubles but those holding Qantas single use lounge passes won’t be compensated but still offered the redirection.

This is part of a plan by Qantas to ensure that their top tier frequent flyers as well as first/ business passengers are ensured entry into the lounge.

I will be keen to see how Qantas addresses this but honestly you would think based on passenger numbers and the influx of flights they would have seen this coming. Naive perhaps? Yes but in the interim at least Qantas has a solution that should satisfy (most).

Have you experienced the squeeze at the Qantas Singapore lounge? Were you turned away?

EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS CHRISTCHURCH TO SYDNEY: REVIEW

Flight: EK413, Christchurch to Sydney (11 June 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Skywards (partnership with Qantas FF)
Frequency: Daily
Duration: 18:05 – 19:25pm (3 hours and 20 minutes)
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Emirates has the largest fleet of A380s compared to any other carrier globally and for an Airbus fan like myself the odds of getting a seat on one are extremely high at the time of booking, particularly when the only other option is a B777. Over the Queen’s birthday weekend, I thought I would do a quick trip across the ditch from Australia to NZ to see the South Island. Last year Emirates removed flights between Sydney – Auckland and Sydney-Wellington, instead creating direct flight to Dubai rather than via Sydney and Melbourne.

The biggest losers out of the change were Australians who lost the easiest way to nab an A380 flight for a bargain for what would be deemed a domestic flight in terms of the flight time (it takes longer to fly east-west Australia than it does from the east coast to NZ). That said there is a loop hole (for now) where you can still enjoy the quick A380 hop but it means that you would need to go to Christchurch for the privilege. So how did my flight fare for the handful of hours spent up in the air and in the bar on the second deck?

The Seat

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One thing I love about the A380 business class as opposed to their B777 is that comes in a 1-2-1 layout, providing each passenger with direct access to the aisle. Additionally, the seats feel like a mini private suite, particularly for those along the window and when you are dining or laying down for a snooze, the aircraft noise is whisper quiet. Next to my seat was sizeable side table and a room temperature mini-bar stocked with water and soft drink.

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If there was any gripe about the seat is that it felt a tad dated and I use the word tad loosely as the quality is still strong but when you are comparing it to the newly released Emirates Business Class seats, you notice the difference. Also, be prepared for lots of faux wood. Emirates has a habit of loving bling and may have gone a little overboard here in that area.

As it was a short flight there was no point in trying to use the flat bed service particularly by the time the dinner service rolled through.

Entertain me

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All business class suites come with a 17-inch touchscreen that’s packed with over 2,000 ‘channels’ of movies, TV shows and audio. I struggled with the amount of choice to select a film as there were quite a few good flicks on offer (I ended up investing my time watching The Black Panther). On the other hand, the music selection was rather slim and the choice predominantly Arabic (which is great if your music tastes wonder that way).

There was also wifi on board for a charge but I did not consider this service offering to be able to report on it.

However those forms of entertainment pales in comparison to the inflight cocktail bar and lounge for business and first class passengers. Located at the end of the plane the area is a great place for stretching the legs, enjoying a few mojitos and socialising with fellow passengers.

I’ve been on a few Emirates flights where the bar provided a relaxing space to unwind but this flight was sadly a little different. The bar was overcrowded and standing room only. I blame the fact that many people who were upgraded from the flight being oversold decided to spend the time in the bar as it was their first time ever in business class. There was one woman who was getting a little drunk at the bar and was telling passengers she was on her seventh champagne. Geez how embarrassing! I didn’t know if I was on Emirates or at the local pub. Again, having experienced the bar and lounge on flights prior I know this wasn’t the norm but wouldn’t be impressed had it been my first time.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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I’m greeted before take-off with a glass of Moët & Chandon Champagne, the inflight menu and a wine list. Despite the short flight it was still a full service, three course meal like the type you would experience on a Sydney to Dubai leg.

The meal service was awfully slow and took almost an hour before they came to serve me. In fact, I actually had to get their attention as the flight attendant accidentally skipped my seat when taking orders. The attention to detail was seriously lacking here. I didn’t know if it was due to the FAs having to deal with a full flight, particularly in business class as a lot were upgraded last minute or that the crew was understaffed. Nothing was personable about the service which is a shame because my last Emirates flight in business was the complete opposite.

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By the time the dinner was served I was already halfway through my film. The flight attendant brought out bread, a seasonal salad with balsamic and olive oil dressing and a seafood appetiser. The appetiser of smoked salmon and prawns was delicious, fresh and left me wanting more.

For mains there was a choice of salmon massman curry, pan fried beef fillet and grilled chicken with herb butter. I went with the beef. The beef was slightly tougher than I had expected despite requesting it medium rare. That said the thyme jus, potato gratin and mushrooms helped pack this dish with some flavoursome punch.

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With a bit of room left I decided to have dessert and went with not one, but two dishes – the lemon tart and a seasonal fruit platter. The lemon tart was on point and succulent to eat. The smooth texture of it was superb and was my favourite dish of the flight.

Drinks wise, I kept the flow of the Moet coming until the main where I then switched to a lovely but quite heavy red from Chateau Moulin Riche. It was a 10 year old drop that had lovely aromas of blackberry and prunes and was a great accompaniment to my beef.

Other than the slow service, the food itself was quite good.

Verdict

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Being a public holiday, the flight was busy as a result of being oversold. People who were in economy were upgraded for free and in turn made the bar quite crowded for an area that traditionally is a bit quieter and more relaxing. Besides the slow service the experience was overall pleasant and a great way to spend a few hours kicking back with a Moet. Would I do it again? Even with the crowds? Absolutely!

Comments

Have you experienced Emirates business class? Did you love or dislike the product offering? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

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.