FIJI AIRWAYS DEBUTS NEW A350 BUSINESS SEAT

 

Earlier this year Fiji Airways announced they’d have be acquiring two A350s for the fleet in late 2019. Fat forward to the last quarter of the year and more details have emerged, particularly around their exciting new business class product.

The new A350 business class seat will be a feature a reverse herringbone ‘Super Diamond’ design, styled in a creamy coloured texture. Initial images of the cabin gives it a sense of lightness and space. It’s a far cry from the angled A330 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. This means that everyone will get direct aisle access with the A350s 1-2-1 business cabin layout.

It’s expected that the new A350 will take flight from December 1 this year between Nadi and Sydney before expanding to other destinations, including from January 17 2020 a 6 x weekly LAX service. The flights to look out for if you wish to nab a seat in the new Fiji business cabin are:

  • FJ911 Nadi to Sydney departing 9:35AM arriving 12:05PM
    FJ910 Sydney to Nadi departing 1:20PM arriving 7:05PM

The new business class product is a much needed improvement over the current Fiji Airways business seat. Whilst the seat isn’t groundbreaking, it does the job in meeting the needs of business and premium travellers today.

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…

Lufthansa Group expands its wings on seven new routes

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I always love an expansion rather than a rescind from an airline, so when an airline as great as Lufthansa says it wants to spread its wings further, I’m all ears! This week the German airline announced it’d be undertaking some significant transatlantic expansion from during the US summer in 2020.

Lufthansa will be launching three new routes, two of which will be within the USA and one interestingly into Bangalore. All three routes will be operated by A350-900 aircraft. One of the USA routes, the Seattle leg will fly 6x weekly flights between Munich and Seattle (except Thursdays) whilst the airline will also fly into Detroit 5x weekly flights from Munich. Finally the airline will launch 5x weekly flights between Munich and Bangalore, which is aimed to support capacity demand from the Frankfurt – Bangalore route.

Additionally Lufthansa Group has announced three new routes for its budget airline, Eurowings. There had been talk in the sector of the airline being withdrawn from a number of routes so the news here of an expansion for Eurowings is surprising but welcomed. The new route for Eurowings are the following:

  • Frankfurt to Phoenix – 5x weekly flights
  • Frankfurt to Anchorage – 3x weekly flights
  • Munich to Orlando – 3x weekly flights
  • Munich to Las Vegas – 2x weekly flights

The news is exciting and I’m quite curious to understand the thinking behind the expansion into some of these destinations, particularly Detroit and Anchorage. The fact that they will be serviced by A330s and A350s means that the fleet will be generally fresh and the standard quite high. As usual, time will tell if the expansion plan for Lufthansa Group pays off.

Will you be flying Lufthansa on any of their newly announced routes? I;m keen to hear your thoughts. 

 

Qatar QSuite – Seat Comparison Roundup (B777-300ER) vs A350-900)

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Last year TAT compared the variants of Qatar business class seats that were being operated from the herringbone of the A380 to the forward facing, 2-2-2 hop over configuration of the A330. A year on and this time around due to the opportunity of flying back to back on two QSuite flights, we thought we’d compared the experience of the A350 vs that of the B777. So how does the QSuite experience fair between aircraft? Is the overall flight journey on par across the board or are no two QSuites the same? TAT took to the skies to find out…

A350

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The seat

The A350 features 46 QSuites in its business cabin, which are configured in a staggered 1-2-1 layout that offers each passenger direct aisle access. There are different types of seating configurations, with odd-numbered rows featuring rear-facing seats and even-numbered rows having forward facing ones.

The QSuite is beautiful designed with shoulder height doors that close while at the same time not making the space feel claustrophobic. On this flight I sat in 3A, which was a rear facing window seat. All suites are adorned with grey upholstery, hand-stitched Italian leather and satin rose gold finishing. Despite each seat having a width of 21.5 inches (55 cm) which extends to a 79 inches (2m) long bed, I found the seat generally a little tight in terms of comfort. Due to this being a relatively short 3 hour flight, I didn’t have the opportunity to test the lie flat bed.

Also in the suite was a hard shell BRICS amenities kit which contained the usual suspects for long haul travel, such as socks, eyeshades and ear plugs as well as some nice skincare items from Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio.

Entertain me

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Entertainment is the best of the Oryx One system by Qatar. It’s a comprehensive but not exhaustive range that’s on offer here. Entertainment is delivered on a large and clear 22” HD screen. Control also via the screen or remote by the seat. Oryx One branded noise-cancelling headphones were also provided during the flight.

The A350 also offers onboard WiFi. On this flight, the first 60 minutes of WiFi is complimentary and for those who wish to surf the net beyond this timeframe there’s a handful of wifi plans depending on your usage/ needs. Using the complimentary wifi, I found that just general browsing without downloading anything was quite slow. If this was the case for the paid option too I would feel frustrated and frankly ripped off.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Qatar’s soft product is just as amazing as their hard product. Despite being a three hour flight, the food and drink options were not skimmed over. A lot of detail and attention was placed on the food and beverage presentation and taste. On this flight was a simple a la carte menu. To properly compare service, I order a three course dinner onboard by having the seared scallops for starter, the grilled prawn and cod fish for main and the fresh berries with almond syrup for desert. I complimented this with the delectable Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose which enhanced the dining experience with its lovely raspberry and salmon hues.

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All of the dishes were tasty and beautiful presented (I loved the quality dishware used). On the A350 the service was speedy but attentive. Given the relatively short flight I could understand the FAs sense of urgency however that did not impact the warmth or friendliness of the onboard service.

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The Seat

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The first thing one notices about the QSuite on the B77 is the sense of space, especially compared to the A350 layout. In this aircraft there are 42 Qsuites spread across two minicabins. Like the A350 the cabin is a 1-2-1 configuration, offering each passenger direct aisle access. Like before I was seated in 3A and facing the rear on the plane on the window side.

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Due to the timing of my flight being overnight, my suite contained two pillows, a blanket, amenity kit and set of headphones at the seat. The seat itself was quite comfortable, measuring 21.5 inches wide and 79 inches (2m) long, roughly the same as the A350. Despite the seat being the same in size the suite itself felt larger.

After the a la carte meal service I reclined to a full flat position to get some sleep during my nine hour flight. Whilst I didn’t have an FA do a turndown service for me, I found simply laying on my back with a blanket over me on the seat more that comfortable and didn’t require the mattress topper at all.

Pyjamas from The White Company were provided for this flight as well as the hard shell BRIC amenities kit, which contained the same toiletries as the A350 leg.

Entertain me

Without trying to sound repetitive, entertainment is provided through the Oryx One system. Again what was on offer was comprehensive but not exhaustive. Entertainment is delivered on a large and clear 21.5” HD screen which can be controlled via the screen or remote by the seat.

Also like the A350 there was wifi onboard with sadly the same connectivity issues.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Being a nine hour flight two meals services were issued. Being a late night flight the menu had an emphasis on late night dining through some lighter dish options. On this flight I order the mixed garden salad, prawn wonton noodle soup and the baked coconut pudding with chilli chocolate. I accompanied my dishes again with a glass of the Laurent Perrier rose. Yes there were other options in terms of some great NZ and Napa Valley whites and reds but that Laurent Perrier seems to pair well with anything! All of the dishes went down a treat and like the A350, all beautifully presented on charming dishware.

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The breakfast service was equally impressive. I’m a sucker for an arabic mezze and order that alongside a platter of seasonal fruits, a glass of mint lemon juice and an assiette of cold cuts. To toast in the last hour or so before landing I chose to go a champagne breakfast with a glass of the Pommery Brut NV.

Service throughout the flight was outstanding and despite the relatively full cabin the flight attendants had strong attention to detail.

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 generally warm and attentive.

It was a struggle to decide which aircraft I liked more as the service, seat and food/ beverage options were all on par. In fact I was surprised they aligned so well considering I’ve been on different aircraft for another airline and their service/ seat was worlds apart. I’m calling this one a tie. You are on a winner regardless of which aircraft you fly the QSuite on!

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Comments

Have you experienced flying QSuite on either the A350 or B777 or both? Did you love or dislike the experience? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

 

 

A321XLR to join Qantas fleet

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Qantas Group has inked a deal with France’s Airbus for an order of up to 36 of the new A321XLR jets, which are due for delivery from 2024. The deal also sees the conversion of 26 existing A320neo Family orders, plus a new firm order for 10 A321XLRs. The order comes on the back of American Airlines announcing that an order of 50 A321XLR aircraft (including the conversion of 30 of the 100 A321neos that they have on order). For Airbus this is a big news day!

The new fuel efficient aircraft will give Qantas Group new flexibility that it currently doesn’t have to be able to fly routes that current narrow body aircraft cannot such as Cairns to Tokyo. Whilst it is widely speculated that the order would see the majority of the aircraft go to Jetstar so that the airline would release its B787 fleet to Qantas, there is also strong potential for some of the aircraft to be paint with the red roo.

It’ll be interesting to see how the order is divided up. Qantas has a habit of purchasing conservatively (and rightly so in a market that changes continuously), so it wouldn’t surprise me if they snap up in the end around half of the agreed order. From that the likely destinations that the A321XLR would feature on for the red roo would be a trans-Atlantic route or the popular East-West Australia routes. 2024 is a long way from now (especially in aviation years), so naturally time will tell what happens next.

 

SRI LANKAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS BKK – COLOMBO (FLIGHT UL403): REVIEW

Flight: UL403, BKK – CMB (16 May 2019)
Loyalty Scheme: FlySmiles (a partner of the Oneworld program) 
Frequency: Numerous flights daily
Duration: 3 hours and 25 minutes

For a while I had seen a positive movement in the brand Sri Lankan Airlines. Media and reviewers online as well as friends of mine have flown the airline of late and have come back raving about the great, hospitable service of the airline. Some were quite surprised considering the airline in general seems somewhat a tad daggy in terms of its branding when I compared it to its fellow Oneworld airline partners. As part of my recent trip to Israel I had the opportunity to connect via Colombo and in turn fly on Sri Lankan. So how did the airline fare? TAT boarded Sri Lankan from BKK to find out…

The Seat

ImageBusiness 1K. Being an A320, the general rule of thumb with business is that lie flat is a no go with recliner the choice of many of these airlines who operate this aircraft. The green and brown leather seating looked smart and fresh (the seat seemed as though it was recently reupholstered). Each of the 12 business seats also had a USB port (handy for charging phones etc), a 110V AC port in the seat and seatback IFE.

Entertain me

Like the seating and interior itself the inflight entertainment units (in seatback format) were relatively new. The screen was a decent size but sadly the choice of entertainment was quite limited. I would have liked a larger range of movie and music choices.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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When I first boarded I was offered a choice of juice or water as well as a hot towel to refresh myself before takeoff. Once airborne the flight attendant come through with a lovely little menu booklet that was more than just a menu; it also provided a backstory to the cuisine as well as recipes from Sri Lanka should one wish to take the menu home. For a three hour flight the menu wasn’t extensive but the options were decent. For main there was a choice between the Spanish omelette, teriyaki chicken thigh, the red snapper or the vegetarian pad thai. I went with the snapper which was a good choice with the flavours coming through the ginger sauce and soya noodles.

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Like the food selection, drinks were also limited.Tats said the choices were diverse with everything from the delectable champagne Piper-Heidsieck to the Swartland Chardonnay from South Africa. I’m a big fan of Piper-Heidsieck for its star fruit and pear notes, so naturally this was my go to choice for my meal and it did not disappoint.

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The highlight of the drinks and meal service was the tea service. With tea so synonymous is Sri Lankan culture, it was only fitting to experience some of its quality teas onboard. There was a tea menu were passengers could selects from several tea options. I order the ginger which came out beautifully presented on a silver tray with some tea condiments such as lemon and peppermint , should I wish to add it to my tea. The tea was divine and made the experience of tea drinking a little more fun.

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Well after meal service has finished I found that the flight attendants were going above and beyond to give their passengers attention with both the flight attendant and cabin manager asking if I would like anything else or a top up of my drink despite not seeking their assistance. For me that showed an airline who puts the customer at then heart of what they do and it definitely beat strongly within Sri Lankan.

Verdict

Sri Lankan surprised me in a good way. Despite its positive feedback from online forums it’s hard to get a gage of the plane and its staff/ services until one is on board. Sure the product from the seat to the IFE didn’t have any major wow factor but their services and food/ drinks were of a strong standard. The tea service was a highlight and I definitely struggled for a while deciding on what tea to enjoy/ try. After this flight I will definitely choose to fly with Sri Lankan next time to Colombo.

Comment

Have you ever flown Sri Lanka airlines in business class? Was your experience comparable or better than expected? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

 

Qantas offers first plane bookable with points only

One of the biggest complaints for many frequent flyers is the inability to redeem their points/ miles for reward seats on airlines. The frustation of lack of availabilty means in turn frequent flyers are having points simply sit in their accounts. Qantas has been pushing the envelope of late when it comes to passenger experience. When they made an announcement on their next venture, it came at no surprise it’d be equally compelling.

The Australian airline has announced they’ll offer a series of dedicated frequent flyer redemption flights across their network with seats only available to those redeeming Qantas points. The innovatively titled Points Plane initiative will see the first plane to be bookable only on points depart 21 October 2019 from Melbourne to Tokyo Narita.

Using my personal favourite Qantas aircraft the A380, Qantas Frequent Flyer members will have the chance to book all 484 seats on this flight (14 first class, 64 business class, 35 premium economy, and 371 economy seats) at the ‘classic’ award level.

Redemption costs for the flight are:

  • Economy seat – 35000 Qantas points
  • Premium economy seat – 54000 Qantas points
  • Business class seat – 72000 Qantas points
  • First class seat – 108000 points

The seats are available on a first come first served basis. Those fortunate to be successful in booking a flight on the Points Plane can expect to be treated to a special inflight service that includes a cocktail and meal service, pajamas for all passengers (not just those in the front end or in the A380s case the top end) and inflight giveaways.

A return leg is also on offer for 26 October 26 2019 but those hoping for an A380 experience again will be disappointed to find the aircraft is an A330. Qantas believes those returning may stay beyond the initial date as part of their trip and so the aircraft does not require the same patronage.

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What do you think of the Qantas announcement? Would you be keen to book a trip on the Points Plane? I’m eager to hear your thoughts.