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? 

 

ETIHAD TAKE OFF A380 FLIGHT FROM SYDNEY SKIES

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Etihad Airways really is starting to become a shadow of its former, glamorous self. The airline when it took to the skies was full of promise and was in fact ground breaking at one point. Lately Etihad announcements are something I dread as they have been the last two years about news of removing or cancelling product and/or aircraft. Today’s disappointing announcement from Etihad is the removal of one of their popular A380 services to Sydney, which will be replaced by a Boeing 777-300ER on an ongoing basis from July 2019.

Previously Etihad announced that flight EY451 and the EY450 return leg would revert from the current short-term Boeing 777 and back to to its flagship Airbus A380 in May.. Ssdly Etihad has had a rethink of this and decided to keep the change permanently.

The downgrade in aircraft means those set to fly the A380 will need to review their booking, especially those in business as the B777 possesses the last generation business class seat as well as lacks the pizzazz of a onboard bar area. Those in first will also be affected with the 777s first suites no match for the spaciousness of the A380s. Moreover those seeking a shower best wait til they land because the inflight shower is not on the B777 aircraft.

Coincidentally the announcement and date of it removal aligns with Etihad’s launch of the A380 between Abu Dhabi and Seoul.

Personally if you are flying a premium class I would make the switch. B777s are a horrid aircraft; noisy, lacking space and generally disappointing.

Will you be switching aircraft if your booking has landed on the new B777 aircraft? Kene to hear your thoughts.

EMIRATES EK412 SYD – CHRISTCHURCH: ECONOMY REVIEW

Flight: EK412, Sydney-Christchurch

Loyalty Scheme: Skywards

Frequency: Once daily

Duration: 3 hr and 10 mins

 

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Recently Emirates has been making a lot of changes to its operations and networks, majority of them in my opinion bad decisions from the downgrading of aircraft to the recent cutting of their fifth freedom route SYD-BKK. Despite this one of their most popular fifth freedom routes is their SYD-CHC. Like many I go out of my way to fly the airline compared to its rivals because a) their service is class leading on that route and b) it is serviced by an A380. If you fly with AirNZ or Qantas you’d be lumped with an A320 or B737 at best. My love affair with this Emirates route aside, how did the airline fare the second time around for me on this route nine months on? I boarded Emirates (tough task) once again to find out.

Seat

 

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One of things that instantly catches my eye is the amount of leg room as well as the seat pitch. I feel an instant sense of space (yes even in economy). Perhaps I’m used to airlines cramming as many seats as possible onto the plane that space is something that’s expected to be compromised when travelling economy. Economy seats on the Emirates A380 have 32″ of pitch and are 19″ wide from armrest to armrest.

Entertain me

 

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All economy seats (bar front row) features a 13″ in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen in the seat back. There is a large selection of films and music to offer. The choice was so large in fact that I struggled for a while deciding on what I should watch or listen to first. Kudos to Emirates on this as a lot of airlines I have been on lately have had such a poor selection that I simply choose to sleep instead.

Wi-Fi service is also offered on its A380 aircraft with all passengers given free 20MB to use for up to two hours of the flight. If you burn through that you can also choose to purchase on of the two paid options to continue browsing.

Wine and dine me (the food)

 

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Prior to taking off the flight attendants came through the cabin with a menu. On AirNZ or Qantas on the same leg you would not even be serviced with such a menu nor given such a selection. Being a morning flight naturally a breakfast service was offered. There were two main options on offer. I went with the scrambled eggs western breakfast. The eggs and accompanying sides were quite delicious and far from dry which can occur regularly with airline food. The fruit plate was fresh and complimented the yoghurt. It might not be business but the food offering was a hell of a lot better than the comparative Qantas offering when I flew them AKL – SYD. Coffee and tea as well as basic drinks/ spirits were also on offer if you were happy to have a drink at 9am in the morning.

Summary

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Economy isn’t the easiest class to fly but when an airline does make the experience a lot more bearable it should be commended. That’s why I choose to fly Emirates on this route every time because it blows the competition out of the water. The seat and food is decent as well as the service for such a large aircraft. A winner all round. I will be flying with them again next time I fly this route!

 

Service: 4.5 Stars

Seating: 5 stars

Food: 4.5 Stars

 

ALASKA AIRLINES AS931, LAS VEGAS-SEATTLE: MAIN CABIN REVIEW

Flight: AS931, Las Vegas – Seattle

Loyalty Scheme: Mileage Plan

Frequency: Multiple flights daily

Duration: 2 hr and 35 mins

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Despite its namesake, the base for Alaska Airlines is not in Anchorage but instead Seattle (my destination for this flight). As the hub for Alaska, the city of Seattle is quite strategic as not only is it close to the Canadian border but well connected on the west coast in terms of big tech business (Alaska even has priority check-in for Microsoft employees).

A couple of years ago the airline took over Virgin America, which was viewed as many as the shining beacon in American aviation. Now that the airline has sadly merged into Alaska I was curious as to whether the airline incorporated the better traits of the once great Virgin America into their own brand.

Seat

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Today I was flying on a B737-800 aircraft. This particularly aircraft has two cabins (12 first and 112 main cabin seats). The grey and white tones of the interior were a stark contrast to the more vivid purple, red and white tones of Virgin America with the seats looking nowhere near as plush. Leg room and seat pitch is satisfactory with 32 inches offered in the main cabin. Despite the relatively average pitch the seats were a lot more comfortable than they looked.

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Entertain me

Alaska Airlines offers free entertainment via your own personal device. The entertainment selection of movies and tv series were relatively weak. I struggled to find anything that was of interest to me. A larger catalogue of options would have been more welcome on this flight considering the relatively long flight from south to the north of the USA.

 

Wine and dine me (the food)

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Basic snacks and drinks were complimentary in the main cabin. Those craving something a little stronger in terms of drink (alcoholic) or more substantial in terms of food would need to buy on board.

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What I did like was the partnership between Alaska Airlines and Seattle based Starbucks. The coffee in turn was better than the average inflight filter coffee and did the trick in terms of keeping me refreshed and alert after an early start that morning. Snack wise (I always prefer something more substantial) was a biscoff biscuit to nibble on.

 

Summary

Despite the flight being delayed an hour, the flight experience was surprisingly better than expected. It’s hard to not compare it to Virgin America especially when an airline such as Alaska takes over its fleet and operations. I was concerned the airline would unwind all the good work that VA did to make flying in America a decent experience. Sure it’s not VA but it does work hard compared to some other American competitors to give the passenger a relatively premium experience, whether you are in first or the main cabin.

Food and drink offering was satisfactory. The nice touch of Starbucks coffee was welcome and made the Seattle experience, well, more Seattle. The only negative I would have to say is the entertainment offering. It was quite poor and could offer a better selection for passengers. I would definitely consider flying Alaska again when I next choose to fly in America.

 

Service: 4 Stars

Seating: 3.5 stars

Food: 4 Stars

AMERICAN AIRLINES AA1771, DALLAS-LAS VEGAS: MAIN CABIN PLUS REVIEW

Flight: AA1771, Dallas – Las Vegas

Loyalty Scheme: AAdvantage (Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple flights daily

Duration: 2 hr and 55 mins

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American Airlines has usually been my first choice when it comes to flying hopping airport to airport within the USA. The staff are generally efficient (and mostly friendly) and the offerings of food and drink whilst simple are generally more generous than its competition. American Airlines recently introduced complimentary enhancements to their Main Cabin Plus passengers including free alcohol priority boarding and storage. I was keen to give their newly enhanced product a try to see if it was truly ‘enhanced’.

Seat

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The aircraft has two cabins (16 first and 165 main cabin seats). There are 18 main cabin plus seats on this aircraft. The interior was fresh and relatively new with IFE seatback entertainment and smart leather seats. Leg room and seat pitch is more ample with 34 inches in main cabin plus as opposed to 31 inches in the main cabin. The only negative was that the bottom cushion of the seats was relatively thin and when I got up to leave the aircraft I felt rather sore. The seats despite looking the goods in terms of design do not feel comfortable after a certain period of time.

 

Entertain me

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American offers free entertainment via seatback or through your own personal device. On the A321 seatback was on offer. The entertainment selection of movies and tv series was strong.

 

Wine and dine me (the food)

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Whilst snacks and non alcoholic drinks are complimentary in the main cabin, the difference with main cabin plus is the introduction of free alcoholic beverages. On my flight was a selection of spirits, wines and beers. I went with a bottle of the Les Papillons Grenache Rose from France which was quite smooth and light. A great choice with the sadly small bag of mini pretzels that was handed out as a ‘snack’.

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American Airlines do offer more substantial sized meals for those feeling peckish but it will cost you. Even after the drinks service has come through the cabin the attendants on board seemed more than happy to offer additional drinks to passengers upon request.

 

Summary

The flight was relatively smooth and despite being delayed an hour, the aircraft did their best to try and make up for lost time. IFE entertainment was good quality as were the selection of drinks for main cabin plus passengers. The pitch despite being 3 inches more than main cabin wasn’t really noticeable and the seats after a certain period of time were a tad uncomfortable. Other than that the flight experience was generally good and one I would fly again on in the future. The big question is would I pay extra for the main cabin plus cabin? To be frank not really. However if you are an Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire member where the seat is complimentary to you, I’d definitely take advantage of selecting this seat as soon as you book your flight as it’s a nice little extra incentive to enjoy on your flight!

 

Service: 4 Stars

Seating: 3 stars

Food: 3.5 Stars

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.

 

Technically bankrupt South African Airways looks to sell assets

 

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It’s a sad state of affairs for South African Airways (SAA) at the moment. The South African carrier has been deemed ‘technically bankrupt’ and whilst it has flagged it would apply for another bailout, the airline is looking to interim measures to get its books back in black. Some of those measures include the selling of assets. Among the assets for sale is the airline’s catering arm Air Chefs as well as the cargo unit.

SAA Cargo is one of the few profitable for the airline. Last financial year it earned ZAR387 million rand profit. Now no decisions have been locked in but it is strongly believed that the cargo unit will be separated from the passenger mainline and the operations for it outsourced to private third party.

It would be quite sad to see this airline go considering it is literally the best thing going aviation wise for Africa as a whole but it’s poor standing has sadly scared banks off with the airline struggling to be loaned any more money on commercial terms. It  wasn’t that long ago (aka last year) that the airline received a ZAR3 billion rand injection to prevent a Citibank loan default by the government.

This is very much a watch this space situation. Time will tell if the skies align for SAA.