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.

 

IBERIA EXPRESS IB3435, PARIS-MADRID: REVIEW

Flight: IB3435, Paris – Madrid

Loyalty Scheme: Iberia Avios (Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple flights daily

Duration: 2 hr and 10 mins

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I had always wanted to fly the national carrier for Spain but never really had the opportunity to. Iberia from what I had seen and heard had one of the most glamorous and attentive crew in the world as well as one of the best on time arrivals out of any airline. Despite flying to Barcelona from Paris (Iberia only flew to Barcelona via their Madrid hub), I was still eager to give Iberia a go. Stopovers don’t usually bother me unless the stopover is overly long and the connection time poor as opposed to flying direct. My plane today was onboard an A319. So how did the Iberian short haul product stand up? TAT flew Iberia’s metal to find out.

 

Seat

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The aircraft has two cabins (34 business and 84 economy seats). The aircraft on today’s flight was a bit tired and looked in need of a makeover. Despite the dated interior, the tired leather seat was surprisingly still quite comfortable. That said, don’t forget to bring the knee pads for your next Iberia flight. The seat had a pitch of 29″ which is relatively tight for anyone (not just a tall person) but then again I put everything in perspective and for a short flight like this one, the pitch is bearable.

 

Entertain me

No seatback entertainment available but Iberia does offer a free entertainment service via their WIFI service. Due to the WIFI option not being available on this flight meant I was unable to provide a review around their entertainment product.

 

Wine and dine me (the food)

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Despite being a premium airline and part of the Oneworld Alliance, this airline has a budget airline feel about it and it comes namely down to the lack of baggage and food/ drink inclusions. Here for economy passengers on this flight it’s a buy on board system (the likes of which you would see on budget carriers like Tiger and Jetstar).

Fortunately I was seated near the front of the economy section and the business class hostess on that flight was generous enough to provide me with some complimentary snacks and drinks from the business cabin due to my Oneworld frequent flyer status. The gesture from her was quite lovely and made my experience onboard a lot more enjoyable (sadly wasn’t replicated in the connecting Iberian flight to Barcelona but for top tier FFs this is something all airlines should look into offering).

 

Summary

For a short flight the economy seat on Iberia did the job yet I’m not sure if I would fly this type of aircraft or service with Iberia again so soon (that said a newly fitted out Iberia A320 might sway me back). I was fortunate to have a great flight attendant who provided excellent customer service but this is consistent across the Iberian network in terms of recognising frequent flyer loyalty onboard. A bonus was the flight left on time and arrived early into Madrid (Iberia is one of the leading airlines in terms of on time departures). Not outstanding but not disappointing with Iberia meeting the brief in terms of flying passengers efficiently from A to B.

 

Service: 5 Stars

Seating: 3 stars

Food: 3.5 Stars

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?!

BOEING KEEPS ANTONOV FLYING

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Thank you Boeing (that’s all I can say)! The US airline last week has stepped in to rescue Ukrainian plane maker Antonov, who are best known for producing the world’s largest aircraft, the An-225.

Hamstrung after years spent heavily relying on Russian imports, Antonov production collapsed following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Enter Aviall the parts, equipment and services unit arm of Boeing. They plan to build eight Antonov aircraft yearly from the end of 2019.

I’m really pleased to see Boeing come to the rescue here. I feel in love with the world’s largest aircraft when it blasted onto the big screen in the Bond film Die Another Day. Up to that point in time I had never seen an aircraft so monolithic, so imposing. It made even the B747 at the time seem tiny in comparison.  It’s a shame that the plane maker’s fortunes took such a hit but I am hopeful that the Boeing venture will ensure it continues to fly the world’s skies for many years to come.