Virgin set to axe Melb – HK flights

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In the wake of Virgin Australia’s announcement that it’ll fly daily Brisbane – Tokyo from late March 2020, the airline has swung the axe into its daily flights between Melbourne and Hong Kong. The move comes as part of the airline’s recent review into route profitability after a dismal $315 million loss in earning this year.

The move to reduce flights to Hong Kong will will free up the Airbus A330 aircraft needed for Virgin’s daily flights between Brisbane and Tokyo.

Other changes to come out of the six month review to improve the airline financial performance includes the push back of Boeing 737 MAX jets delivery from November 2019 to July 2021 and delaying a launch of an enhanced B737 business class seat.

It’s a shame to see Virgin reduce their presence in Hong Kong. Understandably the political unrest has made it even tougher for the airline, especially in a market dominated by Cathay and Qantas. Back when the airline launched into Hong Kong in 2017, it was anticipated that the airline would use it as a launch pad into mainland China. That never quite eventuated as Virgin had hoped.

Virgin is hopeful that the new Brisbane to Tokyo route will be a better option, with a new partnership with leading Japanese airline ANA giving them the leverage they require to launch into the Asia market from Japan to China.

 

American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK – NYC: Review

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Terminal 8

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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I have this love/ hate relationship with AA. Sometimes their lounges, service and aircraft are on point and other times it’s frankly dismal. Some of AA’s lounges are tired and the food/ drink quality is sometimes better in the food court within the terminal. American has been in turn going through a revamp of late and are slowly changing the look and feel of their lounges, particularly around their Flagship lounges.

Last year American opened their new Flagship lounge at JFK and the feedback from those who have frequented it have been quite positive. Naturally being at JFK I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and if the fuss was justified (all whilst enjoy a champagne or two).

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Lounge access options

  • Traveling in AA intercontinental business or first class
  • Traveling to Los Angeles LAX or San Francisco SFO in first class
  • AA Concierge Key
  • oneworld Saphire and Emerald members traveling on any oneworld flight in any cabin of service
  • oneworld passengers traveling in business class on an intercontinental flight

Lounge location and opening hours

After clearing security, proceed to the Admirals Club signage until you reach the main entrance. You’ll find the Flagship Lounge off to the left, under the flags as you walk down the ramp from TSA screening. There is a lift and staircase that lead up to the Flagship Lounge. The lounge is open daily from 04:15 – 01:00.

Ambience

The feeling the moment you walk into the lounge is a warm and welcome. The use of colour tones and smart, yet simply furnishings add a lovely touch to what AA lounges usually don’t offer…inviting. Initial impressions is that it’s on par on an international level (yes finally AA!). It features a solid buffet, real champagne (hello lover!) and a make your own cocktail bar. Throughout my time spent in the lounge there never a moment that it felt crowded, instead it was rather peaceful, a rarity in such a bustling building like Terminal 8.

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At the back of the lounge was a quiet room/ space which is great for those who want to enjoy a drink/ bite to eat but without the noise of people traffic as they work away on their laptop. Next to that space was the bathrooms and shower suites which were nicely designed and well appointed with C.O. Bigelow toiletries; the same brand AA stocks uses in the business and first amenity kits.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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As mentioned there’s a large buffet section which has some rather decent offerings including a number of  hot options for the lunch/ evening session during my visit including potatoes, pasta, salmon and even beef stir fry. There were also a number of cold options from meats and cheeses to salads. The food quality was tasty, fresh and much better than anything Admirals Lounge could produce.

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However the centerpiece of the Flagship lounge for me was the rather large communal table with a self-serve wine bar in the middle. Additionally there’s was an impressive selection of both red and white wines available. However I was disappointed they had one away with the Taittinger, instead choosing to serve Champagne Besserat de Bellefon. The drop itself was fine but nowhere near the standard or opulence of the Taittinger.

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Verdict

The AA Flagship lounge definitely sets a high standard for American based airport lounges but on the world scale compared to Emirates, Qatar, Cathay and Qantas to name a few, it falls slightly short. However the lounge is a great space to relax and enjoy some food or a drink in comfortable surrounds with a rather spectacular tarmac vista. The food and drink quality is way above the Admirals Club (not something difficult to achieve) and the design is fresh, clean and quite a showpiece for American. The airline should be proud! I’ll be back here for sure (note: I’ve visited once more since this review).

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Comments

Have you experienced the AA Flagship Lounge in NYC? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

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. 

 

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 SYD- SAN FRAN LEG TO GET B787

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Like many of you I’m a fan of the B747 but unfortunately her days are numbered with several of airlines. The Queen of the skies is heading for retirement with Qantas by the end of 2020. Some routes will see her depart sooner in the interim with Qantas announcing that she will be replaced by their Dreamliner B787 on its Sydney – San Francisco route. The B787 will move take off daily from 4 December 2019.

Whilst it’s sad to see the Queen disappear from this route there’s no denying the level of technological (as well as comfort) improvements that’ll be given to passengers flying on the B787. Gone will be the 2-2-2 business class seating arrangement, replaced instead by Qantas superb business suite in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Like anything there’s a downside and it’s Qantas’ new premium economy cabin. The leg room and space feels worse than its economy section yet you’re paying more for the pleasure of feeling squashed. Personally I would rather fly economy over that seat or upgrade to business (yes the design flaw is really that bad).

Mixed feelings of sorts on the new Qantas dreamliner route but at the end of the day, it is an upgrade!

 

 

Lufthansa orders new A350 and B787 aircraft

Lufthansa is ready to upgrade their aging aircraft of A340s, B747s (and surprisingly the not so aging A380) with a fresh order of 40 new aircraft from Airbus between 2022 and 2027. That’s right, the aging rockstar of the European skies is getting a makeover to a more youthful image thanks to a fresh batch of planes.

So how does the order stack up?

  • Lufthansa will add an addition 20 A350s to its already ordered 25 A350 order; in total 45 aircraft
  • Lufthansa will add an additional 20 Boeing 787-9s to its fleet
  • Lufthansa will remove six of their 14 Airbus A380s in 2022 and 2023, instead replacing them with their newly ordered A350s

The reasoning behind such a sweeping change is that the Lufthansa Group have identified a need to invest in more fuel efficient aircraft going forward as part of their commitment to sustainability. It is a pity that the A380 has come under this as their version of the aircraft in my opinion is one of the best in the skies. Thankfully not all of their A380 aircraft are being sold on (in fact it less than half of their total A380 fleet).

In addition having visited the Boeing factory last year I am surprised about the B747 announcement considering that Boeing has further orders for the aircraft from Lufthansa at the time (October 2018).

I’ll be curious to see how the fleet evolves for Lufthansa but will hold my breath on this one as the airline has had some mixed results in the past when it comes to new fleet rollouts.

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.