Farewell the Qantas B747 on domestic routes in Australia

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For 50 years the Queen of the Skies aka the B747 has been a staple of Qantas’ international operations. Admittedly I’ve had some fond memories flying her to the USA, the UK and even Germany (when QF used to run their Frankfurt leg). Sadly however as time goes on, so do improvements in technology and great dames like the B747 become in the aviation world (certainly not in the passengers hearts) redundant. Qantas recently has acquired several B787s which are more fuel efficient and as such means the B747 is being retired by the company in late 2020.

Now for the not so sad new folks – all I can say is forget the passport! To recognise how crucial the B747 has been to Qantas (and the aviation sector in general), the airline has announced it will operate the jumbo on select domestic services across four Australian cities. The domestic B747 services will run between November and February 2020.

Below for the list of 747 domestic routes:

  • SYD-BNE  QF524  9 Nov 2019
  • SYD-ADL  QF743  23 Nov 2019
  • SYD-MEL  QF417  31 Dec 2019, QF439 15 Feb 2020
  • BNE-SYD  QF529  11 Nov 2019
  • ADL-SYD  QF736  25 Nov 2019
  • MEL-SYD  QF438  1 Jan 2020, QF400 17 Feb 2020

As an aviation geek, whilst I’m saddened by the B747s retirement, I’m also heartened by the fact that Qantas is giving the general Australian community (and internationals should they be in town), the opportunity to fly the Queen for a reasonable price without having to fork out large sums for an international leg.

Will you be booking in a domestic service on the Qantas B747? Get in touch. I’m keen to hear your thoughts. 

Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge – Bangkok: Review

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Suvarnabhumi Airport Concourse G, Level 3

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Cathay Pacific as a brand is doing all the right things in terms of the overall flying experience. What the airline provides is a unique and understated sense of luxury without being too OTT, which is sadly lacking in a lot of airlines today. During a transit in Bangkok I noticed Cathay had a lounge and for me it was a no brainer, especially when the majority of offerings are paid entry lounges which if you’re lucky will offer you maybe a basic house wine and/ or a shower to refresh in. Having enjoyed the Cathay lounges in Hong Kong and London I was hopeful that I’d have a similar lounge experience. So how does the BKK lounge stack up? Is it worthy of the Cathay name or has it put the airline to shame. TAT checked in to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon first and business class passengers, plus first and business class flyers of Oneworld partners British Airways, American Airlines, Qatar and Japan Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Diamond, Gold and Silver frequent flyers travelling on a Qantas or Oneworld flight
  • Connecting passengers arriving on long-haul first class Oneworld flights
  • Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers
  • American Airlines Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey members
  • Single-use Qantas first class lounge pass holders
  • Air France first class passengers

Lounge location and opening hours

After clearing security, proceed to Concourse G and go to level 3, where you’ll find the lounge amongst a number of paid entry lounges The lounge is open daily from 04:00 – 18:20.

Ambience

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True to the signature Cathay style, the lounge oozes a sense of understated luxury. Whilst the space isn’t overly large like The Pier or The Wing in Hong Kong, one immediately feels at ease upon entering this space. After clearing concierge there’s a small kitchen/ buffet area in front of the entrance. Being a morning flight, the buffet was stocked with cereals, breads, cold meats and fresh fruits. Adjacent to the buffet space is a long bar to sit and have a social drink (if it was the right time of day for it – clearly not at this stage!).

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Despite being smaller lounge layout, the lounge at no point feels cramped on busy. The choice of furnishing especially around the main seating area are smart and well designed. Space isn’t wasted nor lost. It’s truly a testament to great lounge design. The abundance of light streaming through the large terminal windows adds to the sense of space.

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There are also well appointed and private bathrooms/ toilets stocked with my favourite Aesop amenities to keep passengers looking and feeling refreshed before their flight.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

It wouldn’t be a Cathay lounge without its renown Noodle Bar. Despite being a breakfast session the bar was offering delicious options from wonton noodle soup, fried egg rice to dim sum and fried egg with bacon (more a western influenced dish). The breakfast menu sounded so tantalising that I ordered one of everything and did not have any food regrets!

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If an Asian influenced breakfast doesn’t tickle your fancy there’s the small buffet area with a large number of western dishes. Adjacent to the buffet is a drinks station with juices and a coffee machine as well as a fridge stocked with soft drinks and water. Like the seating area, big things come in small packages and for Cathay it’s all about the quality and choice of dishes/ ingredients. The dishes on offer when I was there looked fresh and visually well presented. If I had an criticism, it’s the lack of a barista but then again a coffee machine is better than no coffee!

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Verdict

The Cathay lounge continues the Cathay understated luxury story. The visual look and feel of the lounge is warm and inviting and more importantly spacious. The Noodle Bar is always a delight in the Cathay lounge and did not disappoint. The buffet and drinks area whilst nothing outstanding, was simple and stylish.

Seating was ample but I could imagine would be a struggle in terms of finding a seat during peak periods. A solid offering by Cathay. It is truly one of the better lounges to frequent at Bangkok International Airport.

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Comments

Have you experienced the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge in Bangkok? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

DAN LOUNGE BEN GURION (ISRAEL) REVIEW

Alliance: N/A

Location: Ben Gurion International Terminal 3, after Passport Control follow signs to Concourse C.

Lounge Rating: 2.5 Stars 

 

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Enter a quick search online and you’ll be quick to find stories floating about the Dan Lounge in Israel and the poor hospitality it offers. To have such a reputation, especially outside of Israel for the wrong reasons is quite concerning. Naturally due to my frequent flyer membership, lounge access to the Dan Lounge was offered and being curious, TAT simply had to try some of the best and worst there was to offer in terms of aviation experience. So how did Dan Lounge fare? Was it as horrifying as some bloggers have made out or was it more a storm in a tea cup?

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Higher tier members of frequent flyer programs/ alliances
    • Priority Pass
    • Paid entry

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located in Terminal 3. After clearing Passport Control follow the signs to Concourse C. The lounge is open 24 hours.

Ambience

 

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One thing you notice upon entering the lounge is how small the space is. Considering the lounge is accessible to pretty much anyone from frequent flyers on alliance airline programs to paid entries, this lounge can easily get quite full and in the case of my flight that morning it did. I initially struggled to find a seat and had to stand around ten minutes before some people cleared for a flight that was called.

In the lounge there’s a handful of toilets, a small buffet area and mostly seating. Those looking for a shower mid transit or prior to a flight will have to look elsewhere as I couldn’t find any in this lounge.

 

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

As mentioned prior there are no shower facilities and limited toilets. I found whenever I went to the bathroom there was a line for the toilet (no good). Bathrooms were generally clean but nothing outstanding in my opinion.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

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The food and drink section here was very underwhelming. The buffet area was tiny and only offered a handful of food options from salads (sorry mostly salads), some pastries and eggs. On the drinks side of things, there was sadly nothing alcoholic that could help you erase the memories of spending time in this lounge. Instead fridges were stocked with soft drink, juice and water. Also on hand was a couple of coffee machines that looked like they had seen better days. I noticed a couple of patrons struggled to get boiling water to pour from these machines and the coffee from them didn’t look too enticing either.

If there was a redeeming feature about the food/ drinks section it was the large glass bottles of sparkling Perrier water on offer. Simply take the bottle to your table and enjoy. For me this was certainly not a bad way to hydrate oneself prior to boarding.

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The area could be dramatically improved with a wider range of options and more space but again this is something that would require a total lounge redesign/ revamp.

Verdict

Dan Lounge sounds appealing on paper as a 24 hour lounge, giving those in transit an option to relax instead of sitting around the rather unfriendly Ben Gurion Airport for hours on end. However the food and drink options were disappointingly slim and lack of seating and time spent waiting around for seating to free up was terrible, especially after getting up for an early flight. In general the lack of space and poor seating design makes this lounge fall flat in terms of an enjoyable experience.

If you’re not a Priority Pass or top tier airline alliance program member I’d avoid this lounge as I wouldn’t pay entry for this lounge, instead looking at a the range of food outlets within the airport for a drink/ snack. Overall the lounge isn’t as horrifying as some of the stories online but it certainly doesn’t shake some of the key negative aspects that have been echoed on these forums either. A very average experience not worth arriving at the airport earlier for.

Comments

Have you experienced the Dan Lounge in Ben Gurion Israel? If so how was your experience in the lounge? Love to hear your thoughts and what you think has been your best lounge experience to date.

 

ROYAL JORDANIAN CROWN LOUNGE AMMAN: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Upper Floor, Queen Alia International Airport

Lounge Rating: 3.5

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The brand Royal Jordanian (RJ) had been largely foreign to me until now. A partner of the Oneworld alliance, naturally one is intrigued on who they are about and what they offer. Surely the standard of the airline had to be good, especially when they throw around the terms ‘royal’ and ‘crown’. TAT had a chance to visit their flagship lounge in Amman Jordan during a transit to Tel Aviv. Was the lounge as shiny as the king’s crown jewels collection or was RJs lounge the Sarah Ferguson of the royal family?

 

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Passengers travelling in Royal Jordanian Crown Class.
    • Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members travelling on Oneworld alliance departures in any class.
    • Priority Pass / Dragon Pass / Lounge Club.
    • Buy access for 30 JOD.

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located above the ground floor of the main terminal and is open 24 hours.

 

Ambience

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The location of the lounge is a standout with the lounge wrapping around the outside of the airport in an open plan mezzanine layout above the food and shopping outlets below on the ground floor. The layout allows the lounge to feel open and sparse, making use of the natural light through the roof line of the airport.

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The lounge is equipped with a range of facilities including laptops, children’s area, magazine library space and some individual television rooms (great for those who prefer a little lounge room style TV viewing experience). Showers and prayer rooms were located on the reception side of the lounge. I have not used the shower facilities here but have been informed that there’s a charge to use these which is disappointing as most lounges tend to offer this facility as standard.

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

As previously mentioned there’s shower and bathroom facilities. According to some online chats/ forums there’s reports of passengers being asked to pay to use the showers. I did not have an opportunity during my visit to use the showers so sadly I’m unable to confirm or deny that the hot shower rumours are true or false. That said it’d be disappointing if RJ was charging passengers for this.

Toilets wise you wouldn’t want to be there during peak hour with only 2-3 toilets in both the mens and womens. That said the toilets were spotless with an attendant cleaning them regularly.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

One thing I love about lounges is the food and drinks offerings; especially when done well. I state this based on what I’m about to say next,..and for me I was ‘underwhelmed’. Maybe it’s the Qatar or Emirates x-factor but after having visited recently the Qatar lounge in Bangkok, this lounge seemed like a downgrade.

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In the BKK lounge Bollinger champagne flowed and delectable little mezze dishes were in abundance. Here in RJ it’s very simple (little too much simplicity) and basic food offering let it down. On offer was salad, hummus and some individually wrapped plastic sealed wraps and pastries. The majority of this looked largely unappetising but admittedly the hummus did go down a treat with some Turkish bread.

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A wine/ spirits bar is on site but due to the timing of my early morning flight this was closed. Thankfully the non-alcoholic beverages were well stocked but the range of choices again were limited. Expect the usual suspects; coffee machines, tea, soft drink and water.

Verdict

First up the lounge isn’t a Sarah Ferugson but for a flagship lounge belonging to a premier full service airline it was underwhelming. This was namely down to a) charging (rumour) for the showers, b) limited toilet facilities (not good during peak periods) and c) a very basic food and beverage offering.  On the upside the layout of the design and its location with panoramic views of the general airport terminal is eye catching and enjoyable to spend time in. There’s a lot of potential for this lounge to be great and not just average. Sadly at this stage it’s just potential. I can only hope the renovations taking place currently in the lounge will address some of my concerns.

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Comments

Have you experienced Royal Jordanian Crown Class Lounge in Amman? Did you find the space disappointing or was your time more enjoyable? Love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

ROYAL JORDANIAN BUSINESS CLASS: AMM – TLV (FLIGHT RJ342): REVIEW

Flight: RJ342, AMM – TLV
Loyalty Scheme: Royal Plus (a partner of the Oneworld program) 
Frequency: 2 x daily flight
Duration: 25 minutes

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Having flown on Royal Jordanian’s (RJ) B787, I was keen to experience some of the other aircraft variants and services that RJ had to offer. One flight that intrigued me was the Amman – Tel Aviv leg. The flight is one of the shortest in the world and the only one offered by an arabic airline due to the political climate in the middle east. The leg itself flies from Jordan, over the West Bank and into Tel Aviv Israel. The view from the window provides some spectacular insights into the conflict zones. With all that in mind TAT took to the skies on RJs shortest flight.

The Seat

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Business 3J. There are 12 recliner business class seats in a 1-2 configuration within the Crown cabin. The leather has a neutral cream tone and the seat itself is quite plush and comfortable. There is a centre armrest that allows for drinks to be served on as well as a power outlet underneath that to allow electronics to be charged through.

Entertain me

This is a case of use your own imagination (or bring your own media device) because there’s no entertainment or wifi on offer on this plane.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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For a business class cabin I didn’t know what to expect here. I expect on such a short flight some sort of snack and a quick drink but surprisingly that wasn’t the case. Upon boarding business class passengers were offered a juice or water before departure…and that was the end of the service.

There was no communication further on any additional service by the cabin crew. The lack of service was quite disappointing for a business cabin. It wouldn’t have made any difference where you were in business or economy.

Verdict

The flight was pleasant and literally flew by. I have never flown on such a short route. I never imagine the old joke about flying back down as soon as you have taken off was exactly what this flight was. Due to the seat belt sign being on the entire time there was no preparation for landing nor any sort of service. In the business cabin the pre-departure drink was the only service you would receive. In context it would be hard to offer anything substantial but a simple drink, surely a snack could have been added. Not worth the additional as you’re pretty much provided the same type of service as the economy cabin.

Comment

Have you ever flown RJ Crown (business class) on one of the world’s shortest routes? 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!

 

 

AIR KORYO ECONOMY CLASS TUPOLEV 204-100 BEIJING – PYONGYANG: REVIEW

Flight: JS152, Beijing – Pyongyang (15 April 2019)
Loyalty Scheme: N/A
Frequency: 1 X daily
Duration: 1 hour and 55 minutes

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For years I heard numerous things about the North Korean national carrier Air Koryo. Frankly the feedback wasn’t great! Frequently the airline has been named one of the worst airlines in the world alongside the likes of Lion Air and Ryan Air. Besides the thrill I was experiencing from going into the unknown with North Korea, I was equally enthuiastic about the prospect of flying their airline. Was the airline really as terrible as it was made out to be or was it simply misunderstood?! I flew to DPRK to find out…

The Seat

 

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Economy 26A. Seated in the middle of the first section of economy the fitout was as I had expected, retro! Surprisingly the red and grey leather chair was comfortable despite probably being fitted years ago and the leg room more than ample. No other wow factor here but more satisfactory than I expected in terms of comfort.

Entertain me

Whilst there wasn’t any seat back entertainment, there was a drop down screen option that played some rather interesting North Korean films and poor soap operas. There was also the odd propganda video or two thrown in for good measure. It just wouldn’t be DPRK without one now wouldn’t it?!

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Again another food/ drink rumour that was debunked on this flight. I had seen a few images online of the infamous ‘Koryo Burger’ where the meat was unidentifiable and the burger inedible. The repulsiveness of the burger had garnered itself a cult following with many who had flown Air Koryo coming there for the burger.

The Air Koryo staff came through with a decent meal and drinks service. I was offered water, sparkling soda (basically soft drink), tea and coffee. I ordered some of the grape soda which I admit is delicious addictive. Now to the burger that was placed on my tray. On observation it didn’t look as bad I had imagined. The ingredients were simple; meat patty, lettuce, cheese and sauce. I went to take a bite and wow, it was packed full of flavour. The burger at best reminded me of a ramen burger in terms of flavour. It was slightly peppery yet had an asian beef zest to it. Admittedly I enjoyed this burger quite a bit and would have easily ordered a second. Yes the burger was that good!

A little later into the flight staff came through with a second drinks service. I ordered a coffee and a cup of the orange soda. Both quenched my thirst and were nothing out of the ordinary in terms of what you would get onboard anywhere else. Again the service was efficient and friendly, something I did not expect considering their so called one star SKYTRAX rating.

Verdict

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Air Koryo really did surprise me. The staff were well dressed, the presentation of the plane was clean and the service was relatively good. I don’t believe for a minute that the national carrier warrants the one star rating it has been unfairly given. Perhaps some people have rated this too harshly without taking into consideration the competition. To be frank I got more bang for my buck and better service on here than I have done with a number of low cost (and even some full service) carriers.

The food and drinks whilst nothing to write home about, were satisfactory. I believe the asian flavour of the burger for some travellers may have been a little too left of field for their tastebuds. The burger certainly did not deserve the tag of inedible that it had been given.

All in all my experience flying Air Koryo was smooth flying. I would without hesitation fly this airline again.

 

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Comment

Have you ever flown with Air Koryo or dared to try one of their Koryo burgers? Was your experience better than expected like mine or was it turbulent like the airline’s SKYTRAX rating? Keen to hear your thoughts.