Fiji Airways officially joins Oneworld Connect

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Fiji Airways this week officially became Oneworld Connect’s first partner. As a new partner it unlocks an array of benefits for Oneworld members. Oneworld Connect is intended to be an option for smaller airlines to join the alliance without having to pay the full membership costs due to the large costs associated with joining an alliance.

So what does this mean for those as part of the Oneworld program?

Prior to joining Oneworld Connect, priority boarding on Fiji Airways flights was reserved only for business class passengers and the airline’s Tabua Club members. The change will now priority boarding benefits expanded to all Oneworld members across all airports when travelling with Fiji Airways.

In addition customers from American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas when flying on Fiji Airways will have the ability to earn and redeem miles (including earning status miles). The benefits will also be reciprocated for Fiji Airways Tabua frequent flyer members when flying on American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

However unlike other Oneworld partners, Connect doesn’t offer Oneworld members access to FJ lounges or Oneworld when flying under an FJ coded flight. This means that unless you are flying FJ Business Class, you will not receive lounge access no matter your status. This is quite disappointing considering that Oneworld benefits like lounge access are highly regarded and for many are a main drawcard to being with an alliance.

If that isn’t disappointing, as you could tell not all Oneworld members are treated the same. Below is a chart breaking down the benefits for each airline.

In my view the new addition of FJ is better than no addition with some good benefits there in terms of points and boarding. However with some airlines treated more preferably than others as part of this new deal, I feel this has added a layer of confusion in terms of who is eligible for what. Additionally a lack of airport lounge access is disappointing and one can only hope will be reviewed soon. Time will tell if the Connect concept lasts the distance.

 

Alaska Airlines raises checked baggage fees

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Seattle based Alaska Airlines has sadly decided to take a leaf out of its larger American rivals like American Airlines by increasing the fees it charges to checked bags. Coming into effect 5 December 2018, the carrier will raise checked bag fees to $30 from $25 for the first bag, to $40 from $25 for the second bag, to $100 from $75 for the third and to $100 from $75 for oversized luggage.

Elite loyalty members of Mileage Plan and Alaska Airlines credit card holders are not exempt from the changes. Whilst Mileage Plan members will continue to enjoy free baggage for their first two bags, they will now be charged for the third bag which  increases to $100 from $75. Likewise Alaska Airlines credit card holders can still check the first bag complimentary but will see fees rise to $40 from $25 for second and $100 from $75 for the third bag.

The move will bite many passengers. The airline despite the greedy price hike was timid in mentioning the new rates with the announcement made via a tiny link on Alaska’s homepage. The airline claims the new charges were made due to increased pressure in operations and fuel costs.

 

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

Qantas to take off from terminal 8 at JFK from 3 April

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Qantas has announced it is switching terminals from JFK’s Terminal 7 to the American Airlines Terminal 8 from 3 April 2018.

Currently the airline operates a once daily flight in and out of JFK with a Boeing 747-400 which will then switch to Qantas’ brand new Boeing 787-9 from 1 September 2018.

Some will be daunted by the news of the switch as Terminal 8 is the largest passenger terminal in the JFK airport and is twice the size of Madison Square Garden. Check in and security will be manic but the move is a big win for premium travellers.

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The move would provide all passengers easier connections from or to American Airlines flights, which all depart out of Terminal 8. In addition Qantas premium passengers and Oneworld elites will be able to take advantage of the express check in and security process by using the AA Flagship First Check-In.

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Lounge lizards will also be in for a treat with the lounge experience upgraded from the tired British Airways lounges in Terminal 7 to American Airlines’ new Flagship Lounge. From experience the lounge was impressive in terms of ‘American standards’, even offering some decent beverage options including Taittinger NV and sometimes Bollinger.

I look forward to the changes but can’t deny that I will miss the personalised BA lounge service.

Comments

What do you think of the move? Are you excited by it or think this is a poor deal for travellers?

 

 

 

JAL SAKURA/ ADMIRALS CLUB LOUNGE HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL: REVIEW

Lounge: Sakura/ Admirals Club Lounge (shared)

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Honolulu International Airport

Lounge Rating: 4/5 Stars

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Why should the Hawaiian tropical holiday end at the airport? A shared ventured between JAL and AA, the Sakura/ Admirals Club Lounge at Honolulu International Airport is an oasis in the heart of the airport. Overlooking the open air Chinese gardens that give the airport a rather tranquil feel, this is the airport lounge to head to rather than the Qantas lounge on ground level. So how does the lounge stack up? Australian Traveler checked in to find out.

 

Lounge access options

  • Admirals Club members
  • First and Business class passengers (travelling in First or Business on a qualifying international or transcontinental flight marketed and operated by American or Oneworld airline)
  • Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members (travelling on flights marketed and operated by American or a Oneworld airline)
  • Qualifying AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro and Platinum
  • Admirals Club One-Day Pass customers
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive Card authorised users

Lounge location & opening hours

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Finding this lounge can be a little tricky. The best way to locate it is once you have past the central security checkpoint look for the Kona Brewing restaurant. If you have walked past Starbucks you have gone to far. Head up to Level 3 and walk down a long hallway until you reach the lounge with its wooden double doors. The Sakura/ Admirals Club is open daily from 5:30am – 10pm.

 

Ambience

The lounge was empty when I arrived in (surprising considering there were five JAL planes sitting at the terminal as well as a handful of Oneworld partner aircraft).

First impressions were good. Thank goodness the lounge finishing touches were more more like a JAL Sakura Lounge than an Admirals Club. JAL to me has some of the best lounges on the Oneworld alliance and this lounge is a big step up from the traditional American airport lounge. The wrap around design offered a lot of natural light, plenty of seating and break out areas so that noise didn’t carry around.

Wifi worked well enough but tended to be slow at times (a concern considering the lack of people in the lounge).

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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This is where the lounge was a slight let down (based on my previous experiences with a JAL lounge). The lounge offered two self serve food & drink stations. The food range was minimal at best. My flight was in the morning and was expecting a breakfast buffet selection. Instead I found some fruit, a pound cake and some croissants. That was all the lounge offered. There were also some instant noodles available but being a morning flight I was definitely not in the mood for that type of dish.

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Drinks selection was better with a range of juices (including green tea juice), California and Japanese wines/ beers and Hawaiian coffee. A typical AA lounge would dish out one free drink token and the passenger would foot the rest but here it was self pour and rather generous at that.

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Verdict

 

The lounge is a far better option for Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members than the Qantas alternative with better views, greater seating capacity and a more refined elegance. The lounge is very JAL influenced than AA and that really helps give the lounge some wow factor visually.

Food was not it’s strongest point and was severely missing a greater selection of offers to please those lounging around for a few hours. On the other hand the drinks selection was strong.

Overall a lovely lounge with some great views of the Chinese gardens. Those wanting tarmac views need not apply.

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Comments

Have you experienced the Sakura/ Admirals Club Lounge in Honolulu? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – was it outstanding or did the lounge fail to take off on your expectations?