Qantas brings B787 to SYD-AKL for the summer

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Qantas has announced it’ll give Sydney-Auckland route travellers some summer lovin’ this summer with their flight being upgraded from the usual workhorse B737-800 to their new Dreamliner B787.

The upgraded plane will be in operation from . Whilst limited in terms of time offering, this is an exciting announcement by the airline as it will be the first time Qantas will offer their Premium Economy product on a Tasman route. Right now the premium economy seat is on sale for roughly the same price as a economy seat, so if you’re quick on it, you could snap yourself up a bargain whilst enjoying a bit more space and luxury for the pleasure.

Qantas has eight 787s in its fleet, with six additional aircraft due for delivery between October 2019 and mid 2020.

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Virgin to launch Newcastle – Auckland flights

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Virgin Australia has had a bit of a rough trot of ate with the New Zealand market after one time ally Air New Zealand decided to bin their partnership and get into bed with rival Qantas. The move left Virgin in shock and probably a little ill prepared in terms of a response. Now Virgin has found a trick up its sleeve by announcing this week it would commence flights from Newcastle to Auckland from November this year.

The new seasonal route which will tap into summer passenger demand will feature a Boeing 737 with eight business class seats, 30 Economy X seats and 138 standard economy seats. The flights will run every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 22 November 2018 to 17 February 2019.

Departing from Newcastle Airport at 7.30pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday is VA199, which will reach Auckland at 12.25am the following day. VA198 will depart Auckland at 5.10pm and arrive into Newcastle at 6.45pm.

The news from Virgin comes on top of the airlines recent announcements that it was launching new routes between Sydney and Wellington and between Melbourne and Queenstown from October this year.

It’ll be interesting to see the demand for these new routes and whether the investment was worth it considering no other airline is flying a direct Newcastle – NZ option. Like all ambitious ideas time will tell if the gamble was a success.

What do you think of Virgin’s lastest routes to NZ? Will you be using the new Newcastle – Auckland route? 

EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS CHRISTCHURCH TO SYDNEY: REVIEW

Flight: EK413, Christchurch to Sydney (11 June 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Skywards (partnership with Qantas FF)
Frequency: Daily
Duration: 18:05 – 19:25pm (3 hours and 20 minutes)
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Emirates has the largest fleet of A380s compared to any other carrier globally and for an Airbus fan like myself the odds of getting a seat on one are extremely high at the time of booking, particularly when the only other option is a B777. Over the Queen’s birthday weekend, I thought I would do a quick trip across the ditch from Australia to NZ to see the South Island. Last year Emirates removed flights between Sydney – Auckland and Sydney-Wellington, instead creating direct flight to Dubai rather than via Sydney and Melbourne.

The biggest losers out of the change were Australians who lost the easiest way to nab an A380 flight for a bargain for what would be deemed a domestic flight in terms of the flight time (it takes longer to fly east-west Australia than it does from the east coast to NZ). That said there is a loop hole (for now) where you can still enjoy the quick A380 hop but it means that you would need to go to Christchurch for the privilege. So how did my flight fare for the handful of hours spent up in the air and in the bar on the second deck?

The Seat

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One thing I love about the A380 business class as opposed to their B777 is that comes in a 1-2-1 layout, providing each passenger with direct access to the aisle. Additionally, the seats feel like a mini private suite, particularly for those along the window and when you are dining or laying down for a snooze, the aircraft noise is whisper quiet. Next to my seat was sizeable side table and a room temperature mini-bar stocked with water and soft drink.

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If there was any gripe about the seat is that it felt a tad dated and I use the word tad loosely as the quality is still strong but when you are comparing it to the newly released Emirates Business Class seats, you notice the difference. Also, be prepared for lots of faux wood. Emirates has a habit of loving bling and may have gone a little overboard here in that area.

As it was a short flight there was no point in trying to use the flat bed service particularly by the time the dinner service rolled through.

Entertain me

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All business class suites come with a 17-inch touchscreen that’s packed with over 2,000 ‘channels’ of movies, TV shows and audio. I struggled with the amount of choice to select a film as there were quite a few good flicks on offer (I ended up investing my time watching The Black Panther). On the other hand, the music selection was rather slim and the choice predominantly Arabic (which is great if your music tastes wonder that way).

There was also wifi on board for a charge but I did not consider this service offering to be able to report on it.

However those forms of entertainment pales in comparison to the inflight cocktail bar and lounge for business and first class passengers. Located at the end of the plane the area is a great place for stretching the legs, enjoying a few mojitos and socialising with fellow passengers.

I’ve been on a few Emirates flights where the bar provided a relaxing space to unwind but this flight was sadly a little different. The bar was overcrowded and standing room only. I blame the fact that many people who were upgraded from the flight being oversold decided to spend the time in the bar as it was their first time ever in business class. There was one woman who was getting a little drunk at the bar and was telling passengers she was on her seventh champagne. Geez how embarrassing! I didn’t know if I was on Emirates or at the local pub. Again, having experienced the bar and lounge on flights prior I know this wasn’t the norm but wouldn’t be impressed had it been my first time.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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I’m greeted before take-off with a glass of Moët & Chandon Champagne, the inflight menu and a wine list. Despite the short flight it was still a full service, three course meal like the type you would experience on a Sydney to Dubai leg.

The meal service was awfully slow and took almost an hour before they came to serve me. In fact, I actually had to get their attention as the flight attendant accidentally skipped my seat when taking orders. The attention to detail was seriously lacking here. I didn’t know if it was due to the FAs having to deal with a full flight, particularly in business class as a lot were upgraded last minute or that the crew was understaffed. Nothing was personable about the service which is a shame because my last Emirates flight in business was the complete opposite.

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By the time the dinner was served I was already halfway through my film. The flight attendant brought out bread, a seasonal salad with balsamic and olive oil dressing and a seafood appetiser. The appetiser of smoked salmon and prawns was delicious, fresh and left me wanting more.

For mains there was a choice of salmon massman curry, pan fried beef fillet and grilled chicken with herb butter. I went with the beef. The beef was slightly tougher than I had expected despite requesting it medium rare. That said the thyme jus, potato gratin and mushrooms helped pack this dish with some flavoursome punch.

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With a bit of room left I decided to have dessert and went with not one, but two dishes – the lemon tart and a seasonal fruit platter. The lemon tart was on point and succulent to eat. The smooth texture of it was superb and was my favourite dish of the flight.

Drinks wise, I kept the flow of the Moet coming until the main where I then switched to a lovely but quite heavy red from Chateau Moulin Riche. It was a 10 year old drop that had lovely aromas of blackberry and prunes and was a great accompaniment to my beef.

Other than the slow service, the food itself was quite good.

Verdict

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Being a public holiday, the flight was busy as a result of being oversold. People who were in economy were upgraded for free and in turn made the bar quite crowded for an area that traditionally is a bit quieter and more relaxing. Besides the slow service the experience was overall pleasant and a great way to spend a few hours kicking back with a Moet. Would I do it again? Even with the crowds? Absolutely!

Comments

Have you experienced Emirates business class? Did you love or dislike the product offering? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

QANTAS AND AIR NZ SURPRISE AVIATION SECTOR WITH NEW CODESHARE DEAL

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In aviation you don’t often get ‘surprised’ as rumours seem to circle for months if not years about something newsworthy. So when Qantas announced its new codeshare deal with Air New Zealand, many (including me), were taken aback by the news.

This is a great win for both of the airlines. The deal would see QF coded onto 30 domestic AirNZ services across NZ, whilst Air NZ would see the NZ code on 85 domestic Qantas flight in Australia.

In addition the new deal would allow Qantas and Air New Zealand business class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers reciprocal airport lounges access as well as the ability to earn points and status on each airline’s loyalty program.

However it is understood that the new codeshare deal will not include Trans-Tasman and other international flights.

The biggest loser from the announcement is Virgin Australia who is still probably shell shocked by the announcement more than anyone else. Their partnership with Air NZ has tanked and is due to expire 28 October, the same day the QF and Air NZ alliance starts up. Talk about a kick in the teeth. John Borghetti must be fuming, yet again throwing another dart at his Alan Joyce dartboard in this office.

I am excited to see how this partnership will evolve but it does sound quite promising and even more reason for me to book a trip or two across the ditch.

Comments

What do you think of the new Qantas and Air NZ codeshare deal? Will you benefit or lose out from it? Keen to hear your thought.

 

 

 

QANTAS MAKES HISTORY WITH FIRST NONSTOP AUSTRALIA TO EUROPE FLIGHT

This biggest aviation news over the weekend is yes, a good old fashion history making aviation story. For well over a year Qantas had been teasing the aviation sector with their promised first non-stop flight to Europe, which in turn is the world’s first scheduled commercial flight operating nonstop from Australia to Europe.

QF9 made the trip on Saturday evening and admittedly I was checking on online to see how it was trekking across the globe. The flight arrived earlier than planned to much fanfare on the ground with roaring cheers and an upbeat celebration between the two nations.

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Early feedback so far from the flight is mixed. If you are in the front end of the plane in Business or Premium Economy, the flight was a dream but if you were in economy, unless you are a deep sleeper, the flight may have left your bottom a bit well, sore.

Qantas states it has made every effort to ensure the journey for everyone in all classes, including economy, more comfortable. In fact economy has more legroom than a standard B787 layout where 300 economy seats is the norm but on Qantas the number is 236. That said sitting in a 3-3-3 configuration for over 17 hours is quite testing in economy and I am sure not pleasant despite the efforts made by Qantas.

The flight is being operated daily using a Boeing 787-9, uses 100.6 tonnes of fuel, and flies a total distance of 14,498 kilometres. QF9/ Q10 is now officially the world’s second longest flight with the honour of first place going to Qatar Airway’s Auckland to Doha flight.

With wheels up now on the return leg for QF10, it will be interesting to see how the route performs long term once the hype and novelty of such a flight starts to quieten down.

 

Comments

Were you on the inaugural flight or are you set to soon take off on the new Qantas Perth-London nonstop route? Keen to hear your thought on QF9/ QF10.

 

EMIRATES LAUNCHES NEW AUCKLAND TO BALI TO DUBAI FLIGHTS

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It seems the New Zealanders also have an appetite for Bali as much as their Australian counterparts with Emirates announcing they commence daily flights from Dubai to Auckland via Bali from 14 June 2018.

The UAE based airline announcement sees Emirates expanding their operations further into NZ with the new flight adding to their existing daily nonstop flight from Dubai to Auckland and Dubai via Sydney to Christchurch flights.

The route will be operated by a three class Boeing 777, featuring eight first class seats, 42 business class seats, and 304 economy seats. Currently this 777 will sadly not be retrofitted with the new business class seat, so if you don’t mind the hop over your fellow business passenger or a slightly angled sleep then you will lap this option up.

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The flight will depart as EK450 Dubai to Bali departing 6:55AM arriving 8:20PM, following on as EK450 Bali to Auckland departing 10:00PM arriving 10:00AM (+1 day)

From Auckland, the flight will operate as EK451 to Bali departing 12:40PM arriving 5:55PM, following on as EK451 Bali to Dubai departing 7:50PM arriving 12:45AM (+1 day).

Personally I welcome the announcement as it adds more upgrade and reward seats potential especially with the Asia Pacific region currently struggling to cope with demand. Yes it would be a slight detour for me but when the chance to sit towards the front is offered I don’t mind investing the extra handful of hours in the sky.

Comment

Will you be taking advantage of Emirates new Dubai to Bali to Auckland flight?

LATAM BUSINESS CLASS B787 SYD to AKL: REVIEW

Flight: LA800, Sydney-Auckland

Loyalty Scheme: LANPASS Frequent Flyer Programme (OneWorld alliance)

Frequency: Daily

Duration:  3 hours and 15 minutes

Things have taken off for LATAM since the merger of LAN and TAM in 2012. Five years on and the South American giant has made some strong inroads into the Australian market; most recently expanding into Melbourne with daily direct flights to Santiago. Sydney however has a stopover in Auckland, which is good and bad depending on what way you view it. For me this is a big plus as the airline offers a strong competitive option opposed to Virgin, Air NZ and Qantas.

I was keen to give their business class seat a whirl on the short hop to the Kiwi business hub. Initial impressions upon boarding were good with the funky, warm ambiance of the cabin with its purples and blues as well as the variations of blue tint on the windows creating an inviting environment.

Seating

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Business class, 3A. There are 30 flat business bed seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. All possess an 75-inch pitch and 23-inch width. The grey and red colour coded seat possesses a universal power point, a USB port, a reading light and a pull-up privacy screen.

Despite the privacy screen, I felt quite exposed to the neighbouring seat and the 2-2-2 configuration means the hop over your fellow passenger can be difficult especially if they decide to lay flat and sleep. Fortunately for me I had an empty seat next to me during my flight.

Entertain Me

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LATAM’s Inflight Entertainment possesses was a bit disappointing with a limited selection of 110 movies, TV, and audio options, all on a 15.4-inch screen. The screen was also difficult to view whilst sitting upright in the chair. On a short haul flight the selection was fine but I would expect more variety on a long haul flight.

The Bread and Butter (Food)

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The food and drink service is satisfactory but a tad underwhelming despite the  warm and hospitable nature of the LATAM crew. On this leg lunch is served and the options on the menu are limited. The three course lunch was served in one hit rather than by dish.

The meal choice was between a quiche lorraine or a BLT sandwich. I went with the quiche. It was smooth and didn’t taste too buttery or soggy. The accompanying salad was light but could have used some oil/ dressing for flavour whilst the panna cotta dessert was delectable.

The wine selection had the wow factor with local South American, French and even a couple of Australian wines featuring on the menu. I went with a local red Chilean variety to match my meal and its peppery, bold flavour hit the spot.

Extras

No real stand outs here. Sadly lacked a lounge/ bar space which is a major drawback on the B787 and A350s. It would be great to see airlines take an initiative to create a personal space for business travellers to enjoy in the air on these types of aircraft that is currently offered on the A380 and B777.

Verdict

The 2-2 seating configuration in the current business class world is a tad dated and annoying especially if you have to make the hop over a sleeping fellow passenger. That said the personal space of the seat does feel quite private even if you screen is on show for your neighbour to see. The style and colour scheme of the business class area is fresh, warm and inviting.

Meals wise the wine selection was delectable but the meal choice and presentation was a tad disappointing considering it was business class. Entertainment selection was also mixed with the choice of movies and audio limiting.

I would be keen to see what the business class experience would be like long haul from Sydney to Santiago to see if the experience was any different/ more premium. Based on this experience however it was satisfactory but there were areas for improvement to make the experience for the passenger feel more ‘business’ rather than premium economy.

 

Comments
Have you enjoyed the South American business class hospitality of LATAM of late or found yourself not happy with your inflight LATAM siesta? Love to hear your feedback on this.