QANTAS LINK SET TO FLY INTO BENDIGO 6 DAYS A WEEK

r0_0_5760_3840_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

Regional Victoria is set to get another travel option boost with QantasLink set to fly between Bendigo Airport and Sydney from March next year.The announcement by Qantas and the state government is an exciting one as it helps service a growing area in Victoria that for many is a long distance from Sydney and vice versa when you factor in flying and driving.

Until now passengers from Sydney would have to fly into Melbourne Tullamarine Airport before making a two hour drive onward to Bendigo.

From March 31, 2019 QantasLink will operate flights six days a week with its 50-seat Q300 turboprop aircraft, with daily services operating during the peak summer season.

Flights from Bendigo depart between 6.30am – 9.10am, Monday – Saturday, whilst services from Sydney depart at 5.25pm and land in Bendigo at 7.25pm on weekdays and Sundays. Flights will take from an hour and 10 minutes to two hours.

QantasLink is currently offering special fares of $129 one-way between Bendigo and Sydney, for travel from March 31 to October 26, 2019. The sale ends 17 Dec 2018.

 

Qantas weighs in on hand luggage

article.mobile.jpg

Qantas has begun weighing carry-on luggage of passengers at the gate as part of a crackdown on hand luggage exceeding the bag limit of 7kg. Baggage found to be overweight will be compulsorily checked in at the boarding gate. Not even Business Class passengers and Platinum One frequent flyers are exempt from the crackdown.

With the rise of a virtually contactless check in experience to the boarding gate, the process of weighing or checking in baggage has become nonexistent. Despite skipping check in due to checking in online, baggage should still meet the size and weight requirements of the airline’s baggage policy. However this often goes unchecked by full service airlines at the boarding gate.

Qantas is an airline that from living memory rarely ever weighed hand luggage at the gate but have decided that the growth of online checkin has seen the baggage policy sometimes abused by passengers. I can understand where the airline is coming from and there are some occasions where the hand luggage policy has been clearly abused but the weighing of all items, particularly if they’re only say 1-2 kgs over is a bit petty. For me on domestic flights I use hand luggage all the time, even when on a full service airline that includes checked luggage for free. It’s fast and convenient, especially when travelling for business as you don’t want to spend half an hour at baggage collection waiting for your bag.

Qantas says the random checks ensure each passenger has their fair share of overhead space whilst looking out for the safety of cabin crew who could potentially injure themselves lifting overweight luggage.

I’m divided on this issue as I can see both sides of the argument. In all fairness 7kgs is pretty light and pathetic. If hand luggage was increased to 9kg a piece I think anything over weight that should be stored underneath. As the expression goes, if you can’t lift it put it away.

It’ll be interesting to see how Qantas handles this new hand luggage in the months to come and whether it’ll further impact departure times for the airline, which for the majority of my QF flights are generally delayed.

Do you Qantas has gone too far in terms of randomly weighing hand luggage? I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

The AirAsia inaugural flight takes off from Avalon Airport

000350_airasiaavalon0590_1170.jpgMelbourne Avalon Airport this week saw its first AirAsia X international flight take off. The new flight sees AirAsia X move its twice daily Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne Tullamarine flight as part of a 10 year deal with operator Linfox Airports, which the airline signed early this year.

As part of the deal, a new terminal was built to facilitate international operations (the airport had only previously catered to domestic operation) in partnership with the Commonwealth and Victorian governments. The new terminal features border processing facilities, two duty free stores, tax refund facilities, as well as a bar and cafe spanning across 6,370 square metres. The airport anticipates 500,000 passengers will pass through its newly built international terminal during its first year of operations.

AirAsia X is the only airline currently offering international flights from Avalon. Whilst the move from some in the sector feel that shift to Avalon is risky for AirAsia, the large subsidies from the Victorian Government will ensure that the move from Tullamarine to Avalon is at least cost effect. Combined with Geelong experiencing a large spike in population growth in recent years due to its close proximity to Melbourne and housing options, the move to me seems quite a smart one. I don’t envision that the move will pay dividends instantly but give it one to two years and I believe Avalon will be a viable option for price conscious flyers looking to fly between Melbourne and Asia. 

 

 

Virgin Australia priority boarding announcement for veterans backfires

xHX1xFxR_400x400.jpg

After announcing via Twitter they’d be offering priority boarding to veterans in Australia, Virgin Australia has partially backflipped on their decision after strong public backlash. The airline has stated that “over the coming months, we will consult with community groups and our own team members who have served in defence to determine the best way forward. If this process determines that public acknowledgement of their service through optional priority boarding or any announcement is not appropriate, then we will certainly be respectful of that.”

The Virgin Australia announcement was an odd one to begin with. Perhaps they thought the gesture would earn them some good PR but then again Virgin needs to better understand its customer base, and it isn’t America. Having flown internally within the USA many times I find the gesture a little cringeworthy, if not smacks of commercialism. How can we put a price on death and war? Every ANZAC day commercial businesses are criticised if they utilise the dya for profit, so why is it any different here? Moreover if Virgin had done its research it would know that Australian veterans and our service men and women do not seek attention. Australians are more respectful and do not act patriotically around war like America. Whatever the  case Virgin has dug itself in a deep hole and it is dangerous for an airline already on its knees.

What saddens me is that the announcement was done as part of a campaign by NewsCorp, the same lovely folk who brought you the campaign to fire Malcolm Turnbull,. NewsCorp don’t care about people, they care about their agenda and in this case are probably trying to cover their tracks from recent blunders. The organisation’s intent is tokenism at its worst and Virgin sadly fell into its trap.

Here’s hoping Virgin Australia learn from this tough lesson and consult before making surprise announcements.

 

Should Australia be going down the path of the USA and recognise veterans at the airport/ on the plane? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

Emirates downgrades Australian flight experience temporarily

image.jpg

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.

 

QANTAS DOMESTIC BUSINESS LOUNGE MELBOURNE: 2018 REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Melbourne Domestic Airport

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

thumbnail_20180917_134455.jpg

Qantas has been undertaking a lounge renovation spree over the last couple of years. The lounge renovations were long needed in some destinations more than others and Melbourne was one of those airports that was crying out for an update. Whilst the domestic lounge faired ok over time, the Qantas Club next door was a bit of a design disaster. This year saw the renovation and reopening of the Melbourne Domestic Qantas Club lounge. Now the Domestic Business Lounge has unofficially opened its newly renovated doors to its top tier Qantas FF clientele and Oneworld equivalents. What does this mean?! Well a better lounge experience for starters but the catch is only half of it is open with the other half due to be unveiled to the public in a month’s time. The TAT made a visit to the lounge to see what all the fuss is about.

 

Lounge access options

  • Passengers with an onward Qantas or QantasLink business class flight
  • Travellers connecting to or from an international business or first class flight with Qantas, Emirates or a Oneworld airline, even if the domestic leg is booked in economy
  • Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers before or after a same-day Qantas, QantasLink, Emirates, Jetstar* or Oneworld flight
  • Other Oneworld Emerald members when their next onward flight that day is with Qantas or QantasLink and carries a QF or other Oneworld flight number (no access when flying Jetstar)
  • Emirates Skywards Platinum cardholders where their next onward flight that day carries a QF or EK flight number and is operated by Qantas or QantasLink.

 

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located after security on the right of the food court via an escalator on the first floor. The lounge operates from 5am til 10pm daily.

 

Ambience

 

thumbnail_20180917_134435.jpg

The lounge is new and as a result quite striking. It has a very Melbourne feel to it (the intention of Qantas’ new lounge design cue to reflect the state where the lounge is located). The tones of black and dark marble give the lounge a very upmarket bar feel. I feel Qantas has really captured well that Italian / trendy Melbourne-esque vibe. The new lounge space takes over the old Qantas Club space (Qantas Club has since been moved to the back of the first floor) and offers a lot of natural lighting with excellent tarmac view.

 

thumbnail_20180917_134327.jpg

As part of the refresh the bathrooms have also been given an overhaul with some nice aesthetic touches including individual mirrors as well as new marble benches and gold taps. If I had a home to call my own I would have this as my bathroom. Yes it is pretty darn flash without being too bling like the Emirates lounges.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

thumbnail_20180917_140120.jpg

As you would know by having read some of my other reviews I really love my food (and drink). Qantas really does a great job (especially in their new lounges) in offering cuisine that is carefully curated to reflect the dining experience of where the lounge is located. This is demonstrated in the showpiece of the new business lounge – the centrally located marble drinks bar. Here you can pull up a seat or take away a beer, wine or if you are feeling ambitious a spirit. There’s also barista-pulled coffee on offer as well as a cocktail hour offering between 5pm and 6pm. At the time of when I was in the lounge sangria was being served to passengers in their chairs. The sangria was quite strong but met the brief in terms of refreshing – exactly what a sangria should do!

 

thumbnail_20180917_134735.jpg

The new lounge sees a more spacious buffet area for hot and cold dishes. There is an emphasis on Asian dishes including fried rice, noodles and Asian greens. Qantas has also added their signature ‘Quench’ hydration station with hot teas and cool drinks. On today’s menu board there was a vegetable chowder, Mediterranean lamb with roasted potatoes and even scones with cream and jam (this menu item sent me back to times spent in the BA lounges in London). I sampled the lamb dish and scones and both were quite delicious.

It’s also anticipated that the Melbourne business lounge will have its own unique dining option in the form of a Spice Bar serving freshly-made noodles and Asian street food. Sadly I was unable to review this part as it’s part of the final lounge reveal in early November.

 

Verdict

It wasn’t too hard to improve on a product that was well and truly beyond its shelf life. The new Qantas Domestic Business Lounge really does pack a punch in terms of style and flair. The food and drink choices is on par with its gorgeous interiors. For half a product (the rest is set to open early November), this is one exciting preview for top tier Qantas frequent flyers. Qantas has done a great job in making this not only a space that is very Melbourne yet provides genuine warmth and comfort for those fortunate to spend time here waiting for their flight board. I look forward to seeing the rest of the lounge in November if this is a taste of what is to be expected.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the newly renovated Qantas Domestic Business Lounge in Melbourne? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

Virgin to launch Newcastle – Auckland flights

virgin-plane-web.jpg

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?