ALASKA AIRLINES AS931, LAS VEGAS-SEATTLE: MAIN CABIN REVIEW

Flight: AS931, Las Vegas – Seattle

Loyalty Scheme: Mileage Plan

Frequency: Multiple flights daily

Duration: 2 hr and 35 mins

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Despite its namesake, the base for Alaska Airlines is not in Anchorage but instead Seattle (my destination for this flight). As the hub for Alaska, the city of Seattle is quite strategic as not only is it close to the Canadian border but well connected on the west coast in terms of big tech business (Alaska even has priority check-in for Microsoft employees).

A couple of years ago the airline took over Virgin America, which was viewed as many as the shining beacon in American aviation. Now that the airline has sadly merged into Alaska I was curious as to whether the airline incorporated the better traits of the once great Virgin America into their own brand.

Seat

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Today I was flying on a B737-800 aircraft. This particularly aircraft has two cabins (12 first and 112 main cabin seats). The grey and white tones of the interior were a stark contrast to the more vivid purple, red and white tones of Virgin America with the seats looking nowhere near as plush. Leg room and seat pitch is satisfactory with 32 inches offered in the main cabin. Despite the relatively average pitch the seats were a lot more comfortable than they looked.

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Entertain me

Alaska Airlines offers free entertainment via your own personal device. The entertainment selection of movies and tv series were relatively weak. I struggled to find anything that was of interest to me. A larger catalogue of options would have been more welcome on this flight considering the relatively long flight from south to the north of the USA.

 

Wine and dine me (the food)

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Basic snacks and drinks were complimentary in the main cabin. Those craving something a little stronger in terms of drink (alcoholic) or more substantial in terms of food would need to buy on board.

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What I did like was the partnership between Alaska Airlines and Seattle based Starbucks. The coffee in turn was better than the average inflight filter coffee and did the trick in terms of keeping me refreshed and alert after an early start that morning. Snack wise (I always prefer something more substantial) was a biscoff biscuit to nibble on.

 

Summary

Despite the flight being delayed an hour, the flight experience was surprisingly better than expected. It’s hard to not compare it to Virgin America especially when an airline such as Alaska takes over its fleet and operations. I was concerned the airline would unwind all the good work that VA did to make flying in America a decent experience. Sure it’s not VA but it does work hard compared to some other American competitors to give the passenger a relatively premium experience, whether you are in first or the main cabin.

Food and drink offering was satisfactory. The nice touch of Starbucks coffee was welcome and made the Seattle experience, well, more Seattle. The only negative I would have to say is the entertainment offering. It was quite poor and could offer a better selection for passengers. I would definitely consider flying Alaska again when I next choose to fly in America.

 

Service: 4 Stars

Seating: 3.5 stars

Food: 4 Stars

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 INTERNATIONAL TRANSIT LOUNGE PERTH: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Perth Domestic/ International Airport

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Qantas has invested heavily into making Perth their new ‘it’ thing for flying long haul international flights. For this coming from the east coast like myself the non stop flight really isn’t non stop when you are saying flying from Sydney, Brisbane or Adelaide where you can stopover instead in Dubai or Singapore and still be in London at the same time.

As such with this move Qantas created a new transit lounge and it’s strictly for that – transiting! As part of my flight to London from Perth on QF9 I had access (and a rare opportunity) to visit this lounge and see what all the fuss was about!

 

Lounge access options

Lounge access is for business-class passengers travelling on flights QF9 from Melbourne to London via Perth, or QF10 in the opposite direction. Passengers joining QF9 in Perth but aren’t flying the Melbourne leg can also use the lounge.

Qantas Platinum One, Platinum and Gold elites as well as Qantas Club members travelling to London on QF9 or transiting on QF10 between London and Melbourne can also access the lounge. As part of Qantas’ partnership with Emirates, those with Emirates Platinum and Gold Skywards members and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire elites on QF9 are also welcome.

 

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located after security opposite Gate 19 in the International Concourse of the T3/T4 terminal. It’s open daily 1:00pm to 2:45pm when the inbound flight from London arrives, and 4:45pm to 6:50pm before the return flight from Perth to London departs. The one thing I found frustrating is the access time to this lounge. As I have learnt from this experience, if you have an earlier flight, you’ll have to stay in the Domestic Business Lounge in the Domestic section until the International Concourse is open.

 

Ambience

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The lounge is new and as a result quite striking. From it’s lovely wooden fixture entrance with the kangaroo illuminated in a golden light to the outdoor bar with barbecue, this lounge is a nice space to spend a few hours. There’s a stand up bar near the outdoor area as well as plenty of indoor dining space. The real x factor goes to the outdoor barbecue area as well as the yoga space called the ‘Wellness Studio’ – these are two things I’ve not seen done in a lounge before but both looked fantastic.

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In fact I even gave the Yoga session (there are two run during this time) a go despite being a yoga novice, which made this choice all the more interesting. Partnering with Perth spa group Bodhi J, passengers can stop by for a 15 minute stretch and meditation session. I found most of the positions relatively easily but some did push my body limits. That said I hoped it would better me for the 17 hour and 20 minute flight ahead.

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Bathrooms also were taken to the next level with Qantas adding a fantastic new addition called the ‘Refresh’ area. This space allows passengers to give themselves a skin treatment to relax and refresh before or between flights by following instructions underneath the respective Aspar products. It’s a simple but very nice touch. In addition there were the usual toilet and shower facilities for those needing a quick freshening up.

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Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Qantas is priding itself on providing passengers with a menu that promotes wellness by providing passengers with a selection of light, fresh food and drink options.

There’s a small buffet of fresh food with one corner hosting a hydration station called Quench with lemon and pink-grapefruit syrup to mix into water as well as water infused with lemon myrtle, parsley and lemon. Next door is DYI tisanes which offers Rockpool’s signature blend. A hot and cold buffet is also on offer with delicious options including barbecue corn with chipotle butter, chicken and vegetable skewers, seasonal fruits, salads and Aussie dessert favourites including wait for it… lamingtons (and they were rather good)!

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Despite the offerings there, I found myself spending most of my time in the outdoor area near the barbecue. The wursts with various toppings were too good to ignore and were the x factor in terms of food in the lounge.

I couldn’t provide much feedback in terms of the drinks bar as I was saving my body for the business class drinks menu on QF9 but from what I could tell there was a decent selection of Australian sparkling and wines as well as a barista coffee station.

 

Verdict

I enjoyed this lounge and whilst it didn’t offer the perks of the Melbourne or Sydney First Class lounges it did offer some nice touches like the Refresh amenities area and Wellness Studios still set it apart from most of the other Qantas lounges. If there’s any criticism of the lounge it was their strange, restrictive policy of who could and couldn’t use the lounge and the times it was open. I understand this might work for them currently but if Qantas does expand with more flights in the future as they plan to from Perth, then they seriously need to rethink this area.

 

Comments

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

 

 

ETIHAD DOWNGRADES SYD FROM A380 TO B777

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Ah Etihad Airways you’ve done it again! The Abu Dhabi based airline of late has been putting the knife into his product offerings, slowly killing off its ‘premium’ experience in a bid to fast track its way back to profitability after posting losses the last two years in a row.

What I thought was a cash cow for Etihad, the Sydney – Abu Dhabi leg, is not safe from its cost cutting measures. This month the airline announced it would remove the crowd favourite A380 with a downgrade to a B777 on one of its two daily Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights from October 2018 to late May 2019.

The flight affected is EY451 which departs Sydney 3pm and the returning EY450 leg back. The downgrade will take place 20 October 2018 to 4 December 2018, and then again from 7 February 2019 to 30 May 2019. Between the December-February dates listed above, EY451/EY450 will get a reprieve with the return of the A380.

The airline’s other daily service (EY454/455) will continue to feature the superjumbo, so if you are planning on flying the superjumbo note this before making a booking.

The change particularly isn’t great for passengers across the board with the B777 displaying the last gen seats for all classes. Moreover the B777 lacks the A380s lobby social lounge/bar area.

Etihad Airways announced that the change of aircraft was due to routine maintenance and has said  it’ll notify guests booked on these services of the changes.

Whilst disappointed by the news (I’m an avid A380 fanboy), it sadly isn’t unexpected. My concern is how much further or for that matter low can the airline go in order to cut costs?!

BOEING KEEPS ANTONOV FLYING

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Thank you Boeing (that’s all I can say)! The US airline last week has stepped in to rescue Ukrainian plane maker Antonov, who are best known for producing the world’s largest aircraft, the An-225.

Hamstrung after years spent heavily relying on Russian imports, Antonov production collapsed following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Enter Aviall the parts, equipment and services unit arm of Boeing. They plan to build eight Antonov aircraft yearly from the end of 2019.

I’m really pleased to see Boeing come to the rescue here. I feel in love with the world’s largest aircraft when it blasted onto the big screen in the Bond film Die Another Day. Up to that point in time I had never seen an aircraft so monolithic, so imposing. It made even the B747 at the time seem tiny in comparison.  It’s a shame that the plane maker’s fortunes took such a hit but I am hopeful that the Boeing venture will ensure it continues to fly the world’s skies for many years to come.

REVIEW: TIGER AIRWAYS TT247 B737; SYD-MELB

Flight: TT247, Sydney-Melbourne (17 July 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: N/A
Frequency: Multiple flights daily
Duration: 1 hr and 20 mints
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For years Tiger Airways had a shocking reputation, often seen as more pleb than budget compared to its competitor Jetstar. Heck Jetstar feels like a premium airline in comparison. When I first flew the airline it was a nightmare and vowed never to fly them again but here I am five years later and giving the airline another chance. Is this airline tiger still toothless or has it found the bite to be successful? TAT got onboard to find out.
The flight was delayed by half an hour from an incoming Tiger aircraft from Adelaide. The lack of announcements left many people baffled as to when they were going to start boarding. A positive unlike Jetstar is that the ground staff weren’t going out with a measuring tape and weights to assess passengers’ bags before boarding.

Seat

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Initial impressions count and stepping onto the plane for the first time I found the interior was fresh with newly fitted leather black seating with orange headrests throughout the cabin. I was flying one of the newly refitted Tiger aircraft and can confidentially say it has come a long way since it grey and beige interior days.

The cabin is all economy seating. One thing I noticed immediately when I sat down was how roomy the seats and leg space was. This was a pleasant surprise. Unlike Jetstar which usually had my knees touching the seat in front, Tiger offered enough room to stretch out the legs comfortably for a short flight.

Entertain me

Nothing to see here unless you find your weird fellow passengers some form of entertainment.

Wine and dine me (the food)

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Tiger being budget is a buy on board airline. There are no thrills unless you’re willing to put up the dollars. I had pre-purchased during the booking stage online a pie and sausage roll dish. All meals on Tiger include a free drink. When the cabin crew came round with the cabin service I was the first to be served my meal. The service was swift, relatively friendly but sadly not personalised.

 

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The food itself was tasty and simple and did the trick for the short plane ride. Pricing for the meal was on par with Jetstar but the bonus of the free drink was a nice extra that is  sadly missing with most Jetstar meals.

Summary

The short flight was more than enough for me on Tiger. The experience overall was a hell of a lot better than my first flight with them years ago. The interior of the cabin, seating and little food extras definitely added a bit of spark to what would have been a rather dull flight. Would I fly them again? They wouldn’t be my preferred option but if I had to look at options for a short haul 1-2 hour flight then Tiger would definitely be on my list of choices.

 

Service: 3 Stars

Seating: 3 stars

Food: 3 Stars

 

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QANTAS STRUGGLE FOR ROOM AT THEIR SINGAPORE LOUNGE

When Qantas first entered its partnership with Emirates, it in turn saw the removal of Qantas using Singapore as its stopover hub between Australia and London. Instead that honour was given to Dubai. During that time Qantas opened a new lounge in Changi Airport, creating a single class premium lounge.

Fast forward to 2017 and Qantas as part of its Emirates 2.0 partnership decided that it would give Dubai to Emirates for QF coded flights and fly Qantas metal back into Singapore. Whilst this is quite strategic (due to the important Singapore business market for Qantas), it in turn has shot Qantas in the foot with the airline’s Changi lounge not built to meet the requirements of the new influx of people traffic into the lounge.

With three daily flights from Singapore on an A380 service ( Melbourne, Sydney and London), Qantas lounge capacity of 460 passengers was certainly going to experience issues. Added to the fact that Oneworld lounge options are slim unlike Hong Kong or the hotel-esq space of the Dubai Lounges, hundreds of passengers were bound to descend onto the Qantas lounge.

The struggle is real for Qantas with the airline now having to take measures in restricting access to the lounge. Before the restrictions came into play those travelling from first class right down to Qantas Club members (and even single use lounge passes) could enter.

To address peak crowding Qantas will turn away Qantas Club, lounge pass and to a degree some  Gold members from the lounge and direct them to the nearby SATS Premier lounge, also in Terminal 1. Qantas says that the redirection of traffic will be in place until September this year but judging by the lounge and what they can do in this time period I believe the restriction will be in place well beyond this time.

To compensate, those Qantas Club and Gold members who are redirected will receive 5,000 Qantas Points for their troubles but those holding Qantas single use lounge passes won’t be compensated but still offered the redirection.

This is part of a plan by Qantas to ensure that their top tier frequent flyers as well as first/ business passengers are ensured entry into the lounge.

I will be keen to see how Qantas addresses this but honestly you would think based on passenger numbers and the influx of flights they would have seen this coming. Naive perhaps? Yes but in the interim at least Qantas has a solution that should satisfy (most).

Have you experienced the squeeze at the Qantas Singapore lounge? Were you turned away?