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. 

BRITISH AIRWAYS B777 CLUB WORLD LHR-TLV: REVIEW

Flight: BA167, LHR – TLV

Loyalty Scheme: The Executive Club (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple daily

Duration: 5 hours

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Unlike a number of people, I don’t have a real axe to grind with British Airways. Perhaps I’ve been fortunate but my flying experiences with the airlines have been genuinely pleasant and dare I say it, even enjoyable. Due to some fortunate operational reasons, BA quietly upgraded my LHR – LTV flight prior to check in from a not so bad premium economy seat to their Club World cabin. For a five hour flight this was quite a nice way to arrive in Ben Gurion Airport and an upgrade is an upgrade. I was keen see some of the changes that BA announced last year to their Club World cabin. Sure the new direct aisle business class seat wasn’t on this flight but some of the ‘soft improvements’ that they touted were now in operation. So how did BA’s Club World fare? TAT took to the skies to find out…

The Seat

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The first thing one notices upon entering the cabin is the weird yet crowded business class layout of the cabin which is configured 2-4-2 (8 seats abreast in a 56 seat cabin). Now in today’s business class flying terms, that’s rather ancient in terms of layouts. The middle central seats are couple seats whilst the rest are staggered individually (either facing forward or backward). On today’s flight I had a direct aisle, centred seat. The seat felt quite exposed and lacked privacy. Not only could those walking down the aisle see me clearly but also those with their partitions down in the central part of the Club World cabin. Those fortunate to be seated on the window seats had more of a privacy cocoon.

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The seat also lacked storage and I found myself having to leave my mobile charging on the floor next to my seat. Against the power outlets was a small compartment underneath the centre console. I’d struggle to put anything in there other than a slim tablet. Due to the flight not being an overnight flight, bedding was not provided but the seat does convert into a fully lie flat bed. A lovely Elemis amenities kit was handed out by flight attendants which contained the usual suspects such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, cream, etc.

There’ were four restrooms allocated for business class and during the flight when I did need to go there was never a line up for the bathrooms.

Entertain me

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The seat had an odd 12 inch flip out flat screen, which was poorly aligned for those who wish to recline back a little to enjoy their entertainment viewing. Aside from this small gripe the actually catalogue of movie, TV and music options was rather decent despite it being no Emirates ICE. Moreover with the screen being surely around for some 10+ years, the resolution and sound from the entertainment system was still surprisingly strong. All seats also came with noise cancelling headphones to enhance the viewing experience.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Upon seating down a flight attendant (FA) approached me to offer a hot towel and champagne or water. I went with the NV champagne which was from the house of Canard-Duchêne (the drop is also served in their first class lounges). Once airborne the FA came around again tom take meal orders as well as top up drinks. I decided to switch my champagne to the Besserat de Bellefon brut rosé champagne, which had some rather lovely smokey notes fused with a delicious salted almond, lemon meringue flavour. 

Other drinks on offer was a selection of Austrian, Argentinean and NZ white and red wines as well as a host of teas for those seeking a belated British afternoon cup of tea.

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Gone were the trolleys as part of the new Club World revamp late last year. Instead FAs would come out dish by dish with people’s selections. Traditionally I’m a three course man on a business class flight so the progressive dining service was a nice touch compared to the all in one service delivery of old. For starter I went with the Loch Fyne smoked salmon which did not disappoint. The dish was followed by a Scottish beef short rib main, which was equally impressive and wasn’t dry like some beef dishes I’ve experienced on other airlines. To finish I had the apple and blackberry compote which had a delicious almond crumble. All up the dining experience whilst a little delayed between dishes was very good. The promise of BA lifting their business class dining standards was very evident on this flight, from the presentation to the taste of the dishes.

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Verdict

I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this flight. The cabin isn’t as horrid as some of the stories I’ve read online but then again isn’t anywhere near as good as some its rivals like Qatar’s superior QSuite and Emirates’ direct aisle A380 business class suite. Overlooking the lack of privacy, the seat was comfortable and the entertainment offering was solid. The stand out for me was the food and drink service which felt personalised, well presented and more importantly tasty. The rollout of soft improvements around the dining service was clear and made all the difference (even if it seemed minor on the surface in terms of enhancements). You could say the flying experience overall was a pleasant surprise. I would have no hesitation flying the Club World cabin again on BA should the option arise.

Comments

Have you experienced flying business/ Club World on British Airways? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qantas launches new Frequent Flyer Program changes

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Qantas a couple of days ago without notice announced cryptically that it would be overhauling its frequent flyer program. Like many I was in a bit of a sweat about it thinking the potential was endless for the airline to come in with the wrecking ball and make the program to be frank, a lot worse. Today, I am glad to report that it isn’t anywhere near the doom and gloom that was reported online. So what has been announced and how will it affect you?

First up Qantas has announced there’ll be more seats up for grabs, with those dreaded carrier charges on most international Qantas flights reduced by as much as half. This is a big win for many as the carrier charges for QF currently have a large sting to them compared to their rivals when redeeming. You” require fewer Qantas Points when booking an economy seat on international flights but here’s the sting. Those looking to book something with a bit more leg room will be hit with higher amount of points for seats in premium economy, business class and first class.

The next bit of news is something I was apart of in terms of research late last year by the airline and this is the Qantas Points Club. Details are still sketchy but basically the Qantas Points Club will operate adjunct to the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme, unlocking flight and travel benefits for non-flying members including lounge access and bonus status credits. I think this has a lot of potential and am keen to see how it is delivered when it is launched December 2019.

Thirdly Qantas has earmarked five million seats on Qantas domestic and international flights annually, with up to 30% more premium economy, business class and even first class seats to popular destinations such as Singapore, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo. This is on top of 3-5 million seats on partner airlines, including new partners such as Air New Zealand, KLM Bangkok Airways and Air France.

Finally Qantas has opened up a new level of lifetime status, the coveted Lifetime Platinum but the catch is, to achieve it, it’s an eye watering and almost impossible 75K status credits to achieve. The new Lifetime Platinum status will commence in September 2019.

So what do you think of the announcement? Anything that excites or annoys you? Keen to hear your thoughts…

 

A321XLR to join Qantas fleet

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Qantas Group has inked a deal with France’s Airbus for an order of up to 36 of the new A321XLR jets, which are due for delivery from 2024. The deal also sees the conversion of 26 existing A320neo Family orders, plus a new firm order for 10 A321XLRs. The order comes on the back of American Airlines announcing that an order of 50 A321XLR aircraft (including the conversion of 30 of the 100 A321neos that they have on order). For Airbus this is a big news day!

The new fuel efficient aircraft will give Qantas Group new flexibility that it currently doesn’t have to be able to fly routes that current narrow body aircraft cannot such as Cairns to Tokyo. Whilst it is widely speculated that the order would see the majority of the aircraft go to Jetstar so that the airline would release its B787 fleet to Qantas, there is also strong potential for some of the aircraft to be paint with the red roo.

It’ll be interesting to see how the order is divided up. Qantas has a habit of purchasing conservatively (and rightly so in a market that changes continuously), so it wouldn’t surprise me if they snap up in the end around half of the agreed order. From that the likely destinations that the A321XLR would feature on for the red roo would be a trans-Atlantic route or the popular East-West Australia routes. 2024 is a long way from now (especially in aviation years), so naturally time will tell what happens next.

 

Qantas offers first plane bookable with points only

One of the biggest complaints for many frequent flyers is the inability to redeem their points/ miles for reward seats on airlines. The frustation of lack of availabilty means in turn frequent flyers are having points simply sit in their accounts. Qantas has been pushing the envelope of late when it comes to passenger experience. When they made an announcement on their next venture, it came at no surprise it’d be equally compelling.

The Australian airline has announced they’ll offer a series of dedicated frequent flyer redemption flights across their network with seats only available to those redeeming Qantas points. The innovatively titled Points Plane initiative will see the first plane to be bookable only on points depart 21 October 2019 from Melbourne to Tokyo Narita.

Using my personal favourite Qantas aircraft the A380, Qantas Frequent Flyer members will have the chance to book all 484 seats on this flight (14 first class, 64 business class, 35 premium economy, and 371 economy seats) at the ‘classic’ award level.

Redemption costs for the flight are:

  • Economy seat – 35000 Qantas points
  • Premium economy seat – 54000 Qantas points
  • Business class seat – 72000 Qantas points
  • First class seat – 108000 points

The seats are available on a first come first served basis. Those fortunate to be successful in booking a flight on the Points Plane can expect to be treated to a special inflight service that includes a cocktail and meal service, pajamas for all passengers (not just those in the front end or in the A380s case the top end) and inflight giveaways.

A return leg is also on offer for 26 October 26 2019 but those hoping for an A380 experience again will be disappointed to find the aircraft is an A330. Qantas believes those returning may stay beyond the initial date as part of their trip and so the aircraft does not require the same patronage.

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What do you think of the Qantas announcement? Would you be keen to book a trip on the Points Plane? I’m eager 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.