Qantas weighs in on hand luggage

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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.

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.

 

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. 

 

 

Etihad to introduce Economy Space on their A380, B777 and B787 fleet

Etihad Airways for the last two years has been looking at ways to milk the cow so to speak in a bid to recoup costs and get themselves back in the black. The latest announcement will add a few more dollars Etihad’s way with the airline launching ‘Economy Space’. What is ‘Economy Space’ you ask?’ Some are claiming it’s their version of premium economy but it isn’t even close. It’s more akin to United’s Economy Plus, a seat simply with extra leg room.

By December this year, ‘Economy Space’ will be implemented onto 10 of their A380s. The seats will feature an increased pitch of up to 36 inches whilst bolstering the number of extra legroom seats they currently have in Economy from 20 to 80 on the A380. In the new year the airline will focus on redesigning 12 Boeing 777 and 21 Boeing 787 jets with a completion date slated for late 2019.

The airline says it has made the move due to an increase in demand for more space but without the hefty price tag of business or first class.

All ‘Economy Space’ seats will be sold at a premium to passengers. The airline is yet to release details on how much the seats will be priced at. In addition to ‘Economy Space’, Etihad will offer a Neighbour-Free seating option in Economy as well as a range of buy-on-board products.

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.

 

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