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

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? 

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 BOLSTERS FLIGHTS TO JAKARTA, SINGAPORE AND NOUMEA

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Qantas will operate additional Airbus A330 services on the Sydney-Singapore and Sydney-Jakarta routes from December 2018.

From 14 December, a third Sydney-Singapore service (QF83/84) will be added on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays. This brings the total Sydney-Singapore services to 17 a week, up three on the previous amount.

From 13 December, Sydney-Jakarta services (QF41/42) will also be bolstered from five to six weekly with the additional service operating on Thursdays.

From 12 December, the Sydney-Noumea service will increase from three to four times weekly with the additional B737 service operating on Wednesdays.

The new schedule is as follows:

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The new flights will be available for purchase next week.
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Qantas to launch wifi on domestic A330s in June

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It was quite a while back when I first tested Qantas’ trial onboard wifi. The experience at the time was thrilling especially as it had been the first time I had used wifi aboard a Qantas aircraft. Since then Qantas has pushed ahead and rolled out wifi ‘slowly’ across its network. The latest news on the wifi front is that Qantas will launch inflight wifi on its domestic Airbus A330 jets in June.

The roll out follows wifi upgrades to its 737 fleet and will be welcomed by those making the transcontinental trek on the Airbus A330-200s.

Qantas has fitted the first of its 12 domestic A330-200s with the same satellite technology as the B737. A second wifi equipped A330 will take to the skies by June 30.

The A330 rollout was originally scheduled for early 2017 but constant delays by Qantas has seen the product rolled out until now.

Qantas envisions the majority of its B737 and Airbus A330-200 jets will be equipped with wifi by the end of 2018, with remaining aircraft to be equipped in 2019.

You can read my review of the Qantas onboard wifi here.

QANTAS NOW FLYING DAILY MELB – BALI SERVICES

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Looking for your ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ moment in Bali but haven’t had the chance to drop everything like Julia? Well now Melbournians have a daily reason to with Qantas announcing it will commence a new daily Melbourne – Denpasar (Bali) service from 23 June 2018.

Operated by a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, the new route complements Qantas’ year round daily Sydney – Denpasar service.

The Melbourne – Denpasar service will be operated by a two-class Boeing 737 aircraft. Unlike Jetstar, checked baggage allowance, inflight entertainment and food and drinks are included.

The airline made the announcement based off strong demand from customers who wanted a full-service experience travelling to Bali. Last year alone Qantas and Jetstar carried 1.6 million customers between them.

Combined with Jetstar, the Qantas Group will now offer customers a choice of 84 return services to Bali from across Australia.

Fares for the new daily service are on sale today.

Qantas Domestic Economy B737: Review

Flight: QF493, Sydney-Melbourne
Loyalty Scheme: Qantas Frequent Flyer program (a partner of the Oneworld program)
Frequency: Multiple flights daily
Duration:  1 hour and 10 minutes

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Qantas has long been the leading standard in Australian domestic aviation. However their fleet can very and depending on what type of plane you fly on, the experience can vary substantially. I have often found their A330 product their best domestically but more often or not it is the B737 workhorse that I end up landing in.

The flight for me was severely delayed with the flight taking off an hour and 15 minutes later. Qantas has a shocking record of on time departures and my flight was sadly no exception. The poorly communicated delay left me bitter upon entering the flight but I did not want that getting in the way of reviewing the airline fairly on this flight.

Seating

Economy Class, 4C. Being in the first row (aka bulkhead) of the economy class I had a bit more wriggle room than my fellow passengers seated behind me. The seat had poor pitch but for a one hour flight it did the job. That said I couldn’t imagine flying this very aircraft to Bali like Qantas does for 7 hours where it would seem too small and overbearing for such a long flight.

Entertain Me

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The flight offered seatback entertainment which I find is far superior than its wifi entertainment option. I watched half of the movie Victoria and Abdul (yes I break up my flick watching with the ambition of watching the other half on my return flight). At times the entertainment jumped around which was a tad frustrating but generally the product was quality viewing.

The Bread and Butter (Food and drink)

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Qantas a year ago adopted a tray less food service where meals were packaged and able to be easily disposed of once the passenger had finished their meal. The dinner service offered two options: a creamy pesto pasta or a chicken coleslaw salad. I went with the salad option. The chicken was tender and rather delicious with the coleslaw drizzled in a zesty and tasty Asian style sauce.

Drink selection throughout the flight offered some simple but satisfactory alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. I went for the sparkling Redbank option which was a tad less sparkling and more flat in flavour.

The only downside on this flight was the rushed service. Normally this flight usually does well in terms of attentiveness but the attendants seemed rather in a hurry to dish out the meals and drinks without any real care or effort. Additionally the traditional mini dessert of a Lindt chocolate ball was not offered like it had been on other Qantas flights during the dinner service.

Extras

The complimentary alcoholic beverages in the main cabin after 4pm weekdays is a nice touch after a long day in the office.

Verdict

The Qantas domestic economy product is definitely head and shoulders above its rivals, especially when executed well. That said I have experienced at times quite warm and exceptional hospitality from its budget counterpart Jetstar to the point that they even load free gourmet goodies onto me without any additional charge. Qantas going that extra mile in terms of the service is something that lacks here; especially when the airline is deemed Australia’s premium full service airline.

The seat for economy is generous and comfortable for the flight and the meal service is satisfactory and filling. Qantas shines with its drinks service with staff usually more than happy to offer an additional beverage top up on their City Flyer flights.

Now if only I could one Qantas flight that was on time, I would rate them a lot more glowingly.

Comments
Have you experienced the so called Qantas services or were left a bit bitter like me all flight thinking about how late the Qantas plane would be landing into the destination? Keen to hear your thoughts.