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.

Emirates downgrades Australian flight experience temporarily

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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.

 

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?!

Emirates to introduce premium economy from 2020

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Emirates President Tim Clark has announced the airline will launch a premium economy class on its aircraft from 2020. Premium economy will be on the 20 new Airbus A380s the airline ordered in January this year as well as its B777 aircraft. There are also plans to retrofit some of its existing fleet with the new seat.

An exciting (but yet to be confirmed) feature is that the new seats will offer 38 inches of pitch and transform to a deep recline to become a railway-style ‘sleeperette’ as opposed to the traditional angled recliner. In addition it’s rumoured that the new premium economy seats will feature 56 seats in the front of the bottom deck of the A380 and 26-28 in the B777.

Premium economy has for many travellers become the sweet spot between economy class and business class. The announcement means that Emirates will be the first middle eastern airline to introduce that type of class seat, in turn placing competitive pressure on rivals Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways to develop something similar.

Other airlines that already offer a premium economy product include Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas Airways and British Airways.

In my opinion I feel the news from Emirates this week is positive but I’m curious as to what will be compromised in the process. Will there be a reduction of business class seats and therefore business seating reward redemption or will they look at culling some economy seats (the bread and butter on seats)? In addition it all comes down to price. If the price is relatively expensive and the difference is not much more to jump into business class, why on earth would people want to pay a premium to lay in what is essentially a economy hammock?

Time will tell I guess. I will keep you guys posted when I hear of new developments regarding the Emirates premium class offering.

Comments

What do you think of the news of Emirates offering premium economy? Would you be inclined to purchase one? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

ETIHAD REVIEWS PLANE ORDERS AS PART OF RESTRUCTURE

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Etihad has had a bit of a rough trot of late and is struggling due to a bad combination of failed investments in other airlines, poor strategy in building profitable network of routes as well as a lack of government investment.

As a result of the tough times that Etihad is facing the airline has had to make some strong cost cutting measures including cutting off Airberlin (my favourite European airline – still sad by their departure from the aviation world) and Altitalia as well as the passenger experience within the plane.

It has been reported that Etihad is considering canceling some of the 165 planes they have on order.  This would be in addition to the 110 they currently have in their fleet. The orders are astonishing (if overly ambitious) and include:

  • 8 Boeing 777-8s
  • 17 Boeing 777-9s
  • 22 Boeing 787-9s
  • 30 Boeing 787-10s
  • 26 Airbus A321neos
  • 40 Airbus A350-900s
  • 22 Airbus A350-1000s

The orders which were placed in 2013, were part of Etihads quick expansion plan (which wasn’t as time went on wasn’t really a plan at all). When you are trying to keep up with the Joneses (aka Emirates and Qatar), a quick fix as they say never solves anything and Etihad would have been best to build slowly. It seems only now after the airline conducted a company wide review that they have taken this on board.

With no details on numbers and what is being cancelled this is a watch and see story.

Having flown with them a number of times across all three classes I can say that the airline offers a great product and service offering and the thought of losing an airline that is quite forward thinking would be a major loss to the aviation industry. I only hope that Etihad makes the right decision in the end as I would like to see this great airline with a hell of a lot of potential continue to fly for years to come.

Thoughts

Have you heard anything else about the potential Etihad plane order cancellation that we haven’t covered? Which orders should they keep and cancel? Keen to hear your thoughts.

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA BUSINESS CLASS 777-300ER MELB-LOS ANGELES: REVIEW

Flight: VA23, Melbourne – Los Angeles (15 April 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Velocity Frequent Flyer
Frequency: 5 flights weekly
Duration: STD: 11:35am (+10) ATD: 11.35am (+10) On time, STA: 9:00am (-7) ATA: 9:08am (-7) Delayed 9mins

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Virgin Australia operates five Boeing 777-300ER aircraft exclusively for their long-haul fleet, with that type of aircraft predominantly flying from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles. All five aircraft have an identical three class configuration which features 37 of Virgin’s medium/long-haul business class product dubbed ‘The Business’, a 24 seat Premium Economy product and 278 Economy seats (75 of those are dubbed ‘Economy X’ which feature an additional 2” of legroom). ‘The Business’ features the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond reverse herringbone seat which is my personal favourite when it comes to Business Class seats.

 

The Airport

Melbourne Airport’s international terminal was recently refurbished last year. It’s bright, modern and airy terminal and is by far the nicest terminal at Melbourne. I was connecting from Auckland so passed through international to international transfer which was fast and painless.

Virgin Australia has a myriad of lounge access rules depending on which class, airline and frequent flyer status. As they rely heavily on partners for international flights, it can be hard to keep up. Luckily they do have a webpage which allows you to select the way you are eligible to access a lounge (status or class), and then scroll down to your departing airport.

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For my flight to Los Angeles in Business, I was entitled to use the Etihad First and Business Class lounge. Breakfast was currently being serviced with a range of hot and cold options. My goal was to get a shower before my long flight. I found the shower well-appointed but was slightly disappointed by the water pressure which could have been improved.

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Other amenities that I enjoyed during my brief stay was the wifi which was fast, plus not to mention the nice views of the tarmac, with single seats line up along the windows.

 

The Seat

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I assigned myself 2A in the forward cabin. There are two cabins, the main forward one with roughly 7 rows (24 seats) and smaller rear cabin (13 seats). I was greeted by the Flight Attendant working my aisle shortly after boarding and I ordered a glass of the Champagne Ayala Millésimé 2007 Vintage. This was served with the menu of the meals for later in the flight.

The seat itself was set up with two pillows which would later be used when set up as a bed, noise cancelling head phones and a bottle of water. I found it to be pretty lacking in storage with shallow or narrow spaces rather than a usable large space. The tray table pops out from under the entertainment screen but wasn’t intrusive or impeded on my knees which can sometimes happen on other business class seats.

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Later in the flight, there was turn down service available with some padding placed over the seat and pillow cases put over the seat pillows. The finishes are beautiful and the shell provides just the right amount of privacy without being claustrophobic. Pyjamas were also offered before take-off along with an amenity kit containing little goodies like moisturisers from Hunter Lab. The medium pyjamas that were provided sat pretty large on me and the amenity kit was mostly forgettable.

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Entertain me

Inflight entertainment was offered on this flight courtesy of a beautiful HD screen. Fixed to the shell of the seat in front, I did not experience any issues seeing the screen in any reclined position. The surface of the screen was quite shiny, however with window blinds down, it was bright and clear. Content was reasonable with a fair number of new releases and some classics. Other than that there was not particularly a lot of choice, particularly when it came to TV shows and Music. I had a number of shows downloaded on my laptop (usual power points and USB ports available) so I can imagine I would have been a bit short of choice had I not had brought my own content to watch.

Wifi is not currently available on Virgin Australia international flights, however there are plans to equip these planes with wifi soon.

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Virgin Australia isn’t particularly well known for its food when it comes to those down the back (I have a running joke with some friends about domestic economy catering – think tiny muesli bars, Lindt balls or protein balls). One area I can’t fault them however, is that they consistently do Business class meals very, very well.

Lunch and breakfast were offered on this flight. Service began roughly an hour into take off with tables set, drinks and some nibbles (olives and cheesy biscuits). I had a smoked duck starter followed by pan seared salmon on a bed of soba noodles and finished off the meal with both the burnt butter caramel ice cream and churros (oops!). The meal was well paced, with only the churros taking longer to serve than the rest. Overall, I really enjoyed the meal and cleaned it up too quickly that I forgot to take a photo of the main!

During the flight, I was hungry after about a six hour nap and asked for a snack. I was offered the prawn toast with corn salsa and jalapeno mayonnaise. It offering was delicious.

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About an hour and a half before landing, breakfast was served. Virgin Australia has guests fill out a breakfast form around take off with the breakfast card, including drinks and all food, which means that the flight attendants don’t need to wake you up prematurely before the meal if you are asleep. I had chosen the smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, baby spinach and goats fetta. This was served with a croissant, some fresh fruit and a fruit smoothie. Again, top marks for presentation and freshness of the food.

 

Verdict

Virgin Australia really gets it right when it comes to ‘The Business’. The seat is well designed, comfortable and private. The food is on point – being fresh, tasty and well presented. Service was casual yet attentive and the whole flight was relaxed and enjoyable. A far bigger inflight entertainment selection and more useable storage would be welcome improvements in what was an overly enjoyable flight experience. It is a shame their international network is so small, as they a formidable force when it comes to international business class.

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About the writer

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I’m a well travelled 30 something who blames it all on his father (though really, I’ve taken it to the next level). Travelling from a young age and continuing to do so independently from the end of high school, I am happy to step on a plane headed anywhere. Indeed my colleagues at work don’t ask me if I’m going away in holidays, but where I’ll be headed. They don’t even bat an eyelid when I pop down to Melbourne for the weeknight just to see some show that takes my fancy.

All of my travel is self funded. Through a mixture of great fares and frequent flyer points I’ve developed a penchant for sitting at the front of the plane. However let’s be honest; I’ll just about sit anywhere if it means I get to fly somewhere.

EMIRATES LAUNCHES NEW AUCKLAND TO BALI TO DUBAI FLIGHTS

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It seems the New Zealanders also have an appetite for Bali as much as their Australian counterparts with Emirates announcing they commence daily flights from Dubai to Auckland via Bali from 14 June 2018.

The UAE based airline announcement sees Emirates expanding their operations further into NZ with the new flight adding to their existing daily nonstop flight from Dubai to Auckland and Dubai via Sydney to Christchurch flights.

The route will be operated by a three class Boeing 777, featuring eight first class seats, 42 business class seats, and 304 economy seats. Currently this 777 will sadly not be retrofitted with the new business class seat, so if you don’t mind the hop over your fellow business passenger or a slightly angled sleep then you will lap this option up.

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The flight will depart as EK450 Dubai to Bali departing 6:55AM arriving 8:20PM, following on as EK450 Bali to Auckland departing 10:00PM arriving 10:00AM (+1 day)

From Auckland, the flight will operate as EK451 to Bali departing 12:40PM arriving 5:55PM, following on as EK451 Bali to Dubai departing 7:50PM arriving 12:45AM (+1 day).

Personally I welcome the announcement as it adds more upgrade and reward seats potential especially with the Asia Pacific region currently struggling to cope with demand. Yes it would be a slight detour for me but when the chance to sit towards the front is offered I don’t mind investing the extra handful of hours in the sky.

Comment

Will you be taking advantage of Emirates new Dubai to Bali to Auckland flight?