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.

LATAM FINALLY GOES BUSINESS CLASS DIRECT AISLE ACCESS FROM 2018

Who loves direct aisle business class? I do and so does LATAM Airways apparently with the South American airline set to roll out a dramatically improved business class seat across its international fleet from late 2018.

LATAM has chosen the Thompson Aero Seating Vantage XL seat with styling by London-based PriestmanGoode. The changes will be noticed on their Boeing 767 and Boeing 777 fleet as well as their new fleet of Boeing 787-9s and Airbus A350-1000s.

In addition to direct aisle access, the seats will offer passengers to rest easy on a new fully lie-flat bed. The design is very similar to fellow Oneworld partner Qantas who has a similar layout and design on the A330, 787 and soon A380 fleet.

Having flown the current LATAM business class 2-2-2 configuration I can say the new changes will really enhance their product offering. Sure the current seat hasn’t aged and still provides some decent space but there’s a lack of privacy, let alone the not so fun game of hopping over your neighbour should you be seated against the window.

I look forward to seeing their new product rolled out across their network as it’d really give not only Qantas a run for its money on that hop between Australian and Santiago but also offer passengers another decent business class option when travelling abroad.

QANTAS B787 BUSINESS CLASS PERTH TO LONDON: REVIEW

Flight: QF9, Perth – London

Loyalty Scheme: Qantas Frequent Flyer (Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Daily

Duration: 17 hours and 20 minutes (aka extremely long!)

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Aviation geeks like myself live for travel and at times are willing to be gluttons for punishment, especially when doing it cattle style in economy class across vast distances just to get the experience of the airline and route. Qantas late last year made a bit of a song and dance about their delivery of new B787s which other airlines had possessed (including Jetstar) before them. That said it was their announcement of their new leg from Perth to London that got my attention with the B787 because wait for it, it’s a staggering 17 hrs non-stop. I thought it’s crazy as hell but let’s give this route a try (but only if I could do it in business class because economy just seemed unbearable at that distance!

 

The Seat

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One thing I love about the new Qantas business class layout internationally is their new 1-2-1 configuration. Gone are the days of hopping over (or worse falling over someone) to get to your seat. The business and premium cabins from what I could see where full and what I would expect on such a long flight. The seat itself was a Thompson aerospace designed seat which also features on Qantas A330 fleet. I like this seat as it is roomy, lies flat, is stylish, comfortable and more importantly private. The seat has several pre-sets, and there’s two options for take-off and landing. This allows passengers to not be completely upright which adds to the comfort level of the seat.

Additionally the seat has a large amount of storage space. It possesses a side table with storage and a decent sized arm rest on both sides. Centre seats enjoy a divider which is up but can be lowered if you want to chat to the passenger in the neighbouring seat. All seats are equipped with USB and power outlets so one can walk off the plane full charged once they arrive into London for a day of touring or business meetings.

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Before take off the flight attendant comes around with amenities kits and their signature kangaroo pajamas. The hostess whose name escapes me now was fantastic, engaging and funny. She made my flight just that little bit more special for her great customer service.

Sleeping wise I did not ask for the turn down service so cannot comment on this but for the  4 hours I did fall asleep I did feel at the end of the flight generally refreshed.

 

Entertain me

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All business class suites come with a 15.5 inch touchscreen television. The choice of movies, music and tv shows on offer is fairly decent but some of the movies I saw on my last international flight (2 months earlier) seem to be lingering around heavily within the ‘premiere’ section of the IFE. A few more new film choices would be welcomed for such a long flight (yes I do keep emphasising that part intentionally).

Noise cancelling headphones are also provided to all business class passengers.

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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I’m greeted before take-off with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve and a copy of the inflight food and drink menu. The menu was striking with the design influenced by Australia’s beautiful landscapes. Accompanying the menu was a breakfast card that allowed passengers to order what they wished so that their sleep time could be maximised throughout the flight. An aperitif was served along with Qantas signature Dreamliner cocktail. I am not completely sure what was in it but the FA told me tequila which is something I don’t usually drink but in this case though why not. Summery at best describes it but quite strong.

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An hour into the flight dinner was served.  The three course menu (refer to image) offered a range of light and heavier dishes. I ordered the Tuna Poke Salad with Wakame and Sesame Soy Dressing which I found was quite delicious and light. The perfect entree for me to start with.

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For mains they ranged from Hokkien Noodles with Eggplant to Seared Con Bay Barramundi with Herbed Garlic Potatoes but at the end decided to taste the Beef Fillet with Soft Polenta, Caramelised Onion and Sage. The meat was unfortunately a little tough despite requesting medium rare. The rest of the dish was nice but as a whole I was slightly disappointed.

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For dessert I went with seasonal fruits and Maggie Beer Ice Cream and the combination together was divine and a good way to finish off my meal.

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When it came to breakfast I was relieved I ticked a few options because that long flight had me quite peckish. I went with the Bacon, Egg and Tomato Brioche Roll, yoghurt, fruit salad and a Botanica Cold Pressed Juice. They meal itself was satisfying and whilst simple that roll was the ideal way to help relieve me of any cravings I may have had before that meal was laid out in front of me.

Drinks wise, Qantas is renowned for having a great selection and proudly promoted on the menu as having won this year’s best Cellar In The Sky Award. Generally I would agree but on this flight the drinks list did not grab me. The wine choices disappointed and I would have expected more from the champagne with a better quality one for the business cabin.

Overall the meal service and food was of a good standard but could have had a few nice additions to make it really shine.

 

Verdict

The flight over initially seemed long but half way through it seemed to race by. The business class seat was of excellent quality and sleeping in it didn’t seem too much of an issue for the majority of the cabin who were in the land of nod for most of the flight. The crew were friendly and attentive and the food and drink service was good but could be improved. The question is would I do it again? In business class – yes!

 

Comments

Have you experienced flying QF9/10 between London and Perth? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts

JAPAN AIRLINES ‘SKY PREMIUM’ 787-800 TOKYO (NARITA) TO SYDNEY: REVIEW

Flight: JL771, Tokyo (Narita) to Sydney (11 June 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: JAL Mileage Bank/ Oneworld
Frequency: Daily
Duration: 7.25pm (+9) ATD: 7.35pm (+9) Delayed 10 mins; STA: 6:10am (+10) ATA: 6.23am (+10) Delayed 13mins

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Japan Airlines operates the lowest density 787 Dreamiliner in the world. In fact, the three class configuration of the JAL 787-8 has only 161 seats. That’s comparable to other airlines that have greater than 200 seats on their 787-8s. The seats are split between 38 business suites (Sky Suites), 35 premium economy (Sky Premium) and 88 economy seats (Sky Wider).

I had previously flown the JAL economy seats which frankly feel like premium economy compared to other airlines. Indeed JAL has a 2-4-2 layout in economy, with the only other airline to choose the more spacious configuration being it’s domestic competitor, All Nippon Airlines (ANA). Premium Economy is in a 2-3-2 layout. Business is 2-2-2 layout with each seat having a wall and direct aisle access for privacy. I booked last minute and as economy wasn’t available, I booked the last remaining seat in Premium Economy, hence I was stuck in the dreaded middle seat, 20E.

The Airport

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JAL operates out of Terminal 2 at Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT). Terminal 2 is the terminal used by JAL and its oneworld partners (ie. Qantas, Cathay, American, British Airways). Terminal 1 is split between Skyteam and Star Alliance (including home airline ANA) with Terminal 3 dedicated to low cost carriers like Jetstar and Vanilla Air.

Lounges in Terminal 2 include JAL First and Sakura Lounges as well as Cathay Pacific First and Business Lounge, Qantas Business Lounge, Admirals Club, China Airlines Dynasty Lounge and an Emirates Lounge. As a passenger in Premium Economy, I was entitled to use the Sakura Lounge. The lounge is located conveniently immediately after security, sharing the entrance with the First Lounge (to the left) and the Sakura entrance (to the right).

Down the stairs and inside, there is plenty of ample seating along windows, with nice views of the gates from almost anywhere in the lounge. The main floor of the lounge has drink stations and nibbles, with the main dining area one floor up. Here, there was a modest buffet, drinks, tables and plenty of seating for both groups and singles. Also in the lounge were shower rooms. Originally on arriving I was told that a shower would be an hour wait (which was really how long I had in the lounge. Luckily, my buzzer went off about half hour into my visit. This was perfect timing as I’d just finished eating and meant I could shower right before boarding my plane.

The Seat

 

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As I previously mentioned, I had booked this flight less than a week out and so by this time, all seats other than middle ones had been assigned. I consider myself lucky enough to even be able to score 20E. The seat itself was wide and offered ample legroom. The seat has a fixed shell meaning you don’t actually recline, but rather your seat slides down and the seat base moves forward. In this position, the seat was fairly comfortable though I did find myself sliding down throughout the night. Each seat has a privacy divider between other seats and this made a comfortable place to rest against with my pillow.

Waiting at my seat were slippers, a thin blanket, pillow and headphones. To be honest, everything was fairly economy grade and the cabin felt more like economy plus rather than business minus. Newspapers were offer prior to doors closing and flight attendants came around with immigration forms for Australia. The seat was comfortable, though having sat in a regular economy seat between New York and Tokyo, I have to say it’s an incremental improvement and I’d be happy in either (a testament to how comfortable their economy seat is).

Entertain me

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At the seat are reading lamps, remote or touchscreen controlled IFE screen and small storage spaces beside the seat as well as beside each screen. Power points and USB outlets were also available at each seat.  The screen was large and bright, with the content showing in fairly high definition (though not crystal clear).

Entertainment content was rather good, with a fair number of western films including some quite recent releases. There were a few TV series with a number of episodes of each series though the variety could have been better. In addition there was a decent selection of English music. While adequate, it was certainly not extensive.

Wifi was available on board this aircraft with prices starting at $10.95 USD for 1 hour to $18.96 USD for the entire flight.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Once in the air, flight attendants came around with hot towels which were then followed by drinks and a packet of rice snacks. I chose the JAL Signature Drink which is called ‘Skytime’. It’s a kiwifruit based cordial which was quite refreshing.

Menus had been handed out prior to take off and there were two meal choices available. On tonight’s flight between Japan and Australia, these were either a beef or chicken dish. The Gyudon was a beef bowl done in Sichuan style, accompanied with pumpkin. I chose the chicken dish which was Chicken Kuwayaki, soy-glazed and sautéed accented by yuzu-citrus flavoured chili paste. The main dishes were accompanied with chilled Winter Melon, savoury Okara Soy Pulp with anchovy, fresh salad with dressing, lychee pudding and finished off with Haagen Dazs ice cream (custard pudding flavour). Everything was served on one dish and would have been identical in economy. JAL catering is usually pretty good and this was no exception – basic food but done well.

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Roughly 90 minutes prior to landing, I awoke to find myself surrounded by those sitting next to me eating breakfast. One thing I love on JAL is that if you’ve missed a meal service, they’ll actually place a post-it note on your IFE screen which lets you know you’ve missed a meal. I wish more airlines did this! On request, I was given my meal promptly and this consisted of a seven vegetable quiche, pumpkin salad, yoghurt, bread and butter. It was again a solid meal, if not exceptional.

Verdict

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JAL’s 787-8 is the lowest density configuration out there in the world. As such it delivers a premium experience. Boarding commences 20-30 minutes prior to departure, which isn’t long for any international flight but it’s simply all part of the experience. No matter which seat you’re in, its comfort all the way. Premium economy had just that extra personal space compared to those found in economy. That said it was incremental rather than leaps and bounds ahead the economy product.

Japanese service as you’d expect is exceptional and polite, with nothing being too much or too difficult. The touches throughout the flight are thoughtful and considered like the rest of Japanese culture, and I found the entire experience relaxed and calm. What more could you ask for on a red-eye flight?


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.

 

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.

Qatar rumoured to loan widebody aircraft to British Airways

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British Airways Oneworld partner and stakeholder Qatar Airways is reviewing whether to loan planes like the Boeing 787 to the British carrier.

The Qatar airline which has a 20% stake in IAG generally has a good relationship with British Airways. This was seen in 2017 when BA crews went on strike in turn forcing a number of cancellations. As a solution to the potential crisis BA wet leased eight A320s planes (this included Qatar crew) from Qatar Airways.

Currently the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines that are being used on some 787s, which has lbecome an operational nightmare for some airlines with the engines requiring inspections and replacements.

BA has 26 Boeing 787s in their fleet which means several of their planes could be grounded. As an olive branch it is reported that Qatar Airways is potentially willing to lease British Airways some of their wide body aircraft.

Whilst this story is being reported by Bloomberg (which I have found to generally be a pretty good news source), I say watch this space. If the rumours are true, BA flyers could be looking at enjoying themselves an upgrade in terms of J class product quality with the Qatar aircraft loan.

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2020 EARMARKED AS THE END OF THE QANTAS B747 ERA

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For some like me it was a sad but inevitable day when Qantas announced this week it was retiring its remaining 10 strong B747-400 jumbos by 2020. The iconic queen of the skies will be replaced by an order of six Boeing 787-9 jets, bringing the total number of Qantas Dreamliners to 14.

The jumbo has been the backbone of Qantas International for over 40 years. The airline currently flies the ageing B747 jumbos to the USA (and seasonally to Vancouver), Asia, South America and South Africa, with some of those routes to be taken over by the Boeing 787 and others handed to the A330.

It is anticipated that the first of the additional 787-9s will be delivered in late 2019 with the remaining five to be rolled out quickly over the following 12 months. The new Dreamliners are expected to take off to destinations such as Europe, Asia and South Africa with Qantas looking increasingly likely over the next year to announce Paris and Germany as their next European destinations.

Until its retirement, I personally will preference the B747 over the B787 where the option is given to me. Whilst the B787 is innovative in terms of of fuel and tech spec, the plane is ‘planey’ bland and doesn’t have anything on the B747 in terms of wow factor,