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 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

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.

 

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

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?!

BOEING KEEPS ANTONOV FLYING

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Thank you Boeing (that’s all I can say)! The US airline last week has stepped in to rescue Ukrainian plane maker Antonov, who are best known for producing the world’s largest aircraft, the An-225.

Hamstrung after years spent heavily relying on Russian imports, Antonov production collapsed following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Enter Aviall the parts, equipment and services unit arm of Boeing. They plan to build eight Antonov aircraft yearly from the end of 2019.

I’m really pleased to see Boeing come to the rescue here. I feel in love with the world’s largest aircraft when it blasted onto the big screen in the Bond film Die Another Day. Up to that point in time I had never seen an aircraft so monolithic, so imposing. It made even the B747 at the time seem tiny in comparison.  It’s a shame that the plane maker’s fortunes took such a hit but I am hopeful that the Boeing venture will ensure it continues to fly the world’s skies for many years to come.