JAPAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS B787 LAX-OSAKA: REVIEW

Flight: JL69, LAX-OIX

Loyalty Scheme: JAL Mileage Bank (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: 1 X daily

Duration:  12 hours and 2 minutes

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JAL has a number of different business class seat variants flying internationally from the front facing APEX Sky Suite to the Herringbone Sky Suite III. Fortunate enough on a recent trip to the US via Japan, allowed the opportunity to fly  JAL a handful of times in J class. TAT was keen to see if the business seat in their Herringbone Sky Suite III stacked up to the awards hype that JAL had garnered for the last few years.

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The Seat

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One of the first things you notice about the JAL Business Class cabin layout of the Boeing 787-9 is the space around the cabin. Warmly lit with pinkish hue, the herringbone configuration of the cabin is laid out 1-2-1, with all seats getting direct aisle access and decent legroom. Being in 1A I was fortunate not only to have window views but a lot of extra legroom compared to the majority of other business seats in the plane, even when the seat is laying fully flat.

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The Sky Suite III is the latest business seat for JAL and is similar to that on what you’d find on Cathay and British Airways. Despite the cabin being full I felt a sense of privacy and tranquility largely thanks to the reverse herringbone design. On the seat were a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, JAL amenities kit, pair of grey slippers, pillow and blanket.

Storage wise there’s a small storage space in the center console and a personal mirror on the door. Beneath the storage compartment is a power outlet and USB port for those who liked to be charged up and working.

The bathrooms for a business cabin were rather disappointing. Whilst there are four on hand for business class passengers to use, you’d think you were in the economy cabin with no real luxurious touches on offer.

Entertain me

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The seat features a large 17″ touch-screen TV, which also included convenient back-lit buttons beneath the screen. The entertainment on offer was sadly lacking with only a handful of English films and television shows on offer. If you are fluent in Japanese you’d have a lot more options on offer to you.

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WiFi is available on this flight with a number of plans on offer. The prices were expensive so I avoided testing this option.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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This was one of the jewels in JALs business crown. Japanese food is naturally beautiful, quite sophisticated in presentation and ultimately always appetising. JAL doesn’t fail to deliver on what I’m used to with Japanese fare.

Prior to take off JAL staff introduced themselves to all business class passengers and took drinks orders. From a choice of water, juice or champagne I went with the champagne which was the rather smooth Ayala Brut (a member of the Bollinger family). The drink was accompanied with a hot towel which unfortunately is nowhere near as pleasingly pipping hot as the ones you receive on middle eastern airlines.

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Being a mid afternoon flight out of LAX the meal services offered were dinner (a set Japanese or Western menu) and supper. There was also dine anytime options for those who weren’t feeling peckish or wanted to get some shut eye. Having flown JAL over to the USA too I was fortunate enough to compare both the Japanese and Western set menus. On this flight I went with the Japanese menu. Meal service was quite prompt and it didn’t take long for the crew to start distributing orders. Entrees/ starters were served first and were delicious yet simple.

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The main then followed with all the accompaniments from snow crab, beef ‘Tataki’ salad to Japanese omelette with salmon roe. Both the mains of braised pork and the seared salmon with tofu featured on the plate in smaller portions. The dishes complimented each other. I felt my tastebuds get taken on an exciting journey through Japanese cuisine. Yes it was that good!

Cabin crew cleared the dishes and asked if I would like some green tea and a mocha cake to cap off the meal. I did and whilst the green tea was refreshing, the mocha cake was a bit too moist and lacked flavour.

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Whilst I didn’t have the Western menu this time around, having flown and ordered the western menu a week earlier, I can vouch that it was equally impressive in taste and presentation. Below is an imagine of the Western menu for reference.

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The only downside slightly in the entire meal service was supper. Basically the supper was taking orders from the dine anytime menu which I could have done frankly…anytime. Despite this the limited options were delicious and well presented but by no means were as impressive as the Japanese and Western set menus on offer.

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Drink options on the flight were strong. Stand outs were the Ayala Brut as well as JALs signature Sky Time Kiwi. There’s a host of whites and red as well as other non alcoholic options should those not tickle your fancy.

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Verdict

Japan Airlines was good as expected but at the same time not outstanding. The cabin crew was attentive and friendly with even a couple of the girls sharing stories of their hometown Osaka to me. The personable touch was not unnoticed. The seat itself whilst not groundbreaking was indeed comfortable, smartly designed and oozed class.

Meal service (despite the somewhat disappointing supper service) was impressive. The food is some of the best there is served in the skies. JAL is a strong contender for one of the best business cabins in the Asian (and global) markets and should be considered by anyone travelling via or to/ from Japan.

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Comments

Have you experienced flying business on JALs B787-9? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

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JAPAN AIRLINES FIRST CLASS SAKURA LOUNGE TOKYO (HANEDA): REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Haneda (Tokyo) International Airport, Terminal 1

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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For as far as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated and had respect for Japan Airlines (JAL) as an airline. The airline is synonymous with outstanding customer service, strong product offerings and overall elegance. This extends to their lounges which are well presented and immaculate. I was keen to visit the First Class Lounge in Haneda after friends reported on how wonderful their experience was, including a must visit to the Red Suite. Fortunately I had the opportunity to visit the lounge twice on a recent trip. So how did the lounge stack up in terms of First Class lounges like The Pier in HK or the Concorde Lounge in the UK? I checked into the lounge to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Those travelling in JAL First Class
  • JAL Mileage Bank Diamond, Gold and Silver members
  • Oneworld Emerald members travelling on any Oneworld flight in any cabin of service

Lounge location and opening hours

The JAL First Class Lounge is located after security in the International Terminal on level 4. Located across from gate 112, the lounge can be accessed via an elevator or set of escalators leading up from the gate level. Opening hours for the lounge is from 6am – 2am, with only a closure period of four hours in the wee hours of the early morning.

Ambience

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Upon entering the lounge for the first time you’re greeted by a stunning hallway with gleaming marble floors, Japanese style partitions and artwork. Off the hallway are shower facilities to the left and a phone room and baggage storage to the right. Beyond the hallway are two main seating areas on either side of the dining space, a small business centre, The Red Suite, showers, bathroom, massage area and smoking room. The amount of seating as well as power outlets are generous. The furnishing style is light and elegant, and more importantly very comfortable.

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Speaking of the Red Suite, this by far was the room that most impressed. In a word stunning. I’ve not come across such a gorgeous room (not even in The Pier in HK) in a lounge before. Located at the back of the lounge, this adults only space offers a more relaxed space for those seeking quiet.

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The suite, beautifully decorated in mahogany colours and featuring Japan Airlines memorabilia, is broken up into four spaces. A library, play room, seating room and the all important champagne/sake bar (which comprises of a Laurent-Perrier stocked fridge and top notch sake). There’s also a shoe polishing service for those business flyers looking to spruce up before their next meeting. This was my favourite space in the lounge and found myself often returning to fill up on another sake or Laurent Perrier.

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I didn’t have the opportunity to visit the shower rooms but the restrooms were well appointed with lovely amenities as well as the iconic Japanese Super Toilet or Washlet (Woshuretto) as it’s known, which has all the dazzling and somewhat confusing array of features.

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Bread and butter (food and drink)

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The food selection is mainly self-serve, with a chef available during peak times (breakfast and dinner) to create made to order dishes. The selection is extensive but in comparison to other first lounges I have visited it was a tad underwhelming. Some individual items like the sushi selection was delicious and highly recommended but the salads and bread options looked lacklustre and not well presented. The chef was the highlight of the area and at the time of my visit they were serving the original JAL burger which was quite tasty and went down a treat!

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There are also two self serve drink stations which include liquor, soft drinks, juice, and a beer machine. The selection on offer is decent but nowhere near as impressive as The Red Suite offering.

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Verdict

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The JAL First Class Lounge is definitely up there for me in terms of my all time favourites,  mainly due to the x factor of the Red Suite.  I fell in love with its beautiful interior, tranquil ambience and lovely nod to JALs aviation past. As an aviation geek walking around inspecting the memorabilia with Laurent-Perrier glass in hand has easily become one of my favourite airport lounge experiences.

Whilst the lounge isn’t The Pier in Hong Kong (a difficult task to follow), this lounge has easily become one of my favourites alongside the Qantas, Qatar and British Airways First lounges. I will definitely (and hopefully) be back to enjoy this stunning lounge again sometime in the near future.

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Comments

Have you experienced the JAL First Class Sakura Lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

CATHAY PACIFIC BUSINESS LOUNGE MANILA: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Manila  International Airport, Terminal 3

Lounge Rating: 4 Stars

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Based on my experience with Cathay I’ve found their lounges in general to be impressive, bar the one in Beijing which is in urgent need of attention. The lounges are bold, classy and well presented with the same service and attention to detail, providing visitors with a consistent experience. The lounges in Manila are generally disappointing, which is no surprise considering how bad the airport. However there’s a shining beacon that seems to get consistent praise online; the Cathay Business Lounge. Curious to see if the online hype was spot on, TAT decided to check in the CX Manila lounge to find out.

Lounge access options

  • Those travelling in Cathay business or first class
  • Marco Polo Club Diamond, Gold and Silver members
  • Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members travelling on any Oneworld flight in any cabin of service

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located at Terminal 3, on level 4 above Gate 114. Once you’ve cleared security and immigration, you will see signage to the lounges in front of you. There’s a lift that’ll take you up to the lounge just by Gate 114.

Ambience

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Upon entering the lounge you’re instantly hit with that signature Cathay lounge style; from the luxurious wooden walled interiors to the lovely greenery break out spaces that create a sense of both tranquillity and privacy. The space is a far cry from the manic surrounds of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The lounge is divided into different zones for working, dining and relaxing, yet at the same time is open enough that you never feel enclosed.

For those keen to work away there’s an abundance of power and USB outlets throughout the lounge. If you don’t have your laptop on hand there’s also a small business area with three desktop computers for those wanting to punch out some work before they board.

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On the flip side the bathrooms were a tad disappointing due to a lack of showers (odd considering how hot Manila Airport is generally) and poor amenities compared to their usual Aesop range in other lounges.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Whilst it may not be on par with The Pier (my favourite Cathay lounge), it still serves a decent meal thanks to its signature Noodle Bar. The bar serves a variety of fresh made to order Hong Kong inspired street fare dishes. My visit offered an enticing wonton noodle soup and beef rice dish (both of which I ordered). When ordering you’ll be issued a buzzer which illuminates when your order is ready for collection.  The food served was delicious and well presented. There’s also a small self service snack area nearby the noodle bar which has a coffee machine and some light bites.

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I followed my meal up with a visit to the bar and ordered a negroni which was well mixed (bar staff here know their drinks quite well here). Also on offer was a wide range of cocktails and wines. Sadly champagne wasn’t on the menu (usually Cathay stocks a decent Moët & Chandon in their HK lounges) but instead an Australian sparkling which I decided to pass on. If something alcoholic doesn’t tickle your fancy you can also order a decent barista made coffee. Unfortunately if you are lactose intolerant or don’t want milk with your coffee, then you will be hard up for options.

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Verdict

The Cathay Business Lounge in Manila is a solid offering and by far one of the best satellite ones I have visited in Asia outside of Hong Kong. The space is sparse and peaceful and the food and drinks offering is solid. It would’ve been nice to have had a champagne option rather than the cheaper Australian sparkling and some showers for those wishing to feel fresh after coming in from the sticky heat of Manila. That said, overall it’s a good lounge to whittle away the time until one boards.

Comments

Have you experienced the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge in Manila? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

Virgin set make Velocity fully Virgin owned again

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Loyalty programs are a cash cow for airlines to the point that some airlines sell a stake or the whole cow for a quick profit hit. Those who have taken the gamble tend to not seen it pay off and more often than not find themselves paying for it, or in the case of Air Canada creating a whole new competing loyalty program.

In 2014 Virgin sold part of its Velocity business to Affinity Equity Partners (AEP). Since the sale the program it has grown to be the third biggest loyalty program in Australia behind Qantas and Woolworths. Virgin now has sellers remorse and has enter an agreement to buy back the 35 per cent of its Velocity program it sold to AEP for $700 million. This is more than double what they sold it for to the group five years earlier.

Virgin has experienced some rocky annual results of late but the shining star of their company has been the Velocity division which saw earnings (before interest and tax) up 12 per cent to $122.2 million.

Personally I think this is a smart move by Virgin which in the end after a initial financial hit see the company not only in a stronger position financially but increase value with its customers for years to come!

Qantas eyes off Haneda flight expansion

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It’s been reported that Qantas is considering adding new flights to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport after released two new airport slot pairs to Australian airlines.

The recent expansion of Haneda Airport has created four new daytime slots for flights to and from Australia. Two of these slot pairs have already been allocated to ANA and Japan Airlines, with two remaining and available for Australian airline use.

Bids for the landing and takeoff slots at Haneda Airport slot will close 31 October 2019 and become available for use from 29 March 2020. It’s expected Qantas will take up the slots as Jetstar’s Tokyo hub is based out of Narita and Virgin is currently in a state of reassessing its entire network.

Qantas currently flies the Boeing 747 daily from Sydney to Haneda Airport. If the airline were to take up these slots it would empower their business and leisure travellers with greater options in terms of landing and departures

Additional Haneda Airport slots would be a win for any Australian airline as its closer proximity and transport options to Tokyo makes it the preferred choice for business travellers.

Time will tell if Qantas takes flight with the new Tokyo Haneda options. Considering Haneda slots are as rare as hens teeth Qantas would be foolish to pass this unique opportunity up.

Qantas to fly B787 daily on Sydney-Santiago route

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It’s always sad to hear when another B747 route bites the dust, replaced by something newer, shinier and in this current aviation space smaller. This was the case when Qantas announced this week it would be replacing its 4 x weekly B747 Sydney-Santiago flights from late June 2020 to a daily Boeing 787-9 flight.

Business class passengers are the big winners here with the B787 fitted with Qantas’ newest business class seat, which transforms into a fully-flat bed and offers direct aisle access. This removed the awkward hop over of the B747s 2-3-2 business cabin, which features the classic Skybed.

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The announcement comes as part of a wider initiative by Qantas to retire its older B747 by the end of 2020. Obviously a newer, fresher plane is always welcomed and flying long distance in a B787 does have its health and sleep benefits but there’s no denying that B747 is where the fun in flying is. If you are keen to fly the Queen before her retirement to Santiago, I would hop onto it now before mid 2020.

Are you excited or disappointed by the Qantas announcement? Will you be booking a B747 flight to Santiago before its retired mid 2020? Keen to hear your thoughts. 

 

Qatar QSuite – Seat Comparison Roundup (B777-300ER) vs A350-900)

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Last year TAT compared the variants of Qatar business class seats that were being operated from the herringbone of the A380 to the forward facing, 2-2-2 hop over configuration of the A330. A year on and this time around due to the opportunity of flying back to back on two QSuite flights, we thought we’d compared the experience of the A350 vs that of the B777. So how does the QSuite experience fair between aircraft? Is the overall flight journey on par across the board or are no two QSuites the same? TAT took to the skies to find out…

A350

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The seat

The A350 features 46 QSuites in its business cabin, which are configured in a staggered 1-2-1 layout that offers each passenger direct aisle access. There are different types of seating configurations, with odd-numbered rows featuring rear-facing seats and even-numbered rows having forward facing ones.

The QSuite is beautiful designed with shoulder height doors that close while at the same time not making the space feel claustrophobic. On this flight I sat in 3A, which was a rear facing window seat. All suites are adorned with grey upholstery, hand-stitched Italian leather and satin rose gold finishing. Despite each seat having a width of 21.5 inches (55 cm) which extends to a 79 inches (2m) long bed, I found the seat generally a little tight in terms of comfort. Due to this being a relatively short 3 hour flight, I didn’t have the opportunity to test the lie flat bed.

Also in the suite was a hard shell BRICS amenities kit which contained the usual suspects for long haul travel, such as socks, eyeshades and ear plugs as well as some nice skincare items from Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio.

Entertain me

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Entertainment is the best of the Oryx One system by Qatar. It’s a comprehensive but not exhaustive range that’s on offer here. Entertainment is delivered on a large and clear 22” HD screen. Control also via the screen or remote by the seat. Oryx One branded noise-cancelling headphones were also provided during the flight.

The A350 also offers onboard WiFi. On this flight, the first 60 minutes of WiFi is complimentary and for those who wish to surf the net beyond this timeframe there’s a handful of wifi plans depending on your usage/ needs. Using the complimentary wifi, I found that just general browsing without downloading anything was quite slow. If this was the case for the paid option too I would feel frustrated and frankly ripped off.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Qatar’s soft product is just as amazing as their hard product. Despite being a three hour flight, the food and drink options were not skimmed over. A lot of detail and attention was placed on the food and beverage presentation and taste. On this flight was a simple a la carte menu. To properly compare service, I order a three course dinner onboard by having the seared scallops for starter, the grilled prawn and cod fish for main and the fresh berries with almond syrup for desert. I complimented this with the delectable Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose which enhanced the dining experience with its lovely raspberry and salmon hues.

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All of the dishes were tasty and beautiful presented (I loved the quality dishware used). On the A350 the service was speedy but attentive. Given the relatively short flight I could understand the FAs sense of urgency however that did not impact the warmth or friendliness of the onboard service.

777

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The Seat

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The first thing one notices about the QSuite on the B77 is the sense of space, especially compared to the A350 layout. In this aircraft there are 42 Qsuites spread across two minicabins. Like the A350 the cabin is a 1-2-1 configuration, offering each passenger direct aisle access. Like before I was seated in 3A and facing the rear on the plane on the window side.

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Due to the timing of my flight being overnight, my suite contained two pillows, a blanket, amenity kit and set of headphones at the seat. The seat itself was quite comfortable, measuring 21.5 inches wide and 79 inches (2m) long, roughly the same as the A350. Despite the seat being the same in size the suite itself felt larger.

After the a la carte meal service I reclined to a full flat position to get some sleep during my nine hour flight. Whilst I didn’t have an FA do a turndown service for me, I found simply laying on my back with a blanket over me on the seat more that comfortable and didn’t require the mattress topper at all.

Pyjamas from The White Company were provided for this flight as well as the hard shell BRIC amenities kit, which contained the same toiletries as the A350 leg.

Entertain me

Without trying to sound repetitive, entertainment is provided through the Oryx One system. Again what was on offer was comprehensive but not exhaustive. Entertainment is delivered on a large and clear 21.5” HD screen which can be controlled via the screen or remote by the seat.

Also like the A350 there was wifi onboard with sadly the same connectivity issues.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Being a nine hour flight two meals services were issued. Being a late night flight the menu had an emphasis on late night dining through some lighter dish options. On this flight I order the mixed garden salad, prawn wonton noodle soup and the baked coconut pudding with chilli chocolate. I accompanied my dishes again with a glass of the Laurent Perrier rose. Yes there were other options in terms of some great NZ and Napa Valley whites and reds but that Laurent Perrier seems to pair well with anything! All of the dishes went down a treat and like the A350, all beautifully presented on charming dishware.

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The breakfast service was equally impressive. I’m a sucker for an arabic mezze and order that alongside a platter of seasonal fruits, a glass of mint lemon juice and an assiette of cold cuts. To toast in the last hour or so before landing I chose to go a champagne breakfast with a glass of the Pommery Brut NV.

Service throughout the flight was outstanding and despite the relatively full cabin the flight attendants had strong attention to detail.

Conclusion

Qatar is a highly regarded airline, and the reputation is justified. Its Business Class products are well designed, comfortable and for the most part offer a consistent experience despite the seat variations. The pillows and blankets provided are lush and comfortable. Amenity packs universal and pyjamas are comfortable to lounge and sleep in (when provided). Food on board is always to a high standard and service generally warm and attentive.

It was a struggle to decide which aircraft I liked more as the service, seat and food/ beverage options were all on par. In fact I was surprised they aligned so well considering I’ve been on different aircraft for another airline and their service/ seat was worlds apart. I’m calling this one a tie. You are on a winner regardless of which aircraft you fly the QSuite on!

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Comments

Have you experienced flying QSuite on either the A350 or B777 or both? Did you love or dislike the experience? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…