QANTAS LINK SET TO FLY INTO BENDIGO 6 DAYS A WEEK

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Regional Victoria is set to get another travel option boost with QantasLink set to fly between Bendigo Airport and Sydney from March next year.The announcement by Qantas and the state government is an exciting one as it helps service a growing area in Victoria that for many is a long distance from Sydney and vice versa when you factor in flying and driving.

Until now passengers from Sydney would have to fly into Melbourne Tullamarine Airport before making a two hour drive onward to Bendigo.

From March 31, 2019 QantasLink will operate flights six days a week with its 50-seat Q300 turboprop aircraft, with daily services operating during the peak summer season.

Flights from Bendigo depart between 6.30am – 9.10am, Monday – Saturday, whilst services from Sydney depart at 5.25pm and land in Bendigo at 7.25pm on weekdays and Sundays. Flights will take from an hour and 10 minutes to two hours.

QantasLink is currently offering special fares of $129 one-way between Bendigo and Sydney, for travel from March 31 to October 26, 2019. The sale ends 17 Dec 2018.

 

Qantas weighs in on hand luggage

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Qantas has begun weighing carry-on luggage of passengers at the gate as part of a crackdown on hand luggage exceeding the bag limit of 7kg. Baggage found to be overweight will be compulsorily checked in at the boarding gate. Not even Business Class passengers and Platinum One frequent flyers are exempt from the crackdown.

With the rise of a virtually contactless check in experience to the boarding gate, the process of weighing or checking in baggage has become nonexistent. Despite skipping check in due to checking in online, baggage should still meet the size and weight requirements of the airline’s baggage policy. However this often goes unchecked by full service airlines at the boarding gate.

Qantas is an airline that from living memory rarely ever weighed hand luggage at the gate but have decided that the growth of online checkin has seen the baggage policy sometimes abused by passengers. I can understand where the airline is coming from and there are some occasions where the hand luggage policy has been clearly abused but the weighing of all items, particularly if they’re only say 1-2 kgs over is a bit petty. For me on domestic flights I use hand luggage all the time, even when on a full service airline that includes checked luggage for free. It’s fast and convenient, especially when travelling for business as you don’t want to spend half an hour at baggage collection waiting for your bag.

Qantas says the random checks ensure each passenger has their fair share of overhead space whilst looking out for the safety of cabin crew who could potentially injure themselves lifting overweight luggage.

I’m divided on this issue as I can see both sides of the argument. In all fairness 7kgs is pretty light and pathetic. If hand luggage was increased to 9kg a piece I think anything over weight that should be stored underneath. As the expression goes, if you can’t lift it put it away.

It’ll be interesting to see how Qantas handles this new hand luggage in the months to come and whether it’ll further impact departure times for the airline, which for the majority of my QF flights are generally delayed.

Do you Qantas has gone too far in terms of randomly weighing hand luggage? I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

Fiji Airways officially joins Oneworld Connect

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Fiji Airways this week officially became Oneworld Connect’s first partner. As a new partner it unlocks an array of benefits for Oneworld members. Oneworld Connect is intended to be an option for smaller airlines to join the alliance without having to pay the full membership costs due to the large costs associated with joining an alliance.

So what does this mean for those as part of the Oneworld program?

Prior to joining Oneworld Connect, priority boarding on Fiji Airways flights was reserved only for business class passengers and the airline’s Tabua Club members. The change will now priority boarding benefits expanded to all Oneworld members across all airports when travelling with Fiji Airways.

In addition customers from American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas when flying on Fiji Airways will have the ability to earn and redeem miles (including earning status miles). The benefits will also be reciprocated for Fiji Airways Tabua frequent flyer members when flying on American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

However unlike other Oneworld partners, Connect doesn’t offer Oneworld members access to FJ lounges or Oneworld when flying under an FJ coded flight. This means that unless you are flying FJ Business Class, you will not receive lounge access no matter your status. This is quite disappointing considering that Oneworld benefits like lounge access are highly regarded and for many are a main drawcard to being with an alliance.

If that isn’t disappointing, as you could tell not all Oneworld members are treated the same. Below is a chart breaking down the benefits for each airline.

In my view the new addition of FJ is better than no addition with some good benefits there in terms of points and boarding. However with some airlines treated more preferably than others as part of this new deal, I feel this has added a layer of confusion in terms of who is eligible for what. Additionally a lack of airport lounge access is disappointing and one can only hope will be reviewed soon. Time will tell if the Connect concept lasts the distance.

 

BRITISH AIRWAYS TERRACES LOUNGE SEATTLE: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Airport Gate S

Lounge Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

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Whilst American Airlines is the dominant Oneworld carrier in America, their lounge product is sadly more sporadic and in parts of the States non-existent. Naturally I thought American would have a lounge in a port as large as Seattle but I discovered that was unfortunately not the case. That said British Airways has a lounge which is the only offering for passengers travelling on a Oneworld carrier. Despite the Oneworld website stating that the BA lounge was open to all Oneworld top tier members, the lounge has been known to pick and choose when they feel like letting partner members in. I encountered this type of attitude the moment I arrived at the lounge but after some perseverance I was fortunately let in. So is the BA Terraces Lounge in Seattle worth the early pit stop for a beverage or two before a flight? I was keen to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • flying on a scheduled British Airways flight in First
    • a Gold Member of the British Airways Executive Club on a scheduled flight operated by British Airways or one of our oneworld partners
    • an Emerald member of any of the oneworld airline frequent flyer programmes on a scheduled flight operated by British Airways or one of our oneworld partners
    • over the age of 18 years, or if under 18 years you are accompanied by a responsible adult. (Local laws relating to the consumption of alcohol will apply)

    As a Sapphire or Emerald member you are welcome to invite one single guest per each departure flight to join you in the lounge.

Lounge location and opening hours

The BA lounge located at the S gate is open 4 hours before the morning and evening flights with BA. Those with Oneworld flights outside of these times will have to slum it in the terminal.

 

Ambience

The ambience of the Terraces Lounge is dull at best. Whilst certainly not horrific the furnishing were tired and the general design bland. Some of the seats including mine showed signs of severe wear and tear. Overlooking that the location of the lounge provided some nice views across the tarmac (when Seattle isn’t foggy) as well as natural lighting.

The bathrooms were a different story and look like they had been modernised a couple of years ago. Shower facilities were also available to those who wised to have a flight before their international flight.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Unfortunately this is where the lounge suffered the most with slim pickings being the most apt way to define the food experience. Food wise there was nothing substantial to eat here. Everything was more of the snack variety such as crisps, cheeses and small sandwiches. Admittedly the cheeses sourced from Pikes Place Market were rather tasty.

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Drinks wise was also limited but the selection was well sourced with wines from France to New Zealand. I went with the Italian prosecco which is palatable. The highlight of the lounge was the bar service rather than self pour. The lady behind the bar was making some decent looking cocktails and mixers for those waiting around the lounge when I was there. The Terraces Lounge

 

Verdict

The Terraces Lounge isn’t something to write home about. The bland interior and rather rude reception was disconcerting. Despite the food offering was rather poor the bar service for drinks shone. Overall the experience was satisfactory but if I had to decide whether I wanted to spend more time in the lounge or the option of taking time having a Starbucks in downtown Seattle before my flight, I would take the Starbucks Seattle experience any day.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the British Airways Terraces Lounge in Seattle? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

Technically bankrupt South African Airways looks to sell assets

 

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It’s a sad state of affairs for South African Airways (SAA) at the moment. The South African carrier has been deemed ‘technically bankrupt’ and whilst it has flagged it would apply for another bailout, the airline is looking to interim measures to get its books back in black. Some of those measures include the selling of assets. Among the assets for sale is the airline’s catering arm Air Chefs as well as the cargo unit.

SAA Cargo is one of the few profitable for the airline. Last financial year it earned ZAR387 million rand profit. Now no decisions have been locked in but it is strongly believed that the cargo unit will be separated from the passenger mainline and the operations for it outsourced to private third party.

It would be quite sad to see this airline go considering it is literally the best thing going aviation wise for Africa as a whole but it’s poor standing has sadly scared banks off with the airline struggling to be loaned any more money on commercial terms. It  wasn’t that long ago (aka last year) that the airline received a ZAR3 billion rand injection to prevent a Citibank loan default by the government.

This is very much a watch this space situation. Time will tell if the skies align for SAA.

 

QANTAS LONDON LOUNGE TERM 3 LONDON HEATHROW: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3

Lounge Rating: 4 Stars

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For years Qantas relied heavily on its Oneworld partners to provide their top tier frequent flyers with lounge access from British Airways to American Airlines. Whilst the business lounges from the respective airlines did the job, they lacked character and were no where near the standard set by Cathay or Emirates. Fast forward to late last year and hello – Qantas opens its first dedicated Qantas lounge.

From the dine-on-demand from set menus to a sexy gin and cocktail bars, the Qantas London lounge has really raised the bar in terms of lounge offering at Heathrow Terminal 3. A few of my friends have already frequented it and all have glowing reviews of it. I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and hopped on in for a look.

 

Lounge access options

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Lounge access is available for passengers who are:

  • first class and business class passengers on Qantas flights and those of Oneworld airlines departing from London Heathrow Terminal 3 (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Royal Jordanian, etc)
  • Qantas Platinum One, Platinum and Gold frequent flyers (and one guest) and their Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire equivalents, on Qantas or Oneworld flights
  • Qantas Club members (and one guest) on Qantas flights
  • Holders of a Qantas Club lounge invitation who are on a Qantas flight
  • Emirates Skywards Platinum and Gold cardholders on Qantas flights.

As a Sapphire or Emerald member you are welcome to invite one single guest per each departure flight to join you in the lounge.

 

Lounge location and opening hours

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The Qantas London lounge is known at Heathrow Terminal 3 as  ‘Lounge B’. Simply follow the signs for Lounges or Gates 1-11, take a left turn shortly after exiting the central core of the terminal’s duty free shops, cafes and seating. It’s open daily from 8am to 8.30pm.

 

Ambience

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The first thing I notice upon entering the lounge is the striking staircase that ascends up to the gin and cocktails bar. Glimmering so bright it ‘almost’ looked like a staircase to heaven…almost! The lounge is split between two levels with the ground floor housing a dedicated dining area with table service whilst the upstairs space contains the bar and more relaxed seating arrangements alongside a buffet food station.

Both levels offer views of the tarmac but be warned – unless you are near the windows you are unlikely to see much due to the way the lounge is positioned.

On the upper floor there’s six large showers suites with both rain and wand shower heads and Aspar toiletries – the usual Qantas lounge amenities suspects!

Due to the large open layout you’ll find that the noise carries around the lounge and during peak hours can be quite noisy. If you are looking for somewhere more quite to relax or work I would suggest you visit the Cathay or British Airways lounges instead.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Whilst I wasn’t there to enjoy their dedicated table service menu, I did manage to sample some of their buffet options as well as enjoy a sneaky glass of their champagne which is provided to Platinum passengers. The choices on offer had a good focus around British and Australian cuisine. The scones and jam accompanied with my champagne went down a real treat! They were so good that even her Majesty would approve these!

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There’s also espresso machines at both bars for the coffee aficionados while tea fans will find can brew themselves something lovely from the large selection of Dilmah teas on offer.

Being a hybrid business/ first class lounge, some of the food options were a little underwhelming compared to the offerings found in Qantas first lounges.

 

Verdict

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The Qantas London Lounge is quite a flashy, shiny new product. The lovely furnishings and wooden tones that meld well with marble really is a sight to behold when one first walks into the lounge.  It has the vibe of a savvy upmarket London bar as opposed to an airport lounge.

Food and drink wise is a bit hit and miss and that is due to the airline catering for both business and first passengers. Qantas has definitely stepped up the food and drink offering for business class passengers but for those who frequent the Qantas first lounge may find the food on offer a tad disappointing.

The gin and cocktail bar is a fantastic touch and the girls and guys behind the bar know their drinks well. It’s almost a spectacle in itself to watch them behind the bar work their bar tending magic to create to fantastic looking (and tasting) gin and cocktail creations.

The lounge in conclusion is solid offering. I would definitely consider returning (should the Cathay Pacific First Lounge be full next door).

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Qantas London Lounge in Terminal 3 at Heathrow? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

CATHAY PACIFIC FIRST CLASS LOUNGE TERM 3 LONDON HEATHROW: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: London Heathrow Airport Terminal 3

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

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The Pier is highly regarded not only as one of Cathay Pacific’s best lounges but also one of the best on the global stage. It really isn’t hard to see why the moment you step into a Pier lounge from the high spec fittings to the quality of the food and beverage. I was recently in London where I had the opportunity before my international flight to spend an hour in the highly regarded ‘Pier mini’ lounge equivalent. Sure it isn’t on the large grand scale of the Hong Kong version but everything in terms of quality is matched. My question was despite its size, was it big on the wow factor?

Lounge access options

  • first class passengers on any Oneworld airline flying out of T3 (including Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qantas, American Airlines and JAL)
  • travellers holding Oneworld Emerald status in their respective airline frequent flyer scheme (ie. Diamond and Diamond Plus tiers of Cathay Marco Polo Club)

 

Lounge location and opening hours

Cathay Pacific’s London Heathrow T3 lounges sit on the left corner of the terminal.Keep your eyes peeled after clearing security for a ‘Lounge C’ sign. The lounge which is positioned nearby to the British Airways and Qantas lounges is accessible via an elevator. The lounge operating hours are 5:30am–10:30pm daily.

 

Ambience

 

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The ambience of the lounge is striking, warm and engaging. I almost got sensory overload trying to soak in all the grandeur of this lounge. The pocket rocket packs a lot of sophisticated punch with its à la carte menu dining room and gorgeously appointed shower suites which includes Aesop shampoo and body wash (a win for me as an Aesop fan).

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The cosy environment is made possible thanks to its Living Room, which wraps around the lounge to face the tarmac in an L-shape layout. The beautiful wooden tones and greenery creates a sense of tranquillity and harmony – a godsend considering the lounge is situated in one of the busiest airports in the world. The lounge is served well with a lot of natural light from its floor to ceiling windows and for this avgeek, some fantastic runway views.

The only downside if anything is hopping in and out of the lounge to access the bathroom area which is also shared with the Cathay Business Lounge. Fortunately for me I was not here during peak hour but can imagine the traffic issue this bathroom would experiencing during peak times.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Like the Qantas First Lounge and BA Concorde lounge, there’s a restaurant dining space for those who prefer to enjoy a sit down meal in the Dining Room. My timing in the lounge saw me quickly obtain a seat but was also sadly at the mercy of the kitchen who were between meal serves (breakfast and transitioning into lunch). I didn’t want breakfast again so worked with what I could order from the menu. Since it was after midday in this part of the world I ordered a glass of Moet and Chandon.

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I wasn’t feeling too peckish but was inclined to sample some of the menu. I decided on a Shrimp Cocktail starter and a Wonton Noodles in Soup. Both were delicious and took my tastebuds back to my Hong Kong trip last year. Yes they were that pretty darn good; especially when paired with one of the best champagnes from France! It’s a shame I didn’t not get to sample any of their dessert menu due to the transition from breakfast to lunch service but based on what I enjoyed the dining experience was still a solid effort.

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For those wanting something more express and easily accessible there’s a small buffet section within the Living Room as well a a self pour drinks station. For those seeking a tended bar and greater food buffet selection I’d strongly recommend you visiting the Business Lounge next door instead.

 

Verdict

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For a ‘scaled down’ Pier lounge equivalent this lounge really wows. Food and drink is limited in the buffet area but then again the First Class lounge experience here is all about the Dining Room.Only negative about this lounge is that the small space it possesses can be a major issue during peak periods with overcrowding and line ups for both the bathrooms and dining space. The Cathay Pacific First Class lounge is the best option (Qantas isn’t far behind) in terms of the best lounge offering for Oneworld Emerald travellers flying from Terminal 3.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge at Terminal 3 in London? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?