Farewell the Qantas B747 on domestic routes in Australia

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For 50 years the Queen of the Skies aka the B747 has been a staple of Qantas’ international operations. Admittedly I’ve had some fond memories flying her to the USA, the UK and even Germany (when QF used to run their Frankfurt leg). Sadly however as time goes on, so do improvements in technology and great dames like the B747 become in the aviation world (certainly not in the passengers hearts) redundant. Qantas recently has acquired several B787s which are more fuel efficient and as such means the B747 is being retired by the company in late 2020.

Now for the not so sad new folks – all I can say is forget the passport! To recognise how crucial the B747 has been to Qantas (and the aviation sector in general), the airline has announced it will operate the jumbo on select domestic services across four Australian cities. The domestic B747 services will run between November and February 2020.

Below for the list of 747 domestic routes:

  • SYD-BNE  QF524  9 Nov 2019
  • SYD-ADL  QF743  23 Nov 2019
  • SYD-MEL  QF417  31 Dec 2019, QF439 15 Feb 2020
  • BNE-SYD  QF529  11 Nov 2019
  • ADL-SYD  QF736  25 Nov 2019
  • MEL-SYD  QF438  1 Jan 2020, QF400 17 Feb 2020

As an aviation geek, whilst I’m saddened by the B747s retirement, I’m also heartened by the fact that Qantas is giving the general Australian community (and internationals should they be in town), the opportunity to fly the Queen for a reasonable price without having to fork out large sums for an international leg.

Will you be booking in a domestic service on the Qantas B747? Get in touch. I’m keen to hear your thoughts. 

EMIRATES B777 FIRST CLASS SYD – BKK: REVIEW

Flight: EK418, SYD – BKK

Loyalty Scheme: Emirates Skywards (partner with Qantas)

Frequency: Daily (sadly axed now)

Duration: 9 hours and 30 minutes

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The lustre of first class never fails to excite me. Airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Korea, Lufthansa and Cathay are renown for their superior F product. Recently Emirates launched their new first class suite but sadly the roll out of that product has been slow. Normally I fly J, especially in reward bookings but my connection between Sydney and Bangkok was a struggle with only F showing up in my searches. Surprisingly the amount of points required for the current F on Emirates was quite reasonable and the idea of flying their highly regarded first suite sipping unlimited Dom Perignon was quite the lure, so naturally I booked. Does Emirates first (even if it isn’t the newly launched suite) stack up? Is the experience truly first class? TAT hopped onboard to find out…

The Seat

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The first thing I noticed upon entering the first cabin was amount of space. The lack of overhead lockers provides more ceiling height. The storage space is instead cleverly crafted around the seat itself with ample space around the foot area and as well as a larger storage compartment on the side against the window. Unlike the business class layout on the B777, first class has a much more passenger accessibility friendly 1-2-1 configuration.

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As soon as I’m seated down a flight attendant (FA) is there on hand to offer me a glass of champagne which I happily apologise even if it Moet and not the Dom Perignon (they don’t serve the grand dame until after take off). Aside from the bevy of storage compartments on hand, there’s a nifty little mini bar for those who don’t want to disturb the FA mid flight. Personally whilst a nice to have, with the drink list on offer, I’m more inclined to have an FA make up a drink for me.

Now for those wanting to look a little ‘Hollywood glam’ after their flight, Emirates has you covered with its flashy ‘open and closed’ lit up makeup mirror. Inside the mirror case is a personal spa kit consisting of various Byredo branded creams, mists and oils. Sure this doesn’t make up for the lack of onboard shower that makes the A380 a much more enticing option, but it will ensure you don’t leave the flight looking like you’ve been rolling around in the hay.

Now flashy distractions aside, let’s talk about the seat. The rather well padded, leather seat has a width of 29 inches and possesses some fabulous setting to recline or lie flat to, especially with the massage option on. Speaking of the lie flat mode, the seat transforms into a 201cm (79-inch) fully-flat bed, which the Emirates crew will happily make up with a mattress, duvet and pillow (whilst leaving slippers, eye shade and pyjamas on top for a nice touch).

All in all quite impressive and makes for quite a nice way to recline into for a short or long journey.

Entertain me

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The first class suite comes with an impressive 32 inch touch screen TV, which provides access to a variety of movies, TV shows, games, music, and the aircraft’s external cameras. I found the clarity and sound great with my entertainment system although as per usual the IFE in general lacked a large choice of entertainment options (something that Emirates has continuous performed poorly in for years).

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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I love my food and for me especially in premium, this can make or break an experience. In my time I’ve had some really poor premium fare and thankfully today, Emirates was all class. I guess you could say it all started in the form of an arabic coffee and date sampling upon boarding, which for me always puts me in a happy mood. It’s a great pairing. On the ground Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial NV is poured but once in the sky the Dom Pérignon 2009 was waiting to be popped and I was onto it like Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous (minus the embarrassing side antics). I think I enjoyed at least a bottle of the prestigious NV.

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What sets the first class dining experience apart is naturally the canapes and appertisers. On offer was caviar and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to enjoy it with the iconic french bubbly. The caviar was well presented and was an absolute treat. The only downside is that there simply wasn’t enough on the dish to enjoy! A true first world problem!

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Settling into the rest of the menu I went to my go to arabic mezze (which didn’t let me down) and for main enjoyed a succulent and well cooked lamp chops dish that was seasoned with lavender chimichurri. Upon finishing that dish I was on the verge of full but I couldn’t complete my meal without at least savouring a desert. I decided on something (somewhat light) with the apricot frangipane tart). Coupled with the vanilla bean and raspberries, I found myself in desert heaven without my stomach feeling like it was in food hell.

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Throughout the meal service and whenever I requested a snack, the FAs were more than friendly and welcoming to my requests. They were highly attentive and were more than obliging to happily posing with a bottle of the Dom Perginon for this review story. If anything I found that my biggest regret from the meal service was that I didn’t have enough room in my stomach to sample more of the dishes on offer. The dining was truly first class!

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Verdict

The flight overall was simply heaven. Words cannot describe the feeling of being in that seat. It was first class without the attitude. FAs were a standout the entire flight and were attentive to most of the needs. The food and drink options were standouts.  Whilst I stuck to the Dom Perginon and water that flight, there was an excellent selection of wine, beer and cocktails on the menu. The food served onboard not only matched but exceeded my expectations. The quality was quite exceptional and delicious! If given the opportunity I will definitely get onboard again with this great Emirates F product.

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Comments

Have you experienced flying first class on Emirates? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

 

 

 

 

 

A321XLR to join Qantas fleet

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Qantas Group has inked a deal with France’s Airbus for an order of up to 36 of the new A321XLR jets, which are due for delivery from 2024. The deal also sees the conversion of 26 existing A320neo Family orders, plus a new firm order for 10 A321XLRs. The order comes on the back of American Airlines announcing that an order of 50 A321XLR aircraft (including the conversion of 30 of the 100 A321neos that they have on order). For Airbus this is a big news day!

The new fuel efficient aircraft will give Qantas Group new flexibility that it currently doesn’t have to be able to fly routes that current narrow body aircraft cannot such as Cairns to Tokyo. Whilst it is widely speculated that the order would see the majority of the aircraft go to Jetstar so that the airline would release its B787 fleet to Qantas, there is also strong potential for some of the aircraft to be paint with the red roo.

It’ll be interesting to see how the order is divided up. Qantas has a habit of purchasing conservatively (and rightly so in a market that changes continuously), so it wouldn’t surprise me if they snap up in the end around half of the agreed order. From that the likely destinations that the A321XLR would feature on for the red roo would be a trans-Atlantic route or the popular East-West Australia routes. 2024 is a long way from now (especially in aviation years), so naturally time will tell what happens next.

 

DAN LOUNGE BEN GURION (ISRAEL) REVIEW

Alliance: N/A

Location: Ben Gurion International Terminal 3, after Passport Control follow signs to Concourse C.

Lounge Rating: 2.5 Stars 

 

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Enter a quick search online and you’ll be quick to find stories floating about the Dan Lounge in Israel and the poor hospitality it offers. To have such a reputation, especially outside of Israel for the wrong reasons is quite concerning. Naturally due to my frequent flyer membership, lounge access to the Dan Lounge was offered and being curious, TAT simply had to try some of the best and worst there was to offer in terms of aviation experience. So how did Dan Lounge fare? Was it as horrifying as some bloggers have made out or was it more a storm in a tea cup?

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Higher tier members of frequent flyer programs/ alliances
    • Priority Pass
    • Paid entry

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located in Terminal 3. After clearing Passport Control follow the signs to Concourse C. The lounge is open 24 hours.

Ambience

 

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One thing you notice upon entering the lounge is how small the space is. Considering the lounge is accessible to pretty much anyone from frequent flyers on alliance airline programs to paid entries, this lounge can easily get quite full and in the case of my flight that morning it did. I initially struggled to find a seat and had to stand around ten minutes before some people cleared for a flight that was called.

In the lounge there’s a handful of toilets, a small buffet area and mostly seating. Those looking for a shower mid transit or prior to a flight will have to look elsewhere as I couldn’t find any in this lounge.

 

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

As mentioned prior there are no shower facilities and limited toilets. I found whenever I went to the bathroom there was a line for the toilet (no good). Bathrooms were generally clean but nothing outstanding in my opinion.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

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The food and drink section here was very underwhelming. The buffet area was tiny and only offered a handful of food options from salads (sorry mostly salads), some pastries and eggs. On the drinks side of things, there was sadly nothing alcoholic that could help you erase the memories of spending time in this lounge. Instead fridges were stocked with soft drink, juice and water. Also on hand was a couple of coffee machines that looked like they had seen better days. I noticed a couple of patrons struggled to get boiling water to pour from these machines and the coffee from them didn’t look too enticing either.

If there was a redeeming feature about the food/ drinks section it was the large glass bottles of sparkling Perrier water on offer. Simply take the bottle to your table and enjoy. For me this was certainly not a bad way to hydrate oneself prior to boarding.

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The area could be dramatically improved with a wider range of options and more space but again this is something that would require a total lounge redesign/ revamp.

Verdict

Dan Lounge sounds appealing on paper as a 24 hour lounge, giving those in transit an option to relax instead of sitting around the rather unfriendly Ben Gurion Airport for hours on end. However the food and drink options were disappointingly slim and lack of seating and time spent waiting around for seating to free up was terrible, especially after getting up for an early flight. In general the lack of space and poor seating design makes this lounge fall flat in terms of an enjoyable experience.

If you’re not a Priority Pass or top tier airline alliance program member I’d avoid this lounge as I wouldn’t pay entry for this lounge, instead looking at a the range of food outlets within the airport for a drink/ snack. Overall the lounge isn’t as horrifying as some of the stories online but it certainly doesn’t shake some of the key negative aspects that have been echoed on these forums either. A very average experience not worth arriving at the airport earlier for.

Comments

Have you experienced the Dan Lounge in Ben Gurion Israel? If so how was your experience in the lounge? Love to hear your thoughts and what you think has been your best lounge experience to date.

 

Qantas offers first plane bookable with points only

One of the biggest complaints for many frequent flyers is the inability to redeem their points/ miles for reward seats on airlines. The frustation of lack of availabilty means in turn frequent flyers are having points simply sit in their accounts. Qantas has been pushing the envelope of late when it comes to passenger experience. When they made an announcement on their next venture, it came at no surprise it’d be equally compelling.

The Australian airline has announced they’ll offer a series of dedicated frequent flyer redemption flights across their network with seats only available to those redeeming Qantas points. The innovatively titled Points Plane initiative will see the first plane to be bookable only on points depart 21 October 2019 from Melbourne to Tokyo Narita.

Using my personal favourite Qantas aircraft the A380, Qantas Frequent Flyer members will have the chance to book all 484 seats on this flight (14 first class, 64 business class, 35 premium economy, and 371 economy seats) at the ‘classic’ award level.

Redemption costs for the flight are:

  • Economy seat – 35000 Qantas points
  • Premium economy seat – 54000 Qantas points
  • Business class seat – 72000 Qantas points
  • First class seat – 108000 points

The seats are available on a first come first served basis. Those fortunate to be successful in booking a flight on the Points Plane can expect to be treated to a special inflight service that includes a cocktail and meal service, pajamas for all passengers (not just those in the front end or in the A380s case the top end) and inflight giveaways.

A return leg is also on offer for 26 October 26 2019 but those hoping for an A380 experience again will be disappointed to find the aircraft is an A330. Qantas believes those returning may stay beyond the initial date as part of their trip and so the aircraft does not require the same patronage.

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What do you think of the Qantas announcement? Would you be keen to book a trip on the Points Plane? I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

QANTAS SYD- SAN FRAN LEG TO GET B787

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Like many of you I’m a fan of the B747 but unfortunately her days are numbered with several of airlines. The Queen of the skies is heading for retirement with Qantas by the end of 2020. Some routes will see her depart sooner in the interim with Qantas announcing that she will be replaced by their Dreamliner B787 on its Sydney – San Francisco route. The B787 will move take off daily from 4 December 2019.

Whilst it’s sad to see the Queen disappear from this route there’s no denying the level of technological (as well as comfort) improvements that’ll be given to passengers flying on the B787. Gone will be the 2-2-2 business class seating arrangement, replaced instead by Qantas superb business suite in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Like anything there’s a downside and it’s Qantas’ new premium economy cabin. The leg room and space feels worse than its economy section yet you’re paying more for the pleasure of feeling squashed. Personally I would rather fly economy over that seat or upgrade to business (yes the design flaw is really that bad).

Mixed feelings of sorts on the new Qantas dreamliner route but at the end of the day, it is an upgrade!

 

 

CATHAY PACIFIC THE PIER FIRST CLASS LOUNGE HONG KONG: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1, Level 6, near Gate 63

Lounge Rating: 5 Stars (I would go beyond 5/5 if I could!)

 

 

You would’ve come across those top 10 First Class Lounge lists or best lounges in the world articles where some typical points hack would have written up online for you to salivate over. They become the desirable among the frequent flying elite and are in themselves a must go to destination.  For me one of those lounges is the Qantas Sydney First Class International Lounge. It’s exquisite and worth arriving early for.

For a while now I had heard great things about an equally (if not more) impressive lounge, The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong Airport. So impressive is its offering that I was more looking forward to visiting the lounge versus revisiting Hong Kong again. So how did The Pier stack up? Was the lounge worthy of the hype. I simply had to check in and find out…

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Cathay Pacific/ Dragonair first class passengers
    • First class flyers Oneworld airline travelling passengers including British Airways and Qatar
    • Marco Polo Club Diamond, Diamond Plus and Diamond Invitation frequent flyers
    • Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers such as Qantas Platinum prior to flights with Cathay Pacific Qantas, etc

Lounge location and opening hours

The Pier is located at Level 6, Terminal 1, near Gate 63 and is open from from 5.30am, closed at 00.30am daily.

Ambience

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One of the first things you notice when you step into The Pier is the sheer size yet privacy of the place. This isn’t your normal lounge fit out. It truly is a space to relax, enjoy a meal or be productive without the distraction of the overall airport. The separation of the different, beautiful colour scheme and greenery add to the sense of luxury. This feels more like a 5 star hotel than lounge; again a testament to the work that Cathay has put into making the lounge the experience that it is today.

For those wishing to be productive, there’s a great office space called’ The Bureau’ which offers business travellers desks with computers and space for laptops as well as multiple  AC and USB power ports for those who need to be fully charged and tapped into all devices.

On the flip side for those wishing to be as unproductive as possible there’s a Library with some reading materials as well as eight Day Suites which include a single bed for those wanting to get some forty winks. Yes this lounge really has something for everyone!

 

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

Having had a rather long day lining up and walking in the heat around Honkers, I made a b line to the bathroom to have a shower before my lounge meal and flight. Unlike other lounges I was able to get a shower instantly. The 14 shower suites are adorned with gorgeous brass fittings and my favourite, Aesop amenities. Let’s say that after my shower I was feeling more than refreshed but rejuvenated.

I applied for a spa treatment but sadly the appointments were booked out right until 11pm that night, well after my flight had taken to the skies (so sadly could not review that aspect of the lounge).

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

One of my favourite aspects about the First Class Lounges like Qantas and now Cathay is their dining room space. Yes there is a buffet area option for those who do enjoy the ability to self serve and are time poor but for me, these spaces provide a chance to indulge in some truly great cuisine. The Pier did not disappoint with the lounge offer a restaurant space and bar at the back of the lounge. Simply pull up a chair and experience restaurant quality service. On the menu was a staggering amount of food and wine options, including three champagne choices. Due to the Easter period there was an additional Easter themed menu which in the end tempted me and found me mixing it up between some renown dishes and some more holiday spirit cuisine.

 

For the starter I choose the Easter a la coque egg and smoked salmon with fennel salad. Both were equally delicious and beautiful presented. Moving onto the mains I had the succulent mussel marinere with white wine and julienne fries. If I had an criticism here is that the dish was rather small and in turn I found myself order more, which lead me onto my second main the roasted leg of lamb. Again both were tasty, well cooked and looked divine.

To finish I couldn’t go past the Easter themed chocolate dessert which was a rich chocolate mousse Easter egg with orange marmalade….simply delicious! I complimented my dishes naturally with a mix between the vintage Thienot 2008 Brut and the Perrier Jouet NV (which is also served in the Qantas First Class lounge).

Throughout the dining experience the lovely waitress who served me was accommodating, friendly and very conversational. She was great in terms of offering insight into drink and food choices, even getting me onto the Cathay cocktail speciality Blue Dream which was quite a treat!  I did not have to wait long nor struggle to get the attention of wait staff. This really was the perfect lounge dining experience. I could not fault it.

Verdict

The Pier is one of those experiences where you don’t feel you are in a lounge. The atmosphere here is warm and inviting and never feels for a moment crowded. Normally you have to do a hot shoe shuffle to scramble for a seat in another lounge but not here at The Pier. The breakout spaces and use of lighting and fixtures is truly genius. For me it has become one of my favourite lounges in the world after one visit – yes it was THAT good! I will be back for sure and am willing to look at flight options that detour as a stopover in Hong Kong just to make it happen!

Comments

Have you experienced The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong? Did you find the space as inviting and beautiful as my experience or was your time not as enjoyable? Love to hear your thoughts and what you think has been your best lounge experience to date.