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.

Virgin to launch Newcastle – Auckland flights

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Virgin Australia has had a bit of a rough trot of ate with the New Zealand market after one time ally Air New Zealand decided to bin their partnership and get into bed with rival Qantas. The move left Virgin in shock and probably a little ill prepared in terms of a response. Now Virgin has found a trick up its sleeve by announcing this week it would commence flights from Newcastle to Auckland from November this year.

The new seasonal route which will tap into summer passenger demand will feature a Boeing 737 with eight business class seats, 30 Economy X seats and 138 standard economy seats. The flights will run every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 22 November 2018 to 17 February 2019.

Departing from Newcastle Airport at 7.30pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday is VA199, which will reach Auckland at 12.25am the following day. VA198 will depart Auckland at 5.10pm and arrive into Newcastle at 6.45pm.

The news from Virgin comes on top of the airlines recent announcements that it was launching new routes between Sydney and Wellington and between Melbourne and Queenstown from October this year.

It’ll be interesting to see the demand for these new routes and whether the investment was worth it considering no other airline is flying a direct Newcastle – NZ option. Like all ambitious ideas time will tell if the gamble was a success.

What do you think of Virgin’s lastest routes to NZ? Will you be using the new Newcastle – Auckland route? 

Lufthansa experiments with buy on board meals on long haul flights

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Ah yes, we live in the age of aviation cost cutting. Whilst airlines are happy to trickle down the in-flight experience sadly we don’t see the savings passed on in the ticket price for consumers. It is a shame that aviation has turned this corner, especially on those deemed ‘premium airlines’. British Airways is guilty of this having removed their complimentary drinks and snacks from their internal European flights to a buy on board scheme. The changes have left a sour taste in passengers mouths and subsequently the BA reputation has been tarnished.

Now Lufthansa has decided to join BA in terms of trialling a buy on board scheme for their long haul flights. The scheme will commence May 2018 and offer passengers the ability to purchase one of seven a la carte dishes. The meals must be purchased a minimum 24 hours prior to the flight.

Options on the menu include a bento box, grilled steak, Bavarian snacks, and an Asian dish to name a few. The dishes will be served on porcelain and resemble a dining set up similar to business.

When I first read this I was shocked as I thought the premium airline would being moving to what seemed a budget airline strategy but for now the airline has assured that the purchase offering is an option of top of their complimentary meals for long haul economy and premium economy passengers.

Lufthansa Group partner, Swiss introduced a similar concept a couple of years ago where one could buy on board food in economy on long haul flights but did not come at the expense of their complimentary meals. With dishes prices ranging between 29-49CHF, the offering is quite expensive and something that a lot of passengers would avoid. It is expected that the dishes on Lufthansa will have a similar price point.

My question however is how long before the airline decides to issue one of those media releases stating that they will remove complimentary meals due to the success of their buy on board program. Time will tell. In the interim eat up and enjoy the interim complimentary food service dear Lufthansa economy passengers.

Are you flying Lufthansa economy or premium economy in the future? If so would you fork out extra to have one of these meals?

Qatar puts the downgrade in upgrade

If you have dreamed of upgrading to a better flight experience from that tight economy seat after standing around a crowded terminal to a champagne in the lounge before boarding business – forget it with Qatar!

The Qatar based airline has made a change to their lounge access policy and it hasn’t come without strong criticism from those that fly loyal with the airline. Effective immediately Qatar Airways tickets upgraded with Qmiles/ Qpoints will receive the baggage and lounge access entitlements based on the original ticket purchased, and not the upgraded class. This means that economy to business class upgrades will no longer receive access to the Al Mourjan Lounge in Doha whilst those upgrading business to first class won’t receive access to the Al Safwa Lounge in Doha.

As stated before only Qatar Airways passengers booked on award tickets will still be eligible for lounge access.

The latest tightening on Qatar’s top end is a strange and unwelcome policy by an airline that prides itself on being prestige and class leading. Having flown as a QR business class passenger last year I can see how the lounge has the potential to experience overcrowding and in turn the airline in part is addressing crowding concerns. That said this is the top end we are talking about; the loyal flyers who frequently give Qatar business. Remove the incentives to fly with them and what do you have? A pretty average program.

I think Qatar could find other ways to cut costs or deal with this issue. Restrictions on tickets like this isn’t one of them.

QANTAS ECONOMY CLASS A330 SYD – HONOLULU: REVIEW

Flight: QF3, Sydney – Honolulu (24 January 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Qantas Frequent Flyer (a partner of the Oneworld program)
Frequency: 4 flights weekly
Duration: 10 hours

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Qantas operate a number of A330 aircraft (200 and 300 series). The aircraft predominately operates on flights domestically within Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Honolulu. The A330 operates in a two class configuration. This particular aircraft consists of 28 full flat business class seats and 272 standard economy seats.

 

 

The Seat

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Economy 26A. Upon entering this particularly A330, I was fortunate to experience the new generation Qantas interior which was kitted out with the Boeing 787 seats. The new seat does look the goods with a dropdown shelf built into the back of the seatback to support your own device, meaning you no longer have to hold your phone or tablet, or lie it on the tray table. 

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Despite Qantas claiming the new seat would offer better space (and to a degree it does), when reclined, the seat in front almost touches your knees and as a result makes it impossible to watch the TV screen nor be able to get out of ones chair.

Sleeping wise I really did struggle in this seat. Again with the seat reclined out in front I felt quite claustrophobic, hot and unable to really stretch out comfortably enough to allow my body to rest despite feeling drowsy during the flight.

 

Entertain me

One of the x factors about the new seat is its new entertainment screen. Much larger than previous Qantas economy seat variants including the current A380, the display is better for the eyes when viewing entertainment in the dark. The selection of movies, tv shows and audio onboard is extensive and good. I found myself struggling to view everything I wanted to watch during the flight.

Sadly there was no wifi on board. Power ports and USB charging ports were available at each seat to charge your devices.

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Qantas is one who doesn’t do food and wine in halves, even in economy. I have always found the Qantas economy dining product to be very strong in this area. Soon after take off flight attendants came around and offered passengers a refreshing Bickford’s lemon, lime and bitters drink.

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An hour into the flight and dinner service was served. There were three choices for main including a vegetable lasagna and a southern style chicken with polenta. I went with the chicken option and the dish was flavoursome and delicious. However the chocolate pudding for dessert was a tad too sweet for my liking. I couldn’t even finish it despite its small size.

The service during dinner was odd at best with attendants impersonal, rushed and rather rude. When I went to order my dinner the flight attendant did not look at me once even when he went to hand me my dinner. I found that rather rude, no matter how swept off his feet he may have been.

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Before landing Qantas served a light breakfast. There were two choice on offer – a fresh fruit platter and a hot dish of a feta and spinach omelette with pork and apple sausage, bacon and braised beans. I went with the hot option and was not disappointed. It was the ideal meal to hit the spot before our decent into Honolulu.

 

Verdict

Qantas’ flight to Honolulu in economy was adequate but could have been better in terms of the service and comfort. The flight went like a blink of an eye (which is great when one is flying cattle class) but long enough that a bit of sleep would have been great. Sadly this was not the case with the seat generally uncomfortable, especially when the passenger in front is fully reclined.

Food, drink and entertainment earned top marks but again lacked the selection of its 747 and A380 counterparts (ie. no snack bar). I found myself struggling to get an snack other than rice crackers throughout the flight when I was peckish between meals. Again not great.

Overall the flight experience was decent but there was a lot of room for improvement.

 

Comment

Have you flown on the newly converted A330? I would love to hear if your experience was similar or better/ worse.

Qantas Melbourne – San Francisco B787 flights officially on sale

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Launching: September 1 2018

Aircraft type: Boeing 787

Frequency:  Four times daily

Late last year Qantas revealed as an early Christmas gift for Melbournian and San Fran flyers that it would launch its Melbourne – San Fran Francisco flights from September 1 2018. When the 14 hour flight is launched it will be the only non-stop flight to San Francisco from Melbourne; a huge incentive for tech head silicon valley business types.

From Melbourne QF49 will depart 9:40pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, arriving into San Francisco at 7pm.

QF50 from San Francisco will depart 10pm on those same days and arrive in Melbourne at 6:30am two days later. Whilst at this stage it isn’t flying daily the fact that it has a tight turn around time means Qantas is fully utilising its aircraft without it sitting on the ground all day.

Under the Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner configuration there are 42 business class suites, in a 1-2-1 layout and a premium economy cabin of 28 seats in a 2-3-2 layout. In addition there are 166 economy seats.

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As a result of this new Qantas offering for Melbourne flyers, flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles will be reduced from 13 weekly to 9 weekly. Qantas will maintain the daily A380 flight but cull the 787 flight from 6 weekly to 2 weekly.

Reward me (reward flights)

Right now award availability across all classes for these flights is quite strong with a number of options across numerous flights in business, premium and economy classes. Usually Qantas is quite difficult in obtaining/ linking reward flights as I have found in the past with many of my trips so to find this is quite a nice surprise.

A reward flight one way on business class will set you back 96,000 Qantas Points, 72,000 Qantas Points for premium economy and 45,000 Qantas Points on economy. In addition you will need to pay the obligatory airport taxes on top of this.

Considering the quality of the product and destination being made available there has never been a better time to book a reward flight to the USA.

 

Qantas Domestic Economy B737: Review

Flight: QF493, Sydney-Melbourne
Loyalty Scheme: Qantas Frequent Flyer program (a partner of the Oneworld program)
Frequency: Multiple flights daily
Duration:  1 hour and 10 minutes

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Qantas has long been the leading standard in Australian domestic aviation. However their fleet can very and depending on what type of plane you fly on, the experience can vary substantially. I have often found their A330 product their best domestically but more often or not it is the B737 workhorse that I end up landing in.

The flight for me was severely delayed with the flight taking off an hour and 15 minutes later. Qantas has a shocking record of on time departures and my flight was sadly no exception. The poorly communicated delay left me bitter upon entering the flight but I did not want that getting in the way of reviewing the airline fairly on this flight.

Seating

Economy Class, 4C. Being in the first row (aka bulkhead) of the economy class I had a bit more wriggle room than my fellow passengers seated behind me. The seat had poor pitch but for a one hour flight it did the job. That said I couldn’t imagine flying this very aircraft to Bali like Qantas does for 7 hours where it would seem too small and overbearing for such a long flight.

Entertain Me

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The flight offered seatback entertainment which I find is far superior than its wifi entertainment option. I watched half of the movie Victoria and Abdul (yes I break up my flick watching with the ambition of watching the other half on my return flight). At times the entertainment jumped around which was a tad frustrating but generally the product was quality viewing.

The Bread and Butter (Food and drink)

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Qantas a year ago adopted a tray less food service where meals were packaged and able to be easily disposed of once the passenger had finished their meal. The dinner service offered two options: a creamy pesto pasta or a chicken coleslaw salad. I went with the salad option. The chicken was tender and rather delicious with the coleslaw drizzled in a zesty and tasty Asian style sauce.

Drink selection throughout the flight offered some simple but satisfactory alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. I went for the sparkling Redbank option which was a tad less sparkling and more flat in flavour.

The only downside on this flight was the rushed service. Normally this flight usually does well in terms of attentiveness but the attendants seemed rather in a hurry to dish out the meals and drinks without any real care or effort. Additionally the traditional mini dessert of a Lindt chocolate ball was not offered like it had been on other Qantas flights during the dinner service.

Extras

The complimentary alcoholic beverages in the main cabin after 4pm weekdays is a nice touch after a long day in the office.

Verdict

The Qantas domestic economy product is definitely head and shoulders above its rivals, especially when executed well. That said I have experienced at times quite warm and exceptional hospitality from its budget counterpart Jetstar to the point that they even load free gourmet goodies onto me without any additional charge. Qantas going that extra mile in terms of the service is something that lacks here; especially when the airline is deemed Australia’s premium full service airline.

The seat for economy is generous and comfortable for the flight and the meal service is satisfactory and filling. Qantas shines with its drinks service with staff usually more than happy to offer an additional beverage top up on their City Flyer flights.

Now if only I could one Qantas flight that was on time, I would rate them a lot more glowingly.

Comments
Have you experienced the so called Qantas services or were left a bit bitter like me all flight thinking about how late the Qantas plane would be landing into the destination? Keen to hear your thoughts.