QATAR LAUNCHES NEW ECONOMY SEAT

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Qatar Airways for a while had teased the world with its plans to introduce a new economy class seat and having seen their revolutionary business class product, I was hopeful they would also be revolutionary in the economy product.

Qatar have a habit of overhyping their launches (ie. their latest video/ film) and sometimes fails to deliver on the hype. This week the airline did it again with their new economy seat and whilst it’s a dramatic improvement to their current seat, it’s more enhancement than revolution.

There’s some great specification in it with the new seat featuring;

  • 13.3 inch 4K widescreens
  • Enhanced connectivity and faster wifi
  • Enhanced legroom
  • Adjustable, lightweight headrest
  • Semi-fixed back shell design with a 19 degree recline system
  • Pre-reclined position of six degrees for takeoff and landing
  • Dual multi-function tables for maximum adaptability and table space
  • USB Type C with high power fast charging capabilities

The biggest takeaway is obviously the widescreen TV and an innovative 19-degree recline system, meaning the seat will not recline by re-positioning the back of the seat and in turn impacting the space of the person behind you. Again these will improve the comfort of the passenger but overall not make a major difference to their journey.

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One thing that has impressed me however is nothing to do with the seat but the new ‘QCuisine’ for economy passengers which will feature new menu items and greater choices, including larger main courses and desserts. Perfect for the one like myself who is always left peckish from the small airline servings on the plane.

The seat which will debut on the A321neo this year will eventually be installed on their rest of its fleet

Innovation or simple enhancement? Keen to hear your thoughts on the new Qatar economy seat.

 

EMIRATES EK412 SYD – CHRISTCHURCH: ECONOMY REVIEW

Flight: EK412, Sydney-Christchurch

Loyalty Scheme: Skywards

Frequency: Once daily

Duration: 3 hr and 10 mins

 

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Recently Emirates has been making a lot of changes to its operations and networks, majority of them in my opinion bad decisions from the downgrading of aircraft to the recent cutting of their fifth freedom route SYD-BKK. Despite this one of their most popular fifth freedom routes is their SYD-CHC. Like many I go out of my way to fly the airline compared to its rivals because a) their service is class leading on that route and b) it is serviced by an A380. If you fly with AirNZ or Qantas you’d be lumped with an A320 or B737 at best. My love affair with this Emirates route aside, how did the airline fare the second time around for me on this route nine months on? I boarded Emirates (tough task) once again to find out.

Seat

 

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One of things that instantly catches my eye is the amount of leg room as well as the seat pitch. I feel an instant sense of space (yes even in economy). Perhaps I’m used to airlines cramming as many seats as possible onto the plane that space is something that’s expected to be compromised when travelling economy. Economy seats on the Emirates A380 have 32″ of pitch and are 19″ wide from armrest to armrest.

Entertain me

 

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All economy seats (bar front row) features a 13″ in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen in the seat back. There is a large selection of films and music to offer. The choice was so large in fact that I struggled for a while deciding on what I should watch or listen to first. Kudos to Emirates on this as a lot of airlines I have been on lately have had such a poor selection that I simply choose to sleep instead.

Wi-Fi service is also offered on its A380 aircraft with all passengers given free 20MB to use for up to two hours of the flight. If you burn through that you can also choose to purchase on of the two paid options to continue browsing.

Wine and dine me (the food)

 

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Prior to taking off the flight attendants came through the cabin with a menu. On AirNZ or Qantas on the same leg you would not even be serviced with such a menu nor given such a selection. Being a morning flight naturally a breakfast service was offered. There were two main options on offer. I went with the scrambled eggs western breakfast. The eggs and accompanying sides were quite delicious and far from dry which can occur regularly with airline food. The fruit plate was fresh and complimented the yoghurt. It might not be business but the food offering was a hell of a lot better than the comparative Qantas offering when I flew them AKL – SYD. Coffee and tea as well as basic drinks/ spirits were also on offer if you were happy to have a drink at 9am in the morning.

Summary

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Economy isn’t the easiest class to fly but when an airline does make the experience a lot more bearable it should be commended. That’s why I choose to fly Emirates on this route every time because it blows the competition out of the water. The seat and food is decent as well as the service for such a large aircraft. A winner all round. I will be flying with them again next time I fly this route!

 

Service: 4.5 Stars

Seating: 5 stars

Food: 4.5 Stars

 

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.