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.
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.
Flight: EK412, Sydney-Christchurch
Loyalty Scheme: Skywards
Frequency: Once daily
Duration: 3 hr and 10 mins
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.
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.
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)
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.
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 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.
Flight: AA1771, Dallas – Las Vegas
Loyalty Scheme: AAdvantage (Oneworld alliance)
Frequency: Multiple flights daily
Duration: 2 hr and 55 mins
American Airlines has usually been my first choice when it comes to flying hopping airport to airport within the USA. The staff are generally efficient (and mostly friendly) and the offerings of food and drink whilst simple are generally more generous than its competition. American Airlines recently introduced complimentary enhancements to their Main Cabin Plus passengers including free alcohol priority boarding and storage. I was keen to give their newly enhanced product a try to see if it was truly ‘enhanced’.
The aircraft has two cabins (16 first and 165 main cabin seats). There are 18 main cabin plus seats on this aircraft. The interior was fresh and relatively new with IFE seatback entertainment and smart leather seats. Leg room and seat pitch is more ample with 34 inches in main cabin plus as opposed to 31 inches in the main cabin. The only negative was that the bottom cushion of the seats was relatively thin and when I got up to leave the aircraft I felt rather sore. The seats despite looking the goods in terms of design do not feel comfortable after a certain period of time.
American offers free entertainment via seatback or through your own personal device. On the A321 seatback was on offer. The entertainment selection of movies and tv series was strong.
Wine and dine me (the food)
Whilst snacks and non alcoholic drinks are complimentary in the main cabin, the difference with main cabin plus is the introduction of free alcoholic beverages. On my flight was a selection of spirits, wines and beers. I went with a bottle of the Les Papillons Grenache Rose from France which was quite smooth and light. A great choice with the sadly small bag of mini pretzels that was handed out as a ‘snack’.
American Airlines do offer more substantial sized meals for those feeling peckish but it will cost you. Even after the drinks service has come through the cabin the attendants on board seemed more than happy to offer additional drinks to passengers upon request.
The flight was relatively smooth and despite being delayed an hour, the aircraft did their best to try and make up for lost time. IFE entertainment was good quality as were the selection of drinks for main cabin plus passengers. The pitch despite being 3 inches more than main cabin wasn’t really noticeable and the seats after a certain period of time were a tad uncomfortable. Other than that the flight experience was generally good and one I would fly again on in the future. The big question is would I pay extra for the main cabin plus cabin? To be frank not really. However if you are an Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire member where the seat is complimentary to you, I’d definitely take advantage of selecting this seat as soon as you book your flight as it’s a nice little extra incentive to enjoy on your flight!
Service: 4 Stars
Seating: 3 stars
Food: 3.5 Stars
Whilst I’m sad of its withdrawal from most international routes, I’m eager (and gunning) to get onboard with a B747 domestically in Australia. Yes you read right….Qantas will fly the queen of the skies, the Boeing 747 between Sydney and Perth from late July.
The B747 will get a shot at domestic duties before its retirement from the Qantas fleet in 2020. For some like me this is like a John Farnham final tour (but Qantas doesn’t plan on making another surprise tour down the track – retirement sadly means retirement).
Don’t expect to see the Boeing 747 doing the east-west leg daily. It’s rumoured QF581, QF582, QF583 and QF568 will be the flights to get the B747 treatment from August 9.
Whilst Business Class passengers will be slightly disadvantaged by the lie-flat Skybed II 2-3-2 arrangement, top tier frequent flyers booked in economy class will be the real winners here with the change with the ability to pre-select seats in the B747 premium economy cabin based on status.
It’ll be interesting to see where the B747 ends up before retirement. Despite being one of the critics against the retirement, I admit this is one move recently by Qantas around the B747 that I do support.
Emirates President Tim Clark has announced the airline will launch a premium economy class on its aircraft from 2020. Premium economy will be on the 20 new Airbus A380s the airline ordered in January this year as well as its B777 aircraft. There are also plans to retrofit some of its existing fleet with the new seat.
An exciting (but yet to be confirmed) feature is that the new seats will offer 38 inches of pitch and transform to a deep recline to become a railway-style ‘sleeperette’ as opposed to the traditional angled recliner. In addition it’s rumoured that the new premium economy seats will feature 56 seats in the front of the bottom deck of the A380 and 26-28 in the B777.
Premium economy has for many travellers become the sweet spot between economy class and business class. The announcement means that Emirates will be the first middle eastern airline to introduce that type of class seat, in turn placing competitive pressure on rivals Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways to develop something similar.
Other airlines that already offer a premium economy product include Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas Airways and British Airways.
In my opinion I feel the news from Emirates this week is positive but I’m curious as to what will be compromised in the process. Will there be a reduction of business class seats and therefore business seating reward redemption or will they look at culling some economy seats (the bread and butter on seats)? In addition it all comes down to price. If the price is relatively expensive and the difference is not much more to jump into business class, why on earth would people want to pay a premium to lay in what is essentially a economy hammock?
Time will tell I guess. I will keep you guys posted when I hear of new developments regarding the Emirates premium class offering.
What do you think of the news of Emirates offering premium economy? Would you be inclined to purchase one? Keen to hear your thoughts.