Qantas First Class Lounge Los Angeles: Review

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Alliance: Oneworld

Location: LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal

Lounge Rating: 4 Stars

Qantas possesses some of the best lounges in the world, namely their first class international lounges in Melbourne and Sydney. Outside of Australia the Qantas first class lounge experience is unfortunately scarce. A couple of years ago Qantas opened up a new first class lounge in LAX. Reviews, particularly from American media were highly favourable. I was recently in Los Angeles and was keen to see if the great ‘Australian lounge experience’ was indeed alive and well in the States but more importantly do they do Neil Perry’s salt and pepper squid the justice it deserves? I checked into the LAX Qantas First Lounge to find out.

Lounge access options

  • Qantas first class passengers, plus first class flyers of Oneworld partners British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines from Los Angeles
  • Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge frequent flyers travelling on a Qantas or Oneworld flight, including Qantas codeshare flights
  • Connecting passengers arriving on long-haul first class Oneworld flights
  • American Airlines’ first class passengers
  • Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers
  • American Airlines Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey members
  • Single-use Qantas first class lounge pass holders
  • Air France first class passengers

Lounge location and opening hours

After clearing security at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, proceed over the indoor ‘bridge’, turn left, and then take the lift up to level five, where you’ll arrive in front of the roo branded lounge entrance.

 

Ambience

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Initial impressions of the lounge is that it has a relaxed and unpretentious ambience. It doesn’t feel cluttered or people busy as first lounges in Australia. The rectangular shaped lounge space offers two main seating areas each furnished with quite comfortable large armchairs and a self serve wine and coffee area. Towards the back of the lounge is the dining room which is complete with a sit around bar that’s looked after by a bartender.

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Next door to the dining area are shower and toilet facilities that are equipped with Aspar wash products. I decided to take a shower prior to dining a la carte but found there was a line up for the shower spaces. Unlike the Emirates Dubai lounge I found the turn around of showers was quite speedy which is handy for anyone in a rush.

A big criticism is sadly the lack of natural lighting in the lounge with no tarmac views. As a result the lounge feels a tad dark but nowhere near as oppressive as the Qantas International Melbourne Business Lounge.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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One thing that I always love and look forward to at a Qantas First Lounge is the cuisine. The airline’s partnership with Rockpool culinary king Neil Perry is one of the longest chef airline collaborations in aviation history. The dining area is an a la carte space where passengers are treated to restaurant service and quality. Being a late flight out of LAX the service was dinner focused.

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I started with the lounge’s signature salt and pepper squid dish which has become my go to starter. It was satisfying but not as good as the one I enjoyed in the Sydney first lounge two weeks prior. Moving onto mains I went with the grilled bass with corn puree. It was a lot more enticing than my entree and went down well with my champagne. I rounded out my meal with the sticky date pudding which was surprisingly lighter than I thought but packed a punch in terms of flavour.

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Unlike the first lounges in Sydney and Melbourne there was a lack of champagne choices which was quite disappointing. Fortunately I quite enjoy a drop of Pommery and managed to savour two glasses before my flight was called.

I do give the lounge big props in terms of turning around dishes after they’ve been ordered. The lounge was busy yet unlike the Australian counterparts, they managed to quickly bring dish to table without taking half an hour. I find that I often have to arrive earlier than I would like to at Australian lounges just so I don’t feel rushed when it comes to dining in the dining area before a flight. The LAX kitchen is like a machine and was a bevy of activity the entire time I was there. Despite the swift service, the staff were still as attentive and courteous as their Australian colleagues.

 

Verdict

The lounge is definitely one of the best in America and sets a new standard hopefully for Americans to follow. Qantas should be proud of its first product. It’s slick, well serviced and flies that Australian flag well in terms of cuisine. Sure there are a few little niggles here and there, particularly the lack of natural light but overall there’s no place I would rather be at Tom Bradley International Terminal to spend a couple of hours whilst waiting for my flight.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Qantas International First Lounge in Los Angeles? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

Emirates downgrades Australian flight experience temporarily

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A couple of months ago Emirates announced it would be undertaking a large network reduction from now until June 2019 due to runway works at Dubai Airport. As a result of the airport operating out of one instead of two runways, flights have been impacted. Unfortunately, Australians haven’t been spared with the airline set to make changes to several Australian routes.

The biggest changes will affect Melbourne and Sydney with both cities set to be downgraded from the A380 to a B777. The daily Melbourne via Singapore route will be impacted during the period of 2-20 Nov and 15 Jan to 30 March 2019. Likewise, the Sydney via Bangkok (EK418/EK419) route will switch to a 777-300ER. Whilst this aircraft retains first class it loses the first class shower and more importantly the on board bar and lounge space. Note that the daily non-stop Dubai routes from Melbourne and Sydney will continue to operate on an A380.

Perth will be hit the hardest with the airline seeing a reduction in flights from 14 to 11 per week from 7-28 November 2018 and 7 Feb to 30 March 2019. In addition EK424 will not run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays whilst EK425 won’t run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Th aircraft type however won’t be affected.

As they always say there’s a silver lining in some of this news and that goes to Adelaide. The SA capital is the winner out of the changes with the route set to receive the newly reconfigured B777-200LR which possesses the brand new business class seat. A win for customers despite the aircraft still retaining the not so great 2-2-2 configuration. The dates Adelaide will be impacted is 8-30 October and 1 February to 30 March 2019.

All I can say is that I hope these reductions are what they claim ‘temporary’ and not a mere testing of the waters for something more permanent. The Australian market is a strong one for the UAE based airline and the A380 is the best aircraft to service that market from its Dubai hub. Anything less is really a slap in the face of customers, particularly the business class arrangement of a 2-2-2 configuration. As I stated before the only one benefiting here is the Adelaide route.

Consider this a downgrade and if you are on a business class ticket and have had the aircraft changed from an A380 to a B777, I would get in touch with Emirates as soon as possible to see if they can offer another A380 alternative.

Comments

Booked on a downgraded flight? Like to hear your thoughts on this.

 

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?

BRITISH AIRWAYS GALLERIES FIRST LOUNGE TERMINAL 5 AT LONDON HEATHROW: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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British Airways lounges, particularly their first class lounges, have always had a strong reputation and are viewed by many as some of the best in Europe alongside Swiss and Air France. Having previously used the BA Business Lounge a handful of times I felt that the standard in those were pretty good so naturally I was keen to see what BA had to offer in terms of their First Class offering.

 

Lounge access options

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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 lounge can be accessed through the brand new First Wing area at the south end of the terminal. This allows you to use First class check in, go through a separate security channel and enter directly into the BA lounge. Should you not use this option you can access the lounge by going through either the North or South security check points and then enter the lounge complex on the ground floor at the south end of the terminal. It’s open from 5am-10.30pm daily.

 

Ambience

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The first thing I notice upon entering the lounge is how quiet the space (to the point that you could hear a pin drop). There’s no announcements of flights or the buzz of voices from chatter between people. The lounge felt as a result rather cold and was not helped by its strange configuration. Whilst the break out spaces were good for those wanting to get work done, the ambience of the place was almost nonexistent as a result. An example of this is the Champagne Bar or the new Union Coffee space. Whilst I love the concept for both, the spaces had 1-2 people in them at a time at best.

On one side of the Champagne Bar was a larger drinks bar complete with spirits, wines and non-alcoholic options whilst on the other side was a working space as well as the buffet food area known as the ‘The Deli’ and a ‘wine gallery’. The buffet selection was decent and had some of the best options I have seen in a lounge. The scones with cream and strawberries is so British it hurts but looked too good not to sample (which I did happily).

The area I liked most was the First Dining Room with its table service and great views of the tarmac for those like me who like a decent serving of plane spotting before taking off into the meal.

There’s also the Elemis Spa available to those on the day for those not flying first if there are appointments available. I did not have time to access this option and am unable to provide feedback on this.

 

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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The Champagne Bar and the Union Coffee space are great ideas but wasted opportunities. As I mentioned earlier they were both empty and that’s disappointing considering the investment. The champagne being served was Champagne Jeeper in either a Grand Brut or Grand Rose style. I had the Rose and it was delightful on the palate.

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Besides the scones and strawberries from ‘The Deli’ buffet section, I decided I’d dine with the table service at the First Dining Room. The menu is nowhere near extensive as the ones at Qantas or Cathay.

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From the options available I went with the BA Burger. The menu described the burger as having ‘flippin amazing burger sauce’ but when I went to try it, there was anything amazing about the burger. That said it was still quite delicious. If there was anything I would have liked to have seen is that the table dining service offer passengers more options to choose from. It was quite limiting for what BA deems as a ‘ first class lounge’.

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Verdict

The lounge does the job in terms of keeping me well fed and hydrated in a space away from the crazy activity of the terminal. Food and wine, particular the choice of champagne available in the lounge at the time was good quality. The x factor is all in the table dining service in the First Dining Room with the meals well portioned and deliciously tasty. If there’s any gripe it’d be the configuration. A sense of peace and privacy is essential in any lounge but this one was designed to the point that interaction with other human beings would seem almost non-existent. A livelier environment would have been welcomed. In addition comparing it to other ‘first lounges’ globally, this one doesn’t have the shine or personalised touch like those at Cathay Pacific or Qantas.

Would I return for another visit let alone another bite of that BA Burger? In response to both – in a heartbeat!

 

Comments

Have you experienced the BA Galleries First Class Lounge in Terminal 5 at Heathrow? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

UNITED TO OPEN HOUSTON POLARIS LOUNGE JUNE 29

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United has had a checkered and messy start with the Polaris concept. The concept is brilliant and rather beautiful for a brand like United but it is flawed in terms of its roll out. They opened the first Polaris Lounge in Chicago and for almost 16 months did not open up another. Suddenly it’s as if United has awoken and is rolling them out of the production line in a quick manner with the San Fran and Newark lounges opening within the last three months. Now United is set to open two more with Houston the next cab off the rank on June 29.

The Polaris Lounge Houston will be open to all  United long haul business class passengers, as well as other Star Alliance first and business class passengers travelling out of Houston to a long haul destination.

Located in Terminal E the new lounge will be smaller than the Polaris Lounges recently opened at SFO and EWR. It will be interesting to see how it turns out in the end but whatever the case, the lounge will be head and shoulders quality wise compared to the United Club Lounge.

Anyone flying first or business long haul on United out of Houston soon? Are you excited about the new Polaris lounge and will you make time for a visit?

EMIRATES LAUNCHES NEW AUCKLAND TO BALI TO DUBAI FLIGHTS

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It seems the New Zealanders also have an appetite for Bali as much as their Australian counterparts with Emirates announcing they commence daily flights from Dubai to Auckland via Bali from 14 June 2018.

The UAE based airline announcement sees Emirates expanding their operations further into NZ with the new flight adding to their existing daily nonstop flight from Dubai to Auckland and Dubai via Sydney to Christchurch flights.

The route will be operated by a three class Boeing 777, featuring eight first class seats, 42 business class seats, and 304 economy seats. Currently this 777 will sadly not be retrofitted with the new business class seat, so if you don’t mind the hop over your fellow business passenger or a slightly angled sleep then you will lap this option up.

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The flight will depart as EK450 Dubai to Bali departing 6:55AM arriving 8:20PM, following on as EK450 Bali to Auckland departing 10:00PM arriving 10:00AM (+1 day)

From Auckland, the flight will operate as EK451 to Bali departing 12:40PM arriving 5:55PM, following on as EK451 Bali to Dubai departing 7:50PM arriving 12:45AM (+1 day).

Personally I welcome the announcement as it adds more upgrade and reward seats potential especially with the Asia Pacific region currently struggling to cope with demand. Yes it would be a slight detour for me but when the chance to sit towards the front is offered I don’t mind investing the extra handful of hours in the sky.

Comment

Will you be taking advantage of Emirates new Dubai to Bali to Auckland flight?

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.