AMERICAN AIRLINES FLAGSHIP MIAMI (USA) LOUNGE: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Miami Airport (MIA), Concourse D

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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American airport lounges to put in a word are ‘dull’. Unlike their European, Middle East and Asia-Pacific counterparts, the lounges are uninspired, tired and generally basic. Sometimes it is better for a traveller to find food and drink in the terminal than rely on the lacklustre options that await in the lounge buffet.

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Over the last couple of years United and American have (in part) re-inspired the lounge for American standards with their premium lounge products, Polaris and Flagship respectively. American has slowly rolled out its Flagship product for First/ top premium flying customers and the lounges despite being rolled out ever so slowly, have so far have been a success. Having visited the Dallas and New York lounges, TAT went to check into its Miami counterpart to see if it stacked up.

Lounge access options

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  • Passengers travelling on qualifying oneworld longhaul international first and business class flights same day
  • Passengers travelling in first class and business class on American’s premium transcontinental routes, including from New York to Los Angeles and New York to San Francisco
  • American Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum members travelling on a qualifying oneworld international flights, regardless of the class of service
  • All non-American AAdvantage oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members travelling on any oneworld flight

 

Lounge location and opening hours

The American Flagship Lounge Miami is open daily from 4:30AM until 10:30PM. The lounge is located near gate D30, not far from the middle of the American concourse in Miami Airport.

Ambience

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One thing that is notable upon entry is the sheer size. American’s Flagship Lounge Miami is about 29,000 square feet –  that’s huge in terms of lounge space and scale. The lounge as a result has numerous communal and dining spaces sprinkled throughout the area. The decor whilst generic is clean and crisp and well appointed with an abundance of natural light pouring into the lounge which in turn offers lounge lizards some quite wonderful runway views.

There’s a main dining/ buffet area, a media room, self serve wine bar and American’s Flagship First Dining (off limits to those not flying American first). One thing that I did love was the daybed section. The beds looked very comfortable and were tucked away in a quiet part of the lounge. However some privacy screens would be welcome there as I for one don’t like getting shut eye on display in front of strangers.

The bathrooms/ restrooms are nicely designed, if a tad beige in terms of colour tone. There are six lounge suites in this lounge which all come with two showerheads and Bigelow amenities. Having needed a shower prior to my flight from Miami to Los Angeles, the water temperature was perfect and I found I didn’t have to wait long for a shower suite either (a rarity in lounges such as this).

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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The lounge offering in Flagship is head and shoulders above anything served in the Admirals Lounge.  A large buffet style dining area dominates the rear of the lounge with cold and hot selections. Among the dishes was a delish crayfish roll,  charcuterie board and handmade ravioli. The presentation was impressive and wait staff were always on hand to quickly change over any dishes that became empty quickly.

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Drinks wise, it is all self serve. Whilst this is fine for the champagne, beer and wine, it’s a shame the coffee option isn’t barista made. There’s also a number of soft drink machines and cold bottled beverages lined up in the fridges.

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Verdict

As far as American lounges go, this is by far one of the best (not really hard to achieve on general American standards). The layout whilst overly large offers a large amount of space and quiet for those wishing to work. The dining and drink options is fairly strong although the champagne option was poor in comparison. Having originally served Bollinger in this lounge 18 months ago, it’s disappointing the quality has collapsed to Bessarat.

Admittedly I use to dread MIA Airport. Now with the addition of the American Flagship Lounge I feel this airport in the US has quickly become one of my favourites. This lounge is definitely worth a visit if you have access rights to it.

Comments

Have you experienced the American Flagship lounge at MIA Airport? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

Qantas to pull out of Beijing market in March 2020

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Qantas has experienced a bit of turbulence of late in the Chinese market. The rise and rise of a number of cheaper Chinese airlines flooding the market coupled with a slowing down of demand has seen the airline (for the third time now) pull the plug on its Sydney – Beijing route. The route will continue to operate through to March 2020 with the airline then linking customers onto alternative routes/ codeshare partners to get them to the Chinese capital.

Frankly it’s a shame it didn’t work out for Qantas. This year alone I have flown the Sydney – Beijing leg with Qantas three times and found the experience head and shoulders amongst the best on that route, particularly in terms of their business product. A lot of Chinese airlines are emerging and with that the product hasn’t been truly tried and tested. Quality tends to be generally mixed but more price conscious driven; great for those who are on a shoestring travel budget.

The exact date in March next year is unknown for Qantas’ withdrawal but what is certain is that Qantas’ codeshare partnership with China Eastern will be bolstered. Alternatively Qantas passengers will be directed to use their Sydney – Shanghai operated aircraft and fly from there domestically on China Eastern or Oneworld partner Cathay from Hong Kong.

Those booked on flights beyond March 2020 with Qantas will be contacted by the airline for alternative travel options.

Qantas and Virgin set to split Haneda landing rights

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In a bit of an unexpected turn since Virgin’s announcement that it’d review its entire network for profitability, the airline is almost certain to be gifted one of the two additional landing rights for Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

Virgin and Qantas both applied for two rare landings slots at Haneda, which had become available to Australian airlines. Virgin asked for one whilst Qantas wished to secure both slots.This week the International Air Services Commission (IASC) issued a draft decision awarding both airlines one slot each, believing Virgin entering the Tokyo market would bring greater competition and airfare competition.

The Virgin slot, if successful, would see them use an A330 daily service out of Brisbane in late March 2020. The news for Virgin comes after the airline recently signed on a partnership with All Nippon Airways. The partnership would see see the two airlines code-share on fall lights between Australia and  Japan as well as domestic internal flights.

Rival Qantas hoped to secure both slots, using one to shift its Melbourne flight from Narita to Haneda and use the additional slot to offer Sydneysiders a twice daily service to Tokyo. If the split of landing rights goes ahead, Qantas will have to decide which way it will use that one slot.

Further submissions are being made to IASC with the body to make a final decision in the near future.

JAPAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS B787 LAX-OSAKA: REVIEW

Flight: JL69, LAX-OIX

Loyalty Scheme: JAL Mileage Bank (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: 1 X daily

Duration:  12 hours and 2 minutes

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JAL has a number of different business class seat variants flying internationally from the front facing APEX Sky Suite to the Herringbone Sky Suite III. Fortunate enough on a recent trip to the US via Japan, allowed the opportunity to fly  JAL a handful of times in J class. TAT was keen to see if the business seat in their Herringbone Sky Suite III stacked up to the awards hype that JAL had garnered for the last few years.

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The Seat

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One of the first things you notice about the JAL Business Class cabin layout of the Boeing 787-9 is the space around the cabin. Warmly lit with pinkish hue, the herringbone configuration of the cabin is laid out 1-2-1, with all seats getting direct aisle access and decent legroom. Being in 1A I was fortunate not only to have window views but a lot of extra legroom compared to the majority of other business seats in the plane, even when the seat is laying fully flat.

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The Sky Suite III is the latest business seat for JAL and is similar to that on what you’d find on Cathay and British Airways. Despite the cabin being full I felt a sense of privacy and tranquility largely thanks to the reverse herringbone design. On the seat were a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, JAL amenities kit, pair of grey slippers, pillow and blanket.

Storage wise there’s a small storage space in the center console and a personal mirror on the door. Beneath the storage compartment is a power outlet and USB port for those who liked to be charged up and working.

The bathrooms for a business cabin were rather disappointing. Whilst there are four on hand for business class passengers to use, you’d think you were in the economy cabin with no real luxurious touches on offer.

Entertain me

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The seat features a large 17″ touch-screen TV, which also included convenient back-lit buttons beneath the screen. The entertainment on offer was sadly lacking with only a handful of English films and television shows on offer. If you are fluent in Japanese you’d have a lot more options on offer to you.

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WiFi is available on this flight with a number of plans on offer. The prices were expensive so I avoided testing this option.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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This was one of the jewels in JALs business crown. Japanese food is naturally beautiful, quite sophisticated in presentation and ultimately always appetising. JAL doesn’t fail to deliver on what I’m used to with Japanese fare.

Prior to take off JAL staff introduced themselves to all business class passengers and took drinks orders. From a choice of water, juice or champagne I went with the champagne which was the rather smooth Ayala Brut (a member of the Bollinger family). The drink was accompanied with a hot towel which unfortunately is nowhere near as pleasingly pipping hot as the ones you receive on middle eastern airlines.

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Being a mid afternoon flight out of LAX the meal services offered were dinner (a set Japanese or Western menu) and supper. There was also dine anytime options for those who weren’t feeling peckish or wanted to get some shut eye. Having flown JAL over to the USA too I was fortunate enough to compare both the Japanese and Western set menus. On this flight I went with the Japanese menu. Meal service was quite prompt and it didn’t take long for the crew to start distributing orders. Entrees/ starters were served first and were delicious yet simple.

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The main then followed with all the accompaniments from snow crab, beef ‘Tataki’ salad to Japanese omelette with salmon roe. Both the mains of braised pork and the seared salmon with tofu featured on the plate in smaller portions. The dishes complimented each other. I felt my tastebuds get taken on an exciting journey through Japanese cuisine. Yes it was that good!

Cabin crew cleared the dishes and asked if I would like some green tea and a mocha cake to cap off the meal. I did and whilst the green tea was refreshing, the mocha cake was a bit too moist and lacked flavour.

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Whilst I didn’t have the Western menu this time around, having flown and ordered the western menu a week earlier, I can vouch that it was equally impressive in taste and presentation. Below is an imagine of the Western menu for reference.

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The only downside slightly in the entire meal service was supper. Basically the supper was taking orders from the dine anytime menu which I could have done frankly…anytime. Despite this the limited options were delicious and well presented but by no means were as impressive as the Japanese and Western set menus on offer.

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Drink options on the flight were strong. Stand outs were the Ayala Brut as well as JALs signature Sky Time Kiwi. There’s a host of whites and red as well as other non alcoholic options should those not tickle your fancy.

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Verdict

Japan Airlines was good as expected but at the same time not outstanding. The cabin crew was attentive and friendly with even a couple of the girls sharing stories of their hometown Osaka to me. The personable touch was not unnoticed. The seat itself whilst not groundbreaking was indeed comfortable, smartly designed and oozed class.

Meal service (despite the somewhat disappointing supper service) was impressive. The food is some of the best there is served in the skies. JAL is a strong contender for one of the best business cabins in the Asian (and global) markets and should be considered by anyone travelling via or to/ from Japan.

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Comments

Have you experienced flying business on JALs B787-9? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

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FIJI AIRWAYS DEBUTS NEW A350 BUSINESS SEAT

 

Earlier this year Fiji Airways announced they’d have be acquiring two A350s for the fleet in late 2019. Fat forward to the last quarter of the year and more details have emerged, particularly around their exciting new business class product.

The new A350 business class seat will be a feature a reverse herringbone ‘Super Diamond’ design, styled in a creamy coloured texture. Initial images of the cabin gives it a sense of lightness and space. It’s a far cry from the angled A330 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. This means that everyone will get direct aisle access with the A350s 1-2-1 business cabin layout.

It’s expected that the new A350 will take flight from December 1 this year between Nadi and Sydney before expanding to other destinations, including from January 17 2020 a 6 x weekly LAX service. The flights to look out for if you wish to nab a seat in the new Fiji business cabin are:

  • FJ911 Nadi to Sydney departing 9:35AM arriving 12:05PM
    FJ910 Sydney to Nadi departing 1:20PM arriving 7:05PM

The new business class product is a much needed improvement over the current Fiji Airways business seat. Whilst the seat isn’t groundbreaking, it does the job in meeting the needs of business and premium travellers today.

AMERICAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS B777 TOKYO – LAX: REVIEW

Flight: AA26, HND-LAX

Loyalty Scheme: AAdvantage (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: 1 daily

Duration:  10 hours and 5 minutes

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American Airlines for me is a delicate love hate relationship. Sometimes my experiences have been above and beyond amazing whilst some I’d rather forget quickly. It’s such a shame to feel this way about an airline, especially when coming just off (and comparing to) an excellent product in Japan Airlines’ J class.  Making the transfer between JAL to AA in Haneda was quiet seamless but was the flight experience on AA just as smooth?

The Seat

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By far one of AAs strongest selling points is that business class seat. The 777-300ER Business cabin has 52 seats in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration. I like this style of seat as it is open yet still relatively private. There’s an impressive amount of storage around the seat from a storage bin under the seat shelf, a chubby space above the seat and further storage beneath the window. All in all a great way to maximise your space without feeling cluttered by your own belongings. USB and universal power outlets are also available for those wanting to charge up and work away. The seat also lies flat should one wish to sleep.

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AA offers some lovely amenities in the form of their Caspar bedding. The pillows and bedding provided are lush and soft. Having slept on the bedding for a solid four hours I felt revived from my short snooze in the skies.

Gorgeous Cole Haan blue amenity kits are distributed throughout the cabin. They contain a nice mix of CO Bigelow toiletries, socks and toiletries.

Wifi was also available on this flight but I did not get round to testing this due to how expensive the plans were. Decent Bose noise cancelling headphones were also offered on this flight.

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There are six washrooms for business, including four shared with the premium economy cabin. The business cabin washrooms featured nicer amenities and touches as opposed to the PE cabin. There is no onboard shower unlike Etihad and Emirates.

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Entertain me

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Being an overnight flight I intended to maximise my time to sleep as best I could. That said when it comes to entertainment AA has one of the best IFE systems around and I couldn’t deny myself a film or two before getting forty winks. There’s always a stellar choice of films from Hollywood to across the globe for one to enjoy on the 15.4-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitor, including over 150 TV programs and 350 audio selections.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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One of my favourite parts of any flights, the meal service was hit and miss. Upon taking my seat, it took a flight attendant to eventually offer me a drink five minutes before the cabin doors were closed to offer me a pre-departure drink. Out of habit I chose the champagne over the water and juice options. The champagne was served in a very cheap plastic cup which didn’t look anything special.

After take off the cabin crew came around to take orders from the menu. On today;’s flight AA offered a similar meal service to JAL, a western and Japanese meal. Having previous experienced issues ordering my first choice on AA, I decided prior to my flight to reserve my first meal choice which was the grilled beef fillet. The steak was surprisingly cooked to a medium style and wasn’t chewy. The accompanying salad was bland yet the tuna tataki starter was a great dish and packed a flavour punch. During the meal service I accompanied it with a Lange Classique Pinot Gris before switching back to the rather nice Collet Brut champagne. Both drinks were served in much more appealing glassware.

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For desert I couldn’t go past AAs famous traditional ice cream sundae. Offering a range of toppings this was one of the highlights of my meal service.  I requested a combo of butterscotch and seasonal berry. It was simply delicious!

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During the flight a snack bar is open for passengers feeling a bit peckish on the 10 hour flight. Keen to maximise my sleep I didn’t investigate this option further.

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Prior to landing breakfast was served an hour and a half out. I decided to enjoy a hearty all American breakfast comprising of scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, bacon, mushrooms and a tomato with a green tea. It was pleasant but nothing to write home about. I normally would accompany my breakfast with a coffee but American filtered coffee isn’t really my style, so skipped my usual morning coffee altogether.

Both meal services were sluggishly slow and the staff were too swift when dealing with people during the service. Whilst the food itself was generally solid bar some questionable food presentation, AA really could really brush up on its customer service etiquette.

Verdict

Overall the flight experience on AA was good but not exceptional. For a business product when you pay more you naturally expect more. The seat and IFE are the key selling points of AA business. Whilst the meal service in general was good, AA does need to pick up the ball in terms of better food presentation and more importantly, warmer and more engaged cabin crew. Some of the FAs are lovely yet there are others onboard who feel burdened just to find out if they had a certain food item in the kitchen galley. It might not be Qatar or Emirates but AA business still soars above much of the competition.

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Comments

Have you experienced flying business on American Air line’s B777? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

CATHAY PACIFIC BUSINESS LOUNGE MANILA: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Manila  International Airport, Terminal 3

Lounge Rating: 4 Stars

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Based on my experience with Cathay I’ve found their lounges in general to be impressive, bar the one in Beijing which is in urgent need of attention. The lounges are bold, classy and well presented with the same service and attention to detail, providing visitors with a consistent experience. The lounges in Manila are generally disappointing, which is no surprise considering how bad the airport. However there’s a shining beacon that seems to get consistent praise online; the Cathay Business Lounge. Curious to see if the online hype was spot on, TAT decided to check in the CX Manila lounge to find out.

Lounge access options

  • Those travelling in Cathay business or first class
  • Marco Polo Club Diamond, Gold and Silver members
  • Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members travelling on any Oneworld flight in any cabin of service

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located at Terminal 3, on level 4 above Gate 114. Once you’ve cleared security and immigration, you will see signage to the lounges in front of you. There’s a lift that’ll take you up to the lounge just by Gate 114.

Ambience

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Upon entering the lounge you’re instantly hit with that signature Cathay lounge style; from the luxurious wooden walled interiors to the lovely greenery break out spaces that create a sense of both tranquillity and privacy. The space is a far cry from the manic surrounds of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The lounge is divided into different zones for working, dining and relaxing, yet at the same time is open enough that you never feel enclosed.

For those keen to work away there’s an abundance of power and USB outlets throughout the lounge. If you don’t have your laptop on hand there’s also a small business area with three desktop computers for those wanting to punch out some work before they board.

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On the flip side the bathrooms were a tad disappointing due to a lack of showers (odd considering how hot Manila Airport is generally) and poor amenities compared to their usual Aesop range in other lounges.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Whilst it may not be on par with The Pier (my favourite Cathay lounge), it still serves a decent meal thanks to its signature Noodle Bar. The bar serves a variety of fresh made to order Hong Kong inspired street fare dishes. My visit offered an enticing wonton noodle soup and beef rice dish (both of which I ordered). When ordering you’ll be issued a buzzer which illuminates when your order is ready for collection.  The food served was delicious and well presented. There’s also a small self service snack area nearby the noodle bar which has a coffee machine and some light bites.

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I followed my meal up with a visit to the bar and ordered a negroni which was well mixed (bar staff here know their drinks quite well here). Also on offer was a wide range of cocktails and wines. Sadly champagne wasn’t on the menu (usually Cathay stocks a decent Moët & Chandon in their HK lounges) but instead an Australian sparkling which I decided to pass on. If something alcoholic doesn’t tickle your fancy you can also order a decent barista made coffee. Unfortunately if you are lactose intolerant or don’t want milk with your coffee, then you will be hard up for options.

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Verdict

The Cathay Business Lounge in Manila is a solid offering and by far one of the best satellite ones I have visited in Asia outside of Hong Kong. The space is sparse and peaceful and the food and drinks offering is solid. It would’ve been nice to have had a champagne option rather than the cheaper Australian sparkling and some showers for those wishing to feel fresh after coming in from the sticky heat of Manila. That said, overall it’s a good lounge to whittle away the time until one boards.

Comments

Have you experienced the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge in Manila? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?