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?

 

AA BUSINESS CLASS B737 SAN FRANSISCO-LOS ANGELES: REVIEW

Flight: AA2312, SFO-LAX

Loyalty Scheme: AA Advantage (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple daily

Duration:  1 hour and 37 minutes

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AA is an airline Americans love to hate. Between their hit and miss staff, onboard product and planes, the experience can leave one feeling exceptionally happily or disappointed. TAT was prepared to take a gamble on the AA First Class (equivalent to domestic business in other countries) to see if AA could deliver the goods in terms of a premium product.

The Seat

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The business cabin comprises of a 2-2 layout across four rows. For this flight I was seated in 6F. Having the window seat provided me with some great glimpses across the Bay area, San Fran, along the California coastline and landing into Los Angeles. Each seat had 38 inches of pitch and were 20 inches wide. The seat does not lie flat but for the purposes of a short haul flight, this did not matter and the seat was more than comfortable.

Entertain me

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For me AA has one of the best IFE systems out there in terms of selection. Whenever I have flown with the airline I’ve never struggled to find something to listen or watch but more found it difficult to decide what to choose. My flight was no exception. The entertainment was provided on a 12.1 inch seatback touch screen which I found quite responsive and the clarity crisp.

Wifi was also offered on board but did not care to look at it with prices (even for 30 minutes use) quite pricey.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Prior to take off business passengers were offered a choice of beverage however when it came to the final row of business the flight attendant (FA) became distracted and did not follow through with an order for drinks. Once we were in the air the FA apologised due to some last minute operational issues he had to attend to and offered our row drinks first as a result prior to the meal service. Onboard this flight no meal were offered but more a snack basket comprising of chips, cookies and energy bars as well as a good choice of beverages.

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Being an early flight I didn’t order my go to (anything alcoholic like wine) and instead had an cranberry apple drink and a green tea. The FA during the flight came over and topped up my cran-apple drink. Whilst the food and drink options were light, the FAs onboard were very attentive and polite.

Verdict

For a short haul flight AA has a fairly decent J product. The seat and IFE seatback entertainment were more than satisfactory. It was disappointing that AA didn’t offer more in terms of the food options with the snacks not being much different in terms of quality over what was offered in coach. A more generous food offering would have made all the difference in terms of the onboard service experience.

Whilst the overall product isn’t as flashy at Jetblue’s Mint or Delta’s business product, after this flight, I would without hesitation fly the AA First Class product domestically again.

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Comments

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

JAL BUSINESS CLASS B737 OSAKA- TOKYO: REVIEW

Flight: JL228, KIX-HND

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

Frequency: Multiple daily

Duration:  1.5 hours

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JAL domestically is known to enjoy one of the best value business class seats in the skies. For just ¥1,000 (~A$10) more than a regular economy ticket , one can enjoy a larger seat with legroom and a cocktail table to work and enjoy a drink. So how does the seat fare in terms of bang for buck? TAT took to the skies to find out on a recent flight between Osaka and Tokyo (Haneda).

The Seat

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The biggest selling point of this seat is well the seat and the extra space one enjoys with 38 inches compared to the 31 in economy. Also included is a armrest with a cocktail table and extendable leg rest. Configured in an interesting 2-3 layout, the seat feels more premium economy than business but for ¥1,000 more that’s nothing to complain about here.

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Entertain me

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Unfortunately there are no individual inflight entertainment options on domestic services, instead passengers are subject to the old school drop down screens. For those who don’t speak Japanese will struggle with the programming offered as there are no captions subtitles for the programs in English. Also on offer is a handful of radio channels which include chart hits as well as classical music options.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Don’t expect to see any meals served on JAL domestic flights, instead J passengers are treated to a drinks service. Drinks on offer include the usual soft drink suspects like Coca-Cola, water, green tea (hot or cold), juices and my personal favourite the JAL signature Sky Time drink which possesses a sweet but refreshing kiwi flavour. Considering the lack of food options and the lounge being closed in Osaka when I arrived, I requested a top up of both a Sky Time and beef soup.

It was disappointing that small snacks like pretzels or cheese and crackers were not offered along with the drinks.

Verdict

For ¥1,000 you really cannot complain about the extra room. I suspect the business lite business class was installed to compete with its bullet train competitors. It’s business with no thrills and the service onboard is exactly the same as you would experience in economy. It would have been nice to see some snacks provided to J passengers to enhance the overall flying experience a little. However for a higher return on status and points as well as a lot more leg room the business class seat on JAL is a no brainer purchase. I would fly this seat again!

Comments

Have you experienced flying business on a JAL domestically? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

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Virgin set make Velocity fully Virgin owned again

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Loyalty programs are a cash cow for airlines to the point that some airlines sell a stake or the whole cow for a quick profit hit. Those who have taken the gamble tend to not seen it pay off and more often than not find themselves paying for it, or in the case of Air Canada creating a whole new competing loyalty program.

In 2014 Virgin sold part of its Velocity business to Affinity Equity Partners (AEP). Since the sale the program it has grown to be the third biggest loyalty program in Australia behind Qantas and Woolworths. Virgin now has sellers remorse and has enter an agreement to buy back the 35 per cent of its Velocity program it sold to AEP for $700 million. This is more than double what they sold it for to the group five years earlier.

Virgin has experienced some rocky annual results of late but the shining star of their company has been the Velocity division which saw earnings (before interest and tax) up 12 per cent to $122.2 million.

Personally I think this is a smart move by Virgin which in the end after a initial financial hit see the company not only in a stronger position financially but increase value with its customers for years to come!