QANTAS BUSINESS CLASS A380 SYD – LAX: REVIEW

Flight: QF11, SYD-LAX

Loyalty Scheme: Qantas Frequent Flyer (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple daily

Duration:  13.5 hours

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Qantas has a stranglehold of the USA market between the Australian east coast and key cities such as NYC, San Fran, Dallas and Los Angeles. Recently the airline announced it would also be pushing into new routes like Chicago from 2020. With that in mind I knew going to the States with Qantas was always going to be a sound choice. So how did the A380 stack up on the long haul flight from Sydney to Los Angeles? The Australian Traveller hopped onboard at the top end to find out…

The Seat

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Qantas has a stranglehold of the USA market between the Australian east coast and key cities such as NYC, San Fran, Dallas and Los Angeles. Recently the airline announced it would also be pushing into new routes like Chicago from 2020. With that in mind I knew going to the States with Qantas was always going to be a sound choice. So how did the A380 stack up on the long haul flight from Sydney to Los Angeles? The Australian Traveller hopped onboard at the top end to find out…Qantas has a stranglehold of the USA market between the Australian east coast and key cities such as NYC, San Fran, Dallas and Los Angeles. Recently the airline announced it would also be pushing into new routes like Chicago from 2020. With that in mind I knew going to the States with Qantas was always going to be a sound choice. So how did the A380 stack up on the long haul flight from Sydney to Los Angeles? The Australian Traveller hopped onboard at the top end to find out…

One thing that’s instantly noticeable compared to Qantas’ new B787s and converted A330s is that the A380 retains the older generation Skybed II business class seat. This means for those playing at home it’s not very private and is configured in a 2-2-2 seat layout (which means that delicate hop over the neighbour mid flight when they’re reclined and asleep) .

Despite the seats possessing a generous amount of  leg room (78-inch pitch), storage space was seriously lacking around the seat itself. When the bed lays fully flat it offered a sense of privacy thanks to the cocoon of the hard shell surrounding the seat. Sadly the seat was showing its age with the end sagging slightly which in turn made my sleeping position a little uncomfortable at times.

On my seat when I first boarded was a rather charming amenities kit which has all the essentials including some lovely Aspar products as well as a pair of the iconic Qantas pajamas. It was rather ambitious for Qantas to leave a pair there considering they were making an assumption on what size I am.

Entertain me

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Qantas without fail always has a strong selection of film and television to enjoy on their IFEs. All business class seats have a 12.1-inch touchscreen which pops up the side of the seat and then swivelled into position to sit in front of you. The quality of the screen which is perfectly fine to view, is no match for Qantas’ better A330 and B787 business class IFE screens. All business class passengers are provided with noise cancelling headphones.

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For those not wanting to watch a screen and more want to go for a stretch or do some socialising, Qantas has a small lounge space in the front of the top deck. Unlike Emirates and Qatar, the space is a wasted opportunity. There’s no bar but rather a long lounge running along the length of the wall. At the time I entered it was heaving with young children and their mothers. It was clearly not a space I wished to relax in. It’s believed that the new revamp of the A380 will include a new lounge area which I hope will be a lot more aligned with the Emirates lounge space on board than what is currently offered on Qantas.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Qantas is one of the best when it comes to food and wine presentation and this flight was no exception. Sure it wasn’t on par with Qatar’s incomparable meal service, it was still a highlight. Being a morning flight out of Sydney, there were two key meal services; lunch and breakfast (in preparation for landing into the US the day same day during the breakfast rush). Prior to take off Qantas offered passengers a glass of still or sparkling water or Duval-Leroy Brut champagne. I went with the champagne as a way to toast in the beginning of my getaway to the USA.

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Lunch was served an hour into the flight. For appetiser I went with the dumplings which were quite succulent and full of flavour. The main followed and the choices were a lot more abundant  from a seared barramundi, a chicken breast with potato gratin and roasted vegetables to a spicy beef tagine. I chose the barramundi. It went nicely with my topped up glass of champagne. Served alongside the main was a simple salad (which lacked any real flavour). Dessert closed the meal off nicely with some seasoned fruit and Maggie Beer ice cream.

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Flight attendant came around with breakfast cards for passengers to fill out before they closed out the lunch service. Being one who likes to start off the day with a big meal to power through I made sure I ticked a few of the boxes before getting in a movie or two and some shut eye.

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After sleeping six hours I awoke half an hour prior to Qantas commencing their breakfast service, which was abut two hours out from Los Angeles. Instead of the staggered dish serving process of the lunch service, the breakfast meal was brought out all at once.

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The breakfast was akin to what I would be served in an Australian cafe which is quite a delight. The ingredients and food offering looks not only delicious but rather healthy. I went with the poached eggs with pearl barley, kale and spinach salad as well as a serving of the buttermilk pancakes with baked rhubarb and cinnamon yoghurt. I accompanied the dishes with a cappuccino which came out nice and frothy, a green juice and a final glass of champagne (because it was 12pm somewhere in the world).

All in all the food and drinks were solid, tasty and the best part of my flight experience. If Qantas was a restaurant I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars for its culinary side alone.

Verdict

I was initially apprehensive to fly the old Skybed II to the States. The idea of hopping over someone mid flight, let alone the lack of privacy was a concern. That said the seat was surprisingly still comfortable ten years on despite a little sagging in parts. I slept a solid six hours and felt rejuvenated for the rest of the day once I landed.

The entertainment was good but slightly disappointing due to the screen showing its age. The highlight however was the meal service for both lunch and breakfast. Qantas has a reputation for its dining and it did not falter. With the A380s set for a revamp later this year to the new business class seat, I cannot wait to see what a difference a better seat will do to enhance what is an already enjoyable experience. I will definitely be back onboard with Qantas if given the chance in the future!

Comments

Have you experienced flying business on the Qantas A380? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

Qantas to fly B787 daily on Sydney-Santiago route

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It’s always sad to hear when another B747 route bites the dust, replaced by something newer, shinier and in this current aviation space smaller. This was the case when Qantas announced this week it would be replacing its 4 x weekly B747 Sydney-Santiago flights from late June 2020 to a daily Boeing 787-9 flight.

Business class passengers are the big winners here with the B787 fitted with Qantas’ newest business class seat, which transforms into a fully-flat bed and offers direct aisle access. This removed the awkward hop over of the B747s 2-3-2 business cabin, which features the classic Skybed.

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The announcement comes as part of a wider initiative by Qantas to retire its older B747 by the end of 2020. Obviously a newer, fresher plane is always welcomed and flying long distance in a B787 does have its health and sleep benefits but there’s no denying that B747 is where the fun in flying is. If you are keen to fly the Queen before her retirement to Santiago, I would hop onto it now before mid 2020.

Are you excited or disappointed by the Qantas announcement? Will you be booking a B747 flight to Santiago before its retired mid 2020? Keen to hear your thoughts. 

 

American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK – NYC: Review

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Terminal 8

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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I have this love/ hate relationship with AA. Sometimes their lounges, service and aircraft are on point and other times it’s frankly dismal. Some of AA’s lounges are tired and the food/ drink quality is sometimes better in the food court within the terminal. American has been in turn going through a revamp of late and are slowly changing the look and feel of their lounges, particularly around their Flagship lounges.

Last year American opened their new Flagship lounge at JFK and the feedback from those who have frequented it have been quite positive. Naturally being at JFK I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and if the fuss was justified (all whilst enjoy a champagne or two).

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Lounge access options

  • Traveling in AA intercontinental business or first class
  • Traveling to Los Angeles LAX or San Francisco SFO in first class
  • AA Concierge Key
  • oneworld Saphire and Emerald members traveling on any oneworld flight in any cabin of service
  • oneworld passengers traveling in business class on an intercontinental flight

Lounge location and opening hours

After clearing security, proceed to the Admirals Club signage until you reach the main entrance. You’ll find the Flagship Lounge off to the left, under the flags as you walk down the ramp from TSA screening. There is a lift and staircase that lead up to the Flagship Lounge. The lounge is open daily from 04:15 – 01:00.

Ambience

The feeling the moment you walk into the lounge is a warm and welcome. The use of colour tones and smart, yet simply furnishings add a lovely touch to what AA lounges usually don’t offer…inviting. Initial impressions is that it’s on par on an international level (yes finally AA!). It features a solid buffet, real champagne (hello lover!) and a make your own cocktail bar. Throughout my time spent in the lounge there never a moment that it felt crowded, instead it was rather peaceful, a rarity in such a bustling building like Terminal 8.

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At the back of the lounge was a quiet room/ space which is great for those who want to enjoy a drink/ bite to eat but without the noise of people traffic as they work away on their laptop. Next to that space was the bathrooms and shower suites which were nicely designed and well appointed with C.O. Bigelow toiletries; the same brand AA stocks uses in the business and first amenity kits.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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As mentioned there’s a large buffet section which has some rather decent offerings including a number of  hot options for the lunch/ evening session during my visit including potatoes, pasta, salmon and even beef stir fry. There were also a number of cold options from meats and cheeses to salads. The food quality was tasty, fresh and much better than anything Admirals Lounge could produce.

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However the centerpiece of the Flagship lounge for me was the rather large communal table with a self-serve wine bar in the middle. Additionally there’s was an impressive selection of both red and white wines available. However I was disappointed they had one away with the Taittinger, instead choosing to serve Champagne Besserat de Bellefon. The drop itself was fine but nowhere near the standard or opulence of the Taittinger.

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Verdict

The AA Flagship lounge definitely sets a high standard for American based airport lounges but on the world scale compared to Emirates, Qatar, Cathay and Qantas to name a few, it falls slightly short. However the lounge is a great space to relax and enjoy some food or a drink in comfortable surrounds with a rather spectacular tarmac vista. The food and drink quality is way above the Admirals Club (not something difficult to achieve) and the design is fresh, clean and quite a showpiece for American. The airline should be proud! I’ll be back here for sure (note: I’ve visited once more since this review).

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Comments

Have you experienced the AA Flagship Lounge in NYC? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

Lufthansa Group expands its wings on seven new routes

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I always love an expansion rather than a rescind from an airline, so when an airline as great as Lufthansa says it wants to spread its wings further, I’m all ears! This week the German airline announced it’d be undertaking some significant transatlantic expansion from during the US summer in 2020.

Lufthansa will be launching three new routes, two of which will be within the USA and one interestingly into Bangalore. All three routes will be operated by A350-900 aircraft. One of the USA routes, the Seattle leg will fly 6x weekly flights between Munich and Seattle (except Thursdays) whilst the airline will also fly into Detroit 5x weekly flights from Munich. Finally the airline will launch 5x weekly flights between Munich and Bangalore, which is aimed to support capacity demand from the Frankfurt – Bangalore route.

Additionally Lufthansa Group has announced three new routes for its budget airline, Eurowings. There had been talk in the sector of the airline being withdrawn from a number of routes so the news here of an expansion for Eurowings is surprising but welcomed. The new route for Eurowings are the following:

  • Frankfurt to Phoenix – 5x weekly flights
  • Frankfurt to Anchorage – 3x weekly flights
  • Munich to Orlando – 3x weekly flights
  • Munich to Las Vegas – 2x weekly flights

The news is exciting and I’m quite curious to understand the thinking behind the expansion into some of these destinations, particularly Detroit and Anchorage. The fact that they will be serviced by A330s and A350s means that the fleet will be generally fresh and the standard quite high. As usual, time will tell if the expansion plan for Lufthansa Group pays off.

Will you be flying Lufthansa on any of their newly announced routes? I;m keen to hear your thoughts. 

 

Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge – Bangkok: Review

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Suvarnabhumi Airport Concourse G, Level 3

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Cathay Pacific as a brand is doing all the right things in terms of the overall flying experience. What the airline provides is a unique and understated sense of luxury without being too OTT, which is sadly lacking in a lot of airlines today. During a transit in Bangkok I noticed Cathay had a lounge and for me it was a no brainer, especially when the majority of offerings are paid entry lounges which if you’re lucky will offer you maybe a basic house wine and/ or a shower to refresh in. Having enjoyed the Cathay lounges in Hong Kong and London I was hopeful that I’d have a similar lounge experience. So how does the BKK lounge stack up? Is it worthy of the Cathay name or has it put the airline to shame. TAT checked in to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon first and business class passengers, plus first and business class flyers of Oneworld partners British Airways, American Airlines, Qatar and Japan Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Diamond, Gold and Silver frequent flyers travelling on a Qantas or Oneworld flight
  • Connecting passengers arriving on long-haul first class Oneworld flights
  • 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, proceed to Concourse G and go to level 3, where you’ll find the lounge amongst a number of paid entry lounges The lounge is open daily from 04:00 – 18:20.

Ambience

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True to the signature Cathay style, the lounge oozes a sense of understated luxury. Whilst the space isn’t overly large like The Pier or The Wing in Hong Kong, one immediately feels at ease upon entering this space. After clearing concierge there’s a small kitchen/ buffet area in front of the entrance. Being a morning flight, the buffet was stocked with cereals, breads, cold meats and fresh fruits. Adjacent to the buffet space is a long bar to sit and have a social drink (if it was the right time of day for it – clearly not at this stage!).

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Despite being smaller lounge layout, the lounge at no point feels cramped on busy. The choice of furnishing especially around the main seating area are smart and well designed. Space isn’t wasted nor lost. It’s truly a testament to great lounge design. The abundance of light streaming through the large terminal windows adds to the sense of space.

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There are also well appointed and private bathrooms/ toilets stocked with my favourite Aesop amenities to keep passengers looking and feeling refreshed before their flight.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

It wouldn’t be a Cathay lounge without its renown Noodle Bar. Despite being a breakfast session the bar was offering delicious options from wonton noodle soup, fried egg rice to dim sum and fried egg with bacon (more a western influenced dish). The breakfast menu sounded so tantalising that I ordered one of everything and did not have any food regrets!

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If an Asian influenced breakfast doesn’t tickle your fancy there’s the small buffet area with a large number of western dishes. Adjacent to the buffet is a drinks station with juices and a coffee machine as well as a fridge stocked with soft drinks and water. Like the seating area, big things come in small packages and for Cathay it’s all about the quality and choice of dishes/ ingredients. The dishes on offer when I was there looked fresh and visually well presented. If I had an criticism, it’s the lack of a barista but then again a coffee machine is better than no coffee!

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Verdict

The Cathay lounge continues the Cathay understated luxury story. The visual look and feel of the lounge is warm and inviting and more importantly spacious. The Noodle Bar is always a delight in the Cathay lounge and did not disappoint. The buffet and drinks area whilst nothing outstanding, was simple and stylish.

Seating was ample but I could imagine would be a struggle in terms of finding a seat during peak periods. A solid offering by Cathay. It is truly one of the better lounges to frequent at Bangkok International Airport.

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Comments

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

 

 

 

Qantas launches new Frequent Flyer Program changes

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Qantas a couple of days ago without notice announced cryptically that it would be overhauling its frequent flyer program. Like many I was in a bit of a sweat about it thinking the potential was endless for the airline to come in with the wrecking ball and make the program to be frank, a lot worse. Today, I am glad to report that it isn’t anywhere near the doom and gloom that was reported online. So what has been announced and how will it affect you?

First up Qantas has announced there’ll be more seats up for grabs, with those dreaded carrier charges on most international Qantas flights reduced by as much as half. This is a big win for many as the carrier charges for QF currently have a large sting to them compared to their rivals when redeeming. You” require fewer Qantas Points when booking an economy seat on international flights but here’s the sting. Those looking to book something with a bit more leg room will be hit with higher amount of points for seats in premium economy, business class and first class.

The next bit of news is something I was apart of in terms of research late last year by the airline and this is the Qantas Points Club. Details are still sketchy but basically the Qantas Points Club will operate adjunct to the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme, unlocking flight and travel benefits for non-flying members including lounge access and bonus status credits. I think this has a lot of potential and am keen to see how it is delivered when it is launched December 2019.

Thirdly Qantas has earmarked five million seats on Qantas domestic and international flights annually, with up to 30% more premium economy, business class and even first class seats to popular destinations such as Singapore, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo. This is on top of 3-5 million seats on partner airlines, including new partners such as Air New Zealand, KLM Bangkok Airways and Air France.

Finally Qantas has opened up a new level of lifetime status, the coveted Lifetime Platinum but the catch is, to achieve it, it’s an eye watering and almost impossible 75K status credits to achieve. The new Lifetime Platinum status will commence in September 2019.

So what do you think of the announcement? Anything that excites or annoys you? Keen to hear your thoughts…

 

Qantas brings B787 to SYD-AKL for the summer

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Qantas has announced it’ll give Sydney-Auckland route travellers some summer lovin’ this summer with their flight being upgraded from the usual workhorse B737-800 to their new Dreamliner B787.

The upgraded plane will be in operation from . Whilst limited in terms of time offering, this is an exciting announcement by the airline as it will be the first time Qantas will offer their Premium Economy product on a Tasman route. Right now the premium economy seat is on sale for roughly the same price as a economy seat, so if you’re quick on it, you could snap yourself up a bargain whilst enjoying a bit more space and luxury for the pleasure.

Qantas has eight 787s in its fleet, with six additional aircraft due for delivery between October 2019 and mid 2020.

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