Virgin set to experience turbulence following recent net loss

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Virgin Australia has announced this week a program to cut 750 head office and corporate roles after posting a $349 million full-year loss. The result is a surprising drop for Virgin following their slender thing profit of $64 million the previous year. The plan to slash jobs is estimated to save the airline $75 million annually in costs. The cuts would impact seven per cent of Virgins current workforce.

On top of labour costs Virgin has advised it would be making an urgent assessment of all its current routes and capacities to see where further savings can be made. It’s expected there will be a strong focus around leisure routes. The move would ensure better route profitability for the airline.  Virgin has also decided it would hit pause on fleet renewal until July 2021.

The recent loss has not made new VA CEO Paul Scurrah’s life any easier since he landed into the tough job following the departure of John Borghetti. The new CEO pointed to tough trading conditions as well as rising fuel and the lower Australian dollar.

The news follows rival Qantas posting earlier this month a 6.5 per cent fall in annual net profit. Like Virgin they attributed the loss to higher oil prices and a weaker foreign exchange.

 

 

ROYAL JORDANIAN CROWN LOUNGE AMMAN: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Upper Floor, Queen Alia International Airport

Lounge Rating: 3.5

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The brand Royal Jordanian (RJ) had been largely foreign to me until now. A partner of the Oneworld alliance, naturally one is intrigued on who they are about and what they offer. Surely the standard of the airline had to be good, especially when they throw around the terms ‘royal’ and ‘crown’. TAT had a chance to visit their flagship lounge in Amman Jordan during a transit to Tel Aviv. Was the lounge as shiny as the king’s crown jewels collection or was RJs lounge the Sarah Ferguson of the royal family?

 

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Passengers travelling in Royal Jordanian Crown Class.
    • Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members travelling on Oneworld alliance departures in any class.
    • Priority Pass / Dragon Pass / Lounge Club.
    • Buy access for 30 JOD.

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located above the ground floor of the main terminal and is open 24 hours.

 

Ambience

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The location of the lounge is a standout with the lounge wrapping around the outside of the airport in an open plan mezzanine layout above the food and shopping outlets below on the ground floor. The layout allows the lounge to feel open and sparse, making use of the natural light through the roof line of the airport.

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The lounge is equipped with a range of facilities including laptops, children’s area, magazine library space and some individual television rooms (great for those who prefer a little lounge room style TV viewing experience). Showers and prayer rooms were located on the reception side of the lounge. I have not used the shower facilities here but have been informed that there’s a charge to use these which is disappointing as most lounges tend to offer this facility as standard.

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

As previously mentioned there’s shower and bathroom facilities. According to some online chats/ forums there’s reports of passengers being asked to pay to use the showers. I did not have an opportunity during my visit to use the showers so sadly I’m unable to confirm or deny that the hot shower rumours are true or false. That said it’d be disappointing if RJ was charging passengers for this.

Toilets wise you wouldn’t want to be there during peak hour with only 2-3 toilets in both the mens and womens. That said the toilets were spotless with an attendant cleaning them regularly.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

One thing I love about lounges is the food and drinks offerings; especially when done well. I state this based on what I’m about to say next,..and for me I was ‘underwhelmed’. Maybe it’s the Qatar or Emirates x-factor but after having visited recently the Qatar lounge in Bangkok, this lounge seemed like a downgrade.

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In the BKK lounge Bollinger champagne flowed and delectable little mezze dishes were in abundance. Here in RJ it’s very simple (little too much simplicity) and basic food offering let it down. On offer was salad, hummus and some individually wrapped plastic sealed wraps and pastries. The majority of this looked largely unappetising but admittedly the hummus did go down a treat with some Turkish bread.

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A wine/ spirits bar is on site but due to the timing of my early morning flight this was closed. Thankfully the non-alcoholic beverages were well stocked but the range of choices again were limited. Expect the usual suspects; coffee machines, tea, soft drink and water.

Verdict

First up the lounge isn’t a Sarah Ferugson but for a flagship lounge belonging to a premier full service airline it was underwhelming. This was namely down to a) charging (rumour) for the showers, b) limited toilet facilities (not good during peak periods) and c) a very basic food and beverage offering.  On the upside the layout of the design and its location with panoramic views of the general airport terminal is eye catching and enjoyable to spend time in. There’s a lot of potential for this lounge to be great and not just average. Sadly at this stage it’s just potential. I can only hope the renovations taking place currently in the lounge will address some of my concerns.

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Comments

Have you experienced Royal Jordanian Crown Class Lounge in Amman? Did you find the space disappointing or was your time more enjoyable? Love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

EMIRATES EK412 SYD – CHRISTCHURCH: ECONOMY REVIEW

Flight: EK412, Sydney-Christchurch

Loyalty Scheme: Skywards

Frequency: Once daily

Duration: 3 hr and 10 mins

 

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Recently Emirates has been making a lot of changes to its operations and networks, majority of them in my opinion bad decisions from the downgrading of aircraft to the recent cutting of their fifth freedom route SYD-BKK. Despite this one of their most popular fifth freedom routes is their SYD-CHC. Like many I go out of my way to fly the airline compared to its rivals because a) their service is class leading on that route and b) it is serviced by an A380. If you fly with AirNZ or Qantas you’d be lumped with an A320 or B737 at best. My love affair with this Emirates route aside, how did the airline fare the second time around for me on this route nine months on? I boarded Emirates (tough task) once again to find out.

Seat

 

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One of things that instantly catches my eye is the amount of leg room as well as the seat pitch. I feel an instant sense of space (yes even in economy). Perhaps I’m used to airlines cramming as many seats as possible onto the plane that space is something that’s expected to be compromised when travelling economy. Economy seats on the Emirates A380 have 32″ of pitch and are 19″ wide from armrest to armrest.

Entertain me

 

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All economy seats (bar front row) features a 13″ in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen in the seat back. There is a large selection of films and music to offer. The choice was so large in fact that I struggled for a while deciding on what I should watch or listen to first. Kudos to Emirates on this as a lot of airlines I have been on lately have had such a poor selection that I simply choose to sleep instead.

Wi-Fi service is also offered on its A380 aircraft with all passengers given free 20MB to use for up to two hours of the flight. If you burn through that you can also choose to purchase on of the two paid options to continue browsing.

Wine and dine me (the food)

 

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Prior to taking off the flight attendants came through the cabin with a menu. On AirNZ or Qantas on the same leg you would not even be serviced with such a menu nor given such a selection. Being a morning flight naturally a breakfast service was offered. There were two main options on offer. I went with the scrambled eggs western breakfast. The eggs and accompanying sides were quite delicious and far from dry which can occur regularly with airline food. The fruit plate was fresh and complimented the yoghurt. It might not be business but the food offering was a hell of a lot better than the comparative Qantas offering when I flew them AKL – SYD. Coffee and tea as well as basic drinks/ spirits were also on offer if you were happy to have a drink at 9am in the morning.

Summary

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Economy isn’t the easiest class to fly but when an airline does make the experience a lot more bearable it should be commended. That’s why I choose to fly Emirates on this route every time because it blows the competition out of the water. The seat and food is decent as well as the service for such a large aircraft. A winner all round. I will be flying with them again next time I fly this route!

 

Service: 4.5 Stars

Seating: 5 stars

Food: 4.5 Stars

 

Qantas to launch wifi on domestic A330s in June

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It was quite a while back when I first tested Qantas’ trial onboard wifi. The experience at the time was thrilling especially as it had been the first time I had used wifi aboard a Qantas aircraft. Since then Qantas has pushed ahead and rolled out wifi ‘slowly’ across its network. The latest news on the wifi front is that Qantas will launch inflight wifi on its domestic Airbus A330 jets in June.

The roll out follows wifi upgrades to its 737 fleet and will be welcomed by those making the transcontinental trek on the Airbus A330-200s.

Qantas has fitted the first of its 12 domestic A330-200s with the same satellite technology as the B737. A second wifi equipped A330 will take to the skies by June 30.

The A330 rollout was originally scheduled for early 2017 but constant delays by Qantas has seen the product rolled out until now.

Qantas envisions the majority of its B737 and Airbus A330-200 jets will be equipped with wifi by the end of 2018, with remaining aircraft to be equipped in 2019.

You can read my review of the Qantas onboard wifi here.

Qantas Business Lounge Sydney International: Review

Lounge: Qantas International Business Lounge

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Sydney International Airport

Lounge Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

The Qantas Business Class Lounge at Sydney International Airport is the go to place for Oneworld travelers who want a break from the hustle and bustle of the airport terminal. So how does the lounge stack up? Australian Business Traveler checked in to find out.

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Lounge access options

  • Business and first class passengers of Qantas, Emirates, Fiji Airways and Oneworld airlines (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar)
  • Jetstar travellers on a Business Max fare
  • Qantas Gold, Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge frequent flyers prior to Qantas, Jetstar, Emirates or Oneworld flights
  • Emirates Skywards Gold, Platinum and iO members prior to flights with Qantas and Emirates
  • Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald frequent flyers  prior to a Oneworld flight
  • Qantas Club members prior to a Qantas or Jetstar flight
  • American Airlines Admirals Club members travelling with Qantas on an AA flight number
  • Customers with single use lounge passes from their credit card.

Lounge location & opening hours

After passing customs follow the signs to the lounge, which is located up a set of escalators on the third floor close to Gates 9 & 10. The lounge entrance is located a short walk away from the Qantas Sydney International First Lounge and is open seven days a week, 5am – 10pm.

 

Ambience

The lounge was empty when I arrived in (a shock to me because previous visits to this lounge have usually been heaving to the point I had to stand and eat my meal). During peak times one notices this lounge is severely undersized considering the amount of people traffic it serves.

In addition with Qantas undertaking a large transformation project of their Australian lounges (Melbourne Airport the next to be completed), Sydney was feeling tired in comparison to its Queensland and Perth counterparts. That said it is still a pleasant place to whittle away a couple of hours before ones flight.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Upon entering the lounge you will see a centrepiece central dining island which acts as a bar along with areas for dining. Here visitors can order selected plates of the day or go to one of two buffet style stations where a larger selection of food and beverages are on display.

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One thing that Qantas do well here is the barista and gelato service where a freshly brewed coffee goes down well with a deliciously creamy ice cream (obiviously these are not combined). The service with both of these are personable, inviting and add a lovely, unique touch to the lounge.

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The food selection on offer at the buffet stations was quite satisfying with the Mediterranean chicken and stir fry options both tasty. A number of salads, soups, cheeses and artisan breads were also on offer.

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Drinks wise I was a tad disappointed. Whilst the beer and wine selection was good I found the cider and sparkling to be poor. The cider was too sweet and the sparkling option was sadly a chardonnay drop which was flat and far from bubbly.

Qantas has won a number of awards for their wine selection but the offerings in the lounge that day were average and forgettable. Not the best way to ease into the beginning of an overseas getaway.

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Verdict

The lounge space when it is not at its peak capacity feels spacious despite its small floor plan. Staff are friendly and are attentive. The food is fresh and tasty. No dish that I sampled disappointed however it is a shame the same could not be said about the drink options. I have previously been in this lounge and savoured far better sparkling than the drop that was on offer during this visit. If you are looking for real bubbles aka champagne make sure you stop by the Emirates Lounge instead if you are a Qantas Gold or Platinum FF and are heading to Europe/ Middle East.

Overall a pleasant way to relax before an international flight but there are areas such as drink where it could be refined to make the lounge experience feel a little bit more memorable.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Qantas International Business Class Lounge in Sydney? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – was it outstanding or did the lounge fail to take off on your expectations?

Qatar Business Class – Seat Comparison Roundup

Qatar has many differing Business Class seats depending on the type and age of aircraft. With Qatar offering multiple frequencies for its most popular routes, finding the right seat for your trip makes all the difference between thoroughly enjoying versus simply passing the time. So how do they compare?

A380

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The Seat

The Qatar A380 features forward facing reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 layout with direct aisle access. The seat can also be found in the A350 and 787. The open and airy configuration looks daunting with so many seats spread out before you when you first board. Once settled in the seat does provide a reasonable amount of privacy if not completely shielded away from others. It converts to a flat bed with good space around the knees and is comfortable for both those who prefer to sleep on their sides or their backs/bellies.

The standard Qatar pillow and blanket are provided; both being plush and comfortable. Pyjamas are provided on overnight flights but it would be nice to see daytime flights provided with this as well as many passengers would appreciate changing into something comfortable during a 7 hour flight.

 

Entertain me

Entertainment is on the comprehensive Oryx One System with plenty of movies and TV on demand, showing through a bright HD screen. Controlled directly through the screen or the remote control, the selection whilst not exhaustive does offer enough to pass away the time. In addition, wifi is available on board with 10mb free to all passengers.

Also onboard the A380 is a bar and lounge which is great for socialising with other passengers or for groups of friends/colleagues to spend time together over with drinks and food in a space other than their seat.

 

777 – Q Suites

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The Seat

The Q Suite is the most recent iteration of the Qatar Business Class seat and is currently found only on the newest B777-300ER aircraft (and soon the A350-1000 aircraft). It will eventually trickle down to other aircraft in the fleet like the B787 and A380. There is no other word to describe this seat other than gorgeous. Beautifully designed, it makes you excited the moment you see it and has numerous thoughtful little touches that really speaks to the way every aspect of the design has been considered.

It has shoulder height doors that close while at the same time not making the space feel claustrophobic. Arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, seats on the outside alternate between window and aisle. All seats have direct aisle access.

If I had one bad thing to say it must be the table. Sticking out from under the TV right in front of the seat, it creates an issue where it impinges on space for the knees. So much so that I found it quite difficult to get into a comfortable position whether it was lying down or resting reclined watching TV or a movie. In fact, the table made resting so uncomfortable that on my flight between Doha and Paris (some 7.5hrs), I only managed an hour or two of sleep. Highly unusual considering I struggle to stay awake on flights! Pyjamas by The White Company were provided on this flight and a turn down service consisting of a pillow case and mattress pad is also on offer.

One great thing about this seat is that a family of four (or four friends travelling together) can share a four-way suite and dine/lounge together. Couples can also share two centre Q Suites and in a sense sleep side by side (it technically doesn’t convert into a double bed, but two singles aligned to one another with some parts of the bed divided).

 

Entertain me

Entertainment is the best of the Oryx One system by Qatar. Again a comprehensive but not exhaustive range is on offer. Entertainment is delivered on a large and clear 21.5” HD screen. Control also via the screen or remote by the seat.

On a side note, there is a special tasting platter that is available on the Q Suites in addition to the standard menus. A nice touch for an aviation foodie.

 

777 – Forward Facing pairs

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The Seat

This is one of Qatar’s oldest seats in their long haul fleet but just because it’s old doesn’t mean it is necessarily a bad thing. The seat is still in good condition and arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. Offering plenty of space the seat transforms into a long, comfortable flat bed. If you don’t know the person you’re seated next to there is a small divider that provides a little privacy. While some travellers prefer more privacy and direct aisle access, these forward facing seats allow for a comfortable sleep, particularly on long haul and ultra-long haul flights.

One complaint about these type of forward facing seats is that you need to step over the aisle passenger to get into the aisle if you are seated by the window. I personally don’t have an issue with this as the gap between the seats allows is more than ample to easily step over your seat mate. Storage wise there is not as much space as the reverse herringbone and Q suite seats yet I managed to stow away my laptop, headphones and shoes.

 

Entertain me

While the plane also has the Oryx One system, the screens offered in these seats are a generation behind and aren’t as clear as those found on newer aircraft. One downside of having so much legroom is that the screen is further away from you and hard to view. Screens can be operated by touch (if you can reach that far forward), or controlled from the remote. No wifi or lounge available on board.

 

A330

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The seat

This is by far the least spacious of the medium/long haul seats offered by Qatar. Arranged in a 2-2-2 setting, not only do they have less legroom, but are narrower and more compact. The seats face slightly to the left and right towards the windows, depending on the respective side of the aircraft. Those in the centre angle slightly towards the middle. As the seats dovetail into the side of the seat in front, this creates a narrow foot-well, restricting the amount of space for your feet.

In bed mode, the seat while not long as others, the bed is still decent. It lays fully flat and is furnished with the standard Qatar pillow and blanket. Having flown this product twice I have managed to get a decent (if not deep sleep). So, whilst the seat isn’t industry leading, it is still comfortable. As with forward facing paired seats, those by the window need to step over the passenger in the aisle to get out. Again, I don’t have an aversion to this seat but obviously direct aisle access is preferable.

 

Entertain me

At the risk of sounding repetitive, Oryx One is in-flight entertainment found on this product and the content virtually identical to those found on the other seats. The screen is HD and bright, so much so that even at the lowest setting it is too bright to sleep with the flight map running. Controlled again by the screen and remote. No wifi or lounge offered on board.

 

Conclusion

Qatar is a highly regarded airline, and the reputation is justified. Its Business Class products are well designed, comfortable and for the most part offer a consistent experience despite the seat variations. The pillows and blankets provided are lush and comfortable. Amenity packs universal and pyjamas are comfortable to lounge and sleep in (when provided). Food on board is always to a high standard and service even when average is always good and well intentioned. The A380 does get an edge with the lounge and bar area, but for me the seat is the most important aspect.

 

Fourth Place – At the bottom of the list comes the A330. Narrow, tight and not as spacious as the others, this seat comes dead last. Not the end of the world if you can’t avoid it and definitely a #firstworldproblem.

 

Third Place – The Q suites. Now hear me out – it’s the newest, its beautifully designed, its spacious and it’s just damn amazing. BUT (and it’s a big but), the issue around knee space really put me off the seat. I just couldn’t find a comfortable position to lounge or sleep in and getting plenty of rest is probably the most important thing I’m looking for from a flight in Business Class.

 

We have a tie!

The final two comes down to who I’m travelling with. If I was travelling with a friend or partner, I’d surprisingly choose the forward facing pair on the 777. Its spacious, comfortable and allows for couples to travel together and share the experience. However travelling solo the reverse herringbone wins hands down – it might not be breath taking like the Q Suites, but it does everything on an exceptional level. Therefore I declare it a tied first!

 


About the writer

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I’m a well travelled 30 something who blames it all on his father (though really, I’ve taken it to the next level). Travelling from a young age and continuing to do so independently from the end of high school, I am happy to step on a plane headed anywhere. Indeed my colleagues at work don’t ask me if I’m going away in holidays, but where I’ll be headed. They don’t even bat an eyelid when I pop down to Melbourne for the weeknight just to see some show that takes my fancy.

All of my travel is self funded. Through a mixture of great fares and frequent flyer points I’ve developed a penchant for sitting at the front of the plane. However let’s be honest; I’ll just about sit anywhere if it means I get to fly somewhere.

My first trial of the inflight Qantas Wifi

There was no mention prior to my departure via the Qantas App or during the check-in process that I would be boarding one of the Qantas wifi enabled planes. Since April 2017 I had heard Qantas was slowly rolling out the technology across 80 of its domestic fleet of B737s and A330s by the end of 2018.

Continue reading “My first trial of the inflight Qantas Wifi”