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.

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.

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!

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.

 

 

Qantas popular Points Plane returns…this time LA

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Before the wheels have even left the ground on the first Qantas Points Plane, the airline announced this week it would be doing another Points Plane…this time to Los Angeles!  What adds a bit more excitement to this announcement is that the B747 will be used, a rare appearance on the  Australian – American route hop! It’s a great opportunity for B747 lover like myself who wants to see the Queen of the Skies off in style by flying her one last time (naturally).

With Qantas set to retire all its beautiful B747 fleet by the end of 2020 I cannot stress how great of an opportunity this is. Flight QF99 will depart from SYD for LAX on Sunday 13 October 2019.

Here’s what you need (points wise and excluding those pesky taxes) that you’ll need to secure the seat of your dreams:

  • 96,000 Qantas Points for business class
  • 72,000 Qantas Points for premium economy
  • 41,900 Qantas Points for economy

Qantas as part of its transition fleet plan will gradually replace its 747-400s with the company’s favourite plane of late, the B787 Dreamliner (I’m still yet to be a fan like Mr Alan Joyce).

Comment

Will you be booking an seat on the second Points Plane? 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?