Etihad Airways for the last two years has been looking at ways to milk the cow so to speak in a bid to recoup costs and get themselves back in the black. The latest announcement will add a few more dollars Etihad’s way with the airline launching ‘Economy Space’. What is ‘Economy Space’ you ask?’ Some are claiming it’s their version of premium economy but it isn’t even close. It’s more akin to United’s Economy Plus, a seat simply with extra leg room.
By December this year, ‘Economy Space’ will be implemented onto 10 of their A380s. The seats will feature an increased pitch of up to 36 inches whilst bolstering the number of extra legroom seats they currently have in Economy from 20 to 80 on the A380. In the new year the airline will focus on redesigning 12 Boeing 777 and 21 Boeing 787 jets with a completion date slated for late 2019.
The airline says it has made the move due to an increase in demand for more space but without the hefty price tag of business or first class.
All ‘Economy Space’ seats will be sold at a premium to passengers. The airline is yet to release details on how much the seats will be priced at. In addition to ‘Economy Space’, Etihad will offer a Neighbour-Free seating option in Economy as well as a range of buy-on-board products.
Whilst I’m sad of its withdrawal from most international routes, I’m eager (and gunning) to get onboard with a B747 domestically in Australia. Yes you read right….Qantas will fly the queen of the skies, the Boeing 747 between Sydney and Perth from late July.
The B747 will get a shot at domestic duties before its retirement from the Qantas fleet in 2020. For some like me this is like a John Farnham final tour (but Qantas doesn’t plan on making another surprise tour down the track – retirement sadly means retirement).
Don’t expect to see the Boeing 747 doing the east-west leg daily. It’s rumoured QF581, QF582, QF583 and QF568 will be the flights to get the B747 treatment from August 9.
Whilst Business Class passengers will be slightly disadvantaged by the lie-flat Skybed II 2-3-2 arrangement, top tier frequent flyers booked in economy class will be the real winners here with the change with the ability to pre-select seats in the B747 premium economy cabin based on status.
It’ll be interesting to see where the B747 ends up before retirement. Despite being one of the critics against the retirement, I admit this is one move recently by Qantas around the B747 that I do support.
Flight: JL771, Tokyo (Narita) to Sydney (11 June 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: JAL Mileage Bank/ Oneworld
Duration: 7.25pm (+9) ATD: 7.35pm (+9) Delayed 10 mins; STA: 6:10am (+10) ATA: 6.23am (+10) Delayed 13mins
Japan Airlines operates the lowest density 787 Dreamiliner in the world. In fact, the three class configuration of the JAL 787-8 has only 161 seats. That’s comparable to other airlines that have greater than 200 seats on their 787-8s. The seats are split between 38 business suites (Sky Suites), 35 premium economy (Sky Premium) and 88 economy seats (Sky Wider).
I had previously flown the JAL economy seats which frankly feel like premium economy compared to other airlines. Indeed JAL has a 2-4-2 layout in economy, with the only other airline to choose the more spacious configuration being it’s domestic competitor, All Nippon Airlines (ANA). Premium Economy is in a 2-3-2 layout. Business is 2-2-2 layout with each seat having a wall and direct aisle access for privacy. I booked last minute and as economy wasn’t available, I booked the last remaining seat in Premium Economy, hence I was stuck in the dreaded middle seat, 20E.
JAL operates out of Terminal 2 at Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT). Terminal 2 is the terminal used by JAL and its oneworld partners (ie. Qantas, Cathay, American, British Airways). Terminal 1 is split between Skyteam and Star Alliance (including home airline ANA) with Terminal 3 dedicated to low cost carriers like Jetstar and Vanilla Air.
Lounges in Terminal 2 include JAL First and Sakura Lounges as well as Cathay Pacific First and Business Lounge, Qantas Business Lounge, Admirals Club, China Airlines Dynasty Lounge and an Emirates Lounge. As a passenger in Premium Economy, I was entitled to use the Sakura Lounge. The lounge is located conveniently immediately after security, sharing the entrance with the First Lounge (to the left) and the Sakura entrance (to the right).
Down the stairs and inside, there is plenty of ample seating along windows, with nice views of the gates from almost anywhere in the lounge. The main floor of the lounge has drink stations and nibbles, with the main dining area one floor up. Here, there was a modest buffet, drinks, tables and plenty of seating for both groups and singles. Also in the lounge were shower rooms. Originally on arriving I was told that a shower would be an hour wait (which was really how long I had in the lounge. Luckily, my buzzer went off about half hour into my visit. This was perfect timing as I’d just finished eating and meant I could shower right before boarding my plane.
As I previously mentioned, I had booked this flight less than a week out and so by this time, all seats other than middle ones had been assigned. I consider myself lucky enough to even be able to score 20E. The seat itself was wide and offered ample legroom. The seat has a fixed shell meaning you don’t actually recline, but rather your seat slides down and the seat base moves forward. In this position, the seat was fairly comfortable though I did find myself sliding down throughout the night. Each seat has a privacy divider between other seats and this made a comfortable place to rest against with my pillow.
Waiting at my seat were slippers, a thin blanket, pillow and headphones. To be honest, everything was fairly economy grade and the cabin felt more like economy plus rather than business minus. Newspapers were offer prior to doors closing and flight attendants came around with immigration forms for Australia. The seat was comfortable, though having sat in a regular economy seat between New York and Tokyo, I have to say it’s an incremental improvement and I’d be happy in either (a testament to how comfortable their economy seat is).
At the seat are reading lamps, remote or touchscreen controlled IFE screen and small storage spaces beside the seat as well as beside each screen. Power points and USB outlets were also available at each seat. The screen was large and bright, with the content showing in fairly high definition (though not crystal clear).
Entertainment content was rather good, with a fair number of western films including some quite recent releases. There were a few TV series with a number of episodes of each series though the variety could have been better. In addition there was a decent selection of English music. While adequate, it was certainly not extensive.
Wifi was available on board this aircraft with prices starting at $10.95 USD for 1 hour to $18.96 USD for the entire flight.
The Bread and Butter (food and drink)
Once in the air, flight attendants came around with hot towels which were then followed by drinks and a packet of rice snacks. I chose the JAL Signature Drink which is called ‘Skytime’. It’s a kiwifruit based cordial which was quite refreshing.
Menus had been handed out prior to take off and there were two meal choices available. On tonight’s flight between Japan and Australia, these were either a beef or chicken dish. The Gyudon was a beef bowl done in Sichuan style, accompanied with pumpkin. I chose the chicken dish which was Chicken Kuwayaki, soy-glazed and sautéed accented by yuzu-citrus flavoured chili paste. The main dishes were accompanied with chilled Winter Melon, savoury Okara Soy Pulp with anchovy, fresh salad with dressing, lychee pudding and finished off with Haagen Dazs ice cream (custard pudding flavour). Everything was served on one dish and would have been identical in economy. JAL catering is usually pretty good and this was no exception – basic food but done well.
Roughly 90 minutes prior to landing, I awoke to find myself surrounded by those sitting next to me eating breakfast. One thing I love on JAL is that if you’ve missed a meal service, they’ll actually place a post-it note on your IFE screen which lets you know you’ve missed a meal. I wish more airlines did this! On request, I was given my meal promptly and this consisted of a seven vegetable quiche, pumpkin salad, yoghurt, bread and butter. It was again a solid meal, if not exceptional.
JAL’s 787-8 is the lowest density configuration out there in the world. As such it delivers a premium experience. Boarding commences 20-30 minutes prior to departure, which isn’t long for any international flight but it’s simply all part of the experience. No matter which seat you’re in, its comfort all the way. Premium economy had just that extra personal space compared to those found in economy. That said it was incremental rather than leaps and bounds ahead the economy product.
Japanese service as you’d expect is exceptional and polite, with nothing being too much or too difficult. The touches throughout the flight are thoughtful and considered like the rest of Japanese culture, and I found the entire experience relaxed and calm. What more could you ask for on a red-eye flight?
About the writer
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.
Emirates President Tim Clark has announced the airline will launch a premium economy class on its aircraft from 2020. Premium economy will be on the 20 new Airbus A380s the airline ordered in January this year as well as its B777 aircraft. There are also plans to retrofit some of its existing fleet with the new seat.
An exciting (but yet to be confirmed) feature is that the new seats will offer 38 inches of pitch and transform to a deep recline to become a railway-style ‘sleeperette’ as opposed to the traditional angled recliner. In addition it’s rumoured that the new premium economy seats will feature 56 seats in the front of the bottom deck of the A380 and 26-28 in the B777.
Premium economy has for many travellers become the sweet spot between economy class and business class. The announcement means that Emirates will be the first middle eastern airline to introduce that type of class seat, in turn placing competitive pressure on rivals Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways to develop something similar.
Other airlines that already offer a premium economy product include Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas Airways and British Airways.
In my opinion I feel the news from Emirates this week is positive but I’m curious as to what will be compromised in the process. Will there be a reduction of business class seats and therefore business seating reward redemption or will they look at culling some economy seats (the bread and butter on seats)? In addition it all comes down to price. If the price is relatively expensive and the difference is not much more to jump into business class, why on earth would people want to pay a premium to lay in what is essentially a economy hammock?
Time will tell I guess. I will keep you guys posted when I hear of new developments regarding the Emirates premium class offering.
What do you think of the news of Emirates offering premium economy? Would you be inclined to purchase one? Keen to hear your thoughts.
The age of flying non-stop has been very much in vogue over the last couple of years with numerous airlines trying to outdo each other with the world’s longest flight. Now Singapore Airlines has decided they want a piece of the action by launching what would be the world’s longest non-stop flight route in October. Commencing October 11, the ultra long haul flight will take off from Singapore’s Changi Airport and land at NYC’s Newark Liberty Airport.
What makes this fight even more unique is that the aircraft will not have any economy class seating, instead offering 67 business class and 94 premium economy class seats.
Operating three times weekly, Singapore will use their new Airbus A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range) plane to make the 19 hour journey that spans a whopping 16,700 kms.
Singapore Airlines originally flew the route on the A340 but fuel inefficiency saw this route shelved in 2013. The reinstatement of the route will see it eclipse the current longest flight route record holder Qatar Airways which flies Doha to Auckland (14,529 kms).
Would you be willing to fly 19 hours non-stop on a plane if it offered only premium seating? Keen to hear your thoughts.
Ah yes, we live in the age of aviation cost cutting. Whilst airlines are happy to trickle down the in-flight experience sadly we don’t see the savings passed on in the ticket price for consumers. It is a shame that aviation has turned this corner, especially on those deemed ‘premium airlines’. British Airways is guilty of this having removed their complimentary drinks and snacks from their internal European flights to a buy on board scheme. The changes have left a sour taste in passengers mouths and subsequently the BA reputation has been tarnished.
Now Lufthansa has decided to join BA in terms of trialling a buy on board scheme for their long haul flights. The scheme will commence May 2018 and offer passengers the ability to purchase one of seven a la carte dishes. The meals must be purchased a minimum 24 hours prior to the flight.
Options on the menu include a bento box, grilled steak, Bavarian snacks, and an Asian dish to name a few. The dishes will be served on porcelain and resemble a dining set up similar to business.
When I first read this I was shocked as I thought the premium airline would being moving to what seemed a budget airline strategy but for now the airline has assured that the purchase offering is an option of top of their complimentary meals for long haul economy and premium economy passengers.
Lufthansa Group partner, Swiss introduced a similar concept a couple of years ago where one could buy on board food in economy on long haul flights but did not come at the expense of their complimentary meals. With dishes prices ranging between 29-49CHF, the offering is quite expensive and something that a lot of passengers would avoid. It is expected that the dishes on Lufthansa will have a similar price point.
My question however is how long before the airline decides to issue one of those media releases stating that they will remove complimentary meals due to the success of their buy on board program. Time will tell. In the interim eat up and enjoy the interim complimentary food service dear Lufthansa economy passengers.
Are you flying Lufthansa economy or premium economy in the future? If so would you fork out extra to have one of these meals?