AMERICAN AIRLINES FLAGSHIP MIAMI (USA) LOUNGE: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Miami Airport (MIA), Concourse D

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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American airport lounges to put in a word are ‘dull’. Unlike their European, Middle East and Asia-Pacific counterparts, the lounges are uninspired, tired and generally basic. Sometimes it is better for a traveller to find food and drink in the terminal than rely on the lacklustre options that await in the lounge buffet.

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Over the last couple of years United and American have (in part) re-inspired the lounge for American standards with their premium lounge products, Polaris and Flagship respectively. American has slowly rolled out its Flagship product for First/ top premium flying customers and the lounges despite being rolled out ever so slowly, have so far have been a success. Having visited the Dallas and New York lounges, TAT went to check into its Miami counterpart to see if it stacked up.

Lounge access options

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  • Passengers travelling on qualifying oneworld longhaul international first and business class flights same day
  • Passengers travelling in first class and business class on American’s premium transcontinental routes, including from New York to Los Angeles and New York to San Francisco
  • American Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum members travelling on a qualifying oneworld international flights, regardless of the class of service
  • All non-American AAdvantage oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members travelling on any oneworld flight

 

Lounge location and opening hours

The American Flagship Lounge Miami is open daily from 4:30AM until 10:30PM. The lounge is located near gate D30, not far from the middle of the American concourse in Miami Airport.

Ambience

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One thing that is notable upon entry is the sheer size. American’s Flagship Lounge Miami is about 29,000 square feet –  that’s huge in terms of lounge space and scale. The lounge as a result has numerous communal and dining spaces sprinkled throughout the area. The decor whilst generic is clean and crisp and well appointed with an abundance of natural light pouring into the lounge which in turn offers lounge lizards some quite wonderful runway views.

There’s a main dining/ buffet area, a media room, self serve wine bar and American’s Flagship First Dining (off limits to those not flying American first). One thing that I did love was the daybed section. The beds looked very comfortable and were tucked away in a quiet part of the lounge. However some privacy screens would be welcome there as I for one don’t like getting shut eye on display in front of strangers.

The bathrooms/ restrooms are nicely designed, if a tad beige in terms of colour tone. There are six lounge suites in this lounge which all come with two showerheads and Bigelow amenities. Having needed a shower prior to my flight from Miami to Los Angeles, the water temperature was perfect and I found I didn’t have to wait long for a shower suite either (a rarity in lounges such as this).

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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The lounge offering in Flagship is head and shoulders above anything served in the Admirals Lounge.  A large buffet style dining area dominates the rear of the lounge with cold and hot selections. Among the dishes was a delish crayfish roll,  charcuterie board and handmade ravioli. The presentation was impressive and wait staff were always on hand to quickly change over any dishes that became empty quickly.

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Drinks wise, it is all self serve. Whilst this is fine for the champagne, beer and wine, it’s a shame the coffee option isn’t barista made. There’s also a number of soft drink machines and cold bottled beverages lined up in the fridges.

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Verdict

As far as American lounges go, this is by far one of the best (not really hard to achieve on general American standards). The layout whilst overly large offers a large amount of space and quiet for those wishing to work. The dining and drink options is fairly strong although the champagne option was poor in comparison. Having originally served Bollinger in this lounge 18 months ago, it’s disappointing the quality has collapsed to Bessarat.

Admittedly I use to dread MIA Airport. Now with the addition of the American Flagship Lounge I feel this airport in the US has quickly become one of my favourites. This lounge is definitely worth a visit if you have access rights to it.

Comments

Have you experienced the American Flagship lounge at MIA Airport? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

Qantas to pull out of Beijing market in March 2020

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Qantas has experienced a bit of turbulence of late in the Chinese market. The rise and rise of a number of cheaper Chinese airlines flooding the market coupled with a slowing down of demand has seen the airline (for the third time now) pull the plug on its Sydney – Beijing route. The route will continue to operate through to March 2020 with the airline then linking customers onto alternative routes/ codeshare partners to get them to the Chinese capital.

Frankly it’s a shame it didn’t work out for Qantas. This year alone I have flown the Sydney – Beijing leg with Qantas three times and found the experience head and shoulders amongst the best on that route, particularly in terms of their business product. A lot of Chinese airlines are emerging and with that the product hasn’t been truly tried and tested. Quality tends to be generally mixed but more price conscious driven; great for those who are on a shoestring travel budget.

The exact date in March next year is unknown for Qantas’ withdrawal but what is certain is that Qantas’ codeshare partnership with China Eastern will be bolstered. Alternatively Qantas passengers will be directed to use their Sydney – Shanghai operated aircraft and fly from there domestically on China Eastern or Oneworld partner Cathay from Hong Kong.

Those booked on flights beyond March 2020 with Qantas will be contacted by the airline for alternative travel options.

Virgin set to axe Melb – HK flights

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In the wake of Virgin Australia’s announcement that it’ll fly daily Brisbane – Tokyo from late March 2020, the airline has swung the axe into its daily flights between Melbourne and Hong Kong. The move comes as part of the airline’s recent review into route profitability after a dismal $315 million loss in earning this year.

The move to reduce flights to Hong Kong will will free up the Airbus A330 aircraft needed for Virgin’s daily flights between Brisbane and Tokyo.

Other changes to come out of the six month review to improve the airline financial performance includes the push back of Boeing 737 MAX jets delivery from November 2019 to July 2021 and delaying a launch of an enhanced B737 business class seat.

It’s a shame to see Virgin reduce their presence in Hong Kong. Understandably the political unrest has made it even tougher for the airline, especially in a market dominated by Cathay and Qantas. Back when the airline launched into Hong Kong in 2017, it was anticipated that the airline would use it as a launch pad into mainland China. That never quite eventuated as Virgin had hoped.

Virgin is hopeful that the new Brisbane to Tokyo route will be a better option, with a new partnership with leading Japanese airline ANA giving them the leverage they require to launch into the Asia market from Japan to China.

 

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.

JAPAN AIRLINES FIRST CLASS SAKURA LOUNGE TOKYO (HANEDA): REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Haneda (Tokyo) International Airport, Terminal 1

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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For as far as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated and had respect for Japan Airlines (JAL) as an airline. The airline is synonymous with outstanding customer service, strong product offerings and overall elegance. This extends to their lounges which are well presented and immaculate. I was keen to visit the First Class Lounge in Haneda after friends reported on how wonderful their experience was, including a must visit to the Red Suite. Fortunately I had the opportunity to visit the lounge twice on a recent trip. So how did the lounge stack up in terms of First Class lounges like The Pier in HK or the Concorde Lounge in the UK? I checked into the lounge to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Those travelling in JAL First Class
  • JAL Mileage Bank Diamond, Gold and Silver members
  • Oneworld Emerald members travelling on any Oneworld flight in any cabin of service

Lounge location and opening hours

The JAL First Class Lounge is located after security in the International Terminal on level 4. Located across from gate 112, the lounge can be accessed via an elevator or set of escalators leading up from the gate level. Opening hours for the lounge is from 6am – 2am, with only a closure period of four hours in the wee hours of the early morning.

Ambience

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Upon entering the lounge for the first time you’re greeted by a stunning hallway with gleaming marble floors, Japanese style partitions and artwork. Off the hallway are shower facilities to the left and a phone room and baggage storage to the right. Beyond the hallway are two main seating areas on either side of the dining space, a small business centre, The Red Suite, showers, bathroom, massage area and smoking room. The amount of seating as well as power outlets are generous. The furnishing style is light and elegant, and more importantly very comfortable.

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Speaking of the Red Suite, this by far was the room that most impressed. In a word stunning. I’ve not come across such a gorgeous room (not even in The Pier in HK) in a lounge before. Located at the back of the lounge, this adults only space offers a more relaxed space for those seeking quiet.

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The suite, beautifully decorated in mahogany colours and featuring Japan Airlines memorabilia, is broken up into four spaces. A library, play room, seating room and the all important champagne/sake bar (which comprises of a Laurent-Perrier stocked fridge and top notch sake). There’s also a shoe polishing service for those business flyers looking to spruce up before their next meeting. This was my favourite space in the lounge and found myself often returning to fill up on another sake or Laurent Perrier.

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I didn’t have the opportunity to visit the shower rooms but the restrooms were well appointed with lovely amenities as well as the iconic Japanese Super Toilet or Washlet (Woshuretto) as it’s known, which has all the dazzling and somewhat confusing array of features.

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Bread and butter (food and drink)

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The food selection is mainly self-serve, with a chef available during peak times (breakfast and dinner) to create made to order dishes. The selection is extensive but in comparison to other first lounges I have visited it was a tad underwhelming. Some individual items like the sushi selection was delicious and highly recommended but the salads and bread options looked lacklustre and not well presented. The chef was the highlight of the area and at the time of my visit they were serving the original JAL burger which was quite tasty and went down a treat!

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There are also two self serve drink stations which include liquor, soft drinks, juice, and a beer machine. The selection on offer is decent but nowhere near as impressive as The Red Suite offering.

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Verdict

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The JAL First Class Lounge is definitely up there for me in terms of my all time favourites,  mainly due to the x factor of the Red Suite.  I fell in love with its beautiful interior, tranquil ambience and lovely nod to JALs aviation past. As an aviation geek walking around inspecting the memorabilia with Laurent-Perrier glass in hand has easily become one of my favourite airport lounge experiences.

Whilst the lounge isn’t The Pier in Hong Kong (a difficult task to follow), this lounge has easily become one of my favourites alongside the Qantas, Qatar and British Airways First lounges. I will definitely (and hopefully) be back to enjoy this stunning lounge again sometime in the near future.

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Comments

Have you experienced the JAL First Class Sakura Lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

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?