QANTAS LINK SET TO FLY INTO BENDIGO 6 DAYS A WEEK

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Regional Victoria is set to get another travel option boost with QantasLink set to fly between Bendigo Airport and Sydney from March next year.The announcement by Qantas and the state government is an exciting one as it helps service a growing area in Victoria that for many is a long distance from Sydney and vice versa when you factor in flying and driving.

Until now passengers from Sydney would have to fly into Melbourne Tullamarine Airport before making a two hour drive onward to Bendigo.

From March 31, 2019 QantasLink will operate flights six days a week with its 50-seat Q300 turboprop aircraft, with daily services operating during the peak summer season.

Flights from Bendigo depart between 6.30am – 9.10am, Monday – Saturday, whilst services from Sydney depart at 5.25pm and land in Bendigo at 7.25pm on weekdays and Sundays. Flights will take from an hour and 10 minutes to two hours.

QantasLink is currently offering special fares of $129 one-way between Bendigo and Sydney, for travel from March 31 to October 26, 2019. The sale ends 17 Dec 2018.

 

Qantas weighs in on hand luggage

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Qantas has begun weighing carry-on luggage of passengers at the gate as part of a crackdown on hand luggage exceeding the bag limit of 7kg. Baggage found to be overweight will be compulsorily checked in at the boarding gate. Not even Business Class passengers and Platinum One frequent flyers are exempt from the crackdown.

With the rise of a virtually contactless check in experience to the boarding gate, the process of weighing or checking in baggage has become nonexistent. Despite skipping check in due to checking in online, baggage should still meet the size and weight requirements of the airline’s baggage policy. However this often goes unchecked by full service airlines at the boarding gate.

Qantas is an airline that from living memory rarely ever weighed hand luggage at the gate but have decided that the growth of online checkin has seen the baggage policy sometimes abused by passengers. I can understand where the airline is coming from and there are some occasions where the hand luggage policy has been clearly abused but the weighing of all items, particularly if they’re only say 1-2 kgs over is a bit petty. For me on domestic flights I use hand luggage all the time, even when on a full service airline that includes checked luggage for free. It’s fast and convenient, especially when travelling for business as you don’t want to spend half an hour at baggage collection waiting for your bag.

Qantas says the random checks ensure each passenger has their fair share of overhead space whilst looking out for the safety of cabin crew who could potentially injure themselves lifting overweight luggage.

I’m divided on this issue as I can see both sides of the argument. In all fairness 7kgs is pretty light and pathetic. If hand luggage was increased to 9kg a piece I think anything over weight that should be stored underneath. As the expression goes, if you can’t lift it put it away.

It’ll be interesting to see how Qantas handles this new hand luggage in the months to come and whether it’ll further impact departure times for the airline, which for the majority of my QF flights are generally delayed.

Do you Qantas has gone too far in terms of randomly weighing hand luggage? I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

Fiji Airways officially joins Oneworld Connect

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Fiji Airways this week officially became Oneworld Connect’s first partner. As a new partner it unlocks an array of benefits for Oneworld members. Oneworld Connect is intended to be an option for smaller airlines to join the alliance without having to pay the full membership costs due to the large costs associated with joining an alliance.

So what does this mean for those as part of the Oneworld program?

Prior to joining Oneworld Connect, priority boarding on Fiji Airways flights was reserved only for business class passengers and the airline’s Tabua Club members. The change will now priority boarding benefits expanded to all Oneworld members across all airports when travelling with Fiji Airways.

In addition customers from American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas when flying on Fiji Airways will have the ability to earn and redeem miles (including earning status miles). The benefits will also be reciprocated for Fiji Airways Tabua frequent flyer members when flying on American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

However unlike other Oneworld partners, Connect doesn’t offer Oneworld members access to FJ lounges or Oneworld when flying under an FJ coded flight. This means that unless you are flying FJ Business Class, you will not receive lounge access no matter your status. This is quite disappointing considering that Oneworld benefits like lounge access are highly regarded and for many are a main drawcard to being with an alliance.

If that isn’t disappointing, as you could tell not all Oneworld members are treated the same. Below is a chart breaking down the benefits for each airline.

In my view the new addition of FJ is better than no addition with some good benefits there in terms of points and boarding. However with some airlines treated more preferably than others as part of this new deal, I feel this has added a layer of confusion in terms of who is eligible for what. Additionally a lack of airport lounge access is disappointing and one can only hope will be reviewed soon. Time will tell if the Connect concept lasts the distance.

 

Qantas First Class Lounge Los Angeles: Review

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Alliance: Oneworld

Location: LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal

Lounge Rating: 4 Stars

Qantas possesses some of the best lounges in the world, namely their first class international lounges in Melbourne and Sydney. Outside of Australia the Qantas first class lounge experience is unfortunately scarce. A couple of years ago Qantas opened up a new first class lounge in LAX. Reviews, particularly from American media were highly favourable. I was recently in Los Angeles and was keen to see if the great ‘Australian lounge experience’ was indeed alive and well in the States but more importantly do they do Neil Perry’s salt and pepper squid the justice it deserves? I checked into the LAX Qantas First Lounge to find out.

Lounge access options

  • Qantas first class passengers, plus first class flyers of Oneworld partners British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines from Los Angeles
  • Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge frequent flyers travelling on a Qantas or Oneworld flight, including Qantas codeshare flights
  • Connecting passengers arriving on long-haul first class Oneworld flights
  • American Airlines’ first class passengers
  • 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 at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, proceed over the indoor ‘bridge’, turn left, and then take the lift up to level five, where you’ll arrive in front of the roo branded lounge entrance.

 

Ambience

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Initial impressions of the lounge is that it has a relaxed and unpretentious ambience. It doesn’t feel cluttered or people busy as first lounges in Australia. The rectangular shaped lounge space offers two main seating areas each furnished with quite comfortable large armchairs and a self serve wine and coffee area. Towards the back of the lounge is the dining room which is complete with a sit around bar that’s looked after by a bartender.

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Next door to the dining area are shower and toilet facilities that are equipped with Aspar wash products. I decided to take a shower prior to dining a la carte but found there was a line up for the shower spaces. Unlike the Emirates Dubai lounge I found the turn around of showers was quite speedy which is handy for anyone in a rush.

A big criticism is sadly the lack of natural lighting in the lounge with no tarmac views. As a result the lounge feels a tad dark but nowhere near as oppressive as the Qantas International Melbourne Business Lounge.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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One thing that I always love and look forward to at a Qantas First Lounge is the cuisine. The airline’s partnership with Rockpool culinary king Neil Perry is one of the longest chef airline collaborations in aviation history. The dining area is an a la carte space where passengers are treated to restaurant service and quality. Being a late flight out of LAX the service was dinner focused.

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I started with the lounge’s signature salt and pepper squid dish which has become my go to starter. It was satisfying but not as good as the one I enjoyed in the Sydney first lounge two weeks prior. Moving onto mains I went with the grilled bass with corn puree. It was a lot more enticing than my entree and went down well with my champagne. I rounded out my meal with the sticky date pudding which was surprisingly lighter than I thought but packed a punch in terms of flavour.

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Unlike the first lounges in Sydney and Melbourne there was a lack of champagne choices which was quite disappointing. Fortunately I quite enjoy a drop of Pommery and managed to savour two glasses before my flight was called.

I do give the lounge big props in terms of turning around dishes after they’ve been ordered. The lounge was busy yet unlike the Australian counterparts, they managed to quickly bring dish to table without taking half an hour. I find that I often have to arrive earlier than I would like to at Australian lounges just so I don’t feel rushed when it comes to dining in the dining area before a flight. The LAX kitchen is like a machine and was a bevy of activity the entire time I was there. Despite the swift service, the staff were still as attentive and courteous as their Australian colleagues.

 

Verdict

The lounge is definitely one of the best in America and sets a new standard hopefully for Americans to follow. Qantas should be proud of its first product. It’s slick, well serviced and flies that Australian flag well in terms of cuisine. Sure there are a few little niggles here and there, particularly the lack of natural light but overall there’s no place I would rather be at Tom Bradley International Terminal to spend a couple of hours whilst waiting for my flight.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Qantas International First Lounge in Los Angeles? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

QANTAS LONDON LOUNGE TERM 3 LONDON HEATHROW: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3

Lounge Rating: 4 Stars

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For years Qantas relied heavily on its Oneworld partners to provide their top tier frequent flyers with lounge access from British Airways to American Airlines. Whilst the business lounges from the respective airlines did the job, they lacked character and were no where near the standard set by Cathay or Emirates. Fast forward to late last year and hello – Qantas opens its first dedicated Qantas lounge.

From the dine-on-demand from set menus to a sexy gin and cocktail bars, the Qantas London lounge has really raised the bar in terms of lounge offering at Heathrow Terminal 3. A few of my friends have already frequented it and all have glowing reviews of it. I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and hopped on in for a look.

 

Lounge access options

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Lounge access is available for passengers who are:

  • first class and business class passengers on Qantas flights and those of Oneworld airlines departing from London Heathrow Terminal 3 (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Royal Jordanian, etc)
  • Qantas Platinum One, Platinum and Gold frequent flyers (and one guest) and their Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire equivalents, on Qantas or Oneworld flights
  • Qantas Club members (and one guest) on Qantas flights
  • Holders of a Qantas Club lounge invitation who are on a Qantas flight
  • Emirates Skywards Platinum and Gold cardholders on Qantas flights.

As a Sapphire or Emerald member you are welcome to invite one single guest per each departure flight to join you in the lounge.

 

Lounge location and opening hours

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The Qantas London lounge is known at Heathrow Terminal 3 as  ‘Lounge B’. Simply follow the signs for Lounges or Gates 1-11, take a left turn shortly after exiting the central core of the terminal’s duty free shops, cafes and seating. It’s open daily from 8am to 8.30pm.

 

Ambience

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The first thing I notice upon entering the lounge is the striking staircase that ascends up to the gin and cocktails bar. Glimmering so bright it ‘almost’ looked like a staircase to heaven…almost! The lounge is split between two levels with the ground floor housing a dedicated dining area with table service whilst the upstairs space contains the bar and more relaxed seating arrangements alongside a buffet food station.

Both levels offer views of the tarmac but be warned – unless you are near the windows you are unlikely to see much due to the way the lounge is positioned.

On the upper floor there’s six large showers suites with both rain and wand shower heads and Aspar toiletries – the usual Qantas lounge amenities suspects!

Due to the large open layout you’ll find that the noise carries around the lounge and during peak hours can be quite noisy. If you are looking for somewhere more quite to relax or work I would suggest you visit the Cathay or British Airways lounges instead.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Whilst I wasn’t there to enjoy their dedicated table service menu, I did manage to sample some of their buffet options as well as enjoy a sneaky glass of their champagne which is provided to Platinum passengers. The choices on offer had a good focus around British and Australian cuisine. The scones and jam accompanied with my champagne went down a real treat! They were so good that even her Majesty would approve these!

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There’s also espresso machines at both bars for the coffee aficionados while tea fans will find can brew themselves something lovely from the large selection of Dilmah teas on offer.

Being a hybrid business/ first class lounge, some of the food options were a little underwhelming compared to the offerings found in Qantas first lounges.

 

Verdict

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The Qantas London Lounge is quite a flashy, shiny new product. The lovely furnishings and wooden tones that meld well with marble really is a sight to behold when one first walks into the lounge.  It has the vibe of a savvy upmarket London bar as opposed to an airport lounge.

Food and drink wise is a bit hit and miss and that is due to the airline catering for both business and first passengers. Qantas has definitely stepped up the food and drink offering for business class passengers but for those who frequent the Qantas first lounge may find the food on offer a tad disappointing.

The gin and cocktail bar is a fantastic touch and the girls and guys behind the bar know their drinks well. It’s almost a spectacle in itself to watch them behind the bar work their bar tending magic to create to fantastic looking (and tasting) gin and cocktail creations.

The lounge in conclusion is solid offering. I would definitely consider returning (should the Cathay Pacific First Lounge be full next door).

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Qantas London Lounge in Terminal 3 at Heathrow? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

QANTAS DOMESTIC BUSINESS LOUNGE MELBOURNE: 2018 REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Melbourne Domestic Airport

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

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Qantas has been undertaking a lounge renovation spree over the last couple of years. The lounge renovations were long needed in some destinations more than others and Melbourne was one of those airports that was crying out for an update. Whilst the domestic lounge faired ok over time, the Qantas Club next door was a bit of a design disaster. This year saw the renovation and reopening of the Melbourne Domestic Qantas Club lounge. Now the Domestic Business Lounge has unofficially opened its newly renovated doors to its top tier Qantas FF clientele and Oneworld equivalents. What does this mean?! Well a better lounge experience for starters but the catch is only half of it is open with the other half due to be unveiled to the public in a month’s time. The TAT made a visit to the lounge to see what all the fuss is about.

 

Lounge access options

  • Passengers with an onward Qantas or QantasLink business class flight
  • Travellers connecting to or from an international business or first class flight with Qantas, Emirates or a Oneworld airline, even if the domestic leg is booked in economy
  • Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers before or after a same-day Qantas, QantasLink, Emirates, Jetstar* or Oneworld flight
  • Other Oneworld Emerald members when their next onward flight that day is with Qantas or QantasLink and carries a QF or other Oneworld flight number (no access when flying Jetstar)
  • Emirates Skywards Platinum cardholders where their next onward flight that day carries a QF or EK flight number and is operated by Qantas or QantasLink.

 

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located after security on the right of the food court via an escalator on the first floor. The lounge operates from 5am til 10pm daily.

 

Ambience

 

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The lounge is new and as a result quite striking. It has a very Melbourne feel to it (the intention of Qantas’ new lounge design cue to reflect the state where the lounge is located). The tones of black and dark marble give the lounge a very upmarket bar feel. I feel Qantas has really captured well that Italian / trendy Melbourne-esque vibe. The new lounge space takes over the old Qantas Club space (Qantas Club has since been moved to the back of the first floor) and offers a lot of natural lighting with excellent tarmac view.

 

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As part of the refresh the bathrooms have also been given an overhaul with some nice aesthetic touches including individual mirrors as well as new marble benches and gold taps. If I had a home to call my own I would have this as my bathroom. Yes it is pretty darn flash without being too bling like the Emirates lounges.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

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As you would know by having read some of my other reviews I really love my food (and drink). Qantas really does a great job (especially in their new lounges) in offering cuisine that is carefully curated to reflect the dining experience of where the lounge is located. This is demonstrated in the showpiece of the new business lounge – the centrally located marble drinks bar. Here you can pull up a seat or take away a beer, wine or if you are feeling ambitious a spirit. There’s also barista-pulled coffee on offer as well as a cocktail hour offering between 5pm and 6pm. At the time of when I was in the lounge sangria was being served to passengers in their chairs. The sangria was quite strong but met the brief in terms of refreshing – exactly what a sangria should do!

 

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The new lounge sees a more spacious buffet area for hot and cold dishes. There is an emphasis on Asian dishes including fried rice, noodles and Asian greens. Qantas has also added their signature ‘Quench’ hydration station with hot teas and cool drinks. On today’s menu board there was a vegetable chowder, Mediterranean lamb with roasted potatoes and even scones with cream and jam (this menu item sent me back to times spent in the BA lounges in London). I sampled the lamb dish and scones and both were quite delicious.

It’s also anticipated that the Melbourne business lounge will have its own unique dining option in the form of a Spice Bar serving freshly-made noodles and Asian street food. Sadly I was unable to review this part as it’s part of the final lounge reveal in early November.

 

Verdict

It wasn’t too hard to improve on a product that was well and truly beyond its shelf life. The new Qantas Domestic Business Lounge really does pack a punch in terms of style and flair. The food and drink choices is on par with its gorgeous interiors. For half a product (the rest is set to open early November), this is one exciting preview for top tier Qantas frequent flyers. Qantas has done a great job in making this not only a space that is very Melbourne yet provides genuine warmth and comfort for those fortunate to spend time here waiting for their flight board. I look forward to seeing the rest of the lounge in November if this is a taste of what is to be expected.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the newly renovated Qantas Domestic Business Lounge in Melbourne? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

LATAM FINALLY GOES BUSINESS CLASS DIRECT AISLE ACCESS FROM 2018

Who loves direct aisle business class? I do and so does LATAM Airways apparently with the South American airline set to roll out a dramatically improved business class seat across its international fleet from late 2018.

LATAM has chosen the Thompson Aero Seating Vantage XL seat with styling by London-based PriestmanGoode. The changes will be noticed on their Boeing 767 and Boeing 777 fleet as well as their new fleet of Boeing 787-9s and Airbus A350-1000s.

In addition to direct aisle access, the seats will offer passengers to rest easy on a new fully lie-flat bed. The design is very similar to fellow Oneworld partner Qantas who has a similar layout and design on the A330, 787 and soon A380 fleet.

Having flown the current LATAM business class 2-2-2 configuration I can say the new changes will really enhance their product offering. Sure the current seat hasn’t aged and still provides some decent space but there’s a lack of privacy, let alone the not so fun game of hopping over your neighbour should you be seated against the window.

I look forward to seeing their new product rolled out across their network as it’d really give not only Qantas a run for its money on that hop between Australian and Santiago but also offer passengers another decent business class option when travelling abroad.