Etihad to introduce Economy Space on their A380, B777 and B787 fleet

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.

JAPAN AIRLINES ‘SKY PREMIUM’ 787-800 TOKYO (NARITA) TO SYDNEY: REVIEW

Flight: JL771, Tokyo (Narita) to Sydney (11 June 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: JAL Mileage Bank/ Oneworld
Frequency: Daily
Duration: 7.25pm (+9) ATD: 7.35pm (+9) Delayed 10 mins; STA: 6:10am (+10) ATA: 6.23am (+10) Delayed 13mins

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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.

The Airport

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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.

The Seat

 

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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).

Entertain me

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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)

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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.

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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.

Verdict

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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

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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.

 

Emirates to introduce premium economy from 2020

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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.

Comments

What do you think of the news of Emirates offering premium economy? Would you be inclined to purchase one? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

CHINA EASTERN SHANGHAI BUSINESS LOUNGE: REVIEW

Lounge: China Eastern Business Lounge

Alliance: Skyteam

Location: Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Lounge Rating: 4/5 Stars

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China Eastern has a shocking reputation for doing a whole lot of nothing. No customer service, no decent aircraft, etc.  With no prior experience or exposure to their product a lot of stories I had heard were tales that until now were for me unproven and wanted to give the airline the benefit of the doubt.

Using the China Eastern lounge for the first time in its Shanghai hub, The Australian Traveler was eager to check in and see if it would be wowed or not surprised by the lack of ‘premium’ about the lounge.

 

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Lounge access options

  • Business and first class passengers.
  • Eastern Miles Gold and Platinum members (SkyTeam Elite Plus) departing on a SkyTeam carrier.
  • Associated third party lounges may be available in certain locations where a SkyTeam partner lounge is not available. Due to its partnership with Qantas, certain Qantas elite status members may be eligible for lounge access at China Eastern locations when flying with China Eastern.

Lounge location and opening hours

Once you have cleared security turn left inside the International terminal and the lounge is there. The China Eastern Shanghai Pudong Business Lounge is open daily from first to last departure.

 

Ambience

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Upon walking into the lounge I was surprised by how sparse it was. Whilst there wasn’t any natural lighting in sight, the lounge still managed to have a buzz about it, even at 11pm at night. The seating arrangements were comfortable but I found that the number of chairs on the floor made the lounge feel crowded. Bathroom were also well maintained and appointed, offering shower facilities for those going between work meetings.

 

A bonus (which may seem tacky for some) is the massage chairs. Yes there is some debate on whether the chairs work or not but at the end of the day if you want to simple recline especially after a days work or a transfer between airports than these big ‘sofas’ do the job to unwind and ease into the evening.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

A number of food and drink stations scattered toward the back of the lounge. Despite the number of stations there wasn’t a lot of food options on offer (ie. salad and a handful instant packaged food like sandwiches). There seemed to be more of a focus on desserts with a number of sections stocked with weird and wonderful delights for this with a sweet tooth.

 

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Drinks wise there was a couple of decent drops there to be enjoyed but again the range was limited in terms of wine and spirits. Coffee, tea and soft drinks were also available.

 

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The wow factor however has to go to the noodle station where a chef is on site to make noodles to your liking. The noodles are tasty and quite filling with your choice of spicy beef or pork. The only downside was the weird cafeteria tray that was handed to you whilst lining up for a bowl of noodles. I felt the experience made it feel more primary school canteen than premium lounge.

 

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Verdict

I was expecting to write a negative review around this lounge based on previous experiences with some Chinese lounges but was more than pleasantly surprised with what I experienced. Sure it isn’t up there to the lofty standards of Qantas or JALs lounges but it did provide a decent space for those wanting to work or unwind.

The downside was the limited food and drink range. If it weren’t for its outstanding noodle bar this section would have been extremely disappointing.

Overall this lounge is by far one of the best in China (not difficult considering some of the shoeboxes they call lounges littered through Chinese airports) and a hopeful sign of things to come for other lounges across China in the future.

 

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Comments

Have you experienced China Eastern Business Lounge at Shanghai Pudong International? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – was it outstanding or did the lounge fail to take off on your expectations?

QANTAS ECONOMY CLASS A330 SYD – HONOLULU: REVIEW

Flight: QF3, Sydney – Honolulu (24 January 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Qantas Frequent Flyer (a partner of the Oneworld program)
Frequency: 4 flights weekly
Duration: 10 hours

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Qantas operate a number of A330 aircraft (200 and 300 series). The aircraft predominately operates on flights domestically within Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Honolulu. The A330 operates in a two class configuration. This particular aircraft consists of 28 full flat business class seats and 272 standard economy seats.

 

 

The Seat

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Economy 26A. Upon entering this particularly A330, I was fortunate to experience the new generation Qantas interior which was kitted out with the Boeing 787 seats. The new seat does look the goods with a dropdown shelf built into the back of the seatback to support your own device, meaning you no longer have to hold your phone or tablet, or lie it on the tray table. 

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Despite Qantas claiming the new seat would offer better space (and to a degree it does), when reclined, the seat in front almost touches your knees and as a result makes it impossible to watch the TV screen nor be able to get out of ones chair.

Sleeping wise I really did struggle in this seat. Again with the seat reclined out in front I felt quite claustrophobic, hot and unable to really stretch out comfortably enough to allow my body to rest despite feeling drowsy during the flight.

 

Entertain me

One of the x factors about the new seat is its new entertainment screen. Much larger than previous Qantas economy seat variants including the current A380, the display is better for the eyes when viewing entertainment in the dark. The selection of movies, tv shows and audio onboard is extensive and good. I found myself struggling to view everything I wanted to watch during the flight.

Sadly there was no wifi on board. Power ports and USB charging ports were available at each seat to charge your devices.

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Qantas is one who doesn’t do food and wine in halves, even in economy. I have always found the Qantas economy dining product to be very strong in this area. Soon after take off flight attendants came around and offered passengers a refreshing Bickford’s lemon, lime and bitters drink.

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An hour into the flight and dinner service was served. There were three choices for main including a vegetable lasagna and a southern style chicken with polenta. I went with the chicken option and the dish was flavoursome and delicious. However the chocolate pudding for dessert was a tad too sweet for my liking. I couldn’t even finish it despite its small size.

The service during dinner was odd at best with attendants impersonal, rushed and rather rude. When I went to order my dinner the flight attendant did not look at me once even when he went to hand me my dinner. I found that rather rude, no matter how swept off his feet he may have been.

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Before landing Qantas served a light breakfast. There were two choice on offer – a fresh fruit platter and a hot dish of a feta and spinach omelette with pork and apple sausage, bacon and braised beans. I went with the hot option and was not disappointed. It was the ideal meal to hit the spot before our decent into Honolulu.

 

Verdict

Qantas’ flight to Honolulu in economy was adequate but could have been better in terms of the service and comfort. The flight went like a blink of an eye (which is great when one is flying cattle class) but long enough that a bit of sleep would have been great. Sadly this was not the case with the seat generally uncomfortable, especially when the passenger in front is fully reclined.

Food, drink and entertainment earned top marks but again lacked the selection of its 747 and A380 counterparts (ie. no snack bar). I found myself struggling to get an snack other than rice crackers throughout the flight when I was peckish between meals. Again not great.

Overall the flight experience was decent but there was a lot of room for improvement.

 

Comment

Have you flown on the newly converted A330? I would love to hear if your experience was similar or better/ worse.

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.