AMERICAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS B777 TOKYO – LAX: REVIEW

Flight: AA26, HND-LAX

Loyalty Scheme: AAdvantage (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: 1 daily

Duration:  10 hours and 5 minutes

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American Airlines for me is a delicate love hate relationship. Sometimes my experiences have been above and beyond amazing whilst some I’d rather forget quickly. It’s such a shame to feel this way about an airline, especially when coming just off (and comparing to) an excellent product in Japan Airlines’ J class.  Making the transfer between JAL to AA in Haneda was quiet seamless but was the flight experience on AA just as smooth?

The Seat

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By far one of AAs strongest selling points is that business class seat. The 777-300ER Business cabin has 52 seats in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration. I like this style of seat as it is open yet still relatively private. There’s an impressive amount of storage around the seat from a storage bin under the seat shelf, a chubby space above the seat and further storage beneath the window. All in all a great way to maximise your space without feeling cluttered by your own belongings. USB and universal power outlets are also available for those wanting to charge up and work away. The seat also lies flat should one wish to sleep.

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AA offers some lovely amenities in the form of their Caspar bedding. The pillows and bedding provided are lush and soft. Having slept on the bedding for a solid four hours I felt revived from my short snooze in the skies.

Gorgeous Cole Haan blue amenity kits are distributed throughout the cabin. They contain a nice mix of CO Bigelow toiletries, socks and toiletries.

Wifi was also available on this flight but I did not get round to testing this due to how expensive the plans were. Decent Bose noise cancelling headphones were also offered on this flight.

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There are six washrooms for business, including four shared with the premium economy cabin. The business cabin washrooms featured nicer amenities and touches as opposed to the PE cabin. There is no onboard shower unlike Etihad and Emirates.

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Entertain me

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Being an overnight flight I intended to maximise my time to sleep as best I could. That said when it comes to entertainment AA has one of the best IFE systems around and I couldn’t deny myself a film or two before getting forty winks. There’s always a stellar choice of films from Hollywood to across the globe for one to enjoy on the 15.4-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitor, including over 150 TV programs and 350 audio selections.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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One of my favourite parts of any flights, the meal service was hit and miss. Upon taking my seat, it took a flight attendant to eventually offer me a drink five minutes before the cabin doors were closed to offer me a pre-departure drink. Out of habit I chose the champagne over the water and juice options. The champagne was served in a very cheap plastic cup which didn’t look anything special.

After take off the cabin crew came around to take orders from the menu. On today;’s flight AA offered a similar meal service to JAL, a western and Japanese meal. Having previous experienced issues ordering my first choice on AA, I decided prior to my flight to reserve my first meal choice which was the grilled beef fillet. The steak was surprisingly cooked to a medium style and wasn’t chewy. The accompanying salad was bland yet the tuna tataki starter was a great dish and packed a flavour punch. During the meal service I accompanied it with a Lange Classique Pinot Gris before switching back to the rather nice Collet Brut champagne. Both drinks were served in much more appealing glassware.

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For desert I couldn’t go past AAs famous traditional ice cream sundae. Offering a range of toppings this was one of the highlights of my meal service.  I requested a combo of butterscotch and seasonal berry. It was simply delicious!

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During the flight a snack bar is open for passengers feeling a bit peckish on the 10 hour flight. Keen to maximise my sleep I didn’t investigate this option further.

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Prior to landing breakfast was served an hour and a half out. I decided to enjoy a hearty all American breakfast comprising of scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, bacon, mushrooms and a tomato with a green tea. It was pleasant but nothing to write home about. I normally would accompany my breakfast with a coffee but American filtered coffee isn’t really my style, so skipped my usual morning coffee altogether.

Both meal services were sluggishly slow and the staff were too swift when dealing with people during the service. Whilst the food itself was generally solid bar some questionable food presentation, AA really could really brush up on its customer service etiquette.

Verdict

Overall the flight experience on AA was good but not exceptional. For a business product when you pay more you naturally expect more. The seat and IFE are the key selling points of AA business. Whilst the meal service in general was good, AA does need to pick up the ball in terms of better food presentation and more importantly, warmer and more engaged cabin crew. Some of the FAs are lovely yet there are others onboard who feel burdened just to find out if they had a certain food item in the kitchen galley. It might not be Qatar or Emirates but AA business still soars above much of the competition.

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Comments

Have you experienced flying business on American Air line’s B777? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

JAL BUSINESS CLASS B737 OSAKA- TOKYO: REVIEW

Flight: JL228, KIX-HND

Loyalty Scheme: JAL Mileage Bank (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple daily

Duration:  1.5 hours

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JAL domestically is known to enjoy one of the best value business class seats in the skies. For just ¥1,000 (~A$10) more than a regular economy ticket , one can enjoy a larger seat with legroom and a cocktail table to work and enjoy a drink. So how does the seat fare in terms of bang for buck? TAT took to the skies to find out on a recent flight between Osaka and Tokyo (Haneda).

The Seat

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The biggest selling point of this seat is well the seat and the extra space one enjoys with 38 inches compared to the 31 in economy. Also included is a armrest with a cocktail table and extendable leg rest. Configured in an interesting 2-3 layout, the seat feels more premium economy than business but for ¥1,000 more that’s nothing to complain about here.

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Entertain me

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Unfortunately there are no individual inflight entertainment options on domestic services, instead passengers are subject to the old school drop down screens. For those who don’t speak Japanese will struggle with the programming offered as there are no captions subtitles for the programs in English. Also on offer is a handful of radio channels which include chart hits as well as classical music options.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Don’t expect to see any meals served on JAL domestic flights, instead J passengers are treated to a drinks service. Drinks on offer include the usual soft drink suspects like Coca-Cola, water, green tea (hot or cold), juices and my personal favourite the JAL signature Sky Time drink which possesses a sweet but refreshing kiwi flavour. Considering the lack of food options and the lounge being closed in Osaka when I arrived, I requested a top up of both a Sky Time and beef soup.

It was disappointing that small snacks like pretzels or cheese and crackers were not offered along with the drinks.

Verdict

For ¥1,000 you really cannot complain about the extra room. I suspect the business lite business class was installed to compete with its bullet train competitors. It’s business with no thrills and the service onboard is exactly the same as you would experience in economy. It would have been nice to see some snacks provided to J passengers to enhance the overall flying experience a little. However for a higher return on status and points as well as a lot more leg room the business class seat on JAL is a no brainer purchase. I would fly this seat again!

Comments

Have you experienced flying business on a JAL domestically? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

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QATAR LAUNCHES NEW ECONOMY SEAT

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Qatar Airways for a while had teased the world with its plans to introduce a new economy class seat and having seen their revolutionary business class product, I was hopeful they would also be revolutionary in the economy product.

Qatar have a habit of overhyping their launches (ie. their latest video/ film) and sometimes fails to deliver on the hype. This week the airline did it again with their new economy seat and whilst it’s a dramatic improvement to their current seat, it’s more enhancement than revolution.

There’s some great specification in it with the new seat featuring;

  • 13.3 inch 4K widescreens
  • Enhanced connectivity and faster wifi
  • Enhanced legroom
  • Adjustable, lightweight headrest
  • Semi-fixed back shell design with a 19 degree recline system
  • Pre-reclined position of six degrees for takeoff and landing
  • Dual multi-function tables for maximum adaptability and table space
  • USB Type C with high power fast charging capabilities

The biggest takeaway is obviously the widescreen TV and an innovative 19-degree recline system, meaning the seat will not recline by re-positioning the back of the seat and in turn impacting the space of the person behind you. Again these will improve the comfort of the passenger but overall not make a major difference to their journey.

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One thing that has impressed me however is nothing to do with the seat but the new ‘QCuisine’ for economy passengers which will feature new menu items and greater choices, including larger main courses and desserts. Perfect for the one like myself who is always left peckish from the small airline servings on the plane.

The seat which will debut on the A321neo this year will eventually be installed on their rest of its fleet

Innovation or simple enhancement? Keen to hear your thoughts on the new Qatar economy seat.

 

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?