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.

 

Virgin Australia priority boarding announcement for veterans backfires

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After announcing via Twitter they’d be offering priority boarding to veterans in Australia, Virgin Australia has partially backflipped on their decision after strong public backlash. The airline has stated that “over the coming months, we will consult with community groups and our own team members who have served in defence to determine the best way forward. If this process determines that public acknowledgement of their service through optional priority boarding or any announcement is not appropriate, then we will certainly be respectful of that.”

The Virgin Australia announcement was an odd one to begin with. Perhaps they thought the gesture would earn them some good PR but then again Virgin needs to better understand its customer base, and it isn’t America. Having flown internally within the USA many times I find the gesture a little cringeworthy, if not smacks of commercialism. How can we put a price on death and war? Every ANZAC day commercial businesses are criticised if they utilise the dya for profit, so why is it any different here? Moreover if Virgin had done its research it would know that Australian veterans and our service men and women do not seek attention. Australians are more respectful and do not act patriotically around war like America. Whatever the  case Virgin has dug itself in a deep hole and it is dangerous for an airline already on its knees.

What saddens me is that the announcement was done as part of a campaign by NewsCorp, the same lovely folk who brought you the campaign to fire Malcolm Turnbull,. NewsCorp don’t care about people, they care about their agenda and in this case are probably trying to cover their tracks from recent blunders. The organisation’s intent is tokenism at its worst and Virgin sadly fell into its trap.

Here’s hoping Virgin Australia learn from this tough lesson and consult before making surprise announcements.

 

Should Australia be going down the path of the USA and recognise veterans at the airport/ on the plane? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

Emirates downgrades Australian flight experience temporarily

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A couple of months ago Emirates announced it would be undertaking a large network reduction from now until June 2019 due to runway works at Dubai Airport. As a result of the airport operating out of one instead of two runways, flights have been impacted. Unfortunately, Australians haven’t been spared with the airline set to make changes to several Australian routes.

The biggest changes will affect Melbourne and Sydney with both cities set to be downgraded from the A380 to a B777. The daily Melbourne via Singapore route will be impacted during the period of 2-20 Nov and 15 Jan to 30 March 2019. Likewise, the Sydney via Bangkok (EK418/EK419) route will switch to a 777-300ER. Whilst this aircraft retains first class it loses the first class shower and more importantly the on board bar and lounge space. Note that the daily non-stop Dubai routes from Melbourne and Sydney will continue to operate on an A380.

Perth will be hit the hardest with the airline seeing a reduction in flights from 14 to 11 per week from 7-28 November 2018 and 7 Feb to 30 March 2019. In addition EK424 will not run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays whilst EK425 won’t run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Th aircraft type however won’t be affected.

As they always say there’s a silver lining in some of this news and that goes to Adelaide. The SA capital is the winner out of the changes with the route set to receive the newly reconfigured B777-200LR which possesses the brand new business class seat. A win for customers despite the aircraft still retaining the not so great 2-2-2 configuration. The dates Adelaide will be impacted is 8-30 October and 1 February to 30 March 2019.

All I can say is that I hope these reductions are what they claim ‘temporary’ and not a mere testing of the waters for something more permanent. The Australian market is a strong one for the UAE based airline and the A380 is the best aircraft to service that market from its Dubai hub. Anything less is really a slap in the face of customers, particularly the business class arrangement of a 2-2-2 configuration. As I stated before the only one benefiting here is the Adelaide route.

Consider this a downgrade and if you are on a business class ticket and have had the aircraft changed from an A380 to a B777, I would get in touch with Emirates as soon as possible to see if they can offer another A380 alternative.

Comments

Booked on a downgraded flight? Like to hear your thoughts on this.

 

ETIHAD DOWNGRADES SYD FROM A380 TO B777

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Ah Etihad Airways you’ve done it again! The Abu Dhabi based airline of late has been putting the knife into his product offerings, slowly killing off its ‘premium’ experience in a bid to fast track its way back to profitability after posting losses the last two years in a row.

What I thought was a cash cow for Etihad, the Sydney – Abu Dhabi leg, is not safe from its cost cutting measures. This month the airline announced it would remove the crowd favourite A380 with a downgrade to a B777 on one of its two daily Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights from October 2018 to late May 2019.

The flight affected is EY451 which departs Sydney 3pm and the returning EY450 leg back. The downgrade will take place 20 October 2018 to 4 December 2018, and then again from 7 February 2019 to 30 May 2019. Between the December-February dates listed above, EY451/EY450 will get a reprieve with the return of the A380.

The airline’s other daily service (EY454/455) will continue to feature the superjumbo, so if you are planning on flying the superjumbo note this before making a booking.

The change particularly isn’t great for passengers across the board with the B777 displaying the last gen seats for all classes. Moreover the B777 lacks the A380s lobby social lounge/bar area.

Etihad Airways announced that the change of aircraft was due to routine maintenance and has said  it’ll notify guests booked on these services of the changes.

Whilst disappointed by the news (I’m an avid A380 fanboy), it sadly isn’t unexpected. My concern is how much further or for that matter low can the airline go in order to cut costs?!

Virgin to launch Newcastle – Auckland flights

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Virgin Australia has had a bit of a rough trot of ate with the New Zealand market after one time ally Air New Zealand decided to bin their partnership and get into bed with rival Qantas. The move left Virgin in shock and probably a little ill prepared in terms of a response. Now Virgin has found a trick up its sleeve by announcing this week it would commence flights from Newcastle to Auckland from November this year.

The new seasonal route which will tap into summer passenger demand will feature a Boeing 737 with eight business class seats, 30 Economy X seats and 138 standard economy seats. The flights will run every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 22 November 2018 to 17 February 2019.

Departing from Newcastle Airport at 7.30pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday is VA199, which will reach Auckland at 12.25am the following day. VA198 will depart Auckland at 5.10pm and arrive into Newcastle at 6.45pm.

The news from Virgin comes on top of the airlines recent announcements that it was launching new routes between Sydney and Wellington and between Melbourne and Queenstown from October this year.

It’ll be interesting to see the demand for these new routes and whether the investment was worth it considering no other airline is flying a direct Newcastle – NZ option. Like all ambitious ideas time will tell if the gamble was a success.

What do you think of Virgin’s lastest routes to NZ? Will you be using the new Newcastle – Auckland route? 

REVIEW: TIGER AIRWAYS TT247 B737; SYD-MELB

Flight: TT247, Sydney-Melbourne (17 July 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: N/A
Frequency: Multiple flights daily
Duration: 1 hr and 20 mints
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For years Tiger Airways had a shocking reputation, often seen as more pleb than budget compared to its competitor Jetstar. Heck Jetstar feels like a premium airline in comparison. When I first flew the airline it was a nightmare and vowed never to fly them again but here I am five years later and giving the airline another chance. Is this airline tiger still toothless or has it found the bite to be successful? TAT got onboard to find out.
The flight was delayed by half an hour from an incoming Tiger aircraft from Adelaide. The lack of announcements left many people baffled as to when they were going to start boarding. A positive unlike Jetstar is that the ground staff weren’t going out with a measuring tape and weights to assess passengers’ bags before boarding.

Seat

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Initial impressions count and stepping onto the plane for the first time I found the interior was fresh with newly fitted leather black seating with orange headrests throughout the cabin. I was flying one of the newly refitted Tiger aircraft and can confidentially say it has come a long way since it grey and beige interior days.

The cabin is all economy seating. One thing I noticed immediately when I sat down was how roomy the seats and leg space was. This was a pleasant surprise. Unlike Jetstar which usually had my knees touching the seat in front, Tiger offered enough room to stretch out the legs comfortably for a short flight.

Entertain me

Nothing to see here unless you find your weird fellow passengers some form of entertainment.

Wine and dine me (the food)

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Tiger being budget is a buy on board airline. There are no thrills unless you’re willing to put up the dollars. I had pre-purchased during the booking stage online a pie and sausage roll dish. All meals on Tiger include a free drink. When the cabin crew came round with the cabin service I was the first to be served my meal. The service was swift, relatively friendly but sadly not personalised.

 

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The food itself was tasty and simple and did the trick for the short plane ride. Pricing for the meal was on par with Jetstar but the bonus of the free drink was a nice extra that is  sadly missing with most Jetstar meals.

Summary

The short flight was more than enough for me on Tiger. The experience overall was a hell of a lot better than my first flight with them years ago. The interior of the cabin, seating and little food extras definitely added a bit of spark to what would have been a rather dull flight. Would I fly them again? They wouldn’t be my preferred option but if I had to look at options for a short haul 1-2 hour flight then Tiger would definitely be on my list of choices.

 

Service: 3 Stars

Seating: 3 stars

Food: 3 Stars

 

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EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS CHRISTCHURCH TO SYDNEY: REVIEW

Flight: EK413, Christchurch to Sydney (11 June 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Skywards (partnership with Qantas FF)
Frequency: Daily
Duration: 18:05 – 19:25pm (3 hours and 20 minutes)
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Emirates has the largest fleet of A380s compared to any other carrier globally and for an Airbus fan like myself the odds of getting a seat on one are extremely high at the time of booking, particularly when the only other option is a B777. Over the Queen’s birthday weekend, I thought I would do a quick trip across the ditch from Australia to NZ to see the South Island. Last year Emirates removed flights between Sydney – Auckland and Sydney-Wellington, instead creating direct flight to Dubai rather than via Sydney and Melbourne.

The biggest losers out of the change were Australians who lost the easiest way to nab an A380 flight for a bargain for what would be deemed a domestic flight in terms of the flight time (it takes longer to fly east-west Australia than it does from the east coast to NZ). That said there is a loop hole (for now) where you can still enjoy the quick A380 hop but it means that you would need to go to Christchurch for the privilege. So how did my flight fare for the handful of hours spent up in the air and in the bar on the second deck?

The Seat

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One thing I love about the A380 business class as opposed to their B777 is that comes in a 1-2-1 layout, providing each passenger with direct access to the aisle. Additionally, the seats feel like a mini private suite, particularly for those along the window and when you are dining or laying down for a snooze, the aircraft noise is whisper quiet. Next to my seat was sizeable side table and a room temperature mini-bar stocked with water and soft drink.

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If there was any gripe about the seat is that it felt a tad dated and I use the word tad loosely as the quality is still strong but when you are comparing it to the newly released Emirates Business Class seats, you notice the difference. Also, be prepared for lots of faux wood. Emirates has a habit of loving bling and may have gone a little overboard here in that area.

As it was a short flight there was no point in trying to use the flat bed service particularly by the time the dinner service rolled through.

Entertain me

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All business class suites come with a 17-inch touchscreen that’s packed with over 2,000 ‘channels’ of movies, TV shows and audio. I struggled with the amount of choice to select a film as there were quite a few good flicks on offer (I ended up investing my time watching The Black Panther). On the other hand, the music selection was rather slim and the choice predominantly Arabic (which is great if your music tastes wonder that way).

There was also wifi on board for a charge but I did not consider this service offering to be able to report on it.

However those forms of entertainment pales in comparison to the inflight cocktail bar and lounge for business and first class passengers. Located at the end of the plane the area is a great place for stretching the legs, enjoying a few mojitos and socialising with fellow passengers.

I’ve been on a few Emirates flights where the bar provided a relaxing space to unwind but this flight was sadly a little different. The bar was overcrowded and standing room only. I blame the fact that many people who were upgraded from the flight being oversold decided to spend the time in the bar as it was their first time ever in business class. There was one woman who was getting a little drunk at the bar and was telling passengers she was on her seventh champagne. Geez how embarrassing! I didn’t know if I was on Emirates or at the local pub. Again, having experienced the bar and lounge on flights prior I know this wasn’t the norm but wouldn’t be impressed had it been my first time.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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I’m greeted before take-off with a glass of Moët & Chandon Champagne, the inflight menu and a wine list. Despite the short flight it was still a full service, three course meal like the type you would experience on a Sydney to Dubai leg.

The meal service was awfully slow and took almost an hour before they came to serve me. In fact, I actually had to get their attention as the flight attendant accidentally skipped my seat when taking orders. The attention to detail was seriously lacking here. I didn’t know if it was due to the FAs having to deal with a full flight, particularly in business class as a lot were upgraded last minute or that the crew was understaffed. Nothing was personable about the service which is a shame because my last Emirates flight in business was the complete opposite.

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By the time the dinner was served I was already halfway through my film. The flight attendant brought out bread, a seasonal salad with balsamic and olive oil dressing and a seafood appetiser. The appetiser of smoked salmon and prawns was delicious, fresh and left me wanting more.

For mains there was a choice of salmon massman curry, pan fried beef fillet and grilled chicken with herb butter. I went with the beef. The beef was slightly tougher than I had expected despite requesting it medium rare. That said the thyme jus, potato gratin and mushrooms helped pack this dish with some flavoursome punch.

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With a bit of room left I decided to have dessert and went with not one, but two dishes – the lemon tart and a seasonal fruit platter. The lemon tart was on point and succulent to eat. The smooth texture of it was superb and was my favourite dish of the flight.

Drinks wise, I kept the flow of the Moet coming until the main where I then switched to a lovely but quite heavy red from Chateau Moulin Riche. It was a 10 year old drop that had lovely aromas of blackberry and prunes and was a great accompaniment to my beef.

Other than the slow service, the food itself was quite good.

Verdict

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Being a public holiday, the flight was busy as a result of being oversold. People who were in economy were upgraded for free and in turn made the bar quite crowded for an area that traditionally is a bit quieter and more relaxing. Besides the slow service the experience was overall pleasant and a great way to spend a few hours kicking back with a Moet. Would I do it again? Even with the crowds? Absolutely!

Comments

Have you experienced Emirates business class? Did you love or dislike the product offering? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…