Qantas and Virgin set to split Haneda landing rights

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In a bit of an unexpected turn since Virgin’s announcement that it’d review its entire network for profitability, the airline is almost certain to be gifted one of the two additional landing rights for Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

Virgin and Qantas both applied for two rare landings slots at Haneda, which had become available to Australian airlines. Virgin asked for one whilst Qantas wished to secure both slots.This week the International Air Services Commission (IASC) issued a draft decision awarding both airlines one slot each, believing Virgin entering the Tokyo market would bring greater competition and airfare competition.

The Virgin slot, if successful, would see them use an A330 daily service out of Brisbane in late March 2020. The news for Virgin comes after the airline recently signed on a partnership with All Nippon Airways. The partnership would see see the two airlines code-share on fall lights between Australia and  Japan as well as domestic internal flights.

Rival Qantas hoped to secure both slots, using one to shift its Melbourne flight from Narita to Haneda and use the additional slot to offer Sydneysiders a twice daily service to Tokyo. If the split of landing rights goes ahead, Qantas will have to decide which way it will use that one slot.

Further submissions are being made to IASC with the body to make a final decision in the near future.

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

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Haneda (Tokyo) International Airport, Terminal 1

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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

Lounge access options

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

Lounge location and opening hours

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

Ambience

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

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

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

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

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Bread and butter (food and drink)

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

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

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Verdict

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

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

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Comments

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

 

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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Qantas eyes off Haneda flight expansion

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It’s been reported that Qantas is considering adding new flights to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport after released two new airport slot pairs to Australian airlines.

The recent expansion of Haneda Airport has created four new daytime slots for flights to and from Australia. Two of these slot pairs have already been allocated to ANA and Japan Airlines, with two remaining and available for Australian airline use.

Bids for the landing and takeoff slots at Haneda Airport slot will close 31 October 2019 and become available for use from 29 March 2020. It’s expected Qantas will take up the slots as Jetstar’s Tokyo hub is based out of Narita and Virgin is currently in a state of reassessing its entire network.

Qantas currently flies the Boeing 747 daily from Sydney to Haneda Airport. If the airline were to take up these slots it would empower their business and leisure travellers with greater options in terms of landing and departures

Additional Haneda Airport slots would be a win for any Australian airline as its closer proximity and transport options to Tokyo makes it the preferred choice for business travellers.

Time will tell if Qantas takes flight with the new Tokyo Haneda options. Considering Haneda slots are as rare as hens teeth Qantas would be foolish to pass this unique opportunity up.

Qantas offers first plane bookable with points only

One of the biggest complaints for many frequent flyers is the inability to redeem their points/ miles for reward seats on airlines. The frustation of lack of availabilty means in turn frequent flyers are having points simply sit in their accounts. Qantas has been pushing the envelope of late when it comes to passenger experience. When they made an announcement on their next venture, it came at no surprise it’d be equally compelling.

The Australian airline has announced they’ll offer a series of dedicated frequent flyer redemption flights across their network with seats only available to those redeeming Qantas points. The innovatively titled Points Plane initiative will see the first plane to be bookable only on points depart 21 October 2019 from Melbourne to Tokyo Narita.

Using my personal favourite Qantas aircraft the A380, Qantas Frequent Flyer members will have the chance to book all 484 seats on this flight (14 first class, 64 business class, 35 premium economy, and 371 economy seats) at the ‘classic’ award level.

Redemption costs for the flight are:

  • Economy seat – 35000 Qantas points
  • Premium economy seat – 54000 Qantas points
  • Business class seat – 72000 Qantas points
  • First class seat – 108000 points

The seats are available on a first come first served basis. Those fortunate to be successful in booking a flight on the Points Plane can expect to be treated to a special inflight service that includes a cocktail and meal service, pajamas for all passengers (not just those in the front end or in the A380s case the top end) and inflight giveaways.

A return leg is also on offer for 26 October 26 2019 but those hoping for an A380 experience again will be disappointed to find the aircraft is an A330. Qantas believes those returning may stay beyond the initial date as part of their trip and so the aircraft does not require the same patronage.

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What do you think of the Qantas announcement? Would you be keen to book a trip on the Points Plane? I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

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.