Qantas launches new Frequent Flyer Program changes

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Qantas a couple of days ago without notice announced cryptically that it would be overhauling its frequent flyer program. Like many I was in a bit of a sweat about it thinking the potential was endless for the airline to come in with the wrecking ball and make the program to be frank, a lot worse. Today, I am glad to report that it isn’t anywhere near the doom and gloom that was reported online. So what has been announced and how will it affect you?

First up Qantas has announced there’ll be more seats up for grabs, with those dreaded carrier charges on most international Qantas flights reduced by as much as half. This is a big win for many as the carrier charges for QF currently have a large sting to them compared to their rivals when redeeming. You” require fewer Qantas Points when booking an economy seat on international flights but here’s the sting. Those looking to book something with a bit more leg room will be hit with higher amount of points for seats in premium economy, business class and first class.

The next bit of news is something I was apart of in terms of research late last year by the airline and this is the Qantas Points Club. Details are still sketchy but basically the Qantas Points Club will operate adjunct to the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme, unlocking flight and travel benefits for non-flying members including lounge access and bonus status credits. I think this has a lot of potential and am keen to see how it is delivered when it is launched December 2019.

Thirdly Qantas has earmarked five million seats on Qantas domestic and international flights annually, with up to 30% more premium economy, business class and even first class seats to popular destinations such as Singapore, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo. This is on top of 3-5 million seats on partner airlines, including new partners such as Air New Zealand, KLM Bangkok Airways and Air France.

Finally Qantas has opened up a new level of lifetime status, the coveted Lifetime Platinum but the catch is, to achieve it, it’s an eye watering and almost impossible 75K status credits to achieve. The new Lifetime Platinum status will commence in September 2019.

So what do you think of the announcement? Anything that excites or annoys you? Keen to hear your thoughts…

 

A321XLR to join Qantas fleet

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Qantas Group has inked a deal with France’s Airbus for an order of up to 36 of the new A321XLR jets, which are due for delivery from 2024. The deal also sees the conversion of 26 existing A320neo Family orders, plus a new firm order for 10 A321XLRs. The order comes on the back of American Airlines announcing that an order of 50 A321XLR aircraft (including the conversion of 30 of the 100 A321neos that they have on order). For Airbus this is a big news day!

The new fuel efficient aircraft will give Qantas Group new flexibility that it currently doesn’t have to be able to fly routes that current narrow body aircraft cannot such as Cairns to Tokyo. Whilst it is widely speculated that the order would see the majority of the aircraft go to Jetstar so that the airline would release its B787 fleet to Qantas, there is also strong potential for some of the aircraft to be paint with the red roo.

It’ll be interesting to see how the order is divided up. Qantas has a habit of purchasing conservatively (and rightly so in a market that changes continuously), so it wouldn’t surprise me if they snap up in the end around half of the agreed order. From that the likely destinations that the A321XLR would feature on for the red roo would be a trans-Atlantic route or the popular East-West Australia routes. 2024 is a long way from now (especially in aviation years), so naturally time will tell what happens next.

 

Qantas brings B787 to SYD-AKL for the summer

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Qantas has announced it’ll give Sydney-Auckland route travellers some summer lovin’ this summer with their flight being upgraded from the usual workhorse B737-800 to their new Dreamliner B787.

The upgraded plane will be in operation from . Whilst limited in terms of time offering, this is an exciting announcement by the airline as it will be the first time Qantas will offer their Premium Economy product on a Tasman route. Right now the premium economy seat is on sale for roughly the same price as a economy seat, so if you’re quick on it, you could snap yourself up a bargain whilst enjoying a bit more space and luxury for the pleasure.

Qantas has eight 787s in its fleet, with six additional aircraft due for delivery between October 2019 and mid 2020.

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DAN LOUNGE BEN GURION (ISRAEL) REVIEW

Alliance: N/A

Location: Ben Gurion International Terminal 3, after Passport Control follow signs to Concourse C.

Lounge Rating: 2.5 Stars 

 

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Enter a quick search online and you’ll be quick to find stories floating about the Dan Lounge in Israel and the poor hospitality it offers. To have such a reputation, especially outside of Israel for the wrong reasons is quite concerning. Naturally due to my frequent flyer membership, lounge access to the Dan Lounge was offered and being curious, TAT simply had to try some of the best and worst there was to offer in terms of aviation experience. So how did Dan Lounge fare? Was it as horrifying as some bloggers have made out or was it more a storm in a tea cup?

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Higher tier members of frequent flyer programs/ alliances
    • Priority Pass
    • Paid entry

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located in Terminal 3. After clearing Passport Control follow the signs to Concourse C. The lounge is open 24 hours.

Ambience

 

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One thing you notice upon entering the lounge is how small the space is. Considering the lounge is accessible to pretty much anyone from frequent flyers on alliance airline programs to paid entries, this lounge can easily get quite full and in the case of my flight that morning it did. I initially struggled to find a seat and had to stand around ten minutes before some people cleared for a flight that was called.

In the lounge there’s a handful of toilets, a small buffet area and mostly seating. Those looking for a shower mid transit or prior to a flight will have to look elsewhere as I couldn’t find any in this lounge.

 

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

As mentioned prior there are no shower facilities and limited toilets. I found whenever I went to the bathroom there was a line for the toilet (no good). Bathrooms were generally clean but nothing outstanding in my opinion.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

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The food and drink section here was very underwhelming. The buffet area was tiny and only offered a handful of food options from salads (sorry mostly salads), some pastries and eggs. On the drinks side of things, there was sadly nothing alcoholic that could help you erase the memories of spending time in this lounge. Instead fridges were stocked with soft drink, juice and water. Also on hand was a couple of coffee machines that looked like they had seen better days. I noticed a couple of patrons struggled to get boiling water to pour from these machines and the coffee from them didn’t look too enticing either.

If there was a redeeming feature about the food/ drinks section it was the large glass bottles of sparkling Perrier water on offer. Simply take the bottle to your table and enjoy. For me this was certainly not a bad way to hydrate oneself prior to boarding.

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The area could be dramatically improved with a wider range of options and more space but again this is something that would require a total lounge redesign/ revamp.

Verdict

Dan Lounge sounds appealing on paper as a 24 hour lounge, giving those in transit an option to relax instead of sitting around the rather unfriendly Ben Gurion Airport for hours on end. However the food and drink options were disappointingly slim and lack of seating and time spent waiting around for seating to free up was terrible, especially after getting up for an early flight. In general the lack of space and poor seating design makes this lounge fall flat in terms of an enjoyable experience.

If you’re not a Priority Pass or top tier airline alliance program member I’d avoid this lounge as I wouldn’t pay entry for this lounge, instead looking at a the range of food outlets within the airport for a drink/ snack. Overall the lounge isn’t as horrifying as some of the stories online but it certainly doesn’t shake some of the key negative aspects that have been echoed on these forums either. A very average experience not worth arriving at the airport earlier for.

Comments

Have you experienced the Dan Lounge in Ben Gurion Israel? If so how was your experience in the lounge? Love to hear your thoughts and what you think has been your best lounge experience to date.

 

ROYAL JORDANIAN CROWN LOUNGE AMMAN: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Upper Floor, Queen Alia International Airport

Lounge Rating: 3.5

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The brand Royal Jordanian (RJ) had been largely foreign to me until now. A partner of the Oneworld alliance, naturally one is intrigued on who they are about and what they offer. Surely the standard of the airline had to be good, especially when they throw around the terms ‘royal’ and ‘crown’. TAT had a chance to visit their flagship lounge in Amman Jordan during a transit to Tel Aviv. Was the lounge as shiny as the king’s crown jewels collection or was RJs lounge the Sarah Ferguson of the royal family?

 

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Passengers travelling in Royal Jordanian Crown Class.
    • Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members travelling on Oneworld alliance departures in any class.
    • Priority Pass / Dragon Pass / Lounge Club.
    • Buy access for 30 JOD.

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located above the ground floor of the main terminal and is open 24 hours.

 

Ambience

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The location of the lounge is a standout with the lounge wrapping around the outside of the airport in an open plan mezzanine layout above the food and shopping outlets below on the ground floor. The layout allows the lounge to feel open and sparse, making use of the natural light through the roof line of the airport.

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The lounge is equipped with a range of facilities including laptops, children’s area, magazine library space and some individual television rooms (great for those who prefer a little lounge room style TV viewing experience). Showers and prayer rooms were located on the reception side of the lounge. I have not used the shower facilities here but have been informed that there’s a charge to use these which is disappointing as most lounges tend to offer this facility as standard.

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

As previously mentioned there’s shower and bathroom facilities. According to some online chats/ forums there’s reports of passengers being asked to pay to use the showers. I did not have an opportunity during my visit to use the showers so sadly I’m unable to confirm or deny that the hot shower rumours are true or false. That said it’d be disappointing if RJ was charging passengers for this.

Toilets wise you wouldn’t want to be there during peak hour with only 2-3 toilets in both the mens and womens. That said the toilets were spotless with an attendant cleaning them regularly.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

One thing I love about lounges is the food and drinks offerings; especially when done well. I state this based on what I’m about to say next,..and for me I was ‘underwhelmed’. Maybe it’s the Qatar or Emirates x-factor but after having visited recently the Qatar lounge in Bangkok, this lounge seemed like a downgrade.

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In the BKK lounge Bollinger champagne flowed and delectable little mezze dishes were in abundance. Here in RJ it’s very simple (little too much simplicity) and basic food offering let it down. On offer was salad, hummus and some individually wrapped plastic sealed wraps and pastries. The majority of this looked largely unappetising but admittedly the hummus did go down a treat with some Turkish bread.

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A wine/ spirits bar is on site but due to the timing of my early morning flight this was closed. Thankfully the non-alcoholic beverages were well stocked but the range of choices again were limited. Expect the usual suspects; coffee machines, tea, soft drink and water.

Verdict

First up the lounge isn’t a Sarah Ferugson but for a flagship lounge belonging to a premier full service airline it was underwhelming. This was namely down to a) charging (rumour) for the showers, b) limited toilet facilities (not good during peak periods) and c) a very basic food and beverage offering.  On the upside the layout of the design and its location with panoramic views of the general airport terminal is eye catching and enjoyable to spend time in. There’s a lot of potential for this lounge to be great and not just average. Sadly at this stage it’s just potential. I can only hope the renovations taking place currently in the lounge will address some of my concerns.

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Comments

Have you experienced Royal Jordanian Crown Class Lounge in Amman? Did you find the space disappointing or was your time more enjoyable? Love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

ROYAL JORDANIAN BUSINESS CLASS: AMM – TLV (FLIGHT RJ342): REVIEW

Flight: RJ342, AMM – TLV
Loyalty Scheme: Royal Plus (a partner of the Oneworld program) 
Frequency: 2 x daily flight
Duration: 25 minutes

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Having flown on Royal Jordanian’s (RJ) B787, I was keen to experience some of the other aircraft variants and services that RJ had to offer. One flight that intrigued me was the Amman – Tel Aviv leg. The flight is one of the shortest in the world and the only one offered by an arabic airline due to the political climate in the middle east. The leg itself flies from Jordan, over the West Bank and into Tel Aviv Israel. The view from the window provides some spectacular insights into the conflict zones. With all that in mind TAT took to the skies on RJs shortest flight.

The Seat

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Business 3J. There are 12 recliner business class seats in a 1-2 configuration within the Crown cabin. The leather has a neutral cream tone and the seat itself is quite plush and comfortable. There is a centre armrest that allows for drinks to be served on as well as a power outlet underneath that to allow electronics to be charged through.

Entertain me

This is a case of use your own imagination (or bring your own media device) because there’s no entertainment or wifi on offer on this plane.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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For a business class cabin I didn’t know what to expect here. I expect on such a short flight some sort of snack and a quick drink but surprisingly that wasn’t the case. Upon boarding business class passengers were offered a juice or water before departure…and that was the end of the service.

There was no communication further on any additional service by the cabin crew. The lack of service was quite disappointing for a business cabin. It wouldn’t have made any difference where you were in business or economy.

Verdict

The flight was pleasant and literally flew by. I have never flown on such a short route. I never imagine the old joke about flying back down as soon as you have taken off was exactly what this flight was. Due to the seat belt sign being on the entire time there was no preparation for landing nor any sort of service. In the business cabin the pre-departure drink was the only service you would receive. In context it would be hard to offer anything substantial but a simple drink, surely a snack could have been added. Not worth the additional as you’re pretty much provided the same type of service as the economy cabin.

Comment

Have you ever flown RJ Crown (business class) on one of the world’s shortest routes? Was your experience comparable or better than expected? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

ROYAL JORDANIAN BUSINESS CLASS: BKK – AMM (FLIGHT RJ183): REVIEW

Flight: RJ183, BKK-AMM 
Loyalty Scheme: Royal Plus (a partner of the Oneworld program) 
Frequency: 1 x daily flight
Duration: 9 hours and 30 minutes

Royal Jordanian (RJ) is one of those unknown, mysterious Oneworld airlines. There’s not lot about it online nor talked about in the community. Naturally intrigued, when the opportunity arrived due to the airline being only one of a very small handful of airlines that flew into Tel Aviv it felt only right that TAT finally broke its RJ virginity. So how did RJ fair? Did it take off with flying colours or did it lose its Crown class title for being something less than regal? TAT decided to be an RJ business king for half a day to find out…

The Seat

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Business 3A. Royal Jordanian has 24 lie flat business class seats across four rows in a 2-2-2 configuration on the 787-800. The seats which are B/E Aerospace Diamond seats, have a pleasant neutral colour tone and despite the 2-2-2 layout, the seats felt rather private thanks to its slightly staggered seating arrangement. Thankfully I had a spare aisle seat next to me so that made access to the rest of the cabin for stretching, bathroom breaks etc far easier. Had someone been there next to me at the time I would have had to awaken them to hop over them (which is never a good thing in business).

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The foot area felt right tight and made it slightly difficult to feel comfortable when it came to laying down for a nap. Also at my fingertips was the seat controls in the centre armrest and at the back the seat an exposed storage compartment with a power outlet, headphone jack and USB outlet. Noise cancelling headphones and a rather drab Acqua Colonia amenities kit was handed out by flight attendants prior to departure. The attendants at this point seemed rather rushed and whilst not unfriendly, they did come off a little cold in terms of service. A pillow and blanket was provided but I found I had no use for them as I only really had a power nap. Being an overnight flight I was disappointed that RJ did not offer pyjamas especially for a flight that was almost 10 hours long.

Entertain me

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I love a good sized TV and RJs 787 screen did not disappoint. Sure it didn’t have the screen clarity or sound or even the range of entertainment like Emirates but it was still a fairly solid IFE offering. I did not struggle to find options to enjoy whether it be a premiere film or listening to audio. The IFE was very responsive and intuitive. Additionally unlike its competitors like Emirates and Qatar there was no wifi on this flight.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

When I first boarded I was offered a choice of juice, water or an arabic coffee as well as a hot towel to refresh myself before takeoff. Being an arabic coffee connoisseur I went for the arabic coffee and even enjoyed a refill because that’s what you do when you fly an arabic airline. Unlike Emirates and Etihad the coffee was not complimented with dates which was a shame as the sweetness of the dates make the coffee taste less bitter.

Once in the air service was quite slow. Flight attendants came through with menus and a drink list. For drinks RJ offered two white and two red wines from a range of countries from France to Chile and even Jordan.Champagne of choice served on this flight was the Taittinger Brut Réserve, which is a decent drop and one I quiet enjoy. Once airborne I requested a glass of the Taittinger whilst I waited for my meal choice to be taken. By the time I made my meal request and waited for it to be served I had already finished a second glass of champagne.  

There were four choices for main from the lamb cubes with massaman sauce, a rigatoni pasta to a pan fried tuptim fish as well as a roasted duck with orange sauce. I went with the duck and whilst it was rather tasty I found it slightly tough in parts to eat. The meal was accompanied with a seasonal mixed salad and an arabic date cake with caramelised figs. The salad was rather bland but what the salad lacked, the dessert on the other hand triumphed with an abundance of flavour and texture.

Almost 90 minutes prior to landing a continental breakfast was served in the cabin. Unlike the hot meal/ dinner service at the beginning of the flight, there was no options or choices given. Passengers were served some artisan breads, a fruit salad and some sweet and savoury pastries. Having eaten quite a bit in the hours prior to this flight, the light service worked for me but if you were famished or rather peckish, the offering would be a tad disappointing. I thought I would make it a bit more interesting by making it a champagne breakfast and requested a glass of the Taittinger.

All in all the food and drinks service was solid but not outstanding. The service could have been tied up a bit and the presentation a little more appealing in terms of food.

Verdict

Royal Jordanian was an enjoyable flight. It didn’t stand out compared to business class products like those from Etihad, Emirates or Qatar but then again it didn’t do anything too poorly to make me avoid them as an option. Food and drink offering was good but again not sensational. Perhaps the late departure and early arrival of this particular flight may be limited the service and offerings, in turn making it hard to tell if this was the best that one could potentially get in RJ business. That said RJ is a relatively well priced product and tends to be far cheaper than its rivals. With that in mind it’s quite good value for the product provided. I’d definitely fly it again if the opportunity arose.

Comment

Have you ever flown RJ Crown (business class)? Was your experience comparable or better than expected? Keen to hear your thoughts.