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.

 

 

QANTAS SYD- SAN FRAN LEG TO GET B787

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Like many of you I’m a fan of the B747 but unfortunately her days are numbered with several of airlines. The Queen of the skies is heading for retirement with Qantas by the end of 2020. Some routes will see her depart sooner in the interim with Qantas announcing that she will be replaced by their Dreamliner B787 on its Sydney – San Francisco route. The B787 will move take off daily from 4 December 2019.

Whilst it’s sad to see the Queen disappear from this route there’s no denying the level of technological (as well as comfort) improvements that’ll be given to passengers flying on the B787. Gone will be the 2-2-2 business class seating arrangement, replaced instead by Qantas superb business suite in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Like anything there’s a downside and it’s Qantas’ new premium economy cabin. The leg room and space feels worse than its economy section yet you’re paying more for the pleasure of feeling squashed. Personally I would rather fly economy over that seat or upgrade to business (yes the design flaw is really that bad).

Mixed feelings of sorts on the new Qantas dreamliner route but at the end of the day, it is an upgrade!

 

 

AIR KORYO ECONOMY CLASS TUPOLEV 204-100 BEIJING – PYONGYANG: REVIEW

Flight: JS152, Beijing – Pyongyang (15 April 2019)
Loyalty Scheme: N/A
Frequency: 1 X daily
Duration: 1 hour and 55 minutes

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For years I heard numerous things about the North Korean national carrier Air Koryo. Frankly the feedback wasn’t great! Frequently the airline has been named one of the worst airlines in the world alongside the likes of Lion Air and Ryan Air. Besides the thrill I was experiencing from going into the unknown with North Korea, I was equally enthuiastic about the prospect of flying their airline. Was the airline really as terrible as it was made out to be or was it simply misunderstood?! I flew to DPRK to find out…

The Seat

 

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Economy 26A. Seated in the middle of the first section of economy the fitout was as I had expected, retro! Surprisingly the red and grey leather chair was comfortable despite probably being fitted years ago and the leg room more than ample. No other wow factor here but more satisfactory than I expected in terms of comfort.

Entertain me

Whilst there wasn’t any seat back entertainment, there was a drop down screen option that played some rather interesting North Korean films and poor soap operas. There was also the odd propganda video or two thrown in for good measure. It just wouldn’t be DPRK without one now wouldn’t it?!

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Again another food/ drink rumour that was debunked on this flight. I had seen a few images online of the infamous ‘Koryo Burger’ where the meat was unidentifiable and the burger inedible. The repulsiveness of the burger had garnered itself a cult following with many who had flown Air Koryo coming there for the burger.

The Air Koryo staff came through with a decent meal and drinks service. I was offered water, sparkling soda (basically soft drink), tea and coffee. I ordered some of the grape soda which I admit is delicious addictive. Now to the burger that was placed on my tray. On observation it didn’t look as bad I had imagined. The ingredients were simple; meat patty, lettuce, cheese and sauce. I went to take a bite and wow, it was packed full of flavour. The burger at best reminded me of a ramen burger in terms of flavour. It was slightly peppery yet had an asian beef zest to it. Admittedly I enjoyed this burger quite a bit and would have easily ordered a second. Yes the burger was that good!

A little later into the flight staff came through with a second drinks service. I ordered a coffee and a cup of the orange soda. Both quenched my thirst and were nothing out of the ordinary in terms of what you would get onboard anywhere else. Again the service was efficient and friendly, something I did not expect considering their so called one star SKYTRAX rating.

Verdict

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Air Koryo really did surprise me. The staff were well dressed, the presentation of the plane was clean and the service was relatively good. I don’t believe for a minute that the national carrier warrants the one star rating it has been unfairly given. Perhaps some people have rated this too harshly without taking into consideration the competition. To be frank I got more bang for my buck and better service on here than I have done with a number of low cost (and even some full service) carriers.

The food and drinks whilst nothing to write home about, were satisfactory. I believe the asian flavour of the burger for some travellers may have been a little too left of field for their tastebuds. The burger certainly did not deserve the tag of inedible that it had been given.

All in all my experience flying Air Koryo was smooth flying. I would without hesitation fly this airline again.

 

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Comment

Have you ever flown with Air Koryo or dared to try one of their Koryo burgers? Was your experience better than expected like mine or was it turbulent like the airline’s SKYTRAX rating? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

 

CATHAY PACIFIC THE PIER FIRST CLASS LOUNGE HONG KONG: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1, Level 6, near Gate 63

Lounge Rating: 5 Stars (I would go beyond 5/5 if I could!)

 

 

You would’ve come across those top 10 First Class Lounge lists or best lounges in the world articles where some typical points hack would have written up online for you to salivate over. They become the desirable among the frequent flying elite and are in themselves a must go to destination.  For me one of those lounges is the Qantas Sydney First Class International Lounge. It’s exquisite and worth arriving early for.

For a while now I had heard great things about an equally (if not more) impressive lounge, The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong Airport. So impressive is its offering that I was more looking forward to visiting the lounge versus revisiting Hong Kong again. So how did The Pier stack up? Was the lounge worthy of the hype. I simply had to check in and find out…

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Cathay Pacific/ Dragonair first class passengers
    • First class flyers Oneworld airline travelling passengers including British Airways and Qatar
    • Marco Polo Club Diamond, Diamond Plus and Diamond Invitation frequent flyers
    • Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers such as Qantas Platinum prior to flights with Cathay Pacific Qantas, etc

Lounge location and opening hours

The Pier is located at Level 6, Terminal 1, near Gate 63 and is open from from 5.30am, closed at 00.30am daily.

Ambience

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One of the first things you notice when you step into The Pier is the sheer size yet privacy of the place. This isn’t your normal lounge fit out. It truly is a space to relax, enjoy a meal or be productive without the distraction of the overall airport. The separation of the different, beautiful colour scheme and greenery add to the sense of luxury. This feels more like a 5 star hotel than lounge; again a testament to the work that Cathay has put into making the lounge the experience that it is today.

For those wishing to be productive, there’s a great office space called’ The Bureau’ which offers business travellers desks with computers and space for laptops as well as multiple  AC and USB power ports for those who need to be fully charged and tapped into all devices.

On the flip side for those wishing to be as unproductive as possible there’s a Library with some reading materials as well as eight Day Suites which include a single bed for those wanting to get some forty winks. Yes this lounge really has something for everyone!

 

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

Having had a rather long day lining up and walking in the heat around Honkers, I made a b line to the bathroom to have a shower before my lounge meal and flight. Unlike other lounges I was able to get a shower instantly. The 14 shower suites are adorned with gorgeous brass fittings and my favourite, Aesop amenities. Let’s say that after my shower I was feeling more than refreshed but rejuvenated.

I applied for a spa treatment but sadly the appointments were booked out right until 11pm that night, well after my flight had taken to the skies (so sadly could not review that aspect of the lounge).

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

One of my favourite aspects about the First Class Lounges like Qantas and now Cathay is their dining room space. Yes there is a buffet area option for those who do enjoy the ability to self serve and are time poor but for me, these spaces provide a chance to indulge in some truly great cuisine. The Pier did not disappoint with the lounge offer a restaurant space and bar at the back of the lounge. Simply pull up a chair and experience restaurant quality service. On the menu was a staggering amount of food and wine options, including three champagne choices. Due to the Easter period there was an additional Easter themed menu which in the end tempted me and found me mixing it up between some renown dishes and some more holiday spirit cuisine.

 

For the starter I choose the Easter a la coque egg and smoked salmon with fennel salad. Both were equally delicious and beautiful presented. Moving onto the mains I had the succulent mussel marinere with white wine and julienne fries. If I had an criticism here is that the dish was rather small and in turn I found myself order more, which lead me onto my second main the roasted leg of lamb. Again both were tasty, well cooked and looked divine.

To finish I couldn’t go past the Easter themed chocolate dessert which was a rich chocolate mousse Easter egg with orange marmalade….simply delicious! I complimented my dishes naturally with a mix between the vintage Thienot 2008 Brut and the Perrier Jouet NV (which is also served in the Qantas First Class lounge).

Throughout the dining experience the lovely waitress who served me was accommodating, friendly and very conversational. She was great in terms of offering insight into drink and food choices, even getting me onto the Cathay cocktail speciality Blue Dream which was quite a treat!  I did not have to wait long nor struggle to get the attention of wait staff. This really was the perfect lounge dining experience. I could not fault it.

Verdict

The Pier is one of those experiences where you don’t feel you are in a lounge. The atmosphere here is warm and inviting and never feels for a moment crowded. Normally you have to do a hot shoe shuffle to scramble for a seat in another lounge but not here at The Pier. The breakout spaces and use of lighting and fixtures is truly genius. For me it has become one of my favourite lounges in the world after one visit – yes it was THAT good! I will be back for sure and am willing to look at flight options that detour as a stopover in Hong Kong just to make it happen!

Comments

Have you experienced The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong? Did you find the space as inviting and beautiful as my experience or was your time not as enjoyable? Love to hear your thoughts and what you think has been your best lounge experience to date.

QANTAS INCREASES CARRY ON ALLOWANCE (CUE EXCITEMENT)

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Now here is an announcement or more ‘enhancement’ that I can get behind. Qantas this week announced that domestic passengers will soon be able to board flights with heavier carry-on bags after responding to pressure from passengers over its ‘limiting’ 7 kg allowance.

Commencing March 25, travellers will be allowed to carry on one item weighing as much as 10 kgs and a second piece up to 4 kgs, bringing the total cabin allowance to 14 kgs per person. In addition passengers are allowed to bring one small personal item bag (ie. handbag or laptop bag).

This is quite generous and shows for once an airline actually listening to what people want rather than telling people what they should have. That said any cabin baggage weighing greater than 10 kg will still need to be checked in.

Well done Qantas. This is one move that I hope other airlines won’t be weighed down in making a reactionary decision and following.

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.

 

QANTAS TAKES OFF FOR FIJI

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Qantas for the last couple of years has moved slowly away from the business market and focused its energies on the recreation side of things. First it was the launch of direct flights to Bali (which was predominantly left to their Jetstar arm prior) and now Qantas has decided they want a piece of the island action in Fiji! That’s right folks, Qantas will be flying direct Sydney – Nadi from 31 March 2019.

Flying four times weekly, the flight will be serviced by a Boeing 737. QF101 will depart Sydney at 10.30am every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, to arrive in Nadi at 4.30pm. The QF102 return leg departs Nadi at 5.35pm the same day for an 8pm Sydney arrival.

The news doesn’t mean that Qantas will shy from its codeshare with Fiji Airways flight to Nadi, particularity now that Fiji Airways is a member of the Oneworld Connect scheme.

Will you be taking a leisurely island holiday to Fiji now that Qantas is in the game? Keen to hear your thoughts.