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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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.

 

 

 

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.