Qantas weighs in on hand luggage

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Qantas has begun weighing carry-on luggage of passengers at the gate as part of a crackdown on hand luggage exceeding the bag limit of 7kg. Baggage found to be overweight will be compulsorily checked in at the boarding gate. Not even Business Class passengers and Platinum One frequent flyers are exempt from the crackdown.

With the rise of a virtually contactless check in experience to the boarding gate, the process of weighing or checking in baggage has become nonexistent. Despite skipping check in due to checking in online, baggage should still meet the size and weight requirements of the airline’s baggage policy. However this often goes unchecked by full service airlines at the boarding gate.

Qantas is an airline that from living memory rarely ever weighed hand luggage at the gate but have decided that the growth of online checkin has seen the baggage policy sometimes abused by passengers. I can understand where the airline is coming from and there are some occasions where the hand luggage policy has been clearly abused but the weighing of all items, particularly if they’re only say 1-2 kgs over is a bit petty. For me on domestic flights I use hand luggage all the time, even when on a full service airline that includes checked luggage for free. It’s fast and convenient, especially when travelling for business as you don’t want to spend half an hour at baggage collection waiting for your bag.

Qantas says the random checks ensure each passenger has their fair share of overhead space whilst looking out for the safety of cabin crew who could potentially injure themselves lifting overweight luggage.

I’m divided on this issue as I can see both sides of the argument. In all fairness 7kgs is pretty light and pathetic. If hand luggage was increased to 9kg a piece I think anything over weight that should be stored underneath. As the expression goes, if you can’t lift it put it away.

It’ll be interesting to see how Qantas handles this new hand luggage in the months to come and whether it’ll further impact departure times for the airline, which for the majority of my QF flights are generally delayed.

Do you Qantas has gone too far in terms of randomly weighing hand luggage? I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

Fiji Airways officially joins Oneworld Connect

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Fiji Airways this week officially became Oneworld Connect’s first partner. As a new partner it unlocks an array of benefits for Oneworld members. Oneworld Connect is intended to be an option for smaller airlines to join the alliance without having to pay the full membership costs due to the large costs associated with joining an alliance.

So what does this mean for those as part of the Oneworld program?

Prior to joining Oneworld Connect, priority boarding on Fiji Airways flights was reserved only for business class passengers and the airline’s Tabua Club members. The change will now priority boarding benefits expanded to all Oneworld members across all airports when travelling with Fiji Airways.

In addition customers from American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas when flying on Fiji Airways will have the ability to earn and redeem miles (including earning status miles). The benefits will also be reciprocated for Fiji Airways Tabua frequent flyer members when flying on American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

However unlike other Oneworld partners, Connect doesn’t offer Oneworld members access to FJ lounges or Oneworld when flying under an FJ coded flight. This means that unless you are flying FJ Business Class, you will not receive lounge access no matter your status. This is quite disappointing considering that Oneworld benefits like lounge access are highly regarded and for many are a main drawcard to being with an alliance.

If that isn’t disappointing, as you could tell not all Oneworld members are treated the same. Below is a chart breaking down the benefits for each airline.

In my view the new addition of FJ is better than no addition with some good benefits there in terms of points and boarding. However with some airlines treated more preferably than others as part of this new deal, I feel this has added a layer of confusion in terms of who is eligible for what. Additionally a lack of airport lounge access is disappointing and one can only hope will be reviewed soon. Time will tell if the Connect concept lasts the distance.

 

The AirAsia inaugural flight takes off from Avalon Airport

000350_airasiaavalon0590_1170.jpgMelbourne Avalon Airport this week saw its first AirAsia X international flight take off. The new flight sees AirAsia X move its twice daily Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne Tullamarine flight as part of a 10 year deal with operator Linfox Airports, which the airline signed early this year.

As part of the deal, a new terminal was built to facilitate international operations (the airport had only previously catered to domestic operation) in partnership with the Commonwealth and Victorian governments. The new terminal features border processing facilities, two duty free stores, tax refund facilities, as well as a bar and cafe spanning across 6,370 square metres. The airport anticipates 500,000 passengers will pass through its newly built international terminal during its first year of operations.

AirAsia X is the only airline currently offering international flights from Avalon. Whilst the move from some in the sector feel that shift to Avalon is risky for AirAsia, the large subsidies from the Victorian Government will ensure that the move from Tullamarine to Avalon is at least cost effect. Combined with Geelong experiencing a large spike in population growth in recent years due to its close proximity to Melbourne and housing options, the move to me seems quite a smart one. I don’t envision that the move will pay dividends instantly but give it one to two years and I believe Avalon will be a viable option for price conscious flyers looking to fly between Melbourne and Asia. 

 

 

IBERIA EXPRESS IB3435, PARIS-MADRID: REVIEW

Flight: IB3435, Paris – Madrid

Loyalty Scheme: Iberia Avios (Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple flights daily

Duration: 2 hr and 10 mins

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I had always wanted to fly the national carrier for Spain but never really had the opportunity to. Iberia from what I had seen and heard had one of the most glamorous and attentive crew in the world as well as one of the best on time arrivals out of any airline. Despite flying to Barcelona from Paris (Iberia only flew to Barcelona via their Madrid hub), I was still eager to give Iberia a go. Stopovers don’t usually bother me unless the stopover is overly long and the connection time poor as opposed to flying direct. My plane today was onboard an A319. So how did the Iberian short haul product stand up? TAT flew Iberia’s metal to find out.

 

Seat

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The aircraft has two cabins (34 business and 84 economy seats). The aircraft on today’s flight was a bit tired and looked in need of a makeover. Despite the dated interior, the tired leather seat was surprisingly still quite comfortable. That said, don’t forget to bring the knee pads for your next Iberia flight. The seat had a pitch of 29″ which is relatively tight for anyone (not just a tall person) but then again I put everything in perspective and for a short flight like this one, the pitch is bearable.

 

Entertain me

No seatback entertainment available but Iberia does offer a free entertainment service via their WIFI service. Due to the WIFI option not being available on this flight meant I was unable to provide a review around their entertainment product.

 

Wine and dine me (the food)

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Despite being a premium airline and part of the Oneworld Alliance, this airline has a budget airline feel about it and it comes namely down to the lack of baggage and food/ drink inclusions. Here for economy passengers on this flight it’s a buy on board system (the likes of which you would see on budget carriers like Tiger and Jetstar).

Fortunately I was seated near the front of the economy section and the business class hostess on that flight was generous enough to provide me with some complimentary snacks and drinks from the business cabin due to my Oneworld frequent flyer status. The gesture from her was quite lovely and made my experience onboard a lot more enjoyable (sadly wasn’t replicated in the connecting Iberian flight to Barcelona but for top tier FFs this is something all airlines should look into offering).

 

Summary

For a short flight the economy seat on Iberia did the job yet I’m not sure if I would fly this type of aircraft or service with Iberia again so soon (that said a newly fitted out Iberia A320 might sway me back). I was fortunate to have a great flight attendant who provided excellent customer service but this is consistent across the Iberian network in terms of recognising frequent flyer loyalty onboard. A bonus was the flight left on time and arrived early into Madrid (Iberia is one of the leading airlines in terms of on time departures). Not outstanding but not disappointing with Iberia meeting the brief in terms of flying passengers efficiently from A to B.

 

Service: 5 Stars

Seating: 3 stars

Food: 3.5 Stars

BRITISH AIRWAYS GALLERIES FIRST LOUNGE TERMINAL 5 AT LONDON HEATHROW: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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British Airways lounges, particularly their first class lounges, have always had a strong reputation and are viewed by many as some of the best in Europe alongside Swiss and Air France. Having previously used the BA Business Lounge a handful of times I felt that the standard in those were pretty good so naturally I was keen to see what BA had to offer in terms of their First Class offering.

 

Lounge access options

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Lounge access is available for passengers who are:

  • flying on a scheduled British Airways flight in First
  • a Gold Member of the British Airways Executive Club on a scheduled flight operated by British Airways or one of our oneworld partners
  • an Emerald member of any of the oneworld airline frequent flyer programmes on a scheduled flight operated by British Airways or one of our oneworld partners
  • over the age of 18 years, or if under 18 years you are accompanied by a responsible adult. (Local laws relating to the consumption of alcohol will apply)

As a Sapphire or Emerald member you are welcome to invite one single guest per each departure flight to join you in the lounge.

 

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge can be accessed through the brand new First Wing area at the south end of the terminal. This allows you to use First class check in, go through a separate security channel and enter directly into the BA lounge. Should you not use this option you can access the lounge by going through either the North or South security check points and then enter the lounge complex on the ground floor at the south end of the terminal. It’s open from 5am-10.30pm daily.

 

Ambience

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The first thing I notice upon entering the lounge is how quiet the space (to the point that you could hear a pin drop). There’s no announcements of flights or the buzz of voices from chatter between people. The lounge felt as a result rather cold and was not helped by its strange configuration. Whilst the break out spaces were good for those wanting to get work done, the ambience of the place was almost nonexistent as a result. An example of this is the Champagne Bar or the new Union Coffee space. Whilst I love the concept for both, the spaces had 1-2 people in them at a time at best.

On one side of the Champagne Bar was a larger drinks bar complete with spirits, wines and non-alcoholic options whilst on the other side was a working space as well as the buffet food area known as the ‘The Deli’ and a ‘wine gallery’. The buffet selection was decent and had some of the best options I have seen in a lounge. The scones with cream and strawberries is so British it hurts but looked too good not to sample (which I did happily).

The area I liked most was the First Dining Room with its table service and great views of the tarmac for those like me who like a decent serving of plane spotting before taking off into the meal.

There’s also the Elemis Spa available to those on the day for those not flying first if there are appointments available. I did not have time to access this option and am unable to provide feedback on this.

 

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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The Champagne Bar and the Union Coffee space are great ideas but wasted opportunities. As I mentioned earlier they were both empty and that’s disappointing considering the investment. The champagne being served was Champagne Jeeper in either a Grand Brut or Grand Rose style. I had the Rose and it was delightful on the palate.

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Besides the scones and strawberries from ‘The Deli’ buffet section, I decided I’d dine with the table service at the First Dining Room. The menu is nowhere near extensive as the ones at Qantas or Cathay.

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From the options available I went with the BA Burger. The menu described the burger as having ‘flippin amazing burger sauce’ but when I went to try it, there was anything amazing about the burger. That said it was still quite delicious. If there was anything I would have liked to have seen is that the table dining service offer passengers more options to choose from. It was quite limiting for what BA deems as a ‘ first class lounge’.

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Verdict

The lounge does the job in terms of keeping me well fed and hydrated in a space away from the crazy activity of the terminal. Food and wine, particular the choice of champagne available in the lounge at the time was good quality. The x factor is all in the table dining service in the First Dining Room with the meals well portioned and deliciously tasty. If there’s any gripe it’d be the configuration. A sense of peace and privacy is essential in any lounge but this one was designed to the point that interaction with other human beings would seem almost non-existent. A livelier environment would have been welcomed. In addition comparing it to other ‘first lounges’ globally, this one doesn’t have the shine or personalised touch like those at Cathay Pacific or Qantas.

Would I return for another visit let alone another bite of that BA Burger? In response to both – in a heartbeat!

 

Comments

Have you experienced the BA Galleries First Class Lounge in Terminal 5 at Heathrow? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

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.