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?

 

Virgin set to experience turbulence following recent net loss

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Virgin Australia has announced this week a program to cut 750 head office and corporate roles after posting a $349 million full-year loss. The result is a surprising drop for Virgin following their slender thing profit of $64 million the previous year. The plan to slash jobs is estimated to save the airline $75 million annually in costs. The cuts would impact seven per cent of Virgins current workforce.

On top of labour costs Virgin has advised it would be making an urgent assessment of all its current routes and capacities to see where further savings can be made. It’s expected there will be a strong focus around leisure routes. The move would ensure better route profitability for the airline.  Virgin has also decided it would hit pause on fleet renewal until July 2021.

The recent loss has not made new VA CEO Paul Scurrah’s life any easier since he landed into the tough job following the departure of John Borghetti. The new CEO pointed to tough trading conditions as well as rising fuel and the lower Australian dollar.

The news follows rival Qantas posting earlier this month a 6.5 per cent fall in annual net profit. Like Virgin they attributed the loss to higher oil prices and a weaker foreign exchange.

 

 

QANTAS BUSINESS CLASS A380 SYD – LAX: REVIEW

Flight: QF11, SYD-LAX

Loyalty Scheme: Qantas Frequent Flyer (member of the Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple daily

Duration:  13.5 hours

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Qantas has a stranglehold of the USA market between the Australian east coast and key cities such as NYC, San Fran, Dallas and Los Angeles. Recently the airline announced it would also be pushing into new routes like Chicago from 2020. With that in mind I knew going to the States with Qantas was always going to be a sound choice. So how did the A380 stack up on the long haul flight from Sydney to Los Angeles? The Australian Traveller hopped onboard at the top end to find out…

The Seat

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Qantas has a stranglehold of the USA market between the Australian east coast and key cities such as NYC, San Fran, Dallas and Los Angeles. Recently the airline announced it would also be pushing into new routes like Chicago from 2020. With that in mind I knew going to the States with Qantas was always going to be a sound choice. So how did the A380 stack up on the long haul flight from Sydney to Los Angeles? The Australian Traveller hopped onboard at the top end to find out…Qantas has a stranglehold of the USA market between the Australian east coast and key cities such as NYC, San Fran, Dallas and Los Angeles. Recently the airline announced it would also be pushing into new routes like Chicago from 2020. With that in mind I knew going to the States with Qantas was always going to be a sound choice. So how did the A380 stack up on the long haul flight from Sydney to Los Angeles? The Australian Traveller hopped onboard at the top end to find out…

One thing that’s instantly noticeable compared to Qantas’ new B787s and converted A330s is that the A380 retains the older generation Skybed II business class seat. This means for those playing at home it’s not very private and is configured in a 2-2-2 seat layout (which means that delicate hop over the neighbour mid flight when they’re reclined and asleep) .

Despite the seats possessing a generous amount of  leg room (78-inch pitch), storage space was seriously lacking around the seat itself. When the bed lays fully flat it offered a sense of privacy thanks to the cocoon of the hard shell surrounding the seat. Sadly the seat was showing its age with the end sagging slightly which in turn made my sleeping position a little uncomfortable at times.

On my seat when I first boarded was a rather charming amenities kit which has all the essentials including some lovely Aspar products as well as a pair of the iconic Qantas pajamas. It was rather ambitious for Qantas to leave a pair there considering they were making an assumption on what size I am.

Entertain me

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Qantas without fail always has a strong selection of film and television to enjoy on their IFEs. All business class seats have a 12.1-inch touchscreen which pops up the side of the seat and then swivelled into position to sit in front of you. The quality of the screen which is perfectly fine to view, is no match for Qantas’ better A330 and B787 business class IFE screens. All business class passengers are provided with noise cancelling headphones.

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For those not wanting to watch a screen and more want to go for a stretch or do some socialising, Qantas has a small lounge space in the front of the top deck. Unlike Emirates and Qatar, the space is a wasted opportunity. There’s no bar but rather a long lounge running along the length of the wall. At the time I entered it was heaving with young children and their mothers. It was clearly not a space I wished to relax in. It’s believed that the new revamp of the A380 will include a new lounge area which I hope will be a lot more aligned with the Emirates lounge space on board than what is currently offered on Qantas.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Qantas is one of the best when it comes to food and wine presentation and this flight was no exception. Sure it wasn’t on par with Qatar’s incomparable meal service, it was still a highlight. Being a morning flight out of Sydney, there were two key meal services; lunch and breakfast (in preparation for landing into the US the day same day during the breakfast rush). Prior to take off Qantas offered passengers a glass of still or sparkling water or Duval-Leroy Brut champagne. I went with the champagne as a way to toast in the beginning of my getaway to the USA.

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Lunch was served an hour into the flight. For appetiser I went with the dumplings which were quite succulent and full of flavour. The main followed and the choices were a lot more abundant  from a seared barramundi, a chicken breast with potato gratin and roasted vegetables to a spicy beef tagine. I chose the barramundi. It went nicely with my topped up glass of champagne. Served alongside the main was a simple salad (which lacked any real flavour). Dessert closed the meal off nicely with some seasoned fruit and Maggie Beer ice cream.

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Flight attendant came around with breakfast cards for passengers to fill out before they closed out the lunch service. Being one who likes to start off the day with a big meal to power through I made sure I ticked a few of the boxes before getting in a movie or two and some shut eye.

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After sleeping six hours I awoke half an hour prior to Qantas commencing their breakfast service, which was abut two hours out from Los Angeles. Instead of the staggered dish serving process of the lunch service, the breakfast meal was brought out all at once.

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The breakfast was akin to what I would be served in an Australian cafe which is quite a delight. The ingredients and food offering looks not only delicious but rather healthy. I went with the poached eggs with pearl barley, kale and spinach salad as well as a serving of the buttermilk pancakes with baked rhubarb and cinnamon yoghurt. I accompanied the dishes with a cappuccino which came out nice and frothy, a green juice and a final glass of champagne (because it was 12pm somewhere in the world).

All in all the food and drinks were solid, tasty and the best part of my flight experience. If Qantas was a restaurant I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars for its culinary side alone.

Verdict

I was initially apprehensive to fly the old Skybed II to the States. The idea of hopping over someone mid flight, let alone the lack of privacy was a concern. That said the seat was surprisingly still comfortable ten years on despite a little sagging in parts. I slept a solid six hours and felt rejuvenated for the rest of the day once I landed.

The entertainment was good but slightly disappointing due to the screen showing its age. The highlight however was the meal service for both lunch and breakfast. Qantas has a reputation for its dining and it did not falter. With the A380s set for a revamp later this year to the new business class seat, I cannot wait to see what a difference a better seat will do to enhance what is an already enjoyable experience. I will definitely be back onboard with Qantas if given the chance in the future!

Comments

Have you experienced flying business on the Qantas A380? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts…

Qantas to fly B787 daily on Sydney-Santiago route

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It’s always sad to hear when another B747 route bites the dust, replaced by something newer, shinier and in this current aviation space smaller. This was the case when Qantas announced this week it would be replacing its 4 x weekly B747 Sydney-Santiago flights from late June 2020 to a daily Boeing 787-9 flight.

Business class passengers are the big winners here with the B787 fitted with Qantas’ newest business class seat, which transforms into a fully-flat bed and offers direct aisle access. This removed the awkward hop over of the B747s 2-3-2 business cabin, which features the classic Skybed.

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The announcement comes as part of a wider initiative by Qantas to retire its older B747 by the end of 2020. Obviously a newer, fresher plane is always welcomed and flying long distance in a B787 does have its health and sleep benefits but there’s no denying that B747 is where the fun in flying is. If you are keen to fly the Queen before her retirement to Santiago, I would hop onto it now before mid 2020.

Are you excited or disappointed by the Qantas announcement? Will you be booking a B747 flight to Santiago before its retired mid 2020? Keen to hear your thoughts. 

 

American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK – NYC: Review

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Terminal 8

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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I have this love/ hate relationship with AA. Sometimes their lounges, service and aircraft are on point and other times it’s frankly dismal. Some of AA’s lounges are tired and the food/ drink quality is sometimes better in the food court within the terminal. American has been in turn going through a revamp of late and are slowly changing the look and feel of their lounges, particularly around their Flagship lounges.

Last year American opened their new Flagship lounge at JFK and the feedback from those who have frequented it have been quite positive. Naturally being at JFK I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and if the fuss was justified (all whilst enjoy a champagne or two).

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Lounge access options

  • Traveling in AA intercontinental business or first class
  • Traveling to Los Angeles LAX or San Francisco SFO in first class
  • AA Concierge Key
  • oneworld Saphire and Emerald members traveling on any oneworld flight in any cabin of service
  • oneworld passengers traveling in business class on an intercontinental flight

Lounge location and opening hours

After clearing security, proceed to the Admirals Club signage until you reach the main entrance. You’ll find the Flagship Lounge off to the left, under the flags as you walk down the ramp from TSA screening. There is a lift and staircase that lead up to the Flagship Lounge. The lounge is open daily from 04:15 – 01:00.

Ambience

The feeling the moment you walk into the lounge is a warm and welcome. The use of colour tones and smart, yet simply furnishings add a lovely touch to what AA lounges usually don’t offer…inviting. Initial impressions is that it’s on par on an international level (yes finally AA!). It features a solid buffet, real champagne (hello lover!) and a make your own cocktail bar. Throughout my time spent in the lounge there never a moment that it felt crowded, instead it was rather peaceful, a rarity in such a bustling building like Terminal 8.

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At the back of the lounge was a quiet room/ space which is great for those who want to enjoy a drink/ bite to eat but without the noise of people traffic as they work away on their laptop. Next to that space was the bathrooms and shower suites which were nicely designed and well appointed with C.O. Bigelow toiletries; the same brand AA stocks uses in the business and first amenity kits.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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As mentioned there’s a large buffet section which has some rather decent offerings including a number of  hot options for the lunch/ evening session during my visit including potatoes, pasta, salmon and even beef stir fry. There were also a number of cold options from meats and cheeses to salads. The food quality was tasty, fresh and much better than anything Admirals Lounge could produce.

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However the centerpiece of the Flagship lounge for me was the rather large communal table with a self-serve wine bar in the middle. Additionally there’s was an impressive selection of both red and white wines available. However I was disappointed they had one away with the Taittinger, instead choosing to serve Champagne Besserat de Bellefon. The drop itself was fine but nowhere near the standard or opulence of the Taittinger.

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Verdict

The AA Flagship lounge definitely sets a high standard for American based airport lounges but on the world scale compared to Emirates, Qatar, Cathay and Qantas to name a few, it falls slightly short. However the lounge is a great space to relax and enjoy some food or a drink in comfortable surrounds with a rather spectacular tarmac vista. The food and drink quality is way above the Admirals Club (not something difficult to achieve) and the design is fresh, clean and quite a showpiece for American. The airline should be proud! I’ll be back here for sure (note: I’ve visited once more since this review).

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Comments

Have you experienced the AA Flagship Lounge in NYC? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

Lufthansa Group expands its wings on seven new routes

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I always love an expansion rather than a rescind from an airline, so when an airline as great as Lufthansa says it wants to spread its wings further, I’m all ears! This week the German airline announced it’d be undertaking some significant transatlantic expansion from during the US summer in 2020.

Lufthansa will be launching three new routes, two of which will be within the USA and one interestingly into Bangalore. All three routes will be operated by A350-900 aircraft. One of the USA routes, the Seattle leg will fly 6x weekly flights between Munich and Seattle (except Thursdays) whilst the airline will also fly into Detroit 5x weekly flights from Munich. Finally the airline will launch 5x weekly flights between Munich and Bangalore, which is aimed to support capacity demand from the Frankfurt – Bangalore route.

Additionally Lufthansa Group has announced three new routes for its budget airline, Eurowings. There had been talk in the sector of the airline being withdrawn from a number of routes so the news here of an expansion for Eurowings is surprising but welcomed. The new route for Eurowings are the following:

  • Frankfurt to Phoenix – 5x weekly flights
  • Frankfurt to Anchorage – 3x weekly flights
  • Munich to Orlando – 3x weekly flights
  • Munich to Las Vegas – 2x weekly flights

The news is exciting and I’m quite curious to understand the thinking behind the expansion into some of these destinations, particularly Detroit and Anchorage. The fact that they will be serviced by A330s and A350s means that the fleet will be generally fresh and the standard quite high. As usual, time will tell if the expansion plan for Lufthansa Group pays off.

Will you be flying Lufthansa on any of their newly announced routes? I;m 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.