HK Express boss says long-haul LCCs financially viable

The CEO of Hong Kong budget airline HK Express, Andrew Cowen, says he does not think the fixed assumption that low-cost long-haul-carriers (LCCs) are financially unviable is correct.

His comments come as Singapore-based LCC Scoot began operating its new four-times-weekly Singapore-Athens route earlier this week, using a new B787-8 Dreamliner it received last month. Meanwhile, the UK-based arm of budget carrier Norwegian announced in April it would begin non-stop flights between London and Singapore starting this September.

Speaking to Business Traveller Asia-Pacific, Cowen said: “It is certainly true that the long-haul LCC pioneers have struggled with profitability, but that was true for the short-haul LCC pioneers also, who took some years to refine the LCC business model.

“There are vast numbers of price-sensitive travellers who enjoy travelling on low-fare, short-haul flights and have the desire to travel further, if only they could find lower fares and the ability to shape their journey to suit themselves with the choices LCCs provide.”

In the past, flights exceeding eight hours have tended to be seen as a “no go” area for low-cost models. Scoot’s new Athens service takes 11 hours 30 minutes, while Norwegian’s upcoming Singapore service is expected to take 12 hours and 45 minutes, according to The Independent.

Back in March, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said the threat from low-cost LCCs is short-term, stating: “It doesn’t work. They will not succeed.”

Meanwhile Malaysia Airlines boss, Peter Mellew, said that low-cost LCCs will always be small-scale, and that any increase in the price of oil will cause them difficulty. “It consumes vast amounts of column inches in the newspaper because if people advertise these low fares it makes a big splash, but the economics don’t make sense,” he said in a recent interview with Business Traveller.

Despite this, Cowen says the demand for and strength of LCCs is growing. “Legacy carriers have always downplayed the threat of LCCs, yet FSC (full-service carrier) market share has nonetheless been reducing in favour of LCC market share growth for decades in almost all geographies. I see long-haul LCC as a boon as through interline connection with regional LCCs, offering a far greater choice of low-fare destinations to travellers.”

And while HK Express itself currently does not operate low-cost routes, Cowen isn’t ruling out the possibility, saying that long-haul low-cost flights is “certainly something HK Express is interested in given the huge demand for low fares in the Hong Kong and Pearl River Delta region” – though for the time being the airline is focused on expanding its short-haul fleet and network over the next 18 months.

HK Express is also a founding member of the U-Fly Alliance, which comprises only LCCs. Chinese carrier Lucky Air, a U-Fly Alliance member, currently operates long-haul flights to Moscow – it began a new service on June 12 this year from Kunming that takes 10 hours and 10 minutes. “I have no doubt that more long-haul LCC routes will follow,” said Cowen.

Not all LCCs are as optimistic as HK Express, however. Earlier this week, Malaysian LCC Air Asia X CEO, Tony Fernandes, said that it the airline had decided not to pursue a return of its Europe services – which it cut in 2012 – and its previously targeted expansion to the US mainland.

In a series of tweets, the Air Asia X boss said, “We have decided that ultra-long haul is not relevant now. Won’t get seduced into price wars over London.

“We will stick to the 8 or 9 hours. Our focus will be to Asia with the odd route to Hawaii, which is actually 8 hours from Japan.

“We let the full-service guys fight it out over Europe. Many of them bleeding so much.”

hkexpress.com

Qatar Airways upping Manila flight frequency

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways will be upping the frequency of its flights to Manila this October from 14 weekly flights to 18, following the signing of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the Philippines and Qatar.

The agreement reportedly comes with the condition that Qatar Airways also launch flights from Davao within a year from the launch of the four additional Manila flights, according to the government-operated Philippine News Agency. Details of such a service, notably its likely frequency, haven’t been clarified, but they would join Qatar Airways’ soon-to-be 18 weekly Manila flights as well as its daily flights to Clark.

The announcement of the Manila route frequency increase comes just over two months after Philippine Airlines began operating its own four-times-weekly service between Manila and Doha, which began on March 26 this year.

That said, the viability of this route is far from certain. Philippine low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific announced it would be cutting its own thrice-weekly Manila-Doha service at the beginning of July, along with other Middle-East routes to Riyadh and Kuwait.

Philippine Airlines, meanwhile, is also set to axe its Manila-Abu Dhabi service next month.

Prior to the discussions between the Philippines and Qatar, PAL president Jaime J Bautista said there was no need for additional flights to the Middle East, citing “overcapacity”, according to Businessworld Online.

qatarairways.com

Qatar Airways’ Bali and Bangkok services to get additional daily flights

Bali, Indonesia

Qatar Airways will be adding an additional daily non-stop flight each to its Bali Denpasar and Bangkok services starting in May and June this year, respectively.

The Doha-based airline’s new fifth daily Bangkok flight (starting June 1) and its third daily Bali flight (starting May 7) will each by operated by 254-seat Boeing 787 Dreamliners, offering 22 business and 232 economy class seats. The aircraft is also equipped to offer inflight wifi.

Qatar Airways’ added service frequency in Thailand comes as it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, aimed at attracting travellers from secondary European, Middle-Eastern and African cities to travel to Thailand. Following the enhanced frequency, Qatar Airways will offer a total of 53 weekly services between Doha and Thailand, including double-daily flights to Phuket and four weekly flights to Krabi.

“Boosting our Bangkok flight frequency to five daily flights is a significant commitment from us to the Thai market and a testament to the strong year-round demand on this iconic Far East route,” said Akbar Al Baker, the airline’s group chief executive.

Thailand is one of the earliest destinations Qatar Airways began flying to in Asia-Pacific. The airline is currently exploring new flights to Chiang Mai in Thailand’s north, while Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport is set to get a Qatar Airways premium lounge in the near future.

Meanwhile the airline’s new third daily flight to Bali – aimed at travellers from Europe, the Middle East and the US – will see its B787 Dreamliner join the B777 and Airbus A330 that currently operate the double-daily route. Qatar Airways began its first direct flight to Bali in 2014.

Schedules for the new flights are as follows (all times local):

Doha (DOH)-Bangkok (BKK)

Flight No.FromToDepartsArrivesDays
QR826DOHBKK17400425+1Daily
QR827BKKDOH05550825


Doha (DOH)-Bali Denpasar (DPS)

Flight No.FromToDepartsArrivesDays
QR964DOHDPS17450810+1Daily
QR965DPSDOH09301405

qatarairways.com

Six new amenity kits for premium travellers

American Airlines amenity kits

QANTAS

INTRODUCED Beginning May 1, 2017

CABIN CLASS Business class

AVAILABILITY International flights

COLLABORATORS 16 Australian creatives 

INFO Announced last week, Qantas’ new range of international business class amenity kits have been developed in collaboration with 16 Australian artists, photographers and what it calls “digital influencers”. Each of the kits will feature artwork from one of the collaborators (eight types each for men and for women), with two designs launching every few months.

qantas.com

JAPAN AIRLINES

INTRODUCED March 28, 2017 

CABIN CLASS First class

AVAILABILITY International flights

COLLABORATORS Porsche Design

INFO Japan Airlines’ new international first class amenity kits are available in two colours – red for flights from Japan and grey for flights to Japan. The kits themselves feature the essentials, including a toothbrush kit, mouthwash, ear plugs, eye mask, brush, moisture mask, and pocket tissue. However in addition to these, hand and body cream, facial spray and lip balm all designed by German lifestyle brand Porsche Design are also included. And while not technically part of the new amenity kits, a separate Porsche Design top and trousers are also offered in their own black case.

jal.com

AIR FRANCE

INTRODUCED February 20, 2017 

CABIN CLASS First and business class

AVAILABILITY Long-haul flights

COLLABORATORS Clarins and Clarita

INFO Available until August, Air France’s latest amenity kits for its premier customers come in two varieties. The business class bags come in four colours – blue, grey, orange and turquoise – and include Clarins products, such as moisturiser. Meanwhile the first class offering is a rectangular box coming in light blue or orange and featuring Carita’s Lagoon skincare products.

Meanwhile back in January, Air France also unveiled new black and yellow/red amenity kits for its premium economy passengers onboard its long-haul flights.

airfrance.com

HONG KONG AIRLINES

INTRODUCED February 16, 2017

CABIN CLASS Business class

AVAILABILITY Long-haul flights

COLLABORATORS Clip, Ricebowl Republic, L’Occitane

INFO Another carrier that has partnered together with local creatives to develop their amenity kits, Hong Kong Airlines began offering four different bags each bearing unique designs depicting notable Hong Kong sights and landmarks. These include the Hong Kong skyline, Star Ferry, Hong Kong Tramways and a rickshaw.

In-flight experience specialists clip and local design house Ricebowl Republic developed these bags together with Hong Kong Airlines. Meanwhile, French skincare brand L’Occitane has lent its shea butter ultra-rich lip balm and hand cream to the ensemble.

hongkongairlines.com

AMERICAN AIRLINES

INTRODUCED January 2017 

CABIN CLASS First and business class

AVAILABILITY Long haul and transcontinental flights between New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles

COLLABORATORS Cole Haan, 3Lab, CO Bigelow, and Clark’s Botanicals

INFO This is the second time American Airlines has collaborated with designer Cole Haan to develop its amenity kits. Arguably the most sleek and professional looking kits on this list, they also feature products from 3Lab, CO Bigelow and Clark’s Botanicals products, much like its previous iteration.

The kits are available in grey, burgundy, navy and black, with the first class version able to be reused as a tablet holder. First class travellers also now get a new set of grey and navy pyjamas.

aa.com

QATAR AIRWAYS

INTRODUCED December 2016 

CABIN CLASS First and business class

AVAILABILITY Long-haul flights

COLLABORATORS Brics and Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio

INFO Qatar Airways has introduced a medley of different amenity kits since December last year, including separate bags for economy class passengers, short- and medium-haul passengers, and first and business class passengers. Of these, the latter are undoubtedly the most impressive, developed in collaboration with fashion house Brics and Italian skincare brand Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio.

The first class offerings follow Brics’ Bellagio series of bags with two leather strips across them, while the business class kits follow its Sintesis line of trolley bags. Four colours are available in total, with black and grey offered for men and burgundy and white for women. Inside are lip balm, facial mist, and anti-ageing moisturiser.

qatarairways.com

Qatar Airways looks to fly to two new UK destinations

Qatar Airways CEO AL Baker

Qatar Airways looks to fly to two new UK destinations

At a joint Qatar and UK business forum, CEO hints at further expansion into the Uk market

The Chief Executive of Qatar Airways, Akbar AL Baker, has hinted that the airline is considering further expansion into the UK from its Doha hub of Hamad International.

Speaking at the Qatar-UK Business and Investment Forum which is taking place in both London and Birmingham this week, Al Baker commented on the leading role that aviation plays in the expanding business landscape relationship between the two countries, and hinted towards a further commitment to the UK economy with a potential expansion to two new UK destinations.

Qatar Airways currently flies more than 70 times weekly into the UK, including London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

The event included a roundtable meeting with UK Prime Minister Ms. Theresa May and was attended by senior Qatar and UK political representatives such as the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr. Liam Fox and Qatar’s Minister of Transport and Communication, His Excellency Mr. Jassim Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti and Minister of Finance, His Excellency Mr. Ali Shareef Al Emadi. The forum also featured an impressive gala dinner attended by His Royal Highness Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex and his wife, Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex.

H.E. H.E Mr. Al Baker spoke alongside other leading speakers such as H.E. Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health and H.E. Dr. Hassan Al Darhem, President, Qatar University. Qatar Airways works with many British companies such as Rolls Royce contributing to both investment and employment opportunities. During this high profile appearance to the delegation, H.E. Mr. Al Baker

Qatar Airways’ Group Chief Executive Officer, H.E. Mr Akbar Al Baker, said: “We are proud of the part we play in encouraging trade between the UK and Qatar with more than 70 flights each week between the State of Qatar and destinations in the UK such as London Heathrow, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester. In addition, London is home to the headquarters of International Airlines Group (IAG), of which we are a proud shareholder and the UK will also be the very first market to which we will fly our recently launched Qsuite this summer, bringing First to Business Class, a direct reflection of the importance we place upon the Qatar – UK relationship.”

Qatar Airways launches Year of the Rooster offers

Line up of Qatar Airways A320s

Qatar Airways is offering online exclusive fares for business and economy class seats to mark the Year of the Rooster. The offer is available for travellers from Hong Kong travelling via Doha until March 3, for travel between February 15 and December 10, 2017.

Destinations included in the promotion cover numerous cities across Europe, ranging from London and Manchester to Moscow, Stockholm, Rome, Athens and Geneva, among others.

Travellers must use the promo code “NEWYEAR” and have to book through Qatar Airways’ Hong Kong website, qatarairways.com/hk. Economy class fares start at HK$2,930 (US$378) while business class seats start at HK$10,110 (US$1,303), though discounts for certain destinations are only applicable for those that fly between Hong Kong and Doha on flights QR816/817.

Among the terms of the discount are minimum and maximum stays. Economy class travellers are required to have a minimum stay of three to seven days depending on booking class, while business class travellers have no minimum stay requirements. Maximum stays for each class are two to four months subject to booking class, and one month respectively. Mileage upgrades are also not permitted.

The promotion follows Qatar Airways’ recent loyalty agreement with Accorhotels, along with the upcoming unveiling of the airline’s new business class seat product on March 8 at ITB Berlin. The seat will be fitted to its Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft, while a new seat development for its B787s is also in the works.

qatarairways.com

The world’s longest commercial flights

Qatar Airways' B777 flies over Auckland as the world's longest commercial flight

With Qatar Airways having launched its new 17.5-hour non-stop flight between Doha and Auckland yesterday, the list of longest commercial flights has had a bit of a shake up.

Former title-holder Emirates appears to have been unseated, yet Qatar Airways’ position at the top may not be as secure as it seems, with new ultra-long-haul routes in the wings and other existing flights technically flying greater distances in a shorter time.

That said, here are some of the current and soon-to-emerge ultra-long-haul flights that are at the top of the list.

Qatar Airways

ROUTE Doha-Auckland
FLIGHT DURATION 17 hours 30 minutes
FLIGHT DISTANCE 14,535 kilometres
FLIGHT NUMBER QR921
AIRCRAFT B777-200LR

The flight that has secured Qatar Airways the crown for now, QR921 is the longest commercial flight by time returning from Auckland to Doha. The flight from Doha to New Zealand’s most populous city, meanwhile, is approximately one hour shorter.

qatarairways.com

Emirates

ROUTE Auckland-Dubai
FLIGHT DURATION 17 hours 20 minutes
FLIGHT DISTANCE 14,200 kilometres
FLIGHT NUMBER EK449
AIRCRAFT A380

A similar route that previously gave Emirates the title of longest commercial flight prior to Qatar Airways’ new service. Dubai is slightly closer to Auckland than Doha, making the flight that little bit shorter in both duration and distance. Emirates recently upgauged to an A380 on the route, replacing the B777-200LR that previously operated the route.

emirates.com

Air India

ROUTE Delhi-San Francisco
FLIGHT DURATION 14 hours 30 minutes
FLIGHT DISTANCE 15,110 kilometres
FLIGHT NUMBER AI173
AIRCRAFT B777-200

Air India’s Delhi-San Francisco is perhaps the longest commercial flight by distance covered – not specifically to do with the distance between the destinations but the route the airline takes. Originally flying a shorter route over the Atlantic Ocean, the airline switched to a longer trans-Pacific route in October, according to Forbes. The Pacific Ocean route is about 2,000 kilometres longer but takes almost two hours less time to fly due to more favourable tailwinds.

airindia.in

ON THE HORIZON

Qantas

ROUTE Perth-London
FLIGHT DURATION Approximately 17 hours
FLIGHT DISTANCE 14,498 kilometres
FLIGHT NUMBER TBC
AIRCRAFT B787-9 Dreamliner
LAUNCHING March 2018

Originally taking four days and nine stops when Qantas first began flying the “Kangaroo Route” in 1947, Qantas’ Perth-London non-stop flight is due to take about 17 hours when it launches in March 2018. Qantas lost its position as titleholder of the world’s longest commercial flight when Emirates’ Auckland to Dubai flight unseated Qantas’ Dallas-Sydney flight. And with a distance of 14,498 kilometres, Qantas’ new London flight would have regained it the title from Emirates, were it not for Qatar Airways’ newly launched route.

qantas.com.au

Singapore Airlines

ROUTE Singapore-Newark
FLIGHT DURATION 18-19 hours
FLIGHT DISTANCE 15,344 kilometres
FLIGHT NUMBER TBC
AIRCRAFT A350-900ULR
LAUNCHING 2018

Originally operated by the only aircraft that could make the journey, the A340-500, Singapore Airlines scrapped its Singapore-Newark route in 2013, due in large part to the fuel-intensive nature of the aircraft. However in October 2015, the airline said it would resume the route – which takes between 18 and 19 hours – in 2018 using an A350-900ULR. At 15,344 kilometres, the route is reportedly the longest non-stop commercial route ever, according to Bloomberg.

singaporeair.com

Qatar Airways launches world’s longest commercial flight

Qatar Airways' B777 flies over Auckland as the world's longest commercial flight

Qatar Airways’ new service between Doha and Auckland has taken the crown as the world’s longest commercial flight following the new service’s inaugural flight, which touched down in Auckland this morning.

The Boeing 777 flight takes approximately 17 hours and 30 minutes and covers a distance of 14,535 kilometres – slightly more than the 17 hours and 14,498 kilometres that will be flown by Qantas’ recently announced Perth-London flight, due to take off in March 2018.

Qatar Airways’ new route is its first destination in New Zealand and its first new launch of 2017, the airline’s 20th year of operation. The arrival of Qatar Airways’ inaugural flight on the new route also coincided with Waitangi Day, an important New Zealand holiday that celebrates the signing of a treaty giving the country’s Maori people the same rights as the British.

Speaking about the new route, Auckland Airport CEO, Adrian Littlewood, said: “We expect this route to be very popular with visitors to New Zealand and with New Zealanders travelling, particularly between this country and Europe.”

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens, which include those from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are eligible for a 90-day tourist visa on arrival in New Zealand. Meanwhile, Qatar last year extended its transit visa scheme to cover up to 96 hours visa free.

The B777 that Qatar Airways is deploying on the route has a two-class configuration with 42 business and 217 economy class seats. The aircraft offers fully flat business class seating – a welcome feature on the ultra-long-haul flight – with a 78-inch pitch.

Along with its Auckland service, the Doha-based airline is planning a number of new Asia-Pacific routes in 2017 and 2018, notably Chiang Mai, Canberra and Medan. Other routes planned for the coming two years include: Yanbu and Tabuk, Saudi Arabia; Dublin, Ireland; Nice, France; Skopje, Macedonia; Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina; Libreville, Gabon; Douala, Cameroon; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Santiago, Chile; and Las Vegas, US.

Qatar Airways joins a number of carriers that have recently launched new routes to Auckland, including Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Tianjin Airlines and American Airlines. Last month, United Airlines changed its seasonal Auckland service to year-round, while Cathay Pacific deployed its first Airbus A350 on its Auckland route.

Details of the new service are as follows (all times local):

Flight No.FromToDepartsArrivesDays
QR 920DohaAuckland02500500+1Daily
QR 921AucklandDoha14402210

qatarairways.com

Qatar Executive gets new website

Qatar Executive Gulfstream 650ER

Qatar Airways’ corporate jet subsidiary, Qatar Executive, launched its new website yesterday (January 23), which has been designed to offer customers a number of new interactive features.

On the new website, travellers are able to take a virtual tour with 360-degree interactive photography of each of the aircraft in the company’s fleet – Qatar Executive has 11 aircraft, including four Global 5000s, three Gulfstream G650ER, three Challenger 605s and one Global XRS. The company’s newest aircraft, the G650ER, is able to accommodate 13 passengers and can fly non-stop from the Middle East to North America or from Asia to Africa.

Additional features of the platform include booking information and real-time flight availability. Routes, aircraft and overall capacity are listed for empty-leg flights, with booking information and seating plans (both seating and sleeping) for the specific aircraft accessible by clicking for additional details.

VIP online enquiries and charter management services can also be accessed via mobile device using the new site.

“With new interactive tools, mobile optimisation and improved responsiveness our customers will begin their extraordinary experience with Qatar Executive from the moment they visit us online,” said the company’s vice president, Ettore Rodaro. “Private travel is the most comfortable and convenient way to fly and tailor-made services ensure that all clients’ travel needs are accommodated.”

Qatar Airways announced the launch of Qatar Executive back in 2009 and in May 2015 announced plans to purchase up to 30 new aircraft from Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.

qatarexec.com.qa