Anantara Vacation Club points can now be converted to Thai Airways miles

Anantara Vacation Club

Members of shared holiday ownership programme Anantara Vacation Club can now convert their Club Points into Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus Miles.

Diamond, Platinum and Royal Club Points Owners can convert at a rate of 1,000 points to 5,000 miles, with these being available to use eight weeks after conversion.

It’s the club’s aim that offering the conversion will help facilitate travel for its members to destinations where it has properties.

“Thai Airways easily connects our resorts to the rest of the world with service to dozens of destinations throughout Thailand, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Europe,” said Maurizio Bisicky, the club’s COO.

There is a catch, however, namely in the form of each conversion coming at a cost of US$50.

Anantara Vacation Club launched in 2010 and currently has a portfolio that comprises eight Club Resorts in Thailand, Indonesia, China and New Zealand.

anantaravacationclub.com; thaiairways.com

In-flight wifi on Asia-Pacific airlines: what you need to know

Cathay Pacific business class

Air New Zealand

Wifi?
Launching second half of 2017

Pricing
Expected to be announced in first half of 2017

In October last year, Air New Zealand announced it would begin introducing inflight wifi on board its flights starting from the second half of 2017. Flights between New Zealand and Australia are set to be the first to receive the service, with wifi progressively being made available aboard its Tasman, Pacific Island and long-haul jet fleets from the end of 2017. Domestic flights will the last to get the service, with introduction set for 2018.

Traditionally low satellite service quality across oceanic areas (over which many of Air New Zealand’s flights travel) has meant the airline has held back on introducing an inflight wifi offering until a service of suitably high quality became available. The airline’s wifi will be provided by Inmarsat’s global GX satellite constellation, and integrated with the Air New Zealand’s Panasonic Avionics system.

airnewzealand.com

ANA

Wifi?
Yes

Class
Available to all classes

Aircraft
B777-300ER, B767-300ER (only those configured with 202 seats), B787-9, B787-8 (only those configured with 240 seats), A320neo

Pricing
B777-300ER and B767-300ER:

US$4.95 – 30 minutes, 15MB limit
US$8.95 – one hour, 30MB limit
US$19.95 – full flight, 100MB limit

B787-9, B787-8 and A320neo:

US$6.95 – 30 minutes
US$16.95 – three hours
US$21.95 – full flight (max 24 hours)

All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) inflight wifi offering gives access to functions such as web browsing and email functions. Video streaming is not supported, and image loading is likely to burn through your data quite quickly.

For travellers flying on ANA’s B777-300ER and B767-300ER, the service is only available when flying over transoceanic airspace and countries that permit the use of satellite activity, while B787 and A320 inflight connectivity is available in all airspaces.

ana.co.jp

Cathay Pacific

Wifi?
Yes

Aircraft
A350

Class
Available to all classes

Pricing
US$9.95 – one hour continuous use on all flights
US$12.95 – flights of six hours or less
US$19.95 – flights of six hours or more

Cathay Pacific currently offers wifi only on its fleet of A350s, the first of which it deployed to Auckland in October 2016. A few services are available complimentary – including the airline’s own website, its duty free catalogue, and destination information – though for functions such as general web browsing and email, a fee is required.

cathaypacific.com

China Airlines

Wifi?
Yes

Classes
Available to all classes

Aircraft
B777-300ER, A350

Pricing
TW$350 (US$11.6) – one hour
TW$500 (US$16.5) – three hours
TW$650 (US$21.5) – 24 hours

Inflight wifi on China Airlines has no data limit and while the overall speed may make certain functions difficult, this does provide reassurance for those that tend to quickly eat through data that they won’t be prematurely cut off from the service.

Purchasing wifi can be done on the flight or ahead of time via the airline’s website.

china-airlines.com

Eva Air

Wifi?
Yes

Classes
Available to all classes

Aircraft
B777-300ER (select aircraft)

Pricing
US$11.95 – one hour
US$16.95 – three hours
US$21.95 – 24 hours

It is worth noting that Taiwan-based Eva Air’s service provider is currently applying for an operating permit with the Chinese Government, however until then internet connectivity gets temporarily disconnected when flying over mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau with the carrier.

On the plus side, however, for longer journeys across multiple segments, travellers can re-connect to Eva Air’s wifi network using the same account information, provided the ensuing leg is also operated by an Eva Wifi-enabled aircraft.

evaair.com

Garuda Indonesia

Wifi?
Yes

Class
Available to all classes (complimentary for first class passengers)

Aircraft
B777-300ER, A330-300, A330-200

Pricing
US$11.95 – one hour, 30MB limit
US$16.95 – three hours, 50MB limit
US$21.95 – 24 hours (whole flight on A330-300 and A330-200), 100MB limit

Garuda Indonesia’s wifi offering is provided on a time-based system with varying caps depending on the duration. In addition to the service being complimentary to all first class passengers, those in other classes travelling on Garuda’s wifi-equipped Airbus aircraft are able to get 15 minutes’ free wifi connectivity.

While the service is suitable for social media as well as general web browsing, regular image loading will likely drain your data quite quickly.

garuda-indonesia.com

Japan Airlines

Wifi?
Yes

Aircraft
B777-300ER, B777-200ER, B767-300ER, B787

Class
Available to all classes (complimentary for first class passengers)

Pricing
US$10.15 – one hour
US$14.40 – three hours
US$18.80 – 24 hours

Japan Airlines offers inflight wifi based on overall duration used, with its 24-hour offering also including connecting flights for 24 hours from the initial log in. Data caps are also not present regardless of payment category.

A full list of the routes on which Japan Airlines offers wifi can be found here, with many only being available until and from certain dates. The airline’s fleet of B787s is also not fully equipped with wifi, so connectivity is not guaranteed, though travellers on these aircraft can check whether inflight wifi will be available on their flight the day before they travel.

jal.co.jp

Korean Air

Wifi?
No

Korea’s national carrier currently doesn’t offer inflight wifi across any of its aircraft, and has not issued plans to do so in the forseeable future.

In an interview with the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), Korean Air’s senior innovation technology manager, Dante Dionne, shed some light on why this is the case: “In Korea, the wireless infrastructure is so advanced (significantly faster than the US average) that in-flight internet services based on existing commercial satellite technology would be disappointing to them. That is a primary reason why Korean Air has not implemented in-flight internet.”

koreanair.com

Malaysia Airlines

Wifi?
No

Malaysia Airlines also doesn’t offer inflight wifi on its flights at present. That said, the airline plans to introduce the service onboard its new A350s, the first of which it is expecting to take delivery of this year. Auckland is currently scheduled to be the first long-haul route served by its new A350. Details of the inflight wifi service have yet to be announced.

malaysiaairlines.com

Philippine Airlines

Wifi?
Yes

Class
Available to all classes

Aircraft
Select aircraft on international flights

Pricing
US$10 – 35MB/one hour
US$40 – 150MB/flight duration

Up until February 28, 2017, Philippine Airlines offered the first 30 minutes of inflight wifi (limited to 15MB) free of charge to all passengers. The hourly rate and data offered is also reasonably priced, compared to other airlines in Asia-Pacific.

The full-flight bracket, however, is particularly expensive. While it does offer 150MB of data (caps for full-flight/24-hour purchases typically stand at 100MB), the US$40 price is noticeably more expensive than most other carriers in the region.

Purchases can be made either by credit card or by purchasing a scratch card from cabin crew.

philippineairlines.com

Qantas

Wifi?
Domestic trials began April 7, 2017

Class
Available to all classes on domestic flights

Aircraft
One wifi-enabled B737-800 aircraft; to be rolled out to 80 aircraft by end of 2018

Pricing
Free

Qantas launched a beta mode of its new Viasat and Nbn’s Sky Muster-enabled inflight wifi service earlier this month. Outfitted on a single B737-800 aircraft that will be flying domestic routes during the trial phase, the high-speed wifi is being offered free of charge for travellers on board the aircraft (due to likely last-minute changes, the specific routes the aircraft will be flying are subject to change, and passengers won’t be able to select a flight on board the wifi-enabled aircraft at this time).

Perhaps the most notable two features of Qantas’ new wifi offering are its speed and its price. Qantas claims that the new offering will be ten times faster than conventional onboard wifi, enabling functions such as video and music streaming (services such as Netflix, Spotify, Stan and Foxtel will be available through partnerships). The other is that the airline aims to keep the service included as part of the ticket fare.

Qantas expects to roll out wifi across 80 of its aircraft, for completion by the end of 2018. The airline is also currently in discussions with suppliers to develop a product for its international fleet.

qantas.com.au

Singapore Airlines

Wifi?
Yes

Aircraft
A380, A350, B777-300ER (progressively)

Class
Available to all classes

Pricing
Volume-based (all A380 and select B777-300ER)

US$6.99 – 15MB
US$12.99 – 30MB
US$19.99 – 50MB

Time-based (All A350 and select B777-300ER)

US$11.95 – one hour
US$16.95 – three hours
US$21.95 – 24 hours

Singapore Airlines has a somewhat confusing pricing structure regarding its inflight wifi, owing largely to its partnership with two different providers, Onair and Panasonic. As such, price plans come in two variations, depending on provider and the type of aircraft – volume based or time based.

Prices tend to be more expensive than the majority of other Asia-Pacific airlines – most notably its highest-volume 50MB bracket offering about half as much data as that offered by most other airlines’ top bracket (100MB), but still costing a similar price.

What’s also worth noting here is that volume-based plans are only valid for the leg on which they are purchased. An onward journey, even if it is on the next sector of the same flight, requires another purchase. Time-based purchases, however, can be transferred across multi-sector flights.

singaporeair.com

Thai Airways

Wifi?
Yes

Class
Available to all classes

Aircraft
A350-900XWD, A380-800, A330-300

Pricing
US$4.99 – 10MB
US$8.99 – 20MB
US$12.99 – 30MB
US$34.99 – 100MB

Thai Airways offers inflight wifi on a number of its aircraft, with its A350s powered by Panasonic and its A380 and A330s provided by Sitaonair. The airline’s six wifi-enabled A380s currently operate flights to Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo Narita, London and Hong Kong.

Meanwhile its seven wifi-enabled A330s fly to Tokyo Narita, Taipei-Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Yangon, Beijing, Hanoi, Dubai, Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo Haneda, Kuala Lumpur and Fukuoka.

The airline’s data-based rather than duration-focused pricing structure may confuse some flyers less familiar with average data-consumption rates. As a rough guide, 10MB will likely get you through roughly 30 minutes of general web browsing and email. Similarly to Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways’ prices are also quite expensive compared to many other Asia-Pacific airlines, with its US$34.99 for 100MB top-tier price being noticeably pricier than most other carriers’ highest wifi brackets.

thaiairways.com

Virgin Australia

Wifi?
Domestic trials began April 20, 2017

Class
Available to all classes

Aircraft
One wifi-enabled B737-800; to be rolled out across B737-800s, A330s and B777s

Pricing
To be confirmed after trial period completes

Less than two weeks after rival Australian carrier Qantas began trialling a new domestic inflight wifi offering, Virgin Australia launched its own domestic three-month testing period using the same aircraft, a B737-800. During the testing period, passengers will be able to use the wifi free of charge, though the final pricing of the service has yet to be announced and will be determined following customer feedback during the trial.

As with Qantas’ wifi offering, Virgin Australia’s will support video and music streaming, notably through Netflix, Pandora and Stan. Unlike Qantas’, however, Virgin Australia’s wifi is expected to be rolled out across its fleet of B737-800s, A330s and B777s for both domestic and international flights.

virginaustralia.com

Roundup: The busiest routes for Asia’s airlines

LV Incheon Air port

A few weeks ago, Business Traveller Asia-Pacific published an article Singapore Airlines expands Sydney and Jakarta services, in which we mentioned that the airline’s busiest route was between Jakarta and Singapore, which will reach a total of 74 weekly flights when its new services come online later this year.

Following this article, forum user icenspice posed a question in our forums asking what were other airlines’ busiest routes. After seeing the vibrant response the post received – and in an attempt to shed some light on icenspice’s query – Business Traveller Asia-Pacific decided to try to answer that question to the best of our ability and highlight what were the busiest routes for some of Asia’s major airlines.

Singapore Airlines

As already mentioned, Singapore Airlines’ major route is from Jakarta to Singapore, with a total of 74 weekly round-trip flights following the expansion of the service as part of the airline’s effort to increase capacity between Singapore and Sydney. As of October 1, 2016, the route has a weekly capacity of 17,339 and a daily capacity of 2,477. When the new services come online, however, this will increase to between approximately 20,177 to 21,488, owing to variable configurations in the B777-200 aircraft on the route.

Close behind are the airline’s routes to Singapore from Hong Kong, Sydney and Shanghai, with a daily capacity of 2,063, 1,552 and 1,547 respectively.

Cathay Pacific

Taipei to Hong Kong is the world’s busiest international route, and fifth-busiest route overall, according to 2016 data from air travel intelligence company, OAG. As such, it is little surprise that the route is one of Cathay Pacific’s busiest also, with about 105 flights per week (at the time of writing), discounting those operated by its sister airline Dragonair.

The Hong Kong-based carrier operates a number of aircraft on the route, including the A350-900, A330-300, B777-300ER, B777-300, B777-200 and A340-300. Taking the capacities of these aircraft in the Cathay Pacific fleet into account, the airline has between 32,372 and 34,872 seats per week on the route (factoring in the minimum and maximum number of seats in the various class configurations for the A330-300s and B777-300ERs in the airline’s fleet).

Qantas

Melbourne to Sydney is the fourth-busiest airline route in the world, according to OAG, and it would make sense that the service would be one of the Australian national carrier’s highest-capacity and frequency routes. Qantas operates 239 flights from Melbourne to Sydney per week, according to its online timetable, not including those operated by Jetstar, and uses primarily B727-800s and A330-200s, along with an A330-300 between the cities.

According to the airline’s online seat maps, Qantas offers 271 seats on its A330-200s, 168 to 174 on its B727-800s depending on their configuration, and 297 on its A330-300s. This gives the carrier a weekly capacity of between approximately 46,461 to 47,529 on the Melbourne to Sydney route.

Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia’s national carrier operates a total of 71 flights per week from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur – its highest frequency and capacity route overall, closely followed by the return journey with 69 flights per week. The service provides a total weekly seating capacity of 11,360.

For international flights, Malaysia Airlines operates 68 flights from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, with 10,880 seats available.

Thai Airways

Thai Airways currently operates a total of 35 flights per week to Hong Kong from Bangkok. Going by the airline’s winter 2016 schedule, the route includes one A380 flight, one B747 flight and three A330 flights.

According to Thai Airways, the Hong Kong to Bangkok route – its busiest – has a total of 12,453 seats available per week across the 35 flights.

Korean Air

According to the airline’s timetable, Korean Air operates 134 flights from Jeju to Seoul Gimpo weekly, a route which OAG indicates is not only the highest-capacity  domestic route in the world, but the highest-capacity route period. The majority of these flights are serviced by B737-900s, however a number are also serviced by B737-800s, B747-400s and B777-200ERs.

According to seatplans.com, the carrier has multiple configurations for each of these aircraft, offering variable total capacities. Based on the minimum and maximum of each aircraft used on the Jeju-Gimpo route, the carrier can be estimated as having a total weekly capacity on the route of between 27,163 and 30,591.

Let us know which airlines or routes you would like us to look in to at editorial@businesstraveller.com

Thai Airways to expand fleet again

Thai Airways A350

Thai Airways is ready to expand its fleet again, following an austerity drive that saw it last place an aircraft order back in 2011.

As reported by Bloomberg, the airline’s president Charamporn Jotikasthira confirmed that Thai Airways was drawing up a 10-year plan through 2027 that would see it purchase new aircraft to help cater for increased passenger growth.

In particular, the carrier is focused on adding new fuel-efficient aircraft that can help it control costs and compete aggressively on ticket pricing. With its growth stagnated during the past five years, Thai Airways is now playing catch-up to regional heavyweights such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

“Thai Airways has the capacity to compete with other leading carriers again,” said Charamporn who will leave his post next February to retire. “The worst is over [and the] carrier will be much more responsive to survive in the very tough airline industry.”

Thai Airways will take delivery of its first A350 aircraft next week – the first of 12 currently on order. Looking ahead, the carrier will also be looking to add another two B787s to its fleet, while offloading large and ageing, four-engine aircraft such as the A340 and B747.

For more information, visit thaiairways.com

Clement Huang

Five A350 services that you may not be aware of

Thai Airways A350

BANGKOK–PHUKET 

OPERATING CARRIER Thai Airways

FREQUENCY Daily

DATE SERVED Until September 15

FLIGHT NUMBER TG221/222

INFO As Thai Airways’ looks forward to the highly anticipated delivery of its first A350 later this month, most people believe that the earliest that they’d get to fly on the new aircraft is on September 16 (Bangkok–Melbourne). However, the A350 will actually be serving a number of domestic services as part of the crew familiarisation process. Travellers looking to fly on the airplane early can do so from September 4 on the Bangkok–Phuket route.

thaiairways.com

 

SINGAPORE–HONG KONG

OPERATING CARRIER Singapore Airlines

FREQUENCY Daily

DATE SERVED Until October 21, but may become a permanent fixture on the route

FLIGHT NUMBER SQ890/891

INFO Singapore Airlines’ is currently operating flights to Amsterdam and Dusseldorf, with Melbourne and San Francisco to begin later this year. However, the Star Alliance member is also using its new aircraft on daily flights to and from Hong Kong. The Singapore–Hong Kong trunk route generates plenty of demand, meaning that SIA is still able to operate long-haul aircraft such as the A380 and A350 on the route profitably.

singaporeair.com

 

TAIPEI–OSAKA

OPERATING CARRIER China Airlines

FREQUENCY Daily

DATE SERVED From December 5

FLIGHT NUMBER CI152/153

INFO There is no shortage in the number of airlines that operate flights between Taipei and Osaka. Along with the usual Taiwan and Japan-based full-service carriers, the route is also operated by a number of regional low-cost carriers as well as a fifth freedom service by Cathay Pacific. It is therefore no surprise that China Airlines has decided to offer its newest aircraft on this ultra competitive route.

china-airlines.com

 

HO CHI MIHN CITY–SHANGHAI

OPERATING CARRIER Vietnam Airlines

FREQUENCY Daily

DATE SERVED From September 1

FLIGHT NUMBER VN522/523

INFO While Vietnam Airlines does operate long-haul A350 flights to Paris, the fuel-efficient Airbus aircraft is also operating flights to important regional destinations such as Seoul. The Skyteam member will also begin offering A350 services to Shanghai next month, as the aircraft replaces the ageing B777-200ER.

vietnamairlines.com

 

HONG KONG–AUCKLAND

OPERATING CARRIER Cathay Pacific

FREQUENCY Daily

DATE SERVED From October 30

FLIGHT NUMBER CX117/118

INFO Cathay Pacific currently operates the highly inefficient A340 on its Hong Kong–Auckland route. The four-engine gas-guzzler features the airline’s last generation cabin products, including the controversial old “coffin” business class seats. The introduction of the A350 will provide travellers with much improved hard products – something the 11-hour long flights desperately need.

cathaypacific.com

Clement Huang

Thai Airways details A350 crew familiarisation flights

Thai Airways A350

Thai Airways will deploy its soon-to-be delivered A350 on domestic flights to Chiang Mai and Phuket first, ahead of the aircraft’s planned international debut on the Bangkok–Melbourne route on September 16.

According to routesonline.com, the fuel-efficient aircraft will initially operate domestic flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket, to facilitate crew familiarisation. These will run from September 4 to 15.

The A350 will operate flights TG102/103 and TG110/111 of Thai Airways’ Bangkok to Chiang Mai route. The flight times are:

Bangkok–Chiang Mai

Flight no.RouteDeparture/Arrival
TG102Bangkok to Chiang Mai0755/0915
TG103Chiang Mai to Bangkok1005/1125
TG110Bangkok to Chiang Mai1310/1420
TG111Chiang Mai to Bangkok1510/1620

The aircraft will also serve flights TG221/222 of the Bangkok–Phuket route. The flight times are:

Bangkok–Phuket

Flight no.RouteDeparture/Arrival
TG221Bangkok to Phuket1815/1935
TG222Phuket to Bangkok2035/2200

Thai’s A350 will feature a two-class configuration, with 32 seats in Royal Silk Class (business) and 289 in economy. Business class seats will be arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, while economy class will feature a 3-3-3 layout.

For more information, visit thaiairways.com

Clement Huang

Thai Airways hopes to serve US non-stop

Thai Airways B777 business class

Thai Airways has earmarked either San Francisco or Seattle as destinations  it would like to serve non-stop once it takes delivery of its B787-9s next year, according to the Bangkok Post.

San Francisco in particular would provide more connection opportunities for passengers, as it is a major hub of fellow Star Alliance member United, while Seattle is the nearest major west-coast city Thai could serve.

However, the ability of Thai Airways to relaunch flights to the US depends on the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) upgrading Thailand’s aviation status to category one.

The FAA downgraded Thailand to category two status last year following a “red flag” from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), meaning all Thai-based carriers were banned from launching new routes to the US.

According to the Bangkok Post, the country has since worked hard to upgrade its air safety, with Thai Airways launching a “Safety Beyond Compliance” project to help Thailand’s aviation industry comply with international standards.

“If the Thai aviation regulator solves the problem and the red flag is lifted, the FAA would also allow Thai-registered carriers to fly in and out of the country [US] as usual,” said Thai Airways’ president Charamporn Jotikasthira.

Thai Airways previously served New York and Los Angeles via Japan and South Korea, but was forced to cut both services due to poor yields. Compounding this was the four-engine gas-guzzler A340-500 used on the routes, which severely affected the carrier’s profit margins amidst the high costs of fuel  (US$111 per barrel then compared to US$41 today).

However, with the Star Alliance member taking delivery of its first batch of fuel-efficient B787-9s next year, the airline has stated its intention to launch non-stop services.

For more information, visit thaiairways.com

Clement Huang

Thai Airways expands codeshare partnership with fellow Star Alliance members

Thai Airways A350

Thai Airways has started codesharing with several of its Star Alliance members on new routes.

According to airlineroute.net, the flag carrier of Thailand has begun placing its TG marketing code on Asiana Airlines’ flights between Busan and Jeju, as well as those between Seoul Incheon and Jeju.

Thai Airways is also partnering with Brussels Airlines on its services from Brussels to both Toronto and Washington Dulles. This partnership is particularly noteworthy as it provides the Thai carrier with a new connection entryway into North America – a market it does not currently serve.

The growing importance of the North American market is emphasized further by the expansion of Thai Airways’ codeshare partnership with All Nippon Airways. With effect from October 30, Thai will start codesharing on ANA’s Tokyo Haneda–Chicago O’Hare and Tokyo Haneda–New York JFK services.

With the FAA having downgraded Thailand’s aviation rating from Category 1 to Category 2 last year, Thai-based carriers are not allowed to establish new services to the US.

For more information, visit thaiairways.com

Clement Huang

FAA downgrades Thailand’s safety rating

Thailand’s aviation industry has been dealt a significant blow after having its International Aviation Assessment (IASA) status officially downgraded from Category 1 to Category 2 by the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The announcements comes following a thorough reassessment of the country’s civil aviation authority, which resulted in the US authority deeming that Thailand does not comply with the safety standards put forth by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

A Category 2 rating means that Thai carriers would still be allowed to continue operating existing services to the US, but not expand or establish new routes to the country. However, no Thailand-based carrier currently operates any flights to the US.

Thai Airways did serve flights to North America, but was forced to terminate them over the past few years due to intense competition and less-than-impressive loads. The Star Alliance member finally retreated from the market altogether when it cancelled flights to Los Angeles on October 25.

Thai Airways’ A380

More significantly, the FAA downgrade could have a cascading effect on Thai Airways’ services to Europe. The aviation safety standards in the region are governed by the European Aviation Safety Agency, which may launch its own investigation to determine if European sanctions should be imposed against the Thailand aviation industry in response to the US downgrade.

A ban against flying into EU airspace would be bad news for flag-carrier Thai Airways, which currently has a strong presence in the region. In particular, the London service is popular, with Thai Airways due to deploy the A380 on this route next summer.

For more information, visit faa.gov and thaiairways.com

Clement Huang