Cathay Pacific is offering a charter flight exclusively for Asia Miles redemption

Cathay Pacific A330-300

Cathay Pacific will operate a one-off return charter flight between Hong Kong and Osaka in August and September, respectively, available exclusively for members of its Asia Miles rewards programme.


This is the first time the carrier will operate a charter flight that will only be available by redeeming miles, with seats unable to be purchased using cash.


The initial flight out of Hong Kong (CX8538) will take place on August 30, departing at 0935 and arriving in Osaka in the afternoon at 1425. The return flight (CX8541) will then leave Osaka four days later on September 3 at 1700, landing back in Hong Kong at 2000.


The airline’s Airbus A330 aircraft will operate both flights, with economy class tickets costing 10,000 Asia Miles each way and business class tickets requiring 25,000 Asia Miles.


This is the same as the standard award rates, so Asia Miles members won’t find these to be any cheaper than redeeming a seat on a scheduled service. They could prove to be easier to redeem, however, as seats won’t be taken up by passengers who’ve paid for their seats using cash.


Passengers don’t have to book flights on both flights either, and can instead choose to redeem just one of the flights while completing the other portion of their journey on one of Cathay Pacific’s other scheduled services.


“Japan always tops the list of favourite travel destinations for Hong Kong people, so we’re pleased to launch the first-ever chartered flights and give our members an exclusive redemption opportunity,” said Paul Smitton, Asia Miles’ CEO.


“We wanted to give our members a new way to access flight awards to top destinations and hope our members enjoy a rewarding getaway with their loved ones.”


It’s not immediately clear which of Cathay Pacific’s A330s will be making the journey, though. Cathay Pacific has three configurations for the aircraft, though its premium economy-equipped 33K cabin layout can be discounted seeing as there isn’t premium economy seating available for redemption.


Of the remaining two configurations, one of these has the airline’s regional business class seat product that is laid out 2-2-2 rather than the fully flat herringbone seats that are configured 1-2-1.


The 2-2-2 cabin aircraft also has fewer business class seats with just 24, compared with the 39 seats in the 1-2-1 configured aircraft.


Business Traveller recently reviewed Cathay Pacific’s regional business class seat as configured on its Boeing 777-300 aircraft.




Asia Miles underwent a significant overhaul last month with revisions to how its earning and redemption rates were calculated.


These changes notably meant that passengers earn more Asia Miles flying on about 80 per cent of flights operated by Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon compared what they used to earn, while also making premium seats – particularly on long haul routes – more expensive to redeem.

Taiwanese startup Starlux Airlines goes big with A350 order

Starlux Airlines A350-1000 and A350-900

Taiwan-based startup carrier Starlux Airlines will join the ranks of airlines operating Airbus’s A350 aircraft, with the carrier expected to take delivery of 12 of the French manufacturer’s newest aircraft, the A350-1000, and five of its predecessor, the A350-900.

The order was announced yesterday at the Farnborough Airshow currently taking place in the UK.

As previously reported by Business Traveller, Starlux had been nearing a decision on a widebody aircraft to join its fleet back in May, though at the time it was considering ordering just 14 aircraft.

An exact delivery date for the new A350s hasn’t been announced, though the airline has previously stated it was looking to take delivery of its widebody aircraft towards the end of 2021 in time for the 2022 launch of its long-haul operations.

Starlux won’t begin by flying long haul, however. The airline already has an order for 10 leased A321neo narrowbody aircraft that it plans to finalise by the end of the year. Delivery of the first A321neo is expected to take place in October 2019 ahead of the airline’s launch of regional operations in early 2020.

Starlux has yet to unveil details of how it will configure its aircraft, though it describes itself as a full-service airline offering “best-in-class luxury travel”. Ultimately, the startup carrier aims to develop a network that includes destinations in Asia as well as long-haul services to North America.

This comes at a time when Taiwan’s other two major carriers, China Airlines and EVA Air, are also enhancing their operations both regionally and long-haul, including North America.

Flag carrier China Airlines launched a new non-stop flight to Ontario International Airport in San Bernardino, California earlier this year, and began flying its own A350-900 on its San Francisco route in May last year.

EVA Air, meanwhile, launched a new daily flight between Taipei and Chiang Mai in Thailand earlier this month.

Starlux founder Chang Kuo-wei was formerly the chairman of EVA Air.

The A350-1000 is Airbus’s newest widebody aircraft, with Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific being just the second airline to take delivery of the aircraft after launch customer Qatar Airways.

Business Traveller recently reviewed Qatar Airways’ Q Suite business class product on board its A350-1000, flying from London Heathrow to Doha…

Flight review: Qatar Airways A350-1000 Q Suite business class


Emirates opens Cairo lounge

Emirates lounge at Cairo International airport

Emirates has opened its 42nd lounge worldwide, with the unveiling of a facility at Cairo International airport.

The 880sqm space offers seating for up to 152 guests, with facilities including shower rooms with Voya products, a business centre, free wifi, a hot and cold buffet, leather armchair seating, and separate male and female prayer rooms.

The US$3.6 million facility is located on level 2 of the airport’s Terminal 2 departures area, and is available for business and first class passengers, as well as Gold and Platinum members of Emirates’ Skywards loyalty programme.

The airline currently operates three daily B777 services between Dubai and Cairo, having added four weekly frequencies in October last year.

Emirates says that its seven Dubai lounges, along with dedicated facilities in locations including Birmingham, Frankfurt, Gatwick, Heathrow, LA, Manchester, New York JFK, Paris CDG and Sydney, represent a total investment of just over US$380 million.

Commenting on the opening Mohammed Mattar – Divisional Senior Vice President, Emirates Airport Services, said:

“Cairo is our first destination in North Africa with an Emirates Lounge – and it underscores our relentless efforts to enhance the travel experience that we offer to customers not online in the air, but on the ground. We are committed to the highest standards of quality in every aspect of our business and the new Emirates Lounge is a testament to that.

“We hope to contribute to the country’s tourism industry in a meaningful way and attract both international customers as well as discerning Egyptian travellers with our premium service. Egypt is a very important market for Emirates, and this dedicated lounge demonstrates our ongoing efforts to provide the best possible airport experience.”

Subscribers to Business Traveller can access our recent compilation of the top 100 airport lounges worldwide.

Top 100 airport lounges

Travel policies should consider safety for female business travellers

Female business traveller (iStock)

Female business travellers face greater personal safety risks on the road, but few corporate travel policies take such threats into account, according to a survey from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

The survey of US corporate travel planners found that 69 per cent believe that business travel is generally riskier for women than men, and that 61 per cent said that risk-management programmes should specifically address threats faced by women.

However, only 18 per cent of such policies include such threats – which range from travel to certain cities and countries where harassment of women is commonplace, to sexual assault and kidnapping.

That’s despite the fact that more than half of companies say that more women are travelling for business than they were five years ago.

“As an industry we need to do more to ensure the safety of our female road warriors, especially as women make up an ever-increasing amount of our business traveler population,” said GBTA President Christle Johnson.

The survey found that most companies do not provide an emergency hotline for business travellers or chauffeured rides for female employees. Travel planners view choosing appropriate lodging as critical for the safety of women business travellers, but less than half of companies recommend lodging that’s considered safety conscious, such as rooms on upper floors, those with double locks, and hotels with 24-hour security.

The research was carried out in partnership with WWStay, a corporate travel company that vets lodging with the needs of women in mind.

The big picture: Embraer E190-E2 lands at London City

Embraer E190-E2

London City airport has welcomed the Embraer E190-E2 jet for the first time, with the aircraft’s nose emblazoned with a shark design.

The latest aircraft from the Brazilian manufacturer entered service with Norwegian carrier Wideroe in April, and touched down at LCY on its way to this week’s Farnborough Air Show.

The E190-E2 is the same size as its predecessor the E190 with up to 114 seats. Nearly 60 per cent of LCY departures were operated with the E190 last year, with carriers at including BA Cityflyer and KLM Cityhopper.

Richard Hill, the airport’s chief commercial officer said that the aircraft’s visit “is a crucial milestone towards certification and subsequent commercial operation at London’s most central airport”.

“The first generation of E-Jets have been intrinsic to London City’s growth, so much so that up to three quarters of all passengers now land or depart on the aircraft,” said Hill.

“As we continue a £480m transformation, due for completion in 2022, the E2 has enormous potential for London City, with proven ability to operate with less noise, fewer emissions, and better fuel efficiency to open up new destinations, delivering significant benefits for our airline customers, passengers and local neighbours.”,

Philippine Airlines’ first Airbus A350 has arrived

Philippine Airlines A350 business class

The first of Philippine Airlines’ new Airbus A350-900 aircraft has arrived, paving the way for aircraft upgauges on its services to London Heathrow and New York towards the end of this year.

The new aircraft is the first of six that Philippine Airlines has on order and which it plans to operate primarily on non-stop services to Europe and North America.

As previously reported by Business Traveller, this notably includes its flights to New York, which at 17 hours are set to become the longest route in Philippine Airlines’ network when the current stopover in Vancouver is dropped in favour of a non-stop service.

This change is set to take effect from the end of October, with the A350 taking over the newly non-stop route shortly after, on November 4.

“The arrival of the A350 XWB will see Philippine Airlines offer new levels of comfort on our long-haul flights,” said Jaime J Bautista, the airline’s president and COO.

“At the same time we will benefit from the A350 XWB’s new generation efficiency, with a significant reduction in fuel consumption and lower maintenance costs. We believe that the A350 XWB will be a game changer for Philippine Airlines as we compete with the best in the premium long-haul market.”

So what can travellers expect from the newest member of Philippine Airlines’ fleet?

The A350 has been outfitted with three classes comprising 295 seats in total, utilising the Airspace by Airbus cabin that offers comfort-focused details such as improved space, mood lighting and better humidity control.

The business class cabin offers 30 seats laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration, meaning direct aisle access for all passengers. All seats are able to recline to a fully flat position.

Seats are staggered, with the window seats alternating between being closer to the window or the aisle. For solo travellers, this means seats A and K on rows 3, 5, and 7 are closer to the window, offering greater privacy.

The centre D and G seats, meanwhile, alternate between being positioned to the right or to the left, meaning you always have the same distance between yourself and your immediate neighbour. Row 1 also has just two seats in the centre with no aisle seats beside them, though these are particularly close to the lavatories.

Premium economy, meanwhile, is laid out in a 2-4-2 formation with 24 seats spread across three rows.

Finally, the 241 remaining seats in the economy class cabin are configured nine-across with each offering 18 inches of width.

Currently, the A350 appears set to debut on Philippine Airlines’ route between Manila and London starting October 28, though travellers likely will see the aircraft deployed sporadically on regional routes before then as the airline’s crew gets familiarised with it.

Philippine Airlines is now the 19th carrier to operate the A350-900.

Empty seats becoming rarer on airline flights

Aircraft interior (iStock)

Mostly gone are the days when you could get an entire row of airline seats to yourself; with flights worldwide fuller than ever, travellers are lucky even to have a middle seat open between themselves and a fellow passenger.

Forbes reports that, worldwide, the average load factor for commercial airliners was 81.9 per cent in 2018, meaning more than eight of every 10 seats on the average flight is full. That’s up from an average of 75.2 per cent in 2005.

In the US, the increase has been even more dramatic, with average load factor rising from 67.88 per cent in 2002 to 86.08 per cent in 2018.

Low-cost carriers tend to have the highest load factors, although the basic economy fares offered by big airlines like Delta have helped fill seats, too.

Globally, Ryanair is the most crowded airline flying, with an average load factor of 94.7 per cent in 2017. Other airlines with load factors over 90 per cent include India’s Spicejet, Europe’s Easyjet, Wizz Air, and Air Asia.

Major carriers with above-average load factors include Norwegian (87.7 per cent), Delta (86.2 per cent), Hawaiian Airlines, (85.6 per cent), Alaska Airlines (85.5 per cent), and Jet Blue (85 per cent).

According to research by The Telegraph earlier this year, airlines with relatively low load factors are Emirates, Etihad, Flybe, Austrian, and Virgin Atlantic.