Qantas’s Perth-Singapore route to go double daily

Qantas tailfin logo

Qantas will be increasing its Perth-Singapore flights to a double daily service starting April 8, 2018 – the latest schedule update from the airline as it gears up for the launch of its new non-stop Perth-London Dreamliner flights in March.

The new flights (QF77/QF78) will be flown using Qantas’s Boeing 737-800 aircraft – a frequent sight throughout its domestic network – that the airline configures with 12 business and 162 economy class seats. Business class is set up in three rows of 2-2 and seats have 37 inches of pitch and 33 inches of width.

These additional flights have been absorbed by Qantas from its budget subsidiary, Jetstar Airways, which will be axing its flights on the route from March 25 next year. This is not the case for the low-cost carrier’s Melbourne-Singapore service, however, which will drop from a five- to a two-times-weekly service from the same day in March. According to the airline, the flying time will be deployed on other routes “to be announced next year”.

Qantas has been shaking up its Singapore services recently, perhaps most notably in the rerouting of its Airbus A380 superjumbo from its Sydney-Dubai-London service to Sydney-Singapore-London, as part of an extended partnership with Emirates. The aim is for the two carriers to provide three key routings between Australia and Europe by early next year – direct to Perth, via Singapore with Qantas and via Dubai with Emirates.

While the A380 is scheduled to permanently fly the airline’s QF1/QF2 flights from March 25 onwards, the airline’s current daily QF81/QF82 flights are also set to temporarily get the superjumbo from March 4 to March 24 next year, during which time the route will operate only four times a week on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

“Across our network, our strategy is focused on making sure we have the right aircraft on the right route and a schedule that reflects customer demand,” a spokesperson for the airline said. “The changes also offer more schedule choice and improve connectivity between Qantas and Jetstar Asia as well as partner airlines through Singapore, a key hub city in our Asian network where we are seeing strong growth.”

Ahead of the launch of its new London-Perth service, Qantas also aims to open a new international wing at Perth Airport that will integrate the carrier’s international and domestic services.

qantas.com.au

Does Cathay Pacific have its sights on the US capital?

Washington Monument on the Reflecting Pool in Washington, DC.

Cathay Pacific could soon be flying non-stop between Hong Kong and Washington DC, a flight that would take approximately 17 hours and cut out the airline’s current stopovers including at New York-JFK, Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles.

The airline is reportedly set to announce its plans next week, according to the South China Morning Post, and will be the first direct commercial flight between the two cities.

At just under 17 hours, the route would be the airline’s longest flight as well as the longest commercial flight for Hong Kong. However, the route comes about an hour shy of being the longest commercial flight into or out of the US, which is currently held by United with its recently launched Los Angeles-Singapore service.

The route would, however, cut the overall flight time between the two cities by at least two hours. The current quickest route available for Cathay Pacific passengers takes close to 20 hours and stops over at Chicago O’Hare International Airport with the onward journey to Washington operated by American Airlines. Those wishing to travel on Cathay Pacific-operated flights the entire way will need to stopover in New York-JFK for a journey that takes at least 21 hours.

According to the Post, the airline is set to fly its newest aircraft, an Airbus A350, on the route, making this only the third US destination in the airline’s network to see the aircraft. Cathay Pacific currently flies the A350 on certain flights to San Francisco as well as Newark, the latter of which the aircraft began serving at the end of October. Most of the airline’s other US destinations – Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York-JFK – are flown to using its Boeing 777-300ER.

Cathay Pacific uses a similar business class seat product on its A350s as it does on its B777-300ERs, but with a few improvements, notably the addition of extra storage space. The seats are designed by Studio F.A. Porsche and are separated into two cabins with a 1-2-1 layout, providing direct aisle access to all passengers. Business Traveller reviewed the aircraft on the airline’s Hong Kong-London Gatwick service last year.

Flight review: Cathay Pacific A350-900 Business Class

It’s worth noting that as of October this year, travellers on Cathay Pacific’s US-bound services are no longer able to use the airline’s popular in-town check-in or self-service bag-drop facilities.

These restrictions are the result of Cathay Pacific aiming to meet ramped up of US Security Measures, which were introduced earlier that month.

cathaypacific.com

Emirates unveils new Christmas amenity kits

Emirates Christmas amenity kits

Emirates is rolling out new amenity kits for all classes this month as part of its Christmas offerings, with 16 new designs for first and business class passengers and six for economy class travellers.

The new kits are available on long-haul night flights as well as those over 10 hours. Travellers in first and business class will get Bulgari bags that include signature fragrances and lotions from the fashion house, along with other travel essentials. Economy class, meanwhile, gets Expo 2020-inspired kits – Dubai will host the event – and have the usual items, notably socks, eye mask and dental kit.

Aside from amenity kits, Emirates is also bringing back its Christmas in-flight menu throughout this month on flights from Dubai to Australia, Europe and the US as well as on flights from the UK to Dubai.

The menus see first and business class get a starter of lemon and herb king prawns, and a rolled turkey buffe (breast) with chestnut and apricot stuffing, pumpkin mash and Brussels sprouts cooked with turkey bacon. These are then followed by a choice of dessert, which varies according to route, including ginger bread roulade, a chocolate mint dome or a Yule log.

First class passengers also receive Christmas macaroons and hot chocolate with marshmallows and gingerbread, while those travelling to Europe or Africa can also have a glass of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 1985, a red Bordeaux that will only be served this month.

Special Christmas-themed dishes will also be served at Emirates’ First Class and Business Class lounges in Dubai and around the world.

Travellers in economy will also get a rolled turkey buffe but with mashed potatoes, Vienna chicken sausages and seasonal vegetables. Lemon cranberry cake with cream cheese frosting or cocoa cake with white chocolate chips and raspberry coulis are offered for dessert.

emirates.com

Air China and Air Canada expand codeshare

Air Canada's Signature Suite at Toronto Pearson International

Star Alliance members Air China and Air Canada will be expanding their codeshare agreement next year along with enhancing lounge access for travellers and launching their first joint frequent-flyer promotion.

The new agreement will see Air China place its code on Air Canada’s flights between Montreal and Shanghai, which it launched in February this year, along with domestic services from Vancouver to Victoria, Kelowna, Saskatoon and Regina. Meanwhile, Air Canada’s code will be added to Air China’s flights between Beijing and Zhengzhou, Xiamen, Shenzhen and Nanjing, as well as its fifth-freedom flights between Montreal and Havana in Cuba. The enhanced codeshare is expected to take effect in April 2018.

These flights will add to the two airlines’ current codeshare services, which comprise international services from both airlines between Canada and China, as well as domestic flights in each country.

Alongside these enhancements, Air Canada will also be opening up access to its Maple Leaf Lounges in Montreal and Vancouver to all Air China first and business class passengers. Air Canada passengers already get access to Air China’s lounges in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere in China.

Before the new codeshare routes kick off, however, the airlines are also set to launch their first joint frequent-flyer promotion this Friday. From December 15 onwards, members of either Air Canada’s Aeroplan or Air China’s PhoenixMiles programmes will accrue bonus miles of up to 30 per cent on all flights operated by either carrier. That said, the window of travel is quite narrow, covering only flights that take place between April 1 and June 15, 2018.

These developments come as the two airlines continue to finalise their planned joint venture. According to Air Canada’s president and CEO, Calin Rovinescu, air travel between China and Canada has grown by about 14 per cent annually over the past six years. He added that the two airlines “are focused on finalising a definitive joint venture agreement that will deepen [their] cooperation in scheduling and sales to offer customers of both airlines additional travel options throughout [their] respective networks”.

The two airlines’ codeshare agreement currently includes the following services: Air China’s flights between Beijing and Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, Xian and Shenyang; Air China’s Montreal-Beijing service; Air Canada’s flights between Vancouver and Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg; Air Canada’s services between Montreal and Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg; and Air Canada’s Vancouver and Toronto flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai.

aircanada.com; airchina.com

SpiceJet launches six new flights for the holiday season

SpiceJet launches six new flights

This holiday season, SpiceJet has introduced six additional frequencies on its domestic network. The flight operations will start from December 22, 2017 until February 5, 2018.

Daily direct flight services will operate on Chennai-Kochi, Chennai-Kolkata and Kolkata-Port Blair routes. Its Boeing 737-800 aircraft will be deployed on these sectors.

Through this new service, the low cost carrier aims to cater to the peak tourist season in the country and also provide customers with additional facilities.

Flight schedule is as follows:

Flight No.

Origin

Destination

Departure

Arrival

Days of Operations

SG- 861

Chennai

Kochi

07:45

08:55 

All Days

SG- 862

Kochi

Chennai

09:25 

10:35 

All Days

SG- 862

Chennai

Kolkata

11:55

14:10 

All Days

SG- 865

Kolkata

Chennai

20:15 

22:35 

All Days

SG- 863

Kolkata

Port Blair

14:40 

16:45 

All Days

SG- 864

Port Blair

Kolkata

17:15 

19:40 

All Days

spicejet.com

Sanchita Nambiar 

This holiday season, SpiceJet has introduced six additional frequencies on its domestic network. The flight operations will start from December 22, 2017 until February 5, 2018.

Daily direct flight services will operate on Chennai-Kochi, Chennai-Kolkata and Kolkata-Port Blair routes. Its Boeing 737-800 aircraft will be deployed on these sectors.

Through this new service, the low cost carrier aims to cater to the peak tourist season in the country and also provide customers with additional facilities.

Flight schedule is as follows:

Flight No.

Origin

Destination

Departure

Arrival

Days of Operations

SG- 861

Chennai

Kochi

07:45

08:55 

All Days

SG- 862

Kochi

Chennai

09:25 

10:35 

All Days

SG- 862

Chennai

Kolkata

11:55

14:10 

All Days

SG- 865

Kolkata

Chennai

20:15 

22:35 

All Days

SG- 863

Kolkata

Port Blair

14:40 

16:45 

All Days

SG- 864

Port Blair

Kolkata

17:15 

19:40 

All Days

spicejet.com

Sanchita Nambiar 

Flight capacity between China and UK gets 50 per cent boost

Manchester-Airport - Copyright Hufton+Crow

China and the UK have just signed a new deal that will see the number of weekly flights allowed between the two countries increase by 50 per cent, opening the way for new and enhanced routes particularly to and from airports outside of London.

The new deal will see the total number of permissible flights between the two countries rise to 150, adding to a previous deal made in 2016 that raised the number from 40 to 100.

According to the UK’s Department for Transport, the deal makes it possible for “a huge expansion in routes”, especially from regional airports.

China’s airlines have already begun targeting the UK’s alternative hubs – Hainan Airlines, for instance, began flying to Manchester from Beijing in June 2016 and earlier this year began flying its Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route, making it the airport’s first Dreamliner service. A recent report has shown that Hainan Airlines’ route alone has brought numerous economic developments and travel to China by travellers from the north of the UK has increased by about 40 per cent since the route’s launch.

“Our connections to both Beijing and Hong Kong have led to significantly higher volumes of exports and inward investment, while the North’s universities have benefited from increased international student numbers and research collaborations with Chinese institutions,” said Manchester Airport’s CEO, Andrew Cowan. “Importantly, the routes have stimulated brand new demand for travel between the UK and China, which among other things has delivered a huge boost to the visitor economy across the North.”

The airport added that it “continues to speak with airlines about the launch of new services to additional Chinese cities”, though it has not specified which destinations are currently being discussed.

Along with Beijing, Manchester Airport also has a non-stop service to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific – a route the airline increased to a daily operation earlier this month.

However, the expansion of non-stop flight frequency between the UK and mainland China could also put pressure on Hong Kong’s flag carrier, which has faced increased competition from mainland Chinese airlines. Skyteam member China Southern, the country’s largest airline by fleet size, increased its service between London Heathrow and its main hub in Guangzhou, just across the border from Hong Kong, to twice a day in June.

Britain’s carriers could also be poised to benefit from the agreement. In September, Virgin Atlantic announced its “biggest ever season of flying from Manchester Airport”, and while much of its expansion from the hub has been focused on its Transatlantic operations, the new agreement could place routes to China on the airline’s agenda.

That said, non-Chinese carriers have encountered mixed success when opening routes to mainland China, particularly to the country’s secondary cities. As of January this year, British Airways ceased flying its Heathrow-Chengdu route, which it had operated for about three years, due to it no longer being commercially viable.

British Airways is not alone in this area – earlier this year United cut its San Francisco-Hangzhou service for similar reasons and appears set to drop its San Francisco-Xian route as well.

Asked whether the new agreement would open the way for new flights to China, British Airways provided Business Traveller with the following response: “We’re proud to operate a daily service from Beijing and 10 flights a week from Shanghai to London, and are always assessing opportunities to develop our network”.

In the first half of 2017, the UK saw 115,000 visits by travellers from China, an increase of about 47 per cent on the same period in 2016.

Delta-Westjet alliance to offer more codeshares and reciprocal FFP benefits

Delta Air Lines A350-900

Delta Air Lines and Canada’s Westjet have announced a new joint venture that will increase cross-border coordination between the two airlines.

For travellers, the new partnership — if approved by regulators — would bring coordinated flight schedules, new nonstop flights, more destinations, expanded codesharing, and seamless and convenient connections, according to a Delta press release.

Enhanced frequent flyer benefits would include reciprocal credits for top-tier members of both airlines.

“This agreement will bring heightened competition and an enriched product offering to the transborder segment, both of which will benefit our guests,” said Ed Sims, WestJet’s executive vice president for commercial operations. “This is an important step in Westjet’s mission to become a global airline.”

The Westjet agreement will be the eighth such partnership entered into by Delta, dating back to its 1993 joint venture with the now-defunct Northwest Airlines and KLM.

Business Insider reports that industry analysts expect the deal to boost Westjet’s market share relative to Air Canada, including a stronger appeal to premium-level travellers.

At the same time, Westjet is in the process of launching low-cost carrier Swoop, to attract budget-conscious travellers, the Financial Post reports.

delta.comwestjet.com

Five new premium airline seat products

Emirates B777-300ER First Class

Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia’s flag carrier took delivery of its first Airbus A350 late last month – its first of six that it will be leasing from Air Lease Corporation – and the only airbus of its ilk to feature a first class cabin.

The seat design itself is not entirely new – they have been based heavily on Thompson Aero Seating’s Vantage XL design with a few modifications – however it is the first of its kind used by Malaysian Airlines. The aircraft features four of the suites in total.

Lufthansa

German carrier Lufthansa’s newest business class seat product is still a way’s away from entering service, namely because it will be reserved for use on the yet-to-launch Boeing 777-9 aircraft, which it expects to receive in 2020.

The layout of the cabin is particularly intriguing, with an alternating 1-2-1 and 1-1-1 configuration, meaning some centre seats will be “throne seats”. There is a trade-off here though – while all will be fully flat, only some will have the confirmed 220cm bed length. Due to the additional desk space of the throne seats, these will have a shorter bed length, though Lufthansa has yet to announce just what that will be.

Flydubai

Another carrier offering throne seats, Flydubai recently unveiled its new business class cabin for its newest aircraft, the single-aisle B737 Max. The cabins have 10 business class seats, but while the first and last rows are configured 2-2, the middle row has just two throne seats on either side of the aisle.

All of the ten seats will, however, be fully flat and these throne seats will no doubt be in high demand. The airline will take delivery of six Max 8 aircraft by the end of the year, with a total of 76 B737 Max aircraft set to be received by 2023.

Emirates

While Emirates had previously unveiled details of its new B777 business class products, which features a rather unpopular 2-3-2 layout, in March, the airline’s unveiling last month of its new fully enclosed first class suites provides rather more to write home about.

Each of the 1-1-1 configured suites has floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, providing an enclosed space of about 40 square feet. Among the most notable features of the new suites are a video-call system for communicating with cabin crew, and virtual windows in the centre suites that project the view from the outside of the plane using cameras.

Singapore Airlines

Much like Emirates, Singapore Airlines has unveiled all new products for all of its cabin classes, this time for the double-decker Airbus A380. The revamped aircraft also sports impressive first class suites – now just six as opposed to the previous 12 – with a separate swivel chair and bed, which in the last two suites on either side can be combined to form a double bed.

The airline’s new business class suites are also notable with the centre bulkhead seats also able to be combined to form a double bed. While all recline to a fully flat position, only the seats at the front of the cabin recline straight forward. All other business class seats require one’s legs to extend into a gap on either the left- or right-hand side (depending on which side the aisle is) – great for people who sleep on their side but less well-suited for travellers who prefer lying on their back.

Honourable mentions

Finnair

Less a new seat product and more a cosmetic overhaul, Finnair’s new business class cabins will begin sporting a refreshed “Nordic” design with new seat textiles, seat covers, pillows, blankets and tableware.

Set to roll out in February next year, the white, grey and navy blue business class palette has been designed to mimic the interiors of Nordic homes as well as the Finnish landscape.

AA adding bigger overhead lockers

Airbus XL Bin A320

AA Adding Bigger Overhead Bins to Airbus Fleet

 

By Bob Curley

 

American Airlines is retrofitting more than 200 of its Airbus A321 aircraft with larger overhead bins that give passengers significantly greater room for their carryon luggage, Travel + Leisure (http://www.travelandleisure.com/airlines-airports/american-airlines/american-airlines-new-xl-overhead-luggage-bins) reported December 7, 2017.

 

American Airlines is retrofitting more than 200 of its Airbus A321 aircraft with larger overhead bins that give passengers significantly greater room for their carryon luggage, Travel + Leisure (http://www.travelandleisure.com/airlines-airports/american-airlines/american-airlines-new-xl-overhead-luggage-bins) reported December 7, 2017.

 

The airline is installing Airbus’ new Airspace XL on 202 of its A321s; the compartments have 40 per cent more storage capacity than the bins they replace, including the ability to store rolling suitcases vertically.

 

American is the first airline customer for the bin upgrade, according to an Airbus press release (http://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en/2017/12/american-airlines-is-first-retrofit-customer-for-airbus–new-air.html). “Thanks to this Airbus cabin retrofit, passengers on American Airlines’ A321s will be able to board faster and will enjoy an overall improved travel experience,” said Laurent Martinez, head of Services by Airbus.

 

The upgrades are part of a larger project to standardise American Airlines’ A321s with a common seat count and interior, according to Airbus. All new A321s purchased by American Airlines will come with the Airspace XL bins preinstalled, as well.

 

Airbus said the larger bins will ease the boarding process, reduce bin overstuffing, and cut down on the need to “gate check” bags.

 

Some Delta Air Lines A321 aircraft also are equipped with the larger overhead bins.

Gatwick releases new passenger app

Gatwick augmented reality

Gatwick Airport has released its first passenger app as part of its “digital transformation programme”.

The new app intends to offer a more efficient airport experience for holidaymakers and business travellers alike, through real-time updates about flight status, gate information, real-time queue updates to aid in passengers’ time management while at the airport, maps which use the airport’s 2,000 navigation beacons to help guide passengers, and terminal-specific shopping and eating offers that are instantly redeemable through a mobile phone.

Its features also extend outside the terminals, with road and rail travel information, the ability to book airport parking, passenger pick-up and drop-off information, a “Where’s my car?” feature for passengers to store their parking location, and information on facilities for the disabled.

The release of the app, which is free from the Apple App Store and Google Play, comes on the back of Gatwick’s announcement that it achieved its busiest November on record, with 2.9 million passengers travelling through the airport last month, bringing its annual total to 45.5 million.

Additional technological innovations to come include planning to connect passengers to advanced chatbots on social media to help with pre-flight queries, and augmented reality to help passengers find their way around the airport. Gatwick is the first airport to deploy augmented reality technology.

In other news, Gatwick announced a £180 million investment in infrastructure in partnership with construction company Bechtel. The investment is aimed at more than doubling the size of the North Terminal’s Pier 6 terminal building, increasing the number of gates and space for passengers to wait before departure.

Jasper Hart