Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dawn Princess Cruise Ship

In November I  took up an opportunity to travel by sea from Sydney to Melbourne via Hobart. This was a short re-positioning cruise operated by Princess Cruises and it was for 4 nights with 2 sea days and 1 day in port in beautiful Hobart, Tasmania. This is an ideal itinerary for people who are new to cruising and want to just give it a try, or for those wanting a quick getaway. This was my second cruise and I really enjoy them!

I arrived in Sydney on a Qantas Boeing 767-300ER. It was VH-ZXE which was Qantas' last Rolls Royce powered B767 and has since been taken out of service and retired. On approach to Runway 16R there was a great view of our ship at the White Bay cruise terminal.

Dawn Princess in Port

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Upcoming Travels

I have not been flying much at all in the last few months so I do apologise for the lack of updates here. However I am  very excited to be soon flying on the Qantas A380 in First Class between Melbourne and London Heathrow. This is going to be quite a fun adventure to the UK and I will come home via Dubai and Bangkok stopping in both places. So I should be able to offer reviews soon of the Qantas A380 in both First Class and Business Class, along with Club Europe on BA and a review of the Emirates A380 again (booked in economy but hoping for an upgrade!)

In my down time I have been on a short cruise with Princess Cruises and I plan to post some photos of that voyage on here, even if it isn't flying. I think some people may find it interesting.

Happy flying!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Qantaslink Q400 : Brisbane to Longreach on QF2532

It was a long time coming but finally I have flown on the Bombardier Q400 (also known as Dash 8-400).  This report covers my first flight on this high speed turboprop airliner and it is on a very interesting route, Brisbane to Longreach. Why is it interesting? Well Longreach is the original home of Q.A.N.T.A.S. The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial service, which eventually become what we now know today as Qantas. So this Qantaslink flight on a very modern aircraft actually takes us to back in time to 1921 when the airline first commenced operations. The purpose of the trip was to visit the Qantas Founders Museum which I will cover in another post.


Arriving at the Qantas and Qantaslink domestic terminal - Brisbane


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thai Airways Business Class on the B777-200 : Kathmandu to Bangkok TG320

Nepal is an amazing place and Kathmandu is an incredible city and I had a teriffic few days there earlier in the year. It was my first trip to the city and it was well worth a visit despite the ridiculous state of the roads in the town (dirt, full of pot holes, generally in terrible condition!). I recommend a visit to all. Anyway, my trip was over and it was time to start the journey back home to Australia and taking me out of Nepal was Thai Airways. Thai operate a daily Boeing 777-200 to Kathmandu and the widebody service is definitely my preferred method of travel from Nepal (compared to Malaysia Boeing 737 and Silkair A319/20).
 
After going through numerous checks just to get into the terminal and check in it was time to hit the Thai Royal Silk Lounge. Thai is one of the few airlines who operate their own lounge in Nepal. It is quite basic but it's a relaxing oasis compared to the madness of the city just outside! It's worth noting that the lounge is before the main security check so allow plenty of time before boarding to get through it.
 
duty Free in Kathmandu

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cambodia Angkor Air Flight 108: Siem Reap to Phnom Penh on the ATR72-200

I recently visited Cambodia to see the incredible Angkor Wat (definitely worth a visit if you can!) and as part of my trip I needed to get from Siem Reap to Cambodia and since I had very little time, a quick 45 minute domestic flight was the best way to go. Serving this route around 5 times a day is the national flag carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air. The route is served exclusively with ATR72's, a 70 seat turboprop.

I took the free airport shuttle from Borei Angkor resort and was delivered to the domestic terminal which is separate to the much larger international terminal. This small terminal serves pretty much the few flights to Phnom Penh and a once daily to the beach resort Cambodian town of Sihanoukville. The country is still very poor so most of the passengers on these flights are international tourists. I paid about USD80 for this 45 minute sector on the easy to use Cambodia Angkor Air website.

We arrived a little before 5pm and found almost no queue at check-in for the 5.40pm departure:



Thursday, September 19, 2013

Emirates Trans Tasman First Class on the A380 : Auckland to Melbourne EK407

First Class is nothing new on the Melbourne - Auckland route with Emirates having flown it for some time on the Airbus A340-500 and Boeing 777-300ER, but in October 2012 the route was upgraded to the superjumbo Airbus A380. With this came the arrival of the First Class suite on trans tasman flights from Melbourne.  I had been wanting to sample it for a while and finally after 10 months of operations on the route I had a ticket for EK407 in First Class. I chose the Auckland-Melbourne route instead of the other way round as due to headwinds it is a longer flight time by about 30 mins. That means more time for champagne!
 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Qantas Trans-Tasman Business : Melbourne to Auckland on a B737-800 QF131

Last month I had a look at the trans-continental business class offerings on Qantas and Virgin. This month I will be looking at the trans-tasman offerings instead! I took a quick trip to Auckland, going over on Qantas in Business and coming back on Emirates in First. As you can imagine there is quite a big difference between the two. Let's see what's on offer with Qantas.

My B737 preparing for the hop across the tasman

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Vietnam Airlines - Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap : Airbus A321 Economy Class

My last few posts I have been talking about Australian domestic flying, so let's mix it up a bit and have a quick look at a  flight I took 2 months back from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap, probably one of the most expensive 45 minute flights I've taken in my life at almost $200 one way! They sure know how to rip off the tourists heading for Angkor Wat!! I doubt many locals would pay that, most would take the bus.


Monday, August 26, 2013

The Battle of the Transcontinental Business Class: Conclusion

After my recent experiment of flying both Virgin Australia and Qantas in business class on the trans-continental run between Melbourne and Perth I am going to discuss a few of the pros and cons of each.



SEATS

Winner: Virgin Australia

Despite Qantas offering some flights with their international skybeds, the vast majority of services are operated by A330's with recliners with very poor pitch and some have seven abreast seating with a middle seat blocked for extra space. So this one is a very easy win to Virgin who offer either an angled lie flat seat or a very deep reclining international style business class seat with fabulous pitch.


SCHEDULE

Winner: Qantas

Qantas have more options with more daily flights and almost all are A330s. On weekends Virgin has been putting in quite a few B737-800's with much lower standard seating.

CATERING

Winner: Qantas

The overall catering experience with Qantas was better. I much prefer the proper table service with table cloth and each component being placed on the table and not coming on a tray. It's just a classier arrangement. Also, there was more food and more choice. I was disappointed to be offered ONLY a dessert and not both cheese AND dessert on Virgin... on Qantas this was not a problem.

I did enjoy the full menu and wine list that came in a large booklet on Virgin, it was far superior to the flimsy piece of paper I was handed on Qantas with no separate wine list.

The wines on Qantas I felt were better however Virgin Australia did offer champagne including as a pre departure drink whereas Qantas only offered an Australian sparkling and there was no sign of it during boarding.

AMENITIES

Winner: Virgin Australia

Virgin is a clear winner in this department. They offered both a basic amenity kit and some decent hand creams in the lavatory (by Grown). Qantas offered no amenity kit and only basic handwash in the toilet. Qantas did however offer cotton towels instead of the paper towels offered by Virgin.

SERVICE

Winner: None

I have to say both airlines provided superb service in the air despite the very different crews. Qantas crews were more 'mature' in years but very polished and very friendly. Virgin offer a slightly younger crew and have a slightly more 'fun' attitude but it's by no means over the top. I enjoyed the service on both airlines. The Qantas crew were not as pro active in offering wine topups as the Virgin crew however the Qantas crew had more people to serve as it was a fuller flight.

LOUNGES

Winner: Virgin

I used both the Virgin Lounge at Melbourne and Qantas Club in Perth. I think Virgin was slightly better in decor and I preferred my barista coffee being served in proper china and not a paper cup. However if Qantas opened a lounge in Perth at the standards of the Qantas business class lounges in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra then Qantas would win.


OVERALL

I am not going to declare a winner here as both airlines have their pros and cons. I think if Qantas upgrade to angled lie flats on the entire domestic A330 fleet then they would be the better choice. Until that time Virgin is very competitive with seating but just needs to slightly lift the game with catering. Both airlines are offering a great service and thanks to the competition between them the clear winner is US.... the passengers!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Battle of The Transcontinental Business Class : Virgin Australia vs Qantas (Part 2)

PART 2 : QANTAS

Following on from Part 1 this part shows the return to Melbourne, this time on Qantas.

FLIGHT:                    QF772
ROUTE:                     Perth to Melbourne
AIRCRAFT:              Airbus A330-200 VH-EBM
SEAT:                         2A (Business Class)

DEPARTURE:          10.00 (Scheduled)  09.55 (Actual)
ARRIVAL:                15.30 (Schedules)  14.55 (Actual) 35 Minutes Early!



VH-EBM at the gate
Upon arrival at the terminal I proceeded straight through security and up to the lounge. Priority security screening was available for Business Class and Platinum card holders although at 9am on this Monday the line was almost empty so it was not required. The lounge is 'airside' meaning you don't need to factor in a security check after leaving the lounge for the aircraft. Perth has just a single Qantas Club and no separate business class lounge but I found it to be quite decent. It is large and has nice tarmac views from the upper level of their terminal.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Battle of The Transcontinental Business Class : Virgin Australia vs Qantas (Part 1)



INTRODUCTION

The days of Qantas' monopoly of the business and premium travel market between the east and west coast of Australia are now well and truly over. Since Virgin Australia's introduction of their domestic Airbus A330 in 2011 it has been an increasingly intense competition between the 2 carriers as to who can offer the best product, not only in business class but also in economy.

Virgin have moved away from a low cost offering to a full service product in economy on its trans-con flights with meals and drinks included in direct competition with Qantas. Virgin have branded the new product the 'Coast to Coast' service

Both carriers now also operate the majority of their flights between Perth and Sydney or Melbourne with widebody Airbus A330s. However, depending on which aircraft you get on the day both airlines have wildly varying configurations on the seats! At this stage Qantas is operating with at least 3 different seat types in business and Virgin has 2.  I will go into more detail in each of my reviews.

Now, let's get to Part 1 : Virgin Australia on Melbourne to Perth

Emirates A380 First Class Video

I recently flew on the Emirates A380 in First Class. I was very impressed and decided to upload a video. I will follow up soon with a full trip report but in the mean time, check out the video:


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Thai Airways Boeing 747-400 First Class : Bangkok to Sydney TG475

Earlier on in the year I took a flight on Thai's 747 in First Class from Bangkok to Sydney. This is not going to be a full review but a quick run down of the Royal First experience. The flight was operated on an aircraft configured with 10 First Class seats which is typical for the Sydney run and half of the Thai 747 fleet is configured this way. The other half are now in a 'suites' configuration but mostly those aircraft fly to Europe and Japan.
 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vietnam Airlines Domestic Business Class : Boeing 777-200 Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City VN255

I recently visited Vietnam for the first time and flew in to the country via Hanoi on Malaysia Airlines as I reported here. My next city was the large commercial hub, Ho Chi Minh, and to get there I booked a Vietnam Airlines service on the Airbus A330. Around a month or so before the flight there was a change of equipment to the Boeing 777 and I decided to use the standby upgrade service provided by optiontown.com. For only about USD25 each I had a chance at being upgraded to business and I was happy to receive an email the night before the flight confirming I had been successful. Knowing this in advance I headed straight to the business class counters at Hanoi airport.

Hanoi Airport Departures

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Malaysia Airlines Economy Class - Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi Boeing 737-800


Some of you may have read my recent report on Malaysia Airlines intra-asia business class on the flight Yangon to Kuala Lumpur. Well now I have had a chance to try them in economy class on a flight of similar length, Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi. I took this flight as part of a recent trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal. Let's have a look and see how it went...


Monday, July 15, 2013

Qantas Business Class - Melbourne to Singapore QF35 (Airbus A330)

The recent change of Qantas' international strategy whereby they partnered with Emirates and changed their stopover point for London flights from Singapore to Dubai has seen many changes in the Qantas network. Before this year Qantas operated the A380 on the Melbourne to Singapore route and the aircraft continued on to London, the flight departed in the mid afternoon with a late arrival in Singapore. Now the flight ends in Singapore and is operated by the A330 and has a mid morning departure so people can continue on the same day to other Asian destinations (on other carriers like Jetstar Asia). As a result of this change there is no longer First Class or Premium Economy offered on the route, and the business class seat is the older skybed which is angled compared to being flat on the A380. This is disappointing but apparently the business class product on the A330's will be upgraded in the next 1 to 2 years.



Whether this new strategy is going to be a success is yet to be seen, but I hope it works. So, what is Qantas now offering to business class passengers on this route which is also served by Singapore up to 4 times a day, Emirates daily and Jetstar daily? Let's have a look.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thai Airways International Airbus A380 First Class : TG601 Hong Kong to Bangkok

Towards the end of 2012 Thai Airways took delivery of their first Airbus A380. The first couple of aircraft were used initially on short haul flights to Singapore and Hong Kong before starting long haul operations to Frankfurt. Although the whalejet no longer flies to Singapore it does operate one daily return trip to Hong Kong. At about 2.5 hours this is the shortest route on the Thai network that offers a first class cabin (the 747-400 operates the 2nd daily first class service to HKG). 

Finding myself in Hong Kong this last January I decided it was the perfect opportunity to give the Thai A380 a go. I was most interested in first class so booked a first class ticket from Hong Kong to Sydney via Bangkok. The first leg being on the 380 with the second being on a standard B747-400. 


HS-TUC AT THE GATE

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cathay Pacific First Class on the Boeing 747-400 : CX543 Tokyo Haneda to Hong Kong



After my arrival from the USA into Tokyo Narita I checked in at the airport Hilton for an overnight stay. My onward flight would be departing from Haneda, quite a distance away so it meant a very early start the next morning. I specifically chose Haneda as Cathay offers First Class on that route but they don't from Narita.

Firstly, the hotel. Hilton Narita is a short free shuttle bus ride from the airport and they have excellent rates. I payed the equivalent of approximately $100 AUD for the night. It would be even cheaper at today's exchange rates. The hotel is quite isolated but does have free shuttles to the nearby town. I was just here to relax so stayed in my room and ordered room service which was pretty ordinary.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Qantas First Class Lounge - Sydney and Melbourne

Over the past couple of days I have had another opportunity to visit the Qantas First Class lounges in both Sydney and Melbourne. As I have come to expect, both visits were spectacular. I just love these lounges and I think they are both definitely in the top 5 lounges on Earth! What makes them especially great is the terrific restaurant and great wine list. Here is a taste of whats on offer:

SYDNEY FIRST LOUNGE - LUNCH

Bollinger Champagne and San Pellegrino Water

Monday, May 6, 2013

Facebook Page

As of today I have setup a Facebook page. It was suggested to me by one of my YouTube subscribers and I thought, why not? So if you have Facebook and want to 'Like' my page then find it here:


I will endeavour to live update the page with some photos and thoughts as I pass through airports, and you will find links to my latest blog posts and YouTube videos. Come on, join up now!


United BusinessFirst - Boeing 777-200ER : UA79 Newark to Tokyo Narita

The recent merger of Continental and United Airlines has created a mega-carrier with over 700 aircraft in the mainline fleet and nearly 90,000 staff. It is an absolutely mammoth operation with a route network covering the entire globe. The airline has so many different aircraft types it is hard to keep up with what's on offer! For my recent trip from the New York area to Japan I booked a flight on an aircraft which was formerly the flagship of the Continental fleet, the Boeing 777-200ER in a two class configuration featuring the airlines 'BusinessFirst' seating. Under the United brand the seating name has stuck and the airline has acquired a new hub in Newark. My flight, UA79, from a very cold New York would be operated by former Continental Airlines crew members.

The United B777-200ER operating my flight

Monday, April 29, 2013

American Airlines AA4462 Embraer ERJ-140 : Montreal to New York JFK

The small regional jets that are so popular in North America never really  became popular in Australia, so when I had the need to fly from Montreal to New York I jumped at the chance of sampling the Embraer ERJ-140 of American Airlines. I have flown on the Canadair CRJ's but never the little Embraer's and the ERJ140 model is quite rare and in fact AA are the only airline using them. They seat 44 passengers in a 1x2 seating arrangement. 

So it came time for me to fly on the Embraer and I had pre selected the exit row on the left side,  a single seat on its own. I arrived at Montreal airport where it was snowing on and off and very very cold! Being Australian, flying in snowy environments is quite a rarity for me so it was pretty exciting. A new type, a new route to fly, plus I was heading to New York and I love New York.... who doesn't?

I have elite status in oneworld so my baggage was priority tagged and I had priority AAccess for security although the airport was quiet so fast-track was not required. As usual US immigration formalities were completed here and I headed to a food outlet for breakfast. There are no lounge facilities unfortunately.

Here is my little Embraer waiting to head to New York  in the snow

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Singapore Airlines Suites SQ346 - Singapore to Zurich

It's already over 5 years since Singapore Airlines introduced the Airbus A380 back in 2007, but its taken this long for me to finally sample the premium cabins and write about it. Previously I've flown only in economy on the Singapore whalejet so I was very excited when the time finally came to try the suites.

My journey had started in Myanmar and I'd flown in to Changi airport with about 7 hours to spare before the 1am departure to Zurich. I decided to hit The Private Room, Singapore Airlines exclusive lounge for first class passengers. As you enter the Silverkris lounge area in terminal 3 and present your Suites boarding pass you will be personally escorted past the business class and first class lounges and into the Private Room. I was warmly welcomed and shown to the shower facilities after I requested directions.


Shower Room

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Malaysia Airlines Business Class - Yangon to Kuala Lumpur MH741 : Boeing 737-800

As part of my recent round the world trip I had a couple of sectors on Malaysia Airlines. Here is a report on my first. It was actually my first ever flight on the airline and my departure point was Yangon (or Rangoon if you like).

If you have ever been to Yangon you will know that the taxi's tend to be rather old (there are some exceptions). I was in one of these old things when of course it broke down on the way to the airport. The driver was quite insistent I should wait for his friend to come and take me the rest of the way but not knowing how long that might be I flagged down another taxi and recommenced my journey. Fortunately there are quite a few taxi's plying the streets of Yangon so finding one isn't really a problem.

I arrived at the airport and found the check-in area to be large and modern in appearance. I headed straight up to the Malaysia Airlines business class queue and was served immediately and given boarding passes to Kuala Lumpur and also for my onward flight to Singapore.

Check-In at Yangon

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sights of Yangon, Myanmar

For those regulars on Flyertalk and other forums frequented by people like me I'm sure you all know just WHY I found myself in Yangon this past January. For the rest of you, let's just say I got a deal on flights that was too good to pass up. But besides that, I have always had Myanmar on my to do list so I was very excited to visit. It's a pity due to time limitations I could only visit the capital, but perhaps I will  head over to Mandalay on my next trip.

I thought some pics would be appreciated so here we go....


View of Yangon from my hotel the Clover City Centre - some very run down buildings here!

A busy Yangon street near the Shwedagon Pagoda

Monday, February 25, 2013

Blog Design

I am making some changes to the way the blog looks...

From now on I will only show an introduction to the articles that I write on the main page of the blog.  If you would like to continue reading then please follow the 'Read More' link. This way you can see a lot more of what I have been adding from the main page.

I'm also making some cosmetic changes to the way the page looks and at this point it is a 'work in progress'.

Cheers!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Thai Airways Business Class TG301 : Bangkok to Yangon on the A300

Myanmar  (formerly Burma) is starting to really open up as a tourist destination. It's becoming increasingly popular and airlines are increasing frequencies and sending larger aircraft to cope with the steady rise of travelers and business people headed to the country. At the moment Thai fly 3 widebody aircraft a day between Bangkok and Yangon with a planned increase to a 4th daily service coming up soon. Thai recently announced it's low cost subsidiary Thai Smile will begin servicing Bangkok to Mandalay as well so options for travelers are opening up.

I recently ventured to Myanmar for the first time and found myself booked on a Thai Airways A300, the middle of the day departure flight TG301, in business class.  The other two daily flights were scheduled to be A330's with a much better seat but for a flight that is in the air less than 60 minutes the A300 is fine.

Gate D1A - A bus gate for todays flight

Friday, February 22, 2013

Qantas' Boeing Sky Interior (BSI) 737-800 : QF969 Business Class Townsville to Brisbane

As I mentioned yesterday I have been doing a bit of domestic running around on Qantas and after what seems like forever I finally had an opportunity to fly on one of Qantas' latest Boeing 737-800's featuring Boeing's new Sky Interior.

In case you don't already know the BSI makes the 737 a much nicer aircraft to fly in. The windows are the same size physically but the shape of the surrounds are an oval shape to allow more light and make the window seem larger. The overhead storage is shaped like those found on the Boeing 787 meaning more head room but increased storage space and the roof has an interesting new shape with LED lights that change colour during different phases of the flight.  As well as all this Qantas has a new seat in business class, essentially it is the same as the A380 premium economy seat but it's covered in leather. I  found it a nice improvement over the old seat. Row 1 is particularly nice as there is nobody reclining into your space and you can comfortably get up to go to the bathroom even if the seat beside you is occupied.

So as I boarded flight QF969 in Townsville at 5.40am I was very happy to see the new seat...

Seat 1F

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Qantas Business Class : QF662 Adelaide to Brisbane B737-800

I've been doing a bit of flying about the country lately on Qantas Domestic. Being a bit of a 'status freak' I have been working my way up to Qantas Platinum for no reason other than just because I can.  So on a couple of days in December with my double status credits promo offer soon expiring I did a bit of hopping around on the Flying Kangaroo.

This post is about flight QF662 from Adelaide to Brisbane. I flew in to Adelaide on Jetstar on a super cheap deal to start my Anyseat Award flight to Townsville via Brisbane. For those who read the Australian Frequent Flyer forum this kind of award is referred to as a 'JASA'. Its an award seat but it earns points and most importantly status credits.

The Adelaide Airport Terminal 

Singapore Airlines Business Class : SQ825 Shanghai to Singapore

In recent years Singapore Airlines has introduced a regional business class pod style angled lie flat seat. It debuted on the airlines new fleet of Airbus A330-300 aircraft and since then many Boeing 777-200 aircraft have been refitted with the new seat. They are used on the longer regional routes (4-6 hours) out of Singapore to places like China, Korea and India. I recently  had the opportunity to try the product out of Shanghai on a red eye flight to Singapore. 

So, after arriving from Seoul I cleared immigration as a transit without visa passenger and headed back upstairs to the check-in hall for flight SQ825 to Singapore.


Shanghai Pudong Check-in Hall

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Short Flight on an Asiana A321 in Business Class - OZ367 Seoul to Shanghai

Asiana Airlines of South Korea is one of only a few '5 Star' airlines as rated by Skytrax, yet I have seen very little reported online of it's short haul narrow body product.  The narrow body fleet of 33 Airbus A320 an A321 aircraft serve short haul flights to nearby neighbours like Japan, China and also domestic flights within South Korea. So when I recently flew on flight OZ367 a scheduled A321 on the Incheon to Shanghai Pudong route I knew I should write about it on the blog. 

The large open air check-in hall at Incheon Airport

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Singapore A380 Suites Video Review

I recently had the good fortune to travel on an A380 with Singapore Airlines in Suites (First) class from Singapore to Zurich. I absolutely loved it and have just uploaded a video at my youtube channel which shows the suite and meal services along with takeoff and landing, even a sneak peak of the private room.

I will follow this up with a written review but in the mean time please check it out:


Monday, January 7, 2013

Asiana Airlines OZ760 Bangkok to Seoul Incheon Business Class: Airbus A330-300

After arriving at Suvarnabhumi from Melbourne on Thai Airways my next leg to Seoul was with Asiana. Soon after arrival at the Thai lounge my phone started vibrating with TripIt notifications that my flight to Seoul was delayed. Initially by 40 minutes but a short time later that was extended to 2 hours and 5 minutes. The reason for the delay was heavy snow in Seoul and all flights on Asiana and Korean has been affected. As you can see in the below pic several flights delayed and others cancelled completely.