UP, UP AND AWAY

Airlines keep reach­ing for the sky in tech­nol­ogy and cabin ex­pe­ri­ence

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - BEST OF FLYING - AMANDA WOODS

His­tory-mak­ing flights and new and im­proved planes are just part of the pic­ture for the year ahead in air­line travel. Here’s a look at some of the new ways you’ll be go­ing places.

NEW ROUTES

It may feel like an age since we first heard the news, but Qan­tas’s non­stop flights from Perth to Lon­don are al­most here and set to take off in March.

In what will be the long­est Boe­ing Dream­liner flight in the world, Qan­tas’s new QF9/10 routes will take about 17 hours, give or take de­pend­ing on the wind, to fly the 14,498km be­tween the cities.

The long­est flight on the Qan­tas net­work, ahead of the non-stop A380 ser­vice from Syd­ney to Dal­las on 13,730km, will carry 236 pas­sen­gers across busi­ness, pre­mium econ­omy and econ­omy cab­ins.

Aus­tralians are about to get an­other daily non-stop flight to the US with United Airlines start­ing flights be­tween Syd­ney and Houston from Jan­uary 20. An­other mega long­haul sit­u­a­tion, the new flight will be­come United’s sec­ond long­est route and take about 17 ½ hours. As Houston is United’s gate­way to Latin Amer­ica it will also cre­ate a one-stop hop to 51 des­ti­na­tions across Latin Amer­ica and in the Caribbean.

Hawai­ian Airlines is also of­fer­ing new flights to the US. From early next year Aus­tralians who’ve gone be­yond Oahu may be able to take ad­van­tage of non-stop daily routes on the air­line’s new A321­neo fleet be­tween Port­land and Maui, Oak­land and Kauai, and Los An­ge­les and Kona.

In Fe­bru­ary, Can­berra will be­come one of 25 new des­ti­na­tions cov­ered by Qatar Air­ways, and as the flights will go via Syd­ney they will dou­ble as a sec­ond daily Syd­ney flight. The Doha based air­line will also start fly­ing to Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Las Ve­gas and Cardiff in the year ahead.

Mean­time, Mel­bur­ni­ans now have a di­rect con­nec­tion to South Amer­ica with LATAM Airlines start­ing the first non-stop ser­vice be­tween Mel­bourne and Santiago just a few weeks ago.

Cathay Pa­cific will launch non-stop ser­vices to Dublin, Brus­sels and Copen­hagen from March. Tak­ing the air­line’s re­cent ad­di­tion of ser­vices to Gatwick, Barcelona and Madrid into con­sid­er­a­tion that boosts the num­ber of Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions we’ll be able to reach di­rect from Hong Kong to 15.

Within Aus­tralia, Tig­erair is about to start a new route be­tween Ho­bart and the Gold Coast. From De­cem­ber 7 the low-fare air­line will start four weekly re­turn ser­vices be­tween the two tourist des­ti­na­tions.

And if you’re wish­ing you could be on a trop­i­cal is­land, We­b­jet ANZ coun­try man­ager David Galt says things are look­ing up. “The Mal­dives is more ac­ces­si­ble than ever with SriLankan Airlines fly­ing from Mel­bourne via Colombo, as well as Sin­ga­pore Airlines and Scoot via Changi Air­port in Sin­ga­pore.”

NEW PLANES

Next year Sin­ga­pore Airlines will be­come the launch cus­tomer for the new Air­bus A350-900 Ul­tra Long Range air­craft.

These new planes will have an in­creased fuel-car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity of 165,000 litres com­pared to the 141,000 litres of the stan­dard A350900s, giv­ing the ULRs a po­ten­tial flight time of 19 hours.

Sin­ga­pore Airlines will use the new air­craft to re-launch non-stop Sin­ga­pore to Los An­ge­les and New York flights. It’s be­lieved they will do away with econ­omy seats al­to­gether on the new planes to make more room for busi­ness and pre­mium econ­omy.

Qan­tas has wel­comed the first of its Dream­liner fleet ahead of the Perth-Lon­don flights. CEO Alan Joyce says the planes have been de­signed with the air­line’s long­est flight in mind with en­hanced cabin de­sign adding to the Dream­liner’s im­proved air qual­ity and lower cabin noise.

Busi­ness and pre­mium econ­omy take up about half the space on Qan­tas’s in­ter­na­tional 787-9s with the 42 busi­ness suites and 28 pre­mium econ­omy seats us­ing around the same space as the 166 econ­omy seats lo­cated at the back.

Mean­time, Air New Zealand, the first air­line in the world to take de­liv­ery of the 787-9s in 2014, has wel­comed its new-look Dreamliners. The first of the new 787s will start on the Auck­land-Houston route in De­cem­ber. And Air New Zealand also has good news for those stuck in the mid­dle seat. The econ­omy seat de­signs for their new Air­bus A320/ A321­neo fleet will have a slightly wider mid­dle seat to give cus­tomers who drew the short straw a greater sense of space.

Delta Air Lines will be bring­ing their new award-win­ning Delta One suites to Aus­tralia next year, in spring.

The first busi­ness-class cabin to fea­ture a slid­ing door in each suite won the best cabin con­cept at this year’s Crys­tal Cabin Awards. Along with full flat beds and di­rect aisle access, the busi­ness-class suites have cus­tomis­able am­bi­ent light­ing and at 18 inches can claim the big­gest en­ter­tain­ment mon­i­tor among US car­ri­ers.

Qatar Air­ways has a busi­ness-class suite of its own, and it has the op­tion of a dou­ble bed or din­ner for four. The Qsuite has pri­vacy pan­els that stow away, al­low­ing pas­sen­gers in ad­join­ing seats to share the first dou­ble bed in busi­ness class. They also have the op­tion of cre­at­ing “quads” where two cen­tre seats and the two be­hind them are joined so four pas­sen­gers can face each other. Qsuites are avail­able on Qatar Air­ways 777-300ER QR7/QR8 ser­vices be­tween Doha, Lon­don and Paris.

NEW ON-BOARD EX­PE­RI­ENCES

In a world-first col­lab­o­ra­tion, Qan­tas is team­ing up with the Univer­sity of Syd­ney’s Charles Perkins Cen­tre to de­velop a new, more holis­tic ap­proach to long-haul travel. Re­searchers from fields in­clud­ing sleep, nu­tri­tion and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity are work­ing with the air­line and while the in-flight changes are yet to be revealed they will start on next year’s Dream­liner ser­vice be­fore be­ing in­tro­duced to other long-haul flights.

En­ter­tain­ment in the sky is chang­ing, with some airlines pro­vid­ing new and im­proved sys­tems and oth­ers re­mov­ing seat back screens al­to­gether. Amer­i­can Airlines will be leav­ing pas­sen­gers to their own de­vices on their new fleet of Boe­ing 737 Max air­craft, with the first of the new planes to fly Mi­ami to New York LaGuardia on Novem­ber 29.

The world’s largest air­line ar­gues most peo­ple travel with their own de­vices so rather than in­vest­ing in mon­i­tors they say they’ll fo­cus on im­prov­ing in-flight in­ter­net speed for eas­ier down­loads.

While some pas­sen­gers em­brace BYOD (Bring Your Own De­vice), oth­ers pre­fer the air­line to pro­vide ev­ery­thing they’ll need.

And some of­fer an al­most dizzy­ing amount of en­ter­tain­ment choices – with Qatar Air­ways Oryx One hav­ing 4000 op­tions and Emi­rates’ ICE hav­ing 2500 – the chance to cre­ate a short list of things to watch is a wel­come ad­di­tion.

The Sin­ga­pore Airlines Kris World app lets cus­tomers fly­ing on the A350 and se­lected B777-300ER flights browse movies, TV and mu­sic and cre­ate a favourites list be­fore they even board the plane.

The app also pro­vides un­lim­ited access to in­ter­na­tional mag­a­zines that can be down­loaded 48 hours be­fore and up to 24 hours af­ter a flight and will re­main on a de­vice un­til deleted.

... A SLIGHTLY WIDER MID­DLE SEAT TO GIVE CUS­TOMERS WHO DREW THE SHORT STRAW A GREATER SENSE OF SPACE

NEW WAYS TO BOOK

Want to fly a full-cost air­line but avoid pay­ing full price? We­b­jet’s David Galt says the un­bundling of air­fares could be the an­swer.

“That means you could choose a seat-only fare if the extras are not of value to you. Air New Zealand has been of­fer­ing these fares across the Tas­man for some time, and it may just spread to other mar­kets and airlines.”

Mean­time, Jet­star has in­tro­duced new ways to book and pay for flights.

“We all have that one ‘or­gan­iser’ friend or fam­ily member who gets lumped with mak­ing the group book­ing on their own credit card,” says Ca­tri­ona Lar­ritt, Jet­star group

chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer. “We’re proud to be the first Aus­tralian air­line to of­fer a ‘split the bill’ pay­ment op­tion for on­line group book­ings.”

Jet­star Fare Share lets groups split the pay­ment be­tween up to nine trav­ellers, with pas­sen­gers given 48 hours af­ter the or­gan­iser books the flights to pay for them.

Jet­star has also in­tro­duced Af­ter-pay, which lets peo­ple pay for flights in four equal fort­nightly in­stal­ments rather than up­front.

Af­ter-pay is avail­able on do­mes­tic flights cost­ing from $200 to $1000 booked four weeks or more ahead of travel, and Jet­star is con­sid­er­ing whether to ex­tend the ser­vice to in­ter­na­tional flights in fu­ture.

And when it comes to buy­ing flights around the world it’s time to get into the habit of al­ways putting your mid­dle name into a book­ing so it matches your pass­port.

While some air­line book­ing forms prompt peo­ple to add their mid­dle names, oth­ers do not and it can some­times be­come an is­sue at border con­trol.

Mid­dle names in book­ings may not be man­dated by the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion but there have been re­ports of peo­ple be­ing forced to pay €50 (about $75) for ticket name changes be­fore board­ing planes in some Euro­pean air­ports be­cause of that sim­ple over­sight.

To re­ally be on the safe side, make sure your mid­dle name is on your air­line loy­alty mem­ber­ships so it is in­cluded on any fre­quent flyer re­demp­tion tick­ets, and avoid any eas­ily pre­ventable headaches be­fore trav­els in the year ahead.

AIR NZ, BUSI­NESS PREMIER

MI­AMI

PIC­TURES: ISTOCK, SUP­PLIED

With new routes, new planes and new air­port lounges, there’s never been a bet­ter or more lux­u­ri­ous time to fly. QAN­TAS LOUNGE, PERTH

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