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Cathay Pacific A350

Flight Review: Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class – Is this the New Standard in Business Class?

We recently flew from Jakarta to Nagoya via Hong Kong and Nagoya to Bangkok via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific business class and it really was excellent. But one of these 4 legs was on an Airbus A350 and we think it deserves its own review.

Route

Hong Kong to Bangkok – CX701Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cabin 1-2-1

Flight Time

2h 37m

Seating Configuration

1-2-1 with lay flat beds – every seat has aisle access

Boarding

Boarding was quick due to the dedicated business class boarding lane. Staff were courteous and we were seated very quickly.

Food

Food in Cathay Pacific Business Class is predictably good and plentiful. When you compare it to economy, you just never want to eat economy food again.

I started with a salad, Thai Green Chicken Curry and finished with blueberry Haagen-Daaz ice cream. I’d been stuffing my face in the business class lounge immediately prior to boarding, so this was more than enough food. Especially because it’s just supposed to be a refreshment rather than a full meal.

Seat

The seat in the Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class is excellent. Because the business class cabin only has 4 seats across, each seat has so so much room. The seats lie flat and I easily don’t touch the end of the bed and I’m about 182cm tall. Even tall people will be comfortable.Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Lie Flat Bed

There are lots of different storage lockers in the seat for storage of hand bags and gadgets. I didn’t realise how convenient this would be until I start stashing all my junk in the empty cabinets everywhere.

Entertainment

The TV is MASSIVE. It has a large range of channels, music and games as well as 3 live TV channels. I really loved being able to watch BBC world and CNN live on board the flight.Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Seat

The controller for the TV is excellent and has its very own ultra sharp LCD screen on it which is useful if you like playing games on the controller rather than the TV.Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Controls

Connectivity

One of the great things about this aircraft is its connectivity. There is wifi available at a very reasonable price and it is fast. Most of the time it was as fast as 4G for me, so I could use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with no problem whatsoever.

Prices are quite reasonable compared what we’ve seen on some other carriers:

1h – $9.95

Entire flight – $12.95

$12.95 for an entire flight is an incredible deal especially because data usage seems to be unlimited.

The other thing you are supposed to be able to do is use your normal mobile phone coverage and pay roaming charges through your own provider. I tried to get this to work, but my strong suspicion is that Telkomsel in Indonesia doesn’t have that sort of agreement. If you have a SIM card from a big provider in the US or Europe, I could imagine this working really well. The only problem would be if you have to pay exorbitant roaming charges or not – some people do, some don’t.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cabin
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class Cabin

Toilets

This is actually one of my favourite aspects of the plane and I don’t know why. But these toilets are very cool. They come with a window which is great in and of itself. But this window lets in amazing amounts of light. And with this light, it makes the toilet looks bigger, cleaner and just better.

The amenities in the bathroom are all quality and the mirror is huge. Space seems bigger than previous business class toilets, but it could be just the natural light.

Note: this appeared to be in the front of the cabin only as the ones in the middle of business class seemed to have a baby change table instead of window.

Verdict

The business class cabin on the Cathay A350 is excellent. Very comfortable, well-connected and perhaps the new standard for business class cabins. Awesome.

Scoot Cabin

Flight review: Scoot Air Sydney to Singapore – TZ1

I’ve flown Scoot on the Sydney – Singapore route before and wasn’t particularly impressed. This time was no different.

Scoot is a typical low cost carrier who charges extra for everything such as checked in baggage and food. We fly low cost carriers a lot and some do it really well and some don’t. A great example of a good low cost carrier is Norwegian. A bad example is Scoot.

It all starts with checked in baggage which costs $42 (for the purposes of this article all prices are in Singapore/Australian dollars which are essentially the same). If you decide you need more baggage than you originally booked, of course you have to go onto their website and buy more. This is pretty normal. What isn’t normal is that if you don’t make that purchase at least 48 hours before flying, you can’t make it online at all. You have to buy it at the airport and for that they charge $100.

My departure was pushed back 45 minutes from the time stated on my travel itinerary, but I wasn’t informed of that. Again, another issue which was no big deal.

Seating on the plane has to be paid for if you want to sit in a specific spot. Of course almost no one pays for this because you generally always get to sit together with you travel companions anyway. What you can’t predict is who else is going to be seated next you. And on this flight I encountered a nightmare situation. My seat was surround by kids and one group in particular were just atrocious. When you fly full service you often get groups of kids near the bulkhead, but on this scoot flight they seemed to be scattered around everywhere. It was truly awful.

Food on the flight was expensive. Main meals run at between $12 & $15 and are small. A slim can of coke (250ml??) costs $4, a tiny water (330ml) costs $4 and a beer $8. Which brings me to my next point.Scoot Inflight Menu

You can’t do this 7h 30m without some form of sustenance. It’s just too long. But Scoot have a policy of forbidding you to eat or drink anything on board that you haven’t bought from them. It’s outrageous and means that you’re guaranteed to spend at least $8 on 2 bottles of small water and perhaps $5 for a cup of noodles and $12 for a tray of brownness.

In my experience, you can sneak food on board and eat it, although I didn’t see anyone else doing this. I did, however, see lots of people bring water from outside. It’s $3.50 (660ml) at McDonald’s before you board the plane.

The TZ1 flight was on a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. These are nice planes, but as I’ve said before, airlines love to fit them out in a 3-3-3 configuration and 2 men sitting side by side will generally be touching shoulders for the whole flight. And forget about using the armrest because it is so narrow.Narrow & Slim Seats on Scoot 787

The seats on this Scoot flight were OK. Again, they were those cheap slimline seats which are fine over the course of 3 hours, but after 7 hours really get a bit old. There are no TVs in the backs of seats although I did see an advertisement for renting portable sets. Wifi is available on board at predictably exorbitant prices.

A really frustrating point about the seats, though, are the call and light buttons. They are exactly where you put your arm on the armrest. And you will forever by ringing the service bell, turning the light on, turning it off… And the whole cabin is doing it too throughout the whole flight. Constantly. It means the hosties are running up and down the aisle constantly attending to calls which are false alarms. Such a simple thing which causes all sorts of hassles for both staff and passengers.Buttons on Scoot Armrest

One thing which really shits me? They charge you $5 to use the power sockets beneath your chair. What a cynical grab for extra cash. I reckon they’d probably earn $100 per flight from this revenue source at the expense of inconveniencing 200 other people. Massive thumbs down on that.

All up, if you opt for some of the extras like checked in baggage and a bit of food, your flight quickly balloons from $199 one way to something in the order of $275 which is not that cheap. It’s cheaper than any full service carrier, but it’s nowhere near as cheap as what the headline price appears to be.

Of course, this is the business model of low cost carriers, but Scoot manage to extract just that little bit more out of you. For me, they’re in the worst category of low cost carrier and in the same realms as Ryan Air. A Complete bag of shite.

All in all, an OK option if you’re flying from Sydney to Singapore. But if I have a choice again, I’ll be willing to pay an extra $100-$150 on another airline rather than put up with Scoot. Not sure how realistic that is, but seriously. Scoot is at the bottom of the pile now.

Wizz Air Flight Review

I’d already booked tickets to Iceland with Wow Air when I decided to look for a flight to take us to Poland. Cheaply. And it didn’t take long before I stumbled across a Wizz Air flight to the northern Polish city of Gdansk.

Wizz Air is a super budget carrier based in Romania. They’re the type of airline which models itself after Ryan Air where custom service is priory number 700 and stinging you on extra fees is priority number 1. Knowing this, I planned our flights accordingly and booked appropriate baggage including paying to upgrade hand luggage (you only get 5kg as standard) and ensured that our boarding passes were printed before we arrived at the airport.

Checkin for Wizz Air was fast. The line wasn’t too short anyway, but the 3 staff burned through check in no time. Staff weighed the checked in luggage, but didn’t weigh our hand luggage.

Despite being the middle of the Icelandic winter and there being a lot of spare aerobridges, Wizz Air chose to bus its passengers to the aircraft.

Once on board, it felt almost like a party flight with a large portion of the passengers loud and all the overhead lockers chocked full of stuff. Legroom was surprisingly good and my knees weren’t jammed into the seat in front. Far better than Wow Air anyway.

The food service on board is not too bad. Prices are around €2 for a soft drink, €5 for a sandwich. When coming from Iceland, prices like that seem cheap.

Aside from the strange mood of the passengers, everything on board was fine. We arrived slightly before our scheduled arrival time in Gdansk and picked our luggage up without any hassle.

Tips:

Make sure you checkin AND print your boarding pass before arriving at the airport. There is a €30 “fee” (it’s basically theft) per passenger if you need them to print your boarding pass out.

Check the luggage policy for your flight as they charge a fortune if they catch you with an overweight bag. For our flight you got 1x5kg piece of hand luggage for free. This includes handbags and laptop bags! Almost everyone will need to buy extra luggage.

Bring your own food on board to save cash — they don’t seem to care and everyone else was doing it.

Norwegian B787 Wing Shot

Norwegian Airlines review – Oslo to Los Angeles – DY7083

Flying from Europe to the USA has always been one of those things you only do once per decade due to the prohibitive cost of flights and until recently, only full service carriers flew the route. But with the advent of airlines such as WOW Air out of Iceland, flying between Europe and the USA doesn’t have to expensive anymore.

I recently flew Norwegian Airlines from Oslo (OSL) to Los Angeles (LAX) in one of their brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and learned that cheap doesn’t have to be nasty.

I bought my wife’s ticket for this flight 3 months before departure for a mere €186 (US$205). She has a perfectly sized carry on bag and because Norwegian are so generous with their hand luggage weights, it easily fit within the cabin baggage limits.

I on the other hand have a beast of a backpack which always has to be checked. And on Norwegian, this is the beginning of where you get stung. I bought my ticket 2 months before departure for €265 (US$296) which is still an absolute bargain. This included a €33 (US$37) fee for checked baggage. They also offer free meals onboard for an extra €33 (US$37) and seat selection for a further €33 (US$37)??? You can bundle these 3 addons for an extra fee of €66 (US$74) which is a little steep in my view. In the end, I chose not to preorder meals or seating and everything worked out fine.

Norwegian Airlines Boeing 787

By now, everyone knows that the Boeing 787 is a state of the art aircraft with large windows which don’t have window shades – rather, adjustable dimmers.Norwegian B787 windowBut the problem with the 787 is that airlines love to pack passengers in like sardines even more than they usually do. The legroom I had was more than adequate and I’m 5″11′ (181cm). But it’s the fact that airlines including Norwegian insist on a 9 abreast seating configuration when 8 abreast is ideal for economy cabins. The means seats and arm rests are extremely narrow. I’m a normal sized guy. Maybe on the light side of things. But when I sit next to another man on a 787, my shoulders touch his. This is torture on long haul because you’re constantly fighting for shoulder space. Luckily for me on this flight to LAX, the guy next to me was short with narrow shoulders. I actually felt comfortable for the entire flight! But your luck certainly can vary. If you’re next to a big person or you yourself are big, this will be a nightmare flight.Norwegian B787 cabin 9 abreastEach seat has an entertainment unit which also serves as your online shop for the snack bar.

There was a reasonable selection of recent movies as well as documentaries, TV shows and classic movies. The games selection is as it is on every other airline these days. Sudoku, backgammon and chess.Norwegian Airlines review entertainmentBut the interesting part about the entertainment system is the snack bar. You simple scroll through the list of items they have for sale, pick what you want and scan your credit card. About 5 minutes later a hostess will deliver your order to your seat. I’m sure they get lots of orders this way.

You can even keep track of all your orders during the flight.

The selection of snacks went way beyond what I had expect and prices weren’t too bad and certainly cheaper than much of what’s available in Oslo airport. Tip: eat on the plane, not at Oslo Airport.

A large selection of spirits, liqueurs and wines are available plus some beers, soft drinks and water. As a general rule, non-alcoholic drinks (330ml) were US$3.50, spirits (50ml) US$8, beer (330ml) US$6, coffee/tea US$4 and wine (187ml) US$7. That’s pretty reasonable in my book. Of course if you want to get smashed on the plane, it’s going to cost you a lot.Norwegian Airways review foodSnacks included muffins for US$4, Pringles US$3.50, hot snacks (like a panini) for US$7, vegetarian sandwiches US$7, chocolate bar US$2.50, salad US$9 and noodle pot for US$4. Again, not cheap, but not so bad if you got a great deal on the flight. And besides, if you want cheap, you simply bring your own food and don’t buy theirs.

And on that note, I wanted to comment on how much food you’re going to need for this 10hour flight. For two people, I brought along with me 2 massive sandwiches, a packet of chips, a block of chocolate, 2 cheese rolls, 2 apple pies, a bottle of water, 2 bananas and a muffin. Let me tell you, it was enough. I could have left off the apple pies and cheese rolls and had been fine. But we ate them anyway so we didn’t have to declare them on arrival at LAX.Norwegian food order processOne last comment on the aircraft itself. I don’t think there are enough toilets onboard. There was a line for the toilets for the entire flight. The red light indicating the toilets were occupied never went green. It’s really odd because I’d never seen that before. Ah well, if you’re desperate, you just have to wait 15 minutes in line. And maybe you need to stretch your legs anyway.

The flight touched down in LAX on time and without and dramas. Truth be told, this flight was so much more enjoyable than I had expected. We got seated together even though we didn’t pay for seats. We were never hungry despite not paying for meals. And our hand luggage had no trouble getting on board because of the Norwegian hang luggage limit of 10kg plus a small handbag or laptop bag.

So while long haul low cost carriers such as Air Asia can be a nightmare, Norwegian Air really show everyone how it should be done. I’d happily fly them again if the price discount was big enough compared to full service carriers. Because at the end of the day, many full service carriers feel almost the same once on board. Especially so called 5 star carriers such as Qatar who I also flew recently and who also have a 9 abreast seating configuration on Boeing 787s.

Buy your tickets early and get a great deal! Check prices now on Norwegian.com

Qatar Airways Review

Qatar Airways Flight Review

Back in November there was this crazy sale on Qatar Airways where you could get an open jaw ticket for and incredible price. All you had to do was start your journey in Malaysia, end it in Jakarta and enter Europe through one city and return via another. We had no plans to go to Europe, but when we plugged in some dates to the website, we couldn’t believe the price. US$350 for the entire trip inclusive of all taxes and fees — we just had to buy it.

Our flight was from Kuala Lumpur to Copenhagen with a 2h30m transit in Doha. Both flights used brand new Boeing 787 dreamliners and it was our first time flying in them. While most aspects of the two flights were great, the planes themselves were substandard for a full service for reasons we’ll get to in a moment. First, the inflight service.Qatar Menu

On each flight we were offered package refresher towels not long after take off and the meal service started soon after. The food out of Kuala Lumpur was below average for a full service carrier, but quite good out of Doha. A second fairly heavy snack was served out of Kuala Lumpur and a light snack served out of Doha. Both meals out of Doha were far far better than out of KL.Qatar inflight meal

Drinks were offered several times throughout both flights, staff were very friendly and attentive and the overall level of service was good.Qatar snack box

For those of you who haven’t flown on a Dreamliner, the windows are the star of the plane. No window shades — just this dimmer function which can create an incredibly dark cabin electronically.Qatar B787 Window

The seat configuration in economy on Qatar 787s is 3-3-3 and it should be outlawed. The seats are extremely narrow to the point where my body was twisted sideways for 7 hours straight out of KL because I was next to another man. Not a big man. Just a man. And because men often have broad shoulders, it means there is not enough room if two normal sized men sit next to each other. There was no fight for the armrest — we were fighting to see whose arm could be on top of whose. We weren’t just rubbing shoulders, our shoulders were overlapping at times. Eating a meal like this is very difficult. I would hate think how it would be with two bigger people sitting next to each other.Qatar seat space

Aside from the narrowness of the seats, I also found them to be very close together when the person in front reclines their seat. You always get up personal when this happens in economy, but this flight felt more like Air Asia in this regard than any other full service carrier I’ve flown on.Qatar economy cabin

The positives were the entertainment unit which has a large sharp screen, USB port and lots of movies. Each seat also comes with a power socket, but there’s no way you’ll be working on a laptop — there’s just not enough room unless you’re lucky enough to have no one sitting next to you.Qatar seat back entertainment

So what’s the verdict? If I’d paid US$1000 for these flights, I’d be disappointed at being crammed into the the seats like we were. But given that we only paid US$350, I just can’t complain.

But we learned a lesson. Do not fly on a Boeing 787 if it’s fitted with a 3-3-3 configuration. It’s just too uncomfortable for a long haul flight.

Review: QANTAS QF42 Jakarta to Sydney

I recently took a flight with QANTAS for the first time in 8 years and I thought it was worth jotting down my thoughts on the experience from Jakarta to Sydney on QF41. The flight took off 15 minutes late at 8:15pm and arrived 5 minutes early at 6:05am for a total journey time of 6 hours 50 minutes.

QANTAS seatback TV with a friendly reminder of which seat you're sitting in
QANTAS seatback TV with a friendly reminder of which seat you’re sitting in

The first thing I noticed when I entered the aircraft was that the interior of the cabin looked luxurious compared to carriers such as Air Asia. The dark grey and maroon looked classy and everything looked and felt new. Each seat came with a small seat back TV with lots of new movies, TV shows and games. It also had a USB port for charging which was absolutely needed! The seat itself had enough legroom and compared to Air Asia it was absolutely luxurious. In terms of comfort, the seat itself was quite comfortable and I only got a pain in the leg once or twice on the 7 hour flight.

Upon take off cabin crew immediately came around the cabin and served a lemon drink and each person already had a bottle of water in their seat pocket. After about an hour, dinner was served. There was a choice of 3 meals with fruit cake for dessert. As well as this, there was free flow of Australian wines, beer and spirits. None of the food contained pork.

QF 42 Jakarta to Sydney menu
QF 42 Jakarta to Sydney menu

I found the food to be average. I was actually quite happy with my fish, but it wasn’t as luxurious as I’ve had in the past on airlines such as Singapore or Emirates. It was better than some other airlines I’ve been on recently such as China Southern.

Cabin crew were all professional and if there was a problem or an emergency, you just know they would probably be one of the best crews in the world to handle it. That said, they weren’t as warm as some crews on airlines such as air Asia. But then again, I just don’t know if I trust those Air Asia crews with my life.

QF42 Jakarta to Sydney drink list
QF42 Jakarta to Sydney drink list

All in all, it was a fantastic flight with QANTAS and so far beyond the horrid Air Asia flight I had 10 days earlier that I am seriously considering paying more money for flights in the future when it comes to medium to long haul. The level of quality on a carrier such as QANTAS makes all the difference after about 5 hours of being boxed in a seat.

Ever flown QANTAS? What do you think?

Saudi Arabia Airlines review

I’m always on the look out for cheap flight deals and often this means trawling the internet for hundreds of different combinations of flights on differing days and sometimes you end up with a deal that just can’t be turned down.

For our trip from Bandung to Europe, we had a choice of flying out of Jakarta which is 150km away or flying to either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur first and then on to Europe. It’s actually quicker for us to get to Singapore airport than Jakarta airport when traffic is bad but the prices of these flights are almost always more than what it costs for us to get to Jakarta by minivan. So the toss up is between spending a little extra to get to Singapore where there are more flight options or getting a slightly cheaper first leg to Jakarta and looking for a cheap deal from there.

A 3-4-3 configuration
A 3-4-3 configuration

On the arrival side, I was looking for a flight to any destination and time and again Paris came up cheapest. I think it’s probably because there is a lot of competition on this route leading to greater capacity and lower prices.

I finally nailed down a flight with Saudi Arabian Airlines, an airline I had never heard any first hand reports on. The price was Rp. 3,200,000 or about $320 for a flight from Singapore to Paris with a 4 hour changeover in Riyadh of all places. I thought it was worth a try mainly because of the price and the fact that I’m a cheaparse.

The check in process was interesting. There wasn’t a long line when we arrived and we were promptly served by a lady who showed no expression which is nothing new if you’ve ever flown QANTAS. She asked for our documents and proceeded to check us in. When she saw Susan’s dress, she indicated that it wasn’t acceptable and that she would have to cover up meaning putting on some jeans and a shirt that covers the upper arms. That’s a little bit inconvenient but not unexpected. Just be prepared to wear more conservative clothing on Saudi Arabian Airlines.

The next issue we had was with Susan’s visa. She had the correct visa, but their computer system said it wasn’t technically correct and we spent a good 15 minutes providing more and more documents relating to our trip through Europe to prove that Susan was legit. At one point, I honestly thought we weren’t going to be able to board! Luckily they sorted it out and handed us our boarding passes.

The greeting on the aeroplane wasn’t good. One lady was checking boarding passes and was pleasant, but the lady on the far aisle was leaning against some panelling with her arms folded telling people which way to go. It was a pretty crappy first impression.

When we got to our seat, we discovered that the plane was half empty so I asked if we could move. The stewardess just told us to sit anywhere we wanted! Then when another guy came down, she told him the same thing so that in the end no one was in their assigned seats and people were sprawled out all over the place. The guy in front of us was on his own in a 3 seater and was already laying across the seats asleep with eye mask on and blanket covering him BEFORE we took off. No need for a seatbelt on takeoff — he was fast asleep as we roared down the runway!

Before takeoff it was a circus. Right up until the point we were catapulting down the main runway, almost half of the passengers on the plane were walking around the place searching for better seats and rearranging luggage. Staff just didn’t care. I wasn’t upset by this — I thought it was funny!

Food on Saudi Arabian Airlines
Food on Saudi Arabian Airlines

The seats on the the 777-200 plane were reasonably comfortable and had enough room for my legs to easily fit in which isn’t really the case on most low cost carriers. The entertainment system was a little old school, but still had a reasonable selection of movies.

Food on board was OK. Of course, no alcohol is served and when the woman behind us asked for a lemonade, the stewardess said that they didn’t have any. They did have some, but perhaps it was just a miscommunication. One interesting point was that they seemingly ran out of beef and one of the stewards was trying to foist the chicken onto me. I asked the stewardess if there was any beef left (they’d been telling the big group in the middle that it was finished) and she said “he wants beef” and walked off and got me a beef. It seemed like they just were sick of the Malaysian group beside us — probably because of language issues but who knows? The Malaysians didn’t seem like experienced travellers and accounted for a good portion of the milling around at the start of the journey.

The service from start to finish was odd. If you were grumpy, you’d call it unprofessional, amateurish and perhaps even ridiculous! But because I’m not grumpy, I prefer to take a lighthearted view of the service. I found it to be comical, pleasant and very flexible!

Overall it was a decent flight. Certainly better than Air Asia X and worse than Emirates but an absolute bargain at $320, I just can’t understand why they couldn’t fill the plan at those prices… anyway, I’d be happy to fly them again if there was a cheap fare. Saudi Arabian Airlines all the way!