Thursday, January 11, 2018

Air Canada vs All Nippon: Business Class on the B787 Dreamliner

On a recent premier economy trip from Vancouver to Singapore in August 2017, I had a lucky and rather unusual break of getting the return legs in business class, almost at the same fare as premier economy. This is a summary of my experience in the business class of both airlines.

The All Nippon flight was between Singapore and Tokyo and it was a shorter overnight flight of about 7 hours. Check in was efficient as expected and I was whisked into an exclusive area to clear security and customs. While waiting for my flight I was allowed to use the outstanding Singapore Airlines Business Class lounge, known as the SilverKris Lounge, with probably the lagest and best food selection the at I have ever seen in a lounge.

Perhaps because it was a shorter flight, the business class in this Dreamliner was unfortunately in a ‘domestic’ 2-2-2 layout, as opposed to a more modern and convenient staggered configuration. There was a solid separator between the two seats, which provided some privacy, but the window passenger still had to climb over the legs of the aisle passenger or had to ask him to get up from his seat.

The meal was slightly disappointing, with some tasty Japanese options, but it felt a bit rushed, with everything served at once.

The seat converted into a flat bed and it was comfortable. The crew was attentive and the service generally good.

The second leg was on Air Canada’s Dreamliner between Tokyo and Vancouver. In Tokyo I could choose between different lounges, due to my business ticket and my Miles and More status, but the United lounge turned out to be pretty good.

While Air Canada have had some issues over many years with surly service, old planes and something to be avoided if you could, I was pleasantly surprised for the third time over the past year by how much they have improved the quality of international business and premier economy class, and even economy.

The service was friendly and efficient, and the crew addressed all business passengers by their last names when taking food and drink orders. The food and wine on offer were good and the entertainment system with its large 46 cm touch-screens offered hundreds of movies. 

The cabin was laid out in a staggered fashion, with each of the four seats across having access to an aisle, the middle two seats completely separated and with each seat in its own private cubicle.

Comparing the flights, I can say without hesitation that Air Canada’s business class was considerably better that that of All Nippon. 

While there is huge room for improvement on AC's domestic flights and with the service levels at the check-in counters at Canadian airports, Air Canada has achieved great strides in improving its offering on international routes, especially in business class, over the past few years.  


Thursday, December 28, 2017

End of the road for the Airbus A380?

The Airbus A380 may be coming to the end of its production line, according to reports. Airbus is waiting for a key order from the largest user of this aircraft type, Emirates, but if this is not forthcoming, it would probably terminate production within four or five years.  

Even with oil prices still at historically low levels, most airlines are switching to smaller twin engine jets like the Airbus 350, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787, which tend to be easier to fill and cheaper to maintain. Only 13 airlines are using the A380 worldwide, and no North American airline. 

To the great disappointment of hundreds of millions of passengers who enjoy the spaciousness, quiet cabin and grace of the A380, it might soon follow its direct competitor, the Boeing 747, into retirement. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The changing face of international air travel

BA's transatlantic services/capacity this winter has increased by 1%, compared to Norwegian's  111% and WOW Air's 31%. At this rate, the older established airlines will rapidly have to adapt to the new, low-cost, no frills international model or go out of business. Or have  Emirates, Etihad, Ethiopian and others found a third way?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The world's best airlines 2017

Qatar Airways has been voted the best airline at the annual World Airline Awards. This is despite of its overflying difficulties brought about by sanctions imposed on Qatar by several of its Middle Eastern neighbours. 

Singapore is 2nd, All Nippon 3rd, Emirates 4th and Cathay 5th.

Lufthansa is the only European airline among the top ten. 

 Not surprisingly, Air Canada does not feature among the top 20, although it was voted the best 

North American Airline, and no American airline made it either to the top 20. 

From 'down under', Qantas came in at 15th and Air New Zealand at 19th. 

Africa's best airline is Ethiopian, ranked 46th in the world. 

Read more at:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Lufthansa Business Class

Route: Frankfurt to Vancouver
Class: Business (upgrade)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Flight time: 10 hours
When: 1 Nov 2016
Verdict: A good business class, efficient and friendly service, nice cabin, food spartan but adequate.

The trip commenced in the Business Lounge in Frankfurt, with an assortment of
meatballs, mushroom soup and good Austrian white- and Italian red wine. Being in transit, I even had time for a shower and to send off some emails before boarding.

The shower rooms were managed by a rather stern female staff member who insisted on minute details of my flight numbers, name, departure time, time of entering the cubicle and much more. The strangest part of the shower was that it switches off every 10 or 15 seconds - my guess is the genius who designed this unique and most absurd water-saving measure never had to use it him/herself. In addition, shower users are not allowed to sit on the little bench inside the shower room, just in case they are hoping to sit down while putting on socks, shoes and tying shoelaces.

Arriving at the gate, we were held up for another 45 minutes due to the late arrival of our aircraft and had to wait inside a very crammed waiting area. I refused to enter this overcrowded circus, together with a few other wary passengers. We soon realized that it was much more convenient to wander around the terminal, go for a Starbucks coffee or browse the bookstore, than to fight with another 350 passengers for air and space in an overcrowded boarding area. This did not discourage the very persistent gate personnel from trying to entice us to enter the boarding area, using evil looks and often-repeated threats/announcements - something along the lines of "meinen damen und herren, ze plane will depart without you". I ignored them of course, and walked through the boarding gates when they finally began the boarding process.   

Champagne was served before take-off and lunch was adequate, but nothing more. Starters consisted of Venision, prawn and Mozzarella salads. I ordered the red "Austrian Blaufrankisch Hochberg Weingut Juliana Wieder", probably the longest name that I ever saw on a wine label. But it was really good, considering the vines were 25 years old and spent plenty of time in traditional oak casks. I decided upon the Salmon for my main course, but after I had a brief whiff of my neighbour's aromatic, roasted goose, I changed my selection and this was promptly agreed to by the air hostess.

The aroma was better than the actual meal, insofar it was dry and tough. That was followed by a cheese platter, Port and coffee. We were offered a light snack before landing, together with some wine.  

I normally sleep poorly on planes, but I must admit that once my seat was transformed into an almost 2-m-long, fully flat bed, I had no problem falling asleep for an hour or two, in between watching a few movies. The seat adjusted relatively easily once you got the hang of it. Strangely, there are never any readily available instructions on how operate these rather complex seats or how to lift out the tricky seat table.

The business class cabin on the main deck is configured in a 2-2 layout in the front
half, while in the back half it is a 2-3-2 layout. Lufthansa's unfortunate decision to add a third seat in the middle row, has the potential to cause great discomfort for the poor unsuspecting middle passenger, considering he/she paid a business class fare.

The business seats have large TV screens with a limited selection of movies in English. The movie selection hardly changed within one month, even between the business and premier economy class selecion.

Lufthansa's business class was voted 10th best in the world in 2016 in the Skytrax World Airline Awards, with Qatar being at number one. Lufthansa was beaten by Air France (9th), but it edged out British Airways. To be frank, having flown BA, Air France, Lufthansa and Ethiopian business classes over the past few years (mostly through free upgrades), I would vote for Ethiopian as top choice among these four, as long as it is not on their very outdated Boeing 767s.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The 2016 Skytrax World Airline Awards

Skytrax has released its 2016 World Airline Awards, with Emirates voted as the best overall airline by airline customers.

Four Middle-Eastern airlines, Emirates, Qatar, Etihad and Turkish are among the top 10, as well as four Asian airlines. Only one European airline, Lufthansa, made the top 10, but no North American airlines. 

Second after Emirates came Qatar, followed by Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, ANA, Etihad, Turkish, EVA, Qantas and Lufthansa. 

 Skytrax World Airline Awards serves as a global benchmark of airline excellence.