A Look Inside Thai Airway’s New A350

It’s no doubt aircraft deliveries are a very exciting time for both airlines and their customers. Thai Airways today received their first A350 and wow, it looks fantastic!

Thai Airways A350 (image: Clément Alloing)

Thai Airways A350 (image: Clément Alloing)

The first destination for their A350 is Melbourne which is set to start September 16th. The aircraft got delivered today and will operate some domestic flights as training and testing for crews. It is expected that the aircraft will operate some Hong Kong, Chiang Mai and Singapore flights during this period.

Thai have fitted their newer version of their 777-300ER ‘Royal Silk’ business class seats on the A350 as well as a very similar economy product.

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Thai A350 Business Class (thedesignair.com)


Thai Airways Newer Business Class (image: flight-report.com)

Thai Airways Newer Business Class (image: flight-report.com)

The airline has kept their economy in a 3-3-3 configuration which has made a lot of people relieved as a lot more airlines are increasing to 3-4-3 which is very tight.

The A350’s economy is also very identical to their 777 economy product.

Thai Airways A350 Economy Seat (image: thedesignair.com)

Thai Airways A350 Economy Seat (image: thedesignair.com)

The photo’s below are from Thai’s Facebook page: (I apologise for the quality)

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Bottom Line

Thai’s A350 looks brilliant, both inside and out. I’m hoping to be able to try this product out soon as well as their first class.

Review – Ambassador Transit Hotel Changi Airport

I’m currently finalising my reviews of the flights to and from Singapore however; the photos are playing up so this will be the first of 4 posts regarding my trip to Singapore.

I flew to Singapore on British Airways 16 which fully exceeded my expectations! Anyway, the flight arrived at around 9:00 local time and my flight back to Melbourne departed at 7:45 so I had about 10 or so hours transit.

I had heard about transit hotels in Changi airport and decided to look into it. Amazingly they didn’t have a check-in age which worked in my favour. As soon as I arrived into Singapore, I quickly went from T1 to T3 to hopefully be able to secure a room for the night.

I arrived and found they had a double room available, so I took it. The Ambassador hotel charges $90 SGD per 6 hours. I only chose 6 hours as I could go to the lounge to work.

Ambassador Hotel Entry

Ambassador Hotel Entry

The Hotel is located directly next to the cinema and Ambassador lounge.

Reception

Reception

The reception area looks fresh and open. The staff were very friendly and checked me in quickly and professionally. The hotel accepts credit cards, debit cards and cash.

Seating Area

Seating Area

Seating Area

Seating Area

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Hallway

Hallway

The beds were actually not bad, I was pleasantly surprised and got about 5 hours of sleep.

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What surprised me was that the room had a TV and even coffee and tea facilities.

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The room also had an ensuite bathroom and shower. The water pressure was quite good as well!

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Shower Amenities

Shower Amenities

Shower

Shower

Summary

I was extremely happy when I was allowed to check-in. I would definitely recommend the hotel if you have a significant layover or transit. The only complaint was the lack of wi-fi, but I used the lounge for that anyway.

How To – Upgrade On Virgin Australia

Many years ago upgrades were incredibly easy to get, especially if you had status. However, as we’ve seen the past few years upgrades are getting more and difficult to get for ‘free’ but airlines are making them easier to get for a fee.

Most people will be aware of upgrading with points, and that’s pretty easy to understand, but many airlines are now using Bid upgrades. This means people without points or people not wanting to use them can upgrade easily.

This post will be an in-depth tutorial of how to upgrade on all Virgin Australia flights.

Reward seats = Upgrades (most of the time)

Domestic

It’s no secret that getting an upgrade on a domestic flight is so much easier than an international flight. Luckily Virgin are very generous with upgrading options.

UpgradeMe Points

Virgin Australia allows anybody to upgrade on their domestic flights no matter which fare is purchased or status you hold.

Virgin have a handy table which show’s you the points required for each sector. You can use the Mileage Calculator to find the distance of your flight.

Screenshot 2016-08-25 17.43.11

Virgin sorts upgrades by first in best dressed for domestic services. If you’d like to know what your chances of an upgrade are, I’d heavily advise getting a subscription to  Expertflyer.com. This program allows you to view the flight loads in all classes and show seating assignment which is extremely helpful.

As the image shows below these are flight’s going from Brisbane to Sydney next week. The numbers and letters may look confusing . However, they are very easy to understand.

Expertflyer Example

Expertflyer Example

The two letter codes at the start  J7 is an advanced way of saying J = Business Class 7 = 7 Business Class seats available. Keep in mind there are only 8 seats in Virgin’s business class cabin on their 737, so you have a very high chance of getting an upgrade. I’ll be writing a full post on how to read fare codes and buckets.

Another way to find if a seat is available if to search for “Reward seats.”

Points upgrades can be requested by:

  • Platinum members
  • Gold members
  • Silver members
  • Red members

A few things to not with points upgrades are:

  • Upgrades are instant if there’s seat free
  • Your earn rate will stay at the same level depending on the fare you bought

The upgrade can be requested as soon as you make the booking or in the lounge (if you have a membership – only applies to red and silver members)

UpgradeME Premium Bid

Many airlines are now introducing the upgrade bidding system to their frequent flyer program. Singapore Airlines is the latest to launch it.

Making an upgrade is incredibly straightforward and painless.

All you do is go to Manage booking and you’ll see the Upgrade Options tab.

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You’ll be redirected to a page that looks like this:

On this page, you’ll be able to offer how much you’re prepared to pay for the upgrade. My strategy is first to look at the aircraft loads and determine how full it is. If it’s J8 or J3 at the lowest, I’ll bid a minimum amount. If it’s showing J3 or J1 I’ll bid in the mid range or decide if I really need the upgrade or not.

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After you submit your request you’ll receive an email explaining your upgrade has been received and they will email you a few days before departure letting you know if the upgrades confirmed or denied.

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If you get that glorious email it will look just like this:

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Key points:

  • Anyone can bid for upgrades
  • You won’t earn extra points and status credits

Short Haul International 

Now and then it’s nice to have a break and a lot of Australian’s choose to travel to islands in the Pacific. Virgin Australia has a fantastic route map and destinations like Fiji, Port Vila, Auckland and much more.

You can use both points and bid upgrades, and Platinum members are now allowed to use their four complimentary upgrades for short-haul international flights.

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The same rules apply for international flights as they did for domestic flights. The only change is you have to be booked on a Flexible ticket, and you cannot use the lounge for upgrades as Virgin Australia use Air New Zealand lounges for their short-haul international flights.

Key points:

  • Upgrades will cost more in $$ and points
  • There isn’t as much selection with flights so be prepared to maybe not get the upgrade if you did a small price
  •  Must be booked on a Flexi ticket

Long Haul International

Long haul international is without a doubt the hardest type of flight to get upgrades; however, there are ways of making them easier to get. The process of getting an upgrade on a long haul flight are entirely different to domestic and short-haul international.

Virgin Australia only operates two long haul destinations. Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi both on 777 aircraft.

Points upgrade table:

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Points and Bid upgrades are exclusive to Gold and Platinum members for long haul flights.

Gold and Platinum members can upgrade to Business class from a flexible economy, saver premium or premium economy ticket with points. The table above shows the rates.

Gold and Platinum members can bid for an upgrade from a Flexible economy or premium economy ticket.

Both options are subject to Reward Seat availability, and luckily Virgin is very consistent releasing these seats (last-minute) To find reward seats this post will be very helpful: Virgin Australia Long Haul Reward Seat Trends.

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This would be much more comfortable right?

This would be much more comfortable right?

Pay to upgrade at the airport

This concept is quite new and not well-known. When booked on a flexible economy seat you can ask the check in staff to pay an upgrade. These upgrades are only available for one sector flights like SYD-LAX, they cannot be done for something like BNE-SYD-LAX.

The price is $1499 each way.

An excellent way to see if seats are available is to use expertflyer.com

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Summary

Hopefully, these tips and tricks enable you to enjoy a business class upgrade. Warning: once you fly business, you won’t want to fly Economy ever again 😉

American Express Release The “Explorer” Credit Card

American Express has today announced a new card and wow the card looks fantastic! I’ve already applied for the card so will be able to give a full overview very soon.

First of all, this is what the new card looks like. A blue carbon fibre version of the Centurion Card, well kind of 😉

American Express Explorer Card

American Express Explorer Card

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The first thing to point out is the card is a Credit Card NOT a Charge CardThe difference between the two is very significant.

The second thing to note is the annual fee is $395 which is quite slow considering the benefits which come with this card.

Let’s look at the benefits of the card:

The benefits of the card are excellent for the annual fee of $395. 100,000 points and the $400 annual travel credit are the better ones out of the benefits.

Once I get the card, I’ll be able to put a referral link on the blog, so you’ll get even more points for signing up for the card.

This card is part of Membership Rewards which is Amex’s points currency. At this stage, there isn’t the ability to transfer MR’s to hotel programs such as SPG or Hilton, but that may come soon.

The airlines you can transfer to are:

  • Asia Miles
    Emirates Skywards
    Etihad Guest
    Malaysian Airlines Enrich
    Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
    THAI Royal Orchid Plus
    Velocity Frequent Flyer
    Air New Zealand Airpoints

Like I said the $400 annual travel credit is a fantastic addition to this card as it can be used for ANY type of travel spend.

Another cool feature is you can access the American Express lounge is Sydney twice. The lounge is very quiet and quite nice for a small lounge.

The only thing I thought that would be amazing for this card is the ability to use American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts. FHR is exclusively for the Platinum charge card.

Without a doubt, one of my favourite features on some Amex cards is Purchase protection. That means if you buy something with the card, and it gets lost, stolen or broken Amex are very likely to refund your purchase which is a fantastic feature, especially for travel.

As always the age limit to sign up for the card is 18 and over.

The personal gross for this card is $65,000 isn’t impossible for most.

Summary

I’ve already signed up for the card (for my parents), and I’m excited to use the card. I believe the benefits definitely out way the annual fee and this would be a great alternative for the Platinum Charge.

Air New Zealand Set To Retire Their Last 767 From March 2017

Today Air New Zealand has put forward the dates for the final revenue flight of their 767 aircraft. The 230 seat aircraft will be replaced with the airline’s current 777-200 and 300ER fleet, as well as some A320’s on shorter routes.

Air New Zealand 767

Air New Zealand 767

Information provided by routesonline.com

Air New Zealand in today’s schedule update (23AUG16) has tentatively filed planned last Boeing 767 scheduled service, currently scheduled on 31MAR17. The Star Alliance member on 31MAR17 plans to operate Boeing 767 on Auckland – Sydney route, with NZ108 from Sydney penned as the last scheduled 767 flight.

NZ101 AKL0700 – 0835SYD 763
NZ105 AKL1605 – 1740SYD 763

NZ102 SYD0945 – 1455AKL 763
NZ108 SYD1850 – 2359AKL 763

NZ108 SYD-AKL 31/03/17 is the final revenue flight of the 767 for Air New Zealand. However this is subject to change.

Air New Zealand 767 Landing Into Brisbane

Air New Zealand 767 Landing Into Brisbane

This however is a big upgrade for business class passengers as the 767 featured recliner style seating unlike the 777 fleet which features full flat herringbone seats.

Air New Zealand 767 Business Class (image: www.sqtalk.com)

Air New Zealand 767 Business Class (image: http://www.sqtalk.com)

Summary

I’ve been lucky to be part of a final flight and it’s a lot of fun and I will be on this flight for sure. It’s sad to see this aircraft leave as a lot of aircraft enthusiasts love the 767.

 

Get Avianca Gold/Star Alliance Gold Status In Minutes, Yes It’s Possible!

For some airlines status is extremely exclusive and they only give specific benefits to top-tier elite members like Air France releasing first class awards, on the other hand there are airlines that don’t really care too much about exclusivity and how many members are in the program.

Avianca Lifemiles is an absolutely brilliant program, especially for redemption tickets. One unique aspect of their program that is very interesting is their ability to sell status. Yes, sell status pretty cool right?

Some airlines will sometimes offer a status match or challenge but the ability to buy status without flying is pretty unique.

The link for the page is here: Buy Star Alliance Status

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As you can see from the picture above Avianca will sell either Silver status equalling Star Alliance Silver or Gold status equalling Star Alliance Gold.

Prices for status in AUD: (As of August 19)

Silver: $1706.60

Gold: $3150.64

Conditions

Conditions

Benefits:

Star Alliance Silver Benefits

Star Alliance Silver Benefits

As you can see Star Alliance silver has minimal benefits. I would definitely choose the gold status.

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Star Alliance Gold Status

 

Star Alliance Member Airlines

Star Alliance Member Airlines

Summary

This is a fantastic way to get star alliance status very quickly. This is a great way for time limited travellers who don’t want to do a mileage run but just want the benefits right away.