Qatar Airways A350-1000 Delivery Flight Experience

The day had been looming since mid-2007. At some point in the future, the first ever Airbus A350-1000 aircraft would leave Toulouse. It wasn’t until 2012, however, that it became clear where this flight would depart to. On December 3rd, Qatar and Airbus announced that the original order of 20 Airbus A350-800 aircraft was to be converted into three -900 variants and 17 -1000s. From that moment on, the clock was ticking.

The original plan was to deliver the aircraft towards the end of 2017 but due to the ‘unbelievably high standards’ of CEO Akbar Al Baker, the fitting of ‘Q Suites’ (Qatar’s new state of the art business class) on the aircraft delayed the delivery further. On January 22nd, it was rumoured by Reuters that the delivery would take place towards the end of February. They were correct.

Once I knew that I would be onboard the ferry flight to Doha and the surrounding celebrations, I was overcome with excitement. This was to be my very first delivery flight and I couldn’t wait to work alongside Qatar Airways for the first time, too.

On Tuesday 20th February, I flew out to the Airbus factory in Toulouse where I was met by an Airbus chauffeur who shuttled me straight to a press conference hosted by Qatar and Airbus. It was here that Al Baker announced that they are considering converting some of the -900 orders to the larger -1000 so as to receive even more of the larger variant. The conference was also special as it was Fabrice Brégier’s last day as Airbus President.

The press conference was hosted by Airbus, Qatar and Rolls Royce

So What Makes the -1000 Different?

In basic terms, the A350-1000 is a bigger version of the -900 model. It features a larger cabin and new Trent XWB 97 engines. The engine differs from the XWB 84 model in that it delivers an extra 13,000lb of thrust to carry the bigger jet. The engines are made by Airbus’ trusted partner Rolls Royce.  The major difference, however, is that the -1000 jets are all fitted with the new Q Suite product, unlike the old -900s. This is, however, about to change as Al Baker announced that all future aircraft deliveries apart from the 787s will be Q Suite fitted. The 787 will also feature an upgraded product, he announced. He also confirmed that First class will stay on the A380 but not feature on any other aircraft.

The Trent 97 is HUGE

Tuesday:

After landing in Toulouse and attending the press conference, we were whisked off to the Airbus Delivery Centre where we visited A7-ANA, the first ever A350-1000 aircraft to be delivered to an airline. My first impressions of the aircraft were positive. As we walked around the jet you could sense it was new by the way that everything was as clean as a whistle. The aircraft really was beautiful. As we entered the plane I was hit with a strong smell: new aircraft. If you have ever had a chance to smell an aircraft which is just months old then you will know what I’m talking about! If not, I’m not crazy, don’t worry.

Ultimate cleanliness for the tour

The visit on Tuesday was a really great chance to check out how the product looked so here is my review of both cabins:

Business Class Q Suite

In Tuesday’s press conference, Al Baker and Brégier both pressed the point of how revolutionary the Q Suite was. When I got on board, I finally knew what they were talking about. The Q Suite has a fantastic look to it and is a massive upgrade from the old business class product. The suites feature full privacy with sliding doors, bigger TV screens, hi-tech electronic blinds and are pretty damn comfy, too.

The revolutionary Q Suite product

The Q Suite layout is designed in such a way that a double bed can be made out of the two middle suits if travelling with a partner and a small meeting room can also be made. By lowering the middle blinds, four people can join tables to make a large one in the middle. By keeping the blinds on the sides up, a fully private meeting room is created. Genius.

The dividers are moved on request to create the conditions you want

The idea behind the Q Suite truly is revolutionary and it requires you to see it in person to really appreciate it. The Q Suite covers rows 1 to 12 and the configuration is 1-2-1.

Economy Class

The economy class on the A350 also really impressed me. With no premium economy product, the two economy cabins have the task of impressing those who normally would choose premium. In a typical 3-3-3 configuration, the seats are slimline and modern.

A standard 3-3-3 configuration. Very spacious feel.

The seat pitch felt sufficient when I tried it (albeit mid-flight for about 5 minutes) and width was more than acceptable. Because of the slimline seats and clean feel to the aircraft, the cabin felt really spacious which I liked. The economy class fills up the rear two cabins. As someone who has flown a lot of premium economy, I thought the cabin felt fantastic and is on par with many of the premiums I have flown.

Great look to the cabin too!

Once our tour was over, we headed back to the hotel and prepared to finish our evening in quite some manner. We were all brought back to the Delivery Centre where we were offered champagne and little snacks that made me feel as pompous as ever (they did taste incredible though…) before entering into the dining hall for a wonderful dinner and unbelievable light show.

Gatecrashing the big boys at the Gala!

The aircraft was revealed in a spectacular performance of strobe lighting and then the drama came inside as projectors lit up our tables in incredible fashion. It was truly spectacular.

The stunning light show blew my mind!

Delivery Flight:

Having been out the night before at the Gala it was incredibly hard getting up at 4.00am to head back to the Delivery Centre. So hard, in fact, that I didn’t do it. After waking up half an hour late I dashed outside, got a taxi and paid an extortionate fee to arrive for check-in. The irony was, however, that my taxi driver drove so fast that I actually arrived earlier than everyone else!

The Delivery Centre has its own little check in area with two desks. We all queued in excitement, got our boarding passes and seats then ventured upstairs to where we had attended the Gala party just five hours previously.

Check in queues!

Laid out for us was a very spectacular spread of pastries and nibbles with small bar areas to get coffees and juices. A really professional looking layout, I thought.

Some small snacks for us!

Once we had eaten I went through the small security lines and boarded my first ever delivery flight! Exciting right? The atmosphere was fantastic; a good mix of journalists and excited young bloggers meant that wherever you were on the plane you had a wide variety of people to chat with and share your enthusiasm.

My seat for the 7-hour ferry flight was 6J, a window seat in the larger front cabin. The crew were amazing in showing me around. They began by offering me a drink, hot towel and asking about my food preferences before showing me around my seat and telling me all about the features of the Q Suite.

Going non-alcoholic lasted for an impressive one drink

What an impressive suite! One of my favourite features was the little area between my seat and the window. If you pull the tab it reveals a storage area but when down can be used as a table for your camera or bag. At one point it even became a seat for James until I kicked him out! With that said, the table area in front is already extremely impressive. With a little shelf below the actual table it provides plenty of storage space. Be sure to clear it before takeoff though or everything will fly off and hit you!

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We pushed back and departed Toulouse at around 9am so as to arrive in Doha in daylight for the press. Departing at 9am meant breakfast was served pretty much straight after takeoff. I opted for the ‘platter of seasonal cut fruits’ as a starter and the ‘cheddar cheese omelette with sausages’ for my main. The meal was really beautifully presented by the wonderful crew but took about 30 minutes to arrive! As this wasn’t an ordinary flight, however, I didn’t mind as I was up wondering the aircraft anyway.

Breakfast is served!

While walking around chatting to everyone it was amazing to see just how enthusiastic the Airbus and Qatar staff were. It was really nice to see just how confident they were in this new jet. As we neared the end, we were lucky enough to step inside the flight deck. This moment is one that I had wanted to do ever since I was a young child and it didn’t disappoint. Sitting in the flight deck at 41,000ft was amazing and I can’t thank Captain Konstantinos Iliakis enough for allowing the visit.

Childhood dream come true

My final meal came from the snack platter menu specially devised for this flight. It was a selection of meat, fish, vegetables and tasted even better than it looked.

A final meal. Excellent. I took the photo after greedily eating one piece of chicken. Oops.

As we descended into Doha we did something I have never done before. We descended to 1000ft and circled Corniche to show off the new plane! The views from the inside were spectacular. After Corniche we cruised towards Hamad airport where we performed a fly-by. Just as we neared the end of the runway, the captain applied full throttle and we powered out on another loop. It felt incredible from the inside.

The fly-by was spectacular

Upon touchdown in Doha we were met by the world’s media and airport staff. It was an amazing feeling to be part of the media team actually onboard the aircraft.

This flight was very special to me as it was my first ever delivery flight. I had an absolutely amazing time onboard the flight thanks to the amazing company and fantastic crew. I want to make a special mention to Daryn from the Philippines who treated me so nicely onboard. I will remember her for a very long time for sure!

I’d by lying if I said this shot was easily planned…

The A350 really is a remarkable aircraft. With the -1000 variant under their belt, Qatar are in a very strong position. The revolutionary Q Suite is a state of the art product that people will, undoubtedly, start to choose over other outdated business class products. Mix this with the fuel efficiency of operating the A350-1000 and I can see Qatar Airways increasing their dominant hold over luxury air travel in the future. Well done and thank you Qatar Airways.

 

Thank you for reading! Feel free to subscribe below for more awesome content!

Be sure to check out some of my friends websites who were also on this trip!

Josh Cahil – gotravelyourway.com

Stefan Unterwegs – globaltraveler.tv

Brian Kelly and Zach Honig – thepointsguy.com

Sam Chui – samchui.com

 

Hainan to Expand UK Network with a UK-DUB Route in Development

The privately owned Hainan Airlines who are currently China’s fourth biggest carrier have announced plans to expand their UK Network.

The news comes after Britain and China signed a deal to increase flights between the two countires by 50% to 150 per week. The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling said that the the agreement will support a rise in routes from regional airports.

Hainan’s ultra-modern business class! Looks amazing.

The route application Hainan have put to the UK government includes three new routes, all of which are currently unserved. They are as follows:

1.  Changsha – London on a three times weekly service starting in March 2018

2. Beijing – Edinburgh – Dublin / Beijing – Dublin – Edinburgh on a twice weekly service starting in June 2018

3.  Guangzhou – Manchester on a three times weekly service from December 2018

Hainan currently serve England on only one route: Beijing to Manchester. The route is operated by the airlines A330 aircraft and is reported to be worth £250 million in economic benefits to the UK over the next decade.

The Chinese market has been hotting up over the recent years with eight airlines currently operating direct routes to China, three to Hong Kong and one to Taipei.

While Hainan will be the only airline operating the above routes, they face heavy competition on all Chinese routes from major competitors such as Air China (who I will be reviewing this summer), British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, China Eastern, Capital Airlines, Tianjin Airlines and China Southern (who I will also be reviewing on several aircraft this summer).

Hainan’s economy product on the A330

If these routes are accepted, it will result in Hainan operating an Edinburgh – Dublin route with, hopefully, a Boeing 787 aircraft. This will undoubtedly pull aviation fanatics from all over the UK and Ireland in! With taxes in Ireland being as low as they are, you could be flying the 787 for a real bargain.

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January Delivery Report: A Slow Month All Round

At the end of my December delivery report I made a joke which went along the lines of: “Will Airbus and Boeing workers be slow under the extra weight of Christmas pudding?”.

When rounding up this month’s deliveries I was surprised to say that I think they might have done! January saw three A350 deliveries compared to eight in December, eight 787s compared to 12 in December and five 737 MAXs compared to 20. What happened?

So let’s kick off the month in Seattle on the production line of the B737MAX. The first MAX delivery went to Aerolineas Argentina as they received LV-HKU. Three other airlines made the headlines as they received their first MAX variant. These were TUI (OO-MAX), SmartWings (OK-SWA) and Oman Air (A4O-MA).

pic: TUI

Airbus rivaled this very slowly as they delivered only three A320NEO variants. These went to Thai AirAsia, AZUL and SAS Ireland who operate as a subsidiary company to SAS with Irish registered aircraft.

Air Asia’s first NEO seems like a long time ago now!

The slow month in Toulouse wasn’t just for the NEO. Airbus rolled out only three A350s in January, too. These went to China Airlines, Lufthansa and Thai (who I will be trying this summer!)

Thai’s A350 economy class. Voted the world’s best!

The 787, however, did have a good month. Boeing took a lead in the 787 vs 350 race as they delivered eight Dreamliners to seven airlines.

United took the lead with two while Air Canada, Aeromexico, Norwegian, Qantas and KLM all received one. In addition to this, Virgin Atlantic took delivery of their first Dreamliner since March 2017 as they received G-VWOO.

Photo: Virgin

The B777 production line churned out three 777s to two new airlines this month. Swiss took delivery of HB-JNI while Air India received both VT-ALV and VT-ALW.

Photo: TPG

The A330 was arguably Airbus’ best performing model of the month. The European manufacturer delivered five aircraft to four airlines. Avianca took home two while Biman Bangladesh, Shenzhen Airlines  and China Eastern all settled for one.

No A380s were delivered in January.

Airbus production line by Airbus

On another note, EasyJet acquired three British Aerospace 146-200 aircraft. While these aircraft are by no means new aircraft it is interesting to see their long histories. D-AWBA, D-AWUE and D-AMGL joined EasyJet’s fleet January 10th and are being leased from WDL Aviation. The aircraft are being used to fill the void left by Air Berlin. The oldest (D-AWUE) has been flying since February 1986!

Looks strange right!

That is all from me this month! I’ll be back next month to see if Boeing and Airbus bounce back from their slow starts to the year!

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Norwegian to Add Hong Kong to its Long-Haul Network

According to the Norwegian Facebook page, Norwegian Air will be adding Hong Kong to its rapidly expanding network.

Norwegian’s 787-9 taxiing at Gatwick.

A comment on the airline’s Facebook page asked whether they were planning to expand further into Asia to which Norwegian replied:

“That would be great…actually Hong Kong is about to come…”

It remains unclear exactly when the new route will begin as when we contacted Norwegian for confirmation a spokesperson said:

“As an ambitious airline with a large aircraft order, we’ve made no secret of our plans to expand our long-haul network and deliver affordable fares to other parts of the world, including Asia. However, we have no immediate plans to serve Hong Kong”.

Norwegian already operates to two Asian hubs in Singapore and Bangkok with Singapore only recently taking flight.

If the new route is operated out of London Gatwick then it will, undoubtedly, be using a Boeing 787-9 aircraft. The aircraft is standard for Norwegian’s long-haul network out of London and is fitted in a two class configuration.

The Premium Cabin – with 35 Haeco 3050 seats

Launching this route would put Norwegian in direct competition with Cathay Pacific which operates the Airbus A350 on the Gatwick-Hong Kong route.

You can read our review of Norwegian’s premium cabin here, a review of their new B737MAX here and their prospects of becoming a ‘Transatlantic game-changer’ here.

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Norwegian Cut Hartford Route. Bad Times Ahead?

Norwegian have, this week, announced that they will be suspending flights to Hartford Bradley (BDL) from Edinburgh (EDI) as of March 25th. The route was BDI’s only connection to the UK and was operated by a Boeing 737 aircraft.

The flight were often operated by this 737MAX

The news comes as no surprise if you look at the Scottish Government’s decision to postpone a reduction in air passenger taxes. Reports had stated that the Scottish Government was to halve air passenger taxes. In a statement, Norwegian said:

“Following Norwegian’s launch of affordable transatlantic routes from the US to Edinburgh last year, the prospect of a reduction in air passenger taxes meant we had been planning for continued future growth to Scotland. However, the postponement of such reduction was therefore deeply disappointing and has led us to reduce capacity to Scotland, including cutting the Hartford service and reducing frequencies from other US airports.”

Norwegian did also make it clear that if the Scottish Government were to rethink their taxes, Norwegian would move to open up more low-cost options as well as rethinking their route suspensions.

I flew the low-cost carrier to SWF last year

In regards to other routes out of EDI, Norwegian will be cutting frequency to both Stewart and Providence with Stewart moving from daily to four times weekly.

The news of these cuts could be seen as signs that transatlantic travel on a 737 aircraft isn’t viable as people will more often than not choose to fly to bigger airports on widebody jets.

What will the future look like for Norwegian? Is this the start of a big fall or just a dip? Join the discussion on social media by using #londonspotter.

 

 

British Airways B787-9 Flight Review

When British Airways announced they would start to operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the Heathrow-Madrid route I booked the inaugural flight for October 29th and couldn’t wait. I was, however, invited to attend the Inaugural JL42 flight to Tokyo which ultimately took priority.

I knew that I wanted to come back and try this route one day so on January 13th I was accompanied by James on BA460 to Madrid onboard G-ZBKN, a Boeing 787-9 model.

James joined me for today’s adventure!

My journey began in a strange way – I was unable to check in online because I had an ‘unmatched E-Ticket’. I, therefore, had to check in at the airport. I was worried that this would mean I was going to be given a poor seat but in actual fact, the flight was pretty empty so I was able to sit where I wanted – the Premium Economy cabin in seat 20K.

The airport wasn’t very busy at all and I was through security in under five minutes. I hadn’t been through normal security for a while at T5 as I had been using ‘Fast Track’ for most of my flights beforehand. I was really impressed with the speed at which we were airside.

Once through security I managed to kill time by having a bite to eat and heading to the Concourse C gates on the transfer train. Flying out of C gates can be very hectic and confusing at Heathrow but I found the procedure easy and care-free this time around. I organised pre-boarding to the aircraft for shots, went for a coffee and before I knew it we were ready to go.

Being such a quiet flight, boarding was organised in a very relaxed manner and we took our seats ready for the flight.

I headed to the back as boarding began.

The Cabin:

British Airways have brought in an updated cabin for the B787-9 aircraft. It differs from the -8 model as it has a First cabin at the front of the aircraft instead of only ‘Club World’ (BA’s long-haul business class). The First cabin has 8 semi-enclosed suites which have been updated from the old First suite. The cabin is laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration and offers 73” of pitch and 22” of width. You can see the difference between old and new below.

 

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The Club section of the aircraft is split into two cabins. The first is a cosier one with only two rows (6 and 7) and the second is a much larger addition covering rows 10 to 13. The Club seats are laid out in the usual formation of alternate staggered seating over a 2-3-2 configuration. Each row has seven seats however, three are facing backwards. Each seat has direct cabin access but seats in the middle of the cabin (E seats) are ones to avoid at all costs. While sitting in this seat I felt a little claustrophobic and closed in which isn’t the feeling you want in business class. Overall the cabin has a really nice feel to it and if you’re flying Club I would definitely recommend getting a seat in the front cabin. The seat offers 72” of pitch (note that is only 1” less than First) and 20” of width.

The second Club cabin. A lot larger.

The next cabin is the Premium Economy cabin or World Traveller Plus as BA call it. The cabin is nicely laid out to feel cosy and at the same time very spacious. The cabin is laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration and covers rows 16-21. The seat to avoid in this cabin is the window seat in row 21 as there is no window. My initial impression of the cabin was good: large seats with a spacious feel. As I sat down it struck me just how good the comfort really was. The 38 inches of legroom is plenty to stretch out your legs and is far better than the Club Europe product BA offer on their short haul fleet.

The Premium economy cabin

The seat recline is the best I have seen on a Premium product which may sound like a positive but I found it to have a negative impact. While most modern Premium Economy products have seat shells protecting the passengers behind when you recline, BA have opted not to install this. Seeing as the recline is so good, you can easily end up with a seat in your face. This is something other premium economies such as Air France and Japan Airlines don’t have. This disappointed me. It is possible to see this from either angle, however. If you need to sleep, the recline really is excellent. The footrest under the seat in front is a fantastic addition to the cabin, too.

Premium economy mid-flight. Very spacious indeed.

The final cabin on the aircraft is the economy cabin or World Traveller. This cabin is configured in a 3-3-3 layout and covers rows 30-43.

The economy cabin feels very big but at the same time very cramped. The 128 seats are crammed in a nine-abreast setup. The legroom offered is 31” which doesn’t seem too bad when compared to other airlines. The cabin did, however, feel tight and no way near as comfortable as the Premium cabin.

Less attractive and less comfortable in my opinion.

We pushed back and departed from runway 09R at 13.30 before banking right and heading through the Bay of Biscay to Madrid Barajas Airport. We began our descent at around 16.20 local time and landed on runway 32L at 16.51. The landing was slightly turbulent but it was a great novelty being able to complete a two-and-a-half-hour flight on a 787.

Mid-cruise – what a view

Service

Being a European flight, BA operated it just as they would an A320. The economy section was offered the usual buy on board products from M&S and Club was given a complimentary meal. The First cabin wasn’t used for this flight as it is only utilised on short haul when the Club cabin is overbooked.

I found the crew to be a mixed bag. A special mention goes out to both Arthur and Declan who were attentive and a great laugh. The cabin manager, on the other hand, came across as rude and easily irritable. This was disappointing and reinforced my opinion of preferring Euro Fleet crew.

Entertainment

One of the major perks of flying the 787 on short haul routes is the ability to use IFE (In-Flight-Entertainment). The screens are the same in both economy and premium economy which, in my honest opinion, was pretty poor. The screens had a decent selection of films, games and music but were poor in quality, slow and had terrible touchscreen responsivity. British Airways haven’t, unfortunately, rolled out WiFi on their 787 fleet so connectivity wasn’t available during the flight.

Premium’s entertainment.

Another major benefit of the Premium cabin is that you get USB plugs in your seat. This can be very handy for keeping you charged during a long flight.

Bonus points to Premium

 

Overall, I had a fantastic time onboard British Airways’ B787 aircraft and was really impressed with both the Club and World Traveller Plus cabins. I was less impressed, however, with the First cabin, which I thought was a nice improvement from the old cabin but still didn’t impress me as a First Class offering, and the economy or World Traveller cabin which was uncomfortable and seemed very cramped. The crew were impressive but the Cabin Manager really let them down with her attitude.

If you’re interested in flying a 787 but can’t afford to fly it long haul then fly to Madrid and experience the Dreamliner in all its glory. A fantastic aircraft and an awesome experience.

Interested in more 787 reviews? Last year we reviewed Norwegian in Premium Class, Air France in Premium Economy and Japan Airlines in Premium Economy and Economy and Virgin Atlantic in Economy!

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December 2017: Delivery Report

Happy New Year from LondonSpotter and welcome to our final delivery report of the year: December 2017.

If you thought Airbus and Boeing would take their foot off the gas for Christmas, you were wrong. December has been another big month in the airline industry so here goes!

Kicking off the month (literally the first delivery of the month) was the most special delivery of them all. On December 1st, LOT Polish received their first B737MAX (SP-LVA) aircraft. The new MAX is up to 14% more efficient than older 737 models and operates the London – Warsaw route. Londonspotter.co.uk’s James was onboard the inaugural flight. You can read about his experience here.

Onboard the inaugural 737MAX LHR-WAW

In fact, LOT received their second MAX (SP-LVB) later in December, too. Another airline to receive the MAX was Air Canada which we also reviewed in our monthly guest review which you can read here. Other airlines were American Airlines (x2), China Eastern (x3) Hainan Airlines, Air China (x2) China Southern (x4), SIlkair, Mauritiana Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Southwest, FlyDubai, Aerolineas Argentina and finally Garuda Indonesia who picked up their first MAX variant. Blimey that’s a long list! Well done Boeing.

The Air Canada MAX by Will Dalton

Airbus rivaled Boeing with their NEO deliveries as they sent out 38 (YES THIRTY-EIGHT) A320 NEO aircraft to 17 carriers. Air Asia received the most (5), followed by Frontier and Air India (4), GoAir, Idigo, Tianjin and Pegasus (3), SAS, AZUL, Avianca (2) and finally Latam, Vistara, Sichuan, Air China, Hong Kong Express, China Western and Thai Air Asia who all added one to their fleet.

Air India A320 NEO by FlightGlobal

Long Haul

The efficiency battle of the B787 and A350 was won by Boeing in December as they churned out a whopping 12 -9 aircraft and not a single -8.

Hainan took the prize for the most 787s with three and American, Oman Air, Qantas, NEOS, AeroMexico, Air China, Norwegian, Etihad and Korean Air all received one.

I love this ultra-modern business class. Must try. Photo by Boeing

Back at Toulouse, Airbus workers sent eight A350s away to seven airlines. Noteworthy deliveries included Malaysian’s second A350 and Delta’s 6th. Other deliveries went to Qatar (x2), Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Asiana and Vietnam Airlines.

Face to Face with efficiency. photo by aviationweek.

And back to Seattle, we’re really clocking up the airmiles here! The 777 had a very positive month. Qatar added four to their fleet, Philippines Airlines took home two and Turkish and Emirates received one.

Sorry, back to France for this bit…

The sole A380 of December was A7-API – Qatar Airways.

A very different business class from Hainan.

And finally, the A330 was delivered to seven airlines. Lucky Air took home their second A330, Thai Lion Air received two, Hainan received three and China Eastern, Saudia, Shenzhen and Iberia all received one.

That’s all from me this month and this year! I’ll be back in January 2018 with your round up of January’s deliveries. Will Airbus and Boeing workers be slow under the extra weight of Christmas pudding? Come back next month to find out!

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Edinburgh to London – By Train and Plane

When travelling from Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow or any other Northern cities to London, it can be difficult to choose what mode of transport to take.

I have travelled between Edinburgh and London several times this year and have used both the train and the plane as well as driving the route on one mad occasion.

Is flying really the best way? Read on to find out.

For the purpose of this article I have chosen a random date (my birthday – February 16th 2018) to compare prices on the journey. All costs will be correct at the time of writing and may be subject to change. I have selected the Shard as the final destination and Edinburgh Waverley Station as the start point. I will not be using London Southend, Stanstead or Luton as London airports. I will be basing the comparisons around British Airways Business Class vs Virgin East Coast 1st Class.

So, here goes!

A little bit about the options:

1. The Plane

British Airways operate a non-stop 23 times daily service between London and Edinburgh using a mixture of A319, 320, 321, Boeing 767 and Embraer aircraft. All of these aircraft are fitted with both an economy and business class cabin. If flying into London for a meeting your quickest route would be to fly to London City. Prices for this route start at £70 one way in economy and £138 in business class. Prices to Gatwick start at £39 in economy and £112 in business. Prices to Heathrow are slightly more expensive at £68 and £150 respectively.

Mid flight with BA

Other airlines to operate this route are FlyBe who’s prices start at £40 one way, thus undercutting BA on the Heathrow route, and EasyJet who operate the Gatwick – Edinburgh route. Their prices start as low as £34 one way.

 

2. The Train

The Edinburgh to London route is operated by Virgin Trains to London Euston and Virgin Trains East Coast to London Kings Cross. Prices on this route start at £40 in standard class and £86 in First Class. Virgin are the only operator on this route. Trains leave Edinburgh two to three times an hour and vary in length. The longest service is the Virgin Trains West Coast service to Euston (5hr 40min) and the quickest is the Virgin East Coast service to Kings Cross which takes 4hr 20min and leaves at half past every hour. This service stops at Newcastle, Doncaster and Leeds.

photo by LeedsList

 

  • Beating the Clock – Flying Takes the Lead.

If you’re travelling on business travel and need to be in London/Edinburgh for a meeting or anything else that requires you to beat the clock then your best bet is to fly. The flight time to London City is meant to be 1hr 30min, however, it rarely exceeds 1hr 15min. Obviously when flying you have to factor in all the other times, too. My times are as follow and are based on a business class flight on BA8713 from EDI to LCY with British Airways.

Flying is unarguably the fastest routing
  • 7.30am leave Edinburgh Waverley Station
  • 8am Arrive at Edinburgh Airport
  • 8.40am Through security and lounge
  • 8.50am Board BA8713
  • 9.10am Pushback and takeoff
  • 10.25am Landing at LCY
  • 10.50am DLR and Jubilee to London Bridge
  • 11.15am Arrive at Shard

TOTAL TIME TAKEN= 3hrs 45min without delays. Could take between 4 and 5 hours.

 

These times come out the fastest in comparison with the train which you can see summarised below:

  • 8.30am Train leaves Edinburgh Waverley
  • 12.50pm Train arrives Kings Cross
  • 1pm Northern Line to London Bridge
  • 1.15pm Arrive at Shard

TOTAL TIME TAKEN= 4hrs 45min without delays. Could take up to 5 hours. Delays less likely than when flying.

So, if you’re in a hurry – fly. The time taken at both EDI and LCY are minimal seeing as they are small airports. If you flew to LGW or LHR then you would have to factor in the train journey into London, too. These could add up to 45minutes to your journey and a hefty cost.

Gatwick to Edinburgh

 

  • I Spy With my Little Eye – Good Views From the Train

When flying from Edinburgh to London you don’t get a chance to take in the beautiful views or get a sense of how much the geography of Britain changes as you move south. I found the train a great experience and especially loved the views between Edinburgh and Durham. If you have the extra time, the train journey is a really fun experience. When travelling towards the South you want to make sure you have a left-hand seat to really appreciate the coastline.

 

  • Comfort – Virgin Trump Again

The most comfort you will get while flying is in the business class cabin on BA where the middle seats are removed for extra space. When sitting at the front of the cabin, comfort is great. The most comfort I have ever had was onboard the B767 in Business Class. If you’re sitting a few rows back, the legroom on all three airlines will disappoint you. Although for a 1hr 15min flight, does it matter?

Front of the cabin legroom on a BA A321

In the 1st Class coaches of Virgin’s East Coast service, the legroom is great and you get a very large table to share with three other passengers. I decided to go for a single seat which had a smaller yet still decent table. The space was good but I had to use the floor for some storage.

Coach M

If you’re not in the front row of the BA Business Class Cabin then comfort is definitely better by rail.

 

  • Service – Too Close to Call

On an early morning flight in BA’s Business Class, your service will start in the lounge. With free juice, booze and food on tap – its not bad at all. The meal on the flight is also good, I usually go for the cooked breakfast and there is always an offer of more. You can read about both my evening and morning business class flights by clicking the links. If flying EasyJet or FlyBE then you’ll have to pay for your meal. In terms of service, it depends on the airline and specific crew. I have had fantastic crew on BA and grumpy crew. If flying the 767 routing, you’ll have EuroFleet crew who always seem to make an extra effort.

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While the train journey is longer, the menu isn’t as good as I’d hoped. The hot meals on offer are beef and chicken however the person next to me got beef and it didn’t look great so I went for the chicken wrap. The service was fantastic. The crew were polite and smiley and came around with drinks and snacks many times during the trip. This was impressive. Virgin have a lounge at Edinburgh where you can eat snacks and make drinks. Not as good as BA’s offering but still enjoyable.

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Overall, the service on both modes are good, the meals are sufficient and crews polite but neither stuck out as superb.

 

  • Ease – Sorry Planes, You’ve Lost Again

While flying may be enjoyable for the vast majority of us, including me, it doesn’t seem worth it to fly such a short distance unless you’re under strict time constraints. There are no barriers at Edinburgh Waverley so all you have to do is walk onto the platform, take your seat and relax.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Flying requires check-in, security and LOTS of waiting around. Once you arrive at LCY it will be very easy but if you fly to LHR or LGW it could be a lot slower to get through.

 

  • Conclusion

If you are in desperate need of getting between from Edinburgh to London and don’t have the money to splash then Fly EasyJet to Gatwick for £34

If you want the most enjoyable ride with the best views then Get the Train with Virgin for as low as £40

If you want comfort then Get the train in first class for £86

If you want speed then Book Business Class with BA to London City for £138.

 

I hope you enjoyed this review. Join the discussion by using #londonspotter on your posts and tweets.

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November Delivery Report – Boeing Take Control

In November, Boeing cranked up program Boeing 737 MAX to another level as they delivered 15 MAX aircraft to 10 different carriers.

November bulked up the list of carriers with a handful of new airlines receiving their first MAX. These airlines included China Southern (who received a total of three), Aerolineas Argentina (who received LV-GVD), Hainan Airlines (B-1390), Air China (who received two and opted for a C8 Y168 configuration), Shanghai Airlines (who received two) and LOT (who sent SP-LVA straight into service only two days after receiving it). LondonSpotter.co.uk was onboard that inaugural which you can check out here.

Onboard SP-LVA only two days after delivery

Other airlines to add to their MAX tally were Southwest, Westjet, Lion Air and FlyDubai.

Norwegian 737MAX on my recent trip to New York

In comparison, the A320NEO has had a lot more time to get into the flow of deliveries recently. They delivered a whopping 24 A320neo aircraft to 13 carriers but not a single A321neo. Indigo continued their dominant delivery rate with four, Air Asia took three, Sichuan, AZUL, EasyJet, Frontier and GoAir received two and Air China, Thai Air Asia, Lufthansa, Avianca and LATAM all took delivery of one. SAS also received one and londonspotter.co.uk was also onboard this. You can read the review in the upcoming weeks.

Sneak preview of our upcoming trip report on the NEO with James!

The Boeing program didn’t just stop with the MAX deliveries. Their current model in demand is, of course, the 787 Dreamliner. With a total of 670 unfilled orders, Boeing rattled through to check them off in November with 11 deliveries. Air France received two (F-HRBD and F-HRBE), Suparna received the only -8 variant which also happened to be their first dreamliner delivery and Hainan, Scoot, American, JAL, Ethiopian, Air China, ANZ and Norwegian added one to their growing fleets.

Air France pulling into stand last February.

The A350 had another solid month too. Malaysian Airlines made the headlines as they took delivery of 9M-MAB – their first A350 model which will be slowly phasing out their A380s. China Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines took delivery of two and Vietnam, Lufthansa, Qatar, LATAM, Air Mauritius and Delta received just one.

China Airlines receiving the 100th A350 a few months back. Copyright Airbus

The A380 had a relatively positive month compared to its recent few month’s performances. Airbus churned out three superjumbo aircraft and delivered them all to Emirates.

The A330 continued its production to the Asian market with China Southern receiving two and Thai Lion Air and Saudia receiving one. Other airlines outside the region to receive one included Aer Lingus and Avianca.

The B777, in comparison, delivered two to Emirates in time for the Dubai Airshow, one to EVA Air and one to Turkish Airlines.

 

That’s all from me this month with a round up of November’s deliveries. If I’ve missed out a delivery or some information is incorrect then please feel free to get in touch. See you next month!

Porto Airport Lounge Review

There is only one lounge at Porto Airport. It is used by all airlines that offer lounge access as an option on their tickets.

I used the lounge on my trip home from Porto to London Gatwick with TAP Portugal. While the lounge may be small (like the airport) it is nicely laid out and cozy. There was no queue to check in so I came through in seconds.

As you enter the lounge you are met with a wide range of reading material to take in with you. Lots was in English which was nice to see.

The lounge is setup in two regions – an indoor and an outdoor. Don’t get too excited however, the outdoor region is only a balcony overlooking the airport terminal.

The outdoor area

As it was dinner time I jumped straight in and went to get something to eat. The selection was an impressive range of hot snacks, cold sandwiches, salads and nibbles such as peanuts and of course – the famous portugese custard tart!

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The drinks selection was also impressive. The drinks on offer included juices, soft drinks, beers, wine and spirits. There was also a coffee machine available to use.

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The lounge has a computer area with a few desktops, a printer and a phone charging area in the corner.

I sat in the outdoor region which had a nice comfy feel and allowed you to have a good view of the airport from where you were sat.

The inside area looks basic but has a nice feel and good comfort

A huge downside of this lounge is that there are no toilets… Yes, no toilets!! To use the loo you have to leave the lounge and use the ones on the opposite side of the corridor. I found that very strange. In all fairness, the toilets were only a minute or so walk but it seemed weird to leave the lounge then have to recheck your boarding pass to head back in.

Overall, Porto Airport’s only lounge is small and pretty quiet. The food and drink on offer are not disappointing and the comfort is good. I had a great experience in this lounge and would recommend it if you are flying TAP as it costs as little as £22.50 to add on!