Spain’s worst Business Class? | Air Europa Review

After my arrival into Malaga with Aer Lingus, I found myself with just 50 minutes to connect from one side of the terminal to another. Luckily for me, when I arrived at my gate there was a Primera Air Boeing 737 still waiting for the final few passengers to arrive, meaning my flight to Madrid would be delayed.

UX5049 Malaga – Madrid:

Finally the 737 pushed back and departed for Billund. The gate staff changed the signage over to Air Europa, and invited all Sky Priority + VIP passengers to come forward for boarding, so I did. I had my mobile boarding pass scanned and I was told to walk down the corridor and wait for a member of staff to direct me. It was only when the whole flight was waiting in the corridor that a member of staff came and lead us to a bus that would take us to the aircraft. So much for my priority boarding…

As we drove across the airfield, the plain white ATR 72 came into view. Today’s flight was being operated by Swiftair and not Air Europa themselves. Much like my Iberia flight from Ibiza to Mallorca. As the doors to the bus opened, the rush of passengers to the aircraft steps began, but not before larger cabin bags were tagged and placed into the aircraft hold.

Whether sitting in Business Class or Economy, the legroom on this aircraft was extremely disappointing…

After boarding I settled into “Business Class” seat 17A; I noticed that for other than an inch or two of extra legroom, this seat was no different to the others on-board. Even without my hand luggage underneath the seat, it was a very tight squeeze to attempt to stretch out. The seat width was the same as the Canaryfly ATR, because of this, I knew I was in for a rough ride. I fully understand that unlike their jet engined counterparts, regional propellor aircraft aren’t as gifted with vast amounts of space. However, despite this I have seen many airlines create a dedicated Business Class cabin on aircraft Including the ATR family.

One of the two crew on-board, who’s names I forget, offered myself and the other three passengers in Business a glass of Orange Juice or Water to drink prior to our departure. I chose the Orange Juice and also accepted the anti-bacterial face wipe offered that I believe substituted for a hot towel. Once boarding had been completed the crew introduced themselves by making several announcements in both Spanish and English. The engines of the turbo prop started up and we began our taxi to the runway.

Welcome drinks, not quite as extravagant as a certain other Spanish airline…

Upon take off from Malaga, we climbed out over the Mediterranean Sea then turned towards the mainland. Once the seatbelt signs had been deactivated, the crew came around to clear the rubbish from the welcome drinks. Offering another selection of drinks, I chose a Coca-Cola and folded down the tray table to begin writing up the Aer Lingus review on my laptop. Only, when it was all of the way down, It rested on my lap and left me with no space whatsoever. After resting my drink on my laptop (being very careful not to spill it), they offered a selection of newspapers that had become very creased from sitting in one of the overhead lockers. Declining this, I was offered my in-flight meal.

A tray of peculiar looking sandwiches was presented to me, two choices, Chicken or Ham. Choosing the latter, I opened it to find it was quite simply ham on a tomato bread. Talk about fine dining! I was also given a small packet of salted nuts and later offered a bag of ready salted potato chips. It certainly wasn’t the most exciting selection in the world, that’s for sure.

Attempting to take a working lunch didn’t go as planned…

No In-flight Entertainment is offered, so anyone planning to travel with on the ATR best pack a book otherwise you could be in for a very boring and uncomfortable flight. To pass the time, I cursed myself for not choosing to take the Renfe First Class service from Malaga to Madrid’s central train station. At least I would have had a large reclining leather seat, warm meal and most importantly, a cool air conditioned cabin. 

Much to the relief of I imagine most people that had booked into this ‘Business Class’ service, the city of Madrid came into view and we began to make our approach. The crew passed through the cabin to collect any rubbish that was lying around and then took their seats for landing.

I have to be completely honest, this isn’t at all what I had expected when booking onto a Business Class flight with Air Europa. The quite frankly disappointing seat space available and very basic food options that were offered, really leave me wondering if the nearly £200 I paid for this 1 hour 30 minute flight was worth it. The only saving grace for my experience was the crew. They were fantastic from take off to touch down, and honestly couldn’t do enough for you.

EC-MIY, the aircraft that flew me from Malaga to Madrid

Many reading this may be quick to point out that, as I mentioned, it was not Air Europa that operated this flight. It is however, the airlines choice to allow fare paying passengers to fly in a Business Class that is no different than the economy product offered.

My advice to anyone thinking of flying Business on a Air Europa service operated by Swiftair would be this; don’t do it. Save yourself the disappointment and discomfort and fly with Iberia instead.

Qatar Airways 787 Business Class Review




For our regular readers out there, you will know that we have tried and tested our fair share of Qatar Airways’ products. Our view of the airline is simple, we love it! In February, Raj was invited on board the delivery flight of the Airbus A350-1000 from Toulouse to Doha. It’s fair to say I was very jealous of this, so when I was given the opportunity to fly out to Doha and cover the opening day of the IATA International Ground Handling Conference, I jumped at the chance!

Qatar Airways fly daily from Birmingham to Doha using Boeing 787-8 aircraft and directly compete with Emirates for the crown of best long-haul carrier from BHX. Flying to over 80 countries and serving more than 150 destinations, Qatar certainly do their best to be the number one choice when flying long haul. Having flown on both British Airways & Air Canada 787 Dreamliner’s in recent months, I had high hopes that this Qatari jet would live up to the standard of those fantastic flights.

As a frequent flyer, I tend to book all my flights through SkyScanner for great prices and Momondo for amazing business class deals. Try it for yourself!

Qatar Airways fly daily between Birmingham and Doha on Boeing 787-8 Aircraft.

Living only 10 minutes from Birmingham Airport meant I could afford to leave the house a little later than normal when catching a flight. After a short taxi ride, in which I happened to see my aircraft (A7-BCX) abandon it’s approach and go around, I arrived at the terminal. When walking into the building, I made my way to the Qatar Airways check in desks, where to my surprise I found them completely empty. After a brief chat with the girls at the desk, I was given my boarding pass and made my way through fast track security and into departures.

Qr34 birmingham – doha:

Whilst making my way up to Gate 45, I was met by the Airport Manger for Qatar. He invited me to pre board the aircraft, explore the cabin and grab some photos. The cabin is set in a 1-2-1 configuration and my assigned seat, 2E, was in the middle of this cabin. Not wanting to miss the views on our way down to Doha, I had a chat with Ida (the Cabin Manager in charge of today’s fabulous crew) and found myself now sat in window seat 2K.  Boarding was relatively quick as today’s flight was only half full and soon after boarding was completed the crew armed the doors and cross checked them in preparation for our departure.

The immaculate Business Class cabin set in the 1-2-1 configuration.

Seats in the Business class cabin can convert into a fully lie flat bed if required. Adjustable armrests and lumbar support ensure that all can be comfortable when flying with Qatar. A 17” television equipped with the Oryx One IFE System is located above a folding table which can be extended fully when dining or working. Storage compartments are seemingly everywhere but are designed perfectly to blend in with their surroundings and a universal plug and USB socket offer the tech savvy travellers the option to stay charged and connected during their flight. This cabin definitely oozes class but perhaps falls just a bit behind the brand new and innovative QSuite. See the pictures in the slideshow below to check out the awesome cabin.

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Unfortunately due to the go around on the inbound sector to Birmingham we had a delay to our scheduled departure time of 16:00, and found ourselves pushing back at 16:45, 45 minutes late. Fortunately due to the close proximity of the terminal building to the runway, we were soon lined up on Runway 33 ready to start our 6 hour 40 minute journey to Doha. Climbing up to 41,000 feet, our routing took us north out of Birmingham and then out east over the North Sea and across Central Europe.

The crew had come around prior to departure and taken our orders from the Business Class Menu. Qatar operate a “Dine on Demand” system onboard with a wide selection of appetising dishes which were made available and would be served fresh accompanied with a selection of warm breads and olive oils. Choosing to eat not long after take off, the crew came around to set my table and  offer me a drink before my Arabic Mezze appetiser arrived. This was soon followed by the Paneer Tikka Masala and Gourmet Ice Cream. Most people would have you believe that plane food is disgusting, today this definitely was not the case. Look at the pictures below to see the incredible display.

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My attention soon turned away from food and onto the Inflight Entertainment. A noise cancelling headset is provided free of charge for all passengers and is only compatible with the Oryx One system. Oryx offers the latest Hollywood, Bollywood and International films as well as a selection of classics. TV shows are offered although the selection wasn’t as wide as the films and various different music albums covering a variety of genres could be selected.  The picture and sound quality on the Business Class screen was second to none.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and it sure did on this occasion. Our approach into Hamad International Airport was signalled by light chop that even Delta Airlines would be proud of! Flying into Doha guarantees a scenic approach whatever time of the day it is. The bright lights of The Pearl, the city skyline and the Iconic Sheraton Hotel guided us all the way onto Runway 16R.

Business Class Cabin Inflight
TO SUMMARISE:

From the moment I stepped on board to the moment the doors opened in Doha, I was made to feel welcome and recognized by the fabulous crew who genuinely care and take pride in their job. An intimate cabin of just 22 seats allows passengers to relax and unwind in comfort and style. Qatar Airways have got this product perfected, and it is one I certainly cannot wait to fly again!

Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Qatar Airways as part of the IATA Conference trip. All of the views that are expressed in this review are my own and have been in no way influenced by the airline.

 

ENJOY THIS?  Why not check out our Qatar Airways Airbus A380 Business Class Review!

More Boeing 787 Reviews on LondonSpotter:

Cobalt Air Business & Economy A320 Review

Featuring Cobalt Air’s New Airbus A320 Business Class & Economy Cabins


Cheap fares on this amazing aircraft? Be sure to check out SkyScanner who have amazing prices on this leg.


At 0920am, the gate was announced, and I made my way to the boarding area. After already completing one five-hour rotation from Larnaca, my aircraft was enjoying some well-earned rest on the tarmac. Cobalt Air flies to Manchester year-round and has done since 2016. In the winter season the route operates twice a week and, in summer, increases to three-weekly. Having been met by the dispatcher at check-in, I was able to take some photos of the empty cabin before the rest of the guests boarded and have a chat with the cabin crew.

5B-DCY sitting on Manchester’s apron at Terminal 1.

As I stepped onto the aircraft, my initial impression was that the cabin looked airy, comfortable and welcoming. It was also modern, fitted with Recaro seats which offer adjustable headrests and a substantial recline. Although a minor detail, the boarding music enhanced the relaxing and tranquil atmosphere onboard; as the flight was not full – boarding was done in an orderly and efficient manner, without being chaotic.

the cabins:

My Cypriot chariot for the outbound flight – 5B-DCY – is one of 6 aircraft in Cobalt’s fleet and is fitted with 12 Business Class seats in a 2-2 configuration and, as with all Airbus A320 aircraft, economy class was fitted in a 3-3 configuration and began in Row 4, with 144 seats. Obviously, the bulkhead seats were very comfortable; the rest of the Economy seats offered 30” of seat pitch, adjustable headrests and substantial recline. All of the Business Class seats offer a 40” seat pitch and lots of width – with a foot rest and several seat controls, allowing you to find a comfortable position. On my inbound flight, I flew on one of the airline’s Airbus A319 aircraft which are configured in an all-economy class setup with 144 seats. Cobalt received this A319 (5B-DCU) in November 2016 and had a much more dated cabin, but equally comfortable.

The Economy Class cabin. All economy class seats offer adjustable headrests and substantial recline.
business class: cobalt shines above its competitors

The new Business Class – introduced in December 2017 – is where Cobalt really shines above its competitors. British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and others offer an Economy Class setup, with a blocked middle seat. Whilst this is convenient for the airline and easy to amend depending on the load of a flight, for passengers, it offers little to no more comfort than those sitting at the back of the plane. Contrastingly, Cobalt’s Business Class looks more like a short-haul premium product you’d find in Asia or a US airline’s domestic ‘First Class’.

Cobalt Air’s fantastic Business Class in a 2-2 configuration.

For longer flights, this really does offer all of the comfort you would need. When flying in Business Class, guests will experience several amenities offered by the airline which make the experience more seamless and tailored around you:

• Express Check-In Lanes & Priority Boarding
• 2x 20kg Baggage Allowance
• Dine On-Demand Menu (just ask a crew member when you are ready to eat!). Of course, when flying on a Business Class ticket, you receive a full complementary meal service. If you are on a flight when you can simply upgrade to the seat, you will have the same food choices as economy passengers.

Cobalt’s Business Class offers 40″ of seat pitch onboard.

The full Business Class service is currently only available on routes to Gatwick, Heathrow, Athens, Abu Dhabi & Moscow – but I found you can upgrade to the cabin on other flights for just €75, without the additional benefits. This offers an attractive proposition for business travellers and, if I were to travel regularly between Europe and Cyprus/Middle East on business, I would undoubtedly choose this Business Class product over Cobalt’s other competitors. I simply cannot credit Cobalt enough for the introduction of this “proper” Business Class and its introduction reveals the pioneering and innovative attitude at the heart of the airline.

The comfy recliner seats also had all the amenities you’d expect for Business travellers; large tray tables, a power port and lots of space.

It’s also interesting to note that Cobalt is also now offering connections through their Larnaca hub. For example, you can now book flights from Manchester through to Tel Aviv & Beirut – providing a more comfortable, seamless and relaxing alternative connecting through the modern and simplistic airport of Larnaca, in comparison to other major European airlines with often chaotic and confusing hubs.

onboard service: reflecting cyprus

The Out of the Blue menu included Grilled Chicken, honey and mustard wraps, halloumi and lountza (a Cypriot meat), baguettes and a variety of Primo Gusto Pizzas. There was also a range of alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, hot drinks and the obligatory Pot Noodle selection. The prices were quite reasonable – in line with most other airlines – and the airline accepts both British Pounds & Euros onboard. Although I was impressed by the menu, as the airline makes the transition from a low-cost carrier to a full-service operator with the introduction of a designated Business Class cabin, I would like to see complementary beverages and snacks available, or at least at a lower price – especially on longer flights such as mine from Manchester & London to Cyprus.

I liked the fact that the airline was inventive with its menu choices – reflecting aspects of the country it represents. The crew also oozed typical Cypriot hospitality and were very personable, genuine and polite. Celine (the cabin manager) and indeed the rest of the crew were jovial and welcoming – especially so to the children onboard. Also, Cobalt being a Cypriot airline, I was able to use some of my Greek language skills with the cabin crew. Celine even commented that my Greek was ‘amazing’ – but I shrugged off the comment, being the modest person that I am!!

Cobalt claims to be ‘the favourite airline of the Cypriot people’ and, speaking to the locals, it seems to be so. Many believe Cobalt harvested the best of the now defunct national carrier – Cyprus Airways – then modernised it and instilled ambition. The airline is also growing rapidly, adding routes to London Heathrow, Dusseldorf, Copenhagen, Mykonos, Geneva and Abu Dhabi from its Larnaca hub this year. It appears that Cobalt Air is also committed to improving the medium-haul travel experience more generally. The airline has recently signed an agreement with Bluebox Aviation Systems to offer wireless streaming of in-flight entertainment to passengers onboard. Bluebox provides wireless content streamed to passenger devices in any aircraft cabin, including film, TV, audio, games and other digital content accessed through any web browser. The device can be stored in overhead lockers and each box’s single swappable and rechargeable battery offers the equivalent of delivering 15 hours of streamed video content to 50 passengers simultaneously. Yet again, this is an example of another area where Cobalt have distinguished themselves from their competitors.

my conclusion: cobalt are unique

Overall, Cobalt are a unique airline; in the words of the CEO Andrew Madar, “not LCC, not legacy, just Cobalt”.

Cobalt is certainly a hybrid carrier. With a business class of this calibre, it is clear that the airline is making a transition from low cost to full service carrier.

Medium-haul flying is often argued to be the most uncomfortable and tiring; 4-5 hours on a narrowbody aircraft, with no entertainment, poor legroom and lacklustre food. However, Cobalt seem to be committed to improving medium haul flying – whether that’s from the introduction of a spacious new Business cabin, to the friendliness of the crew. As they grow, with big ambitions for the future (including working intensively on a business plan so as to connect China, Africa and the US with Cyprus), I am certain that their ‘small airline, one big family’ feel won’t wear away. Despite big ambitions, Cobalt continues to put Larnaca back on the map as a regional air hub and contributes massively to the Cypriot economy.

With massive growth and big ambitions for the future, Cobalt is putting Larnaca on the map as an aviation hub of the future.

I hope that more people across Europe can turn their back on traditional holiday airlines and business carriers and sample a little slice of Cyprus in the sky. Flight bookings can be made on Cobalt’s website or here!


Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Cobalt Air, but I was not pressured to express specific opinions in any way. All the views expressed are fully my own and if you would like to ask me any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Minimalistic and Marimekko: Finnair revamps Business Class

Finnair is well known for its minimalistic Scandinavian aura – both on the exterior and interior of its aircraft. Finnair is also proud and renowned for supporting Finnish products; some of its aircraft are even adorned with prints from the iconic Finnish design house Marimekko.

Finnair’s aircraft and cabins have a minimalistic feel. 

Finnair already has an industry-leading reverse herringbone Business Class product on its Airbus A350 aircraft, but this will be redesigned with new cabin textiles and amenities, including new seat covers, and pillows, blankets and chinaware with prints, to be introduced from February 2018.

Finnair will keep its Reverse Herringbone seat in Business Class.

My first impression is that the new cabins are uniquely stunning – replicating the simplistic nature of Scandinavian interior design and landscapes. However, what’s interesting is reading into what Finnair’s Head of Cabin Design – David Kondo – had to say. The cabins draw on two major themes:

  • Nordic Interior Design, aiming to show a ‘fresh and modern aesthetic that is inspired by Nordic homes’
  • Nordic Landscapes, conveying ‘snow and birch trees’ and also the changing face of seasons and light.

    The grey and white colouring is intended to reflect Nordic landscapes.

David Kondo continues, saying ‘Our lives are busy and our time is limited, and the time flying is time just for you, so the aim is for the cabin to be very calm and understated’. The green patterned Marimekko print will also be replaced with a deep blue print, called Kaivo or ‘well’.

I find this concept an interesting one; I love the clean aesthetics of the design and the philosophy behind it is understandable. However, some passengers may find this sterile and unwelcoming – which is the exact feeling airlines want to avoid.

In addition to this, Finnair will be reforming its onboard dining – creating a more flexible on-demand system – with a wider range of options. A seasonal menu will be introduced for both cabins, with Swedish chef Tommy Myllymäki creating the menus for Business Class and top Finnish Culinary Team will create meal options for Economy class. The winter menu, introduced with the product’s rollout, will be followed by seasonal menus for summer and autumn. Drawing on Finnair’s commitment to local cuisine and customs I alluded to earlier, they will also introduce Finnish tradition of “Kahvikutsut”  – a coffee serving with seven different treats – for long-haul flights departing Asia in the morning.

The product will be rolled out from February – intially on flights to Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai.

Overall, I really love Finnair’s approach to branding and customer experience and this redesign reaffirms that unique, but likeable brand profile.


Featured photo courtesy of Joona, @planespotter_hel.

Lufthansa Unveils Luxurious New Business Class

Over the years, European Airlines have began to lag behind in terms of onboard luxury. Whilst once at the forefront of glamour, airlines such as British Airways have declined in terms of reputation but, simultaneously, Asian and Middle Eastern airlines have jostled for position to be the best airline. Now, Lufthansa and Air France both offer 2-2-2 Business Class seating on their A380 and British Airways’ Club coffin seat divides opinion massively.

The refreshing news is, that between 2020 and 2025, when Lufthansa take delivery of their new Boeing 777X aircraft, they will offer a brand new Business Class experience. When they made the decision to eliminate First Class from their new flagship aircraft, it became clear a Business Class revamp was in order.

Lufthansa’s new Boeing 777X

Lufthansa has now publicly revealed their new cabins for the 777X aircraft, and there is now doubt; it is a huge improvement over their previous product in terms of hard-product.

Lufthansa’s New Business Class offers direct-aisle access from every seat.

Each seat has the luxury of direct-aisle access, and the rows will alternate between a 1-2-1 configuration and a 1-1-1 configuration. This will arguably make it the most spacious Business product in the sky. The cabin evokes a feeling of El Al’s 787-9 cabins or United’s Polaris seats, however there is one major difference. This cabin is much less dense – El Al and United have a 1-2-1 configuration on every row, whereas Lufthansa has opted to create perhaps the most private, spacious ‘throne’ seat from any airline. As an aviation enthusiast, perhaps I’d even be willing to give up that coveted window seat, to experience this!

Lufthansa will offer a 1-1-1 configuration on some rows in Business Class.

What’s even more impressive, is that Lufthansa will make a range of changes to its soft product, too. Specifically, they will introduce from 2018:

  • Mattress Pads in Long-Haul Business Class
  • ‘Sleeping Sweaters’ on request
  • New Blankets, which are ‘lined but still light’

I’m really pleased Lufthansa are making big strides with their onboard experience – the only down side of this announcement, is that we will have to wait for atleast another 5 years to experience it.

Saudia 777 Business Class Review

Background 
During my two-week visit to Jeddah to meet my dad, I had a space of time and an urge to fly. Coincidentally, during this time, there was a discounted business class offer from Saudia so without further ado, I decided to take the opportunity and discover what Saudia had to offer in their medium haul business class cabin. This offer stated that you could fly discounted rates on J class to any of their sub-continental destinations. After some quick research on the website, I came to find out that the cheapest option was to Karachi in Pakistan so I booked it at $850 return packed my bags and within a few days, began my short but sweet business class experience.

Keep in mind, one of the greatest factors for this journey included the fact that a Boeing 777-200ER was the equipment used on the Karachi sector. The first leg was flown by an old A330-300 but I won’t be discussing that here because it represents Saudia’s outdated product, so instead I will be reviewing my second flight.

Airport Experience: Karachi 
I reached the airport 3 hours prior to departure. Karachi Airport has retro-style boards which you don’t see a whole lot often these days!
The check-in hall at the airport is huge and very airy which I like a lot, however the age of the terminal cannot be hidden. For convenience, business class passengers and SkyTeam members enjoy a priority kiosk.

The airport terminal had an interesting retro-style, and a plethora of check-in desks, including Air Arabia and Etihad Airways.

Despite the security officer warning me not to take pictures, I managed to get one shot of the lounges at Karachi. All international airlines use the Civil Aviation Authority lounge at Karachi –  except PIA who have their own lounge. The lounge attendant glanced at my boarding pass, before leading me into the lounge.

First impressions of the CAA Premium Lounge

There were both hot and cold foods but the sandwiches seemed rather stale and the hot foods – which included Pakistani Cuisine – were very average as compared to what you’d get outside in the city. Despite the wide-ranging selection, I wasn’t that hungry, settling instead for a drink and crisps.

Coffee and Tea machines were also available, and worked well.

The lounge had Wi-Fi which had a moderate speed and some computers. The funny thing is that the computers had Windows XP which you also don’t see quite as much in 2017!

Overall, even though the lounge was rudimentary, a range of cuisine was available and the added luxury of Wi-Fi was a great convenience.

About 25 minutes prior to boarding, I headed for the observation area. There wasn’t much action but my Saudia 777-200ER headed to Jeddah came into view soon enough.

There it is! What A beauty!

As well as many passengers, this flight would be carrying mangoes to Saudi Arabia – a major export of Pakistan.

I then headed to my gate, and began the boarding process.

The Flight 
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
Registration: HZ-AKV
Age: 16.7 years
Route: Karachi (Pakistan) to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (3.45 hours)

Upclose and personal with HZ-AKV!

Interestingly, HZ-AKV is one of Saudia’s newer 777-200s and it’s a survivor because most of Saudia’s 777s are being stored and replaced by their newer competition from Airbus; the A330 Regional variant.
I boarded from Door L2 and the F/A greeted me with a warm “Ahlan Washalan”, meaning ‘welcome’ in Arabic.
I had allocated myself seat 2A for this flight. The seats were the classic shell type much like what you’d find on carriers such as Air India or Pakistan International. They’re lie flat which is quite nice considering it’s a very short flight, and is a major positive when considering when comparing Saudia with their competition on these medium-haul sectors.
The seat configuration in Saudi J class is 2-2-2, unfortunately meaning direct aisle access for all passengers is not available. For a short flight, however, this is just a minor point. (Seat controls) below

Seat controls. There are many positions for your comfort.

Saudia has a seat pitch/legroom of 58’’ so there’s lots of space to stretch your legs. Hot towels were offered to the guests before pushback.

Dates and Traditional Arabian coffee was also distributed.

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Saudia is a strictly dry airline so the pre-departure drink included Orange Juice, Lime juice and apple juice. I went for the Orange Juice.
Noise cancelling Headphones were then distributed, which looked substantial and of good quality, but I used my Bose headsets instead.

Saudia distributed complimentary headsets.

Entertainment and screen remote:

Entertainment System Onboard.

Shortly afterwards, the menu orders were taken. Here were the options business class passengers had:

The appetizers Business Class guests enjoyed onboard.

 

Unfortunately, everyone had the same dessert which I’m not going to complain about, considering the fact that you get a chicken Caesar salad and a banana on US Transcontinental LAX-JFK/ SFO-JFK products. As we taxied, I could spot a variety of traffic including a PIA 777-200LR arriving from Toronto(YYZ) in the distance. The extremely bland safety video aired and soon we had a short take-off from runway 24R.

30 minutes into the flight, meal services began.

I love how the table cloth has Saudia engraved on top of it. Little touches such as this really differentiate the service between a lower and higher class of travel on such a short flight. Service began by bread rolls which were freshly baked and warm.

Saudia Business Class Bread Rolls.

Followed by appetizer! I opted for the Arabic mezze which, although the presentation was polished, was lacklustre compared to the Arabic Mezze you’d get on airlines such as Emirates.

Saudia Business Class Mezze.

And then came the main course which was splendid. Even though it might not look as appetizing, it was full of flavour and spices.

The Main Course.

Lastly, the dessert was chocolate mousse cake which was excellent as well. It had the perfect amount of cream and was presented very well.

Beautifully presented Chocolate Mousse.

Overall, Saudia impressed me with their offerings on this medium haul journey.
After the meal service was done, the cabin quieted down a little bit. Window shades were dimmed and the most people caught some sleep. In case you wanted some sleep, the seats had a small privacy partition which was a nice touch. The cabin was darkened, to help people enjoy a couple of hours of rest.

A view of the Business Class cabin.

During the time in which the cabin was dimmed, I decided to visit the lavatory which was quite plain and offered no real business class touches.

The only amenities offered were ‘caire’.

We then hit a light bit of chop but it calmed down as we started our descent into Jeddah following a sharp right, with final approach into Jeddah.
We touched down 10 minutes ahead of schedule, which was great for passengers making connections onto Saudia’s network in Europe and North America. After a long taxi, we parked next to a company 744 leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic. While exiting, I decided to take my chances and asked the F/A for cockpit access; to my surprise, she said the captain has left but you can still take a picture.

The beautiful flight deck of the mighty Boeing 777.

After a quick chat with the skipper, I bid farewell and headed out of Kilo Victor from door L1, concluding what was truly a fantastic journey and experience.

Conclusion

If I said the entire flight was perfect, it would be a lie. It had its flaws but the crew were truly trying to work with their heart, not robotic like most are; the food was also quite nice and well presented. The plane was quite aged but in terms of Business class, it was well maintained. On the bottom line, this flight was a positive experience and – with a couple of refinements – Saudia has a lot of potential.

Ground Services Experience: 6/10
Aircraft: 8/10
Dining Onboard: 8/10
Friendliness of the Crew: 8.5/10
Comfort of the Seats: 7.5/10

Overall: 8/10

Thanks for reading my trip report. Any feedback would be appreciated.


This month’s guest review is by Hassan (@MhSpotter). If you wish to apply for next month’s featured guest review, email ethanegcc@gmail.com or contact any of our author’s via their Instagram pages.


Featured photo: Mior Faizal Affandy (Planespotters.net)

More Boeing 777 Reviews on LondonSpotter:

Delta Downgrade: Business Class Eliminated on certain Transatlantic Routes

In the US,  competition is arising over premium ‘coast to coast’ or transcontinental services, with American’s A321T and JetBlue’s revolutionary MINT expanding constantly. It’s led to Delta and United making major changes to the way they roster their aircraft, both adding more heavily premium configured 757 aircraft to these high yielding, competitive markets such as New York to Los Angeles.

JetBlue offers 16 ‘MINT’ seats on its new Airbus A321 aircraft, designed to appeal to the premium market. Image: JetBlue

However, the catch is that these Boeing 757 aircraft were previously used on routes like Manchester-Washington D.C. for United, or London-Philadelphia for Delta; both of these were unmercifully cut in the past few years. Delta are now coming up with an inventive solution to this, which could increase profitability and retain their presence in markets across Europe.

Due to the fact Delta is flying internationally configured 757s on more domestic flights, they’ll therefore begin flying domestically configured 757s on transatlantic flights. Specifically, Delta will eliminate Business Class (instead flying domestically configured aircraft) on the following routes:

  • New York (JFK) to Shannon (Ireland)
  • New York (JFK) to Ponta Delgada (Azores)
  • New York (JFK) to Reykjavik (Iceland)

    Delta’s Domestic First Class, soon to be utilised transatlantic. Image: Delta

This means that the only premium cabin available on these flights will be the US Domestic ‘First Class’. For Delta to sell these as International Business Class, it would be unfeasible and a significant downgrade from any other competitor. Therefore, as the rollout of Premium Economy comes into force on their A350 aircraft, they will sell these seats with a Premium Economy product.

By utilising domestic aircraft on routes such as JFK-Shannon, it has perhaps helped Delta justify preserving the route.

In my opinion, this is inventive and should work for the primarily leisure orientated routes they’ve selected. Considering they currently operate a similar system on their Minneapolis-Reykjavik route, its clearly working well and its easy to see why: it allows them to deploy sought after lie-flat seats in more premium markets, such as Seattle, New York or San Francisco – whilst retaining service and presence to markets in Europe. Whether they expand this scheme to other ‘thin’ or seasonal European markets like Glasgow-New York or Paris-Pittsburgh remains to be seen.

British Airways’ New Boarding Process: Zonal Boarding Introduced

In recent times, specifically in the US, airlines have been employing a ‘zoned boarding concept’. This is designed to speed up the boarding process, and make it more efficient for passengers to stow their cabin baggage – as numbers dramatically increase. The arguments for this system are:

  • Passengers are assigned zones easily
  • Consistent across aircraft types (unlike a ‘row by row’ boarding system)
  • Easier for passengers to comprehend
  • Refrains from blocking aisles when stowing cabin baggage

    Boarding a large aircraft – like a Boeing 747-400 – can be disorganised and time consuming for airlines.

As the concept grows in popularity, it has spread to Europe. For example, when I flew to Dublin – with Aer Lingus Regional – in August, I was assigned a zone on my boarding pass, but this wasn’t implemented at the boarding gate. Following this trend, it looks like the latest airline to implement this system is British Airways, to align itself with its IAG & oneworld partners – American Airlines and Iberia. This is what BA had to say about the new boarding system, which will be introduced from 12th December 2017:

British Airways will be changing the way it boards aircraft with the introduction of group boarding in December. Group boarding simplifies the process, making it easier for customers to understand the boarding sequence at the gate. At the check-in stage, the customer will be put into a group number dependent on their cabin of travel and frequent-flyer status. This number will then be displayed prominently on the boarding pass, printed or mobile. Customers who are entitled will continue to be offered priority boarding for both long-haul and short-haul domestic.

British Airways is introducing zoned boarding.

British Airways recently added a Business Class product to its domestic offering, so the short-haul boarding process applies to both European and UK services, and looks as follows:

  • Group 1 — Executive Club Gold, oneworld Emerald & Club Europe
  • Group 2 — Executive Club Silver and oneworld Sapphire
  • Group 3 — Executive Club Bronze and oneworld Ruby
  • Group 4 — Economy Class Passengers
  • Group 5 — Economy Class Passengers, with hand-luggage only fares

British Airways therefore seems to be disincentivising hand-luggage only fares, as its popularity grows, as boarding the aircraft last means a lesser chance of overhead locker space. BA will, however, check your hand luggage bag into the hold for no extra cost, if there is no space available.

The Club Europe seats British Airways now offers on domestic flights.

For long-haul flights the boarding process is similar, but differs slightly due to the different travel classes available:

  • Group 1 — Executive Club Gold, oneworld Emerald, and First Class 
  • Group 2 — Executive Club Silver, oneworld Sapphire, and Business Class 
  • Group 3 — Executive Club Bronze, oneworld Ruby, and Premium Economy
  • Groups 4 & 5 — Economy Class Passengers

This is a new scheme for British Airways, and it seems logical, following their partner airlines, who’ve clearly enjoyed more efficient boarding by employing this method. The main difference is that airlines such as American Airlines designate more zones to economy, to help further organise the process, in terms of back to front boarding etc. Providing the process is enforced with clarity and consistency, this new method should prove beneficial for British Airways.

 

 

 

Singapore Airlines Unveils Luxurious New Cabins

For months, Singapore has had the aviation industry excited. With so many disruptive new Premium products introduced by airlines, such as Etihad’s Residence and Qatar’s Q Suites, Singapore Airlines needed to re-establish its place at the forefront of the market. As part of this, Singapore Airlines is unveiling new Suites, business, premium economy, and economy products. Recently, you could say Singapore has been ‘teasing’ us with videos and pictures showing different aspects of the suite. Here is one such of those videos, released on the launch of the new cabins:

Singapore air first class suites

This is how Singapore Airlines describes the new Suites in their press release:

With six Suites tucked spaciously within the front cabin of the upper deck, customers will experience a sense of exclusivity and intimate privacy aboard the A380. Behind its artistically-designed sliding door lies a personal oasis complete with lavish furnishing and finishes. Each Suite is furnished with a separate full-flat bed with adjustable recline and plush leather chair, enabling customers to lounge comfortably in the chair or rest in bed without the need to convert the bed from a sitting position. For couples travelling together, the beds in the first two Suites of each aisle can be converted to form a double bed. Each seat is fully adjustable using an electronic control side panel which can accommodate a variety of sitting and lounging positions. The swivel capability of the chair with recline up to 45 degrees provides added flexibility for dining and relaxation. Each Suite also has a full-sized personal wardrobe, customised handbag stowage compartment, amenity box lined with soft leather, specially designed carpet and a feature wall with mood lighting – all exquisitely crafted to give a touch of luxury and intimacy.

Singapore challenged Etihad with their individual suite, here. Creating a ‘Residence-Style’ experience, which certainly looks exclusive and luxurious.

The Individual First Suite

One possible disappointment is that Singapore won’t be offering onboard showers, such as Emirates, but rather two lavatories including a smaller ‘standard’ suite (although this looks anything but standard to those who fly Economy!). Then, they will offer a larger lavatory, including a dressing table.

Singapore Airlines’ New Lavatory

Continuing with their tradition, Singapore will again offer double-beds. In this product, the second row of the suites will convert, offering two seats and a double bed.

Singapore’s Duo Suites

One fault of this seems to be that there is no space for a couple to dine together, unlike on Etihad. This is of course a minor issue, but when comparing the products, this could be a game-changer.

Singapore air new business class

Singapore will offer cocoon style seats, again, with individual seats by the window:

Singapore’s New Business Class

Whereas in the centre of the cabin, they will offer a convertible double-bed. This is a game-changer in Business Class, and looks like the ultimate luxury for couples on business. However, does this deter people from paying that extra money for Suites Class?

Centre Double Seats on Singapore’s new Business Class

Singapore will debut their new cabins on the five new A380s they will receive over the next couple of years. The first route will be Singapore to Sydney – from 18th December 2017 – although I find it hard to believe London will be far behind.

Although this offering is underwhelming for some, I think that this, coupled with Singapore’s renowned in-flight service, will help the airline to reposition itself as the leader of the market once again.