China leads with 787 dash

The first Dreamliners in Australia won't be branded with the flying kangaroo.

China Southern is set to be the first airline to debut commercial flights of the revolutionary Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Australia.

China Southern is due to get its 787s later this year. Qantas's were due to arrive mid-2013 but last week the airline announced it had exercised its right to walk away from its order of 35 of the long-delayed aircraft. The move will add millions to Qantas's bottom line, but pundits query the long-term growth implications of the cancellation.

Qantas will still receive 15 Dreamliners late next year, which will be allocated to subsidiary Jetstar.

China Southern recently confirmed it will fly the revolutionary aircraft on its Sydney-Guangzhou-London route.

The Dreamliner is already in service on a small number of airlines including JAL and is garnering rave reviews for its spaciousness, vastly improved cabin environment and excellent turbulence management system.

The 787s also have the biggest overhead bins in the sky.

United Airlines showed off their first 787 earlier this month and will become the first North American airline to fly it commercially some time in the northern autumn.

Qantas, meanwhile, still has purchase rights and options for 50 of the long-range 787-9 aircraft, the first of which will not arrive until 2016 - a delay of two years.


Great expectations

With confirmation of talks between Qantas and Emirates regarding code-share arrangements between the two for European destinations, dedicated Qantas international customers used to flying to Europe via south-east Asia or Hong Kong to London, with maybe a British Airways code share, might be wondering what is potentially in store for them.

Sky Report has flown with Emirates several times to Europe, and flew with the airline to Paris and back recently.

The first clear advantage Emirates has is its reach. The airline flies to more than 30 European destinations from Dubai.

We find another advantage in flying to Europe with Emirates, or any of the Middle Eastern carriers for that matter, is the division of time between legs of the journey.

The first leg from the Australian east coast to Dubai is long, about 14 hours from Sydney. If on a night flight, that gives passengers time to eat dinner, watch a movie and get a decent number of hours' sleep - especially if they are in business class (or beyond), as Sky Report was.

From Dubai, the trip to Europe is the short leg. It took seven hours to get to Paris and when Sky Report flew Emirates from Sydney to Rome a while back, we were delighted that the second leg only took six hours.

It's Sky Report's opinion that the time division, going both ways, is better for keeping some sense of normalcy in sleeping patterns because of the one longer flight.

Once in Dubai, connections to Europe are usually less than four hours, which is fine if you have access to the lounge, where there are showers, free wi-fi and comfy seating.

But despite expansion and renovations, Dubai International Airport continues to be a crowded mall-like area that lacks facilities for weary travellers, according to punters.

On the Skytrax review site, travellers still complain about toilet queues and lack of seating at Dubai. Another gripe is the long bus trips often required to get to the terminal after disembarkation. (Our recent one was more than half an hour and we were dying for a loo.) Singapore's Changi and Bangkok's airport have it all over Dubai in this regard.

But the on-board Emirates experience is terrific. In the past few years, the international crews have lifted their already good game to be more friendly. The food - in business class, anyway - was excellent on our flights.

And throughout all cabins, the entertainment system screens are the biggest in the sky. The system was recently voted world's best airline inflight entertainment in the Skytrax World Airline Awards for the eighth consecutive year.

The Skytrax awards also anointed Air Canada best North American airline and Cathay won the gong for best business-class cabin.

Beemer me up

Designers at BMW's subsidiary DesignworksUSA are turning their talents skywards. They're hard at work creating fresh cabins for Singapore Airlines (SIA), to be introduced in both new aircraft and via refits of existing planes.

SIA, the foreign carrier with the largest presence in Australia, last upgraded its cabins six years ago, about the time it was the first airline to fly the A380.

The new offerings, including seats, interiors and entertainment systems, will be introduced in the second half of next year.

Case in point

Sky Report's favourite suitcase has seen better days. In fact, it would probably qualify as biohazard. But as long as it still zips up over our unreasonable overpacking and doesn't pop open on the carousel, we see no reason to replace it - other than the shame we feel every time it pops out the luggage chute.

Fortunately, it appears we are not alone in our attachment to the grubby old faithful.

In a survey conducted by Virgin Atlantic, one in five air travellers couldn't remember the last time they bought new luggage, while 55 per cent said they would only upgrade their suitcase if it were broken.

Conversely, Virgin Atlantic has also noted an increase in posh designer cases such as monogrammed Louis Vuitton.

The survey revealed one in 10 of the owners of these items bought the nice luggage to impress or outdo their travel companions, while air travellers aged from 16 to 24 said they bought fancy suitcases in order to copy celebrities.

So if grunge comes back, Sky Report's luggage might actually become covetable.

Route watch

Qantas is reintroducing daily services between the Gold Coast and Sydney, a route it currently only services via Jetstar. From late October, there will be three daily return Qantas services. The Gold Coast Jetstar passenger lounge will be transformed into a Qantas Club by the end of the year.

Virgin Atlantic is to fly its first domestic service, between Heathrow and Manchester. The move is seen as the beginning of a foray into regional services by the British-based international carrier.