Opportunity knocks

New directions ... Qantas passengers to Europe will soon be flying through Dubai.
New directions ... Qantas passengers to Europe will soon be flying through Dubai. Photo: Getty Images

Virgin Atlantic may pick up extra passengers in the fallout from our national airline's codeshare arrangement with Emirates.

Virgin Atlantic's Australian general manager, Luke Fisher, is reluctant to say that Qantas's codeshare arrangement with Emirates gives his airline an opportunity to pick up business.

But he does acknowledge that Qantas's transit through Dubai on the way to Europe may not be everyone's cup of tea.

Qantas's link-up with Emirates means that Qantas passengers will, from next April, pass through United Arab Emirates rather than Singapore on their way to Europe.

"I understand why Qantas are doing that," Fisher told Sky Report.

"I just think that option will work for some and maybe it won't work for others."

We ran into Fisher over cocktails at the Upper Class bar while taking the Virgin Atlantic service to London via Hong Kong recently. (Is there anything more glam, or indeed more ill-advised, than cocktails at 35,000 feet?)

"Traditionally, Australians have travelled to Europe via south-east Asia," he said.

"And that's traditionally been through Bangkok and Singapore."

While several carriers, including British Airways and Singapore Airlines, continue to fly through south-east Asia, Fisher believes Virgin Atlantic is attractive beyond sentimentality because it goes through Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong is a great transit point because it's both a business destination and a leisure destination," he said.

"Hong Kong is very much the conduit for a lot of business done in China."

Virgin Atlantic claims the fastest transit out of all the two-leg trips to Britain, one reason being because the service is on the same aircraft all the way through.

"When you've got change of equipment it takes more than two hours, whereas ours is 90 minutes," Fisher said.

"If you are travelling all the way through, it's a very short stop." Which is good and bad.

On our way up, we couldn't squeeze in a shower at the delightful but busy Hong Kong Clubhouse.

But we did so on the journey back, having started in rock-star style at Virgin Atlantic's amazing drive-up valet check-in at Heathrow. It's a service that's exclusive to its Upper Class passengers.

We also checked out Virgin Atlantic's premium economy service on a couple of legs and found it very comfortable. It's proving very popular with Australians.

"This year's codeshare with Virgin Australia up to Hong Kong has been one of our most successful codeshare launches," Fisher said.

"The first six months, the number has been more than 3000 passengers, and that is a lot more than we anticipated.

"It's a huge market and we are finding our premium economy is a real winner."

 

Royal treatment

Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class check-in may well have been the inspiration for Garuda's new "premium check-in area".

While Garuda doesn't boast Virgin Atlantic's limo transfer, kerbside bag drop and possibility of running into Posh and Becks, its service is certainly an improvement as you pass through busy, often chaotic, Soekarno-Hatta.

Executive-class passengers and Garuda Frequent Flyer Platinum members can now check in, pay their airport taxes, and manage bookings at check-in counters in a cordoned-off area. Garuda's business-class bookings increased by 9 per cent in the first half of 2012 over the same period in 2011.

 

A little bit extra

KLM has introduced premium economy on its flights within Europe. The new class is called Economy Comfort.

Air Canada has set a price on its bulkhead and exit-row seats.

No longer luck of the draw, or first-in, best-seated, the Canadian national carrier now charges $118 a seat for the privilege of all that extra legroom.

 

Techno savvy

Sky Report passed through Qantas's domestic terminal at Sydney Airport recently and was delighted to discover free wi-fi available.

About time.

Plus, the airline is rolling out better, higher-speed wi-fi for its lounges across the country.

In other Qantas moves, the airline is replacing its business-class blankets with cosy duvets - or, in the vernacular of its home country, doonas.

 

Souvenir appeal

Oh those Finns and their quirky designs. Finnair has teamed with the Finnish cult homewares and fabric-design house, Marimekko, for a new inflight look for everything from livery to teapots.

It will be introduced during the northern spring.

We hope the flight crews are being trained in frisking techniques. The new crockery, in particular, looks very ... shall we say, collectable?

 

Flight 'favourites'

More than 700 international cabin crew members in 85 countries were asked by the flight booking site, Skyscanner, who their perfect airline passenger is.

According to those surveyed, the passenger is male, travels alone for pleasure rather than business, and is in his 30s.

No reason was given for the choice, but Sky report believes "hot" and "rich" should possibly have been terms included in the survey for a clearer picture.

The survey did come up with some more useful information, however.

It revealed flight crews' top annoyances, the first being passengers who click their fingers for attention.

(Who does that? Clearly not single 30-something males.)

Second on the list was people who got up before the seatbelt sign was extinguished.

Also highly rated were: talking through the safety demonstration; stuffing rubbish in the seat pocket; asking for more blankets and pillows; and complaining about the temperature of the cabin.

Which pretty much adds up to all passengers being an annoyance to flight crews, generally.

 

Route watch

Qantas has increased capacity between Tasmania and the mainland via Melbourne. Some 1700 seats have been added with the introduction of Q400 aircraft operated by QantasLink. The seats are on services between Melbourne and Hobart, Launceston and Devonport.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this article said the Qantas-Emirates deal meant Qantas passengers flying to London would now transit through Dubai instead of Bangkok. It should have said Singapore.

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