News: Air NZ quits UK, Qatar – Doha expansion & new lounge + QSuite & Virgin Connect aircraft

Qatar A380 business class review - Doha to London night flightQatar's Al Mourjan lounge Doha

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Air New Zealand to quit London-Los Angeles route

Air New Zealand is to close its last remaining UK route from next year. Air NZ had been operating the London to Los Angeles as a fifth freedom route after cutting its other London – Hong Kong route some years ago. The purpose was to feed people onto the connecting Los Angeles to Auckland route. Given the number of discount sales for tickets on this route, it was obvious they were struggling to make the route profitable. It is a shame as I love flying with Air New Zealand. Although their current seats are a bit old fashioned with the flip over backs, their crew, food and wine more than made up for it.

air new zealand business premier

Air New Zealand Business Premier cabin B777

Air New Zealand cited the intense competition from London for one-stop connections to New Zealand. No doubt the rise of the Middle East and Chinese carriers offering low fares on the route has not helped. 

The service will cease in October 2020 so there is still time to try it before then. I’m sure we will see some good fares around Black Friday this year if you fancy it.


Qatar Airways”new” QSuite

Current Qatar QSuite

Several blogs have been reporting a new QSuite for Qatar’s B787-9 which has caused a delay in delivery due to fitting the new QSuites. In fact, this is not news at all, as Qatar’s CEO Mr Al Baker has said all along that the QSuite in its existing form will not fit on the A380 or B787 without modification due to the width of it. 

As we reported in February 2018 

Qatar have also confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that the A380s in their fleet will be fitted with revised QSuites in 2020 as the current QSuites can’t be fitted to the upper deck of the A380 due to the curvature of the fuselage. They are now developing a new version of the QSuites that will be fitted in a 1-2-1 configuration. This will first be fitted on the B787-9s with the A380s to follow in 2020. 

I would expect the revised QSuite to be very similar to the current version, although I hope they use the opportunity to make the seat a little less hard as this is one of the only flaws with the seat.


Doha expansion and new Qatar Al Mourjan lounge

Qatar surprised me though with an announcement that they plan to have a new version of their business class lounge in Doha. Given the vast size of it and the fact that the airport is still relatively new, it is surprising they feel the need to have a new one. The lounge at times can be incredibly quiet due to the blockade as there is no very little short-haul traffic. During the afternoons there is often only a handful of people there. However, overnight when there are lots of long haul flights it can be very crowded.

Hamad International Airport (HIA) has revealed plans for its second expansion phase which HIA will feature a 10,000 sqm indoor tropical garden in a central concourse as well as a 268 sqm water feature which will be the focal point of the expansion project. Hmmm, this sounds familiar… I wonder where they got that idea?

Jewel at Changi airport

The second phase of HIA’s expansion consists of Phase A and B. Phase A of the current expansion will comprise of the central concourse linking concourses D and E. Construction will start by early 2020 and will increase the airport’s capacity to more than 53 million passengers annually by 2022. Phase B, which will be completed after 2022, will extend concourses D and E to further enhance the airport’s capacity to more than 60 million passengers annually. 

The expansion plan also includes 11,720 sqm of landscaped retail and restaurant space. The main attraction for luxury travellers will be a 9,000 sqm of a new Al Mourjan business class lounge located above the retail space with views looking towards the tropical garden. This is good news are currently the lounge does not have any views and no daylight. The new lounge will include additional spas, gymnasiums, restaurants and business centres as well as other passenger facilities. I am also pleased to see that there will be a spa included as this is an area currently lacking. I doubt it will include free treatments as they are not even free for first-class passengers currently.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said:

“The expansion of Hamad International Airport is a vital part of the future success of the Qatar Airways Group, and of course of the country’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup and beyond. It is also a strong sign that Qatar’s economy is robust and acts as a further economic stimulus, providing excellent opportunities for local and international contractors.

“Plans for the phase two expansion focuses on capacity and passenger experience – we want to provide even better airport journeys to more people around the world. The expansion will allow us to do this.”


Virgin Connect/Flybe to get new larger aircraft

Flybe are a convenient airline for me to fly, but due to their Dash 8 aircraft, high prices, lack of miles earning and unreliability I rarely fly them. It’s a shame as I can land with luggage at my local airport and still be exiting the airport 15 minutes from touchdown for the 20-minute drive home. So when I heard that Virgin Connect were taking over I was delighted since I collect Virgin Flying Club miles. Things are about to get better too as it appears that they are keen to move away from the Dash 8 too (if you wonder why I hate it – tiny overhead lockers, noisy and bumpy). Flybe currently have 6 Embraer E195s and 11 E175s, 5 ATR 72s and Dash 8-400s.

Speaking at Airlines 2050 in London, Virgin Connect CEO, Mark Anderson, confirmed that although they were not about to start buying lots of new aircraft, they were considering expanding the fleet. Whilst their initial objective is simply to keep the current program flying, he confirmed that future fleet expansion was likely to include larger aircraft. This is no surprise as Virgin Connect are planning to use the airline to feed passengers onto Virgin’s long haul flights at London and Manchester. 

HT: Air Transport World


3 Comments on "News: Air NZ quits UK, Qatar – Doha expansion & new lounge + QSuite & Virgin Connect aircraft"

  1. Such a pity no plans for a new / larger in-terminal hotel at HIA – the economics of the current one (£220+ a night whenever I have looked) just don’t work for most, especially business passengers who can pay to upgrade to Al Safwa.

    It also is not uncommon to wait circa 1 hr for the showers in Al Mourjan, and I’ve read of 30/40 minutes queues at check-in at the hotel – this seems much more of an issue with the provision of staff than the actual facilities.

    The showers being a particular example where they build loads of shower suites, but insist they are full cleaned and dried between each guest – then expect a team of 4 or 5 cleaners to keep up. From what I’ve seen they operate at 10-20% of capacity most of the time.

    Also find the Cheif’s comments about the design quite typical – ““Somebody copied our design, which was already on the table six years ago. We had individuals from that country, I will not name it, who took that and did it (themselves).”

    • Totally agree Tom about the hotel. Even you have a long layover and are in business class it makes more sense to leave the airport or pay for Al Safwa.

  2. Let’s hope that the showers in the new Al Mourjan have two features the current ones lack: the ability to control the temperature of the water and not be limited to hot or scalding and also some aircon because having avoided scalding yourself in the current showers the next challenge is to attempt to get dry in the steam and humidity filled cubicle.

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