Domestic business passengers and those travellers on short-haul international flights, with Qantas and Virgin Australia, will be pleased to know that aviation regulator CASA, has announced some regulatory changes for electronic devices. CASA has announced that smartphones and tablets no longer need to be switched off for take-off or landing. Passengers can now enjoy uninterrupted use of these devices throughout all stages of the flight, provided that they are set to ‘flight mode’. QantasLink and Jetstar are expected to follow. Larger devices weighing more than 1kg will still need to be stowed securely for take-off and landing. Plus Virgin Australia flights under the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand are excluded, which includes flights to and from New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Fiji.
Passengers can now download the Virgin Australia Entertainment App before their next flight to enjoy an array of free entertainment. The app gives travellers access to hundreds of hours of entertainment including movies, TV shows, music and more. The app can be downloaded on smart phones, tablets or laptops. Virgin's state-of-the-art system is progressively rolling out across the carrier's domestic and international short-haul fleet, and is now offered on selected flights operated by equipped Boeing 737-800 and Embraer 190 aircraft.
A planned joint venture between Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines has been approved. The alliance covers routes between New Zealand and Singapore as well as selected other routes, and will see the two airlines co-ordinate their operations for codesharing, capacity and pricing. As part of the deal, Air New Zealand will resume services between Auckland and Singapore and Singapore Airlines will launch A380 services to Auckland.
Qantas is changing its domestic and international lounge entry requirements for passengers flying with alliance partner Emirates. The change brings the rules in line with those of all other Qantas airline partners, where Qantas Club members must book a QF flight number to access Qantas and Partner lounges when travelling in economy. The changes come into effect from 1 October.
Cathay Pacific plans to upgrade the aircraft used on its Hong Kong-Sydney route. The switch from its current A330-330 aircraft to a B777-300ER on flights CX138/139 is effective 3 December 2014. Initially operating as a three times weekly service, frequency will increase to daily from 1 February. Flights CX138/139 form one pair of Cathay’s current four daily flights between the two cities.
Qantas plans to expand seating capacity on its fleet of B737 aircraft. Cabin upgrades will add six new seats at the rear of each plane thanks to reconfigured galley and lavatory space. The carrier also plans to roll out in-flight entertainment on all its B737s. Currently, 29 of the latest B737-800s have interactive seat-back entertainment, but the revamp will see wireless Q-streaming entertainment installed on the remaining B737-800s for passengers to use on their own devices.
A new ‘authorised app’ has been launched to help expedite entry into the USA. The Mobile Passport Control (MPC) app enables eligible passengers to submit their passport information and customs declaration form via a smartphone or tablet, prior to inspection by officers. The free app is part of a pilot program between the US Customs and Border Protection service and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport aimed at speeding up the entry process. Already available via the iTunes store, an Android version is also under development. While currently restricted to US citizens and visitors from Canada entering the US via Atlanta Airport, the app is expected to expand to more airports across the USA later this year.
Travellers are being advised that enhanced security requirements are being introduced at the boarding gate for flights to the UK. Passengers chosen at random will undergo additional screening, including removal of footwear and testing of electrical devices such as smart phones, cameras, laptops and tablets. Electrical devices may need to be powered up to demonstrate functionality. If a device has no power it will not be permitted to travel on the flight – so be sure to have your devices fully charged. The new process is similar to that recently adopted by the US Government.
Qantas has expanded the changes to its international fare structures and conditions to business and first class tickets. The changes apply to tickets issued in Australia for travel across the joint Qantas and Emirates network. The structure for cancellation and change fees has also been modified, with change fees for a rebook/reroute or cancellation following a no-show now higher than if customers make changes prior to the flight departure. All changes are effective immediately.