Secret trick in Boeing’s new plane wing
New planes, new places and new lounges are keeping flying fresh for even the most frequent of flyers. Here are some of the changes we're seeing in the air and on the ground, right now and in the years ahead.
It's almost time for a new plane to take to the skies, as Boeing builds the first flight test 777X in its factory in Everett, Washington.
The 777X will become the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world, with interiors inspired by the 787 Dreamliner including a wider cabin and larger windows. It will also be the first commercial plane to have folding wings. Just as some military aircraft fold their wings so they can fit onto aircraft carriers, the 777X has hinged wingtips so that it can carry more passengers and still dock at regular airport gates.
Emirates will be the first airline to fly a 777X in 2020, with Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific also looking forward to first deliveries.
The 777X is also in Qantas's sights as a possible contender for "Project Sunrise". The airline has challenged Boeing and Airbus to stretch their next generation aircrafts' range to make non-stop Sydney-to-London and Melbourne-to-New York flights a reality by 2022.
NOW FLYING TO …
Singapore Airlines' new longest flight in the world - from Singapore to New York - made the biggest splash of the year for new routes, but there are many other new flight paths for travellers to try.
New direct routes and one-stop hops will make some destinations even easier for Australians to visit.
In September, Qantas started flying direct from Melbourne to San Francisco, saving around 60,000 passengers from stop-offs in Sydney or Los Angeles.
Virgin Australia has just started direct flights between Sydney and Wellington and between Melbourne and Queenstown after its alliance with Air New Zealand ended.
Emirates has two new one-stop options in the UK for Aussies, flying daily from Dubai to Edinburgh and Dubai to London Stansted in its new Boeing 777-300ERs.
Cebu Pacific, the only low-cost carrier flying directly between Australia and the Philippines, now flies direct from Melbourne to Manila three times a week, adding to its five-times-a-week service ex Sydney.
Next April, Hawaiian Airlines starts direct Honolulu-to-Boston flights, giving Australians a new aloha-flavoured stopover to the East Coast.
Cathay Pacific has launched new services to Washington, D.C. and Cape Town, and in March will add Seattle to its network in the United States.
And here at home, Virgin Australia will launch a new direct Perth-Gold Coast service over the Christmas period. The service will fly twice weekly, December 13 to January 26.
Our smart phones have new ways to make our travels easier, with Virgin Australia becoming the first airline outside North America to offer voice check-in via Amazon Alexa.
The Virgin Australia app also has new features including terminal maps with wayfaring capabilities to help passengers navigate through more complex airports like LAX.
And next year should see the integration of some partner airlines' apps, with Virgin Australia working with Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, Delta Air Lines and others to embed functionality so you can check in and select your seat on partner airlines from your home airline's app.
Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines has solved a frustrating problem for those who find the plane is landing when they're half way through a movie. Its new in-flight entertainment system uses KrisFlyer membership numbers to bookmark movies and TV shows so passengers can pick up where they left off on the next flight. The system also remembers customer favourites and viewing history and lets KrisFlyer members build a playlist on the SingaporeAir app before their flight.
In Melbourne, the Qantas Club and Domestic Business Lounge have been redeveloped, with a Spice Bar with Asian street food featuring in the domestic lounge.
In Sydney, Qantas is building a new international business lounge with 35 per cent more seating, while its flagship International First lounge will be expanded by 15 per cent when it's refreshed. Qantas has also announced a multimillion-dollar upgrade program for five other lounges in Brisbane, Hobart, Tamworth, Auckland and Tokyo.
Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has started rolling out its new international lounge network that will see new looks in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington.
In Brisbane "My Lounge" has been designed with a loft apartment feel including lounge areas and a games room. Sydney and Melbourne's new international lounges will be part of the No1 Lounges' brand, The House, and will be shared with Etihad Airways. Over the next year, The House will expand Sydney's existing Etihad lounge to increase capacity by more than 50 per cent.
The House Lounges will also be available to passengers on other airlines who are willing to pay.
BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT
Nervous flyers will soon have a special box to tick when booking a flight with Virgin Australia. From early next year the airline will let people who need more attention identify themselves so they can get the care they need.
Virgin Australia has also launched a new partnership with Smiling Mind to provide guided meditations on the in-flight entertainment system.
Virgin Atlantic created the first meditation channel with Headspace in 2011. Headspace has gone on to work with 11 airlines including Cathay Pacific and British Airways.
Air New Zealand vows to continue its fight against plastic and remove more single-use plastic items. The airline has already scrapped plastic straws, stir sticks, eye mask wrappers and toothbrushes, with paper straws, wooden stirrers and other alternatives available on request. During next year the plan is to delete another 14 items including nine types of plastic bags.
Virgin Australia has also removed plastic straws and stirrers from its planes and lounges, an annual saving of almost eight million plastic pieces. The airline's also working on a biofuel plan at Brisbane Airport with almost 200 flights involved in a recent trial.
Meanwhile in Nevada, this year Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc broke ground on its first commercial-scale plant where municipal solid waste will be turned into sustainable aviation fuel. As an investor in Fulcrum, Cathay Pacific will be one of the first airlines to fly on the low carbon fuel with the plant expected to produce around 40 million litres of fuel a year when production begins in 2020.