From the ATE Floor: An Update on Australia's Airlines

Qantas made a big step in January when it announced nonstop flights from Dallas to Sydney, bringing the Eastern side of the U.S. a bit closer to Australia. Dallas is a major hub for American Airlines, one of Qantas' OneWorld partners, and will link Qantas to 54 more codeshare cities. The flights are currently slated to operate four times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), and the success of the flights will determine what other hub cities will follow, although none are currently in the works. 

Another notable announcement from Qantas is the decision to take away first class seating in the airline's 747 planes, and replace it with the current business class seats from the new A380 planes. The 747s will have three classes: Business, Premium Economy and Economy. The changes should begin in September, and will happen plane by plane rather than all at once. By the end of the year, Qantas expects to have 11 new A380 planes, which will continue to have four classes. 

Air New Zealand is getting three new 777 planes, and is undergoing what hotels call a "soft refurbishment": a new color scheme for some seats and new uniforms for the staff. Good news for flying foodies: Certain planes will now have ovens to custom-cook food from scratch, so that meals can be ordered at any time. 

The Premium Economy cabin has been rearranged with angled seats--the two inner seats face each other and can serve as opposite sides of a table (good for couples or friends), while the outer seats are angled for privacy. And there has already been a good deal of buzz about the "Economy Skycouch," which turns three economy seats into a sofa-sized bed--again, good for couples or parents with little kids. The planes will have small lounges for gatherings and events (storytime for kids, wine tastings, etc.), and the individual entertainment screens will offer from-seat menu ordering and live news. 

Best of all: Richard Simmons is now doing the pre-flight safety videos. I can't make this up

V Australia will be rolling out new business class seats on domestic flights next month on the A330 planes, and is offering some very nice perks to go with them. (They not only fold out to flat beds, but real mattresses are added. Also, Bulgari amenities. Very nice.) 

We hear some big announcements will be coming from the brand next month or in June. Stay tuned!

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