Pay attention not just to the airline, but also the aircraft when you book your flight
Apart from the airline, the aircraft you fly plays a big part in how well-rested you arrive
Starting up into the world of business travel many years ago, I did not imagine how important it was to pick the right aircraft to be able to get the most amount of work done and to arrive well-rested at my destination. From thereon, I’ve made the passenger experience the centrepiece of my air travel, business or pleasure. And while it may sound a bit nerdy, apart from the airline, the aircraft you fly plays a big part in how well-rested you arrive. This tiny little piece of information, which is usually ignored, makes a great difference in your flight experience.
If you are flying to the East, then, Singapore Airlines (SIA) becomes a great choice. The airline makes it a point to fly its latest aircraft to India. It was the first to fly the Airbus A380 to India and just last month, it switched Delhi-Singapore to the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, the latest member of its fleet. SIA also plans to move to the 787-10 from other Indian airports such as Ahmedabad and Chennai when it receives more of these planes.
The cabin humidity in the new-generation aircraft such as the 787 makes sure you don’t feel dehydrated at 35,000 feet. Also, the air flowing in the cabin is not circulated via the engines, but ploughed in from the atmosphere, making you feel fresher. The 30% larger windows on the 787 make sure more natural light comes into the aircraft, making it easier for your body to cope with jet lag.
SIA is the only airline to fly the 787-10 right now, but many other airlines fly variants of the 787 to India. Air India has 27 of the 787-8 aircraft, while British Airways flies its 787s to Chennai and Hyderabad. Vistara has six 787-9 on order, to start serving its long-haul destinations from 2020.
One of the other aircraft I love to fly is the Airbus A380. The double-decker aircraft gives ample space to the airlines to invest in a passenger experience that makes the business traveller feel at ease during the flight. Qatar Airways and Emirates, for instance, have invested in an on-board lounge and bar for their premium-cabin customers on the A380. Etihad Airways created the First Apartments, which is a 6’10” bed-plus a separate armchair on board the A380. You can also walk into a shower at 35,000 feet, arriving refreshed on the other end.
Economy is also not bad on the A380. Airbus championed the cause of wider seats for customers, so on most its aircraft such as the A380, A350 (the A320 too!), you will get a seat width of at least 18”, which means you don’t need to fight for the armrest any more. And in spite of being a four-engine aircraft, the A380 is one of the quietest planes I have ever flown. The A380 is flown by Lufthansa to Delhi, SIA to Delhi and Mumbai, and Emirates to Mumbai. You can always check the website iflya380.com to plan a journey on the A380.
One airline which is doing a lot for passenger experience is Qatar Airways, and it is making it work with old as well as new aircraft. In 2017, the airline launched Qsuite, a business-class seat with privacy doors. What’s new is that you can drop the divider on four of these seats facing each other and communicate with people across easily, making it an ideal combination for families and colleagues travelling together. If you like catching up on movies, the 22” screen is made for you. The Qsuite is available from Mumbai and Bengaluru, and eventually you will find it on all of Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777s, Airbus A350-1000s and A350-900s.
And while you may frown at the idea of being in the air for 18 hours, some people such as the private equity guys just have to do it. So, Airbus developed a special version of the A350-900, called the Ultra Long Range (ULR), especially for SIA to allow travel between the financial capitals of Singapore and New York, a distance of nearly 16,670km. The world’s longest flight now, the A350ULR has some top-notch features to make you feel comfortable. For instance, the ambient lighting mimics the sunrise to help you reset your body clock while being on the plane for almost a day. Oh, and given I am a germophobe to some extent, I relish the fact that the lavatory is touchless, which means I don’t have to make contact with the tap to rinse.
So the next time you’re planning a trip, perhaps it would be wise to start asking your travel agent about what the aircraft and the cabin layout is like. These questions, answered well, will go a long way in ensuring you travel more comfortably going forward.
Elevate Your Travel is a column for the business travellers by a business traveller. Ajay Awtaney is founder and editor of Livefromalounge.com, a frequent-flyer website.
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