What The Trans-Tasman Bubble Could Mean For You

What is a travel bubble?

To restart international travel in a safe controlled manner, governments are looking to create ‘travel bubbles’. Travel Bubbles are agreements between two or more governments allowing people to move between areas of low, or no Coronavirus transmission without the need of a full 14 day quarantine period.

Countries like Australia & New Zealand are very cautious about the movement of people across international borders, in fear COVID-19 will spread widely again. The hypothetical ‘bubble’ is an agreement to lift travel restrictions between those countries.

If a third country wanted to enter an agreement with either country, then both Australia and New Zealand would need to agree to expand the bubble to include the other country. Over time more countries could join a growing bubble until the risk of the pandemic passes.

There are examples of this already happening domestically in Australia, with the clearest example being Queensland and South Australia; residents of these states can move freely over their state lines with minimal disruption while excluding residents from other states entering.

What is the Trans-Tasman travel bubble?

Australia and New Zealand are very keen to resume some sort of travel between the two nations again as soon as it’s safe to do so. The Prime Ministers have both expressed interest in allowing travel between COVID-19 safe regions by as early as Christmas.

If this sounds familiar to you, it is. Serious negotiations stalled earlier this year as Victoria’s second wave took hold of the state.

Under the current proposal, we could see travel between areas of low Coronavirus transmission, for example Sydney to Christchurch, allowing both Australians and Kiwis to enter each others countries without undergoing mandatory quarantine. This would be a huge development for Australia, as this could free up places in the hotel quarantine system by up to 15%, allowing many more Australians from the rest of the world to return home.

Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble Airlines
Prior to the pandemic, there were many routes between Australia & New Zealand (above). Under a travel-bubble, there will be carefully selected routes likely based off low local COVID-19 transmission rates

If this goes ahead, how can I get to NZ?

Expect airlines, especially Qantas & Air New Zealand to jump at the opportunity to open routes across the Tasman again. We’ve already seen multiple examples in Australia where airlines have added capacity on highly sought after routes following relaxations of state borders.

We can expect flights to be cheap, really cheap. Airlines will be keen to chase your dollars to get you sitting in their seat. When searching some random dates for future travel next year, airlines are already offering seats lower than AUD$250 each way. When the time comes, keep in mind there are a few things to consider to buying the best value for money airfares.

Aus to NZ airfares
Looking at random future dates already show reasonably cheap flight options between Australia & New Zealand.

As it stands, there are no definitive routes that airlines will be allowed to fly and the timeline on quarantine free travel is still a speculative game. Don’t make any formal plans or circle any dates in the calendar until the governments release a formal policy!

Why would anyone travel to NZ?

I’ve been fortunate enough to venture to New Zealand twice, in 2010 and 2012; covering stops in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Taupo and Wellington. The landscapes and experiences are a world away from Australia with the only requirement (normally) being a short three hour flight.

The top of my New Zealand bucket list is the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown. I’m itching just thinking about the opportunity to experience one of the world famous bungy jumps, hike some amazing trails and play some of the world’s most scenic golf courses.

Long story short

While the announcements by the Prime Ministers at the moment are somewhat speculative, it shows genuine interest from both sides of the Tasman that travel between the two countries is high on the agenda.

A Trans-Tasman bubble will help tourism operators who are desperate to start selling travel dreams again, help reunite families across ‘The Ditch’ & for people like you and me, will scratch that ever growing itch to whip out the passport and discover our next adventure.

Let me know in the comments below…!
Aussies, what is at the top of your New Zealand bucket list?
Kiwis, where in Australia are you most excited to explore once the borders open for tourists?

Feature photo of Auckland, New Zealand by Partha Narasimhan on Unsplash

Why You Shouldn’t Post Your Boarding Pass Online

You’ve done it, I’ve definitely done it; most of us have posted pictures of our boarding pass online. Why wouldn’t you? The adventure is starting, you’re at the airport killing an hour before the flight and enjoying a drink in the departure lounge. You just want to share your excitement with your friends (or more like rub it in their faces).

If there is a clear example of why you shouldn’t post a picture of your boarding pass, look no further than the example of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who recently made headlines when his information held by Qantas was ‘hacked’.

What was hacked from Tony Abbott?

The short answer is nothing; the hacker did not steal or use the information in a malicious manner. The point of the ‘hacking’ was to highlight security flaws in Qantas’ system.

From a simple Instagram post showing the boarding pass & a baggage receipt in full, the hacker accessed Mr Abbott’s Qantas booking and within 45 minutes accessed HTML code which included his passport number, contact details, internal airline notes among other things.

While no major incident occurred in this example, the ease of a security breach of a prominent Australian should definitely make you want to pay attention to your own personal data.

Tony Abbott hacked: Former PM's massive boarding pass mistake
This simple Instagram photo from the former Australian Prime Minister has caused a massive security stir
(source: news.com.au – original Instagram post since deleted)

What’s the one reason not to post boarding passes online?

When making an airline reservation, you need to provide your airline or travel agent sensitive information that is required for your booking. Some information is required for government agencies for pre-screening of passengers prior to departure & arrival between countries, and other information makes your journey more comfortable.

In the wrong hands, criminals can use this basic information as a way to have you fall victim to identity theft.

Airlines and travel agents have strong data protections and laws in place keeping your personal data safe. However by posting your boarding pass online, you are virtually volunteering the data which savvy hackers use to find keys to your sensitive information. Some airlines require as little information as a booking number and a surname to view the reservation online, both details found on all boarding passes.

What information could be obtained from your boarding pass?

For a basic international airline reservation you will likely be providing most of the following, before your tickets can be issued:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Email address
  • Passport number & expiry
  • Residential address

Does the required information look familiar to you? These are questions asked in most applications to sign up for new services and ‘forgotten password’ forms. Should an unauthorised person gain access to this information, there is nothing stopping them from attempting to use your information as a basis for illegal activity under your name nearly anywhere.

For those who have travelled regularly, you may also know that airlines often collect other information to make your journey more comfortable, such as:

  • Frequent flyer number & status
  • Special dietary requirements
  • Seating requests
  • Additional baggage
  • Special baggage (e.g sports equipment or dangerous goods)

To be honest, I wouldn’t want this information in the hands of my friends in fear they will try and put me in a middle seat or change my flight, let alone someone wanting to use and experiment with this information for malicious purposes.

What’s the best way to protect information when posting on social media?

The easiest way to do this is to ensure you’re not including any material that may give away any unique booking details full stop. If you’re not sure what to post, stick to selfies!

If you are feeling a little artsy and just need to post something, just leave out the boarding pass. Perhaps take one of the departure board, or one of the aircraft parked at the gate or if you’re at Singapore’s Changi Airport, take One Flying Lap like I did!

Final words

During the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us aren’t flying anywhere at the moment; but when you do take to the sky again there’s simply no need to post a snap of that data rich piece of paper! If your need inspiration, Caroline at breaks.com has 10 tips for taking great travel pictures.

What do you share to social media prior to your travels? Do you share at all?
Let me know in the comments below!

Feature photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash

Australia Relaxes Inbound Traveller Limits – Is Enough Being Done?

Friday’s meeting of the Australian National Cabinet agreed to increase the cap of Australians returning home from roughly 4,000 inbound travellers per week to a little under 6,000 per week, on a scaled increase.

What’s the current state of play?

The Australian hotel quarantine system is managed by each state & territory government. After the second wave of COVID-19 that ravaged Melbourne was linked to mismanagement in hotel quarantine, most other states expressed concerns that their own resources could not safely handle the amount of travellers returning.

As a result, each state & territory imposed limits on inbound traveller numbers and restricted arrivals to come through selected international airports:

Total number of arrivals per week: 3,975. It’s important to note there are some exemptions to quarantine requirements (such as airline crew), so the total number of actual passengers arriving into Australia on a weekly basis is likely higher than the quarantine cap.

The new plan from National Cabinet

In a phased approach, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland & Western Australia will increase the total amount of inbound arrivals to a total of just over 5,500 with further arrangements being made to increase this to be as high as 6,000.

New South Wales will take an additional 500 passengers per week, with South Australia accepting an additional 100 arrivals. This will be in place by 28 September.

Queensland & Western Australia are taking a two-tier approach with both states each accepting 200 additional weekly arrivals by 28 September, and raising this number to 500 in total increase by 05 October (QLD) and 12 October (WA).

To simplify this, let’s take a look at the updated table of what each state will be accepting when the new plan is fully operational:

Total number of arrivals per week: 5,575.
*Prior to the pandemic, Hobart Airport did not and to this day still doesn’t currently service any international commercial flights
^National Cabinet concluded that ‘facilitation of special commercial services‘ would be carried out in South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory & Australian Capital Territory; which will likely see this published number exceeded some weeks. There is no indication of what this may entail.

Why does this matter?

Sydney Morning Herald recently confirmed with DFAT that roughly 23,000 Australians have expressed interest in returning home. Unfortunately not all Australians were or are currently able to simply ‘pack everything up’ and return home immediately, with many having family, careers & other binding commitments with other countries. Clearly, continuing on the current cap of roughly 4,000 would take months and into 2021 to allow all Australians to return home.

However for Australians trying to return immediately the situation is even more complicated. The current passenger limit has seen airlines having to severely reduce passenger capacity on all flights. To demonstrate the easiest example; an airline like Qatar Airways who operate a 14 hour flight from Doha to Sydney cannot make a profit from passenger services by carrying so few passengers, a requirement they must strictly follow to not exceed the passenger cap. As a business they need to make these flights as commercially viable as possible, hence we hear stories of passengers needing to purchase business or first class tickets to increase their chances of being accepted on board.

The airline conundrum:
Maintain air links, or cut costs?

Don’t be too quick to criticise the airlines for prioritising business & first class passengers. An easy alternative for them is to conclude the Australian market is too difficult and too expensive to manage at the moment and abandon all services, leaving thousands more stranded overseas especially those in far away places like Europe, The Americas & Africa.

The routes in green show flights around 14 hours in length, the yellow around three hours. All of the above routes can only accept a similar number of passengers, making these green journeys far more expensive and loss-making for long haul carriers.

Airlines like Qatar Airways, Emirates & United Airlines, who have all continued to fly to Australia nearly uninterrupted, have used their extensive global networks to get passengers from far-flung places back to Australia via their hubs in the Middle East & North America. Despite flying passengers across the world, with the leg into Australia at over 14 hours, they can only carry the same amount of passengers as a plane coming from New Zealand or Papua New Guinea, only a couple of hours long and nowhere near the same costs to an airline.

New Zealand’s strength may have a role in easing Australian backlogs

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has floated the idea of allowing Australians & New Zealanders in COVID-free areas of New Zealand to enter Australia quarantine free, a lot like how some domestic Australia travel currently operates.

According to the Prime Minister in Friday’s press conference, approximately 15% of all international arrivals are currently from New Zealand. Under the increased cap, this would take about 836 places in hotel quarantine per week.

By removing the hotel quarantine for arrivals from COVID-free areas of New Zealand, such as the entirety of the South Island, this will free up more space for returning travellers from the rest of the world and therefore clear the backlog of Australians desperate to get home sooner.

Don’t get too excited if you’re reading this in Australia and wanting to brush off your passport – this is not the much hyped Trans-Tasman bubble which I’m sure you’ve all read about in the media. The current proposal is for one-way traffic to allow Australians & eligible Kiwis to enter Australia. The New Zealand government would be under no obligation to reciprocate these proposed changes and may continue their hard border stance to all countries including Australia for an indefinite period.

It’s reasonable to speculate that this model will be used as a dry run to open up bilateral arrangements with countries and regions with no community COVID transmission, to allow some international movement to recommence. An example of a similar agreement already in place is Singapore, where they recently opened ‘fast lanes’ for travellers to move between certain countries and specific regions. We’ll be watching these developments closely with a keen eye.

There is still a lot of water to go under the bridge for this proposal to get over the line. Western Australia & Tasmania still have hard borders for domestic Australian travellers, you cannot get into these states without special exemptions. Queensland continues to have controversial hard borders with New South Wales and Victoria, however on Friday announced plans to lift restrictions for travellers flying in from the ACT.

With so much in-fighting among the Australian states and territories, it’s currently difficult to imagine how Australian state premiers will permit international arrivals to land without a quarantine period anytime soon. But hey this is the ‘COVID era’, so anything is possible by this time next week!

A quick cheat sheet to the current interstate border restrictions for inbound domestic travellers. Some exemptions apply in all cases. Correct as of 20 September and likely to change every fifteen seconds.

The Northern Territory allow travellers from all jurisdictions to enter, however if you have been in a declared hotspot in the last 14 days you must complete a self-funded quarantine. Hotspots are defined by the NT government & can be declared for specific locations in other states and cities. If you’ve spent some time outside a hotspot then you can apply to have your quarantine reduced – I told you it’s complicated!

Long story short…

Australia’s positive move to allow more of its own citizens to return home is a welcome boost to many currently overseas trying to get home. The cautious border approach on the health front has cascading consequences resulting in extremely limited flight options and seats being sold at many times the standard airfare to make the airlines’ ends meet.

Let’s hope National Cabinet continue to provide out of the box, practical solutions to get our own citizens who want to return back on home soil while ensuring that hotel quarantine can be facilitated in a safe manner. The proposal of quarantine free arrivals from COVID-free areas of New Zealand is a fantastic start, however we need our state premiers to see eye-to-eye on domestic issues first before quarantine free travel can work on an international scale.

Let me know what you think! Should the National Cabinet be doing more to get Australians home? Do airlines have a moral responsibility to move people to where they need to be during a global crisis at a passenger friendly cost? Have your say below!

Feature photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

2020 Ready For Take Off

Hey there, remember me?

It’s been a while and boy it’s been a ride for the ages!

What’s happened to Travel?

It’s March 03, 2020 and the Christmas break is now distant memory. I’m humming along nicely in my day to day life, eagerly waiting to depart for a work conference to Bangkok in just two weeks. Yet the novel Coronavirus is making headlines in Australia and no doubt around the world. My day job is in the airline & travel industry and we see airlines releasing new passenger policies multiple times a day in reaction to the unfolding events.

At this stage, we’re dealing with just another crisis. The air travel industry has been through a lot in the last 20 years; 9/11, SARS, tsunamis, Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption, Ebola, Swine Flu, airline industrial disputes, earthquakes, and well you get the idea. As at 03 March 2020 this was another crisis that we would rebound from soon and we are merely rolling through the motions. People cancel their trips, wait the crisis out and eagerly rebook in a few weeks or month time when everything gets back to normal. The company I work for tightens the purse strings, waits the crisis out then resumes business as normal. Been here, done this, have the t-shirt.

Volcano Eruption
Volcanic ash from eruptions cripple aircraft engines and closes vital air spaces between continents. Air travel has been through many crisis and we expected to rebound quickly again.

March 04, literally the next day. The Australian government already has ‘do not travel’ warnings for China and South Korea which no one found surprising given the virus’ origins and early spread over the South China Sea. However out of the blue, do not travel warnings are issued for Italy and Iran.  This sends red flags through the office; the government hasn’t done anything like this before on this scale.

March 06 comes around and my manager asks me to coffee. I don’t think anything of it to begin with but oh boy, at the time I thought this was a tough conversation. I’ve been dropped from the conference as a cost cutting measure, as more and more ticket refunds are requested. All you can do in these situations is focus on the positives; a free coffee and just having to set sights on my next holiday in September – we’re going to Hawaii to see two of my best friends get married!

Let’s fast forward through this a little now. The United States’ President announces an executive order to ban all U.S inbound travel from Europe on March 11. The Australian Government took what felt like a crazy step on March 18 when they upgraded the planet Earth outside of Australia to ‘do not travel’, shortly after making all international arrivals self-quarantine for 14 days after entering Australia (turns out I had a lucky break by not travelling for the conference!). The fact that our closest foreign relation, New Zealand, was deemed a dangerous country to travel to seemed utterly ridiculous, and for many Australians this is when the penny dropped on how serious this really was.

Little events like this continue over the next fortnight until it came to a massive, crushing blow with an announcement by the Prime Minister on March 27.

Australians. Are. Banned. From. International. Travel.

What!? Convinced the TV was broken, I quickly change the channel. No matter how many times I changed to different TV networks, the news wouldn’t change – all Australians must remain within Australia with very limited exceptions.

Covid-19 World Map
The Australian Government continues to put a ‘level four, do not travel’ alert for all countries.

TL;DR? On March 04 I was happy as Larry and looking forward to spending time in Bangkok. On March 27, it’s illegal for me to leave the country let alone my own suburb.

In the space of three weeks the whole world has flipped upside down. A dangerous, highly contagious yet invisible virus has crippled millions of plans around our globe. Dream holidays, honeymoons, work conferences, weddings, birthdays and so, so much more was suddenly out of reach for the ordinary person.

If six months ago anyone involved in the travel industry ever imagined a scene consisting of hard border closures, health testing, aircraft passenger limits, mandatory face masks, forced quarantine or even Australians not being able to travel to New Zealand, you would have asked which Armageddon Hollywood blockbuster they watched.

BNE World Map
Route map of every international destination I’m currently permitted to visit – zero

Feelin’ fine okayish

Travel aside for one moment. Post March 27 and over the next weeks and months everyone has their own Coronavirus story, each as interesting as the last. Mine involves having to cancel that Hawaiian holiday & my friends postponing their wedding, seeing most of my friends & my managers lose their jobs, a series of sleepless nights, constant job insecurity and the overall questioning of myself and what I do. Times were tough; in fact, they are still tough to a degree.  Its lead to my hair changing colour no less than six times, converting my couch to be a functioning workspace, discovering how cool float tanks are and I’ve not ventured more than 80 kilometres away from my home. Heck this website should be renamed “Tyler hasn’t gone anywhere”!

There are no illusions; my tough times are not on the scale to others. I’ve been overwhelmingly lucky in the fact neither I nor anyone in my family have contracted the virus, or have the heartache of not being able to see someone when I really needed due to a border closure or been subjected to a hard lockdown. It doesn’t discredit the emotions I’ve felt, but on the same token I certainly do not take for granted the fortunate set of health and social circumstances that I still enjoy. Talk to someone you trust, let them know how you feel because we are all dealing with this virus in a unique set of circumstances, no one is the same!

Tyler, Guy, Pink Hair
Yeah look, I made some interesting fashion decisions during the COVID-19 restrictions!

I’m back! Where to from here?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself on and off for a long time, where do I want to take TGP from here after such a long hiatus and not being able to travel anywhere that’s been on my bucket list? Let’s not over complicate this. I now have more time and energy to do what I love doing – simplifying the confusing world of travel. Over the next weeks, months and let’s be honest, years, travel will severely be impacted by border restrictions, visa requirements, health checks & quirky rules and regulations that we never before thought would be possible in the modern age.

My aim is to make this as easy as possible for you to understand how the ever changing travel scape impacts you.

I’ll continue to the same format of my previous articles; information sharing based on personal experience or corroborated facts, delivered in a way that I hope most people can relate to. At the same time I will continue building my bucket list and I hope you will too, Ten Reasons Why Jordan Needs to be on Your Bucket List Now.

Ladies and gentleman fasten your seat belt, put your seat in the upright position and ensure your tray table is stowed because as government movement restrictions ease, the travel experience is going to more turbulent than you ever thought possible.

Join me as the world reopens and let’s rediscover the freedom of travel once again. It’s been a while and boy it’s been a ride for the ages!

Feature photo – Flying into bushfire smokey Brisbane on one of my last flights before the pandemic began
©tylergoesplaces 2020

5 Reasons To Use The Hong Kong Airport Express

Hong Kong’s airport is a world hub connecting the mega city to nearly everywhere imaginable on the globe. There are three main options for those making the most of their holiday and stopping over in Hong Kong.

You can:

  • Take a taxi (HK$320-$400 to Hong Kong Island)
  • Catch a bus (and take forever, depending on route)
  • Ride the HK Airport Express (from airport to the city in 24 minutes)

Here are five reasons why you should seriously consider using the Airport Express on your next journey to Hong Kong!

1 – It’s so easy to use!

How much is the Hong Kong Airport Express from Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA)

Adult fares from HKIA to Hong Kong Island on the Airport Express are currently HK$115 one-way. If hopping off at Tsing Yi or Kowloon Station, a discount applies.

After collecting baggage and clearing customs, simply find the Airport Express signs in the arrivals hall. This will direct you to a ticketing desk, or use the ticketing machine if you are well researched in where exactly you are going.

Hong Kong Airport Express Tickets
If you have done your research, you can skip the queue and purchase tickets from the machine.

At non-peak travel times, you may be able to step off your aircraft, clear customs and be in the centre of Hong Kong in under an hour!

From Hong Kong to HKIA

Airport Express stations are separated from the regular MTR stations. If taking the MTR (Hong Kong version of a subway), follow the signs on arrival in the main concourse of Kowloon or Hong Kong station. If catching a taxi from your hotel to the station, make sure you clearly say Airport Express so you are taken to the correct entrance.

This is the fast track from the crazy sights of the city to the luxury of the airport lounges, if you’re lucky enough to fly business class.

2 – You can check-in for your flight in the city

You may be wondering why you would take a taxi to a train station instead of the airport. The reason is in-town check-in. Most airlines participate in the program, where you can check your baggage in Hong Kong and catch the Airport Express at your leisure.

When I used this, I checked in my baggage at Hong Kong station, went for last minute shopping and sightseeing, before catching the train from Kowloon station.

The only requirement for using in-town check in is that you must first purchase an Airport Express ticket.

HK Station Check-in
Check-in area at Hong Kong station.

3 – You can return the same day for free

If your onward flight from Hong Kong is on the same calendar day, you can use the Airport Express return for the price of a one-way fare. This maximises your time in the city at an exceptional price.

4 – You can connect to free hotel shuttle bus services

This is especially useful when travelling with baggage, as I did on my recent visit to the city. Simply hold on to your ticket after alighting at Hong Kong or Kowloon station and follow the signs to the shuttle bus. Busses run frequently to many hotels. For the current list, and the best station to connect to your hotel, check out the MTR website.

5 – Free Wi-Fi and power outlets

Even the perfect travel plan doesn’t quite go so well. If you lose your power bank, or your data roaming plan doesn’t include Hong Kong, you are covered on the Airport Express. There are power outlets available throughout the train, and free Wi-Fi available for all to send off a last minute email, or Instagram story.

Inside HK Airport Express
A look inside the Airport Express.

Let me know in the comment section below – what’s your favourite thing to do in Hong Kong?

I travelled on the Airport Express at my own expense.
Information correct at 07 April 2019.

Feature photo – Hong Kong island view from Kowloon
©tylergoesplaces 2019

Upgraded: Qantas Business Class

This isn’t the normal flight review that you’ll already find all over the internet. I don’t fly business class often; I’ve been extremely lucky to fly a couple of sectors with ridiculously cheap tickets via India, and another time on a lucky domestic upgrade.

For readers who don’t fly business class, this is for you. For the seasoned pointy end flyers, also read on, as I hope you still feel the same level of excitement as I did with this crazy adventure.

HKG to SYD Qantas Business Class
HKG to SYD Airplane Route
Tonight’s route takes us over the Philippines, Indonesia and Queensland before descending through central New South Wales, into Sydney Airport

Check-in

I took advantage of Hong Kong’s in-town check-in at the Hong Kong Airport Express station. This service is also available at Kowloon Airport Express station as well. Station staff manage check in for multiple airlines, however there was no line when I arrived and the process is extremely efficient.

HKG Check-in Desk
Check-in desks at Kowloon Airport Express train station

Pre-flight services

As a business class passenger, the biggest perk is access to airline lounges. Qantas has its own lounge inside Hong Kong airport, however I arrived extra early to sample three of the famous Cathay Pacific lounges, the Emirates lounge as well as Qantas – I was really pushing to get the maximum experience today. You also have access to priority check-in and priority boarding to whizz you through the airport as efficiently as possible.

Seat and meal selection is available through the Qantas website for all passengers regardless of cabin class; however, the cheapest economy tickets will incur a fee to select seating.

Wantas Hong Kong Lounge
The Qantas lounge was my last stop before the flight, after sampling three Cathay Pacific lounges and the Emirates lounge.

Boarding

Just a short walk from the Qantas Lounge, I used the priority boarding lane and waltzed on through the gate. Greeted by name, the lovely flight attendant guided me to my seat, 15K which is on the window.

HKG Boarding Gate
Boarding call for Sydney

Awaiting me at my seat were noise cancelling headphones and the dinner menu. Shortly after sitting, a flight attendant came around with the famous Flying Kangaroo pajamas.

Qantas Business Class Gifts
Noise cancelling headphones, menu and pajamas

Seating

Oh. My. Gosh! This feels like sitting on a throne, presiding over a small country. It’s a soft, well padded seat with oodles of buttons for seat recline, hidey holes for your belongings and a massive storage bin by your side.

Sitting on the window means that you will have to climb over your “seatmate” to reach the aisle, however on this flight no one sat next to me, giving me even more space.

Qantas Business Class Seat
Sitting in comfort the entire way

For sleeping, the seat lies flat, except for my feet which seemed to dangle off the edge a little bit – I’m not sure if this is a flaw in the seat design or if I’m just too tall.

For those wanting to know, yes, the pajamas are super comfy and stylish!

Qantas Pajamas
Ready for bed, rocking out the Qantas pajamas!

Food

All the food was delicious, with generous portion sizes. I finished every little bit!

My entree selection was a chicken salad topped with a peanut sauce, and side salad with bread…

Qantas Business Class Food

…followed by the main where I chose duck wontons in broth…

Qantas Airplane Food

…and finished with a cheese plate served with a dessert wine. My champagne went down a treat with this selection as well.

Qantas Cheese and Crackers

Entertainment

All TV screens are folded away under the armrest which makes them highly adjustable to easily watch TV or Hollywood blockbusters whether sitting upright or down in bed mode. With hundreds of shows to choose from it’s nearly impossible to become bored on this flight.

Qantas Entertainment, Family Guy
The large entertainment system is easy to swivel to nearly any angle

Cabin Crew

The cabin crew on this flight were simply world class. With a warm friendly welcome they were chatty yet gave an ever professional presence. During our delay they remained friendly and approchable for anyone who had questions, or for those simply wanting a chat.

Extending past the on board cabin crew, the staff in the Qantas lounge are absolute legends as well. This was my last stop of my flying lounge visits in Hong Kong airport, and I wish I had come here first. Super friendly and approachable, they even suggested food pairings with my drink order. If I’m lucky enough to fly business class out of Hong Kong again, you will find me in the Qantas lounge.

Hong Kong Qantas Lounge Staff
Be sure to use the Qantas lounge at Hong Kong, the friendliest staff of all the lounges I visited during the afternoon.

How did I pay for this?

With Sydney-Hong Kong business class tickets starting at A$3000 return, I needed a cheaper way to enjoy this premium experience. I secured business class on this flight with a Qantas upgrade bid. This is an invitation only service that allows you to “bid” with a mixture of cash and Qantas Frequent Flyer points to upgrade to a premium cabin. This is dependent on seat availability, and all bids are accepted or denied at Qantas’ sole discretion. Once you place your bid it sits on the Qantas system pending; your credit card is only charged if your bid has been accepted. Further information can be found on the Qantas website.

Qantas Upgrade Me Big
The sweetest email to read before a flight!

An important note to make is that if you’re wanting 100% certainty to fly business class, then you should purchase a business class ticket. If you’re happy to accept the risk that you may not get upgraded, these bid now upgrades can provide a fantastic premium experience at a lower cost than the standard ticket price.

One other important note is that Qantas operate the Airbus A380 to Hong Kong during peak demand seasons such as Chinese New Year. At other times of the year, you may be flying on the Airbus A330, or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Check which aircraft you’ll be travelling on before booking to avoid disappointment.

Something different…

Our flight was delayed by four hours in Hong Kong due to a combination of an essential mechanical repair and a passenger who fell ill. This caused me to miss my connecting flight to Brisbane (which was no big deal, Sydney to Brisbane flights run more frequently than my local bus) however I received a lovely apology letter from Qantas due to the delay.

Qantas Delay Apology
The apology email sent from Qantas after our 4 hour delay on the ground in Hong Kong

I appreciate the small gesture of reaching out to apologise for the delay. This is the first time an airline has proactively communicated with me after a delay and I would hope more follow suit.

The final words

Today was my lucky day. Securing an upgrade on the iconic A380 which will soon cease production, waltzing through five different business class lounges for the sake of it and talking to the lovely cabin crew who made me feel at home in the sky – I can fully recommend this business class experience to anyone who wants to spoil themselves to some extra luxury.

Let me know in the comment section below, what’s your favourite business class experience? How many lounges can you visit in one airport visit?

Featured photo taken on descent into Sydney Airport, on board QF128

©tylergoesplaces 2019

5 Reasons Why “Skiplagging” Isn’t Worth It

Air travel is more complicated than what appears on the surface, one of the reasons why this website was created. Skiplagging is one of those intricacies which has garnered worldwide attention recently when German carrier Lufthansa pursued legal action against a passenger who deliberately skipped a flight to exploit an airfare loophole.

What is Skiplagging?

Skiplagging is where a passenger books a connecting flight itinerary with no intention of taking the onward connection. When wanting to travel on a direct flight from point A to B; there may be a cheaper option by booking point A to B, then C. The trick is that the passenger vanishes from the airport at the transit point, not travelling to the final destination, saving money in the process.

Still a little confused? Here is an example I have found with United Airlines for a domestic USA journey. In this scenario let’s say we are trying to travel from San Diego to Los Angeles.

Searching for a flight from San Deigo to Los Angeles, flights are on offer from $136.

United.com Airline
San Diego to Los Angeles fare options

For the super savvy, you can fly on the same plane to Los Angeles, but book a connecting flight to Reno for $103 – a saving of $33.

United Airlines Website, Skiplagging

This practice isn’t limited to domestic US flights; there are cases worldwide on many international airlines where this has been exploited.

Despite this potential cost saving, there are many reasons why Skiplagging causes much more harm than good.

1 – You cannot check-in baggage

Travelling with a lot of luggage will deny you the opportunity to take part in this practice straight away. When checking in at San Diego, any baggage would automatically be checked through to Reno. With connecting flights, you would need a very left field reason to convince the gate agent to collect your bag in LA, remembering they expect you to be checking in again.

2 – The airlines are catching up to this practice

Even in researching this story and examples, the United Airlines website detected my search pattern and denied me access to their website. This has since been restored as I have no intention of booking this. Yet the airline could detect unusual search activity to put a stop to this, or potentially mark the booking in their system as suspicious.

Access Denied
I was blocked from the United Airlines website while researching this story

3 – You are breaking the airline’s condition of carriage

All airlines have similar terms and conditions which expressly prohibit this practice. While you may shrug this off and not care, airlines can and do take a variety of steps to remedy their perceived loss.

Rule 6.J.1 of the United Airlines Contract of Carriage document expressly prohibits Skiplagging (a.k.a Hidden Cities Ticketing or Point Beyond Ticketing)

Potential consequences for Skiplaggers include:

  • Your ticket being cancelled without notice
  • A demand to pay the difference between the paid fare and the actual fare of the intended journey
  • Revoke frequent flyer miles from your account, or ban you completely
  • Ban you from flying the airline in the future
  • Take legal action through the courts

Is it really worth risking all of this to save a few dollars?

4 – Think of your fellow passengers

Have you ever sat on the plane waiting for the final door to close, but the flight attendant makes the announcement that they are trying to find the last passenger in the terminal? You will be that person they are looking for, as the airline assumes that you are lost in the terminal.

Think of the other passengers on the plane you’ve left waiting; those who have tight connections, businessmen and women trying to make important meetings, the families trying to get to weddings and those travelling for an emergency; everyone travels for very different reasons. Selfish actions like Skiplagging impact other peoples lives.

5 – Driving up the cost of airfares

Those in the US and Europe are quite lucky in how cheap their local airfares are. Australian and New Zealand airlines price most domestic and short-haul international fares as “point-to-point”. That is, you pay for each individual flight sector travelled, rather than the specially calculated “origin-to-destination” (O&D) model that is exploited by Skiplagging.

Most international airlines use O&D pricing structures for long haul international travel. I predict that continued Skiplagging into the future will see more airlines follow a point-to-point pricing model, which will create more expensive airfares.

RNO, LAX, SAN
The future of all air travel may see flights like this priced per-sector; not from origin-to-destination.

So what do you do?

A common argument to support Skiplagging is “if the airlines don’t want to do this, then set airfares with more logical pricing”. I agree with the principle of this argument, however, this means you are supporting a point-to-point pricing model which leads to more expensive airfares for all passengers.

If your desired airline doesn’t offer you a legitimate acceptable airfare, shop around! Fly with a competitor or find alternate ways to reach your destination. Most of the time Skiplagging only saves a handful of dollars and puts so much more in jeopardy.

Let me know in the comments below is this something you support or do you agree it’s just too much to risk, in light of recent legal proceedings?

Feature photo: Connecting flight information at Singapore’s Changi Airport

©tylergoesplaces 2019 



Flight Test: Garuda Indonesia – the world’s friendliest airline?

Garuda Indonesia, the national airline of Indonesia is ranked as a 5-star carrier by Skytrax. I chose Garuda Indonesia for a recent flight from Singapore to Jakarta, to see if they are worth the hype.

SIN to CGK

Singapore to Jakarta Flight Path
Today’s route took us over both South China and Java Seas

Pre-flight services

On this route, Garuda Indonesia offered pre-selected seating for AUD20 and the option to request a special meal via their website, for free. My website experience was quite clunky and slow both on my laptop and on my Android phone. If booking via a travel agent, they can assist with these requests in most cases.

What a ticket buys you

Garuda Indonesia is a full-service airline. The cost of the cheapest “promo” ticket on international flights entitles you to 30kg baggage on most routes. This also allows you a meal, drink and access to inflight entertainment. Seat selection on promo fares come with a charge which is variable by route.

You are eligible to earn frequent flyer miles via Garuda Miles or possibly with a SkyTeam alliance member depending on the fare class you book (I will cover fare classes in an upcoming article!) As I’m a not a member of Garuda Miles or a partner program, I didn’t earn any miles for this flight.

Check-in

Check-in was inside Terminal Three at Singapore’s Changi Airport. The staff were joyful, polite and efficient. As Garuda is celebrating 70 years of operations, passengers who checked in at manned desks received a small gift package consisting of a muffin and orange juice, a small yet nice gesture.

Garuda Check in Gifts
It’s little things that make massive differences in the perception of comfort and service…

Boarding

Boarding was called by row number, however sadly this was ignored by nearly everyone and not enforced. As this flight was 90% full this caused a minor delay with the mad scrum at the gate.

Seating

Like all Boeing 737s around the world, seating was in a 3-3 configuration. The seats were well padded with a fabric covering. As this was a short flight and someone was already sitting behind me when I boarded, I did not test the recline. Legroom was surprisingly spacious, I still had plenty of knee and foot room despite my 194cm frame and my backpack at my feet

To be exact, the seat pitch (distance from the front of your seat to the back of the next) is advertised as 32 inches, yet felt slightly more. Seat width is 17 inches.

Beware if you’re on this aircraft as part of a long haul journey; there is no seat back power. You will need to bring your own power bank if you’re needing to charge your devices en route.

Cramped Seating

My lanky legs at a 90-degree angle with my backpack under the seat

Food and beverages

Even on the short 81 minute skip down to Jakarta, a full meal with dessert was served, along with a full choice of beverages. All food and drinks are included in the price of your ticket on Garuda. Dinner was a choice between chicken and pasta; or fish and rice. I requested the fish and was delighted with my choice.

Served with metal cutlery, the fish was in mild South East Asian curry sauce, cooked perfectly. This was amazingly flavoursome and juicy. The meal was accompanied with bread, a side salad and a jelly topped strawberry mousse. With nothing left on my tray, I washed this down with Indonesia’s number one beer, Bintang – served in a 375mL can.

Garuda Airplane Food

Entertainment

The seatback entertainment contains a handful of comedies, documentaries and Hollywood movies. The touchscreen was quite difficult to operate, needing a fair press of the screen to get a reaction. At times the system registered my request incorrectly and ended up in the games section instead of comedy! Once playing, the ads were minimal and the video playback was very good.

Live TV is advertised however did not work on this short flight – I could go a couple of hours without seeing the news anyway. Wi-Fi isn’t installed on the Boeing 737; keep an eye out for this on the Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s.

The seatback pocket contained the standard safety card, general health information and the monthly airline magazine, Colours.

Garuda Entertainment
Watching Sheldon and the gang on the 9-inch touchscreen seatback TV

Cabin Crew

Garuda Indonesia has been voted as having the world’s best cabin crew for five consecutive years, and deservingly so! All flight attendants worked tirelessly, fully serving a near packed plane in under 60 minutes. They did this with a smile, professionalism and with genuine care for the customer.

One random observation

Most aircraft row numbers start at number one and logically follow through the order of numbers to the last row of the aircraft. Yet Garuda Indonesia starts their first row of seats at “row 6”; and I was seated in “row 42” despite there actually only being 28 rows of seats on the plane. Oh, but I scored a sweet front row seat to an incredible sunset and lightning show!

Make sure you follow me on Instagram to see more amazing photos like this!

Overall impression – Is Garuda the friendliest airline?

Many airline experiences are diminished on shorter regional routes, yet Garuda Indonesia provided a fantastic level of service and comfort from the very moment I checked in, right through to saying goodbye in Jakarta. I highly rate this airline and will look to use them on a future long haul trip – watch this space!

Flick me a like on this article and let me know in the comments: what are your experiences with Garuda Indonesia? Was your journey as incredible as mine?

Feature image snapped during upon boarding of this flight at Changi Airport, Singapore
©tylergoesplaces 2019

One Flying Lap of Changi Airport

Singapore is renowned for hosting the iconic Formula 1 street circuit race around Marina Bay Sands each September. It’s also home to the world-famous Changi Airport, the world’s most awarded airport. With four massive terminals, flights departing to all over the world, including the world’s longest non-stop flight to Newark; this airport is meticulously planned with every kind of traveller in mind.

Changi Airport Review

With the Formula 1 mindset and three hours to burn before my flight, I set out to explore three of the four terminals to see how much I can squeeze in my short time.

Ground rules:

Having only three hours until my departure, it was unrealistic for me to expect to cover everything this airport has to offer. Some decisions were made; such as not exploring each of the terminal’s check-in areas, and deciding to skip terminal four until next adventure. I didn’t want to risk being stuck on the other side of the airport when my flight was ready to board!

Changi Airport Map
Simplified map of Changi Airport’s four terminals. Source: Singapore Airlines

Start your engines: Check-in

Check-in for my Garuda Indonesia flight was in terminal three. As I was staying at the airport hotel, the total travel time was about two minutes from hotel check-out to airline check-in. Terminal three has a simple yet open, elegant design from floor to ceiling. From the rooftop artistic fans to the gentle flowing ceiling to the floor water feature, you feel somewhat relaxed in what is normally a chaotic environment.

Changi Terminal 3
Check-in hall of Changi Terminal Three

Passport control

Staff are on hand to guide you to a line which should get you through immigration the fastest. An officer approached me and asked if I had tried the automated gates as an Australian passport holder – mine didn’t work and I ended up at the back of the short queue for manual processing.

An interesting quirk about Changi Airport compared to most others is that you do not clear security before passing through immigration. Full security checks are done at the departure gate. This gives Changi a second rare feature in that arriving passengers are able to mingle with departing passengers. These quirks have the benefit of shorter security lines upon departure, as you’re only queuing with the same passengers that you’re flying with – and arriving passengers have the same access to the high-end duty-free shopping as you do on departure.

Having cleared immigration in terminal three – in a clockwise motion; I’ll guide you through my one flying lap of Changi Airport.

Shop ’till you drop!

There are a lot of shops in Changi Airport for anything you can imagine. The biggest brand names are here; Rolex, Channel, Gucci and all the way down through to Uni Qlo, multiple bookstores and a strangely high amount of pharmacies. This place has it all.

Changi Airport Shopping
An array of shopping options surround you upon clearing immigration

The Carp Pond

While small, this is a slice of tranquillity despite the surrounding rush and buzz. Upon investigating the water’s edge you will find gigantic carp! I sat here for a couple of minutes listening to the gentle trickle of water before remembering I wasn’t in a magic garden.

Changi Airport Carp Pond
The Carp Pond is a small escape among the surrounding chaos

The Enchanted Garden

To be honest it’s much like the Carp Pond without the water and fish. Its major difference is brighter, bolder colours which pop out and lets your imagination run free. You can actually hide in here if you want to, it’s a cool little place to spend ten or so minutes just having a sit-down or zoning out from the stress of long haul travel.

Changi Airport Enchanted Garden
Let your imagination run wild in the Enchanted Garden

The Sunflower Garden

On the roof of Terminal 2, this is a little pocket of sunshine. There are hundreds of sunflowers overlooking the apron and there were multiple people laying in the sun trying to get a tan during my flying visit here.

Changi Airport Sunflower Garden
The Sunflower Garden will brighten your mood no matter how jet-lagged you are

Get a free massage!

As you walk through the terminals you can’t miss the leg massagers, which are free! My gangly legs decided to give it a try. The pressure was a bit tight around my ankles, but it soothed my aching calves from the two days of non-stop walking around Singapore.

Cactus Garden with a view…and beer!

Near the Emirates lounge, you will find the Cactus Garden, a large area with varieties of cactus from all over the world. While you’re here you can stop by the adjoining bar, or simply watch aircraft jet off with a near perfect view of the runway.

Cactus Garden Changi Airport
The Cactus Garden features a view of the runway and a bar!

Butterfly Garden

This was my favourite part of Changi Airport (other than watching the planes, of course!). You are greeted by hundreds of butterflies as soon as you walk into this two-tiered enclosure. The smell of the flowers and fresh fruit laid out to attract the creatures creates a pleasant atmosphere and some extremely photogenic butterflies.

Butterfly Garden Changi
You will feel part of a fairytale in the Butterfly Garden

Catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster

That’s right, for the cost of nothing, you can sit back and relax watching full-length feature films at the airport cinema. Displays just outside will show you the schedule of what’s playing and when; so if you have multiple hours at Changi Airport and you consider yourself a movie buff, then you’ve found your pit stop!

Changi Airport Movie
Some of the latest from Hollywood, for free!

Appreciate the art

The real beauty of Changi Airport is…the beauty of itself. There are dozens of art pieces, sculptures and floral arrangements scattered around each of the terminals. This is a fascinating place in that it doesn’t feel so airport-y; rather it feels like a high-end shopping mall combined with a gigantic art gallery.

Changi Art Installation

Changi Airport Arrival
Arriving passengers share the same area as departing passengers

Why Changi works

Changi Airport is accurately described by many as a mini city. This 24-hour a day machine supports everything you would expect to see in a city let alone an international airport – easy navigation, a variety of shopping options, places to eat or sleep at affordable prices and many leisurely activities for the entire family. The best thing is it doesn’t matter if you have one hour or a full day to spare; there will be something here keeping you occupied the entire time. I raced around this airport in less than two hours and I know there is so much I have missed and need to see next time (the entire Terminal 4, for starters).

The chequered flag: Final thoughts

Leave a comment below and let me know what’s your favourite feature of Changi Airport!

This airport finds innovative and cunning ways to reduce the stress and strain of long-haul travel. There was so much to see in such little time in that Changi Airport nails the showbiz brief – leave them wanting more!

Changi Airport Review

Feature photo: Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-800
getting ready to depart Changi Airport – ©tylergoesplaces 2019


5 Ways to Avoid Taxi Scams While Travelling

The modern traveler has more tools than ever to get from Point A to Point B in any given city. Yet sometimes the quickest and easiest way to reach your destination is by taxi. Taxis have their major conveniences in that they are nearly always plentiful, not subject “surge pricing” and can be caught from any major hotel or landmark in any city.

Unfortunately, as in any industry, not all taxi drivers are honest and will try to take advantage of unsuspecting passengers. On a recent taxi journey in Jakarta, the driver tried to take me for a ride via the longest scenic route possible. I was very annoyed I had found myself in this situation yet my backup plans kicked into play to get me out of the web. These are my five ways to avoid taxi scams.

1 – This is never your first visit

A common icebreaking question when you jump into a cab is “is this your first time here?” Never say yes! This widens the appeal to take more money than you bargained for – whether it’s taking the longest route possible or the driver offering services for the duration of your trip; you should never admit this visit is the first. That effectively puts a sign on your head stating “rip-off target”.

For this strategy to work, you need to do some research on the country you’re visiting. What are the main sights? What are some second-tier cities you can mention you’ve visited? You don’t want to get caught on your bluff with no research so be prepared to rattle off a whole heap of experiences you’re yet to have.

2 – Avoid negotiations

Drivers who insist on negotiating a price most likely have something up their sleeve. They’re probably quoting a highly inflated price to the standard metered fare, or ask for extra money for toll roads at the end. Unless you have travelled the route a few times before and know how much the standard fare is, always insist on using the meter – otherwise don’t get in.

3 – Buyer beware if hailing from the street

Look to any major road and you will likely see many taxis that are happy to pull over for you. Be aware, many cities have “lookalike cabs” which are unlicensed, or drivers may use pressure tactics to get you in the cab saying “Get in, get in! I shouldn’t stop here!” before refusing to run the meter or suddenly requiring a stop at a petrol station, which of course hikes up the metered fare. Consider using official taxi ranks, hotel lobbies or even finding someone who can call the taxi company on your behalf.

Lookalike cabs
Hailing taxis are super convenient, but buyer beware! Image:Pixabay

4 – Use online maps when on the move

I’m very lucky that my home mobile provider offers very cheap international roaming which includes internet. Using your roaming or local sim card, you can literally track your journey as you go if you suspect you’re being taken for a ride.

When you get in, show the driver on your device where you want to go and have the directions preview displayed – this will send a strong message to the driver that you know where you’re going and you are well informed of the route. This may even assist honest drivers, who may not know exactly how to get to Point B.

Google Maps, Grand Indonesia
Plot your journey and have a rough idea of how long and where your route takes you

5 – Don’t be afraid to get out, when it’s safe

If you know you’re being taken for a ride or something feels instinctively wrong, just pay the fare that’s on the meter and get out. This isn’t always an option late at night or in an unsafe neighbourhood but pick your timing as soon as you see a safe location such as a shopping mall, major hotel or police station. These locations will generally have plenty of other transport options, or people who are happy to assist travellers to get to where they need to go.

How I got out of a taxi scam

Taxi scams are likely to happen to every traveller at least once, even when you follow all the general safeguards. Recently I had to get from a shopping centre back to my hotel, a route I have taken a few times before. This normally takes ten minutes and costs a few dollars.

After requesting a taxi from the shopping centre lobby, I hopped in and the driver was very happy and cheerful as most are. The first red flag was when the driver started taking a surprising route compared to what I experienced previously, especially as the traffic was light. Thinking he may know of a traffic problem that I didn’t and knowing there are multiple ways to the hotel I didn’t think any more of it.

Red flag number two appeared as this trip struck the fifteen-minute mark. I checked my online map and noticed we were taking a considerably longer route to the hotel. I figured out the most direct route and where the driver had to turn next…he missed that turn and was about six lanes of traffic over – I’m being taken for a ride!

All the sudden, the cheery taxi driver who had engaging small talk in English turned on me. I politely reconfirmed the hotel he was taking me to and he growled: “yes we are going there”. When I asked to go the shortest way I was stonewalled with the sudden “I don’t speak English” line. He then magically jumps across six lanes of traffic to take the next left turn. Now in a traffic jam and with a tight grip on my phone, I show him where we started, my destination and pointed out we are now further away from the hotel than before. He replies “ok, I’ll turn up here”. He does, and I think we are now back on the most direct route to the hotel. I considered getting out, but my gut feeling told me that it’s not overly safe outside despite the stopped traffic and there is no immediate Plan B around me.

As we approach the forty-minute mark of my ten-minute taxi journey, we suddenly take another unexpected left turn. We are now close to my hotel and I call out the taxi driver on his latest tactic. He claims the closest entry was closed which I know is false because it’s open 24 hours a day. I ask him to stop immediately, give him my money and got out. By chance, there was a policeman standing right where I got out. The driver complained to the police that I didn’t pay him, but the police had none of it and told me to continue on with my day.

The total taxi fare was 75% higher than normal from the shopping centre back to the hotel. Yet if this was my first time to Jakarta and I hadn’t researched my route, I could have been in the taxi for a couple of hours and paying for every last moment.

It was unfortunate I found myself in this position to begin with, yet I was falling victim to a very simple tourist scam which runs rampant around the world. What got me out of my situation was the Plan-B and ‘C which potentially saved me a lot of money and my time. It was very scary at the start, but I’m happy that this story can be shared with laughs over a couple of beers, and you the reader.

Give this a like and share in the comments below if you’ve had a dodgy taxi experience! How did you get out of it?

Feature photo courtesy from Flickr – Marcin Wichary