Carry on: Tibet’s first A330, China's twin jet and route news of the week

Business travel news also includes bidding for upgrades on Singapore and paying for Qantas lounges. With special feature audio.

Flying high in Tibet
Airbus has delivered the first specially equipped wide-bodied A330-200 to Lhasa-based Tibet Airlines. The aircraft has a 242-tonne maximum take-off weight for high altitude flying. Tibet Airlines operates an all-Airbus fleet comprising of 14 A319s and two A320s, all of which operate at high altitudes from Tibet’s airports. The A330 will allow Tibet Airlines to open up new international routes. “We are looking forward to more passengers from all over the world flying with Tibet Airlines and visiting Tibet,” airline president Bai Weisan says. The new A330-200 is configured in a three-class cabin layout (12 business, 32 premium economy and 235 economy).

China’s first airliner takes off
China’s first homegrown commercial airliner, the ARJ21-700, has finally taken to the skies with its launch operator Chengdu Airlines. The twin jet has been nearly eight years in testing phases before making its first revenue flight. The first model, largely based on the MD-80, was test flown in 2008. It is not expected to be a serious threat to other rivals in the 75- to 90-seat segment such as the SuperJet, the Mitsubishi MRJ, the Embraers and the CRJ700s. But it will allow China to fine-tune its production methods ahead the C919 twinjet, expected in late 2018.

Qantas opens up lounges for a fee
Qantas lounges in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore can now be accessed for a one-off fee. The single visit passes cost $A49 or 7000 Qantas points for domestic Qantas Club lounges, $A69 or 9900 points for international business class lounges and $A99 or 14,500 points for the premium international lounges in Hong Kong and Singapore. The scheme is a trial and, for now, can only be accessed by invitation and by bronze and silver frequent flyers and their travelling companions during off-peak periods.

Bidding for upgrades on Singapore
Selected Singapore Airlines customers in economy class can now bid for better seats in premium economy. These passengers will receive an email invitation to bid for a seat upgrade seven days before their flights are due to depart. Each flight will have an assigned minimum and maximum bid value, and passengers can change their bid amount up to 50 hours before their flights. Successful bidders will receive an email notification at any time up to 40 hours before departure.

Qatar flies to Marrakech
Qatar Airways has added tourist centre Marrakech in Morocco to its global route map. Marrakech is the country’s fourth-largest city and the second to be served by Qatar, with flights three times a week from Doha on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday via Casablanca. The return flight from Marrakech travels non-stop to Doha.

Route news of the week
Air New Zealand is upgrading to Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners when it resumes the Auckland-Osaka Kansai route on November 4. It was previously planned to use B767-300ERs on this three times weekly seasonal service. Qantas has expanded its codeshare routes with Jetstar and Jetstar Asia as well as services between Australia and Bali. The new codeshare routes are Townsville-Denpasar, Singapore-Da Nang (Vietnam),
 Singapore-Phnom Penh (Cambodia),
 Singapore-Siem Reap (Cambodia) and
 Singapore-Yangon (Myanmar/Burma). Air Tahiti Nui has expanded its US domestic network offerings through two new codeshare services with American Airlines. Air Tahiti Nui’s TN code is now on 
Los Angeles-Atlanta and
 Los Angeles-St Louis. Solomon Airlines, Air Niugini and Air Vanuatu are now codesharing services between Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The routes are 
Port Moresby-Honiara-Port Vila (operated by Air Niugini),
 Honiara-Port Vila (Solomon Airlines), Honiara-Port Moresby (Air Niugini) and 
Honiara-Port Vila (Air Niugini).

Follow NBR on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram for the latest news and free on-demand audio from NBR Radio.