Carry on: World tourism index, American's premium economy, Qantas wi-fi and more

The business travel weekly roundup also includes the latest codeshares and airline route news.

NZ remains at 16th in world tourism index
Spain continues to lead the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index. The index was first compiled in 2007 and analyses the performance of 136 economies. New Zealand holds its 16th placing while Australia is also at seventh.

Europe – with five other countries in the top 10 (France, Germany, UK, Italy and Switzerland)  – is once again the region with the most competitive economies and the highest regional average.

However Asia-Pacific is emerging as the most-improved region with five out of the 15 most-improved countries in the index: Japan (4th), Korea (19th), India (40th), Vietnam (67th) and Bhutan (78th).

While East Asia (Japan-Korea) and Australia-New Zealand boast world class infrastructure and are among the most ICT-ready economies globally, they are also relatively less price competitive than other areas.

The US has slipped two paces to sixth while Canada is down one at ninth. Switzerland fell the most in the top 10, dropping four places to 10th.

American Airlines to upgrade Auckland flights
American Airlines will upgrade the aircraft operating its service between Auckland and Los Angeles to the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from October 7, when the service resumes after a seasonal eight-week suspension. It will be the first time a US carrier will offer travellers to New Zealand a new Premium Economy service (see picture above). The configuration includes 21 such seats as well as 30 in business class (also pictured above) and 234 in the main cabin.

Qantas starts wi-fi tests with passengers
Qantas says its domestic fleet of 80-odd Airbus 330s and Boeing 737s won’t be fully equipped with its new inflight wi-fi service until the end of 2018. One Boeing 737 is being tested over the next few months. Up to 15,000 passengers a month will trial the beta wi-fi, which the airline says has internet speeds that will be up to 10 times faster than conventional on-board wi-fi. 

"Inflight Wi-Fi has been on our wish list for quite a while but the sheer size of Australia meant it was hard to offer a service that was fast and reliable," Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce says. "The technology we’re using on-board this 737 is a generation ahead of what most airlines use. That's why we've installed it on one aircraft for the first few months until we’ve finished fine tuning and are ready to roll out to the rest of the domestic fleet."

Queenstown airfield upgrade completed

Queenstown Airport’s $750,000 project to apply grooves to the runway has been completed three weeks ahead of schedule. It was the final stage of an airfield upgrade completed by the airport last year in conjunction with Airways NZ.  The $19.5 million upgrade, which involved widening the runway, resurfacing it and installing airfield lighting, was identified as part of the infrastructure required to introduce after-dark flights.

Codeshare updates
Alitalia has expanded its codeshare partnership with Virgin Australia to include flights from Sydney to Christchurch and Queenstown. Others are Perth to Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne. Turkish Airlines has expanded its partnership with Hawaiian Airlines to cover the latter’s Tokyo Narita-Honolulu route. Another codeshare with Hawaiian is Seoul-Honolulu. The Osaka Kansai-Honolulu codeshare service was cancelled as Turkish Airlines cancelled its Istanbul Ataturk-Osaka route earlier this year.

Route news of the week
Cathay Pacific will increase its four-times-weekly Hong Kong-Manchester service to a daily operation from December 1. In June, Cathay will switch to an Airbus A350-900 from Boeing 777-300ERs on all flights, making Manchester the new aircraft’s second destination in the UK after Gatwick, Qatar Airways plans to boost its Doha-Larnaca (Cyprus) route to 12 times a week from May 4. The service is operated by a mix of Airbus A320/321 aircraft. Cathay Dragon is increasing its Hong Kong-Penang flights, from July 2 to October 26 to 12 times weekly, operated by Airbus A320 aircraft.
 China-based Lucky Air is launching new international services to Russia and the Philippines. A three-times weekly Kunming-Cebu service will run from June 1 and a twice weekly Kunming-Manila service from May 26. Both will use Boeing 737s. A twice weekly Kunming-Moscow Domodedovo service will start on June 12. This service will be operated by an A330.