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Australian Business Traveller Newsletter

Qantas, Virgin Australia, Cathay Pacific score well in business travel

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2012 has been a very good year for business travellers. On the domestic front we’ve seen business travel once again become a two-horse race, for the first time in over a decade, since the collapse of Ansett in late 2001.

This not only sent average business class prices down but boosted competition in aircraft, seats and service, both in the air and on the ground.

Yet pleasingly, instead of an outright price war – a conflict in which travellers would likely come off second-best – we’re getting a battle fought on the more sustainable basis of value for money.

Airline have also been lifting the bar on technology: faster in-lounge Internet (thanks, Qantas and Optus), new smartphone apps and Passport support and the rollout of inflight wifi streaming of entertainment.

On the international front this extended to inflight Internet from Emirates and Singapore Airlines, although Qantas wound down its A380 wifi trials to focus (quite sensibly so, in our opinion) on areas of more benefit to passengers such as its international business class sleep service.

Airlines also kept pushing ahead with the quality of their seats and cabins, and again business class has been the winner as new seat types have been rolled out and new aircraft such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 made their way into more fleets.

We’ve seen plenty of movement in alliances, too, both on a per-airline basis – the biggest of course being the pending Qantas-Emirates hookup – along with new members for the traditional Big Three airline alliances.

So as we close out the year and gear up for what promises to be an even more exciting 2013, here’s our pick of the best in 2012 for Australian business travellers.

Best Domestic Business Class: Virgin Australia

If 2012 would be remembered for delivering any single win for the business traveller, it was return of competition as the reinvented and reinvigorated Virgin Australia launched business class across its domestic fleet.

Qantas’ domestic business class product varies widely and wildly between aircraft, and even on brand new jets it’s a mixed bag. The Red Roo’s factory-fresh Boeing 737-800s are excellent. The latest Airbus A330s, not so much.

By comparison, Virgin Australia’s business class across its Boeing 737, Airbus A330 and Embraer E190 jets ticks all the boxes for quality, consistency, comfort, service and value.

Best International Business Class: Cathay Pacific

Putting the high walled cubicle-inspired Olympus seats largely behind it, Cathay's 2011 launch of the new Cirrus business class seats – the second generation of its fully flat design – would be our first choice for any flight out of Australia and, via Hong Kong, onwards to the rest of the world.

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