It's goodbye Dubai and hello once again to Singapore as Qantas rejigs its Kangaroo Route to London this weekend.
Almost five years to the day that the Qantas-Emirates alliance saw the long-standing Singapore stopover axed in favour of Emirates' Dubai hub, the Gulf city will see its last Qantas flight on Saturday March 24.
From Sunday March 25, Singapore is back in favour.
(Not unrelated, this is the same weekend as Qantas begins its non-stop Boeing 787 flights from Perth to London, with Perth becoming an Aussie launchpad for direct flights which Qantas hopes will soon extend to Paris and Frankfurt.)
A new direction
The Singapore-Dubai-Singapore switch-around represents a rare 180 degree turnaround for the Flying Kangaroo – for any airline, come to think of it.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the move is due to the Qantas-Emirates alliance "evolving to a point where Qantas no longer needs to fly its own aircraft through Dubai, and that means we can redirect some of our A380 flying into Singapore and meet the strong demand we're seeing in Asia."
Equally rare to Qantas' backflip is that pretty much everybody I've spoken with is in agreement with Joyce's decision.
A tale of two cities
Most Australian business travellers – most Aussie travellers in general – prefer Singapore to Dubai, regardless of whether it's for a two-hour pit-stop at the airport or a two-day stay to break their journey.
"The flight schedule is definitely a plus for Singapore," says Sydney-based retail buyer Leigh Baxter, who tells High Flyer she moved some of her travel to Singapore Airlines once Qantas shifted to Dubai.
"I can work and relax during the seven daytime hours from Sydney to Singapore, and then the 14 hour overnight leg to London is my chance to really sleep and get into the UK timezone."
"Dubai pretty much flipped that around. The long flight to Dubai was quite a drag and the seven hour leg to London, during which the crew serve supper and breakfast, is good for only a nap rather than a proper sleep."
While that seems to be the reaction of most travellers, some feel differently about the Dubai stopover.
"I much prefer to transit at Dubai" says Dr Fiona Downes who flies with Qantas to London at least three times each year and uses her frequent flyer points to upgrade from business class to first class.
"I like having a longer leg flying back into Australia from Europe, those short overnight flights from Asia make it very hard to get a decent rest."
Downes also cites the Emirates first class lounge in Dubai as something she'll miss, and believes the Qantas lounge at Singapore will be a definite step down for first class flyers.
"Neither the Qantas or British Airways lounges in Singapore come anywhere close to what's offered at Dubai in terms of food, service and ease of access to boarding."
The lounge effect
Several first class travellers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers have voiced similar concerns, noting that Qantas' Singapore lounge is a single-class lounge with effectively the same service for everybody from Qantas Club members to the Airbus A380's big-spending first class passengers.
Dr Henry Woo, a North Sydney specialist, agrees that the relatively short flight from Singapore to Sydney isn't the best way to end the journey.
"The flight is only seven hours and at an absolute maximum, the best you could get would be a five for six hour sleep on these overnight flights."
"For me, this amount of rest doesn't allow for high-level functioning on the day of return so effectively a business day is lost."
My personal preference? It's long been Singapore. I prefer it as a city and I find the flight timings easier to handle. Sometimes I'll break my journey in Singapore for a few meetings and sometimes even do a quick trip to Hong Kong, so I can knock over a week's worth of business in Asia instead of making that a separate trip.
Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.
What's your preference for the Kangaroo Route's stopover city: Dubai or Singapore?