When an opportunity to use frequent flyer points for Qantas Business Class flights to Hong Kong came up, I was happy to give it a go to see if flying-life behind that curtain was as good as I had imagined it would be. What did I think of my first Qantas Business Class international experience?
If you’ve read my post about Jetstar’s international business class you will know that when it comes to class of air travel, I can never mentally justify paying for anything more than economy class when I think of how much I could do on the ground with that extra money. But when The Poolboy and I travelled to Hong Kong recently, we took the opportunity to use some of our frequent flyer points to travel up the pointy-end in comfort. As this was my first experience of the business class cabin on a Qantas international flight, I was ridiculously excited!
Was the Qantas Business Class experience all I had dreamed of?
Flight QF 29: Melbourne (MEL) to Hong Kong (HKG)
9 hours, 30 minutes (daytime flight)
Type of plane
Seating configuration in Business Class
7 rows, 1-2-1
4E and 4F
Check-in and lounges
There is a dedicated business check-in which is available until 90 minutes prior to flight time, so you can skip the long queue forming at the economy desks. At check-in we were given ‘express passes’ which got us into a dedicated express lane through security.
As The Poolboy is a Platinum frequent flyer, we were able to go to the Qantas First Lounge at Melbourne airport, where we were pleasantly surprised as we checked in there to be asked if we wanted bookings for the in-house day spa. In all the times we’ve been in that lounge, there has never been any free slots available. So we both booked for a 9am massage in the Aurora Spa. From their menu, I chose the 20 minute ‘de-stress back massage’ which was the perfect way to prepare for 9 hours in a plane.
After our massages, we had time for a quick breakfast ordered from the a la carte menu, a good barista coffee and a glass of champagne. What? Too early? Surely it must have been 5pm somewhere in the world…
Comfort factor of the cabin
Oh my wordy. Comfortable doesn’t even begin to describe what I thought about these seats!
Qantas international business class seats on flight QF 29 are what they call ‘Business Suites’. Designed in collaboration with Marc Newson, these seats recline fully to turn into a flat bed, which allows you to lie out completely horizontal. The flight crew came around shortly after take-off and offered a mattress which was fitted to the seat and offered a cloud-like degree of softness to the upholstery.
With a seat pitch of about 180cm, there is plenty of room to stretch out your legs, and there are a number of niches and containers to store any small items you may need during the flight. I particularly liked the hook to hang up the headset, which prevented it from dropping off the seat onto the floor whenever I got up to go to the bathroom.
After a bit of a play around with all the functions (including the in-seat massager) I settled on a semi-reclined back, feet-up position that was perfect for watching movies on the giant entertainment screens.
The Poolboy was seated directly next to me in seat 4E, but to be honest I hardly saw or spoke to him all flight. The suites are designed in such a way that privacy is maintained, even where the seats are in a paired configuration.
A whopping 180 cm (73″). This compares with 79cm (31″) in economy.
58cm (23″). It’s 43 cm (17″) in the economy cabin.
Regular business class passengers can check in 40kg (88lb) of baggage, that increases with Qantas club membership or frequent flyer status through several levels, culminating in Platinum frequent flyers having a huge 60kg (132lb) check-in baggage allowance.
For carry-on, business class passengers can bring onboard 2 x 115cm (45in) bags or
1 x 115cm (45in) bag plus 1 x 185cm (73in) non rigid garment bag (up to 7kg (15lb) per piece). You’d practically need a porter to manage your bags if you took full advantage of these limits.
Remember the good old days when you’d fly from Australia to London in a 747 with a scattering of small movie screens attached to the aircraft ceiling which played just one movie each flight sector? Hasn’t in-flight entertainment come a long way since then?
In the A330-300 business cabin, each suite is fitted with a large (30cm, 12 inch) touch screen, noise cancelling headphones and on-demand entertainment options including the latest movies and TV programs, destination guides, radio channels, CD albums, moving maps and interactive games. I watched a couple of great movies on this flight, including The Suffragettes and Brooklyn, and an interesting doco about how San Francisco has changed with the explosion of start-ups, called San Francisco 2.0.
Just in case I wanted to call home to gloat about my business class experience, there was a personal telephone in my seat, as well as laptop power and a USB charger point for my own phone.
Food and drink
You really know you’re in business class when the food and drink service starts. To kick off our flight, a pre-take-off glass of champagne. This was followed shortly after take-off by a white-linen service of lunch.
The menu, which has been designed by celebrity chef Neil Perry, allows passengers to create their own meal experience from a menu of small plates, main plates and desserts. You can order from the menu as you like throughout the flight, or have it as a full three-course meal – which is what I did.
I chose a lemon cured kingfish with carrot daikon and nuoc cham dressing,
followed by a lamb biryani with sarlas, cucumber and tomato salad,
and then a selection of cheese to finish. A range of snacks (fruit, biscuits, chips, chocolates) were also available at any time.
Just before arrival, we we had a choice of three substantial snacks – I chose the Hokkien noodles with roasted eggplant, Chinese pickles and chilli.
Plus, of course, there was a selection of Australian wines, French champagne, spirits, liqueurs, beers, sake and dessert wines on offer, together with all the usual soft drink options and tea/coffee/hot chocolate.
If I had got myself organised in advance (I didn’t) I could have pre-selected and confirmed my meal choices through Select on Q-eat, therefore guaranteeing they wouldn’t run out of my choice before they served me. Plus if you do so, you get the option of an additional on-line only exclusive dish. Or if you’d prefer to sleep, you can choose the ‘No meal – maximise my rest option’ up to 12 hours before you fly, and the cabin crew will make your bed up directly after take-off.
Amenities was the only area in which the experience didn’t live up to my expectations.
Qantas Business international customers are *usually* each given a Kate Spade or Jack Spade designed amenity kit filled with Australian-made spa products, ASPAR by Aurora Spa.
The Kate Spade ladies kit is a cute and colourful geometric print, while the mens (if they exist) are apparently a dark contemporary Jack Spade design. By the time the flight crew reached our row (which was only the fourth row!) they had just one ladies kit left and no mens. So, while I nabbed one, The Poolboy missed out. I had hoped to get two ladies ones so I could take home one for each of the girls, as I thought they would make great little make-up bags, or pencil cases.
Inside my kit was a handcream, a lip balm and a face moisturiser, as well as earplug, socks, eye mask and toothbrush.
As it was a daytime flight, we were not offered the infamous Peter Morrissey designed pointy-end pyjamas, which was a bitter disappointment. The pointy end pyjamas were my main reason for wanting to fly business class! 😉 However, I’m sure if I had specifically asked for them, they would have been provided.
Service and extras
Check-in at Melbourne airport was quick with the dedicated business class queue and business class passengers get express passes to get through security quickly, plus priority boarding.
Within the cabin, the Qantas business class cabin crew were exceptionally friendly, cheerful and efficient. Nothing was too much trouble, and they proactively checked to see if you needed anything, or if they could get you something.
Oh my goodness, now that I have experienced a long flight in the pointy end, it is going to be extremely difficult to head down to the back of the plane on my next international flight. In some ways, it’s better not to know what you’re missing!
But, still…when I calculate the additional dollars and how many extra days that could pay for on-the-ground at the destination, I’m afraid on-the-ground wins out.
However, if the budget (or frequent flyer points) did allow, I would most definitely fly Qantas business class again. I waltzed off that flight feeling like I’d had a nice day out, eating delicious food, drinking fine wine and being entertained…rather than feeling like I’d been through the wringer.