Impressions Of Qantas 787 Business Class

Good morning from Melbourne! I just took the 15 hour flight from San Francisco to Melbourne on the Qantas 787-9, which features their latest business class product.

Amazingly enough this was my first time flying longhaul in Qantas business class (I’ve flown them in longhaul first class and in shorthaul business class), so in this post I wanted to share my initial thoughts (with a more detailed trip report coming soon).

Qantas’ new business class seat is excellent

Qantas has Vantage XL seats in business class, which you’ll also find in SAS business class, RwandAir business class, etc. However, these were the best Vantage XL seats I’ve had yet (well, along with the Delta One Suites, but that’s a heavily modified product).

The seats are stylish and have lots of privacy, the finishes are great, and most importantly, the footwell was big.

The problem with the Vantage XL seat on the A330 is that it’s significantly narrower, and you notice that when trying to sleep. That wasn’t an issue here.

Lastly, the seats had individual air nozzles, which I sure do appreciate as a feature.

So I think these are great seats — not quite as good as Qsuites, but not too far behind.

The crew was top notch

I just love the Australian service culture — I find it to be friendly and informal, and Qantas perfectly exemplifies that. The crew on this flight was excellent. Every single flight attendant I interacted with seemed genuinely happy to be there, proud of the new 787, and was accommodating.

The amenities are excellent

Qantas has great business class amenities. The amenity kits are nice, I love the pajamas with the Qantas logo prominently displayed on them, and the bedding was solid, with a good blanket, pillow, and even a mattress pad.

Great entertainment, no wifi

Qantas’ 787 entertainment system is also very good. The selection is huge, the screen is really high definition, and the system is responsive.

Unfortunately Qantas still doesn’t have wifi on any of their longhaul aircraft, including the 787.

The food was… meh

Qantas is generally well regarded for their food, and recently they’ve had a new emphasis on wellbeing on their ultra longhaul flights.

Here’s the menu for the entire flight, which is quite simple, as you can see:

This isn’t an airline where you get a five course meal, but rather the intent is that you just have a main and a dessert. The two “sleep sooner” dine options are just a small bowl of soup or a cheese plate.

I’m actually not opposed to these smaller portions and generally healthier food, though in some ways Qantas takes it to the extreme, with just a main and a dessert on a 15 hour flight.

The dessert options aren’t even great. You can either have fresh fruit, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, or the only “fresh” sweet dessert is a tiny tartlet.

While I realize I was probably unlucky, my preferred main choice — the salmon — wasn’t available, so I had the turkey instead, which I didn’t love. I don’t eat pork and I strongly dislike chicken kiev, so options were limited.

The breakfast was very good, though. I had fruit, muesli, and a poached egg.

The service flow was odd

As mentioned above, the flight attendants as such were excellent, though the service flow was odd.

First of all, I was in the rear business class cabin, which I usually like because it’s nice and quiet. However, premium economy is actually served from the business class galley, so during the meal services they brought carts through the cabin to premium economy.

Furthermore, this also meant that they were preparing up to 80 meals up there, so that came with the corresponding noise, foot traffic, etc. Premium economy also doesn’t have any dedicated lavatories, so passengers kept coming up from premium economy to use the bathrooms, meaning there was often a wait.

That’s not a huge deal, but was definitely noticeable.

Next, I’m totally fine if they’re just going to have a lighter meal service, but my issue is just how long the service took. It shouldn’t take over two hours to serve a two course meal. It was 75 minutes after takeoff before the first round of drinks were served, and those weren’t even accompanied by any sort of nuts or an amuse bouche.

Qantas 787 business class bottom line

All things considered, I thought Qantas business class was excellent. The seat, amenities, entertainment, and service were top notch.

The meal service just seemed odd, as did the service flow.

The lack of wifi is disappointing.

I’d fly Qantas again in a heartbeat, and would recommend their business class. However, I do slightly prefer Virgin Australia’s 777 business class, all things considered.

If you’ve flown Qantas business class, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. Looks same as at least 30 other business classes. And there are no premium economy reviews because they are all too alike?

  2. Yes. What @John said. I especially love the post a few days ago about how soft product is far less important than hard product — and then the same seat type/manufacturer gets reviewed ad nauseam. Quite confounding!

  3. I personally loved my experience on QF’s 787 business class from MEL to SFO. I’d agree that I really liked the seat, however I prefer the business class seat on their A330 a bit more as they’ve installed screens that seem to have a privacy filter on them. It helps enhance the privacy aspect and keeps the cabin a bit more dim.

    I personally felt the food on my flight was excellent, but that portion sizes were much to small for a TPAC flight, especially considering they really aren’t providing much more than a tiny salad, small main, and small dessert. I am a bit surprised that your flight didn’t have a vegetarian option on the menu, especially with four choices of a main. My flight from Australia did have one on the menu, so it seems a bit odd they wouldn’t offer it in both directions.

  4. I think I’m a bit odd in liking the strange pod-like J seats on Qantas’ A380 (there’s so much space in front of them that you aren’t trapped, despite the 2-2-2 layout).

    I’ve only flown the 787 once, on their LHR-PER service (well, twice, since I returned…), and I thought it was pretty ok. Like you, I found the food offerings a bit thin – a result, I suspect, of an attempt at hipster faddy-chic with “named celebrity chefs” I’d never heard of and could care less about. Everything else was rather nice.

    But it is only my first choice to Australia/NZ if my destination is actually Perth; otherwise, since I’d have to change flights anyway, I still always, always, always choose Qatar – especially since now I can travel Qsuites for most or all of the way.

    And I think that’s the problem for most airlines who want J class traffic: Qsuites are a game-changer, and, unless they happen to have a non-stop route, none of them has anything which is competitive.

  5. EVA got some criticism for moving to these for the 787 instead of their existing reverse herringbone… I gotta say I really like these seats. I’m excited to see how EVAs end up

  6. Were you able to use the CX lounge at SFO before the flight? I’ve read that they limit the number of QF pax, especially around the time the CX flight pax are using the lounge…

  7. I’m confused. You said that only a main and dessert was offered but I see that you also could have soup as a starter?

  8. So I think QF bizclass amenity kit is NOT excellent. It’s below average. So i got the same on a LHR-PER flight. This amenity kit would be absolutely enough for a short TATL. But not for QF ultra longhauls. The eyeshades, socks, earplugs, dental kit are economy-quality. You get very similar on Turkish economy class. The ASPAR samples kit is nice, but still, the whole stuff is quite basic. Just for a few more cents, they could add a comb, tissues, pen, and also a much nicer bag.

  9. My flght LAX-MEL was last December and the plane was still sparkling new so what’s not to like. These seats are definitely a huge improvement over the old pods and their total lack of privacy for solo travelers. Really, the idea of sleeping on a flat bed inches away from a stranger with hardly any divider between you is way too close. However, my seat had some issues as the buckle got trapped behind the seat if you didn’t hang on to it when adjusting the recline. As others have said, portions were tiny. Both dinner and breakfast fit entirely on an appetizer sized plate. I don’t have a linebacker appetite but still had to request two plates of the mid-flight dumplings to not feel starved.

  10. @Anon, Qantas and Air New Zealand treat their PE a bit more like Business Lite than Economy Plus, differentiating their PE product from some other PE products (e.g. SQ) – not all PE products are alike.

  11. I find QF really good and as far as the ‘western carriers’ go I find them at the top of the table in terms of service and lounges.

    What I think is incredibly commendable is how they turned themselves around from being a poor-mediocre carrier in terms of service and quality 15 years ago into a very good one.

    Instead of moaning about the invading ME3 carriers that went from zero flights to OZ to almost dominating international traffic QF stepped up and became a viable competitor (ok and kinda jumped into bed with EK).

    The good thing is, QF, Air NZ and Virgin OZ all being local competitors keep each other on their toes and the region pretty much has the best domestic and international products available.

    Looking forward to QF re-configuring their A380’s with the Vantage XL suite next year.

  12. @Ben – SeatGuru shows the seats as being the same size on the 787 as on the SAS A330, Yet you say that the A330 has narrower seats. Is SeatGuru just wrong, or do you have any thoughts?

  13. Lucky, I just missed you as I am literally taking this flight out to MEL tonight. Enjoy your time down under!

  14. My MEL-SFO flight on 787 was canx yesterday due to a lightening strike to the inbound.

    Wasn’t on your flight was it Lucky?

  15. QF have a whole lot more control of catering ex-Australia and is something they cannot seem to fix. There is a staggering level of difference in quality inbound and outbound.

  16. Does not hold a candle to QR.

    Even Qantas F in its A380 is meh in both the food dept and the service dept.

    They expected you to eat a amuse bouche of a prawn drenched with unknown orange color dressing with your bare hand on our recent MEL-LAX flight. We had to ask for a fork.

    FA did not offer to make the bed after meal service was over. He then later touched my shoulder to wake me up when I was dozed off whether I wanted my bed made. (the bedding was stored in the overhead compartment instead of other airlines somewhere around the seat). I saw many other passengers slept without their beds made. This would not happened with other airlines F cabins.

    We had grilled “Blue Eye” fish as our main – the dish had no sauce with a dry tasteless fish – big chunk of it though. deserts were inedible – an unknown substance of a big glop of paste in a pie shell.

    The fresh fruits served at breakfast following morning had some rotten pieces in them. Yuck.

    Except for the red wine, everything else in the F&B area was meh and subpar to even CX which is never renown for its foods (in fact quite the contrary many complained about CX foods in premium cabins). That is how poor QF foods are. Quite odd.

  17. @Dean

    If what we experienced in our recent MEL-LAX QF 93 F was best QF could do in their foods (both quality and culinary preparation), then we would fly QR or CX if it is one world to avoid QF altogether. Or TG and SQ on Star Alliance. for our trips to / from Australia in the future.

    We did not have high expectation before flight but we still came out quite disappointed.

  18. Echoes our experience. We just hit QF Platinum, having been Virgin Australia Platinum for 8 years. With open minds, it was the food and the service flow that let us down. The Neil Perry menu is just a bit weird, there are no bread options, and on our LA to Sydney flight we had the left side served in one direction the right side another and it was far so slow. Easy problems to fix, as the crew are almost always excellent and willing!

  19. As a frequent QFF – I must agree with the comments about the food…both business and first have been downgraded and the quality and portion size has dragged them down to ‘poor’. The amenity packs are also very minimal…given QF is not the cheapest way to travel, they need to up their gams as some of the Asian and Middle East carriers are way out in front….

    That said, I have never had a poor crew experience, they make up for way too many short cuts taken by management to save money – IMHO!

  20. What you should note about Qantas is that they have massive support in Australia, the entire marketing direction is connection of Aussies to the world, look at their 787 ads of YouTube and you will see this, they are very popular and hold a place in the heart of almost every Australian

  21. My wife and I flew SFO>MEL in PE in early September, just after Quantas inaugurated that run. I had looked for months for a business award using Alaska miles, but was not successful. We found PE to be entirely satisfactory because we didn’t share a row with someone else, the food was good, and the flight crew was friendly and attentive. PE made that long flight much easier than if we were seated further back 🙂 We followed up with a flight from MEL to PER in business and enjoyed the service.

  22. Qantas soft product is a bit of a hit and miss. The service on some flights are great, while others are simply dull. I agree that food is mediocre at best. I try to eat in the lounge (Qantas F lounge is Sydney is excellent) instead. After a long overnight flight the breakfast offering is typically poor, and the portion is small, even by Australian standard. When I fly CX I think the food is great! That’s how bad QF is!!

  23. I agree – I think QF and others believe the lounge food dining (F – order at the table) make up for reduced food on the flight. Particularly when the flight leaves very late and arrives early in the morning. Eat in the lounge and just eat smaller portions on the flight – nothing wrong with that.

    Even CX overnight flights – serve minimal food in their top class (business on the A350). Flew CX from IAD-HKG – CX’s longest route and even a bowl of soup was considered the entire food service for supper. The flight leaves at 1:30am and arrives in HKG around 5:30am. – A 16 hour flight. You can order multiple entree’s if you like, and 3 of them are available throughout the flight.

  24. It’s disappointing to hear of the catering issues QF has in P & J. Perhaps, QF needs to hire a new catering company, & I’m hoping QF in-flight service management sees their customers thoughts & feelings regarding their offerings. I understand a late night red eye departure will have an augmented menu (hence Supper versus dinner) but if passengers want more or less substantial meals, let them choose. It’s an ultra-long haul service & should be treated as such not like a trans-Atlantic flight I.e. JFK-ZRH, etc..
    It seems like they are trying a similar model to what is being done in the main cabin. Larger main course served on its own, then dessert (does QF offer a appetizer in Y?). In the end, ULH catering need more substantial offerings.

    QF did offer a nicer quality amenity kit from Kate/Jack Spade, but the contents were the same. The sale kits are great for a standard long haul (SYD-HKG, etc.) , but an upgraded kit on ULH flights (the U.S. & U.K.) really need a more substantial kit. VA’s kits are much nicer across the board.

  25. Qantas generally expect pax to eat in the lounge and sleep on these night flights from the US and Asia so design the menu accordingly. For most I think it works.

    Agree though 75min is way too long, but food takes time to heat (and i don’t believe Australias regulators allow ovens to be turned on on the ground as other airlines do) – overcome on day flights by serving a cold snack/drinks early on.

    On WiFi Qantas has seemingly decided to wait until the ViaSat3 sats launch which won’t be until 2020/2021 but should be a lot quicker. A lot less choice of satellites over majority sea routes

  26. Qantas catering is a disgrace. If you read any of the Australian forums it’s a constant complaint from travellers but QF does not care. They have just signed a new contract with celebrity chef Neil Perry who is more than half the problem but as they leverage his name for marketing they stick with it. Staff always say mgmt doesn’t listen to them and are always urging P’s and P1’s to complain. We do but it makes no difference. I invariably end up having two appetisers, one being soup because there just isn’t food offered that I want to eat. With a virtual duopoly domestically, They have their best flyers captive because of their ff program & the fact that it is a consistent and pretty decent hard product and for Australians has the best network locally & for connecting internationally.

    If you fly ex Australia from one of the major ports with a F or J lounge then it is an option to eat there but many other overseas destinations don’t have those options eg the crappy Honolulu lounge or the currently overcrowded Singapore lounge so you get on the flight and find nothing to eat or such slow service 3 hours are gone before it’s complete. Forget trying to sleep for any length of time on most of the night flights from Asia into Oz. Plus unless you are a regular flyer, I don’t think most people realise they should actually eat a meal in the lounge prior to boarding.

    And as for the amenity kits, they are pathetic! Qantas is currently charging approx $12,000 AUD return for Dec flights from Sydney to NYC which is highway robbery but it’s their right and obviously what the market will bear. But my point is, they should offer food and amenities that match that price point. I’m just glad I have hit my status credit tier for the year and have the next few months to travel in and out of Australia with airlines that actually care about their customers & provide a better product.

  27. The late evening ex LAX/SFO services have menus designed as “Supper Services” and have less options and smaller portions than the ‘lunch’ or ‘Dinner’ services available in the other direction.

    Also, the flight attendants have often ‘enjoyed’ their layover on the West coast and are only too ready to encourage PAX to go to sleep as soon as possible so they themselves can relax.

    Sadly, it makes for a “business minus” experience.

    FWIW, I am Qantas Platinum.

  28. Our 787 flight in J from MEL-LAX with QF last week couldn’t serve us breakfast as the fridges broke down. No milk, nothing cold at all; just a croissant. The staff handled it with aplomb though, by giving all of the J cabin a full, unopened bottle of champagne or spirits to each pax in J. There were also staff waiting in LAX after we walked off the aerobridge with snacks and vouchers, but we couldn’t handle waiting around for this and delaying further the undeniable trauma that is LAX CBP (understandably).

    Our flight back from Ben’s review from SFO-MEL has much better economy seats than then current A380 Y.

    @Darren – I asked for the soup, main and dessert and was accommodated with then soup in this regard (although it did take a reminder to the FA, who then genuinely apologized and brought out my main). It would seem QF management is hoping people don’t ask in an attempt to penny-pinch.

  29. I am a QF life time Gold and still enjoy flying QF.
    I would still qualify for Gold with the amount of flying I do and as an Aussie I would go out of my way to fly QF. Strange comments from Ben on the food I certainly would have been happy with the menu, also it is a supper service ex SFO and LAX.
    Having recently flown QR on their A380 I think QF are way out in front. Was not impressed with the cabin crew they were friendly but indifferent, wine selection very average and Doha airport was crowded and the lounge just okay.
    Out of the 3 big ME carriers, EK is the best IMO.
    ME carriers sell on price and QR is at the bottom cheapest J to Europe ex Aust. Happy to pay more an fly QF.

  30. I have taken the LHR/PER/MEL sectors in J, and was less than impressed with the foot well – I needed to pull my legs out to roll over, and whilst my feet are larger than average, they aren’t enormous. However, in fairness when the seat was in seated mode, I found the room on a window sided seat to be roomy and quite private.

    I have never been a fan of Neil Perry’s food, but I find that the out-station catering to be substantially worse than what is loaded in Aust. One of the snacks on the LHR/PER sector was cottage pie – I think the last time I saw cottage pie served in Australia was in the 70’s. I hadn’t flown home on QF for quite a while, and was disappointed that there wasn’t some form of noodle bowl given that a fair chunk of NP’s restaurants are either Asian themed or have Asian influence on the menus.

    My biggest issue however is the premium QF charges. I’m flying MEL/MNL/LHR in J tonight, and QF was 120% higher for a one way ticket. I haven’t flown in PR before, but I doubt that the hard and soft products will only be half as good. Sure, a number of people would rather pay a premium for QF’s safety record, and demand comes into play regarding pricing as well, but when the kangaroo route has so many options, it’s difficult to pay that much over the odds.

  31. I am sorry but I cannot say that I would commend an airline which takes two hours to serve an “express” meal, which has such dull interiors and takes away the comfort of solitude and sleep by service carts going to-and-from the other classes. Might you be somewhat soft in your recommendation?

  32. Well, huh. This makes my UA MEL – LAX trip sounds pretty classy in comparison. The seats look superb, though.

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