Flight Review: Qantas QF577 Sydney to Perth (Business Class)

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I couldn’t hide my disappointment. It had been years since I had travelled Qantas, let alone a flight departing at midday. I had neglected to remember the ‘no alcohol before 12’ rule in the business class lounge. As I bashfully glanced towards the bar fridge, I knew that I would have to settle for a beverage without a percentage on the label. Shame.

It was a Sunday, and i had arrived at the airport with 1 1/2 hours to spare to savour the delights of the Qantas lounge – a wine perhaps? It wasn’t meant to be.

This was my first flight to the Western Australian capital and I was excited to try business class onboard the Qantas A330-300 aircraft. I had avoided Qantas business class after a string of hideous domestic 737-400 flights some years earlier.

After a ginger beer or two (matched poorly with an unremarkable salad from the food bar), I decided to wander to the gate a little early. As a regular Virgin Australia traveller I was eager to see what had improved – or deteriorated? – with Australia’s ‘national’ airline, Qantas.

I arrived at the gate to see a horde of travellers surrounding the departure gate and dutifully waited in the business class line with the other premium travellers. Something was amiss when economy travellers were streaming through the economy gate yet there was no mention (nor indication) of when the business class queue would start boarding. “What an interesting priority boarding technique” I mused… perhaps they wanted us at the pointy end to stretch our legs before our 5 hour journey?

As my fellow business class travellers watched on, some passengers from our line took the initiative to join the economy queue as it was obvious we weren’t going anywhere soon – I soon followed. As I handed over my boarding pass to the bouncy male gate agent I quipped “Why didn’t you open the business class lane? Why let all of us just stand there?”. His daft reply of “Oh, I didn’t see you there – that aerobridge isn’t connected to the aircraft” made my nostril flutter and my lips purse with annoyance. How unobservant. Priority boarding fail.

As I integrated with the masses on the aerobridge, I couldn’t help but notice that the volume of passengers that were sharing this flight with me. This was going to be a full flight.

Arriving at my seat, it became clear that my aircraft had been switched from an A330-300 to a -200 variety and this bird was recently retrofitted in the business cabin with a less than popular 2-3-2 abreast layout. This layout was so unpopular that Qantas decided to not sell the unloved middle seat and instead placed a small cocktail table between the two neighbouring seats. I wonder if the designer of the cabin still holds a job?

Not the best legroom…

Because I was seated in a window pair of seats I was unconcerned about the middle seat conundrum. But I was curious about was who my potential seatmate would be, what they would be like and if they too enjoyed wine as much as this functioning alcoholic. I was left to wonder no more as a surly madam approached and plonked herself and her belongings in the seat next to mine. A cursory ‘Hi’ was exchanged but this was the extent of our niceties. Evidently there was to be no casual seatmate banter. Shame.

The doors were closed whilst the crew bounced around the cabin offering newspapers/magazines to my business class brethren and suit jackets were collected for safe keeping. Because this was a new aircraft, the seat-back entertainment system was responsive and had a good collection of content. The screen size was more than adequate for a tech junkie like myself where bigger is most certainly better. I remained glued to the screen for the rest of the flight, as did my less-than-social seat mate.

Before long we were charging along the runway and up into the clear Sydney skies. Shortly after departure the cabin manager, clutching a tatty manifest, graced the cabin by introducing himself to the passengers. He referred to everyone by their surname which was a nice, but tad formal, touch.

Whilst dishing out pleasantries he rattled off the lunch menu and received drink orders. There were three options for main course for this lunch flight and I opted for the snapper curry. Oh, and a glass of wine. Naturally.

A glass of wine was delivered with an unusual companion of wasabi peas. What a disastrous, hideous mix. Qantas needs to fix this – urgently. I’ve never tasted anything so foul.

Whilst watching Hunger Games a chirpy crew member delivered a visually appealing entrée. I was extremely impressed. The prawn salad tasted as good as it looked and the goats cheese filled my palette with milky goodness. In fact, I would’ve just had the cheese by its own and it would’ve exceeded expectations.

The snapper for the main course was cooked perfectly, though the presentation was less than flattering. Think Ansett domestic economy class meal circa 1992. At least it tasted delicious with just the right amount of spice and flavour. Dessert consisted of a Maggie Beer tub of ice-cream or some cheese – uninspiring but typical of domestic business class dessert offerings in 2012.

The rest of the flight was limited to inflight entertainment and wine – the hours blurred together which isn’t necessarily a bad thing on a 5 hour flight. Before long, and just as I started to ache for a cigarette, the pilot alerted the cabin to our upcoming descent. It was at this point that the crew jumped to action and prepared the cabin for arrival.

It was a great experience flying into Perth for the first time. The city sprawl of Western Australia’s capital is far reaching with new property developments piercing the landscape. The mining boom is doing wonders for this distant corner of Australia I mused. Perth CBD rises out of the endless suburbs rather majestically which reminded me of a Brisbane approach, just on a smaller scale.

So how was my first Qantas premium cabin flight since 2009? The catering was a highlight and the crew were top notch on this full flight – I’ve had full flights on Virgin Australia previously and the crew struggled with the pressure. Qantas crew seem to have the ‘OMG we have a full cabin’ routine down-pat. The negatives were obviously the lack of pre-flight lubrication in the lounge, and the priority boarding fail by unobservant ground crew. But lets not get carried away, these aren’t deal breakers.

I would put this flight in the top quartile of my domestic business class travels and inspires me to consider Qantas for my next journey. Well done Qantas!

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