As many of you may know, Qantas is my airline of choice. Consistently great service has had me coming back to fly with them year after year. While I’ve flown in their – now retiring – Business class a great number of times, there was one experience onboard I hadn’t experienced yet.
Flying in Qantas’ First Class cabin
If you hold a Qantas Business class ticket – a paid ticket, not Frequent Flyer Point ticket – it will cost you just 60,000 Qantas points to upgrade and fly First class from Melbourne to London (via. Dubai). Bargain!
This was how I, very luckily, managed to score First-class tickets less than 24-hours out from flying.
I arrived late to Melbourne International Airport after a last-minute dash owing to enjoying a long Christmas lunch with my extended family and then being unable to get an Uber. Finally, after getting a taxi, I was deposited at the dedicated Qantas First check-in.
“Miss Smith?” Marie – the First Host – greeted me by name as I was the last to arrive – whoops!
My bags were taken away – not curbside as I had expected – and Marie offered to walk me to the Qantas First lounge.
Due to my tardiness, the lounge was shutting as I arrived so I grabbed a glass of water and scoped out the facilities. The marble and padded leather creating a modern yet classic look and the dining room overlooked the domestic terminal and runway. The view, and old-school departure board – was an AV Geeks dream!
QF9 is operated on an A380, the big boy of the sky. Onboard, the front end of the planes lower level is for First customers with Economy seating behind. On the upper deck, there is Business class, Premium Economy and a smaller section of Economy seating.
As Melbourne Tullamarine wasn’t purpose built for the A380, while the Upper Deck passengers are offered a speedy boarding, First passengers are boarded with the Economy passengers (in Dubai, First passengers, Upper Deck passengers and Economy are all boarded separately).
Taken to what was to be my suite for the next 23-hours and 55-minutes, I was seated in 1K. You way question “how are you going to sleep when there is a wall directly in front of you”, but don’t worry – I’ll explain in a moment.
Settling into spacious chair, I was offered a drink (Champagne. Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2004. Delicious, though quite acidic.) which was placed onto a small fold-down tray above the magazine holder.
Pyjamas were offered along with an amenity kit – Qantas First kits are created by SK-II – as we readied for take-off.
During take-off, First passengers wear a seatbelt akin to that of a car seatbelt, with the over shoulder and lap buckle.
I spent a good twenty minutes engrossed in the remote which operates everything within the suite. Unlike the standard hand-held remote in the other classes, Qantas First has a larger tablet-style device for passengers.
The most popular options are set on the home screen (pictured above) but with a click of a button you are presented with so many more options.
From the tablet you can control the Seat & Suite Presets, make adjustments to your seat, choose and control the four styles of massage, control the lighting, the windows and all of the Entertainment Controls. You can also watch the Flight Path on the device!
The seat sits on a track allowing it to swivel 75-degrees. Once swiveled your seat will turn into a full 180-degree flat-lie bed. While Qantas Business (the old models) also has ‘flat-lie beds’, they are not a true flat lie and you will find your body on a slight recline.
The beds are fitted out with a thick sheepskin and linens, a sleep pillow (larger than the standard pillow) and light quilt, making it a very comfortable experience.
Onboard Qantas’ A380’s have the largest in-flight entertainment library in the fleet, offering over 1,500 options (movies, TV shows, music library and radio channels) to watch on the 17″ touch screen (10.4″ on the B747’s) with noise-cancelling headsets. There’s also a range of games and an interactive flight map to keep you entertained. There is a program, ‘Kids Zone’, which offers programming specifically for the youngest flyers.
Entertainment options are updated monthly.
One aspect about Qantas Business and First is the lounge. Though most commonly utilised by the Business class passengers who sit just behind, the lounge allows people to sit and relax, watch a movie, read a magazine or enjoy a snack away from their seat. I find it rarely used – especially on longer journeys when people just want to sleep – so it’s a great spot to hang out, especially when I want to chat with friends or family I’m flying with.
As mentioned earlier, Qantas First amenity kits are created by SK-II. These gorgeous leather bags are well equipped with some SK-II samples (I wish they were a bit more generous because after one use they’re practically gone), a travel size deodorant, pocket tissues, a leather-bound mirror and an assortment of usual toiletries, socks and eye-mask.
I was happy with the contents, especially when comparing to Cathay Pacific First and British Airways First.
So How Was The Food?
My biggest problem with Qantas, no matter the class or route, is their food options. To put it nicely, it’s a pretty average offering. I am not a huge foodie but the meal is something I do look forward to when onboard a flight, especially on long-haul International flights, as it marks the passage of time.
Another aspect to note: Qantas First and Business passengers receive the same menus.
First off, I will commend Qantas for continuing to use Pepe Saya butter. Pepe Saya is an Australian artisan butter maker based in New South Wales. His butter is creamy, delicious and makes you want to eat the butter in slices – his hand churned butter is seriously that good! Unfortunately, they only serve it in First class (before it was offered in the Business cabin as well).
Currently, Qantas’ menu is a collaboration between the airline and Australian chef Neil Perry. Perry’s restaurant – Rockpool – is famed for their seafood and seafood is evident in every.single.aspect of the meals that were served onboard that day. Perhaps I’m being precious because I am not a seafood eater, but the non-seafood or vegetarian options were a little boring or too heavy for the time the flights are operating. A beef fillet is on the menu of both the 8am flight (departing Dubai) or an 11pm flight (departing Melbourne), but maybe there could be a Thai Beef salad or something a little lighter for those who don’t want a heavy meal before sleeping.
Also, being partners with Emirates, a lot of Middle Eastern inspired foods have popped into the menu which, for me personally, I have mixed feelings about.
I will say that the Chicken Schnitzel and Swiss Cheese Toasted Sandwich, which is available between Melbourne and Dubai was delicious, but the Thai basil and lemongrass broth with lamb dumplings, coriander and chilli – available on the Dubai to London leg – were dry, hard and just not that appealing.
Their cheese and fruit platter had a good variety, including Meredith Dairy Goat Cheese (a small artisan Victorian producer), but a dash to Shake Shack in Dubai Airport was still needed during our layover. (Note: First class passengers do have access to the Emirates First class lounge but I needed a burger and a shake!).
Qantas, please please please update your menus. Even flying Melbourne to Singapore, return, last week in Business, your food was pretty average… noodles presented in takeaway boxes that were oily does not a meal make. Don’t worry, we shall discuss this in depth soon.
There is one redeeming factor for their food though – their snacks are pretty good and there is a lot of choice, particularly in Economy.
(Note: New season menus have just launched in Qantas First and Business. The new menus appear to be leaps and bounds better that what was on offer until mid-March!)
Qantas has recently launched a feature on their website that allows you to pre-book your meal/s online, ensuring you get the dishes you want or allowing crew to be notified if you prefer to have your bed made up straight after take-off to maximise sleep.
Overall, I was pleased by my Qantas First experience but think there is a lot of areas they can still improve upon, the food being the biggest.
The staff really do make an airline and Qantas’ staff were, as always, amazing. The suites were spacious, comfortable and everything you hoped for when flying First Class. The bathrooms are larger and offer additional amenities – extra lotions and potions to indulge in, but there were a number of small things that needed to be double-checked or fixed. One of my suites drawers was stuck, the magazine holder was broken and one of the blinds dark shade wouldn’t lower no matter how much the crew and I tried, meaning I was little sleep on the journey over.)
When fearing I’d lost my phone, one staff member effectively dismantled my seat in search of the rogue device. Now that’s service!
Will I fly Qantas First again? Yes, but I’ll be waiting for a new design first I think. I would much rather spend my money (or Qantas Frequent Flyer Points) on flying their new Business class seating.
Qantas First cost AU$10,000 for the Melbourne to London (via. Dubai) route.
To fly Qantas First using frequent flyer points on this route costs 192,000 (ex. all major capital cities).
To upgrade using Qantas Frequent Flyer points, you need to hold a paid for Business Class ticket. The upgrade costs 60,000 for the entire journey.
Included in a First-Class ticket is;
- Complimentary chauffeur transfer to/from Melbourne International Airport and London Heathrow
- Access to the First-class check-in lounge, including baggage handler
- Access to the First-class airport lounge (pre-departure)
- Access to Emirates First Class gallery in Dubai
- Access to British Airways First lounge upon arrival in London Heathrow/First Class Check-in Counter
- Stopover in Dubai (should you choose)