Qan­tas Boe­ing 737-800 busi­ness class

MEL­BOURNE–SYD­NEY

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS -

BACK­GROUND

The Mel­bourne to Syd­ney route is busy. Qan­tas alone has more than 200 flights per week be­tween the two cities – not in­clud­ing those op­er­ated by its bud­get sub­sidiary Jet­star – and the route is reg­u­larly ranked among the busiest in the world by air travel in­tel­li­gence com­pany OAG. Trav­ellers, there­fore, have an abun­dance of op­tions on this route. This is a re­view of Qan­tas flight QF418 from Mel­bourne to Syd­ney, con­nect­ing from an in­ter­na­tional flight from Hong Kong.

CHECK-IN

Trav­ellers need to go through im­mi­gra­tion, bag­gage claim and cus­toms when tran­sit­ing from the In­ter­na­tional Ter­mi­nal 2 to the Do­mes­tic Ter­mi­nal 1, so if you have a tight con­nec­tion it may be best to pack carry-on rather than check-in to save your­self a lit­tle ex­tra time. That be­ing said, this process is rel­a­tively seam­less in Mel­bourne Air­port Ter­mi­nal 2: im­mi­gra­tion can be done elec­tron­i­cally for trav­ellers with an el­i­gi­ble e-pass­port at one of the many kiosks, and Qan­tas also of­fers its busi­ness class pas­sen­gers on in­ter­na­tional flights Ex­press Path passes that can help you clear im­mi­gra­tion quickly. From there, you’ll want to go through cus­toms then head to Ter­mi­nal 1, Qan­tas’s ded­i­cated do­mes­tic ter­mi­nal, which is to your left when leav­ing bag­gage claim.

I’d done all my check-in be­fore my in­bound flight to Mel­bourne at Hong Kong In­ter­na­tional Air­port, and since my con­nec­tion time was sched­uled to be a pos­si­bly tight one hour and 30 min­utes, I hadn’t checked any lug­gage in.

LOUNGE

Qan­tas has two lounges open to trav­ellers at Mel­bourne Ter­mi­nal 1: the Qan­tas Club and Do­mes­tic Busi­ness Lounge, the lat­ter be­ing where I had ac­cess. Qan­tas gave both lounges a ma­jor re­vamp back in Novem­ber, pro­vid­ing the two fa­cil­i­ties with not only a facelift but a mas­sive in­crease to their size and ca­pac­ity. Much of this was at the Do­mes­tic Busi­ness Lounge, which is now about 40 per cent big­ger – and the ad­di­tional size is no­tice­able. This is a spa­cious lounge, even by most in­ter­na­tional lounge stan­dards, with dis­tinct ar­eas: an in­di­vid­ual seat­ing area over­look­ing the tar­mac, a group seat­ing area and a din­ing area.

Over­all, the facelift de­signed by ar­chi­tec­tural firm Woods Bagot has given a new, modern feel to the space, re­flect­ing Mel­bourne’s din­ing scene and sup­per clubs. The lounge is open and brightly lit with nat­u­ral light – on days that aren’t over­cast and rainy, at least – from the large win­dows that run along the right-hand side and over­look the tar­mac.

In the cen­tre of the lounge is a manned bar and cof­fee barista sta­tion, with an­other self-ser­vice cof­fee sta­tion farther into the lounge. On the left-hand side is the din­ing area and small buf­fet area, which at break­fast fea­tured hot dishes in­clud­ing sausages, scram­bled eggs and mush­rooms, as well as breads, fruits and the like. The lounge also of­fers a unique din­ing op­tion in the form of the Spice Bar, which serves Asian-in­spired dishes. All in all, it’s a good spread for break­fast. Closer to the en­trance there is also a Quench bar of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of fresh drinks (try the ap­ple gin­ger mix).

Seat­ing is rel­a­tively straight­for­ward, mostly com­pris­ing in­di­vid­ual arm­chairs, cof­fee ta­bles and chairs, and din­ing ta­bles and chairs. A lot of these un­for­tu­nately don’t have im­me­di­ate ac­cess to a power point, so you may need to hunt for a seat with one if you’re look­ing to do some work.

BOARD­ING

Board­ing was sched­uled for 0840, 20 min­utes

be­fore de­par­ture from Gate G4. This is at the other side of the ter­mi­nal, though help­fully the in­for­ma­tion screens at the Do­mes­tic Busi­ness Lounge fea­ture ap­prox­i­mate walk­ing times to each gate, none of which were more than six min­utes. Qan­tas also pro­vides board­ing an­nounce­ments in the lounge for each of its flights.

THE SEAT

Qan­tas’s 737-800 has 12 seats in the busi­ness class cabin, laid out in a 2-2 con­fig­u­ra­tion. I was seated in 1A, the bulk­head seat by the win­dow. These seats have slightly more pitch (legroom) than seats in rows be­hind it, and don’t suf­fer from hav­ing some­one po­ten­tially re­clin­ing into your space. That said, the re­cline it­self is mod­est, so it shouldn’t pose too much of a nui­sance if you’re on the re­ceiv­ing end of it in ei­ther row 2 or 3.

In gen­eral, these are good seats for a flight of this length (ap­prox­i­mately one hour 30 min­utes). The seats are fur­nished in soft leather and of­fer am­ple cush­ion and sup­port, and the size is also rea­son­able with 37 inches (94cm) of pitch and 22 inches (56cm) of width be­tween the arms. That’s a good seven inches (17.8cm) more legroom and 4.8 inches (12cm) more width than seats in the econ­omy class cabin, mak­ing up­grad­ing a tempt­ing propo­si­tion.

Seats of­fer an ad­justable head­rest – both sides can be bent slightly to of­fer more pre­cise head and neck sup­port – a 10.6-inch (27cm) touch­screen stowed within the arm­rest, and uni­ver­sal power and USB sock­ets.

There are some as­pects of the seat that are less im­pres­sive. The re­cline and leg rest but­tons are stiff to press and a bit clunky, and to be hon­est I don’t think I’d miss ei­ther fea­ture if they weren’t there.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

Aisle seats are al­ways rec­om­mended if you think you’ll be up and about dur­ing the flight, though con­sid­er­ing the short jour­ney time you may pre­fer to hun­ker down by the win­dow and re­main undis­turbed. As a rule of thumb, I tend to avoid the back row as the seat re­cline can of­ten be ham­pered by the di­vid­ing wall right be­hind it. The bulk­head row is also a good choice for the ex­tra room. The cabin was fully booked when I flew, so if you have a pref­er­ence it’s best to se­lect it as early as pos­si­ble.

THE FLIGHT

Shortly af­ter board­ing, I was of­fered a choice of ei­ther still or sparkling wa­ter. Some trav­ellers may balk at the idea of not be­ing of­fered a bit of bub­bly in busi­ness class but, to be fair, it was be­fore 9am on a Fri­day morn­ing – even I have my lim­its as to what con­sti­tutes sen­si­ble drink­ing hours. While we didn’t take off un­til just be­fore 0925 – about 25 min­utes late – I couldn’t re­ally com­plain see­ing as grim weather in Syd­ney had al­ready caused the can­cel­la­tion of flights both be­fore and af­ter mine. I was sim­ply happy to be in the air.

About 20 min­utes later, we were of­fered our meal choices. I chose a chorizo sausage, red pep­per and cheese sand­wich, which to my de­light was toasted. This was a gen­uinely good sand­wich and even sur­passes many that I’ve pre­vi­ously had in cafés and cof­fee shops on the ground. Pas­sen­gers are also pro­vided a pot of yo­ghurt (aver­age) and a rather tasty banana muf­fin.

By this stage, I was al­ready about half­way through the flight and de­cided to take a look through the in-flight en­ter­tain­ment se­lec­tion. The user-in­ter­face is touch­screen and sim­ple to use, and while the se­lec­tion was no­tably sparser than that on Qan­tas’s long-haul ser­vice com­ing in to Mel­bourne, it still had a rea­son­able se­lec­tion of new films and TV se­ries.

Def­i­nitely a com­fort­able way to make the one-hour25-minute jour­ney from Mel­bourne to Syd­ney, par­tic­u­larly if you’re on the early morn­ing run and want to snooze be­fore you ar­rive

AR­RIVAL

Hav­ing cir­cled around a lit­tle, we even­tu­ally touched down bang on 1100, about 30 min­utes be­hind sched­ule, which was to be ex­pected with the ini­tial de­lay. Disem­barka­tion was quick and smooth, and with­out im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms to clear and no bag­gage to claim I was out of the air­port doors within a few min­utes.

VER­DICT

This is def­i­nitely a com­fort­able way to make the one-hour-25-minute jour­ney from Mel­bourne to Syd­ney, par­tic­u­larly if you’re on the early morn­ing run and want to snooze be­fore you ar­rive. It must be noted, though, that this is a sig­nif­i­cantly more ex­pen­sive op­tion than Qan­tas’s clos­est ri­val Vir­gin Aus­tralia on the same route. Craig Bright

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