Tried & Tested

Flight review: Qantas B787-9 Business Class (QF9)

30 Mar 2018 by Tom Otley
Qantas Dreamliner

Background

Qantas started flying this new route in March, 2018.

At 14,500km, this is the third longest commercial flight currently in operation and the first scheduled non-stop between the UK and Australia. Served daily by a B787-9 I had flown out on the inaugural flight to Perth. The review of that flight is here.

Flight review: Qantas B787-9 business class

And I also filmed a video of that flight which can be watched below.

The new route means that Qantas has three routes between Australia and London – the direct Perth-London service on the Dreamliner; a reinstated Sydney-Singapore-London service on the A380; and via Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth to London via Dubai with partner Emirates on mix of A380 and 777 aircraft. The non-stop 17-hour flight time is achievable not only by eliminating stop overs, but also by taking advantage of the most favourable winds.

Moving-map-start

I will try and avoid repeating what I said on the outward review and focus on things that perhaps I missed in the other review.

I also haven’t said much about the aircraft, but we have published many reviews of the B787-8 and B787-9 not to mention the A350 so I believe most readers will have flown a variation of the aircraft.

I know that Qantas has said a lot about how this will lessen the effects of such a long flight, and I believe that to be true, but in the publicity material I didn’t find much that was different from other airlines since the aircraft is a standard one. There was mention of a more pro-active use of the lighting to help with jet lag, but on this flight I didn’t really notice that and the whole of the flight was in darkness from the outside since we set off in the Perth evening and flew for 17 hours to land at Heathrow at 0500.

Overall, I have to say I was even more impressed with the return journey than the outward bound for the reasons that follow.

Qantas return flight seat map

First impressions

The London flight departs from Terminal 3 at Perth International. I arrived at about 1630 for the 1845 departure. Check-in was pretty slow – about 15 minutes, mainly because there were only two desks open, one for all passengers, and one for premium, yet there were only premium passengers queuing when I arrived, perhaps because they wanted to get through and try out the new lounge.

For the London flight you check in at terminal 3, then pass through security and take the escalators up to the domestic terminal. From there you follow the signs to international departures, go through a passport check and then another set of security and then you are in international departures. Note that if you are wanting to claim sales tax back you need to do this just after the passport check but just before the second security check. There is a small office on the right-/hand side.

Qantas Perth International Transit Lounge

The Lounge

The international transit lounge is on the right-hand side and I will publish a separate review of this including the yoga class.

Boarding

Boarding was at Gate 20. This was a bit of a shambles since the moment we got to the gate there was an announcement that there would be a ten-minute delay. After about ten minutes we were told it was because there was a broken seat. So all the passengers stood around, premium passengers in one queue, thinking back to the oasis of a lounge they had just been asked to leave, economy passengers enjoying the chance to stand before sitting down for over 17 hours. I spoke to the lady who had been helpful in the lounge who had come out of the lounge with a couple of wheelie bags which had been left by passengers in the lounge. She said she hadn’t been told about the delay. After about 20 minutes we got on board at 1850.

Qantas Dreamliner busienss class

The seat:

I ended up being one of the last on board in business and most seats were occupied by the time I sat down. Business class was full, as was premium economy and I was told economy was almost full so it’s good news for this flight which was still in the first week of service, although admittedly this was the flight before the Easter weekend (taking off on Maundy Thursday, landing on Good Friday, a Bank Holiday in the UK and the start of a four day weekend as well as being the start of the school holidays.)

The aircraft is configured for 236 passengers in three classes with 166 economy, 28 premium economy and 42 business class seats. The business class is spread over two cabins in a configuration of 1-2-1 (A-EF-K). The total number of seats is fewer than other configurations (Virgin Atlantic has 264 passengers on its B787-9 in three classes, for instance). This is as a result of giving passengers slightly more room and increasing the number of premium seats on board. It also presumably extends the range of the aircraft, but also means a premium is charged for the non-stop service. (British Airways has only 216 on its 4-class B787-9s in a 8/42/39/127 seat configuration).

The seat is a Thompson aerospace seat and familiar from many other airlines – I last flew it on the Malaysia Airlines A350-900, although this is a roomier version of it in terms of leg room, I think. The seat allows every passenger to have direct aisle access, and has a staggered seating configuration so that when the seat is fully reclined the feet of the passenger move under the side table of the seat in front. The window seats are either close to the window or slightly further away and closer to the aisle.

The seat statistics are that it has a 46 inch seat pitch, 80 inch bed seat length and either a 23-24 inch seat width or a 24-25 bed width.

The seat has several pre-sets, and there’s two options for take-off and landing (you can see them in the picture) meaning you don’t have to be completely upright which adds to comfort. I imagine this is because of the shoulder strap as well as the waist strap for safety (which you only have to wear for take-off and landing) allowing this extra comfort since it keeps you secure.

Seat-controls

The seat has a large amount of storage space and is very spacious, with a side table with storage and a good size arm rest on both sides. The centre seats have a divider which is up but can be lowered if you want to chat to the passenger in the neighbouring seat. There is more storage under the side tables, though it’s exact location differs depending on what seat you are, and there is an area for magazines as well as a bottle of water which was waiting at the seat.

The seat is well designed with a handle at the top of the shell it is housed in, to help you get in or out, though the passenger in front had a habit of putting his hands over his head to hold onto this, which was a little off-putting.

Hands

There is a single washroom at the front and two washrooms at the rear between the two business class cabins.

My jacket was hung and I was offered a drink – water or champagne. Sleepsuits and amenity bags were offered, this time offering medium or large (on the way out only large and extra-large were available). These pyjamas were grey and much nicer – in fact they are standard ones, I believe, and very comfortable. We also got the same amenity bag as before. It had products from Aspar in it, namely

  • Sweet orange and shea hand cream
  • Ultra hydrating face moisturiser
  • Sweet orange lip balm

As well as flight socks, eye mask, ear plugs and toothbrush and toothpaste. I wish it also had a shoe horn.

Best seat

I prepared a video of the best seats which you can see, below.

I was in 6K, which wouldn’t have been my choice, since it is on the aisle whereas 3K and 5K are closer to the window and have a side table next to them protecting the seat against the aisle. 7K is also like that, but it close to the rear galley, and 1K is too close to the front galley.

I was critical of the lack of choice on the Inflight Entertainment on the outward flight, but there were far more films loaded on this flight with additional section on top of the Premiere section (new movies) including Australian films, Award winners, Family, European and World and there was no reason to complain. Since it was the same aircraft (Yam Dreaming – or Emily, as the flight attendants referred to it), I can only assume this shortage had been sorted out either as a result of customer feedback or just because of the normal process of putting IFE on board.

Qantas IFE Films

There is no wifi on board, but then opinions differ on that, and the video news didn’t work. Finally, I like the cameras for take off and landing particularly, but this was a definite improvement on the outward flight.

We set off a little late after an apology and an explanation from the captain. He told us we would have a quick flight time of some 17 hours.

Meal orders were taken quickly – before the drinks orders, and service seemed a little quicker because of that, with the food being prepared while drinks were then offered.

Of course, with a 17-hour flight time, from one point of view there’s no rush to do anything, and some people will have eaten the excellent food in the new Perth Lounge, but waiting for a drink can be boring and it was still 2025 before this happened. The starter came at 2125 and the rest of the food took about an hour. The service was extremely good, though – friendly, informative and eager to help.

The meal started with a signature cocktail which I didn’t have, and a canape of armacino with shitake mushroom – very nice.

Qantas Supper

Starters were

  • Moroccan spiced carrot soup with coriander yoghurt and dukkah croutons
  • Baked rigatoni with eggplant, tomato sugo and zucchini
  • Tuna poke salad with wakame and sesame soy dressing

I had the rigatoni which was tasty and filling.

Qantas Main-course

The main course choices were:

  • Fried manchego and black bean tamale with tomatillo salsa and green pepita sauce (pictured above)
  • Seared chicken breast with ginger and shallot relish, bok choy and jasmine rice
  • Seared Cone Bay barramundi with herbed garlic potatoes, broccolini, lemon, olive and almond salsa
  • Beef fillet with soft polenta, caramelised onion and sage, slow roasted tomatoes and rocket

I had the fried manchego, which was a little odd, but maybe I chose badly. I’d had so much to eat the previous three days in Perth and the Margaret River that I didn’t want anymore fish or meat.

To Finish

  • Selection of cheese served with accompaniments
  • Baked vanilla custard with rhubarb, honeyed pears and almonds
  • Maggie Beer ice cream.
  • Seasonal fruit
Qantas wine

I’d been disappointed by the wines on the way out, with not much choice, but on the return although that was still the number at least they had completely changed and were…

  • Vasse Felix, Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
  • Voyager Estate, Margaret River 2013 – Shiraz
  • Rosabrook Margaret River Single Vineyard Estate 2015
  • Flowstone Margaret River 2016 Sauvignon blanc

It was good also to see the recent success of the airline in our Cellars in the Sky wine awards promoted on the menu.

Cellars in the sky qantas menu

I worked for a while and then reclined the bed to sleep. I found once again that the bed was very comfortable, if a little narrow compared to the very best business class beds, and the footwell a little tight for when turning over, but I had no problem sleeping for six hours.

Qantas business class Footwell

The cabin was the right temperature and unlike on the way out, I thought it was very quiet, but maybe it was because I was so tired. I noted that one large gentleman removed his top completely to sleep, so presumably he was too hot, but then he’d got on with a T-shirt and shorts and got off wearing the same, which is a brave choice for London in mid-March at 3 degrees when we landed. At least half the passengers wore the pyjamas.

During the night there were a few bits of moderate turbulence, by which I mean not only our seatbelts had to be one but the flight attendants seated for a while. This turbulence would have been worse at the back of the aircraft and in fact I spoke to some flight attendants whose crew rest was at the back and those unlucky enough to have their three hours during that period didn’t get much sleep. At the front of the aircraft it wasn’t too bad, and since my belt was over my blanket and I was sleeping I just heard the announcements and went back to sleep.

Map-middle-east

I woke somewhere around the Middle East and went to get a drink of juice (coconut milk in fact) from the galley where there was a choice of food and nibbles plus items that could be prepared by the flight attendants (see below for the list).

Qantas snack Galley

I then read for a bit, and then slept for another two hours. Mid flight snacks are offered, and I heard one of the flight attendants walking down the aisle offering a choice of these from a tray, which was pretty impressive. The full choice was

  • Spinach, ricotta and onion pastizzi with tomato and chilli relish
  • Smoked salmon and fennel slaw milk bun sandwich
  • Lamb rice pilaf with tabbouleh and lemon yoghurt
  • Fruits, chips, lemon shortbread biscuit, Koko Black chocolate bar.

I finally woke about three hours before landing. Breakfast was served about two and a half hours before landing. Before that I was offered cold pressed melon juice and a choice of coffees.

Qantas Breakfast

The breakfast was excellent – choice of juices, including Botanica cold-pressed green juice with kale, silverbeet, celery, apple, cucumber and lemon, Brookfarm macadamia toasted muesli with cranberries and main course choices of

  • Poached eggs with kale, quinoa, grilled halloumi, pistachios, seeds and herbed tahini dressing (pictured above)
  • Bacon, egg and roast tomato brioche roll with barbecue sauce
  • Free range scrambled eggs on brioche toast with pork sausage, braised beans and spinach.

The choices once again were on a breakfast card which I didn’t seem to have a copy of, but instead I asked for one and the flight attendants could not have been more helpful.

Qantas business class Window-seat

We landed at 0520. There was a short queue at immigration at T3 while we waited for the passport machines to be turned on, and then a 15 minute wait for bags at the carousel.

Verdict

The onboard service was among the best I’ve experienced, and the cabin, aircraft and seat extremely comfortable. The IFE was updated, so the choice was greater, and I had no trouble sleeping for nearly half the flight time. I hope this route is successful, because it makes Perth and Western Australia seem much closer.

qantas.com

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