At 14,500km, this is the third longest commercial flight currently in operation and the first scheduled nonstop service between the UK and Australia. Served daily by a B787-9 from London Heathrow Terminal 3, this was the inaugural return flight back to Perth.
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 from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth to London via Dubai with partner Emirates on a mix of A380 and B777 aircraft.
The nonstop 17-hour flight time is achievable not only by eliminating stop overs, but also by taking advantage of the most favourable winds.
I arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 3 at 1000 for the 1315 departure on QF10 nonstop to Perth. The check in area at Zone B was busy with press and so I quickly dropped off my bag, checked in and made by way to fast track security. I then went to the Qantas Lounge.
The Qantas lounge is excellent, and I have posted a separate review here, along with video walk-through footage.
We ate with Neil Perry, Qantas’ Creative Director Food and Beverage, who has been working with Qantas on its food for 21 years. I will publish a separate interview with him later.
The boarding took place from Gate 1. There was priority boarding for business class passengers after children and the elderly.
Once on board, I walked through to my seat which was in the front cabin of two business class cabins.
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 screen grab below from the booking process shows the two cabins (it is for a different date, and strangely every seat is booked – perhaps the route is already booked in premium!)
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 nonstop service. (Note that British Airways has even fewer – only 216 on its 4-class B787-9s in a 8/42/39/127 seat configuration, but that’s because of the first class, not because of a spacious business class).
The Qantas business class cabins are very comfortable. I was in the front cabin in row 2 in a centre seat – 2E. The seat is a Thompson Aero seat and familiar from many other airlines which have it including Malaysia Airlines.
This seemed a lot roomier, though.
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 (sounds weird, but works well). The window seats are either close to the window or slightly further away and closer to the aisle.
You can see all of this on the YouTube video with commentary.
The seat 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 can be in a recline position from take-off right through to landing since there is an over the shoulder strap as well as the waist strap for safety (which you only have to wear for take-off and landing).
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 when you enter the cabin but can be lowered if you want to chat to the passenger in the neighbouring seat. Even without lowering it this is still possible, and I had a very interesting conversation with a frequent traveller on Qantas. There is more storage under the side tables, though its exact location differs depending on which seat you are in, and there is an area for magazines as well as a bottle of water which was waiting at the seat.
There is a single washroom at the front and two washrooms at the rear between the two business class cabins. These washrooms are small, and changing into the pyjamas requires at least a nodding acquaintance with the basics of yoga to achieve.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
The front row – row 1, has only two seats , the window seat 1A and 1K, and is best avoided because it is too close to the galley. The first full row is row 2, and there the front two seats have more leg room being bulkhead seats (there’s a picture further down the review of that legroom). These two front seats are good ones to go for if you are travelling as a couple, though note at the front there are no overhead lockers over the middle seats because of the crew rest being overhead, so you will store your bags in the overhead lockers above the window seats. Seat 2E where I was has a side area by your feet where you can keep your hand luggage during the flight.
The best window seats are those close to the window and away from the aisle, and these are seats 3A, 5A, and 7A, though 7A is quite close to the rear galley. One the other side of the aircraft go for 3K, 5K and 7K. Have a look at the video since I walk through the cabin pointing them out.
Once on board we were offered champagne and water, and our jackets were taken. We took off on time, and there was a small party waving the aircraft on its way.
Once in the air we were offered Martin Grant sleepsuits, though they were available only in large and extra large and had a rather strange Qantas insignia on the front which made us all look a little like wannabe super heroes. I model one in the video. It’s not a pretty sight. There were also washbags in two colours, dark for men, pink for ladies, with designs by a Warakurna artist – Polly Butler-Jackson.
The champagne we had been offered before take off was Jacquart Brut Mosaique, but on the menu there was mention of Duval Leroy Brut, Charles Hiedsieck Brut Reserve and Taittinger Cuvee Prestige Brut. In fact, these weren’t available, and I was told it just depends which is loaded on to the flight. The menu detailed spirit choices and liqueurs, but not the wines, but there were just two choices of white and two of red – all Australian. They were lovely wines, but I thought it was quite a limited choice given how strong Qantas is on wine. Of course you don’t want to be flying lots of bottles around the world, but it’s a long flight….
The service was certainly leisurely, but by this I don’t mean that the flight attendants weren’t working hard, rather that, with a 17-hour flight time there was no need to rush.
I suppose most people had eaten at least brunch in the lounge, and the drinks weren’t offered until 1500 and the lunch service took the best part of two hours from this time so we finished eating at around 1700. I was working and didn’t mind, and perhaps because this was the inaugural and the flight attendants were getting used to the aircraft it might speed up later. I should also say that a colleague in the rear cabin of business found that his first two chocies of main course had been exhausted by the time they got to him (in row 11). So maybe front cabin is the choice if you’re hungry.
The appetiser was bubble and squeak, which was delicious but very difficult to eat with fingers since it fell apart when you picked it up. I asked for a fork and was given a napkin.
The full menu was as follows:
- Signature cocktail and canape
- Spring chard soup with nutmeg crème fraiche and lemon
- Salad of roast tomato with buffalo mozzarella, artichokes and basil dressing
- Crab cakes with corn salsa, chilli and rocket
- Pappardelle with parsley and pecorino soffritto, spring peas and toasted walnuts
- Seared pollock with roast fennel, thyme and chickpeas
- Tandoori grilled chicken with mustard seed carrots, basmati and coriander yoghurt
- Roast English beef with Yorkshire pudding, peas and onion gravy
- Green leaf salad with Rockpool vinaigrette
- Selection of cheese served with accompaniments
- Rhubarb trifle with elderflower sponge and apple jelly
- Ice cream
- Seasonal fruit
I ate the crab cakes, which were moist and full of flavour, and the grilled chicken which was served with rice and was a good size portion and delicious. I skipped the desserts but the ice cream on offer was chocolate. If you got hungry later on there was also a choice of snacks including:
- Mozzarella, olive and spinach calzone
- Bacon sarnie with Stokes brown sauce
- Beef cottage pie with peas
- Dips and crudités
- Almond, fava beans and chickpea chips
- Boxerchips potato crisps
- Whole seasonal fruit
- Oatmeal cookie
- Lily O’Briens chocolate bar
The flight time meant that from a UK-time perspective, we set off at lunchtime and arrived at Perth early the next morning, though with Perth being several hours forward, we would be arriving at lunchtime. Sleep was important, so I worked for a few hours and then reclined the bed.
The flight attendants will help you do this, but it’s not rocket science. There’s a mattress topper which you slip over the headrest to keep in place and which adds comfort to the cushioning of the seat (and a little hygiene I imagine) and also a good size pillow and a lovely duvet. The bed has enough room by the side that you can keep drinks and objects next to you while you sleep, and the IFE allows for the screen to be dimmed, so there’s just a simple message in a dim light of how long you have remaining on the flight.
The bed is good for sleeping and certainly is wide enough, though once fully reclined to turn from your back onto your side isn’t easy because your knees jam against the top of the alcove. On the way back I will test another seat in the cabin to see how this differs, since these bulkhead seats are something different from the other centre seats or indeed the window seats.
Once reclined you can raise the bed a little and read until it’s time to go to sleep (or watch the IFE). I was a bit disappointed with the limited choice of films on the IFE. There were two sections – Premiere which had about 70 films in total including children’s cartoons and then four Bond films. It sounds a lot, but in reality there were only five or six films I would have watched, and I’d seen all of those on previous flights.
The cabin is quite quiet on the B787-9, and so the noise made in it can seem quite jarring, and certainly I wished as I tried to get to sleep that some of the passengers, and flight attendants, might have kept the volume down a little, but later on the cabin lights did get dimmed and I slept for a couple of hours, then got up and went to the galley to find something to snack on and get a drink, and then I went back to my seat and had a longer sleep when it was quieter.
I woke about three hours before landing and filled in the breakfast card. The care taken over the food is best shown by this breakfast selection. There’s a choice of juices including cold pressed juice with spinach, cucumber, apple, celery and lemon, which I chose, and was lovely, and then the main course choice was:
- Omelette and corn fritter, pickled mushrooms, crispy pancetta and tomato and chill relish
- Cardamon pears with coconut yoghurt quinoa, almonds, hazelnuts, blueberries and honey
- Smoked salmon, soba and raw zucchini noodles with ponzu dressing
- Brocolli and parmesan quiche with roast tomatoes and rocket.
That said, the flight attendants were clearly struggling and lost the breakfast cards on this side of the aircraft. They were very apologetic and took our orders again.
We landed 20 minutes early into Perth and then made our way through to immigration where there was no queue but plenty of TV crews and a man dressed in a costume which I hesitate to identify as a quokka, an animal I had not heard of until this trip, but which looks a little like a rat, but is better loved. Like Manuel’s gerbil in Fawlty Towers.
This is a historic new service and it was a pleasure to be on the inaugural to Perth. Once on board, it didn’t seem any different from the many long-haul flights that readers will regularly take, with the extra three or fours hours over a normal flight back from, say, Asia, not really adding to any discomfort. Of course that might not be the case in economy or premium economy, one of the reasons Qantas has increased the number of premium seats on this aircraft.
I hope the service is commercially successful, because being able to reach Perth so easily is a great way to visit Western Australia.