Tried & Tested

Flight review: Qantas Boeing 737-800 business class

17 Dec 2018 by Craig Bright
Qantas 737-800 business class

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.

Qantas's Melbourne Domestic Business Lounge and Qantas Club

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 big 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 overseeing the tarmac that run along the right-hand side.

In the centre of the lounge is a manned bar and coffee barista station, with another self-service coffee station further 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.

Qantas 737-800 business class

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 being 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 cafes 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 is 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.

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 the airport door within a few of 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 catch a few Z’s 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.

Fact file

  • Price Internet prices begin at A$1,804 (US$1,296) for a return business class fare in mid-March
  • Configuration 2-2
  • Seat width 22 inches (56cm)
  • Seat pitch 37 inches (94cm)
  • Seat recline 6 inches
  • Departure 0900
  • Flight duration One hour 25 minutes
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