Tried & Tested

Flight review: Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner business class

19 Dec 2018 by Craig Bright
Qantas business class on the B787-9 Dreamliner

Background

Hong Kong became the first Asian destination to see Qantas’s newest aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, on December 13 when it took over the majority of flights per week on the airline’s Melbourne-Hong Kong route from the Airbus A330-200. Until that point, the Dreamliner has largely been focused on ultra-long-haul routes, notably the airline’s 17-hour non-stop flights between Perth and London, which took off earlier this year.

While the Dreamliner’s deployment between Melbourne and Hong Kong is only temporary, running until March 29, 2019. The aircraft will also fly between Brisbane and Hong Kong during this time and will continue to serve Hong Kong from the end of March on Qantas’s Sydney flights. This is a review of Qantas’s first Dreamliner flight out of Hong Kong flying to Melbourne (QF30).

Qantas check-in desks, Hong Kong Airport

Check-in

The Qantas check-in desk is located at Hong Kong International Airport’s Terminal 1 at aisle J, at the far right side of the building. Having arrived about two hours before the scheduled 1900 flight time, queuing was minimal and I was checked-in within minutes. Credit also to the check-in agent who directed me to the best lounge to go to based on the location of the boarding gate (Gate 25).

Lounge

With Qantas being a Oneworld member airline alongside Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific, business class passengers have a number of lounge options available to them at Hong Kong Airport. Along with its own Qantas Hong Kong Lounge, located above Gate 15 on Level 7, Qantas has access to Cathay Pacific lounges such as The Bridge (Level 5, near Gate 35), The Wing (Level 6 near Gates 1-4) and the newly opened The Deck (Level 7 near Gate 16) – to name a few.

Since the closure of Cathay Pacific’s The Cabin lounge by Gate G23 earlier this year, however, Qantas has lost access to what would have been a very nearby lounge for its Melbourne flight at Gate 25. It’s debatable which of the above lounges is now the closest. Following a bit of miscommunication with the check-in agent (equal parts my doing as theirs), I was directed to head to The Wing by Gates 1-4 as the nearest lounge. In hindsight, I may be tempted to argue that The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge is the closer option, though only slightly, with all facilities being a good seven- or eight-minute walk away. Ultimately, you’re not going to lose much time if you go to any of the above choices.

Business Traveller has previously reviewed The Wing Business Class Lounge and there is also a First Class facility on the second floor to the right of the entrance desk. Stick to the lower floor and you’ll find the showers, but the main lounge space is located upstairs, accessible by stairs or lift. This includes a relatively humble buffet option – you’re probably better off heading to the lounge’s Noodle Bar that serves freshly prepared noodle dishes – but Cathay’s lounge cuisine has definitely improved since French company Sodexo took over the management of its Hong Kong lounges from Plaza Premium Group earlier this year. The lounge also has a good selection of different seating options, ranging from small individual cubicles to high-stools and countertops.

Business Traveller also reviewed the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge back in 2015.

Boarding

We began boarding about 10 minutes later than originally scheduled, at 1825, though the process was certainly quick. It is worth noting that business class passengers share the same boarding queue as those in premium economy, so it may be worth queuing up a little early to get ahead of the pack if priority boarding is a big concern.

The seat

Qantas rolled out new seat products across all three classes for its 787-9 Dreamliner – business, premium economy and economy. The business class seat is based off of Thompson Aero’s Vantage XL product – the same base model used by Delta for its new Delta One Suites and Philippine Airlines for its new Airbus A350-900 seats, among others.

I was seated at the very front on the left-hand side in seat 1A. The business class cabin is laid out in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, meaning all seats offer direct access to the aisle. It also means that seats alternate between being slightly closer to either the aisle or window depending on the row they are in – for 1A this is the window, making it a slightly more private seat compared to those on even-numbered rows.

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class

This bulkhead seat also offers slightly more space than most others in the cabin owing to it not having a seat in front of it. While storage space is not massively abundant, that which is available is incorporated into the seat well, with a small lockable drawer located under the in-flight entertainment screen…

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class

…and a right-angled miniature “shelf” above the side table that is great for quickly stowing your laptop, documents and cables.

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class

This seat controls are also here – they come with a number of presets that can be activated simply by holding a button – along with universal power and USB outlets.

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class

The seat dimensions in Qantas’s product delighted me. The length when the seat is reclined to a fully flat bed position (80 inches/203cm) is fantastic and, as someone pushing six foot five inches (195cm), it was a novel experience to not feel as though I was pressing up against the confines of the bed. The footwell in the bulkhead seat was similarly capacious, not narrowing at the end as so many business class seat products do, meaning I didn’t have to jam my feet in at an angle in order for them to fit. The width – 23-24 inches (58-61cm) – is also generous, though you’ll want to lower one of the armrests when lying down to avoid feeling too cramped.

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class

One point against the bulkhead 1A and 1K seats is that they are the only two seats in their row, meaning they are positioned further forward in the cabin. The result is that they are almost adjacent to the galley. While I never found myself particularly disrupted by the activity in the galley, travellers on other flights may not be as fortunate.

Which seat to choose?

Qantas has 42 seats in its business class cabin split across two areas separated by a galley and lavatories, with 30 in the forward cabin and 12 in the secondary cabin. For the space in the footwell alone, I’d say the bulkhead seats are a good option, though perhaps 2E and 2F – or 10 A-K – would be better than 1A and 1K as they are not so close to the galleys. For solo travellers, windows seats are a definite plus and odd-numbered rows will place you closer to the window than the aisle, meaning greater privacy.

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class pyjamas and amenity kit

The flight

Our flight departed about 20 minutes behind schedule at 1920, but the cabin crew wasted no time in beginning the service once we’d left the gate. Upon being seated, a member of the cabin crew introduced herself and offered me a glass of champagne – Jacquart Brut Mosaique, to be precise – along with a set of grey cotton pyjamas and an amenity kit.

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class

A little over 10 minutes after take-off, another crewmember offered to set up my mattress, while another offered me a welcome drink. I went for Qantas’s newly conceived signature cocktail – rye whisky and cranberry sour – that was served with a cooked mushroom croquette-like canape. The cocktail is quite sweet but had plenty of kick.

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class meal

The meals were served shortly thereafter, featuring a selection of either a soup or salad for starter, one of four mains and a selection of cheeses, fruit, ice cream or caramelised banana crepes with coconut cream – the latter I couldn’t bring myself to choose for fear of being too recklessly indulgent after having already had multiple courses. I opted for the salad, a black bean beef short rib with noodles and a cheese plate, all of which I can recommend. My only complaint would be that the main was served on a plate rather than in a bowl, and considering the noodles come with a very generous amount of sauce, a bowl may have been more appropriate.

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class meal

About three hours into the flight after the meals had been served, I was offered a nightcap of either hot chocolate or chamomile tea. I often have difficulty sleeping on long-haul flights, so being given an aid was appreciated. Bedding is by David Caon for Qantas and includes an additional pillow and blanket, while pyjamas are from Australian designer Martin Grant. Business class passengers also get a brightly coloured amenity kit featuring an eye mask, ear plugs, dental kit, flight socks and Aspar hand cream, face moisturiser and lip balm.

Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner business class amenity kit

All in all, I’d be hard pressed to complain about any of these features considering I nodded off almost instantly after putting my head to the pillow and slept uninterrupted for four and a half hours, waking up only 45 minutes before we were due to land. This did mean I missed the additional breakfast service, though to be honest I was glad to get the extra sleep in.

Qantas’s in-flight service is also top notch, with cabin crew being diligent in their duties but also amiable in how they executed them.

Arrival

Despite the initial 20-minute delay departing Hong Kong, we made incredibly good time and arrived well ahead of our scheduled 0730 landing, touching down in Melbourne at 0648. Business class passengers get an Express Path pass for expedited customs processing. As an e-passport holder, I passed immigration using the facial recognition self-service kiosks – just remember to keep a hold of your receipt until you clear customs.

Verdict

The Dreamliner’s bulkhead seats offer a fantastic amount of room and were among the more comfortable business class seats I’ve slept on in recent memory. Combine this with good service, lovely food and a thoroughly convenient overnight schedule that gives passengers time to eat, work and rest at times that sync with their regular sleep cycle, and this is a service I’d definitely recommend.

Fact file

  • Price A return business class fare in mid-March begins at A$6,269 (US$4,511) including taxes and surcharges
  • Configuration 1-2-1
  • Seat width 23-24 inches
  • Seat pitch 80 inches
  • Seat recline 180 degrees
  • Departure 1900
  • Flight duration 10 hours 30 minutes
  • Contact qantas.com.au
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