Tried & Tested

Qantas B747-400 premium economy

26 Aug 2008 by BT
CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 4 at 2010, about two hours before my flight. I found the Qantas check-in area in Zone D, with one specific desk for premium economy and only two people in the queue. I was through security quickly and airside within 20 minutes. BOARDING At 2120, I made my way to Gate 5. Boarding had already started when I arrived and I got on the plane immediately via the premium lane – this being one of the perks of flying premium economy. As I entered the aircraft cabin, my initial impression was of a modern version of the old cradle-style business seats. My jacket was taken, and I was offered water, juice or a glass of champagne followed by a hot towel. There was an amenity kit with socks and an eye mask on the seat. THE SEAT Premium economy is a new class for Qantas. The seats, designed by Marc Newson and manufactured by Recaro, were designed for the A380 but with the delay to its introduction have appeared on the B747 first. On the 747-400, they are configured 2-4-2 over four rows (on the upper deck of the A380 they are 2-3-2), and I was sitting in 35G (an aisle seat in the middle bank of four). It was easy to operate, with just two buttons – one for the back and one for the footrest. It’s hard to pick the best seat in the cabin as they are all very similar. I would tend to keep away from the front row (34) as it is nearest the galley and has no more legroom than the others. The main difference in terms of space is the placement of the IFE boxes under the seat. There was plenty of legroom under my seat in G, but B and J have more room between the seat uprights and the boxes, so I would choose rows 35, 36 or 37 in seat B or J, unless, of course, you want a window. (The boxes are not supposed to be a problem on the A380 as the in-flight entertainment system is wireless.) THE FLIGHT Shortly after take-off at 2230, the cabin service supervisor introduced himself and handed out immigration forms. (The cabin has two members of staff for the 32 passengers.) The crew then offered a selection of English and Australian newspapers, followed by dinner. This consisted of a green salad with mangetout and olives, followed by chicken in a ham and mushroom sauce with rice or roast pork, and cheesecake for dessert. (All were served on crockery and were very tasty.) You can also request a snack such as a baguette, fruit or chocolate any time during the flight. (When the A380 starts flying, these items will be available in a fridge so passengers can help themselves.) The IFE had a few problems and needed to be restarted a couple of times, but it’s an impressive system offering ten games, more than 60 films, 200 TV programmes and 150 CDs. It is controlled either by the handset or directly on the 8.4-inch touchscreen, and the noise-cancelling headphones made listening a pleasure. There is also the option of sending or receiving SMS/emails for US$1.90 each or making calls for US$5 per minute. The seat has 110v AC power outlets, but if you are from the UK you will need an adaptor for the socket. After dinner I went to sleep – a large cotton-covered pillow and generous sheet-backed blanket were provided. I was impressed by how far the seat reclined, and by the integral footrest, double-width armrest and large headrest, which can be adjusted in height and has two large wings to stop your head falling to one side. While I was a little too tall to make use of the footrest, there was plenty of space under the seat in front to stretch out in, and I probably had one of the best night’s sleep ever in a non-business class seat. Breakfast was served one and a half hours before landing. There was a choice of continental (fruit platter and muesli) or hot (cheese omelette with rosti potatoes and tomatoes), both served with a mini fruit loaf. ARRIVAL The plane touched down at 0539, 16 minutes ahead of schedule, and I was at the gate about eight minutes later. Luggage retrieval was swift and I was out of the airport within 40 minutes of touching down. VERDICT A superb product and excellent service – the closest thing to business class you will get without paying a business class price.

Fact File

SEAT PITCH 38-42 inches SEAT WIDTH 19.5 inches RECLINE 9 inches from vertical IFE screen 8.4 inches PRICE Premium economy return fares from London to Singapore, departing the UK between September and November 30, start from £1,613 for bookings made at least 21 days in advance. CONTACT
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