Plaza Premium Lounge, Melbourne International Airport (Terminal 2)

Review: Plaza Premium Lounge, Melbourne International Airport (Terminal 2)

Country:
Australia
City:
Melbourne
Airport:
Melbourne
Cabin Class:
Any
Alliance:
Plaza Premium
Airline:
(Any)

location:

dining:

work:

overall:

What's Hot

  • Dishes cooked to order
  • All-day bar and barista service
  • Ample AC, USB power points

What's Not

  • Not ideal for laptop work
  • WiFi actively blocks email

X-Factor

  • More choice for the business traveller

Introduction

Melbourne is now home to another independent lounge, with the all-new Plaza Premium Lounge joining Melbourne Airport's Marhaba Lounge and American Express Lounge in the international terminal, to woo travellers away from the terminal concourse who may not otherwise be entitled to lounge access from their airline.

With many of the same features as you'd expect of an airline-operated lounge – such as WiFI, power points for keeping your gadgets recharged, all-day bar and barista coffee service and buffet dining – Plaza's lounge also appeals to travellers seeking choice, particularly regular flyers who want more variety in their travels.

Australian Business Traveller stopped by Terminal 2 at Melbourne Airport to bring you this review.

Location & Impressions

You'll find the Plaza Premium Lounge beyond international security screening and passport control in the terminal's satellite pier, where most other lounges are also located.

Just take the escalators downstairs and follow the signs to the right:

For regular Victorian flyers familiar with Melbourne Airport, the entrance is also to the right of the now-closed Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge – but one thing this space has which many others lack in Melbourne is natural light and tarmac views.

However, to take in those views, you'll need to look through the glass wall and across the airport's arrival concourse, where many of the passers-by (having just landed on international flights) seem to slow down or stop for a stickybeak into the lounge through those same windows.

To retain the view but with a bit more privacy, Plaza Premium has made the bottom section of that glass opaque, so that when you're relaxing in the nearby chairs your head can't be seen unless somebody is right at the window...

... while a separate dining area sits behind an internal wall, featuring a few styled openings to bring some of that light through:

In that dining room are both tables and booth seats...

... along with a space to stash any small bags and hang your coat:

The lounge opens from 6am until 11pm daily, catering for the majority of international departures from Melbourne – except for very early morning flights, such as Emirates EK409 to Dubai (which departs at 5am), and late evening flights like Cathay Pacific CX178 to Hong Kong, plus Malaysia Airlines MH128 and AirAsia X AK213 to Kuala Lumpur, among a few others.

Access

  • Australian American Express Platinum Charge Card and Centurion Card holders, plus two guests.
  • As of April 24 2018, members of Priority Pass, in line with their usual membership plan.
  • Guests purchasing access at reception at a cost of $60 for up to two hours, or $70 for up to three hours.
  • Members of Plaza Premium's Arrture loyalty program redeeming Arrture points for a lounge pass.
  • Holders of top-tier American Express cards issued overseas, including many Platinum and Centurion-grade personal cards, plus USA-issued Business Centurion cards, Chinese ICBC Platinum cards, and Business Platinum cards issued in selected countries, among others (no access here for Australian AMEX Business Platinum cardholders, however).
  • International guests with other premium credit cards, such as those from China CITIC Bank International, Maybank and OCBC (Singapore), and Bank of China (Hong Kong).

Passengers can be travelling with any airline to any destination from Melbourne's T2 international terminal.

While members of Dragonpass and LoungeKey enjoy access to Plaza Premium's Brisbane lounge – as do Diners Club charge card holders – these agreements are not currently in place for Melbourne, and as such, these travellers cannot currently access the lounge (unless paying or otherwise eligible).

This is expected to change over the coming weeks as these arrangements are ironed out. At the time of writing, none of the airlines flying from Melbourne use the Plaza Premium Lounge as their 'default' lounge, as happens elsewhere.

Dining

When stopping by for a quick pre-flight drink, pull up a stool in the bar area...

... or if staying longer, make yourself comfortable in the dining room...

... conveniently located near the buffet counters:

That's where you'll find a range of fresh fruits, salads and yoghurts to start your day – along with macarons if you're so inclined...

... plus breads, pastries and a pancake machine...

... which works as expected, with maple syrup on the side:

Baked beans, bacon, sausages and hash browns also make an appearance in the mornings...

... with an egg chef on standby to whip up tasty omelettes:

Later in the day, the egg counter transitions into a live cooking station, where travellers can request a dish made to order – during my evening visit, that was fettuccine pasta with arrabiata sauce...

... which was fresh and tasty, and a good portion size:

Other hot items available from the buffet include spicy chicken, rice, penne pasta and frittata (the same as you'll find in the American Express Lounge next door)...

... and if you stop by at the right time, treats like mini bao sandwiches with slow-cooked pork belly, Asian slaw and a spicy plum sauce:

During the day and into the evenings, the buffet also expands with cheese, salads and crudités...

... and there's a tended bar open throughout the day, offering a selection of beer, wine and spirits...

... including two beers on tap:

Non-alcoholic drinks are also available for self-service, from the fridges...

... a soft drink station – which features chilled fresh juice and a boiling water tap once the side for tea also...

... and a separate counter for a quick glass of water, (long-life) juice or iced tea:

All the seats here feature somewhere to rest your drinks and snacks – in the relaxation seats, that's a cocktail table...

 ... and in the dining room, it's self-explanatory:

Those dining tables also feature power points underneath, so even if you're having a bite to eat, you can still recharge your smartphone.

Work

Business travellers may have a hard time getting solid work done in this space, for several reasons.

Firstly, there is a quiet area in the lounge with seats and tables suitable for laptop work – of course, with power points and reading lights – but this area is mostly closed-in and is poorly-lit, especially in the far corners, and would be better-used in its current form as a nap area:

Next, while you can certainly use your laptop at one of the dining tables, I found them a tad too high to be comfortable for anything more than a brief email, and also found the edge of the table a little too 'pointed' for resting my palms on when not bashing away at the keyboard, which meant trying to work in the lounge's relaxation area instead.

The high-backed chairs, while private, also aren't ideal for laptop use, because the cocktail table juts out at the side, which means using your laptop on your lap at an angle, or squeezing it onto the cocktail table and sitting sideways, which became uncomfortable after about 20 minutes:

Finally, the smaller window-facing seats below do provide for easier laptop work, given there are no obstructions in front...

... and while these feature power outlets too (below), we'd really love to see a proper bench seat or working bench, to make what should be a simple task much easier.

Here's another struggle: even if you do find somewhere to work productively, you won't be able to check your emails through programs like Microsoft Outlook or the built-in OS mail apps on your smartphone or tablet, because the lounge's WiFi network appears to be blocking IMAP communications – one of the protocols used by computers to transmit email – or the 'ports' used for the same.

As such, my inboxes refused to sync on my laptop, tablet and smartphone, so when a new email came through, I was none the wiser until I disconnected from the lounge's WiFi and used my own service – or fired up webmail, or connected to a VPN: all things I shouldn't need to do in a lounge to make email work.

Upload and download speeds on the lounge WiFi hovered around the 5Mbps mark, which is acceptable when you're the only person connected, but it remains to be seen how the connection will cope once the lounge fills up.

Relax

Fortunately, the lounge is better-served for relaxing, with the high-backed chairs quite comfortable when sitting normally (rather than angled to the side to use a laptop)...

... while still providing easy access to AC and USB power – and if the light overhead isn't sufficient, you can switch on a personal reading light too.

The other seats in this space are also comfortable, and are a common staple of Plaza Premium's lounges around the world: also featuring access to power, and side lamps too.

Shower facilities are absent from the lounge, and the bathrooms here are shared between the American Express Lounge next door – but we're told showers will make an appearance in 3-6 months.

Overall, Melbourne Airport's Plaza Premium Lounge is more than acceptable for passengers hoping to dine and relax before their flight, but less-so for business travellers keeping in touch with the office or getting a solid chunk of work done before stepping on board a long international flight.

A broader access list to welcome LoungeKey and other membership programs would also make the lounge more appealing, once organised – allowing these cardholders to use a 'visit' within their existing membership plan instead of paying full price at the door for entry – and particularly for travellers taking overnight flights, showers would sweeten the overall proposition.

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Plaza Premium Group and American Express Australia.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

22 Comments

  • apacau

    apacau

    29 Mar, 2018 07:38 am

    Obviously plaza premium and amex share the same kitchen or at least caterer. Many of the food photos looked almost identical to those of your Amex lounge review!
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    29 Mar, 2018 10:26 am

    Yes, both lounges are operated by Plaza Premium: the actual Plaza Premium Lounge just has the advantage of the cooking station for things like omelettes and fresh pasta, which the AMEX Lounge doesn't have. Otherwise, the food and beverage offering is pretty much the same, and the staff seem to move between the two lounges.
    No member give thanks

  • Yarki

    Yarki

    29 Mar, 2018 07:41 am

    Chris, in your opinion, which would you say is better - the Amex lounge or the PP lounge? Sounds like the PP lounge wins on the views, but what about on other metrics?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    29 Mar, 2018 10:36 am

    Depends what you're looking for – Plaza Premium has slightly better food due to the live cooking station (so as above, you can get things like omelettes and freshly-made pasta, which isn't the case in the AMEX Lounge), and Plaza Premium also has some natural light, compared to none at all in the AMEX Lounge.

    On the other hand, I found the AMEX Lounge much easier to work in thanks to the long benches where you can set up your laptop and recharge, which were a good height – and in fact, I wrote my original photo tour of the AMEX Lounge sitting at that bench, so spent a good amount of time there.

    The WiFi networks between the lounges are separated (different network names and passwords), but both had the problem of blocking emails, which I do hope they fix.

    Design-wise, I prefer the AMEX Lounge as there's a bit more colour, zoning and variety in the space (e.g. bright cushions, Melbourne-themed artwork), whereas the Plaza lounge relies on a mostly dark pallete of browns and greys, just with a touch of gold here and there (but that's me being fussy!).
    No member give thanks

  • sgb

    sgb

    29 Mar, 2018 08:22 am

    Chris, in your opinion, which would you say is better, The Plaza Premium, or the Mahrabra?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    29 Mar, 2018 10:38 am

    I've not had a chance to visit the Marhaba Lounge so can't make that call. Location-wise, Marhaba would have better light and views though as it's located upstairs next to the Qantas First Lounge in the space formerly occupied by the Emirates Lounge (before it moved elsewhere), where there are high windows looking out directly to the tarmac.

    No member give thanks

  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    29 Mar, 2018 10:51 am

    The Marhaba definitely has the better views...I will be trying it for the first time tomorrow with JAL.
    No member give thanks

  • sgb

    sgb

    29 Mar, 2018 08:33 am

    Gee, Plaza Premium at $60 for 2 hours, the Marhaba is only $65 for 4 hours, with showers and fantastic views from Penthouse level.
    No member give thanks

  • 346

    346

    29 Mar, 2018 09:16 am

    Looks like I'll go Plaza Premium over Amex based on the AUSBT reviews.
    Although my most common flight is SQ218 MEL-SIN which means I probably won't get much use out of either of them. Annoying when travelling economy.
    No member give thanks

  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    29 Mar, 2018 10:55 am

    If you were paying for access then the Marhaba lounge is open an hour later for pax on the JAL flight at 12.30. Also as stated above for the same money you get more times, showers and a better view.
    No member give thanks

  • 346

    346

    29 Mar, 2018 10:58 am

    Good option for paid access, although I'd be using my card for access to Plaza Premium.
    I wish the Marhaba lounge was accessible through Priority Pass!
    No member give thanks

  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    29 Mar, 2018 01:05 pm

    What card you using? Plaza premium does not yet work with priority pass.
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  • 346

    346

    29 Mar, 2018 01:11 pm

    Works with Amex Platinum Charge Card - entry for card holder + 2 guests
    No member give thanks

  • williamfinn

    williamfinn

    29 Mar, 2018 03:34 pm

    Does anyone know if you can access this lounge before a domestic flight, if it's departing from the international terminal?
    No member give thanks

  • MarkJohnSon

    MarkJohnSon
    Banned

    1 Apr, 2018 05:23 pm

    Chris, would you ever consider visiting this lounge instead of the QF business lounge?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    5 Apr, 2018 11:52 am

    As above, it depends on what you're looking for from your lounge experience. The amenities of each lounge are covered in our respective reviews, allowing readers to make their own decisions.
    No member give thanks

  • Forever_red

    Forever_red

    24 Apr, 2018 12:14 pm

    This lounge has just been added to priority pass program.
    No member give thanks

  • skeeeo

    skeeeo

    10 May, 2018 10:26 pm

    HSBC HK Corporate World MasterCard not accepted even though card provides access to plaza premium worldwide (and melb lounge being listed as accessible on HSBC website). Was told only open a few weeks and not accepting MasterCard. Annoying.
    No member give thanks

  • Dominic Chuo

    DominicChuo

    5 Jun, 2018 10:17 pm

    Can Maybank Infinite Visa credit card OR HSBC Travel Premier card issued in Malaysia be granted access to Plaza Premium Lounge ?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    6 Jun, 2018 10:17 am

    Those are questions you can ask of Maybank and HSBC: we're an Australian website and thus don't cover credit cards issued in other countries. While we occasionally mention overseas card products on lounge access lists where the information is readily available, readers need to do their own research in this regard.
    No member give thanks

  • Matthew Liu

    gapmatt

    6 Jun, 2018 11:21 pm

    Sorry I’m confused, are Australian Amex business platinum charge cards given access to the PP lounge?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    8 Jun, 2018 12:15 pm

    To quote the access list in the review:

    Holders of top-tier American Express cards issued overseas, including ... Business Platinum cards issued in selected countries (no access here for Australian AMEX Business Platinum cardholders, however).

    Essentially, American Express decides on a country-by-country basis which cards have access to Plaza Premium lounges, so while some overseas Business Platinum cardholders get access, it's not a feature offered with the Australian card.
    No member give thanks

Guest

21 Jul, 2018 08:17 am

July's best Qantas Frequent Flyer credit card sign-up deals

Getting the new financial year off to a rewarding start, this month's top Qantas Frequent Flyer credit card sign-up deals place over 1.1 million Qantas Points on the table, with a single card application pocketing six figures worth of bonus points.

Of course, that's only the beginning – continue to spend on a points-earning credit card and that next free flight or upgrade to business class gets even closer, as you're rewarded twice: both at the beginning, and when you keep spending on your card.

Here are July 2018's top Qantas Frequent Flyer credit card sign-up deals, covering offers from American Express, ANZ, Bank of Melbourne, BankSA, Citibank, NAB, Qantas Money, St. George and Westpac.

1. Westpac Altitude Black cards, American Express Platinum Business Card

Topping the charts this month, the Westpac Altitude Black American Express + World Mastercard credit card combo and the American Express Platinum Business Card, with up to 120,000 bonus Qantas Points on the table.

Westpac splits that offer into two chunks, beginning with 80,000 bonus Qantas Points when you apply by October 23 2018 and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval using the Altitude Black Mastercard (issued and serviced by Westpac).

That's joined by 40,000 bonus Qantas Points when spending a separate $3,000 on eligible purchases within the same 90-day period using the American Express Westpac Altitude Black Card (issued and serviced by American Express), on which you can also earn 1.25 Qantas Points per $1 spent on most everyday purchases in Australia.

Business owners with the American Express Platinum Business Card could instead net 120,000 bonus points in the Membership Rewards Ascent Premium scheme when applying by August 29 2018 and spending at least $5,000 on purchases in the first two months, with those points converting into Qantas Points at a 1:1 rate.

The card carries a $1,500 annual fee, but up to 99 additional cardholders can be attached to the account at no extra cost, with your business also earning up to two frequent flyer points per dollar spent on many everyday expenses like travel, business lunches, advertising and computer equipment purchases.

2. NAB Qantas Business Signature Visa

Next in line but still with six figures of bonus points, the NAB Qantas Business Signature Visa credit card, with an even 100,000 Qantas Points.

Traders need to apply by October 7 2018 and spend $5,000 on everyday business purchases within 60 days of account opening to pocket their bonus points, with a $295 annual fee also payable.

3. St. George Amplify Signature Visa, NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card

Offering 90,000 bonus Qantas Points this month: the $279/year St. George Amplify Signature Visa, and the personal, $395/year NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Card.

With St. George, you'd need to apply by September 26 2018, select 'Amplify Qantas' as your loyalty option, spend $4,000 on purchases within 90 days of card approval and pay a $279 annual fee, while also earning 0.75 Qantas Points per $1 spent on everyday purchases, plus a 10% 'birthday bonus' awarded in the month of your special day, taking that to 0.825 Qantas Points per $1 spent.

Read: How St. George's annual 'birthday bonus' boosts your points by 10%

(You'll also find this offer on the near-identical Bank of Melbourne Amplify Signature Visa and the BankSA Amplify Signature Visa credit cards – which, like St. George, are backed by Westpac Group.)

NAB's offer instead requires new cardholders to spend $4,000 on everyday purchases within 60 days of account opening, with an annual fee of $395 and an earn rate of one Qantas Point per $1 spent up to $5,000 per month, and 0.5/$1 on monthly spends of $5,001-$20,000.

4. American Express Platinum Charge Card, Qantas Premier Platinum credit card

Tempting with offers of 80,000 Qantas Points: the iconic American Express Platinum Charge Card, and Qantas Money’s Premier Platinum credit card.

AMEX provides 80,000 bonus Membership Rewards Ascent Premium points (convertible into 80,000 Qantas Points) to eligible new customers who apply, spend $3,000 on the card within the first three months and pay a $1,200 annual fee. Cardholders can also earn up to three points per dollar spent (such as at most AMEX-accepting Australian restaurants).

Qantas Money instead splits your 80,000 bonus points into two chunks, when you apply by August 31 2018 and pay a $299 annual fee, with 40,000 bonus points awarded to new customers who spend $3,500 on the card in the first month, followed by an additional 40,000 bonus points in the second month after spending the same amount again.

5. ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Visa, Westpac Altitude Platinum

Rounding out this month's rankings with offers of up to 75,000 bonus Qantas Points, ANZ's Frequent Flyer Black Visa, and the Westpac Altitude Platinum AMEX + Visa credit card combo.

Apply for ANZ and you could earn that bonus – plus $200 back on your statement (reducing the $425 annual fee to $225 in the first year) – after your first eligible purchase within the first three months, along with one Qantas Point per $1 spent up to $7,500 per monthly statement period (0.5/$1 thereafter).

Over at Westpac, its Platinum-grade deal mirrors the Altitude Black combo by splitting your bonus points into two chunks: firstly, with 60,000 bonus points for new customers who apply for the Altitude Platinum card combo by October 23 2018 and spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval using the Altitude Platinum Visa (issued and serviced by Westpac).

Separately, you could also earn 15,000 bonus Qantas Points after spending $3,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval using the using the AMEX Westpac Altitude Platinum Card (issued and serviced by American Express), for a grand total of up to 75,000 bonus Qantas Points.

There's a $50/year Qantas Rewards Fee you'll need to pay as well, although the usual $150 annual fee on the Altitude Platinum Visa and the separate $50 annual fee on the Altitude Platinum AMEX are currently waived in the first year, cutting the usual yearly cost of $250 down to just $50.

Some of the other offers on the table this month include 70,000 bonus Qantas Points with Citibank's Citi Qantas Prestige Visa credit card (after your first spend within 90 days from card approval); 65,000 Qantas Points + $150 back on your statement via the ANZ Frequent Flyer Platinum Visa (after your first eligible purchase in the first three months), and 60,000 Qantas Points on the St. George Amplify Platinum Visa (spend $3,000 within 90 days of card approval via ‘Amplify Qantas’) and AMEX Qantas Business Rewards Card, among others.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin (ChrisCh)

[email protected] / @ChamberlinChris

Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

0 Comment

Guest

21 Jul, 2018 08:17 am

Westpac Altitude Black World Mastercard credit card

Review: Westpac Altitude Black World Mastercard credit card

What's Hot

  • Choice to earn points in six frequent flyer programs
  • Two free airport lounge visits each year

What's Not

  • Extra fee to earn Qantas Points

X-Factor

  • 80,000 bonus points for eligible new customers

Introduction

If you want the flexibility to earn points on your credit card spend but to choose where they wind up at a later date, Westpac's Altitude Black World Mastercard credit card could be just what you're looking for.

You'll have the freedom to first earn points in the Altitude Rewards program before transferring them to the likes of Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and two other carriers, or if you're entwined with the Roo, simply opt for 'Altitude Qantas' instead.

New cardholders who apply by October 23 2018, are approved and spend at least $3,000 on eligible purchases within 90 days of card approval could also receive a bonus 80,000 Qantas Points or 80,000 Altitude points (equal to 40,000 Velocity points).

With reasonable earning rates and elevated income and credit limit requirements, we'd peg this card as a good fit for working professionals with heavy spending and travel habits: less so for those on lower incomes.

Westpac Altitude Black: fast facts

  • Grade/tier: Black
  • Card type: World Mastercard
  • Loyalty program: Qantas Frequent Flyer direct or Altitude Rewards
  • Altitude Rewards airline partners: Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines
  • Qantas Points earned per dollar (Qantas Frequent Flyer option):
         Everyday spend, excluding ATO payments: 0.75
         Spend directly with Qantas: 1.75
  • Or, Altitude Rewards points earned per dollar (Altitude Rewards option):
         All spend, except for ATO payments: 1.25

  • Altitude Rewards airline partners: Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines
  • 1.25 Altitude Rewards points ($1 spent) = 0.625 Virgin Australia Velocity points, 0.625 Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles, 0.5 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, 0.5 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles, $0.00694 in Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars
  • Points capping: Earn uncapped points without tiering via either rewards option.

Fees, charges and interest: 4/5

  • Annual fee: $250
  • Qantas Rewards fee: $50/year (when earning points via Altitude Qantas)
  • Additional cardholder fee: $0
  • Interest rate on purchases: 20.24% p.a.
  • Interest-free days on purchases: Up to 45
  • Interest rate on cash advances: 20.74% p.a.
  • International transaction fee: 3.0%
  • 'Recommended' income requirement to apply: $75,000 p.a.
  • Minimum credit limit: $15,000

Earning points for free flights: 4.5/5

Whether you choose Qantas Frequent Flyer or Altitude Rewards as your loyalty program, there's no limit to the number of points you can earn from your Altitude Black card.

Choose 'Altitude Qantas' and a near-free Sydney-Melbourne hop in Qantas economy is yours after spending $10,667 on purchases, or, choose the regular Altitude Rewards option and convert your points to Virgin Australia Velocity for a Sydney-Melbourne flight after a spend of $12,480.

Customers opting for Altitude Qantas also collect an additional Qantas Point per dollar when booking Qantas flights or paying for their Qantas Club membership, although an extra fee of $50/year now applies.

Also don't forget Westpac's offer of 80,000 bonus Qantas Points or 80,000 bonus Altitude points (equal to 40,000 Velocity points) for eligible new cardholders, which can get you flying even faster.

Inclusive travel insurance: 4.5/5

International journeys of six months or less are covered by Westpac's complimentary insurance offering – underwritten by QBE – provided you hold a return ticket and charge at least A$500 of eligible travel costs to your Altitude Black card before departing Australia.

That amount can be your flights, any airport and departure taxes, pre-paid accommodation and any 'overseas itinerary items' such as an arranged tour, so you could even book your flights using points and simply pre-pay a night or two of accommodation to still be covered.

Joining this is a generous array of other cover including transit accident insurance; interstate flight inconvenience insurance; purchase security, extended warranty and 'price guarantee' covers and even rental car excess cover of up to $5,500 when hiring in Australia.

Airport lounge access: 2/5

Altitude Black cardholders are treated to two airport lounge visits each year, depending on their frequent flyer earning preferences.

Cardholders collecting Qantas Points get two free Qantas Club visits each year, while those opting for Altitude Rewards points get a free Priority Pass membership, complete with two visits every year to any of the 1,000+ lounges in its network.

Westpac Altitude Black credit card: the verdict

With a $250 annual fee, the Westpac Altitude Black card appeals to higher spenders and frequent travellers, and may quickly pay for itself if you're poised to take full advantage of the benefits.

Included on that roster: complimentary airport lounge visits, uncapped frequent flyer points and the long list of insurance covers, which can help you wind up ahead.

Note that while an extra $50/year charge now applies when earning Qantas Points – taking the total yearly cost to $300 – that's still lower than the card's previous all-inclusive annual fee of $395, with even higher savings enjoyed by those choosing to earn Altitude Rewards points instead.

You can apply for the Westpac Altitude Black credit card here.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

15 Comments

  • Guvner

    Guvner

    2 Aug, 2017 03:56 pm

    Little tip if you get the Qantas version, you can still register for priority pass. So you get both teh QC invites and teh PP card.
    Member who gave thanks

    cchurch

  • Victor Perez

    vperez

    3 Aug, 2017 09:49 pm

    Wait, what. I've had the Qantas version for years and was unaware of this. 
    No member give thanks

  • Joe

    Joe

    3 Aug, 2017 12:06 pm

    ANZ wake up and take note. 1.25 QF points  per dollar spent on your now Visa only offering for Black card holders is in order. Capping it at 7500 is also too low-its a black card it should be uncapped!
    No member give thanks

  • Mr Mink

    Mr Mink

    5 Oct, 2017 12:46 am

    still impatiently waiting on the 80K bonus QF pts (I was approved at beginning of June - they do threaten up to 12 weeks before you get em. Any experience from others on how long it takes in real life?
    No member give thanks

  • Simon Frost

    SimonFrost

    23 Dec, 2017 03:43 am

    I got mine in August, met the spend criteria and didn’t get the points.... called the number on the back of the card this week, got the points allocated almost immediately. Poor form that that’s what I had to do - but it got it done!
    No member give thanks

  • Simon Frost

    SimonFrost

    26 Dec, 2017 01:17 pm

    Sorry - they called me and said that I’d receive the points on 24/12.... guess what - no points yet.....!!! Grrrrrr
    No member give thanks

  • frank lanzo

    globalspark

    25 Oct, 2017 08:24 am

    i always read with interest about free access to lounges with black earth cards. I have those cards and i have never been able to find out anything. Yes you can use but where how when? it is a total coon. as i mainly use the cards for travel insurance . If they were serious each year they would send you out the 2 vouchers to use with conditions attached. Living in Cairns which is my choice I can fly Cathay or Silkair so the card is useless to my way of understanding. Once again if they were serious they would let us use then flying Cathay who is a one alliance partner.

    No member give thanks

  • Skipp

    Skipp

    21 Dec, 2017 05:55 pm

    Hi globalspark. It is thanks to websites like this that help us to understand a lot of the hidden perks or issues associated with CC's. To my understanding of the article, if you have the Westpac Black Altitude Rewards card you are entitled to priority pass membership that entitles you to two free visits to a priority pass lounge.

    In your case flying from Cairns International, the Reef Lounge located airside would be available to you through priority pass, regardless of what airline you wished to fly internationally from Cairns.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    22 Dec, 2017 07:51 am

    Skipp: You're correct - and on top of the Priority Pass inclusions, you can also present the AMEX card at the AMEX Sydney Airport lounge for a further two lounge visits each year when flying with any airline.
    No member give thanks

  • Daniel Nel

    Papeto

    22 Dec, 2017 08:57 am

    After more than 3 months of making the minimuim spend, still waiting for the bonus points. About to lodge a formal complaint for deceptive inducement with Westpac. Been given the normal run around by Westpac and QFF.
    Member who gave thanks

    SimonFrost

  • Josh Thomas

    sharky093

    22 Dec, 2017 10:02 am

    I have applied mid June and I am yet to see the 80,000 show up. Bit disappointing as my Amex ultimate had 100,000 show up after I paid my first statement. I have called a few times, but so far no conclusion.
    Member who gave thanks

    SimonFrost

  • Roddy MacDonald

    Good Drying

    7 Feb, 2018 01:57 pm

    Got mine in Aug 17. Made spend in 2 months.
    Still waiting on 80k bonus points.
    No help from help Centre.
    Went on Westpac Facebook page today and sent Message.
    Got reply in less than an hour.
    Waiting on phone call.
    No member give thanks

  • Roddy MacDonald

    Good Drying

    26 Jan, 2018 11:19 am

    Got this card in August 2017. Met all the qualifying conditions in first 2 months.
    Still no bonus points ??!!
    No member give thanks

  • Mr Mink

    Mr Mink

    6 Feb, 2018 09:29 pm

    I was approved at end of May 2017 as I already noted. In early Dec.17 rang (that is 3mths to spend + 12 weeks+ post) - and was fobbed off and they did not even check anything. In late Jan.18 rang again from o'seas and they said they would ëscalate"the issue. It was only today that I rang again - after failing to get any result y'day, and was finally told that yes, it had been approved after my Jan. call and the 80K pts would transfer over on my next statement due at end of Feb. Only 9-10 months! They naturally did not bother advise me in any way whatsoever of this "congratulations" or finally positive action on their part.

    I would say avoid like the plague as it seems you have to beg them or chase them for them to fulfil their end of the bargain (pts spend was going over monthly to my QFF acct so knew there was no error in acct no.). This is the worst bank performance ever - or maybe chasing NAB, who in the last month when you cancel the card did not give me any FF points at all! (they clearly value their customers so much they give you a kick in the pants as you are leaving!). Given the Amex card folds its tent with Westpac on 4 April I can see absolutely no reason to stay hitched to Westpac, to put it mildly. Caveat emptor, and chase them to comply with their end of the bargain you signed up for if you do.
    No member give thanks

  • Roddy MacDonald

    Good Drying

    7 Feb, 2018 03:57 pm

    BINGO!!!!
    Got on to the Westpac Facebook page.
    Sent Message this morning.
    Dialogue with someone called James.
    Bonus points being transferred on the 18 feb.
    Good result.
    Don’t waste your time with the Call Centre.
    No member give thanks

Guest

21 Jul, 2018 08:17 am

Qantas Business Suite business class (Airbus A330-200)

Review: Qantas Business Suite business class (Airbus A330-200)

Route:
Sydney to Perth
Airline:
QF (Qantas)
Cabin Class:
Business
Aircraft Type:
Airbus A330-200
Flight:
571
Seat:
1A

service:

meals:

seating:

overall:

What's Hot

  • Direct aisle access
  • Lie-flat bed
  • Recline during take-off, landing
  • Large video touchscreen

What's Not

  • Not ideal for couples
  • Inconsistent seat width, legroom

X-Factor

  • You're in the world's best domestic business class

Introduction

Domestic business travel takes a dramatic leap forward with the Qantas Business Suite.

The flying kangaroo’s next-gen business class seat fulfils the wish list of Australian business travellers with everything from a fully lie flat bed and easy access to the aisle to plenty of working space and storage space to keep your carry-on kit close at hand instead of out of reach in the overhead bin.

The Business Suite will most often fly on the transcontinental routes of Sydney-Perth, Melbourne-Perth and Brisbane-Perth, although it’ll also appear on shorter ‘triangle’ legs of Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane as Qantas works to make the most of its twin-aisle Airbus A330s.

Australian Business Traveller flew on the very first A330 Business Suite service between Sydney and Perth to bring you this detailed review.

Don’t want to read all the way through to the end? Here's the take-out: the Qantas Business Suite is the world’s best domestic business class. Yes, it's that good.

Also read:

Flight

We flew on the first Qantas Airbus A330-200 that's been upgraded with the new Business Suite – it also sports a 'refreshed' economy cabin with new seat fabrics plus an updated inflight entertainment system.

There are 28 Business Suites at the A330's pointy end, down from the 36 business class seats in the previous domestic layout, with the space divided into a main cabin of 22 seats at the very front of the plane, and a second smaller cabin (sitting immediately ahead of economy) of six seats.

The seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, with one seat by each window...

... and a pair of seats in the middle of the aircraft.

Note that the partitions between the paired middle seats don't slide down – they're an integral part of the seat's design – which makes the Business Suite less than ideal if you want to chat away to your partner during the flight.

Seat

The Qantas Business Suite has all the hallmarks of the world's best and most modern international business class seats.

For starters, the 1-2-1 layout provides one-step access to the aisle – and that step doesn't involve squeezing past or clambering over your seatmate, as is the case with Qantas' current Airbus A330 or A380 business class (both of which are 2-2-2).

Another game-changer: the Business Suite converts to a 2 metre long lie-flat bed (shown in this PR shot dressed with Qantas' sleep service mattress and cover).

This is Australia's first fully-flat domestic business class bed and it's going to be a Godsend on overnight 'red-eye' flights from Perth, even though you've only got a few hours of kip time.

To help bleary-eyed business travellers make every minute count in their quest for sleep the Business Suite is also approved for a gentle recline during the taxi, take-off and landing stages.

Instead of sitting bolt upright until the plane is in level flight the Business Suite's 'relax and recline' setting allows the seat to tilt back on a 5 inch recline (equivalent to 21 degrees) and slide forward into an approximation of what you'd typically enjoy during the flight, except that the legrest can't be raised in this mode.

Here's how this position looks on demo models of the seats.

When you think about how long your soon-to-depart plane can sit at the boarding gate, or how often it slowly crawls along the taxi-way only to join a line of other aircraft waiting their turn for take-off, that's all time you can spend in a relaxed and snooze-friendly position.

This reclined position necessitates the use of a three-point seatbelt for maximum safety.

Qantas is among the very few airlines in the world to engineer a business class seat in this way – Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic have something similar, but the Business Suite has a greater degree of recline.

Of course, during the level flight stage of your journey you can hit a button on the control panel to bring out the legrest or convert the seat to a fully flat bed.

The seats themselves are covered in leather and range from 55cm to 58cm wide (depending on the location of the seat – more on that later).

On some seats the armrest retracts to effectively add an extra 5cm to the total seat width, so you don't feel quite as 'hemmed in' by the sidewall. 

Not all seats get the vanishing armrest, however – only those with an armrest facing the aisle can do this trick, which is roughly half of all 28 Business Suites on the A330.

Want to make sure you get a solid serve of shut-eye? Hit the 'Do Not Disturb' button on the seat's control panel and the seat number glows red so that flight attendants know to leave you alone.

There's plenty of legroom, even for the tallest and most gangly-limbed traveller.

The generous footwell ends in a small cushioned ottoman, while the floor of the footwell is angled so that it becomes a comfortable footrest once you stretch your legs a little.

But the very first thing anybody will notice about the Business Suite is the copious amount of personal space it provides.

Every passenger has their own side table created by a console next to the seat.

This puts some 30cm of flat surface at your disposal – and if you're in a middle seat with nobody next to you, you can annexe some of that vacant space to claim a further 10cm.

That's ample room for magazines, tablets, ebook readers, work-related documents and what-not.

Running along the inner edge of this console is a deep L-shaped nook for stowing more stuff.

As a result, there's a riot of space to keep carry-on kit at your fingertips.

The recess also holds a crisp LED reading light with two brightness settings, a pair of noise-reducing headphones plus a small water bottle holder, while on the outside are sockets for the headphones, USB and AC power.

Got more gear that needs to find a home close at hand?

The pocket for the A330's safety card and Qantas' inflight magazine also has room for your own magazine or tablet...

... while under the console there's a deep pocket for your shoes or an amenity kit.

The overall effect is that as soon as you reach your seat there's room for you to offload whatever personal items you wish to keep close at hand – such as your smartphone, tablet, reading glasses, a magazine or book.

This isn't sparked by purely the amount of space provided.

It's the visibility of this, and the variety in the shape of those spaces and their proximity to you, which invites you to park your gear there and intuitively guides you as to what should go where. That's a trademark of smart, considered and well-informed design.

There are also several small yet thoughtful touches in the mix.

A mirror concealed inside the lid to the remote control makes it easy to touch up your make-up or do your hair before landing without having to queue for the loo.

A soft LED lighting strip built into the underside of the console's shelving provides gentle illumination around the workspace.

A cut-out slot in the shelf helps you spy any small items which you might otherwise overlook and leave behind.

Bulkhead seats get a pop-out hook for your coat or a coat-hanger...

... while the rest have a small plastic cut-out which serves the same purpose.

As you can see, there's plenty of goodness on tap.

However, the unique staggered layout of the A330's business class cabin means that not all Business Suites are the same – while some are potentially more comfortable than their siblings.

Here's why, and what it means to you when you're selecting your seat.

First, a quick revisit of the A330's business class seating chart:

You'll notice that the window seats (marked A and K) fall into two categories:

  • seats located immediately next to the aisle, with the console bench between the seat and window (seats 1A and 1K, for example)

  • and seats located immediately next to the window, with the console bench between the seat and the aisle

These alternate from one row to the next – window, aisle, window, aisle...

The same applies to the Business Suites in the middle of the plane. Each row has one passenger sitting immediately next to the aisle, and one passenger with the seat's console between them and the aisle.

Again, the layout swaps between rows.

This alternating arrangement is necessary because under each seat's console is the footwell for the seat behind it.

Now here's a shot of the space inside that footwell when the passenger stretches out...

... and when the seat is converted into a flat bed.

I've got average-sized feet which slip into an 8.0 to 8.5 shoe (that's Aussie sizing – equivalent to a European 42-43 or US 9.0 to 9.5). They sat well inside this  cubbyhole, and no doubt would have a little more wiggle-room once I shed the shoes for sleeping.

But for passengers with much larger feet  – say, size 10 and up – this is going to be a tight squeeze.

My tip is to book any of the seats facing the bulhead wall (rows 1 and 7), which don't need to neatly dovetail into a seat in front because there is no seat in front.

As a result, the footwell goes from being a cubbyhole to a cavern with a generously high ceiling.

The next point of difference between the Business Suites is the width of the seat, both in the actual seat cushion and whether or not the armrest slides down to give you a little more elbow room.

Business Suites which have the passenger sitting directly at the aisle have a 58cm (23in) seat width, with another 5cm (2in) once the armrest is pushed down into the seat's shell.

Business Suites with the passener next to the window and the console next to the aisle (as shown below) have the same 58cm (23in) seat width but the armrest is fixed in place.

However, the equivalent seat in the middle pair of Business Suites – the seat where the passenger has the console between them and the aisle – has a slightly wider 61cm (24in) seat.

A final obervation on the relative comfort factor of each Business Suite: if the seat's bench is between you and the aisle, the gap between the front of that bench and the rear of the seat sell in front is only 26cm.

That's the space you'll have to navigate every time you step in and out of your seat (to visit the toilet, for example). It's sufficient if you're of an average build, but 'plus-size' passengers will want to book the seats which let them step straight into the aisle without squeeing past the console.

Work

AC and USB ports for each Business Suite are conveniently located at shoulder-height in the console rather than near floor level between the seats, so there's no clumsy fumbling around in order to charge your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

It's also a doddle to park your tech on the bench or in the recess while it's being juiced up.

The over-sized tray table has ample room for your laptop.

It's solidly constructed and firmly anchored to the console, but exhibits none of the bothersome 'bounce' of many large tables when you load them up with a laptop and start hammering away at the keyboard.

Meal

As the Business Suite's debut was a standard commercial flight (QF571) which left Sydney at 5.30pm I was offered a three-course dinner service of a 'small plate' entree, a 'main plate' and desserts.

So while this is primarily a review of the Business Suite itself, here are some notes and photos of the meal.

From the two small plate options I chose a trio of tiger prawns on a bed of sesame soy Asian coleslaw, which proved to be a tasty and sharp starter.

Sadly, the obligatory salad turned out to be just a handful of lonely lettuce leaves. Halved cherry tomatoes, some grated carrots and perhaps corn would go a long way to making this simple dish more rounded and more enjoyable.

For mains I ordered the pork and veal meatballs, served with a tomato ragout, oregano and herbed risoni (a very short-cut pasta shaped like large grains of rice), matched to a Victorian Heathcote Estate 2013 Shiraz.

This one really hit the mark: robustly flavoured without being too heavy.

Fortunately there was room left for dessert: a warm banana and salted caramel cake with double cream, partnered to a sweet Lillypilly Noble Blend dessert wine.

Putting the sad salad aside, the business class dinner was exactly what I'd expect from in a good mid-range restaurant or brasserie – except that I was flying 40,000 feet above the Australian outback.

And thanks to the large side table, you can easily watch a video on your iPad while enjoying the meal.

While we're talking meals, the Business Suite's dinner tray is among the largest I've seen – although a determined stab of the release mechanism is needed to spring it open.

This kidney-shaped table is 53cm across at widest point, and 26cm deep, with a wide range of forward-and-back movement to find best position if you're eating or working.

It's also hinged to swing vertically up so you can more easily get in and out of your seat (but the table won't stay standing by itself, so keep a firm hand on it.)

Entertainment & Service

Each Business Suite gets a supersized 16 inch touchscreen with a slick new interface.

The look and feel is derived from the modern mobile world of tablets, apps and tiles.

The screens themselves are far more response to taps and swipes than earlier models, although a more conventional handheld controller under the armrest does the job if you've got short arms or have put the seat into lie-flat bed more.

Some handy features in the new system include a pop-up flight information window (just tap the airplane icon at the bottom of the screen).

This sensibly pauses any video being played.

You can also browse the library of content and add specific films, TV shows and albums to a playlist.

However, on this domestic flight the screen didn't include the food and drinks menu which will appear on the international A330s.

The content itself is similar to what you'd get on Qantas' flagship Airbus A380s, although there's less of it because of the shorter flight time. Even so, a Sydney-Perth trip is sufficient to knock over a movie or some recent episodes from Suits or Downton Abbey.

There's also some clever thinking behind the scenes, or perhaps we should say behind the screens.

Copies of popular latest-release shows will be stored on a flash memory drive mounted behind the display so even if the connection from the screen back to the plane's media box (which holds all the videos and music) fails, you'll still be able to watch a few movies.

Each screen also has a degree of tilt so you can angle it up or down to suit your height and seating position.

There's less upwards tilt than downwards, so passengers close to 1.8 metres (6 feet) or taller will unavoidably find themselves staring down at the screen unless they do some serious reclining or slouching.

The upgraded A330s are also fitted with Qantas' Q Streaming technology, which can beam any of the inflight system's video or music content over Wi-Fi to a traveller's smartphone or tablet. The Q Streaming feature hadn't been activated on this flight, however, so I was unable to test it.

Although it's fairly common to see business class passengers travelling with their own noise-cancelling headphones (the Bose QuietComfort series always make a strong showing on any business class flight I'm on), Qantas outfits each Business Suite with a pair of noise-reducing headphones.

I found these to be quite effective, as well as very lightweight and comfortable.

They also have a novel audio connector designed to plug into a standard audio jack – the kind found on smartphones, tablets, laptops, MP3 music players and such – as well as the two-pin socket for using the inflight entertainment system.

The audio connector itself is conveniently located on the side console, near shoulder-height to the passenger and alongside the USB and AC ports.

Also see: Photos – Qantas’ new iPad, Airbus A330 inflight entertainment system

Summary

Over the past few years Qantas has been steadily ticking off the boxes on the Australian business traveller checklist with improved business lounges and inflight meals, and at the same time pencilling in new boxes such as its smartcard-based 'tap and go' Faster Smarter Check-in.

The Business Suite is the latest and perhaps most important part of the mix.

It raises traveller's expectations as to just how good the domestic business class experience can be (read: very, very good), and despite a few wrinkles, as we zoom into 2015 it easily takes the crown as the best domestic business class seat in the world.

David Flynn travelled on the inaugural Qantas Airbus A330 Business Suite flight as a guest of Qantas.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

58 Comments

  • driley28

    driley28

    3 Jan, 2015 03:52 pm

    Looks amazing!  Can't wait to fly on it.  At least I know which seats to choose now!

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  • KC

    KC

    3 Jan, 2015 04:04 pm

    I found it a good hard product, finally matching (and exceeding finally) the VA transcon product. What was an epic failure for my flight was the attrocious service I received on board. I was dipping my toe back in the water with my flight. It will likely be quite some time before I make another foray into the QF business cabin at their fares.

    Didn't receive choice of meal for entree or main, they had not loaded champagne, and the crew member "caring for me" clearly didn't care. Quite a shame because the cabin certainly looks the part. Fortunately I spent most of my time engrossed in the entertainment to distract me.

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  • Alexaqua

    Alexaqua

    5 Jan, 2015 06:16 pm

    The fares are now crazy, QF $1,929 each way and Virgin $1,879 each way..... It has been a little while since doing the flight home to Perth from Sydney but I remember only paying about $1,350 for QF the last time I used them (probably about 2-3 years ago now).  During the last couple of years I had been using Virgin because the product was better and the price was as low as $999 each way with the maximum I can remember being about $1,300.  How is $4,000 return justified, I could get to Europe on one of the less reputable airlines in Business class for only a fraction more than that. Or if I went Vietnam Airlines to Europe it would be cheaper!!

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  • gippsflyer

    gippsflyer

    9 Jan, 2015 08:33 pm

    Yes, MEL-PER has gotten a bit crazy pricing wise for Business Class. One benefit of being a VA Velocity Platinum is I can guarantee a confirmed upgrade from Flexible Economy (which isn't so crazily priced) using my complimentary upgrade e-vouchers, well ahead of actual travel (indeed it's the only flights I use these free upgrade benefits for - it's rare that I need to visit Perth more than twice a year).

    While, as a Qantas FF Platinum I can get priority for points upgrades on MEL-PER, it's not confirmed until days before travel so it's not as good for me. And I'd rather use the points for something better.

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  • Longreach

    Longreach

    20 May, 2017 02:04 pm

    That must be nice. Congratulations.
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  • watson374

    watson374

    3 Jan, 2015 04:12 pm

    David, your coverage on this has been second to none. It looks fantastic! I think this will do well on the Asian routes as well.

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  • AussieGuest

    AussieGuest

    3 Jan, 2015 04:27 pm

    Not a fan of the 'three way' seat belt sorry

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  • OneOnTheRun

    Phodgi

    6 Jan, 2015 12:06 am

    The over the shoulder part of the belt only needs to be used for take-off and landing. It can be detached from the lap part of the belt once in flight. Thus gives the benefit of both safety and comfort.

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  • OneOnTheRun

    Phodgi

    6 Jan, 2015 12:21 am

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  • Trevor Willis

    Whipa

    3 Jan, 2015 04:32 pm

    Any chance of Qantas giving us one on the BNE-DRW route now that our beloved 767 has retired from service.

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  • Fonga

    Fonga

    3 Jan, 2015 05:15 pm

    Thanks David, we have been hanging for your review and it doesn't disappoint. 

    A few supplementary questions - What is the economy refresh looking like? Have the toilets been upgraded as well?  

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  • David Flynn

    David

    3 Jan, 2015 10:19 pm

    Economy refresh looks nice, here are some pics:

    Didn't notice if the business class loos had been changed in any way.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    3 Jan, 2015 11:00 pm

    That looks astonishing, far better than the current A330-300 Economy.

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  • JP693

    JP693

    4 Jan, 2015 09:06 pm

    Keep in mind that the newer -200s delivered with seatback IFE (as shown above) have just undergone a cover change.

    The international -300s will have the all new economy product with the new seats and larger screens. I'm keen see how that turns out (since sadly it's where I'll be spending most of my flying time!). 

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  • jrfsp

    jrfsp

    5 Jan, 2015 05:07 pm

    Whats happening with the internationally configured -200s? As they have the same cabin as the 333s

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  • KL

    KL

    3 Jan, 2015 06:00 pm

    Is there only the one toilet for business class?

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  • David Flynn

    David

    3 Jan, 2015 10:17 pm

    Yep, but two on the international (A330-300) version.

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  • Ezra

    Ezra

    4 Jan, 2015 01:22 am

    Just a small edit: there's no such thing as a South Australian Heathcote Shiraz. Victorian,yes; SA, no. 

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  • David Flynn

    David

    4 Jan, 2015 10:50 am

    You're absolutely right - my mistake, will fix that in the article and change my shopping list (as I intend to pick up a bottle of this for quaffing!).

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  • Ezra

    Ezra

    8 Jan, 2015 02:03 pm

    Got to love those Heathcote shiraz! :)

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  • Bizflyer

    Bizflyer

    4 Jan, 2015 04:35 am

    Will the tray table fit a 15 inch mac book pro im flying on th 7th of jan and would love to know. also seat looks really good and comfrtable 

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  • David Flynn

    David

    4 Jan, 2015 10:49 am

    I'm using a 13 inch MacBook Air so I'd say 'yes' to the 15 inch MacBook Pro.

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  • Bizflyer

    Bizflyer

    4 Jan, 2015 11:22 pm

    Thank god for that could of been slightly problamatic otherwise. 

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  • David Flynn

    David

    5 Jan, 2015 09:23 am

    If the tray table is too small, laptops can also fit on your lap :)

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  • Bizflyer

    Bizflyer

    10 Jan, 2015 07:42 am

    Well that has got to be the best busnies class in a non herringbone ( or reverse herringbone ) Layout ive been in  its fantastic seat is comfy entertanment is good system is amzaing as is the foo. Staff were good but just not up to scratch with VA for my liking. Now Qantas bring it to international long haul flights!!!!!!!!! Hope VA has its product ready to try on the 27th of July from sydney to perth

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  • Yohy

    Yohy

    4 Jan, 2015 08:29 am

    The seat looks great and finally brings QF back into the game with the 330 fleet internationally.

    However As pictured catering continues to be a problem for QF and for this reason I don't believe the moniker 'worlds best domestic business class' as this is still clearly behind Virgin domestically. The removal of a toilet will also bring them a lot of trouble when trying to use the 332s internationally.

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  • David Flynn

    David

    4 Jan, 2015 10:45 am

    Hi Yohy: there'll be two loos on the international A333s but yep, any time the domestic is swapped onto an international route there will be a bit of a loo log-jam during peak times (especially before landing).

    I wouldn't say catering is an issue for Qantas: the only issue I had was with the salad. The three courses were great. Virgin's SYD-PER meals are also great, but when I fly the seat/comfort trumps the meal, so unless there is a massive delta between QF and VA for inflight meals, I'd rather have the better seat on offer... one thing's for sure, we're looking forward to a 'head to head' comparo between the Qantas and Virgin transcon travel experiences later this year, when both are flying their latest seats (and in 2H15 when both have their new lounges open).

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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    4 Jan, 2015 04:10 pm

    Okay, I'll put my hand up and say that I am a VA fan and don't like QF, and have considered that the VA A330 Business Class was the best domestic I've experienced.  However, I really want to try this!

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  • mgrenby

    mgrenby

    5 Jan, 2015 10:11 am

    hi david - having been impressed by your previous reviews, i signed up for the ABT newsletter...and this latest review blows me away all over again.  as a travel writer (who also teaches travel writing at uni here in oz) and long-time journo, i appreciate not only the detail but the way you write and illustrate your points.  first class (even if not a QF first class!).

    talking of which, i'm flying BNE-HKG in qantas business next april, but seat guru still shows what i presume is the older A330 configuration.  do you know if qantas will offer this new configuration since it no longer provides first-class on the HKG route (and nor does cathay)?

    thanks, david.  keep up the good work.

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  • David Flynn

    David

    5 Jan, 2015 11:58 am

    Thanks for the kind words. No idea about roll-out of the Business Suite to HK - if we had any news we'd share it here, to be sure!

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  • Arcanum

    Arcanum

    5 Jan, 2015 10:58 am

    I'm disappointed to hear that the armrests don't go down on all of the seats.  As I recall, this is possible on the earlier version of this seat flown by Swiss, so it seems the feature has been "enhanced" away.

    Any update on when these seats will be available internationally?

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  • Ron Lee

    The Ninja

    5 Jan, 2015 01:55 pm

    Interesting review, but it's still the QANTAS corporate culture and "customer service", isn't it?

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  • Kerry Neilsen

    KerryN

    5 Jan, 2015 02:36 pm

    Have been waiting for this review, everything explained so well, sounds really good..yes I to am interested to hear when it will roll out from Brisbane to Hong Kong, but sadly we are going to miss out as we leave first week of March... Love all your reviews, keep on keeping us informed, cheers..!!

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  • Miles Rochford

    21five

    5 Jan, 2015 06:21 pm

    This reminds me a lot of the new First Class on AA's A321Ts they have running from JFK to SFO/LAX. I haven't flown in business on these yet, but suspect they would be the only likely competitor for the domestic business crown.

    The old BMI A321 business class is exceptional (although not domestic, still considered "Club Europe"). Had that LHR-TLV once or twice - the most generous seat in BA's fleet, with tables on both sides of 1A.

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  • Anders Ccervin

    acervin

    6 Jan, 2015 03:53 am

    Thanks for a very comprehensive review. When in lie flat position, are you very close to the floor?  If this a development from the Swiss business class seat it could be the case. Not a big issue,  but in my experience somewhat akward having your head at the height of the flight attendants shoes. 

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  • Anders Ccervin

    acervin

    6 Jan, 2015 03:54 am

    Thanks for a very comprehensive review. When in lie flat position, are you very close to the floor?  If this a development from the Swiss business class seat it could be the case. Not a big issue,  but in my experience somewhat akward having your head at the height of the flight attendants shoes. 

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  • OneOnTheRun

    Phodgi

    6 Jan, 2015 04:01 am

    In lie flat you are approximately 510mm from the floor.

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  • rg

    rg

    6 Jan, 2015 11:45 pm

    any idea of international rollout and which routes first?

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  • Robin Ryan

    RobJ

    7 Jan, 2015 12:21 pm

    Good question. I've just returned from HKG on the A380 business class and it reminded me, not having used it for some time, that if you want any position between lie-flat and sit-up, the seats are extremely uncomfortable and impossible to get a decent night's sleep. It seems impossible to stop the leg rest from assaulting your calves and the seat controls are not intuitive and generally unsatisfactory. One of the range of reasons I usually fly Cathay. ( an otherwise minor inner-ear problem means I can't sleep completely flat).

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  • David Flynn

    David

    7 Jan, 2015 02:52 pm

    Melbourne-SIngapore will be first, and that's soon (and no,  don't have a date I can share) - expect other Singapore routes to follow - see http://www.ausbt.com.au/qantas-plans-rapid-roll-out-for-a330-business-suite for more.

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  • gippsflyer

    gippsflyer

    9 Jan, 2015 08:45 pm

    It's very nice that, for once, Melbourne is getting something before Sydney (Qantas tend to be a bit Mascot focussed). The first International launch of new Business seating - and really an International sector is the best one to try them out on (we even benefit from an extra Business toliet over the domestic config).

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  • David Bancell

    davidban69

    9 Jan, 2015 10:57 am

    Good review David, and this new fit-out looks great, but seriously how do they justify a $3800-$4000 return ticket Melb - Perth ( both VA and QF )?

    Emirates to Singapore return can be purchased online with Emirates for around $3000 Business, WITH Chauffeur drive , both ends with an approx value of $300-$400 plus the extraordinary Emirates lounges etc etc....

    And you can get Vietnam/Royal Brunei/Garuda to Europe for $4000 in business.....

    I just dont get it....

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  • delete acc

    Logan330

    20 Jan, 2015 12:38 am

    Amazing and detailed review David.

    I was wondering if anyone knew how to know if they are going to get a refurbished aircraft. I know to check the aircraft registration but is there any way to know what registration aircraft you will get?

    Thanks 

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  • Brad Pritchard

    Bradley82

    10 Feb, 2015 07:47 pm

    Great review and exciting product. I am booked this week Syd-Per on A330-200, anyone know what chance I have of getting an upgraded plane, if any? Will put in for  points upgrade from economy but not to keen on spending points on an old girl.  Cheers!

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  • ally7

    ally7

    3 Apr, 2015 05:17 pm

    Wish they'd have these on their A380s that serve the 10+ hour flights...

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  • Ian Bentall

    Globeflyski

    9 Apr, 2015 03:11 pm

    At a tangent I know ! Just flew Bris - Lax (Qantas)  Lax - Ft Laud (Virgin America)   Qantas couldn't send my bags all the way, I had to recheck at LAX.  On the return flight Virgin America said it was no problem for them to book (by then, even more bags !) straight thru to Brisbane. Is it just me or does Qantas seem to be lacking in certain areas of service ?

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  • delete acc

    Logan330

    15 Apr, 2015 11:31 pm

    Economy Class in person is awful looking.

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  • Annacl

    Annacl

    27 Apr, 2015 04:20 am

    Is there any way of knowing if either Perth to MELBOURNE or melbourne to Perth a330-200 flights will feature the new business suite? 

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  • delete acc

    Logan330

    29 Apr, 2015 05:02 pm

    Yes. about a service a day is MEL-PER-MEL. Expert flyer is good for finding out

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  • Patrick

    x2921294h

    30 Apr, 2015 10:49 pm

    I would love to know if they also replace their current A333 on their BNE-PER route with the new ones. 
    In October I will visit Australia for the first time and will have a feeder flight on that route (QF597 continuing to DOH and FRA on Qatar Airways' 777 and A350). 

    Is there any way to find out? My current seat reservations for October still show a 2-2-2 layout which I would derive the old seats from.

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  • AgentGerko

    AgentGerko

    16 Jun, 2015 04:50 pm

    The one problem I see ore and more of is airlines going back to having the screen in the seatback rather than on a flexible stalk. This might work fine for those with 20/20 but for we older folks with poorer eyesight these screens are a long long way away. At least QF will apparenly allow me to stream on to my phone.

    Does anyone know of a SYD/MEL flight that will get one of these so I can give it a try? Have no need to get to Perth in the near future.

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  • Patrick

    x2921294h

    19 Jun, 2015 10:05 pm

    Does anyone has access to the rollout plan of the new J cabin? Until when all of the A330-200 will be refurbished?

    I am wondering if the seatmaps they currently show during the reservation process for October are fix. That means if they stick to the layout they are showing there.

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  • Karen

    FFKaz

    11 Oct, 2015 06:35 pm

    Great review, thank you David. I have flown in the new seats  4 times and your review was helpful whilst  I was navigating around the suite also helped me with seat selection.  I absolutely love these seats!

    I only wish Qantas were more consistent with their service. it is so hit and miss depending on the particular flight crew. 

    They need to scrap the old seating config straight away for the Perth to Brisbane flights. Nearly 6 hours sitting bolt upright (I was is 1A and didn't want to disturb the passenger behind as I have experienced the lack of leg room on these older seats) very disappointing as when  I selected my seat,  the seat plan was the new suite. Qantas must have had a late change in the aircraft. That plus mediocre service, faulty entertainment system,  made for an average flight. Complete opposite to the flight over to Brisbane. 

    All first world problems, I know. However, considering the cost of a j seat these days. The flying Kangaroo should listen to their passengers. 

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  • emailboy

    emailboy

    28 Nov, 2015 12:36 pm

    Any word on if/when QF will upgrade business class seats on the 747 or A380?

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    28 Nov, 2015 03:56 pm

    Hi emailboy, we have nothing to share in that regard - when we have news to report, we'll report it.

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  • LoveToFly

    LoveToFly

    22 Feb, 2016 04:16 pm

    Sitting on board now on route back east. The new cabin and seat is awesome. On par with what I think is the current beat business seat (Etihad a380 business seat) 

    ltf 

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  • Venomq

    Venomq

    14 Mar, 2016 10:12 pm

    Great review David! Got 9.5 hour flight coming up on Wednesday. Looking forward to having a descent stint using this product. Probably worth mentioning to those posters previous asking the question as to what are the chances that their booking will be operated by an aircraft with this config. My booking was made sometime ago and the outbound SYD flight was originally being operated by an aircraft with a 2x2x2 abreast config, however just today, 48 hours out, it changed to 1x2x1 (28J). My seat selection was retained which gave me an odd numbered row window seat. QF, as with any airline can change inventory at any time up until you see your aircraft at dispatch, and the longer your booking is into 2016 the better the chance it is. I remember doing this dance circa mid 2000's with the Skybed. As it may have been mentioned before, if you have a booking that you can manage, go to the seat selection option (if available) and have a look at the abreast configuration, if it matches (somewhat loosely) David's seat map in his article - you're cooking with kerosine.

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  • RWA

    RWA

    12 Jan, 2018 09:09 pm

    Anyone know what meal is served on QF642 PER SYD @0945 in J Class?
    No member give thanks

Guest

21 Jul, 2018 08:17 am

Etihad's A340 Pearl Business Class, Abu Dhabi to Sydney

Review: Etihad's A340 Pearl Business Class, Abu Dhabi to Sydney

Route:
Abu Dhabi to Sydney
Airline:
EY (Etihad Airways)
Cabin Class:
Business
Aircraft Type:
Airbus A340-600
Flight:
EY450
Seat:
10K

service:

meals:

seating:

overall:

What's Hot

  • fully flat seat
  • direct aisle access
  • heaps of space

What's Not

  • crowded lounge
  • clunky entertainment
  • very few overhead bins

X-Factor

  • $350/bottle champagne
  • top-notch food

Introduction

With an increasing focus on connecting through the Middle East, I had my eyes peeled and camera at the ready to bring AusBT's readers the latest on what they can expect in Etihad's Pearl business class.

It was an early (yet already sweltering) start back to Sydney on the daily EY451 flight -- an overnight 14-hour trip that leaves at 1010 and arrives in Sydney at 0720 the next morning.

Check-in

Premium check-in...but none of the porters who are supposed to help with your luggage were free when I arrived.

Etihad's Terminal 3 is the newest in Abu Dhabi, with older Terminal 1 (a 5-10 minute indoor walk away) used for a minority of the airline's flights.

My taxi dropped me off at the first and business class entrance, which is fully separate from the economy doors.

I understand there are supposed to be porters to assist with luggage, but none sprang to help me with my luggage this morning.

Inside, business class sees a row of half a dozen modern, clean desks, where a courteous and efficient checkin agent had me all sorted (and my bag priority tagged to Sydney) in under a minute.

Priority customs/immigration and security was only three passengers deep, and from picking up your carry-on it's just a few steps to the business and first class lounge complex.

Take note, airports of the world: there's no horrible duty free maze in Abu Dhabi, so you don't have to dodge milling shoppers, wandering families and scent-spritzing passengers. That's a big point in the plus column.

Lounge

Etihad's T3 lounge complex is right next to security, with no annoying march through the shops.

My first impression of Etihad's T3 business lounge is that it was, well, busy. The morning is rush-hour for connections, and the lounge is too small to be able to accommodate everybody pleasantly.

(The T1 business lounge is also available, but the T3 one is newer and larger. If you're connecting to T1, you're best off stopping in T3 and then heading over to the other terminal.)

The lounge's layout is roughly a capital-J shape, where you enter at the bottom of the J and walk through to your left. The corner of the of the J is the food area, the stem is the bar, and the cross-piece at the top of the J a bank of windows and a seating area.

My pick for seating is the light, bright area at the top of the J, but you'll want to leave a jacket or something to guard your seat once you've found one.

Food in the lounge at breakfast-time was pretty standard international buffet breakfast fare, plus some more interesting things like ful medames. 

I did try some of the praiseworthy Drappier champagne, though. Hey, it's a fruit-based beverage, which makes it breakfast-appropriate.

Overall, it's not all that bad when compared with competitor Emirates' hectic lounge in Dubai or the Qantas-BA lounge in Singapore, but if a calm, quiet connection is what you're looking for then you might want to pick another airport.

Flight

Make sure you keep your windowshades open during the first hour or two of the flight -- the Arabian Peninsula is stunningly beautiful.

Etihad announces boarding early (an hour beforehand, even for business), but with the lounge as hectic as it was, I wasn't particularly fussed to head on board and settle in.

The gate was just a few minutes down a moving walkway from the lounge, and while there was a big queue for economy the first/business class queue (marked by an unwisely subtle pillar) was empty.

(Note for passengers connecting to T3 from T1: there's a similar pillar at security so you can avoid the 200-person tailback that backs up between the terminals. Just skip the stopped travelator and breeze nonchalantly past on the left hand side of the corridor.)

My seat, 10K, was a window on the right hand side of the plane in the second of the two business class cabins, right behind the galley kitchens.

The location wasn't ideal, since half the economy passengers on the plane walk past going "is this first class, Mildred?" while you're getting settled, but there wasn't a window seat (the most private and best for sleeping) available in the turn-left-from-the-door front cabin.

My concern about overhead bin space proved justified: storage in the cabin is a real problem.

Etihad decided not to install centre bins on its A340s, which means that half the bins in business class are absent -- and the ones that are there are the smaller, Airbus bins, not the large swing-down Boeing type.

End result: there even wasn't space for my small laptop bag in the cabin when I boarded, so I'm glad I'd checked my bag at the airport.

Fortunately, there's a small space under the ottoman in front of you, but it wouldn't take a rollaboard and you're not supposed to have a bag down there for takeoff.

This issue is especially baffling for an airline that's almost entirely connecting traffic like Etihad: business travellers will want the chance to have a shower and change their clothes during the stopover in Abu Dhabi, which means they're even more likely to be carrying a larger bag on board.

My advice: board early to snag a spot for your bag somewhere near your seat. It's not exactly a hardship to relax with a glass of seriously good Champagne while you wait for everyone else to get on board.

Yes, seriously good Champagne: Etihad serves G. H. Mumm's Cuvée R. Lalou, which goes for around A$150 in the UK (the most competitive market for bubbles) and A$350 in Australia.

That's the best business class champagne I've ever tasted, and beats the first class bubbles on many airlines. Top marks to Etihad's wine people.

The flight itself was uneventful, over the Arabian peninsula, skirting the tip of India and taking the usual track across Australia. The Airbus A340-600 Etihad uses is a quiet plane, but not quite as quiet (nor as pleasant in terms of cabin dryness) as the A380 used by Emirates, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and others.

Etihad's amenity kit, meanwhile, is pretty disappointing: it doesn't exist. You get a net bag with your cleaned blanket, inside which is a socks-and-eyeshade combo. The crew come round with baskets of everything else. It feels, frankly, a little cheap, especially when other airlines are beefing up their offerings.

It might seem odd to praise an airline's blankets, but I'm going to: Etihad's reversible fleece and cotton blankets are a very clever touch, and chic with it.

Or at least they would be, if the cabin hadn't been absolutely roasting from start to finish, even after I asked the crew to turn down the heat twice -- and there are no overhead air vents either.

I'd been hot on the inbound flight, too, so had brought a pair of shorts for sleeping, but I was still hot even with bare legs, and didn't use the blanket. I tend to prefer a cooler cabin, but this was ridiculous.

Seat

Here's the aisle variant of Etihad's business seat. The window and middle seats are mirror images of these.

Etihad flies two versions of its staggered layout long-haul business class seat with direct aisle access. (It's the Solstys seat from Sogerma, if you were wondering.)

The first generation (above) is in a sea-foam green (and featured on my outbound flight from Sydney) while the second generation is a stripey black-brown-beige (on my flight today).

(I'll assume that most business travellers know how a staggered business class is laid out, but if you need a refresher then our guide to business class seats and layouts is there for you. )

I'll be making a fair bit of reference to Emirates' customised version of this seat, seen on Emirates' Airbus A380 flights from Sydney and Melbourne.

The bottom line is that this is one of the most comfortable business class seats in the sky, second only to Cathay Pacific's new business class. But there are a few flaws that savvy business travellers will want to know about.

The seat is beige plastic. Very beige. It blends into the background, at least, but it's not especially inspiring and there's a lot of it, especially when the table's down. I prefer Emirates' version of this seat, with its greyer neutral colour and less "wall of beige in front of you" feeling.

Ahead of you sits the ottoman footrest, which is the cubby for your feet in bed more or when you're deeply reclined. Underneath it sits a nook for your shoes and above it is the entertainment screen.

While my bulkhead seat at the front of the cabin had a fully enclosed foot area, most seats have a half-enclosed one, as you'll see below. Aisle passengers' feet are open to the aisle, while window and centre seat passengers' are open towards the window or centre.

In seat mode, you can recline a fair way back -- but note that the seat pan has to slide forward to create the space for you to recline, which can feel a little tight with the tray table, although the table does swivel.

The table folds down and rotates across on a hinge at the corner where the seat in front of you ends. 11-inch MacBook Air and iPhone 5, to scale.

It's a fair size: big enough for the largest 17" laptops, although it's unlikely you'd be able to pop your phone next to a large laptop.

Unfortunately, the massive hinge for the table is a real pain in the knee for anyone over about six feet (184 cm) or so: it's right where your kneecap rests, especially if you're reclined. I'm stunned that this design ever passed testing.

A very handy universal (including the square three-pins used in the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Middle East) AC power point sits 30 cm or so beneath the hinge. There's a USB slot underneath near the floor -- a daft place for it, since you'll either kick out your memory stick or snag the cord of whatever else you've plugged in.

There are a few drawbacks to the sturdiness of the seat too: you feel it every time the person behind you uses their table, since it's attached on the other side of your head. (Emirates' pops up from the armrest.)

The seat reclines into bed mode, but there's a missed trick here too: the hard shell by your head doesn't retract, which means there's about five inches of wasted space that you could have used to spread out when sleeping.

It's also not an especially long seat. I'm 188 cm (6'2"), and I couldn't stretch out all the way when on my back without touching the head and foot of the seat -- let alone be able to do so in my preferred position on my front. Fetal position, curled up, was the only option.

That said, the cushioning is ample: better, in fact, than Etihad's first class! If you like a soft bed, you might want to snag an extra blanket from the crew to lay down underneath you.

I slept for a good eight hours of the 14-hour flight, which is the mark of a decent seat for me.

Meal

Etihad's place settings are classy, with stylish tableware, flatware and stemware.

Service started once the seatbelt sign went "ping", with a warm towel, a drink (you'll be stunned to know that I went for the champagne) and some warm nuts.

Around an hour in, the food & beverage manager came around to take orders for lunch. Here's the menu:

There's also a "Kitchen Anytime" menu if that doesn't take your fancy.

And a very respectable wine list...

...with a hidden Sauternes on the back! 

Etihad's business class is unusual: you can eat what you want, any time, served individually to you. No "miss it and you're out of luck" trolley round here, nor the "doggy dish" of "reheated brown thing in gloopy sauce over carbohydrate, served with green thing and some sauce crusted onto the side". On a 14+ hour flight, where you're likely to be connecting onto another 5-9 hour flight, that's a real benefit.

Oddly, though, despite the individual service, Etihad uses trays to serve the main meals. I realise this is faster -- but surely only slightly, and at a time when crew timing is not meal-critical.

Of the three starters on the menu, I played to Etihad's strengths and picked the Arabic mezze, and was very pleased that I did. Crisp -- but not greasy -- warm nibbles, with delicious chilled leaf wraps and very moreish hummus. Top notch.

I paired that with a lovely glass of Meursault (a French, buttery Chardonnay from Burgundy), which was actually a better wine in the air than the first class French white I'd tried on the flight from Sydney.

For my main course I enjoyed the lamb thareed, a spiced (but not especially hot) stew that was very well crafted. The crispy, feather-light rgag bread on top was a great touch.

Also a great touch: the warm bread filled with tomato and cheese and topped with sunflower seeds in the bread basket, which was the best bakery item I've ever eaten on a plane -- even better than Lufthansa's famous pretzel bread!

I'd enjoyed the Stellenbosch Pinotage from South Africa on the way out in first class, and was very pleased to see that it was on the return in business as well. It's a very well-balanced drop with dinner.

Since it was about noon by this stage and I wasn't feeling like something sweet (yet), I finished with a plate of cheese -- three halal cheeses (since there are cultural issues around rennet) in the style of parmigiano, brie and danish blue. They were okay, but nothing to write home about.

During the flight I nipped up to stretch my legs and rehydrate -- the San Pellegrino sparkling water on board is just the right bubbliness for the sky, and enjoyed a bit of a chat with the international crew.

Six hours or so later, after a good snooze, I started feeling a bit peckish and went for the steak sandwich on the Kitchen Anytime menu. It was seriously good: chewy without being leathery, and with a great red onion compote. Do try the Mirinda (Pepsi's version of Fanta), which is very popular in the Middle East and has an unusual orange flavour.

A couple of hours before landing, I was woken by a bit of noise from the galley and the crew coming around to ask anyone awake if they wanted breakfast and offering the very tasty energiser smoothie to start with.

Breakfast is always a pain on a plane, with the usual choice bouncy eggs or bouncy pancakes, even in business.

No different here: my cheese omelette with turkey bacon, potato and chunky tomato sauce was just okay, and I reclined my seat for a bit more of a snooze shortly after getting rid of my tray.

Entertainment & Service

My advice: bring your own. Etihad's isn't particularly great.

Etihad's entertainment system is a bit of a negative. The Panasonic system is clunky and slow, the remote control not particularly intuitive, and there's a two-minute series of adverts before everything you watch.

Unfortunately, the screen doesn't tilt, and isn't very bright, which is a drawback during the day flight from Abu Dhabi since you're plagued with reflections, especially if you're on the right hand side of the plane, which is the sunny side during the day.

The selection isn't especially enthralling either: just standard blockbuster stuff, with no especially interesting films or documentaries. I'm not a very hard person to please -- I ask for something interesting over a meal, something a little more thinky later, and some interesting opera or choral music -- but Etihad's system didn't live up to my expectations and I resorted to my iPad.

Compared with the competition, Etihad's entertainment fits in with the second tier of on-demand systems out there, but it lags behind Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and other airlines with a truly world-class offering.

Headphones in business class are over-the-ear noise cancelling varieties, which reduced the engine noise well but did nothing for the screaming child two rows back. You'll need a two-pin adapter if you want to use your own.

Overall, the service on board was fine, although some members of the crew were better at taking drink orders than others. If it's the middle of the night and a passenger asks for a bottle water, I don't think that's a huge or unexpected request. Yet several times it took five to ten minutes for the water to arrive (and twice it never arrived at all).

Summary

Etihad's seat is brilliant, behind only Cathay Pacific's new seat and Emirates' A380 business class. Its food and wine fantastic, but entertainment, storage and lounge offerings are all disappointing.

The prognosis for these problems? Entertainment and storage should improve with new planes. Etihad, like every other airline in the region, has many on order, and Australia's long flights mean we should get them sooner rather tahan later. But the lounge is less clear: there's no brand new terminal like Emirates' Dubai A380 base planned for Abu Dhabi until 2017.

Etihad needs to expand its lounges to keep up with the Joneses -- or, technically, the Clarks, since we're talking about Emirates CEO Tim Clark's airline as its major competitor.

There's a lot to like, though, and Etihad's business class would be up there in my top five overall choices for passengers connecting to Europe and Africa.

John Walton was a guest of Etihad.

John Walton

John Walton (John Walton)

@thatjohn

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.
 

12 Comments

  • ciaomucca

    ciaomucca

    13 Nov, 2012 08:35 pm

    Great review! Looking forward to reacquainting myself with Etihad business class in a couple of weeks... and to delving into the Mumm!

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  • John Walton

    John Walton

    13 Nov, 2012 08:48 pm

    Thanks ciaomucca — just FYI, the outbound champagne from Sydney in First was Bollinger Grande Année. I'd be thrilled with either!

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  • Tom W

    Tom W

    14 Nov, 2012 06:31 am

    Great to finally see a genuine review of what looks like one of the most exquisite cabins in the sky.

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  • John Walton

    John Walton

    14 Nov, 2012 03:02 pm

    Thanks Tom W. Genuine, pulls-no-punches reviews are what we're all about, and it's always great to hear a reader appreciates them!

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  • KG

    KG

    14 Nov, 2012 02:29 pm

    John, any pics or info on the F class amenity kit? Must admit that the business class  offering is pretty poor for an airline of this stature. Emirates offers business the same contents as F I believe but in a different pouch.

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  • John Walton

    John Walton

    14 Nov, 2012 03:02 pm

    As a matter of fact, yes, KG, both the ladies' and gentlemen's kits...but you'll have to wait for our first class review, out soon! ;)

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  • JBH

    JBH

    14 Nov, 2012 03:22 pm

    Comprehensive review John, thanks! I have a trip to the middle east early '13 and was considering Etihad, certainly now an option.

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  • jinxy

    jinxy

    14 Nov, 2012 11:32 pm

    thanks for a great review. Food choices were interesting.

    Do you know what meal they would serve on a flight departing at 10am? (7 hour flight)

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  • jimmyair

    jimmyair

    15 Nov, 2012 02:55 pm

    That was a brilliant review! Love all the pictures and detailed description. I was in the same seat (10K) on the same route a few weeks ago. I've also found the seats to be narrow and not long enough. It really feels quite cramped for a J class seat (especially compared to QF's 2nd gen fully flat Skybed). One thing I loved thou was that you could eat anything on the menu at anytime during the flight.

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  • kevinr

    kevinr

    27 Mar, 2013 05:46 pm

    Does anyone know whether the service, especially the seat, is the same in the 777's that they use as it is here in the A340's?

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  • Comyns Ian

    aussiepiper

    3 May, 2013 09:17 pm

    Interesting that you mentioned cabin temperature. This can be a real pain particularly as some airlines are dispensing with individual air control. A recent Cathay flight from Sydney to Hong Kong was unbearably hot.

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  • dls1976

    dls1976

    20 Jan, 2015 02:25 pm

    Trully a quality product and service being offered by etihad. Business class passengers are certainly get bang for their buck these days. The one thing that made me chuckle was the 3rd beer on the list. How did that get on there?

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21 Jul, 2018 08:17 am

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