Qantas Boeing 787 business class (Los Angeles-Melbourne)

Review: Qantas Boeing 787 business class (Los Angeles-Melbourne)

Airline:
QF (Qantas)
Cabin Class:
Business
Aircraft Type:
Boeing 787-9
Flight:
QF96
Seat:
6K

service:

meals:

seating:

overall:

What's Hot

  • Fully-flat beds, direct aisle access from every seat
  • Sit partially reclined for take-off and landing
  • 'Any time' dining menu

What's Not

  • No inflight bar or lounge area as on other Melbourne-LA flights

X-Factor

  • Overall experience allowed for a restful eight hours of sleep

Introduction

Now jetting between Melbourne and Los Angeles and soon to take wing on non-stop Perth-London flights in 2018, Qantas' Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner offers business class passengers fully-flat beds, direct aisle access from every seat, and an 'any time' dining menu for a bite throughout the flight.

While the aircraft itself also provides much-touted features like a quieter cabin and a lower effective 'cabin altitude' which can help reduce jet lag, Qantas passengers have actually been enjoying these qualities for almost a decade aboard the airline's Airbus A380s, with the most noticeable difference being the business class seat itself.

With that in mind, Australian Business Traveller ventured to the United States to put Qantas' new Boeing 787 business class seat to the test.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: Qantas Frequent Flyer, Oneworld.
  • Checked baggage allowance: 3x32kg bags on flights to/from North America, increased to 4x32kg for Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge members.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: Your choice of either 1x115cm bag plus 1x185cm garment bag, or 2x115cm bags, each weighing up to 7kg (14kg in total).
  • Airport fast-track: Priority check-in, security screening and boarding at both ends of the journey, plus expedited passport control and Customs clearance in Australia via Express Path facilities. However, queues for security at LAX's Tom Bradley Terminal can be lengthy in the evenings, so arrive early or consider clearing security elsewhere at LAX to save time, such as T4 where American Airlines is based, from which you walk across to TBIT while remaining airside.

Lounge

Relax at the Oneworld Business Lounge in Los Angeles before your flight, offering buffet dining, bartender service (and sparkling wine, but not Champagne), private shower suites, WiFi and more.

You could also wander over to newly-opened American Airlines Flagship Lounge at LAX Terminal 4 (which your Qantas boarding pass unlocks) for a glass of Bollinger, as T4 is now linked airside with the Tom Bradley Terminal where Qantas flights depart, with the walk between them taking about 10 minutes.

Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge members – plus other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers – can instead head straight to the Qantas first class lounge in TBIT...

... where restaurant dining with full table service comes as standard: as does Champagne, of course.

Seat

As Qantas’ Boeing 787 jets don’t feature first class, business class takes pride of place up the very front with eight rows in the forward-most cabin (simply numbered 1-8), and a further three rows behind a galley and lavatories (rows 10-12, skipping row 9), just in front of premium economy.

It’s a staggered 1-2-1 layout, with some seats closer to the aisles and others further away, which alternates from one row to the next.

For example, seats 1A and 1K put the passenger closer to the window, while seats 2A and 2K have them sitting nearer the aisle, and so on.

Regardless, all seats offer direct and uninterrupted aisle access – a significant upgrade to the business class layouts of Qantas' Airbus A380s and Boeing 747s – and transform into fully-flat beds.

But sleep comes later in the flight – first, you’ll need to settle in. On this midnight departure out of LAX, I boarded to find my seat already adorned with a mattress topper and the accompanying pillow and blanket, which meant there wouldn't be any time wasted after take-off if my only priority was sleep.

Better yet, the seat doesn’t have to be bolt upright for take-off (and landing) – yes, you could sit up straight as you would on most other flights…

… or, you can move the seat into a pre-set reclined position, which is more comfortable: especially at airports like Los Angeles where there’s a lot of time spent on the ground between the gate and the runway.

To your side and accessible from any seat position are noise-cancelling headphones on a purpose-built hook, an adjustable and dimmable reading light, a water bottle in a snug holder…

… an AC power outlet, a high-powered USB port suitable for charging gadgets large and small, and the headphone socket.

Just around the corner from that sits a larger storage space, suited to items like magazines, tablets, laptops, the inflight menu, reading glasses and more – and a handy cut-out towards the bottom helps you check that nothing has been left behind towards the end of the flight.

Below, an open surface for more storage, with a remote control for the inflight entertainment system tucked away underneath, along with a personal mirror. However, I found that in order to see myself, I had to lean right over the console, or hold the mirror in one hand at the desired angle.

For even more personal space, the panel in front of you houses a coat hook, along with a document holder…

… which is also where you’ll find the inflight magazine and safety card:

There’s another storage nook tucked below the seat’s side console…

… and while it may not look particularly sizeable in the photo above, it was more than enough to accommodate my large SLR camera – or, more commonly, things like amenity kits and PJs:

The space in front of you features a padded foot rest that forms the tail end of your 80-inch (203cm) fully-flat bed…

… which you can create by holding in the appropriate button on the seat’s control panel, where you’ll also find other keys to perfectly customise your seat position, activate the massage feature, switch on or dim your reading light or control the separate ‘mood light’, being the subtle lighting around your feet and under that storage shelf.

There’s a ‘do not disturb’ option as well, which signals the crew to leave you alone – done by changing your seat light from its normal white…

… to red, for “please leave me be”. (Just make sure your seat belt is fastened over your blanket if sleeping to avoid being disturbed.)

Getting some work done? There’s a solid tray table that slides out from within your side console, and can be tracked closer towards you or pushed further away as desired…

… or, if you’re stretching out in bed, you may wish to use this control on the seat’s side shell to bring your seat up (or put it down in the first place), so that you don’t have to lean across the seat to reach the main control panel.

Passengers seated against the aisle can adjust the height of their aisle-side arm rest, whether that’s all the way up…

… as far down as it can go (pictured), or anywhere in between.

Unlike the earlier version of this seat as found on Qantas' Airbus A330s, passengers travelling together in the middle pairs can also lower a privacy divider to make conversation easier.

Overall, I found my seat perfectly comfortable for working, relaxing and sleeping, and even being in seat 6K which is closer to the aisle, managed a solid eight-hour snooze on this 15-hour flight – allowing me to arrive back into Australia already adjusted to the local time zone, with minimal jet lag.

Just one tip: If you prefer to ride a little cooler, choose a seat by the windows (A or K) as opposed to the centre (E and F), as the outer seats have two adjustable air vents per passenger, compared to one vent per person in the middle.

Meal

The journey begins with a drink before take-off, where still water, sparkling water and Champagne (Duval-Leroy Brut) are offered. I opt for a simple glass of still water…

… with supper served shortly after – beginning with an aperitif (Cointreau and lemonade, in my case), and bread with butter to get things started.

Being a midnight departure, you jump straight to the main course from the following extensive list of options:

  • Roasted carrot soup with sour cream
  • Poached ocean trout salad with fingerling potatoes, cucumber pickles and buttermilk dressing
  • Selection of cheese served with accompaniments
  • Pork and fennel seed sandwich with kimchi, harissa mayonnaise and romaine lettuce
  • Grilled chicken with sweet potato puree, broccolini and hazelnut burnt butter
  • Black Angus beef fillet with roasted potatoes, snow peas and red wine mustard butter

To avoid any disappointment, you can pre-order your preferred dish via the Qantas website within seven days of your flight, with those ordering online getting one extra option to choose from: currently, that’s fusilli spaccati with duck ragù and roast celeriac.

While I always like to sample things that ‘aren’t on the menu’, the duck option sounded a tad heavy for a late evening flight, so I pre-ordered the lighter and more time-appropriate grilled chicken dish instead, which arrived flavourful and perfectly cooked.

Dessert follows: your choice of a lemon curd tart, seasonal fruit or ice cream. I chose the latter, and while I always prefer flavours more adventurous than the typical vanilla, that’s what was available – and was a nice vanilla, at least.

Before heading to bed, I finished with a Baileys on the rocks.

Waking about five hours before breakfast, I took the chance to order from the ‘any time’ menu, with the prawn and chive siu mai with black vinegar proving the perfect mid-flight snack…

… joined by a skim latte:

Other options on the 'any time' menu were as follows:

  • Beef and Guinness pie with tomato relish
  • Dips and crudités
  • Almond, fava beans and chickpea chips
  • Boulder Canyon kettle chips
  • Almond and sesame shortbread
  • Chocolate bars

Breakfast is then served around two hours before landing, based on your selections on the supplied breakfast card. These options included:

  • Fruit salad (optionally with yoghurt)
  • Brookfarm macadamia toasted muesli with cranberries
  • Raspberry crumble muffin
  • Croissant
  • Toast with berry jam, honey, marmalade or Vegemite
  • Free range scrambled eggs on toasted brioche with Applewood bacon, braised beans and pan fried mushrooms
  • Croque-monsieur
  • French toast with macerated strawberries and vanilla yoghurt
  • Choice of juices, tea and coffee

I settled on a fruit salad with yoghurt, a muffin, the scrambled egg dish and some apple juice: and having already had a latte, swapped my usual coffee for a glass of Duval-Leroy Brut for a Champagne breakfast:

The fruit was fresh and the muffin tasty, while the main course was perfectly cooked, with the bacon nice and crispy and the brioche warm yet not tough, underneath scrambled eggs which were nice and fluffy, and the other accompaniments which were also acceptable.

However, the main course could have used a slightly larger plate: given it was filled practically to the edge, it was difficult to avoid bits and pieces from spilling over onto the linen below when using a knife.

The crew also came by to offer a Qantas Dreamliner coaster for my bubbles, which I moved to the side shelf:

On this route between Melbourne and Los Angeles, the only thing missing in business class is a cocktail bar which Virgin Australia offers on its competing flights, or failing that, an inflight lounge area as on Qantas' Airbus A380s flying the same route: both being spaces where travellers can relax and socialise.

Entertainment & Service

At your seat, kick back with a selection of movies, TV shows, games and music served up via 16-inch HD monitor…

… and you can keep tabs on your flight at any time by clicking the red aircraft icon at the bottom of the screen, which calls up the moving map, reminds of your flight number (handy when completing arrival cards), and lets you count down the hours and minutes until landing: over 15 hours in my case… now that’s a long-haul flight!

The screen itself can be tilted for the best viewing angle, whether you’re sitting upright…

… or are lying down in bed:

Mood lighting throughout the cabin adjusts as the flight progresses, with a nice mix of colours after take-off, and very soft, progressive changes when it’s time to sleep or wake up in the morning, which avoids the sudden “aah!” moment on some other aircraft when the lights suddenly jump to maximum brightness.

Pyjamas are offered on overnight flights, including in both directions between Australia and the USA…

… with limited edition Oroton amenity kits also currently on board, containing socks, an eye mask, earplugs, a dental kit, and an Aspar box with hand cream, moisturiser and lip balm.

Despite a delay on this flight of almost two hours, the crew were all at their best, being as bubbly towards the end of the trip as they were at the beginning; were attentive yet not bothersome, and balanced being professional and courteous with an easy-going attitude.

The only time I had to press my call bell was to order from the ‘any time’ menu in the middle of the flight, which is to be expected. All the crew members I spoke with were happy to engage in conversation beyond that relevant to the flight itself, which added to the friendly yet professional vibe.

And at the end of the day, that’s what you want – a service experience that’s neither too stuffy nor too casual; a seat that meets your needs regardless of your plans during the flight, and tasty inflight meals matching the time zones you're travelling between: all of which featured here.

While the airline's Boeing 787 premium economy seats have significant room for improvement, there’s very little Qantas could tweak to make the business class experience even better: except, perhaps, for an inflight bar or lounge to help pass the time on those long Perth-London flights from 2018.

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Qantas.

Chris Chamberlin
Australian Business Traveller journalist Chris Chamberlin 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!
 

8 Comments

  • craigh

    craigh

    21 Dec, 2017 06:31 am

    Great review Chris, thanks. I'm curious about the range of wines available in Business on your flight, was it a mix of Aussie and US reds? What was the quality like?
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    21 Dec, 2017 10:18 am

    Hi Craig, Qantas doesn't publish a business class wine list as the drops can vary from flight to flight, thus we didn't elaborate on these - although the reds and whites carried are all Australian. I spotted a bottle of Penfolds Max's Cab Sauv 2015 on the trolley, for example, but we don't have a complete list to share.

    For Champagne, Qantas stocks either Duval-Leroy Brut (as on this flight), Jacquart Brut Mosaique (as on my Melbourne-LAX flight), Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve or Taittinger Cuvee Prestige Brut in business class - there's no way of knowing which will appear on your flight, but personally speaking, I've tried all of these Champagnes before and find them all acceptable, with the Taittinger and Charles Heidsieck being my favourites.

    Also on board: Campari, Absolut vodka, Beefeater 24 gin, Bacardi white rum, Bundaberg dark rum, Jack Daniel's, Chivas Regal 12yr Scotch, Glenlivet Single Malt, Jameson, Martell VSOP Old Fine Cognac, Cointreau and Baileys, plus dessert and fortified wine as also varies from flight to flight.
    Member who gave thanks

    dano282

  • craigh

    craigh

    21 Dec, 2017 08:03 pm

    Thanks Chris, I appreciate your prompt response to my question..
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  • QFcrew

    QFcrew

    21 Dec, 2017 12:47 pm

    We only showcase Australian wines. Obviously French Champagne is the exception.
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  • highflyer

    highflyer

    21 Dec, 2017 03:24 pm

    Just out of interest, i find that on the A330, the window seats that are closer to the asile, ie, rows 1,3,5,7, seem to be just a little bit more spacious...as you are not cramped up against the wall... is this the same as the 787s? So, you would need to choose rows 2,4,6,8...to be next to the asile?

     
    Also, kudos to QF for paying attention to the small details, as it looks like they now have holes in the new mattress, where the shoulder harness can now come through...
     
    Also, i recall there was some grumbles before about the toilet situation about not having enough for business class... did you find there were constantly long lines or waits to use to the loos?
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  • Blair Coull

    Notso Swift

    22 Dec, 2017 11:37 am

    Yes but you can get brushed on all the isle seats, so the window side provides a bit more isolation and privacy for me (none are exactly bad!)

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    22 Dec, 2017 04:31 pm

    Hi Highflyer, being a review from a commercial flight, my experience was with my own seat (6K), so I can only speak to that, as other passengers were in the other seats. You may find our best seats guide useful, however.

    Re: queues for the bathrooms, I didn't find this a problem in business class as premium economy passengers are now sent rearwards rather than into business class, so that's 28 less people using the business class lavs.
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  • Stefan

    Too Technical

    21 Dec, 2017 05:53 pm

    Was the business class snack bar stocked with anything this flight?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    22 Dec, 2017 04:32 pm

    It could have been while I was sleeping (in the middle of the flight), but I didn't notice anything there towards the beginning or end of the flight where I went for a wander.
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  • Fraser007

    Fraser007

    21 Dec, 2017 06:23 pm

    Hi Chris, thanks so much for a great post. I've flown the 330 domestic business numerous times and I'm familiar with the seats. I'm 6'4, and am always careful about footwell selection, which will be even more important on long haul. I find the small footwell on some of the window seats too cramped for my size 11s. Are the footwells similar layout to domestic with some cavernous and others narrow?
    Many thanks
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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    22 Dec, 2017 04:34 pm

    Hi Fraser, being a review from a commercial flight, my experience was with my own seat (6K), so I can only speak to that, as other passengers were in the other seats.

    You may find our best seats guide useful, but in any case, the foot space didn't feel squashed at all, and my feet are also size 11.

    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn

    David

    22 Dec, 2017 05:43 pm

    Fraser: as far as I can recall from the delivery flight, as with Qantas' A330s the Boeing 787 footwells at the bulkhead rows are more generous in size.
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  • D Y

    ChickenorBeef

    21 Dec, 2017 10:39 pm

    Interesting that the menu isn’t that revolutionary vs the standard bus class fare. Maybe I’m making this up, but thought this new plane was bringing something new here. The on demand looked good. Rest looked pretty familiar “straight of the supermarket freezer” freezer fare. Mr Perry, time to move on I’m afraid. Sorry if this is off topic. Another good review.
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  • Joe

    Joe

    22 Dec, 2017 12:54 am

    Wait till you sample a Neil Perry 'salad' !
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  • Tony OBERON

    obi

    22 Dec, 2017 02:52 pm

    Neil Perry's food is getting dry very deja vu and is no better than good cafe food that we can find in any Australian city. I guess QF thinks that's good enough for business class and perhaps it is. But something a bit new and different woud not be too difficult surely? A few dishes I've experienced on Air NZ trans-Tasman recently were exceptional.
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  • PaulBL

    PaulBL

    13 Jan, 2018 01:33 am

    Thanks Chris for the review, always very well documented. Just wondering about the seat recline for take off and landing, are there two defined positions or can you chose your own seat position within a recline range? I believe AirNZ Business premier already offers that recline range for TT&L. Thanks.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    13 Jan, 2018 08:35 am

    There are two defined positions, accessed via shortcut keys on the control panel which both have an aircraft icon next to them - just hold either of those until the seat stops moving and you'll be all set.

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Guest

16 Jan, 2018 06:28 pm

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