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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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
- Toast with berry jam, honey, marmalade or Vegemite
- Free range scrambled eggs on toasted brioche with Applewood bacon, braised beans and pan fried mushrooms
- 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.