What's it like to spend 16½ hours on Qantas' non-stop Boeing 787 flight from London to Perth?
As Australian Business Traveller has already reviewed the Dreamliner's business class and premium economy seats in detail on several flights, we thought we'd take a different approach and offer this 'flight diary' of our experience and timeline what you can expect in business class on the new Qantas Kangaroo route.
T-minus 3 hours
Qantas flight QF10 departs London at around 1.30pm, so by 10.30am I've checked out of my hotel – the handily-located Hyatt Place Heathrow – and made my way to Heathrow Terminal 3.
With no passengers checking-in ahead of me, I’m able to get the formalities completed quickly. Qantas also managed to find me a window seat in business class, which makes it much easier to photograph the cabin while respecting the privacy of other travellers.
At this time of day there are only a handful of people in front of me in security, making Heathrow a surprisingly pleasant experience, and it gets better when I head to the new Qantas London lounge which opened late last year.
T-minus 2 hours
The gin bar is a standout feature of Qantas' London Heathrow lounge, with a staggering 50 gins on rotation, so I asked the staff for an impromptu tasting.
Lined up above: Australian Green Ant gin, Opihr Oriental Spiced gin, and the Sipsmith Sloe gin 2016. They’re all 'interesting' but I prefer the aperitif-style cocktail prepared for me by bartender Georgie.
Feeling peckish, I have a quick snack at the lounge, but I don’t want to ruin my appetite for the on-board dining experience.
Since its just before noon, Qantas is serving up a brunch menu. Here's what the 'poached egg on brioche' option looks like...
...and here are the ricotta hotcakes.
After grabbing a bite, I leave the lounge a little early to pick up some goodies from Harrods.
Boarding and take off
QF10 boards at around 1PM, and I settle into my window seat – 6A – which will be home for the next 16+ hours on what is the world's longest Boeing 787 flight.
The crew take my coat and offer me a pre-departure champagne.
Sitting in the now-familiar Qantas Business Suite, I can admire some of the less prominent design details implemented by David Caon.
As a business traveller, one of the best features is being able to have your laptop open on the bench next to you while you’re eating. The thoughtful design and excellent layout and sense of space is why we rank the Qantas Dreamliner Business Suite as one of the best in the sky.
Meanwhile, quite a few of the travellers in the centre seats appreciate the retractable privacy screen – something which was not on the original Airbus A330 seat – with most opting to keep it down.
After an uncharacteristically short period of taxiing we take off only 15 minutes after the scheduled departure time.
With poor weather over London, the flight crew keep the seatbelt sign on until we’ve flown over the English channel. Once the sign is turned off, the crew jump to action handing out our pyjamas...
...and breakfast cards.
I’ve always thought the cards are a great idea as they help maximise sleep at the end of a flight. Usually I’ll ask for breakfast to be served just over an hour before landing.
There's also a full menu booklet provided of the dining options throughout the flight.
Lunch orders are taken and we have a choice of three starters:
- Spring chard soup with nutmeg crème fraîche and lemon
- Salad of roast tomato with buffalo mozzarella, artichokes and basil dressing
- Crab cakes with corn salsa, chilli and rocket
Normally I’d go straight for the heavier crab cakes, but Qantas has been spruiking its efforts to ease the experience of ultra-long-haul flying – part of which is lighter dining options in the air, created in conjunction with the Charles Perkins Institute and Qantas chef Neil Perry. With this in mind, I cross my fingers and go for the soup.
Choices for our mains are:
- Pappardelle with parsley and pecorino soffritto, spring peas and toasted walnuts
- Seared Pollock with roast fennel, thyme and chickpeas
- Tandoori-grilled chicken with mustard seed carrots, basmati and coriander yogurt
- Roast English beef with Yorkshire pudding, peas and onion gravy
It’s been a while since I’ve had Indian food on a flight so I go for the tandoori chicken.
With food selections out of the way, it's time to unwind a little with the on-board entertainment. Qantas has amped up its collection of boxed sets and I find the TV show Ballers is a guilty pleasure. I managed to watch four episodes on the initial flight from Perth to London, so I continued with the rest of the season three on this return journey.
I use my own noise-cancelling headphones (Bowers & Wilkins PX) as I find the ones supplied by airlines are often a little flimsy and not very good at actually cancelling noise.
Drinks service begins with the aperitivo, consisting of the signature cocktail - tequila with an apple and raspberry mix, which is quite strong and sweet. This is accompanied by an arancini ‘block’.
The large number of premium seats seems to stretch the capabilities of the crew, resulting in a very slow meal service. The salad and bread are delivered almost half an hour before the entrée.
Finally the entree (spring chard soup) makes an appearance...
... and then there's another half-hour wait for the main (I've selected the Tandoori-grilled chicken).
Thankfully both dishes are filling and tasty. The soup is well seasoned, and the tandoori chicken has a slight kick to it and a generous serving. The salad dressing has a palm sugar base that complements the chicken nicely.
I wrap up with the delicious cheese plate and then the rhubarb trifle with elderflower sponge and apple jelly. This is also an excellent dish that’s well balanced and not overly sweet.
The marathon meal service finally finishes some 3½ hours into the flight, so I order a Glenlivet on the rocks (sadly, this is the 'best' whisky on board – surely Qantas could do better) and take a natural sleeping tablet.
It’s approaching 3.30am in Sydney, which is my final destination. My plan is to try to sleep for 4-5 hours now so I can begin my transition back to that time zone, waking up by around 9am in the morning.
I change into my Qantas pajamas and slip on the mattress protector, which evens out any bumps in the seat when reclined.
The sleeping aid kicks in nicely and I’m ready to doze off within half an hour.
I find that being a 'side sleeper' I prefer to have the seat in slightly reclined mode so I can use the seat bench as support for my arm. While fully-flat is always the gold standard for business class seats, I often encourage people to try different positions.
I’m able to get five hours sleep on board, with just one break in the middle to change sleeping directions. The plan is working well and I wake up feeling relatively fresh. To allow passengers to sleep, the cabin remains in darkness all the way to breakfast service.
Because this is such a long flight, the cabin crew and pilots also need to rest, which they do in small 'bedrooms' located above business class (not that you'd notice).
I go for a walk around to stretch my legs and order something from the mid-flight menu.
Qantas also has an area set up in the galley for self-service snacks such as chocolate, biscuits and chips, as well as healthier snacks like dips and crudités.
In addition, they offer three hot dishes:
- Mozzarella, olive and spinach calzone
- Bacon sarnie with Stokes Brown Sauce
- Beef cottage pie with peas
Here’s what the calzone looks like…
…but I went for the cottage pie and a soft-drink as my snack.
Ten hours in, I don’t feel dried out or excessively weary, thanks to the cabin comfort and humidity of the Boeing 787.
Hours 11 - 12
I’ve been working intermittently throughout the flight but now that I’m well rested and fed, I can knuckle down for some serious work (although WiFi isn’t offered on Qantas' international flights, the airline says it'll come in 2021 and will be very fast).
The table offers up plenty of room for my laptop, while AC and USB charging ports make it easy to keep your devices juiced up and ready for action. The seating position is comfortable for working, and you don’t have to be hunched over or stretching too far forward.
Hours 13 - 14
I start feeling drowsy again and set up my seat in the same position as earlier, which is comfortable enough for me to enjoy another couple of hours of sleep.
I wake up an hour and a half before we land and request breakfast service, which is promptly delivered.
Aside from the usual offerings of eggs or muesli, Qantas has expanded its breakfast selection:
- Omelette and corn fritter, pickled mushrooms, crispy pancetta and tomato & chilli relish
- Cardamom pears with coconut yoghurt quinoa, almonds, hazelnuts, blueberries and honey
- Smoked salmon with soba and zucchini noodles and ponzu dressing (shown above)
- Broccoli and parmesan quiche with roast tomatoes and rocket
Hours 15 - 16
With the flight winding up, I watch a movie and swap out the pyjamas for my own clothes. The cabin crew offers any final drinks or snacks.
We land at Perth airport just before 1PM local time, with the flight taking just over 16.5 hours - all in all, I’m feeling refreshed and well-rested.
Since my final destination is Sydney, I have to go through Perth customs, collect my bags and then check-in for my Sydney flight. The process takes around half an hour, and leaves me enough time to spend some time in a lounge before my next flight.
Would I fly QF9/QF10 again?
For travellers who start their journey in the larger cities such as Sydney or Melbourne, Qantas' non-stop Perth-London route does require a stopover – in Perth.
The alternative is the Sydney-Singapore-London Airbus A380, which Melbourne and Brisbane passengers can join in Singapore.
From my perspective as a Sydney-based business traveller both routes require a stopover – one in Singapore, the other in Perth – so which would I choose for my next trip to London?
Sydney-Perth-London gets my nod for now because it has the advantage of the superior Boeing 787 business class seat, and when spending 17+ hours in a seat this can make all the difference.
There are some advantages to the Singapore route, but I found the key to the flying via Perth is to plan your travel time in terms of when you'll sleep, and for how long.
But when Qantas upgrades its A380s with the same business class seat as the Dreamliners, the choice of which Kangaroo Route to fly will come back to a more level playing field.
Sid Raja travelled as a guest of Qantas
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