Qantas flies daily to New York, via Los Angeles. Until recently, this was on the same 747 all the way to JFK - but Qantas downsized the route earlier this year to an A330 between LAX and JFK.
It’s still a blessing not having to deal with any US airlines from LAX to JFK, so I’m grateful QF107/108 to and from JFK still exists, despite the aircraft downgrade. It’s only bookable if you have a leg to or from Australia in your ticket, as Qantas isn’t allowed to sell a domestic ticket from LA to New York alone.
Having flown this route all the way on the 747 a year ago, I was keen to check out the difference with the A330, and take my first bite of the Qantas Premium Economy apple. All in all, I was very happy with the experience - but that would have been different had my points upgrade to business class for the LA to New York segment failed to come through. Paying Premium prices for Economy from LAX would be quite disappointing (the A330 has only economy and business class, so, ordinarily, premium economy customers fly in economy.)
Check-in for Qantas International Premium Economy takes place alongside the Business and First desks in Sydney. It’s a far more pleasant experience than the standard Economy line - in fact, for me, there was no line. Perfect!
Qantas offers two bags at 23kg to the USA for both Economy and Premium Economy - it seems a little stingy to me to not improve the Premium allowance over regular Economy, but there you go.
The staff were courteous and helped me out with an Express card for faster customs and security clearance - but again, at midday on a Wednesday, there were minimal lines and I stashed the Express card for later use.
Check-in at LAX for the continuation of the flight to New York is at Tom Bradley International (TBIT). Don’t let any helpful shuttle bus drivers tell you otherwise! If you’re transiting straight onto QF107 with no stopover, you collect your bags, clear customs, and drop them at a clearly signed bag drop before passing through the TSA checkpoint. If you’ve stopped over, you check in at the Qantas desk. The concourse was completely empty at about 7.30am, with no queues.
Unlike some other carriers (e.g. JAL), Qantas does not offer lounge access to their Premium Economy passengers. You’d have to have a Qantas Gold Frequent Flyer or oneworld sapphire status to access the International Business lounge at Sydney.
Sydney’s International terminal has improved markedly after recent renovations, and there’s plenty of retail therapy and comfortable seating to keep you occupied in lieu of lounge access.
QF11 is most often operated by an A380, but on some days is a 747. Obviously, aim for the A380 if you can, as the 747’s are starting to feel a bit tired in comparison, including the one I flew on.
We departed Sydney on time at 2.10pm, and as soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off the crew set about preparing the dinner service. Most of the cabin was occupied, with only a handful of spare seats, and many passengers opted to pull down their window blinds to try and kick start the transition into night and sleep sooner. That was fine by me.
Announcements were kept to a minimum, the temperature was cool, but not too icy, and all up it was pretty relaxing environment - certainty conducive to a few hours sleep which for me is unheard of in regular economy.
After the breakfast service a couple of hours out from LAX, we landed five minutes early and I headed off to the shuttle for the airport hotel for some rest. Note that by booking the later QF11, not QF107 all the way to JFK from Sydney, it’s possible to have a 22 hour transit in LAX at no extra cost, departing the next morning.
Having experienced the draining LAX transit and security shenanigans and the extra six hours to JFK previously, where I thought my head was going to explode with jetlag - this is a no-brainer to do if you can afford the time.
The A330 Qantas now operates between LA and New York unfortunately doesn’t offer a Premium Economy cabin - so disappointingly you’re at the back for around 1/3rd of your journey, despite having paid for Premium. But all is not lost...
If you’ve ever tried to use your Qantas points to upgrade from economy, you’ll know that many discount fares are non-upgradeable. In my experience this has been close to all of the International Economy fares I’ve ever booked. However, because I’d plumped for a Premium ticket, this does become an upgradeable fare in Economy from LA. And, because the demand for Business class from LAX-JFK seems not too high, there were plenty of seats available for an upgrade.
Our two upgrades cleared at around 20 hours before the flight at 24,000 points each. This was a great use of points for access to Business class (Skybed) seating, lounge, service and food. Hopefully others should have similar success.
The flight left LAX around 45 minutes late thanks to the late arrival of connecting passengers from Melbourne. While it’s good to see Qantas will hold this aircraft if you are the one running late, sitting on the ground for 45 minutes was a little frustrating. Que sera, sera.
The flight deck insisted they would make up the time in the air - which they did, landing at JFK 5 minutes early.
The 747 had the smaller Premium Economy layout of the two Qantas offer - with 32 seats instead of 40, all in one mini cabin sandwiched between Economy and Business. Toilets are shared with Economy.
As I was traveling with an infant and partner, we allocated ourselves the bulkhead seats - row 36, seats F and G, where the bassinet is located. Unless you are with an infant, I’d recommend steering clear of the bulkhead. Although the 38” legroom was still a good 7” more than on offer in Economy, I missed an area to put my feet (elsewhere it would be under the seat in front of me). Row 36 is also nearest the Galley, and the flapping curtain and light of passing foot traffic also got pretty distracting when trying to sleep.
Having said that, the additional width recline and legroom of the Premium seat allowed me to get 4 hours sleep, where normally in Economy it’s just not possible for me and my 6’ 2” frame. All up, I was pleased with the seat - comfortable, wide, and in my book, generally worth the additional dollars if you can afford.
On the A330 from LAX in Business, we chose 4A and 4B - again due to the bassinet. Again these are bulkhead seats, and the same comments on flapping curtains and lights apply - but legroom was superb, as you’d expect from the Qantas Skybed, at 60”.
The A330 Business cabin is split in two - with three rows of seats in each. If you’re travelling solo want to avoid any infants at all costs, try and grab seats in rows 1-3. If you’re traveling with your partner, we found seats 4A and 4B to be quite private due to the bulkhead in front of us.
The Qantas Skybed seat is not a revolutionary design - but it does ‘just work’. The pod surrounding your head gives a good amount of privacy when in full recline, and there is plenty of customisation on lighting, storage, and seat position. Again - well worth burning 24,000 points for, if you can.
The dinner meal service on QF11 was served quite promptly after take off, about 4pm Sydney time, in order to allow as much sleep as possible. In Premium, menus are offered, and the crew noted our selections and served them on trays directly from the Galley -- a far nicer experience than from the trolley.
The main was a choice of either roast chicken with pancetta sauce and sweet potato, or a beef fillet with herb butter and mediterranean grilled vegetables. I opted for the beef and wasn’t disappointed - a hearty portion, served with proper china and cutlery, with a green salad on the side. Very tasty. Dessert was just a mango Weiss Bar - acceptable, but would have liked something more.
Breakfast choice was either the hot ‘works’ - corn cakes with bacon and braised peppers, or a continental breakfast with a fruit platter, OJ and cereal. I wanted something lighter, opted for the continental and again, everything was of good quality and served with care. No complaints - again, a cut above economy, and nearing business class quality and presentation.
From LA to New York, lunch was two courses, with three options - an eggplant ‘stack’ with herbed feta and pesto; a smoked salmon salad with potatoes or a veal shank and mushroom pot pie. Both the eggplant stack and veal pie were excellent, served directly from the galley piping hot, and again, very nicely presented. Looking back, the business menu on offer really brought home how good the premium economy food was on the flight before - almost comparable.
Entertainment & Service
The service from the crew on both legs was outstanding. Some feel that Qantas crew can be hit and miss - we got lucky, and found staff that were willing to answer almost every request with a cheery ‘yes’, including separately timed dining for my partner and I on SYD-LAX for both dinner and breakfast. This really made our journey special.
The Qantas entertainment system on the 747 is getting dated - the screen is quite small and in Premium folds out from the side of the seat. It can be a bit awkward peering down at the screen for so long. On the A330 however, the screen seemed a touch larger, and the Airbus IFE system was more responsive.
Entertainment choice was good - I didn’t lack for something to watch on either leg. Finally, the Airbus moving map with a 3D Qantas Airbus was, well, a nice treat for a moving map geek like me!