After spending a few days in Melbourne, I again flew with Qantas on my journey back to Singapore. For this particular trip, I was flying business class on the Airbus A380. Qantas has a couple of business class configurations and while they flagship business class seats are to be found in their A330s, the A380 flight had a more suitable timing for me.
If you are flying out of Australia’s airports, the benefit of business class becomes palpable as soon as you check-in. For this particular flight, it was too late for me to check-in online so I did it manually at the airport. In contrast to the economy class queue which was pretty long, I was served in no time at the business class queue. Flying business class also gives you access to the express queue at the x-ray machines and saves you time.
The business class flight also provided me access to the Qantas Business Lounge in Melbourne Airport. I will write about it in a separate post. While the airline’s trademark artisanal coffee and made-to-order dishes are present here, I found the interiors a bit dated. This same lounge is actually going to refurbished.
Boarding on the A380 is separated into two queues. Business and premium economy class passengers get to board simultaneously with first class passengers as there’s a separate aerobridge for the upper level where the business class and premium economy class seats are located.
The A380 is a humongous bird with a staggering 64 business class seats spread across two cabins. If given the option, the forward and more intimate cabin is where you’d want to be. It has merely 18 seats and is just behind the lounge area. I was flying just before the Easter long weekend so the flight was full, even in business class.
Made by Australian designer Mark Newson, Qantas’ A380 business class seats have a pitch of 78 inches and width of 21.5 inches. As I mentioned when I reviewed Qantas’ first class product on the A380; in terms of the actual bed, the business class offering is merely 0.5 to 1 inch less than the first class product. Also, when compared to Qantas’ flagship business class product on the A330, the A380 business class actually has a slightly longer pitch (the A330 business class seat has a length of 73 inches).
Seat configuration in business class is 2-2-2 so the best seats to choose would be somewhere in the middle row to avoid someone having to climb over you to go to the lavatories. In terms of storage options, you have a small area to put shoes, a pouch that can be stretched in front of the seat plus a couple more compartments on the seat itself. Those sitting on a window seat have a couple of extra storage spaces.
Shortly after takeoff, crew members came by to offer drinks. I settled with a glass of Irish Cream which came to me with a serving of pretzels.
The entertainment screen is drawn out from the armrest while Qantas-branded headphones are found in one of the storage compartments. At 12.1 inches, the TV screen is not particularly large when compared to other A380 business class offerings such as Singapore Airlines or even Qantas’ A330s which come with a 16 inch screen, but it is more than sufficient as the screen itself is situated quite near to the passenger. With the likes of SQ, the screens are actually attached to the seat in front and because of my nearsightedness, I often had to find myself squinting despite the larger size.
Qantas’ A380 has a modest lounge in front of the plane on the second level with a long couch and magazine rack. It was occupied throughout this flight with families getting together there. It’s a contrast from my first class flight with Qantas a few days before when the lounge was practically empty throughout. Some snacks such as chocolates, crackers and chips are placed here for business and first class passengers to partake in.
The 7.5 hour flight came with two meals, a three-course lunch plus a light snack prior to landing. I started off my lunch with Tuna Poke Salad. It’s not exactly the poke that I usually have for lunch at the office but it as a meal up in the air, I thought it was decent.
As with my Qantas first class flight a couple of days before, I once again went the fish option. It came in the form of the Seared Cone Bay Barramundi with herbed garlic potatoes, broccolini, lemon, olive and almond salsa. This was better than the fish I had on my flight to Melbourne, tender and gently flavored by the garlic with a bit of a zing.
I ended the meal with the cheese platter and Baked Vanilla Custard with rhubarb, honeyed pearls and almonds. The latter was an interesting sweet and sour amalgamation of a dessert and the presence of the honeyed pearls gave it a slight Asian tinge.
There were still a couple of hours left after the meal so I decided to get some shut-eye. The seat can be made to lie fully flat and when so, the upper portion of the seat lies within a shell so there is ample privacy there. Between you and your seatmate, you also get a divider and although it’s not particularly high, it totally obstructs you from being seen by your seatmate when you’re in a sleeping position.
Around an hour before landing, I woke up to find the crew with the trolleys. It was time for the pre-arrival light meal. I was not particularly hungry at this point and decided to go with the Spinach, Ricotta and Onion Pastizzi.
It has been more than ten years since Qantas rolled out their business class seats on the A380 and while it is no longer their flagship business class offering (that title has since gone to the A330), the 2-2-2 configuration is still in line to what other highly-rated carriers such as Turkish Airlines offer. The seats may not generate ooh and ahs and may look slightly outdated but they’re comfortable and I had no problems sleeping my way through. A significant plus point was the food which was excellent. It reflected the diversity and discerning palates that I witnessed during my short trip to Melbourne. The service was undeniably Australian – casual and easygoing yet efficient.