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Best Flights: Qantas A380 Business Class Review
The Airline: Qantas
The Flight: QF 12 Los Angeles to Sydney
The Equipment: Airbus A380; Seats 26A & 26B
Time & Date: 22:20 on 25/08/10
The Australia-LA route is now one of the most competitive and Qantas have responded by operating one of its prized A380 aircraft out of Sydney daily and one out of Melbourne to LA three times a week, in addition to A380 services to Singapore and London. Apart from being the world's biggest passenger aircraft with seating for 450 people, the A380 sells itself on being the most comfortable plane which is almost noise-free, with the eco-friendly bonus of it being 10% more fuel efficient. We were in seats 26A and 26B on the upper deck which is where business class (72 with Skybed seats) is located, and there's around 32 premium economy seats down the back as well.
At Qantas check-in, first and business class have dedicated desks and both were clear on arrival. The economy line had about 15 people waiting to check-in and appeared to be moving fairly quickly. Business check-in took less than two minutes and as we were upgraded to the First Class Lounge, were met by one of the lounge staff and escorted through the duty free area, express security and immigration, and upstairs. The First Class Lounge is pretty special with a dedicated restaurant with a-la-carte menus, lots of quiet spots with big leather chairs to sink into, floor to ceiling windows overlooking the runway and the Sydney skyline and French champagne poured by attentive wait staff.
As always the flight attendants on Qantas are polite and efficient and welcome drinks and newspapers are offered as soon as you sit down. This was a busy flight and crew were checking on passengers throughout the flight.
With a menu designed by Rockpool's Neil Perry, the food service promises to at least match the best of any land-based restaurant. But the big question is, can it be produced fresh and appetising on a flight? With entrees like roast duck with beetroot salad, and mains such as Spanish style Petaluma Chick with pan fried polenta and steamed spinach it could be a little ambitious but food during the dinner was served with a touch of panache and it was of high quality. The champagne on offer was Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve and there was also a good selection of Australian wines. There was also a "dine later" and "express meal" option for those who wanted to sleep first and eat later. Breakfast is ordered as a "room service" style of option and featured fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurts, various cooked options and a good tea selection and good quality filter coffee.
The Seat & Entertainment:
The new A380 was launched with a lot of hype in 2007 and Qantas began operating the A380 as a four class configuration - economy, premium economy, business and first. The business seats are configured in a 2-2-2 formation which means there's no chance of paying for a seat and finding yourself in the middle of a three. The window seats also have a storage area just below the window itself which is handy for keeping pillows, blankets, books, newspapers and iPods. At the front of the business class section there's a self serve bar which includes snacks and a small lounge area if you feel like taking a break from your seat.
With a 14 hour flight ahead and work to be done at the other end, the seat is all important and is probably the most important and impressive aspect of the Qantas A380 service. Acclaimed Australian designer Marc Newson developed the Qantas Skybed which reclines to a fully flat bed at 180 degrees which is two metres long which the airline claims is the longest flat bed on any A380 business class seat. The electronic controls make reclining and adjusting the seat a breeze and even for very tall people, the lie flat offers plenty of room to stretch out. There's also an electronic privacy divider between the two business class seats which adds to the comfort level, and pyjamas and good quality blankets and pillows are offered. I very rarely manage a lot of sleep on flights, even in business, but this time around I slept a full eight hours, which left enough time to try out the inflight entertainment system.
The touch screens are 30.7cms with more than 1,000 individual on-demand options from movies, television programs, documentaries and animation, along with numerous radio options. The new-release movie section gives a a good indication of the quality of the entertainment and on this flight there were dozens of movies which had not even been released in Australian cinemas. For those who need to work while in the air, there are power outlets for laptop computers and USB ports to charge portable devices.
Apart from the seats which are impressive, the first thing I really noticed was that there was not that much noise during take off. The A380 is touted as the world's quietest aircraft and it delivers on that front. On other aircraft, even in the most comfortable seat, sometimes the constant engine noise can impact on sleep but the A380 does appear to be quieter. Even though the business section was full, the Qantas A380 delivered a serene experience and it offers the real chance of arriving at your long-haul destination in pretty good shape and ready to get to work or play with reduced effects from jetlag.
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Qantas operates twice daily return flights from Sydney to Los Angeles in economy, premium economy, business, and first class, including daily flights on the A380. Prices start from AU$1044 return including taxes and charges. Visit qantas.com or call 13 13 13.
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