It was with a huge amount of sadness that I headed to the airport to start my journey home from Australia. Sydney Mardi Gras had been an incredible few days with some brilliant people.
It was only fitting that the aircraft parked next to ours at the gate was Qantas’s A330 aircraft, painted in their Mardi Gras livery.
Check-in at the international terminal was pretty busy, there was a queue of about five or six people in front of us at First class check-in, but with three agents, the wait wasn’t more than about ten minutes. We were given Express Path cards for immigration and security and some fifteen minutes later we walked in the door of the Qantas First Class lounge.
I’ve previously reviewed the facility on this blog, so won’t do another one, suffice to say that it remains just as excellent.
After an hour or so and a great breakfast with a couple of glasses of champagne, it was time to head down to the gate, where they were just about to start boarding. They four lanes open, two for economy, one for business and oneworld sapphires, and one for first and emeralds. There didn’t seem to be too much enforcement going on and the business and first queues seemed to merge into one.
I had seat 24K, the bulkhead row of Premium Economy, which is located upstairs, behind the business class cabin. Waiting on the seat was a blanket and pillow, along with an amenity kit containing socks, an eyeshade and a dental kit.
Being in the window seat there was also a side storage bin with lots of room. The seat also had a USB port and a single plug 110V plug socket shared between the two seats. This wasn’t the fully universal type and only accepted the US style plug. The seat had the video arm in the armrest, plus there were controls for reclining the seat on the other side.
Pre-departure drinks were offered around and luckily the cabin seemed half empty. The seat next to me was occupied, but soon after take-off the gentleman moved to an empty row behind.
The crew were also great, very friendly and chatty, but without being too overly familiar. There was a family with a young toddler in the centre seats who they were very keen to help. Thankfully the parents were very prepared anyway, keeping the little-one occupied with games and an iPad so was very quiet for the duration of the flight.
We soon pushed back and after a fair delay holding to take-off at Sydney, were soon into the air.
The service started shortly after take-off with a bar round. I was very pleased to see that rather than having miniatures, Qantas will actually make you a drink, rather than simply handing you the ingredients themselves. Coupled with the fact they had Beefeater 24 gin, the service started with a decidedly premium feel. I could have had wine instead, which all came from full bottles, rather than 1/4 bottle miniatures.
When it was time to serve the food, the crew laid out a proper linen tablecloth onto the tray table and handed a linen bundle of cutlery too. Some airlines (mentioning no names British Airways), don’t even provide tablecloths in business class.
For my main course, I picked the sweet and sour duck which was actually very good. This was served with a very pleasant Kilikanoon Blocks Road 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. A quick google seems to indicate that it goes for roughly £20 a bottle.
The tray was cleared away and then the crew offered coffee and dessert. Another great little touch is that Qantas use real coffee served from a French Press.
Throughout the meal service the crew were going back and forth offering top-ups and asking if people wanted anything.
Mid-way through the flight, the crew handed out ice cream bars. I munched on one of these whilst watching “Call Me By Your Name”. Which as an aside is truly excellent and had me bawling by the end of it.
The crew kept on popping by to see if people wanted anything, so figured it would be rude not to take them up on the offer and opted for a glass of Glenlivet.
Before long it was time for the second meal service to commence and I opted for the rather substantial and quite hot beef brisket sandwich alongside another cup of decent coffee.
That was cleared away and before long the Captain came on the PA to announce it was forty minutes to landing in Singapore.
I went into the flight with really low expectations. I do my best to try and fly in premium cabins where possible, so this was the first long-haul economy or premium economy sector I’ve flown in many years.
I was completely astonished.
The soft product was quite simply excellent. I have no hesitation in saying that the food and drink were superior in every way to British Airways Club World to a destination such as the East Coast of the US (excepting the new service on the JFK route).
The crew were brilliant. Attentive, thoughtful, friendly, approachable and couldn’t do more for passengers.
The seat was great for a day flight. On a night-flight, then it perhaps would have been less than ideal; certainly not comparable to a flat bed. If I was being particularly uncharitable then the only thing missing was in-flight internet, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
Overall, I can genuinely say was one of the best flights I’ve had in a long time. In short, on a day flight, I would pick Qantas Premium Economy over many other carriers Business Class in a heartbeat.
Qantas are clearly investing in the passenger experience and providing a truly premium product even in this cabin – I’m certainly won over by their efforts.