Qantas Melbourne to Perth Business Class Review
Having spent a fantastic holiday on Kangaroo Island and exploring the Great Ocean Road my family (me, my wife and daughter) were heading home to Western Australia. For the flight back to Perth we were booked on the Friday afternoon 18:55 QF481, the A330-200. Fortunately, as it was the end of the week, the rush of business travellers had abated, and Melbourne Terminal 1 was wonderfully empty. Consequently, check-in and security were a breeze and we in no time found our way to the Qantas Business Class lounge to while away an hour or so. Though I feel it should be noted that once again I just happened to be selected for the "random" explosives test, which I seem to fall foul of with ridiculous frequency. If only my "random" attempts at the lottery met with anywhere near the same level of success.
Qantas Business Lounge Melbourne
The Qantas Business Class lounge in Melbourne is conveniently located just to the right of the security screening and up a flight of escalators. By domestic lounge standards, Melbourne is definitely one of the largest and has one of the nicest aspects, as the large floor to ceiling windows run the whole length of the lounge and let in a goodly amount of light. The seating is well laid out, and you can choose from comfortable armchairs, barstools, booths and table seating, so whether you are relaxing, working or eating the lounge provides somewhere suitable to set up shop.
The food is also a step up from the usual lounge fare, as there is a brilliant Asian hot food section where they serve made to order laksas, which were extremely tasty. And as usual, the selection of help yourself wines at the bar was excellent, there is typically a Chardonnay, Semillion Blanc Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Cabinet Sauvignon and Sparkling to choose from.
Though as far as my 3-year-old daughter was concerned, it was all about the view, as she is a budding planespotter and I was thoroughly grilled as to why the planes were different sizes, why some had wingtips and why some of the 737s had bumps on their backs. If anyone is interested the bumps have something to do with the new Wi-Fi service that is being trialled by Qantas - personally I think it is a horrible idea, as the last thing I want is to be contactable when I am flying.
However, while I still enjoy a spot of plane-spotting myself, my favourite lounge facilities, are the hot showers, fluffy towels and scotch. My family having spent a very happy hour grazing at the various hot and cold food stations and sampling the different wines on offer we headed off to catch our plane. The gate was a fair hike but the travellators worked as intended, and we were soon lined up to present our boarding passes. The line was reasonably short as Qantas allocates the right-hand boarding lane to business and priority passengers (Gold/Platinum/Platinum One members) and we were on our way down the worm in no time.
As always, the crew were very welcoming, and we were directed to our seats. Business Class on the A330-200 is laid out in a 1-2-1 seat configuration split into two zones, the first zone has six rows and second has two rows. There is a real sense of space to the cabin, and due to the way the seat wraps around you, there is a wonderful feeling of privacy.
Another benefit of the 1-2-1 configuration is that every seat has direct access to an aisle so no more clinging to the seat back in front of you while trying to stretch your leg as far as it will reach over a sleeping obstacle (fellow passenger). There is only one toilet for business class, and it is located at the front of the cabin through the galley just to the left of the cockpit door. I have always thought that this is a rather inconvenient location for the toilet as you have to disturb the crew who are either preparing refreshments of taking a rest in their jump seats to get to it.
The Vantage XL lie-flat seat
The Vantage XL seats are well designed and comfortable, their use of black leather, silver trim and beech exude quality and the clever use of lighting bathes the seat in a warm light. There are individual lights for the divider, armrest and footwell and for those who would like to read, there is also a whiter focusable reading light. The seat provides a good sense of space with its large armrest and an abundance of storage spaces. There is a storage bin at foot level which is perfect for tucking your shoes away in and there is also a very handy storage compartment just above arm height that is great for phones and travel documents. The seat comes with the mandatory USB charging port and 240v mains power supply. One of the stand out features of the seat for me is the dining table which retracts horizontally into the main armrest. The table is a good size; it is curved to your body shape and is very stable - it made dining a pleasure.
The seat is a generous 24 inches in width and there are a vast array of different seat positions to choose from as well as adjustable lumbar support. In bed mode, the seat extends forward sinking to floor level to meet up with a footstool in the footwell. Whilst initially it felt a little strange to be so close to the floor I found that the concept worked well as when in bed mode the armrest facing out into the aisle is high enough that it provides privacy, shade and protection against being bumped by people walking around the cabin. As this was a domestic flight, there was no option to have a mattress fitted as on international routes but nonetheless, it was very comfortable and most importantly completely flat. I remember when lie flat seats were first introduced and it felt as if you were sleeping on the side of a hill. To help you get comfortable, the seat comes with a thick duvet and good sized pillow. A new tweak is that the old red duvets have recently been replaced with blue one by David Caon.
One new feature of the Vantage XL seat is the addition of a sash belt, the sash belt is retractable and connects to the lap belt for take-off and landing. Having a three-point restraint on a plane took a little while to adjust to and I have had to be reminded more than once by a passing crew member to clip in. When you first sit down your eye is immediately drawn to the generously sized entertainment screen, it is both touch screen and controllable through the retractable remote control that is housed within the armrest. The entertainment system is available from the time you sit down to the moment you get up to get off; useful if you are a nervous flyer and like to be distracted during takeoff and landing. Hanging in easy reach are a pair of good quality over the ear headphones, but if you like your peace and quiet a pair of noise-cancelling headphones are a better option.
There was a good selection of new release movies, with at least a dozen to choose from, as well as an impressive range of TV shows broken down into comedy, lifestyle, documentaries, drama, sport, HBO and Foxtel. Though my favourites are the golden oldies, as a good Sean Conery James Bond is my idea of a perfect way to kill a couple of hours. There was also a great range of music, either accessible as radio stations or artist specific albums in a selection of musical genres, I especially enjoyed the Roy Orbison, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon albums.
Travelling with a Toddler
I am happy to report that my daughter had an excellent flight, in fact, she is now strongly of the opinion that it is not a real holiday unless you are getting on a plane. Qantas was excellent, from the time of booking the flight when they offered to provide a children's meal to their thoughtfulness and hospitality throughout the flight we were made to feel extremely welcome. Not surprisingly she was very comfortable, as when you are only 2 foot tall a seat which turns into a 6 foot plus bed gives you plenty of room of move around in. The only problem I find is that it is sometimes difficult to get her to switch off and have a sleep as all the lights and buttons are very interesting but as I find them distracting myself I cannot really blame her.
For the Kids there was a great range of programs and games, unsurprisingly my daughter opted for Peppa Pig, a perennial favourite. A feature I thought was great is that when you want to exit the Kids menu you have to answer two questions to establish that you are probably not a child; the first one is you are given a selection of departure and arrival cities and you have to choose the correct ones for the flight you are on and the second question was what was your seat number. My fellow passengers probably wondered why I kept leaning out into the aisle to look at the side of my seat (that is where the seat number is).
Dinner by Rockpool
Neil Perry has for a while been Qantas's go to chef for their First & Business Class meals as such dinner was a Rockpool inspired menu.
For starters, there was a choice of either:
- Potato and leek soup; or
- Tea smoked duck with pickled wombok and mustard dressing (wombok is Chinese cabbage, I had to Google it).
For the main, there was a choice of either:
- A big bowl of potato and leek soup with chives and sour cream,
- Salad of goat curd, grilled eggplant, roasted pumpkin and jalapeños with lemon and olive oil,
- Black mussels, sautéed chorizo and tomato with grilled bread,
- Crumbed pork cutlet, wilted spinach, parsnip purée and herb butter; or
- Seasonal cheese with accompaniments Lutzenberger Swiss Gruyère & Rians Cabécou du Périgord)
To finish there was:
- Whole seasonal fruit
- Chocolate mousse tart with raspberry purée and sour cream
- Maggie Beer ice cream
As I was quite full from the laksa I had eaten in the lounge I made do with the soup, grilled veggies and some cheese. I cannot fault any component of dinner, the soup was served hot and was well balanced, the veggies were perfectly cooked with a good kick from the chilli and the cheeses were excellent.
The selection of drinks was as always top notch; I stuck with a chardonnay but I saw that the Shaw & Smith Sauvignon blanc was a hit throughout the cabin. After dinner, the lights were dimmed and everyone, either tried to catch some sleep, work or watch something and two hours later it was time to land. Having said our goodbyes to the crew, we headed off to collect our bags, which were just beginning to come out when we reached the carousel, so the business class bag stickers were working well.
All in all, I cannot fault the Domestic Qantas Business Class experience on the A330, the service has always been first rate but if anything, it has become even better with time and now with the Vantage XL seat flying between Melbourne and Perth has never been a more enjoyable experience. The only caveat I would make is that the A330-200 service only runs throughout the week, and on the weekends the route is handled by 737-800s, which do not have the lie-flat seats, so if your itinerary allows I would strongly suggest a weekday flight.
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