Qantas 737 Business Class - How does it stack up?
They say that good things come in small sizes. Well, Business Class does not get much smaller than on a 737. The question is whether the experience lives up to the price tag. To determine this, I will be reviewing my last flight from Melbourne to Adelaide with Qantas in Business. A direct Business Class flight will cost you either 16,000 Frequent Flyer Points or $771AUD. In my case, I was feeling flush with points as I had recently received 30,000 points from a referral for American Express, so I decided I could splurge. The other reason for opting to go business class for a 1 hour 20min flight was that it was a special occasion—my wife and I were on our way to Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island to celebrate my birthday.
We had an early start catching QF675 departing at 08:35 as we needed to make a midday connection for Kingscote (Kangaroo Island) from Adelaide. So as to keep life easy, we spent the night at the Park Royal at Melbourne Airport, which meant that there was no hassle with transportation. We simply walked across to Terminal 1 from the hotel and joined the Business Class check-in line.
Being a weekday, Melbourne airport was heaving with business passengers making their way to work, but the check-in queue moved reasonably quickly, and our baggage was soon heading off down the conveyor belt for a bit of stress testing. With boarding passes in hand (I am very old school, no Q code boarding pass for me), we joined the priority line for security screening. As far as I can tell, there is no difference between the speed with which the priority line and the normal line move. If anything, the priority line moves more slowly as all the business people have to take out their laptops. Having successfully passed through the body scanner and having undergone some random explosive screening, we were through the tedious part of travelling and could now focus on the good parts—eating and drinking.
The Business Class Lounge
When I booked the flight, I knew that the value of travelling Business Class was going lie just as much with the preflight experience as with the actual time in the air. Due to the short flight time, we were going to spend more time getting to the plane than actually being on the plane. What I was looking for was speed, peace and quiet, and a decent cup of coffee. So far so good: the check-in process had gone as speedily as could be expected given the time of day, and it was now time for some quiet relaxation and coffee.
The Qantas Business Class lounge at Melbourne Airport is very conveniently located—to the right of security, just past the Henry Bucks outlet, which my wife has banned me from going into. Through the doors, you head up the escalators and turn right to be warmly greeted by the Qantas staff. The Business Class lounge is a very comfortable space in which to while away time. Along the right-hand side run huge floor to ceiling windows that let in plenty of natural light, and provide a panoramic view of the runway.
The ceiling is incredibly high, and hanging from it are some very impressive lights. There are large TVs mounted to the walls; some showing flight information, others Sky News. There is a selection of seating options to choose from, bar stools, tables and chairs and plush armchairs. The decor is restful—predominantly grey tones, with the occasional accent of Qantas red thrown in.
There was already a line for the coffee. The barista was extremely fast, with orders pumped out at a rate of knots. In no time at all I was happily ensconced with my flat white, and my wife had her long macchiato topped-up. Apparently, though, only baristas in WA know exactly what her order entails. In the East it is a latte with an extra shot—I do not know if federation will ever completely work.
The lounge also serves a hot breakfast buffet. There is a choice of chicken chipolatas, scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes and mushrooms. There is also the toasting machine for fruit or plain toast as well as a pancake maker for those with a sweeter tooth. Knowing that there was going to be breakfast on the flight, I decided to restrain myself to a few sausages and yogurt with some fruity nut covering. The breakfast was excellent, especially if you would prefer to decline the food service on the flight and just catch some shut-eye or get on with some work.
The lounge also has excellent restrooms and showers; they are practically art deco in styling, with their black and white colours and industrial design features. The restroom was spotless, and the Apsar soaps and hand creams added a touch of luxury.
After whiling away a comfortable hour or so in the lounge, our flight was called, and we head off to the gate for boarding. Even though it was a 737, and therefore had only 12 business class seats, Qantas still provided a priority boarding line, and we were promptly greeted and scanned in.
Upon stepping aboard, we turned right and quickly found our seats. It was then a bit of a rush to stow our luggage and get settled, as unlike larger planes that have multiple boarding points, the 737 boards everyone from the front left door. As such, a log jam will rapidly form behind you if you are not fast, as most of Economy still has to board.
The overhead storage space, while not what I would call generous, was enough that everyone managed to store their carryon in easy reach. I would say that as long as you limit yourself to one piece of carryon, there should be no problem finding room.
The cabin is configured in a 2 by 2 configuration, with three rows of seats. These are the Qantas recliner seats—they are covered in smart burgundy leather, with a nice touch being the embossed Qantas logo in the headrest. Whilst the seats are quite wide at 22 inches (56cm), there is not a great deal of space between the rows. The seat's pitch is 37 inches (94cm). If you were wondering what the technical definition of pitch is in relation to an airline seat, it is the distance between the back of your seat and that of the seat in front of you. As you can tell from my picture, we were all pretty well packed in, and people with longer legs were not going to stretch out much.
The seat had four adjustment options that were accessible from the armrest. Two of them control the footrest, which to be honest is not worth the name, as using it merely pushes your knees up higher for no perceptible gain in comfort. Then there was a back comfort control, designed to provide lumbar support to the lower back. Personally, I could not discern much of a difference from before I pushed the button to after, but then maybe my back is just not that sensitive. Lastly, the recline option does what it says—the seat goes backwards by roughly 5 inches.
As far as the seat recline goes, it is really a case of good-news-bad-news. The good is that as there is not much recline available, so the person in front of you is not going to end up in your lap, but conversely, it also means that you are not going to get much of additional space yourself.
The wide armrest is very good as there is plenty of room for drinks and personal items, and the generous width means that there is no competition for elbow space.
On my flight, the aircraft had the new Qantas Free WiFi, which meant that our entertainment was going to be of the bring-your-own kind, as there were no screens either in the seat back in front or hanging from the ceiling. If you did not have access to some form of WiFi device, then the only entertainment available was the onboard audio stations accessible from the buttons on the armrest.
The obvious benefits of the onboard WiFi are that you can browse the internet, send emails and watch Netflix or Stan. It is also worthwhile downloading the Qantas Entertainment App, as that way you can also watch the new release movies that Qantas is showing that month. However, do not expect to be able to make voice or video calls during the flight as Qantas, in my opinion, has very sensibly disabled that feature, for the comfort/sanity of everyone on board.
With everyone settled in and the mandatory safety instructions out of the way, we were off skywards. Almost before the wheels had even been fully retracted, the meal service commenced—when Qantas advertises that the flight comes with a meals service, they are going to make sure you get one. My wife and I were sitting in row three, and by the time the steward was telling us about the options, the passengers in row 1 had already received their meals. This pace kept up, and we received our meals as row one's were being collected.
As it was a morning flight we were served breakfast and I opted for the cheese and ham omelette with spinach and tomato. The meal also came with blueberry yogurt and a choice of plain or savoury pastry. To drink there was a glass of orange juice and a choice of either tea or coffee. I really enjoyed the omelette, it arrived piping hot and there was lots of melted cheese. Breakfast really was a blink and you will miss it experience as the crew were literally whisking my cup away from me with my last sip, as by that stage we had well and truly commenced our descent. I would conclude that the meal is well worth it but do not expect to be able to savour the experience.
Having landed safely in Adelaide we thanked the crew for the excellent service and departed down the worm in search of our connecting flight to Kangaroo Island
Was it worth it?
Well, that is a harder question to answer than I expected. Compared to Qantas' other domestic business class offerings, such as its awesome A330-200, then no, it is small and underwhelming. However, as long as you are only using it for a sub-2-hour flight, then it is perfectly good and provides a full business class service—a distinct step up from economy.
The pre-flight experience is excellent. Qantas' Domestic Business Class lounges are world class, and the inflight entertainment and dining are up to Qantas' usual high standards. To be honest, with the inclusion of a meal, there is not really time to ponder the shortcomings of the seat.
For me, it comes down to this: would I choose to use my 16,000 points for the 737 Business Class experience, or would I rather sit in economy and save them for something else? The answer to which is I think I will wait for something with a lie-flat bed to come along.
- Quick check-in at Business Class counter
- Business Class lounge access
- Excellent inflight food & drink
- Priority boarding
- The seat - limited legroom/space
- No aisle access for window seats
- Not as good as the A330 (If that is an alternative)
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