Flight review: Qantas flight QF15 Brisbane to Los Angeles in Economy on the 747

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UPDATE: This flight was originally taken and reviewed in January 2016, since that time Qantas has removed the iconic 747 from its Brisbane to Los Angeles service and replaced it with its newest addition to the fleet the Boeing 787 DreamLiner.


Qantas operates a daily service between the Queensland capital city of Brisbane and Los Angles flying its 3-class Boeing 747-400 under flight number QF15. The Brisbane to Los Angeles service offers customers an easy 1-stop connection from the Sunshine State through to New York transiting from QF15 to QF11 which continues from Los Angeles to New York’s JFK Airport daily.

The plane that operates QF11 from Los Angeles to New York is the same Boeing 747 which is flown from Brisbane to Los Angeles, so if you are travelling on QF15 and transiting to New York, there is no need to worry if your flight is delayed out of Brisbane, because no one is getting to New York on Qantas until QF15 arrives.

Read all our Qantas reviews on flights to America from Australia

VisitingNewYork.com.au recently travelled from Brisbane to Los Angeles to see how the service compares to other Qantas economy flights across the Pacific. As well as connecting through to New York, Brisbane passengers also have the option of connecting to over 30 additional US based cities through the airlines alliance with American Airlines.

Read on below to find out what VisitingNewYork.com.au thought about the flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles.

The aircraft operating QF 15 from Brisbane to Los Angeles continues from Los Angeles to New York’s JFK Airport as QF11.

Our Verdict

Website: Entertainment:
Check-in: Dining / Meals:
Lounge: Staff:
Boarding:    
Seat: Overall: 3 and a half star overall rating

Inside Word

Route: Sydney (SYD) to Los Angeles (LAX)
Airline: Qantas
Class: Economy
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400ER
Flight #: QF 15
Seat #: 44D
What’s Hot  
   Extra service because of Platinum Frequent Flyer level
   Small private cabin at the front of economy
   The Great Wall of Tim Tams
   Great selection of movies
What’s Not  
   The quality of food wasn’t great – the diversity was a great idea but the execution and final product left a lot to be desired
   Not receiving an amenity kit
   Having milk spilt on me during the breakfast service, and then not even being offered a tea, coffee or juice

Check-in

As I had caught the train from Brisbane city to the airport it was an easy walk from the station platform up to the departures concourse of Brisbane International Airport. The Qantas check-in desks are located on the far right hand side of the terminal as you enter, and this morning was especially busy as Qantas had no less than 3 flights departing within 1:15 minutes of each other heading to Hong Kong, Tokyo and QF15 to Los Angeles. As I am Platinum Frequent Flyer I was able to bypass the economy line and check-in at the Business Class counter where there was no one waiting, although I still had to wait about 3 minutes while the agents finished checking-in the previous passengers.

Check-in for Qantas flight QF15 from Brisbane to Los Angeles
Qantas business class check-in counters

During check-in I was given a Express Path departures card which allowed me to bypass the majority of the immigration and security queue waiting to be processed. Check-in overall was very efficient, as I was stopping in Los Angeles on this outbound trip to New York the agent ensured that my bag was only checked through until LAX and confirmed that I was travelling on the US Visa Waiver Program and that all the details I had previously entered in my booking were still current. I made some quick small talk about the (at the time) pending changes to the US Visa Waiver Program and enquired as to whether or not there had been any issues so far. She advised that a couple of people were unsure if they were impacted, but as they hadn’t been officially introduced as yet there were no real issues to speak of. After being handed my boarding pass and baggage claim card I was advised where to access the lounge, which was helpful, as this was the first time I had flown out of Brisbane internationally.


After completing checking I quickly changed some Australian currently into US Dollars and made my way the escalators to Immigration and security screening. As I was about to make my way down the escalators I decided to try the new Digital Immigration Card service which Brisbane Airport has introduced. Basically what it does is allow you to enter your personal information into the BNE Airport App and then via a QR you scan your information into a kiosk and the kiosk will then print out a normal green departure card which you can present to Immigration officials prior to security. In my opinion this is a great option for frequent business travellers however for the occasional leisure traveller there is no great use in having to enter all your information in to their app and then having it printed out for you, unless of course you have completely illegible handwriting like my Dad.

Related: Changes to the US Visa Waiver Program for Australian travellers

After breezing through Immigration and security I made my way through Duty Free and over to the Qantas First Lounge, which was a disappointment as it is nothing like the Sydney First Lounge, however I had expected this, as Qantas no longer operates any flights with a First Class cabin it is essentially a Platinum Frequent Flyer Lounge, and its tiny. I will post a full review in due course, however suffice to say once I had finished my cappuccino I decided on a more filling breakfast at one of the restaurants located in the terminal itself.

About 15 minutes before boarding was due to be called I made my way towards gate 86 at the very end of the Southern pier from which Qantas flight QF15 would be departing today.

Concourse leading down to gate 86

Boarding

Boarding for our flight was due to begin at 10:15 however this time came and went and I always find it amazing how fidgety people can become when boarding gets delayed. I find particularly funny that other frequent flyers are trying to get on the plane as quickly as possible simply just to sit there while the rest of the passengers are boarded. Boarding was finally called just before 10:30, families with young children and passengers requiring assistance were called followed by Business, Premium Economy and Gold and Platinum Frequent Flyers. As is pretty standard with flights heading to the United States there was a second round of “random” screening being conducted just before the Qantas gate agents were checking boarding passes and Passports. It seems on this occasion the security guards had a very specific list of names they were checking against. As I wasn’t on the list I was allowed to make my way through the ticket agents and onto the Qantas Boeing 747-438ER to begin what would be a 12.5 flight across the Pacific to Los Angeles.

Economy & Premium boarding lanes in operation
The usual queue to be first on board

During the boarding process I was getting excited that the seat(s) next to me may remain empty, however as luck would have it, it seemed that the second to last group of people to board this flight were seated next to me, a family of 3 (a mother and her two teenage children) would be my seat mates for the flight.

Our Qantas Boeing 747 “Nullabour” who’ll be taking us across to Los Angeles
A small private cabin at the beginning of economy on the Qantas 747

As it seemed that most passengers had now boarded the crew began to hand out menus for today’s flight. As I had previously used the Qantas Eat-on-Q function to pre-order my meal it was going to be interesting if the system would recognise my order when it came time to receive my meal.

Today’s menu on flight QF15 from Brisbane to Los Angeles in Economy

After the menus had been distributed the crew a senior crew member came and introduced herself (I would later find out it was the Customer Service Supervisor) to the passenger sitting in row 43, the first row of economy, which has significantly more legroom. She offered the passenger and his son a welcome drink from the Premium Economy cabin and Business Class blankets and pillows. I could only assume at the time that the passenger was either a Platinum One Frequent Flyer (the highest non-invitation level of the Qantas loyalty program) or a member of their Chairman’s Lounge (the rarefied experience of the invitation only & most coveted club in Australia).

The flight deck made an announcement that there was some water problem which the engineers were working on that was delaying our departure, however was quick to reassure the passengers that the expected flight time of 13.5 hours was in fact only going to be about 12 hours & 15 minutes so we would still be arriving on time. The cynic in me did make me wonder whether or not it was a Qantas Operations Centre decision to delay the flight on the ground in Brisbane rather than have to burn additional fuel in flight by having to slow the aircraft down before our allotted arrival time into Los Angeles.

The problem was fixed and we officially pushed back from the gate at 11:53, 53 minutes after our scheduled departure. We had a short taxi to the southern end the main runway at Brisbane airport and we were airborne by 12:05 making our way across the Pacific.

On all my recent flights in Qantas economy and Premium economy I have not received an amenity kit, even a basic one with eye-shades and ear plus which are handy no matter what class you are travelling in. I am not sure if you are now expected to request one, however I am getting disappointed with the level of consistency from Qantas regarding their amenity kits. For example the times I have flown from Los Angeles to New York in Business on a day time flight I have received an amenitiy kit every time, and in my opinion, there is absolutely no need for it.

Seat

For this flight I had selected seat 44D, which is the second row of economy on the Qantas Boeing 747. I had the option of choosing the first row of economy, however I decided against taking the first row mainly because of the fact that they arm rests have the in-flight entertainment monitors built into the arms and thus cannot be raised. Whilst the extra leg room would have been very nice, I was happy with the decision I had made. Row 44 is part of a small cabin right behind Premium Economy, which is great as it adds to the level of privacy, however it does limit the amount of overhead bin space that is available. I also opted for the aisle seat on the inside block of 4 seats to increase the chances of not having someone sitting next to me, but also if someone did end up sitting next to me it would only mean that 1 person would potentially be asking me to get up during the flight, rather than 2 if I had been sitting on the window side of the plane. As it turned out having a family of 3 sitting next to me meant that they would rather disturb their family members when they needed to get up, rather than the 6’3 stranger sitting next to them, that’s a win for me!

You may also like: Best seats in economy when flying to New York from Australia

The seat itself is a standard Qantas international economy seat offering approx. 31inches of pitch (the distance from the front of the seat to the back of the seat in front) and approx 17.5 inches of width. As far as comfort goes, I have always found the Marc Newsom designed seats in the economy cabin to be well suited for long-haul flying. I had two major disappointments when it came to the seat on this flight. The first was that as with most of the ageing 747’s in the Qantas fleet the entertainment system boxes are still located in the floor adjacent to the supports for the seats, which if you are unlucky enough to get one on your flight means that the space available for your feet is greatly reduced. Which I don’t often mind when I am flying domestically, but when you are going to be renting the seat for up to 15 hours it can be extremely annoying, which is what I was looking forward to on this flight.

Legroom on the Qantas 747 in Economy

The second gripe of the seat is that there is very little room in the seat back pocket. I used it to store my iPad and noise-cancelling headphones case and found that I was left with very little room and make a tight squeeze that much more uncomfortable.

Not a great deal of storage for personal items

As I boarded and took my seat the crew had placed a blanket, pillow and headphones on my seat, which I knew I would more than likely not be using on the flight so I quickly placed them in the overhead locker.

Pillow and blanked provided on each seat
Seat amenities for flight QF15 from Brisbane to Los Angeles included a pillow, blanked and headphones
A nice quiet and empty forward economy cabin

A further benefit of sitting in the very front cabin of economy of the Boeing 747 and sitting in row 44 meant that there was no one directly behind me (except when the lavatory was in use) so that I could recline my seat as soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off without wanting to get anyone behind me upset. I found that there was no reduction in the amount of recline that I had, even though Seat Guru indicates that one of the drawbacks of the seat maybe the loss of recline.

Given the cramped nature of economy, the tray table in economy for 747 passengers is smaller than what you would see on a domestically operated Boeing 737, which for me is another small detraction. The main issue came about when I was trying to get some work done on my laptop, it meant that I couldn’t have an open drink on the tray table whilst I was working on my laptop, ensuring that I could only use a bottle of some description that I had to store in the seat back pocket – further reducing the amount of space available.

A small tray table in Qantas International economy on the Boeing 747

Meals

The meals and the service of the meals is where Qantas really stands apart from its competition on the trans-Pacific route. Qantas has invested heavily over the past 5 years to improve the passenger experience in all cabins of their international aircraft and on international routes. Even when the airline was announcing massive Billion dollar losses it did not stop the company from investing in improving and upgrading the experience for passengers, and this is still evident today. It is the little touches including a welcome drink of Bickford’s Signature Blueberry and Pomegranate served about 20 minutes after take-off, which the drink itself was refreshing and quite enjoyable.

Bickfords Original welcome drink offered onboard QF15 from Brisbane to Los Angeles in economy

After the welcome drink was taken away I quickly got changed out of my jeans and shirt into some PJ pants I had from a previous flight in Business class and a light shirt which I have found is excellent for sleeping / resting in on planes. As I was getting back to my seat the Customer Service Supervisor was coming by and introduced herself and offered to hand my jeans and shirt for me in Business class, at the same time offered me a glass of red or white wine and some nuts from Premium Economy. I chose a red wine and she returned with them almost immediately and also brought me a Courier Mail newspaper, to my delight it was also delivered in the small Qantas wine glasses you get in Business and Premium Economy, I must admit receiving some perplexed looks from people sitting around me, holding Platinum level status with Qantas certainly has its perks. The economy cabin crew would continue to top up my wine and that of the gentleman seated in front of me in row 43 during the flight.

Bottle of water handed out by the crew shortly after take-off

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Shortly after receiving my wine and nuts, the economy crew continued to distribute bottled water throughout the cabin to all passengers.

Premium Economy snacks in economy – not bad at all

This is another small aspect of the Qantas experience that I believe sets it apart particularly from American based carriers operating on the route. On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Sydney on American Airlines, during the flight I asked the crew if I could get a bottle of water which they refused, when I asked for a glass of water I was directed to a station where it was set up for self service (which I had no problem in doing) except for the fact that there were 3 flight attendants just sitting in the galley gossiping. I am all for helping myself, but they should remember that they are essentially working in a service environment (albeit with a stronger requirement on safety than a typical service job) but the basics are still the same, if a guest, passenger or customer asks for assistance, it is basic hospitality to assist that person as much as possible, not necessarily always undertaken on US based airlines.

About 1.5 hours into the flight the lunch service began. It was at this point I was thinking whether or not my decision to pre-order my meal would in fact have been a waste of time or if the system would work and I would be offered my choice of lunch without being prompted. Alas no mention of my pre-ordered meal was made and I was asked what I would like for lunch. I enquired if they had any recognition of my order and the lovely Flight Attendant did make mention to sometimes having problems with the system so they have found that it is just easier to ask passengers when doing the meal service, unless it is a designated special (Vegetarian, Kosher etc) meal.

The Eat-on-Q pre-order system turned out to be a complete waste of time

I chose the Beef Ragu rigatoni which was accompanied by sage roasted pumpkin and parmesan. The meal itself was very heavy with the pumpkin being the standout. It was served with a garlic bread roll and Ruby & Roy’s salted caramel chocolate moose. I was offered a refill of the Cab Sav from Premium Economy however the FA advised me that it would have to be in a plastic cup, which I said was more than fine, at which point she made her way into the Premium Economy cabin and brought down a fresh glass and the bottle of red and proceeded to pour me a fresh glass.

Lunch is served on Qantas flight QF15 from Brisbane to Los Angeles
Todays lunch: Beef Ragu rigatoni with sage roasted pumpkin and parmesan
And for dessert – Chocolate moose

During the lunch service I asked for my TV monitor to be restarted as I had been having some issues watching TED 2 on the in-flight entertainment system. My seat was restarted and didn’t have any further issues throughout the flight.

Lunch and its remnants were cleared about an hour after receiving the main meal which was quickly followed by tea, coffee or hot chocolate service. I chose a coffee as I wanted to try and avoid sleep at all costs on this flight so that I could have a quick nap when I got to the hotel in Los Angeles to try and get by body clock aligned to New York time as quickly as possible. Accompanying the coffee was a small Lindt chocolate ball which was delicious. When I had asked for sugar the FA realised they had forgotten to load sugar on to their cart so had to quickly retreat back to the galley to collect them, which wasn’t more than about 30 seconds.

Coffee and chocolate for after lunch

For the next couple of hours I alternated from doing some work and watching some movies before getting up and having a walk around the cabin and coming across the Great Wall of Tim Tams which is found at the very back of the Boeing 747. I kid you not, Qantas has an entire wall directly behind the last row of middle 4 seats, of individually wrapped Tim Tams – I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I had to severely control myself and instead opted to also get a small Carmen’s muesli bar. I was a little disappointed that I was not able to help myself to a drink, a bottle of water or soft-drink, which is something that is available on the Qantas A380 in economy class (well at least it was when I last flew in economy from Melbourne to Los Angeles).

My favourite place on the plane – The Great Wall of Tim Tams

About 5 hours into the flight the cabin crew did a small round of snacks which included cheese and crackers or M&Ms, which seeing as I was planning on visiting the M&M store in New York I thought I would pace myself and opted for the cheese and crackers. Within 5 minutes of the snack being offered another Flight Attendant came around offering Weis ice-creams, which I gladly accepted.

Time for a snack – Weis Ice-cream, cheese and crackers, Tim Tam and a muesli bar

About an hour and half of the ice-cream delivery another round of food was offered this time it was a small snack box of hamburger slider and mini hot-dog, which is an obvious nod to the country of destination, in my opinion another great way which Qantas tries to improve on the journey even for its economy passengers. However my joy was rather short lived as the taste and texture of the snack box left a lot to the imagination. They were both incredibly dry and rather tasteless. The idea is great but the execution was poorly lacking in flavour.

Slider and Roller – Mini burger and mini hot dog
Great idea but tasted very average

After finishing the mini hot-dog and slider I asked for a Bailey’s on ice, and again this was delivered in a glass from the Premium Economy cabin which I thought was a very nice touch.

Ordered a Bailey’s on ice and came in a proper glass

One of the best moments on a flight across the pacific is when the smells of breakfast begin to waft through the cabin. It means that breakfast is on the way, but also you are getting that much closer to touching down in the Land of the Free Home of the Brave and on this occasion into the City of Angels. On today’s flight breakfast was served a little earlier than normal (in my experience) and we were offered the choice of a hot breakfast including scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, hash brown and roasted tomatoes or seasonal fruit, accompanied by a muffin and Greek yoghurt and granola.

I chose the hot option and it while the portions for the hot breakfast were good – the taste was well below par – especially the hash brown as all I could taste was freezer burn! During the breakfast service it was really obvious that the Flight Attendant that was serving my side of the cabin had overslept her alarm and was still panicked as everything she did was rushed, to the point where a 1liter bottle of milk slipped from her hand (and luckily) fell back into the cart, although not before spilling half a cup of milk on me. This was followed by the fact that no one in our row was actually offered tea or coffee or a cold drink to accompany our meal.

Breakfast on QF15 from Brisbane to Los Angeles
Good portions but tasted terrible
Muffin, yoghurt and granola – probably the best part of the meal

Breakfast was removed about an hour and fifteen minutes prior to wheels down in Los Angeles. I took the opportunity to retrieve my clothes from the business class cabin, however I they were not stored in the main closet so I had to ask one of the Business Class cabin FAs where else they might have been stored and I was asked my seat number, which I provided as 44D and was met with the response of, we wouldn’t have hung your clothes up here. I then made mention that the Customer Service Supervisor actually insisted on hanging them for me, that seemed to get the FAs attention and she dropped everything she was doing to find my clothes. Once I had my clothes I quickly got changed, brushed my teeth and generally freshened up before our arrival into Los Angeles.

Entertainment

The entertainment system and option on Qantas international economy is up there with some of the best around. Sure the system itself is getting a bit old and the touch screen isn’t quite as responsive as it was brand new, but in my opinion it has always worked well, even when needing a reboot (as it did on this flight). The content is always fresh and I always seem to find at least 2 or 3 movies that I would like to watch during long-haul flights. As a back-up though I always tend to make sure that my iPad is full of new TV Shows to watch.

Qantas seat-back entertainment screen on QF15

On this flight I managed to get some work done, albeit it in a very cramped environment when the guy in front of me decided to recline his seat after the lunch service, and watch 4 movies:

  • Ted 2
  • Entourage: The Movie
  • Jurassic Park
  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
In-flight map and watching Chicago PD on my iPad

The size of the in-flight entertainment screen in Qantas international economy is adequate in my opinion, it provides decent clarity for the image, whilst not being to large seeing as it is only a couple of inches from your face if the seat in front of you is reclined. I didn’t really use the radio or music functions of the system, and had previously seen all the TV shows which has been loaded for the month of January onto the system, and I tend to binge watch most of my favourite TV shows directly on my iPad either at home or when travelling so had seen most of what they had available.

Using my iPad on the tray table took up most of the space available

One thing that does really impress now is that Qantas is offering to screen HBO shows on their flights. I had previously watched Ballers last September and there were other great shows available as well from HBO for this flight.

Staff / Cabin Crew

The crew overall were great, especially the Customer Service Supervisor, whom regularly checked in during the flight to make sure everything was ok and to see if I had any concerns. The only slight slippages were the breakfast service where milk was accidently poured on me, and the fact that they Customer Service Supervisor only remembered that she had taken my clothes and hung them up as we were on final approach, which at that stage probably would have been too late to change before we got to the terminal. Apart from that all the crew I encountered were great, and they made regular trips through the cabin during the quieter parts of the flight to offer water, juice and snacks, even outside of the scheduled service.

I rang the call button once to request a Bailey’s with ice and the service was prompt and polite.

Cabin

The interiors of this particular Qantas 747 were beginning to show its age. In particular during take-off the overhead bin above seats 43 F and 43G started to leak water and during take-off a young boy who was seated in 43F managed to find himself having a shower in economy at about 10,000 feet. Once the crew were able to get out of their seats they quickly attributed the problem to the air conditioning system, and a little worryingly, announced that it happened all the time, just a different spots on the plane. Apart from general wear and tear there doesn’t really seem to be anything to wrong with the cabin itself, all of the Qantas 747s have recently (in the last 3 – 5 years) have undergone a refurbishment to bring them into line with the A380 interiors, with almost all being completed.

Update: The Brisbane to Los Angeles service has now been replaced by the new Boeing 787 DreamLiner aircraft

A messy bathroom towards the end of a 12.5 flight
The Boeing 747 cabin of qf15 from Brisbane to Los Angeles
It’s still pretty cramped in economy – always good to stretch the legs”

Arrival

Being seated at the front of the economy cabin also means that you get to depart the plane before the bulk of the passengers, and more importantly get to the Immigration queue before 70% of the passengers on the flight. One thing I noticed at Los Angeles’ Tom Bradley International Terminal on this trip was that the teriminal had changed some of the temporary signage which made it rather confusing as to where passengers who were arriving under the Visa Waiver Program had to enter. I was almost fooled into lining up in the Canadian and US Passport Holders line until I saw the Visa Waiver sign had been turned around to face away from where the bulk of the Qantas flights arrive into the Immigration area from.

On the arrivals walkway at Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX shortly after arriving

If you are arriving into Los Angeles’ TBIT and you have been approved for a Visa Waiver entry and you have entered the US previously, and have a machine readable passport, make your way to the far left hand side of the Immigration area where a group of approx 30 – 40 kiosks are located. These will help you get processed as quickly as possible and get you on your way to your connecting flight, or in my case waiting for a hotel shuttle.

Heading down to Immigration and security at LAX
Welcome to the United States
Kerbside at LAX waiting for the airport shuttle

Overall Impressions of Qantas flight QF15 from Brisbane to Los Angeles in economy

Having not flown on Qantas in economy on their 747 for a number of years I was very impressed with the overall changes they had made to the service, and by upgrading the cabin to be similar to that of the A380 make the overall comfort level of travelling in economy, even for 14 hours, very bearable. That being said, I will be putting them further to the test in the coming weeks when I fly straight through from Sydney to New York (via Los Angeles) to test the full economy experience when flying from Australia’s East Coast to New York without my usual stop in Los Angeles to try and reduce jet-lag.

Timing of service

Below is an overview of the timing of the major aspects of the flight and in particular the service to better give you an understanding of how the flight it self unfolds, and in my opinion (particularly compared to other airlines {cough cough American Airlines} how attentive the cabin crew are during the service, for the whole cabin. Times indicated below are Australian Eastern (Brisbane) Time:

  • 10:15am – Scheduled boarding
  • 10:27am – Actual boarding
  • 11:53am – Push back from gate
  • 12:05pm – Wheels up
  • 12:19pm – Seat belt sign turned off
  • 12:28pm – Welcome drink offered
  • 12:35pm – Wine delivered with nuts and courier mail
  • 12:47pm – Water distributed
  • 1:30pm – Lunch service commenced
  • 1:37pm – Lunch order taken
  • 2:36pm – Lunch cleared away
  • 2:58pm – Tea / coffee / hot chocolate service
  • 3:42pm – Wine refill
  • 4:05pm – Snack (Tim Tam from back bar)
  • 4:52pm – Snack round of cheese and crackers or M&Ms
  • 4:57pm – Ice cream service
  • 6:27pm – Slider and hamburger
  • 9:28pm – Lights start to come back on
  • 9:45pm – Breakfast served
  • 10:40pm – Breakfast removed
  • 11:55pm – Wheels down
  • 12:06pm – Arrived at gate 152

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