The Melbourne to Los Angeles route was the first to receive Qantas’ flagship A380 when the airline took delivery of their new jets in 2008. During 2010 I was able to try first hand what it was like to travel one of the longest flights in the world on the new Queen of the skies when travelling to New York via Los Angeles.
Qantas offers a daily Airbus A380 service from Melbourne to Los Angeles with a scheduled arrival allowing it to connect with QF11, the Sydney flight which continues from Los Angeles onto New York’s John F. Kennedy airport. As with its Sydney cousin the connecting flight to New York is downgraded from an A380 to an older (yet updated to the A380 interior) Boeing 747-400 for the journey across the US.
Qantas continues to offer one of the best economy experiences available for Australians travelling from Australia to the US East Coast. For full details on the Qantas Economy experience visit our comprehensive Qantas Airline Guide for more information.
Qantas is the only airline that currently offers a 4 class service from Australia’s East Coast to New York. Offering daily departures from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with daily connections to New York via Los Angeles.
Check-in at Melbourne international airport was an absolute breeze, I had stayed the night previously at the Melbourne Airport Hilton (now the Parkroyal Melbourne Airport) which made getting to the airport a delight. As I was a member of the Qantas Club I was able to check-in at the dedicated desks, next to the Business counters.
When I was greeted by the agent (there was no one else in the queue) I handed over my itinerary and my Passport and checked to see if my request for an aisle seat was available, which it was. I asked how full the flight was and told that in economy today it was only 70% full and asked if there was anyone assigned to the seat next to me, which there wasn’t, I asked if it could be blocked so that I could get some sleep for the flight, the check-in agent confirmed to my astonishment that the two seats next to me (between the aisle and the window) had been blocked and I would have the whole row to myself, barring any last minute changes. A great start to the flight already!!
As I was travelling in economy I was not entitled to any lounge use as part of my ticket, I was however a Qantas Club member and as such I had access to the Qantas Business Lounge. At Melbourne Airport all the airline lounges are tucked away in a sub-Teriann area of the terminal, with the exception of the Qantas First Lounge.
The Qantas Business lounge is small but adequate. I was one of the first in during the morning prior to boarding and helped myself to some breakfast consisting of toast and a fruit salad. Whilst waiting and watching the morning news on a nearby television I suddenly felt very claustrophobic, as there are no windows in the lounge, I decided to leave the lounge earlier than expected and wait in the boarding area.
As a premium carrier the offering for the Melbourne Business Lounge was very disappointing and had I been paying a full Business Class fare I would have been very frustrated at the experience.
Boarding for flight #93 was from gate 10, one of Melbourne Airports specifically designed A380 compatible gates. The original boarding time for this flight was 09:20 (for a 10:00am departure) however as the crowd of passengers grew and the time approached 10:00am the Qantas ground staff finally advised why there was a delay in boarding. Apparently the aircraft required substantial cleaning after the previous inbound flight from Los Angeles, however this did little to appease the crowd, especially seeing as approx 5 firefighters were seen entering and exiting the aircraft during the extended waiting period.
Once boarding was eventually called it was done so in no specific order, Qantas does allow for priority boarding for its premium passengers travelling in Premium Economy, Business and First Class, however given the nature of the gate arrangement at Melbourne Airport all had to line up together for pre-screening (a normal practice for US bound flights out of Australia) before gaining access to the premium boarding lanes.
For the remaining passengers in economy, once we got through the first screening area, we made our way down to the areobridge where I was surprised to see that there was no secondary queue to enter the aircraft, and I made my way onto the A380 (my first time on the aircarft) and made my way down to my assigned seat 58H. Qantas splits its economy class into 3 distinct zones, dictated by seat colour, on its A380 aircraft, red, green and orange, I had the pleasure of sitting in the red zone for the flight across the Pacific.
Being the flagship of the Qantas fleet, and relatively new in aircraft age, the economy seats on the Qantas A380 are some of the most comfortable I have sat on for a long haul flight in a long time. The seat offers a generous 32inches of pitch (distance between your seat and the seat in front) and is just over 18inches wide. The economy seat also offers a new sleeping net which drops down from under the seat in front for passengers to put their feet in while sleeping or relaxing to increase comfort. Unfortunately given my height (6’3) I was unable to make use of this feature, however when I spoke to other passengers they said that it did in fact help them to sleep more comfortably.
Qantas positions itself as a premium carrier and particularly on its Pacific routes to Los Angeles, New York and Dallas. The Melbourne to Los Angeles route was the first to receive the A380 and for most travellers economy travel is the only choice when it comes to air travel, with the introduction of the A380 the 14+ hour flight has become a great deal more comfortable.
The amenity kit provided by Qantas in their economy cabin is nothing if not basic. It has the pre-requisit eye-shades, socks, toothpaste and toothbrush presented in a small plastic zip-lock bag.
In addition to the individual amenity kits provided each passenger had a pillow and blanket placed on their seat and complimentary headphones were provided.
Qantas will, when available, try and provide Platinum and Platinum grade frequent flyers with a set of business class noise-cancelling headphones, that is if they are not travelling with their own.
Given its mid morning scheduled departure time the first (of two) meals served on the flight is lunch. Some passengers I spoke with confirmed my suspicion that they treated the meal more like an evening dinner, that is their mindset was to enjoy the meal and then if possible to get some sleep. The meal options were the pretty standard (at least in economy) chicken or beef. As I was seated toward the front of economy (in the red zone) I was able to get my choice which was a beef casserole type dish. It was accompanied by a small (very cold) potato salad, bread roll and a small packet of cheese and crackers.
The portion size for the meal, in my opinion, was sufficient, I am normally quite a big eater and found that it sufficed my appetite. A couple of hours after the main course had been taken away the crew came through with dessert, which for the main meal of the flight was a rock hard Mango Weiss ice cream bar. Whilst very tasty I had to actually wait for about 10 minutes before I could eat it as it was impossible to bite into given how cold it was. About an hour after dessert had been consumed the crew once again came through the cabin and offered everyone the choice of either a hot chocolate or camomile tea. I was looking forward to the hot chocolate as I had it on a previous flight and enjoyed it immensely, and once again I wasn’t disappointed, and the addition of a small marshmallow was a welcome addition.
One of the best aspects of a long haul journey with Qantas is their Snack on Q bag the crew distributed shortly after the hot chocolate service. The Snack on Q bag is designed as an intermediary meal / snack option for its economy class passengers during the flight. The bag itself contains a small bottle of water (which can be refilled at one of the water stations at the rear of the cabin), a Carmen’s muesli bar, a small bag of chips and a box of mouth mints. One of the things I like the most out the kit is the bag that it comes in, on all my previous trips with Qantas I have kept the bag and it has become a great option to keep small keepsakes from the journey.
One of Qantas’ biggest selling points for its new A380 service was the self service bars that were now available to economy passengers. Whilst unfortunately not containing any alcohol the bars contained a great supply of small snacks (small chocolate bars, health bars and biscuits as well as additional water bottles and cans of soft drink. The bars themselves were a constant hive of activity as passengers were continuously topping up their snack supply when they were not asleep. It must be said that the crew did a great job of keeping up with demand of keeping it restocked, with the service closing just prior to breakfast being served about 2 1/2 hours before landing.
There is something special about the smell of breakfast on a long haul flight to Los Angeles from Australia. It signals that the long journey is coming to an end and (for me in particular) it means another hot meal is on the way! Breakfast on this service was served about 2 1/2 hours prior to landing into Los Angeles. Once again two options were available, a continental option of a fruit salad, cereal and small pastry or a hot option, which is what I chose. The hot breakfast option on this flight contained a selection of fruit, a small pastry, orange juice, coffee and a hot dish that included a sausage, egg, beans and spinach. Overall the meal was ok, the hot portion was not the best I had had on a long haul Qantas flight, however it was certainly enough to get me through until I could have something a bit more substantial at the hotel.
One of the biggest concerns most travellers have when they are about to face a long-haul journey (especially in economy) is how will I keep myself entertained, especially if you are the type of person who for the life of them cannot sleep on an airplane.
Fear not when travelling long-haul with Qantas they have one of the best in-flight entertainment systems of all the airlines flying across the Pacific between Australia and America. The Qantas A380 boasts the latest Panasonic seat back entertainment units and with over 1,000 different options to choose from finding something you will enjoy is easy.
During the flight I watched a number of movies and TV shows including The A-Team, The Office and a number of other interesting shows and documentaries. Qantas also offers detailed destination guides which is great for travellers to really get into the mood and emerse themselves in their destinations as soon as they get onboard.
Qantas has a reputation of being somewhat hit and miss when it comes to the quality of the staff on its international long haul operations. This stems from the fact that most of the older senior cabin crew are used on their older aircraft such as the Boeing 747s & 767s and Airbus A330s. When Qantas introduced their A380s to service they did so with a new set of crew that were recruited on vastly different packages to their counterparts working on older aircraft. In short the A380 crews tend to be younger compared to their fellow crew members who operate on the older aircraft.
As this route was on one of the new A380 the crew was younger however they were no less knowledgeable than their peers and provided excellent service throughout the flight. One of my previous biggest issues with Qantas staff has been their attitude to requesting additional service during what is deemed the “sleep” portion of the flight once the meals have been collected and the Snack on Q bags handed out. On many an occasion (on previous Pacific flights) I would find myself requesting additional drinks and food as I rarely sleep, and this was often met with rudeness, when I dared stick my head into their galley and politely ask for a soft drink. I am pleased to say that this time there was no need to test the crew on this scale as the new in-flight self-service bars which are set up in economy provided the perfect option, and when staff did come through the cabin to offer fruit or water it was done so in a perfectly professional manner.
The courtesy of some of the staff extended beyond the flight, after I had cleared immigrations and had collected my bags while waiting for customs some of the Flight Attendants who had just come off the flight were also making their way through immigration and they made sure that any passengers who entered the customs queue at the same time made sure they were processed first before going through themselves. Which for anyone who has flown on an American based carrier will know that whatever service you may get on board certainly does not extend once the flight ends.
Overall Qantas offers a superior economy product when compared to other airlines currently flying across the Pacific from Australia to the East Coast of America. Whilst this particular flight was taken in late 2010 Qantas has continued to improve on its Economy offering by introducing industry leading options for economy passengers to choose their meals ahead of their flights.
Also by having upgraded the large majority of their Boeing 747 fleet to the same interiors as those found on the A380 continues to offer a standardised high level of comfort for passengers travelling in economy across the Pacific.
The in-flight entertainment and snack bars are what truly set Qantas apart in my opinion as it allows the passenger to enjoy the journey whilst being in control of their own comfort rather than habing to continually rely on the assistance of crew throughout the flight.