For the second year in a row, Qantas have offered direct, seasonal flights between Auckland and Perth. Despite the fact that they only run on Saturday/Sunday, the service is welcome competition to Air New Zealand’s non-stop monopoly on this route.
Qantas made the hard to understand decision to discontinue all regular international services from Perth on May 12th last year, so from December 5th-April 26th this is Qantas’ only international service to or from Perth.
Prior to our flight we were visited the Auckland Qantas First lounge, which failed to impress. What did impress however were the departure screens in the terminal. After visiting as many airports as Miles Down Under, seeing ‘relax’ next to the status of a flight was slightly amusing.
With little reason to extend our stay in the Qantas lounge we wandered down to the gate when the departures sign suggested we do so. Unfortunately, this was an even poorer choice than visiting the lounge in the first place since boarding was delayed and we ended up waiting around 15 minutes before being invited to the gate.
Unlike Qantas at most other ports, priority boarding was handled reasonably well. Rather than business class and passengers holding status being called forward at the same time, they invited business class passengers to board straight after anyone who needed assistance or were traveling with children.
Qantas are currently operating an A330-200 on this route, sporting their ‘Skybed Mk 1’ business seating. Out of their current longhaul international fleet this is definitely their oldest business class product. Qantas are however going through a refresh program that will see its entire A330 fleet refurbished with new seating, although this is not expected to be completed until 2016.
The business class cabin is made up of 36, angled-flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. With most carriers offering lie-flat or direct aisle access these days, the age of these seats certainly shows. That being said the massage function is excellent and we did manage to sleep for the majority of this flight.
A small privacy screen is available between the pairs of seats if you feel you don’t like talking to your companion next door. Located in the same area are a reading light, magazine compartment and headphone jack.
The IFE is Qantas’ oldest ‘Select On-Q’ system which offers on demand content (after take off only, no gate-to-gate here) through a miserly screen, located on the bulkhead at this seat. We found it a positive that the screen is not located in the armrest, which is always cumbersome.
Most of Qantas’ competitors with more modern fleets are offering screens of this size in their economy cabins. The screen itself is touch screen but at too far a distance away to make that useful.
The content is well varied and kept us entertained with episodes of Top Gear. Having spent quite some time onboard Qantas in the past month we found there was little else we hadn’t already seen or never wanted to see at all.
In any case, the crew on this flight were exceptional. Certainly one of the best we’ve encountered on a Qantas international flight in some time.
The business class cabin was completely full on this flight however the service did not suffer at all as a result, which is notable. Indeed we found a higher standard of service than our recent flight in Qantas First.
We were impressed by the selection of pre-departure beverage options, which included mango daiquiris. Alternatives included a glass of Champagne Duval-Leroy Brut (which was opened on the ground presumably because it is the due to the fact that it was the cheapest of many champagne offerings on this flight).
We were pleasantly surprised with the menu on this flight. We could hardly believe that Qantas would have more food options available than those Qantas offered on our Dallas to Sydney flight in First.
Unfortunately though since we slept most of the flight we were unable to try any of the ‘main plates’.
We were certainly impressed with their champagne selection. Billecart-Salmon is the same as Qatar Airways serve at your seat in business class and Taittinger tends to be British Airways’ champagne of choice.
Qantas have gone down the route of not printing the full wine list on the menu. Whilst the crew are generally clued up on what they have on board, sometimes they have to check (as we have found with Air New Zealand) and overall it’s preferable to be able to see what’s available onboard with a description of the wine when deciding what to order.
Shortly before landing into Perth the crew came round to serve meals from the ‘prior to arrival’ menu. They seemed so distraught at the fact that we slept through the main meal service and attempted to force an extra serving of ‘Chicken kara-age with carrot pickles and lime mayonnaise’ but we politely declined. The meal was fine.
Out of all the flights we’ve taken with Qantas this was one of the most enjoyable, though that could be because we managed to sleep for the majority of the flight. Irrespective though, the crew were excellent and in our experience on almost any carrier is that it is the crew that can really make or break a flight, no matter what sort of seat you’re sitting in.