Qantas are in the well-publicised process of refreshing its entire A330 fleet with new business class seats. We took Qantas flight QF653 from Melbourne to Perth, which was operated by an Airbus A330-200 aircraft.
Unfortunately for us, this flight was operated by an ex-Jetstar aircraft – still sporting the same seating as it had in its former life when it shuttled passengers around in ‘Star Class’. Seats from Jetstar’s original premium cabin (later renamed business class) weren’t what we expected when we booked to fly Qantas.
In a former life these seats ran passengers to destinations such as Hawaii and Japan under the Jetstar brand. Whilst the seats may have been suitable for that use, they aren’t up to the current market standard for transcontinental flights operated by a wide-body aircraft in Australia.
This business cabin was laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration of 36 seats.
The tray table is located in the outside armrest, closest to the window or the aisle depending on what seat you’re sitting in.
Personal space is not something this seat excelled in. Each seat has 37″ pitch, so the legroom certainly left plenty to be desired. Window seat passengers are not going to slip past the passenger in the aisle seat.
This is a premium economy seat in our view – although it is worth noting that there is more legroom and seat width in Qantas’ international premium economy cabins). It seriously lags behind Qantas’ other configurations of the Airbus A330 aircraft.
Power sockets (but not USB ports) are available between each pair of seats.
On this aircraft, overhead TV screens were fitted throughout the cabins. Controls for the audio were located at each seat and a basic set of earbud headphones offered to each passenger.
In addition, each seat on this A330 aircraft has an iPad Mini to connect to Qantas’ in-flight ‘Q-Streaming’ service to receive content whilst on board.
The content itself is quite varied. There’s certainly a large percentage of ‘classics’ available. Great movies in their own right but given the choice of only ~23 movies, we’re sure most passengers would appreciate some more recent titles.
Qantas supply only (non-alcoholic) cranberry juice as a pre-departure beverage. In contrast, Virgin go as far as pouring ‘Champagne Ayala Brut’ (which is a pretty good champagne for a domestic flight) for their services to/from Perth.
The menu was pretty standard fare for Qantas domestic business class. We found the food to be of high quality.
We opted to skip the ‘small plates’ and went straight for a main dish of the ‘Sesame soy grilled chicken with Asian slaw and chilli mayonnaise’. The chicken was excellent and the chilli mayonnaise complemented the dish well. The Asian slaw was a bit of a letdown as it was fairly flavourless.
Dessert is seemingly a simple affair on Qantas. On this flight we were served a Mars bar ice cream, which was pretty tasty (although still a Mars bar ice cream).
How does it compare with the competition?
We’ve previously reviewed the service aboard a Virgin Australia 737 transcontinental flight in business class. On its wide-body fleet, Virgin recently launched its new transcontinental business class product, dubbed ‘The Business’.
‘The Business’ will replace Virgin’s current transcontinental A330 business class by the end of October – though even the current A330 business class (seats that Virgin are ripping out) are streets ahead of some of Qantas’ ex-Jetstar aircraft.
It is important to remember that Qantas charge exactly the same fare regardless of whether you get Qantas’ latest business suite or a clapped out old A330. Qantas still have approximately 18 A330 aircraft still to go in its refurbishment program. It expects to complete that in December 2016.
Gary Leff has made the point that Airlines Make Two Promises, But Only Hono(u)r One. That same reasoning applies here: while heavily advertising its new ‘Business Suite’, Qantas takes the position that all a passenger buys is transportation, not the product itself. There is no partial refund offered for the inferior product.
We feel Qantas have an opportunity to be more proactive in managing customer expectations given the inconsistencies across its A330 fleet. Customers on these flights pay for and expect a fully-flat bed – not to wind up in a seat straight out of the Jetstar history books. This is going to become a big issue for Qantas once rival Virgin Australia complete their A330 fleet upgrade in October.