2016’s Best flight: My 380th Qantas flight in A380 FIRST

MEL, Melbourne, Australia  to DXB, Dubai, UAE  QF9
Scheduled Departure: 23:25  Arrival: 06:35 14hrs 10 mins
Total distance: 7252 miles / 11671 km / 6302 nautical miles

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For my 380th flight with Qantas, I wanted to do something special. It had to be on a Qantas Airbus 380. That narrowed routes to:

  • Sydney or Melbourne to  Dubai and /or London
  • Sydney or Melbourne to Los Angeles
  • Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth

As I was going on to Bangkok and Cebu for New Year’s Eve, the US bound flights were the least logical. So I ended up doing a round-about way of getting from Melbourne to Dubai to snag this 380 flight.

The other significance of this Qantas flight #380, was that it was also my 380th flight at Melbourne airport. While Sydney is not far behind, I have not flown from any other airport as many times as I have from Melbourne. While most of my flights have been routine business flights, that airport has given me access to nine countries. Before my flight:

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After my flight:

Booking: 8/10

Using 100,000 American Airlines Frequent Flyer, (almost every AA point I have ), I booked a seat in Qantas First. My reasoning was for only 20,000 extra miles for a First seat over Business and I wanted my 380th Qantas flight to be as special as possible! I have never flown in Qantas First Class before!

The American Airlines site was easy to navigate to find the seat and I happily paid the taxes which cost me $US62. I value 100,000 American Airlines points at 2.5 cents each or $2,500 for that sector. As the Business Class fare on this route, starts at $US5,431 and First is almost $US3,000 more, a points investment is well worth it.

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The Qantas website is easy to navigate. To book and pay for a standard First Class ticket, this can be done in five straight-forward steps.

Seat selection is a great process. I chose seat 1A, right at the front of the plane. A choice I was very happy with (see below).

Check In: 8/10

About 36 hours before, Qantas First Administration gave me a call to check if I was happy with my seat (1A- yes!), to see what time I would be arriving at the airport and to book me in for a spa treatment. Paying Qantas First customers get a chauffeur pick up. This is not extended to customers travelling on points (for obvious reasons).

img_5139Qantas First at Melbourne airport have a private check-in room with walk in entry from both the international terminal itself and the terminal roadway.

Check in was a friendly affair with no fuss.  I was given an express pass, the boarding pass for this flight (seat 1a) and the boarding pass for my Qatar Airways connecting flight on to Doha.

To be honest, I was surprised how low key check in was. For a passenger who is paying $8000+ or using 100,000 points, I would have expected passengers would get a little more attention. Qantas does not appear to  escort first class passenger  through security and to the lounge which some other airlines do

At the entrance to the departure area, passengers are separated between express and all others for the immigration process. The two passenger lines recombine at the immigration point.  Express passengers skip the longer line. I went through the automated gates using my brand new passport.

Security is definitely not an express line. Still, it was a pretty fast process for the week before the Australian Christmas holiday period.

Lounge: 11/10

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Being a platinum customer with Qantas, I am no stranger to the Qantas first lounge. While not as big or as dramatic as Sydney, it is a delightful place to hang out before a flight.

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I started with a very late lunch whilst watching the runways. Meals are designed by the Rockpool consulting team led by famous Australian chef Neil Perry.

Started with champagne (of course), followed by a perfect salt and pepper calamari.

Beef with heirloom tomatoes and hand cut chips (fries) rounded out the meal.

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An hour later, I retreated to the spa for my 30 minute Men’s facial. I had eschewed the various massages in favour of this magnificent relaxing face scrub and moisturising time. The spa is the reason for my score for the lounge.A few phone calls and a shower later, I was ready to board.

 

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Boarding: 9.5/10

Qantas first class passengers descend in a lift just outside the Qantas First lounge down two floors to their own private dedicated boarding gate. I was bemused that we left from Gate 9 seeing as were Qantas flight 9! Adding to my 380th on a 380 number theme!

I was the only person in the corridor leading to the aeroplane door used by First Class. Next to me separated by a pane of glass were the hordes boarding the downstairs Economy section.

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Rounding the corridor I spotted the lower door of the vast super jumbo, with a staff member waiting to greet passengers. Her smile and welcome were a great touch.

She warmly welcomed me to the plane indicating my seat. I was not accompanied to the seat which some airlines do with First passengers.

I was surprised at the length of time it took for someone to welcome me and offer me a drink(almost ten minutes). When it came, I was very warmly greeted.

On Board: 9/10

First Class was pretty much full with one empty seat. Apparently, there were two empty seats on the whole plane.

I was warmly welcomed by one of the two staff assigned to the cabin. I found out later he was brand new to First. Such was his work ethic and professionalism, I would not have known this.

The Flight Manager came around a little later and I shared with her that this was flight 380. She arranged a nice surprise for me at the end if the flight to celebrate (see Landing).

We received a refreshing towel:amenuty_5238then an SKII amenity kit,

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In the kit was a little card offering a complimentary consultation at a SKII stockist in Australia. The expire date was one week later. I wrote to Proctor and Gamble who own SKII asking if they could extend the date as I was going to be overseas. The nice answer in short was: “No”. Disappointing!

We also got the brand new Qantas pyjamas.

 

The Plane: 10/10

I am a massive fan of the A380. It is a beautiful plane to fly in. I was the 380 serial number VH-OQF named after Sir Charles Kingsford Smith who disappeared while attempting to break the England-Australia speed record in November 1935. This 380 is eight years old this coming March and has been operating with Qantas for seven. I felt it was due for a refurbishment. Ironically, the plane had a technical fault this week in Dubai, stranding hundreds of passengers for a day. The contingent included Qantas CEO Alan Joyce!

Qantas places the 14 First Class seats in the front of the lower deck. They are arranged 1/1/1.There are five seats along the windows on each side of the cabin, plus four seats in the middle of the aircraft.

suite_5319If you are flying by yourself I would recommend choosing the “A ” seats on the left-hand side, next to the window. After take off, the privacy screens on the middle seats are raised on the left hand side giving you maximum privacy. You also have one whole bin to yourself! Because entry to the middle seats is from the right aisle those passengers are sharing a bin between two passengers (hardship I know)!

If you are travelling in First Class, with someone else, then choose a middle seat and its neighbouring seat on the right of the plane.

All  64 Business seats are on the upper deck arranged 2/2/2. The first section of the business cabin is the nicest as it feels more private with just 18 seats. Some people have said they are bothered by the proximity of the cabin to a bar Qantas has upstairs but I have never seen it used!

The second Business Class section with 46 seats feels much more institutional. The Pitch of all the business class seats is 78″ and width 21.2″  and they convert to a full lie flat bed.

Also, upstairs behind the business class is sandwiched a Premium Economy cabin with 35 seats arranged 2/3/2. These seats have a 38 or 42″ pitch and a 19.5 width.; 371 Economy

The 371 Economy seats are mostly on the lower deck but there is a small Economy cabin at the rear of the upper deck with thirty seats arranged more or less as 2/4/2.  I like this economy cabin as it has a more private feel. Economy seats have a 31″ pitch and a 17.5: width.

First Class shared two lavatories amongst 14 passengers. A nice touch was the cloth towels were folded into nice shapes whenever I entered the First Class lavatories.

There are six lavatories for Economy downstairs and one upstairs giving people one lavatory for 54 guests Business Class has four lavatories (one per 16 passengers) but two of them are also shared with Premium Economy passengers.

 

Takeoff

As per usual, Qantas took the safety briefing seriously. A staff member stood in the aisle to demonstrate the procedures while the iconic Qantas outdoor safety briefing played.

After the safety briefing, we took off at 23:48 (23 minutes late).

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The Seat Suite: 9/10

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I liked my “Open Suite”. I like the feeling of not being fully enclosed. Because the seat angles away from the aisle and because it was at the front of the cabin, I felt like I was in my own world and I also felt immensely privileged. In the space I had to myself, down the back, six Economy class passengers would be crammed into the same area!

There is an Ottoman which a friend can sit at and join you for your meal. I was tempted to sit in it for the breakfast but my main seat was too comfortable to leave!

food_5247Some people have been negative about 1A due to its proximity to a lavatory. There was some traffic to the toilets at the start of the flight as people put on their pyjamas. This settled once we were on our way.

The seat faces forward for takeoff with a lap and a sash belt for protection.

The whole seat rotates when you want to eat, watch TV or sleep.

There is a built in massage function.

I recommend spending five minutes at flight start playing with the controls for the suite!

 

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I had four minor beefs about my amazing suite:

  1. it was looking a little worn in places with some marks. Definitely does not have a brand new plane vibe!
  2. The other is the lack of seat storage. I like to have my wallet, computer, a book, the amenity kit and my personal documents close by. The suite has two small drawers (one of which is where the headphones are were stored when I boarded) but I would have liked to have seen a small cupboard along the window.
  3. The charging outlet is in the wrong place. I think it should be at the side of the suite not in front of the suite. During charging the cables were always in the way. Hardship, I know but these small details are irritating for the investment!
  4. I felt so far away from the window!

The genius was after dinner, when the bed was made up, it was so comfortable, so spacious and so quiet that I slept brilliantly. I was woken a couple of times by some turbulence but curled back to sleep. (It is very easy to sleep with seat belt on).

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My sleep was also disturbed by two emergency calls as the crew dealt with two passengers who collapsed on board. Thankfully, they were both okay.

The Meals: 11/10

First up, I love the large dining table! The food was served at a nice pace with good communication about options. Drink selection is vast enough that one could not have a glass of everything in one flight!

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We were served dinner:food_5215

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and breakfast:

with snacks through the night.

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My only disappointment was the hot chocolate which Qantas never gets right. For a decent hot chocolate in the air, fly Air France!

The entertainment: 8/10

Every seat has a personal video screen. The Qantas has one of the best range of TV shows and movies of any airline I have flown last year.

There is no wi-fi on Qantas flights (still).

Every First and Business class seat has a 110v AC power outlet and personal USB port. In Premium Economy and Economy, power ports are shared between seats. The exit row and bulkhead Economy seats do not have laptop power.

Landing

A very smooth landing into the UAE, I would have been first off but the crew invited me into the cockpit to celebrate my 380th flight. I even got to imagine what flying the superjumbo would be like!
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On arrival, I really felt very rested,  refreshed and more than excited by this experience.

The Verdict

My Flight Rating:  96%  (4.8 out of 5). Best flight of the year beating my Thai Airways 787 Business Class (88%) and Etihad Business (90%) – review to come.

About the Airline: Australian Airline Qantas has been operating since 1920. Today their 118 planes connect 85 destinations. Once an all 747 airline, Qantas now operate 12 A380s, 330s, 737s, Q400s and 747s. They will take delivery of 787s from next year.

Skytrax: Qantas has a 4 star rating from Skytrax. Skytrax customers rate them at 7/10.

My overall rating of  Qantas: 92% I rate them 7th out of the 95 airlines I have flown.There have been periods of disappointment but the airline consistently delivers a good product. In the case of First Class, an excellent product.

Safety Rating: Airline ratings gives the carrier 7/7. As is the stuff of legends, the airline has possessed an excellent safety record since their founding.

Frequent Flyer Program: Qantas Frequent Flyer

Positives:  An almost faultless flight. The Lounge, The Welcome, The plane, The Meal, Drinks,going to the cockpit

Negatives:  Getting off the plane, no wifi, Check in was a little too low key for a First Class passenger

Would I fly them again? Yes. I am not sure if it will be in First unless I use points again!

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Comments

  1. Wife and I flew Qantas First A380 last Oct/Nov from LHR-DXB-SYD and SYD-LAX/SYD-DFW using AAdvantage miles redeemed prior to the 03/2016 devaluation. The service and food were great, as was the Qantas First lounge in Sydney. Given the massive number of miles we redeemed, we may never get to do that again, but it was certainly an experience to remember.

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