Today’s flight was special because whilst aboard I reached a “milestone” of one million kilometres flown with Qantas. This has taken me an enjoyable chunk of my life!
Normally on the Australia to Singapore segment, I have usually been on A330s. Today was the second time I have traveled on the 380 on this routing. The utilisation by Qantas of the 380 on this routing now occurs when there are periods of high demand from Melbourne to Singapore.
I chose to fly in Qantas Business Class which is on the 380’s upper deck using 40,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Frequent flyer miles to “buy” the ticket, I value my miles at 1.7 US cents per mile which put the transaction at $US680 plus fees.
By comparison, purchasing a one way business class ticket through the cheapest possible site would have cost $US1,615 for the same flight. More importantly, an Economy (Coach) ticket would have set me back $US903 on the same plane on that date. (There are cheaper flights at other periods but this is moving into peak travel time out of Australia). booking a business seat using points was definitely “value for money” on this occasion!.
The AA redemption site is fabulously easy. For an Australian Credit Card holder, paying for the fees is not easy. After going round and round in circle on a previous occasion before phoning the AA call centre who assured me that this a common issue for Australians! As soon as the roundabout began on this occasion, I called American. Recognising the glitch immediately, the agent waived the telephone booking fees. Hearing the agent’s accent, I asked where in Jamaica she was from. We got chatting and discovered we had a mutual friend who was an ex flight attendant with the old BWIA!
Another tip: online seat selection was a very different experience for me as a basic AA frequent flyer and a Qantas Platinum customer. After contacting Qantas directly to add my Qantas frequent flyer number, many more seats opened up in the Business cabin!
Check in: 10/10
With the flight sitting in my Qantas profile. a few taps of the keys, an entering of my documentation details (wish Qantas would, store my passport number for me) and I was checked in. At the airport, I joined a very short premium service queue, dropped off my luggage (unusually I was flying with two bags) and collected an Express card for immigration. I was glad of the Express Line, as the queue for security was very long. It gave me much pleasure to whisk down to the top of the line!
Melbourne immigration was pretty smooth for those whose electronic gates worked. My passport and half a done others failed to operate the automatic gates at the same time which meant we had to have our passports manually processed. The woman behind me fumed about the few extra minuets this took. I found out listening in on her loud mobile phone conversation that it was because her boyfriend was buying her a coffee not because she had seconds until her plane departed!
The normally peaceful Qantas First lounge was a bit of a bedlam. Two planes were delayed, one of which was a 380 so the lounge was full, meaning I had to circle a few times before I could find a seat. The Qantas Melbourne lounge has the choice of a mini buffet, the seated Neil Perry themed restaurant or meal service to your seat. I love sitting in the restaurant watching the planes so opted to wait the 35 minutes that it took for a seat to free up.
During the wait, I hopped into a shower room. The showers were surprisingly available. I have been in the lounge at other times and it has felt like everyone is lined up for a shower.
I started with a delightful fresh fruit salad and as it had just ticked past 11am a plate fo the renowned salt and pepper calamari. Service was a little disjointed with drinks not keeping up with the food.
There was a bit of a scramble in the boarding area but the business class line felt more organised and more sedate. It always amazes me that people want to elbow others out of the way to get onto a plane which will leave at the same time for everybody! With Qantas strict carry on baggage policy and the large A380s lockets, you don’t need to be on first to claim carry-on space.
A flight attendant soon arrived at my seat with a welcome drink. It interests me they offer plain water and sparkling wine and juice in Business Class after boarding. I always ask for a sparkling water and I always get the same response “I will check if it is available sir” and then they always deliver it to me. What is that all about?
On Board: 8/10
The 380 I was on, carried registration number VH-OQG and is named Charles Ulm, a pioneer Australian aviator who broke the England to Australia speed record in 1933. I am not sure many passengers would want to know that he finished his life in 1934 at the age of 36 by crashing into the sea in the dark, after missing the Hawaiian islands.
I wonder what Ulm would say if he saw the this 380 which entered service eight years ago on 3rd November 2010. His last plane would fit on the wing of the 380. His Envoy plane was built to carry six passengers compared with the 484 people Qantas carries on its superjumbo across four classes.
Downstairs at the front of the plane are 14 open First Class suites arranged 1/1/1. Each suite is 79″ long and 22″ wide. First Class passengers have access to two lavatories.
Behind First Class are the bulk of the 371 economy seats arranged in a 3/4/3 configuration. Standard pitch is 31″ with 17.5″ width. These passengers share seven lavatories. There are also a small number of Economy seats upstairs at the rear of the plane with one lavatory.
Upstairs are 63 flat bed Business Class seats which are arranged 1/2/1. Each seat has a 78″ pitch and is 21.5″ wide. Three rows of business class seats are located in a front separate Business mini-cabin. This is followed by the toilets and the galleys and then eight more rows of business. The mini cabin has mixed reviews. Some people like this cabin for its privacy and others find the closeness to the lavatories a
Business Class has access to four lavatories with the rear two also used by the Premium Economy.
The Premium Economy. cabin has 35 recliner seats arranged 2/3/2. The seats have a 38″ pitch and are 19.5″ wide.
We departed 45 minutes late on Runway 16 which is 3,657 metres long (11,998) so plenty of room to accommodate the 380 which requires 2,900 metres of runway for takeoff.
There is nothing else like the take off of a A380. It feels so incredibly slow. I cannot believe that this massive plane can take off at such a gentle pace. Of course, it is an illusion as take off speed on this flight was 320 kilometres per hour.
Shortly after takeoff a crew member brought a refreshing towel. A second towel was offered just before the end of the flight. I smiled because my cousin and I had just been running a comparison of the number of towels airline give out on a flight.Thai Airways Business Class wins.I have never been given so many refreshing towels in such a short amount of time!
The amenity kit followed but on this flight the famous Qantas pyjamas did not magically appear.
The Seat: 7/10
The 380 seats were cutting edge back in 2010 but have been superseded by Qantas B787 and A330 models. While still comfortable, they have fallen behind what Singapore, Etihad and Emirates offer on the same plane.
I felt the seat was showing signs of wear with scuff marks in a few places, a scratched TV monitor and a seat cushion that was peeling apart. Qantas last year announced that the Business Class Skybeds will be replaced with their latest version of Qantas’ Business Suites, dubbed ‘mini First Class’ by frequent flyer which will give every seat aisle access. Work on the first A380 is expected to start between March and June in 2019 with the 12 th aircraft to be upgraded by December 2020. The upgrade is well overdue.
What I do most enjoy as a tall passenger, is the space! The leg section of the flatbeds now sag giving one a but of odd feeling. Still it is heaven to stretch out 35,000 feet above the earth in a floating bed.
I am not a fan of the in-chair massage system which I will turn on for brief periods. Others really seem to appreciate it!
Each seat has a personal reading light which is designed to maximise privacy and reduce light being reflected around the cabin.
A cotton duvet and mattress were provided with what Qantas terms a “European style” pillow. As this was a day flight, I never actually unrolled the mattress.
The Skybed does not have much storage. In fact, it is hard to juggle two drink glasses and a plate of nuts! I love the window seats because they have side bins which are perfect for all the things you need during a flight (NB the last row of Business Row 20 do not have these bins!).
The 30.7cm (12.1in) in-arm entertainment screen pops up from the seat arm rest and rotates. Some people do not like the resulting angling but I don’t mind it. I did manage to press the button that lowers the privacy screen instea dof the tv button -twice! This amused the guy sitting next to me.
I believe Qantas and Emirates have the two best ranges of entertainment in the air. Qantas understands to be a real international airline you need more than a dozen moves and three episodes of modern family. They claim there are over 1600 entertainment options. I have never counted! I do enjoy watching the sky show with the plane;s own camera.
Each seat has a personal computer power outlet and a USB port. they functioned well. There was no wi-fi on this flight.
Qantas provides Headphones which feel quite weak and are disappointingly not very comfy. I swap to my lovely Bose with their three pronged adapter and am as happy as Larry!
Soon after takeoff, our cabin attendant arrived to take our meal orders. My choice had already been taken but he did some quick negotiating and managed to get me the choice! My seat mate and I ended up swapping our main meal (long story).
I started with a fresh leafy salad with a fantastic dressing, green pea and mint soup and a crusty sourdough bread. I had the soup last month on the Bangkok flight. It is delicious.
I followed this up with the chicken and roasted sweet potato. The chicken was perfect. Dessert was a chocolate tart with creme fraiche.
The champagne on board was Jacquart Brut Mosiaque. The dessert wine amazing!
Prior to landing I sampled the stir fried egg plant which was amazing! (sorry eaten before photo!)
Descent was quite choppy because of thunderstorms in the region,. For thus reason, Singapore air traffic control slowed us down so we spent close to 39 minutes circling the Malaysian coast before smoothly touching down on a sodden Singapore runway 02L/20R. This meant we touched down one hour and seven minutes late which several passengers were very grumpy about and made known to staff.
I got to spend a few minutes in the cockpit chatting to the pilot and his crew as a result of my one million kilometre milestone! Thanks Captain and team.
I even managed to visit a couple of the special Harry Potter displays at Changi airport. Unusually, immigration there was very busy.
My Flight Rating: 88%-not as high as my First Class flight with Qantas which was 96% which is probably a good thing.
About the Airline: Australian Airline Qantas has been operating since 1920. Today their 138 planes connect 85 destinations. Once an all 747 airline, Qantas now operate 12 A380s, 330s, 737s, Q400s and 787s. They still have a few 747s which are being phased out.
My overall rating of Qantas: 92% I rate them 7th out of the 100 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 them 7 out of 7
Frequent Flyer Program: Qantas Frequent Flyer (although I was travelling on One World partner: American Airline AAdvantage miles
Positives: Great check-in, Entertainment, Food
Negatives: Old seats, dated Business Class layout, no Wi-Fi
Would I fly them again? Yes. Will I fly another million kilometres with them -not so sure!