Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Battle of The Transcontinental Business Class : Virgin Australia vs Qantas (Part 2)

PART 2 : QANTAS

Following on from Part 1 this part shows the return to Melbourne, this time on Qantas.

FLIGHT:                    QF772
ROUTE:                     Perth to Melbourne
AIRCRAFT:              Airbus A330-200 VH-EBM
SEAT:                         2A (Business Class)

DEPARTURE:          10.00 (Scheduled)  09.55 (Actual)
ARRIVAL:                15.30 (Schedules)  14.55 (Actual) 35 Minutes Early!



VH-EBM at the gate
Upon arrival at the terminal I proceeded straight through security and up to the lounge. Priority security screening was available for Business Class and Platinum card holders although at 9am on this Monday the line was almost empty so it was not required. The lounge is 'airside' meaning you don't need to factor in a security check after leaving the lounge for the aircraft. Perth has just a single Qantas Club and no separate business class lounge but I found it to be quite decent. It is large and has nice tarmac views from the upper level of their terminal.

Qantas Club Perth
Barista coffee is available as was the standard Qantas Club breakfast options. I opted for the bircher muesli, a juice and cappuccino. The barista coffee is served in paper cups rather than the proper glasses used in the Virgin Lounge (proper cups are used in Qantas business lounges where available).

Small breakfast while I wait for my flight
If flying in economy or on Jetstar you can have a substantial meal here before the flight but knowing I had a big lunch ahead on board I didn't eat too much.

Nice views from the lounge

Economy class meals being loaded onto VH-EBM

Departures board
As I mentioned in the introduction in Part 1, it is a bit of a lottery as to what kind of seat you will get on Qantas A330's. There is 3 configurations possible :

1. The international Skybed with angled lie flat seats (60 inch pitch, 21.5 inch width)
2. The domestic 2x3x2 recliners configuration with middle seat blocked for 'space' (measurements unknown)
3. The domestix 2x2x2 recliners configuration (35-37 inch pitch, 21.5 inch width)

Today I was flying on the 3rd configuration which is the next best thing after the angled lie flats. My aircraft VH-EBM was just under 4 years old at the time of this flight and is fitted with 36 business class seats and 265 economy seats. All seats feature an audio video on demand entertainment system.

At about 935am the flight was called for boarding and I headed down the escalator and found the gate was just a few metres from the lounge exit point. That was very convenient, and on this occasion priority boarding worked and I was able to board immediately. Both the front doors were being used which meant that there was no economy class passengers filing through the business class cabin which is handy when you are trying to store your cabin bags and get settled. As I entered the aircraft I was warmly greeted by name and directed to row 2.

The Qantas A330-200 Business Cabin on VH-EBM

Seat 2A with pillow, blanket and menu
I arrived at 2A and found a nice white fluffy pillow and packaged duvet/blanket already on the seat. There was also a menu consisting of a small single piece of paper available on the centre arm rest. As you can see the seats are quite wide and comfortable but pitch and recline are very limited. Both the entertainment system and tray table are stored in the armrest.

more cabin shots

Another cabin shot

Seat 1A is my preference due to having nobody reclining into you but legroom is limited

The blanket

The menu

Leg room

Looking across to the business class wardrobe
It did not take long for a cabin crew member to be by my side and collecting my jacket for storage in the wardrobe. Also a tray of juice or water was soon available as well as newspapers. I took the juice. There was no sparkling wine or champagne on offer at all.

It was also immediately apparent that this crew was a lot more senior than the crew I had experienced on Virgin the day before, this is not necessarily a bad thing and after all Qantas have been around a very long time.

Welcome Juice
Boarding continued and eventually there was 31 seats out of 36 occupied in business class, a very healthy load indeed. Eventually door number 2 was closed and the second jetway moved back from the aircraft giving me a view of the neighbouring Boeing 737-800 which was most likely bound for a smaller city in Western Australia.


With boarding complete early we managed to have doors closed 5 minutes ahead of schedule at 9.55am. I was lucky that 2B remained vacant giving me loads of room to move. The captain came on the PA and announced a very fast flight time of 2 hours 45 minutes, this was about 1 hour 45 mins faster than the flight over the day before... amazing what a difference the winds can make!

Considering this flight time I wasn't so disappointed that I had missed out on the skybed as I would hardly have time to sleep or relax after lunch anyway. The captain said that due to the high winds there may be a few bumps during the climb to cruise and once the announcement was over we pushed back and made our way to the runway for takeoff.

Climbing out of Perth

Soon enough we are above the cloud and in clear sky tracking towards Melbourne
Once we were established in the cruise it was time to see what was on offer in terms of the seat and amenities:

Basic Controls for entertainment system - the rest can be done on the touch screen

TV screen and tray table neatly tucked away in arm rest

Entertainment system out with airshow display

Footrest

Nice thick duvet style blanket

Touchscreen entertainment
The entertainment system can be controlled by touch screen which is great as it can be rather tiresome having to reach for a handset tucked away beside your legs.  The selection was excellent with a huge variety of recent and classic movies, TV shows and documentaries. The latest news and the flight path options are also available. The system can be a little slow to respond at times but it's generally pretty good.

Despite the narrow pitch I can still comfortably cross my legs
As you can see above I could comfortably set up my tablet on one side and the flight path display on the other. Despite the multiple inflight entertainment options available I still elected to keep watching season 1 of Mr Selfridge on my tablet.

Once the seatbelt sign was off the crew started preparing the meal service. With the short flight time the service really needed to commence right away. First up, a round of drinks with some nuts! Meal orders were also taken at this point.



I elected to have a glass of the Wirra Wirra 12th Man Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills) which was quite a nice drop ($27 a bottle at Dan Murphy's). The nuts came in a packet which was a significant downgrade in presentation compared to the heated nuts on Virgin the day before which were served in a bowl.

First drinks being served at this point - nice and fast
With the recent enhancement of catering on the transcon run an additional 'hot snack' type service is offered with a crew member coming around with a plate of these olive and cheese balls which you could help yourself to...


It was nice but sadly wasn't quite hot enough. It needed to stay in the overn about 5 minutes more at least. Not long afterwards I peaked out the window and saw we were crossing the West Australian coastline and heading out to see over the 'Great Australian Bight'. Interestingly when you think of crossing the continent by land you think of the desert, but by air the most direct path is mostly over the water!

Farewell Western Australia
Once the snack service was completed the crew came around and laid the table with a lovely big white table cloth and presented the side plate with salad, 'Neil Perry Palm Sugar Vinaigrette' and bread. The first course or 'small plate' as they call them was also presented. The presentation of the table was first class and I loved the fact that everything was laid out individually and not on a plastic tray. Another glass of wine was offered along with water, and I took sparkling with a slice of lemon. The crew were chatty and cheerful at all times.


Mezze Plate
I enjoyed the mezze plate but I especially enjoyed the main course of beef sausages! Presentation and serving size both very pleasing indeed!

Beef Sausage - 'big plate'
Feeling thoroughly satisfied after my main course I sat back and enjoyed the ride for a while. I will say that my wine glass was not attended to as often as I would have pleased but a press on the call bell soon fixed that.

Around 20 or 30 minutes after my main course I decided to ask for the cheese plate with accompaniments and a glass of Baileys on ice. Here is how it came:


The cheese was a soft type and quite strong in flavour but I enjoyed it. It came with some dried apples and grapes and crackers. The menu says this plate is available at any time during the flight. Whilst I sat there enjoying my cheese another cart made an appearance in the aisle:


It was the tea, coffee, fruits and dessert cart! Not to mention quite a few bottles of Baileys too.  I decided to partake in a lovely little cake:


I can't remember exactly what it was but I believe it was a citrus cake of some sort, perhaps lemon. I do recall that it was delicious though! Plates of fresh fruit were available as well but I was rather full by this point. My tray table was cleared and I headed for a quick pitstop in the lavatory before landing. It was interesting to note that there was no special brand name amenities or hand creams like Virgin had in the lavatory. However proper cotton towels are available whereas Virgin used paper towels.

By this stage it was over 2 hours into the flight and we were just 15 minutes from top of descent. It's a very different experience to the flight in the other direction as after the meal you still have a couple of hours ahead of you. With this in mind I did not miss the fact that my seat was only a recliner as I definitely had no time for sleep anyway.

The captain came on the PA again to do his arrival briefing and we were told a bit of a storm had been passing through Melbourne and we should expect high winds and a bit of turbulence on approach.

Descent has commenced over Victoria
We flew to the south of Melbourne Airport and passed Essendon airport:


A series of left hand turns saw us approaching the airport from the east for a landing on runway 27, giving us some good views of Melbourne:

Back home!
We were getting rocked around quite a bit and the approach felt quite unstable due to the high winds. A few times I thought we might do a go around but the pilot flying did a good job and the landing was smooth in the end.

Touchdown
We had arrived, and in very good time too. We arrived at the gate a full 35 minutes early!

Overall a very pleasant flying experience and in Part 3 I will do a proper comparison of the two airlines and what they offered and my final opinions.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent review - thanks! I'll bet that citrus cake was an orange (or other citrus) almond meal cake. I've had it before and as you note, it's delicious!

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  2. Wow what a quick flight! The mezze plate looked amazing, I'm looking forward to trying their service to Perth!

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  3. Can't beat qantas or your reviews.

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  4. Part 3 is about the differences between the two, just going into what I liked for each.

    thanks for the comments all

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  5. It looks as if they both do a pretty comparable job!

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  6. Great review, the serive looks enjoyable and fairly decent.
    I always find it interesting i read blogs i have no idea what the publisher looks like and caught a sneak peak of you in the reflection from your Ipad.

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  7. hahaha yeah I have been revealed!!!

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