I hadn't intended to write a review for Flight Report of my journey on Qantas' new LAX-MEL service on the airline's new B787-9, however on returning home I found I had a number of images on my iPhone that I could cobble together for a report. Of course, I am sure the community is keen to see and hear about the new Business Class product.
I would be flying out from JFK on Saturday 6 January 2018 on QF12. In the 24 hours prior to airport check in, I logged onto the Qantas website and selected my inflight meal: Black Angus beef fillet with roasted potatoes, snow peas and red wine mustard butter. In addition to the menu that could be ordered from onboard, there was an 'online exclusive' of fusilli spaccati with duck ragu and roast celeriac. I tend to avoid pasta if I can, so that dish was not for me!
QF12 to LAX was delayed by several hours (we sat at the gate after an initial one hour delay for a further two). New York was still in chaos from the "bomb cyclone" snow storm that had hit the city a few days earlier. This meant a large number of passengers on QF12 risked missing their connecting Qantas services to Australia, as the flight feeds into services to Melbourne and Sydney. During the flight we were informed that Qantas HQ had decided to hold all LAX to Australia flights for passengers from QF12.
Unfortunately, the delay into LAX meant I wasn't able to take advantage of the Qantas oneworld Business Lounge in the TBI terminal…. next time! As soon as QF12 landed I had to make my way to QF96 which was being held. QF96 was departed from some far flung gate at the other end of the terminal. When I finally got there, I discovered no gate but a transfer bus that would take us to a stand-alone air bridge away from the terminal. Suffice to say, when I finally got on the place and was shown to my seat, I was happy! I hope that Qantas finds a gate that is attached to the terminal for this flight in the near future, because this certainly diminishes from the service and I would imagine, reduce potential lounge time.
My seat, 8K, on the new Qantas B787-9 for the next 15 or so hours
I was seated in the forward (larger) cabin of the two business class cabins in a window seat, 8K. I was late to booking this flight so it was a choice of this seat or 4K (centre aisle). While 8K is probably one of the less desirable seats (it's in front of the galley and isn't a more private of the window seats), I prefer the window over an centre seat where, despite the divider, I'd still have a neighbour. If you take a look at Seat Guru, you can see that some of the window seats offer more privacy, try to book these!
A glass of Duval-Leroy Brut NV Champagne as a welcome drink
On boarding, the flight attendant serving my section introduced herself as Ebony and offered me a welcome drink. Of course, I opted for champagne and enquired as to today's selection: Duval-Leroy Brut NV. My first impressions of the cabin were of a calm and clean environment. The light was bright but soft, and the cabin had a very spacious and modern feel.
On my seat I found a bottle of water, noise-cancelling headphones, menus and a pillow and duvet. As the flight was a late departure, the seat was already prepared with a mattress. Ebony asked me to fill out the breakfast order card at my convenience and return it to her.
We sat at our parking bay for some time and didn't take off for a further 40 or so minutes, and I wished for another glass of bubbles!
The forward business class cabin from 8K
Seat pocket contents
After take-off, Ebony came around with amenity kits and pyjamas, and I also returned my breakfast order card. I took a M/L in the PJs which proved rather baggy (but comfortable!) on my 180cm and 70kg body. The amenity kit was simple but nice: eye shade, socks, tooth brush and paste, creams, all in a special edition Oroton case for the B787-9.
As the service continued, the customer service manager (CSM), Steph, made her way around the cabin introducing herself to all the Business Class passengers and having a chat. She was absolutely lovely, and I found out that this was her first time (along with a number of other crew) flying the B787-9. She handed out arrival cards and immigration/customs fast-track passes.
The amenity kit
The cabin, with some subtle mood lighting, as I begin to watch films
MENUS AND SUPPER SERVICE
Service was slick and efficient. Qantas has structured the initial meal service considering that given the late departure time most people would go to sleep. I also imagine a lot would eat in the lounge and then head to sleep after take off. I, on the other hand, wanted to make the most of the experience. Ebony promptly confirmed my online order of the beef, and I asked that I be served the cheese course after this. I found that service almost moved too quickly given I wanted to savour the experience, however I cannot fault Qantas for designing it in this way.
Below are the menus for the flight:
Breakfast order card
My tray table was promptly set with linen and cutlery, butter, salt and pepper. I was offered drinks and given a side salad and offered a choice of sourdough or olive bread (I went with olive and more Duval-Leroy). I also asked to be served some red with my beef. Before I knew it, another crew member served me my meal. It was so quick Ebony hadn't made it back with a choice of red wines.
The beef was ok. I imagine the meal would have been a lot nicer and not as tough (overcooked) if the flight had left on time (a few hours earlier). The potatoes and veg were great and the shiraz was tasty too. The side salad was pitiful. It was like the leaves you find in the bottom of a bag of packaged lettuce, limp and browning.
After the main meal I went back to champagne and, having requested the cheese, this was served along with a mini lemon tart. I always opt for cheese over dessert, but I must say had I only ordered the lemon tart I would have been disappointed. It was tiny and wasn't served with anything…cream? coulis? something else? The cheese was tasty and I enjoyed it with my champagne, although some more crackers would have been nice.
After the meal, the lights were dimmedand I requested a Martell VSOP Old Fine Cognac which was served promptly with a packet of Boulder crisps (a nice touch from the cabin crew serving the other aisle!).
The table setting
The tenderloin, featuring the new Qantas B787-9 cutlery
A lovely Heathcote shiraz and some sparkling water
Lemon tart, cheese and champagne
Cognac and crisps
After supper service, I started to get comfortable. I changed into my Qantas PJs, visiting the washroom. Originally Qantas planned on allowing premium economy passengers to use the washrooms located in the middle of the two business class cabins. However, I have since read that they changed this rather quickly. To this end, the washrooms were always accessible to me. I did find them very small and cramped, if not very sleek and clean.
Heading back to my seat I grabbed another glass of champagne from the self-service area the crew had set up. At this point, the crew were no where to be seen… I imagine they were in the forward galley eating their own supper. I settled in, watched some films and tried out the fully flat bed.
The washroom sink
After a few hours of sleep I stirred. The seat was really comfortable and felt spacious (for a bed in the sky!). The padded mattress, duvet and pillow really add to the experience and the sleep I did have was enjoyable. But, I was enjoying being on the plane too much to sleep. Instead I took advantage of the multiple positions of the seat, including the massage function.
The entertainment system was great. Very easy to use and very responsive. I probably watched 4 or so films during the flight. The screen is big enough and very clear. Conveniently, it can be tilted to face you as you change the settings on the chairs position.
Waking from the short sleep, I rang the call bell and requested a snack: prawn and chive siu mai with black vinegar. This was the tastiest thing on the flight - really great flavours! I also asked for a re-fill of water and some peppermint tea - all that champagne had parched me! Service was quick, and following this I requested some more champagne and something sweet. The crew member (who had brought the crisps earlier with the cognac) again brought me a plate of different sweet things: lemon tart, shortbread and chocolates. Really great service!
The prawn and chive siu mai - delicious!
Champagne and a glimpse of the seat controllers
Two and a half hours before landing, breakfast was served. Passengers were offered a 'wake-up' juice or something along those lines… I think it consisted of orange with carrot and ginger. It was nice but we weren't served a great deal.
Breakfast was served on a tray with all the components you had pre-ordered from the breakfast card. I'd selected: earl grey tea with milk, a green juice, fruit with yogurt, a croissant and the free range scrambled eggs on toasted brioche with Applewood bacon, braised beans and pan fried mushrooms.
The croissant was strangely missing and I thought perhaps it would turn up later, but it was only when I spoke with the CSM that it arrived (along with more champagne). Breakfast was rather mediocre. Everything was rather dry and underwhelming. The green juice was nice, but again, too small.
The 'wake-up' juice distributed by crew
My breakfast tray minus croissant (sorry for the grainy image!)
2 and a half hours to go!
The route map
I realised I didn't really take many photos of the seat itself, so towards the end of the flight I took a few pics of the seat (sadly not in the flat position). Overall, the seat was great. Very spacious and well thought-out. There were lots of cubby holes for storing things during the flight and several different lights one could turn on/off. As commented earlier, the flat position was great, but I mainly got use from the various seated angled positions to make use of the entertainment.
The seat controls, including the flat and take-off positions and massage functions.
My slept on mattress-covered suite
8K: there is a 'do not disturb' button to press that illuminates the seat number in red to communicate to crew that you do not want to be disturbed
The ledge with headphones and bench space
The cabin began to come alive and the lights suddenly switched from warm red to bright on. I think the crew were still getting used to the B787-9's systems because a minute later they went back to warm red. At some point, I assume, the crew allowed passengers to be able to control the window shades as I was able to lighten my windows to view outside. The crew distributed a hot towel. This was done after the breakfast service and as they passed through they thanked each passenger.
The crew prepared the cabin and we arrived at 11.45am, an hour and 35 minutes after our scheduled 10.10am arrival time. De-planing was rather efficient and I made it through immigration quickly. My bags were some of the first out and using my express pass I cleared customs in minutes.
The mood lighting
The famous B787 window
A view of the engine
The cabin with the windows at different levels of 'open'
Watching Modern Family up until landing
Hello Air Canada and hello Melbourne!
Los Angeles - LAX
Melbourne - MEL
There is no doubt this is a stellar product for Qantas and for trans-pacific flying. Overall, I was really thrilled by my flight on the Qantas Boeing 787-9. The flight was smooth and I arrived - despite the champagne - feeling really refreshed and less 'dried-out' than other flights. Qantas' cabin is well appointed, clean, smooth and has a tranquil ambience. The bathrooms were clean throughout and I never had to line up. The offering of amenities is top-notch with pyjamas and amenity kits that make the flight a lot more comfortable (especially the PJs!). Entertainment is vastly improved on the B747 and A380 systems; both the offering and operating system. The seat is the main draw card and offers a retreat into your own world. Despite having one of the 'less desirable' seats in the business class cabin, I felt very secluded. If I'd wanted to, I know I could have got a lot of sleep or done a fair amount of work.
The catering is the main area for improvement. On all my Qantas flights, I always find the food ex-Australia to be of a great/good standard, however ex-LAX the offering was mediocre. It was lack-lustre, and typically dry or over-cooked (except the siu mai!). I cannot complain about the drinks list however. The champagne was delicious and the offering of other beverages beyond my needs. Service was of a high standard: non-intrusive, respectful and not overly formal. Several of the crew offered those extra touches - the top up of wine, bringing something you hadn't thought you needed, etc. You don't find that with all Qantas crew, so often you have to be very specific with what you want, like that cheese board or cognac to follow the meal. The gate at LAX needs to be sorted out, as being bused to the plane really isn't ideal (of course, this may have been a one off?). Arrival to MEL was a good as could have been expected: bags were among the first on the carousel and the express pass through customs is very helpful indeed.
Thanks for reading this report. If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to leave these below. :)
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