We live in Iceland and several of our family members live near Melbourne, Australia, so we decided to spend Christmas there. The two airports - Keflavík and Melbourne - are not exactly close to each other, the distance being 10,539 miles (about 17,000 kms). If there was a direct flight it would overfly Svalbard, Eastern Siberia, North-East China and Eastern Indonesia and it would take about 21 hours. But there's of course no direct flight. So how should we get there?
We knew we didn't want to fly economy and we didn't have the budget for most business class flights, so we had to look for an exceptionally good deal in business class. Connecting flights from Iceland to Africa, Asia or Australia are never good value. London, Copenhagen, Frankfurt or Germany are usually among the more expensive departure airports. Amsterdam or Paris can have better deals but none was available at that time.
We checked premium economy as well, and although Singapore Airlines' great premium economy was bookable at a reasonable price from Stockholm to Melbourne via Moscow and Singapore, we still hoped for a good price in business.
We considered for a long time, and we even held a booking for some time, to fly from Cairo. A CAI-MCT-KUL-MEL in business class was offered by Oman Air and Malaysia Airlines at a price similar to many economy class flights from Europe to Australia. But direct flights from Europe to Cairo are overpriced even in economy and connecting flights can have unfavorable schedules.
So what was the solution? Oslo is usually, maybe surprisingly for some of you, the cheapest airport for long-haul business class flights from Europe. And there came a promotional offer: Oslo to Perth with Qatar Airways and Auckland to Oslo with China Southern. Yes, we wanted to fly to Melbourne but why not to visit Western Australia for a few days? And yes, the return leg was from New Zealand but we could finally visit NZ as well - and the flight was even slightly cheaper than a return from Australia.
There's a lot of air traffic between Perth and Melbourne - not surprising if you consider that the driving distance is about 3400 kms. Four airlines compete on this route: Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tiger Airways Australia with a total of an average of 16 direct flights a day. Jetstar and Tiger offer a low-cost model with flights costing from AUD 199 (EUR 125) one-way with check-in luggage, priority boarding, seat reservations and meal. Virigin and Qantas offer full service even in economy with check-in luggage, in-flight entertainment and snacks & beverages included. Their typical price would be around AUD 320 (EUR 200).
Business class is offered by Virgin and Qantas only: Virgin's prices start at AUD 1299 (EUR 820) while Qantas' is more expensive at AUD 2300 (EUR 1450). Both airlines have a high standard domestic business class, and operate both narrow-body and wide-body planes on this route. But the price difference between economy and business class, no matter how good it is, just cannot be justified. I booked Qantas economy for this route for two reasons: Qantas offers a full-service economy and we had access to Qantas business lounge due to my British Airways Executive Club Silver (oneworld Sapphire) tier.
A side note: it's interesting that many Australians still book their flights at travel shops that can be found even in most smaller towns.
Qantas has its own domestic terminal (T4) at Perth Airport.
The interior is classy - they make sure you know which airline you'll be flying
Most passengers check in on-line or at the self-serve kiosks
There were not many people at security although it still took some time to go through.
There are quite a few shops and cafés airside
We were quickly admitted to the Qantas Club
The lounge was very large, not crowded, and I found the food and drink offer very good for a domestic lounge. Moreover we were travelling in economy class so we really appreciated being there.
There's a fantastic view on the apron from the lounge
Some of the food offer
You can ask for a real coffee from one of the baristas
Or order a glass of wine
Some of the seating areas
Newspapers and magazines
The departure board. It shows the only direct flight to Europe and also some other obvious destinations such as Sydney, Brisbane or Adelaide. But have you ever heard about Paraburdoo or Karratha?
Although our boarding pass indicated a boarding time of 16.45 boarding only started at 17.20 - and it was very fast, much faster than it normally is in Europe.
A view of our plane:
Headphones were available on the boarding bridge
A close-up view of the headphones. They look very good for economy. The problem? The sound didn't work at all at my seat (I tried other headphones as well).
The first impression of the cabin was very good. I like the seat patterns
Legroom was OK
My seat was 36F
Push-back was at 17.45 and take-off at 17.55 for a scheduled departure time of 17.05.
Service started about 25 minutes after take-off. A hot meal was included with a choice of three mains. Unfortunately for the passengers and for the cabin crew there were no printed menus - the crew members had to tell the three options hundreds of times and passengers had to make a choice very quickly. The mains were not the usual "chicken or beef or pasta" but somehow more creative. The problem was that my main had such a strange taste I was unable to eat (and I eat pretty much everything).
Another meal which I also tried and which I also couldn't eat
Qantas offers flee in-flight entertainment. Screen size is standard for economy. I found the screen difficult to use: you have to touch it exactly at the right place to get what you want.
Two scenes from the safety video:
I found the choice of movies good - but I couldn't really watch anything as my headphones didn't work
Some more movies:
There was also quite a lot to choose from what was categorised as TV Shows
There were almost no music available at all except a few radio stations and some uninteresting business talk-shows
The moving map at departure
I spent most of the time reading my guidebook and also checking out Qantas' fleet and route network in the on-board magazine
Getting closer to Melbourne
We're almost there!
We landed at 23.50 for a scheduled arrival time of 23.40 - we made up most of the delay due to the late departure.
Melbourne Airport was almost completely deserted when we arrived and we got our luggage quite quickly.
Thank you for reading my flight report.
Qantas Qantas Club Domestic
Perth - PER
Melbourne - MEL
Qantas' lounge is a great place to spend time before the flight: it's large, has nice views and has a good choice of food and drink.
It sounds great to have full service in domestic economy with airport check-in, boarding by bridge, nice seats, reasonable legroom, built-in screens and a hot meal with three choices. But not everything was perfect: the screen was slow to respond, the sound didn't work at my seat, there were no printed menus and the food was certainly not as good as it first looked. The crew was friendly.
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