Hi Everyone, as a long time lurker on this site I thought the time was right to submit a report of my own. I know it's not as comprehensive as it could have been but I'll be sure to expand next time. Any advice would be much appreciated.
I decided to use the four day weekend over Easter to go to Auckland with a friend. Qantas had a $1150AUD return fare from Canberra to New Zealand in Business, which we took advantage of. Qantas, through it's New Zealand subsidiary JetConnect flies trans-Tasman routes using 737-800 equipment. There is significant competition on this routes, with Emirates, LAN, China Airlines, Air New Zealand, Jetstar and Virgin Australia offering services from the East Coast of Australia to Auckland. Our Journey began on a Qantaslink 717-200, which arrived in Melbourne at 0930 local time.
Qantas 747-400ER at a remote stand before operating the late afternoon service to Los Angeles
We were airside by 1015, and thanks to my Qantas Platinum status, we were able to access the Qantas First Lounge. Sharing the same DNA as it's Sydney sister, the Melbourne lounge is smaller, though has the same great service. I had a pre-booked spa appointment for 1200, which I cancelled upon arrival as I had to make a business call. With the exception of the front desk staff who are employed by Qantas, the service staff within the lounge are all employed by Accor. We had breakfast, and owing to the fact we were on holiday we had a martini each.
The lounge was extremely busy, so this photo is from a visit the week before to the First Lounge in Sydney. On both occasions I had the sweet corn fritters with salmon.
Taking photos in the lounge was difficult owing to the delay of QF93 to LAX, as the lounge was at capacity.
The First lounges are top-notch, with a selection of boutique Australian spirits. This was a Gin martini made using the brilliant Four Pillars Gin, from a distillery in the Yarra Valley, just outside of Melbourne. The EK A380 in the background was also operating to Auckland.
Boarding was announced at 1255. Priority boarding was announced though not enforced. The 737 taking us to Auckland was 100% full. We were welcomed onboard and took our seats in the first row.
The standard Qantas short-haul business class recliner. This seat is identical (bar upholstery) to the international long haul Premium Economy seat.
Qantas has recently started offering Champagne on its trans-Tasman services. I think there is significant pressure to increase the premium product offering on this route given the increase in competition. On today's flight we had the choice between Champagne Duval-Leroy Brut NV, orange juice or water as a pre-departure beverage. A Shanghai Airlines a330 was parked next to us.
The menu for today's flight.
Very average headphones, despite the style of the headset they are not noise cancelling. My QC25's had stopped working on the flight down from Canberra, though my very kind friend offered his back-up pair of QC15's which saw me through!
The Customer Service Manager came and greeted all passengers in the 12 seat cabin, and offered express-path cards and arrival documents. The warmth of this New Zealand crew was evident throughout the flight, and more than made up for the deficit in the hard-product compared to the competition.
The fantastic view of Melbourne following take off.
A pre-lunch drink was offered, and we both had a glass of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Crossing the coastline of Victoria.
Approximately 40 minutes into the flight the appetizer was served, a seared tuna salad. Sourdough was also offered. It was basic, but enjoyable.
We both opted for the chicken as a main course. Very well cooked, but essentially a slab of chicken.
At this point I visited the lavatory. In 2014 Qantas started using Aurora Spa products in it's lounges, on-board amenity kits and lavatories, as well as in the First Lounge Spa. They're decent enough, despite not having widespread brand recognition in Australia. The company is also based in Melbourne.
The only option for dessert was icecream. Qantas uses Maggie Beer icecream, which continues the theme of the Australian showcase. Maggie Beer is based in South Australia, she's an Australian celebrity chef and her farm is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the Barossa Valley.
After another hour we were nearing our destination. Our friendly Flight Attendant, Andy spent 15 minutes discussing his favourite activities on the North Island of New Zealand, and offering suggestions for our short stay.
Crossing the New Zealand coastline.
Downtown Auckland in the evening sun.
Welcome to the land of the Koru! As we had landed 10 minutes early we had a brief wait while a Jetstar a320 vacated our bay.
Some more NZ birds as we walked toward security.
Qantas First Lounge International
Melbourne - MEL
Auckland - AKL
A decent hop across the Tasman, though essentially Qantas provides consistent, predictable service. The lack of surprises is largely a blessing, though the lack of theatre is a blessing and a curse. The 737 service is comfortable, though not in the same league as partner Emirates offering on the same route. Qantas has the benefit of a comprehensive Australian domestic network feeding into their trans-Tasman services, and has taken some steps to improve the product onboard (Champagne in place of sparkling wine, amenity kits on flights departing after 1800). Whether it will be enough remains to be seen. The service was very good; personalized and professional. These services are well suited to road warriors, though leisure travelers may enjoy trying something a little out of the ordinary such as EK service, or even a NZ widebody.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my first report, and all criticism is welcomed.
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