Upgrade your domestic Qantas business class experience: book an A330

Whether it's a Sydney-Melbourne hop or a cross-country trek, you may as well fly in Australia's best business class seat.

By David Flynn, April 5 2022
Upgrade your domestic Qantas business class experience: book an A330

Domestic business travel is on the rebound, and Qantas is back to flying full strength – which means you can once again enjoy an international-grade business class seat on even the short Sydney-Melbourne hop.

We're not going to call this a #TravelHack, although it's certainly a trick of savvy travellers and frequent flyers.

What we will call it is the smartest way to upgrade your Qantas business class experience, without spending a single cent more on your ticket.

And it's easy to do: next time you're booking a flight on the Qantas website, look for the icon which indicates if that flight will be on a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A330.

Here's why that little icon makes a big difference.

Most domestic Qantas flights are on the Boeing 737: it's the workhorse of the Flying Kangaroo's fleet, with 80 of the popular single-aisle jets carving up the Australian skies.

But some flights – mainly between Sydney and Melbourne, as well as east-west routes to and from Perth – feature the larger and better-appointed Airbus A330.

Qantas has ten A330s (specifically, the A330-200 model) assigned to its domestic fleet, but these are crowned with the same business class seat as appear on the international A330-300 fleet.

Marketed as the Qantas Business Suite, it also appears – in a slightly updated form – on the Boeing 787 Dreamliners and the upgraded-but-for-now-grounded Airbus A380 superjumbos.

And comparing the business class seat of the Boeing 737 to the Airbus A330 is chalk and cheese.

We'd suggest that most Executive Traveller readers have flown in both, especially when it comes to Qantas' A330s on overseas jaunts of up to nine hours to Asia and Honolulu.

But why wouldn't you want to enjoy that same A330 experience on the 90-minute shuttle between Sydney and Melbourne, or those 4-5 hour coast-to-coast runs – especially if you need to get a power nap on the A330's lie-flat business class bed?

Here are some other drawcards of the domestic Qantas A330 Business Suite.

Comfort: it should go without saying that the A330's business class seat is far more comfortable than that of the Boeing 737 in every measure.

It's wider and has more legroom, has a far more ergonomic design, and the seat can be put into a relaxing recline mode for taxi, take-off and landing portions of your flight.

Don't forget that even on a Sydney-Melbourne trip, you're in that seat for much longer than the actual flying time: there's the 10-15 minutes from boarding to take-off, and maybe 5-10 minutes from landing to walking off the plane. Why not spend all that time in a great seat?

Privacy: obviously, there's no seatmate rubbing shoulder with you – even in the paired middle seats, which are separated by a shelf and divider.

But this is about more than just enjoying a greater sense of personal space: if you've got work, sensitive work, do to on your laptop or documents, there's no chance of your neighbour stealing some glances and some confidential information.

Convenience: apart from a tiny cocktail table between the Boeing 737's business class seats, there's no place to keep anything within reach.

The A330 Business Suite, on the other hand, boasts a wide shelf next to each seat, with a recessed area for parking your laptop, tablet or smartphone, a book or magazine, reading glasses or other items and oddments.

And if you need to power up or recharge your tech en route, the AC socket is within easy reach instead of being tucked away beneath your seat, and there's also a USB outlet right next to it.

WiFi: speaking of tech, all domestic A330s are fitted with the fast and free Qantas WiFi service – a welcome bonus if you need to tackle some work from A to B, especially on east-west flights which take up a large chunk of the day.

Inflight entertainment: Not so crucial if you're bounding between Sydney and Melbourne, but for transcontinental flights, the A330's seatback screens are bigger and brighter than the pokey panels of the Boeing 737.

In fact, with Virgin Australia axing its own Airbus A330s (along with the Boeing 777s) to become a Boeing 737-only airline under new owners Bain Capital, there's no argument that Qantas now boasts Australia's best domestic business class.

All the same, you should know one caveat to the A330 business class experience.

No under-seat stowage: while there's more room in the A330's overhead lockers, so you're less likely to have to cram in your bags on a crowded flight, you're not permitted to keep a small bag close at hand under the seat in front of you (unlike passengers in the second or third rows of the Qantas Boeing 737).

The easy way around this: once you're in your seat, quickly fish out from your carry-on bag anything you'll want to use during the flight and then pop your bag up overhead.

Making sure you book onto a Qantas A330

The Qantas A330 business class pretty much sells itself, so how can you make you're going to be flying in it?

When you're on the Qantas website and perusing the timetable for your next trip, pay attention to the airplane icon on the second-last row.

For most domestic Qantas flights this will either read B737 or A330, and you can guess which one's the prize pick.

Here's an A330 rose perched bewteen two B737 thorns (and yes, it costs the same to fly on the A330 as on the Boeing 737 in either Aussie dollars or Qantas Points).

Between Sydney and Melbourne, Qantas generally rosters the A330 onto morning and evening peak hour flights – so of the near-30 daily flights darting between these two cities, you may only find two are on the Airbus A330.

The ratio's higher on east-west flights: at the time of writing, three of Qantas' seven Sydney-Perth services feature the A330.

This is also where it can pay to be a little flexible with your own schedule: as shown below, you could leave Sydney at 10.25am and be on a Boeing 737 to Perth, or check in just one hour earlier to be on the far superior Airbus A330.

A final note of caution: for any number of reasons (such as a domino effect of delays, or technical issues) the Airbus A330 can be swapped out and a Boeing 737 appear in its place, so no A330 booking can be considered writ in stone.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Aug 2017

Total posts 4

I upgraded flex economy to business on the A332 last month for MEL-PER. Well worth the points. The hard product is terrific although a few comments about the soft product, which was somewhat disappointing: no sparkling wine before take off is disappointing, especially on a medium haul flight such as MEL-PER; the wine selection in general is very disappointing in terms of both quantity and quality; I have found QF service to have gone colder since COVID, lack of personal greetings etc, although the cabin crew on my flight opened up once you started talking to them. They have obviously had a tough time. Interestingly, the crew on this flight were ex-QF international, apparently training up again on domestic A332 routes before being redeployed on international services later this year. They themselves commented that while it was great to get the A332 hard product on a domestic flight, the difference in soft product between domestic A332 and international A332 is significant.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 322

Qantas quietly cutting back, no sparkling on boarding in Business. And yes Qantas onboard crew service has gone from bad to worse - whilst Virgin has gone from good to better to best in class, at least from my many experiences since COVID started 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 210

Agree on the soft product, no longer industry leading.

No Plat welcome anymore, ipads gone from economy, lots of hiding behind covid.

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 24

Interesting article : last year twice flew Melbourne to Cairns on A330 brilliant.   Now 2022 they are flying on the direct flight 737.   There is no comparison 👎👎

Disappointing change 

Mike 

23 May 2011

Total posts 35

How do you find these free upgrades... all I can see still requires points to upgrade?

It's written as a 'free upgrade' to the better A330 business class based on the idea that if you are booking Qantas business class on say SYD-MEL the price is the same, so if you can choose an A330 instead of a 737 you are getting this much better business class for free. It's not about an upgrade from economy to business.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 471

You could always try reading the article before commenting........

Very good practical tip, I have some clients who always book with Qantas due to company policy, doesn't bother me as it's their money LOL, and when requesting flights I certainly keep an eye out for the A330. I won't rejig my schedule around it but if it's only a half an hour one way or the other, why not!

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 411

but can one be guaranteed they get a a330.It's not like the old days say a quarter of a century ago where if you booked an a300 or a 767 it will be one of those or if really lucky you might score a factory fresh only a few months old 747-400 or even get a 747sp or 747-300.Shame Adelaide passengers won't be that fortunate.Everything unless it's Qantas Link at the present time is currently a 737-800 on all flights.Is that all they think the South Australian Market is worth.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 243

You QF flyers are very lucky to have a chance at the far better seating and amenities the A330 provides

I sorely miss not having the choice/ possibility of flying J Class on the A330 with VA. It was  so damn good. one of the best there is . Sadly gone now and one can only hope that it does return in the future.

Having said this there is no way I would pay the huge fare difference and fly QF and with their lousy service from what I read here.


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Upgrade your domestic Qantas business class experience: book an A330