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, May 5 2021
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, Qantas has advised Executive Traveller that while only five of the ten domestic A330s are currently in service, those are all 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 is writ in stone.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Nov 2011

Total posts 16

I flew the a330 return BNE-PER last week in business, the seats are great for a transcon hop, no question - but the service was pretty budget.  The food on both legs was terrible - I am not one to complain normally but this was not in anyway a Neil Perry-approved affair.  A chicken and pork dish were on offer and the chicken was inedible and I do not eat pork. I understand not having a full bar service (wine only) to minimise mask-off time, but for a $4,800 flight I was shocked at the quality of the meal.  Qantas economy meals are much better quality normally.  Anyone else notice this downgrade?  This was my first transcon in a year so I have nothing to compare with other than pre-covid times.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2502

While I'd rather not see this article's comments sidetracked into argy-bargy over Qantas' inflight meals, Neil Perry etc, I've had some recent domestic A330 flights and the meals have been well up to standard, so let's hope this was just a one-off. 

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 168

All good advice, you might be surprised, or maybe you won't be, at how many people don't think about this or are not aware of it, they just book their flight and then if it's on an A330 they go "Oh, wow!" like it's a treat. I always look for the A330s even SYD-MEL if it suits my timetable.

24 Jun 2020

Total posts 13

Hi David

I am on a Perth/Sydney flight in a few weeks and although originally the flight was a A330, it was subsequently cancelled and I was bumped onto a 737. Then only a week later, it changed again and is now a 787 dreamliner. Suffice to say that I think I am happier now I am on the 787 but curious what your thoughts are with this constant change and if the 787 is better or the same as the 330 ?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2502

Oh, you got a Perth-Sydney Boeing 787, nice score! I think we can expect a bit of shuffling here and there, but the Boeing 787 business class experience is superior to the A330. The seat itself is basically the same but if you're in a middle seat and flying with your partner or a friend or colleague, you can lower the divider between the two seats – it's not fixed in place as on the A330 version of the seat. Plus overall the Boeing 787 is a more comfortable ride due to a few passenger-friendly features such as higher cabin humidity.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 192

The A330 is a much nicer experience over the 737 particularly on the longer trans con flights, however most people travelling for business choose flights based on their work schedule and even now the schedules are way down on pre covid and the A330s are still generally only operating 1 daily on the trans con SYD/MEL-PER

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2502

Hi jrfsp: many or most business travellers are certainly guided by their own timetable more than that of an airline, which is why we've pointed out that only a very small number of Sydney-Melbourne flights are A330s, but indicated that if your timetable does allow some wiggle-room, then if there's not much of a gap between flights – as illustrated by the two screenshots – you may as well go for the A330.

As for current A330 schedules, the numbers citied in the article are drawn from this week's Qantas timetable (eg three of Qantas' seven Sydney-Perth services feature the A330).

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 628

I enjoyed Syd - Bris on a  A330 in late April the down side was how short the air time was like a teaser of life before Covid.

05 Jan 2021

Total posts 7

I don't want to push the catering issue but to spoil the great ambience of the 330's cabin and its seating with the mediocre domestic business class wine and food is almost sacrilege !

Just imagine seating in one of the single window seats and along comes lunch - a sausage roll - see what I mean!

28 Mar 2018

Total posts 13

A330s are flying regularly to Cairns. 

A SYD-CNS fare in business is $920. That's comparable to a SYD-MEL fare, but as it's a mid-haul sector, it earns 50% more status credits and points.

I think it's about the best value for premium experience and QFF retention.  

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 168

Yes, although more of a holiday route than a business one, Qantas has upgraded both Sydney-Cairns and Melbourne-Cairns with the A330s. Definitely a good way to start and finish a sunny Far North Queensland getaway!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Mar 2020

Total posts 6

From 24/05 QF840/1 and QF824/5 between SYD-DRW and BNE-DRW will be retimed to allow for the A330-200 to take over the SYD-DRW run daily and for the A330-300 to take over the BNE-DRW on select days. 

Very exciting to have the A330's coming to Darwin again. Certainly more comfortable for the 4+ hour flight to Sydney than the 737.

UA *Gold Lifetime

18 Dec 2015

Total posts 4

Just landed on QF146 from Auckland on a 330-200. 

Obvious choice to pick the A330 over a 737 but beware of the covid strip back on QF A330 service...

No pillows or blankets which actually make the seat pretty uncomfortable other than in upright mode. 

I flew to Auckland on Air NZs 787 in biz. I picked the 11.40am departure time over Qantas A330 at 0940.

Air NZ has pillows, liquor and a full meal service with salad and cheese. Qantas only offer wine, no pillows or blankets and a pretty average one tray, one course meal with a boxed desert. 

Until they bring back pillows and a full meal service Air NZ wins hands down on the Tasman Bubble...

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 288

As far as I know, Qantas is still operating its NZ flights under a fairly strict 'COVID protocol' for international flights. Air new Zealand is back to something like full service in the same way that New Zealand has almost totally recovered from COVID in terms of no mask-wearing in the lounge or at the airport, self-serve buffets are back in the airline's NZ lounges, although not the AU ones because they have to comply with AU government health standards.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 238

Wine = Covid safe.

Spirits = not Covid safe.

Why is this so hard to understand?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 438

Because it makes no sense?

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 19

Both my SYD/AKL/SYD business sectors have been downgraded to 737.  First world problems I know., I guess not as many people are taking advantage of the bubble as first thought.... 

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 288

I've read this as well, the bubble started strong with all the people eager to get to NZ to visit family and friends, maybe do some business or just get out of the country for a holiday, and of course Day 1 of the bubble coincided with the NZ school holidays, but after that initial rush there's been a noticeable drop in passengers, leading to QF and NZ both downgrading some flights. Qantas launched with three SYD-AKL flights per day, now it's generally back to two. I think we'll see things change when our winter school holidays arrive, as well as people flying over to NZ for the ski season.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 468

Thank-you David, this Boeing Tragic might just yet become a Promiscuous Flyer (at least occasionally) based on this good news.  Pity QF doesn't use the A330 on their last direct flight of the day (QF498/499 and QF634/637).

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 48

Flew in the bubble to NZ last week and back this week.  Sydney airport was eerie with the lack of people, but the Qantas First Lounge was almost normal (albeit with a limited menu and a minimal wine range).  Ahh... first world problems.  The menu was great even if limited.  The check-in / boarding process was painless although we couldn't see the COVID-Safe kit on boarding and they had none on board!  We didn't eat because we'd eaten in the lounge, but it looked okay.  Had a few drinks.  Funny we are so comfortable with masks, that several times we went to take a drink with them in place.  Duh!

NZ really seems to have COVID tracing to an art.  The one app is used everywhere and it has a diary facility that allows you to add data and edit your record to add any missed movements/visits.   Runs circles round here in NSW where some places have Service NSW app and others don't.  Even our NSW Hospitals don't use the Service NSW app, but that's a different story for another place.  In NZ everyone uses their app, everywhere they go, unlike here where some do and some don't.

On the return trip this week, the Air NZ lounge was just like normal with a self-serve buffet and no masks.  Full bar service and great range of wines: we were happy.  Once again it was strange to be in an empty airport with everyone wearing masks, but it was very well managed.  The meal on the flight was good although the range of wines was again limited.  Shame we're fussy: I guess on a desert island we'd go thirsty.    

The pre-approved paperwork going each way made everything very smooth and we felt safe and comfortable, even though there is still risk in travelling.  I know it is not economically viable to keep airports to limited volumes of travelers, but it sure makes entering and exiting the airport a breeze.  In NZ and back in Sydney, we were out of the airport just over 30-minutes after leaving the plane.


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