Review: Qantas Airbus A380 first class

Qantas' updated first class is sleek, comfortable and still gets the job done in style, but dining is its weakest link.

Overall Rating

By Brandon Loo, February 5 2020
Qantas Airbus A380 first class
Route

Hong Kong - Sydney

Aircraft Type

Airbus A380

Airline

Qantas

Flight

QF128

Cabin Class

First

Seat

3A

Notes
The Good
  • Decent personal space and privacy
  • The seat transforms into a superbly soft bed
  • Top-notch lounges in Hong Kong
The Bad
  • Uninspiring dining menu
  • No inflight WiFi
X-Factor
  • The most comfortable way to fly between Australia and Hong Kong
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Qantas' refurbished Airbus A380s are progressively appearing on more and more flights, bringing with them a refreshed first class experience. You'll still be flying in the same first class suite as debuted on the red-tailed superjumbos in 2008, with a unique design by Marc Newson, but a mid-life make-over – which will be in place on all 12 Qantas A380s by the end of 2020 – does away with a decade of wear and gives each suite a more contemporary look.

While this review details Qantas' Airbus A380 first class flying from Hong Kong to Sydney, most of the observations – good and bad – will apply to other flagship A380 routes to Singapore, London, Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: Qantas Frequent Flyer, Oneworld. Beyond that alliance network which also includes local partner Cathay Pacific, Qantas maintains partnerships with an array of other loyalty programs too, such as Emirates Skywards.
  • Checked baggage:
    • 50kg: standard allowance
    • 62kg: Qantas Club members, Qantas Silver and Emirates Skywards Silver frequent flyers
    • 66kg: Qantas Gold and Skywards Gold frequent flyers
    • 70kg: Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge members; other Oneworld Emerald cardholders; Skywards Platinum frequent flyers
  • Permitted carry-on baggage combinations:
    • 1x115cm bag up to 10kg, or:
    • 2x105cm bags at a combined weight of up to 14kg, with no more than 10kg in a single bag, or:
    • 1x105cm bag plus a 185cm garment bag at a combined weight of up to 14kg, with no more than 10kg in a single item.
  • Priority services: In-town check-in is swift when using the Airport Express, otherwise, counters open at the airport three hours prior to departure. There's no priority lane for first class flyers at security or immigration, but eChannel is available for registered users. Priority boarding is enforced, and checked bags are delivered in the first batch upon arrival in Sydney.

Lounge

Qantas first class passengers have many lounges to choose from across Hong Kong Airport, beginning with the obvious: the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge, conveniently located just beyond the Security (North) screening point opposite the Qantas check-in desks.

Infographic of Qantas' check-in counters and lounge location, Hong Kong Airport.. Maps from Hong Kong Airport. Infographic adapted by Executive Traveller.
Infographic of Qantas' check-in counters and lounge location, Hong Kong Airport.
Maps from Hong Kong Airport. Infographic adapted by Executive Traveller.

This is a shared 'premium' lounge available for business class and first class flyers alike, along with Qantas Club members and Gold- and Platinum-grade Qantas frequent flyers (and their Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald equivalents).

The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge is the natural go-to for Qantas passengers.
The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge is the natural go-to for Qantas passengers.

However, first class passengers do get some special treatment. There's a series of reserved tables near the railings for a sweeping views across the airport, the wait staff are notably more attentive, and Taittinger Brut Réserve Champagne is discreetly poured for you, rather than the Australian fizz otherwise served at the bar.

Signature char siu rice, Taittinger Champagne (NV) at the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge.
Signature char siu rice, Taittinger Champagne (NV) at the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge.

But if you're after a truly first class experience from start to finish, passengers with a couple of hours to spare can also head to the two first class lounges of Oneworld partner airline Cathay Pacific.

The furthest from the Qantas lounge is The Pier, down near Gate 65 - this requires a quick ride on the terminal shuttle train or a long walk (allow 15 minutes).

You'll be facing that same walk back up to the Qantas gates, as the train is unavailable in that direction: so, if a detour to The Pier is on your agenda, make sure you've got plenty of time. And you'll want to have plenty of time, because The Pier is the crown jewel in Cathay Pacific's lounge network.

Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.

Once you've reached The Pier you can choose to relax in a cosy day room, depending on how much time you have to unwind before your flight. These quiet nooks have a plush day bed and thick curtains for privacy, and the view is especially entrancing at night.

A day suite at Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
A day suite at Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.

Sadly, the complimentary foot massage is rarely available, especially in the lead-up to the evening peak hours. In our experience there's always a waiting list stretching for hours in advance.

The dining room boasts a full a-la-carte menu with several Cathay Pacific lounge staples such as Dan Dan Noodles, and the servings are not so large that you can't order a few dishes to share with your travelling partner

The dining room at Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
The dining room at Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.

Informal dining at its best: Wagyu beef cheese burger with fries and salad.
Informal dining at its best: Wagyu beef cheese burger with fries and salad.
Espresso martini, Blue Hawaii, sticky pork ribs.
Espresso martini, Blue Hawaii, sticky pork ribs.

At the other end of The Pier to the dining room is a well-stocked cocktail bar which is especially popular in the evenings, either for a post-dinner nightcap or a few social drinks.

The bar at Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
The bar at Cathay Pacific's The Pier First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.

Executive Traveller review: Cathay Pacific The Pier first class lounge

If your schedule doesn't allow sufficient Pier-worthy hours, make a pit-stop at Cathay Pacific's other first class lounge, The Wing. Located across from gates 1 through 4, The Wing is much closer to the Qantas lounge (allow around five minutes from lounge to lounge) and the gates used by Qantas' flights from Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific's The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific's The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.

The Wing has a noticeably different style to The Pier, as well as being much smaller, but there's still space for both a tended bar and a unique 'Champagne lounge' plus a dining room with a buffet spread and à la carte menu.

Elegant decor at Cathay Pacific's The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
Elegant decor at Cathay Pacific's The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
The 'Champagne Lounge' at Cathay Pacific's The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
The 'Champagne Lounge' at Cathay Pacific's The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.

The Wing's best first class perk are its private cabanas with a rainforest shower, deep bathtub and a day bed couch. But, like The Pier's foot massage service, the cabanas are in high demand and there's often a waiting list – so it's best to make a booking as soon as you arrive at the lounge.

A private cabana at Cathay Pacific's The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.
A private cabana at Cathay Pacific's The Wing First Class Lounge, Hong Kong.

Read: The business traveller's guide to Cathay Pacific's Hong Kong lounges

Note that boarding calls aren't made at Cathay Pacific's Hong Kong lounges, so set an alarm on your smartphone as well as watching for notifications from the Qantas app regarding any delays to the departure time. If there are delays you might want to head back to the Qantas lounge where the staff keep passengers updated.

Flight

Qantas doesn't offer first class to Hong Kong year-round, but it's available on all flights served by the Airbus A380 when those superjumbos appear on the roster. This is typically over the Australian summer through to Chinese New Year, as QF127 from Sydney to Hong Kong and QF128 on the return. With a 6:20pm departure from Hong Kong, QF128 arrives into Sydney at 6:40am the following calendar day: a journey of 9 hrs 20 mins.

You'll otherwise find Qantas' Airbus A380s on selected flights from Sydney to Singapore, Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth; from Melbourne to Singapore and Los Angeles; and between Singapore and London Heathrow.

These all offer first class, although Qantas estimates the refurbishment of the entire A380 fleet will take until the end of 2020, so you're not guaranteed this refreshed first class experience until those works are completed across every aircraft.

Qantas' original Airbus A380 first class suite, designed by Marc Newson.
Qantas' original Airbus A380 first class suite, designed by Marc Newson.

However, given that the seat itself hasn't changed, the core first class experience will be the same: a semi-private 'open suite' which faces forward during taxi, take-off and landing, and then at the touch of a button swivels around so you can really stretch out.

Stretching out on Qantas' original Airbus A380 first class suite.
Stretching out on Qantas' original Airbus A380 first class suite.

This also opens up the possibility of dining with your partner or a colleague – as long as they're also travelling first class – with the ottoman at the far corner of the suite serving as a small bench.

Companion dining in Qantas' original Airbus A380 first class suite.
Companion dining in Qantas' original Airbus A380 first class suite.

First class passengers can also visit the ostensibly business class lounge on the upper deck. The original Airbus A380s are fitted out with one not very comfortable lounge, while the upgraded A380s have two lounge areas in a more social configuration of cafe-style tables.

Qantas' original Airbus A380 upper deck lounge.
Qantas' original Airbus A380 upper deck lounge.
One of Qantas' new Airbus A380 upper deck lounges.
One of Qantas' new Airbus A380 upper deck lounges.

Photo tour: see what's new in Qantas' upgraded Airbus A380 superjumbo

Seat

There are 14 spacious first class suites here in a 1-1-1 configuration – five on each side of the cabin, and four seats in the middle. There are no paired centre suites, although you can sit across the aisle from your partner and of course share a meal in the suite's 'companion dining' configuration.

Wide shot of Qantas' Airbus A380 first class cabin.
Wide shot of Qantas' Airbus A380 first class cabin.

Frequent first class flyers tend to have their favourite suites, such as 1A and 1K for a ‘private jet’ feeling or the cosy cocoon of 2F (sometimes called the Harry Potter suite, due to its location under the stairs leading to the upper deck).

The seatmap for Qantas' Airbus A380 first class cabin.
The seatmap for Qantas' Airbus A380 first class cabin.

Read more: The best seats in first class on the Qantas Airbus A380

As we've already noted, the seats are relatively unchanged from Qantas' original A380 first class, except for some minor cosmetic changes and refreshed fabrics with better lighting to breathe new life into them. 

Although the Qantas suites don't have sliding doors as seen in the flagship first class products of Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and others, they remain roomy while retaining an element of privacy.

View of Seat 4A.
View of Seat 4A.

Seats 1A-5A exclusively use the left aisle, while seats 2F-5F and 1K-5K both share the right-hand aisle, below.

'F' and 'K' seats share the same aisle.
'F' and 'K' seats share the same aisle.

However, these suites are all fairly private when everyone is seated and you won't easily spot other fellow passengers unless you're walking around. The long privacy shields on the left of the 'F' seats automatically raise once the flight is cruising.

Privacy isn't an issue, even in these wide-open suites. Those shields automatically raise at cruising altitude.
Privacy isn't an issue, even in these wide-open suites. Those shields automatically raise at cruising altitude.

Each suite has an armchair which faces forwards for take-off and landing, but can then be electronically swivelled towards the window to maximise legroom and personal space.

Around the seat is a fold-down snack table for pre-flight drinks and canapés, a garment hook, two air nozzles, and a literature pocket.

In first class, the Airbus A380's large windows are electronically controlled.
In first class, the Airbus A380's large windows are electronically controlled.

Deep overhead storage lockers are found on either side of the cabin, although none are in the middle. This means passengers seated in the 'F' seats share lockers with those in the 'K' seats.

Despite that, there's plenty of space in your suite. Small bits and pieces can be stashed in these two swing-out drawers, while shoes have a dedicated slot underneath.

Two storage drawers and space for your shoes underneath.
Two storage drawers and space for your shoes underneath.

The ottoman opposite you has enough space underneath for a backpack or other small bag. As you may have guessed, the extra seat belt is for a guest who can sit across from you at meal times, or simply to relax together.

The extra seat belt enables you to have 'dinner for two'.
The extra seat belt enables you to have 'dinner for two'.

The seat has a 'three-point' car-style sash belt for take-off and landing, while mounted near your shoulder is a nifty tablet that controls every aspect of your suite. Below that is the headphone plug, and various buttons for common functions.

Yes, the traditional four-way headrest also present in first class.
Yes, the traditional four-way headrest also present in first class.

Speaking of the tablet, its functions include controlling the window shades, privacy divider and various lights. It also shows a mini moving map and has customisable presets for actions such as dining or watching TV, which then controls the seat and surrounding lighting, window and privacy shades simultaneously and as desired.

The many uses of your in-seat tablet.
The many uses of your in-seat tablet.

There's a massage function, but as with the Qantas Business Suites on the Airbus A330s, Boeing 787s and on these same refurbished A380s, this felt more like a comfortable buzz than an actual massage.

Massage functions are available from the tablet.
Massage functions are available from the tablet.

When it comes time to relax, set your chair to 'Watching TV' and enjoy the ride as the seat swivels into position, the lights dim and the blinds come down. 

The seat in a comfortable semi-reclined mode.
The seat in a comfortable semi-reclined mode.

While the seat was performing great up to now, it soon became apparent that the first class cabin was definitely showing its age under that figurative new coat of paint. 

Firstly, the seat regularly got stuck and took several attempts before it would swivel. Secondly, when the passenger seated behind raised their privacy divider, it took the whole plastic cover with it too.

That's evidently not supposed to happen!
That's evidently not supposed to happen!

The tray table comes out of the console to your side. Two wings then fold out to create an extremely large and sturdy surface that can host dinner for two.

The sturdy tray table when fully extended.
The sturdy tray table when fully extended.

At the front of the aircraft is the grand staircase leading up to the redesigned lounges, which are certainly more eye-pleasing and functional than the old lounge, with a number of benches and tables to chit-chat or enjoy a drink with fellow passengers.

The lounge wasn't popular on an overnight flight.
The lounge wasn't popular on an overnight flight.

It's a great concept for longer flights or those during daylight hours, but on a relatively shorter overnight trip – not only Hong Kong to Sydney but Singapore to Sydney or Melbourne – it's better just to change into your first class PJs, have the bed made up and hit the hay.

Plush bedding is an important part of the Qantas Airbus A380 first class experience.
Plush bedding is an important part of the Qantas Airbus A380 first class experience.

Meal

During boarding, Qantas first class passengers are offered a welcome drink served with nuts and olives. Champagne is available, but after enjoying a glass or two in the lounge, sparkling water might hit the spot.

Sparkling water with lemon, mixed nuts before departure.
Sparkling water with lemon, mixed nuts before departure.

The nine-hour overnight flight from Hong Kong to Sydney sees a three-course dinner service after take-off, followed by breakfast shortly before arrival. 

The first class dinner menu on QF128.
The first class dinner menu on QF128.

The caviar tartlet canapé isn't comparable to the true caviar plates found on many other competing airlines, although it – and the roasted duck bite – were tantalising mouthfuls, again served with a drink before the main dinner service.

Caviar tartlet with celeriac purée, roasted duck with plum sauce, cucumber and shallots.
Caviar tartlet with celeriac purée, roasted duck with plum sauce, cucumber and shallots.

As I was travelling with my partner, we had the table set for two, and out came the starters: satay sesame prawns and charred sweetcorn soup. The prawns were juicy and tasty, but didn't quite match the bed of cold chopped beans and seasoned noodles.

Satay sesame prawns with egg noodle, salad, green beans and garlic stems.
Satay sesame prawns with egg noodle, salad, green beans and garlic stems.

For mains, the beef fillet came out completely zapped dry, though it was admittedly still tender and flavoursome enough when combined with the (scarce) red wine jus.

Well done: beef fillet with rosemary potatoes, carrot purée, broccolini and red wine jus.
Well done: beef fillet with rosemary potatoes, carrot purée, broccolini and red wine jus.

The red braised pork was a big and lean (read: tough) piece of protein in a small bowl, on top of a bed of mushy stir-fried vegetables. Without any of the red-braised sauce left to soak up, the dish was difficult to eat and not one that could be considered to reach first class standards.

Red-braised pork with stir-fried mushrooms, sesame, bok choy and rice.
Red-braised pork with stir-fried mushrooms, sesame, bok choy and rice.

While the cabin crew are merely serving what has been supplied, improvements could be made on the menu front. Given that Hong Kong doesn't have Qantas first class for most of the year, the menu quite honestly seems like an afterthought.

Cheese and dessert were both available, but were skipped in favour of a simple but delightful fruit plate.

A fresh fruit plate for dessert.
A fresh fruit plate for dessert.

To pair with your meal or dessert, Qantas now prints the Champagne being served at the top of the wine list for each first class flight (previously, two or three were printed and you wouldn't know what it would be until you asked).

The drinks menus: left is apéritifs and spirits, right is the wine list.
The drinks menus: left is apéritifs and spirits, right is the wine list.

The 2002 Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime Champagne was a fabulous inclusion (it's around $300 per bottle on the ground). Other wines weren't as inspiring, such as the 2019 Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc, which is a staple of Qantas domestic business class.

Apéritifs and other spirits make up the bulk of the drinks list, including a signature Australian pre-mixed negroni with "mountain pepper and river mint", which I was gently cajoled into trying after initially ordering a Bloody Mary.

Post-dinner, the lounge bar fridge upstairs was stocked with a variety of self-serve non-alcoholic drinks and snacks.

The self-serve bar at Qantas' A380 upper deck lounge area.
The self-serve bar at Qantas' A380 upper deck lounge area.
Drinks in the onboard lounge fridge.
Drinks in the onboard lounge fridge.

Fast-forward to breakfast, and there aren't any hotel-style breakfast cards in First as back in business class. Instead, passengers are asked to notify the crew if they'd prefer to be woken or left to sleep.

Breakfast orders are taken in the morning, with meals available until 90 minutes before landing.

The first class breakfast menu on QF128.
The first class breakfast menu on QF128.

To start: "Neil's healthy Bircher muesli" (named for Neil Perry of Rockpool) with a banana, cocoa and oat muffin, and a healthy cold-pressed green juice. Although the Bircher was slightly too sweet, the muffin was amazingly good, with real chunks of banana baked inside.

"Neil's healthy Bircher muesli", banana + oat + cocoa muffin, cold-pressed green juice.
"Neil's healthy Bircher muesli", banana + oat + cocoa muffin, cold-pressed green juice.

The next course came against the beautiful sunrise: a delicious and light salad of kale, quinoa and poached egg, albeit similar to the 'dish of the day' seen in many Qantas business class lounges on the ground, with a frothy cappuccino on the side.

Salad of kale, quinoa, poached egg + cold pressed green juice and a cappuccino.
Salad of kale, quinoa, poached egg + cold pressed green juice and a cappuccino.

Food and drinks should be a highlight of the first class experience. As business class continues to evolve – with more space and at-seat storage, larger video screens and even sliding privacy doors – dining will remain one of the strongest differentiators in first class, yet this is where Qantas appears to be letting things slide.

Entertainment & Service

Qantas' refurbished Airbus A380s offer larger 18-inch high definition screens at full HD (1920x1080) resolution, replacing the previous 17-inch, lower-resolution panels.

Despite sounding rather small on paper – particularly when compared with the likes of the 32-inch screens in Singapore Airlines' A380 suites – the updated screen in Qantas First proved to be a perfectly good size for the viewing distance.

The updated IFE screen is crisp and just right-sized from where you're sitting (hand provided for size reference).
The updated IFE screen is crisp and just right-sized from where you're sitting (hand provided for size reference).

Seasoned Qantas travellers will be familiar with the carrier's inflight entertainment system, which is identical to those found on the newer Boeing 787s and Airbus A330s. There's a wide selection of new-release movies, TV box sets, music, games, and more. 

From top-left clockwise: Box TV sets, 3D moving map, more TV menu options, new-release movies.
From top-left clockwise: Box TV sets, 3D moving map, more TV menu options, new-release movies.

There's no inflight Internet on Qantas' A380s, nor any of the airline's international routes, although Hong Kong competitors Virgin Australia and Cathay Pacific offer WiFi on most Sydney-Hong Kong flights.

Passengers in Qantas First are addressed by name, and service on this flight was exemplary: there's something about the warmth of some Qantas crews that feels refreshingly different, laidback and typically 'Aussie', while still remaining professional.

LaGaia amenity kits are provided, stocked with skincare products (lip balm, 'recovery mist' and cream), an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush, ear plugs, eye mask and socks. These aren't going to stand out against the big-name leather amenity kits of other airlines, but the fabric bag and its contents did feel quite high quality.

LaGaia amenity kit contents.
LaGaia amenity kit contents.

Martin Grant-designed pyjamas are also distributed, and the crew must be discreetly sizing everyone up before handing these out, as the sizes were perfect.

The PJs have a clean and understated design with grey fabric and red piping.
The PJs have a clean and understated design with grey fabric and red piping.

LaGaia products were also present in the two first class lavatories. Apart from being slightly larger, having a leather seat cover and the presence of clothes hangers on the door, nothing else really set these lavatories apart from other ones – no onboard showers to see here!

LaGaia hand wash and creams in the lavatories.
LaGaia hand wash and creams in the lavatories.

Finally, we come to what is perhaps the most impressive aspect of Qantas First: the bed. Sheridan-branded bedding was provided and it was just oh-so-plush.

The plush Qantas First bed with Sheridan bedding. The mattress pad was incredibly soft.
The plush Qantas First bed with Sheridan bedding. The mattress pad was incredibly soft.

With the open nature of the suite and the two dedicated air vents, temperature was never an issue and this made for a four-hour sleep, which could have been longer if skipping the inflight meals.

View of the freshly-made bed from the suite in front.
View of the freshly-made bed from the suite in front.

All in all, this was a pleasant first class flight. Apart from the uninspiring dining and minor faults in the seat mechanics, the rest of the experience was up to scratch.

If taking this flight again and knowing the above, the best approach would be to enjoy a full dinner on the ground in one of the lounges, and maximise sleep onboard for seven-or-so blissful hours of rest, concluding with just a light brekkie before landing.

Brandon Loo travelled on Qantas at his own expense, using frequent flyer points.

Brandon Loo

Based in Perth, Brandon enjoys tucking into local delicacies, discovering new cocktails, and making aeroplane food look good on camera.

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 162

My experience with meals on both Cathay and Qantas out of HKG has usually been average, so this is not surprising. Meals out of MEL or SYD are always a much higher standard and generally not overcooked. The one place in Asia where the meals seem to be better is ex-Japan.

An excellent and balanced review, thanks Brandon and ET. Qantas First has always been a decent product even if it's not a closed EK or SQ-style suite with sliding doors, I actually prefer this 'open suite' design on Qantas and also Cathay first class. But the f&b is where Qantas First loses out, they used to have an amazing 'degustation menu' but over the past few years the first class menu seems to have more and more of the same dishes as business class. Qantas and Neil Perry really need to go 'above and beyond' with first class dining and make it something truly special, a real highlight of the flight. These days it's more 'lip service' to the idea of first class.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jul 2014

Total posts 58

Agree with the above comments - I eat in the lounge whenever possible, especially on flights inbound to Australia. The champagne is excellent, but as Brandon notes, many of the wines seem to be pilfered from business class ... a shame, given the many exceptional Australian wines that could (and should) be showcased in this cabin. That said, I always find Qantas First extraordinarily comfortable and relaxing ... the service is reliably warm and personable, the seat is private without inducing claustrophobia, and the bedding is the best in the sky - easily the best way to cross the Pacific.

31 May 2018

Total posts 4

I travelled on the refurbished A380 in January from Los Angeles to Sydney and pretty much agree with your review. The bedding was excellent and I slept 8 hours or so. Can't get much better than that. The bigger screen was appreciated too however the control panel barely worked.

There were a few service issues with the timing of the food. The side salad was brought out after I had finished my main and only a moment before I was served dessert. They had also removed my knife and fork so I had nothing to eat it with anyway. A small issue but it just seemed like an overall lack of attention to detail. When I looked at the flight attendant with a confused smile she just seemed to get flustered and began to mumble.

The tea smoked duck was really tasty though.

Seemed at odds with my experiences with service onboard qantas which is usually great!

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 542

Paying up to $17000 for an F fare with Qantas, relative to the hard and soft product, you'd have to never have flown SQ, EK or QR to know how cheated you've been. The food is shameful for First; serving Business Class level F&B is downright contempt.

Bedding, however, is without doubt excellent for quality sleep and comfort. Service is super friendly but too casual and always very slow. The SYD and MEL and SIN F lounges are also F level and right up there too. For things such as amenity kit and lavs these are business class level of quality and offering. As for the razors placed in a mouth rinse cup..can you picture seeing that in a business class lav on EK QR or SQ let alone First Class lav?. Classy. Do they still try roll up the paper thin frayed cotton hand towels into flowers to further add to the ambience of the lav? Oh that's right last time I was in F they had 'enhanced' them to paper towels.

If QF F fares were at BA or EY F levels generally, I'd call it a well above average First offering for price paid.

The 3.5 Star rating is spot on and exactly all this deluxe Business Class 'First' deserves. (If they did call it Business Class it would be worthy of 5 stars, no question!)

PK
PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 114

I knew the refurb in First would be minimal, but I am quite surprised that they did not at least do a check up on the seat mechanics. I flew in unrefurbed F to Dallas two days ago, and my seat was very glitchy. It took multiple attempts to make it move, and, like the review, was especially stubborn on the swivel, and, also, the track. Seems odd that when the plane gets refurbed they will not address that.

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 121

Neil Perry is so 90s. Qantas really needs to up its game. I've had average at best food in Qantas First Class including a large lump of dry steak once with no sauce.

09 Mar 2015

Total posts 32

I agree with most others here, this review pretty much mirrors my experience of Qantas first class. The seat is still a good one overall but is showing its age, the bedding is out of this world, but the meals are closer to an elevated business class rather than being really first class. I know that nobody flies just for the food and drink but when you are in first, the meals and wine should be an absolute 'wow' moment. At least the Champagne on your flight was very good, Brandon, this is the same as served in SQ's Singapore T3 first class lounge.

This review had me wondering what's actually different? cheers skip

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 52

Nice report Brandon. Even as a traveller with little interest in 'fine dining' in the air (and on the ground), I was taken aback by your meal. Apart from the canape, don't you think the other courses look exactly like something any one of us would cook and eat at home on a lazy night? In other words, it looks just like an average home cooked meal. Not a first class, chef inspired, restaurant quality, fine dining experience! You just know something is wrong with catering when a less discerning passenger like me regards this meal as anything but First Class.

12 Feb 2014

Total posts 230

Excellent review Brandon. Comprehensive and fair. Qantas needs to address the inconsistency issues and invest in making its first class product unique and exceptional. We don't all fly in first but it sets the standard for the rest of the airline and signifies whether management is serious about delivering excellence and taking it to the competition.

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 160

I'm amazed they didn't install wifi while the jets were in the hangar getting a refurb.

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 162

At least one or two of them should have satellite and wifi installed already - they already did a trial years ago and I remember flying to the US on an A380 that was part of the trial.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1390

Qantas has apparently signed up for the ViaSat3 satellites (three high speed sats that launch in 2021/22)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 61

Completely agree with the steady decline in food and wine over the years (Qantas used to serve a "6-pack" of Sydney rock oysters with French champagne on some of its international config 767's from Sydney to Perth in the old days!). I understand not everyone places a high emphasis on food and wine in F.

The product differentiation between first and business food is often non-existent especially in F on the overnight flights from LAX where the woeful supper menu is almost identical (not everyone dines in the F lounge). I often ask to see the J menu and am surprised at the huge overlap

The food is often overcooked, under seasoned and most of all served cold (especially the rock hard butter and ice cream) which makes it flavourless

The tiny Neil Perry green salad with varying quality of leaves only, has had its day - it is pedestrian and needs to be scrapped - AF and EK offer a selection of salad ingredients (including protein add-ons like lobster etc) which would work better in F

The wine list used to be stellar and a showcase of Australian wines - lately, with the exception of the champagne, average tasting wines in the AUD 20-30 range have crept in - JL and LH offer 2 (or more sometimes) Grand Marque champagnes in F and Salon has made a comeback on some JL flights

The Will Stud cheese menu used to be a treat (although the cheeses were and still are served too cold) and although a tiny piece of paper with the names of the cheeses is sometimes offered, a clearly listed cheese menu (like LX, LH, EK in F) with good descriptors would be an improvement

There is a paucity of luxury ingredients - more money needs to be spent on these to make it a true F experience (the Neil Perry dish of the day on a SYD-DXB flight a few years ago had stunning Moreton Bay bugs as a main course, but this dish now only applies to starters with a corresponding drop in quality of ingredients)

A full caviar service would be a bonus, offered on EK, SQ, JL, CX, and during some months on LX

All the above are especially true since the F refurb is really only cosmetic - a brand new F food and wine product would boost the overall F package if Qantas is to use these A380s as is for years to come

However, I appreciate in the end the above changes will be a low priority for Qantas

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 161

I reiterate comments on meals out of HKG. I've flown out of HKG in business (occasionally first) with CX, QF, BA, LH, LX and NZ over years and the catering is always noticeably inferior to what I've got in the reverse direction from any of their hub airports, it's inferior to SIN as well. CX F catering from LHR is better than from HKG, which is astonishing, but it still doesn't justify QF needing to make the effort in F (albeit on a route that doesn't consistently have a F service offering from QF).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 313

I have never seen the benefit of paying the extra $$$ for first class, when the business class product of the top airlines is at such a high standard.

Thanks for the review Brandon. You have justified my decision.

JKH
JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 147

Very good review and great to read the increasing number of comments and opinions. It's been years since I've travelled above J class and QF obviously needs to lift it's game in the F&B domain. Their F fares are particularly high for there to be such an abundance of criticisms.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 326

Very good review Brandon. Dare I say the people in charge of QF First service delivery (F&B especially) would like to be at an EK, SQ, QR standard but it's my bet their budgets are slashed and are running on empty and the best they can achieve within that budget is a "business class plus" service. With only x12 A380s that have F class, each flight should be exceptional without a doubt, but if your budget is stripped, you just can't do the job to the right standard. As for the service delivery, I would say the fine dining training budget is also cut.

British Airways - Executive Club

23 Mar 2018

Total posts 15

I was considering upgrading an upcoming QF flight LAX to SYD from business to first (61,500 points). If I have a refurbished plane with the business suite, I'm thinking this would be a waste of points.

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 175

Still worth it for the bed. Space and comfort.....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 4

The bed is worth the points alone

08 Jul 2015

Total posts 15

Agree with most of the above. QF need to move on from the dated N.Perry offerings, the breakfast menu shown in this article is terrible. Why don't they have a basic breakfast option ( bacon, sausages, tomato, hash browns) in addition to the “ new age” kale and other similar offerings. I think the demographic in FC would probably prefer this.

The seating and rest of FC product is great, disagree with Shaw Smith being an inferior product, of course this is a subjective statement but I think it is one of the best SB s.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Nov 2017

Total posts 104

And still only Beefeater as the gin?!?!?! So many very nice Australian gins now available, and they stock Beefeater?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 14

Have flown first with Qantas on the A380 a number of times in the past decade. Originally the product really felt premium and the food and wine was exceptional at times. It seems that Qantas has gradually watered down the offering and I do wonder how many of the passengers are points upgrades these days rather than paying passengers? ( I have done both).

My main gripes are similar to Brandon's, I have had the steak twice and both times it was overcooked and relatively tasteless. (thought the first time was an anomaly).The food and wine menus no longer feel as classy as they were before and do not really compare with the offerings on EK First. The wine list is a shadow of its former self, last time I was very disappointed not to find a great red amongst the offerings.

The cabin itself is pretty good but there do seem to be constant glitches with the seat movement, which I had hoped would have been sorted during the refresh. Bed is comfortable and means I arrive feeling much better than I would have done without a good sleep ( I slept about 9 hours on one flight to Dallas).

The service is generally very good and the staff are personable, my favourite memory is dining with my 21 year old daughter in my cabin after getting an on departure upgrade using points...a trip she won't forget in a hurry!

I am flying again to Dallas in June and will definitely apply for the upgrade if I have enough points, it seems there aren't many better ways of getting bang for your (points) buck.

I do wonder though with the business class experience improving whether Qantas will still be offering a First class service in 5 or 10 years?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Jan 2016

Total posts 80

Missed flying in the upgraded plane last week (SYD-SIN-LHR), however I did keep the menu and drinks list...the whites were all very good/excellent as were the reds along with the 2002 Piper...!!!

The 'proteins' were not awesome but they were good and especially tasty and tender.

Breakfast was the full issue from muesli through to poached/scrambled eggs, pork sausages etc and very good as well. You could have had the kale if you wanted (ick).

This all supports the excellent F&B ex Australia with the return leg sometimes not being where it needs to be.

Service was great, and I do like the seat, especially being able to sit in the 'jump' seat and look backwards, yeah I know, geeky...

20 Jan 2017

Total posts 3

what for its worth recently flew bus class syd/akl on dreamliner and the food was inedible. Tepid soup, small chunks of tasteless tuna on a bed of mashed peas (cold and tasteless) followed by a massive pork "loin" - gross presentation. Would never visit a Neil Perry restaurant if this is a sample. And yes I remember the old days of first class with a trolley full of appetizing food - lobster etc - from which one could choose anything and be personally served. Been plat with QF for years and the food is getting really bad. Now use QR where the dining experience is revived!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Apr 2011

Total posts 106

Agree with Joe & others, especially regarding the food. The breakfast mains are awful & dinner that includes a fruit plate with maybe $2 worth of pretty ordinary fruit is less than stellar

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 160

Wawanderer - you've hit the nail on the head.

Yep, the published First Class fare can be ridiculously high. But, as you rightly point out - how many of the 14 sat up there are paying it? Not many.

You only have to look at how many airlines have completely gotten rid of the product altogether. And those that have retained it seem to be scaling it back further and further.

QF only on the 380. AA the only US airline to have the product. QR only on the 380. In europe BA, LH, LX, AF. However BA which had F on pretty much all their longhaul aircraft are in the process of reducing the size of F cabins and have taken delivery of their A350's without. LH is reducing the amount of aircraft with the cabin. LX only has it on a few aircraft and routes. AF the same - a small number of their aircraft and only FOUR seats.

First Class is only profitable in few markets. Asia is one of them. Status is uber important. Hence why ALL the asian airlines have a First Class (although CX has notably reduced the amount of aircraft with F and MH rebranded theirs as 'Business Suites').

In the rest of the world, people just aren't willing to cough up for it. Sure, they'll buy it in a sale, upgrade with points or cash but I bet there are a quarter if that paying the $17k one way fares. In corporate travel, the days of top management flying F, middle management J have gone.

And as other have mentioned, J has pretty much closed the gap and it's hard to justify the difference these days. There was a time when F was a fully flat bed and J an angle flat one or god forbid a 'cradle seat'. I took the re-furbed 'club suites' 777 on BA last week and the gap between F and J on a six hour transatlantic overnight flight where all I wanted to do was sleep (along with 90% of the other J punters) - you'd have to be mad to take F.

Notice the correlation between BA and QF? An aircraft is in the hangar for weeks getting kitted out with new J seats - plenty of time to install a new F suite too, right? But they choose not to.

So why do airlines bother with it? 1)Well, on a handful of routes it can be profitable (in BA's case LHR-JFK, JNB and LOS. 2) It adds a sense of prestige to the airline. 3) it can help in nabbing large corporate contracts by offering highly discounted F fares for top level management. 3) it offers aspiration for frequent flyers to upgrade.

A bit on an old link but there is a link to an excellent article with the (now ex) AF CEO discussing 'la grade illusion' of F.

https://www.businesstraveller.com/opinion/has-first-class-had-its-day/

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 14

Thanks Cooper 81 will give it a read. Agree re BA as well flown their First a few times, similar to QF offering.

05 Feb 2020

Total posts 24

I regularly fly Sydney to DFW and have never flown first on Qantas A380s. Being able to stretch out and sleep in Business is the go although toilets are as basic as Economy. My latest return flight from DFW to Sydney was delayed for an unexplained reason, passengers are sheep so there is no explanation. Flight departing at 7.45pm delayed until 12.45 am, 5 hours later. I can imagine how someone who had paid for first class would have felt, getting on board so late at night you were past the evening meal so basically got a comfy bed and a nice breakfast. 10 x the economy price for that privalige.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Oct 2015

Total posts 1

Hi Brandon

The pork dish looked unacceptable. Why did you not complain, send it back, and demand something that was edible?

I would be interested in hearing ABT experience with rejecting QF (or any other airline for that matter) meals due to poor quality. I've done it with the wine, but that is much easier in terms of not putting the staff offside.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1243

Always enjoy reading Brandon's reviews. Objective and far less gushy, and not a ton of unnecessarily italicised words.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2017

Total posts 22

  • Likewise I agree with Brandon's review. As I only travel O/s once a year I always travel in F. Thankfully QF still have F cause of the long routes they fly in comparison to Europe and North America. Have experienced many other airline crews I much prefer the Aussie crews,

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Dec 2017

Total posts 7

There's no inflight Internet on Qantas' A380s, nor any of the airline's international routes,

Well if we are being technical, some of the QF 737's that operate short international routes, Bali, NZ, Indonesia have WiFi.

Great review though!!

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 344

Only in Australian airspace though. Or more technically, within NBN Skymuster range.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Nov 2017

Total posts 104

"One of the worst in the free world."

04 Apr 2020

Total posts 5

A great review, very fair and balanced. I took my first flight in First on QF's A380 flying SYD to DFW in 2019. Just like your review noted the product was becoming dated and it was clear that the old first suites were in need of a major upgrade. Sadly, since the A380 upgrade program hadn't commenced we had the old cabin with boring lounge - the new one looks like a major improvement.

We loved the ability to be able to dine together as a couple and were both looking forward to doing the much-hyped wine tasting, unfortunately, our flight attendant while lovely didn't seem to know about this service and ended up pouring both of us 5 large pours of wine. It was also clear she didn't seem to understand much about wine either. The food was a real let down, given we were flying in first and the plane departed Sydney we both had much higher expectations. I pre-ordered the vegan option at the time of booking and catering somehow didn't load an entree for me. The flight attendant was gracious enough to pull together a salad from the other cabins and most disappointing, my dessert consisted of a cold muffin, the type I've been served on domestic flights - this is not acceptable in international first. Fortunately, my partner's food was much better but sadly, didn't come close to the first-class menus on Lufthansa or Qatar.

Overall the flight was good with a great crew, good seat and amazing First Class lounge in Sydney. I love Qantas and prefer to fly them over other airlines because of their warm and friendly service, and I'm looking forward to flying the refitted A380 once everything returns to normal. I do hope Qantas work on their inflight dining, that really seems to be pulling them down at the moment.


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