Qantas will commence a daily Boeing 747-400 service between Sydney and Perth this morning, taking on challenger Virgin Australia over the popular coast-to-coast service.
Virgin Australia began its own daily Airbus A330 flights with business class seats and service last week, as detailed in our report on the flight and service .
The Red Roo 747-400 will run as QF581, which departs Sydney at 10.10am for arrival in Perth at 1.05pm; and the partner QF582, which is wheels-up at Perth at 2.35pm to reach Sydney at 8.20pm.
The jumbo sports Qantas' original two-class configuration, so there's no premium economy cabin – just 56 business class seats and 356 economy. (If you're looking to book this flight, check out our guide to the best of those business class seats as well as the ones to avoid if possible).
Business-class passengers will be issued with 'noise-reduction' headsets.
A Qantas spokesman told Australian Business Traveller that the flights will serve one meal each way: lunch on QF581 out of Sydney and dinner on QF582 out of Perth. "Meal times are based on natural feeding time per time of day" the spokesman offered, "but also with the time difference, what time of day it is when passengers land and whether it is a natural time to eat again or not."
However, he was quick to assure us that the much-enjoyed ice-cream will also be served on both flights in business and economy.
The first week of the 747 service is not heavily booked, no doubt partly reflecting the high excess capacity of the 747-400 over the A330-200 which Qantas usually runs on this service – which has just 36 seats in business class and 265 in economy.
An overall 120-seat surplus will allow Qantas some headroom to undercut Virgin Australia on fares, especially for business class, as well as allowing selective upgrades for high status frequent flyers travelling in economy.
Qantas' spoiler strategy is aimed at keeping lucrative business-class corporate accounts flying with Qantas rather than defecting to Virgin Australia, which is spruiking the 62 inches of legroom in its new A330 business class as being the most generous on any domestic service.
Qantas' 747 will still fall just two inches short of this, with a 60 inch pitch in business class, but that's still plenty more than the 37 inches in the Airbus A330-200 which the 747 will replace.
And of course, these are the international-grade Skybed cocoons first created for the longest of long haul flights.
They're actually the first-gen models which go into a fully-flat mode on an angle rather than lying flat to the horizontal, but that's still going to offer extraordinary cross-country comfort.
(What's the difference between angled, lie-flat and fully-flat seats? Read our story on The Lie-flat Lie.)
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously trumpeted that "Increasing the premium service we provide business customers flying from east to west will help further cement our position as the ‘Best for Business’ airline."
“Our competitors can simply not match the service that Qantas offers, particularly the Skybeds, which provide increased comfort on the longer routes between the eastern states and Perth."
For his part, Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti considers the pointy end of his new A330s as being "the best domestic business class in the market" adding that "it's here to stay – it won't come in and out of routes like other large-body aircraft", unable to resist taking a shot at Qantas.