Review: Qantas Boeing 737 business class (Brisbane-Darwin)

Step aboard as we fly the namesake route of QANTAS – Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services – from QLD to NT.

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, August 16 2021
Qantas Boeing 737 business class (Brisbane-Darwin)
Route

Brisbane to Darwin

Aircraft Type

Boeing 737-800

Airline

Qantas

Flight

QF824

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

2C (aisle)

Notes
The Good
  • Reclining seats include a legrest and tablet holders
  • The only Australian airline offering pre-ordered special meals
The Bad
  • High fare prices: often more than double that of its arch rival on the same route
X-Factor
  • Dedicated business class lounge in Brisbane with security fast-track
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Stretching to more than four hours from gate to gate, Brisbane-Darwin is one of the longest domestic routes in Australia: and one of the few rarely hampered by travel restrictions.

To cater for growing demand, Qantas offers 1-2 return flights per day between the cities, with selected services even operated by international-grade Airbus A330s.

Most, however, are served by the airline's workhorse Boeing 737 jets, which Executive Traveller put to the test.

Check-in

Across all Australian domestic routes, here's what a Qantas business class ticket provides:

  • Checked baggage allowance:
    • 2x32kg: standard allowance for most flyers
    • 3x32kg: Qantas Platinum, Platinum One, Chairman's Lounge and Oneworld Emerald
  • Carry-on baggage choices:
    • One 10kg bag: maximum dimensions of 115cm
    • Two bags (14kg total, max. 10kg in one item): maximum dimensions of 105cm each
    • 1x10kg bag + 1x suit pack: maximum bag dimensions of 105cm, maximum suit pack dimensions of 185cm
    • Plus: One personal item for all guests, such as a laptop satchel, handbag, overcoat, camera, or duty-free goods.

Business class passengers can also use Brisbane's priority check-in and priority boarding lanes, with priority security at selected airports.

Lounge

While Brisbane's priority security channel has been removed, a business class boarding pass is your ticket through the doors of Brisbane's Qantas Premium Lounge Entry facility instead.

Providing a dedicated premium check-in area and private screening point, it's your direct path into the lounge – and at 7am on a Thursday morning, there were no queues to battle.

Upstairs in the Business Lounge, barista-made coffee greets your arrival, with hot food available via the 'snacking station'.

In line with local regulations, the lounge's buffet area is also back in service, being where you'll find lighter bites to grab and enjoy.

Even though a number of travel restrictions were in place at the time of this journey, it was great to see Qantas' trio of Brisbane lounges all open for travellers.

For passengers departing Darwin Airport, Qantas is the only domestic airline with lounge facilities in the NT capital, after Virgin Australia shuttered its Top End lounge in 2020.

Flight

Qantas offers 1-2 return flights per day between Brisbane and Darwin.

This includes a daily 8:30am departure from Brisbane, complemented by an 8:30pm evening service most days.

When bound for Queensland's southeast, there's a daily Darwin flight in the early afternoon (times vary), along with a red-eye on selected days: pushing back at an eye-watering 2am, for a 6:15am arrival.

From time to time, Qantas uses its international-grade Airbus A330s on the route – equipped with flatbeds in business class – with Boeing 737s serving all other flights.

Seat

Business class comes in a 2-2 layout aboard the Qantas Boeing 737, with three rows of seats at the front of the aircraft.

There's 37 inches of 'pitch' in each row, which translates into more than ample legroom – and with seats being 22 inches wide, they're not squeezy on the shoulders, either:

Between each pair of seats resides a cocktail table, along with controls for reclining, and to activate and tweak your leg rest.

On Qantas' newer Boeing 737s, the seat in front houses an entertainment screen, while these older (yet still refurbished) jets provide a tablet holder instead, in rows 2 and 3.

There's also a storage pouch in front of your knees: large enough to house that tablet for take-off and landing, as well as other items.

AC power is available via the centre console, with newer Qantas Boeing 737s having USB outlets as well.

The seat's tray table folds out from within the armrest, and proves sturdy enough for dining as well as laptop work.

Although reclining seats don't win favour over the Airbus A330's flatbeds on red-eye flights, for daytime journeys like this, they're perfectly comfortable.

Meal

Service in Qantas business class begins after take-off, and on this flight, that's breakfast.

Choices today were an egg white omelette, toasted muesli, or a quiche. After a light bite in the lounge, the latter was a great choice.

Paired with a warmed fig muffin, tasty boysenberry yoghurt and both orange juice and water, the portion size was perfect, and with the plate also giving a snack to keep for later.

Tea and (filtered) coffee were offered, along with sparkling wine (Grant Burge Pinor Noir Chardonnay NV).

Around an hour before landing, Byron Bay cookies also made an appearance, with tea and coffee offered once more.

Beverage service is available throughout the flight, although pre-departure drinks haven't returned on Qantas since COVID-19.

Its rivals Virgin Australia and Regional Express both offer these pre-flight sips, although Qantas is the sole member of the trio to instead cater to pre-ordered special meal requests.

On all domestic Qantas business class flights, travellers can pre-order a diabetic, 'gluten and dairy friendly', vegan, children's, Kosher, or Halal meal.

Entertainment & Service

In Qantas domestic business class, your inflight entertainment options vary depending on which Boeing 737 pulls up at your gate.

Some offer seatback screens, while others provide common overhead monitors paired with a tablet holder for your own device, which was put to use.

As it's never guaranteed which will arrive at your gate, it pays to be prepared with some pre-downloaded content – or, by having the Qantas Entertainment app installed and ready to go, for iOS and Android users.

Wireless Internet is also free for all passengers, with download speeds averaging 3Mbps on this flight: fast enough for basic browsing, but not adequate for flawless HD video streaming.

Crew provided friendly service on board, greeting business class passengers by name and keeping beverages topped up.

The verdict

With a dedicated business class lounge in Brisbane and more feature-packed business class seats than its rival Virgin Australia, it's clear Qantas is the top 'hard product' pick for business class flyers.

Add to that, the ability to pre-order special meals for those with dietary needs – plus free inflight WiFi – and Qantas business class will tick most boxes for most travellers.

Of course, the adage of "you get what you pay for" rings true in the domestic skies.

For a return business class journey in mid-September booked a month in advance, Qantas fares clocked in at $2,537 ($1,269 one-way).

Virgin Australia, on the other hand, proves more friendly on the hip pocket, with comparable flights instead selling from $1,098 return ($549 each way) – albeit with the notable absence of a lounge in Darwin.

That's a considerable difference, and price alone may sway some travellers to Virgin.

However, it's clear that many travellers (and companies) remain happy to pay more to enjoy a more premium experience, with the 12-seat business class cabin completely full on both flights of this return trip.

Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Qantas.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

14 Nov 2015

Total posts 39

I travel this route a few times a year, and J in the A330 is potentially interesting enough to get me to change from VA.

Does anybody know if there is any consistent pattern to when the A330 serves this route?

28 Mar 2018

Total posts 14

Currently everything is fluid, but Pre-Delta variant the A330 flew every daytime flight. The 737s flew the night flights. 

16 Oct 2012

Total posts 34

Gosh, even a table cloth for your tray Chris! I’ve flown about 10 business class sectors on QF in the past 10 months and been hugely underwhelmed. Catering certainly didn’t look as nice as yours. Needless to say there wasn’t a table cloth in sight. Rather, a food-hall style plastic tray, a typical meal of overcooked beef brisket or unappetising quinoa and egg salad, and a single, lonely Lindt chocolate for dessert. Not to mention no pre-takeoff beverages. And for this they charge a premium. 

That said, it’s a nostalgic touch that they still wheel a trolly into the business class isle for the service ;)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 502

I'll fly QF Business when I next travel between BNE and MEL (or BNE to CNS) and report back then.  But with a PER SECTOR fare difference of $470 to MEL (and $420 to CNS), I'm currently wondering what I'll get that's 'legally allowed' (cough).  A bottle of Krug or Billecart-Salmon would work for me (and still leave change for Qantas).  What is certain, I'll remain fiscally promiscuous, happy to pay for value that benefits ME, and scathing when not.  

More to follow . . . . . 


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