Brisbane to Darwin
- Reclining seats include a legrest and tablet holders
- The only Australian airline offering pre-ordered special meals
- High fare prices: often more than double that of its arch rival on the same route
- Dedicated business class lounge in Brisbane with security fast-track
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.