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

With plenty of legroom in rows 2-3, how does the business class bulkhead experience stack up in row 1?

Overall Rating

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

Darwin to Brisbane

Aircraft Type

Boeing 737-800

Airline

Qantas

Flight

QF825

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

1C (aisle, bulkhead)

Notes
The Good
  • Hot meals, with special dietary needs catered for by pre-order
The Bad
  • No tablet holders in the front row, as offered at the seats behind
X-Factor
  • Inflight power paired with free WiFi to maximise your productivity
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Travel remains unrestricted between the Northern Territory and Queensland, with Qantas running 1-2 flights per day on the popular Darwin-Brisbane route.

After experiencing a 'regular' Qantas business class seat on a morning flight from Brisbane to the Top End, Executive Traveller puts the bulkhead row to the test on an early afternoon return.

Check-in

Whether it's this route or any other domestic journey, here's how much you can pack in Qantas business class:

  • 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 priority check-in and priority boarding lanes, although priority security isn't available in Darwin.

Lounge

The Qantas Club at Darwin Airport is the airline's catch-all lounge at the Top End, with access included for business class flyers. 

A range of food and beverages are served here throughout the day, with the bar opening at noon, and barista-made coffee available from open to close.

A lunchtime visit prior to QF825 found tasty hot food at the buffet including cocktail samosas with sweet chilli sauce, and a goat and lentil curry with rice.

Knowing there'd be lunch (and wine) on the flight, I opted for a snack-sized portion only, and a lemon, lime and bitters on the side.

Also read: Qantas Club domestic lounge review, Darwin Airport

Flight

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

The daily QF825 service departs early afternoon (exact times vary), with a red-eye flight from Darwin to Brisbane on selected days having an eye-watering 2am departure time.

Out of Brisbane, there's an 8:30am service each day, plus an 8:30pm evening departure most days.

From time to time, Qantas' larger Airbus A330s appear on the route – swapping business class recliners with flatbeds – although Boeing 737s serve all other flights.

Seat

Aboard the Boeing 737, those business class recliners come in a 2-2 layout, with 12 seats overall. 

The experience at the bulkhead differs slightly from rows 2-3 – which we reviewed on the outbound Brisbane-Darwin leg – so for this flight, we're in row 1.

On the one hand, with nobody in front of you, there's no risk of a reclined seat taking away any space.

The trade-off, of course, is that without that seat in front, your legs can't stretch as far forwards. Some travellers may find this less comfortable, although even at 6ft tall, the legroom didn't feel limited.

Speaking of recline, you'll find those controls to your side, along with adjustments for the footrest and lumbar.

Like rows 2 and 3, there's a storage pocket in row 1, although it's slightly smaller than in those other rows.

Power points are available too – you'll find them mounted to the centre console, visible if you lean forward and look backwards.

Some Qantas Boeing 737s have USB power too, but as it's never certain which type will arrive at your gate, packing your AC charger or AC adapter will make sure you're not left without.

Meal

With a 1:10pm departure from Darwin, lunch is served on this flight – and being in row 1 brings advantages at meal time, as you're among the first to have your order taken. 

With the crew wearing masks – and the hum of the plane's engines and other noises in the background – it can be a little tricky to hear your options, but I discerned "chicken" from the list, so opted for that.

As you may have spotted, linen service is back on these longer routes, and the main dish itself offered a nice balance of sweetness and savoury flavours.

Boxed on the side, a scrumptious chocolate cake topped with chocolate flakes, plus a Lindt chocolate ball.

Pairing well with the chicken and without being too sweet given the other items on the tray, a glass of 2017 Voyager Estate Chardonnay.

Beverage service remains available throughout the flight, with a small (second) dessert offered around three hours after take-off, being a Maggie Beer morello cherry and dark chocolate almond ice cream.

An Earl Grey tea was a pleasant way to finish the flight, with a coconut and dark chocolate slice on the side (kept for later).

Worth noting, spirits haven't yet returned to Qantas domestic business class. These were offered prior to COVID-19, with rival Virgin Australia now having them back on the menu.

Dietary-specific meals (such as gluten-free, Halal, Kosher, vegan, diabetic, etc.) are also available by pre-order.

Entertainment & Service

When it comes to entertainment on Qantas' Boeing 737s, you'll either have a personal TV screen, or there's an overhead monitor paired with streaming entertainment to your own device.

This aircraft featured the latter, with the overhead screen showing news and entertainment, and noise-cancelling headphones provided for use onboard. 

Given that uncertainty over which type of entertainment will be offered on each flight, many travellers come prepared with content on their own device.

In row 1, there aren't tablet holders as you'd find in rows 2-3, although the storage pocket makes for a solid tablet mount, best paired with your own set of Bluetooth headphones.

Free WiFi is also available to all passengers, and worked well for basic web browsing and social media.

Service from the crew on this jaunt was excellent, with passengers addressed by name, and mask wearing strictly enforced.

This saw several reminders given to other passengers to raise their mask above their nose, paired with announcements at various times, and an offer of replacement masks at the half way point.

All in all, a relaxing Sunday journey on what's currently the longest flight available to or from Brisbane, without quarantine restrictions at either end.

Also reviewed: Qantas Boeing 737 business class, Brisbane-Darwin

Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Qantas.

Chris Chamberlin

A Brisbane-based contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris Chamberlin 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.

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 32

I think it's quite pathetic there's no personal seatback TV screen in business class.  What a joke.  Who wants to stare at their tiny mobile phone screen to watch a movie for 2 hours?  The Qantas domestic product reminds me of American or United in the 90s.

04 May 2015

Total posts 271

Are there really people who fly business class but who aren't also travelling with a laptop or tablet to watch their own content, or to stream videos through an airline's wi-fi system? I don't know about you, but I always prefer to watch my own stuff anyway: if I'm part way through a season of something on Netflix, I like to use that downtime to pick up where I left off. (Maybe we should also ask, are there really people flying business class who aren't members of at least one "downloadable" streaming service?)

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 339

Yes, I am very much 'BYO entertainment' because I've always got some downloaded videos to catch up on on my MacBook, or an audiobook or podcast on my iPhone. On longer international trips or even west-west trips I would always have something to watch without relying on IFE.

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 32

Yes deanr there are.  Me.  I fly business class often and don't wish to lug my laptop or tablet around.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Oct 2019

Total posts 16

Comparing plastic chicken and battle-axe cabin crew on AA or UA to what domestic business class is like on Qantas or Virgin is comical. We are one of the luckiest places in the world when it comes to short haul business class. Europe is a joke and American airlines give you no lounge access for non FFs, gross food and poor service

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 97

Well said 👏

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 32

At least American and Delta have seat-back TV's and United is in the process of updating theirs to include seat-back TV's.  It's Qantas that is out of step!

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 363

Park CV to the side for a moment and the obvious cost restraints, would be great if QF could give the 737 biz seat a facelift and add a few modern touches (not asking for lie flat) and I'd even go as far as saying add another row. I fly the 737 SYD-BNE-POM to PNG and biz class is always full both ways, and I have to say QF do a great job on the 737 and I'm still a fan, F&B is always good and crew are great.


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