Sydney to Seoul
- A comfortable seat and plenty of legroom
- Extensive inflight entertainment selection
- No inflight WiFi access
- Tray table unsupported on one side, tends to bounce
- Wine list rather limited
- Excellent service from start to finish
There’s a lot to love about Seoul. Epicentre of the Korean Wave of music and film, known for its grand palaces and historic temples, not to mention a bountiful foodie scene where it’s impossible to stop at only one dish, it’s a city that deserves exploration by any means necessary.
With Qantas restarting its non-stop hop between Sydney and South Korea’s capital after a 15 year break in December 2022, that’s certainly a lot easier. Plus, the Flying Kangaroo makes for a very comfortable trip indeed, with 28 lie-flat business suites aboard the A330.
This review was originally published in December 2022.
Business class passengers, Gold-grade Qantas Frequent Flyers and Oneworld Sapphire members have access to the Qantas International Business Lounge, which is sadly sub-par for a flagship lounge and long overdue for a total refresh in everything from furniture to food and drinks.
There’s much better in store if you are a Qantas Platinum or Platinum One member or hold Oneworld Emerald status, as this is your ticket to the highly-regarded Qantas International First Lounge – which is is where I find myself for breakfast before the Sydney-Seoul flight takes wing.
As anyone who’s ever visited the lounge can attest, it’s a very photogenic space and a real step up in terms of design and amenity compared to its adjacent business sibling.
Bathed in light and gazing out towards the city, the retro-futuristic design takes liberal inspiration from the 50s and 60s: eye-catching dividers separate the various zones; hazy geometric carpet and ceiling lights like mini-UFOs hovering above.
At one end lies a dedicated business zone with meeting rooms and a library stocked with books and magazines. A marble-topped bar fills the lounge’s core, while the far end is home to a spa offering a streamlined treatment menu: one facial and three massages.
Showers, workstations, lounges and armchairs with power outlets complete the mix.
As a mid-morning flight, I opt for a classic fruit salad...
...and ham eggs benedict.
Both hit the spot, though I’m conscious not to fill up before the flight and inevitable lunch service after takeoff.
Qantas’ A330 covers key international flights between Australia and Asia, Hawaii and New Zealand, in addition to a select few domestic runs such as Sydney-Perth.
Jetting off four times a week, QF87 departs every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11:40am, touching down at Seoul Incheon at 8:25pm. The QF88 return leg operates the same days, leaving Seoul at 10:10pm to reach Sydney at 10:50am the following morning.
Baggage allowance in business class is 40kg of checked luggage and 14kg of carry-on across up to two bags.
With a scheduled flight time of around 10 hours and 40 minutes, there’s ample opportunity to get better acquainted with the seat, service and entertainment. As the lights dim after lunch, I do just that.
Business class onboard the Qantas A330 comprises 28 lie-flat suites in a 1-2-1 layout – single seats on either side are staggered slightly back from centre rows, adding a degree of privacy where guests are less likely to catch each other’s eye.
Based on the Thompson Aero Vantage XL platform, the attractive cream, silver and slate suite houses a dark blue fabric backrest and base, along with a charcoal sash belt and leather-look headrest.
Echoing the First Lounge’s vintage styling somewhat are timber-look accent panels in a lighter, yellower shade than the ones found onboard the A380 and Dreamliner. It’s a welcome contrast to the silvery-grey exterior finish.
Another key difference onboard this aircraft is the fixed privacy divider between middle seats – it can’t be lowered or raised, meaning couples or duos travelling together will become pros at the ‘lean to talk’ manoeuvre.
Moving on, a swing-out tray table is tucked inside the right bench space, and an L-shaped storage rack housing the amenities kit and headphones, the latter hanging on a hook under the reading lamp. And to the left, a small bench ideal for resting drinks.
The retro ‘Qantas through the decades’ amenity kit, inspired by the stylings of the 1980s, contains hand and face creams, lip balm, socks, earplugs and a ruby red eye mask. Qantas has released multiple variations of the elegant vinyl kit.
Beneath the bench is a deep central storage bin containing a rolled-up mattress topper for a mid-flight doze. A pillow and blanket dial up the comfort.
But as this is a daytime flight, mine remains coiled like a jam roll for the duration.
A matte touch panel controls the seat position; guests can adjust the angle, lumbar support and footrest with a simple touch of a button.
A handy massage function also helps work out those knots that inevitably form during a long flight. It gets put to good use.
Those hoping to do a little work in the air will find the tray table an adequate size to spread out.
However, it’s worth noting the table is only supported on one side, so it tends to bounce a bit if you lean on it too heavily or during turbulence. Forceful typists, beware…
An international AC power outlet and USB port ensure devices remain charged up for the duration of the flight.
WiFi internet access is a notable omission. Though former Qantas boss Alan Joyce said it’s coming, the launch remains years away, leaving the airline lagging behind its rivals already offering high-speed connections in the sky.
Kicking off with a pre-flight welcome glass of Champagne, service continues just after take-off with staff roaming the cabin to introduce themselves and explain the menu for the flight.
Australian beers and wines, standard spirits and an assortment of non-alcoholic drinks are available throughout flight, along with the usual suspects of tea and coffee.
As the inaugural restart, there’s a one-off menu of Korean-inspired dishes from the kitchen of long-time Qantas culinary collaborator Chef Neil Perry and his team, though there are a couple of Western options too.
Lunch begins with an aperitif - I pick the Broke Fordwich Albarino – and roasted almonds.
For the entrée, it’s a choice of green pea and mint soup with parmesan croûte, Perry’s tuna tartare with gochujang dressing, and a pan-fried potato gnocchi with pancetta.
Not wanting to wait till landing for a taste of Korea, I opt for the tuna tartare.
Served with side plates of kimchi and pickled carrot, along with the ubiquitous green leaf salad and vinaigrette, it’s not what I expect, being more of a chilled seared tuna than a tartare.
However, the precisely balanced flavour – just the right hint of chilli, spice and umami – is exactly what I’m looking for.
Main options are a plant-based caramelised potato gratin with peas, roasted fennel and mushrooms; a stir-fried pork with radish on a bed of jasmine rice; spaghettini with prawns, garlic, chilli and pangrattato; and beef short ribs and ssamjang dressing on rice.
The pork stir fry makes for a tasty dish, enhanced by seasonal greens, lily bulb and shiitake mushrooms. A paired 2018 Heirloom Alcala Grenache complements it perfectly.
Vanilla crème caramel finishes off the meal (and results in a productive sugar hit to boot).
Various snacks such as apples, Tim Tams and cheese and crackers are available on request at any time, though staff do wander through the cabin to offer them a couple of times too.
Prior to descent a light dinner is offered: a rigatoni with oyster mushrooms and almond pesto, Jiangxi-style barramundi on jasmine rice, braised beef and red wine pie, and stir fried black bean pork noodles.
As a lover of a good pie, the braised beef – paired once again with the Grenache – is the dish for me.
Crowned with a flaky pastry top, the pie is rich and delicious, but a bit of mash on the side would have taken it to the next level. As a light pre-landing option though, it’s a fantastic dish.
Tiramisu, a glass of De Bortoli dessert wine, and a welcome jolt of coffee finish off the meal.
Entertainment & Service
Accessed via the 16-inch touchscreen and wired remote, the entertainment system is loaded with a collection of recent and classic films, games, and televisions shows (including a number of titles through its still-fresh Paramount+ partnership), along with audiobooks.
Tapping on the ‘QMenu’ heading brings up an easy-to-navigate library, conveniently divided into sub-categories like Marvel Icons, European, Cinema D’Italia and Bollywood. There’s a decent selection of Asian programs too.
Binge watchers will arguably be drawn to the television Box Set section, which encompasses shows including the debut season of House of the Dragon, The First Lady, and White Lotus.
Noise cancelling headphones are provided on a hook in the storage rack at each seat. While not the most premium feel, they’re a comfortable fit and provide a good level of sound quality.
As expected, service is a delight, with the friendly chatty crew featuring English and native Korean speakers.
Qantas faces competition from Korean Airlines and Asiana on the Sydney-Seoul route but if my experience is anything to go by though, this flight is sure to win more than its share of fans.
The food, service and comfort on board are all top-notch, while the flight time of just over 10 hours is easily manageable and over before we knew it. As a daytime jaunt and factoring in a time zone difference of just two hours from Sydney, it’s kind on the body clock too.
The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas and Korea Tourism Organization.