Review: Qantas A330 business class, Sydney-Seoul

After a near 15-year absence, the Red-tailed Roo has at last returned to the aerobridges of Incheon Airport.

Overall Rating

By Chris Ashton, December 14 2022
Qantas A330 business class, Sydney-Seoul
Route

Sydney to Seoul

Aircraft Type

Airbus A330

Airline

Qantas

Flight

QF87

Cabin Class

Business Class

Seat

5F

Notes
The Good
  • A comfortable seat and plenty of legroom
  • Extensive inflight entertainment selection
The Bad
  • No inflight WiFi access
  • Tray table unsupported on one side, tends to bounce
  • Wine list rather limited
X-Factor
  • Exceptional service from start to finish
  • Regionally-inspired inaugural menu
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

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 now flying non-stop between Sydney and South Korea’s capital for the first time since 2008, that just got much easier. Plus, the Red Roo makes for a very comfortable trip indeed, with 28 lie-flat business suites aboard the A330.

The bright lights of Seoul... and endless possibilities for exploration.
The bright lights of Seoul... and endless possibilities for exploration.

Though similar to the business seat featured onboard the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380, there are a couple of subtle differences due to this aircraft’s narrower design.

Borrowing the nickname emblazoned on the matching t-shirts of some fellow travellers on this rebooted flight, here’s a taste of what awaits on the Qantas ‘Seoul Plane’ to Korea.

Lounge

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.

The retro-styled lounge is striking in every direction.
The retro-styled lounge is striking in every direction.

In celebration of the rebounded route, a special trio of Korean bites – vegetarian bibimbap, galbi jjim ssam (beef brisket on a bed of rice) and a sweet ‘sikhye’ malted barley and rice drink – is offered on top of the fresh summer lounge menu.

As a mid-morning flight, I opt for a classic fruit salad...

...and ham eggs benedict.

Though I know yet more food awaits onboard, I can't resist a small taste of the Korean dishes, like the jang jorim braised beef.

Jang jorim braised beef brisket with rice, ready to be wrapped into lettuce leaves
Jang jorim braised beef brisket with rice, ready to be wrapped into lettuce leaves

Flight

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 Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:35am, touching down at Seoul Incheon at 6:20pm. The QF88 return leg operates the same days, leaving Seoul at 7:50pm to reach Sydney at 8:15am the following morning.

The business class cabin is light and bright.
The business class cabin is light and bright.

Baggage allowance in business class is 40kg of checked luggage and 14kg of carry-on across up to two bags.

With a flight time of around 10 hours and 15 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.

Seat

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.

The business class cabin of the Qantas A330.
The business class cabin of the Qantas A330.

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.

The sash belt must be worn for take off and landing, but can be unhooked after take off.
The sash belt must be worn for take off and landing, but can be unhooked after take off.

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.

Privacy screens on both sides of 5F make it an ideal choice for solo travellers.
Privacy screens on both sides of 5F make it an ideal choice for solo travellers.

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.

A 110V AC and USB power outlet are provided.
A 110V AC and USB power outlet are provided.

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. 

The stylish amenity kit is stocked with everything needed for a comfortable flight.
The stylish amenity kit is stocked with everything needed for a comfortable flight.

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.

Work

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…

The table itself is quite solid, but could do with additional support on the left hand side.
The table itself is quite solid, but could do with additional support on the left hand side.

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. Although Qantas boss Alan Joyce says it’s coming, the launch remains years away, leaving the airline lagging behind its rivals already offering high-speed connections in the sky.

Meal

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.

A glass of Jacquart Brut Mosaique is offered before take off.
A glass of Jacquart Brut Mosaique is offered before take off.

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.

A special menu is offered during this flight.
A special menu is offered during this flight.

Lunch begins with an aperitif - I pick the Broke Fordwich Albarino – and roasted almonds.

A 2021 Broke Fordwich Margan Albarino from the Hunter Valley.
A 2021 Broke Fordwich Margan Albarino from the Hunter Valley.

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.

The tuna tartare is served with two 'banchan' pickled side dishes.
The tuna tartare is served with two 'banchan' pickled side dishes.

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 stir fried beef whets my appetite for what's to come in Seoul.
The stir fried beef whets my appetite for what's to come in Seoul.

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).

Though not the most exciting presentation, the creme caramel satisfies where it counts.
Though not the most exciting presentation, the creme caramel satisfies where it counts.

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.

An open pie with a deliciously buttery top.
An open pie with a deliciously buttery top.

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.

Tiramisu is a great way to finish the meal.
Tiramisu is a great way to finish 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.

The inflight system is easy to use and highly responsive.
The inflight system is easy to use and highly responsive.

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.

The remote is tucked under a lift-up panel.
The remote is tucked under a lift-up panel.

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.

Noise cancelling headphones are within easy reach.
Noise cancelling headphones are within easy reach.

As expected, service is a delight, with the friendly chatty crew featuring English and native Korean speakers.

Verdict

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

31 May 2013

Total posts 24

Interesting - are meal trays gone in business, and table cloths and individual service back? All other previous trip reports have showed trays in business - hopefully not a one off and QF is upping their catering in Business. 

SYD lounge is woeful I get they are waiting on a new terminal space for a new lounge, but a cheap tart up is easily possible for SYD!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 472

Yes, tablecloths and individual plating of meals is back for Business class on QF international.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 143

Food can be up-cycled with very little effort...

SYD lounge is still better than MEL!

Correct. Crew confirmed individual plating has returned on all international flights excluding London-Singapore.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2020

Total posts 28

They could improve the catering.  The ‘good’ options are just dire and worse than the domestic lounges.

29 Mar 2020

Total posts 3

Did a QF A330 flight between SIN and MEL earlier this year and noticed there were 28 business class seats but only 1 toilet, a very poor ratio.  It meant there were frequently queues for the toilet and gave that aspect of the service a distinctly economy class feeling. (At one point I tried to use it when the person inside hadn't locked the door.  Guess that can't be blamed on Qantas!) There seem to be other A330s in their fleet with 2 toilets per 27 sets, which is more in line with competitors.

28 Jul 2018

Total posts 22

Did UL A330-300 between CMB and MEL and it also had only 1 toilet in Business Class and 28 seats. I think the newer A330-300s have 2 toilets in Business.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 472

When Qantas refurbed the A330 fleet, those aircraft selected for medium haul international were outfitted with two toilets in Business. Those which were to be used primarily on long haul domestic (i.e. Perth) and short haul international (NZ, DPS, CGK) were fitted with just one toilet. But as the A330 fleet has had its routes expanded, there will be some international flights that unfortunately get landed with the one toilet.

24 Sep 2017

Total posts 9

And those A330s are how old again? Please remind us...

The truth is those planes are now tired and worn out, and the configuration of 1 toilet in business is a shocker. I once flew on one of those '1 toilet' A330s and vowed never again after that.

I dont know of any other airline which thinks 1 toilet in business for a 28 seat cabin on an international flight longer is OK.

Another real world example of Qantas scrimping on doing things properly and in a manner that is commensurate with the prices being charged.

age has not wearied them, they are absolutely fine. i was on this flight, then an a350 a few days later, and there was no discernable difference, unlike the marketing departments would have you believe.

17 Dec 2022

Total posts 1

Can you comment on your experiences for the return flight? My understanding is that there is no Qantas lounge in Incheon/Seoul

There’s no Qantas lounge at Incheon. Instead, business class guests receive an entry pass to access the Korean Air Lounge near gate 28. It’s a pretty small and underwhelming space with very limited food and drinks options - ramen cup noodles, sliced sandwiches, soup and a couple of salads. On the plus side, wifi is quick, there are plenty of power points, and the showers are a nice way to freshen up before the evening flight. Our departure from Seoul was delayed two hours due to cleaning and a lengthy wait for de-icing the wings. 

22 May 2011

Total posts 87

Menu seems to be the same from australia to asia (even the menu provided says australia to asia), I did SYD to MNL on the same day and also had the crème brûlée - does  anyone know if they literally have virtually the same menu for all of asia?  

I don’t know if that’s super poor for the customer or cost cutting genius 

14 Oct 2021

Total posts 5

To much competition with Korean Air & Asiana flown both .Korean air and Asiana if Qantas could extend this flight onto London would be option i would take to cut out Dubai as do not like flying via Singapore. More choice of food on Qantas  than Korean air  How about Brisbane to Incheon .on to London.


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