Last year, Australian Business Traveller reviewed Qantas' new Premium Economy offering on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, and while there was a lot to like about the product, the lack of legroom once the seat ahead of you was reclined was a worrying issue – especially for upcoming ultra-long-haul routes.
Over the weekend I was on board the inaugural Perth to London service in Premium Economy, ferrying passengers over 14,000km across the Indian ocean on a journey that takes a little over 17 hours and truly puts the comfort factor of Premium Economy to the test. While our other reviews were conducted by the smaller statured writers of Australian Business Traveller, this time our test subject is taller and larger.
My journey actually began in Sydney, where I boarded a flight to Perth and stoped off in the brand new Perth International Transit Lounge (with access exclusively for passengers heading to or from London on this new route) before hopping on QF9 for the London service.
Passengers travelling in Premium Economy receive priority boarding, however lounge access isn’t included as part of the ticket – you’ll need to be Qantas Gold or above (or the equivalent Oneworld status) to have access to the Perth International Transit Lounge.
We’ve previously covered the seat features in great depth here, and here. As someone that’s over 6-feet tall, I found the seat to be surprisingly comfortable considering the issues that previous Australian Business Traveller reviewers brought up.
One of the main contentions was the footrest netting, which is clearly hit-or-miss when it comes to comfort – for my smaller colleagues it was undoubtedly a miss, but I found it to be comfortable for the duration of the flight. A full-fare paying seatmate that was a similar height to me also found it to be comfortable, so it seems that taller passengers will appreciate it more than smaller passengers who may have trouble extending their legs far enough to get the full benefits of the netting, which provides support to the legs without restricting them against a hard material.
Seat pitch could do with some improvement – while there was sufficient room to not have my knees touching the seat in front even when reclined, it didn’t feel meaningfully more spacious than being in economy.
The tray table was also slightly annoying – if you’re a larger passenger, the table is not high enough to sit on its own, and will instead rest on top of your legs. Thankfully it’s large enough to get some work done on your laptop, and the handy in-seat charging port means you can keep your devices powered up.
Qantas has been heavily promoting its efforts to make ultra-long-haul routes more palatable for consumers, including their partnership with university researchers to improve passenger comfort when they’re in the air for long stretches of time.
While I’m not quite sold on the benefits of multi-coloured LED lighting just yet, the Dreamliner’s higher humidity content and lower equivalent-altitude pressurisation makes a clear difference to overall comfort on the flight.
Generally I’ve found that about 8 to 9 hours into a standard flight on older generation aircraft, you’ll start to feel the nasal dryness and irritated eyes that come with being in a dry, pressurised environment. On this Dreamliner flight, I didn’t feel that until the 14.5 hour mark, which is a noticeable improvement and a factor that truly does make these longer flights more bearable.
Premium Economy passengers also receive a Country Road amenities kit, with a sleeping mask, socks, and a dental kit, and on this flight we were permitted to use the Business Class lavatories.
All in all, I managed to get around 6 hours of sleep, broken up into 2-hour and 4-hour blocks, which meant that I didn’t feel too jetlagged on arrival into London. After landing at 5am, we went straight into a press conference, following which a 30-minute power nap was sufficient to keep me going through the day – a remarkable feat considering the length of the journey and the time difference.
The dining options are definitely a cut above what is offered in Economy, and cements Premium Economy’s status as a ‘Business-lite’ offering.
Three choices are offered for the main dish during your first meal, including:
- Salad of cumin spiced beef, with zucchini, corn and a citrus dressing
- Chicken with red rice, with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, soya beans and thyme jus
- Grilled pork sausages with spiced fig sauce, soft polenta and seasonal greens
I opted for the chicken with red rice, which was tasty and filling. The main dish is accompanied by a salad of garden leaves with Rockpool vinaigrette, as well as cheese and biscuits. Dessert is an orange polenta cake.
Throughout the flight, snacks are also available, with a decent range of both savoury and sweet options. Savoury options include:
- Sausage roll with tomato relish and green leaf salad
- Tomato and mushroom puff pastry tart with corn salsa
- Smoked trout and zucchini frittata with roast asparagus and tomatoes
Those with a sweet tooth can choose from:
- Weis ice cream
- Chocolate pretzel cookie with pecans
- Lemon shortbread biscuit
- Fresh whole fruit
I couldn’t go past the classic sausage roll, which was well presented and satisfying.
Before arriving into London, breakfast is offered, including the following choices:
- Rhubarb Danish
- Coconut Banana Loaf
- Continental breakfast, consisting of a seasonal fruit plate and cereal
- Hot breakfast, consisting of a feta and spinach omelette with pork and apple sausage, bacon, hash brown and braised beans accompanied with a fruit salad
The hot breakfast was my choice, and I appreciated that it wasn’t too oily or heavy.
It's important to have something besides work to keep you entertained on such a long flight, which is why I was disapointed with the movie catalogue on board. I counted only around 70 movies, including international releases. While there were many new releases, the back catalogue of films could do with some filling out. I did enjoy the classic Bond movies, and the television selection with plenty of box sets was well curated.
Being able to have a tablet sit in front of the IFE screen was also handy, as was the provided active noise-cancelling headphones in case you forget to bring your own pair.
All things considered, I was happy with the flight – while 17 continuous hours can be daunting, I found the seat to be both wide and comfortable enough to relax and get some sleep on the way to London.
The seat pitch is still a sticking point, and increasing this by even a couple of inches would improve the experience considerably. The controversial netting was also comfortable for me and my seatmate, so it seems that taller passengers may have better experiences with it.
Sid Raja travelled as a guest of Qantas