One of the hardest reward tickets to procure is flying Qantas A380 service across the Pacific in first class. Now that I have, my question is, why?
Was it a horrible experience? No, not even close. Yet it palls in comparison to Etihad first which I flew in on. In fact as I compare the rankings of my recent first class international trips, surprisingly QF sits at the bottom. Thai Airways gets a better mark, can that be right?
Of course these are my opinions so to each their own. I enjoyed the flight and there were a few positives, but overall Qantas didn't stand out to me.
Date: November 2016
Route: MEL-LAX-ORD (LAX-ORD on American Airlines)
Flight #: 93
On Time: Yes
Reward Flying Rating: 5.8 out of 10 ✈
A bit of luck
As mentioned these rewards are difficult to get. Qantas makes the A380 first class rewards to Dubai and London available, but to the USA they are few and far between. Doing a search over the next 9 months found a handful of these first class rewards, mostly from Australia to the US.
Value for Reward per redemption point:
✔︎Sky High: >.08
A first class ticket on this route will set you back around $8K or more. This was booked on American with a pre-devaluation redemption 72,500 points. Today it cost 110,000 points. My point value is 11 cents which is fantastic. Even 110,000 points nets you over 7 cents per point. So if you can get this ticket it's a great value.
You can book this reward online at AA.com as well as Alaska Airlines if you are using Mileage Plan points. (A much better deal.)
If you arrive by car (I was at the hotel across the walkway) there is a special Qantas first class entrance. This private room serves as your check-in stand.
Obviously much more "first class" than this...
After the friendly agent checked my bag and handed me my boarding pass as well as priority screening pass, I headed to the lounge for some brekkie.
Stay at Gate
The best Qantas first class lounge is in Sydney. I was in Melbourne. Located on the upper level, the lounge was not anything special in terms of decoration. The only service that made the lounge a first class experience was table service offering a full meal.
Once inside looking back at the entrance.
The decor was, well, Qantas colors.
Workstations if you need to be in the office.
Don't they know it's called brekkie in Australia?
Muelsi and eggs kept it simple as well as a long black.
Based on my order I wasn't expecting anything special, and it wasn't. But good.
From my breakfast table I was able to keep tabs on my ride to the US.
Boarding was interesting. The boarding area was on the middle floor of the terminal. That level jet bridge led to the upper deck of the A380. The lower deck jet bridge was on the first floor, an elevator ride down. So let's have a couple hundred folks go down the 12 person elevator. Fortunately I went first.
Where is everyone? Oh, they are upstairs!
What were they thinking?
Sometimes you get wowed, sometimes you don't. This was a don't.
No color, just very bland.
Notice the buttons on the leather wrap around head liner, lower right corner.
They are seat controls so the FA can adjust your seat if needed. Nice idea.
A quick trip to the lavatory found the smallest A380 first or business class lav I've seen, which is the reason for a narrow photo, there wasn't any room to take a wider shot. Nor was it particularly well stocked.
But it had a view.
Moving on I decided to check upstairs. This would be a nice first class entrance, don't you think?
The mini-cabin in front, was empty.
Maybe they took the elevator down and got lost.
One person made it in this Qantas upper deck 2x2x2 configuration.
Heading back downstairs and the view into the first cabin.
The first class pods remind you of oversized reverse herringbone business class seats. The cabin is not quiet either. You can easily hear the conversations of all passengers, at least while on the ground. Once airborne those conversations ceased.
For an added sense of privacy the pods have moveable partitions. With a 1x1x1 configuration the center and right hand seats share the right aisle, while the left side window seats have the aisle to themselves. Some feel that these left hand seats are more private.
During boarding the partitions are retracted.
In the air they are extended.
Additionally there is a partition that seperates the seats.
And you control it from your touch pad.
Just like home
Get me off this plane
These seat pods were probably designed 10 years ago. While no doubt innovative back then, today times have passed them by.
The seat faces forward as well as swivels away from the aisle. Forward facing is mandatory for takeoff and landing. (As is the shoulder harness.)
I thought the seats were comfortable.
Once airborne you can swivel the seat to a herringbone position. Now you are inline with the ottoman, which has a seat belt allowing a companion to visit as well as dine with you. The monitor retracts against the wall. I just don't get the swivel part, leave it swiveled.
Window gazers are out of luck in either position.
Notice jacket again.
Typically flight attendants hang jackets for first class customers.
Let's have a look at the command center. A touch screen LCD panel controls lighting and your seat positions. Also one of many air vents as well as the headphone hook and input plug.
Across the way, on the back of the seat in front is a coat hook and a vent. But if you hang your coat you can't use the tray underneath.
This small tray is about twice the size of a phone, with the placard holder below.
And at foot level, a very odd place for the electrical plugs. Anything bigger than a phone and the device being charged has to go on the other side, meaning if you get up you have to step over the cord, or unplug it.
This vent next to your head probably would have been more useful as a reading light.
But since I'm not an aircraft seat designer I have no explanation for that, or this.
A small storage slot next to the seat. Perfect for my ipad, well I have a mini ipad. Fits like a glove.
I think I'll swivel my seat, wait, where's my ipad??
Flip open the armrest and you find the audio controller. But don't turn the monitor off, because it will come back on in seat 3A on this day.
There are two "lazy susan" swivel drawers below the small table off to your side. One had the headphones inside.
The one below I have no idea what to put in it, nor am I carrying anything that weighs 15 pounds (6.8kg).
The touch panel controls the seats, privacy screen and lighting as well as provides a mini air show. Or you can just use the buttons at the bottom if you like simplicity.
✔︎Like a Rock
A nice turn down service was provided including a mattress pad, duvet along with a large and small pillow.
Sleep came well. The bed was very comfortable. In fact the most comfortable first class bed for me to date.
Cabin/Seats Rating: 7 out of 10 ✈:
Martin Grant gave me his pajamas, they were ok. Honestly, they aren't hanging in my closet where LH, CX, EY, QR among others hang.
He also gave me this pouch.
Very comfortable eye shades (blindfolds sound too dramatic)
And Qantas headphones that were not Bose but sufficient and comforable.
The menu was distributed. Notice the font size.
Today there was an insert featuring a couple different champagne varieties.
Having little knowledge of champagne, I wasn't familiar with any of the ones on the menu. Airborne the Comtes by Taittinger was offered. I accepted.
Apparently this one, along with the others, are serious players in the expensive champagne league.
No bumps please.
Later on I opted for the Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
But it's noon, not 5, so I wasn't all that into it.
Lunch service, there's those fonts again.
The tasting menu choice of spaghetti with prawns (Australian's reference to shrimp) or lamb just didn't fancy any fires with me
So with a selection of 5 mains I was down to 3 as the tasting menu was on the the regular menu. In fact I fail to see how the "tasting menu" was anything different, not sure of the purpose other than having soup and salad, make that 2 salads. Anyway duck sounded interesting. So let's go with:
- Tartlet of caviar with creme fraiche soubise and mushroom and tarragon croquet
- Coats cheese, roasted cherry tomatoes, green beans and hazelnut salad with lemon dressing
- Roast duck with Davidson plum sauce, jasmine rice and Asian greens
- Warm chocolate fondant with raspberries and creme fraiche
Then later on try the signature steak sandwich with tomato and chili relish while worrying about breakfast in the morning.
For breakfast I went for:
- Cold pressed green juice with kale, silverbeet, celery, apple, cucumber and lemon (for those repulsed the lemon cuts the "green" taste and you think you are drinking lemonade, it's good and healty.)
- Bircher muesli
- Free range scrambled eggs on toast with Cumberland sausage, slow roasted tomatoes.
Happy with my choices I was ready to eat.
Have to love Australian silverware
Compliments to the Chef
Fine dining with a miss or two
✔︎No rave reviews
Get me a meal from economy
The disappointments came fast and furious.
The Amuse or Canape. While not advertised as such, this is not caviar as presented on LH or CX now is it?
For some reason I chose this bread, tell me not to next time.
Upon closer inspection I guess so.
I'm almost longing for Asiana at this point... well maybe not that...
Dessert will make up for it, has to.
What do you think?
I guess you had to ask for the petit fours or chocolates as they weren't offered, unlike you might find on say Swiss business class, Etihad first class, United Airlines business class. I could go on.
There was little chance I wouldn't be hungry for the steak sandwich, so when everyone was sleeping I was starving.
In fairness it was good, just small.
Breakfast was served 90 minutes or so outside of LAX.
Unsurprisingly the muesli was the same as was served at the lounge and the green juice was tasty which is good because I needed norishment at this point!
I was hungry you know.
My last long black for the trip.
Food Rating: 5 out of 10 ✈ (As with Thai they get an extra point for the quality of champagne served.)
IFE: 3 out of 10 ✈
Can I stay and watch some more?
Watched a favorite and went to sleep
400 cable channels and nothing to watch
✔︎Glad I brought my tablet
The in flight entertainment system for picture quality, selection and air show was below par in my opinion. Plus the monitor is too far away from the seat.
Given this and the menu fonts, do all Australians have good eyes?
A highlight on the A380 is the tail camera view.
No updates in 10 years, can that be right???
Granted the windows shades are up during the day, but would, check that, could you watch this movie?
(If you look real close you can see Ben Affleck's face in Gone Girl.)
I wonder how many times this one has been played.
Heading over to the airshow, oops
So the interactive map didn't work, but you could select "follow plane". The 4 views, riveting entertainment.
You could also view the air show on the control panel.
The most informative screen, except we were still at the gate.
Yes and Free
Yes and Purchase
Flight Attendants: Rating: 7 out of 10 ✈
Made the flight special
✔︎Did their job
Did they board?
A mixed bag here. Beau was the FA for my seat. A likeable guy we chatted a couple times. He was attentive and if I were to rate the flight just on his service it would be higher. His teammates let him down however.
I changed into Martin Grant's clothes before departure. As I exited the lavatory a younger female flight attendant was standing at the front door. I asked if I could hang my shirt. Instead of taking it for me, she pointed to the closet. Of course my jacket in the overheaed bin didn't win any praise either.
In the middle of the flight when the cabin was dark and I was ready to sleep I asked for some water. I was given a small glass that was placed on that little tray. Ok, it's water. How about a bottle so I don't spill it. It wasn't until almost 10 hours into the flight that I was given a bottle of water. In fact that meant 15 hours of flight time before being handed a single bottle of water on Qantas flights. None on MEL-SYD, none on SYD-PER and now 10 hours in on this one. Maybe for economy, but business and first? Am I being unrealistic or too modern world entitled? Maybe.
Aircraft: 7 out of 10 ✈
Didn’t realize was on a plane
Time for a trade-in
This Qantas A380 first touched the skies in June of 2010.
United rolled out before us and beat us to LA even though we had twice as many engines!
After landing at sunrise on LAX's 24R and a short taxi to the gate, in no time I was at immigration. My advice to anyone who plans to be at TBIT at 6AM going through immigration is GET Global Entry! With the multiple flights from Australia having landed the people in line without GE are most likely still there.
Passing instantly through immigration I circled back upstairs and through security to the Qantas First Class lounge at TBIT.
✔︎Pray for early arrival
First in line was a shower.
Presentable I headed back out and contemplated having my 3rd breakfast for the day. The lounge is beautiful, only lacking a nice view.
There is a view, of the shops below in the terminal.
You can pick from the white room.
Or black room.
Or head over to the bar and dining room.
The breakfast menu, I'm sparing you from another photo of eggs.
To the gate and AA101, a one year old A321.
Originally this flight was to be on a 787, but a schedule change swapped it out to the 321. That's the third time this year AA has taken me off their 787.
Time to go on this beautiful clear Southern California day.
Did I say anything bad about the QF seat? If so I apologize.
I'll leave you with my 4th breakfast. You decide.