Route: Canberra – Melbourne
Class: Business (My First Domestic Business Class experience)
Seat: 5F. As this was my first experience in Domestic Business Class, I think the review of the seat is probably going to be more generous than someone who flys at this end of the plane all the time. None the less, here we go. Firstly this aircraft operates in whats called a variable configuration (meaning they can change the number of business / economy seats pretty easily). Business Class has a 2-2 seating configuration, which is really just the 3-3 configuration with a table in the place of the middle seat. None the less that table comes in handy for your pre take off glass of juice or water and the seat width feels a little wider – until you recline. If you try and recline, it feels like part of your seat is missing (basically cause it is, its the middle seat). As it was only a 45min trip down to Melbourne I didnt feel the need to recline anyway, but for longer flights this might be anoying. Leg room wise it’s probably comparable to the exit rows (or maybe even a little bit less), however as you dont have anyone cramped next to you, it does feel more spacious. I had the window seat and definately didnt feel squeezed in like you sometimes do down the back. Although I enjoyed the extra space, if you only got the ‘larger’ seat (and not the rest of the business class service) I don’t think it would be worth the price difference.
Aircraft: Boeing 737-400 (VH-TJK). Although I’ve reviewed these birds a few times now (actually sometimes it feels like its all I get to review out of Canberra), I’ve never had the opportunity to review her from the pointier end of the plane. Although alot of this was covered in the seat section, here are a few observations of this particular bird. Firstly, at the galley at the front is pretty spacious for the crew to get those Business Class meals together, yet the toilet is the same as in the back end (although sure you dont have to share it with as many people). The asile feels a little wider, and there is much less of a rush for the overhead bins. The main difference is obviously the lack of the wing obstructing your view outside the aircraft, and maybe slightly quieter. Other than that, the 737-400 is a pretty standard aircraft in the Qantas fleet, regardless of the front or back, its time for them to be retired and replaced with newer birds.
Terminal: As today I’m in business class I get access to the business lounge (also available for platinum frequent flyers). The Qantas Club and Business lounges in Canberra are pretty new as a result of the recent terminal development project that is underway (so far Qantas has the new terminal while Virign and Tiger share what remains of the old terminal). I’ve commented on the Canberra Qantas Club before so I’ll try and compare the Business Lounge to it. To be honest, other than a few fancier looking chairs the Business Lounge is pretty much the same as the Qantas Club. During busier times it might be quieter as its about half the size, although when travelling on a Saturday morning Canberra airport is hardly crowded so its hard to tell if it is generally this quiet. The food offerings were pretty similar to the Qantas Club too, although the fruit salad (called premium fruit salad) did have a fair bit more variety of fruit in it than the general lounge, and the museli was in individual glasses instead of a scoop for yourself dish. Again as it was a weekend the barista service wasn’t offered (not that I drink coffee anyway, but a hot chocolate would have been nice).
Departure: Although scheduled for 10:20, due to the late arrival of the aircraft from Melbourne we had about a 10min delay for pushback. Being one of the first to board, I didnt mind the delay as I got to settle in for my flight in comfort. Although we made up most of this time in flight, the pilot was very apologetic both at the gate in Canberra and on arrival into Melbourne. I used my point and shoot camera to film the take off which I have uploaded for you below. Later I’ll add the landing video that was shot on my new DSLR in full HD (unfortunately you tube limits uploads to 3gig, so might have to trim that one down a little first).
Inflight Entertainment: I’ve reviewed the IFE (or lack there of) many times now so feel free to check out one of the other InFlight reviews for a run down. The IFE in Business is exactly the same as that in economy and, to be honest I only glanced at the CRT TV a few times during the flight (too busy eating) anyway so couldnt really give any further details.
Meal: The food, drink and service departments is where economy really has room to diferentiate itself from econony (especially when the seating isn’t that spectacular). The Canberra – Sydney/Melbourne legs are the shortest flights in the Qantas network where Business is offered, and thus the offering is (or so I’m told) somewhat condensed to fit it into the short flight times (some flights only have a 30-40min flight time). Prior to take off juice or water was offered. I went with the Apple and Strawberry Juice (sounds fancy and tastes delicious – will have to look out for it at the supermarket). Once the seat belt light was off we were offered a refreshment which consisted of a sandwich filled with Waldolf salad and chicken accompanied by a very dense and rich chocolate cake. To wash the sandwich down choice of juices (apple and strawberrry or apple and passionfruit in addition to plain boring orange) or sparkling wine were offered – unfortunately as I was driving the juice had to do me (of which I tried both). Although at first I thought, a sandwich – boring; I actually found it to be very nice and about all you had time to eat during the short flight (they could have had a choice between 2 sandwiches, but meh, the option they had was pretty dam nice). The usual Tea and Coffee round ended the meal (but as I drink neither, was wasted on me).
Crew: Penny and Jacquiline in the Business Cabin were extermely polite, addressing (or at least attempting to) everyone by name when offering our refreshments and ensuring those pesky economy folk didnt steal our overhead bin space or use our toilets. The meals were served from the trolley, however were cleaned up on an “as needed” basis – e.g. once you finished your tray was collected instead of waiting for the trolley to return. All business seats were full, and yet they managed to get the food out very quickly without rushing. Unlike in economy, if you made eye contact they asked if you needed anything without having to use the call button. I would equate thier service levels to that of the QantasLink crew I flew with a few weeks earlier. At the end of the flight they ensured all Business Class passengers were able to collect thier carry on bags and leave the cabin before releasing the masses behind. I was pleasantly suprised with the service and hospitality offered – Good Job.
Arrival: Our Approach into Melbourne took us directly over Eildon, before flying across Melbourne’s north eastern suburbs, over the top of Essendon Airport before making a sharp right turn to land at Tullamarine towards the north. Although landing a few minutes late it was nothing too dramatic. The taxi from the runway as great as we passed all 4 terminals as we wrapped around to the Qantas Domestic Terminal, providing some great views of aircraft you never get to see at Canberra (yep – my plane withdrawals were satisfied). Once I get access to a computer to edit the landing video to under 3Gig for you tube I’ll add it here as it has some great (at least I think they are) shots of both China and Shanghai (operated for China Southern) aircraft moving about the taxiways.
Overall: Overall my first experience in Domestic Business on Qantas was a pleasant one, which I could definately get used to. Although the seat itself wasn’t that great, the service, food and I guess even being able to be an elitest for a day was worth the not so many points and not so many dollars I spent for this leg. Hopefully this will be one of many to come.