Trip Report: Melbourne to Los Angeles in Qantas Business Class on an A380

I’m not sure how this trip report slipped through the cracks. In January, I flew Qantas Business Class on an A380 from Melbourne to Los Angeles. I wrote the trip report then but never posted it. Fly along with me on the world’s biggest jumbo jet.

Qantas 93
Melbourne (MEL) – Los Angles (LAX)
Depart: 11:20 AM on Wednesday, January 23
Arrive: 6:45 AM on Wednesday, January 23
Duration: 14:25
Aircraft: A380-800
Seat: 17A (Business Class)

I had booked my Qantas flight 331 days in advance when it became bookable with American Airlines miles. In the intervening 11 months, anticipation had built, so I was ecstatic when flight day came.

Why was the flight a huge disappointment?

Breakfast at the Business Class Lounge

Seating in the Qantas Business Class Lounge

Business Class Seats at Boarding

Get ready for tons of pictures.

The Lounge

I arrived at Melbourne’s airport at 9 AM on January 23, so I could have breakfast in the lounge and catch up on emails before boarding.

Lounges at MEL. I’m always fascinated by the second-language choices at airports when it’s not English.

Entrance to the Qantas Business Lounge

The lounge had a variety of hot and cold dishes for breakfast.

I was definitely most intrigued by this strange Popcake pancake-producing machine. I thought I could handle the instructions, so I gave it a whirl.

Pancakes in Three Easy Steps

I captured the magic of the machine to try to give the feeling of watching a pancake slowly move down an assembly line toward your plate.



As you might expect, the pancake was not good at all. But undeterred, I returned to the buffet.

I did most of my damage on the hash browns and bacon, both of which were delicious. I would say that the breakfast options in the Qantas Business Class Lounge in Melbourne are excellent in taste and variety.

I steered clear of the alcohol selection, which was extensive, since it was a morning flight.

There were several great seating areas in the lounge depending on whether you wanted to eat, work, or socialize. My seating area is pictured first. I used the end tables for my computer and my growing number of plates of food.

Overall, I’d give the Qantas Business Class Lounge at Melbourne International Airport high marks for a business class lounge. There was an appropriate selection of tasty food, solid internet, and nice seating areas. I’m not sure what else you’d need before your flight.

The Flight

Qantas puts its entire 72-seat Business Class and Premium Economy on the top deck of its A380s.

Business class is in a 2-2-2 configuration, and I made a mistake choosing a window seat. The aisle next to me was occupied, meaning I had to disturb my seatmate every time I needed to stand up on the 14 hour flight. I highly recommend getting one of the middle seats, so that you have aisle access, and you’re not blocking anyone else’s access.

Each seat had a small pillow, a duvet, and a mattress pad.

Before takeoff, everyone was brought an amenity kit with Malin and Goetz products and pajamas.

I changed into my pajamas for the duration of the flight and still have them. They’re mighty comfy and feature that sweet ‘roo on the front.

I took a moment to familiarize myself with the seating area. Since I had a window seat, I had two deep cubbies next to my seat.

I didn’t know the etiquette, so I offered one to the person seated next to me. While polite, I’m not sure it was really convenient for either of us because it meant he had to climb over me to get to anything he put in the cubby.

In my deep cubby, I stashed my jacket and laptop.

There was also a cubby under the seat in front of me, perfect for putting one’s shoes. Between the seats, there was a divider that could be raised for privacy or lowered for conversation.

The television was a nice size, but it popped out of the armrests between the seats. I prefer a television in the seat in front of me for several reasons, one of which is that the armrest-TV had to be stowed for takeoff and landing.

The TV remote popped out from the side of the seat.

The seat controls were on my left side and allowed me to customize my recline angle or put the seat into the bed position.

There was ample leg room for me to stretch out my legs, and I’m 6’4″, so space is not a problem in these seats.

Overall, I didn’t like the seat’s design very much. The TV in the armrest and the two cubbies by the window to be shared are both design flaws.

As I played with my seat, I was offered a pre-departure beverage. A flight attendant carried a tray of champagnes, orange juices, and waters for people to select. With 72 Business Class seats, most of which were full, there wasn’t time to take everyone’s order before take off, so the tray would have to suffice.

I grabbed a champagne and water. It was almost 5 o’clock in Los Angeles, so I didn’t feel guilty.

Shortly, menus were distributed which read as follows:

For lunch, I selected the pea and mint soup and the lasagne. I very much enjoyed the soup.

The lasagne wasn’t very good, and I wished I had ordered the chicken, which looked better. The vegetables were flavorless as if they had been steamed for a long time before being added to the lasagne.

The cheese, crackers, and fruit were a nice way to end the meal. The fruit was fresh and sweet, and you can’t go wrong with cheese.

After lunch, I took a tour of the cabin. At the front of the Business Class cabin is a small lounge with a television. Lounges on planes always sound cool to me, but usually lack in execution.

Throughout the flight, a few people watched TV up there, but it didn’t seem like a great use of space. An on-board bar, on the other hand, like Emirates has, would be a more fun use of the space, since you might actually be able to have a conversation.

I went down the front stairs to get a glimpse of the First Class cabin that I had desperately hoped to get a seat in. Only one of the 14 seats was taken, but no award space had ever opened up for me.

After the empty First Class cabin taunted me, I headed back to my seat to check out the entertainment system.

The movie selection was excellent with a good mix of recent and older movies. The coolest category was Oscar Classics, which had an enormous selection of Oscar winners. Qantas had the best selection of critically acclaimed movies I’ve seen on a plane. I watched a few movies and TV episodes, whiling away the 14 hours.

The strangest thing I saw was a Simpsons episode where a bad flight was part of the plot. The episode had this disclaimer on screen:

After about seven hours on board it was 6 PM according to my body and 11 PM in Los Angeles. I decided to try to sleep, which I thought would be very possible because I’d only gotten two hours of sleep the night before.

I converted the seat into a bed and made my own bed. [I believe there is now turndown service in Qantas Business Class.]

The cabin was dark, but I tried to snap a picture of the bed to show it.

I’d always seen the Qantas bed marketed as “fully flat,” and SeatGuru agrees. But I can assure you that while the bed is flat, it is not parallel to the ground. Instead it is slightly angled. I hated the angle and didn’t fall asleep at all.

While the bedding and pillow were adequate, the bed’s angle was awful. Since the bed is the most important part of a 14 hour flight to me, this is a serious problem. Because of the Qantas Business Class bed, I highly recommend skipping Qantas Business Class to Australia. United BusinessFirst (business class) is a much better option with a very comfortable fully flat and parallel-to-the-ground bed.

After lying in bed and failing to sleep for about four hours, I decided to go looking for some food. Snacks were available for the duration of the flight, and I ordered the tomato, olive, and cheese calzone, which was tasty.

An hour later, it was time for breakfast, which we had pre-ordered with room-service-style cards.

I ordered the big breakfast with eggs, bacon, toast, and beans.

Everything was delicious, and I finally had a chance to try Vegemite, which I hadn’t gotten around to in Australia.

As I finished breakfast, the captain came on to inform of us of our descent and on-time arrival in Los Angeles. We landed in darkness at LAX. I rushed through customs and immigration with Global Entry and was on the curb less than ten minutes after the aircraft’s doors were opened. How can you not have Global Entry when it’s a free perk of any AMEX Platinum?

Overall

This was a very disappointing flight. I had built up Qantas Business Class on an A380 for 11 months, and the product did not deliver.

The bed’s angle relative to the ground made sleep impossible for me despite my extreme weariness. Not having direct aisle access made me a nuisance to my neighbor. His not having a storage cubby made him a nuisance to me. Some dishes were good and others weren’t.

But it all comes down to the bed. The bed failed me, so I won’t be flying Qantas Business Class again in the future. Instead I’ll look for fully flat options to Australia like United BusinessFirst, United Global First, and Qantas First.



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35 Responses to Trip Report: Melbourne to Los Angeles in Qantas Business Class on an A380

  1. The bed is indeed parallel to the floor so perhaps your seat was broken. Only the original Qantas skybeds (on the A333 fleet and some 747s) are angled. The window storage lockers are not intended to be shared; the overhead lockers provide ample space for the aisle passenger. Is there any airline that offers uninterrupted aisle access for a window seat passenger when there are two seats next to each other? I can only think of BA but of course, you’re then flying backwards. I’m not sure how a bar would fit into the space currently occupied by the onboard lounge.

    • My bed did not look or feel parallel to the ground. I went to an empty seat and stretched it out to look at it, and it didn’t look parallel either. Very slight angle that I’d estimate at 10 degrees to my eye.

  2. Flip flops?
    Great report.

  3. Qantas skybeds are parallel to the floor on all A380 aircraft.

  4. so they’d rather fly an empty first class than release a few award flights? Idiots.

    • I wonder about the economics of this as well… if they sold points at 1 cent a piece and filled half of that cabin they would still make some good $$. Odd.

    • This is not an idiotic strategy.

      Firstly, how many times has Qantas gone bankrupt in the last decade compared to the American airlines that give away their premium seats?

      Secondly, Qantas’ strategy is to keep their premium cabin exclusive to people who actually pay for the seat rather than give them away to people with QF status who know if they buy a J seat will get upgraded to First so never pay for a First seat. It’s also far better (financially) than giving First seats to people who use credit cards to get AA or OneWorld points for nothing. The First seats go for $20,000 return and is where Qantas makes their (small) profit, that will only be the case if they keep the seats exclusive.

      Selling the points at 1c would not cover the cost of the food or the staff required to run their First product. It’s far more economically feasible to run the cabin empty.

      • There’s no way the marginal cost of a passenger is above $1,450 roundtrip, even in First Class. Marginal cost, not average cost. But your point about not wanting people to wise up to the fact that there is a cheaper alternative to buying First Class is well taken. Other airlines like Cathay, Lufthansa, and United don’t worry about that because they think the people who take them up on last-second miles offers are different than the people who would buy premium cabins. It is an empirical question who is right, and we don’t have the data.

      • OK, how about 3 cents per mile?

        • It’s not about selling a seat for the bare-minimum just to fill the cabin. Qantas is trying to send a message that says “If you want to fly First class on Qantas, you’re going to need to pay full price for it”.

          And what happens if they fill up the First cabin with cheap frequent flyer seats and on the day of travel a couple of full-fee paying people want to buy a seat but can’t? That downside is just not worth it from a business perspective.

          • right, but i didn’t mean to open all the seats to miles redemptions… but how about half? must be more economical than shuffling air between continents, no?

      • They can hold their ground all day long, and look where it got them. An empty First Class cabin during the peak time of the year. It’s probably not much better throughout the rest of the year.

        Someone willing to pay first class fare probably won’t be holding out until 2 weeks before the flight to see if they can use miles or buy business and upgrade.

        And btw, Qantas may not have gone bankrupt yet but their finances are pretty bad from what I’ve read.
        ..

      • Actually, QF is in awful financial shape and the US airlines are going great.

        • Actually Qantas’s books are in great shape. Heaps of assets including cold hard cash. Comparison to American airlines is totally pointless.

        • IIRC QF is in decent financial shape in terms of assets and cash reserves, they’re actively expanding the fleet with 737, 787 and A330 acquisitions as well as more A380s to come. They have fairly decent capital expenditure which can only happen if they’re financially stable (or at least make it look like they are). Where QF is in danger is the loss made by QF international… which is starting to become a worry.

          Compared to US airlines which are under bankruptcy protection, restructuring like no tomorrow and targets of mergers… Doesn’t sound too healthy to me.

  5. THEFRUGALMOMPOINTSMILESHACKINGNEWBTRAVELER

    Last picture shows you had a vegimite sandwich, how was that?

  6. I flew to SYD in December on the old 747 where they allow business class passengers to sit in the old first class seats. The cabin was about half full and they did provide turndown service. I was a little suprised that I did not eat turndown service on the return flight back in the newer business class cabin. That flight was full in business class. They may have provided turn down service on the outbound because the cabin was pretty empty.

    • In December Qantas were introducing the turn down service and were progressively building up to their newer products. So you would have been traveling at a time when Qantas were trialling the turn down on their 747s but no on their A380s yet.

    • In the Qantas Business Class Lounge was a huge banner crowing about turndown service to biz. When I asked in the lounge, she said it was coming in February or March 2013. My flight was January, but I believe it is now standard in business class.

  7. I’ve flown this flight on an A380 in J many times and I’ll be on 94 next week going back to Melbourne.

    Although the bed is parallel to the ground, because there is no fixed footrest, the end of the bed tends to sag from your knee to your feet. Because of the angle I get sore knees so I have started to take big sweaters that I role up and rest my feet on so my body is flat.

    It’s a shame that you didn’t have the chance to visit the First Class lounge in Melbourne (or Sydney). Those two lounges are incredible and would definitely answer your question of ‘What more could you want before a flight’…

    • Haha. Don’t rub it in ;)

      I left out that I had been tracking a First Class seat on ba.com that disappeared the day it would have been bookable with AA miles. The biz seat was my consolation prize, but I was so close to First Class!

  8. Flip flops? I gotta say….eeewwwwww, hope I don’t end up sharing a cabin with you. Stay classy.

    Regarding the angle, you are forgetting a fundamental fact (as a highly qualified professional blogger, I am shocked…). The bed may indeed be parallel to the floor of the cabin. However, what makes you think that the floor is oriented perfectly horizontally while the aircraft is in flight?

    Don’t know specifically about the A380, but many commercial aircraft cruise in a slight nose-up configuration. This can result in the forward end (closest to the front of the plane) of a lie-flat seat being slightly elevated. In “forward facing” seats, that would put your feet above your head, which most folks find uncomfortable. In a rear-facing seat, one’s head is slightly above one’s feet, which most people find more comfortable. The above assumes that the aircraft’s attitude is slightly nose-high and the seat is parallel to the cabin floor.

    Just sayin’ there are more variables to consider.

    And next time, please cover your toenails for the sake of your neighbors.

  9. James is dead on about the QF F lounge in MEL. Visited it back in May when returning on CX to HKG. (access via AA EXP). Great service,food and drink.Best I remember anywhere. Almost made up for last time I was to fly QF A380 SYD-LAX (several years ago) and QF substituted it to a 747 which we had flown out of LAX.

  10. Next time try Virgin Australia. I was concerned that the 2-3-2 config would make for a cramped and uncomfortable experience but it didn’t. Most people on the westbound flight I took from LAX-SYD slept soundly and barely disturbed each other all flight.

    There is a turndown service and a bar, and the beds seemed absolutely flat to me.

    The service was amazingly friendly and relaxed, whilst maintaining professionalism.

    I chose the steak for dinner. If I’d have gotten one as good on the ground I would have been delighted.

    All this for 150k Delta SkyMiles.

  11. C’mon people, what’s the big deal about flip flops? I live in them year around, although my pedicured feet are sightly more attractive than Scott’s….

    I think we can allow you a little leeway with the first/business class cabin etiquette. You do write one of the best award booking blogs out there. Your 6’4″ flip flop wearing, baggy jeans, bearded self would be hard to miss in a first class lounge if I ever happen to come across you :)

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  13. Some of the newer Qantas A380s have a small economy section at the back of the top deck, now. I believe they removed some business seats and increase premium economy and economy. But don’t quote me on that.

  14. Vegemite is best tasted on hot buttered toast and spread very thinly.
    Preferably not on a croissant.

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