Monday, March 14, 2011

Qantas: A Review of an Airline


That's our plane!  It's a Qantas A380 and according the the Qantas website:
The A380 is the largest and most technologically advanced aircraft ever built.  It’s quieter, more efficient and more powerful than today’s largest jets.
I totally agree with all the above!  It may look a bit boring but the specs on this behemoth are incredible:

Specifications

Dimensions
Length 72.57 m
Height 24.1 m
Fuselage Diameter 7.14 m
Cabin Length 49.9 m
Max Cabin Width, main deck 6.54 m
Max Cabin Width, upper deck 5.8 m
Wing Area 845 sqm
Wing Span 79.8 m
Wing Sweep, 25% chord 33.5 degrees

Engines
4 x Rolls-Royce Trent 900
Thrust 70,000 lb
Fan Diameter 3 m
Length 5.3 m
Weight 6,300 kg

Weight
Max Ramp Weight 571 t
Max Take Off Weight 569 t
Max Landing Weight 391 t
Max Zero Fuel Weight 366 t
Max Fuel Capacity 310, 400 l

Configuration
Qantas A380 seat count 450
First 14 Suites
Business 72 Skybed seats
Premium Economy 32 seats
Economy 332 seats

I've heard many good reports on Qantas prior to using the airline for the first time on this trip.  I also did my research and read up on the A380 to find out how I would survive a 15 hour plane ride.  But here are some tips and feedback that you won't find on the Qantas website.

Dress comfortably and take layers especially if you're cold natured.  You can always add or take away from what you're wearing.  Qantas provides a blanket (thin but more substantial than any other airline blanket I've experienced), small pillow, earphones, and personal kit with toothbrush, toothpaste and eye mask.  We traveled in the bulk Economy section but for a bit more money or miles you can bump up to Premium Economy, Business or First Class.  With each upgrade you receive more room and a better more comfortable seat in which to relax.  First Class for our flight would have cost over $13,000.00 just to put this into perspective.

I know Qantas would disagree, but we had more leg room on the plane we flew to Australia in than the one we flew coming back to the States.  Going we were in row 75 and returning we were 2 rows ahead of that in 73 on the same side of the plane.  We all agreed after the flight that there was more leg room on the way over.  By the way, Qantas added a net under the seat in front of you for your feet.  Use it!  Its a great way to take the weight off of your feet during this long flight.

Don't prepare to drift right off to sleep as soon as you board.  Once the flight takes off the crew organizes dinner for you and insists that everyone sits upright to do so.  Even for those that were already asleep, they were awakened to eat and sit up in the process.  I understand making it comfortable for all to eat, but not knowing this going into it was a bit frustrating.  The food is ok but not that great.

Sample Menu

Dinner
Marinated Risoni Pasta Salad
Choice of
Braised Chicken with a Tomato and Fennel Sauce and Roasted New Potatoes
or
Portuguese Style Beef and Chorizo Hot Pot with Pilaf Rice
Cheese and Crackers
Coffee or Tea
Ice Cream

Breakfast
Orange Juice
Seasonal Melon Salad with Fruit Juice
Mango and Vanilla Pain De Mie
Choice of
Continental Breakfast
Cereal
or
Hot Breakfast
Scrambled Eggs with Seared Bacon, Sausage and Sauteed Mushrooms
Coffee or Tea

After the meal service, the staff offered Cadbury Hot Chocolate or Organic Peppermint Tea.

The A380 boasts a self serve snack bar offering sodas, water and choice of cookie or snack (such as nuts).  Staff regularly offers water, juice or apples throughout the cabin during the flight.  If you have dietary restrictions I would recommend taking a few items to snack on in your carry on luggage.

The plane itself is the quietest I've ever flown in. Qantas worked hard to reduce the engine noise to make the flight more peaceful. They do have a few kinks on board though. On the flight from LAX to Sydney, the button to recline my seat was broken. I had to remind staff a few times before someone came by and asked me to stand while she manually reclined it. Also, on the return flight to the States, the seat behind us had a broken seal on an air vent which needed to be repaired just before take off.

Qantas staff is very good overall.  The flight from LAX to Sydney seemed to have more younger inexperienced staff that were not the best in customer service.  Other than that, the Qantas staff on the A380 and throughout Australia were very gracious and hospitable.  Flying Qantas is like flying used to be a few decades ago in the U.S.  The customer is first, snacks are always provided at a minimum.  Headsets are always part of the deal, not extra.  And, drum roll please, the plane is clean!  The last two legs of this journey home were on domestic planes (American Airlines) that had not been cleaned in a while and had trash stuffed in the seat back from previous customers, nasty!

We did have a disappointing arrival into Australia though.  We booked a "legal" flight from Sydney to Alice Springs but because deplaning and customs took so long we missed out flight.  Since there is only one flight a day to Alice we had to stay in Sydney overnight.  It took the Qantas agent a few minutes to investigate this while we stood at the counter.  But once she determined that we were not at fault, Qantas put us up at a near by hotel and gave us food vouchers as well.  We would have preferred to keep our original schedule of course.  If you are booking another flight once you land in Australia, give yourself at least 2 1/2 - 3 hours to make the flight.  Even if they list it as a "legal" flight, you still will have a tough time making the connection.  With a plane smaller that the A380 you may not have the same challenge.

Even with the difficulties we experienced with Qantas, it is the best airline that I've flown.  They, by in large, know more about customer service than most of our domestic airlines - a couple exceptions of course.

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