I enjoyed a surprisingly lovely 15-hour flight on Qantas aboard the Airbus A380 in premium economy class from Los Angeles to Sydney. It was not a flawless product, but was a very solid one.
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Class Review
I booked my seat for 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles. On the one hand, it was a shame that business class was not available (only 15K more miles), but on the other hand, it gave me a rare opportunity to do a premium economy review, which I want to do more of after this flight.
I checked in at home on the Qantas mobile app, but picked up a paper boarding pass at the check-in counters in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX just in case my phone malfunctioned. I showed up at 8:35 pm, about a half hour before boarding, and the check-in area was nearly deserted.
Security lines also moved quickly, though it helped I had both Clear and PreCheck. Premium economy passengers do not have lounge access and I no longer have oneworld Emerald status, so I headed right to the gate. I do have an American Airlines Admirals Club card, but wanted to arrive at the gate early such that I could be among the first to board.
Boarding commenced at 9:10 pm, though we were held on the jet bridge for 10 more minutes until 9:20 pm. The A380 has boarding on two levels, with premium economy and business class passengers invited to board upstairs. Everyone boards through the same gate, but within the jet bridge area is an escalator going upstairs.
Los Angeles (LAX) – Sydney (SYD)
Sunday, October 22
Depart: 09:50 PM
Arrive: 06:55 AM
Duration: 15hr, 05min
Distance: 7,488 miles
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Seat: 31K (Premium Economy Class)
Two flight attendants warmly greeted me as I walked though business class to the premium economy cabin, which is located on the rear of the upper deck.
Premium economy seating is found between rows 31-40 and configured in a 2-3-2 pattern. The Qantas A380 premium economy cabin is huge with 60 hard-shell seats designed by David Caon.
- Width: 20.5 inches
- Pitch: 38 inches
- Recline: 9 inches
I was able to snag 31K, a bulkhead seat, which opened up at check-in. This seat provided extra legroom, no one reclining in front of me, and access to storage under the window. When I originally booked, only 37E, a middle seat, was available.
The seat reclined manually with a button releasing the seatback:
Each seat had a personal air vent and USB-A charging port, but a single universal power outlet was shared with my seatmate.
I loved that the “A” and “K” seats have extra storage in the side compartment, which I took full advantage of.
A center console provided some space between my seatmate, a talkative Australian gentleman, and me.
I figured I would not be able to sleep well because it was not a lie-flat bed, but I actually managed to sleep very well for about eight hours. Part of that was undoubtedly how tired I was, but the seat was very genuinely comfortable (great padding) and most of all I liked how the footrest flipped out 90º from the bulkhead, creating a comfortable mesh canopy for my feet like a hammock. Somehow, I was able to side sleep in the fetal position with my feet and ankles resting on the footrest.
What also helped was the superb pillow and blanket, which was frankly far better than the business class blankets on carriers I frequent like SWISS or Austrian.
Don’t kid yourself: this is still closer to an economy class seat than a lie-flat business class seat. At the same time, this represents a huge upgrade over economy class in terms of seat pitch, recline, width, and bedding. I am very happy I spent the extra 25K miles for premium economy class for the seat alone.
IFE + Wi-Fi
I knew Qantas has not yet installed internet on its A380 and while going 15 hours without internet is a long time, I was prepared for it and enjoyed watching movies while awake. Qantas has an excellent library of movies, TV shows, games, and music that helped to pass the time.
I typically look for Australian movies when I fly on Qantas since I do not watch them anywhere else, but settled on Blackberry, which was an entertaining and enlightening movie, even if it took some liberties.
The moving map feature did not work, which became highly annoying on a flight without internet.
Noise-cancelling headphones were provided again similar to business class headphones on many carriers.
The windows are small on the upper deck of the A380, but I still appreciated having one.
Food + Drink
Menus were already placed on each seat prior to boarding. During boarding, a choice of water or sparkling wine was offered in a glass cup (in addition to water bottles placed on each seat).
Dinner service commenced after takeoff. The menu included three choices for the main course:
- Rigatoni with tomato sauce, mushroom and broccoli
- Salad of grilled chicken with Asian noodle salad and sweet chill dressing
- Braised beef with roast potatoes carrots and green beans
The beef and vegetable dinner entree was very nicely served on ceramic on a tray with a white tablecloth, but tasted like a cheap frozen dinner. I did eat it because I was hungry but the sourdough bread and pearl couscous tabouleh salad with lemon dressing were certainly the highlights (the blueberry cheesecake also was not bad). Qantas uses the same glasses and cutlery in premium economy that it does in business class.
I asked a flight attendant if she could mix me up a makeshift Negroni with dinner (using Campari, gin, and the dessert wine since there was no Vermouth) and it turned out quite well. She was very keen to give it a go and I appreciated that gesture very much.
After sleeping for eight hours I awoke rather hungry and rose to check out the mid-flight snacks. A self-serve snack station included apples, an almond and pretzel mix, cheese, and Dove chocolate bars.
A flight attendant noticed I was there was asked if I wanted something heartier. I nodded and she offered a cheese and mushroom toastie or a chicken empanada with chimichurri sauce or both. I chose both.
These two little sacks were the highlight of the entire meal service. They were flavorful (particularly the chimichurri sauce) and just hit the spot perfectly, even though it was only about 8:00 am in LA.
The pre-arrival breakfast was served three hours before landing, which I thought was far too early and seemed to interrupt the sleep of many, though I was wide awake by this point.
A choice between a seasonal fruit plate with Swiss muesli and strawberries or a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs with Canadian bacon, hash brown, sauteed mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes. The menu indicated both would be served with a cranberry muffin.
Upon serving breakfast, however, the flight attendant apologetically stated that catering had failed to load muffins. Sometime later, though, I saw other flight attendants carrying two huge bags of croissants, presumably downstairs to economy class. Those would have been even better than a muffin…
The main dish featured the triangular hash browns that used to be a staple of my elementary school cafeteria as well as ham and mushrooms that were so processed they were inedible. A big miss, though again the breakfast was very visually appealing.
The fresh berries were sweet, but the melon was hard.
Best of all, the French Press coffee was also strong and flavorful. I complimented the flight attendants on this and they said the coffee was also served in economy class.
Every premium economy passenger received a Qantas-branded amenity kit with contents including:
- Toothbrush + toothpaste
- Ear plugs
- Lip balm from Napoleon Perdis (an Australian brand)
Two lavatories located in the rear of the cabin were designed for premium economy class. They were clean but otherwise lacked extra amenities.
A gate kept passengers from utilizing the rear staircase.
I quite liked the service on this flight. The ladies working the cabin were quite friendly, attentive throughout the flight, and I particularly appreciated the willingness to play cocktail bartender and whip up the makeshift Negroni.
In terms of service flow, my only criticism is that breakfast should have been served closer to landing rather than waking people up three hours before landing.
It is only fair to speculate that had I been stuck in middle seat for the longhaul flight, my assessment would be less favorable, but 31K was excellent, the service was lovely, elements of the meal service like the mid-flight snack and coffee were great, and best of all I slept well.
I would happily fly again on the Qantas A380 in premium economy and see it as a meaningful upgrade over economy class.