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Review: Qantas Business Class 747-400 Sydney to Santiago

Review: Qantas Business Class 747-400 Sydney to Santiago
TRIP Report: Honeymoon - South America



This flight report covers the first leg: Sydney to Santiago.

Flight: QF 27
Route: Sydney (SYD) – Santiago (SCL)
Date: Tuesday, February 19
Depart: 12:50 PM
Arrive: 11:10 AM
Duration: 12 hr 20 min
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 (four class)
Seat: 13 J & K (Business Class – upper deck)
Cost: AU$4,899 + AU$205 taxes + AU$112 credit card charges (also covers Santiago to Buenos Aires).

Well dressed crowd greeted by a generous Qantas smiles

Introduction

We didn’t spend a lot of time in the Qantas Business Class lounge, partly because it is far from my favourite lounge and is looking the worse for wear, but also because we arrived later than intended due to packing delay and trying-to-get-everything-we needed-to-get-done post-wedding and before a six-week honeymoon in South America!

I had checked in online as soon as check-in opened, as our seats were quoted as 7a and 7c but didn’t appear on the aircraft seat plan online. Given there are a number of versions of this aircraft with different configurations, there may have been an aircraft swap. I wasn’t able to check our seats for a couple of weeks prior.

Only two rows in front of us, and two behind

Boarding

Glad we checked in early, as we got seats allocated in the upper deck – my favourite feature of the 747. That private cabin upstairs is very cocooning.

Boarding went without a hitch, although one staff member seemed a little grumpy, unlike our check-in person (a first-class attendant had called us over from the business class queue) who was particularly chatty, and seemed almost as excited as we were that we were going on our first trip to South America.

We boarded through the 2nd door at around the advertised departure time of 12:50 pm – so, about 45 minutes late.

It was a surprise to be using only one air bridge, but it has been a long time since we travelled on a 747, and a Qantas one at that.

On the tarmac, after our delayed departure a Cebu Pacific A330 (?)

The Delay

The pilot announced at about 1 pm that there was an inoperative oxygen mask on the flight deck and that by law they had to have it replaced, but unfortunately it had to come from the supplier, not Qantas stores, so he was expecting it to take 40 minutes for delivery, and about 10 minutes to install. A few moments later my iPhone pinged with a message from Kayak saying the flight had been delayed by 55 minutes.

Reading lights overhead

At 13:33 a little earlier than expected, the captain announces that the offending oxygen tank has been changed, and there is just some paperwork to be completed before we are underway. Yeah! 

The Cabin

Seats are Marc Newson – Skybeds Mark II – the flat version, not the angled version. The controls on the armrest indicate they will lie flat, but they are currently inoperative, and won’t recline at all.

Such a small cabin, that upper deck.

The great thing about the upper deck is the side of the seat cabin storage. Everything I need – by my side!

Computer, Qatar amenity bag full of cables, pyjamas, newspaper, shoulder bag – the lot!

However, some passengers just abuse the privilege, by exposing their feet, which no one aside from the occasional foot fetishist ever wants to see exposed on a flight.

Keep your smelly exposed feet to yourself!

While I like the Queen of the Skies, I think she is looking a little post-menopausal; is gaining a few character lines, and has not quite kept up with the latest fashions. Those bright young things, the-oversized A380 and the slimline 787 and A350, are beating her in the fashion, and the sophistication stakes. I think the old Jumbo is overdue for a comfortable retirement, and although I will think about her with fondness and nostalgia, I won’t miss her.

The Seat

Seats were already made up with bedding, pillows, amenity kit, breakfast menu card, and other meal advice. We pre-ordered our meals (including breakfast) during the delay, and one of the attendants later came through and confirmed that our order had been received and was available.

Bedding already on seats, along with headphones, menus, blankets and pillows

I remember when these seats came out. They were such a revelation compared to the previous recliner seats. The shell felt cocooning the pitch extraordinary, and the lie-flat – as good as First. Now, although still comfortable they seem dated, as well as not providing direct aisle access for every seat. On the other hand, you get an extraordinary amount of personal space, and the layout feels much more open and spacious.

You don’t get this kind of legroom in reverse herringbone!

I love an over-seat air nozzle, and I’m not sure why. They are very useful in the boarding process when the cabin is usually overheated because the air conditioning either isn’t turned on or hasn’t been on for long enough. After that, unless the cabin is particularly overheated – I never worry about them.

Overhead air nozzles – always good to have

The next thing you notice about the cabin is that the TV screens look absurdly small, and badly proportioned compared to the larger more letterbox shaped monitors of today.

. . . and immensely small

. . . And then when you turn them on, the resolution is really low, and the reactivity time is a little tardy.

Fortunately, the entertainment system is populated with a great selection of current movies: including Bohemian Rhapsody (meh), Boy Erased (tick), Black Klansmen, and many others.

One thing I was surprised by was the non-noise cancelling nature of the headphones. I couldn’t detect anything noise-cancelling about them. Either they weren’t – or they are so bad at their task compared to my set of Bose, as not to be noticeable.

Headphones – no noise cancellation that I could determine

The seat controls were on my right, simple, old fashioned, grubby, worn, but effective.

Seat controls, fine but a bit grubby

Two powerpoints located below the seat divider in the middle – obviously pre-USB and iPhone!

Universal power plugs between the two seats.

Pre-departure

Pyjamas were distributed, and we decided given the delay – we would wait until we were in the air. There is nothing sadder than a delayed flight where passengers have to do a quick change back into street clothes before disembarkation. Actually worse still are those who don’t, and wander the airport aimlessly in their business class Qantas /David Cohn designed ‘leisurewear’.

That dark blue ribbon and the dark blue logo are an enticing colour

Pre-departure drinks were offered soon after boarding – and we chose the champagne (Jacquart Brut Mosaique – the other offering was Duval-Leroy Brut). One top-up was offered, and then our glasses remained empty.

Amenity Kit

Amenity kits were waiting for us at our seats. I quite like these ‘Qantas curates’ pouches, as they are great for re-use. Qantas has commissioned a range of designers to create the pouch graphics, so you can collect quite a range. All are on the theme of the corporate slogan ‘Spirit of Australia’.

This design is called ‘Black Water’ and is designed by Tom Blachford, based on a telephoto image from a helicopter.

A fairly standard offering, with beauty products from Aspar, who supply the Qantas 1st class lounge Spa facilities.

Aside from the products-de-Beautè, the usual grooming, socks, dental and (my favourite) earplugs are supplied, not to mention the eye-mask that matches the pouch design.

The Flight

We are advised to prepare for departure and at 13:41 (50 minutes after our scheduled departure time, the air bridge was retracted.

We started our pull back at 13:46, and then things are a bit of a blur. I think the combination of excitement, rushing about to get everything done before departure, a few drinks in the lounge and a glass of champagne on board sent me off to the land of nod for our departure. Basically, from pull back until the seat-belt sign went off – I don’t remember anything, and I think I slept through takeoff. Actually – that is not unusual for me. I find there is something quite soporific about take-off.

The Drinks Menu

Seat belt sign turned off at 2 pm. And very rapidly, drinks orders were taken – and my Gin & Tonic delivered, and the meal service commenced.

Gin & Tonic delivered, with Soy Rice Crackers

The Meal Service

Meal orders had been taken pre-takeoff, and the availability of our preferred options had been confirmed. Like, the flight attendant went back into the Galley, checked, and came back and verbally confirmed.

Meal service started at about 2:15 pm (Aust. ESST) – or roughly a half an hour into the flight. The service ran over about 3 hours through until a little after 5 pm (Aust. ESST).

A bit of Great Barrier Reef on the cover of the menu.

The Menu’s were in both Spanish and English. I can’t say I find Qantas food offering enticing – as it once was. I think these options are merely adequate, however, there are a good number of choices.

Starter choices were:

  • Tomato, saffron and chickpeas soup
  • Duck salad
  • Middle Eastern tasting plate

For Main course:

  • Udon Noodle vegetarian soup
  • Chicken biriyani
  • Barramundi
  • Roast Pork

All served with a green leaf salad.

To finish, choices were:

  • Cheese plate
  • Summer Pudding
  • Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Seasonal Fruit
  • Chocolates
The dining menu with descriptions

I went with the Duck Salad, which was good, although the duck was a little dry. I took it with a glass of Australian Shiraz.

Table setting and duck salad, with a glass of red.

Or if you want this close up . . .

Duck Salad – hot and spicy, but a tad overcooked.

. . . and the salad, which was nothing to write home about.

Next up the chicken Biriyani. This was OK. Serving looks big, but those new plates are small (that’s how they save 10% on weight!)

Perfectly fine Biriyani, although a few too many large chunks of pumpkin

I declined dessert. My husband had the ice cream sandwich (sorry, no pictures) and ordered a hot chocolate rather than the offered coffee or tea. Both not great choices, unfortunately.

I went straight for the sweet wine and was well rewarded.

Dinner was good, and the staff were competent and welcoming, but not outstanding. They tended to be reactive rather than pro-active.

I had to take some empty glasses back to the galley – I think most of the staff were by then on their rest break.

On the other hand, the flight attendant who had advised about my meal availability, returned numerous times to replace our bottles of water as he noticed they were emptied. A nice touch. I’d forgotten how dehydrating the Jumbo can be.

Annoying Passenger with window shade

Now, I know there is a lot of debate about the rights of passengers to have their window’s open (along with seat recline in Economy, and feet on furniture), but can I just point out how annoying this kind of behaviour is.

This dickhead (acceptable Australian colloquialism) in 13A did not lower his window blinds throughout the first 3 hours of the journey.

To Whom It May Concern – some of us want to watch our video screen, and not have your windows destroy that opportunity.

The problem on these old Qantas 747’s is that when the cabin is flooded with light, it is almost impossible to watch your screen. Their pixels just aren’t that strong.

As well as that, do you really have to have all three of your window’s open?

13A finally shut his windows, nearly 4 hours into the flight. Oh, that would be right – suddenly he wants to view his screen. Pity he had prevented us doing so until then!

The Bathroom Facilities

The bathrooms on the upper deck of the Qantas 747, are located at the front of the plane, and one at the back of the upstairs cabin. I headed up to the forward bathroom after dinner.

A standard bathroom on a Qantas 747

Staff (who assured me that my pre-ordered meal was available) also advised me that due to the ailing condition of the plane, that when the toilet was actually unoccupied, due to a fault in the door latch, it sometimes registered as occupied.

I didn’t observe the fault but thought it was extremely considerate of him to point it out.

Aspar amenities and all-in-one Superior Aircraft cleaner!

Note that the toilet at the front of the upper cabin has two hand creams (picture above), but no hand wash. In the rear bathroom, it is two hand wash’s – but no hand cream. Crew, not quite on their game.

Back in the day, these little wall vases used to sport little posey’s of Australian natives. I mourned the loss of them back in 2011.

These bathrooms have seen better days.

Toilets were kept clean, although these planes generally are showing their age with damaged and marked fittings. Even some non-essential items were held together with masking tape.

What is it about passengers and their inability to flush? Need I go on?

. . . but given they will be retired soon (the planes, not so much the passengers), there is not a lot of incentive to refit or improve them.

Video screens feel very low resolution.

Entertainment

QANTAS always have a good selection of TV and Movies on their entertainment system. Not as good as say Emirates, but pretty good. There was plenty to choose from on this flight, although viewing on that dated, small and low resolution screen was a bit of a challenge sometimes.

Fortunately, the entertainment system is operating with a great selection of current movies: including Bohemian Rhapsody (meh), Boy Erased (tick), Black Klansmen, and many others.

It’s a touch screen, but most of the time it was easier to use the hand controller, as the screen is a little far away to easily reach, and its not that reactive.

I watched  ‘Boy Erased’ with Russell Crow and Nicole Kidman during dinner. What a suitable and poignant movie for two people (us) who literally three days ago got gay-married with the support and enjoyment of 120 of their closest friends? My husband had evangelical Christian parents, so after 25 years of being together with him, I got a better insight into what challenges lay in his path to coming out.

I thought I could manage another movie after dinner, before I tried to sleep, but I lasted about 5 minutes into My Dinner with Hervé – the movie about the actor Hervé Villechaize who played Tattoo on the 1970’s/80’s TV series – Fantasy Island. Hervé is played by Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame.

I went to sleep about 6pm Sydney time (4 hours into the flight) and got a fairly solid 4-5 hours and another hour or so of dosing done.

I went back to watching Dinner with Hervé and watched it to the end through the breakfast service. It’s an interesting story, that makes for an engaging movie.

The Breakfast Service

Breakfast had been pre-ordered on our embarkation from this long slim menu. Kind of like a breakfast menu at a hotel, where you just tick and cross what you want.

Breakfast was served according to my pre-order, all together on one tray. It was served about 9 hours into the flight or 2.5 hours out of Santiago.

I opted for the cold-pressed juice, coffee, fruit, yoghurt, and the scrambled eggs and chorizo – given our Latin destination. Australians will note the Vegemite served with the gorgeous Pepe Saya butter.

Fruit, Yoghurt, Chorizo and scrambled eggs, toast.

My husband ordered the fruit and yoghurt and the Bacon and Egg roll.

Bacon and Egg roll.

Followed up with coffee, this was possibly a better meal than the dinner we had previously.

Arrival

Breakfast was cleared, and we were thanked by name for our patronage by both the cabin Supervisor and the flight Manager.

The captain advised our arrival time would be 1:30 am Sydney time, but since we had crossed the international date line it will in fact be yesterday and about 3 hours earlier than we left Sydney. I can never quite get my head around that fact.

It’s an exciting arrival since you get your first sight of the snow-capped Andes mountains. It’s a slightly arid landscape, with haze or dust misting out the mountains.

We started our descent, and arrived at our gate at Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport at about 11:33 am Santiago time, against an original schedule of 11:10. Given our near hour-long delay in departure, that was pretty good. Our flight took roughly 12 hours out of the allocated 12 hours and 20 minutes.

A LAN plane on its way to take off at Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport

There was a bit of plane spotting to be done, especially looking at the various liveries of now related companies LATAM and LAN.

Looking back at our Qantas 747

We had a 3-hour layover in Santiago, before we headed for our 2-hour flight to Buenos Aires, so as we headed into the airport, we where on a search for the LATAM business class lounge. I’ll report on the lounge on the return journey, as we had a little more time to appreciate it, and weren’t quite so jet-lagged.

. . . not to mention exhausted from all the preceding activity (our wedding), trip preparations, and a general lack of sleep over the last three days.

2PAXfly Takeout

Standard Qantas international flight and service. The 747’s are ageing, and feel really oldfashioned compared to new aircraft such as the A380 and the B787.

The Marc Newson Skybed seats, are holding up well in terms of finishes, but are aging in terms of mechanics, and screen resolution and screen size. They don’t offer direct aisle access for all passengers, although they do give you a great deal of personal space.

Qantas service was fair to good. Not at its best, but more than acceptable. The menu selection, and quality of food has gone downhill over recent years – probably as a result of selling the Qantas catering division to Gate Gourmet. No wine list on this flight. Attendants asked you what you would like to drink (red or white) and then usually brought out a couple of bottles for you to choose from. Not really a sophisticated service for a wine-loving country.

I used to love that upstairs cabin in the Jumbo – but I don’t have the romance for these aircraft that others do. They are now old and tired, and I much prefer contemporary planes, like the LATAM 787 I’m about to travel on for the 2-hour flight to Buenos Aires. They give you a much more enjoyable flight, and you don’t arrive feeling tired and dehydrated.

Other Posts in the Series

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Great review…Still love the feel of acceleration and banking that you get as a passenger in the 747, the A380 hardly feels like it’s flying and I find the 787 very noisy!

    You mentioned that the crew on this flight had put the under mattresses on the Skybed seats before takeoff, I’ve never seen that on a Qantas flight and would expect it’s probably not permitted pts-takeoff under aviation safety regulations or standard procedures?

    I would be quite disappointed to be woken up in Business Class 2.5hrs before landing to be served breakfast. It is possible to serve and clear breakfast in business in under an hour.

    Reply

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