QANTAS: What I ate in Business Class on planes and lounges in 2023 so far, compared to one meal in 2019
One of the pleasures of being trapped on a plane in Business Class is the enforced leisure to eat and drink.
I’ve been on a lot of Qantas flights these last few months. Between May and August, to be more precise. Two short-haul international legs and seven domestic legs in Business Class, ranging from short Sydney to Melbourne hops through to East to West Coast flights.
I’ll start by saying that, on the whole, service has been good, sometimes excellent, and sometimes just OK. But there have been no bad experiences, like not getting your preferred meal or only having an option that was not dietarily acceptable (like on British Airways – but that’s a story for another time).
Now, my overall impression is that the quality of onboard catering has declined since the pandemic, but it is a hard thing to prove, until you look at the photographic evidence. Look at the Perth trip where I compare images from a Business Class meal in 2023 to the same trip in 2019.
Content of this Post:
Presentation in Business Class
The presentation has been pretty standard. All meals have been served on trays. If you travel to or from New Zealand, you get a ‘tablecloth’. If it’s just domestic, then your tray will be unadorned. It’s usually a tray with everything on domestic. But on short-haul international, you might get a follow-up serving of ice cream if you are good. I’m joking about the ‘good’. Or am I?
Flavour in Business Class meals
Qantas Business Class does good meals. Again they were universally tasty and enjoyable. There were some highlights and some lowlights, naturally – but this is mainly a matter of taste or choice. Let me put it this way; you will get fed way better in the sky with Qantas than you will on the ground in any of their lounges bar, the First Class Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, where I also dined.
Choice in Business Class meals
On every flight, I had a choice of three main dishes, including one that would have satisfied vegetarian requirements, although not vegan. A couple of misfirings, with a perfectly good salad, topped with smoked salmon. Unfortunately, I have an allergy to fish, so needed that little surprise removed from my tray immediately.
Importantly, I was never faced with the same options on successive flights. That indicates that Qantas is maintaining enough variety in what it serves, and rotating it sufficiently so that you don’t get chicken pie every time you fly. It’s a good chicken pie, but one can get sick or even good things over time.
Wines in Business Class
I used to look forward to the Qantas wine selection. Not so much anymore. I’m not saying that they have bad wines; they don’t. I’m just saying they don’t quite have the quality or the choice that they used to. Often it’s a choice of two whites – which invariably will be one of Chardonnay (often heavily wooded) Pino Grigio, and my least favourite with very few exceptions, Sauvignon Blanc, which from most producers is just a wine crime in my book. There is usually two choices for reds, although sometimes just one. But fortunately, it’s often a Shiraz (my favourite), a Cabernet Sauvignon, or a blend. Rarely a Pinot, which is fine by me, since I’m not a fan, or a Malbec, which I would enjoy.
That’s covered the varieties usually on offer, and despite my comments, that is an OK range. I want a dry but fruity Riesling, but I know that’s not for everyone. My issue, if I have one, is about the overall quality. As I say, there is nothing wrong with the wines, but it feels like the quality has diminished a little. In economy, the generosity of a second bottle has diminished, but on the whole, in Business Class, you will be offered top-ups multiple times. Even sufficient to change your mind.
Service in Business Class
You get more attentive service in Business Class than in Economy. But then, that is as it should be. Short-haul international service is particularly attentive when compared to short domestic flights. The New Zealand crews on trans-Tasman flights are to be particularly commended.
The flights and meals in Business Class
I have flown several domestic legs from capital city to capital city in 2023, including a Sydney to Perth run. For a status points run, I travelled with a companion, friend and occasional contributor to this blog, 2A to Auckland, New Zealand, but the hard way; outward via Melbourne, and inbound via Brisbane. You can read the Trip Report for a weekend jaunt to Melbourne in Economy. There will be future full Trip Reports for the Sydney/Perth flights and the Sydney/Melbourne/Auckland/Brisbane/Sydney trip. I also cover meals on Sydney/Adelaide flights, which will not get their own trip report.
Sydney to Adelaide via Melbourne, return (QF437/QF685/QF682/QF466) – Business Class
I upgraded three out of the four legs to Business Class. That’s three business class meals and one Economy ‘snack’. Normally, when I’m reviewing a flight, I make extensive notes. This quick trip to Adelaide via Melbourne was not intended as a review flight, so I failed to take notes on my meals. I don’t remember the choices, but there were at least two. All of these meals were good. The protein bars are a little pedestrian over an actual desert, but all OK. On domestic flights, not table cloth, and everything served on one tray, although prepared on the cart.
Sydney to Perth return (QF649/QF648) – Business Class
My husband and I travelled to Perth in May. He for work, and I completed the big dissertation for my Master’s degree. It was meant to be finished before we left, but extensions were granted for … let’s not get into that since it is a whole other story! Let’s say it was not as relaxing a break as I had hoped, although we had a few nights in Margeret River unencumbered by work.
The choices for flight QF649 were:
- Pork fillet with mashed potato and a salad – see below
- Chicken and corn soup
There was no mention that the salad came topped with smoked salmon. I had to have removed as soon as I saw it since I have an allergy to fish.
Ice cream was offered after the meal.
For the return journey, QF648 I must have been too relaxed as it seems that I didn’t take notes or something. The only image I have is this, and I believe it is chicken with rice and cashew nuts, but can’t tell you what the choices were.
As a comparison, I looked back at a similar trip between Sydney and Perth in 2019. They even had menus on the A330 service, and meals were served to the table with tablecloths, not on a tray. Here are the images of what I ate:
Sydney to Auckland return, via Melbourne and Brisbane (QF431/QF153/QF126/QF555) – Business Class
This trip comprised two domestic legs and two trans-Tasman flights. One Sydney to Auckland, returning to Brisbane. The service on all sectors was pretty good. The highlight was, of course, the catering in the Melbourne First Lounge. I’ve scattered images from our meals there throughout this post.
Service was particularly good on the trans-Tasman sectors, mainly due to the hospitality of the New Zealand-based cabin crew.
I’ll be doing a full trip review of the four flights, a few lounge reviews, and the Auckland Hotel DeBrett, where 2A and I stayed. For the moment, here is what we ate on our Qantas flights:
On the flight between Sydney and Melbourne 2A and I both chose the egg and bacon panini. The choices were:
- Sweet potato and black rice salad with endearment
- Egg and bacon panini
- Tomato & basil something quiche
- Orange friand
For the flight between Melbourne and Auckland, the choices were between:
- Prawn salad entre
- Corn and chicken soup
- Pumpkin and duck salad
- Sesame and ginger chicken
I went with the Chicken, and 2A chose the pumpkin and duck salad. We both had the prawn salad. Maggie Beer Vanilla Ice cream was also distributed. But I failed to get a photo of that.
For our return journey between Auckland and Brisbane, the choices were between:
- Tomato soup
- Chicken and mashed potato
- Thai salad with Salmon
- Chocolate biscuit warmed (packaged)
We both chose the Chicken and mashed potato, which was delicious.
Our final leg was between Brisbane and both our home base of Sydney.
Here the choices were between:
- Chicken and cheese panini on focaccia bread
- Plaughman’s plate
- Pea and mint soup
We both went for the Chicken and cheese panini on focaccia bread.
As you can probably tell, choices were more substantial on the longer short haul trans-Tasman legs of the trip. Essentially the plating was similar, except you got a white ‘tablecloth’ which you didn’t get on domestic legs.
All the meals were well flavoured, and through out. The packaged deserts were a bit cheap, but the extra’s on the international legs of Maggie Beer Ice cream and a warmed biscuits were appreciated. I wasnt’ drinking for much of this trip, so I can’t really comment on the wines provided.
Sydney to Melbourne return (QF477/QF470) – Economy Class
In economy, there is now no meal choice. You get what is on offer. On this flight that was the execrable ‘chicken’ torpedos, and the perfectly acceptable chicken pie.
I have very little to criticise regarding the Qantas food quality in Business Class on most flights I have taken. However, my suspicions are confirmed that the service quality has diminished vastly compared to pre-pandemic service. Menus on east to west coast flights, multiple courses served direct to table instead of via one tray, tablecloths, and a more generous cheese service were all features pre-pandemic.
My example of service on a Sydney to Perth flight in Business Class in 2019 compared to 2023 is just the tip of the iceberg. While researching my image files for this post, I also came across a trans-Tasman trip I took in 2019. Again comparing it to 2023 proved instructive. Costs are being tightened, and service on Qantas whittled away.
With fare prices currently through the roof, you would think Qantas could return some of the qualities and costs of pre-pandemic service. But that is not the case currently.
I suppose I should be thankful that the service in the First Class Lounges doesn’t seem to have suffered the same fate.