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FLIGHT REVIEW: Qantas Business Suites (A330-200), Singapore – Sydney

Qantas Airways / 28 Apr 17 / A330-200 / QF81 SYD-SIN / Business Class / 5A

Credit: Qantas Airways

I returned from a work trip in Sydney on a Friday morning, catching the first of two daily Qantas flights back to Singapore. QF81 departs at 10.25am arriving into Singapore slightly before 4pm, while the later flight QF5 leaves Sydney at 3.15pm for a close to midnight arrival into Changi.

Out of Singapore, Qantas also serves Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

Qantas’ international flights departs from Sydney International Terminal (Terminal 1). Qantas check-ins are at Rows C & D, on the left wing of the airport once you enter.

Check-in was relatively quick but do note that if you are taking economy class, the queues in the morning can stretch really long (we are talking about a half hour wait or longer) so be sure to arrive early at the airport with ample time before your flight.

Immigration and customs on the other hand was a breeze. Ever since Australia granted citizens of several countries (Singapore included) the use of the automated gates, the immigration lines have shortened significantly. I took less than 10 minutes to breeze through immigration and security screening.

I arrived at the gate 20 minutes before the scheduled push back time and there was barely any queue. Right after I was welcomed and shown to my seat, the friendly crew, Lily, came by very quickly to offer a drink. It was too early for a champagne, so I opted for water.

We pushed back on time at 10.25am, but took more than half hour to hit the runway as it was a busy time at Sydney Airport. The airport has a night curfew between 11pm to 5am, which means that morning and night times were often the busiest time in the terminals and on the runways.

The aircraft

Qantas flies mix of A330-300s and -200s between Singapore and the east coast of Australia. Regardless of which version, all A330s boast a two-cabin product. On today’s flight, we have 28 business class seats and 243 economy seats, with the latest Business Suites.

Qantas’ business class layout in the A330-300 and -200

There is a slight difference between the 300s and the 200s. In the A330-300, all 28 business class seats are in the forward cabin, separated from Economy by a galley. Whereas in the -200 variant (which I am on), six of the premium seats are located in the second section of cabin.

The seat

I am seated at seat 5A today, in the first section of the cabin (between the two aircraft doors). If you select your seats online, do remember that rows 7 & 8 are located in the second section of the aircraft, just in front of the economy cabin which may be a little tight for some people’s liking once the curtains are drawn.

Seat 6E across the aisle

Qantas has refreshed its business product across its entire A330 fleet in 2014 (except two aircraft VH-EBG & EBL), introducing the Business Suite. The Business Suite has a seat width of 21.5-23 inch (58cm) and a pitch of 78 inch (198cm). It not only has a flat bed, but it also offers a gate-to-gate recline mode, the first in the world. On the A330-200 today, all but three seats are occupied.

The Business Suite is in a staggered formation, where each seat’s feet well extends into the seat in front. This means that some of the seats are separated from the window by the side table. I personally prefer to have the side table next to the aisle, making the seat feel more private.

It is the only airline that provides a direct aisle access for every Business class passenger, forming a 1-2-1 configuration in the front cabin for all its flights from Singapore to Australia’s east coast. Its key competitor on this route, Singapore Airlines, operates different aircraft across the day, with most of it being the regional configuration of 2-2-2 across unless you are on the A380 or the B777-300.

The service

Champagne and nuts

Shortly after take-off, the cabin crew went around with a beverage service again, and I was ready for a champagne. The cabin service manager (in SQ’s term, in-flight manager) Rebecca then came by to every business class passenger to offer immigration forms and ask about their connecting flights.

Less than one hour after take off, lunch was served. Qantas Business class dining is done Aussie style, with a choice of a small and big plate. On today’s menu, we have:

The service begins with the crew coming by with their trolley, laying out the tablecloth before they set the bread plate, side salad, drink, water and finally your choice of small plate. The cutlery, plates and glasses were Marc Newson, made specially for Qantas.

Prawn, celeriac remoulade with frisee salad and sourdough crostini

My choice of small plate for the day was the prawn salad. It didn’t look quite as I expected, and a little too heavy on taste. A choice of sourdough bread or quinoa bread was offered, and I took the latter. The butter was a dollop of hand churned Australian butter. While it was hard to spread, but it definitely went very well with the bread.

Despite having a champagne, Rebecca offered another drink so I took a Chardonnay. Qantas offers two choices of red and two choices of white wines in both business and economy, the key difference being you are served a glass of your choice in Business, while passengers are given a small single serve bottle in Economy.

Beef goulash with grilled zucchini, orzo and creme fraiche

Once you are done with your small plate, it will be cleared before the main course is hand-delivered from the galley to your seat. I had the beef goulash on orzo (some kind of rice) with grilled zucchini, which fared much better. My experience with beef of any kind on board usually disappoints as they end up mostly too hard or overcooked. Surprisingly, the beef was still tender and the zucchini was warm and crunchy despite being drenched in sauce!

Dessert trolley

After the main plate, all the plates were cleared before the crew wheeled out a two-tier trolley with all the desserts plated and laid out. I had the famous Pat and Stick’s ice cream sandwich, which I wished was opened and served on a plate more fitting for a premium cabin so that I don’t have to struggle with the packaging.

Irresistible ice cream sandwich

When lunch was done, the cabin lights were dimmed and all the windows were shut, so I set my seat to the bed mode and took a nap, which was easy given the amount of food served up during lunch.

While it’s an all-flat bed, I felt that the foot well can be rather tight and as a side sleeper I keep kicking on the sides. That was easily fixed by moving up the bed a little, but I can imagine it will be a problem for taller folks.

Later in the flight, I got up and asked for a cup of coffee and Rebecca came with not only a coffee, but a fruit bar. That’s what I call initiative. Another crew went around the seats with a basket of snacks such as Red Rock Deli chips, Koko Black chocolates and whole fruits.

The entertainment

Over 100 movies, 500 TV programmes to choose from, but limited Asian selection

I fiddled with the in-flight entertainment system for a bit. Having flown Qantas several times before, I know the selection of movies skew very much to Western and Australian offerings and very limited on Asian offerings. I love my Chinese movies, and I counted a grand total of 11 Chinese movies and nine Japanese ones. Another of my pet peeve was the fact that the earphones are not noise cancelling, so you could still hear a little of the cabin noise when you have them on.

About an hour and a half before landing, the cabin crew came around with the refreshment service. Unlike Singapore Airlines, Qantas serves up a refreshment in place of the second meal. The snacks were all plated and displayed on a trolley, which the crew pulled through the cabin and offered to the passengers.

Options for today were chicken wings and the vegetarian cheese balls with aioli. When it was my turn, they ran out of chicken wings temporarily (they were still being heated up in the galley) so I couldn’t see how it looked like. Thinking that it will be rather challenging to eat chicken wings mid air, I opted for the balls instead. When the other cabin crew came out with the chicken wings I immediately regretted – the chicken wings were merely drumlets and winglets, which will be easy to hand. Quickly, I asked Rebecca if I could have the chicken wings if there were leftovers and she gladly obliged, bringing me a bowl of the wings very soon. And they were fantastic.

Verdict

My flights on Qantas has always been pleasant and today was no exception. While the seat product may not be as generous as Singapore Airlines’ in terms of width, it is still a solid seat with a great design. Admittedly, the service can be hit or miss – but in today’s case, it was definitely more than a hit.

Oh, did I mention that Qantas has a very pretty in-flight safety video too?

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