In November 2022, Qantas resumed flights between Singapore and Australia, after a 20-month hiatus since Australia closed its borders in March 2020.
With Australia allowing Singapore citizens into the country since November last year as a pilot before reopening the borders, I thought I’d take a trip Down Under in February this year to see a couple of friends that I have not met for years.
I had a good experience with Qantas several years ago, and was excited to see if the experience remained the same.
Singapore (SIN) – Sydney (SYD)
16 February 2022
Arrive: 7:20PM (+1 day)
Duration: 7 hr 20 min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 7F (Business Class)
Most visitors to Australia will require an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) or a visa to enter, including Singapore citizens.
Citizens of over 33 countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Hong Kong and Japan can apply for the ETA through the Australia ETA app. Each ETA is valid for 12 months and costs A$20.
This is incredibly important and I cannot emphasise how many Singaporeans have always forgotten to apply for an ETA until they get to the airport. In the past, airlines were able to do this ETA for you at the airport for a hefty fee, but this is no longer the case as Australia Departure of Home Affairs has now restricted applications to be done solely through the app.
If you have an APEC Business Travel Card, that also forms a valid visa and you will not have to apply for an ETA for your visit, even if it’s for leisure.
At the point of time when I travelled, Australia required a pre-departure test using either a PCR at most 3 days before the flight, or an ART 24 hours before the departure time.
Australia will drop all pre-departure testing requirements from 18 Apr 2022, so you are only subject to an on-arrival test which in most cases are a self-administered ART within 24 hours of arrival.
Qantas operates out of Changi Airport Terminal 1, and currently operates out of row 8, sharing the row with its low cost subsidiary Jetstar.
The configuration has now changed a little since the pandemic. There is an agent stationed at the front of the kiosks and counters to check that you have all the necessary documents, before leading you to a self check-in kiosk.
After you retrieved your boarding pass and bag tags, you can then proceed to the baggage counters to drop off your bags. Note that your boarding passes printed from the kiosks should be seen and stamped by an agent. Mine wasn’t stamped, and I was turned back at the pre-immigration point to get my boarding pass stamped.
Qantas uses the Thompson Aerospace seat product across its entire wide-body fleet. The product is now almost 10 years old, and fans of Qantas would be familiar with the hard product.
With the phase-out of the older business class products that used to be on the A330-200s, Qantas now only has a single seat product on all its long-haul widebody aircraft, making it easier for travellers, so you don’t have to figure out what seat you are travelling in.
Given that I have reviewed this product before, you can read more about the seat here.
QF82 is a red-eye flight to Sydney, with a total flight time of 7 hours and 20 minutes.
Boarding commenced 45 minutes before the scheduled take off time. I went to the boarding gate at about 30 minutes before, only to find an incredibly long queue for the security screening. Lucky for me there’s a separate queue for business class passengers, which was considerably shorter than the economy one.
Within 10 minutes I was done with security and was on my way straight to the aircraft. The business cabin was surprisingly full today, with all but two seats occupied in the 28-seat section.
Promptly I took my seat at 7F. The mattress topper, along with the comforter, was wrapped in plastic and placed on the seat along with an unwrapped pillow.
On the side console was a pair of menus, one for the supper service, and a separate breakfast card for me to check off the items I wanted before landing. This card was collected even before the aircraft took off, so that’s some mighty efficiency there.
A cabin crew came around to offer a pre-departure drink of either water, juice or champagne, along with a set of the famed Qantas pyjamas. It was pretty refreshing to be offered a drink while the plane was still on the ground, given that some other airlines took the chance to do away with it.
Soon we were on the way, with the push back of the aircraft happening about 15 minutes after the scheduled departure time of 8.30pm.
Food & drinks
Right after take-off, dinner service commenced at about 9.45pm. The crew pushed a trolley through the cabin, setting up the table setting along with a first choice of drink. Instead of a table cloth, the setting was all done on a pre-set tray: a side salad, a bread plate and the glassware. I took one slice of bread, and went with a glass of red wine.
The supper menu was rather simple: a choice of main course, followed by dessert. There were four main courses to choose from, and a good selection of post-meal sweets or cheeses.
For my main course tonight, I chose the prawn wanton dumplings (a misnomer, given that wantons are dumplings). Unfortunately, the main course took another 20 minutes before it got to me.
The wantons were served with a serving of springy egg noodles, as well as a side of Asian greens, spring onions and green vinegared chillis. Overall it was a pretty hearty supper, and I liked that it was served not too hot. The greens looked like they are out for too long, but otherwise everything else was excellent.
The only other problem is that this dish didn’t exactly go with a slice of bread and a side salad, but I’ll let that pass.
After I was done with dinner, the tray was promptly cleared. The dessert came around in a form of a trolley, which I chose an ice cream from (10.30pm). Out of Singapore, Qantas carries a selection of Haagen Daz ice cream, and the flavour of the day was strawberry.
Soon after, I set out my own mattress topper on the seat, reclined the bed into bed mode and fell into snooze land.
Given that breakfast was ordered at the beginning of the flight, this means that the crew didn’t have to wake passengers up too early for breakfast. The breakfast card offered three options: a full breakfast served 90 minutes before landing, an ‘express breakfast’ served 60 minutes before landing, or no breakfast at all.
A full breakfast meant any number of items on the menu, while an express breakfast was a choice of one food item and one drink. I picked two drinks – a juice and a coffee – and a savoury item for breakfast, and I was woken up only about 40 minutes before landing, so I guess you could get away with two drinks for an express breakfast.
Breakfast was a brioche roll with bacon and egg, which was delicious. The bacon was over cooked and incredibly salty even at 35,000 feet, so I took out most of it. I also chose a cold pressed juice and a white coffee. The crew was too busy to offer a second round of coffee, so when I finally managed to get the attention of a crew for a review, the captain asked to prepare the cabin for landing. This meant that my review had to come in a paper cup, given that all crockery would have to be stowed for landing by that time.
Qantas amenity kit
You might be wondering about the amenity kit. Qantas usually offers an amenity kit on the flight, but as there were not enough on this flight, the kits were only available on demand. I learnt about this only when I requested for an eye shade, and the crew discreetly explained why they didn’t hand them out to all the passengers.
The amenity kit this season was designed in commemoration of Qantas’ centenary in 2020, with a range of designs in a nod to its colourful history. The kit itself was a throwback to the 1960s era, decked in pastel blue.
Within the kit was an eye shade in the same design as the kit, a dental kit, ear plugs and also a mini-kit of amenities from Australian wellness brand Li-Tya, comprising lip balm, face cream and hand cream. Qantas has also chose the eco-friendly route of packing these items in paper (rather than plastic), in a nod to their sustainability efforts.
Qantas also offers pyjamas in its business cabin for overnight flights. On this flight, the PJs were handed out on the ground, right after the pre-departure drinks were served. Note that if you are taking a day flight out of Australia to Asia, PJs will not be offered; if you ask, sometimes they do have a set or two lying around that they can offer you with.
One thing to note: Qantas business class cabins have a dearth of lavatories, so there is almost always a line of people waiting to wash up and change out. To avoid that and to maximise sleep, I usually wear my own sweatpants and change into the pyjamas top only, and change out only after I arrive and get out of the airplane.
It was an incredibly enjoyable flight, partly accentuated by the fact that I was visiting Australia for the first time after a three-year gap. It was encouraging to see that the flight was relatively packed in both cabins, and that will only continue to grow as international travel relaxes further with time.
The cabin service also remained fairly consistent from before. While all airlines have been reeling from a drastic drop in revenue over the last two years, I’m also glad that Qantas has stuck out and not further reduced cabin service. In contrast, Singapore Airlines have now reduced meal service on Australian flights to just a single meal service, which in my opinion is way too little.
Overall I’m relieved and happy that the Qantas experienced remained more or less similar to its pre-Covid days. While the schedule is not as favourable given it only operates only a single overnight flight out of Singapore, it is still nonetheless a very comfortable flight to be on.