Review: Qantas First Class B747-400

Sydney – Bangkok

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Background

This is my first time flying Qantas First Class even I used to live in Australia for 14 years until 2011. During the time, I have used almost all airlines in and out of Australia frequently but have always avoided using Qantas on international flight. I am not sure why this was the case, perhaps I am not a frequent flyer of Qantas and there are always something else to try out. Another reason is Qantas First Class, without a doubt, commands one of the highest fares from Australia.

Since the gradual retirement of Qantas B747 and the removal of First Class service on many key international routes, I have finally decided it’s time to fly Qantas First Class. This flight, QF023 used to operate as QF001 service to Bangkok and onward to London. Earlier this year, Bangkok to London sector was terminated and code-share now with British Airways.

My flight date, 9 June 2012 was the last B747-400 departure to Bangkok. From the very next day, the route is served by A330 without First Class service.

I have a very successful trip prior to my flight and I thought what better way to celebrate the success than a flight in Qantas First Class. I arrived at Sydney Airport exceptionally early at 9:30am for 12:30pm departure. I hope to enjoy my time in Qantas First Class lounge before flight.

There is a small dedicated First Class check-in area. It was crowded and slightly chaotic at 9:30am with various international departures leaving before my flight (Services to LAX/JFK, JNB, SCL, HKG). Nevertheless, I was checked in within 5 minutes of wait. Express departure card was given to help bypass the crowd on immigration and screening. I arrived at the entrance of Qantas Flagship First Class lounge around 10am.

Qantas First Class Lounge

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A very pleasant entrance experience leads me to the second floor, where the main lounge is located. There is a person checking your boarding pass and credentials at the entrance.

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The entrance to the main floor was impressive, elegant and very grand! It is comparable to a 5 star hotel lobby or theatre entrance.

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The lounge is not overly crowded at 10am. I settle myself down at the very end section of the lounge with a good view of everything.

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The First Class lounge boasts a commanding view of ramp activity, dominated by Qantas on the Eastern international pier.

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After settling down, I walked down to the food area and a waitress sited me straight away and took my breakfast order. The food came within 15 minutes. It looks café style but all the produce used was fresh. I enjoyed my late breakfast and it was perfectly cooked to my liking of course.

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I took some photos of the sit up bar and drinks counter. I was surrounded by white marble everywhere!

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After the meal, I went to the day spa area. Much to my disappointment I can only secure a 15 minutes back massage. Everything was fully booked. The attendant told me I should have received a call the day before I fly for spa scheduling but I didn’t. May be I have given a different phone number during booking of my ticket. I still enjoy the private treatment room. The masseuse was pleasant enough trying to be interested in every passenger. The quick treatment does have the effect to let you freshen up and feel rejuvenated.

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After the spa, I settled down at the back of the lounge and ordered a light lunch. This time, I ordered a soup and Paris café style steak. Surprisingly, the soup came cold and I returned it. The waitress was more than apologetic. I think everyone makes mistakes and it doesn’t bother me at all. I continue enjoy my time in the lounge by making few greeting and farewell phone calls, sipping the signature drink “Pablo” cocktail and watch Qantas B747 underneath push back one after another.

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I really enjoyed my time at Qantas First Class lounge. The warm décor created a sense of “at home” feeling yet the lounge maintain its elegant flare and cosiness. I have previously been to few other first class lounges such as the Emirates First Class lounge in Dubai, Thai Royal First lounge in Bangkok, Singapore Airlines Private Room, Cathay First lounge at Wing/Pier in Hong Kong, Lufthansa First lounge in Frankfurt and Qatar First lounge in Doha etc etc…… But I have discovered the Qantas first lounge is the best lounge I have visited out of a bunch of already very high quality lounge. I am not sure whether I am biased but the atmosphere was the best in this lounge. It wasn’t overly decorated or too minimistic. It has the right balance of things. The lounge offered unsurpassed levels of comfort, service and luxury, complete with day spa, restaurant, workstation and a library. I simply can’t wait for my next visit.

The old school “split flap” departure display also caught my attention from time to time when it changes. I love the retro feel. It does bring back some luster feeling of travel.

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Around 12pm, I started making my ways to the departure gate 36. I can’t wait to get onboard.

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I found out VH-OJM “Gosford” will be operating QF023 today to Bangkok. This is the last Qantas B747-400 inbound service to Thailand. From the next day, the service is downgraded to 2 classes A330. There are quite a large crowd at the waiting area. Boarding was in very good order without confusions. We have a total of 341 passengers which is over 95% capacity. I hope the high load can bring the B747-400 back to Bangkok flight soon.

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The fresh First Class cabin awaits its guests. (Photo from a B747-400/ER, notice the overhead bin difference)

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My seat; 3K , is the 3rd window seat on the right today. 2 pillows, pyjama and amenity kit (Payot Paris) is already sitting on the ottoman waiting. I settled down with a glass of champagne and macadamia nuts. The flight attendants serving first class today are John (Australian), Francine (Dutch) and Nui (Thai). They made everyone feel welcomed onboard.

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Slowly, the cabin is filled to full capacity (14/14) and we pushed back on time at 12:30pm. There were 3 pilots “non-revenue” in First. Captain came on PA announced the flight will be a short 8 hours and 21 minutes to Bangkok with departure from Northerly runway 34L out of Sydney.

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With no traffic in front, we have a quick taxi to the end of runway 34L and a gentle rotation followed. During ascent, passengers on the right hand side were treated to the usual stunning Sydney city and harbor view before the plane turn NW direction flying towards NSW inland. . It was a perfect clear weather day to fly out of Sydney.

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Another photo of my seat after take-off before the service has started. I make myself comfortable by changing clothes and putting on my Qantas pyjama.

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The First Class cabin ambience during cruise.

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In-Flight Services

Hors d’Oeuvre was served with drinks after the captain turned off the seat belt sign. We waited a little longer to have lunch ready and 2 flight attendant set up tables one by one, all very personal without the usual trolley.

Qantas offer an impressive menu featuring mostly Australian produce such as NSW Yamba prawn, Australian grass fed sirloin and all wines are premium Australian too. It also offers a 8 plates Tasting Menu from Rockpool restaurant in Sydney. You can order any items off the menu at any time. The flight time was perfect for a 5 course lunch to be served. I have noticed all passengers chose to dine together at the same time.

My first Course: Yamba prawns, radish and zucchini salad with lemon dressing.

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My main course: Sirloin steak with Port wine sauce, Jerusalem artichokes and creamed silverbeet. For wines, I haveSC Pannell Shiraz 2008, from McLaren Vale, South Australia.

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Later, I also tried a pork dish called Numbing Kurobuta pork with fragrant rice. It tasted like sweet and hot pork.(not pictured) The menu mentioned, “Kurobuta pork regarded as some of the world’s highest quality pork from the oriental breed of Black Berkshire pigs, descended from Japan with its richer taste and soft white meat.”
I skipped the plentiful cheese offering but enjoyed the ice cream bar after the meal while listening to the in-flight music channels. To me, the meal has some of the finest Australian produce to offer.

About the inflight service, all 3 flight attendants were highly experienced professional yet relaxed at work. Passengers were treated to unsurpassed personalized service at an unhurried pace. They made conversations throughout the service and maintain large degree of pleasantness. They reflect the diversity of Qantas staff and represent great multi cultures of modern Australia.

We were almost 3.5 hours after takeoff when the long lunch was over. I moved around the cabin and went down to Business Class to see the always impressive B747 wing. We just flew past over Darwin and cruising towards Timor Sea and leaving Australian mainland. It was incredible day of flying as the weather was clear all the way from Sydney to Darwin!

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I returned to the cabin and asked for a mattress to be set up on my bed. With the soft duvet, I have had a good rest. The cabin was very quiet and almost in completely darkness. 

The only little downside on Qantas B747 first class is the 10.4 inch entertainment screen which is too small to today’s first class standard. It was a little fuzzy and aren’t as clear. The noise cancelling headset was excellent though.

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I ordered a second meal of Shepard Pie shortly before descend. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t the frozen instant type that one can buy in supermarket. It is a gourmet one (not pictured). Captain came on PA to apologize there was an approximately 30 minutes traffic hold landing into Bangkok Survanabhumi International. With the extra half of an hour circling over the rice fields north of Bangkok, this pushed our arrival time into Bangkok to 7pm local, 10 minutes behind schedule. Total flying time from Sydney to Bangkok now was over 9 hours!

I enjoyed the last moment onboard Qantas B747-400 while watching the amazing light show over the rice fields before the sun slowly faded off below the horizon. We have a smooth touch down and arrived at the gate at 7:15pm. It was rainy outside and to my surprise, Iran Air B747-186B, EP-IAM parked behind us. It was operating as a charter flight.

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Conclusion

Overall, this is my best fight this year to date. From the lounge to the flight itself, it has the right balance of luxury, elegance, simplicity and professionalism. I can’t fault on any elements during the flight. I was at total ease and feel fully relaxed. Passengers were treated to unsurpassed personalized service at an unhurried pace. The Qantas crew reflect the diversity and great multi cultures of modern Australia. The experience was very pleasant and I have all the pleasure from this flight. The sweet memory lingers on my mind days after! I have now begun questioning why I haven’t flown Qantas First Class earlier and whether every Qantas flight is outstanding as mine?

Well that was my 226th B747 flight. 182th B747-400 and 998th commercial flight overall. I hope you enjoy my simple trip report.

Feedback and comments welcome

Sam Chui