Crossing the Nullarbor MEL-PER-MEL with Qantas Business Class
featuring the new international-style catering
Welcome to my 7th Trip Report here on A.NET. Earlier this year, I flew Australian domestic business for the first time in over ten years- you can read that report here:
Not Another MEL-SYD Trip Report..this Time On QF J (by themit9 Feb 1 2013 in Trip Reports)
Will these flights live up to the high standard set by the MEL-SYD flight? You’ll have to read on to find out.
This time around, I had a much better idea of what to expect going in. There has been many reports of MEL-PER on this site, but one thing that I don’t believe has been covered is the new catering options that have been introduced on these flights. Hopefully I can also provide another point of view.
Some of the family were going to Perth for a variety of reasons, so I decided to tag along. Soon I was holding a Qantas J eTicket after using some points and cash.
The Qantas website gets full marks, very easy to use and everything seems to work without bugs.
It’s not often that I get to spend the day at an airport lounge, so, despite the late flight departure time of 5pm, I was out the door at home at 10am, and after a short walk, I was soon at the local station ready to take a train to the connecting SkyBus.
10:11am train to the city
After a brief trip in, it was an easy transfer to the SkyBus. Purchasing tickets was straightforward and I was soon on my way with busses leaving every 10 minutes most of the time. The lack of rail to Melbourne Airport is often talked about, but I was very impressed by the SkyBus and will be using it again.
By 11:20, I was at the Qantas Domestic terminal.
Check-in was easy, there was even a staff member wandering around asking if I needed help
Printed boarding pass
Less than 10 minutes later, I found myself here
I have already covered this lounge in my last report (link above), so I won’t be going into much detail about it, except for a couple of photos.
The highlight was seeing MH 148 depart and wishing I was onboard, maybe recreating the path of last year’s trip. Hopefully leaving MEL on MH 148 won’t be too far away.
After a few hours in the lounge (about 5!) getting some very productive work done, it was time to head down to Gate 21. Qantas flies some international A330-200s on this route with the “award-winning” SkyBed product as I’ve read in other reports. The seat maps online looked positive, but, on arrive at the gate it was VH-EBM ‘Tamar Valley’ waiting- one of the A330-200s with what I understand to be one of the least desirable J products. Maybe better luck on the way home?
I joined the Premium Boarding line with the line growing, and Y line even longer. Right on time, boarding commenced, my boarding pass was scanned and I was heading down the jetway at 4:38PM.
Date: 16 August 2013
Flight: QF 773
Route: MEL (YMML) – PER (YPPH)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-202
Photo © Michael J Douglas
Photo © Duan Zhu
Photo © Yunjin Lee - Korea Aero Photos
Photo © Allen Zhao
Quick facts: This aircraft’s first flight was on 03/11/2009. The aircraft is 3.8 years old. This registration previously belonged to a QF 742 until 1991. Domestically configured A330 called “Tamar Valley”
Scheduled / Actual Departure (gate): 5:00pm / 5:03pm UTC + 10
Scheduled/ Actual Arrival (gate): 7:20pm / 7:21pm UTC + 8
Flight Time (gate to gate) / Scheduled: 4h18m / 4h20m
The passenger in front of me was greeted by the CSM, who then disappeared leaving me standing there with another crew member arranging glasses or something. After a long pause she came over and directed me over to seat 4K…no “welcome aboard” or anything like that, which I didn’t feel was the best first impression for the flight.
The cabin was very domestic, not dissimilar to the old MH A330 I took last year from KUL-HKG, but with a lot less legroom.
View from 4K
The seat pitch wasn’t great, and a contrast to the Qantas SkyBed and what I’ve seen of the Virgin Coast to Coast seats.
The cabin during boarding
About 15 minutes after sitting down, we had the welcome drink which was either water or orange juice
Business Class was completely full today. With boarding complete the doors were closed and we pulled away from the gate pretty much on time. I thought we may be taking off on Runway 27 but a look at the windsock showed it standing straight up and pointing south, meaning a Runway 34 departure.
The safety video was played, but with screens in the armrest and no main cabin screens, we had to watch the manual crew demonstration while the audio from the video played over the P/A. Those in Economy got the video due to the seatback mounted screen.
The cabin lights were dimmed for departure
The captain made an announcement during the taxi that it was quite windy today, and that we’d be taking off towards the north. He advised that there would be some turbulence up to 5000 feet due to the conditions, but after this we could expect a smooth flight west.
We lined up at 34 and you could feel the aircraft rocking around in the breeze which was coming from the right-hand side. After a few departures and arrivals ahead, we lined up and departed. As I expected, the wind made for a short take-off and steep climb out.
Climb over a green Melbourne
We soon crossed 10,000 feet and the seatbelt signs were turned off. It was time to take the IFE for a test drive. There was a lack of headphones- some passengers had them and others seemed not to, but the flight attendant was happy to issue a pair of the standard-issue J headphones seen on most airlines these days.
The screen was in the armrest, and was one of the newer type, but the arm holding it was very loose and viewing had to be with the screen on an angle and not in an optimal position.
Everyone’s favourite channel
Above the clouds
I put on a video about Perth, then turned to the menu for today’s flight which was not the best as far as menus go. It was one small piece of paper with ‘Small Plates’ and ‘Main Plates’. It was quite vague in terms of how the service would go, and there was no drinks list.
There was no real stand out dish in my opinion- others may have other opinions though. On reflection what I think is lacking is a signature dish like a Malaysian satay or lobster thermidor (maybe not for a shorter flight but you get my drift). There wasn’t anything there that made me say “I’m looking forward to flying Qantas so I can try the…”
Service didn’t seem to be in a rush, and it was after 6pm, or 40 minutes since leaving the runway before a drink cart made an appearance. What happened to the days when drink orders were taken before takeoff?
I opted for a scotch and coke, which was served with pretzels and almonds. As you can see, we were already some way into the flight.
We levelled out at FL360, before climbing later to FL400.
A flight attendant came by with Arancini balls on a large tray and we were invited to take one
Row 4 during the beverage service
Orders were taken for dinner. I selected a ‘main plate’ and was offered a ‘small plate’ as well. It seemed the small plate would be the ‘Starter’ (why not just call it this?) and the main plate would be the ‘Main’. Then about 50 minutes passed between the drinks service and dinner. It was quite slow.
At about 7PM, the table was dressed and we had a plate with some sourdough and a small bowl of rocket.
5 minutes later, my small plate arrived which was the salmon and squid ink noodles. Going with this was some white wine and still water.
The salmon was dish of the day- perfectly cooked, very tasty and the squid ink noodles were a great accompaniment. But small plate meant small- although it was fine given the other things we were being served.
Once my small plate was complete, we had the pizzette.
The presentation wasn’t the best, and the dish seemed to be mostly potato and lacking in prosciutto based on taste, but it still passed.
By this time it was getting dark outside
The plates were removed and I was given more wine and water. By now we had been in the air for over two hours.
For dessert we had coconut and lemon cake with the standard tea and coffee service. The cake was quite nice.
And lastly, the cheese of the day which had to be specifically asked for
I’m not sure what the cheese of the day was but it was quite nice with some dried fruit
It was coming up to 8pm. by this time, lights were visible out to the right which could only be Kalgoorlie. Sure enough, the IFE confirmed that we were back over land. All times from here are Perth time, UTC + 8.
A word on the crew: a bit of a mixed bag and not of the same standard as the Qantas crew earlier in the year. There was one that was a bit reserved, and the rest pretty much didn’t go out of their way to make the experience special. The full cabin probably didn’t help, but I thought the crew on the MEL-SYD run were more impressive in this despite a much shorter flight. The service was also quite slow for Business Class. On the Asian airlines departing Melbourne, the drinks cart makes an appearance within minutes, and the full meal service is done by around Broken Hill- this took nearly the entire flight to complete.
I filled the small remainder of the flight watching the IFE, with a great selection. The comment of “We respect your right to choose so do not edit any films” was especially refreshing. But the main appeal was the selection was suited to Australian tastes, which was me. One of the highlights was watching “An Idiot Abroad Season 3”.
About 40 minutes later, we started our descent into Perth, and after a smooth approach we landed on Runway 24. Unlike the Asian airlines, headphones are not collected so you can listen to music all the way down even though the screen has to be stowed in the armrest. I think gate-to-gate IFE is a great concept.
The landing was on-time. There was some slight rain around despite an earlier promise of “fine” from the flight deck.
Pulling into the gate, next to a 738
A last look at the cabin of EBM
I thanked the crew and left, capturing another shot of VH-EBM ‘Tamar Valley’
As I had no checked bags, arrival was very smooth and I was out of the terminal in minutes.
IMPRESSIONS QF 773
Check-in: The self-serve part was easy, and with no checked bags, the formalities were hassle-free
Lounge: Great lounge, very happy and could spend more time there
Departure: On time, no problems and all very smooth
Onboard: Seat pitch was poor- it was a shame not to get a SkyBed. Seats were OK but not competitive with Virgin’s Coast to Coast product. Crew a little lacking in places
Food and Beverages: Menu confusing and plain, and no stand out dish. However, the quality was reasonable and dish of the day outstanding. Slow service a shame.
Arrival: On time and easy
Qantas got me from gate to gate reliability and on-time. However, the whole thing was probably lacking the things that make flying business special. I’d love to fly Virgin to see the comparison which is positive from all accounts so far. The return sector should be interesting.