Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL)
Arrive: 8:20am +2 days
Duration: 15h 50m
Aircraft: A380 (Phyllis Arnott)
After leaving the new oneworld lounge, I walked to the gate and admired both the new TBIT terminal and all of the A380s sitting at LAX. I think I saw China Southern, Korean, Lufthansa, and British Airways, in addition to the Qantas A380 that I’d be flying.
Boarding was delayed by 15 minutes at first, then again for another 5 minutes. In general, the boarding process seemed like a bit of a mess.
When I boarded, I was welcomed on board, but I wasn’t shown to my seat. I know this is a trivial thing because I clearly know how to find my seat, but I’ve found that it’s a decent barometer of how good the crew is. As in, if they don’t show you to your seat in first class, you probably have a pretty bad crew (spoiler alert: this crew was pretty bad).
I took a couple of pictures of the cabin before it filled up, and I also snuck upstairs to take some pictures of the business class cabin as well. The first class seats are a little interesting in that they swivel, so they’re forward facing for takeoff and landing but get angled when you’re lounging/dining/sleeping. The seat was plenty spacious when angled, but it wasn’t very impressive when facing forward. Qantas also puts 14 seats in their first class cabin on the lower deck of the A380, which is on the higher side.
Upstairs, they have a small lounge in the “dead” area on the A380s (where Emirates places their showers), which didn’t seem to get much use throughout the flight. I went up a couple of times and just stole snacks from the business class bar (mostly because the service was so bad in first class that I couldn’t get the attention of the flight attendant so it was easier to serve myself from the business class bar).
Upon returning to my seat, I was offered a pre-departure beverage, pajamas, and amenity kit. The amenity kit is made by SK-II, which I have since been told has really nice toiletries. The pajamas were pretty nice and quite similar to British Airways first class pajamas, but Cathay Pacific still has my favorite airline pajamas.
The amuse bouche was crackers, hummus, and olives. Basic, but satisfying. It was a smaller portion than I’ve seen on other trip reports, but the meal service on this flight is generally slightly abridged given that it’s a night flight, which could have explained the smaller portion. I’ll also say that there weren’t any refills offered, even though we had a half-hour delay on pushback.
Here are pictures of the menus for the flight. Again, it’s a slightly abridged menu given that it’s a night flight, so there’s no tasting menu on offer, although you can make your own sort of tasting menu by ordering as much food as you want.
Only 6 out of 14 seats were assigned the day before the flight, but the flight went out 13 out of 14 in first class. The left side of the cabin is definitely more private given that the center seats are open to the right side (similar to Cathay Pacific’s first class cabin on the Boeing 777). In general, the cabin felt a little generic and sterile to me.
We ended up taking off around 12:30am. I decided to try to stay up a bit to start to adjust to the destination time, so I had the meal service. The service was slooooow. It took me 45 minutes after takeoff just to get some water. And it was even longer just to get a place setting. And the pacing between courses was super slow.
Anyway, onto to food itself. I really liked the bread service, given that they had a pretty tasty sourdough. I had the warm duck salad to start, which was quite good. It was quite large, and it was slightly odd in that the the duck was warm and the salad was cold, but it was good, flavorful, and the duck was decently tender. Easily the best salad that I’ve had on a plane, and I wouldn’t have complained if I had eaten this in a restaurant.
Next up was the famed Qantas steak sandwich, and I can see why people like it so much. It makes a great in-flight snack. The relish is potent, which is good when your sinuses are dried out from flying since it’s harder to taste. The bread is nice and soft, the arugula gives the illusion of healthfulness, and it’s a sizable amount of steak. One half of my sandwich was overcooked, but I enjoyed the non-overdone half. I could also see this being sold in a restaurant.
For my entree, I had the gnocchi. It was better than most airplane pastas, but that’s not saying much. It was clear that the plate had been heated for way too long, but the gnocchi were fluffy and fine.
For dessert, I had the orange saverin. It was a bit like angel food cake. I was warned that the ice cream might be a little hard, but that was an understatement as it was served rock hard. Throughout the entire meal, I didn’t get my drink refilled once, even though I asked multiple times.
After the meal, I had my bed made. The bed is comfortable, and the mattress pad is super soft. It felt a little exposed to the aisle (and I could easily hear someone in the cabin snoring quite loudly since the seats don’t insulate sound at all), and I wish that the foot area were slightly wider, but these are major #firstworldproblems.
The cabin was also a little on the warm side, but there are air vents at the seat. At first, I thought the air vents were lights, but some of them do in fact blow air.
I rang the call button a couple of times throughout the flight since the flight attendants never went through the cabin checking on people, and I usually had to wait several minutes before anyone answered the call button. Heck, I’ve had faster responses in coach.
For breakfast, I started with the fruit salad (which was marinated in mango juice) and the bircher muesli. Bircher muesli is always so tasty.
I then got the scrambled eggs with none of the sides, which were fine.
Finally was a toasted bagel with cream cheese, lox, and avocado. I can’t remember ever having avocado on a plane, and the avocado was decently ripe, so that was novel.
After I finished eating, I waited. And waited. And waited some more for my plate to be cleared. After waiting for over 20 minutes, I ended up clearing my own dishes and bringing them to the galley. And the flight attendant working in the galley didn’t even say anything.
Anyway, if you’re flying from the US to Australia, there are only two choices for nonstop first class. Qantas has nicer amenities and better food than United, but the service on this flight was pretty terrible. The flight attendants were largely absent and extremely slow, and I’ve never had to bus my own dishes on any flight in any class of service. While the nonstop flights are convenient (especially since going through Asia adds a LOT of travel time to get to Australia), this flight was pretty underwhelming for international first class. Given how hard these flights are to get on awards, I would not worry about missing too much.