Category Archives: Qantas

Lounge Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge Tokyo Narita (NRT) Satellite Terminal

There are two oneworld lounges in the Satellite Terminal of NRT: the JAL lounges and the Qantas lounge, which I’m reviewing here. (For oneworld lounges at NRT, there’s also the JAL lounges in the main terminal, the AA Admirals Club, and a Cathay Pacific lounge).

Directions to the Qantas Lounge

Directions to the Qantas Lounge

Entrance to the Qantas lounge

Entrance to the Qantas lounge

The Qantas lounge at Narita is very spacious with tons of seating. When I visited, there weren’t any Qantas flights departing soon, so there were only two other passengers in the lounge. But that’s also perhaps because there’s very little reason to visit this lounge when the JAL lounge is just steps away.

Seating

Seating

Interesting light fixtures

Interesting light fixtures

Lots of seating

Lots of seating

More seating

More seating

In addition, because there were no Qantas flights departing imminently, the food selection was very sparse. There were just a couple of snacks available. But later, as more people arrived in the lounge due to an upcoming Qantas flight departure, they added more food, so there was eventually a soup, sushi, and some other random foods on offer.

Drinks and beer machines

Drinks and beer machines

Tea and muffins

Tea and muffins

Wines

Wines

Liquors

Liquors

Drink fridge

Drink fridge

Cold foods

Cold foods

More foods

Foods added for Qantas flight

Cheese and crackers

Cheese and crackers added for Qantas flight

There are four shower rooms in this lounge, although I didn’t use any of them. There was Australian beer on offer in the fridge, as well as some alcoholic drinks that I had never tried before. They also offer a variety of English-language newspapers, if you’re looking for those.

I’m a big fan of the Qantas lounges at Hong Kong and at LAX, but this lounge is pretty generic and uninteresting by comparison. Not much reason to visit unless you only have a Qantas Club membership or something, given that the JAL lounge is superior in most ways and is nearby.

Lounge Review: Qantas First Class Lounge LAX

Disclaimer: I visited this lounge quite a while ago, so things may have changed since my visit.

When I visited this lounge, I was connecting from an international first class flight to a domestic first class flight. According to oneworld lounge rules, I should have had access to the Qantas First Class lounge in the international terminal of LAX since I was an international first class passenger on a oneworld flight. That being said, when I tried to get into the lounge, one of the lounge agents was adamant that I shouldn’t have access. When I tried to bring up the oneworld website to show the agent the actual oneworld lounge access rules, another of the agents mentioned that he had never actually read the lounge access rules before… So I’d say that unless it’s the “typical” case of departing LAX on an international oneworld flight in first class/having oneworld emerald status, you might be in for a fight about getting access. (The agent did make a “one-time exception” for me given that the lounge was pretty empty at the time).

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge

The lounge is essentially one enormous room with tons of seating. There’s tons of seating both in the dining room and otherwise. The lounge chairs by the window seem especially popular.

Seating

Seating

More seating

More seating

Lounge chairs

Lounge chairs

Bar seating

Bar seating

There’s no self-service buffet, but there’s an extensive made-to-order menu. The food reminded me a lot of the Qantas first class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, both in that everything is done by table service and the actual food items.

Dining area

Dining area

Open kitchen

Open kitchen

Breakfast menu

Breakfast menu

All day menu

All day menu

Muesli

Muesli

I didn’t have much to eat since I was still full from my previous flight, but I ordered a couple of items to take one for the team. I ordered some eggs over medium, and the eggs were cooked correctly although they were over salted. The bread served with the eggs was good, and more airlines should have better bread. The muesli was also pretty tasty, although I don’t know if I’ve encountered a muesli that I didn’t like.

I’d love to come back to this lounge and check out the all-day dining menu. The lounge itself isn’t anything special except for the dining room, but the dining room is very, very good for an airport lounge (it’s worlds better than the newish AA flagship dining room in Dallas, for example).

Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge Hong Kong Airport (HKG)

One of the lounges that I was most excited to try on my layover in Hong Kong was the recently opened Qantas Hong Kong lounge. This is one of the newest lounges in Hong Kong, and it’s definitely one of the best business class lounges I’ve been to.

Lounge sign

Lounge sign

The lounge is large and long. It’s open to the rest of the terminal, so it’s maybe a little noisier than other lounges, but it gives it a nice airy feel. There are lots of different seating options that are thoughtfully spaced out, and there are tons of electrical outlets. It’s very smartly designed with the business traveler in mind.

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Circular table

Circular table

Children's area

Children’s area

Seating

Seating

Wine options

Wine options

Bar

Bar

There’s a wide variety of food options, although they’re almost all Western foods, which is a plus or minus depending on your perspective. I thought that the food was relatively mediocre when I visited, but I appreciated the variety and the availability of healthful choices. I specifically enjoyed the Japanese sweet potato and salted caramel cheesecake that I tried.

Hot food

Hot food

Food

Food

More food

More food

Desserts

Desserts

For a business class lounge, this lounge is awesome. I think it’s even better than the Turkish Airlines Lounge in Istanbul just because that lounge is so crowded. This lounge has a wide variety of food, tons of seating, tons of outlets, good wifi, and showers. It’s located above Gate 15. Hong Kong generally has great airport lounges, and this is no exception. Depending on what kind of food you’re feeling like and/or how willing you are to deal with other people, this is a great place to go.

Trip Report: Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney Airport Review

Besides flying Qantas First Class on the A380 (which turned out to be a really disappointing experience), I was super excited to visit the Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney, given that I had heard it was one of the best airport lounges in the world. While I didn’t get to try the complimentary spa services (which have been shortened over time) since I was at the lounge after the spa had closed, the parts of the lounge that I did try were very good.

The iconic departures board

The iconic departures board

My first order of business was to eat some food. The Qantas First Class Lounge has a proper dining area with table service. They have a pretty extensive seasonal menu, and I may or may not have gone slightly overboard with ordering (essentially, I said yes to everything that the server recommended).

Winter menu (sorry for the annoying hand shadows...)

Winter menu (sorry for the annoying hand shadows…)

I tried the grilled sesame tuna, the cobia sashimi, the salt and pepper squid, and the fettucine with soft egg (minus the bacon). For dessert, I had the chocolate croissant bread and butter pudding and the pavlova.

Tuna

Tuna

Cobia

Cobia

Calamari

Calamari

Fettucine

Fettucine

Dessert

Dessert

The food was good–easily some of the best food I’ve eaten at an airport. I think I still prefer the food at the JAL First Class Lounge at Narita, but then again, I’m Asian (obvi). I think most people will find some things that they’ll enjoy a lot.

Pretty nice dinner view

Pretty nice dinner view

Dining room

Dining room

Open kitchen

Open kitchen

The decor of the lounge is pretty cool. It’s one long, curved room with large windows that provide some fun airplane viewing. There’s plenty of seating, and lots of areas to get work done, have some privacy, or talk to others. The majority of people were in the dining area when I was there, so that area did get a bit crowded, but the lounge is spacious.

Exploring the lounge

Exploring the lounge

Lots of seating

Lots of seating

Private room

Private room

So many seating options

So many seating options

And more

And more

The service in the dining area was good, but I’m not sure if there’s much service outside of the dining area to speak of. No one seemed to be going around to check on people or offer drinks, but perhaps that was because it was late at night and most passengers were in the dining area.

Overall, this is a great lounge. While Qantas’s onboard product left me underwhelmed, the First Class Lounge in Sydney is a great airport lounge.

Trip Report: Qantas Domestic Business Class MEL to SYD Boeing 767-300

QF 426
MEL to SYD
Depart: 11:00am
Arrive: 12:25pm
Duration: 1h 25m
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 4A

After being impressed by the Qantas Domestic Business Class Lounge, I headed to my short flight from Melbourne to Sydney to check out Qantas’s domestic business class in-flight offerings.

The plane to Sydney

The plane to Sydney

I was immediately impressed by the cabin. 2-2-2 seating in business class with pretty comfortable seats, although the pitch was pretty tight. The cabin was completely full.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

2-2-2 seating

2-2-2 seating

Better upholstered seats than in US domestic business class

Better upholstered seats than in US domestic business class

Bulkhead seats

Bulkhead seats

Seat controls

Seat controls

Pretty tight pitch for business class (I'm not that tall!)

Pretty tight pitch for business class (I’m not that tall!)

I was offered a pre-departure beverage of water or a cranberry drink, but it was offered so late that I had less than a minute to down it before they collected the cups. There were iPads located in the seat back pockets for in-flight entertainment, but I didn’t understand how to operate it, so I got a flight attendant to reset it (I am potentially incompetent, but my seatmate also could not get hers to work). Once it was working, however, the system was responsive and had a pretty good selection for a domestic flight.

iPad for in flight entertainment

iPad for in flight entertainment

Unlike US-based airlines (but similar to most airlines everywhere else), there was a meal service in business class on this very short flight. There was a choice between sweet corn chowder, something like a Waldorf salad, and a ham and cheese sandwich. I selected the chowder, which was pretty tasty for airline food. And the sourdough bread accompaniment was better than most airplane bread, even in first class (main exception off the top of my head: JAL first class bread), and it was given out generously. The dessert cake was also good. Overall, this meal was tastier than any meal I’ve ever had on a domestic US flight.

Sweet corn chowder

Sweet corn chowder

Pretty soon, we were flying into Sydney, and we got to enjoy some awesome views of the city prior to landing.

View flying into Sydney

View flying into Sydney

Overall, I was very impressed by Qantas domestic business class: comfortable seats, good in-flight entertainment, a genuinely tasty meal, and courteous service. Not sure what else I would ask for on a short hop like Melbourne to Sydney.

Trip Report: Qantas Domestic Business Lounge Melbourne (MEL) Review

After getting off my international flight from LAX and clearing customs and immigration, I headed to the domestic terminal for my connecting flight to SYD. Australia seems to have a lot less security theater than the US, which was very much appreciated.

Qantas has two sorts of domestic lounges: Qantas Clubs and Qantas Domestic Business Lounges. Qantas Clubs are much more common; Qantas Domestic Business Lounges are only available in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney, and access is more restricted. Essentially, you need oneworld Emerald status or to be flying in a premium cabin (domestic business included) to get access to the Domestic Business Lounge.

That being said, the Qantas Club looked far better than any typical US domestic airline lounge. Plenty of seating, lots of food options (I was there for breakfast), and not too crowded.

Entrance to the Qantas Club

Entrance to the Qantas Club

Seating in the Qantas Club

Seating in the Qantas Club

More seating

More seating

Qantas Club dining area

Qantas Club dining area

Shop within the Qantas Club (not free!)

Shop within the Qantas Club (not free!)

Qantas club food selection

Qantas club food selection

More food

More food

And more

And more

And more

And more

But since I did have access to the Qantas Domestic Business Lounge, I spent most of my time there. The entrance to the lounge is within the greater Qantas Club. And I was impressed with the food offerings given that it’s still a domestic lounge. They also have showers, which weren’t fancy and were largely self serve, but they got the job done.

Entrance to the Qantas Domestic Business Lounge

Entrance to the Qantas Domestic Business Lounge

View from the lounge

View from the lounge; the plane in the foreground would be the plane to take me to Sydney

It is a smaller space than the Qantas Club, so it did feel a little more crowded. But there were plenty of seating options and lots of places to get work done (i.e. places near electrical outlets).

Seating in the lounge

Seating in the lounge

More seating

More seating

These tables seemed particularly popular with the business folks

These tables seemed particularly popular with the business folks

Windowless seating

Windowless seating

Work stations

Work stations

My favorite part of the food and beverage options was the juicing station. They had things like apples, carrots, and celery as well as a juicing machine that you could use to make your own juice.

Food options

Food options

More food

More food

Hot food

Hot food

Juicing materials

Juicing materials

Overall, both the Qantas Club and the Domestic Business Lounge put most US domestic airport lounges to shame. Lots of seating and lots of food options were both much appreciated.

Trip Report: Qantas First Class A380 LAX to MEL (QF 94)

QF 94
Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL)
Depart: 11:30pm
Arrive: 8:20am +2 days
Duration: 15h 50m
Aircraft: A380 (Phyllis Arnott)
Seat: 2A

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.

Why hello thar

Why hello thar

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.

Center seats in first class

Center seats in first class

My seat, 2A

My seat, 2A

Unusual design for first class seat

Unusual design for first class seat

Seat control and air vent

Seat control and air vent

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).

Stairs up to business class

Stairs up to business class

Business class seats

Business class seats

DSC06039

Upstairs lounge area

Upstairs lounge area

Drink and snack bar in upstairs lounge

Drink and snack bar in upstairs lounge

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.

Pajamas and amenity kit

Pajamas and amenity kit

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.

Amuse bouche

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.

DSC06049

Supper menu

DSC06051

Breakfast and hot beverage menu

DSC06052

More beverages

DSC06050

Champagne menu

DSC06053

Wine menu

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.

Seat storage

Seat storage

Tail cam ftw

Tail cam ftw

Privacy shields down

Privacy shields down

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.

Tasty bread service

Tasty bread service

Pretty good salad

Pretty good salad

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.

Steak sandwich

Steak sandwich

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.

Gnocchi

Gnocchi

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.

Fruit and orange saverin

Fruit and orange saverin

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.

Bed mode

Bed mode

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.

Bircher muesli and fruit salad

Bircher muesli and fruit salad

I then got the scrambled eggs with none of the sides, which were fine.

Scrambled eggs on toast

Scrambled eggs on toast

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.

Bagel and fixings

Bagel and fixings

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.

Seats with privacy shields up

Seats with privacy shields up

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.

Sydney 2014: Introduction + Trip Planning

Earlier in 2014, there was a brief period when Qantas released a bit of first class award space to Australia. Qantas first class is a pretty challenging redemption, so I jumped on the opportunity, even though it meant that I would be heading to Australia during its winter. I redeemed 72,500  American miles for a first class award to the South Pacific.

I thus had a ticket there, but no specific thoughts on how to get back. There wasn’t any award space in first class on Qantas, which meant that if I wanted to use my AA miles, I’d have to route through Asia. AA’s award routing rules don’t let you route through Asia to get to/from the South Pacific without paying for two awards, so I decided to stop in Kuala Lumpur on the way back for a couple of days. This means that I paid for a business class award from Australia to KL and paid for a separate award from KL back to the US, which I would have had to do anyway even if I hadn’t stopped at KL. I booked a business class award on Malaysia Airlines for 35k AA miles for the nonstop from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, and then I spent 67.5k AA miles for a first class award on Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong to get back to San Francisco.

Then, I considered lodging for my trip. I would be spending 4 nights in Sydney, so I booked two reservations for the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel in Sydney, one from my personal Club Carlson account and the other from my business Club Carlson account. Since I have both the personal and the business versions of the Club Carlson credit card, each reservation received one free night, so I essentially paid for two award nights and got four in return. This was 100k Club Carlson points for 4 nights at a great hotel in a great location in Sydney.

In Kuala Lumpur, I booked 2 nights at the Hilton Doubletree for 10k points per night or 20k points total.

So in total, I spent 175k American miles, 100k Club Carlson points, and 20k Hilton points for a pretty darn luxurious week-long trip to Sydney and KL.

Mileage Redemption Tips: Alaska Airlines Awards for Premium Economy

Lots of people in the past have talked about using 70k Alaska Airlines miles to fly from North America to South Africa in Cathay Pacific First Class (although that’s no longer possible since Cathay no longer has first class between HKG and JNB), and Alaska is also well known for offering redemptions for Emirates First Class (granted, at a relatively pricey 100k miles for a one-way F redemption). But one thing that I don’t think gets enough love is that you can redeem Alaska miles for premium economy awards on its partners, and these are generally great redemption values.

As far as I know, Alaska is the only US program that allows redemption for premium economy. Premium economy only really exists on non-US airlines, which is perhaps why US mileage programs haven’t yet offered the option to redeem for premium economy on their partners. But Alaska allows redemptions for premium economy on Cathay Pacific, British Airways, and Qantas, and the additional mileage required is minimal.

For example, a one-way coach award on Cathay Pacific between North America and Asia is 30k Alaska miles. This in and of itself is a pretty good value, considering that American charges 35k miles for a one-way coach award between North America and Asia2 and United charges 40k miles for a one-way coach award between North America and South Asia. In addition, Alaska offers stopovers on one-way awards, so you could stop in Hong Kong for however long you want.

But premium economy is only 35k miles. That’s an additional 5k miles one-way for a verrry long trip. Worth it? I think so. In general, you’re getting an extra 6 inches of pitch and an extra inch in seat width, in addition to better meals, an amenity kit, etc. A quick, non-rigorous search on Cathay’s site showed a difference of about $800 between a roundtrip coach and a roundtrip premium economy ticket between SFO and HKG in April, while it would only be an incremental 10k miles for an award ticket.

Similarly, while a one-way coach award on Qantas between North America and Australia/New Zealand is 42.5k miles, premium coach is just 5k miles more at 47.5k miles. British Airways requires a 10k mile premium over coach, but why are you redeeming your miles for BA in the first place?

While most of the points/miles game is focused around aspirational travel, this is a pretty “cheap” way to buy some extra comfort while maximizing the amount of travel that you can do.

First Impressions of Qantas First Class A380 LAX to MEL

I’m sitting in the Qantas Domestic Business Class Lounge at Melbourne, having just got off QF 94 LAX to MEL in first class on the A380. Here are some of my first impressions.

1) The A380 is still my favorite aircraft. There’s something so magical and impressive about the beast, and there are SO many A380s at LAX, which makes for some great plane watching.

My bird to Melbourne

My bird to Melbourne

2) Qantas has a solid first class product on the A380s. It’s not a suite, but it’s decently spacious, and the bedding is quite nice.

Qantas first class seat

Qantas first class seat

3) The food is some of the best food I’ve had in the sky. The warm salad of duck confit was probably the best salad I’ve had on a plane. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the food, even if lacks to more typical “luxuries” of first class on other carriers (i.e. caviar).

Warm salad of duck confit with grapefruit, hazelnuts, and radish

Warm salad of duck confit with grapefruit, hazelnuts, and radish

4) The service… was not great. The crew was perfectly friendly, but they were slooooowwww. Normally, in first class, you can ring the flight attendant bell and someone will be at your side within 5 seconds. Not so for this flight. I rang my flight attendant call bell multiple times, and the  quickest response time was over 1 minute. Now, this is of course a first world problem, but one time I rang the call bell and had to wait over 5 minutes before a flight attendant appeared. And there was no apology or explanation for the wait. It got to the point where I even brought my own dirty dishes to the galley since the flight attendants wouldn’t collect them. What kind of first class service is that?

5) I got to go into the cockpit at the end of the flight! And the pilots were much friendlier than the pilots on the Lufthansa flight where I went into the cockpit.

Cockpit on the A380

Cockpit on the A380

Overall, I’d definitely choose Qantas over United for a nonstop first class product to Australia, but I was left puzzled by the slow, non-proactive service.