Sydney to Perth
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Qantas Frequent Flyer. Platinum-grade frequent flyers can use the same business class lounge in Sydney as passengers in the pointy end, although Perth won't get its own dedicated business lounge until the middle of the year.
Business class, seat 1A – a window seat right at the front of the plane
The transcontinental trek from Sydney to Perth is scheduled for five hours but the average flight time is closer to four and a half hours.
Qantas has an average of six daily flights on the Sydney-Perth, Melbourne-Perth and Brisbane-Perth routes, with most taking place on the big twin-aisle Airbus A330s.
The Business Suite is Qantas' all-new business class seat for domestic – and later this month, international – Airbus A330 jets. Each of the 28 leather-clad seats at the pointy end of the A330 converts into a 2-metre (79-inch) fully flat bed with plenty of legroom. Seat widths vary between 58cm and 61cm depending on which seat you're in.
There's a riot of space around the seat to stow your laptop, tablet, work documents and trashy gossip mags, while conveniently located AC and USB power sockets keep your travel tech charged up en route.
Business-class passengers, along with Gold and Platinum-grade Qantas Frequent Flyers, can check two pieces up to 32 kilograms each and carry on another two bags up to 7kg each.
The 16-inch video touchscreens have a responsive tablet-like interface, although there's still a handheld controller (useful when you're watching movies from a reclined position). Qantas supplies noise-reducing heaphones, although I always travel with my own pair of Bose cans.
The movie library included The Hundred Foot Journey and Guardians of the Galaxy, along with recent episodes from recent seasons of Suits, Sherlock and Downton Abbey. These can also be watched on your own tablet via a "streaming" system that beams video and music directly to your device over Wi-Fi.
One of the Business Suite's most innovative features is that you can recline the seat during for takeoff and landing, rather than having to sit bolt upright for the first and last half-hour of the journey. I was happy to relax with the seat in recline mode for a movie and a meal, although some passengers snuggled down with the supplied mattress and blanket to catch a few hours' sleep on the lie-flat bed.
The cornerstone of Qantas' inflight service is that affable Aussie spirit, although this often must be calibrated to each passenger: does Mr 3A consider that "professional" means a bit more aloof? But a smiling and genuinely happy crew is the best default setting, and the team on this flight delivers.
Our dinner service begins with a choice of two Small Plates appetisers, of which the trio of tiger prawns served on a sesame Asian coleslaw is delightful. Among the four "Main Plate" dishes are a hearty soup to a beef bourguignon pie, but I can't resist the pork and veal meatballs with tomato ragout and herbed risoni pasta. It turns out to be as good as I'd find at the local Italian restaurant. There's just enough room for a warm banana and salted caramel cake with double cream that's sinfully yum.
But Qantas won't take home a perfect score on the food front until it learns that a handful of lettuce doesn't constitute a salad.
ONE MORE THING
Qantas has just started upgrading its A330s with the new Business Suite, and the process will take about one month per aircraft. This means that coast-to-coast business class travellers are more likely to be stuck with A330s sporting the older, less comfortable reclining seats until near the end of 2015.
The Business Suite is a game-changer for Australian business class travel, and it's no exaggeration to say it could easily pass for first class on some airlines.
Tested by David Flynn, who flew courtesy of Qantas.