Sydney to Dallas (QF7), non-stop.
Daily flights (except Tuesdays.)
Airbus A380-800 with four classes – Economy, Premium Economy, Business and First. This is the inaugural flight of the world's largest passenger plane on what is now the world's longest non-stop route. Up until now Qantas had assigned its older 747s on this route, which launched in 2011.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Qantas Frequent Flyer (affiliated with One World.) Dallas/Fort Worth airport, one of the largest in the world, is the hub for Qantas partner American Airlines. There are 50 connections available to other US destinations within three hours of QF7 landing.
UP THE BACK OR POINTY END?
Business Class, seat 17F
TIME IN THE AIR
14 hours and 30 minutes. This is a relatively speedy time for the 13,800km journey. We arrive 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
2 bags, up to 32 kg each.
THE SEAT STUFF
Seats are arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration on the upper deck of the A380. The beds lie fully flat in a privacy shell, with plenty of room between you and the passenger in front. There's a screen if you want privacy from the passenger beside you. The beds are wide enough to comfortably sleep on either side. Seat controls are simple to operate, with a massage and lumbar support option. Window seats have the best storage with a window-length bin. I find the storage in my aisle seat slightly awkward. There are compartments for shoes, glasses and a thin book or iPad but storage pockets in the seat in front can't be reached without unbuckling my seat and standing up.
Not long after take-off a flight attendant arrives to place a quilted mattress cover over my seat, which gives it extra padding. Qantas was ahead of the pack in seat design and the award-winning seats still hold up. They're very comfortable ergonomically. Flight attendants distribute Kate Spade (Jack Spade for men) amenities kits, which include Malin + Goetz moisturiser, lip balm and body cream, eyemask, earplugs, dental kit and socks, along with Qantas' coveted grey kangaroo-print pyjamas. Qantas is one of only a few airlines still offering pyjamas in business class. There's a cotton doona and thick pillow. The gentleman sitting next to me asks for three pillows and the flight attendants happily oblige.
The entertainment system has an in-arm touch screen monitor with on-demand choices of over 100 Oscar 'Classics' movies, 18 'Premiere' movies, plus offerings in the categories Arthouse, World, Australian and Family. A good selection of TV Shows, music, radio and interactive games keep passengers well occupied on this long flight. The choice of movies and TV is skewed very much to American blockbusters, which I found a little disappointing. It might be my imagination, but I thought Qantas had a larger menu of movie options, especially Arthouse and World, in the past.
There seem to be a lot of flight attendants, always a good sign. Throughout they are universally good humoured and efficient, anticipating my needs before I think to request anything. On taking our seats, we're given hot towels before drink orders are taken. We're asked to fill out our breakfast orders ahead so it can be delivered in a timely manner. Meal service is prompt and the attendants are on call in the galley throughout the night. Too often on other airlines the galley is like a ghost town in the middle of the night, or passengers have to stand around waiting for service while crew indulge in a galley gossip session. Not on this flight. Top marks.
Because this is an inaugural flight, the celebrations start at check in when we're offered cute cupcakes, celebrating 60 years of Qantas flying into America. Drinks on offer before take off include Duval-Leroy Brut champagne and a Mint Julep cocktail. Neil Perry's menus, inspired by his Rockpool restaurants, offer mix-n-match small or main plates, with imaginative choices such as snapper laksa, chickpea paneer curry and salt and pepper quail. I choose the off-menu special, a soft taco of pulled pork and corn, Texas-inspired. It's delicious. The food is all exceptionally fresh and the selection of fruit for dessert (along with other options crème caramel and passionfruit ice cream) includes blueberries and juicy mangoes. Australian wines are offered – two red, two whites – along with spirits, dessert wines, and espresso or plunger coffees and teas. Breakfast, served two hours before arrival, includes express, continental and full breakfast options. I have an indulgent dish of French toast with poached pears and maple cream (I'm in training for Texas). Successive cups of coffee are too weak, however. Maybe this is skewed to the Americans on board?
ONE MORE THING
This is the quietest and smoothest flight I've ever taken. Some of this is luck – we have good flying conditions all the way and there is not a single child in the whole business class cabin. But much of this is because the A380 is such a quiet aircraft with muted engine noise. The top deck, with its calm grey/burgundy interiors, is very conducive to doing business. The only sound is the occasional tapping of people at their laptops, including me.
If you're going to fly non-stop for 14-15 hours, this is the way to do it and the plane to do it in. I'm really impressed by the complete professionalism of the crew and the attention to detail in making the flight comfortable. Thoughtful little touches, such as bringing around trays of T2 Sleepy Time tea before lights out, are welcome. Flying into Dallas avoids LAX and brings you just that bit closer to US East Coast destinations, making the total experience one of the easiest entries I've ever had into America.
Tested by Lee Tulloch, who flew compliments of Qantas.