Boeing 747-400; Qantas has nine in its fleet and over the last few years has put them through an internal refit with fully-flat "Skybeds" in business class, and new seats and a self-service snack bar in economy.
Tokyo (Narita) to Sydney
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Qantas Frequent Flyer (One World)
Premium economy's window seat 36A. However, after settling in, I realise I'm sitting under a persistent overhead drip. I'm told to take any of the many available middle-section seats and resettle into 35D, an aisle seat directly behind a bulkhead.
Nine hours, 40 minutes. We arrive 30 minutes early.
Seat pitch (distance between rows) is 101.5 centimetres – five centimetres more than Qantas' 747-400s that have been reconfigured with A380-style interiors. Seat width is a comfy 49.5cm and there's an extendable leg rest. The cabin features a 2-4-2 layout.
The checked baggage limit is 40 kilograms (although no single item can exceed 32kg), with 7kg of carry-on.
There's a blanket, pillow and amenity kit containing socks, eyeshade, toothbrush and toothpaste. I bring my own earplugs.
Heading over to Japan, I needed guidance on how to extract the in-arm entertainment screen – the release mechanism is a discreet black button. Once the 21cm screen is swivelled into place, there are ample options to while away the entire flight. I forgo the recent-release movies, TV shows and music channels to catch some sleep on the overnight flight.
The drip-and-shift episode prompts a parade of apologetic crew members throughout the flight (I'm told Tokyo's humidity is to blame). To make up for it, I'm handed an express pass to help clear Customs and Immigration.
From the Neil Perry-inspired menu, supper is either fried chicken with ratatouille and thyme-roasted potatoes or sautéed pork marinated in shio koji (a fermented rice seasoning) with veggies. I pair the pork with Philip Shaw's The Architect chardonnay from Orange, and tuck into a dessert of yoghurt pudding with pineapple compote. Breakfast is continental: a warm apple and raisin muffin and candied-orange danish nestle alongside artfully sliced fruit, orange juice and coffee or tea. You know you're not in economy any more when meals come served on china atop a tray draped with a linen cloth.
TWO MORE THINGS
Business and premium economy passengers can pre-order meals online via Select on Q-Eat (the service will be extended to economy-class passengers on this route from March 1). Those who pre-order receive an extra choice – on my flight to Japan, the bonus choice was a chicken schnitzel and gruyere toasted sandwich with slaw. I'm not prompted to pre-order before returning to Australia. This flight also lands at Sydney Airport during the morning rush. Even armed with an express pass, it takes longer than normal to clear formalities.
Impeccable service, along with boutique wines such as a Clonakilla shiraz on the trolley, make Qantas' premium economy feel like a giant step up from economy. Those who want to sleep the flight away should be able to catch some zeds in this hushed environment – especially with Select on Q-Eat also offering a "no meal - maximise my rest" option.
Tested by Katrina Lobley, who flew courtesy of Princess Cruises.