Airline review: Qantas premium economy, Sydney to San Francisco - is it worth it?

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

THE ROUTE

Sydney (Kingsford Smith) to San Francisco

THE PLANE

Boeing 747-400

LOYALTY SCHEME

Qantas Frequent Flyer, part of the Oneworld alliance.

CLASS

Premium economy, seat 37F.

DURATION

Scheduled flight time is 13 hours and 30 minutes. We leave 45 minutes late, but arrive only 15 minutes late.

FREQUENCY

Qantas flies direct to San Francisco every day except Saturdays.

THE SEAT

The 40-seat premium economy section has a 2-4-2 configuration with a width of 19 inches (an inch and a half wider than economy seats).

BAGGAGE

The same allowance as for economy: two pieces up to 23 kilograms each for flights to North and South America (40 kilograms for other destinations).

COMFORT FACTOR

I've chosen to be in the middle block, which is quieter than window seats on long-haul flights. But I missed out on the aisle and although there's a good amount of legroom the guy next to me has to get up when I want to leave my seat. Despite the extra space it also feel a bit cramped when your tray table and video screen, stored in the armrests, are out. But other "premium" features make up for this: USB and AC charging ports, soft red Australian lambswool blankets, pillows trimmed in white satin and chic little Country Road pouches containing eyemasks, socks and toothbrushes.

SERVICE

While premium economy doesn't entitle you to lounge access or an Express pass, it does give you priority check-in and boarding, which are more than welcome on this full long-haul flight. Our two mature-age flight attendants Errol and Monica are a credit to Qantas with their professionalism and sense of fun, addressing passengers by name and flourishing the linen tablecloths at every meal.

ENTERTAINMENT

The movies aren't as current as they might have been, but there's a great selection of Oscar classics and new and old Australian films. Over-ear headphones make you feel as if you're in business, as do the large touchscreens, though these have to be folded back into the armrest whenever you want to leave your seat and well before landing (make sure you allow at least half an hour before your arrival time to finish watching something).

FOOD

A pre-takeoff sparkling wine in a real glass puts me in a premium mood from the get-go. For lunch, with linen tablecloths and stainless steel utensils, I have the tender chicken breast in tomato, caper and olive sauce with green beans and polenta, served with a green salad, warm bread roll and apple crumble, followed by that Qantas regular, a Weis ice-cream bar. The other lunch options are chipotle pulled pork, bean and apple salad, and lamb moussaka. A tray of snacks materialises by torchlight between meals: pears, cheese and crackers, nuts and M&Ms. Breakfast, though, is a bit ordinary: a mush of scrambled eggs with sausage, bacon and potato rosti served with fruit salad and a mini-muffin.

THE VERDICT

Premium economy makes you feel a little bit special – the priority check-in, boarding and luggage tag alone are worth paying extra for – and flying Qantas internationally always makes me proud to be Australian.

Reviewed by Louise Southerden, who flew courtesy of Fathom.

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