Flight test: Qantas economy class

Qantas economy class.
Qantas economy class. 

THE ROUTE

Queenstown to Sydney QF 122.

THE PLANE

Boeing 737-800.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Qantas Frequent Flyer (One World).

UP THE BACK OR POINTY END?

Economy, seat 15F. This is a window seat behind the exit row.

TIME IN THE AIR

Three hours and 15 minutes.

THE SEAT STUFF

76.2cm pitch, 43.68cm width. A 3-3 layout with 156 economy seats and a 2-2 layout in business with 12 seats.

BAGGAGE

Checked baggage up to 30 kilograms in weight, one carry-on bag up to 7 kilograms in weight and one personal item. Qantas Club and silver, gold and platinum FF members get more in economy.

COMFORT FACTOR

I was offered an exit row at the counter check-in but declined as the exit row arm rests do not raise and are slightly slimmer than the average seat, despite the extra leg room. Passengers can pay $25 or use frequent flyer points to secure the seat of choice at online check-in. As the outbound flight had a lot of spare seats I figured the same would be true of the flight back and asked the person at check-in to secure an empty seat next to me. She did even better and I ended up with an entire row. There were empty seats in the rows ahead and behind me so the plane felt very roomy.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT

Individual back-of-seat entertainment units offer movies, TV shows, audio channels and games. I was able to choose a movie and start watching long before take-off. Television shows are mainstream though not necessarily current. Movies were new release or still in cinemas.

THE SERVICE

You know those times you dread a flight and everything goes brilliantly? This was one of those times. The crew were clearly experienced but far from jaded and seemed genuinely pleased to have a job and not just any job, this job. Though, that may have been due to the staff passenger ratio on a reduced passenger flight. Newspapers were offered to all passengers and done so with a genuine smile and flight attendants were chatty.

FEEDING TIME

Whether an early dinner or a late lunch, the meal offered was either butter chicken with rice or beef pie with mash. Both came with a roll, salad and dressing, a water and a Whittaker's chocolate. You wouldn't call it Michelin but it appeared edible and my fellow passengers cleared their plates. I don't eat wheat, red meat or sugar and had neglected to order a special meal so I stuck to the chicken, which was standard processed fare but tasty. Those friendly flight attendants wandered the aisle offering chocolate and coconut-dipped vanilla ice-creams once meal trays were removed. The herbal tea ordered was served without a problem.

ONE MORE THING

This was one of the most pleasant flights I have experienced. The only downside was the overhead baggage bins: they could definitely have done with a clean, I was not sure what the brownish red stain was in mine so I chose not to ask. Apart from that, I'd like to know the name of the flight attendants so I can request their flights again.

THE VERDICT

A short hassle-free flight with enough to keep one amused at 30,000 feet.

THE FREQUENCY

Qantas will be offering daily Sydney to Queenstown and Queenstown to Sydney flights for the winter season from July 4 to August 31.

Tested by Rachael Oakes-Ash, who flew at her own expense.

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