Airline review: Qantas premium economy, Melbourne to Los Angeles

THE PLANE

Airbus A380. This huge passenger plane is popular on Qantas' long-haul routes to North America and Europe.

THE ROUTE

Melbourne to Los Angeles.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Qantas Frequent Flyer.

CLASS

Premium Economy, seat 28D.

DURATION

14 hours from Melbourne to LA.

FREQUENCY 

Daily.

THE SEAT

42 inches (107 centimetres) pitch, 19.5 inches (49 centimetres) width. There are 35 Premium Economy seats in a 2-3-2 layout.

BAGGAGE

Two checked bags of up to 23 kilograms each, two carry-on bags each of up to seven kilograms. One additional personal item may be taken aboard.

COMFORT

The Premium Economy section is located on the upper deck of this big aircraft between Business and a small outpost of Economy. Qantas' version of Premium Economy has distinctly wider seating than Economy, and more generous legroom. Tray tables and video screens are concealed beneath armrests, leaving plenty of width for a larger-than-average person like me. My seat is firm, as is the provided pillow, but the latter yields a little after some scientific pummelling. There's an extendable footrest, but it's too short to be of use to my long legs. For once on my travels, I'm seated behind someone who doesn't instantly recline their seat, so the spaciousness is maintained.

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ENTERTAINMENT

The Premiere section of the entertainment system is well stocked with recent releases, some two dozen movies ranging from the quirky superhero flick Ant-Man to the drama Far from the Madding Crowd. There's a strong selection of old favourites under the Encore and Oscar Classics categories, and several family-friendly films including live-action dog movie Max and the intriguingly titled Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast. In a strong year for Australian cinema, Qantas comes to the party with eight locally-grown productions including successful dramas Holding the Man and Last Cab to Darwin. TV is well represented, including a dedicated HBO category. In the Music area, there are several channels across diverse genres, along with comedy. There's also plenty of games.

SERVICE

Unfortunately, our morning flight is delayed three hours on the tarmac by an ill passenger and a technical fault, but the cabin crew maintains a cheerful tone and hands out bottles of water while we wait. Once aloft, the service remains friendly and well-organised.

FOOD

Lunch is served an hour after take-off. I choose the grilled salmon, which is tender and tasty in a tomato-base sauce with vegetables and feta. Other main dish choices are herb crusted pork loin with mushroom sauce, and a roast chicken salad with spiced couscous and pumpkin. Dessert is a delicious salted caramel chocolate mousse. I want to sleep on this flight so I'm avoiding caffeine or alcohol, but I note there's a good selection of Australian wines on the list. Later in the journey, a hotdog or a spinach and cheese pastry are available as snacks. A choice of hot or continental breakfasts rounds out the food service before we land in LA mid-morning.

ONE MORE THING

A useful option to know about is the Select on Q-Eat service, which enables Premium Economy passengers to pre-select meals before the flight.

THE VERDICT

Qantas Premium Economy is a good compromise between comfort and price, providing significantly more space and a higher quality of catering than the cheap seats section.

Tim Richards paid his own Economy airfare and was upgraded to Premium Economy by Qantas.

See also: The little things that make business class perfect

See also: Flight test - Southwest Airlines economy

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