Airline review: Qantas, Boeing 787 Dreamliner business class, Perth to Rome non-stop

THE ROUTE

Flight QF5 Perth to Rome

THE AIRCRAFT

Qantas is using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with 236 seats, 42 in business class, 28 premium and 166 in economy. The pilot tells us this is the seventh delivery of the 787, which they have "fondly called Jillaroo," a nod to women working on stations in the outback.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Qantas Frequent Flyer, part of the OneWorld Alliance.

CLASS

I'm in seat 12E, which is right at the back of the business class cabin, in the aisle.The seats in this cabin have a 1-2-1 configuration.

DURATION

The flight departed half an hour late at 10:50pm but arrived in Rome 20 minutes ahead of schedule at 8.25am, taking a total of 15 hours and 43 minutes, which reportedly broke a speed record. We fly over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, getting a thrilling sighting of the pyramids at sunrise, before moving across the Greek Islands towards Rome.

CARBON EMISSIONS

5.45 tonnes for a business class passenger. Qantas offers a carbon offset scheme and aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

FREQUENCY

The flight leaves Sydney via Perth three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and is seasonal, operating for the European summer between June 22 and October 6. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said this week the airline is looking at flying the route year-round.

CHECKING IN

My flight originates in Melbourne and I'm checked right through to Rome at the domestic counter. On the Perth end, I disembark in Terminal 3 and step into the check-in area of Terminal 4, from where it's a quick stroll upstairs to the special entrance created for Qantas' Rome and London flights through to immigration and security. It's not open all the time so there is some wait but when we go through it's one of the smoothest customs experiences I've had. Admittedly we are part of a media throng and we're checking in early, before most passengers arrive, but it makes Perth Airport an attractive proposition to start an international journey.

BAGGAGE

In Business Class we're allowed 46 kilograms of checked-in baggage and 10 kilograms of carry-on.

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THE SEAT

The business class seat offers 46-inch (117 cm) pitch, with an 80-inch (203 cm) bed when put into lie flat mode. I have not flown business class in two and a half years and since flying Jetstar a couple of times more recently, these seats feel hugely luxurious. I'm sitting upright as I write this; the plane cabin lights are out but a small and perfectly angled pin light means I can work without disturbing others. There's a console to my left I can stash everything from a small bag, umpteen drinks and snacks, plus storage space for a water bottle, menus and amenities kit. Your tray table can be stowed away out of sight or pushed back and forward to a position that suits you.

When it comes to sleeping, the seat comes with a warm blanket, pillow and mattress pad and you can turn it into a lie-flat at the push of a button. When lying down the seat tapers but with my 170-centimetre frame my feet don't even come close to touching the end.

I love the brand new amenities kit - 'inspired by Qantas throughout the decades', this cute grey and pale blue faux-leather retro kit contains socks, eye mask, earplugs, and Li'Tya face and hand cream and lip balm. This new product is feel-good in more than one way, supplied by an Indigenous company. I note that the toothbrush and earplugs now come in recyclable packaging. And the classic grey pyjamas remain unchanged.

FOOD

To celebrate the launch of the Rome flights, there's a special menu on offer in the lounge prior to boarding - and it was good. For once I was glad most of it was meat-based so I was limited to prawn skewers and vegetable skewers which came with a very tasty, zesty green salmoriglio and salsa verde (note to chef, Neil Perry - it needed something to mop up that delectable sauce, and I was stealing damper rolls made for the potato and leek soup). You could wash it down with miniature negronis. That being said, I am glad I saved some room for the dinner on board. Admittedly, for those who make the trek from the east coast the late-night departure makes it hard to stay awake the first two hours waiting for the food (and being at the back of business meant I was among the last to be served), but the spaghettini I'd had my eye on was worth waiting for. More of those delicious prawns (and a generous portion of them), a bit of heat with chilli, sweet pops of cherry tomato, tangy lemon and a sprig of freshness from flat-leafed parsley. I was a little less impressed with the tiramisu which was heavy on the marscapone.

There is no wine list - passengers are given a choice of red or white - with whites, you can choose between a bright South Australian Vermentino or a rich Margaret River Chardonnay. Both are sound choices.

In business, you can help yourself to mid-flight snacks which included a variety of fresh fruit, chips, cookies, pretzels with salsa, plus cans of kombucha, bottles of water. By 8am I'm hungry and order a mid-flight snack of croque monsieur - risky, as I am not a ham eater. But the multigrain bread is crispy on the outside and pleasingly oozy with cheese in the middle. The accompanying black coffee is also great. Breakfast, served two and a half hours before landing, has multiple options, including granola, fruit, yoghurt and a house-made crumpet.

HEALTH

This is the first flight I've been on which does not require masks - the requirement has just been lifted and everyone seems to be embracing it (including the crew), with only one or two passengers wearing them. At check-in I'm asked to show my International Vaccine Certificate, but there is no requirement for testing prior to arrival in Rome.

ENTERTAINMENT

The usual movies and television box sets are on offer - but I'm impressed by the depth of information within the maps which offers views like 'overhead' and 'window seat' plus a mid-boggling array of information which I would normally be googling while staring out the window seat, trying to figure where the hell I am. Unfortunately googling anything is not an option, because there is no Wi-Fi on the flight (a blessing no doubt for some, a curse for those of us working). Qantas is yet to fit Wi-Fi on board any of their international flights, so make the most of it on your domestic connection.

SERVICE

Service is faultless, super-friendly and professional. I'm introduced to my flight attendant early on and am kept fed and watered at the touch of a button. I even get updates on how much longer my mid-flight sandwich is going to take. I feel spoilt, really.

ONE MORE THING

My attempts to stay awake for as long as possible early on in the flight to ward off jet lag on the Rome side haven't really worked. Typically a light sleeper, I am wide awake about 7am Perth time, (midnight in Rome) which means only 5½ hours sleep. A general stirring in the cabin at that time indicates I am not alone. On the plus side, staying awake early in the flight means we are now halfway through with less than eight hours to go. I can get some work underway.

Together with the light meals, many attempts are being made to combat jet lag starting early at Qantas' International Transit Lounge which has been purpose-built for ultra long-haul flights. This extends to the light therapy in the shower suites and a beautiful outdoor space. Lighting is set to "night time" to help passengers adjust to the time upcoming difference.

AND ANOTHER THING

If I am going to have one gripe, it will be about the toilets. The ones closest to me, in the mid-section of the business cabin, are the pokiest, tiniest bathrooms I've experienced in business class and trying to wash your face or change in into your PJs is like undertaking acrobatics. They are fortunately kept clean throughout the flight.

VERDICT

No wonder Perth-London has been such a success - there so many positives to this new route it will be hard to understand why passengers would opt for any other. For a start, you'll spend three hours less in the air; the security and immigration check in experience in Perth is painless combined with the faultless service makes this a no-brainer. And of course the cherry on top is you end up in Rome (and on this occasion, in record time).

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★½

The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas.

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