Airline review: Qantas business class, Sydney to Singapore

THE PLANE

Airbus A330. The airline is reconfiguring 28 of its A330 aircraft  (10 for international routes and 18 for domestic) to accommodate its new business and economy seats and interiors with the final rollout to be completed by the end of next year.

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Singapore

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Qantas Frequent Flyer and Oneworld

CLASS

Business. Seat 3K in a 1-2-1 layout.

DURATION

Eight hours and 25 minutes.

FREQUENCY

Qantas operates twice daily services between Sydney and Singapore (its former and much-loved hub before it partnered with Dubai-based Emirates) and daily services between Melbourne and Singapore.

THE SEAT

If you're flat out keeping up with every new airline flat bed (and for that matter, premium economy seats), you are not alone. However, you will feel quite alone ensconced in one of Qantas' new A330 "business suites"  designed in collaboration with Australia's own human design icon Marc Newson​, who designed the airline's iconic shell-like Skybed, which is now feeling decidedly dated compared with  the flash new model. One of many innovative and impressive features is the introduction of an inertia-reel style seatbeat, allowing passengers to move around in the seat safely. In another bonus for passengers, the seat can be in recline and fitted with a "mattress" for both take-off and landing, meaning additional time for shut-eye before  arrival. There's even a hotel-style "Do not disturb" sign.

BAGGAGE

Business class passengers are allowed 40 kilograms of checked baggage with no one piece exceeding  32 kilograms, as well as seven kilograms  a piece for carry-on items (check the Qantas website for additional details).

COMFORT

Qantas has attracted some criticism of its new business class seats from couples and families who have complained of separation anxieties. But for the target market of the new seat – the solo business or leisure traveller – the near complete privacy offered by the seat design is most welcome. The improved levels of comfort, particularly its flat bed mode, are immediately obvious though this flyer didn't get to fully test the seat while asleep for an extended overnight period since his flight departed in the late afternoon.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Yet another knockout feature of the new seat (sorry, suite) is a considerably larger TV-style seatback touchscreen, or to be more precise, the latest Panasonic eX3 inflight entertainment system. Really, if there isn't enough to keep you amused here you may have  attention deficit disorder.

SERVICE

Hard to fault, as service should be in any leading airline business class, by a warm, friendly and efficient crew, openly excited by the new business class seats and interiors on this flight.

FOOD

The requisite Neil Perry-engineered entrees on this service include smoked tomato soup with thyme ricotta and slow-roasted Blackmore wagyu, oyster mushrooms and zucchini salad with crispy rice cakes and nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) dressing while for mains there is a choice of pan-fried black cobia fish or Murraylands lamb. The food and wines are topnotch, as is the improved design of the table that makes it easier to open and close as well as to swivel away if you need to move around or get up.

ONE MORE THING

The seats are curiously more attractive in reality  than in photographs and they lack the distinctiveness of the predecessor Skybeds, looking a little like any of the latest generation business seats.

THE VERDICT

Qantas' new business class is a significant improvement on its predecessor, particularly in terms of privacy, bringing it up to the lofty standards of the equivalent aboard partner Emirates. On a return flight to Australia from Bangkok, this passenger flew on an aircraft fitted with the former, soon to be obsolete, Skybed seat with the difference in quality, particularly in terms of privacy, most pronounced.

Tested by Anthony Dennis, who flew courtesy of the airline.

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