This Qantas flight is living proof that economy can actually be enjoyable and comfortable.
Airbus A330-300. Qantas has 28 A330s, 10 of them as A330-300s and 18 as the slightly shorter A330-200.
Brisbane to Tokyo (Narita)
Qantas Frequent Flyer, part of the oneworld alliance. Gold, Platinum and Platinum One members flying Economy can use the Qantas Brisbane International Lounge. For everyone else, there's an all-welcome Plaza Premium Lounge at Brisbane International Airport; a two-hour visit costs $60.
Economy, aisle seat 26G.
"Just under nine hours," says the captain.
Qantas flies direct to Tokyo from Brisbane daily.
You're in good company on this aircraft: 269 of the 297 (90 per cent) of the seats are in Economy. The configuration is 2-4-2 and each grey-and-burgundy seat is a pretty standard 17 inches wide (43 centimetres) with a pitch of 31 inches (76 centimetres).
Economy passengers can check-in up to 30 kilograms of luggage; Silver, Gold and Platinum Frequent Flyer members can take 42 kilograms, 46 kilograms and 50 kilograms respectively when flying Economy. Carry-on limits are the same for everyone: up to seven kilograms and a personal item such as a handbag or laptop.
As well as standard features such as the adjustable winged headrest and under-seat AC power point, there's lots of storage space: three seatback pockets, including a little phone-sized one that's handy when using the seatback USB port to recharge. There's a small plastic bottle of water in the seat pocket, which is thoughtful but wasteful. Surely we can wait for cabin service and receive water in cups instead of adding to the world's plastic pollution?
Full marks, Qantas. There's a real touchscreen, responsive to the slightest swipe or tap; no finger-stabbing required. The movie selection, while not exciting, has something for everyone. I love the Playlist function, which lets you browse and bookmark movies and TV shows, handy on a long flight. And you can start browsing and viewing from the moment you find your seat. There's also a duty free catalogue and the Spirit of Australia magazine, a hefty tome these days.
As always, the Qantas flight attendants are friendly, mature professionals. All the announcements are in English, then Japanese, which makes the interruptions to the entertainment longer than usual.
I usually pre-order a vegetarian meal, but on this flight I needn't have bothered: there's a vegetarian option on the menu, facing off against an Asian chicken salad and salmon fillet with sesame soy sauce. Still, my pumpkin tortellini with roasted pumpkin, spinach, ricotta and parmesan, served with a warm bread roll and apple and blueberry crumble, and plastic cutlery, does come early, which is a treat. Later, the flight attendants haunt the darkened aisle with mid-flight snacks: hot chocolates with marshmallows, Lindt balls and raspberry Weis bars. Before landing, about 7pm Tokyo time, we're served warm stir-fry noodles with vegetables in an Asian-style takeaway box with a honey sesame sauce.
ONE MORE THING
Qantas Frequent Flyer membership is a no-brainer, if only for lounge access and priority check-in and boarding, but why does it cost $89.50 to join when loyalty schemes for most other airlines are free?
Economy has come a long way since it was branded "cattle class" and this Qantas flight is living proof that it can actually be enjoyable and comfortable.
Tested by Louise Southerden, who flew courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.