Airbus A380-800. There are 12 A380s in Qantas' fleet.
Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Qantas Frequent Flyer (One World)
Premium Economy, seat 27 F on the upper deck. The cabin isn't full, so after take-off I move to 28 K and spread out my belongings along the handy window shelf.
Just over 14.5 hours. The flight takes off almost two hours late due to a convergence of factors: strong wind has closed a runway and a catering truck has broken down, delaying the delivery of food to the plane. Passengers are kept informed while in the gate lounge and onboard. Upon take-off, the wind's severity is revealed, with some trembling of the aircraft before it reaches altitude.
38 inch (96.5 centimetres). The private upper deck cabin has a 2-3-2 configuration.
Two pieces up to 23 kilograms each; three pieces up to 23 kilograms each for Qantas Club members and Silver and Gold frequent flyers; three pieces up to 32 kilograms each for Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers.
For those used to squeezing into economy on long-haul journeys, this is sheer luxury. The dimensions allow for relative ease of movement, even for those in middle or window seats. The double-sided fleece and cotton blankets add a dash of style, while the amenities pack – though its contents are no different from a standard-issue version – is set apart by its black-and-white checks and Country Road branding.
You could keep yourself entertained for the entire flight with the variety of movies and box sets offered on the stow-away entertainment system. The selection of music is comprehensive, the collection of documentaries reasonable, and the podcast menu flavoured with uniquely Australian offerings: Jonesy and Amanda, relaxation exercises by Beyond Blue, Podcast One Australia and – for those as passionate about the intersection of travel and design – the new Design Travel podcast by Australian interior designer and travel writer Stephanie Williams.
A flight attendant brings us French champagne from business class while we wait for take-off. Throughout the long flight, and without fail, every crew member I encounter is courteous and attentive. Water seems to appear just as I need it, and one of the cabin crew cheerily exhorts me to stop working and relax with a drink long after the cabin lights have been dimmed.
The drinks trolley comes along 45 minutes into the flight and offers a comprehensive selection of sparkling wine, wine, liquor, dessert wine, liqueurs and soft drinks. It's a pleasant contrast to economy, where Qantas seems to have dispensed altogether with the pre-dinner drinks service. The Neil Perry-inspired dinner is served on crisp white tablecloths; while they're out of my first choice, lamb moussaka, the chicken with tomato, caper and olive sauce is tender and tasty. The attendant offers to fill up the plastic water bottle I was handed earlier – a nice eco-touch, although plastic bottles should ideally be dispensed with altogether. Ice-creams and snacks are offered throughout the flight.
ONE MORE THING
Two of the standout staff members are fresh young recruits named Matthew and Roy. They've been flying for just six weeks, the cabin manager tells me, yet they acquit themselves with aplomb.
Premium economy is a substantial step up from economy, and is of particularly good value on trips where you need to get some rest and present your best face upon arrival. The only drawback? You'll find it hard to go back to economy.
Tested by Catherine Marshall, who was a guest of the Dallas and Fort Worth convention and visitors bureaux, and was upgraded to premium economy courtesy of Qantas.