Flight test: Air Austral Comfort Class

Route Sydney to St Denis (Reunion Island), then to Antananarivo (Madagascar).

Aircraft Boeing 777-300R Sydney-St Denis; Boeing 737-800 St Denis-Antananarivo.

Class Premium economy (Comfort class): 6A, Sydney-St Denis; 2F, St Denis-Antananarivo.

Flight time 11hr 30min Sydney-St Denis; 1hr 15min St Denis-Antananarivo.

Seat width and pitch A 37.8- inch pitch and 18.5 inch width on the 777-300R. There are 40 premium economy seats in a staggered 2-4-2 layout.

Comfort Each beige leather seat has an adjustable reading light and a folding tray table in the armrest.

Amenities The complimentary travel kit is comprehensive: suede-lined eye mask, 10-millilitre bottle of L'Occitane perfume, socks, ear plugs, comb, toothbrush and paste, razor and shaving cream, nail file, sewing kit and shoe horn.

Luggage A generous 35 kilogram (25 kilogram in economy). Carry-on luggage is limited to one item up to 10 kilogram plus a laptop case, handbag or briefcase.

Entertainment About 20 movies, 11 TV shows, seven documentaries, news channels from France, Reunion and New Caledonia (all in French), audio channels and games. Technical problems on my flight mean I have to choose "French" to watch movies in English and the soundtrack reverts to French after every PA announcement. Entertainment on the St Denis-Antananarivo flight comprises comedy sketches and Tom and Jerry cartoons on the main screen.


Service Check-in is friendly. On board, flight attendants make themselves scarce between meals (that is. for about eight hours). Service considerably better on the return flight to Sydney.

Food and beverages There's champagne before takeoff, linen tablecloths, French wines and handmade chocolates with meals. Lunch: avocado and palm-heart timbale with marinated shrimp; sweet and sour barramundi with rice and grilled vegetables; salad; King Island Dairy cheeses; cheesecake. Second meal: fruit; yoghurt; vegetable pastie; cheeses; macadamia cake. St Denis to Antananarivo flight: pate; noodles; camembert; prawns with rice and broad beans; strawberry cheesecake; chocolates.

Flight frequency Last month Air Austral reversed a decision to drop Sydney-Reunion flights. It continues to fly direct from Sydney to St Denis each Tuesday; from May 9, there will also be flights on Saturdays. Daily flights from St Denis to Antananarivo.

Online air-austral.com.

Tested by Louise Southerden, who flew courtesy of Air Austral.

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