Flight test: Qantas and Alaska Air

THE ROUTE

Brisbane to Vancouver via Los Angeles (Qantas operates the same aircraft from Sydney to Los Angeles and A380 from Melbourne to Los Angeles).

THE PLANE

Boeing 747-400 Longreach (Los Angeles); Boeing 737-800 (Vancouver).

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Qantas Frequent Flyer (One World).

UP THE BACK OR POINTY END

Economy, seat 43A to Los Angeles, 28D to Vancouver. On a lightly loaded aircraft, I get a row of three seats for my partner and I at the check-in counter. Even better, we are in the emergency exit row for the Brisbane to Los Angeles leg. We are issued tickets for the Alaska Air flight and our luggage is tagged through to Vancouver.

TIME IN THE AIR

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Thirteen hours, five minutes to Los Angeles; three hours to Vancouver.

THE SEAT STUFF

Seat pitch and width 79 centimetres (distance between seat rows), 45cm between armrests on the Los Angeles leg; 81cm between seat rows and 43cm between armrests on the Vancouver leg. Seat configuration is a mostly 3-4-3 layout for economy seats on the Qantas flight and 3-3 on the Alaska Air flight.

BAGGAGE

Two checked bags up to 23 kilograms, one carry-on bag up to 7 kilograms and one personal item.

COMFORT FACTOR

Getting an exit-row seat on the long-haul leg and an empty seat between two people is a bonus. You can book these seats in advance for $180 extra. The cabin feels new, as Qantas has recently reconfigured some 747-400s with A380-style seating. A blanket, pillow and pouch with eyeshades, toothbrush and toothpaste are provided. The cabin of the Alaska Air aircraft to Vancouver has a well-worn look and budget airline feeling.

THE SERVICE

The cabin crew on the Qantas flight are efficient and polite. The cabin crew on the Alaska Air flight are downright cheerful. Passengers are greeted with big smiles.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT

The on-demand, in-flight entertainment system has 1500 options, including a variety of movies, TV programs, CD playlists, moving maps, interactive games and radio channels.

FEEDING TIME

On the Qantas flight, lunch is a chicken salad with potato and coleslaw, or roman beef ragu with mash potato, roasted zucchini and carrots, or a vegetarian option of tomato, zucchini and olive tagliatelle with ricotta cheese. There's a dark chocolate mousse with salted caramel fudge, Dilmah tea and Grinders coffee. Breakfast is either cereal or eggs with hollandaise sauce, bacon, spinach and braised beans. There is a snack bar at the back of the plane. The Alaska Airlines flight has food available for purchase.

ONE MORE THING

Transferring between flights in Los Angeles is easy. We are the first flight in the morning at Tom Bradley International Terminal, so there is no queue at customs. After clearing customs, transferring passengers drop their pretagged bags on a conveyor belt, then walk to Terminal 6.

THE VERDICT

The main reason to choose this flight is that it's competitively priced, with a smooth, stress-free transfer between flights at Los Angeles International Airport. The entire journey was a pleasant experience, with particularly good food and efficient service on the Qantas flight and friendly staff on the Alaska flight.

THE FREQUENCY

Qantas has six flights a week from Brisbane to Los Angeles. Alaska Airlines has daily flights from Los Angeles to Vancouver.

Tested by Christina Pfeiffer, who flew courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.

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