Airline review: Qantas premium economy, Hong Kong to Sydney

Our rating

3.5 out of 5

THE PLANE

Boeing 747-400. Qantas has retained nine of this aircraft model, reconfiguring the cabins to match the standard of its newer A380s.

THE ROUTE

Hong Kong to Sydney.

FREQUENCY

There are daily services from Hong Kong to Sydney operated by three-cabin refurbished B747 aircraft, with Premium Economy cabin and a total of 11 services a week.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Qantas Frequent Flyer/One World

CLASS

Premium, seat 38B.

DURATION

8 hours and 55 minutes, about 10 minutes early.

THE SEAT

I receive a welcome, last-minute upgrade at the gate, with my Economy seat magically becoming a wider, more comfortable Premium Economy model. I'm allocated 38B, on the aisle in a 2-4-2 configuration across the cabin. On this version of the 747-400, there are 36 Premium Economy seats near the middle of the lower deck behind Business and ahead of Economy. At 38 inches, the pitch is 7 inches (nearly 18cm), more than that in Economy and there is a noticeable extra 1.5 inches in width.

ENTERTAINMENT

Normally I'd spend most of the flight watching movies on the excellent Q entertainment system. However, when I receive my upgrade, I'm informed that the system at my allocated seat is broken. It's no big deal as this is a night flight and I'd rather have sweet dreams than the latest blockbuster any day. 

BAGGAGE

Premium Economy passengers bag a healthy 40 kilograms in checked-in luggage, plus two carry-on items up to seven kilograms in weight.

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COMFORT

The extra width and pitch really make a difference, allowing me a precious few hours of sleep. The seat's ergonomic design by Marc Newson, with extra elbow room and footrest extending from the seat also helps.

SERVICE

It's an older crew and they are a tad impersonal but we're reasonably well looked after.

FOOD

Even though I've already eaten at the airport, I can't resist the roasted five-spice duck salad with glass noodles and a soy and sesame dressing. That and a glass of sparkling Katnook Flounder's Block Chardonnay Pinot are a light and easy pre-sleep choice. Quite why we need to be woken at the equivalent of 2.45am (Hong Kong time), over two hours before landing, for breakfast is a mystery. I can't stomach the scrambled eggs with chicken sausage, baked beans and a hash brown and blearily make do with an orange juice, banana muffin and coffee.  

ONE MORE THING ...

The luggage allowance of 40 kilograms is actually very useful for me, travelling home after seven weeks in Europe, with my luggage full of business papers and presents for my kids.

THE VERDICT

There is no question there is extra comfort in this Premium Economy cabin, which alone makes it worth considering for an overnight flight. For somebody over 1.85cm it certainly makes a difference but several thousand dollars worth of difference (for a Premium Economy fare) is debatable.

Tested by Daniel Scott who flew courtesy of Tourism Ireland, the Austrian National Tourist Office and Visit Britain and with assistance from Qantas.

See also: What do you get for your money in premium economy?

See also: Airline review: United Airlines premium economy