Airline review: Sydney to Los Angeles Qantas premium economy



QF17 Sydney to Los Angeles


Refurbished Boeing 747-400 with 364 seats – 58 business, 36 premium economy, 270 economy. 


Qantas Frequent Flyer (Oneworld Alliance)


Premium economy, seat 39F, back row



12 hours 45 minutes.


Since 2016, Qantas has run 10 services weekly on a mix of A380s and B747s between Sydney and Los Angeles and nine between Melbourne and Los Angeles, coinciding with American Airlines introducing daily flights and Qantas restarting flights to San Francisco. 


96.5cm (38in) seat pitch with 49.5cm (19.5in) seat width and 22.8cm (9in) recline in a dedicated cabin. The back row position doesn't impede the recline. My partner and I are in the middle two seats of four in a 2-4-2 configuration thanks to the trend for couples to sit in separate aisle seats. This leaves other couples to either accept middle seats or be separated. The seat is wide and comfortable but the button-operated integrated leg rest with foldout footrest is a devil to retract. The shared cocktail table means that the welcome glass of sparkling is knocked for six, but there's more where that came from.


Two pieces up to 23kg each plus a 7kg (115cm) carry on. Overhead lockers are spacious.


A big step up from economy thanks to seat padding, width and the ability to stretch out, but when the seat in front reclines, mountaineering is required to exit the middle seats. Seat-back pockets are already stuffed, leaving little room for personal items. Open-sided pockets leak possessions – our back row is the repository for numerous escaped objects. There's a generous material and fleece blanket and pillow, but no eyeshade or toothpaste. Just a useless pack of socks my neighbour uses to clean his tray table before returning neatly to their pack. 


Refurbishment means larger 26.9cm (10.6in) widescreen, in-arm touchscreen monitor. The 1500-plus entertainment options include digital games and Lonely Planet destination guides. PC power and USB port available. Excellent noise-cancelling headphones.


A Qantas strong point. Our lovely flight attendants are unruffled but manage to attend quickly to issues like the spilled drink. Use of passengers' names is a welcome personal touch. 


The barramundi runs out, as does the Katnook sparkling wine (good old Jacob's Creek to the rescue), but I'm content with the tasty braised lamb shank with rosemary potatoes, zucchini and sugar snaps washed down with a perfectly good grenache/shiraz/mourvedre. There's always a lift of spirits with the laying on of linen, plus proper glasses and cutlery. Delicious chocolate mousse (the terrifying kilojoule count noticed too late). I sleep through the bratwurst roll and tomato ricotta tart but the refreshment station offers snacks and drinks. Scrambled eggs, roast tomato, sausage and bacon with good Grinders coffee for breakfast. Can't complain.


The unfortunate tendency of airlines cutting back on toilets continues in premium economy with only one toilet available, but once the queue is negotiated, enjoy the sweet orange and shea handcream and Botanical handwash.


Seat/sleeping comfort is superior, though an aisle and inner seat would have improved the experience. Only 36 available seats means they're all in hot demand.

Tested by Alison Stewart, who flew at her own expense but was upgraded by Qantas.

See also: Is premium economy worth the extra money?

See also: Airline review: Qantas business class to Bali

Listen: Flight of Fancy - the podcast with Ben Groundwater

The best places to visit in 2017

To subscribe to the podcast Flight of Fancy on iTunes, click here.