Flight number: QF128
Aircraft Type: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Route: Hong Kong to Sydney
Class: Business Class
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The Qantas 787 Dreamliner offers a competitive business class product.
As Qantas continues to retire its ageing 747 fleet, more of their next-generation 787s are being deployed to the sky. As much as the four-engine Queen of the Sky is being adored for its legacy, having Dreamliners as a replacement fleet means an upgraded in-flight experience for business travellers. The initial phase of the Dreamliner rollout had been focussed on ultra-long-haul routes, notably their first-ever non-stop flight from Perth to London. The Dreamliner has since been introduced to the medium-haul network with Hong Kong being the first to see this much-anticipated aircraft. During a recent trip back from Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to fly in a Qantas Dreamliner on a red-eye flight. Here is my impression of the service.
Flight number: QF128
Aircraft Type: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Route: Hong Kong to Sydney
Class: Business Class
I secured this redemption using Qantas frequent flyer points prior to their recent program overhaul on 18 September. The ticket was priced at 60,000 Qantas Points plus HKD$719 (AUD$135) in taxes. However, following the price hike, the same redemption will set you back an extra 8,400 Qantas Points. In theory, Qantas releases reward seats 353 days prior to departure, but only members with elite tier status get priority access to the premium redemption seats.
While I was able to redeem using my Qantas account with status, the same reward availability did not show up using a standard Bronze-tiered account. Neither were there any reward seats released to partner airlines. Hence the same redemption was not bookable with other points schemes such as British Airways Avios or Cathay Asia Miles. A potential way for Qantas members without an elite status to circumvent this restriction is to transfer your points to a family member who holds status via the Family Transfer function, then get them to redeem on your behalf.
This flight was booked with Qantas Points. Read the below links to find out more about the Qantas Frequent Flyer program or to earn more points.
Instead of dragging along my cumbersome suitcases to the airport, I opted to check in at Hong Kong Station the day before departure. The complimentary in-town check-in service is available to those with an Airport Express train ticket. Having collected my boarding pass and unloaded my baggage in the city, I had more time to explore Hong Kong's famous Dim Sum scene before heading to the airport.
Hong Kong International Airport has a range of quality business lounges. oneworld travellers are eligible to access both the Qantas lounge and the impressive Cathay Pacific lounges such as The Wing, The Pier and The Bridge. On this occasion, I visited The Wing lounge for a shower and a snack. The Wing business class lounge is located immediately after customs on the left side, near gate 1-4. Spread across the departure level and the balcony level, the lounge has an inbuilt staircase and a lift. Most of the food options and the noodle bar are located upstairs while the business zone and shower facility are below at the departure level. The lounge felt very spacious with plenty of natural light and plane-spotting opportunities, especially on the balcony level with its open-air set-up. I enjoyed a barista-made cappuccino while I worked in the lounge.
As our aircraft was located at gate 21, the Wing lounge was only a short walk away. Next to our aircraft were two other Qantas jets, originating from Brisbane and Melbourne. The boarding process was seamless and well-organised, with a priority lane clearly set up on the opposite side to the general boarding lane. As we boarded from the middle door, there was no competition to get to the front of the aircraft. Cabin crew greeted us warmly and promptly ushered us to our seats before offering the usual pre-flight drinks.
The Qantas 787 Dreamliner service offers three travel classes. These classes are broken down into 42 business, 28 premium economy and 188 economy seats. The business class cabin is further divided into two sections, with the main section in front and a smaller section with only 12 seats located after the galley. I avoided the smaller section given its proximity to the lavatories and bassinets.
The business suites will be familiar to many Qantas flyers as they are identical to those on the refurbished A330 fleet. Featuring the Thompson Aero Vantage business suites in a 1-2-1 configuration, every seat is accessible directly from the aisle and can be reclined fully flat.
As the business suites are staggered, the window seats follow two distinct layouts. The odd-numbered rows (e.g. 1, 3 and 5) are fitted with seats adjacent to the windows, while the even-numbered rows (e.g. 2, 4 and 6) are closer to the aisle. Generally, I would stick with the "true" window seats on an odd-numbered row for more privacy. The middle seats are also staggered, and each pair of seats is separated by a privacy screen, which can be applied if you are not in the mood to socialise.
The Boeing Dreamliner aircraft is sleek and elegant. It's been engineered to provide a smoother ride, cleaner cabin air and a reduced susceptibility to turbulence and noise. More favourable cabin pressure and humidity also help to reduce jet lag. Unique to the 787s are the large windows dimmed at the touch of a button rather than a conventional window shade. This means the light intensity can easily be customised to your liking.
There is a decent amount of storage space. There is a storage bin at the base of the suite and an L-shape compartment on the side, which is suited for personal items and electronic devices. The seat controls are user-friendly, allowing you to customise your seat position and to activate the massage function. The power, USB and sound outlets are conveniently located right beside the seat. Concealed under the armrest are a vanity mirror and an old-school entertainment console. However, I found it easier to utilise the touchscreen function rather than the console.
Offering an impressive 16-inch high-definition screen, the inflight entertainment includes a varied selection of films, TV programs and music. Although the screen is a little smaller than the average 787 business class products I've flown on, I liked the ease of navigating the inflight entertainment. It has several handy features such as the shortcut button for flight info as well as the "watch list" function for you to shortlist your favourite programs. I added several comedy TV shows and a documentary to my list. You can also activate the light controls and the call button from the screen.
Ironically, this next-generation aircraft does not offer Wi-Fi connectivity. While it was not a deal-breaker for a medium-haul overnight flight, it must be frustrating for business travellers who lose a day of work when travelling in one of their ultra-long services.
Soon after I settled into my seat, the cabin crew offered a set of pyjamas, along with the choice of drinks and the menu. The crew also provided a turndown service before take-off in case some passengers wanted to skip dinner and maximise their rest. One thing the service lacked was the customary hot towels seen on many other carriers. While we were taxiing towards our runway, I noticed that my seat has only one window rather than two. Not entirely a big issue given the Dreamliner windows are sizable.
The business amenity kits are developed through Qantas Curates, showcasing 16 unique designs by Australian artists. This time I added a vibrant botanical-inspired amenity bag by Melbourne couple Bonnie and Neil to my collection. On one hand, I loved the old Jack Spade amenity kits, but on the other hand, I'm glad Qantas is supporting local artists in this endeavour. A range of ASPAR travel essentials such as hand cream and lip balm are included in the kit.
Following the meal service, I requested the turndown service. While waiting for my bed to be set up, I changed into my Qantas pyjamas. I experienced quite a lengthy wait for the lavatory even though there were three in the business cabin. As there are no lavatories in the premium economy cabin, I noticed some passengers crossing over to our cabin. On a positive note, my flat bed was great. Thanks to the generous bed length measuring 203 cm, coupled with the premium-feel mattress and duvet, I slept uninterrupted for about 4 hours, up until it was time for breakfast. The footwell is also more comfortable than many other products featuring a tapering footrest.
The latest edition of the food and drinks menu features the aerial vista of the Bay of Fires conservation area in Tasmania. The onboard menu was developed by Neil Perry and offers a choice of two starters, four main dishes, plus a modest dessert and snack selection. Although meals were generally served right after take-off, the crew are happy to personalise your dining experience based on your request. The wine menu showcases premium beverages hand-picked by Qantas Rockpool sommeliers from Australian and New Zealand producers as well as champagne. During this flight, I enjoyed a glass of Duval-Leroy brut champagne.
For dinner, I chose to have the duck salad followed by beef ragu tagliatelle. The concept and flavours of the duck salad were spot on, but I found the vermicelli noodles too raw to my liking. The bread roll was also served cold, but that was likely due to the delay of the meal service caused by turbulence. However, the beef ragu pasta dish was very nice. To conclude my meal, I ordered a cup of Dilmah Earl Grey tea and the caramelised white chocolate mousse. Topped with a delicious layer of almond crunch, the dessert was sensational.
The breakfast was rather underwhelming. A breakfast card was collected at the beginning of the flight similar to a hotel room service card. Available on the list were light items such as a mini egg and bacon roll, a muffin, a fruit bowl, muesli and juice. Since I had been looking forward to having a proper breakfast with an omelette, pancakes or french toast, the options available were disappointing. Thankfully, the aircraft is equipped with an espresso machine, so I was able to order a flat white to kick start my day.
I've had mixed experiences with Qantas crew in the past, but this service was actually very pleasant. The cabin crew were enthusiastic and down-to-earth. They even showed me how to prepare a pasta dish in the galley while I was waiting for an available lavatory. The service manager also made the effort to interact with every passenger, introducing herself at the beginning of the flight and thanking each passenger before landing.
It was the first day of spring and I enjoyed this mesmerising view from my seat during our descent into Sydney. We touched down slightly ahead of schedule despite it being a popular time for international arrivals at Sydney Airport. Unfortunately, we did not receive an express path card from this service, which would have been useful to avoid the immigration queue at arrivals.
The Qantas 787 Dreamliner offers a competitive business class product. Although the business suites do not have extravagant features such as sliding doors or the option for a double bed, there are many other great features worth mentioning. I appreciated that all seats are forward-facing and accessible from the aisle. The seat comfort, bed dimensions and inflight entertainment are also fantastic. In fact, I'd rate the overall hard product above the reverse herringbone product operated by Cathay Pacific on the same route. However, a major deficiency is the lack of Wi-Fi, and I certainly hope this will be rectified in the near future. I felt that the onboard catering could be improved a little, but the cabin service exceeded my expectations. I give this flight five stars and I look forward to flying this aircraft again, perhaps on an ultra-long service. Lastly, I consider the oneworld-affiliated lounges in Hong Kong some of the best in the region, so it is worth arriving at the airport a little early to relax and recharge before your next flight.
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