With a few weeks available for a trip away from an ever chillier Northern Ireland, physically and Brexitly, my twitchy booking fingers considered all kinds of warm locations and landed on the continent that is suffering terrifyingly-high temperatures this winter/summer, Australia.
I wanted this trip to be about all the bits of Oz I had yet to see, definitely Perth, Alice Springs, Darwin, Uluru and Adelaide. Shuttling via Melbourne and Sydney made connections between those two easier, so I threw both into the itinerary!
There’s been a lot of reading blogs and travel reviews of this Qantas flight, QF10, which will take me into Perth, as it’s the third-longest flight in the world and was launched by Qantas in 2018 to replace a much longer stopover flight from London to Dubai to Melbourne. Also, it’s a Dreamliner, alleged to reduce jetlag using innovative in-flight trickery (less recycled air, more oxygen, increased humidity) on this 17 hour trip.
First things first, check-in. To reduce my own travel stress, I came to London from Belfast the night before, picking up a perfectly comfortable bed for the night at the Premier Inn at Heathrow Terminal 4 for about 35 pounds. After a short commute to Terminal 3, where Qantas is based, I found myself the only person in the queue, about 3 hours before flight time.
I am flying economy on this flight, as both the Premium and Business cabins seemed extraordinarily expensive on this trip, even compared with other providers on the same route (albeit with a stopover in SE Asia). A quick check of the cost of Premium Economy on the return flight was $3500 AUD one way (just a touch under GBP2,000).
Still, I chanced my arm at check-in that a paid-for upgrade to PE might be available. “Usually, upgrades can be bought”, said the gate agent, “except for the direct flight to Perth, as it’s usually 100% sold out before the day of the flight”. So I guessed my dream of a row of three seats to myself in economy would be off. Sigh.
I picked up a bottle of gin in duty free to see me through my 5 weeks in Australia and hotfooted it to the lounge area in Terminal 3. Nothing fancy (certainly no access to the Qantas lounge on my shonky bronze membership card), but still a bolt hole away from the madding crowd was available using my Priority Pass (still great value!). There’s a review of that experience over here.
Qantas operates a pre-screening area at the gate, to ensure that all the passports and passes are in order and we were held in that area for about 20 minutes before the flight was boarded in the usual business-premium-economy by row order.
Both of the glamorous classes looked pretty good, but I was also fairly impressed by the quality of economy. Laid out in 3-3-3 formation, I had chosen an aisle in the centre 3 to maximise my ability to walk around and use the facilities on such a long flight.
Every seat had a pretty decent pillow, a comfy blanket, over-ear headphones and an amenity pack (eye-mask, toothbrush & paste, ear plugs).
I was in row 49, about halfway through the economy cabin.
I was surprised at how comfortable the seat was – there was decent lumbar support and a reasonable width and pitch. In fact, because there is a ‘foot net’ (a special sort of net bag into which you slip your feet to support them under the seat in front of you), it felt more spacious than almost any economy seat I’ve used (possibly with the exception of Latam).
The screen was about 10 inches and there was a small flip-down tray to carry my iPad. As my iPad is one of the bigger models, it did fall off the tray when the person in front put her seat back pretty firmly. So I stopped using that
There was a reasonable selection of TV, Movies and Audio – really, better than that, a really good and updated list. My neighbouring passenger really wanted to watch The Favourite, but as at the time of writing, that remains in cinemas so the fact it wasn’t on the watch-list was not a surprise.
Once the seats were reclined when passengers wanted to rest, space did get pretty tight for using the screen or the iPad tray, but was fine as long as YOU also wanted to recline your seat.
So to the important stuff – FOOD! The initial service was a pretty good selection of wines or spirits or soft drinks with a snack pack.
Mains included a chicken salad, penne or beef stew, served with wine and a dessert of rhubarb and ginger tart.
This was pretty filling and the veggies were actually delicious with this.
Some snacks came around in the middle of the 16 hour flight – this ice lolly was lovely, as was the fresh fruit and a small calzone pizza.
About 3 hours before landing, a Wake Up drink of apple and ginger was served to startle the taste buds! I hadn’t slept more than 30 minutes in total as – in the aisle seat – I couldn’t move around to lean against something, like a window seat would offer. Might look at that for the return journey. In economy, your legs do get sore whatever position you find yourself in.
Breakfast was served around 2.5 hours before landing. While the sausage wasn’t amazing quality, the rest of breakfast was delicious.
Upon arrival in Perth, the wait at customs/immigration was no more than 10 minutes max, and my bag was already going around the carousel. It took no more than a further 5 minutes for an Uber to appear and 10 minutes to get into the centre of Perth.
And so to the question of jetlag – does the Dreamliner live up to the hype of reducing jetlag? The answer is YES!
Despite the fact I got almost no sleep on board, there were no red eyes or scratchiness that you’d normally associate with a long-haul flight. I did have a short nap when I reached my hotel and then got 6 hours sleep on my first night. Again, despite the fact that I was up around 4am on the first full day in Perth, I had a great day and felt completely in the zone with no residual tiredness. I followed Qantas’ advice to do some light exercise, doing a low-stress 5k jog along the waterfront and getting in lots of walking during the day. As I suffer from pretty bad jetlag, this made a huge difference to the quality of my holiday. The only thing that would be better would be if I’d flown business!!