Qantas First Class Sydney to Dallas – Review

Last month I completed my short trip to Hong Kong and Australia by returning home on Qantas’ A380 first class from Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth. I booked this itinerary with the sole purpose of trying out Qantas’ first class product, which I had never flown before. I flew the outbound on Cathay Pacific’s first class. You can read that review here. I reserved the Qantas flight with 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles and $101.81 in taxes, a bargain for a flight that can easily retail for over $10,000. This award can be booked online on Alaska’s website (if you can ever find one). If you ever see one, book it and ask questions later. Alaska won’t let you select seats, so once you book and arrive at the confirmation page just note both Alaska’s and Qantas’ record locator, then go to Qantas’ website with their locator number to pull up your reservation and select your seat.

The seats in the middle have a partition on their left side that rises for privacy after takeoff, which requires those passengers to share the right aisle with the passengers on the right window seats. That means that 9 passengers share the right aisle and only 5 passengers share the left side. This translates into less foot traffic of both passengers and flight attendants, which is important in such a long flight when you’re trying to sleep. For this reason I settled in seat 3A, half way down the aisle to stay as far away as possible from any potential noise and light coming from the galley and the forward lavatories.

I got to the airport about 4 hours before my flight because I wanted to spend as much time as possible in the Qantas first class terminal, which is widely considered to be one of the best first class lounges in the world, and one of the great perks of a first class ticket.

The Qantas first class check in area is a bit hard to find, behind a marble wall with the Qantas logo.

The check in agent greeted me, took my passport and issued me my boarding pass and I was quickly on my way, through security and at the main terminal headed toward the first class lounge.

I still had not had breakfast, so I started with champagne and a cappuccino, then moved on to muesli and their signature croque monsieur with leg ham and cheddar. All food and drinks as well as the service were great. I’m hoping to do a more detailed review in the future.

While I was having breakfast, the front desk attendant came by to ask me if I had received a call as expected the day before to schedule my massage (I had not), so we scheduled a massage for 11:00 a.m.

After the massage I took a shower, then sat down for lunch since I had to try their famous salt and pepper squid. It was crazy good. I also tried the fig ice cream and an espresso. 

Our flight was running somewhat late. I could see it from the window.

Since they make boarding announcements at the lounge, I just sat back and enjoyed the great plane spotting view.

When it was time to board the agent made an announcement and I headed for the gate, which had already started boarding by the time I got there.

Once I boarded I was greeted by the crew and shown to my seat.

The first class cabin was completely full for this flight. My flight attendant Lynne came by at that point to say hello and introduce herself and ask me if I wanted some pre-departure champagne, which, duh…

Qantas was serving Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006, which retails in the mid $150’s per bottle. It was served with olives and almonds on a small tray directly in front of the seat.

I spent a few moments getting familiar with the suite features and the various storage compartments, using them to store some of the things I would need during the flight.

There were two main storage compartments, one of which contained the headphones, and below them was a cut out on the floor which I used to store my shoes during the flight.

There are also a couple of USB plugs and a regular power port (Australia converter required) near the floor under the small tray table.

Next to the seat there is a small tablet that controls most of the features, such as blinds, lighting, seat settings, massage features, etc. The tablet can be removed, but I just found it easier to use in its place of storage. The headphones plug is located on the casing, and there is a hook next to it so they can be hanged for easy reach during the flight.

After boarding was completed the captain addressed the passengers on the PA and apologized for the delayed departure (about 40 minutes late), but said they would try to make up time in the air. He announced a flight time of approximately 14 hours and 50 minutes. At that point I settled in, put on my seatbelt, which has a shoulder strap in addition to the lap belt, and fired up the tail camera feed.

After pushback we had a relatively quick taxi and lined up on the runway for takeoff. Sydney was experiencing 22-24 mph winds that day, so I was expecting a bumpy takeoff, but one of the things I love about the A-380 is the smooth and quiet ride, so we barely had any bumps on our climb, even with the wind gusts. The waves on the shore gave an appreciation for how gusty it was.

The seat must face forward for take off and landing, but after takeoff it swivels to an angled position for cruising altitude, as it is designed to be used during the flight to face the TV, tray table, bed mode, etc.

Once we cleared the cloud cover and the seatbelt sign was turned off, I unpacked my pajamas and went to the lavatory to change.

The pajamas were Martin Grant (I felt like cracking a joke to the crew that they had given me someone else’s pajamas), and were very comfortable and kept me at just the right body temperature during the flight. My unscientific general rule of thumb is, if I’m not thinking about the pajamas while I’m wearing them during the flight, then they are great.

There are two lavs up front, although I only used the one on my side of the plane, so I don’t know if they are identical. My lav was small, but it had one of my favorite features, a window, which somehow makes a small lav feel less claustrophobic. It also featured Aspar products. I used the hangers on the door to hang my clothes and handed them to Lynne on the way out so she could store them during the flight.

Once back at my seat, Lynne came by and presented me with the flight menu before they started serving lunch.

For starter I had another glass of champagne and Lynne served the caviar tartlet and the spicy lamb finger. Both were good and the lamb had the perfect kick to it.  Lynne then set the table for me. The tray table folds out and expands, which allows for you to have an extra person seating across from you on the foot cubby/ottoman if you want to have dinner with a travel companion.

I then ordered the tomato soup, which was tasty.

As the main course I chose the seared blue eye. It tasted great and was fresh, although I found it a bit firm for my taste.

I paired the fish with the Oakridge 864 Chardonnay 2013 from Yarra Valley. From reading the description it sounded way too busy for my unrefined taste, but Lynne told me that it was a very good wine and one of her favorites, so I took her suggestion and I really enjoyed it. The bottle actually said 2014, not 2013 as in the menu.

I skipped the traditional dessert and opted for the cheese plate. The asiago was way too rough on my tongue, but I finished them all. I should have tried the panna cotta, but at this point I was stuffed.

After lunch I unpacked my amenity kit.

The male kit was well stocked, with Aspar products, socks, dental kit, floss, ear plugs, a travel size deodorant, and something that was either a miniature bra or an eye mask 🙂

Lynne offered to make my bed at that point, so I grabbed the dental kit and went to freshen up to give her some space to work. After I finished I took the stairs to the upper deck and was pleasantly surprised to find a business class lounge, which is a nice space to stretch your legs and meet up with other passengers.

By the time I returned to my seat my bed had already been made.

I settled in and also plugged my phone to charge on the USB port near the floor.

The bed was ridiculously comfortable, since the crew sets up a soft mattress pad. The pillows and duvet are also soft. It was the most comfortable bedding I’ve ever experienced in the sky.

I browsed through the entertainment system searching for a movie to watch. I was sure I would not be able to sleep so early in the flight. There was a 30-minute recorded loop of recent news, so I started with that. 30 minutes is way too short for a 15-hour flight, but in any case I could never get it to start playing. I also checked out some other features, such as flying health tips, air to ground messaging (obviously at a ridiculously high price), and seat to seat messaging.

I then browsed the movies and shows, which were extensive. I settled for a 45-min show from National Geographic, and then started watching a movie. At that point the bedding got the best of me. For someone who usually has trouble sleeping, I could not get through the first 30 minutes of the movie. I don’t even remember what movie I was watching. So I just turned off the TV, put on music on my headphones and snoozed out. I ended up sleeping for about 7-8 hours. It was the longest I’ve slept on a plane. Seriously, the bedding was that good.

After waking up I actually wanted to go back to sleep. I lounged for a bit and watched a show, and became more alert after the couple of the crew started buzzing by serving a couple of passengers here and there. At that point we were crossing into North America, somewhere over the Mexican coast.

I decided to have breakfast at that point. I started with one of Qantas’ signature Neil Perry cold pressed fruit juices. It contained watermelon, beets, ginger, apple and lemon. It was very refreshing.

Rather than the typical breakfast, I ordered Qantas’ signature steak sandwich with tomato and chili relish. The steak was fantastic, very tasty and easy to bite. I could have done without the tomato base, but I still enjoyed it.

I finished off breakfast with a really good quality espresso.

A couple of hours later we started our descend into Dallas, so about 40 minutes before touchdown I changed out of my pajamas and started getting ready for landing, which required taking the bedding away, storing my things, figuring out the right setting for the electronic blinds, and swiveling my seat back around for the landing approach. The weather was clear and the view out the window was nice and made me miss the two years I lived in Texas.

Due to the seating arrangement it’s not quite comfortable to look out the window, so about 5,000 feet out I switched on my tail camera feed to watch the final approach into DFW.

After a smooth approach and touchdown we made it to the gate area, where the crew bid us farewell and we quickly deplaned for the really long walk toward customs.

Overall impression:

I have read mixed reviews about Qantas food and service. I don’t know whether they are true or not, but I certainly got a great crew on my segment, and the food and service were excellent. What I liked the most about the experience was the bedding, which really caught me by surprise. I had the best sleep I’ve ever had on a plane. Cons: the lavs were relatively small for such a large plane, the news feature of the entertainment system did not work and could be longer, and the cabin overall doesn’t feel as exclusive given the large number of seats (14). Overall I really enjoyed the experience and I’m glad I had the opportunity to fly Qantas first class.

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