Friday, November 05, 2010

Seat Review - Qantas Premium Economy (round 2)

After my recent Tokyo to Sydney flight on Qantas Premium Economy I am now able to provide my judgement / kiss of death for the best premium economy seat flying Australia to Europe via Asia. Qantas is the clearly better product and leads similar offerings from Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. The question is not - does Qantas have the best Premium Economy is the sky (it does). The question - is it worth twice the cost of Economy. Answer - depends on who's paying. The BOOT rating for Qantas International Premium Economy is 4.5 stars out of 6 or "Great Seat". Here is the detailed review

Getting on Board

Score 1.0

Qantas has an advantage over other carriers in all instances of boarding as my top tier Platinum status grants me access to their first class lounges regardless of the class I am flying. Something that I miss on VS (though gain on BA). This advantage was particularly acute in Tokyo as I knew to head for the JAL first class Sokura lounge rather than take the monorail to the less impressive and more crowded Qantas Tokyo Business Class lounge. A general tip for you when flying Qantas in Tokyo is take advantage of the JAL lounge and avoid the Qantas one (ditto for CX lounge in HK). Getting on Board itself was a mixed experience. The dual queue set up (one for premium passengers and one for economy) fell apart resulting a huge crowd of pushers and shovers. Once on board the Premium Economy seats are very nicely located just to the left of the middle door. This speeds the boarding process (and the exit process- see BOOT Factor)

The Seat

Score 1.0

Qantas clearly have the largest of the Premium Economy seats. Equally it is clear that have spent a lot of time looking at and avoiding the mistakes make by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
The entertainment control handset is placed on the lower left of the seat next to the foot rest and a long way away from your legs. Means that there is no chance of accidently bumping and pausing or exiting a movie (a curse that BA suffers from). The area under the seat in front is free from obstruction providing more room to stretch out (both BA and VS had blockages). The pitch is deeper meaning that the seat pocket in front does not jam into your knees (a VS problem). The pillow is a decent size providing for more comfort when trying to doze/sleep (the BA pillow is too small). In addition there are other touches that were appreciated. The blankets used are the Qantas Business Class blankets - with a recent improvement. The early version of this blanket could be quite scratchy or itchy. Like an un-softened woollen jumper. The new version has a sheet lining on one side to increase comfort. The only downside is the footrest. For a guy of my height (185cm) it is useless. In only comes out a little way. Fully extended it does not even touch my calves. Might as well not be there.

The Service

Score 0.5

Qantas service is unfortunately hit or miss depending on the mood of the crew. On this flight service was fine and attentive. Nothing to complain about, nothing to sing about.

The Food

Score 0.5

An unfortunate gap in my review. In accordance with my tips for flying economy - which you can extend to flying Premium Economy - I ate my meals on the ground. A very enjoyable meal in the JAL lounge. I did not eat in the air. That said, I will give them a score of 0.5 because there is no way the QF food could be as bland as BA.

The Entertainment

Score 1.0

I am long term critic of the QF entertainment system. Thankfully from the peak of those criticisms in 2008, they have made improvements. As against their competition in this class (BA and VS) are providing noise cancellation headsets (whereas BA and VS don't). This makes a big difference in the enjoyment of the movie and in the general noise in the cabin. As per the seat comments above, the location of the controls is another plus. A further step up against VS is that QF has placed the headphone jack in an out of the way location. The VS jack jammed into my left thigh causing discomfort. The selection is good - and finally you are able to start movies before take off. Only downside is (like VS) the screen is too reflecting - especially during the well lit meal times. Makes watching a movie with lots of dark or night time scenes (such as Predators) very difficult.

The BOOT factor

Score 0.5

I like the proximity of the seat to the exit. I am a sprinter when it comes to getting of a long-haul flight. Especially at an airport like Sydney where dozens of large long haul aircraft land the second curfew is lifted (6am) there are huge advantages in getting off the plane, through immigration and into a taxi as soon as possible. The first step in that sprint is getting of the plane. The Premium Economy is in a great spot for getting off the plane fast. I also like the size of the cabin. On the plane I flew the Premium Economy seating area was just two rows of 2 x4x2. Means each seat is only one step from the aisle and there are only 16 people in the cabin. Very quiet, very relaxed, even with children.

Final Score

4.5 – Great Seat

Details and scoring system for airline seat reviews

Note this is the second review of Qantas Premium Economy on the BOOT – but my first. My wife did the first one.


Banii said...

Great review! After your review I will try it too! ( Until now I flied just with British Airways).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, indeed helpful, I’m just weighing up spending the extra 2k over a eco seat for my mum on a MEL-LAX flight... I’m pretty sure I'll do it now after reading your words.
long haul economy can be a nightmare for the oldies, and a little (i say a "little") personal service and attentiveness goes a long way to making a bearable flight.
In my own premium economy experience I've flown Air NZ from Shanghai to Auckland return with my wife and three young kids... very VERY good and worth the additional coin. Again thanks. Nigel.

Tim Hughes said...

@Anon/Nigel - your reasoning makes sense. I would love to hear what your mum thinks of the experience. In particular whether she was made to feel special/welcome/important.