Qantas A380 Premium Economy Review: it’s still a freaking long way

August 19, 2009 — 13 Comments

I’m writing this from Seattle, where I’m in town for Gnomedex later this week, then a couple of days in San Francisco coming back.

Flew out at of Melbourne Monday morning on the A380. The flight was due to leave at 10:10, and left instead at about 11:45…it’s the Qantas curse, either every single one of their planes have mechanical issues before they take off, or just every Qantas plane I step on to.

I upgraded for the trip to Premium Economy using points. I don’t normally upgrade for the trip across, because it’s the trip back that is more worthwhile; I always pull up worse coming back however I can’t upgrade this trip coming back because of the class of the ticket apparently.

I’d never stepped foot in an A380 before, let alone Premium Economy (I have upgraded previously to Business on a 747), so I was a virgin to the experience.

The biggest difference between Premium Economy and Economy is leg room.. as in there is a pile of it. I could stretch out and not hit the front underneath part of the seat in front. At full recline, the seat in front never gets in the way. I could cross my legs, and not hit the seat in front, nor the guy next to me. I’m not by any stretch tall (6 foot, 184cm), but in Economy the seat in front is often on top of you, here it’s not. If you’re taller again, it might be worth the extra cost or the points upgrade.

I haven’t been able to compare it to economy on the A380 (unfortunately that’s next week) but other positives: kick ass entertainment out of the arm rest, touch screen. Power etc in each seat, although that’s standard in economy. Configuration is 2x3x2; they failed an put me on the window (my preference is always isle) but on the bright side it wasn’t hard to get over the guy next to me.

Food was also excellent…as in possibly the best food I’ve had on a plane (and that includes the last time in business class.) Lunch Chicken dish was nearly (maybe) restaurant quality, and the serving size was remarkably big for a plane. About 9 hours in I ordered a roast beef role (you can order hot food on demand, although the choice is limited), it came out hot, crispy, and very edible. Breakfast was the only let down: standard Qantas fare of Egg something and some sad sausages.

The negatives: the biggest is that premium economy is on the top level at the back of the plane. I’m not sure why scientifically, but in my experience the tail of the plane shakes more in turbulence than the front, least comparing the two on many trips that’s the difference. The shaking was nearly non-stop, to the point that I had maybe 1 hour sleep. My bet is I would have a smoother ride closer to the front in economy. The so-called “self service” food bar was a joke; the first time I tried to use it, it was full of empty drinks, the staff were using it as a rubbish bin. One attendant said he would fill it, and got me a drink while I waited, but when I walked past next, nothing had changed. It’s a marketing gimmick that borders on an outright lie. The inflight entertainment games crashed the outlet when I tried to use them, least it froze and I had to ask for a reset. Notably though, unlike the 747’s which run Windows 3.1, the A380’s run Redhat Linux, and I know that because I watched the reboot on the screen.

Overall would I do it again? Maybe, just for the leg room, but the tail of the plane part I’m not fond of. Ultimately you can’t beat Business Class for comfort, but the Premium Economy does define itself for legroom and food, so I’m reasonably happy to recommend it.

Either way though: it’s still a freaking long way (14 hours in the air). The leg room didn’t make the trip go faster unfortunately. Qantas should invest in and order whatever the next generation super-sonic jet is, and I’d happily pay a lot more to fly in it.