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Qantas’ A380 Premium Economy: *Almost* Perfect

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This morning, I wrapped up a trip to Thailand with my family. This was a great time to rest, recharge, spend time with family, and fly six different airlines. Okay, maybe the latter point only applies to very specific people, but I am a very specific people.

We stayed in Khao Lak, an hour away from Phuket Airport. I’ll write a bit about it during my full trip report (not too much, as my focus was to recharge, and not to review the hotel), though I wanted to write about a flight I took on my return journey. Specifically, I sought out Qantas’ A380 premium economy from Singapore to London. I booked this itinerary originating from Phuket, where Qantas has some good deals – for me, this involved a night and a full day in Singapore, before I went to catch my flight from Singapore that evening. The Phuket to Singapore flight was operated by Jetstar Asia, which I’ll write more about during the full review.

So how was Qantas? Very, very good actually…almost perfect, at least in premium economy class. I’ll write a full review in the coming days, though wanted to write a separate post sharing my first impressions.

Qantas’ Almost Perfect A380 Premium Economy Seat

Qantas introduced a new premium economy class product in 2017, and more recently refurbished all of their A380s with this premium economy class product. The premium economy cabin on the A380 is located at the back of the upper deck, in a 2-3-2 configuration.

a plane with seats and people in the background
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Seat

This naturally already puts the seat at an advantage, as all of the window seats feature storage bins (I was under the impression that row 40 wouldn’t feature one, though it did – rows 38 and 39 don’t, however).

a seat in a plane
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Seats 40H and 40K

Even if you’re seated in rows 38 and 39, or on the 787, there’s still a very handy storage nook in front of the seat that you can use (I’ve pinched the below photo from Points Hacks – I can’t believe I forgot to take a photo of it).

a hand holding a keyboard
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Storage Nook (credit: Points Hacks)

Recline was very, very generous, and the seat pan also shifted forwards in a “cradle” effect. I was able to sleep very well in this seat. The seat doesn’t feature a fold-up leg rest, though the fold-down netted calf rest is so substantial that it effectively replaces a fold-up leg rest.

a seat in an airplanea person holding a brown leather arm rest
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Recline and Netted Calf Rest

Qantas also has two dedicated lavatories for premium economy passengers on their A380s.

I’ve heard complaints in the past that legroom feels tight in this configuration, so was keen to try it out myself. There’s 38″ of seat pitch, fairly standard for premium economy, though the issue is the thickness of the seatback, which cuts into legroom.

Okay, I’m 5’8″, so I’m not the best judge. However, I really didn’t find the legroom to be too bad, and in fact would’ve found the calf rest counterintuitive if far more legroom was offered. I noticed that getting in and out of the seat (to the bathroom) was a tighter squeeze than usual, though felt like I would’ve had to have been significantly taller (>6″) to find the seat uncomfortable. Sure, 39″ or 40″ wouldn’t have been anything to complain about, but I personally don’t think there was an unreasonable amount of legroom offered.

a person's legs in camouflage pantsa group of people sitting in an airplane
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Legroom

So what can I fault? There’s only one 110V port to be shared between two seats. C’mon Qantas, I can’t think of another airline that doesn’t provide at least one 110V power port per premium economy passenger on longhaul flights, especially for a seat product introduced in 2017. If two business travelers were seated next to each other, they’d have to share the power port if they both wanted to use their laptops.

a close up of a power outlet
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Shared 110V Power Port

On the plus side, there are two USB-A ports (there isn’t any USB-C charging, though I can let that slide, given that this seat was designed seven years ago).

So yeah, this seat is still really good, but it could’ve scored full marks from me…but it won’t.

Qantas’ Perfect Catering (I Can’t Fault This)

I haven’t flown Singapore Airlines’ premium economy on a longhaul flight, where I’ve heard they offer very competitive catering. However, out of the airlines I’ve flown, Qantas hands down has the best food and beverages in premium economy.

Their actual meal services are good, and the meals are well thought-out. For the first meal service, I had Qantas’ plant-based dish, which was braised tofu and eggplant with three-cup sauce, fried rice and pak choy. It was delicious – the tofu was packed with flavour, and the rice was good as well. Of course it came with a flavourful pesto sald appetiser, a dessert, and a bunch of Australian goodies to boot (the only thing that didn’t fit was the packaged block of cheddar cheese – is that an Aussie thing?).

a tray with food and drinks on it
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Meal – Plant-Based Dining

You can even get two smaller dishes on-demand between meal services. I know on Cathay Pacific you’re able to get burgers or pizza wraps nowadays (this wasn’t yet available on my flight last year), though those don’t beat the prawn noodles that Qantas offered on this flight (advertised as pad thai – it wasn’t pad thai, though was very delicious). I also liked the portion size, since I’m sure I could’ve ordered another one if I wanted to.

a plate of food with shrimp on it
Qantas A380 Premium Economy On-Demand Snack – Prawn “Pad Thai”

There are also a selection of Aussie goodies, such as Tim Tams and Toblerones, that are available in bulk from a walk-up bar behind the premium economy cabin.

a tray of apples and a pitcher of candy
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Walk-Up Bar

There’s also an exciting alcoholic drinks selection, including Qantas’ Sky Spritz (served from a can, though very tasty), and a large selection of Australian wines, including the De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon dessert wine I sampled. The friendly crew were also constantly seeing whether anybody wanted top-ups, or another glass of wine.

The non-alcoholic selection was a little less exciting, though the coffee they had was served out of a cafetière. I can’t imagine that costs much, though it makes such a big difference from instant coffee (and cafetière coffee is available in economy as well).

a cup of coffee and two glasses of liquid on a tray
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Beverages

Qantas’ Not-Perfect A380 Entertainment and WiFi

Qantas’ A380 entertainment system is good, and features a good range of movies and an entire season of TV shows.

a screen shot of a television
Qantas’ A380 Entertainment System

The airshow is also interactive, and features a tail camera. We flew entirely in darkness so there wasn’t much to see, though it’s nice to have the feature nonetheless.

a screen on a plane
Qantas A380 Tail Camera

Here’s my biggest gripe – on the long 20+ hour hop from Sydney to Singapore to London, there’s no WiFi whatsoever on board. Qantas’ justification is that the quality of currently available onboard WiFi isn’t good enough, at least compared to the domestic high-speed WiFi that they offer, and they’d have to rip out current antennae and install new ones if they were to install free high-speed onboard WiFi on an international scale. They are planning to install free high-speed WiFi on all of their planes (this was announced in 2019), though this won’t come until 2025 at the absolute earliest, and will likely take longer to be implemented on a fleetwide scale.

Well, not-great WiFi is still better than no WiFi – I knew there wouldn’t be WiFi coming in, so pre-loaded work on my laptop.

Qantas’ Almost Perfect Premium Economy Amenities

I’m going with the almost-perfect theme here, though I didn’t actually mind this bit that much – in other words, I’d probably still give it full marks if we were scorecarding (we aren’t).

The pillow was plush and the blanket was great as well. The pillow was even designed so it could be latched onto the headrest (pictured below).

a pillow on a seat a black pillow on a tray
Qantas A380 Premium Economy Pillow and Blanket

The amenity kit was less great, and felt quite cheap with lacklustre contents, compared to other premium economy products I’ve flown. However, having any amenity kit in premium economy is a plus, and I don’t consider this a gripe at all (though it is an easy opportunity to provide a more premium product).

a table with a bag and a bottle of liquid on it
Qantas’ A380 Premium Economy Amenity Kit

My Impressions: Qantas’ A380 Premium Economy

Qantas’ A380 has an incredibly comfortable seat (with perhaps an inch too few of legroom), possibly the world’s best catering in premium economy, good amenities, and a good entertainment system. These are the makings of the world’s best premium economy product. But I’m hesitant to give them that crown, given their lack of WiFi and power ports.

Having an extra power port between seats seems like an oversight, and it’s not easily fixable. However, Qantas does have plans to roll out fleetwide free high-speed WiFi in the next few years. I reckon that when we get there, Qantas’ premium economy will be a force to be reckoned with, especially on this Kangaroo Route fifth-freedom leg between Singapore and London.

Once again, I’ll have a full review to come in the coming weeks, where you’ll be able to follow along with the flight from start to finish.

Have you flown Qantas’ A380 premium economy before?

1 comment

  1. Row 38 and 39 is where the door plug is. This is why there are no storage bins there.

    People should be told about this perhaps?.

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