Review: Qantas A380 First Class, Sydney – Los Angeles

Must-read Earlier Installments:

About 30 minutes delayed we left the first class lounge to head over to the boarding gate.

Premium boarding for an A380 involves a lot of people.

Things cleared up a bit as we headed down to first class.

I’ve been aboard this bird before, and it’s striking but also one that continues to vex me.

Now, this is one of the toughest awards in the world to get. For most award tickets you don’t need to book a year out. With Qantas you really do. Even then it’s tough to get two first class seats from the US to Australia and vice versa. There’s a trick to booking Qantas first class awards that you should know.

Qantas puts a lot of first class seats in its A380 — 14. That’s a lot of passengers to provide service to in the extensive manner that international first class entails.

At the same time they have only three seats across on the bottom deck of the A380. Most airlines do 4.

You’d expect, then that the seats would be wider and more spacious than other airlines offer, in the way that the Cathay Pacific 777 first class seat is wider and more spacious than other carriers operating the same across (3 vs 4 across are at issue there as well).

Except that the seats are angled so that the front of one seat protrudes into the back of another. The seats are only ‘sort of’ super wide. And they actually wind up creating a dead space as well. So while the seats are gorgeous, and comfortable, they aren’t nearly as generous as you’d think.

Nonetheless, it’s a gorgeous seat indeed.

Seat controls are all electronic.

There’s modest seat storage.

And of course there’s power at the seat.

The first class seat doesn’t just have a lap belt but also a shoulder belt that’s required for takeoff and landing, much like the United Airlines Global First seat.

Another interesting thing about the cabin is that there’s actually overhead bins, something you don’t see often in the best first class products. Removing the first class bins creates an extra feeling of spaciousness, and seats often have their own closets or they’ll just use the seat’s ottoman for storage.

This became an issue inflight as the middle seat passenger one row behind me kept getting up and getting stuff out of the bin above my seat throughout the flight. She would open and close the bin, realize she forgot something, and open and close it again. And I’ll be especially impolite and note that she had really bad gas. That wasn’t great for my sleep.

The day prior to departure the cabin was half empty. The seats in front of and behind me were empty. That doesn’t surprise, since 14 is a lot of first class seats to sell. Ultimately on departure though every seat in cabin went out full. On a Tuesday. Qantas upgrades aggressively but generally only very close to travel.

Once settled into my seat a flight attendant brought around predeparture snacks and beverages.

Pajamas were then distributed along with amenity kits and slippers.

Once we were in the air I got up to change into my pajamas but first had a look upstairs at the lounge area, the dead space that’s rarely used by anyone onboard the A380.

The bathroom features a window and is stocked with amenities, although isn’t as large as onboard some A380 aircraft.

I went back to my seat and started playing around with controls, and especially liked the window shades that remind me of British Airways first class.

By this time we were enroute, and it was nice to see the straight shot across the Pacific to the U.S. That’s the real advantage of this flight. It’s a true first class, without the inconvenience of transiting Asia, and it’s the only one like that.

It was time to order dinner. Here’s the menu from the flight (click to enlarge):

I wasn’t terribly hungry and so I decided to being with the amuse bouche followed by just a few items and forego the tasting menu.

I had had such a good shrimp quesadilla on my Cathay Pacific flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong that I think I was biased towards an inflight quesadilla. The Qantas one turned out a mistake in comparison and I had just a few bites.

After the meal passengers all relaxed in for the long flight.

I did decide to take a few bites of dessert, which I had initially demurred.

Then I asked a flight attendant to make my bed.

I slept a few hours on and off. The seat was perfectly comfortable, but I find the mid-afternoon departures difficult because I’m just not really all that tired.

So I finished off some shows. By the end of the flight I was done with The Newsroom season 2 and also the latest season of The Walking Dead.

Then about 90 minutes prior to landing I got up and ordered breakfast.

I got up and changed back into street clothes while a flight attendant collected the mattress pad and blankets. The captain announced that approach into Los Angeles would be quite rocky, so asked that we return to our seats and belt up early. Our approach took a full half an hour and we were finally on the ground.

Ultimately the Qantas A380 first class is the best way to fly between the US and Australia. It’s not on part with first class on Cathay Pacific or Singapore. The food isn’t as good. The service isn’t as good. There’s no doors on the seat either and towards that end I rate them below Etihad as well, and even ANA and Asiana.

But they compare very favorably to any US airline and I’d rank them ahead of European carriers as well.

Part of the allure I’ll admit is how tough it is to get the seats. When you find Qantas A380 first class award seats, you take them.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. FYI – The formatting is wonky on this one. Tried a couple of different browsers and missing images/weird margins on all of them.

  2. Hey Gary, there may be some formatting issues with this post. Several pictures are missing and the column becomes thin towards the end of the post. I tried with IE, FF & Chrome and got the same results. Thanks!

  3. The F cabin on LAX-SYD and vv are almost always filled last minute as QF allows non-revs with a certain seniority level to fly in F. Kind of sad they don’t release more award space to get SOME KIND of revenue as opposed to giving it out to employees.

  4. Hey Gary how do you know which airlines make the bed for you in F? I fly int’l F once (or twice a year if I’m lucky) and try to sample as many airlines as possible…but I always feel a bit awkward asking for them to make my bed since I don’t know on which airlines that is normal/expected

  5. @Zack the only airline where they haven’t made my bed – though they were at least supposed to in the past – is American. The standard practice in first class is for the flight attendants to put down the bedding.

  6. another helpful review. I’m not impressed CK thru HKG sounds nicer.

    And how do you sit in the seat and look out the window???? my favorite part of flying 🙁

    BTW on my RTW Trip October past, the FA made my bed in AA DFW-HKG 🙂

  7. Have to disagree on the preference for lack of overhead bins in long-haul F. Aircraft seating is about footprint – square footage – not about volume. I’d rather have a physically larger area and bins than a smaller area and a closet. I’m 6’2″ and have never had an issue with widebody overhead bins. And the pax next to you would have been just as annoying digging through their closet.

    Agree fully, however, on the awesome CX F shrimp quesadilla! I have to admit I was surprised by just how good it was.

  8. Gary, it seems that you could have avoided the issue with the middle seat passenger accessing your overhead bin if you selected seats on the A side, as the middle seats do not have direct access to that aisle. Why did you go for the right hand side? If you booked a year out, surely it wasn’t due to lack of open seats.

  9. Gary, fair point. With a suite configuration, we typically just go for two window seats one behind the other. Good to make clear to people, though, that this is a largely preventable situation when flying QF F.

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