Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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Airline: Qantas Airways
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Flight #: QF94
Route: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Melbourne Airport (MEL)
Date: June 4, 2022
Duration: 15hr 30min
Cabin and Layout: Business class, 44 seats, 1-2-1 configuration
Miles Used: 80,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles and $37.80 in taxes and fees
Typical Retail Cost: $5,000 per person one-way
One of the best ways to get from the U.S. to Australia is by flying the Australian flag carrier Qantas.
Originating from the East Coast of the U.S. makes for a grueling adventure to the Land Down Under, so I decided to break it up with a 1-night stay in Los Angeles, which is totally the way to go if you don’t want to run yourself ragged. I started my travels on a one-way flight from Boston to Los Angeles on American’s A321T in business class, then overnighted in Los Angeles at the SLS Beverly Hills. While the extra night adds more time to the journey, you aren’t flying on back-to-back planes.
The next day I flew from Los Angeles to Melbourne, connecting onward to a domestic flight to Sydney — a visit that coincided with the famous Vivid Sydney light festival. I was very excited to return to what’s probably my favorite international country.
I’ll review with you how I booked my Los Angeles to Melbourne business class ticket and what I thought of the airport and flight experience.
There’s no doubt that getting to Australia on points is a monumentally difficult task. Award availability using miles is extremely hard to find, as these flights are some of the longest in the world and business class is strongly desired, due to the extra comfort. That said, if you do enough award searches, you can every so often find seats.
To book this flight, you’ll want to consider using The Platinum Card® from American Express as it earns 5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline (if under the $500,000 capped 5x earning per year). In the case of an award ticket, you’d earn based on the taxes and fees you pay to the airline. Alternatively, you can use a co-branded card from American Airlines or the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card, depending on which airline you purchase from, though you won’t earn as many miles.
Hot Tip: American Airlines allows up to 4 segments on an international itinerary, and most travelers tend to use 2 to get to a “gateway” city in the U.S., and then 2 for the long international flight and onward connection to the final destination. For me, I only needed to use 3 of these 4 allowed segments since I was fortunate enough to find a nonstop flight across the country from where I planned to originate travel.
Qantas departs from the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, and, if you know LAX, you know this is the nicest of all the terminals there. I arrived via Uber from the Beverly Hills area where I was staying, and it was approximately $30 to get to the airport.
Inside, I quickly found the Qantas check-in desks. Signage is in abundance at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (abbreviated TBIT), so once you get inside, just locate your airline on the screens and you’ll see which counter to visit.
The Qantas counter was at the far end of the check-in areas, and there were 3 queues set up: 1 for economy class, 1 for premium economy and Qantas Club members, and a third lane for business class and all elite tiers. As I was flying business class (and as a Oneworld Emerald), I used the priority check-in lane and was immediately helped.
The Qantas agent promptly checked me in and also informed me of some mandatory documentation to fill out in regards to my vaccination status. The survey was lengthy and took about 20 minutes to fill out, but it would be required upon entry to Australia (for what it’s worth, it was never checked upon entry), but other than that, my details were all correct and I was quickly given boarding passes and told where the security lines were.
Qantas has greatly reduced its capacities following the COVID-19 pandemic, so check-in did not have any long lines, but relating to previous experience, I have seen lengthy queues when larger planes operate, so plan on arriving early.
If you’re traveling in business class with Qantas out of Los Angeles (LAX), you can enter the Oneworld Los Angeles Business Class Lounge, used by British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas. Normally, I would also be eligible to use the Qantas Los Angeles International First Lounge as a Oneworld Emerald, but it had been closed for over 2 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and just recently reopened in August 2022.
The lounge is quite large, and a variety of seating options exist. There are several features:
I got a little work done and was lucky enough to grab a table near an outlet to charge my electronic devices.
Off the bat, I realized the food selection was very disappointing. While there were a few cold items that looked appealing, there simply wasn’t a great variety. Of the hot dishes, all of them were heavy on starch and there were 2 kinds of pasta offered, one of which was frozen solid, as if it had never been thawed out before being placed in the warming pan.
I had a few bites of food, but decided to forgo eating a heavy meal and instead dine inflight.
Boarding this Boeing 787 is quite efficient. There were 2 lines, one for business customers and Oneworld elites and another queue for all economy passengers. With only 2 lines, it’s very obvious where you should stand.
Without much drama, the flight was boarded on time, though there was a slight backlog of passengers on the jet bridge due to some Customs and Border Protection formalities.
There are 44 Business Class seats on this plane, divided into 2 sections — a forward-most section and a rear section with the main boarding door and galley separating them. There’s no difference as to which section you sit in.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that the seats are staggered with a large armrest and console. For example, the first row has the console closer to the aisle, creating extra privacy. This continues with every odd-numbered row up front and then even-numbered rows in the rear cabin. If you’re traveling alone, you definitely want to select one of these seats as the seat and bed are closer to the wall of the plane, creating a lot more separation between you and the aisle.
I selected seat 12K for the long journey. This seat is on the right side of the aircraft, is a single seat by the window, and has a console along the aisle for more privacy. This seat is also located in the business class “mini cabin” as there are only 3 rows of business class here.
Each seat features several features:
There are several things to note about the seat itself. Alongside the console is a panel that allows you to adjust the seat position. Interestingly, there is both a take-off mode where the seat is fully upright and also a take-off mode where the seat is partially reclined, but still in a mode compliant for take-off. Beyond that, you can adjust the recline of the seat up to a fully flat bed. There is also a massage mode.
You can also hit a button that turns your suite into a private mode, alerting the flight attendants not to disturb you throughout the flight.
In regards to the bed, I found the footwell to be rather small for such a long flight, and even though I was able to get a full night of rest, it was very difficult to sleep on my side or raise my legs at any point without adjusting the seat. In comparison, Qantas used to use “fully exposed” business class seats where there wasn’t a pocket to stick your feet in and you had ample room to move about and get up from the seat.
When using the bathroom, you were forced to recline the seat upright to be able to put on your shoes, different from other business class seats that can remain fully flat even when you get up.
In the console was a flip-up lid that contained a remote for the inflight entertainment, as well as lighting controls. The seat was definitely well lit — there was an overhead light, a reading light with 2 different seatings as well as mood/night lighting built into the console and compartment where your feet would be situated.
At each seat you’ll find:
Not placed on each seat, and offered separately, was a pair of pajamas, offered in either a small/medium or large/extra-large version. I selected the latter.
In the amenity kit, specially designed for the 100th anniversary of Qantas, there was:
The mattress pad was thin but did cover the length of the seat. Passengers were expected to put this on if they desired. The accompanying blanket was perfectly acceptable, though I would have appreciated more heft to it, especially given the length of the flight. The pillow was full size, but I found when I reclined the seat fully, I needed 2 pillows to stay comfortable. Luckily the seat in front of me was unoccupied, so I could grab an extra pillow without interrupting the flight attendants.
Qantas really shines with the inflight entertainment, and the television screen mounted to each seat was one of the most responsive ones I have used on an airplane. It could be controlled either by touch or by using the remote in the armrest, though I used my finger for all selections as I found that to be the easiest.
There were a number of selections to choose from, starting with current films, dramas, classics, documentaries, and Australian films, which, interestingly, I watched 2 of. There was also a hefty selection of television shows and audiobooks to keep you occupied, as well. At the start of each selection was a short Qantas ad, but I didn’t mind this and the entertainment started quickly each time.
I found there to be enough titles to watch and keep me entertained (especially since I’d be sleeping for a majority of the flight), but your tastes may vary, and there were several films I was considering watching that I had seen before.
Qantas, unfortunately, does not use noise-canceling headphones onboard — a real disappointment for such an expensive product. It uses what can really be described as cheap disposable headphones with noise-reducing qualities, but they are nothing special.
As soon as I got to my seat, I was offered a pre-departure drink of still water, sparkling water, or Champagne. I really appreciate how sparkling water is served, as I’m much more a fan of this than still water.
On flights from the U.S. to Australia, which all depart late in the evening, a “Supper” service is served, which is less than a full dinner. It’s worth noting this because if you’re expecting a full meal, you really won’t be getting one onboard at the start of your flight and may wish to consider eating at the airport, in the lounge, or at home before you depart for the airport.
A supper service consists of:
There were no nuts served with the drinks and no appetizer course.
Here was the menu for the flight:
|Los Angeles to Melbourne Dinner Menu|
Interestingly, I was offered my choice of entrée first as one of the flight attendants came back to thank me for my business as a Oneworld Emerald and that she would be “doing the cooking tonight.” I selected the beef flat iron steak with skordalia, snow peas, and port wine sauce as my entrée and was very appreciative that I got my first pick as I know some of these entrées tend to sell quickly.
While I understand the desire for many passengers to go to sleep, it would be nice if Qantas offered a more substantial meal service for those preferring it.
The beef was very tender, though I think the portion could have been larger. Qantas serves main courses on relatively small plates, and I would have appreciated more food with my meal since the lounge options weren’t exciting.
Here was the breakfast menu:
|Los Angeles to Melbourne Breakfast Menu|
Breakfast was served and lasted for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, and flight attendants monitored the cabin to see when you’d wake up and then offer you your meal from there. Unlike some airlines, Qantas won’t wake everyone up at the same time, which is really great for maximizing sleep.
Hot Tip: Qantas does not allow preordering of entrées, so if you have particular dietary concerns, you’ll want to speak with the crew when you board.
I always find the service on Qantas flights to be well above par, and this flight was no exception.
Qantas has a Customer Service Manager who manages the entire plane and focuses on the business class cabin, and also a Customer Service Supervisor, who reports to the Manager, who is responsible for the economy and premium economy cabins. I find this system works really, really well as there is oversight of both cabins, ensuring the flight attendants are providing an excellent service.
We arrived in Melbourne without any issues and taxied to the gate where I exited and proceeded to customs. U.S. citizens can use an automated entry system upon arrival which I found very efficient, and I was off the plane and past customs within a span of no more than 15 minutes. Citizens of certain countries are required to visit with an officer, so depending on your nationality, you may encounter long lines, especially since the early morning hours are home to many arrivals into Melbourne.
Once I exited security, I walked over to the domestic terminal where I was required to re-clear security for my onward flight to Sydney, however, this was done with no issues and I was in the Qantas Business Lounge within no time.
Hot Tip: Eligible cardholders can also access the American Express Centurion Lounge at Melbourne Airport.
In my opinion, there is no better way to get to Australia than by flying the Australian flag carrier, Qantas. The service onboard is incredibly friendly, and I find the food to be some of the best catering that any airline in the world deploys.
Qantas award space can be incredibly hard to come by, so if you see a seat open, be sure to snag it quickly if you have plans to visit Australia!
The information regarding the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
Yes, you get lounge access on any Qantas business class international or domestic itinerary.
Qantas business class does not include any airport transfers.
Every aircraft that flies long-haul for Qantas features fully flat-bed seats in business class.
If traveling in business class, you can take 1 other additional guest with you inside, so long as they are traveling on a Qantas flight.
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