Boeing 787/9 Flight QF 9 Dreamliner Perth to London, duration 17 hours.
Departure time 18.45 Monday.
Arrival 05.00 Tuesday UK time.
$1965.80, which included the return Sydney/Perth flights (five hours). Going out, I left home on Sunday afternoon, stayed overnight near Perth with a friend where I had meetings Monday morning and then took the Dreamliner early that evening.
Where was I?
Economy: Seat number 52F, mid-way between the nearest baby and the back of the plane.
42 Business (2-3-2), 28 Premium Economy (2-3-2) and 166 Economy seats (3-3-3).
Flies at 900 kmh/565 mph.
Altitude 40,000 feet/12193 metres.
Although the international flight Economy class checked baggage allowance is 2 pieces up to 23kg for Non-frequent flyer or Bronze, going up to 3 pieces for Platinum customers, the addition of a necessary domestic flight for east coast travellers like myself means luggage was limited to 1 piece up to 23kg. This wasn’t a problem as I was heading towards an English summer and who wants to lug a heavy suitcase around the London underground anyway?
The coincidence of meetings in Perth scheduled to coincide with my annual trip to family overseas plus the good fortune of this route being the most competitive the day I was searching for flights afforded me the exciting prospect of a seat, albeit Economy, on the Dreamliner.
Crew and Service
Little things make a big difference on a long flight. On boarding the plane, even Economy passengers are welcomed with a bottle of water, grey felt purse containing toothpaste, toothbrush and eye mask plus an announcement advertising the 4 non-English language options that flight attendants are happy to converse in. For example, “for Spanish ask for Mario”.
My Gin & Tonic with soy rice crackers pre-dinner snack was served late due to turbulence. I was nodding off by supper time, but Qantas cannot really be held accountable for windy weather conditions.
My hunch that middle aisle seats are the ones most likely to be left unfilled luckily proved right. With an empty seat between me and my neighbour I did not have any sensation of being uncomfortably cramped on the long flight. Fully retractable arm rests meant that we could both make full use of that precious extra space, even able to partly curl up and without cramming the seat pockets with personal items.
The economy seats are perhaps no bigger than the usual but are certainly better designed with several ergonomic improvements.
Fully adjustable headrests extend higher than the backrest level, a good aspect for taller people and the pillow slip will attach if you wish, keeping your pillow in place.
Rather than a fold-down bar there’s a foot net to cradle your legs, but it fits so very snugly into the seat in front that I didn’t discover it until I came across the information video several hours into the flight.
Each seat has an extra upper pocket stowage tray with technology charging points and a grip tight tech desk to lean your iPad against so you don’t need to use your food tray.
The seat lights have two modes, a standard reading beam from above or a more ambient mood light above the food tray which does not disturb neighbours. After the evening meal, cabin crew dimmed the main lights to night setting and it was pretty relaxing.
Instead of physical shades the windows (25% larger than those on your average long-haul plane) are designed to block out light whilst still being seen through, controllable by a neat dimmer switch under the window. These can also be operated or locked by cabin staff so reducing the need to disturb sleeping passengers.
With a lighter carbon-fibre body, everything on board the Dreamliner has been pared down for weight reduction (for example 11% lighter tableware), making the plane more efficient to the tune of 535,000kg of fuel less per year. Cabin crew proudly told me this equates to the weight of 3 blue whales or 90 African elephants or the same effect as taking 695 small cars off the road per year.
The biggest comfort difference for me on this aircraft is the advanced technology air conditioning, HEPA (high efficiency particular air filtration). Air from outside is circulated through the cabin throughout the flight regulating the temperature and containing more oxygen thus reducing effects of altitude and jet lag. It’s healthier, as you aren’t sharing each other’s bacteria and the higher humidity rate makes you feel less dehydrated. Basically, your body thinks it is at 5000, not 40,000 feet.
Food and entertainment
Mentally blanking out the passenger behind who enthusiastically thumped his screen control at regular intervals, I spent the long haul catching up on movies and audio podcasts. Over supper I watched The Death of Stalin, laughing out loud into my somewhat stodgy but tasty cheese ravioli with mushroom cream sauce which had gone cold.
The Cabin crew also told me that this flight deliberately dishes up extra carbohydrates to make us fall asleep.
One sleeping pill, mango and passionfruit pannacotta and half bottle of Annie’s Lane Shiraz later I certainly was. I’ve never taken sleeping medication before but knowing I wouldn’t have to be stumbling around Hong Kong or Dubai airports at 3am gave me the confidence to give it a try.
I think I slept through a snack or two. I could have had ice cream, fresh fruit, streaky bacon and tomato baguette, carrot sticks and hummus, chocolate cookies or cheese and biscuits. Instead I woke up five hours later, had a mint tea with slice of banana bread and watched Black Panther, No Ordinary Sheila, and The Greatest Showman.
Over breakfast of a (not bad) feta and spinach omelette, with horrible (I wish I’d picked the fruit instead) pork and apple sausage, bacon, hash brown and beans I listened to a couple of Osher Gunsberg podcasts and watched Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle BBC TV comedy.
The 12-inch, high-definition screen I found easy to see and control and, being a nosy person, I liked that you can glance at what other people are watching (it helps me decide my viewing).
Throughout the flight I wore my own noise-cancelling headphones and with a very short runway taxi, I barely noticed the take-off, nor to be honest, much noise around me for most of the way. Maybe I was lucky, on this flight there were few small children who understandably can’t keep quiet for 17 hours.
Usually I am a complete plane fidget with swollen ankles and twitchy legs, but the better air quality made all the difference to my comfort levels. Being able to watch films, eat, sleep, watch more films undisturbed is actually in my opinion a real luxury.
* This review of an economy seat on the new direct Perth to London flight, the first non-stop scheduled flight between Australia and Europe, on a Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is by Liz Anelli, an illustrator for books, maps, magazines and websites based in Newcastle, NSW. Prints of her works are available here.
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