QF61, Brisbane-Tokyo Narita
Off to Tokyo and the day started off well from Adelaide with the Qantas self-serve kiosks a breeze to use with the responsive touch screens letting us do all our international boarding cards and baggage tags on the spot. Right on cue, a member of the Qantas staff escorted us upon completion at the kiosk to the service desk where the more formal part of the check in process took place. Easy to follow advice was given on the domestic to international terminal transit in Brisbane. We said cheerio to our bags to meet again in Narita.
Before boarding we headed in to the Adelaide Qantas Club, lounge access is great for any departure time and certainly good if you’re on a red eye flight such as this. As we were granted access by an industry colleague, we were personally welcomed and walked into the room which was a nice touch. The lounge was quite busy considering we were in there before 6am mid-week but the efficient staff were attentive, offering coffee and overall there was a friendly vibe. The usual breakfast staples on offer with fruits, yogurts, cold meats, cheeses, juice and my personal favourite, the self-service toastie machine. The Qantas staff member who met us on arrival soon found me to offer guest lounge passes for our connection in Brisbane and Narita in both directions, as these are generally excluded from industry travel. This was offered as a gesture of goodwill after a recent flight was delayed which caused me to be put on the Emirates 777 to the UK rather than the Qantas A380 service from Melbourne.
On-board for the flight to Brisbane and breakfast came quickly with my partners vegetarian meal request coming out prior to everyone else’s. Not long after we were offered to try the business class breakfasts, and despite already having eaten there was a bit of wriggle room. The business meals were served on proper china and what appeared to be quality ingredients including poached eggs, bacon, spinach, grilled tomato and a banana and coconut muffin. There was also muesli with greek yoghurt and berry puree complimented by Beerenberg condiments. All along the use of our names made you feel like you were at the pointy end whilst holding an economy ticket.
On arrival in Brisbane, the domestic to international shuttle transfer was very easy to do with signs making the process stress free and quicker than expected. Customs was fairly empty too which left time to pop into the Qantas lounge despite our short ninety minute transit time. This overlooked the gate we were leaving from which made timing our stroll downstairs really easy. All the usual perks on hand here albeit slightly better quality in the beverages department for international travel.
Walking onto the refurbished A330, the cabin had an instantly upmarket feel to it. From the new Recaro designed seats to the ultra-responsive large AVOD touch screens with ample entertainment options, it’s a real step up in economy class flying. As on all A330 aircraft, the economy seats are laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration which suits single travellers, couples and families of four with limited middle seats. The Qantas service was attentive again and even the business class chef greeted us and offered a cheese board and top shelf wines to pass the time. Upon arrival, Narita Airport was surprisingly easy to navigate and customs/baggage collection well organised and time friendly.
QF62, Tokyo Narita-Brisbane
On the return journey we had access to the lounge, click to read our review of the Qantas Tokyo Business Lounge. You may transit Narita coming through from Europe on one of our popular JAL business class companion deals in which case its location will not be an issue. Narita is quite a distance from the city, taking approximately ninety minutes via the Narita Express or N’EX.
The class and high standards were pushed to another level in the new A330 business class cabin. We were greeted by the presumed cabin manager who made you feel right at home and nothing was too much or too difficult and they offered interesting insight about the suites, aircraft and all things Qantas. The cabin itself feels quite exclusive with only seven rows of business class suites set up in the 1-2-1 layout. On alternative rows in the middle two seats, there is a privacy screen that means if you’re a single traveller and you’re not keen on the window seats, you can still have your own space and not feel like someone is looking over you. These screens add additional storage space as well, although it's so private if travelling as a couple or with a colleague it's quite hard to talk on the flight.
The entertainment is ready to go from the off, welcome drinks served and breakfast orders taken within the first fifteen minutes or so while the ground staff prepare the A330 for take-off. This all goes by fairly quickly as you soak in the well designed and finished seats which will soon become your bed for the nine hour flight to Brisbane. The mattress can also be attached to your seat from boarding and left right up until you disembark which is a nice touch, especially if you plan on skipping breakfast and sleeping right through. The entertainment screens were quite a bit larger than economy and lost none of their clarity or sharp loading times. The meals were of a high standard and looking around the other people in the area, all presentation and even smells were more like a restaurant than a meal at 38,000ft. Wines were again on offer from South Australia which is widely regarded as having some of the best in the world. Of course the meals themselves were designed by Neil Perry so you know they're going to be good.
The in-sky dining stepped up another level in the pointy end. Rockpool inspired menus offered something for everyone with a crew member introducing herself as the chef to cater for any special requests. The cheeses were a great start to whet the appetite and well matched with the red wines on board [Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon at the time]. I opted for the Teriyaki beef and shallot skewers with steamed rise, asparagus and mustard. The taste matched the presentation, gorgeous. The salad in a balsamic dressing seemed to be delivered straight from the garden and was a nice light finish to the main meals. The baked yuzu and ginger cheesecake with orange marmalade finished over an exemplary offering of dining. Breakfast orders that were taken earlier during the flight were a welcome flavour after waking up from a 3-4 hour sleep. My sweet tooth went into default mode with the choice of Ricotta and orange pancakes with spiced apples and vanilla yoghurt which was just the right amount and well presented.
The Vantage XL seat Qantas have utilised is designed by Thompson Aero seating in collaboration with Marc Newson and is an upgraded version of the Vantage seat used in SWISS business class as well as on a number of other carriers including Delta, Air Brussels and on Finnair's retrofitted A330 and A340 aircraft. This seat can slide down into almost any position you desire until fully flat with the feet sliding into the cubby hole from the seat in front, which acts as the work station area of that seat in an alternating fashion. Unless you have especially large feet there is no feeling of claustrophobia and plenty of room to move. There is ample storage with three separate spaces to store personal items. There is a LED reading light that can shine at two levels for any work you might need to do or filling out incoming passenger cards.
Guests are supplied with his and her amenity kits from Jack and Kate Spade. Both come with the popular pyjamas from Peter Morrissey, eye mask, socks, toothbrush kit, lip balm and moisturiser. There is even a little mirror if you want to make sure you’re arriving looking fresh and don’t want to wait for the lavatory. The only minor things I could criticise would be that the mattress could be slightly more plush although that is a trade off with the ability to have it on your seat from start to finish. The lack of mood lighting in an otherwise well-appointed cabin would be the only other thing to improve on what is the best business class product I’ve flown to date.