Qantas Premium Economy

On my recent trip from Sydney to Bangkok I decided to upgrade myself from Economy to Premium Economy using frequent flyer points.

On the Qantas 747 premium economy is a 2-4-2 configuration and you have a couple of more inches of legroom over normal economy class. On my plane there were 32 seats in a curtained off cabin that is situated between business and economy just behind the main galley. The area would have been standard economy seats before premium economy was introduced.

When you board you are offered water, juice or champagne, just as you would in Business Class, but I’m sure that you’re getting cheaper champagne than at the pointy end. I had the champagne and it was OK… I even asked for, and received, a second glass.

After takeoff a bar service was offered before dinner was served. No plastic ‘glasses’ either, real glass!

Dinner was a vast improvement over standard economy, think domestic business class food. No tinfoil plates, you get a china plate and proper cutlery (but still plastic knives). It was just a better experience than a standard economy meal. Dessert was the standard economy class icy-pole.

About an hour before we landed in Bangkok our steward came through the cabin asking is anyone would like a toasted sandwich and drink. I had a rather nice toasted chicken sandwich which certainly filled the spot.

The seats are slightly larger than economy, and I would compare them to an older business class seat or the current domestic business class seat. It was very comfortable and you get a couple of extra inches of width and of legroom so you don’t feel so crammed in.

Everyone gets a in-armrest video display that is larger that the economy screen but smaller than the business screen. It does have a touch screen, but mine wasn’t well calibrated so when I pressed a button the one next to it got selected. I just resorted to using the handset controls.

My only major gripe with things were that when the person in front reclined their seat they hit your screen and knock it out of position. I had a squirmer in the seat in from of me so it became very, very annoying. An extra inch between seats would have fixed the problem.

What was the same as economy?

  • Had to use the economy class toilets
  • Dessert was the icy-pole
  • No after dinner port or muscat etc
  • No menu

What was the same as business?

  • The welcome aboard drink
  • Bar service before the meal
  • Better meal and ‘real’ wine
  • Wine service continued after the meal
  • Noise canceling headphones

This was a day flight, there may be other differences on an overnight flight. I did try to upgrade myself for the return flight but both Business and Premium Economy were full… who said that airlines were doing it tough!

Overall, a good investment in points or cash for longer flights if you can’t justify the price of a business class seat.

The perks of being a frequent flyer…

I probably do around 70 to 80 flights a year. A majority of them are less than an hour and a half. Half a dozen to a dozen will be around 8 to 10 hours, and a couple will be around 15 hours.

Doing that many flights allows you to rack up the frequent flyer points and the status credits, but are they useful? If so, what are the perks?

Free Upgrades

The best perk I’ve had over the past year or so are the free upgrades. I’ve been given a domestic business class upgrade from Perth to Melbourne, Melbourne to Sydney, Canberra to Melbourne and Melbourne to Canberra, but the best one by far was an upgrade to First Class mid last year on a flight from Melbourne to Singapore.

My advice, forget about sleeping in your Qantas PJs. Eat and drink instead! When’s the next time you’ll be in First Class????

Once you fly at the pointy end of the plane, its very hard to sit down the back for a long flight.

Lounge Access

Travel enough on Qantas, around 30 flights a year, and you will be promoted to a Gold Frequent Flyer and given free Qantas Club access. Perks are free food and drink.

However, rack up enough flights to be promoted to a Platinum Frequent Flyer, around 50 or 60 flights a year, and when you travel internationally you get access to the first class lounges where they exist. The new lounges in Melbourne and Syndey are quite swish and have restuarants and day spas. I guess if you are paying unwards of $10,000 for a first class ticket then you should be pampered a little.

It always brings a smile to my face when I have my cheapest available economy ticket and I walk into the first class lounge.

Qantas is also rolling out domestic Business Class lounges in Australia that Platinum FFs can use.

Priority waitlists and upgrades

Another perk is that when you get waitlisted for a flight or an upgrade your place in the queue all depends on what your frequent flyer status is. A platinum frequent flyer will be inserted in the queue above all the gold frequent flyers, who will be above all the silver frequent flyers, who will be above the bronze frequent flyers, who will be above all the rest of the self loading freight.

Priority boarding

Yet another perk is that you don’t have to wait until your row is called to board the plane. If you’re a platinum frequent flyer you can board at anytime. This is certainly nice when you have a couple of carry on bags and you want to ensure that you can store them in a over head locker near your seat.

It always amazes me that people board a plane at the last minute with carry on that’s close to the maximum allowed size and then optimistically open the overhead locker above their seat expecting that there be room for their bag. Board early, get a good locker.

Priority luggage

Even if you are flying in cattle class, your luggage will be treated as if you are up the front of the plane. A platinum frequent flyer’s luggage on an international flight is handled as if you are flying first class. This means that your baggage will usually be in the luggage carousel by the time you’ve cleared immigration.

The meet and greet

The meet and greet happens either just before you take off, or just after. The head trolley dolly, the one that looks after the people at the pointy end, will come through cattle class and personally introduce themselves to the poor platinum frequent flyers who are stuck down the back of the plane. This is a perfect opportunity to get yourself a newspaper, a drink before everyone else, and most importantly one of those inward express cards that allows you to use the short queues at immigration and customs.

Bonus points

The higher you are up on the frequent flyer scale the more points you get per flight. For example, a platinum frequent flyer can get double the points.

The downside

The downside is that you travel so much during the year for work that the last thing you want to do on your holiday is fly somewhere and use all the perks that you’ve accumulated. But nevermind, as soon as you are back from your holiday you be using the perks for your work travel.