It might be Christmas, but that's not the reason there's a festival feel on this Qantas flight - it's their first Dreamliner's maiden voyage to Los Angeles. Rollerskate-wearing staff give every passenger Mickey Mouse ears, mobile phone covers courtesy Visit California, LA caps and chocolate, plus they get a chance to win a shopping trip to Los Angeles. The plane gets a water salute before take-off, which is running a little late.
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Melbourne to Los Angeles
13 hours and 10 minutes.
I'm in business class, or the Business Suite as Qantas have named it, seat 6F, close to the front of the plane. We have a 1-2-1 configuration, so the best seats are window where storage and seats are alternated giving those who really want privacy to cocoon themselves away by a window. Seats through the middle are less private while you have a neighbour, but the newly installed privacy divider can be moved up and down to suit. The seat offers a large 46-inch (117 cm) pitch which fully reclines to an 80-inch (203 cm) bed.
The suites on this new aircraft feel sleek and modern, a refurbished version of what's in their A330 models. There are a couple of new features - the aforementioned privacy screen, and the exterior armrests can be moved down for a quick getaway without having to retract your tray table, which conveniently slides away into the side.
Some great features include a water bottle holder, with new bottle of water on take-off, a holder for the headphones, which are excellent, noise-cancelling darlings, plus space for your laptop and magazines or newspapers. There are two lights - one for reading, one for general "oh I've lost my iPhone charger" situations, plus an international electricity socket, and a USB port.
Two pillows and a blanket are provided and within the first hour passengers receive an amenity kit and pyjamas, both specially designed for the new Dreamliner flight. The Oroton kit includes a 10 per cent voucher of Oroton products plus an eye mask, socks, earplugs, ASPAR beauty kit and a toothbrush.
The seats are so comfortable I manage to sleep most of the flight and do not suffer from jet lag when arriving in LA in the morning. Qantas has worked with the Charles Perkins centre at Sydney University to better understand the effects of long-haul flights and lighting - and something seems to be working. You'll notice bigger windows that are dimmable; the cabin air has improved, and perhaps most noticeable of all is just how smooth and quiet the plane is.
Three pieces of checked-in luggage up to 32 kg each in business class.
The entertainment unit is the most modern I've seen on a flight. Easy to manoeuvre, it automatically alerts you to the button for service. It's a huge 16-inch scrollable touchscreen with plenty of movie and TV options.
As to be expected of Qantas, the service is faultless.
For once you can board a flight knowing you're going to get a decent meal and despite them running out of my first selection due to the launch of a new menu (which the cabin manager promptly apologised for). The dinner service starts with signature cocktail of botanical lemon juice with tequila, followed by grilled prawns with Mexican rice as an entree. The main was a curry with ling with turmeric, tamarind, basmati rice and sambal and if I could have fitted in dessert, fellow passengers were in raptures over the vanilla pannacotta. The meals were substantial, and if you were super hungry snacks were available mid-flight.
The little touches like choices of fresh bread from Brasserie Bread in Melbourne, Pepe Saya butter (served soft) are the cherry on top.
The wine selection is also excellent, particularly the Adelaide Hills chardonnay - you are offered tastings of the two whites and reds available.
One More Thing
Look out for the crockery and silver designed from David Caon which has been redesigned to weigh less, therefore saving on fuel. The lighting before breakfast service has been designed to simulate sunrise thus gently waking passengers in the morning, rather than alarming them with harsh white lighting.
To get a decent night's sleep on a flight is such a rare thing, but Qantas seem to have made this possible with their excellent Business Suite. If you're going to be on a plane any longer than 14 hours, this is the way you want to do it.
The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas and Visit California