Flight review: Qantas’ business class vs premium economy

Qantas A380 Business Class
Qantas A380 Business Class

With the ever-rising cost of flights and the continued improvement of premium economy seating among carriers, the case for turning right is becoming more compelling – but does Qantas’ premium economy make the cut?

Airline: Qantas

Flight: QF1

Aircraft: Airbus Industrie A380-800

Route: Sydney to Singapore

Seating: Business Class

Flight time: 8 hours 5 minutes




Airline: Qantas

Flight: QF6

Aircraft: Boeing 747-400

Route: Singapore to Sydney

Seating: Premium Economy

Flight time: 7 hours 30 minutes


If you’re used to Qantas’ business class then you’d be used to the convenience of priority check-in. You’d also be familiar with the luxury of an extra big baggage allowance – three pieces at 32 kilograms per piece, and then there’s that fabulous fast track through immigration and customs.

If you’re flying in premium economy, Qantas still recommends you check in for seats at least two hours before the flight (as with economy), and while your premium economy ticket gets you checked in faster via a dedicated counter (and boarded faster with priority boarding) you’ll have to queue up with everyone else to get through customs. However, you do get to check in a second piece of luggage (both a maximum of 23 kilograms).



In both cabins, the crew is immaculately presented and attentive and passed my call-bell test –  how quickly my bell was attended to mid-flight – with flying colours. Premium economy, like business, has its own dedicated flight attendants.



Celebrity chef Neil Perry is behind the Qantas menus and his premium economy menu is a cut above the usual economy fare. Menus feature meal options, plus a range of premium alcoholic beverages. I choose the chicken curry for dinner and, while it was presented on stylish tableware designed by Marc Newson, the dish still resembles an economy meal in the way the different elements are plated up.

In contrast, the business class meals are served as they would be in a fine dining restaurant. The menu is more extensive – I had a zucchini, basil and parmesan soup – and of the four main course options I choose the roasted Barossa Valley chicken with port wine jus, both delicious and well presented. There is also a great range of wine, spirits, beers and liqueurs.



Qantas’ in-flight entertainment system has a great selection of recent blockbuster films, plus quality older films, kids films and television episodes, plus 20 radio channels, hundreds of albums and games. In business class, a 30.7-centimetre touch screen keeps me entertained during the flight. There is also a power source for me to keep my laptop charged while working. As you would expect, the premium economy screens are smaller, at 27 centimetres, but they’re also touch screens and come from the side console of the seats. In both classes, I receive a pair of comfortable noise-cancelling headphones.



In business class, the amenities pouch features a striking retro black and white Florence Broadhurst design (since I travelled the kits have been updated with new designs). Along with the usual socks, toothbrush and paste and eye mask are Malin+Goetz skincare products. In premium economy, the much plainer kit comes with an eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste.



The seats in the business cabin were are up in a two-two-two configuration. The seats are Qantas’ second-generation Skybeds set in a grey cocoon shell designed by Marc Newson and once you lie back the shell acts like a privacy screen. The seats extend into two-metre long fully flat beds, and they’re approximately 54 centimetres wide with around two metres of pitch.

In the private premium economy cabin, the seats (also designed by Marc Newson) are roomy with a 96-centimetre seat pitch and they’re nearly 50 centimetres wide.



The Qantas International Business Lounge at Sydney Airport is set out with contemporary furnishings and features wine bars with a good selection of wines, along with a barista to make coffee to your liking. There are showers to freshen up, complimentary Wi-Fi and workstations. In Singapore, business travellers can use the joint Qantas and British Airways business lounge. Unfortunately for premium economy travellers, there is no lounge access.



When my business class seat is set to fully flat, it feels like there is a slight rise in the middle of the seat underneath my back, which is a little uncomfortable. I have to fiddle with the controls to find a comfortable sleeping angle. In premium economy, I can’t get the screen at an angle that is comfortable so my neck starts to get sore.



For the Sydney to Singapore flight, a handful of late passengers means a late departure and we are delayed for 15 minutes in Singapore before landing. The return flight runs to schedule.



Qantas’ premium economy certainly offers a fair amount of luxe for less. While it lacks the space and full range of luxuries afforded to passengers in the business class cabin, I still find premium economy a very comfortable way to fly. If you’re watching your budget or are in a hurry (with no time to kill at the lounge) and flying into Singapore before midnight (thus not planning on sleeping), there’s no reason I wouldn’t choose premium economy.

If you’re going to experiment with the different classes choose premium economy for Sydney to Singapore as it’s a daytime flight arriving in the evening. But, as business class still beats premium economy on nearly every point except for cost, it is the obvious choice for any overnight flight for the extra comfort, luxuries and of course, the flatbed.

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