Flying First Class on QANTAS made me feel like a fresh-faced 18 year old again but I can’t guarantee it will do the same for you. You might feel 24, or 12 or perhaps even 35. It all depends on when you took your first international flight because First Class brings back that same stomach tingling, bubbling excitement that comes with being on your very first plane trip. I can still remember my first ever long-haul flight. Like most Australians, I was heading to Europe for my first big trip OS and I was flying Qantas. I was so excited on the day of departure that I practically sprinted through customs.
I couldn’t wait to get on that plane and it was the same again, more than 20 years later, when a lucky draw saw me win the chance to fly First Class. It seemed almost serendipitous that I would be experiencing one of my most significant travel moments with Qantas once again. Entering the First Class cabin reminded me of my very first flight as I looked around, trying to appear cool while I struggled to work out the seat numbering. On my economy flight 30 years ago it was easy to figure out but First had three single rows of seats. Each was designed so passengers were tactfully screened from prying eyes.
I could have been sharing the First Class cabin with a star like Hugh Jackman but unless he walked past and said ‘g’day’ I wouldn’t have known. Everything in First Class was quiet and serene with no one squeezing past me to get to their seat. Working out how to use the seat kept me amused for much longer than it did in the late 80s. First Class seats do everything except pour you a drink. Touch pad controls move the seat, leg rest and lumbar support from a relaxed reading position to a fully flat bed and can even be set for an in-seat massage. There’s also an ottoman so someone else can join you for meals or a chat.
I travelled solo on my first ever flight and it was the same this time which was fine with me as First Class seats are designed for privacy rather than conviviality. It’s virtually impossible to see the person in the next seat. This is sensational if you’re travelling alone – it’s like being trapped in your own little pleasure bubble but could be less than ideal for romantics who feel obliged to perch on the ottoman with their true love instead of enjoying their own First Class suite. I passed on my traditional in-flight G&T in favour of champagne and perused the First Class menu.
Not surprisingly, there was no ‘chicken’ or ‘beef’ served in an alfoil tray. Selections ranged from an 8 course tasting menu to more substantial meals like a salad of Yamba prawns with tomatoes and palm sugar vinaigrette. There was also fried blue eye with Moroccan lentils or a cassoulet of Murrylands lamb. Quince, lemon and almond upside down cake provided a sweet finish. Qantas’ First Class cellar has earned a swag of accolades in the Cellars in the Sky Awards which was reflected in the wine list accompanying the menu.
High end Australian classics (think Leeuwin Estate ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay) sat side by side with the likes of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. Wine matching is available for passengers who wish to enhance their dining experience. My entree of beetroot, rocket and goat’s curd salad served with toasted almonds and balsamic vinaigrette was restaurant quality as was the main, a Rockpool Bar & Grill style seared beef fillet with green beans, potato and cabbage gratin and a dash of horseradish cream.
I was particularly impressed with the beef given I can’t seem to cook a decent steak on the ground let alone in the air. Service during lunch was friendly and attentive without being overly formal. In First Class it’s a case of ‘ask and you shall receive’ which took a bit of getting used to for this economy flier. These days I’m so used to the rhythm of service on long-haul flights that I tend to simply wait for things like the meal to arrive. I found myself doing the same in First instead of requesting another snack or drink like my fellow passengers. Whatever I asked for arrived with a smile and in double-quick time. I was on a day time flight but had been up since 4am so decided to take a power nap (secretly, I just wanted to try out the bed).
The lie flat bed was made up with fluffy pillows, blankets, a duvet and a cosy sheepskin mattress. I slipped on my grey Qantas First Class PJs which had black trim and a discreet ‘flying kangaroo’ on the lapel and enjoyed a couple of hours rest. Sleeping almost seemed like a waste of my First Class experience but the bed was too comfy to resist. Unlike my 24 hour plus long haul journey to London in the eighties, my First Class flight to Hong Kong was over all too soon. I might not look eighteen anymore but I got off the flight with a spring in my step which was more than worthy of any teenager.
How to fly First Class
(a) Earn a lot of money.
(b) Marry someone wealthy.
(c) Use points to upgrade.
(d) All of the above.
Qantas First Class tips
(a) Allow time to enjoy the Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney or Melbourne, including the Qantas First Lounge Spa.
(b) Change into your PJs prior to take off. They’re super-comfortable and your clothes will be fresh on arrival.
(c) Ask for what you require rather than waiting for the usual ‘meal service’. Meals and drinks are typically on request in First Class so passengers can relax.
(d) Meals are restaurant quality and prepared and presented silver-services style which takes time. Order last minute snacks at least an hour before descent.
(e) Try out the bed, even if it’s just for a quick snooze.
Disclaimer: The writer flew First Class as guest of QANTAS.