Believe it or not, I have never flown Qantas, the flag carrier of Australia. There is a perfectly good reason for this, I have never been to Australia, until now! You may have heard in the news that Qantas is facing severe financial difficulties, so I expected a fairly crappy experience. Boy was I completely wrong, and shows you that you should never judge anything unless you’ve experienced it first hand.
Check-in process in Sydney
Check-in was a bit of a new experience for me at Sydney’s Domestic Terminal 3. It’s a beautiful newly renovated terminal which services all of Qantas’ domestic flights in Australia. Bright, airy, and modern; it feels as though you might be at one of Europe’s newer airports. What threw me off though was all of the self-service kiosks scattered about.
Flying primarily from Asia and North America, I’m used to more full service or mid-service check-in options. In Australia you need to check-in and tag your own baggage which was completely new to me. Although a little worried when I couldn’t find the check-in desk, I finally decided to use the machine. It was very easy to use with plenty of options to find my flight. I just typed in my name and destination, it was that easy. While I was on an economy class ticket, recognized my name on the upgrade list and automatically assigned me a seat in business class.
The check-in kiosk spit out my boarding pass and my baggage tag. I then walked over to one of the many baggage machines. Basically they’re conveyor belts with a self service machine. I placed the baggage tag onto the handle of my luggage, place the luggage on the conveyor belt, and scanned my boarding pass. In a matter of seconds my bag got whisked away behind the wall and to my flight. It was all really simple and really the main concern is placing the tag on the bag properly. I suggest folding it in half before you take off the backing so the tag won’t be mis-aligned when you stick it on your luggage.
Now this process would never work in the US as it currently stands. With all of the tight security and identity issues there, I would definitely need to show ID to tag a bag, which is exactly why you don’t have self-tagging in the US. I was a bit shocked I didn’t have to use any type of ID to get a boarding pass or send my bag through the machine, but alas security is generally more relaxed outside of the US.
Security was a breeze to go through. The x-ray machines are pretty much the same as you’ll find at any other airport and there were virtually no lines. Again, no ID was requested. I just showed my boarding pass and went through without a problem. I even forgot to take out the bottle of water I was carrying. No problem! In Australia you can take liquids on domestic flights, I love Australia! No need to purchase super overpriced $5 bottles of water anymore, although I usually take an empty bottle to fill after security to save a few bucks.
The secure airside of the airport is just as nice as the non-secured side. I passed my waiting time by going to the Qantas Club lounge, I’ll write a review later on of the lounge which is wonderful.
Assigned seat 4A on my flight QF441 I didn’t have to venture very far into the plane. The business class cabin was fairly modern and spacious for a short domestic 1.5 hour flight. The seat was very wide and had a leather, or faux-leather material. It was comfy and had plenty of controls to adjust the seat and footrest. There is no built-in entertainment screen, but there is your own individual iPad which you can hang onto the seat in front of you. I found it a bit odd to have an iPad, but certainly better than no entertainment. Honestly my only gripe with my whole experience with Qantas was the headphones provided. They’re those dual-plug ones you see on most planes, but the iPad only takes single plug headphones. So when I plugged the headphones into my iPad I could only hear sound coming from one ear, a bit strange. I suggest Qantas place an adapter on the iPads so the dual plugs will work and you can hear from both ears, haha!
Service is where Qantas really stands out. I expected grumpy flight attendants who would give me a basic level of service, even in business class. I was completely wrong, service was absolutely outstanding and impressive, particularly because this was such a short flight.
From the moment I stepped onto the plane, the flight attendants greeted me by my last name. I can’t remember this happening on any US domestic flight, only long-haul flights. Pre-flight they will service your usual basic drink. Once airborne the in-flight service begins, and what a great in-flight service it was.
For this 2:30pm departure, we still got choice of a decent meal and plenty of drinks. The meal choices were asparagus soup, cocktail prawn salad, or a cheese plate. I was a little hungry so I chose the prawns. I was pleased to see a decent amount of prawns on my plate and it tasted quite decent! However, what really impressed me with the meal service was how the flight attendants were still addressing each passenger by their surname and being very formal and professional. I was also impressed how the meals were being prepared. The meals were being completed somewhat still by hand, for example by pouring the salad dressing on top before being served to you. Usually these days on most airlines they’ll just pull the food tray out of the cart and plop it on your seat tray and you’ll get dressing in a packet, for example. Not the case here.
After the food was served, the attendants were generously offering wine and alcohol to everyone. I know Australians love to drink, but this I found really crazy! It seemed like they wanted to get everyone drunk before landing, haha. You really can’t complain about free alcohol though, can you. Fly business next time if you want to get loaded.
De-planing & Baggage
De-planing was easy, didn’t take very long for them to hook-up the jet bridge and open the door. Baggage did take a bit however, but nothing unreasonable. I probably waited about 10-15 minutes after I reached the carousel before my bag appeared.
Most important aspect of the trip was I arrived on-time and safely. Qantas has one of the safest records in the airline industry so you should have no qualms about flying them.
I was really pleasantly surprised with the level of service and professionalism that Qantas employees offer to their passengers. I don’t think you’d be disappointed if you fly them next time you go to Australia. While I did fly business class, a lot of my experience is very applicable to economy class passengers also, and the people who came off the plane in economy were smiling too.