I recently had a trip to the US to attend the world’s premier scuba diving business expo – DEMA Show 2009. Having made many trips across the Pacific over the years, both for work and for pleasure, I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to the travel part of the trip.
Don’t get me wrong, I love travel. But the customer experience of flying has been one that has generally been decreasing over the years. Airlines in particular have taken the romance out of flying and turned it into a purely transactional experience. In my opinion, this is a real shame because travel almost always involves some level of anticipation and excitement!
For this trip, I decided to spend a little extra and book myself on an aircraft offering Premium Economy. Traveling the Sydney – Los Angeles route, I had the choice of Qantas, V Australia or Delta offering this service. As a long term Qantas Frequent Flyer, and with the price being right, I decided to try the Qantas offering.
To be honest, I haven’t been particularly happy with my experiences flying Qantas recently. A one time “raving fan” of the airline, in recent times I’ve found that the airline (like all others) has done its utmost to ensure that our longstanding relationship is modified to a purely transactional one!
I travelled to LA on a Qantas Boeing 747-400 with Premium Economy, and returned to Sydney on the brand new Airbus A380. With the exception of some issues on checking in at Sydney, the experience was very positive.
Checking in in Sydney, I was told I had been bumped to a middle seat, despite having booked six months previously, and having confirmed an aisle seat then and having checked this online only a day before flying. I was told that I had been moved to make way for other passengers! Clearly my 18 years as a Qantas Frequent Flyer (many also as a Qantas Club member) is only worth something when its convenient to the company. I later found that we had had a change of aircraft, and a large number of people had been moved from economy, and I had been moved to make seats available! Fortunately, sanity prevailed, and I was moved back to an aisle seat.
Premium Economy passengers are invited to board the aircraft early, with First and Business passengers. On boarding, our dedicated cabin staff gave us a welcome drink, and introduced themselves individually, shaking hands with each passenger. Very impressed.
The seats were generous and comfortable, wider than standard economy. Legroom is noticeably more than economy, and each seat has a personal inseat entertainment screen and unit, along with a power outlet. I found the seats to be very comfortable. The entertainment was excellent with a wide variety of movies and television shows, along with music and games.
Food was excellent, and served more elegantly than in economy. Porcelain crockery was provided, and each passenger has a table cloth laid out on their tray. My only complaint was that on the flight out to LA, an insufficient number of meals had been loaded to give each passenger a choice of meals. Even though I was only half way back in my cabin, I did not have a choice. It was a good meal, nonetheless.
The cabin was comfortable, with dedicated crew, dedicated restrooms and a standup bar where you could self serve drinks and snacks throughout the flight. I guess that the telling thing about the comfort levels was that I got several hours sleep on each flight, something I rarely experienced in economy.
All in all, the Qantas Premium Economy was a fantastic experience. I am convinced that I will opt for Premium on flights to the US in the future. I will shop around for each trip, as my checkin experience in Sydney reinforced to me that Qantas will move their customers around anytime they need to for their convenience. I am sure that offerings from V Australia and others will provide a similar service. But anytime the price is right, I will be delighted to fly Qantas Premium Economy.