Maybe it’s not a coincidence that a big billboard went up recently along Highway 101 on the Peninsula trying to lure Bay Area companies to Melbourne, Australia — which boasts itself as the country’s “top tech city.” The ad appeared just as San Francisco International Airport saw its latest international flight launch — Qantas Airways’ new non-stop between SFO and Melbourne.
Cupcakes, free pajamas for all passengers, and a guest appearance by airline mascot Matilda the Kangaroo greeted passengers on the inaugural flight Saturday evening, September 1.
So did a film crew from The Ellen Degeneres Show which was invited onto the flight to film a segment featuring celebrity passenger and internet food critic Kalen Allen.
The Qantas flight, the only nonstop between SFO and MEL, will operate four times a week, on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, aboard the airline’s new fleet of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners — right in time for the busy spring and summer travel season in the southern hemisphere. (United offers one=stop service from SFO to MEL via LAX.)
Flights depart SFO at 10 p.m. and arrive at Melbourne’s international airport two days later at 6:30 a.m. Return flights depart at 9:40 p.m. and arrive in the Bay Area around 7 p.m. the same day. Qantas also operates a daily flight between SFO and its hub in Sydney.
Flight times are about 15 hours 30 minutes eastbound (to Australia), and 14 hours 20 minutes westbound (returning to SFO). The plane seats 236 passengers: 42 in business class, 28 in premium economy and 166 economy seats.
For a one week trip in mid-October, we found roundtrip fares in the $1,000 range in economy, $3,400 in premium economy and $6,000-$7,000 in business class. The total fare can vary depending on which fare category you choose and whether you want to earn miles, check bags or select seats. Also seasonality plays a big part in fares to Australia.
If you’re willing to connect in Sydney, we found fares in the neighborhood of $900-$1,100 which is also pretty decent considering it’s rare for SFO-Australia flights to dip below the $1,000 mark.
Since the Boeing 787 Dreamliners are among the newest members of the Flying Kangaroo’s fleet, passengers will be seated on the latest generation of Qantas seats, including the airline’s flagship business class suite. (See slideshow at the top for a look)
Those seats are arranged 1-2-1 abreast with each seat offering direct aisle access. When it’s time to sleep, each seat reclines into an 80-inch bed (that’s 6-feet-6). Flight attendants come around with mattress pads and fluffy duvets to perform a turndown service. Business class fliers can change into a set of “designer pajamas” that is on offer.
At SFO, Business class customers can use the Air France/ KLM Lounge in Concourse A of the International Terminal, which is open to Qantas customers during the evening. Some can also relax and dine in fellow OneWorld member Cathay Pacific’s Lounge.
In premium economy, there are four rows of seats arranged 2-3-2 abreast, with 38-inches of pitch and nine-and-a-half inches of recline. With a seat width of 20.5 inches, Qantas said its Dreamliner premium economy seat is 10 percent wider than previous generations. A unique looking solid “shell” also wraps around each seat — perhaps to provide passengers with some additional privacy and the claim to fame: a “foot hammock” that cradles your calf and feet.
Slim-sized laptops, notebooks and other items can be stowed in a pullout shelf located in a center console.
In 3-3-3 abreast economy, passengers might see some of the biggest enhancements with a brand new seat product that’s 17.2 inches wide and includes 32-inches of pitch — one additional inch compared to economy class seats found on Qantas’ Airbus A380 fleet. The seatback monitors are also five percent larger, and each seat comes with a holder for cell phones and tablets.
Seat back entertainment, USB and power ports are offered at each seat in every cabin. Unfortunately, in-flight wifi is not offered on the Qantas Dreamliner fleet, although we’re told it will eventually be installed. The airline is currently equipping its fleet of Boeing 737 narrow bodies used on domestic flights and Airbus A330 jets with in-flight internet capabilities. (See slideshow at the top for a look)
Qantas also operates the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its longest flight — the epic 17+ hour non-stop between Perth, Australia and London. Qantas on Saturday also began operating its New York-Kennedy to Los Angeles fifth-freedom “tag” with the Boeing 787, replacing a mainstay on the route — the Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet.
The carrier expects to retire its remaining Boeing 747 jets by the end of 2020, and we’re told it may replace the Boeing 747s flown on the San Francisco-Sydney flight with either the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner or the double-decker Airbus A380.
Have you flown on Qantas before? How was it? Thoughts on Melbourne? Please leave ’em in the comments!
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Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission. You can reach Chris at [email protected] or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.
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