Virgin Australia may have scaled back its domestic business class service at the moment, but not Qantas. The flying kangaroo has already reinstated hot meals and drinks in business class, and the current service during COVID-19 is not all that different from normal times.
In this review, find out what it’s like flying in Qantas’ Boeing 737-800 domestic business class with COVID-19 restrictions in place during August 2020.
|Route||Brisbane (BNE) to Adelaide (ADL)|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737-800|
|Class of travel||Business|
|On-time performance||We left on time but arrived 25 minutes late due to strong headwinds.|
I booked this as part of a Brisbane-Adelaide-Kingscote trip for $334 one-way in Economy class. I then upgraded to Business class on the Brisbane-Adelaide flight for 19,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points.
Booked separately, the Brisbane-Adelaide portion would have cost $293 in Economy class or $1,128 in Business, one-way.
Qantas normally has an excellent premium lounge entry at Brisbane’s domestic airport. This was not open when I passed through the airport early on a Monday morning, but there was a priority security lane for Business, Gold, Platinum & Platinum One customers.
Although the Qantas Club in Brisbane remains closed, all eligible passengers were welcomed into the Qantas domestic Business Lounge. It was surprisingly busy at 6am, with lots of flights departing for regional and northern Queensland. But there were enough seats in the lounge to go around – even with socially-distanced furniture.
Due to COVID-19, Qantas has had to make some substantial changes to the Business Lounge experience. There is no longer a buffet, and the showers were out of order. But there were some excellent hot breakfast choices which were plated to order on request, and coffee was available from the barista. I tried the scrambled eggs with toast…
And the pancakes, which were hot and came with berries & maple syrup:
The lounge staff were friendly and overall, I was very happy with the Qantas lounge experience under the circumstances.
Read more about the current Qantas domestic lounge experience here: Great Food & Service at Reopened Qantas Lounges
Boarding for my flight to Adelaide was done by row number, with passengers at the back of the plane boarding first. Fly Well packs containing a face mask and sanitiser wipes were offered to all passengers at the gate.
The Hard Product
Qantas offers three rows of Business class on its Boeing 737-800, with seats laid out in a standard 2-2 configuration. The maroon leather seats are comfortable and well-padded.
I was sitting in row 2, which had a comfortable 38 inches of seat pitch.
The 737 Business class seats have a generous amount of recline and a fold-out legrest, although I think I must be too tall to find this useful. When seated in rows 2 or 3, there is enough space under the seat in front to stretch your legs out comfortably. But you wouldn’t be able to get out of the window seat without disturbing the person in the aisle seat. I didn’t have a neighbour on this flight (there were only 3 passengers in Business), so this wasn’t an issue.
If you’re sitting in row 1, there is a bulkhead (wall) in front of you. There’s plenty of room for your knees, and it is possible to get out of 1A or 1F without your neighbour needing to get up – but the trade-off is that you can’t stretch your legs out as much.
On newer Qantas Boeing 737s, there are seat-back in-flight entertainment screens available at each seat (except in row 1, where the screens fold out from under the armrest). But as this was an older aircraft, there were just overhead TV screens which were deployed to show the safety demonstration.
Q-Streaming entertainment would normally be available to stream to your personal electronic device via the Qantas Entertainment app, but this was not available during my flight in August 2020. Only Sky News was available to watch during this flight.
I’m told that in-flight entertainment may be returning to Qantas flights from September 2020. In the meantime, I was quite happy watching the changing Australian landscape out the window as we flew across north-west NSW…
And then crossed into South Australia just south of Broken Hill…
The Soft Product
There were no pre-departure drinks offered, and there were a few other minor COVID-related changes to the Qantas business class in-flight service. But it was almost business as usual.
After take-off I was offered a choice of a hot breakfast or fruit platter. I chose the hot breakfast, which included a quiche, sausage, spinach and tomato. It was tasty, and was served on a single tray with yoghurt, a warm muffin and water.
I was offered orange juice with breakfast, then tea or coffee shortly after.
Alcoholic beverages were not proactively offered on this flight. Given the 7am departure time, I would have declined anyway and did not ask. I’m told that Qantas is currently offering full bar service in Business class (including alcoholic drinks) on domestic flights departing after 9am only.
The cabin crew were very good, and regularly came by to ask if I wanted anything more to drink.
Although we departed Brisbane punctually, we arrived almost half an hour late due to strong headwinds.
Upon arrival at Adelaide Airport, SA Police checked everyone’s border permits. This process took about 20 minutes.
Qantas Boeing 737-800 Business Class (during COVID-19)
Other than a few changes around the edges, and a lack of in-flight entertainment, it’s almost business as usual when flying Qantas domestic business class in August 2020. This gives Qantas a clear edge over Virgin Australia, which is currently offering the bare minimum level of service to its Business class guests.