Qantas launched direct flights from Sydney to Beijing earlier this year in an attempt to increase the airline’s presence in the ever-growing Chinese market. Greater choice and competition is good for travellers… but unfortunately for Qantas flyers to Beijing, Qantas has allocated some of its most outdated international aircraft to the route.

One member recently flew Qantas from Sydney to Beijing in Business class, and they were shocked by the poor quality of the Business class product.

Just got back from a 6 week trip, starting Sydney to Beijing. What a little shocker! An ancient [A330], old Business Class seats with the dreaded slope (QF should look at the fantastic new AA 777 product in J!! AA for heavens sake!!), a decrepit old entertainment system with the symbols worn off the buttons and a 100mm screen!!! Lousy choice of entertainment too!

Like flying 10 years ago. Hardly what you expect of a new route!!!

Qantas uses an Airbus A330-200 on the Beijing route. The airline recently completed a refurbishment of all Airbus A330-300 and the vast majority of Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Both the Business and Economy class cabins were refreshed, new entertainment systems were installed and the old-style Business class SkyBeds were replaced with private, lie-flat Suites.

But Qantas did not refurbish two of its A330-200s. In Business class, these aircraft still have angle-flat SkyBeds in a 2-2-2 configuration. They’re not popular with customers…

The unrefurbished A332 is a terrible product. These planes either need to be refurbed or be retired — completely unacceptable for what you’re paying in J.

Between them, these two unrefurbished aircraft have operated 86% of flights on the Sydney-Beijing route since it was launched in January.

While it’s not ideal, one member believes there is a good reason for their use on the route:

My understanding is that they kept 2 unrefurbished A330-200s specifically to use on the SYD-PEK route. The A330-300s don’t have the range (at least not with a full payload) for the route, and the refurbished A330-200s don’t have the crew rests/galleys etc. needed for a flight of this length.

Air China is the only other airline to offer direct flights from Australia to Beijing. The airline flies daily from Sydney and 3x weekly from Melbourne, with overnight flights offered in both directions. According to one member, Air China’s product is a strong competitor against the older Qantas product.

Air China provides a full flat 81 inch pitch seat. 2-2-2 configuration so not so private, but the bed is very comfortable. Service – I’d say it’s on par if not slightly better than QF (language and cultural differences apply). Food… close call these days. It’s comfort food on Air China, but recent reports put it on par with CX. I find it better than QF – but its a different style… not individually prepared so it comes in sauce and retains some flavour and moisture. IFE, QF wins hands down. Lounges in Australia – on par with QF’s business class offering.

While Qantas’ un-refurbished A330s are used primarily on the Sydney-Beijing route, they also appear frequently on QF5/6 between Sydney and Singapore, as well as QF117/118 between Sydney and Hong Kong. The easiest way to avoid flying on one of these old planes is to check the Business class seat map before booking. These older aircraft have 36 Business class seats; all other A330s have 28 Business seats.

Join the discussion HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]