Airline Review: Qantas

By Nomadic Matt | Published January 16th, 2010

Qantas airplane tails I flew Qantas from Sydney to LA in 2008, but my recent trip with them from London to Bangkok and from Bangkok to Auckland gave me a chance to look at them with fresh eyes. Qantas maintains a good reputation around the world among fliers. They’ve never crashed (though parts of their planes have exploded in midair), they have above-average food, and their entertainment system has more choices than you’ll ever need.

If I had to rank Qantas, I’d put them in the middle. As an American, I have to deal with companies like American Airlines, United, and Delta. These airlines rank at the bottom of my list in terms of, well, everything. At the top of my list are Asian airlines like JAL, Cathay, and Singapore.

Qantas fits in the middle. I have nothing great to say about them but nothing really negative, either. The service on all my flights was excellent. The staff was always friendly, they came quickly when I rang the bell, and they served the food promptly.

The food itself was better than normal but didn’t blow my mind away. In fact, I’m rarely ever blown away by food on an airplane. I’m sure it’s better in business or first class, but in steerage, it’s only a bit above microwaved food quality. Qantas’ food is a little better than the rest, though—not amazing but certainly good enough to finish completely and leave you full.

What sets Qantas apart in my book is their in-flight entertainment system. I was impressed with it back in 2008, and I’m still impressed by it. They have an amazing selection of movies. And not old, saw-it-last-year movies. Even recent hits as well as some independent films. I watched 500 Days of Summer, The Hurt Locker, and The Hangover on my flight over from Bangkok. They have lots of old movies, good TV shows, and even full albums of the most popular artists on the charts.

The bottom line here is that Qantas is a good airline to fly. It may not be the best, but it’s certainly not the worst. Moreover, if you’re a member of the Oneworld alliance, you’ll find them one of the better alliance carriers to fly. If you aren’t, Qantas always has amazing deals and inexpensive flight tickets when compared to other major carriers. Plus, if you go to their Australian website, you can purchase your ticket in Australian dollars. If you’re coming from a country with a better currency, this will save you even more money.

comments 25 Comments

“I have nothing great to say about them but … the service on all my flights was excellent. The staff was always friendly, they came quickly when I rang the bell, and served the food promptly … and they have an amazing selection of movies.”

Your blog’s OK Matt. Oh sure, it’s well written, amusing, entertaining, I read it everyday and laugh and smile and wish I were traveling too, but you know, I couldn’t really recommend it to anyone.

Cheers.

that is the strangest comment anyone has ever written. You love my site but can’t recommend it to anyone huh?

VagaBen

I believe he was trying to make a point about your article:)

you mean about how I have nothing great to say but I said good things? I got that. None of that stuff is really special. It’s standard.

haha. Just saw this. I guess you didn’t get my humor. Few do, don’t worry about it. I suppose I have to explain now eh? Your post had the rough outline: “I have nothing great to say” followed by a number of things that sounded really great. So I posted: can’t say anything great about Matt’s blog … (now here’s the funny part) … followed by saying a number of great things.

Have fun traveling Matt.

Although I don’t have any experience with Asian airlines, I agree that Qantas is several notches above any U.S. carrier. I’ve done 3 round-trips from NY – Sydney over the past 7 years – one on Qantas and two on Air New Zealand. Although nothing was wrong with my Qantas experience, Air NZ was a great experience both times. They have larger seats, better food, and better wine. If you have to pick between the two, price being equal, I would go for Air NZ over Qantas any day.

I’ve heard the same thing. Air New Zealand is on my list of airlines I need to check out sooner rather than later.

Samantha M.

I second the Air New Zealand recommendation. While the entertainment system might not be as great as Qantas’s being the lardarse that I am the larger seats, more leg room and better food win it for me anytime. That and for some reason their flights always seem to have lots of empty seats on them. The last few times I’ve flown them I got all 3 seats near the window to myself, so that could be biasing me completely.

I know what you mean about Qantas though, I never mind flying them, and the not falling out of the sky is a big selling point, but its not in the league of the Asian airlines.

You won’t regret it. I’ve flown the Honolulu – Auckland route several times on them. Great airline. Qantas, I’ve ruled out unless absolutely necessary; it’s too expensive and too restrictive. Hawaiian is a much better airline, IMO.

Laura

Can totally vouch for the AirNZ thing, have flown with them NZ – Shanghai route a few times, as well as LAX – Auckland. Totally recommend them as the best I have flown and will actually pay slightly more to ensure I am on one of their flights. I have wonderful experiences with service as well, for example a flight attendant bringing me magazines, drinks and snacks, unprompted, when she saw I wasn’t sleeping.

On an interesting note, I flew Qantas from Chch – Manila in Dec, returning late Jan, and can honestly say I was not terribly impressed. The food was ok, the seats seemed fairly small, and the entertainment was comparatively poor (shared screen front of cabin, 2 movies shown on the Manila – Sydney leg, and a show advertising Sydney). At one point there was around 4? hours with no entertainment. They also put me on JetStar for one Chch – Sydney leg, which I would prefer not to have flown, considering I paid for a full priced international ticket.

NomadicMatt

I flew Air NZ around NZ and I was impressed with them.

VagaBen

Qantas is actually one of my favorite airlines. I used them when I was in Australia. Cheap, good service and on time.

KLM on the other hand is a totally different story. On my 13 hour trip from paris to Buenos Aires we were served dry crackers as the only lunch, and both of my chair-neighbours had disfunctional tv’s during the whole trip.

I’ve flown on dozens of airlines over the years and the differences between pretty much all of them is minimal. Granted, I’ve never flown in first class, but on average they are all pretty much the same. Sure, I’ve had some delayed flights and some airplanes were equipped with TV monitors in the seat in front of me. But in the end, they did their job – getting me from one point to the next. To me, that’s all I really care about. The truth is, I’d prefer a cheap seat over better food, added leg room, in-air movies, a smiling staff, etc. With the differences between airlines being so minimal, I’d rather just save money. An in flight movie or a fancy dinner isn’t worth paying hundreds of dollars more for. Frankly, I don’t mind suffering for a few hours.

I think it’s luck of the draw with inflight entertainment. I imagine (hope) Qantas probably does it with all flights.
But I took Air France to Brazil and had the same excellent system you described with a host of movies and TV shows (for once, not being able to sleep on a long flight was a pleasure), but then again on the same airline and same route the other way back home, it was a normal stupid TV in the ceiling several rows ahead of you with no choice and no way to pause.
I’m going to have to do some googling to see if there is some description or airplane category shown on the possible flight to see if it includes this “new” system.
I say luck of the draw because I’ve gotten a personal screen on other airlines very randomly and then not on their other flights. I got one on Aer Lingus to the states several years back! Of course, flying cheap in Europe for quick flights means you’ll never get them.
I agree with VagaBen – I took KLM for the first time here to Bangkok (I’ve earned enough miles with their partner Air France to be elite status) and I was hugely disappointed. My food was served really late (it’s the first time especially requested vegetarian food has been served LAST instead of first) and they never answered my button calls so I had to shout for them. And of course no personal TV despite it being an 11 hour flight. I was glad to get off that plane. Every other nighttime flight I’ve ever taken has given me an eyemask and earplugs but they didn’t. I’m only begrudgingly fly KLM again if I really really have to.

NomadicMatt

I dislike KLM. I’ve never had a good experience with them.

I havent flown any of the US airlines but flown Qantas and Singapore and they are pretty good..how do u find the european airlines and emirates ?

Hi Matt! Sorry for the delay, but a new year always brings new troubles… ;)
Fully agree with you with regard to American airlines: at the bottom!!! ;)
I haven’t been to Quantas for a while, but when I used it transcontinental the reason was that the BA flight was fully booked… ;)

Meanwhile a new blog is born: Blogtrotter Two! Hope you enjoy at least as much as the previous version and look forward to reading your comments!
Have a great week ahead!!! Gil

Qantas may be ok (talking about tickets price) to fly to Asia/Europe, but their local flights are overpriced and I never used it. For flights between Australia and New Zealand my preference is to Emirates, Air New Zealand and Virgin.

Megan

I enjoyed Qantas but as you said its not great but not bad. I will say that I really enjoyed SwissAir. I have managed to find a few cheap fligths with them and they were great (they even gave us lowely sterage passengers chocolate) and i enjoyed being able to play trivia with other people through the entertainment system. I’m on Middle Eastern Airlines next week we’ll see how that one goes.

I quit flying Qantas several years ago, unless absolutely necessary. It isn’t a bad airline, it’s just that their carry-on luggage allowance is too restrictive (7kg). I’ve found Hawaiian a much superior airline for traveling to Sydney.

Good review – nice to have an realistic review of Qantas for a change – I fly constantly with them, locked in through Frequent Flyer program over 16+ years and now can’t get out of the habit (and usually use points for upgrades so it’s worth sticking).

I have regularly flown American and United, also Alaskan in the US and – sad to say – Qantas beats them handsdown in comfort and class and service when comparing domestic service. Moreover, if you are in the pointy end of the plane, domestic business class in Australia is astounding on the longer-haul (2 hour+) flights – good seats, brilliant service and the food is excellent – eg dessert is cheese plus fruit and icecream, and and port / dessert wine.

I do admit that your placement of Q in the middle seems right; I thnk their overseas service and quality has slipped over a decade; the A380 is making a difference, if you can access it (I did once, business), but the 747s are tired – some uncomfortable seats – and the pressure is always on to cut the food quality. From what I know, too, cabin staff are also on worse schedules now which may explain occasional grumpiness. That said, I have never had a bad Qantas flight and will shortly be returning to the skies with them, confident that it will be fine and sometimes it will be great.

I agree that Asian airlines are definitely at the top- they usually are for most things. I’ve always enjoyed flying QANTAS. Although the last flight I had with them was from Sydney to LA in 2007 and the in flight entertainment system wasn’t working, not only that they had to shut down the lights, so I couldn’t even read to help pass the time away. And I was 5 months pregnant at the time. 14 hours on a plane with no entertainment at all. It was awful.

PK

I’m an Australian that has hated QANTAS for a very long time. They are far too expensive, and if it wasn’t for the competition introduced by Virgin, they would own the Australian market and charge what they want.

In the US market, there are just too many carriers for them to make profit, so they slash as much money as they can. If American merge with US Airways, United merge with Delta, and Southwest being the success they have been, I think you’ll see the airline industry pick up over there. It still stuns me that Southwest don’t charge for bags and they offer snacks – something US Airways doesn’t offer and US Airways flights cost more.

Mark

I first flew Qantas over 20 years ago & they were great. However, my most recent flight was at best mediocre. I would still use them if they were the cheapest for my chosen flight, but in general I avoid both Qantas & BA.

My partner is an Aussie & having flown to Australia on at least a dozen occasions we have often debated which is the best airline. We used to fly with JAL because it was one of the very few airlines on which you could still have a cigarette (no longer). Also you got a free stopover including hotel at Tokyo (Narita) which helped split the long journey.

Last year we flew with Royal Brunei, who were again middle of the road (also no alcohol on board). Where Royal Brunei excelled was when our plane was turned back en route to Dubai because of the volcanic ash cloud closing Heathrow Airport. Royal Brunei put us up in a 5 star airport hotel for 6 days, provided 3 meals a day & organised buses to the beach & into town – all free of charge. I really couldn’t fault them.

My wife likes Cathay Pacific & my personal favourite is Thai Airways. If you look at Skytrax it seems that most Asian flag carriers score well & the two UAE carriers (Emirates & Ethiad) also get good reviews.

Francien Daniels-Webb

I absolutely hate Ryanair, never ever again, scary flight and sitting right at the back I heard the staff bitch about passengers. I gave the stare!
Malaysian Airlines beat Air Emirates hands down, AE were told about my lactose problems, and I was given Vegan meals, yes vegan, give me a break! And yes my meal came when others had finished theirs so couldn’t even round up something I could eat. The idiot asked ‘can you eat apples then?’ I had a broken foot on the return and I had to endure sitting in a cramped seating arrangement. What do you need to have to be upgraded??? So no food, jumping to the toilet, I was 60 yo then, and no where near a toilet. and that disgusting bus that takes you from the plane to the airport no air conditioning, Dubai is a hole of a place. 40 degrees at 12 midnight. As well as at 5 am!!! And staff who needed to push my wheelchair were in no hurry, while I was taken from bus to customs and then eventually taken to hotel, oh my God that was hell. Enough said. Never AE, never Ryanair, yes Qantas, yes MA, Singapore Airlines. Eazyjet well that is another story, but the guy who sells tickets in North Terminal was taken out by security out of Gatwick, creep. stalker and scary. I said bring it on? Airport supervisor were great. Eazyjet staff are smart arses. Rude and won’t listen. Now looking for a method where I don’t need to stand in queues at airports any idea? From Amsterdam to London!