Aboard the Qantas 787-9 that will fly Perth-London direct

Photo of Geoffrey Thomas

The Qantas Boeing 787-9, that will launch the Perth to London non-stop route next year, is the most luxurious aircraft the airline has ever put into service, our Aviation Editor says.

Any way you slice and dice the numbers, there is more physical room in all three classes aboard the new Qantas Boeing 787-9. It feels more spacious.

And there is no doubt that there needs to be more space, because this aircraft is going to be the home for 236 passengers on the world’s longest 787 route — 17.5 hours — from Perth to London from March.

Recently in Seattle, Qantas chief Alan Joyce said the first 787 Dreamliner signalled the start of an exciting new era for the national carrier and the travelling public.

“Taking delivery of a new type of aircraft is always an important milestone for an airline and the 787 is a game changer,” he said. 

“From the distance it’s able to fly, to the attention to detail we’ve put into the cabin design, it will reshape what people come to expect from international travel.

“There are lots of elements that combine to make the Qantas Dreamliner special.

“The seats, the lighting, the entertainment, personal storage, right through to the special crockery, cutlery and glassware that weighs on average 11 per cent less.

“We’re working with sleep specialists, dietitians and other scientists at the University of Sydney to see how adjustments to our in-flight service can improve wellbeing and help people adjust to new time zones.”

Unlike some 787 operators, Qantas has adopted all of the architectural and lighting features that Boeing spent years developing with industrial design company Teague and universities to enhance the passenger’s experience of wellbeing and sense of spaciousness.

Walking on board the 787, named Great Southern Land, you are greeted by a huge domed ceiling with soft beige lighting that gives a sense of space.

The two arches that curve up to the ceiling draw the eyes to soft morning-sky lighting.

Move towards your seat and the morning light gives way to an ice-blue glow that makes the ceiling appear much higher than it really is.

Smoke and mirrors? No, smart science, and you really do get the sense you are entering a spaceship.

Boeing research showed that if a passenger’s first impression is of spaciousness then that sense will stay with them for the entire flight.

In every cabin, there is more physical space and/or private space than on any other Qantas aircraft — even the A380.

While Qantas is not the first airline to take delivery of the 787 — its first is the 615th built — it has benefited from all the experience of other operators to perfect the cabin and the aircraft.

The business cabin (pictured at top) has 46 suites, similar to those now installed on its A330s, though the bed is 2.54cm wider and 18cm longer.

There are 28 premium economy seats, which are wider and set further apart than on any other Qantas aircraft. These seats have a recline motion that provides a cradle-type seat for sleeping and a 96cm seat pitch. 

The seats are set in a 2-3-2 configuration with the typically unpopular middle seat 5cm wider.

This is one area where Qantas may have misjudged the market. Premium economy represents great value when you consider that, in 2000, the weeks of average weekly salary needed to buy an economy seat would buy premium economy today. 

The airline really needs more of this class, particularly on ultra-long-haul flights.

The two economy zones have a total of 166 seats which are wider than those on a Qantas A330, and just a fraction narrower than those on the A380 and 747. 

But there’s more legroom than on Qantas’ A380 and 747 and I felt comfortable (with my 194cm height).

The airline has defied the global trend to cram more people in by giving economy class passengers another inch of legroom, taking the seat pitch to 81cm.

The feeling of space is enhanced by enormous windows that connect you with the sky while the big overhead luggage bins consume all carry-on baggage, freeing up the area under the seat in front.

The name Great Southern Land was chosen for the first aircraft out of 45,000 suggestions from the public. It is a historical name for Australia and the name of an anthemic 1982 Icehouse song.

As part of the aircraft unveiling in Seattle, Icehouse performed the hit.

Singer-songwriter Iva Davies said the song was inspired by a Qantas flight across the country’s red centre.

Qantas will name each Dreamliner after something uniquely Australian, including animals, places and literature.

Duration: 05m 23s

Fact File


Geoffrey Thomas was a guest of Boeing and Qantas.


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