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Review: Qantas Premium Economy, London – Dubai

Background

Since Qantas and Emirates joined forces, the Australian carrier has consolidated the European destinations it services with its own metal to just one: London Heathrow. One daily return connects Melbourne and one Sydney with the British capital, with both flights connecting in Emirates’ home base of Dubai.

This set up means you can also fly Qantas just from London to Dubai and vice versa, which I recently did in premium economy. Qantas has one of the better premium economy products out there, and on the six- to seven-hour journey it’s the perfect answer to avoiding economy and not forking out the considerably higher business fare – especially on a day flight.

My flight left London Heathrow (LHR) at 12.05pm, arriving at Dubai International (DXB) at 23.15 the same day.

At the Airport

I took the tube from central London to Heathrow, getting off at the central stop for Terminals 1, 2, and 3. I had selected an exit row seat, which meant I couldn’t complete online check-in and had to stop at a counter. With my Oneworld Emerald card, I could use first class check-in, which had no wait at all. I then made my way up to the fast track security, again a perk that comes with Emerald status, not by virtue of flying premium economy.

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I used the British Airways Galleries First lounge, where I had breakfast in the dining area overlooking the airfield. The food was passable, if nothing special.

Boarding and First Impressions

The latest Qantas A380 has 484 seats across four cabins: first, business, premium economy, and economy. First and economy are on the lower deck, while the upper deck has business, premium economy, and a small economy section at the back.

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Boarding was very quick, with a surprisingly empty flight. Premium economy is 2-3-2 across between rows 24-28, for a total of 35 seats. Which seats to choose is simple: 24A/B or 24 J/K are the best bet as they have limitless legroom. The cabin was less than half full, so I had a seat pair to myself, adding to the sense of space.

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The Seat

Seats are upholstered in a mix of greys and reds, which overall, like in business, is understated and tasteful. There is a solid double armrest in between the seats, which contains a foldout table. On the other side you’ll find a personal video screen. At well over 6ft, I’ve found the recline to be very good, with the person in front of you in full recline not encroaching too much on your space – you’ll still be able to watch a movie and eat comfortably. I will admit though to spending most long-haul flights in business and missing the extra space and ability to recline further this time. A footrest is available, but it’s pretty useless if you’re remotely tall. Window seats benefit from storage bins, which are great for keeping books and devices at hand. Each seat has a universal power plug and USB charger, and is provided with a pillow, blanket and small amenity kit.

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Entertainment System

I was really impressed with the content on Qantas’ entertainment system, with a wide range of movies and TV series. There were various things I was happy to watch, which doesn’t happen very often. It certainly made time go quickly. You’re provided with Bose noise-cancelling headsets.

Meals

Qantas treats premium economy as business- rather than economy+, which comes through in the service and elements like the same wine selection as in business. As you settle in, drinks are served (water, orange juice, or champagne).

Meals are presented on white linen, with lunch the first service a little while after take-off. I opted for the chicken and rice in spicy tomato sauce, which was tastier than it looked, but nothing more than ok. It came with a side salad which was a laughable bunch of leaves with nothing to it. Before arrival, we were served a snack, where I went with the margherita calzone, which frankly was poor. Overall, I was a bit disappointed with the quality of the food on the flight – I definitely have had better meals on Qantas.

Service

The customer service manager on the flight stopped by my seat to welcome me as a frequent flier, which was a nice touch. We chatted for a few minutes, and he gave me a card that allowed me to use the fast track arrivals channel in Dubai.

Arrival

A separate airbridge for the upper deck, combined with the light load, meant getting off the plane was easy. Getting to immigration involves a short train ride. There was virtually no queue in the fast track lane, so having gone through I could head straight for the exit as I only had carryon with me. I then took a taxi to my hotel.

Verdict

I bought my premium economy ticket during a sale, paying just over 600GBP for the return to Dubai. At this price, I thought it was excellent value, especially having a pair of seats to myself. The variety of content available on the entertainment system made time pass quickly, though the food could definitely have been better.

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