Hi Frugalistas! I’m back with an airline review for the first time in what seems forever. The last airline review published on frugal first class travel was Mr Frugalfirstclass’ take on Singapore Airlines, so I’m pleased to be in charge of this one. We had not flown QANTAS domestically for a number of years, preferring the Virgin Australia alternative and it was many years since I had flown QANTAS internationally. I was therefore intrigued by the QANTAS Business Class product on the recent trip we took to Hawaii. Flying on the QANTAS a330 (used on a number of their midrange routes) here is my QANTAS Business Class review 2023 travelling QANTAS Business Class Sydney to Honolulu and return.
QANTAS Business Class on the ground
The QANTAS Business Class check in at Sydney airport is not flight specific, but for our evening flight there was little in the way of queues. We were therefore served quickly for check in by a friendly QANTAS ground agent. MissG was travelling with us in QANTAS Economy Class and the agent went to lengths to find her a better seat where she would be able to lie down for the overnight flight.
Since we had travelled internationally last, Sydney airport had introduced a new First and Business Class Immigration channel, so we were through both Immigration and Security in no time.
I’ve written previously about the always underwhelming QANTAS Business Class Sydney Lounge is, and this visit was no exception. I think they were understaffed because there was almost no clearing of tables, and replenishment of food was very slow. Despite the Lounge being quite full, whole toilet and shower areas were closed. Food itself was heavy on the carbs and a bit stodgy. MissG who is always a picky eater was worried about the dining options on the plane, so tucked in heartily to mac n cheese, which she enjoyed. Mr frugalfirstclass decided to put his trust in the QANTAS Business Class in flight dining menu and I settled for cheese and crackers.
Boarding was organised and orderly, even with the extra security checks required for flights to the US.
When we arrived at Honolulu Airport for our flight home the queue even outside the airport building was lengthy for economy passengers. There was no queue for business class check in. To be fair to the ground staff there were extensive renovations in the building and the check in was operating out of a limited number of temporary check in counters. So we waited. And waited. In the end I called over a member of the staff to check we were even queuing in the right place as we seemed to be ignored completely. Once served we were on our way quickly, but it wasn’t a great experience for anyone in either queue.
There was no separate business class queue for security, but the airport was not busy and we were on our way to the lounge promptly.
On our Honolulu to Sydney QANTAS business class flight we were able to experience the newly reopened QANTAS Honolulu Business Class lounge. We had been given verbal instructions to find the lounge (which is on another floor), but it was still a bit of a mystery tour to get there.
Whilst the QANTAS Business Class lounge in Honolulu is not big it was certainly pleasant and was big enough to accommodate the number of guests waiting. Amenities were well kept, there seemed to be plenty of food suitable for a late morning departure (mimosa and a Vegemite and tomato tartine anyone?) and there was even drinkable coffee. The staff were excellent and very engaged – they kept us very well informed about the delay to our departure. The outlook of the lounge was very pleasant and a lovely reminder of the tropics.
Boarding for the QANTAS a330 Honolulu to Sydney was orderly, despite the delay (caused by a shortage of cleaning staff at the airport). MissG was delighted to be called forwarded via an announcement and given the points upgrade to Business Class I had secretly requested for the flight home.
QANTAS Business Class in flight
QANTAS Business Class amenities
We were provided with a pair of the famous QANTAS grey pyjamas on our night time flight. They were light and comfortable and a good fit. The amenities kit on each leg was different – themed to celebrate the QANTAS centenary, the colours and styling reflected those used in QANTAS flight attendant uniforms over the years. Inside was a basic kit of items wrapped in paper. There was no lotion of any description in the amenities kit, but pleasant smelling and good quality hand cream was available in the loo.
QANTAS a330 Business Class seat
I found the QANTAS a330 Business Class seat comfortable enough for a nine and a half hour flight, although it was not particularly wide. What I really struggled with, however, was the lack of storage. It was sooo bad, even my handbag had to go in the overhead compartment and our shoes had to be strewn around us. There was a little rack, big enough for a book/iPad, phone etc and a small open box arrangement that was big enough for the amenities kit and that was pretty much it.
The other thing I struggled with was the solid divider between Mr frugalfirstclass and I in the middle seats. It made it almost impossible to speak during the flight.
When we boarded we had a decent sized pillow, a duvet and mattress pad ready on our seats. I must say, I found the seat sufficiently comfortable to not bother with the mattress pad. The pillow was comfortable and the duvet good quality.
The footwell was big enough and the seat long enough to enjoy a good night’s sleep on the Sydney to Honolulu leg.
QANTAS Business Class menu
I was very pleased to see a printed menu on both legs of our flight. On both legs we were treated to one full meal and one lighter meal. This was just right for 9+hr flights. Unfortunately the promise of the written menu did not live up to expectations.
In general I found the entrees (appetizers) much better than mains. I’ve often found that going for the salad based entree is often a better choice, and these flights were no exception. My deconstructed tuna Nicoise was delicious and creative.
My burramundi main on the Sydney to Honolulu leg was nicely cooked, but the skin had been left on the fish, which meant the flavour of the coating didn’t sink into the fish, and fell off the minute I cut into it.
On one leg I opted for a cheese course rather than dessert and while the serve was generous, the serving of the cheese lacked finesse and was very limited in choice on the plate.
My pulled pork ciabatta on the return flight was a bit of a gamble I admit. Surprisingly, the bread itself was fresh and not at all soggy. The pulled pork tasted spicy and interesting, but the texture was horrible – mushy and soupy, it was not true pulled pork.
On the return flight, MissG declared the menu inedible (when she discovered the only dish she wanted was not available on the flight, despite being listed on the menu), so channelled her inner 6 year old and ate nothing but ice cream and chocolate for the entire 9hrs. She said she was very disappointed as the food in economy on the QANTAS a330 Sydney to Honolulu was much more appetizing.
Mr frugalfirstclass didn’t like his beef fillet on the way over – over cooked and stewed (as is frequently the case with beef in my experience), with undercooked vegetables. On the Honolulu to Sydney leg the rice accompanying his chicken was completely cold and inedible.
The wine list on the printed menu was limited to “a selection of” Australian wines. In practice this turned out to be a choice of two reds (Cab Sav or Shiraz) and two whites (Chardonnay or Riesling). Very 1985 – even down to the Chardonnay being very oaky according to Mr frugalfirstclass. Champagne was Laurier. A range of spirits and mixers were also available. Cognac was Martell VSOP which came as a very generous pour.
While pours on the wine were quite generous initially, unfortunately, top ups were not offered and had to be requested.
QANTAS Business Class inflight entertainment
I found the QANTAS Business Class inflight entertainment quite adequate for flights we travelled on. The IFE screen was big and easy to navigate by either the easy to reach touchscreen or the hand held remote control. There were a range of new release films (although I found these lacking in choice compared to some of QANTAS’ main competitors) as well classic films and plenty of TV show options. Unlike some airlines, I was pleased that multiple, full series of TV shows were included – I get very annoyed when TV shows are restricted to just one or two episodes – especially on longer flights. I therefore watched a couple of new releases I hadn’t seen and then settled in and enjoyed two full series of the comedy Hacks.
There is no wifi on the QANTAS a330 at the moment in any class.
QANTAS Business Class service
QANTAS are famous for the friendliness of their inflight service. In our experience, while the inflight service was definitely friendly, it was patchy, and on one occasion was just terrible. Things went quite well on the way over to Honolulu but on the way back things went seriously pear shaped. We were all set up for meal service and then sat. And sat. And sat. To the extent that it took about an hour to serve everyone just one course of the propose two course light meal. What made it worse was there was no apology or explanation.
We were provided with plenty of water during the flights, but top ups of drinks had to be requested.
The crew didn’t seem to be rushed, just slow and not anticipating of our needs.
QANTAS Business Class Review 2023 final thoughts
I put QANTAS a330 Business Class in the “nice, fine” but not “great” category. The seat was quite comfy, and had the advantage of being in a 1-2-1 configuration. But the solid partitioning and lack of storage was very problematic. Food and service were patchy, and the wine list was inoffensive but old fashioned.
We haven’t travelled on Hawaiian Airlines Business Class since the pandemic, but when we did, while it wasn’t perfect, I found it a more pleasant experience overall. On the other international routes where QANTAS fly this plane, they can’t compete with Singapore Airlines a350 Business Class, and I’d have doubts about their ability to compete with the Japanese airlines or Cathay, although I’ve not flown JAL or Cathay in many years.
Author’s note: we paid for our own flights for this QANTAS a330 Business Class review.
In Honolulu we stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. While post COVID it’s certainly not back to where it was, it is friendly, comfortable and very well located. And the views from the Mailani Tower are to die for. You can book your Honolulu accommodation here.