a white airplane flying in the sky

Writing about ultra long haul economy flights is easy. Living through ultra long haul economy flights, such as the second longest flight in the world is a whole other story! Callum Howes reported live for God Save The Points as a paying passenger on Qantas first ever Boeing 787 direct flight between London and Perth. Here’s everything you need to know about the historic new route – and how to survive it in the back! Big thanks to Callum. 

a woman holding flags in front of balloonsCheck In

Arriving at London Heathrow’s Terminal 3, I was greeted by the presence of news crews and other media staff in their dozens. Qantas staff were handing out freebies, offering selfies, adding to the excitement in every way possible. Obviously, don’t expect this on a normal flight, but it was a fun touch on the special occasion.

The Check-in process as Qantas economy passenger was swift and Qantas staff were all very friendly and proactive with myself, and those around me. Unlike many other airline experiences, all desks were open which meant queues were minimal. No one needs queues before a 17 hour trip in economy.

an airplane in a hangarBoarding

Once the gate was displayed, I headed straight towards gate 1. A fanfare of media staff, Qantas staff, flags, cakes and treats amongst other things. Again, don’t expect this at all. It’s worth noting though, that Terminal 3 is a great place to pass time. There’s everything from high street shops to fast food to caviar houses, and some of the world’s best lounges are in there, if you happen to have access.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the aircraft I had been dying to see, the special Emily Kame Kngwarreye liveried 787-9 Dreamliner. Boarding was smooth and swift, over before we knew it, doors closed and ready to go. 17 hours, yikes…

a row of seats in an airplaneWhere To Sit

I was seated in 47A, a window seat, which was a lot roomier than expected – with a great view. The bulkheads at row 40 and row 46 were surprisingly spacious and are definitely good seats to aim for, and I’d say would be worth paying any extra fees needed. On a flight this long, you need all the help you can get – and the extra legroom and space is a big one.

Just to note, the middle 3 seats on both bulkhead rows had a basinet which was quite large, so could be bothersome for some. Also to note, the issue with the row 46 bulkhead is that during the second half of the flight, It became a waiting area for the lavatory as well as a mini gym section for everyone to stretch their legs.

If you don’t want to feel claustrophobic on a 17 hour flight, perhaps avoid row 46, otherwise you may become friendly with quite a few passengers loitering around your seat.

a black bag and eye maskIn Flight

Once airborne, I got a better chance to explore the seat and the aircraft. The leg room was more spacious than anything I’ve experienced in economy before, always helpful when you’re 6ft plus.

The seat recline (6 inches) was also impressive although it was a struggle to use my laptop when the passenger in front of me reclined fully. The pillow and blanket provided were high quality for economy with, soft fabric which shows Qantas really did have some passenger comfort in mind when they designed this ultra long haul service.

One nice touch: Qantas also offered a complimentary snack bar in the rear of the cabin, which was a great place to grab snacks and stretch your legs to stay fresh. Again, if you hate crowds – you might want to avoid the last rows for that reason as well.

a white airplane in the skyFood & Entertainment

The Inflight Entertainment was an Android system and although the screen was a decent size at 12 inches, with a huge selection of movies, tv shows, music and radio shows, it was a little bit glitchy. Minor issue that many people won’t be bothered by.

The food was a varied selection, the pasta was a pleasant surprise especially as it tasted home cooked. Snacks were brought through the cabin every two to three hours so the need for bringing snacks on board wasn’t completely necessary, though it really can’t hurt if you have any boredom favourites to pass the time!

rows of seats in an airplaneSurvival

After about 12 hours, my lower back began to ache but thanks to the Dreamliner’s improved cabin pressure, mood lighting and increased air flow, I still felt fresh, as did many of the other passengers on board I spoke with. Relatively speaking, of course. Perhaps if I fasted for the flight, I might have done even better with the jet lag.

I must admit that the last hour or two really did drag – but all ultra-long haul flights will at a certain point, at least for me personally.

a plane on the runway at nightBetter Than Other Routes?

In comparison to other flights to Australia. I would choose this non stop route over the Emirates and Qantas A380 services, unless of course I wanted an extended stopover. The service was well above Malaysia airlines standard as well.

The convenience, the aircraft type, the entertainment and the food were all top notch. Im a huge airbus fan but the Dreamliner was impressive and exceeded expectations. Plus, the perk of non stop means there are no second flight frustrations. Especially on the London to Australia route. Either the first or second leg will always be over 12 hours with a 6 hour+ flight thrown into the mix. I would need to fly on Singapore airlines again to make a comparison as it has been a few years.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Thanks for the review. I’d like to know more about the leg room, though. SeatGuru lists the leg room at 32″, with that being about normal. You said that there was more room than expected. I’m pretty much always the tallest person in the room, with size to match and I get backaches on flights much shorter than this. So I’m wondering if something was done to make the effective space greater. Slimline seats are often the answer, but the lack of padding tends to cause discomfort after a few hours, that only gets worse with time. Thanks in advance for any insight.

  2. “Plus, the perk of non stop means there are no second flight frustrations. ”

    Only if one resides in Perth.

      1. But Qantas have replaced the Melbourne – Dubai – London A380 with the MEL-PER-LHR with the 9 abreast 787 and are charging a premium for this route. So Jill N is right that this not non stop for a significant number of the passengers on this flight.

        We’ll be looking at other routes and most likely other carriers than going via Perth at an inflated price

  3. Flew in to London today on the QF 9 Dreamliner flight. Nothing but good things to say. Staff service particularly by Steven and Karen was outstanding and lasted for the whole flight. Great service made this trip a “pleasure”.
    The 17 hour (16 and a half in fact) duration was counteracted by no stop offs, great food, all access snacks, great variety of beverages and clean amenities. I was nervous to fly this amount of hours but would not hesitate to recommend this Qantas flight. Very impressed. Flying overnight was a great idea also as it flowed with our usual sleep patterns.

  4. I personally found the Dreamliner flight extremely long and tiring and felt very cramped in economy class.
    Food and service was ok.
    Very little leg room and none when the seat in front was extended back.
    Back and leg cramps after several hours.
    I would not recommend this flight to other travellors as I was very disappointed.
    I also paid for seat allocatjon and then did not get this.
    Overall a big disappointment on an expensive flight.

    1. HI Susan, I couldn’t agree with you more, I also found this flight very long. I too developed painful leg cramps and found it hard to walk. When we were at the gate at LHR I saw a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER (which is bigger and more comfortable than the Dreamliner) parked at the gate next to our Plane. My heart sank when I saw our 787-9, another dreadful 17 hours waste of my life. If we had gone on the Cathay Pacific PER-HKG-LHR and LHR-HKG-PER round trip it would’ve cost a lot less. I must add that all this hype about the lower cabin pressure makes you feel less tired is rubbish, I felt very tired for the next 2 weeks. QF9 and QF10 are good if you’re in Business class, but if you’re in Economy it’s an expensive waste of time.

  5. Hi there,
    I’m just about to take this flight and currently I can pay more to sit in row 41. Was there any different in seat quality in rows 40-45 than the rear section rows 46 upwards?
    Or am I best to pay for a seat in row 50 that currently has no one either side?
    Thanks in advance,

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