James Cridland

Trip report, QF8 DFW-SYD (10 Mar) in Premium

I was booked into economy on the best economy seat in the Qantas aeroplane, but asked for a points reward for an upgrade. I thought I was upgrading to business, but it turned out I was upgrading to “Premium”. That was a mistake.

The text came through that there were no seats in Premium, and I actually was a bit relieved. I am very grumpy if I’m in an aisle seat, especially when the person next to me is incapable of staying in their seat; and the gamble with an upgrade is that you lose control of your seat. Being very tired after a week of conferencing and socialising, I just wanted to sleep, and the window seat gives the opportunity to do just that. I wouldn’t have tried an upgrade to Premium, since I know that it’s unlikely to get the seat I wanted. So, that was fine.

However, at the gate, I was given an upgrade. And it was an aisle seat. I was a bit grumpy. I was more grumpy when the very nice American 25 year-old in the window seat appeared. She proceeded to jump up and down three times in the first half hour, fiddling with bags, toilet breaks, another toilet break, and I was dreading the 17 sleepless hours in the air, with the 25 year-old jack-in-the-box next to me, in her window seat, and me in the aisle forever having to move. I’d “spent” an indeterminate amount of points for a much worse seat. Grumpy James was grumpy.

But then, good things happened. In her fourth wander about the aeroplane, 25 year-old noticed the seat in front of her (the front of PE) was empty. That was a seat next to the emergency exit, so she could jump up and down from as much as she liked. And seated in the aisle was a dreamy 25 year-old man with Good Hair. So she asked Good Hair man whether she could move next to him, and Good Hair man was happy, and they spent the rest of the flight happily chatting to one another and for all I know they’re now married. Thank you, 25 year-old, and congratulations on your new relationship.

This meant I had a window seat with an empty seat next to me, and my goodness, this makes all the difference. Instead of grumpily acknowledging that this was going to be an awful 17 hour flight, this was now utopia: a decent window seat, space for my bag next to me, awesome.

And everything else turned out to be excellent instead of awful. I’ve not been in QF Premium before now; but the little things make a difference - lined blankets, service on crockery, pillows with a slot to keep them on your seat back, and all that.

Maria, the “boss” of the flight, came round and was extremely attentive to everyone - taking them round the features of the seats, which loo you can use (there are no loos for premium guests, so you can use the business ones and the one in economy), and all that. One of her team, Alan, did the WP welcome, and couldn’t have looked after me in a nicer way - unbidden after the meal, he came up with the cheese and cake plates from First for me; later, after breakfast (where everyone gets the vaguely unsatisfying plunger coffee), he entirely unbidden delivered me a proper flat white. Alan is good.

It’s the little things. I was always talked to by name; eerily, while everyone else was offered “glass of wine with your meal, red or white?” I was offered “glass of wine, Mr Cridland, or a Boags?” - so somewhere there’s a database of what I ask for on these flights, and Boags is the best option of QF’s terribly lacklustre beer collection. That was fascinating attention to detail.

It’s also notable that there was virtually no single-use plastic in Premium. Food was served on crockery, metal cutlery was wrapped in a napkin, drink was in a glass.

Safe in my new window seat, I slept for almost the entire flight after dinner, only waking up when breakfast was beginning to be served.

Maria came round after breakfast and checked with every passenger whether everything was good - particularly, whether there was anything in their seat that needed fixing. This was one of QF’s A380s, and they’re now just old enough to be beginning to need a little attention. That’s also a good thing, not often done. I didn’t spot anything broken, but I didn’t use the IFE at all.

I’m still not entirely convinced that Premium is worth the money. It’s definitely worth the points, though, for this length of flight. But only, for me, if I can be assured of a window seat. I would love an option like that on requesting an upgrade.