My family of five recently returned from a two-week vacation to Australia and New Zealand. As I mentioned last week, the long flights were much better than I anticipated. To get to Sydney, we flew QF8 Economy class (Qantas flight #8) direct from DFW, which is a 17-hour non-stop flight.
When I was in the research phase for this trip, I couldn’t find any detailed reviews for Economy class seats on this QF8 flight. So, I’m putting mine out there in hopes that it will help ease people’s concerns about enduring such a long flight in coach.
Booking QF8 Economy
I booked our flights eleven months in advance with AA miles for 40k miles plus $28.40 in taxes for each one-way ticket. My husband and I had accumulated over 200k AA miles through five credit card bonuses (see It’s Raining AA Miles).
TripAdvisor and FlyerTalk threads rated Qantas above American Airlines for this route based on service and amenities, so I really wanted to use my miles on Qantas metal instead of AA. Plus, if we flew on AA metal, we would have a layover in LAX late at night, which isn’t ideal.
A week or so before flights started to go on sale, I purchased a membership to ExpertFlyer (Pro version for $4.99). This proved to be invaluable as I searched for award seats.
As the dates for my desired trip came online, I saw award availability on QF8. Since Qantas is a partner of AA, the award seats should have been available on aa.com. But, they were not there. I had to call AA and ask them to book the seats. Yes, it was kind of a pain, but I really wanted those seats on QF8.
I was able to book our seats right away. I paid an extra $90 for my husband to sit in a special seat in coach that doesn’t have a seat in front of it. He is 6 feet tall, and I wanted him to be comfortable.
Our flight departed at 10:25 p.m. on a Friday night from DFW Terminal D, which is the newer international terminal. This is my favorite terminal at DFW. It has the best restaurants, and there was a spot for my kids to burn off some energy right in front of our gate.
Boarding started an hour prior, with a separate jetway for the upper deck of the plane. Upon boarding, we received an Economy amenity kid which included an eye mask, earplugs and toothbrush/toothpaste. Each seat already had a blanket and pillow.
To get a feel for the inside of the aircraft, watch this video. Economy sections start at the 1:18 mark.
Seats in QF8 Economy
According to SeatGuru, the Economy seats on this Airbus A380-800 have a pitch of 31 inches with a seat width of 17.5 inches. The seats themselves were cloth covered and quite comfy for long periods of sitting.
Each seat had USB power outlets as well as seat-back screens with remote controls in our arm rests. The screens were privacy screens so that you couldn’t easily see what everyone else was watching unless you were in their seat. In addition to a huge assortment of tv shows and movies, we could watch a channel that showed a camera view from the top of the plane. That was very cool for takeoff and landing.
Note: This specific flight never sells all the seats due to weight restrictions. At the airport counter, passengers could pay extra to buy adjacent empty seats to create a sleeping bench. By my estimation, 25%-30% of the Economy seats were vacant. Not many people were stuck in a middle seat. This was a stark contrast to our flight home on United from AKL to SFO, where every seat was full.
Flight Attendants and Service
The Qantas crew that checked us in for our flight turned out to be some of our flight attendants on board. With a 17-hour flight, the flight attendants rotated in and out of service.
Overall, we found them all to be very friendly and accommodating. When my son didn’t care for his special kids’ meal, the flight attendant circled back with an adult meal. We didn’t have a lot of interaction with the flight attendants as we were trying to sleep for a good chunk of the flight, but we didn’t encounter any grumpy ones.
Of course, hearing “G’day” in an Australian accent just made us more excited to land in our destination!
The takeoff and landing on this plane was so smooth and quick. Within 10 minutes of takeoff, the fasten seat belt sign was already turned off. It didn’t go on again until about 15 minutes prior to landing.
I’m not gonna lie. Dinner wasn’t great. But, snacks and breakfast were better.
Not long after boarding, flight attendants passed out bottles of water to everyone. That was very convenient.
We actually ate a normal dinner at home before our flight, since the flight didn’t depart until 10:25 p.m. Flight attendants served dinner and beverages about 60-90 minutes after takeoff. Since we were up so late, we were hungry again.
I ordered our meals online a few days before the flight, and I’m really glad I did that as we got our meals delivered first before folks who didn’t pre-order online. Two of my kids got special kids’ meals, and the rest of us ordered chicken. We wanted to get our meals out of the way so that we could get some sleep. See this article that has photos of meals as well as instructions of how to order online prior to flying.
About 11 hours into the flight, they served empanadas with Tim-Tams (Australian cookies). Most of my family had just woken up at that point, and the meal really hit the spot.
Qantas doesn’t really advertise this, but grab-and-go food is available throughout the flight in the galleys. I read about it on a prior review and decided to check it out.
At the galley a few rows behind our seats, Kit Kat bars were available. At the rear galley, there were more extensive offerings including granola bars, fruit and drinks.
About 90 minutes before landing, flight attendants served breakfast. It was about 5:00 a.m. Sydney time. Breakfast was nothing special, but it included scrambled eggs, muffin and sausage.
I REALLY needed us to sleep on this flight because it landed at 6:25 a.m., and I knew our hotel room wouldn’t be ready that early. Plus, the best way to get used to a new time zone is to stay awake until a normal bed time. So in order to hit the ground running in Sydney, we had to catch some zzz’s on the plane. No pressure!
My husband and I have never had good luck sleeping on planes before. Even after four trips to Russia, a few trips to Europe and two flights to Hawaii, we never got a wink of sleep.
This flight had to be different, and luckily, it was. The biggest factors in getting sleep on this flight were seat arrangements, time of departure, eye masks and noise-cancelling headphones.
Obviously, the fact that my husband had no seat in front of him meant that he could stretch out his legs while reclining his seat. But, the rest of us made sure to put our backpacks in the overhead bin so that we could stretch out our legs under the seats in front of us. We also took off our shoes and replaced them with comfy slippers.
When I picked our seats, I made sure we weren’t too close to the bathrooms or kitchen to cut down on noise and lines. Also, my husband and I sat next to our smallest kids so that we could spill into their space a little. It makes a difference.
Each one of us wore noise cancelling headphones and eye masks to go to sleep. This had a HUGE impact. I never realized how noisy an airplane was with just the engine sound.
Before the flight, we set some expectations with our kids. We told them that they could watch one movie during dinner, but after that they had to try to get some sleep. I didn’t want them to get hooked on movies all night and be grumpy zombies when we landed. We also told them no caffeine on the flight, and we didn’t pack them junk food and candy.
Because of the 10:25 p.m. departure, after dinner my two younger kids were zonked. After all, it was 1:00 a.m. My husband and I even managed to get some on-and-off sleep for the first time ever. All five of us slept until there were only five to six hours left in the flight.
When we landed in Sydney, much to our surprise we didn’t feel terrible. We managed to get to our hotel and head to the Taronga Zoo. Between 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., we hit a wall, and we barely managed to stay awake through 5:00 p.m. But, sleeping on the plane and the entire first day went way better than we could have hoped.
Passing the Time
Seventeen hours can seem like an eternity if you’re watching the clock. Sleeping and even just closing our eyes with our eye masks and headphones on were the fastest ways to move the clock.
For me, refraining from double-tasking helped pass the time. For example, when food was served, I stopped reading or watching a movie to focus solely on eating.
I tried to not check the time too often, and when I was awake I’d walk around every hour or so.
Overall Impressions of QF8 Economy
My husband and I both agreed that QF8 was our best long-haul flight ever. It’s nothing short of a miracle that everyone in my family slept for a few hours.
Would we have been more comfortable in Premium Economy or Business class seats? Of course! But with five in our family, we couldn’t spare the miles or cash. Instead, we were strategic about our seat arrangements and used tools to help us sleep.
I absolutely would not take Australia or New Zealand off your travel list if you’re worried about flying that long in Economy class seats. If you have AA miles and are looking to fly to Sydney, QF8 Economy is the way to go.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.