There’s a new jet flying in Australian skies – and not just on regional routes, but between capital cities, too. That’s QantasLink’s new Airbus A220 – which brings a fresh twist to Economy. With a different cabin layout than you might expect and new tech-friendly amenities, this could become the aircraft of choice for domestic hops.

If you enjoy stretching out, there are also many rows of extra legroom seating. These usually come at a cost, but there’s a trick to getting these seats for free. Read on as we explain how – and look at the overall travel experience from gate to gate.

Check-in and boarding

I’m in Canberra for a quick overnighter, so there’s no need for a checked bag. This allows me to skip the check-in queues and head straight for security. There’s no priority lane here for Gold and Platinum frequent flyers, but there’s no queue to avoid. I’m through within moments.

I’ve done check-in through the Qantas app, so I already have my boarding pass. Yet when it’s time to board, there’s a little bit of a hiccup. The flight has already been delayed and a new boarding time issued. And when that time comes, there’s still no plane at the gate.

Rather than standing in line, I leave and return again once boarding actually begins. Perhaps, I should have waited around – the ‘priority’ lane ends up being longer than the general queue. And both are called forward at the same time. As I get closer to the front, I see the general lane empty and hop across to get on faster than from the fast-track queue.

Perhaps, the trick in Canberra is to simply join the general line. I hear from a friend who lives here that this is usually the shortest queue!

Eventually, I’m on board this QantasLink Airbus A220 Economy flight. I’ve chosen a window seat near the front of the cabin. This gives me views to enjoy and a speedier exit when we arrive in Melbourne. Given the flight has been delayed by an hour and we’re landing just before peak hour, it still gives me a slight jump on the afternoon traffic.

Lounge options in Canberra

Clearly, an Economy flight aboard the QantasLink Airbus A220 doesn’t include lounge access by itself. But Canberra is one of five Australian airports where Qantas operates three domestic lounges. Travellers with frequent flyer status, lounge membership or a lounge pass may be able to visit the following facilities here in Canberra.

  • Qantas Club: As the name suggests, this is the home of paying Qantas Club members. The space also caters to Qantas Gold members and equivalent frequent flyers from other partner programs. For instance, Emirates Skywards Gold and oneworld Sapphire. Single-use Qantas lounge invitations are also valid for this lounge.
  • Qantas Domestic Business Lounge: Open to Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers. Also welcoming equivalent travellers such as Emirates Skywards Platinum and oneworld Emerald. Of course, if you’re flying Business, you’d get access here too.
  • Qantas Chairman’s Lounge: A private space exclusively for members of Qantas’ invitation-only program and their guests.

I arrive a few hours before my flight to get some work done, so take the opportunity to go lounge hopping.

You’ll be notified in the lounge when boarding commences.

Here’s where the QantasLink Airbus A220 Economy cabin stands out from the more typical Qantas Boeing 737. Unlike the Boeing 737’s cabin layout of 3-3, on the Airbus A220, it’s 2-3 instead. This means only one in five passengers may end up in a middle seat: versus one in three on the larger jet.

It also means that couples and pairs travelling together could choose to sit in one of those duos, avoiding a third wheel. I’m flying solo today and enjoy window views on short flights, so choose an ‘A’ seat. This means I’m only one seat from the aisle.

But here’s the thing. Ahead of the exit rows, many of those duos have extra legroom – and Qantas charges accordingly. On this one hour hop, the fee to pre-select one of these prized pods is $30 per person. The charge is only waived for Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge members.

However, once online check-in opens, you may be able to move to one of these seats at no charge if they’re still available. That’s exactly what I do, and I manage to snag 5A.

To the seat itself, it looks thin but it’s surprisingly comfortable. The headrest is adjustable but firm – so it doesn’t slide back down the moment you let it go, as I sometimes find on seats that are more ‘well worn’. There’s a pocket for any larger items directly in front and a literature pouch above that.

Keep your gadgets recharged with USB-A and USB-C power at every seat. There’s also AC power – but just one outlet per pair of seats, or two outlets between three. On a short flight like this, there’s unlikely to be a battle for the socket – but that’ll be less convenient if these jets were to appear on longer flights.

This may be a quick hop, but there’s still time for a refreshment. Hot drinks aren’t served today given the short flight time, but there’s still plenty to choose from on this QantasLink Airbus A220 Economy leg.

On the snack front, nibbles consist of a three-olive dip with lavosh crackers, carrots and celery. For a flight sitting right in that ‘afternoon tea’ window, it’s really all you need. Especially so, if eating a proper lunch in the lounge beforehand.

Beverage-wise, all choices are complimentary. This includes beer and wine on flights scheduled to depart from midday onwards. The usual soft drinks, juices and water (sparkling and still) are available too.

QantasLink Airbus A220 Economy snack and drink
This is an hour-long flight in the early afternoon, but wine and beer are still included.

Inflight entertainment and service

Remember how I prefer the window seat on flights like this? The vistas can be quite scenic between Canberra and Melbourne – so consider choosing the same for yourself. Pay particular attention when the aircraft is banking as you can see more of what’s below.

In terms of entertainment, the QantasLink Airbus A220 offers a couple of choices in Economy. There’s the usual Qantas inflight streaming service. But to be honest, the flight is so quick that I don’t find the need to even open it up. If I did want to watch some content though, the seat’s tablet/phone holder would surely come in handy.

These planes also feature satellite Wi-Fi – and it’s free for all passengers. It’s perfect for emails, messaging and social media. I clock downloads speeds averaging 1.3Mbps and uploads averaging 2.4Mbps. That’s not fast enough for HD video streaming, but it’s fine for basic connectivity.

It’s not long before we’re descending into Melbourne. It’s a fast and pleasant flight.

The verdict

Realistically, I don’t expect much on a short flight. By the time the seatbelt sign comes off until it’s time to prepare for landing, there’s barely long enough to send a few emails and enjoy the snack. But not every QantasLink Airbus A220 flight will be as short as this one – and that’s where the extra features of this Economy cabin come into play.

Inflight power is great to see – even though the AC outlet is shared. You never know what somebody’s day has entailed. Perhaps they’ve been dashing from meeting to meeting and had to bolt to make their flight. At least, this way, nobody needs to land on ‘low battery’.

Inflight Internet is also particularly handy when travelling during business hours. I’m able to keep up with the happenings of the office and reduce the work left to do when I land. Socially, it’s also nice being able to send and receive messages – as travel days can be busy and it’s great having time to catch up on things.

However, it’s unfortunate that Qantas chooses to charge even Platinum members for these prized extra legroom seats. At least, when choosing them sooner than online check-in. By comparison, Virgin Australia unlocks all extra legroom (Economy X) seats for Platinum members from the time of booking – including on flights between Canberra and Melbourne. It’d be great if Qantas would follow suit. But with Qantas now charging Platinum members to pre-select even the prized row four on the Boeing 737, that’s an unlikely change.

Also reviewed: QantasLink/Alliance Airlines Embraer E190 Economy

Feature image courtesy of QantasLink. Other photography by Chris Chamberlin, who travelled at Point Hacks’ expense.

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QantasLink Airbus A220 Economy (Canberra – Melbourne) was last modified: April 29th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin