Review: Qantas 737 Economy Class (SYD-MEL)

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I recently got to fly in the new Qantas 787 Business Class cabin while the aircraft was operating a domestic route on a crew familiarization flight but, to catch my ride on the Dreamliner, I had to position from Sydney to Melbourne – that’s where the Qantas 737 came into play.

I’ve already explained in a previous post why I chose to fly with Qantas and not on one of the considerably cheaper low-cost carriers but, just to recap….

The cash price for the short Economy Class trip between Sydney and Melbourne was a worrying $373 so I put my Avios balance to good use – the 1 hour flight cost me 4,500 Avios and $13.95 in taxes.

Flying Qantas 737 Economy Class

I turned up at Sydney Airport’s Domestic Terminal with plenty of time to spare (the train service from the centre of town is excellent) and, thanks to my oneworld status, I made use of the priority lane to pass through security.

a sign in a airportSydney Airport Domestic Terminal Priority Security Lane

I got to the airport early so that I had time to check out the lounges that Qantas offers but, due to the sheer number of travelers in both lounges, there was no way I was going to get any decent pictures.

Having said that both lounges were considerably larger than most US domestic lounges (I guess the Delta Sky Club at JFK comes close in size) and offered better drink and food options too – I wouldn’t mind having either of those lounges as my local lounge.


After spending some time working in the lounges I headed to Gate 6 from where my flight was set to depart.

a sign with a red backgroundQantas 737 Economy Class

Boarding was called right on time and thanks to a bit of tactical gate hovering (and my oneworld status) I was the second person on to the aircraft.

a group of people sitting in a rowQantas 737 Economy Class

The Qantas 737 is set out like just about every other 737 I’ve been in – 2 seats either side of a central aisle in Business Class and 3 seats either side of the aisle in Economy Class.

a screenshot of a computerQantas 737 Seat Map courtesy of

Thanks to a recent rule change by Qantas everyone has to pay for exit row seating (including oneworld elites) so, as Qantas wanted to charge me AU$20 (US$15) for the privilege of extra leg room…..

a screenshot of a seat

…..and as this was only to be a 1 hour flight, I decided to see what real Economy Class was like.

I walked past the 3 rows of Business Class wondering who pays $600+ for these seats for such a short flight (that was the fare when I booked my seat over 2 months away from departure).

a row of seats in an airplaneQantas 737 Business Class

The 737 Economy Class cabin looked pretty much as I expected it to look….

a man walking in an airplaneQantas 737 Economy Class

….but it only took a glance at the space between the seats to realise that this really was a cabin with just 30″ of seat pitch.

a row of seats in an airplaneQantas 737 Economy Class

a row of seats in an airplaneQantas 737 Economy Class

I knew what I was getting myself into before I booked the tickets (and this was only a 1 hour flight) but I can’t say I was looking forward to this part of my trip.

When you look a the seats head on you can see that they’re not the widest….

a seat in a vehicleQantas 737 Economy Class

…so it looks like SeatGuru is right when it says they’re 17.2″ wide.

When I took my seat my knees were just about touching the seat in front….

a person's legs in a seatQantas 737 Economy Class

…and when I put my thin laptop in the magazine holder there was pretty much no room at all – it was cramped.

As I had suspected he seats were also tight width wise. This wasn’t an issue at the waist as I’m not overly portly (yet!) but shoulder space was noticeably missing when a fellow passenger took the seat next to me.

On a positive note I hadn’t been expecting to see personal TV screens on board….

a two seats with a screen on the backQantas 737 Economy Class

…..although they did explain the complimentary headphones I had noticed on offer at the gate before I boarded.

We pushed back from the gate a little over 10 minutes late and after a drive around Sydney Airport we were airborne.

Shortly after we levelled out the cabin crew offered complimentary drinks (sodas, juices, tea, coffee) as well as a small snack pack.

a tray of food and a glass of orange juiceQantas 737 Economy Class

a package of food in a plastic containerQantas 737 Economy Class

a tray of food with different types of vegetablesQantas 737 Economy Class

Service was carried out with a smile, the crew were very friendly to everyone I watched them interact with and I liked the fact that the snack offered could actually be pretty healthy (you don’t have to use the dip if you don’t want to).

The Qantas 737 is pretty well equipped with, as I’ve already mentioned, a small personal IFE screen at each seat together with a USB port next to the screen.

a screen on a vehicleQantas 737 Economy Class

a close up of a usb portQantas 737 Economy Class

The simple but adequate remote for the IFE is housed in one of the armrests:

a close up of a deviceQantas 737 Economy Class

I took a quick look at the IFE offering and it wasn’t half bad.

There was a good selection of movies….

a screen shot of a televisionQantas 737 Economy Class

…the TV selection was impressively broad….

a screen with red squares on itQantas 737 Economy Class

…and when I checked the comedy section there were 28 different choices….

a screen shot of a televisionQantas 737 Economy Class

….all of which had at least 3 episodes:

a screen shot of a deviceQantas 737 Economy Class

Sorry the pictures aren’t the best but it was next to impossible to take a glare-free picture that didn’t have my reflection in it!

The flight itself was uneventful (my favorite type of flight!) but we did get some pretty good views of downtown Melbourne as we got closer to landing.

a city with many buildings and a body of water



  • The leg room was just about ok for a short flight but I think my 6ft frame and long-ish legs would start to struggle after 2 hours and I think I’d want to open a door and jump out after 3.
  • The seat width was where I had the biggest issue as I constantly felt the need to keep my elbows away from the armrest so that I didn’t disturb the unfortunate passenger in the middle seat and, as things were a bit cramped at shoulder level, I felt the need to lean away from the centre as well. That really wasn’t comfortable.
  • A small-ish laptop may just about be usable on the tray table provided but my 15″ MacBook was rather obviously too big (not that his was a surprise). Still, if the passenger in the seat ahead of you decides to recline it won’t matter what size laptop you have as there won’t be any room at all.
  • Asking passengers who hold top-tier status to pay for an exit row seat is tantamount to nickel and diming those an airline should be looking to impress.


  • I liked having a healthy snack rather than chips/cookies/pretzels
  • The crew were really friendly and actually appeared to want to look after passengers rather than seeing them as an obstacle to their next break (there are quite a few employees of legacy US airlines who could learn from this).
  • The IFE was impressive – it was a better offering than I’ve seen on the long haul flights of a few other carriers.

Bottom Line

My flight was just about ok (comfort-wise) but I wouldn’t want to fly any further in seats this cramped. The idea of flying across to Perth in one of these 737s is not one I’d like to entertain.


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