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  • Qantas recently tested the new world's longest flight, a nearly 20-hour nonstop from New York to Sydney, Australia, using the Boeing 787-9 - Business Insider was aboard the test flight.
  • The airline uses the same plane on its current longest route, a 17-hour trip from Perth to London.
  • We sat in the seats in all three cabins - business class, premium economy, and coach - to see what they were like.
  • Go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za for more stories.

When Qantas ran a test of the world's longest flight, a nonstop from New York to Sydney, Australia, the airline used a brand new 787-9 airplane.

However, the plane only had 40 people on board (including this reporter).

That's because the plane doesn't have the necessary range to make it the 9,950 mile flight with a full load of passengers and crew. Instead, Qantas was using the mostly empty flight to research how pilots, cabin crews, and passengers cope with the long flight time.

Qantas uses the 787-9 for its current longest flight, a 9,000 mile jaunt between Perth and London, currently the third-longest in the world.

The plane has three classes - business, premium economy, and coach - and I spent time sitting in all three. On the flight home, which involved a brief stop at LAX, I was in coach the whole way.

The seats in each cabin have a few features to make ultra-long-haul flights more tolerable. Here's what they're like to fly in.


On a 20-hour flight, business class is obviously the most comfortable, and most expensive, option.

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On the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner that operated the test flight, the business-class cabin is split into two sections: a larger cabin to the left of the boarding door, and a smaller "mini cabin" with just three rows to the right.

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I was in the smaller cabin, further back.

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Here's my seat, 11E. Each of Qantas' business-class seats has a small side table and is consequently staggered, meaning some seats have the table between the seat and the aisle, and others, like mine, are directly against the aisle and have the table on the inside. On some planes, this can feel a lot less private and make sleeping a bit harder, though it certainly wasn't an issue on this flight.

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Each seat comes with a set of noise-cancelling headphones, which can hang on a hook just under a small reading lamp. There's also a holder for a water bottle.

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Under that, just above the side table, there's a power outlet for charging things like laptops, a USB port for charging phones, and a headphone jack for the in-flight entertainment system.

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There's a small storage cubby under the side table, where I put a few things like my camera, notebook, and an extra water bottle. On a normal flight, it would be a good spot for things like a book.

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Each seat also had an in-flight entertainment screen.

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There was also a storage area in a cubby under the seat in front of me. When the seat is turned into bed mode, this serves as the end of the bed. There's plenty of room for your feet.

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The tray table is stored within the side table. In business class, you get a tablecloth during meal services.

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The biggest perk is that the seat turns into a bed. The flight attendants come by with a fitted mattress pad ...

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... And with the push of a button, the seat folds flat, transforming into a bed.

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With a blanket and a pillow, you can look forward to a good night's sleep.

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Business class is great, but for most of us, it's unaffordable on such a long flight.

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If you're looking for something a bit more spacious than coach, but more affordable than business, premium economy presents a great option.

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I spent some time during the flight in the premium economy seats and was definitely impressed.

Some airlines' premium-economy products are basically the same as coach, just with slightly larger seats and slightly better food.

These seats, though, were much different from a standard economy seat. One Qantas employee described them as "more of a level below the full business class, rather than a small improvement on coach" - and after actually sitting in it for a while, I think that's a fair assessment.


A crucial aspect is the leg rest, which shockingly few premium-economy products offer.

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When it's extended and the seat is reclined, it's actually quite comfortable. There's a net beyond the leg-rest that serves as a comfortable footrest.

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There's a decent amount of legroom, or pitch, as well. Even when the seat in front of you is reclined, it does so at an angle where there's still plenty of room for your knees.

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The majority of passengers, though, will be in the 3-3-3 economy cabin.

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It's closer to the standard product you'd expect, but it has a few little tweaks that help make a long flight more bearable. Twenty hours in one of these seats would certainly be tough, but I felt fine after my 18 hours of flying home (broken up by a short, unpleasant connection at LAX. I was wishing we could have just kept flying to New York!)

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Economy seats have about 32 inches of pitch, which is on the higher side of standard for long-haul airplanes.

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Economy seats also have an adapted version of the premium-economy footrest. Even though it lacked the leg portion, it was definitely helpful.

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While business class is obviously the most comfortable way to travel for a long flight, I was surprised by how comfortable coach on the 787-9 was, at least compared with other long-haul flights I've taken ...

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... though even coach on the Airbus A380, which I flew home to the states, was great!

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