By Alex Robertson

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and Qantas have combined forces for first the direct service between Perth and London. For this route, the 787-9 has been configured with just 236 seats, meaning more room for passengers. Some airlines using this aircraft have more than 300 seats.

Fewer economy seats means more in business class - where I was - and more premium economy. Qantas feels passengers on the ultra-long-haul flight need special treatment, and predicts that demand for the seats will be high.

The experience starts on the ground, with facilities in the lounge that offer yoga-inspired stretching classes and light therapy to adjust the body clock for the17-hour flight. The stretching is invigorating and relaxing at the same time, but the jury's still out on the benefits of the light therapy.

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The food and drinks on offer are also designed to benefit the body and make the trip less stressful: fresh salads, fruit, more protein and less carbs are the fare; fruit-infused water, special teas and a hydration station are also available.

You can still get a grilled cheese and ham sandwich if you really want it and even a barbecued sausage in the outdoor terrace. A fully stocked bar is also at your disposal.
The decor and design is very relaxing and the outdoor area is a big plus, with sufficient shade to temper the harsh effects of the West Australian sun. It's a pleasant and relaxing way to while away the time before the flight.

Qantas' service is top notch: cabin crew are all friendly and attentive and nothing is too much bother.

The plane interior is tasteful and the business-class pods offer privacy and utility with phone and laptop charging, plenty of storage and space for books, computers and phones. The fold-out table is niftily tucked into the side of the pod and released by pushing a button.

The audio jack on this plane is a three-pin, which means you won't be able to use your own headphones without an adaptor. It also means you will need to bring your own to listen to anything on your laptop, tablet or phone.

The plane's headphones are not noise-cancelling, which is a surprise: Air New Zealand has noise-cancelling in business class and it makes for a much better entertainment and sleep experience.

The range of entertainment is fantastic, with a selection of the latest films, TV box sets, HBO features, documentaries, comedy, kids' TV and films, music, spoken word and games. You won't be bored if you can't sleep.

The seat unfolds into a lie-flat bed with plenty of room to stretch out. It does, however feel like a seat with all the little lumps, bumps and undulations apparent when you're trying to find a comfortable spot. Again, Air New Zealand's lie-flat is more comfortable, with a flat surface, spongy mattress and full-size pillow.

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Food is excellent and the Neil Perry menus are tasty, filling and healthy. Alcoholic drinks are always on offer, although Qantas recommends you limit your intake to avoid dehydrating on such a long flight. You eat from china crockery and drink from real glass. The linen tablecloth and inflight pyjamas are a nice touch.

The Dreamliner is a winner for comfort and reducing the less-pleasant aspects of flying: cabin pressure is set below other aircraft and you definitely feel better for it.

The toilets are pretty standard and kept clean and well-stocked. Soaps are anti-bacterial and you can keep your hands and face from drying out with the freely available moisturisers.

Does this 14,500km flight feel any longer? Not really. Once you're up there the time seems to go reasonably quickly, especially if you can sleep. The biggest bonus is not having to stop half-way.

Alex Robertson flew from Perth to London courtesy of Qantas