Allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2085 posts, RR: 4 Posted (5 years 5 months 3 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 17192 times:
It was the best of flights, it was the worst of flights.
Actually, it wasn't baby's first flight. While my wife was in her 2nd trimester we also flew Jetstar to Japan. But this was baby's first trip overseas out of the womb. Only 10 days after baby Alex's birth I spotted really cheap fares to Japan and couldn't resist booking. I was determined that having a child would not mean the end of doing what I loved.
Why Japan? After six previous trips it was a destination that we were familiar with, one that we knew to be clean and safe for a child. I love the country and had recently renewed my studies of the language with a private tutor.
So here we were four months later. The intervening time had seen changes. No longer was travel the total obsession it once was. Now I had a wonderful son who I loved dearly. Still, it was good to start planning a holiday again, pouring through books, brochures, timetables and websites in order to get the most out of the two weeks.
However, as the departure time grew nearer I found myself with many things left to organise, but almost no time to do so. A big project at work played its part, but also my son's changing sleeping patterns. As he began to sleep though much of the night the evenings were the only times I could interact with him, precious time. There was also a dog that needed his fair share of loving and my wonderful wife as well.
On the day before our flight I was still booking hotels. We had to take my mum and the dog up north to my brother's place in the morning and attend my niece's birthday party. It was early afternoon when we returned and time to give the other granny her last look at bub for two weeks.
Just before we finally departed home a big storm hit. We drove home in heavy rain. I had yet to finish packing, so I did my best and hoped that the storm would blow away quickly.
My original plan was to spend a relaxed evening in a hotel by the airport the night before our flight. We would catch public transport out there. However, the packing was taking forever, it was dark outside and still raining heavily. Friends and family couldn't drive us because of the need for a baby capsule, so I called for a taxi.
Meanwhile Alex was cranky, probably worn out by all the attention at the birthday party. We were unsure if he was sick as he had a cough. Maybe swallowing his drool or the after effects of Monday's vaccinations.
At 9pm the taxi arrived and we were shocked to see that it was only equipped with a booster seat and not a baby capsule as requested and "confirmed" over the telephone. The driver didn't understand the difference.
For once, I was glad that a taxi driver kept well below the speed limits and slowed before every traffic light. Alex was crying his head off and the trip cost over $60, but at least we got there safely, if uncomfortably.
Taxi ride through the M5 East tunnel to the airport
I hade booked the Formule 1 on account of its price ($40 cheaper than its closest competitor) and location next to the domestic airport and eateries (even if that was a McDonalds and Krispy Kreme). Other than that there was nothing to recommend it. It's not like I was looking for luxury, but the Formule 1 just felt ugly... and the other patrons seemed rough. Honestly, I wish that I had paid the extra for the nearby Ibis or the Stamford, though the latter was cold and snobbish when we stayed there prior to an earlier trip to Japan.
While B was feeding Alex I went out to get us some very late dinner. Surprisingly, despite the late hour, the Krispy Kreme was far busier than the McDonalds.
The Iraqi PM's A300(?) was sitting out on the tarmac and I watched it taxi away. Despite our proximity to the airport it was the only spotting I did. Plus it was almost curfew time.
Fortunately Alex slept through the night. Unfortunately, the night was too short. We checked out at 6am, rolling our luggage behind us as we walked to the domestic terminal under black skies. Alex was on my chest, in the Baby Bjorn carrier, as we had decided not to take a stroller with us. At 4 months old he was too young for a small umbrella strollers.
I have to confess that I was not in the best mental state for the day's flights. I was exhausted by too little sleep over the past week and the past night especially. The was also a lot of concern over Alex. It seemed like he might be sick and we had never had to deal with that before. I was also scared of encountering turbulence on the flight. I hate turbulence at the best of times, really hate it, but I can always reassure myself that I have survived through some moderately rough rides and that the plane itself can handle much worse. But what about our baby? Just the week before there had been injuries on a NWA flight on descent into Tokyo. The thought of Alex flying up into the ceiling or suffering injuries to his still weak neck as we shook terrified me. We didn't have a suitable baby capsule to bring on-board (we used a convertible seat that had been professionally fixed in the car when driving), had not hired one and paid for his own seat. All he would have was an extender belt which, according to the safety authority literature, would not offer substantial protection in a crash or severe turbulence.
The fact was that Alex was far less likely to be injured by turbulence than suffer an injury in the previous night's taxi ride. But it's difficult to convince your mind of that.
At least my scrying of the turbulence charts had indicated that we were probably in for a reasonably smooth ride, at least until the jetstream over Japan.
Terminal 2 was surprisingly busy this early on a Sunday morning. I had been unable to check us in online and couldn't use the automated kiosks either, so it was off to stand in the short queue. The Jetstar representative was very cheerful and the process quick. My earlier calls to the Jetstar call centre to organise bassinet seat requests and meal orders had also been pleasant, with the good humoured reps happy to help.
We could only be checked through to Cairns, where we would change to an international flight to Narita, so we would have to carry our luggage and get new boarding passes in the tropical city.
Being a domestic flight there were no immigration formalities, though passing through security was a real pain. I had to remove the Baby Bjorn, my belt and the laptop out of my bag. In the complicated process I forgot to pick my belt up on the other side.
Terminal 2 is really quite nice, considering that it hosts the "low cost" (sorry, "new world") airlines of Virgin Blue and Jetstar. A number of the eateries were still closed. But we had little time to admire the terminal or to eat a quick breakfast before we were boarding our Jetstar A320 to Cairns. I like the A320. It's a very solid looking aircraft, more so than its competitor, the Boeing 737.
0710 - 0920
Seats 3A, 3B
It had been a few years since we travelled domestically with Jetstar and it was nice to have our seats pre-booked rather than the scramble before. The black leather Jetstar seats were surprisingly comfortable, the legroom okay, the cabin looked fresh. My wife, B, was in window seat 3A while I was next to her in seat B. A quiet young Japanese lady sat in the aisle seat. I normally go for the window seat, but B needed the privacy it afforded to breastfeed Alex. It was also my job to get up and change Alex's nappies. Fortunately, the toilets, with change table, was just in front of us.
The sun was just rising in an almost clear sky as we taxied out to runway 34R, passing Terminal 3 with its collection of Qantas jets and QantasLink Dash 8 turboprops. The crew performed the safety demonstration, then retired to their jump seats. B began feeding Alex as we had read that this is a good method to help equalise the pressure on a baby's eardrums during take-off and landing. As the pilot increased the power the engines adopted their distinctive whine. Jetstar's A320 is one aircraft I can easily identify from sound alone when they fly overhead.
With the acceleration pressing us back into our seats we lifted off the ground and out across a Botany Bay of gold waters shimmering in the dawn sun. To our left were the factories, warehouses and container port of Botany and the Eastern Suburbs. Then we made a sharp left hand turn to track northwards along the coast. The air was clear and we had wonderful views of Sydney's CBD from our window as we ascended.
North of Sydney were the forested ridges of bright Hawkesbury sandstone, still shadowed valleys filled with early morning fog. An hour into the flight and we had crossed the coast and we flying up through inland NSW and Queensland. The landscape below had changed from green bush to yellow grasslands. We declined to make any purchases from the meal cart and also to hire a video on demand player. I believe that the latter was only offered because the flight time was around 3 hours, but users were warned that they would only have a limited time to use them (ie don't try watching a couple of long movies).
We had quite enough to "amuse" us. While a beautiful day outside was racing past, Alex wasn't sleeping. He was feeding, and by the end of the flight, he had pooed his nappies twice. It wasn't until we had less than an hour to go that he finally fell asleep on his mother's lap.
From above we could see the wet consequences of the recent heavy rains across Queensland. Whole fields were under water. Those that weren't were bright green with tropical growth. After many delayed Jetstar international flights I was surprised to find that this flight was actually running early. With half an hour to go we began our descent towards Cairns, the captain announcing that it was warm and overcast.
Landings in Cairns always seem to involve overshooting the city, then hooking back to land from the north. We descended through the clouds, which stopped at the coast, a thin line of yellow between the blue ocean and the dark green jungle of the mountains. As we got lower the waters changed to a muddy brown, no doubt the result of silt stirred up by a recent cyclone. The flight became a bit bumpy, as expected, as we felt the flow of air off the mountains. We dropped over the coastal settlements and the winding brown riverlets and accompanying mangrove swamps, the home of crocodiles.
As we taxied along the runways and waited for another Jetstar A320 to vacate our gate there was time to admire the varied aviation scene that is Cairns. Waiting at the International Terminal was a Cathay Pacific A330. There was a red and white Dornier 328 from Search and Rescue, the big Shorts SC-5 Belfast and Boeing 727 of HeavyLift Cargo and QantasLink Dash8-300 and Boeing 717. The Japanese girl next to us suddenly noticed Alex sitting up on our lap and said "kawaii desu-yo" (so cute!), announcing that she was a preschool teacher in Japan.
The three hour trip from Sydney to Cairns had passed quickly on what had been quite a pleasant flight.
Whilst we disembarked through a jetbridge we were soon walking on the ground through the construction site that is currently Cairns airport. Alex didn't mind, going from a whinging baby on the aircraft to flinging out the hugest of smiles to anyone who looked at him. Once we reached the old, but busy domestic arrivals and departures area, we swapped Alex into the Baby Bjorn again. Then it was another hike to collect our luggage from the belt, involving a trip outside the terminal.
There we met up with the preschool teacher again and her friends and while we waited for the luggage they admired our bub. Hadn't made it to Japan yet and already he was pulling in the chicks!
A mostly covered outdoor pathway connects the domestic and international terminals in Cairns. The check-in area looked new and we didn't have to wait long for the very cheerful Jetstar lady to check us in, ensuring that we were given bassinet seats for all subsequent flights. Then it was time to yet again change Alex's nappies and feed him in the parents room just down from the check-in desks. When I emerged from the parent's room I got some strange looks from one guy sitting opposite, but hey, dads have a right (no, a duty) to look after their babies too.
There being nothing to do landside we went up the escalator to the first floor and the departures area. I removed the Baby Bjorn once more and we passed through immigration and security with no problems.
The departures area looked virtually unchanged from 2006, when we were last there, especially the acquamarine, navy blue and yellow squiggly carpet. There are only three eateries, a Japanese place, a generic hamburger/fried food joint and a coffee shop, but there are a number of other shops, such as duty free, clothing, sunglasses, a newsagent and ample seating. I have to admit that I really like Cairns' airport. It has a very tropical decor and a slight sense of tropical decay, even adventure, that gives it character. My fervent imagination views Cairns like an old colonial outpost in tropical Asia, Africa or South America. In reality it's nothing so exotic as that, but it's fun to dream.
I know that most people seem to prefer direct flights, but I was glad that we had broken our journey in Cairns for 3 hours. It was a chance to look after Alex off the aircraft and to stretch our legs. While B relaxed on a chair I took a walk around the terminal. International operations were pretty quiet, our flight, a Jetstar A320 to Singapore via Darwin and I watched an Air Nuigini Fokker F100 taxi up to a gate. Our aircraft, VH-EBC, was distinctive amongst the Jetstar aircraft, for its white rather than silver coat of paint. We had flown it back from Kuala Lumpur in February the previous year.
Seats 23A & 23B
Boarding for our aircraft was called 40 minutes before departure, with Star Class passengers invited in first, followed by the rest of us. As we walked down the jetbridge we could feel the humid tropical air, that frisson of tropical adventure again. The fear had also returned. This time we would be couped up in the air for about 7 3/4 hours, passing through a familiar route that had always provided turbulence before. It's sad that I should feel this way. Once upon a time I felt insulated from the outside world while flying, now I felt besieged by it.
We took our places on the left hand side of the aircraft, in seats 23A and B. These face the partition that separates economy class from an exit, the galley and Star Class. The seating is 2-2 and each set of seats has their own bassinet mounted on the partition. There are also LCD screens on the partitions as we can't view the overhead screens and additional leg room. Tray tables emerge out of the armrests (the covers of which refused to stay properly closed).
The downside of these seats is that you cannot store your bags under a seat in front of you and, as such, they must be inconveniently kept in the overhead compartment. Furthermore, the only window is right by the window seat passenger's head, meaning that the aisle seat passenger (me) had very little external view.
As we taxied out to the runway the crew started their safety demonstration. This time they had the support of the video screens. It was the old Qantas demo "Subtly, every flight is different. Today you are flying...".
With engines at full thrust the elegant A332 lifted off the ground and into the cloudy skies above Cairns. There we the usual shakes as we punctured the clouds hovering beyond the coast. Below, the brown outlines of coral reefs were visible beneath the waters. Besides me, Alex suckled.
Alex spent almost the entire flight doing three things: suckling, crying or defecating. He refused to settle in the bassinet. He hardly slept on our laps. As a consequence, we barely had any time to relax. I would hardly have put earphones while he fed on when I would hear the sound of more poo coming out and know I would have to stand up to take him to the bathroom. Each time scary in case of turbulence with us unbuckled.
But that turbulence did not arrive. In fact, had it not been for Alex's unsettled behaviour, of which I am in no doubt was due to his cold, this could well have been the best of our flights to Japan.
The Jetstar cabin crew were brilliant, especially Larissa, who could not help us enough, and Steven, who did his best to cheer Alex up.
As we tracked northwards up the Queensland coast we were served the first of our meals. For convenience (something always important with a young child) we had preordered meals rather than bring our own. There were three choices, pasta, pork curry? with rice or teriyaki chicken with rice. B went for the pork, I for the chicken.
These were accompanied by a potato salad, stale bread roll (they always are on Jetstar) and a bar of Cadbury milk chocolate. We both agreed that the mains were really nice.
Again, we refused the video on demand units and the earphones. I had no opportunity to watch the IFE anyway. The main movie was called Flash of Genius and was about the man who invented the intermittant windscreen wiper. Um yeah.
I would like to have listened to my MP3 player and relaxed, but Alex would not let me, which is a pity because my nerves would have been very grateful.
I managed to get some glimpses of Papua New Guinea through the heavy tropical clouds. A wide brown river winding its way through a valley of tropical green. As we crossed the northern coast of PNG the clouds ended, attached as they were to the mountainous land.
B pulled the blind down to block the sunlight streaming in from that side of the aircraft. I was left to try to amuse myself in other ways. I kept waiting for the turbulence around the equator, around Guam, but it didn't eventuate. Indeed, this was the first jet flight in ages, and certainly flying north, where the seatbelt sign was not illuminated once due to inflight turbulence.
Around 5pm we had our second meal service, the "light" meal. This was just a meat pie with a tab of barbeque sauce. I queried the sauce, as last time we had the pie a very nice tomato and chilli relish was provided. Larissa apologised and suggested that the catering company stuffed up as it was the first time she had seen it. She offered to hunt around for the relish, but I told her not to worry about it - I usually eat my pies without sauce anyway (how unAustralian of me!). One nice thing about pre-ordered meals is that you get unlimited non-alcoholic beverages throughout the flight.
At around 6pm B opened the blind again and there we were flying high above a carpet of clouds. I would love to have sat back and just enjoyed that serene view.
An hour later we had a gorgeous view of the sunset. We were now descending into Tokyo Narita ahead of schedule. The clouds beneath us were a soft grey against the pastel pink sky. Then I saw a dark grey pyramid silhoutted against a salmon background. It was Mount Fuji! The captain came over the PA to advise passengers of the sight and to inform us of the weather in Narita.
Soon we were beneath the clouds and skimming over the lights of Japan. Down, down and landed!
But Alex wasn't finished with us yet. He needed another nappy change! Larissa asked how we were and when I told her about Alex she told me to use the StarClass toilet up front. She told me of one flight where the captain had brought his young child and seven nappies. She required 11, so he was making announcements over the PA asking if any passengers had nappies to spare!
I joined the queue with Alex in my arms and walked to the front of the aircraft. The StarClass toilet was no different to the others, but it was right next to the open cockpit door. I offered the pilots my thanks for such a smooth flight, then rejoined B at our seats to pick up our cabin baggage.
Thanking Larissa again, we finally exited the aircraft. If not for Alex that would have been one of the best long haul flights ever.
As we had docked at a satellite gate we had to catch the shuttle train to the main building. Passing through Japanese immigration was much faster than last time and we were soon reunited with our checked luggage. We withdrew some cash from the Citibank ATM, then found the JR offices to exchange our rail pass vouchers for the real thing.
It was good to catch the Narita Express (N'EX) into Tokyo. Alex still wouldn't settle, but I had him in the Baby Bjorn and stood whistling to him near the vestibule, where he wouldn't disturb the other passengers. Eventually he slept and B and I could watch the neon lights of shops, advertising and pachinko parlours flash past outside.
Allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2085 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (5 years 5 months 3 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 17172 times:
It would have been simpler to catch a Keisei line train direct to Ueno, but we were familiar with the N'EX and it was covered by our passes. So we had to change trains at Tokyo station to the suburban Yamanote Line. I accidently managed to leave B behind as the doors closed, but thankfully she caught up with me at Ueno, whereupon we checked into the Touganeya Hotel, a small, but clean and convenient little place near the station.
I'll summarise our holiday in Japan. If you want details, read my travel blog.
The next day was spent shopping for baby goods. That afternoon we were planning to take the Shinkansen up to Hachinohe, as far north as it goes, and spend the next day exploring folk tales at the Tono Valley. However, Alex's cough was getting worse and we were concerned. At least in Tokyo we should be able to find an English speaking doctor, but in Hachinohe...
We went back to the hotel, where they advised us that you had to visit a hospital to see a doctor and that it was too late for the day. We decided to cancel the plans to travel north and stay in Ueno for the next couple of days. Fortunately there was a large hospital just down the road from our hotel.
The next day we were informed that Alex only had the common cold and that there was nothing to worry about for now. As the appointment was completed so early that we had time to go up to Mito to see the plum blossoms of Kairakuen, one of Japan's top 3 gardens. We had seen the other two, at Okayama and Kanazawa on previous trips. On the way I bit on to a potato chip and cracked a large chunk of enamel on a rear molar. Thankfully it didn't hurt, but it was yet another hassle on this trip. I didn't let it spoil the day, but we did try to get back to the hotel early.
Fortunately, Tokyo has an excellent hotline for foreigners seeking medical assistance. Though it was late in the day they found me a nearby dentist, booked an appointment for me that evening and even translated for me over the phone. I got a temporary filling for about the same price as I would have paid in Australia! Neither of the medical treatments of that day were worth claiming on insurance (though the SOS helpline were very helpful in advising us about Alex's condition).
The following day was a six hour ride via Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hakata (Fukuoka). It's a more comfortable way to travel than flying, especially with a young child. Plus there were fantastic views of Mount Fuji (sit on the right of the train).
We visited Fukuoka's Canal City, ate tonkotsu ramen in a yatai (a portable food stall), then caught the Relay Tsubame and the actual Tsubame Shinkansen down to Kagoshima, before travelling back up and onwards to Yamaguchi. From Yamaguchi we made goldfish lanterns and bought soy sauce from Yanai and walked across the famous bridge at Iwakuni.
Kamome train from Hakata to Nagasaki
Soy sauce factory and goldfish lantern, Yanai
Bridge at Iwakuni
From Yamaguchi it was an afternoon wandering past the goldfish canals and up the red tunnels of an Inari shrine in Tsuwano, then onwards past dramatic coastal scenery to Matsue.
A day trip to the Adachi Museum of Asian Art with its world's best Japanese garden (though too sterile if you ask me), followed by a foot onsen and the full thing for B back in Matsue. The next day we visited Matsue's beautiful castle and traditional area, before catching another train down to Kyoto through stunning mountain scenery. Japan is blessed by a number of very scenic railway lines, though you wouldn't know it if you only caught Shinkansens.
There were monkeys, cherry blossoms, gorgeous temple gardens and forests of bamboo at Kyoto's Arashiyama area, and then a final Shinkansen ride back to Tokyo, where we spent a few days wandering around and shopping, this time staying at our favourite hotel in Shinjuku.
Eventually our time in Japan drew to an end. We boarded the N'EX at Shinjuku station and began our hour and a quarter journey to Narita Airport Terminal 2. It is a pleasant ride, first through Tokyo suburbia (note the huge overhead monorails of Chiba) and then quiet rural landscapes, watching people walking dogs across the fields as evening falls.
I was depressed, as usual, to be leaving Japan, to leave my home away from home at the Shinjuku Prince. I was also exhausted. Anyone who thinks that stay at home mothers have it easy over working dads is ignorant. For the past two weeks baby Alex had been attached to my chest. The only breaks I had were his brief feeds and when he slept at night. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved my time with him, but it is physically and mentally exhausting.
This sadness and exhaustion combined with a fear of the flight ahead to make me wish I could just teleport home at once. I feared the flight ahead. Feared not just the turbulence, but being trapped for so many hours unable to do anything but handle an unhappy child. I knew how to cope with long overnight flights and that's by looking out the windows for those flashes of light that are cities, stars or storms and to watch movies. If I can see out the window I can tell by the stars and the aircraft lights if the source of turbulence is high cloud or dodging storms. It is reassuring.
I wasn't certain if any of those activities would be available that night.
We arrived at the terminal and carried our luggage up the many escalators to the third floor. Despite our luggage being a little overweight and the additional paper shopping bags in our hands the Japanese check-in staff member allowed us through with no comment. Maybe a baby comes in handy! (Actually it was his clothes, bed and nappies that took up most of the space!)
The shops and restaurants are on a mezzanine floor above the check-in desks. We purchased some strawberry chocolates and peach and apricot flavoured Kit-Kats, then went hunting for dinner. Despite not eating anything more than a couple of donuts during the day my stomach was too constricted by fear to feel hungry. I just wanted something mild, like sushi (not sashimi), but we eventually ate noodles.
The food at both Narita and Kansai doesn't seem to be up to scratch in comparison with the excellent standards of Japanese cuisine elsewhere.
In the past we have struck very long queues to pass through Narita's airport security, but that wasn't the case tonight. Furthermore, they let me keep my shoes and the Baby Bjorn on.
Airside also seemed a little nicer, with a greater selection of eating and shopping options, including Akihabara duty free. We were not going to purchase anything (though that Sony P-class notebook looked so tempting - I had already resisted it at Yodobashi).
Mentaiko - yuck!
Our gate, 32, was at the satellite terminal, so we had to board the automated train out there. I was busting to go to the toilet, which meant that we didn't have time for any last minute snack purchases. I did make the discovery that there are some arse-washing toilets in the terminal, but that not every cubicle has them. I love them!
Beside us the Qantas flight to Sydney was boarding. Then it was time for us to enter our Jetstar A332 to Coolangatta airport.
Seats 23A & 23B
Boarding was for StarClass passengers, followed by the rest of us. We knew where to sit - the same place as on the last flight. It was another friendly cabin crew, this time with a greater percentage of Thais. I want to single out Natarsha who, like Larissa on the flight up, couldn't help enough.
Soon the lights of Narita Airport were racing past and we were airborne. B fed Alex and once we had reached cruising altitude we put the bassinet down. Unfortunately the bassinet was slightly broken, not unusable, but we were promised that it would be reported.
The bassinets have straps that clip over the top and come with a blanket, but must be stowed during turbulence, take-off and landing.
I was trying to relax myself by watching the excellent final three episodes of series 3 of the new Doctor Who on my portable media player. However, Alex had his usual problems settling. He's a bit of a television addict so I held my player above him to watch and he relaxed. At least I could hear the sound...
He slept for a while, then awoke startled, so B gave up on the bassinet and let him sleep on her lap. She watched Ghost Town on the IFE while I continued with my Doctor Who. Eventually the two of them slept. I managed to fit in a couple of episodes of Double the Fist on my MyLO as well. I may have drifted off a couple of times, though I can't sleep long on flights.
Before I knew it we were past Guam with no turbulence, which must be a first for me. It wasn't until just north of Papua New Guinea when the aircraft started bumping around and the seatbelt lights were illuminated. The flight settled down and the lights were switched off. Then it started getting bumpy again, but the warning lights were kept off, though it seemed as rough as the last time (which is to say, not that bad).
We skirted around to the east of PNG, then continued down to Queensland over the Coral Sea. At around a quarter past four AEST the first hints of sunrise arrived, a thin line of glowing red, then orange, then blue. B was placed on photography duties. The cabin lights were illuminated a bit before 5am as the crew began the meal service. This time we had not pre-ordered meals as the flight fell between dinner and breakfast. Neither did we feel the need to purchase any food.
As the food was taken around the sun just began to peek over the carpet of grey clouds below. We crossed the coast north of Rockhampton. Our flight was actually running early as we began our descent at around 5am, the aircraft shaking dramatically as it pierced the clouds. When we finally emerged below them we were treated to a magnificent vista of a sunrise over the ocean. The descent into OOL was certainly one of the prettiest I have seen. (My wife took these photos).
This was certainly one of the nicest flights south that I have been on. Alex largely behaved himself, it was quite smooth for most of the journey and time seemed to pass by faster than expected.
The Mineralogy jets that are frequently mentioned in the Australian Aviation Thread
When the aircraft came to a stop on the apron we let all the other passengers exit first before attempting to unload our gear. This is the first time that I have used stairs to exit a widebody. Fortunately, the rain was holding off because it was a fair walk outdoors to the transit lounge. Coolangatta Airport was an even greater construction site than Cairns. We were ushered through a security scan where, again, they let me keep the Baby Bjorn on with a friendly smile.
I'm surprised that Jetstar wanted to move its flights from BNE to OOL so quickly as the OOL facilities were in an awful state with construction slated to be completed in late 2010. The departure lounge was horrible. No windows, not even a television to distract you, a tiny duty free store and a cafe that was still closed, despite there being a Jetstar flight, A Virgin Blue flight and an Air New Zealand flight all waiting to depart. Eventually the owners appeared and unlocked the cafe with a "what's the fuss?" attitude.
One thing the Japanese don't do well is chocolate milk. The stuff you get from convenience stores is watery. It was good to have a Big M from the cafe fridge. Then I must have fallen asleep.
Seats 23A & 23B
It was another outdoor walk to board our flight to Sydney. The aircraft that brought us down from Tokyo was still there on the tarmac, but we were taking a different A332, this one having arrived from Osaka. We walked up the stairs and returned to our familiar seats for the hour long flight down to Sydney.
This was the first of our flights to be delayed, though it wasn't Jetstar's fault. A fire alarm had gone off in the terminal trapping four passengers. Thankfully it was resolved quickly and we were on our way less than 10 minutes late.
After two weeks surrounded by Japanese faces it was a shock to see all these rough looking Australians. I must confess to feeling increasingly alienated amongst my fellow countryfolk and listening to the bitching by a couple of women in the middle rows didn't help.
It was a very pleasant flight back to Sydney, the kind of experience that makes you love flying. Bright morning sunshine outside above an interesting cloudscape below. Only a couple of bumps here and there, nothing dramatic. Food was offered, but again we couldn't be bothered ordering anything. With Alex happy being fed we could just sit back and enjoy the flight.
Our approach into Sydney Airport took us south and over the Royal National Park. We then made a left turn towards the north to cross the bay, then right to align with the runway. I noticed contrails high above. Slowly we descended then, bump, we had landed.
This time we collected our belongings quickly and exited the aircraft ahead of many others.
Immigration, baggage collection and customs didn't take long. Despite declaring food, medicine and other objects on the customs and quarantine card we were waved through without an x-ray. Customs were much more interested in the line of passengers from the Philippine Airlines flight that had also just arrived.
After all the wonderful public transport of Japan, the final leg of our trip home was rather painful. A train from the International Terminal to Wolli Creek, then a change of platforms to Sutherland, then a long wait for a bus back home. But we made it, and baby had returned from his first trip overseas from outside the womb.
Travelling with a 4 month old infant did prove to be a challenge, but I think it was worth it. He and I had a chance to spend a lot of time together and I watched him develop substantially during the time away. Japan proved to be an easy place to take a young child, although I'm glad that we didn't lug our western stroller along, if only for the stairs. It wasn't his fault that he was sick on the flight up, but I don't think the other passengers suffered unduly with Alex onboard as we expended a lot of effort to keep him quiet.
Frankly, I'm tired of the constant criticism of Jetstar. I've flown Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Asiana, BA and Qantas and only on the latter's Australian Airlines subsidiary have I experienced service as good as on these flights. It wasn't just about complying with requests efficiently, it was doing so with a sense of enthusiasm and good cheer, of going out of their way to make a difficult time as pleasurable as possible.
Yes, the flight would have been made more pleasant with seatback IFE, but apart from that I couldn't fault Jetstar. Yes, $30 is a fair amount to pay for a couple of meals, but the sale prices were so cheap that it's still better value than other airlines and quite tasty as well. I was comfortable, experienced great service and my flights were on time (not so in the past). I would not hesitate to recommend Jetstar unless you were on the tightest of schedules or wanted to fly business class.
During the flight home I thought to myself that I may have cured my flight addiction, and that I couldn't face flying for a long time. But as I waited at Wolli Creek and watched Air Canada take off into a sunny sky doubts started to creep in. As I hung the washing out the sounds of jet engines flying overhead set me dreaming. Then, over Easter, we spent a couple of days in Cooma and Narooma. When we returned home and I stepped out of the car I heard a Qantas jet flying above and I realised that I had been missing the sound of the engines while we were away. So, I think I'll find myself flying again.
Bps3458 From Australia, joined Oct 2006, 565 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (5 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 17073 times:
let me be the first to congratulate you on a wonderful trip report with fantastic pictures and on "surviving" your first plane trip with your son. Reminds me of our first flight with our son in 2006 when he was just 6 weeks old.
In just 2 1/2 weeks we are off to Frankfurt to intoduce our newest family members to the family back in Germany. Our very energetic son is now 2 1/2 years old and our twin girls will be 5 months old when we depart from BNE on May 4th.
Will be flying JL via NRT with a stopover both ways as we couldn't imagine doing the long trip to Euope in one go without an interuption. Even though we will only be staying at local hotels at NRT we are very much looking forward to a short return to Japan, the country where I met my Australian wife in 1999 and spent 5 years working and partying.
Will try to write a trip report but have my serious doubts that our 3 little "devils" will give me/us much time to enjoy the flights. Still I am very much looking forward to spending 3 weeks with my wife and children back in Europe.
Having flown JQ star class a few times to HNL and also HKT I tend to agree. Their service has always been great and seats are comfy. I'd like better catering, but aparet from that they are pretty good.
Allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2085 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (5 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 17058 times:
Quoting Bps3458 (Reply 2): let me be the first to congratulate you on a wonderful trip report with fantastic pictures and on "surviving" your first plane trip with your son. Reminds me of our first flight with our son in 2006 when he was just 6 weeks old.
Quoting Bps3458 (Reply 2): In just 2 1/2 weeks we are off to Frankfurt to intoduce our newest family members to the family back in Germany. Our very energetic son is now 2 1/2 years old and our twin girls will be 5 months old when we depart from BNE on May 4th.
Oh gosh, you are brave! We just took our now 5 month old down to southern NSW for a couple of days over Easter, but by car. He still pooped while travelling in the car! But I can't imagine dealing with two 5 month olds. Being able to carry one around in a Baby Bjorn makes life so much easier.
Bps3458 From Australia, joined Oct 2006, 565 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (5 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 17039 times:
Quoting Allrite (Reply 4): Being able to carry one around in a Baby Bjorn makes life so much easier.
Fully agree. The BabyBjoern has to be one of the best inventions ever for carrying infants. We think we are well equiped for the trip with each of us having a BabyBjoern for the girls and we are "training" our son to watch Playschool at home so he can watch the same on my laptop during the flight.
Allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2085 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (5 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 17034 times:
Quoting AirbusA322 (Reply 5): Interested to hear what the loads were like on the CNS-NRT, NRT-OOL and OOL-SYD
Meant to say something about that... Pretty full CNS-NRT with lots of Japanese travellers. On NRT-OOL there were quite a few empty seats, though the aircraft was still reasonably populated. OOL-SYD was also reasonably filled, but with lots of Australians, including a number just flying domestically (it flew between the international terminals).
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4755 posts, RR: 26
Reply 8, posted (5 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 16978 times:
Wow... what a journey and trip report. You have presented to us another view, one of a parent travelling with a young child because we have only heard constant bitching about how other parents travel with noisy children. Your wife looks very sweet, by the way.
Quoting Allrite (Thread starter): I like the A320. It's a very solid looking aircraft, more so than its competitor, the Boeing 737.
Now now... Your sadistic nature is starting to manifest itself. Comparisons like this should never be made, also along others like SQ / MH / CX, 777 / A340, SYD / MEL, etc... unless you want to start WWIII.
Quoting Allrite (Thread starter): From above we could see the wet consequences of the recent heavy rains across Queensland. Whole fields were under water.
Memories... I lived through the flooded plains of Rockhampton not once, not twice, but thrice!
Quoting Allrite (Thread starter): The Japanese girl next to us suddenly noticed Alex sitting up on our lap and said "kawaii desu-yo" (so cute!), announcing that she was a preschool teacher in Japan.
Freaky... for someone to look almost lifeless suddenly spring to action like a recharged robot. Hahahaha....
Quoting Allrite (Thread starter): Once upon a time I felt insulated from the outside world while flying, now I felt besieged by it.
One must also take into account you now have a precious little fragile life in your hands. So a switch in mindset is rather normal.
Quoting Allrite (Thread starter): Alex spent almost the entire flight doing three things: suckling, crying or defecating.
LOL!!!! Like I said, thank you for presenting us a view from the other side.
Quoting Allrite (Thread starter): I did make the discovery that there are some arse-washing toilets in the terminal, but that not every cubicle has them. I love them!
Ooooh... These bidets even have some which will blow dry your arse too!
Quoting Allrite (Thread starter): The descent into OOL was certainly one of the prettiest I have seen. (My wife took these photos).
It is always wonderful to have a partner who understands your (our) obsession with flying.
Quoting Allrite (Thread starter): One thing the Japanese don't do well is chocolate milk. The stuff you get from convenience stores is watery. It was good to have a Big M from the cafe fridge.
I like Meiji milk. In fact that is all I buy in Singapore actually. But in Australia, I agree, BIG M is the best especially the strawberry and coffee flavoured ones.
Strange... When a fire alarm goes off, it is NOT supposed to trap people inside, is it?
Quoting Allrite (Thread starter): Despite declaring food, medicine and other objects on the customs and quarantine card we were waved through without an x-ray. Customs were much more interested in the line of passengers from the Philippine Airlines flight that had also just arrived.
Ah you see, our Pinoy friends stole your thunder! Otherwise I am sure you would have been put through the rung hole and probably ended up on an episode of Border Security.
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Vhqpa From Australia, joined Jul 2005, 1473 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (5 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 16569 times:
Great trip report as always from you. As Ryanair said before you rarely see trip reports about travelling with young children and it's really interesting to see things from another perspective. It looks like the three of you had a wonderful time in Japan I especially enjoyed the photos of the approach into OOL.
"There you go ladies and gentleman we're through Mach 1 the speed of sound no bumps no bangs... CONCORDE"
Allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2085 posts, RR: 4
Reply 10, posted (5 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 16388 times:
Quoting ANstar (Reply 3): I'd like better catering, but aparet from that they are pretty good.
Soft bread rolls would be a good start, and bring back the Weiss bars for the second meal service!
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 8): Now now... Your sadistic nature is starting to manifest itself. Comparisons like this should never be made, also along others like SQ / MH / CX, 777 / A340, SYD / MEL, etc... unless you want to start WWIII.
To be fair I did compliment the 737 in comparison to a Dash8 and a EMB-170 in a previous trip report!
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 8): Memories... I lived through the flooded plains of Rockhampton not once, not twice, but thrice!
Yes, but even after all that rinsing the stain on the Australian landscape that is Rockhampton has still not been washed away! I too have Rocky flood experiences.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 8): Ooooh... These bidets even have some which will blow dry your arse too!
I know! I love these toilets. Just think of how much toilet paper is saved. I'm sure less water is used in washing bums than in making and transporting toilet paper so it's probably "greener" too (especially if you eat lots of spinach!).
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 8): But in Australia, I agree, BIG M is the best especially the strawberry and coffee flavoured ones.
All we could ever get was "Van Houten" cocoa in Japan on this trip. I actually prefer the chocolate "Dare" drinks here.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 8): Strange... When a fire alarm goes off, it is NOT supposed to trap people inside, is it?
It was probably a construction worker smoking outside the building! With the mess that is OOL right now I wouldn't be surprised if there was some confusion.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 8): Otherwise I am sure you would have been put through the rung hole and probably ended up on an episode of Border Security.
"What are these pills?" "I dunno the dentist gave them to me." "Likely story, now open wide and let us look inside..."
If I can accidentally bring in a European pear so rotten that the smell of it makes me think I'm suffering kidney or liver failure without a sniffer dog noticing (I had nowhere to trow it on the French train and it had sat in my bag for three days in Japan), then I think I must be too boring for Border Security to feature me.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 8): One must also take into account you now have a precious little fragile life in your hands. So a switch in mindset is rather normal.
Sadly it happened long before this trip. Sometime back in 2003 over the Tasman sea while watching "Thunderpants" on the IFE.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 8): LOL!!!! Like I said, thank you for presenting us a view from the other side.
My colleague VHSMM was showing off photos from his latest jaunt, including some of the aircraft toilets. I wish now that I had taken some of my own - if we can have seatguru.com, then why not aircraftchangetableguru.com, complete with the messy evidence?
Qantasclub From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 757 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (5 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 16346 times:
What a FANTASTIC trip report. It's so important for people to read reports like this, because it just underscores how difficult it can be from a parent's point of view, instead if the frequent bitching about children on this forum from people who have never been parents. I can completely relate to your experiences as my wife and I took our 4 month old son to Tokyo as well. Like you, I was determined that us having a baby was not going to dampen my love for flying. After all, my son's middle name is Jet. Anyway, you must be congratulated on your trip as I don't we even saw half of what did in Japan; just stayed around Shinjuku for the week that we were there. It turned out alright, I have to say. We flew SQ and since then, in the last 2 years, we have taken him to AMS, BCN, PER, BNE, and SIN several times....all on either Qantas or SQ.
I really have to say that the service on SQ to parents with infants was faultless on pretty much al of our flights, with 100% consistency for all legs: priority boarding before all the other Y passengers, PRE-emptive service; asking us constantly if we needed anything, offering to warm up bottles of milk, baby food, automatically reserving our choice of meals so we could eat sequentially whilst feeding our baby; it was all just breathtakingly consistent. Qantas was hit and miss; some flights great whilst others, we pretty much got no assistance.
We have a second baby now (5 mths) and plan to take both kids to Langkawi in August and SIN again in October.
So well done, and keep flying!
Matt From Canada, joined May 1999, 698 posts, RR: 2
Reply 12, posted (5 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 15752 times:
Great trip report, especially considering that in two weeks we'll be taking our 9-month old daughter on a long flight (Halifax-New York-Helsinki-Turku). She's flown with us twice, but on much shorter flights. We've booked a seat for her and also will have a bassinet on the 9-hour New-York to Helsinki flight (on a brand-new Finnair A330-300!).
I was told by friends that the size of the bassinets vary from one airline to another, and that some are much smaller than others. I hope ours is big enough for our 9-month old.
Cytz_pilot From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 569 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (5 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 15086 times:
Great trip report and photos. Looks like another child will end up like mine, an aviation nut! My son is 3 and he can pick out a 757 & Dash 8 if he sees them. 737s and CRJs will be next, because we see a lot of them at our home airport, PDX.
It has been really hard for me to enjoy traveling with my son, as I am very self-conscious and I don't like disturbing people. When they are young, they may be fairly out of it the whole time with nursing and sleeping, but it's hard to calm them down when they just need a cry. When they are older, its tough as well because they're prone to boredom and the need to move around and explore. But at least when they're older, they can be entertained easier. During our last flight, when he got seated, we gave him some new cars, a toy 737 and one of those magnetic drawing pads. Man, we didn't hear much out of him for a few hours.
In any case, good on you for making that big trip...you're braver than I was with a 4 month old!!
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4755 posts, RR: 26
Reply 18, posted (5 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 14766 times:
Quoting Allrite (Reply 10): I know! I love these toilets. Just think of how much toilet paper is saved. I'm sure less water is used in washing bums than in making and transporting toilet paper so it's probably "greener" too (especially if you eat lots of spinach!).
You are a fan of toilet humour too I see... You forgot to mention seaweed also helps since you are in Japan! Speaking of toilet humour, I have 2 very old CDs of Martin and Molloy which I listen to once in a blue moon for a chuckle eg. like how they borrowed Dannii's implants to perform balloon art for a children's party - which eventually burst leading to screaming kids scurrying away.
Quoting Allrite (Reply 10): If I can accidentally bring in a European pear so rotten that the smell of it makes me think I'm suffering kidney or liver failure without a sniffer dog noticing (I had nowhere to trow it on the French train and it had sat in my bag for three days in Japan), then I think I must be too boring for Border Security to feature me.
Come on now.. a rotten pear is nothing compared to loads of hidden balut on the Philippine Airlines plane! No fight!
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Umm... yes! You sound like you enjoy Australian humour. Pity that you have probably missed out on a number of ABC comedies that were vodcast over the past year, like Chaser, the Hollowmen, Double the Fist and Review. The latter three were on my "MyLO" for watching inflight, along with some Hamish & Andy podcasts. Or I could have watched some Red Dwarf, League of Gentlemen or Peter Jackson's Bad Taste on the Zaurus. Anything other than Two and a Half Men and Christine on the main screen... ugggh!
I bought boxed sets of "The Goodies" so that Alex could be exposed to some of the same humour I was brought up on.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 18): Come on now.. a rotten pear is nothing compared to loads of hidden balut on the Philippine Airlines plane! No fight!
Hey, you never smelled this pear. I got home, had a shower, went to bed and could still smell it. Took me ages to discover that it wasn't me, it was a rotten pear in my daypack. But thanks, another dish I didn't want to know about. Still, it's better than the raw frog meat one traveller brought in from Korea for use as a beauty therapy.
Signol From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2007, 3007 posts, RR: 8
Reply 20, posted (5 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 14545 times:
Thanks for a great report, and especially very useful info about travelling with an infant... Our first is due next month, and we've booked a trip to South Africa (from UK) for Christmas, so he will be 7 months old. Do you definitely recommend a front sling ("Baby Bjorn"?) over a light pushchair / stroller? We plan on flying 7 sectors including 2x long haul, one of them daytime, the other overnight...
Allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2085 posts, RR: 4
Reply 21, posted (5 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 14333 times:
Quoting Signol (Reply 20): Do you definitely recommend a front sling ("Baby Bjorn"?) over a light pushchair / stroller?
By the time your child is 7 months old he should be able to use a small umbrella stroller. These can be very lightweight (or not for certain brands) and you can often take it to be stowed on-board for long distance widebody flights.
From about 6 months babies can support their own heads, so everything changes in regards to transport.
I'm not certain how heavy he will be at 7 months - I'm learning as I go. I was sometimes in agony after two weeks straight of the Baby Bjorn, but I have a feeling that the lumber support was not properly adjusted and carrying multiple other bags at the same time may not have helped. So too, trying to fit large bags into overhead racks - I suspect that I may have injured myself slightly causing all the other problems.
That said, I loved the carrier for the closeness and for the convenience while walking over different terrains and in crowds. You can also take it with in as cabin baggage, making it easier to retrieve quickly. And I would say that most airlines (perhaps not Ryan Air by their reputation) would overlook a carrier as additional carry-on luggage.
Hopefully by 7 months your child will settle properly (we are working on a new sleep routine right now - ouch!) so you may find an aircraft bassinet works okay. You can often also use infant car seats - if you are seeing family it shouldn't be a problem to carry them. If, like us, you are undertaking independent travel then carry a car seat on to trains and buses is likely a pain!
One item we have found really useful (though your child may be too old) is our highly portable travel cot:
It's tiny when stowed (sat in our checked-in bags) and takes under a minute to deploy. I only noticed afterwards the label that said "Should not be used overnight" , but as we were in the same room as him I don't think it was a problem. Plus Choice (Australian independent consumer testing organisation) was complimentary about the safety of the cot.
Vio From Canada, joined Feb 2004, 1435 posts, RR: 10
Reply 22, posted (5 years 5 months 2 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 14292 times:
Fantastic report Allrite,
I really took the time to read it. What an interesting route and I must admitt (shamefully) that I thought JetStar was an Indian Airline and not Australian. (or is it?... so confusing). I must congratulate you for two things here; one that you had the courage to travel with a young child and two because you handled it so well.
I'm also a travel nut, averaging about 25 round trips per year (not including the ones I actually fly myself), but as I start thinking more and more about getting married and having kids, I ask myself what I must give up for the family? Well it seems that traveling is not something that needs to go away. Everyone tells me to get it out of my system before I get married. Well, 10 years later, after finishing high-school (and while I was in college), it's still wasn't / is not out of my system. I don't think it will ever be.
Have I learned something from this? You bet, and I should save this trip and show it to my girlfriend (hopefully future wife), whenver she'll try to hint that travelling with young kids is impossible. (I can totally see her doing that)
Thanks for the great report and fantastic photos. Your son is addorable. All the best to you and your family. Look for my trip reports that are gonna come up. I'm heading from YVR to PUS via ICN and hopefully this October, I'm going to head down your way, to the land "Down Under" to see my little sister who's in med school in Brisbane. It will be my first trip to Australia and I can't wait to see it.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 8): Strange... When a fire alarm goes off, it is NOT supposed to trap people inside, is it?
I was wondering the same thing... LOL...
Quoting Matt (Reply 12): Great trip report, especially considering that in two weeks we'll be taking our 9-month old daughter on a long flight (Halifax-New York-Helsinki-Turku)
Wow, you're the only other Canadian that I know of who has flown to Turku (besides me). Do you have a trip report from there?
[Edited 2009-04-16 19:14:54]
Superior decisions reduce the need for superior skills.
I really took the time to read it. What an interesting route and I must admitt (shamefully) that I thought JetStar was an Indian Airline and not Australian. (or is it?... so confusing).
Thanks! Jetstar is Qantas' lowcost offshoot. It flies both domestically in Australia, long-haul and has subsidiaries in Singapore and Vietnam. See their website. I've flown with them to Asia four times now.
Quoting Vio (Reply 22): I'm also a travel nut, averaging about 25 round trips per year (not including the ones I actually fly myself), but as I start thinking more and more about getting married and having kids, I ask myself what I must give up for the family? Well it seems that traveling is not something that needs to go away.
The comments by others here give me hope too. Everyone has been telling me that you can't travel with children between 9 months - 2 years. My colleague at work took his child to Japan and Hong Kong when he was 6 months old. The kid is now two and my colleague made a big fuss of him going only as far as Canberra in a car from Sydney (3 hour drive). I can't imagine us not travelling for 1.5 years! Fortunately, having a wife who is taking a year off to look after baby means that she wants to get out of the house as often as possible.