Well, finally my holiday in Thailand had come to an end, and it was time to fly back to the UK, this time on Qantas (the inward trip was on BA). Date, 25th June 2001 - scheduled departure 00.30.
Imagine my surprise when the airport bus turned up at the Qantas 744 in WUNALA DREAMING colourscheme. It actually looks nicer up close than in the photos, although if you ask me I'm not the greatest fan of this scheme.
Anyway, I was seated in seat 61 H, by the window towards the rear of the A/C. Fisrst impressions of the cabin was that it was noticeably inferior to that of BA. No PTV, no footrest, and tatty seats weren't all that impressive compared to the inward flight on BA. Still, a cabin is not the be all and end all, so I took my seat, and we pushed back about 5 minutes late (00.35).
Rotation was prompt, and a nice view of Bangkok at night was seen from my window. We headed up to a cruising altitude of 37,000 feet, and the route took us over Myanmar, India Afghanistan, various ex-Soviet states, Russia, Latvia, passing underneath Scandinavia before heading down towards the Netherlands, then descending into the UK.
Dinner was served about 2 hours after rotation, it was a choice of Chicken with vegetables or Spaghetti in a tomato-based sauce. Accompanying was a Thai-style Somtam salad (spicy papaya salad) and a dessert of a type of egg custard flan. I had the chicken. The food was okay, but paled into insignificance compared to BA's offerings. Still, the BA food was prepared at its home airport of LHR, whereas QF's food was done by Thai caterers, so I cannot leap to any conclusions based on that.
Breakfast was a choice of tropical fruit, or a vegetable quiche (I opted for the quiche - again it was so-so)
There was a 'Movie Marathon' on offer, but as this prevented the Route and statistics map being shown on the screen, I was a bit annoyed by this. For me, the major advantage of PTV is the fact that you can keep the Airshow on your screen at all times.
The flight was absolutely packed, and subsequently the cabin was a bit noisy, with the Aussies being the major culprits! The BA flight was only about half full, so obviously was quieter for this reason.
Okay, so far I have talked about areas in which Qantas needs to catch up a bit, but there were some nice touches too. The F/A's were in my opinion, excellent, very friendly. BA's F/A's were very efficient, but quite aloof (very British) whereas the Qantas F/A's were very approachable and smiling. Drinks could have been offered more frequently (BA came around every 30 minutes with drinks), but you have to consider here that the QF flight was packed and the BA flight was 50% full.
Another nice touch was the fact that on the QF F/A's name badges there is a flag indicating the foreign language(s) spoken by that attendant. This is a great idea in my opinion, and shows a degree of thoughtfulness on the part of the airline towards it's passengers.
Another nice touch was the presentation movie on the destination, showing all the good areas in London and the UK etc - again this shows a great degree of thoughtfulness towards pax.
We landed around 2 minutes later than scheduled (06.32 UK time), and after a flight of around 12 hours we deplaned.
Final thoughts. At the moment, if you want good food, PTV and a nice cabin, take BA's New World Traveller - it absolutely smashes Qantas away in this respect. However, Qantas is believed to be undergoing cabin modernisation in it's 744 fleet shortly, so this argument may not be valid for long.
What Qantas does have going for it is a very friendly, unpretentious Flight Crew, and this counts for a lot in my opinion. Okay, so it is clear that as things stand, BA is the better airline at the moment, but I look forward to trying Qantas' new 744 cabins in the near future, to see the difference.
I used to think the brain is the most fascinating part of my body. But, hey, who is telling me that?