Below is a following report on my recent trip to Australia. I booked via Orbitz back in January and the cheapest fares were with US Airways and Qantas. I found this a good option considering that I could earn QF frequent flier miles on my US Airways account however, with the recent US Airways bankruptcy outlook, I chose to sign up for a QF account and earned miles on that card instead.
US Airways PHL-LAX
May 23, 2002
Scheduled Departure Time: 6:04 PM
Wheels Up Time: 6:15 PM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 9:02 PM
Actual Arrival Time: 8:23 PM
I arrived at Philadelphia airport and was greeted with a really long check-in line at the US Airways counters. The E-check-in kiosks were plentiful but were barely being used. I waited in line for about thirty minutes before making it to the counter. The agent was pleasant and I asked for an exit row seat. I was told that the flight was extremely full and that she was unsure if she could do it. Fortunately, since I checked in three hours early (I love hanging around airports), I was allocated seat 25F, which is an exit row seat with tons of legroom. IMO, the best seat in economy on US Airways 757’s. I next proceeded through security. In regards to security, I went on this holiday expecting the worst since I was a single male traveler under the age of 25. This I thought would set off “bells and whistles” and I’d be scrutinized at every security checkpoint. I was wrong; security was a breeze at all airports on my trip. I was given no ‘random’ searches.
Boarding for the flight commenced about 30 minutes before departure. It turned out to be a chaotic ordeal but nonetheless, everyone boarded and we pushed back on time. As we were boarding, a male deadheading FA entered the economy section and was very vocal about receiving what he called “knees in the face” seating while a nonrev pilot got put in first. The other FA’s didn’t seem to care about his complaint. One thing I noticed that was out of the ordinary during this flight is that there was no walk through the cabin to see if seatbelts were fastened. Anyhow, we took off and proceeded on our way. Great weather all the way to LA.
Thirty minutes after t/o, headsets were sold for $5.00 and the movie was Godsford Park. Thanks to Bose, my headsets have the adapter for airline seats so I didn’t have to rent the headsets. Btw, noise reduction headsets are a great investment for such a long journey…they really do make you less tired and decrease jetlag significantly. About an hour after takeoff, drinks were served (no full cans) and then about 45 minutes later, the meal service started. This was my first domestic meal service flight since 1998 when I flew Delta to SEA and received really good meals. The meal tonight was a choice between chicken or pasta. A difficult choice since I enjoy both. I decided that I would take the chicken. It was a grilled chicken breast with puffy wild rice with bbq sauce over everything. There was also a side salad and a Walker’s shortbread cookie. There was real silverware on this flight and one thing I noted about US Airways meals is that they come on these bulky Rubbermaid type stackable trays. They’re really large and have about a four-inch base (not sure of its purpose…why not have a simple flat tray)? Another thing I noted is that the branding on the meal tray (cup, tray, Styrofoam) still said “US Air” instead of the new identity they received a few years back. After the meal, another beverage service and then FA’s disappeared. I went back to ask for a Diet Coke about 3 hours later and the FA’s were lounging in the back galley. One was sitting on one side of the galley, with her shoes off, and feet propped up on the other side of the galley.
Service in-flight was the typical US domestic carrier service…no smiles, just get the job done. However, during the flight, a senior FA cleaned out the lav next to my exit row and she really cleaned it thoroughly. Another FA that walked by said to her, “Feeling ambitious, huh?” She remarked, “No, just doing my job!” I noted a tad bit of hostility between this senior FA and the one who commented.
We continued to fly west and flew directly over Las Vegas. Nice to see “the strip” although it was still light out and it wasn’t as impressive as it probably would’ve been at night. Amazing to see such an establishment in the middle of none other than a desert! About 1:15 before landing we received a pack of Rold gold pretzels and another drink. Descent into LAX started and we had a smooth landing and an early arrival into LA. I disembarked and caught a bus over to the Bradley International Terminal where I had to check-in for my next flight.
One thing I noted on the taxi to the terminal was that there was no less than 6 Qantas 747’s parked at gates and at remote stands including a 747-200. I know they fly the –300 to LAX via AKL but I didn’t know anything about the 742 making its way to LAX.
May 23, 2002
VH-OEB (Note: Ex-Asiana aircraft with GE engines).
Scheduled Departure Time: 11:45 PM
Wheels Up Time: 12:15 AM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 7:14 AM
Actual Arrival Time: 7:25 AM May 25, 2002
I had to check in for this flight in LAX; although my bags did not need to be checked since they went right through to SYD. The Qantas line was very short and I walked up to the counter with only a three-minute wait. I played dumb and asked the agent if the upper deck was economy and if I could sit up there. Didn’t work. She assigned me seat 72A. This is a window seat in the back of the plane where the seating switches to 2-4-2 so you get a little extra legroom between your seat and the window.
Went to buy a frozen yogurt since I had 2:45 to spare. I proceeded through security. What a joke. Very lax at LAX, no pun intended. I walked around the very dull departure hall. I saw Air Tahiti Nui’s newest A340-300, which was a beauty. Also, several other jumbos were preparing for their longhauls…Air France 744, Philippine 744, and a few others that I cant remember. Our aircraft was towed to the gate about an hour before departure. It arrived from JFK sine QF108 is the JFK-LAX-SYD flight. Boarding started about 11:10 PM and I boarded and talked to my seatmate who had just purchased a home in Perth and was going to spend his first holiday there. We pushed back at 11:50 PM and taxied to 25R at LAX. Pilot briefed us on the flight and told us of the 13 hour 30 min flight time…yikes! We had a 55 second t/o roll. As soon as we rotated, fluid splashed on my window and the window behind. Both the guy behind me and I noticed it. It wasn’t raining in LA so it wasn’t Mother Nature. It was clear, so I thought maybe Jet-A. Hmmm! It was as if somebody took a few buckets full of liquid and threw them at our windows. It stopped after about four buckets full hit our windows. I’m sure they fill every fuel tank to its capacity for the long haul and it may have been from the fuel vents.
About 10 minutes after t/o amenity kits and headsets were distributed. There were four movies on this flight, all shown from the main screen. No PTV’s yet in this aircraft. I only remember the names of two of the movies: Godsford Park (ZZzzzz) and the The Shipping News. 45 minutes after departure a drink service started and about 1:15 after departure a meal service began. Tonight’s choices were Pasta or Beef. I chose the Pasta that actually turned out to be a Spinach and Ricotta ravioli served with a roll, side salad, cheese and crackers, and a slice of apple cheesecake. The beef option turned out to be beef stir-fry. The meal was actually pretty good. I never had a spinach and ricotta combination, as I’m not really a fan of filled pasta. Australian Wine was offered with the meal along with other drinks.
The flight took us just south of Hawaii, north of Nadi, north of Noumea, and then a southerly course which paralleled the eastern coast of Australia, keeping us about 500 miles east of Brisbane as we continued down to Sydney.
To help sleep during the flight I took Excedrin PM. It didn’t allow for quality sleep but got you just enough rest to not be dragging as you disembarked from the flight. I was sort of in and out of sleep and therefore, was half awake for the refreshment that was served about 7 hours into the flight. It was a Turkey and cheese sandwich with a Cadbury chocolate bar. All the meal trays were cleared up quickly so that we could get back to sleep. About 1 hour 30 minutes out of Sydney, a breakfast was served which included a hot and cold option. I chose the hot option, which was a mushroom and onion frittata, served with yogurt, slices of oranges and grapefruit, and a bran muffin. This was my first time ever having a frittata, as they really aren’t on many menus’ here in the States. I really enjoyed it. Qantas food was great on this flight. It was light-years ahead of US Airlines standards. I think that is why I thought the service was superior. Some members of a.net have noted that Qantas service has recently declined. With the low service standards in the US, any type of meal/smile/thank you/amenity kit/free movie is GREATLY appreciated.
After breakfast, immigration cards were handed out and we descended into a rainy SYD. Got a great view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House on landing. I believe we landed on runway 16R. We parked and I collected my bags within 20 minutes and cleared immigration within 30 minutes after leaving the plane. Got my shoes checked though because of the whole foot and mouth disease threat
I then went to catch an airport express bus and made my way into Sydney CBD where I would meet my friend. She’s doing a working holiday there and invited me down to visit. I absolutely love Australia and would live there if I could. The weather could’ve been a little better considering it rained about 60% of the time…but I can’t complain since I had such a great time. I visited the Blue Mountains, went through the caves out there, climbed the Harbour Bridge, toured the opera house, visited the zoo, and took ferries to some different areas such as Manly. Thanks to all the Australians on this board…you folks are the friendliest lot of people I have met and I would love to be able to live a “No Worries” lifestyle that is prevalent in Australia. It’s not possible to live in the stressful and hectic East Coast of the US where I live with a “No Worries” mentality.
The night before my departure back to the US, I stayed at the Sydney Airport Hilton. I had a great view of the airport and listened to my handheld scanner. ATC differs slightly from what I’m used to in the States but I understood most of it. Don’t understand why domestic flights (maybe just QF aircraft) don’t check-in with ATC using their flight number though…only their tail numbers.
Anyway…the flight back to the US…
June 1, 2002
VH-OJR (Note: RR engines and PTV’s).
Scheduled Departure Time: 10:40 AM
Wheels Up Time: 11:04 AM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 7:10 AM
Actual Arrival Time: 6:45 AM
I took the Hilton shuttle to the airport and had a friendly chat with a Qantas pilot who sat next to me on the hotel shuttle. I went into the international terminal, waited in the Qantas check-in line for about 10 minutes and then checked my bags and didgeridoo through to LAX. Everyone must claim their luggage at LAX and clear customs there before making their connecting flights. I received seat 72K, again a 2-4-2 arrangement with a little extra legroom. I went through security, which was much better than that in the US. Much more thorough and the screeners actually appeared to be doing their jobs and concentrating at what they were doing. I had no problem getting through and did some more duty free shopping and then went to gate 25. I sat there and watched a KE 744 and an Air China 772 land and also saw Japan Airlines 744 “Disney Sea” depart. I saw that Craig Murray has pics from this exact day (June 1) and of this exact plane in the database. Wish I could’ve met up with Craig so I could’ve complemented him in person on his excellent photos. Also, I wonder if he managed to catch a photo of my departing flight? I can see the aircraft I flew on in the background of his shot of the Japan “Disney Sea” taken on June 1. If you’re reading this Craig, great photos…keep up the great work. Boarding for this flight was supposed to begin at 9:25 according to the boarding pass….REALLY early considering the flight didn’t depart to 10:40. Boarding started at about 10:25 AM and once onboard the pilot made an announcement that he delayed boarding because of the favorable 12 hour 45 min flight time to LAX. Captain Goodfellow went on to say that if we were too early into LAX, we’d have to wait for a gate and for customs agents to wake up (little laugh from the captain). Talked to my seatmate a bit, this time a boar farmer from Brisbane…interesting character. Then, took a look at my control for the PTV’s. We taxied to runway 16R and had a long t/o roll and a great view of Sydney’s southern suburbs. Weather was actually nice on the day I left, figures! After t/o, the cabin supervisor introduced himself and told us all the usual stuff that headsets and amenity kits will be distributed followed by a meal service and when he figured the entertainment system out, he’d activate the PTV’s in the seatbacks. He said it was his first time on this particular aircraft and that once he activated the PTV’s, he’d be willing to stop by and take a lesson on their use by anybody willing to teach. Quite comical as I think he was actually serious. All crews on my transpacific flights were very senior and EXTREMELY hard working. They never seemed to take a rest. I noted more male FA’s than females (darn). I did ask the one FA while waiting in line for the lav how often they work and he said he does the same trip every week and that’s it. He leaves SYD for LAX on a Saturday and is back on the ground in Sydney on Tuesday morning. Pretty good schedule I think but doing the same route would get boring after awhile.
Meanwhile, PTV’s were activated. It was a delight being able to experience QF’s PTV’s. These were absolutely great and IMO, they easily beat out VS’s Arcadia system that I’m familiar with. I would’ve liked to utilize my PTV a little more but I needed sleep since I would be stopping over for two days in LA and needed to be rested for my full day in LA after our early morning arrival. Regardless, the moving map is great and the trivia is really fun. It was nice to have PTV that was in great shape with no scratches on the screen.
Drink service started about an hour after t/o and a meal about 1:30 after t/o. Today’s choice was pretty creative. Instead of simple chicken/beef or chicken/pasta, we had Coq Au Vin or Veal Moussaka. I chose the Coq Au Vin which was simply chicken in a red wine sauce served with diced potato’s, peas, salad, roll, and three hearty Australian made cookies made with sunflower seeds and other grains. This meal wasn’t really all that great. Mainly because instead of a plain grilled chicken breast, there was a chicken breast that I found rather chewy. Reason being because it had the skin on and then was smothered in red wine sauce. I passed, as I’m somewhat of a health conscious eater. The potato’s and peas were good. I saved the cookies and took them home where my sister enjoyed them. Meal trays were cleared quickly as we sped off directly east towards New Zealand. We passed just above the North Island and then a direct track up towards Papeete, Tahiti, and then a northeasterly path towards LAX. Crew did a walk through about every two hours with water and other already poured drinks. They depended on passengers helping themselves from the water fountains located on the side of the galleys and this was announced at the beginning of the flight to let passengers know that water is available at anytime from these fountains. About 7 hours into the flight, it was refreshment time. This time no sandwich like on the way down, it was an extremely well frozen Magnum ice cream bar. It was really good as its been ages since I’ve had real ice cream (more of a frozen yogurt fan). The flight continued in darkness and duty free orders were taken. I made one purchase, and my credit card was taken and not returned until 5 hours later with the whiskey flask I purchased as a gift for my father.
Two hours before landing, landing cards were distributed followed by a second meal. This was labeled “dinner” service despite the fact that we’d be landing early morning in LA. Weird choice once again on the food front. This time it was Beef with Penne Pasta or Ocean Perch in Mustard Sauce. I don’t eat red meat, so I chose the Perch. Wasn’t entirely bad, but I don’t enjoy eating fish with the skin still on it. Luckily there were mashed potatoes, peas, a roll, and salad with tuna on top, Time Out chocolate bar and a mocha chocolate cake accompanying the fish. Very filling meal despite passing on the fish. A beverage serviced followed as the sun rose over the Pacific. We began our descent into a cloudy LA. The ocean was completely covered with clouds from the time the sun rose until the time we made landfall. We then made an early arrival and somewhat hard landing on LAX’s runway 25R at 6:45 AM. Being seated in the tail you really notice an abrupt swaying feel from side to side upon landing. We disembarked from the aircraft and I thanked the crew for all their hard work. This was hard work and they exceeded my expectations once again.
I got my baggage within 20 minutes and cleared customs within 40 minutes after leaving the aircraft. Very simple procedure and for having to work early on a Saturday morning, the customs agents were really friendly, asking me if I’d play my didgeridoo for them. I told them they could probably do it better than I could.
For the next few days I did all the touristy Hollywood stuff and checked out the procession of limos into the MTV Video Movie Awards that were held in LA the evening of June 1. I didn’t think I’d like LA….I heard some horror stories about freeway driving, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and will definitely return. Got to love Santa Monica beaches.
NOTE: If visiting LA, rent a car…its worth it. Public transport didn’t seem too popular since LA is so spread out.
US Airways LAX-PHL
June 3, 2002
Scheduled Departure Time: 10:40 AM
Wheels Up Time: 10:50 AM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 6:57 PM
Actual Arrival Time: 6:45 PM
I got up early and did some spotting from my room at the Radisson LAX Airport. I asked upon check-in for a room overlooking the runways. I was given a room on the 12th floor, which is some executive floor that required me to place my key in the elevator in order to be allowed to get to that specific floor. I felt important and out of place being a 22 year old on a floor with basically all business travelers. Anyway, thanks to Joy at the front desk that gave me this excellent room. She called a little while after to see if it was suitable and I think she knew how excited I would be. I later sent her a thank you card and some chocolates.
I took the shuttle to the airport and proceeded to US Airways check-in. I was met with a smile by the most pleasant US Airways agent you’ll ever meet. She told me all about LA and how much she loved it and about going to a place called the Sushi Factory when I come back to visit if I like seafood. Next she talked about what a disgrace security was and apologized for the long security line that was outside on the curb that I would need to stand in after checking in my luggage. She said it was mainly because Southwest also uses terminal one at LAX and because they have so many flights and outnumber US Airways ops, that they pretty much slow up the security and do things their way (government run security?). Anyway, the security line really did look like a line for the newest attraction at Disney World during peak travel season. Surprisingly it only took 30 minutes and I passed through security without any searches. I proceeded to the gate and asked if the flight was full as I was willing to volunteer to give up my seat if the flight was oversold. There turned out to be two empty seats once the doors closed….dam…no free trip back out to LA!
This was my first time on an A321. US Airways aircraft are very clean inside and very airy with nice interiors of alternating grays. I sat in seat 28F next to a very friendly couple who were my age and returning to Long Island from a trip to visit relatives in CA. Cabin crew did preflight checks and one thing I noticed….US Airways FA’s need new uniforms. They have to be the dullest out there. Very plain and look really ridiculous compared to carriers like Qantas, VS, CX, etc. Guess US Airways should save their money for the time being though to avoid bankruptcy. Flight pushed back on time and we had a quick taxi to runway 24L. The pilot briefed us on the flight path. We would t/o to the west, make a left hand turn, fly over Phoenix, Albuquerque, then up towards Memphis, and then up the eastern seaboard toward PHL. Flight time was estimated at 4 hours and 45 mins. We took off and about 1,000 ft. above ground level the pilot made the most abrupt and drastic power reduction back to climb power I’ve ever experienced/heard. Sounded as though he pulled back on the fuel cutoff instead of the throttles. Anyway, we made our left turn and went on our way towards Phoenix. We were served beverages 45 minutes after t/o and headsets were sold for $5.00. The movie was Dragonfly, which I actually watched. Interesting movie…not worth renting though. I noticed that my seatback magazine was a May issue so I asked for a June issue since the guy behind me also asked for a June edition and the FA brought him one. The FA informed me that the cleaners didn’t load any onto the aircraft and that she apologized (while disembarking, I noticed that the entire forward economy cabin had the June issue…hmmm….none onboard…sorry)! We hit some pretty bad turbulence after the beverage service. FA’s sat down and announced to place all beverages on the floor to avoid them getting all over us. It really was quite bad but I’ve experienced worse over the N. Atlantic. So instead of our beverages spilling over us, they just spilled over our carry-ons that were under the seat in front. How innovative to place beverages on the floor during turbulence. Anyway, it settled down and it was mealtime…US style. No more creative Aussie food.
This time it was announced that we would have the choice between chicken or pasta with an alfredo sauce, which the FA later corrected as being a marinara sauce. I chose the chicken. It was typical Western style chicken with salsa on it, served with mashed potatoes and carrots, salad, roll, and a small cake. Beverage’s followed and meal trays were cleared. We continued on our way and an hour before landing beverages were served once again. This time, no pretzel’s…just a cup of soda with ice. We continued on our way to PHL and commenced our descent quite a ways out over the Chesapeake Bay. We came in from the East and got a great view of the city of Philadelphia and the sports stadiums in south Philly, including the Eagle’s new home that is currently being built. We landed on runway 27R…probably the smoothest landing that I have ever experienced and I travel quite a bit. Could it be that it was because it was an Airbus? No wars please…I just like Airbus products a little more than Boeing’s. Anyway, we were early to the gate and I disembarked the aircraft, got my luggage within 20 minutes (my didgeridoo came down the baggage carousel nearly killing a little kid….apparently it wasn’t loaded in the special hold like I was told). After collecting my luggage, I had a fun 1hour 30 min drive home.
I really enjoyed this vacation…especially the flights. They were all on time or early, had very efficient service (on QANTAS anyway), and were very comfortable. Seats on QF have the best lumbar support IMO. I never felt uncomfortable and that is amazing considering 13+ hours of sitting. Seat pitch was fine and I will definitely fly QF again. US Airways….well I may try another carrier next time. Maybe Continental out of Newark or my common mode of transport - Delta. Hope you enjoyed this report…sorry about the length. If you have any questions please ask.
PS…to all my friends on this board, my new email address is as follows: