Aparently at the time this aircraft was only a few weeks old and probably the newest 747 flying anywhere worldwide, which is rather cool! Anyway...
I’d managed to book this flight at the height or SARS, which means it only cost me A$50 which believe me is very cheap for Australia.
For those who aren’t aware, it’s possible to fly domestically within Australia aboard an international flight, you are simply given a pass that enables you access to the secure Customs Area Airside and allows you to pass Passport Control and Customs without hinderance.
There was only a little queue at check in with three agents handling all QF International Services, which apart from QF21 was a flight to New Zealand. However I was very early following the previous days walk off, I guess industrial relations at Australian Airports never really grow up. The agent didn’t do any of the window or aisle stuff like he was supposed to, however did clearly explain the pass procedure and was generally pleasant. Unfortunately he messed up the paperwork which Passport Control had to fix up.
I was surprised how little in the way of facilities Airside at MEL International offered, in my view it has gone down hill. One thing I did notice was the supply of Ansett Golden Wing Seats dotted around the place, a welcome blast from the past. I had no idea this flight would be an LR, so it was a pleasant surprise to see one awaiting.
Out of Melbourne QF21 which continues to Narita, was about two thirds full and boarding was a breeze. The QF International Crew were mostly in their 50’s and some of the men quite overweight. Having said that they were a pretty chirpy bunch if not maybe a little hands off, they didn’t really do very much/ anything. We were ready for departure a good 20 minutes before departure. Taxi was quite short as was the take off roll, 27 seconds (the two guys next to me timed it).
The LR has a brand new interior based on the now standard Boeing 777 style. It is a great improvement over the previous 747’s, very bright and airy with an extremely high ceiling that makes the 747 seem much-much larger. Previously I’d only really got how big the 747 is from seeing an empty Cargo Version, this style reminded me of that, maybe because the bins are now tucked into the ceiling.
Seats were slim line and very similar to those on Qantas’ 767-300’s except they have PTV’s. Decore was very nice, an extremely dark almost purple blue (not unlike Ansett Velour First Class Seats during the 1990’s) with a very strong rich red lines going across. It’s very smart and coupled to the new interior was probably the nicest 747 interior I’ve seen.
PTV’s were started soon after take off. I forgot to grab the listings guide, but I remember being very impressed with the range. I can’t recall if there was Video on Demand. I’d say the QF offering is second to KrisWorld on SQ.
The food came round fairly quickly. Here things began to go wrong. The meal was served on a tray, unlike Cityfliers. We got a plastic tub of cold Chicken Pasta Salad. The chicken was a whole breast, but unedible. Literally you couldn’t pock a knife or fork in it. So tried to grab it and bite it hands and teeth method. I couldn’t even make teeth marks! So I decided if I did somehow manage to eat it I’d probably catch a nasty disease so gave up. In fairness the Pasta was quite nice and there was more than it looked. However this was an dinner time flight and I was left very hungry. My main bitch was there were only those plastic tubs of water to drink, no tea or coffee available. Remember this was a ten hour flight to Tokyo, all be it a one hour thirty minute sector.
Quite a lot of things were missing. There was no soap in the toilets except for one, none had hand towels. No paper cups at the water fountains and there was no literature to read of any kind. For the toilets not to be serviced is disgusting and un-hygenic. Coupled with the poison chicken, hum not very nice at all……… Bad Qantas!!!
The bathrooms were very nice to look at though! The tops were marble effect as usually only found in Premium Classes and floor black and white tile effect. Just a nice touch.
Our landing was very smooth. Unfortunately Sydney Airport shuts down all the moving walkways at certain times, like when I arrived, so it was a very very very long walk to Passport Control. Our luggage was waiting for us, very unusual for Qantas - over the past few weeks I’d flown them seven times and never got my luggage within 45 minutes of landing, at Sydney Domestic, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne!!! Still this was very quick and good. I was surprised to see about 150-200 getting off in Sydney. We all handed out passes in and went through Customs no problems.
The 747-LR is an impressive aircraft, the crew were good if a little hard to spot, however the lack of some really bog basics is really bad and I was glad to be booked on JAL and not QF to Narita a few days later.
As a footnote I would like to thank Qantas, whose Adelaide office arranged accomodation for me in Sydney. QF put a note on my booking requesting an upgrade for me (they didn’t tell me!), which the Mercure very happily gave me! So I ended up with a beautiful top of the range room on the very top floor, with windows that gave me a view of everything from Darling Harbour, Centrepoint, Kings Cross, Central Station and even Redfern (the room was like a pillar on the side with windows going round 120 degrees). So thanks guys!!!!