This is my first trip report. Can't for the life of me work out how to add pictures from my digital camera to the website, so if anyone can tell me how to, that would be great.
I went to San Francisco for a medical conference recently at the Marriot. It was a great opportunity to have a break, but also to check out the latest 744-ER on Qantas. Booked my ticket through Flight Centre ages ago...fantastic value at AUD$1699 return to SFO
with $300 worth of ground costs thrown in. (so effectively, the ticket cost 1399).
Did an early morning ward round at the hospital before getting a lift from my wife to Tullamarine airport to arrive curbside approx 3 hours before the scheduled departure time of 1225pm.
Melbourne airport was quiet. MEL
has always been an 'end of the line' port of call and just never has the buzz of LAX
. Nevertheless, the check in areas for Qantas were extremely spacious and I proceeded to check in at the Qantas club desk. No queue. I was very impressed the the check-in chick. Professional, friendly and efficient. I asked for a seat at the rear of the aircraft as it tapers to have a better chance of no one sitting next to me and also to appreciate the length of the aircraft from the back.5 mins and I was on my way towards the immigration doors. Melbourne airport has been designed like a shopping mall with seamless integration of passenger and retail areas. In many parts, you have to walk through shopping areas as part of the main thoroughfare. Immigration was swift and security involved the usual Xray machines and scanning. Got brushed with a new probe that was supposed to detect explosives. Anyway, this was nothing compared to what I was about to experience in the US (see later!). Walked to the end of the concourse and was assaulted by more shops. Became a victim of this and bought a DKNY watch I absolutely did NOT need. At the end of the concourse, the departure area fans out into a large square with gates on either side. And there it was....I saw her and my heart skipped a beat. QF
-OEF. Brand spanking new 744-ER gleaming in the sun. Glorious red tail. Sexy as. Perved at her for a good 15 mins before heading down to the Qantasclub lounge on the lower level. This is a great lounge and I love coming here. Qantas has recently revamped many of it's lounges in Australia and the decor is stylish and minimalist chic with retro bar areas. Very cool. Had a nice view of the belly of a Qantas 763 from the windows. Had a beer. Or two. food selection was quite basic (as is usually the case in Qantasclubs-just snacks..nothing substantial, but then again, it was 10am in the morning.)
Boarding calls were made 20 mins before departure and we proceeded up towards the gate (short walk) to board. Boarding was orderly and the gate holding areas had plenty of space. A moderated sized queue moved fairly quickly through. As I walked through the aerobridge, that familiar high pitched background noise and the smell of aircraft cabin rushed towards me.
Was greeted BY
NAME even though I was an economy pax which was a bit of a surprise. Friendly crew. It took awhile to move all the way to the back of the plane to my seat at 70A. Things were fairly quiet down the back so I checked out the loos and the rear cabin before settling into my seat. This is a beautiful plane, guys. Just beautiful. Fresh and new, the interiors are just like the 777s with high and ‘scoopy’ ceilings huge huge overhead bins. Qantas has gone for blueish seats with red head-rest covers and red cushions. Nice. Theres nothing like stepping into a brand new plane. The toilets had fake tiled floors and marble-look-alike laminate benchtops. Nice touch again.
Ok, enough gushing, I can hear all of you say! The plane was about 75% full and thankfully, no one was assigned to the seat next to me. LOVE it when that happens; your personal space doubles. Pushback from the gate occurred about 10 mins late and the usual announcements and safety videos were shown. Blah blah blah. I don’t need to worry coz QUANTAS is the safest airline in the world right? We taxied towards the north and turned towards the south for take off. The captain had in the meantime briefed us on weather conditions, flightpath, etc etc.
The new 744Ers have a nice roar to them. ( I believe the engines are different to the Rolls Royce standard QF
744 engines?) The plane lifted effortlessly towards the south and turned right shortly after take off to head northeast towards the east coast then straight over the ocean towards LA
. It was a smooth and solid aircraft. We reached our cruising altitude of 31000ft fairly quickly and the crew busied themselves preparing lunch. NO hot tarworld service like on SQ
. Qantas is a bit funny like that as I’ve been on flights where they serve hot tarworlds and others where they didn’t. bit inconsistent.
PTVs were switched on about 15 mins after take off and I started to watch the first of 3 films for the flight. Qantas’s ‘Total Entertainment’ system worked flawlessly and did the job, although I realize that there aren’t nearly as many options as krisworld. Makes a HUGE difference to the flight, though and all you Lufthansa and ANZ and Thai supporters who maintain that you don’t need PTVs can just go and get stuffed. They are an essential part of long haul travel and I would choose a carrier with PTVs over one that doesn’t anyday.
Anyway, lunch was preceded by a drink from the bar and nuts. The crew were a friendly lot. Professional and I must say..the new Qantas uniform my John Morrisey looks amazing. Very VERY cool-black and browns with aboriginal motif scarves and ties. I’ve lost the menus that were handed out but this is what we had for lunch:
Hot bread roll (which was nice and warm-a new thing on Qantas)
Choice of a pesto something chicken with rice and veggies (I chose this-it looked like shit, but it tasted much MUCH better than it looked.) OR
beef with mash potatoes and some veggie thing again. Magnum ice-creams for dessert with coffee or tea.
The crew then handed out snack packs and amenity kits for the evening. These are great! Bags full of goodies such us mints, snacks, water. Very practical and generous.
I watch movie after movie and then slept a little. The crew were constantly doing rounds..offering drinks at least 5 or 6 times during the flight.
Around 6 hours into the flight, we hit some pretty bad turbulence…captian turned on the fasten seat belt sign, apologized and climbed a little higher…this happened several times and we eventually ended up at 38000 ft. It was a looong flight.
3 hours out of LA
, breakfast was served. (don’t you just love it when all of a sudden on these long haul flights, the cabin lights just burst on suddenly and all the pax have squinty eyes?!) Again..NO hot tarworld service.
Breakfast was yummy. Qantas now offers a choice of continental or hot breakfast. There was fruit, yogurt, banana and carrot muffin. I chose the hot breakfast of French toast with bacon and sausages. Tasted amazing, for a Y class reheated meal. Coffee/tea.
The approach into LA
was from the northwest and we got a great view of the Hollywood sign and downtown LA
before turning right and landing into the east.
is really an Australian airport on the wrong side of the ocean..there were about 4 Qantas planes parked around TBI and T4
. Great to see all those red tails. The airport itself is just chaos..we had to wait ages for:
The plane to be towed into gate 2 at T4
because, as most of you know..the lanes between the terminals are too narrow for 744s to taxi by themselves. Immigration took forever to clear and so did our bags! But I must say..arriving at T4
was still 10 times better than arriving at TBIT. Anyway, picked my bags and re-checked them in for the flight to San Francisco. Proceeded upstairs to clear security….
Now, this was the first time I had traveled domestically within the US post sept 11 and I must say, if there was ever a reminder we live in a different world now, this was it. I counted about 25 security officers operating the station with about 5 lanes. I reckon about 60% of passengers are ‘special searched’ which means that your bags get the going over, you get to take your shoes off and taken aside, felt, probed, and sometimes interrogated. Can’t begin to imagine how tedious it must be for frequent traveler to go through this everytime. People were patient, though. I think somehow…we feel safer and the cost of inconvenience seemed like a small price to pay. No one threw any tantrums.
Finally cleared security and headed up to the new Qanstasclub/AA lounge at T4
: A very nice facility indeed. Was able to grab a drink, check my email, have a shower. It’s quite a big lounge with many separate areas to lounge around in. Free internet terminals. A vast VAST improvement from TBIT.
Boarded the AA MD
-80 for San Francisco. What a huge difference from the last leg, Granted, this was a US domestic sector, but really…there was nothing enjoyable about this flight whatsoever. Old, grotty plane, worn seats, loose panels. Don’t think I even saw a smile from any of the flight attendants who were totally disinterested in helping any of their self loading cargo. The flight itself was non-eventful. Smooth take off and the Fas came around with a drink and that’s it. One passenger in front of me asked ‘do we get anything to eat?’ and the FA
curtly replied “No..well, everyone’s doing it now so that’s just how it is” and moved on. I know AA
is still losing money but honestly, apart from the extra room in coach seats, what distinguishes this flight from a Low cost carrier? Nothing, basically. A can of coke.
To their credit, (AA
) we arrived in SFO
on time and by then I was ready to crash at the hotel. Caught a cab to the grand Hyatt.
I’m going to wrap up now coz it’s getting late, but here’s the rest of the trip in point form.
· San Fran is a great city. Thoroughly enjoyed the conference, at the Marriot. Nice airport. Well laid out and orderly. Fantastic views over the bay and good infrastructure links from the airport to downtown. SFO
deserves to be more of a hub than LAX
. It’s a pity QF
doesn’t fly here.
· The return flight was pretty much the same. I will say this, though..transiting at Tom Bradley was plain torture. The terminal was congested, chaotic, terrible TERRIBLE lounge facilities and the gate holding areas are pretty much 3rd world standards. The return flight was absolutely full and there was hardly enough chairs for half of us to wait. Couldn’t wait to get on board the plane.
94 was a brand new 744ER again, and what a joy to fly in. The pushback was delayed because of a faulty engine temperature gauge: we waited about 20 mins for it to be fixed.
· It was a Loooooong flight, and most of it was at night.
· Great crew: very friendly, efficient and the guys came round multiple times to offer water throughout the flight. IFE worked well, no probs.
· A great moment in the flight was when we hit landfall just south of Sydney, after flying effortlessly and smoothly across the largest ocean in the world.
· Always love the approach into Melbourne from the ntheast..you get great view of the city from your window seat on the “A” side.
· Immigration, customs and baggage was cleared from disembarking to cubside in about 20 mins. Very smooth, no hassles at all.
I think Qantas is certainly not the best airline in the world; I have flown them many many times over the years and for me, it was basically a mechanism for earning FFPs and also because I’m a Qantasclub member. But recently, these economy class experiences have really impressed me. The airline has invested loads of money finally at the back of the bus and it shows. Plus, an added bonus is that these 744Ers are simply gorgeous. Such a delight to fly in. The standard of inflight service across the board has lifted noticeably. I think Qantas has certainly made a lot of enemies in the past (judging by the plethora of Qantas bashers on the net!), but I think that as the airline heads into a new age of profitability, things have improved vastly.
I was NOT impressed with LAX
as one of the most important air hubs in the world, it was a disgrace.
Thanks for reading this trip report and I am open to your comments and suggestions. I jave heaps of pics of the flight but I’m not sure how to load it on!