Finally had the transcontinental experience with Qantas!!
The return ticket booked in March (about 3 months in advance) cost:
$366.00 ($US255.61, 209.90 Euro, £139.85)
$36.31 in taxes and fees
$40.23 in GST (10% Goods and Services tax)
Total - $442.54. ($US309.06, 253.82 Euro, £169.11)
Virgin Blue was $4.00 cheaper when I booked.
Anyway, to the flights!
24 June 2004
565 / Seat 15A
Dep: 0610 (on time)
Arr: 0910 (+5 mins)
I was told by Qantas telephone reservations that Sydney Airport opened at 5:30am. Believing this guy was a mistake, as the terminal was well open when I arrived at 5:10am. My own fault - he said I was travelling on a B737-400 on the way there, and an A320 on the way back - I should have been suspicious!!
Checked in and got my F side window changed to an A side window, as I like to sit on the left of the aircraft. As per the web site, there were complimentary newspapers waiting by the gates for people to take if they so desired.
Boarded on time, and the flight was ready to go fairly quickly as the plane was only 55-65% full. I had no-one beside me in the row of three, and the flight attendants also said that people are welcome to sit where they like once airborne as they were lightly loaded.
My first experience with flip down screens happened during the safety demonstration! They're very nifty, though I think the resolution could be better! We took off and climbed smartly out on our way.
Menus were given out in Economy class, and the Breakfast Menu was -
Continental Breakfast (Orange Juice, Bakery, Cereal, Fruit Salad) or Hot Breakfast (Orange Juice, Fruit Salad, Bakery, Mushroom Egg Cake and Bacon with Tomato Ragout).
Additionally, they had wine, beer, Johnny Walker Red Whisky, Gordon's Gin, Smirnoff Vodka, Bundaberg Rum, Jim Beam Bourbon, Orange Juice, Mineral Water, Soda Water, Tonic Water, Lemonade, Coke and Diet Coke.
The beautiful waft of the hot breakfast then permeated the aircraft and soon the trolleys were at my row. Alas, they had run out of hot breakfasts - and of the entire plane load of people, perhaps 4 of us missed out. I have never ever been so pissed off on a plane in my entire life!
So I had the cold breakfast. The fruit salad was yummy, the cereal was Sultana Bran, the bakery was a tiny croissant which tasted great with the strawberry jam, and of course I had the orange juice. Cutlery was metal for everything except the knife. Tea and Coffee was also served - I had some of both. I don't know what Qantas use for Tea, but the tea was delicious!!
Later on we were served water, and later again more water and a muffin and more tea, and we got mints at the top of the descent.
Inflight entertainment was a Welcome Aboard with John Travolta and Deborah Hutton (Australian TV
host), an episode of Friends and the movie Dirty Dancing 2 - Havana Nights. I did pop the headphones on for a little bit, and I have to say the quality of the sound is pretty average. I also couldn't work out how to turn on the reading light and I wasn't going to bother waving my hand about up there like an idiot for too long!!
The toilets were very clean and I must compliment whoever designed the air cleaning system as I went in three times (too much tea and coffee and water!) immediately after people and there was no trace that anyone had been in before me. Also, I'd love to know what coats the toilet bowl - some kind of teflon stuff? Either way, it's clean and efficient and I thought it was great!
The real delight on the flight was the cabin crew! They were extremely good looking and well groomed, very chirpy and happy, and they looked fantastic in the new uniforms which I had only seen pictures of. The uniforms are a heaps nicer in the flesh than in any picture I've seen. Wonderful crew - and because of them I forgot my unhappiness about no hot breakfast and ended up having a great flight.
Arrived at Perth, deplaned, and my luggage was the third bag off the flight after a wait of about 20 seconds. Very pleased!!
27 June 2004
566 / Seat 55A
Dep: 1640 (+10 mins)
Arr: 2205 (-20 mins)
I checked in very early for this flight, and again had to have my seat allocation changed from the other side of the plane to an A seat. No problems there at all of course.
The airport at Perth is easy to get around, and it was my first encounter with the double door aerobridges to board Business Class separate from Economy Class.
Boarded first and immediately noticed just how small the aisle gets as the plane gets thinner down the back. Unfortunately this flight had to have a load factor of about 95% - it was packed! The A330 for Qantas has overhead bins in the centre and on both sides - good, as some people brought a lot of stuff with them!
The purser was of Asian descent and most of what she said required careful hearing. Her English definitely wasn't as understandable as it could have been, and she announced a lot of things throughout the flight in her heavy accent.
Meal service began fairly soon after take-off and the menu this time was -
Green Leaf Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette and a choice between Stir Fried Chicken with Steamed Rice or Three Cheese Ravioli with Beef, Tomato and Herb Sauce. In addition to that, Chocolate Biscuit, and Ice Cream.
I chose the Stir Fried Chicken and it came with the aforementioned Steamed Rice, with baby corn and beans. The chocolate biscuit was a Tim Tam (Australian icon in the biscuit world), and the roll was a normal roll.
The meal was delicious, but I would have to say that the tray was too cluttered. It had a wine glass, a tea cup, a container of water, the hot meal, roll, butter, the salad (which comes in a glass bowl with a plastic lid)... it was just too much to have to arrange around you while trying to eat. They could do without the wine glass for a start. Utensils were once again metal except for the knife. I had a coke to drink - they give you the whole can.
My companion next to me (who got a medium blue Qantas blanket and two little dark blue Qantas pillows as soon as he boarded and proceeded to attempt sleep for the entire journey) had the pasta meal and said it was very nice.
The A330 doesn't have flip down screens along the sides of the plane - only in the centre, which was very annoying as it's hard to see anything particularly clearly. There are also screens in the bulkhead (useless for those of us down the back really) - one for each block of seats. The movie for this sector was Strange Bedfellows, an Australian film starring Paul Hogan. We also got to see the route map, speed, altitude and so on at one point between programmes, which we didn't get on the outbound flight.
Happily we had a strong tailwind and we were assured that we would arrive early by the First Officer. Closer to arrival we were given "Trumpet" ice creams (made in New Zealand), which were boysenberry and quite nice. Once again we got mints at the top of the descent as well.
The cabin crew were a fatter bunch this time around, but really pretty and attractive larger ladies - the kind you'd expect to open the door in an apron at a farm! Whoever said that the new uniforms don't look as good on larger crew was mistaken - they looked just as attractive as they were on slimmer people. The uniform really is very very nice! Once again, totally cheerful and happy to help everyone around them. There were a lot of crew on this plane!!
We arrived at Sydney early, I had a 5 minute wait for my baggage, and thus ended my transcontinental experience.
I would have to say that I am still a lover of narrowbody aircraft over widebody aircraft. The 737 is much more intimate, even if the seat pitch seems to be a tad less than the A330. It just seemed to be a nicer flight all round, and while I can say it was partly due to less passengers, the aircraft just felt more comfortable (flip down screens were easier to see for example).
The Qantas service was absolutely outstanding - the cabin crew seemed to genuinely love what they were doing, and no request was too much for them. It wasn't fake cheer either - no subtle eye rolling or any of that, just there to do a good job and do it well.
Apart from the lack of a hot breakfast (which is a really major gaffe in my book), the service was second to none throughout - exactly what I'd expect from Qantas domestic.