Well...my friend and I had to decide what to do for a brief spring vacation and after an extensive thought process, ended up deciding on a trip to New South Wales.
Bought a flight+hotel package via expedia. Options were for UA and QF
, direct flights from LAX to SYD. By the time we got around to booking it though, the only QF
flight that was still available was QF
26 with direct service to Brisbane with a stop in Auckland followed by a connecting flight to SYD. Ended up going with Qantas, just because I am a one
world enthusiast...I also figured that QF
's economy product was a bit better than UA's.
So the itinerary was LAX-AKL
26, 747-400 and BNE
-SYD on QF
529, a 763. On the way back, the routing would be direct, QF
Since I'm so tired now, I'm just going to write about the first leg. Tomorrow I'll get on and write about the trip back. So here goes:
10th March 2005
Qantas Flight 26
Departure Time from LAX: 8:30pm
Arrival Time at AKL
Aircraft: 747-438, VH
After about a two hour drive to the airport from the Ventura County line on PCH, the 10 and the 405, we finally got to Tom Bradley around 6pm and waited in line for the QF
check-in, which at that time was quiet empty.
We were checked in by an absolutely stunning Australian girl from Melbourne who is spending a year here in LA
on a programme from her university. In the meantime she is working for Qantas.
I saw her from far away and was secretly hoping that we'd get her...when we walked up to the desk and she started speaking I didn't even pay attention to anything she was saying I just taken aback by her loveliness and what she was saying could have sounded like a didgeridoo. Anyway we started speaking to her about what to do in Sydney and all that.
Eventually the conversation turned to the flight. I asked her if she knew which aircraft was operating the route. She said "do you mean 747 or something else" to which I said that I was asking for the tail number. She went off to find out and I told her that she didn't have to. The a$$ho!e that she asked said that it was confidential information. Alright...so I would just have to wait 10 minutes.
Went through security at about 7:15 or so and found VH
-OJB sitting at the gate.
The waiting lounge was absolutely PACKED! The QF
representative I spoke to one the phone the week prior said that there were only 8 seats available on the flight. That meant about 420 passengers on board!!
Eventually we started to board and I took my seat, 52G. Sitting next to me was a Qantas employee. He works in catering @ SYD and was connecting directly to Sydney from Auckland. The seats onboard were quite comfortable, but the seat pitch was not so fantastic. Another inch or two would not have gone unnoticed.
Heres a photo of me sitting in 52G:
Before takeoff, the crew came around to bring out little bags with socks, eyeshades and a toothbrush with toothpaste. No ear plugs though:
We soon got under way and took off from the southern right runway (I think thats 25R).
Once we were underway, the FA
came on and made an annoucement:
"Ladies and gentlemen, due to the unpredictability of turbulance and the movement of the aircraft, we kindly request that you not sleep on the floor or in the aisles."
Haha. Anyway, soon the dinner service came around. The crew asked everyone to put the seat back in the upright position while everyone was eating, which was nice.
I was also quite pleased that they didn't waste time with drinks first, as I was really looking forward to getting some rest. I had had to wake up before 6am that morning to head down to Gulfstream in Long Beach. Here is a very poor quality shot of the menu:
Anyway, I had the chicken which was not too bad. Here is a photo:
I was surprised to see that QF
provides metal forks! Still plastic knives though, although the quality of the plastic knife was better than what you would find in the supermarket.
The crew collected the trays and then came around with a Magnum chocolate bar, which was quite refreshing. Afterwards, they brought the Qantas snack bag, which I thought was a nice touch. It consisted of a fruit and oatmeal snack bar, cheese nips, oreo cookies and a bottle of water. I really appreciated the gesture. It's nice to have something that can keep you busy later on in the flight once everyone is asleep and you're a bit hungry.
Heres a photo:
I reclined the seat (recline was quite generous) and snoozed for about 8 hours. I noticed that an FA
would come down the aisles about once per hour to offer some water. By the time I woke up, we were about 2 hours out from Auckland and breakfast was served.
Given the choice of hot or continental breakfast, I chose the hot. The hot part of it (a spinach tart) wasn't so great...in fact I didn't enjoy it at all. But the fruit, muffin and yoghurt were alright.
We started our descent into Auckland at about 5:40am or so. The landing itself was not so fantastic. The plane wasn't aligned properly on the runway and touched down with the nose facing left. Eventually we started going straight down the runway.
It was dark in Auckland at that hour of the morning (around 6am) but since we were just transiting we decided to take some photos and explore the terminal. Here is a shot of OJB:
At about 7:30am, we headed back to the gate and were told that there would be a delay on the aircraft. There was a fuel leak in the core of the #3 RB211. I'm not sure when they found out about the leak, but that might have had something to do with the lousy landing.
While the #3 engine was being worked on...
...one of the F/As was posing in the engine! I took plenty of shots with my film SLR camera (which I haven't developed yet) but by the time I got around to shooting with my digital camera she was just climbing out of the engine. Here is a shot of what I did manage to get. Once I develop the film, I'll stick on some extra pictures on here:
The gate agents made annoucements every 10 minutes that the engineers would be able to give us an updated departure time in about 10 minutes.
After about 3 of those annoucements, they eventually told us that the plane would depart at 11:00am as opposed to 8:00am. This was followed by a huge groan by the 400 some odd people in the departure lounge.
They did apologise and gave everyone NZ
$10 certificates to use in the terminal. I used the opportunity to call my mother back in LA
. My timing was fantastic, as my mother advised me that I had a letter from Oxford, informing me that I had been accepted to the 2005-2006 Masters of Financial Economics Course (MFE) taught by Oxford's Said Business School. I was overjoyed...I had flown Jet Blue to New York for that interview in February and was very pleased to have been accepted. Well, that's where I'll be next year!
Anyway, so we roamed around the terminal a bit and then decided to go through customs to pick up an NZ
stamp in the passport and see what the outside of New Zealand was like.
Here are some photos I took while outside in NZ
Eventually came back inside and waited at the gate for VH
-OJB to get ready.
We pulled out of the gate and the pilot came on to apologise again for the delay and say that he was going to shut down the #3 engine for the engineers to do one final visual inspection and then we would be on our way. He said "Here at Qantas, we emphasize safety over schedule and apologise again for the delay and for your inconvenience."
We took off to BNE
at about 11:00 am. I must say it was refreshing to travel in a 744 for such a short period of time.
Didn't get a menu on the continuation of the flight, but breakfast was quite awful:
I got up and took a photo of the winglet:
Slept for most of the way to BNE
. Landing was rough.
Oh well. At Brisbane we went through customs, collected the luggage and went the to transfer desk at the international terminal.
By this stage, our connecting 763 from Brisbane to Sydney had already departed. I was slightly upset that we wouldn't be traveling on the 763, but remembered that QF
just about every plane in their fleet on the route. I was really hoping to be rebooked on the 743...as it turned out, the rest of the flights that day were to be operated by 737s. Blah
We didn't have too much time to get to the domestic terminal, so the QF
rep gave us a voucher to take a cab from the international terminal instead of waiting for the train.
12th March 2005
Qantas Flight 533
Departure Time from BNE
Arrival Time at SYD: 15:40
Aircraft: 737-800, VH
I was a bit upset that I'd be flying on a 737, but at least this one had enormous winglets which I hadn't experienced before.
Here is a shot of VH
-VXH sitting at the gate waiting for us:
Boarding started at about 12:45 and we had seats in the first row of economy.
We were served a light snack, which was a turkey sandwich that I enjoyed more than the breakfast on the AKL
After about 1.5 hours, we landed in Sydney at about 3:40 pm. Took the train to Circular Quay and when we got off the train, we were treated to a view of this:
You Australians have a beautiful country. By the way, Australians really do say gday m8!
The whole thing, door to door was over 30 hours. A lot of traveling, but Qantas was really fantastic.
I really enjoyed the flight. The planes were well kept, the entertainment system was excellent (although the interactive menu wasn't working at my seat), the cabin crew was friendly and professional and the service was better than anything else I had experienced in economy. The "safety over schedule" policy was good for my peace of mind.
So really I have to give Qantas a 10/10. I had an excellent experience with Qantas and I would have to really go out of my way to find things to complain about.
The only thing I have to say is that the Business Class on VH
-OJB (and all the 2-class 744s except for VH
-OJC) really didn't impress me at all and I'm not sure that its worth the exorbitant price. In fact their business seats reminded me of the Club World that BA
's 744s were delivered with in the early 90s.
And now I have some questions of my own regarding the fuel leak. When would the pilots have known about it? Would the fuel leak have contributed to the lousy landing? Would QF
had had parts for the RB211 at Auckland, or would they have had to buy some from Air NZ
Well, hope that you enjoyed the report. Thanks for reading!
Part 2 (the return) to come soon...
PARIS, FRANCE...THE BEIRUT OF EUROPE.