Trip report 14 February 2008
Only 6 weeks into the new year sees my first trip of 08 to France. Already I am a bit tired of travelling, averaging 100K miles per year for the last 2 years, and this month already I have accumulated 6K miles.
Having fought and lost the battle for a business class fare, I chose the route I thought would be easiest for fatigue in economy, being the midnight departure from MEL to LHR. This allows me to sleep to HKG and stay awake on the daylight flight to LHR. Also it seems to be lightest in terms of loads of all the QF LHR flights.
Flight: QF 487
For some reason I was not able to check-in online for this flight, I suspect due to being part of an international itinerary, so I had to check in at the airport. Qantas normally allocate seating on domestic flights according to status and preferences of that person 24 hours before the flight. As a QF Platinum [OW Emerald] with preference seating of forward window, I was more than a little surprised to find that I was allocated an isle seat at the very back of the plane. Fortunately I was able to change, not that it mattered as it was dark, and my 29A seat actually was a blank.
Scheduled departure was 20:00, however boarding didn’t start until 20:15, with pushback 20 minutes later, the captain later advising the delay was due to tech problem in MEL with this aircraft. With over 2 hours in MEL between flights I wasn’t too worried, except that I had asked to recheck in, in MEL. This was so that I could annoy the nice people at the First Class check in for good seats on the MEL-LHR leg. I find they are more accommodating than the normal check in staff.
As I had already had dinner with my girlfriend at the airport, I didn’t have dinner on board, and ended up resting for the hour long trip.
Flight: QF 29
When I first booked this ticket, the scheduled plane was due to be OJH, the Bangkok airplane turned golfer, however this changed on the day to be OJF, although disappointing, not bad, as I haven’t been on this plane either.
At the First Class check in, I asked if there were any rows with the B & C seats free, however there weren’t any, it looked like quite a full flight, to HKG anyway, and I also had the B seat free, so I didn’t have much to complain about. The staff also told me the load looked very light from HKG to LHR so to check with lounge staff in HKG about seating.
Boarding started with 25 minutes to scheduled departure, in the normally semi-orderly fashion, by rows. This time was the first time I have seen this vigorously policed, with people not in those rows turned back, including trying to turn me back before realising that as QF Platinum I was allowed to board “at my leisure’. I had expected with a full flight, and boarding ‘only’ 25 minutes to departure, we would be late off the blocks, however it was by only 5 minutes, so full credit to the staff on the gate.
Immediately on boarding I took the prerequisite sleeping tablets, with a view to sleeping all the way to HKG, however after an hour and not much effect I took another one. That seemed to do the job as I woke about an hour out of Hong Kong just as breakfast was being served. It was a normal light breakfast of cereal and juice, nothing too exciting at all.
Arrival into Hong Kong was about 10 minutes early, and with a 2 hour layover, I had plenty of time to wander to the Cathay Pacific Pier Lounge for a shower and to answer some work e-mails. The Pier is so much nicer than the small corner Qantas call a First Class lounge, I don’t know why anyone bothers going there. Having said that, I eventually made my way to the Qantas lounge only so that I could try and snaffle a row of seats to myself, which the lovely ladies at the lounge were able to do.
Flight: QF 29
With a new boarding pass waiting for me at the gate, I picked this up and made my way to my new seat(s). The girl in 53C, who boarded in MEL, was already in her seat and gave me a curious look when I made my way to seats 2 rows ahead of her, but I am sure she didn’t mind after it would have dawned on her, that she to would have a row of 3 seats to herself.
VH-OJF waiting for boarding
As it was such a lightly loaded flight, we were ready to go 10 minutes before schedule, however I guess due to air traffic controls we did not leave the blocks until 10 minutes after schedule.
After not too long a taxi we made our way to the threshold of 09L, and waited for a plane to land, which happened to be QF 30 coming in from LHR.
QF 30 on finals
After lining up, the engines spooled up and we started to move down the runway, then suddenly the engines wound down and we idled down the runway for about 30 seconds.
Just after RTO
At this time the captain announced that there was a configuration problem, which they were trying to resolve and we would be taxing off the runway. We soon taxied off the runway and turned right, much to my relief as left would have taken us to the gate. Soon after the captain advised that the configuration problem was resolved, but we now had a longer taxi as air traffic control had changed runways on us.
Behind us was the SQ 747 that was at the gate next us as we departed, and it seemed we were racing it to the active runway – we won!
Racing the SQ 744
After a short hold we were taking off again, over a smoggy Hong Kong and the old Kai Tak airport.
Shortly after take off we were offered another breakfast, this one being a more substantial offering of either vegetarian omelette or English breakfast, which was my choice.
After a couple of hours of flying, we were treated to some magnificent mountain scenery and great photographic opportunities.
However soon after it became cloudy, then the A side became the sunny side, so with no more good photo opportunities, I took the time to watch a few movies and sleep a little.
Having 3 seats to myself made the trip much more pleasant and the crew also said that with less passengers they find it easier, not only for the obvious reason, but because when the plane is full, they find people are grumpier and harder to deal with.
Legroom in economy
With 2 hours to go lunch was served, my choice being a beef offering, which is the best way I can describe it, not unpleasant, just plain.
We landed about 10 minutes behind schedule on 09L, which meant a long taxi to Terminal 4, but the upshot of that was a nice slow taxi past a very sad looking 777.
With no gates available to disembark, we were held off for 30 minutes before going to a remote gate, meaning we were about 45 minutes late getting off the plane. As I had no more flights today, this didn’t concern me, and it was very nice not to have to worry about any connections for once.
Although we were bussed from the remote gate to immigration, it wasn’t a long time, probably about 20 minutes from doors opening to baggage claim, yet my bag still beat me there, not that I was complaining.
Next I had to make my way to the Renaissance Hotel where I was booked for the night, which took a surprisingly long time, by the time I had waited for the train to T3, and then the Hotel Hoppa bus, so it was 16:00 by the time I had checked in. Sleep was very much needed at this stage but I tried to hold off for as long as possible in order to reduce any jetlag, however at 19:00, I gave in and went straight to sleep.
Unfortunately I woke at 04:00 the next morning, so I got up and did some work before trying to go back to sleep, but at 7am, I gave up on this and went down for a good hearty English breakfast in preparation for another 2 flights.
Flight: BA 304
Rego: G EUXE
After checking out, I waited for the Hotel Hoppa bus to arrive, which it did fairly promptly. The driver asked me where I wanted to be dropped off. I asked for T3 as I find it a shorter walk to the Heathrow Express transfer to T4. When we arrived at T2 the driver noted transfer to T4 as well, and some people got off, and asked directions to the Heathrow Express. I stayed on the bus thinking short drive to T3 and short walk to the station, however after 10 minutes of a bus driver get-together, and going nowhere, I gave up and got off the bus and made the long walk to the Heathrow Express station.
Thankfully T4 was not at its busiest, and 30 minutes saw me checked in, bags dropped, through security, and straight to the lounge where I had a drink and read until departure time.
Boarding was very quick and easy, and doors were shut 5 minutes before scheduled departure. Then the captain announced we had a hold of 30 minutes before we would be pushed back due to traffic congestion into CDG. This worried me a little as I had a 1 hour 30 connection time at CDG for my flight to NTE, so I didn’t want to be delayed much more. Luckily we did push back at the 30 minute mark and made a quick taxi to 27L, and in spite of a huge queue on the other side of the runway, we didn’t even stop our taxi before lining up for take off.
It always amazes me how well the crew do on these very short sectors giving out a snack and a drink then collecting the rubbish, all in just over 30 minutes, and this time was no exception.
We made it to the gate still 30 minutes behind schedule, but still enough time for me to collect my bags and walk from 2B to 2D and check in for my AF flight to NTE.
Flight: AF 7730
Plane: A 318-111
There was nothing eventful about this flight, we departed 5 minutes behind schedule and arrived in NTE on schedule. It was a very light flight so I had 2 seats next to me free, again very pleasant. The only annoying part of this flight was that my bag was the last one off.
Thanks for reading. The return trip to follow