Date: Oct 21, 2008
Route: Sydney to Los Angeles
Dep: 1420 (2:20pm)
Arr: 0945 (9:45am)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
The day before had been gorgeous and I had spent a good number of hours watching the departuers off Rwy 34L at the famous beach spot, that is featured on Airliners.net. The taxiway took them close to the fence and it was here a few weeks earlier I saw the Airbus A380 for the first time in Singapore Airline colours (However pics below are from the second spotting trip. This is after all a trip report section!!) What I did not realise is the very next plane to pass by would be the jet I would be on the next day heading to Los Angeles, though in a different weather pattern altogether.
This is the jet that would take me the next day to Los Angeles.
I took the train from one of the Sydney suburbs and changed at Central Station in the city, to the train going to the International Terminal. It was quite effortless and is easy if you have just one pull along suitcase! Once in the International Terminal, I knew I had to wander around as I was very early, almost two hours before check in could open. No sooner the check in desk opened, I was the first few and was frantic to get that window seat 73K on the right in case we took off to the North, and have that gorgeous view of the Sydney city skyline. I handed the check in agent the e-ticket and passport and she proceeded to check me in. Then she had a very unsual look on her face as she looked into the computer screen. I noticed it and asked her if everything was alright. She looked at me and with a slight smile, yet bordering more on surprise she told me "You've been upgraded to Premium Economy". Oh wow! I could hardly believe my eyes and the I asked her, "Is it a window seat" without even realising that Premium Economy was located right over the wings, son no real views there to begin with!! "Er..no it's a middle seat, between two passengers" she said and proceeded to give me the seat number, but I had already stopped listening."Is it possible for me to have that window seat in Economy?" I said to her no sooner she finished, and that was when she looked up for the longest time at me. "You want to change your seat back to Economy? she said and theN I proceeded to tell her how a window seat was so important to me, and especially since I always wanted to see the Sydney skyline on takeoff, and moreover to get some shots of landing in Los Angeles. It was then she knew she was not dealing with a normal passenger, as she proceeded to change my seat and handed me my boarding pass. I left the counter with mixed emotions, sad on losing that seat in Premium Economy, but happy to have that window seat I needed. I later found out that Premium Economy comes with it's own dedicated FA
and table linen service! Oh well!!
Passing through Immigration I then went through the Duty Free areas and was not interested in browsing around but more eager to see the planes outside the big glass windows. The weather was terrible, it was cloudy, dark and raining and what dissapointed me most was the take-offs were from 16R over Botany Bay, the jets disappearing into the clouds minutes after taking off. Hoping the weather would change to the day before was going to be impossible.
I went around the terminal trying to find the best spots and almost stopped short in my tracks with something that caught my attention inside the terminal itself. Approaching my direction from the other side was Tommy Lee Jones! He was with two other guys and the trio walked by like they were just like the rest of the crowds. I wanted to get my camera out and try and get a pic, but decided against it should he decided to smash it to the ground instead, had I to take a pic. Rock star mentality is dangerous! I hadn't just given up a seat in Premium Economy to have my camera meet with such a fate! Still so much more time to kill, and an even longer flight lay ahead of me. Finally heading to the gate in a remote corner of the terminal, with no view of the airport area or the jet we were to board. We had to pass many security checks. Flights to the US are always on high alert, but once in the holding area the mood was more relaxed. Soon the Qantas crew arrived, this time an entirely younger lot, but with some senior staff that were probably serving First and Business. Boarding announcements were made and Premium Economy had the privilige to board with those that riding up front.
Once on board, I noticed the two seats behind me were occupied by a couple, and the seat in front of me had a lone passenger. I waited to see if 72J would be taken but it did not. Our gate was very close to 16R and I knew we would hardly have any taxi to get there. We pushed back and even then I hoped we would go down the beach and take off to the North, but it did not happen. We made our way to the runway and the engines sprung into life, and at that very moment the viewfinder of my camera started to blink a red battery at the top left corner. Never before did I change the cameras in my battery so fast, reset the settings and click a pic as we climbed out of 16R over Botany Bay! We banked gently to the right, travelled a bit in that direction and then made that big left turn to head out over the Pacific Ocean. I was so lucky that I managed to change the batteries in time to get the shots below.
The crew on this flight were a little bit more upbeat than the ones on the Inbound, and they performed their duties with a smile, were curteous in replying and attended passenger needs quickly. Hot towels were distributed followed by a cocktail service ,and then lunch commenced. I think lunch was actually served some two hours into the flight. It was substantial and I knew that they were snacks available as well as indicated in the Economy Class Menu programme card! A nice surprise was the Ice cream bar which was very welcome. But the nicest touch on Qantas flights is the snack on Q which not only has a nice bag of goodies but comes with the most delicious hot chocolate with marshmallows. I have not seen the Hot chocolate drink on any other airline, it's really such a nice Qantas touch. Even when I asked my cousin about it when she flew Qantas, and her response was just "Hmmmm"!! Such a huge sleep inducer on these long haul flights. We continued our journey over the Pacific passing Apia, and flew much south of the city of Noumea that we had crossed on our way in. It was going to be a long night in the darkness with some 12 hours of our journey being in that state! I managed to watch quite a few movies on this flight including a Pakistan/Australia joint production called "Son of a Lion" which was not a movie I would have ever dreamt would be shown on Qantas. It was dubbed in English as the entire movie was in Pushto, the regional language of the North West Frontier Province in Pakistan. Time seemed to pass at it's own pace yet we carried on with our large Pacific crossing.
The first rays of sunrise appeared and it also meant our journey was coming to an end. The smell of breakfast filled the cabin and those that were asleep stirred back to life. It was not very bright outside and some dark silouhetted land shapes started to take shape in what was previously nothing but large expanses of water. I later learned the picture was that of Santa Catalina Island. We progressed closer to the Californian coastline and no sooner we were over it, we turned gently to the left and made our approach into Los Angeles Airport. I always love landing in Los Angeles as the views are just amazing of nothing but huge expanses of homes that have no real end or beginning. The famous Los Angeles skyline appeared in the distance and I still regret not having my camera when we flew directly over it on a previous trip, as we circled to the right from our approach from the other side of the Pacific, on Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur via Taipei. (I will be posting the report of those trips too, so stay tuned). The Staples Centre showed from under the wing and all these landmarks indicated we were moments from touchdown. It was hard to believe that those many hours had passed all but so quickly.
We touched down smoothly on 25R on the Southern runways and passed another Qantas flight that was heading to the active runway, which I believe was the flight that leaves midday from Sydney for New York via Los Angeles. The usually busy Los Angeles airport seemed very quiet at this hour, but would later pick up as I spent another few hours there for my return flight back to Toronto on Air Canada.
Reflection of the tail
Reflection of the Qantas titles.