I’ve wanted to fly on Qantas ever since I first saw one of their 747’s in some old airplane book I had when I was a kid. Last week, I got the chance. And it was without questions everything I hoped/expected it to be.
This was a very spur-of-the-moment trip which only really took shape once I saw the great airfares that Qantas offered out of LAX
. I decided it was too good to pass up. As a bonus, I’d be able to fly on an A380. I’ve wanted to try out that plane ever since it was introduced. Due to time constraints I only had one full day and night to spend in MEL
but it was long enough to make me want to go back. I hope to go back for a proper visit, hopefully next year. That’s the plan at this point, anyway. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to meet my friend who lives near MEL
this time around, but we did chat on the phone once I arrived and she gave me some tips on what to check out in the city. She was sure to tell me that her co-workers thought I was nuts for only spending one day/night there. I told her “well, I guess to most it would seem nuts.” This trip was more about flying on QF
and trying out the 380 than exploring the region though…so to me, it was a well justified trip.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I made it to the QF
counter in the TBIT at around 6:30pm, with no one in line, just like I had hoped. When I finally got my boarding pass, I was like a kid in a candy store. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to fly the Kangaroo down under.
I then spent a little time outside making a few phone calls before deciding to head on through security at around 7:15pm. My flight wouldn’t board until 10:35pm, so I had a lot of time to watch all the heavies load…which of course was right up my alley.
Left gate: 11:30p
Wheels up: 11:53p
Wheels down: 7:59a
At gate: 8:05a
Total flying time: 15h06m
Boarding started as announced at 10:35p. One could easily tell that this flight was nearly full. I was in the first economy group to board since I had seat 82A in the rear section. After receiving a warm “welcome aboard sir” upon entering the cabin I was immediately struck by how damn big the plane was…the scope of everything just seemed a little bigger. I took my seat and was impressed by the comfort of it. I was also impressed by the larger than normal (for airline standards) and well cushioned pillow that was provided to us, along with a very nice blanket and an amenity kit on the seat. The PTV was the largest I’ve experienced on any flight thus far so I was looking forward to trying it out. And of course, the window…as others have stated…certainly stood out, but not in a good way. The cabin window frame was huge…but the actual window was located about five inches behind it and was fairly small. Also, the huge gap between the seat and the side wall took some getting used to. I like window seats partly because I can lean against the wall. That’s not even remotely possible on the A380. Those small gripes aside, I could tell it was going to be a great flight, especially once the main door was closed and both me and my seatmate in the aisle seat realized we had hit the jackpot and scored an empty middle seat for this 15 hour flight. We were lucky…I only saw a handful of empty seats on the lower level.
After chatting with my seatmate for a few minutes (an Australian native, she was on her way to PER
with a 6-hour layover in MEL
), I switched on the PTV to check out the famous “Skycam”, which offers a killer view from the top of the A380’s tail, looking forward. It was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I kept it on through pushback and taxi, and then, since the view out the window was poor due to the reflection, I decided to film the takeoff on the PTV with the Skycam view. It was a hell of a takeoff! We probably got fully airborne with 1000ft of runway remaining.
I then switched the Skycam off because…well…not much to see at night. I put on the flight tracker instead and kept it on until cabin service started about 45min after takeoff. The crew was just awesome…very friendly, all smiles, they seemed genuinely interested in their jobs. A few minutes after they passed out the Australian customs/immigration forms the meal service started. I was thinking that the rear economy section would get whatever meals that were left, be it the chicken or the fish. But to my surprise, they served the rear cabin separately from the first two cabins. So I got my chicken with no problems. The meal itself was pretty good. I especially liked the salad, the warm roll, and the desert. The entry, honey mustard chicken, was pretty standard economy fare, but the portion was just right…and the free wine hit the spot. Following the dinner, a hot tea and hot chocolate service was offered, and then about an hour later, the famed “Snack on Q” bags were passed out, which really come in handy mid flight. The lights, already dimmed for the meal service, were dimmed even further. The light pink color of the mood lighting created a soothing atmosphere as most of the cabin decided to sleep. I was pretty tired at that point so I took off my glasses, closed the window shade, and made an attempt at sleep. It was a good attempt because I slept for nearly five hours, probably a record for me on a plane. About an hour after I woke up…with most everyone else still sleeping…and with about 8 hours of flying left…I made my way to the rear of the plane to check out the self service snack bar area and the rear staircase. My seatmate joined me and told me “Wow, you slept for a long time, I looked over at you and you were out like a rock!”. I told her that I usually don’t sleep well on planes but whoever can’t sleep in those seats has a serious problem. And that’s the truth…they were ridiculously comfortable for economy class. I took a walk up the rear stairs and made it up to the upper level galley area, but the upper deck cabin itself was curtained off. I also paid a visit to the lav just to check it out …which is a very rare thing for me to do because I hardly if ever use a bathroom on a plane. As expected, it was awfully nice for an economy class bathroom, complete with a knob-less sink…all you had to do was touch the blue button (complete with blue LCD
lights) and the cold water came out. I then grabbed an ice cold lemon soda and a cookie and made my way back to my seat for the duration of the flight.
About three hours before landing, it became daylight outside, and I was glued to the window (and Skycam) watching the sunrise over the Pacific and the sun itself reflecting off the huge A380 wing. The still-dark cabin combined with the quiet hum of the engines and the new day taking shape outside made for a surreal atmosphere. Two hours out of MEL
breakfast was served. I had the hot breakfast option which was a frittata with spinach accompanied by some fruit, warm cinnamon-raison bread, yogurt, juice, and coffee. Very tasty. Not long after the breakfast service we crossed the Australian coast south of Sydney, and then a little later on, we began our approach into MEL
. The approach was smooth and the landing itself…just about five minutes behind schedule…was nothing to sneeze at. Not bad for such an immense airplane. Taxi time was a short five minutes, and when I deplaned only ten or so minutes later (dual jetways really speed things up), I reminded myself that I had just completed my longest flight ever…15h06m wheels up to wheels down…and I couldn’t imagine a better airplane to do it on. The A380 was a pleasure to fly on, and there wasn’t a point where I felt uncomfortable. Nice job, QANTAS interior designers! Here are the pics and videos from QF94…
Takeoff video from LAX
Landing video in MEL
*** Melbourne, Victoria ***
Customs and immigration were both a breeze. I was through both in about ten minutes, total. I then made my way outside the terminal to catch the Skybus to the city center. The Skybus was super convenient. It runs every 10 minutes more or less and it drops you off at Southern Cross station downtown, which was perfect for me since my hotel, the Atlantis, was on the same street as the station and only three blocks down. I made my way to the hotel and got there around 9:00am, hoping for an early check-in. The friendly desk clerk said it was too early but to check back around 10:30 and one would probably be open. I was in need of a shower and probably a short nap at that point…I wasn’t totally exhausted and honestly I felt less jet lagged than I did after taking an overnight flight to Europe, but I certainly wasn’t 100%. So I spent about a half hour walking around the CBD and I found a café to have some coffee. That killed a good hour. I didn’t want to do any real sightseeing until I had a chance to regroup. Thankfully my room was ready by 10:30. I was on the 5th floor and had a great view of the Docklands area and Etihad Stadium. I took a nap until about 12:30 and then showered. I then gave my friend, who works in downtown MEL
, a call, and she gave me some suggestions on what to see and do. We talked about meeting up later that evening but she had a prior engagement that she couldn’t get out of. But she did invite me back. Apparently she has a home on the coast road which is supposed to be spectacular. There’s always a next time. With advice in hand, I hit the streets of Melbourne, and I quickly found it to be an amazing city. I only scratched the surface of what to see and do, but what I saw, I liked…a lot. I called it a fairly early night and went to sleep at 10…woke up at 3:00am…left the hotel by 3:30am…and got to the Southern Cross station a few minutes later to catch the 4:00am bus to the airport. Here are some pictures from my day in MEL
Saturday, May 8th, 2010
I made it to the domestic terminal in MEL
at 4:25am after a roughly 20 minute ride on the Skybus. I found the “domestic to international” check-in position and was checked in within five minutes for my flight to BNE
, connecting for LAX
Left gate: 6:03a
Wheels up: 6:12a
Wheels down: 8:04a
At gate: 8:21a
Total flying time: 1h52m
Boarding started at 5:45am for this scheduled 6:05 departure. The flight was less than half full so I had three seats to myself. Legroom was tight but the seat was reasonably comfortable for a 2 hour flight. The weather was bad with rain and low visibility but there were no delays, and we were airborne in no time. The captain announced a flying time of approx 1h50m. IFE started a few minutes after takeoff (a few short subject programs including a great episode of Top Gear…that made me very happy) followed by a full breakfast service…cereal, fruit, warm bread, juice, and coffee. Excellent crew once again. Just a night and day experience from a domestic U.S flight. QANTAS blows them all away. Here are pics from QF600…
is interesting in that there are separate domestic and intl terminals. So I had to take a bus between the two, but the entire transfer time took me 15 minutes. There’s also a train that connects the terminals but the bus is free for QF
passengers, so I went that route. The weather was so nice outside that I really didn’t want to leave. I thought about ditching the flight back home and instead hanging out on the Gold Coast for a few days…but then I’d be sans job. Oh well…next time. For the record, the BNE
airport was super impressive. Very new and clean with tons of amenities…and a nice variety of airlines to take photos of. Here are some pics from the BNE
Left gate: 11:01a
Wheels up: 11:17a
Wheels down: 6:21a
At gate: 6:33a
Total flying time: 12h04m
Boarding started at 10:25a for this nearly full flight. I had seat 67K, window, aft of the wing. This was an older two-class 744 with the unrefurbished cabin. It still had the older blue seats, some of which looked a little worse for wear, with smaller PTVs...still AVOD though. Taking my seat I could tell the difference in comfort between this plane and the 380 thanks to the old seat I had on this one; however, the 744 windows blow the 380 out of the water. You still have tons of shoulder room, but you can lean against the wall if you want to, and the windows are larger and closer in. The cabin was showing its age, but hey, it’s a 747…I’ve always loved them and I always will. Again I lucked out and had the middle seat open next to me. That just makes a huge difference. Once we got airborne we made a big loop around downtown BNE
before taking to the Pacific. The in flight service was basically the same as on the flight to MEL
…dinner service about an hour after takeoff, hot chocolate/tea service, Snack on Q bags passed out, duty free service, various water runs, and a full breakfast about two hours prior to landing. After the dinner I bought an A380 model during the duty free sales, watched two movies (Edge of Darkness and Crazy Heart…both very good) and then slept for about four hours. I actually slept fairly well again. No mood lighting on the 744 but the cabin was nearly pitch black. I woke up just about as breakfast service was commencing. I think the breakfast was better on this one while the dinner was better on the 380 flight. Instead of the usual LAX
approach we arrived straight in from the ocean and the touch down itself was the typical 747 smooth. We had to wait just a few minutes to be towed into the gate, and during the towing process, we passed two other QF
744’s which had just arrived from AKL
. It took a little longer to deplane than on the 380, but when all was said and done, I was off the plane and through customs and immigration in around 45 minutes. This was my longest 747 flight to date. Here are pics from QF125…
Takeoff video from BNE
Landing video in LAX
To conclude, it was a hell of a trip. Everything went off without a hitch. Qantas is a great airline, the A380 is a great airplane (and to be fair, as is the 747), and Australia is a great place to visit. Next time I’ll be there for longer than a day. Thanks for reading.
[Edited 2010-05-10 12:13:28]