F L I G H T
AIR AUSTRAL Flight Information:
KUU771 31OCT03FEB 0004007 364772 RUNRUN1205 10301NOUNOU J
5.7 years old, leased from ILFC, and delivered to Air Austral in 2005
This flight stops in Sydney
RÉUNION TO SYDNEY
Actual Departure Time:
Actual Arrival Time:
Bienvenue à Air Austral
Air Austral cabin crew -predominantly male, yet with a few ultra good looking females- were spread throughout the cabin welcoming the boarding passengers. Boarding today's flight was leisurely and in no hurry at all.
Facing the cabin from the front, the slick black leather seating is contrasted by the dramatic turquoise tone of the pillows and headrest covers, creating a very sexy feel to the ambience. Facing the cabin from the back however, not much is different apart from the lack of personal IFE screens. I may have seen many pictures of 777's without personal screens at every seat, but I think this is my very first time to see it live; and it needed some getting used to! All interior design aside, the cabin was spotless clean, and screamed my name to live in it for the next 15 hours.
"Hi. I'm seated in 36C please"
"Alors, please follow me"
"Can I help you with your luggage?"
"No thank you, I can manage"
"Voila, your seat…Please enjoy your flight, and let us know if you need anything"
Freshly sealed blankets and pillows are placed on every seat on top of the seatbelts. At my confinement of 36C, I notice no IFE box obstructing my leg space which is a breath of fresh air. However, legroom is quite tight at 32 inches. Apart from that, I knew it was going to be a very comfortable arrangement especially that I have the entire three seats to myself.
During the boarding process, the same announcement was repeated by the crew every ten or so minutes to welcome passengers on board, and advise of a pre-brief on simple prepare-for-takeoff 101 rules. This I have only experienced once before in 1997 onboard Martinair's B742 bound for Orlando.
The French are known take pride in their heritage, and also in their possessions and achievements. Similarly, Air Austral is proud of its fleet, its company, and its overall offering, and this is shown on a video playing on the overhead screen about the technical specifics of the B777-200ER. Things like the seatmap, configuration, range, MTOW et al, and destinations the aircraft is deployed to are all aired above giving your average passenger an overview on what this top of the line machine is all about. Personally, I quite like that idea and wish that more airlines could adopt this.
It was most certainly looking to be a light flight today
At 12:05pm, the crew were asked to conduct a final passenger count, and at 12:15pm, our captain made an announcement to welcome us on board and advise us of the usual route basics for today's flight. Flying time to Sydney today was to be a beautiful 10 hours and 30 minutes hence, at the boarders of an Ultra Long Haul flight in my books.
Captain & crew announcements video:
The seatbelt sign was switched on at 12:20pm, when the crew assumed their working positions in relation to the aircraft's 8 emergency exists. The safety video was aired on the overhead screens while the crew stood upright in the aisles.
The video was relatively old-fashioned but the background music, along with the dominating French, and the subsequent English accent, was a rather uplifting mix that was reminiscent of an early morning sunrise trance party; I could not stop watching, and I could not wait to find that video on the Internet when I got home.
Air Austral safety video
Would all ground staff kindly leave the aircraft, this flight is bound for Sydney
Corsair Fly seems to be a regular visitor here
Pushback commenced at 12:25pm, some 20 minutes behind schedule, and while the safety video was playing. F-OMAY may sound like the name of a female aircraft, but her engines churned the roaring thunders of a male in heat, as we pushed back into the view of Réunion's mountainous landscape.
The taxi to the runway was another unique experience for me. Apart from the contrasting views between mountains on one side, and the deep blue ocean on the other, part of this journey involved a quick taxi on the active -and perhaps only- runway. Passing over the threshold, the aircraft did a big fat U-Turn to the opposite direction, and aligned itself with the centerline in the normal way. After the usual thunders, shakes, rattles, and roars, we eventually lifted off at 12:35pm, and commenced our journey towards Sydney.
Taxi & takeoff video:
Before reaching cruise, the captain signaled -with the seatbelt sign- that it was safe for the crew to be released for service preps. An announcement was then made that we were to be served a full lunch momentarily, which was to be followed by the displaying of a feature movie on the overhead screens. How 90's is that? I was suddenly reminded of my countless Lufthansa 9-hour transatlantic hops out of Frankfurt. That to me, and in my age of time, was when flying was at its height of glamour.
Plying the deep blue skies at cruising altitude over the Indian Ocean
The crew promptly took action in the aisles, and with their genuine smiles they seemed equally at ease with everyone. Similarly, the passengers were quite the laid back bunch which really made up for an enjoyable flight by everyone involved. Service was not rushed, and the crew smiled at each and every passenger as they distributed the prepackaged moist towelettes.
When countless debates are ongoing on many forums regarding the elimination of amenity kits as a cost-cutting initiative by many airlines, Air Austral practically craps all over that idea and offers its Economy Class passengers amenity kits that are considered above average in their league.
Barf bag & inflight magazine
In time for the meal service, two trolleys were rolled out, which were manned by two sets of crew for each trolley. In the two main cabins of Economy Class, the meal service began from the front of the front cabin, and from the back of the back cabin hence, everyone is served their meals and drinks within a reasonable waiting period.
Just when I thought that no menus were on offer on Air Austral in Economy Class, I was pleasantly surprised to find one nicely wrapped over the napkin on my sexy meal tray.
According to the menu, a choice between oriental lamb meatballs and a seafood gratin was on offer however, it seemed that only the lamb was available as I was not offered a choice. Nevertheless, the lamb was the choice I would have gone for in the first place anyways.
The meal tray was beautifully presented, and its contents were quite generous for today's Economy standard. A non-plastic glass, metallic silverware, and the usual condiments were neatly placed in between the plates. Included on the tray, was a bread bun, butter, a small tub of water, pretzels, cheese, and a bar of chocolate. For the starter, a large portion of salmon rilette was on offer which came with a salad consisting of crab, shrimp, risotto, and carrots. The main course consisted of a Moroccan infused fare of oriental lamb meatballs which were accompanied with couscous, raisins, and vegetable ratatouille. Finally dessert consisted of a small serving of strawberry mousse.
"Monsieur, what can I offer you to drink?"
"Do you have vodka?"
"Is it possible to have a Bloody Mary? Or maybe just tomato juice & vodka?"
"Of course! But I am very sorry I do not have emm .. how do you call this, for spicy"
"Oh Tabasco, that's alright!"
"Ok, attend, I will get one for you"
After a quick trip back to the galley, the crew returned with a bottle of Tabasco!
"Okay, I found it for you monsieur. So you can now have a good Bloody Mary"
"Thanks for that"
And it didn't end here, he returned once again to the galley and fetched a packet especially designed for the Bloody Mary which consisted of a napkin, a plastic stirrer, and celery salt! How cool is that?
They say that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Well the way to my heart is through the offering of a damn good Bloody Mary, and today, Air Austral found its way into me!
Introducing the Air Austral Bloody Mary!
While salmon (and tuna) are my very least favorites in the seafood area, I decided to go ahead and give the salmon rilette a try. It wasn't as bad as I thought, and in fact, the crab salad that accompanied it was rather tasty. The main course on the other hand, was out of this world! The lamb was the best of its kind I have ever had on a flight (and I usually find airline lamb to have an awful after-taste) and it came with a very nice gravy that perfectly complemented the couscous and the vegetables. In fact, everything on my meal tray was of exceptional quality and taste. I think I can assume that Air Austral's catering is one of the best I have ever tried!
Coffee / Tea was offered after the meal, and my tea came in a stylish cup
After the service, some passengers settled for the movie that played on the overhead screens (forgot what it was), most slept away, while some socialized within the confinements of their seating spaces. One thing about personal IFE on a flight -and including your very own route map- is that you tend to ignore the remainder of the flight and pass the time through a movie marathon of some sort. I had forgotten how refreshing it can be to just sit back, relax, reflect on life with a few thoughts, and do absolutely nothing apart from take in your in-flight surroundings, hour after hour.
Cabin after the meal service
I was starting to feel a little drowsy, and as such, I made myself a comfortable bed on my three seats, and played a series of Family Guy episodes on my new IPad to play in the background, the way I would normally do it at home.
By the time I was falling asleep, the crew had already begun a very consistent water run across the aisles, every 30 or so minutes.
In bed with Air Austral
Waking up approximately five and a half hours before landing, it was pitch dark inside as well as outside the cabin, and practically everyone had fallen asleep. A crew noticed me walking towards the galley, and immediately got up from his seat to assist me.
"Can I have a cup of Diet Coke please?"
"Sure. Please also help yourself to some sandwiches if you like"
My Diet Coke and cheese sandwich
Cabin view deep into the flight
A sneak peek at the Air Austral lavatory, which was beautifully maintained
Now this is very interesting! Was this plane owned by AF before?
With still another several hours to go, my leisure activities on board had their limitations, and all I could keep on doing was play on my IPad, look out the window, subscribe to one of the every-30 minute water runs, and so on and so forth.
Reading some Travel & Leisure on my IPad
Looking out the window I perhaps find the only strip of land along the way
And I settled for several of those along the way
I do like this cup holder
At this point during the flight, we were too close to Sydney to relax, yet too far away to do anything about it. While it was still dark outside, I think all of us were well-rested by then, and we were getting very antsy. Passengers kept going back and forth between their seats and the galley, when at some point, about 15 to 20 people had congregated in the back galley, surrounding the cabin crew that were manning the duty free cart. Not to worry however, the crew were not the least bit annoyed; in fact, they kept talking to the passengers to keep them company.
More cabin views in the dark
Back in the galley one more time, I had requested to purchase a few items from the inflight Duty Free. While that was happening, the crew had a friendly chat with me.
"Are you continuing with us to Nouméa today?"
"Yes I am. It is my first time there, and also my first time on Air Austral"
"Ah, Nouméa is nice, you will enjoy it"
"Will there be a crew change in Sydney?"
"Yes, we will stay in Sydney for 5 days before going to Nouméa"
"I hope you have enjoyed the flight with Air Austral"
"Yes I did. thank you very much"
Some essentials from the duty free
At 4:45am local time in Sydney, the cabin lights were switched on, but in the most unusual way. Instead of the regular cabin lights, the crew turned on all the personal reading lights at every seat. I had not seen something like this before, and perhaps it was a more private way to shed some light across the cabin as the atmosphere was still not too bright to sleep.
Reading lights on!
Hot towel service was promptly conducted with a smile
In a similar way as with the previous lunch service, two trolleys were rolled out for each opposing side of the two cabins. While the second serving on the menu indicated a light meal consisting of pineapple salad, a sandwich, and cottage cheese, the actual serving was a totally different continental breakfast.
"Bonjour monsieur, petit dejeuner?"
"Can I get you some something to drink? Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, some juices?"
"I'll have some tea with milk please"
Breakfast was a very simple serving which consisted of a small tub of fruit nectar, fruit yoghurt, two bread rolls, butter, strawberry jam, a fruit salad serving, my cup of tea that I had requested, and the usual condiments in between.
My meal tray
The overall breakfast serving was quite satisfying, and it hit the right spot. Though, I was expecting something a little more substantial.
Approaching dawn outside
Cabin after the breakfast service
At 5:50am Sydney local time, our captain made an announcement to inform us that we had begun our initial descent towards Sydney Airport, and that we were expected to land at 6:15am.
The crew made their final preparations to ready the cabin for arrival, and things such as blankets and headsets were collected and stowed. Also. the usual video on Australia's strict immigration and customs procedures was played.
Cabin shot during descent
At 6:05am, the seatbelt sign was switched on, and get this, an arrival safety video was played on the overhead screens! This was a simpler version that included a reminder on the basics such as fastening your seatbelt, and stowing tray tables, and seats in upright positions etc. The video concluded with a final reminder on emergency exit positions, and the reference to the safety cards for more information. How very interesting!
Sydney landing & arrival announcement video:
At 6:15am, F-OMAY touched down at Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport. Normally, the flight would come to an end at this stage, but I was well aware that I still had one more sector to go on this bird.
All passengers on the continuing service to Nouméa were asked to deplane during the transit stop while the aircraft cabins were cleaned.
At the gate, the engines powered out, and the seatbelt sign was switched off before everyone scrambled out of their seats to get the hell out. With all my belongings in hand, I walked to Door 2L where I thanked the crew for their outstanding efforts before proceeding down the jetway and into the terminal building.
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