Flight Number: QF107
Aircraft: Boeing 747-48E
Seat: 01K (First)
Distance: 7488 miles
Duration: 12hrs 20mins
Photo © Jerry Pang
Photo © Art Brett - Photovation Images
Twenty four hours before a flight is usually when most people are battling it out to make sure they have their preferred seats for the journey ahead. Alas, flying Qantas First the experience is a little different, I was calling to book my appointment at the spa in the First lounge. At 9am sharp I was on the phone with the Qantas First host ensuring that our journey to Los Angeles, and New York was as smooth and relaxing as possible. As our flight was departing at 10.20am and the spa opened at 9am I requested the hour long full body massages for both my wife and myself, these were of course abbreviated to ensure we left on time. The host also invited me to call twenty minutes ahead of our anticipated arrival at the curb so the porters would be ready for us.
The following morning we had an early start, we checked out of our hotel and headed out to the airport. We didn't have too much luggage so I didn't bother calling ahead for assistance. Unfortunately the car was unable to stop outside the First desks so we made do with a few doors down the way. The hardships I have to contend with whilst travelling
The First desks were almost hidden away amongst a bank of other check-in desks and we were invited to sit down on some comfortable, yet modern seats, amongst the enclosed check-in area whilst our luggage and documents were dealt with. The First concierge asked if there was anything he could do to assist. Looking at our paper tickets he noted we were eventually travelling to Chicago and offered to get our tickets changed to a more direct routing. Alas, we were meeting friends for dinner in New York that evening so turned down his offer. He handed us several Express entry passes for our next trip to Australia and gave us directions to the First lounge.
Immigration was very straightforward and my wife and I approached the podium together and joked with the friendly officer about having passports from different countries.
Express security saved us a few minutes and we were once again up to the superb First lounge to enjoy some breakfast. The First host escorted us from the reception to the dining area where we took a seat for breakfast near the window, enjoying a great view over the apron and the city off in the near distance.
Early morning view of the apron
I enjoyed the buffalo yoghurt with rhubarb and also had a selection of sides that were offered on the menu. After spending fifty days on holiday I was getting rather sick of egg oriented breakfasts!
Breakfast in the First lounge...bacon, smoked salmon, sausages and hash browns plus a bowl of buffalo yoghurt and rhubarb
After breakfast we took a seat and enjoyed the wireless internet, I mean, my wife enjoyed the wireless internet. I went to have a little more of a mosey around the lounge and found some rather swish business suites round in one corner. They were all set up with fax, copiers, PCs, and even a Playstation 3! I found some things to sort out which required me faxing documents to the US, and although the fax machines in the suites couldn't do it the front desk staff were happy to help out. Afterwards I went back to the business suite to shoot the breeze in cyberspace until the spa appointment. The First host who checked us in came round to me and asked if my wife and I wanted seats side by side as he'd noticed we were slightly apart, well 1A and 1K. I was happy to stay where we were but it was good to see them doing these little things
The Qantas First lounge at Sydney:
1) The living wall in the entrance
2) One of the seating areas of the main walkway
3) One of the business suites; note the Playstation 3
4) The bar and restaurant kitchen
5) The reception area (Taken from another report)
6) The other end of the lounge
7) Treatment room in the Payot Spa
After a couple of hours in the lounge it was spa time and we went down into the opposite corner of the lounge to sort ourselves out. I was a little disheartened to be asked to come back in ten minutes after filling out the various forms as the masseuses weren't yet ready. These forms acted both as waivers, disclaimers and to provide some information to the masseuses as to what areas to work on. Alas, whilst necessary it ate into our already shortened appointments I quickly filled out the forms and returned within about five minutes. As our masseuses prepared themselves somebody else gave us slippers and heated headrests to relax our bodies. The masseuses introduced themselves to us and escorted us to our treatment rooms. Like the reception of both the lounge and the spa it had a live wall, very cool! As I enjoyed having the aches and pains of a month of travel being soothed away my ears were enjoying the dulcet tones of Kenny G and instrumental movie soundtracks galore.
The session wrapped up rather quickly but it was certainly good to get just over half an hour of pure relaxation in before our flight. Then it was down to gate 8 again, where we had boarded our flight to Christchurch. This time however it was a bit more chaotic, a full 747 versus a half empty 767 makes quite a difference in the boarding area! We managed to get round the crowds to the priority boarding line and were down the jetbridge and onto the aircraft in no time. The First cabin was very full already, and we were amongst the last in the cabin to board. Being in 1A and 1K means you sacrifice overhead lockers and so my rollerbag went into the forward closet and my over the shoulder bag above seat 2A.
The crew introduced themselves and offered olives or almonds plus a drink to which I took water. A sleeper suit was also offered (Medium, Large or XL) so I took one of those and went to change.
Pre-departure olives and water
It seemed we were in the company of another famous individual on this trip; Liev Schreiber was in seat 2K, being very quiet and keeping himself to himself. I realised I'd seen him behind some dark glasses and a cap in the First lounge but not recognised it as him. Usually the famous people I come across when I travel aren't particularly interesting so I was pleasantly surprised to have one of my favourite actors on this flight
Seat 1A; the blue striped bag is my wife's Collette Dinnigan amenity kit
Anyways...I took a look at the Akira amenity kit (Click for picture of contents) and flicked through some of the various magazines, perusing my entertainment choices for the next few hours. Pushback was delayed around forty minutes as one passenger didn't have all the necessary paperwork in order. Once this was done we taxied out to runway 16R to begin our 10,000 miles of travel for the day...
It really was a beautiful day in the Sydney area and the views off to the right side were superb. As we turned heading out over the ocean I was just about able to make out the city through the windows of seat 2A.
1) Carter's Island and the suburbs of Sandringham and Sylvania Waters
2) Cronulla and Burraneer
3) Heading out over the ocean
A bit of light chop interrupted drinks and canape service as we reached our cruise altitude. Menus were handed out and it was difficult decision of the day...the excellent looking tasting menu or just to pick and choose. Alas I opted for pick and choose and began things with a glass of Dom Perignon.
The meal service begins with canapes and Dom Perignon
I chose to fire up the AVOD system and opted to watch a British documentary about fake goods. Very interesting material, which is what can be said for the variety and amount of content on the AVOD system. And it didn't crash once in the entire twelve hours! Did you hear that BA?
The meal service began with a salad and bread. Once again I opted for duck and then finished it off with the tasting plate of desserts.
1) Salad of Spanish Iberico Ham with Char Grilled Peppers
2) The balsamic vinegar suspended in the olive oil managed to almost look like Australia. Completely unintentional!
3) Roast Duck with XO Sauce
4) Assiette - a tasting plate of desserts
The meal service was excellent, possibly one of the most consistently decent set of courses in the air. The salad definitely ranks up there with any starter I've had onboard, the duck despite the appearance was very good and the assiette was a delicious way to finish. To top it off the bread was served with some really decent balsamic vinegar, it is pretty common to see vinaigrette kicking about in premium cabins but I've not come across a proper vinegar like this. Standard practice was to have the vinegar in a dish with olive oil but once I got a taste of the vinegar itself I requested a dish of it alone
The drinks didn't let the side down either, the Dom Perignon was very good (though I do prefer Krug the Dom does have a nice aroma about it) and the dessert wine (De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2004) was right on the money. Not too sickly sweet...I also had a glass of the Pinot Noir (Bannockburn Serre Pinot Noir 2001) with the duck which worked out nicely. Plenty of top ups to keep everyone happy.
My wife had opted for the tasting menu and so was a few courses behind me by the time I was done but had equally pleasant experiences with her selections.
Once the meal service proper was over we got to enjoy a selection from the chocolate box...just when you think you're too full for anything else you feel obliged to pick a plateful
With around nine hours to go most of the cabin were enjoying a bit of a nap, I had to get something from the overhead locker but annoyingly the arrangement of seats in fuselage meant that when seat 2E was occupied (which it was) retrieving your bag without disturbing the inhabitant was nigh on impossible. Both Qantas and BA have 14 seats in the nose of the 747 but BA only have two pairs of seats in the centre and five window pairs. This is managed by adopting the herringbone pattern which Qantas don't. So on BA you manage to have more room in the window seats, easier access to the overheads, more window seats, and in my opinion a less congested feeling cabin. Alas I did manage to get my bag from the overhead and to save future disturbances I kept the bag near my seat.
I put the seat back into a flat position, my bed was made and I closed off the window shades trying to get a few hours sleep. Alas at about 2pm local time it did feel rather awkward so I lay back and thought of sheep jumping fences, quantum theory, cuddling up next to Carla Bruni ( ), anything that might help me fall asleep...Alas none of it really worked and I thought I'd just stick it out, keeping my bed in a flat position just in case I came over all tired! If I was to make it to New York and go to dinner without sleeping it would have been close to thirty hours awake.
All that really happened over the next few hours was the blood slowly ran to my head...I was reminded why I occasionally, but not often enough, sleep with my head at the feet end of the bed in premium cabins.
Around 1hr 30mins from Los Angeles the crew offered me some breakfast but I decided to decline. Breakfasts onboard in premium cabins are rarely up to snuff and I wasn't hungry enough to warrant partaking anyways. I felt my bottle of water was plenty of company on the nutrition front until I really was hungry!
Just under an hour from arrival seemed a good time to go and freshen up before the other passengers finished their breakfasts and kept the bathrooms occupied. I felt a lot better for a brush of the teeth and spray of smelly aromas around me. Although I hadn't gone to sleep yet my very gullible body clock was ready to accept that for the second time it was Saturday morning Breakfast was offered by the other members of the cabin crew who thought I was overlooked on the first round.
The crew passed round the cabin a couple more times, thanking us for flying with them and wishing us a pleasant onward journey. Hot towels were handed around as I watched the beautiful sunrise through my now open window shades. Fortunately by now everyone was wide awake so I wasn't bringing anyone prematurely out of a delicate slumber.
San Clemente Island
Our descent felt quite rapid and we enjoyed a hazy view of San Clemente Island off to the right hand side before turning and making landfall in the Long Beach area. It was a very clear day in the Los Angeles area and one could see for miles in all directions, not something you get to enjoy on every LAX arrival.
On approach into LAX - using the black and white function
We landed on 24R and rolled out for some time before experiencing a very sharp deceleration which caused me to lean heavily forward on the seatblet and anything unsecured to head forwards up the cabin floor.
We taxied round the back of TBIT and into Gate 41, the usual arrival for this flight. Due to the proximity of other aircraft the engines were spooled down and we were towed onto the gate. This was when the most horrible part of the flight began..no not an arrival into LAX but the god awful disembarkation music. I don't know who the artist was but I was thankful Australian authorities banned metal knives as I was ready to slit my own wrists listening to it!
We departed from door 2L so the majority of the Business passengers got a headstart to immigration, but they seemed to be quite a bunch of slouches so by the time I got to the checkpoint I was within six places of the front of the line...and right behind Mr Schreiber. I was quite surprised to see he had no escort or special arrangements from the airline. Fairly often on my travels I've seen the more well known passengers handled differently, whether on the ground or in the air. However, it is credit to Qantas that Mr Schreiber was treated no different to us mortals on his passage from Sydney either.
Immigration was hassle free and then it was to the two luggage belts, one clearly labelled for First, Business and Priority whilst the other was Economy. I understand that longhaul flights can be a drain on the body but after about ten minutes at baggage claim there were probably close to 200 people crowding the premium belt. I was beginning to think SYD-LAX really was a route chock full of Qantas Platinums but alas no, people just couldn't read the large signs on the baggage carousel!
Once the belt spluttered into life our bags were amongst the first gaggle of bags through on the premium side, so it was off to pass through customs and then to re-check our bags on to JFK. I've never had to enter the US and then check bags onto a domestic flight but didn't see why we needed to see another agent, I thought it was just a case of tossing them on a transit belt. At Sydney they'd tagged our bags to JFK...anyways, for some ridiculous reason when we booked the flights in March there were no flights to JFK with two seats 'A' class (discount paid First Class) until 4pm (This was also why we couldn't fly Qantas all the way to JFK from Sydney). Knowing the LAX-JFK route quite well and AA's almost hourly departures I knew we'd have no problems getting moved over and the agent had suggested and found earlier flights before I'd even had the opportunity to ask! We'd been put on AA2 which left at 9.30am, just five minutes after QF107 continued across the country ahead of us. I did enquire as to whether we were able to reoccupy seats 1A and 1K on that flight but were told it was not possible. I knew you couldn't purchase seats just for LAX-JFK or v.v. on Qantas but since we'd flown in from Australia I couldn't see a reason why we couldn't be accommodated. I was just happy to be getting into JFK in time for our dinner.
With new boarding passes in hand we left the secured area and went to catch our flight to New York....
Verdict: Overall, excellent On the ground Qantas really have it sewn up, the First host and concierge concept are really superb and the First lounge at Sydney is truly excellent in every respect. I look forward to my next passage through SYD on oneworld Although not as smooth a transition from check-in to lounge (compared to say BA's Terminal 5, or Cathay's HKG) it is still decent.
As for the seat and cabin, well I'm not so impressed. The seat at the heart is the same as BA's, although in much better condition. Give or take an inch it is the same width, same length and has the same reclining options. However, for reasons explained in the report I didn't like the fact it was flush up against the fuselage (less room for stuff, although 4A and 4K looked good from this perspective). The one big problem in my eyes was with the overhead lockers and their accessibility, something I've never experienced flying in the nose of the 747 on a multitude of configurations. The cabin did also feel rather congested with a full load of passengers, so hopefully when the cabin gets a proper makeover a couple of seats will go by the wayside.
The service onboard was much better though. The crew were excellent, always on the proactive look out for drinks top ups, making sure everything was in order, making or clearing away beds etc...and always seemed cheerful too! Top marks. The food and drink were certainly able to match those serving them, definitely nothing to complain about from the meal selection. However, my wife did have breakfast and didn't really like it saying the eggs weren't good.
Would I fly Qantas again on this route? Oh yes, and having compared to United's offerings (though not sampled on this route) you'd be foolish to go with anyone else if in First!