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  • mongu
    • Jan 2000
    • 2918


    I dont normally write reports, but I hope my experiences are interesting to at least a few of you, if you make it to the end. This is a long report!

    In my past life, living in the UK, I flew frequently. My trips were mostly domestic runs with the occasional short haul hop, and even though my fares were always flexible I found it impossible to get past Silver status on BA. Essentially their frequent flyer club the Executive Club is only for people who take long haul business class flights. I must have spent 300-500 a week for 50 weeks of the year and got basically no status at all. Anyway, life changes and I ended up married with kids and living in a different country (Australia). I changed jobs and now fly a lot less, only 4-5 times a year for both business and leisure.

    This trip was to attend a conference in Chicago. Its business related, but I didnt fly in business class. I could have done, but then I would have been expected to simply fly there and back and perhaps even deliver a presentation (eek!). I wanted to spend some time in Chicago either side of the conference, so I took some paid leave and only charged my employer for economy tickets. I like working for companies that allow you to do deals like that!

    Anyway, on to the meat of this report!

    First leg: QF93 MEL to LAX, Economy, Qantas, Airbus A380 Seat 36F, an upstairs aisle seat
    Wow, this was a full flight. I dont think that there was even one empty seat on the flight, and it showed in the demeanour of the cabin crew. They were not unfriendly, but they were rushed and there was a distinct lack of cheeriness. I wasnt cheerful either. The IFE box under the seat in front of me was enormous, and it robbed me of a place to put my left foot. Honestly, I think they must be running their A380 IFE on a 1960s mainframe. Why does the box need to be so big?

    Shortly after take-off, dinner was served and it was fine Ive had better in economy class, but no specific complaints. The food was simply OK, although the fresh bread roll was a delight and I also appreciated the coffee, served from a plunger. After dinner I wanted to freshen up. Oops, bad idea. To reach the toilet, I could either walk through the galley at the back of the cabin or I could tiptoe over the legs of the people in the row in front of me. Well, the galley was blocked by a trolley for over an hour, so I tiptoed. Not a very easy or elegant way of laying out the cabin, Qantas.

    I made it back to my seat and tried to doze for a bit, but there is a trash compactor in the galley and it was quite heavily used. The noise kept waking me up it sounded mechanical, a bit like the flaps or gear being moved, only quite a bit louder.

    I was in a row of three right at the back of the plane, on the upper deck. I had an aisle seat, but the people next to me had to move past me their aisle exit was partitioned off. Im not sure how safe that is I would have been inclined to make it a row of 2 seats, if there is only an exit possible in one direction.

    Second leg: QF3013 LAX to ORD, Economy, operated by AA, Boeing 737-800W Seat - cant remember, but window seat at the back
    Immigration and customs at LAX was like my flight just OK. We sat on the tarmac for about 20 minutes as apparently customs dont open till 6.30 AM, which wasnt a real problem but somewhat surprising for a major international gateway. Immigration was fairly uneventful and about as friendly as these things can be which is to say, superficially friendly. Customs was confusing. I moved towards the counter because it was my turn and I was beckoned forward. A family of 4 then came out of nowhere and cut across me, almost tripping me up. The same customs agent then glared and me and said sir, please stay behind the red line. Wow, sorry mate! Remind me not to do something serious like have a heart attack I might get 20 years in jail for that offence against your person!

    Anyway once through, it was a breeze. Signage for my connection was adequate but a little bit confusing. Anyway, I made it from TBIT to the AA terminal easily enough and went through security, which was fine. It was rigourous, but quicker than in MEL and a much quicker and a lot friendlier than an experience in MAN a few months prior, which was bad enough to make me swear an oath to never again use MAN.

    My onward flight on AA was also just OK. The boarding process was almost comical. Such a long list of elite this and elite that and priority this their FF programme must have 25 tiers, with each tier given their own special treatment, with Chairmans preferred super duper ultra elites boarding before Executive Uranium Club Ultra, even though they both sat in Economy and probably paid the same. Ordinary travellers like me could only board right at the end, like we had leprosy or something. The flight itself was uneventful, although for something pushing 4 hours in duration I thought it was bad form to not serve at least a small snack. Drinks were offered and I had a coffee, nowhere near as nice as the Qantas coffee though.

    The flight was smooth, on time and the seats were perfectly comfortable. No complaints about AA, except the convoluted boarding process and the slightly cheap fact of not even serving a biscuit during the flight. Arrival into ORD was fine, with no hassles.

    Third leg: QF4454 ORD to DFW, Economy, operated by AA, Super 80 Seat 27A, window seat a few rows from the back
    The check in process was a bit confusing to me it all seemed to be kiosk based with no traditional check in desks. No issue with that, except the kiosks were hard to use. It rejected my booking reference (which was my QF booking reference). I had to scan my passport which worked just fine, but felt a bit odd. It quickly gave me my boarding passes andthats it. No questions about baggage. I queued up for the bagdrop and was asked for my tags. Apparently, the kiosks are meant to provide you with your tags. Well, mine didnt, so I was directed to a different desk. The guy there was friendly and quickly tagged my bags and told me they were checked right through to MEL, but that I needed to collect them in BNE and re-check in there, after customs. I did find it odd though, that at no stage did anyone ask me if Id packed them myself or if they contained anything dodgy I think Ive been asked that every flight of my life, up to now. The funny thing is, the kiosk did ask me if I felt like paying $50 to visit the Admirals Club! (I didnt).

    The security line was quick and the agents were efficient. No issues at all. Hung around ORD for about 2 hours and gleefully boarded my first ever MD-80 flight. I used to fly on DC-9s all the time when I was a kid, but for some reason or another Ive never actually experienced an 80. I had selected a window seat near the back, to satisfy my flight enthusiasm. Well, it was a delight. I love the 2-3 seating and the noise level was perfectly fine no piercing headaches, which I had half expected. The flight was quick and smooth, the cabin service was smooth and apart from the poor coffee and lack of a bit to eat, it was a really great flight down to DFW. The cabin was certainly dated, but everything worked and I was perfectly happy to be there.

    Fourth leg: QF8 DFW to BNE, Economy, Qantas, Boeing 747-400ER Seat 69K, window seat by the back, best seat in the house!
    Firstly, let me say that DFW airport is great one of the best Ive ever experienced. The connection experience was very easy, literally off my MD-80 flight, a 4 or 5 minute stroll right up to my Qantas gate. The US doesnt have border controls at exit, so it really was straight forward. I had a walk around the place and basically took it all in. The airport wasnt that busy, but the staff all seemed quite friendly. A few announcements were made for some passengers to go to the Qantas gate for document inspections I guess random inspections are in lieu of a formal border control process.

    The flight was quite empty Id say no more than 35% load factor in Economy, although a bit better than that up front. The cabin crew were friendly and engaging, and instantly made everyone relaxed I thought. Lots of cringe worthy jokes about the meal being koala stew or kangaroo curry, but to their credit it worked and people seemed happy to be on the plane. I had a row of 2 at the back to myself and consequently this was a comfy flight. The IFE box seemed smaller than on the A380, but otherwise the seats and cabin fit out appeared to be the same.

    Dinner was served and just like on my previous A380 flight, it was OK but nothing special. However, the crew did offer second meals to anyone that wanted any. I declined, but did ask for a second desert! A galley area was maintained at the back, with water, soft drinks, fruit and nibbles, for access whenever we felt like it. All in all, this is what Economy should be like!

    This was a very long flight 15 hours and 54 minutes by my watch, and over 13,000km which, as the Captain announced, was right at the limit of what a 747 can do. Ive heard that some flights have to make unscheduled fuel stops, but fortunately we didnt.

    Immigration and customs at BNE was smooth and quick they almost seemed overstaffed, which is a rarity for immigration in my experience. Perhaps they were just gearing up for the morning bank of arrivals, of which we were only the first or second I think (we came in a shade after 7AM).

    Fifth leg: QF609 BNE to MEL, Economy, Qantas, Boeing 737-800W Seat 23E, a yucky middle seat
    Its a bit of peculiarity of Aussie airports that domestic and international terminals are constructed miles apart. Id made the International-domestic connection about two years ago with Virgin and they gave me a ticket for the train. Qantas didnt they just said to take the inter-terminal bus. As long as we showed the driver our connecting boarding pass, the ride was free.

    Security was fine certainly quicker than the morning rush in MEL. I was soon free in the terminal and decided I needed a change of clothes. Im not sure if there are shower facilities, but I was quite tired and didnt look hard. A quick change of shirt in the toilets and a Rexona and Listerine session later and I felt refreshed enough to go and buy a coffee.

    My flight to MEL was delayed around half an hour. The announced blamed air traffic control for insisting on a delay. That sounded a bit unlikely to me delays never seem to be the airlines fault, theyre always either ATC or the late arrival of the inbound aircraft, which actually annoys me because it isnt a reason. Anyway, I was soon boarding and cursing I was in a middle seat. I hadnt checked my seat assignment until just before boarding. The flight was totally full again not a single spare seat.

    The flight was uneventful and a breakfast box was served. QF domestic food is pretty basic, but its sufficient and at a cost of what - $2 or so is something AA should look at. The flight took a bit longer than usual, with the flight deck reporting that ATC had asked them to slow down on the approach. I normally wouldnt mind that, as we were flying over my country north central Victoria - and I enjoy spotting familiar terrain and towns. Stuck in the middle seat though, I just wanted to land.

    Landing, when it happened, was uneventful and the taxi to the gate was pretty quick. I spotted a total of 3 A330s in Skyteam paint job which, with a Star liveried 777, was pretty unusual for logojets I thought. I gather one of them at least would have been Vietnam Airways, but not sure who operated the rest.

    Bagging collection at MEL was very quick and there, my friends, my journey ends.
    Skiaynin Vannin
  • T5
    Rank 5 Registered User
    • Jan 2000
    • 6822

    Great report, Mongu.

    I couldn't agree more about Dallas Fort Worth. I flew through it twice a few years ago, en-route from Orlando to London Heathrow. On both occasions, I got from the aircraft to my next departure gate in less than five minutes! Ideal when the connection time was a mere 40 minutes. The Skylink makes getting between terminals/gates very easy.


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