Programs: BA Board Moët Laureate, BA Silver, EK Blue, Marriott Platinum, Hyatt Platinum
Christmas in the UK – Qantas and BA Business Class from Sydney via HKG
Christmas in the UK – Qantas and BA Business Class from Sydney via HKG
Christmas in the Qantas First Class Lounge
Welcome to my 20th Trip Report
Join me as I take a trip back to my home land for my first proper Christmas in three years.
This trip report is going to be a little different, I call it a TR ‘lite’ as it’s not going to be as detailed as my previous one was simply because I wanted to enjoy myself a bit more rather than taking notes all of the time. The travel will feature heavily in this report, with less emphasis on my activities in the UK. Still, I hope that you’ll enjoy it nonetheless. As always, I welcome your feedback.
My previous report can be found by clicking on the banner below:
The Qantas International First Class Lounge, Sydney
Qantas Business Class – Skybed Mark II – A380 – QF127, Sydney to Hong Kong
The Wing, Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge, Hong Kong
The Qantas/British Airways Business Class Lounge, Hong Kong
British Airways Club World – 777-300ER – BA28, Hong Kong to London Heathrow Terminal 5
British Airways Arrivals Lounge, London Heathrow Terminal 5
Christmas carols at the Royal Albert Hall and an overnight stay in London
Christmas in the UK
A trip to a cottage on the Isle of Wight for New Year
The Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel, London
A few days in London including: Some night photos, The Natural History Museum, The Royal Albert Hall
A surprise visit to the Concorde Room, London Heathrow Terminal 5
British Airways Domestic Class, London to Edinburgh
A day out in Edinburgh, meeting some fellow FTers, and a stuffed animal
British Airways Domestic Class, Edinburgh to London
British Airways Galleries Lounge at London Gatwick
British Airways Domestic Class, London Gatwick to Manchester
Virgin Trains First Class, Manchester to London Euston
British Airways Club World – 777-300ER – BA27, London to Hong Kong
Qantas Business Class – Skybed Mark II – A380 – QF128, Hong Kong to Sydney
Notes on Photography
I’ve often been asked what camera equipment I use with my reports. I used my trusty Nikon D800 and two lenses for this report, the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 and the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII. I’ve also used my Samsung Galaxy S3, as sometimes it’s not appropriate to wield my DSLR around. All of the photos have been processed in Adobe’s Lightroom 4 to my own style.
Anyone that has read my previous trip report will know that I’d already been back to the UK once in 2012, in May. So why go back again? Well, I’ve been in Sydney over two years now and have had Christmas day here both times. For me, as someone that grew up in the Northern hemisphere, Christmas is a cold experience, with a hearty lunch and warming fires. I’m not used to salads and worrying about the air conditioning and sun tan cream. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the two Christmases that I’ve had in Australia, but it’s really not the same as it is the UK. On top of this, my niece was born this year, so this would be her first Christmas. I knew that I wouldn’t be around for her first birthday, so I felt that a good compromise would be to travel over for Christmas instead.
I started looking at fares many months before booking. Qantas had their usual two-for-one deal in business class which really doesn’t help me as I’m on my own. A little while later they advertised a sale wirg business class fares for $6,000 return which included code-share flights with BA offering a mixture of different routings. $6k was more than I wanted to spend so I looked at flying premium economy which in the end worked out at about $5,500, so of course I booked business. These flights would also help me to secure my BA Silver/Oneworld Sapphire status for 2013 and 2014 as my membership year ends in January. I added on a couple of domestic flights as well, to ensure that I met the “four BA sectors” requirement which also presented an opportunity for a mini-do in Edinburgh, catching up with some existing and new FT friends.
Sydney to Hong Kong
QF127 leaves at 11.40am giving me a reasonably leisurely start at my apartment on the morning of the flight. Qantas offers business class passengers very generous baggage allowances, with two pieces of hand luggage and up to three pieces of checked luggage weighing up to 32kg each. I didn’t have that much to take but it meant that I was able to take a small trolley case on board with essentials for the 6 hour layover that I had in Hong Kong such as a change of clothes, toiletries and pyjamas and a second change of clothes for the BA leg to London.
I’d arranged for a taxi to pick me up at 8am, reckoning that I’d be at the airport at about 8.30am giving me almost three hours in the famed Qantas First Class lounge. I’d managed to score another lounge invitation which meant that I was able to enjoy the much talked about eggs benedict, rather than a buffet style breakfast in the Business Class lounge below.
Bags packed and ready to go
The taxi initially couldn’t find me, which seems to be a frequent and annoying problem. By 8.05am we were on our way. It was a beautiful sunny morning with a temperature of 27 degrees already. I did wonder why I was flying back to a rainy miserable UK on this fine morning.
The journey to the airport was fine and I was dropped off by zone D, where the Qantas Business class and First class check in desks are located. The check in area was quite busy but I didn’t have to wait long. The check in agent was lovely, very friendly but professional. My bag was tagged all the way to London and with both boarding passes and an Express Path card in hand I sat down to fill out my immigration card before proceeding through immigration and security. The Express Path card didn’t really seem to make much difference as security was packed with the usual suspects; people who don’t know about the liquids rule, people that spend 5 minutes emptying out all of the coins from various pockets, people that walk through the scanner with all of their jewellery still on, you know the sort.
I made it to the lounge at 8.50am and was welcomed in by name. The lounge didn’t seem too busy which was excellent news. I’ve never visited the First Class lounge in the morning, but I’ve heard stories of not being able to find a seat on some occasions.
I made my way over to the restaurant area and have a quick look at the menu although I already knew what I was going to order, the eggs benedict. I decided to wash this down with a glass of Tattinger. Yes, it was barely even 9am, but who cares?
Reasonably busy business class check in
A nice glass of Tatty
The EB was great, very light, with a foam style Hollandaise sauce which was different. After this I took my glass of Champagne and found a quiet seat by the window. This was probably the first time where I’d really just sat down and relaxed in this lounge before. On my previous visits I’d been busy taking notes or snapping away, taking it all in.
If you’d like to see some of my previous photographs of this lounge, you can click on the banner below:
I was able to sit directly overlooking the A380 that would be taking me and several other hundred people to Hong Kong, VH-OQH, one that I had not travelled on before. The lounge never really got that busy, and I whiled away the time by browsing FT and Skyping, before ordering a glass of Veuve Cliquot. I noticed that Christmas decorations had been put up around the lounge, in a very subtle way. My experience of Australia at Christmas time is that it’s unlikely that you’ll see lots of decorations all over the place, much unlike the UK.
After a few photos it was time to pack up and head to the gate, via a newsagents to pick up some antacids. Boarding had just started and I was able to avoid the long snaking queue for economy and skip down the side to the business class desks. Qantas use three air bridges for the A380 at Sydney: A for First, B for Economy and C for Business and Premium Economy. I made my way down towards the C bridge and was greeted warmly at the door and directed to my seat, 17A a window seat in the second Business Class cabin. I was actually the second person on board so I was able to get a few snaps of the cabin and sort out all of my stuff.
As many of you will know, the upper deck of the A380 has storage bins underneath each window which are available for passenger use. 17A has three of these but only two were able to be opened. I decanted my laptop, camera and various other bits into the bins and then settled down before being offered a pre-departure drink of Champagne, water or orange juice. I went for the Champagne, browsed the extensive lunch menu and waited for everyone else to board around me.
Business class window pair on the A380
Business class cabin
My seat, 17A
The view from 17A
The view from 17A
I really do love the cabins on the Qantas A380, I think that they are stunning and are rather different to many of the other run of the mill cabins that you find on aircraft these days. Qantas aren’t afraid to move away from the usual beige that dogged computer case design in the nineties. It’s refreshing to see the use of different colours and materials.
I’ve flown Business Class on the Qantas A380 once before, on my flight over to Sydney for the first time since getting my visa approved. I don’t remember a great deal as it was quite an emotional time for me. This time around I was able to appreciate it a little more.
I found the seat to be very comfortable indeed and it was completely adjustable, rather than having fixed positions to choose from. The leg room was huge and it was completely impossible to reach the seat in front, as it should be in business class!
I was hoping that the seat next to me would be free but no sooner did I think that when my seat mate arrived. We didn’t really speak, and that was fine with me.
Boarding was completed on time but had to wait a while before pushing back as apparently the wind had changed which affected the runway use. We eventually took off at 12.20, about 40 minutes past our scheduled push back time. The take-off was, as always with the A380, ridiculously quiet to the point where you actually wonder if you are going fast enough to leave the ground safely. I love the A380.
As the seat belt sign went off I reclined the seat and got comfortable. The IFE screen pops out of the centre console and is both touch screen and controlled by a remote control which is embedded in the side of the seat. The screen is rather large and adjustable, making it easy to find a comfortable viewing position. I have to say that I’m a fan of the IFE on Qantas, they always seem to have a good selection of the latest films and TV programmes to my taste.
Hot towels were handed out as well as amenity kits. This was followed up by a personal welcome from the CSM which is always a nice touch.
Ascending above the clouds
Large IFE screen
Now, let’s have a look at the menu.
I was looking forward to the dinner service as I’ve always found the quality of the food to be extremely good. However, I must say that I was somewhat disappointed to see no second meal before our arrival into Hong Kong. It looked as though all we’d be getting was a ‘refreshment’ which was basically a snack.
After a bit of discussion with the CSM I chose the pea soup and the fish. Drinks were served shortly after with me opting to have a Coke Zero and some water, I’d have wine with dinner.
About 30 minutes later the dinner service started with a table cloth and cutlery laid out. I like the fact that the food is not served on a tray, with each item being placed individually on the table. I also loved the china, with a specific plate for the bread and the salad. Something that BA could learn from.
The CSM served the soup to me and asked whether I would like some wine. I normally drink white but have more recently made my way towards red wines. I’m not too knowledgeable so I asked him what the ‘lightest’ red was that was on offer. He didn’t know, which was pretty disappointing, but seeing the choices, I went with the Merlot.
The soup and the wine were absolutely brilliant. Traditionally, I’d have stuck with Champagne but I really think that’s a bit of a crime now, not exploring what else is on offer. Most international airlines have a pretty decent selection of wines and it’d be a shame not to try them out. Qantas has won multiple awards at ‘Cellars in the Sky’ for the past three years and it really does show in their wine selection.
Next up was the fish and wow was it spicy! It was very beautifully presented and definitely up to restaurant standard. The menu said that it was steamed and I do wonder if it was actually cooked on the aircraft, rather than simply being re-heated. The dry chilli sauce that was served on top had the most incredible flavour. If I could find somewhere in Sydney that served this dish I would definitely order it again. My wine was also topped up.
Next up I decided to go for the cheese plate as I didn’t fancy the dessert option on offer. This was pretty good, but it’s hard to go wrong with a cheese plate, isn’t it? I washed this down with a glass of dessert wine which had to be found in the galley. It would have been nice if it had been offered proactively, but I can’t really complain as overall the quality of the service was pretty good.
Soup, salad, bread
Main of steamed fish
After dinner it was time for a wander. I went into the galley to congratulate the galley operator on the fantastic presentation and quality of the food. I’d taken my camera with me and we got talking about photography. An hour or so later, when I’d sat down, he came over and asked if I’d like to visit the cockpit once we’d landed. I said yes of course! The guy in question was really good, very pro-active.
I made my way towards the lounge area, having not really used it much before. It was empty when I arrived but soon filled up with a family and their kids. The FA who’d asked me about my camera seemed to know the family and offered to take their son for a walk to give the parents a bit of relief. Again, this is an example of really great service.
After reading a magazine or two I helped myself to a chocolate bar from the snack area and then returned to my seat for a snooze. I shouldn’t really have been tired but I just didn’t feel like staying up.
Programs: BA Board Moët Laureate, BA Silver, EK Blue, Marriott Platinum, Hyatt Platinum
The forward Business class cabin
The Qantas Roo
Looking down the stairs
The view from the lounge
I snoozed for a couple of hours before watching a bit of TV after which I was feeling hungry so I decided to order a sandwich. This was served promptly and was reasonably good. I suppose that the only thing to say is that it’s pretty much exactly the same as what you get in Premium Economy so there is little differentiation for the second meal. I followed this up with a small tub of ice cream which went down well.
At about 8pm Sydney time the crew started to pack everything up in preparation for landing. The sun was just setting as we made our descent into Hong Kong, casting beautiful rays across the cabin.
The Captain advised us that we’d be landing a little later than scheduled due to traffic at Hong Kong and should expect to land just after 6pm local time (9pm Sydney). The approach was rather bumpy but the actual touchdown was smooth. Again, it seemed as if we floated onto the tarmac, such is the A380. We made our way slowly to our stand at gate 15, near to the BA 777-300ER that would be taking me to later some 6 hours later.
Sun setting over the wings
Sun setting casts rays over the cabin
The BA 773 that would take me London later
As we started to disembark I gathered up my stuff and made my way towards the front and then down the stairs to meet the crew down there. The Captain was just coming out of the cockpit so I spoke to the crew who were expecting me. One of the crew members checked that it was ok for me to go in and then I was introduced to the second officer who showed me around. I’d visited an A380 cockpit before and have always found it rather spacious but probably not as big as you might expect. I’m not sure that I’d want to spend 14 hours at the front of the plane.
The cockpit of the A380
We had a quick chat and I asked a couple of questions before bidding farewell and exiting through door 1 where all of the cleaners were lined up and ready to go.
This was a really great flight. The Qantas Business class product is top notch. I found the seat to be very comfortable for sitting, eating, relaxing and snoozing. The IFE was probably the easiest to use of any other system that I’ve used in the past. Whilst other airlines might have more content (say, Emirates) I found that the quality of content was of greater value to me personally, with an excellent selection of recent releases and TV programmes. The food was simply amazing. I loved the presentation with the white china table setting. The quality of the food was top notch and I’d be very happy to receive each dish in a restaurant on the ground. The service was very good, particularly the FA that was pro-active by asking me if I wanted to visit the cockpit upon landing.
Overall an extremely good and very memorable flight.
A six hour wait in the Wing lounge followed by a disappointing British Airways Club World flight to London on the 777-300ER.
Great trip report so far. I took this flight in November in F on the A380 (first time in F!) and it was a fantastic experience. Had the eggs benny with Tatty too, but with Smoked Salmon - and squeezed in some of the salt and pepper squid just before departure .