Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Community > Trip Reports
Reload this Page >

London to Asia and Australia in Y, Y+, C and J with Qantas and Cathay Pacific

London to Asia and Australia in Y, Y+, C and J with Qantas and Cathay Pacific

Old Dec 30, 09, 7:43 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
London to Asia and Australia in Y, Y+, C and J with Qantas and Cathay Pacific

Welcome to my latest trip report. This one contains no less than 8 sectors in a mixture of economy, premium economy, regional business class, and long-haul business class on Qantas and Cathay Pacific. This was a mixed leisure and business trip.

My previous trip reports can be found here:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...d-lhr-jfk.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...rld-777-a.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=866907

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=881262


This report is broken up by sector, with a post for each.

Routing

- London Heathrow (LHR) – Singapore (SIN): Qantas (QF), International Economy (Y), A380

- Singapore (SIN) – Melbourne (MEL): Qantas (QF), Premium Economy (Y+) (Op-Up), 747-400

- Melbourne (MEL) – Alice Springs (ASP): Qantas (QF), Domestic Economy (Y) – 737-800

- Alice Springs (ASP) – Sydney (SYD): Qantas (QF), Domestic Economy (Y) – 737-800

- Sydney (SYD) – Hong Kong (HKG): Qantas (QF), Premium Economy (Y+) (Op-Up), 747-400

- Hong Kong (HKG) – Seoul (ICN): Cathay Pacific (CX), Long Haul Business (J), 747-400

- Seoul (ICN) – Hong Kong (HKG): Cathay Pacific (CX), Regional Business (C), A330

- Hong Kong (HKG) – London Heathrow (LHR): Cathay Pacific (CX), Long Haul Business (J), 747-400


Background

2009 was an interesting year for me, professionally and personally. Anyone that has seen my previous trip reports will work out that I’ve spent quite a bit of time away from the UK this year. For the first months of the year I was on a project based in New York and flew back and forth from London many times during that period, always on British Airways. At the end of May, my assignment finished and I returned to the UK. As is always with work, there was no rest for the wicked and I was straight on to another series of projects, in the somewhat less glamorous locations of Matlock, Crawley and Woking (lucky me). This meant that there was little opportunity for me to book an extended holiday during the summer months, so November it was. My mother lives in Australia so this was the perfect time to spend some time with her and also take off to warmer climes as the UK started to get ready for winter.

I booked my flights around the end of August and began counting down the days. In the mean time I ended up re-joining the same company that I was involved with in New York, who were now implementing their new IT system in Korea. I was asked if I’d fly to Seoul to run some workshops with the business in December. My holiday was due to finish in Hong Kong at the start of December, and I had planned to fly back to London direct with Qantas. A trip to Seoul gave me the perfect opportunity to try out Cathay Pacific by flying direct to Seoul from Hong Kong, returning to London via Hong Kong on the way back. The ‘business’ portion of my travels would be fully paid up business class and, having seen the photos of Cathay Pacific Long Haul Business Class I’d been keen to try it out for a while. It did also mean that I’d be flying back from Hong Kong in lie-flat business class, rather than slumming it in economy! Work does have its benefits sometimes.

Booking

I'd originally booked to fly to Darwin, not Alice Springs, however, my mother decided to stay in Alice so it was a question of trying to work out how to change my flights while avoiding steep change fees from Qantas. Trying to change my flight turned out to be a bit of a nightmare initially. I looked at booking a separate itinerary on another carrier to route me from Darwin to Alice and then Alice to Sydney, forfeiting my Darwin to Sydney flight. However, the girl on the end of the phone for Qantas wanted to charge me £300 just to drop my Darwin to Sydney flight!! After a bit of exploring on the Qantas website I discovered that they will allow you to completely cancel an entire itinerary and use the value as credit towards another booking, provided that the point of origin and return was the same as the previous booking. So, having got through to someone a little more intelligent I proposed a new routing and was able to change my flights to include Singapore > Melbourne > Alice Springs and Alice Springs to Sydney for a charge of £156 (fare difference and admin fee). I’m not sure how this processed because I kept the same flight details, seat assignments and PNR for the whole itinerary. I then selected my seats online using the ‘Manage My Booking’ feature on the Qantas website.

My Cathay Pacific flights were all booked online also although the process was a little less friendly because my corporate credit card provider decided to block my transaction as I paying in Hong Kong dollars, useful. I wasn’t able to select my seats online but I quick phone call to the office in London allowed seat assignments to be made for each of the sectors.


London to Singapore – Qantas A380 – Economy

Since the A380 was introduced in 2007, the first major aircraft launch in my life time, I knew that I’d have to get myself on-board in some way or another. Having obtained Silver status with BA (Oneworld) there was no way that I was going to give up my lounge access and the various other benefits by flying on Singapore Airlines, so when Qantas introduced their A380 onto the Kangaroo route between London and Australia I knew that was the option for me.

Flight: QF32
Carrier: Qantas
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Scheduled Departure time: 11.05 am
Duration: 12h 55m
Scheduled Arrival time: 08:00 am (local)
Routing: London Heathrow (LHR) T3 – Singapore (SIN) T1
Class: Economy
Seat: 80A

Getting to Heathrow

God I hate early morning starts. I knew that traffic around the M25 in the morning would be shocking having been stuck in it on many an occasion. I opted to be picked up from home at 7am, allowing two hours to get to Heathrow (it would normally take an hour). I got a call at around 6.50 from the driver to say that he was downstairs waiting for me. I dragged my slightly overweight suitcase (I had to pack both casual and work clothes for this trip, and cater for multiple climates) down the stairs and was met by the sight of my smartly dressed driver and a shiny silver E-Class Mercedes to take me to the airport. Traffic didn’t end up being too bad and I arrived at around 8.30, in time to see the Qantas crew making their way into the terminal to check in also.


Check In and Lounge

I’d already checked in online the day before however, I had bags to check in so had to check these in at the airport. Qantas moved to Terminal 3 at Heathrow at the end of October and this was the first time that I’d flown from T3 since the move. For Virgin customers, T3 is somewhat impressive as they occupy the main check in area which is brightly lit by purple lighting. The Qantas check in area is less than impressive, with low ceilings and a claustrophobic feel. The signage wasn’t great, with economy and business/first desks in different rows it is not immediately obvious where I was supposed to check in. I ended up trying to check in at the Iberia business class desks by mistake, oops. Having been turned away, with a slight red colour to my face, I found the Qantas business class desks and checked in with the surly check in agent. Although I was travelling in Economy, my Silver status with BA is equal to Oneworld Sapphire and Qantas Gold, allowing me to check in at the business class desks regardless of my class of travel, a nice benefit, especially with the queues that are often seen at economy check in desks. My bag was slightly overweight as I needed to pack clothes for Australia’s arid climate and Seoul’s frankly freezing one. This did not seem to be a problem and the weight of my bag was not even mentioned at check in. Upstairs and quickly through security and I managed to find my way out of the duty free maze (I mean shop) and started looking for the lounge. Again the signage here is poor. I don’t remember the exact details, but lounges are placed into groups, with signs pointing to each group, with no mention of the actual airlines until you get nearer to the lounges themselves. So in which group was the BA lounge? I took a gamble and went for the sign pointing towards the gates and was directed down a slightly battered back corridor towards a set of blue doors. These opened to reveal similar décor and lighting to that of the British Airways lounges in Terminal 5. No dragons working today, the friendly agent scanned my boarding pass and invited me into the lounge, warning me that no boarding announcements will be made. The lounge is rather long and thin which results in large open areas, unlike the T5 lounges which, despite being actually bigger, are segregated to create smaller, cosy areas. Overall, my first impressions were that the lounge was certainly in the same style as the T5 lounges but really lacked the atmosphere and ambiance. To me, it felt a bit like a stale doctor’s waiting room, with few windows, and lots of plain white walls. In fairness, I’m sure that it didn’t help that there were only about 20 people in the lounge when I first arrived.
I made my way through to the large open room at the very back of the lounge, plonked my stuff down and then proceeded to take a look at what was on offer for breakfast. Mmmm, bacon rolls, I grabbed one of these, as well as some toast and a glass of apple juice.


Famous BA bacon roll, toast and apple juice

This was certainly enough for me in the morning but there was much more to choose from should I have felt hungrier. The next couple of hours was spent using the free Wifi to check emails, taking some photos for this TR and speaking to friends and family.


Main food bar


Main dining area


Smaller seating area in the middle of the lounge


The bar in the smaller seating area in the middle of the lounge


A view of the bar in the large room at the end of the lounge


A view of the bar in the large room at the end of the lounge, from my seat

The lounge started to fill up about an hour before boarding and among the people that joined me in the main room was a rather annoying survey lady. She was going around to each of the passengers and asking them if they’d like to fill in a survey for her. Strangely, she was quite rude about it. Apparently, the survey was in two parts and if you thought that you may not do the second part after the flight then you shouldn’t bother with the first part because you’d be wasting her time. I didn’t think that it was appropriate to be bothered by some rude marketing lady in an airline lounge and I’m surprised that BA allowed her to operate in their lounge (she didn’t work for BA). She didn’t approach me and if she had I’d have told her to go away.

It was soon time to head to the gate, of course, I’d missed the ‘board now’ message having spent too much time ear wigging on the group next to me who were being hassled by the survey lady. A dash to the gate ensued which turned out to be rather a long way away. Boarding was almost finished and I made my way on to the air bridge. Qantas use two air bridges from what I can remember, one for first and economy, the other for business (and possibly premium economy?). Economy and first board through door 2 left on the main deck. I was greeted by the CSM (customer services manager) and pointed in the direction of my seat, 80A. This was situated in the mini cabin at the back of the A380, right by door 4L on the main deck. The location of this seat meant that I had massive amounts of leg room and no seat directly in front of me. As it turns out, I had no one sitting in the two seats next to me either, pretty much the only spare seats in economy. Lucky me. On the seat were headphones, a pillow and a blanket (which was noticeably thicker and higher quality than normal), I don’t remember if an amenity kit was provided but I suspect it might have been.


The legroom for my seat, 80A, door 4ML is visible in front


The view from 80A looking into the middle economy cabin and galley

From this position I was able to observe the crew going about their duties during the flight. This included grabbing the oxygen bottle from the emergency kit beside the door to help someone that was out of breath. It was also interesting to note that a lot of the cabin controls were touch screen. The lighting for all three economy cabins for example could be dimmed by using the touch screen panel above the crew seat.

We were slightly delayed pushing back, I believe that some people had got lost between check in and the gate so their bags had to be offloaded. We then pushed back and had a short wait before making our way on to the runway. I’d heard that the A380 was a very quiet plane, even during take off and I must say that it lived up to these claims. The roar of the engines was noticeably duller than that of a 747 and we smoothly took off on our way to Singapore. During cruising, the noise of the engines was much quieter than expected and in fact the crew commented that during their rest break, it is more difficult to sleep because they are able to hear everything around them.


The view after take off

After take off menus were handed out. Lunch and breakfast were on the menu as well as a list of the available drinks options. Lunch took a little while to arrive, but in my position, I was served almost first in the cabin. The meal was offered with a choice of soft and alcoholic drinks. What was a surprise to me was that sparkling wine was on the menu, so I ordered a bottle of this. I was presented with a mini (200ml) bottle of Jacob’s Creek sparkling white which went down very nicely! The meal was a three course affair, with a choice of lamb or chicken for the main. The food was truly excellent and despite not really liking the salad starter, I finished everything else on the tray. Afterwards, Mars ice creams were handed out and I almost asked for another one.

It was then time to check out the IFE. In economy, each seat is equipped with an on-demand enabled 10.4” wide screen TV with a huge selection of films, TV and audio programmes to choose from. I found that I wasn’t really able to sleep, given the time of the flight (despite it being dark outside) so I passed the hours by watching the latest Harry Potter film, Terminator Salvation and one other film that clearly didn’t take my fancy because I can’t remember it. I also ended up watching a lot of family guy, with 5 episodes available, which could be played as one or watched individually.


Family guy on the huge IFE screen, with a green tea

Breakfast was served around two hours before landing into Singapore and consisted of a hot omelette. It was ok, nothing special and certainly didn’t compare to the quality of the previous meal. The sun had started to rise outside and we were treated to a prolonged sunrise in the last couple of hours of the flight.


Sunrise over Asia

Before we landed I was able to get a snap of the forward economy cabin.


The forward economy cabin

Arrival into Singapore was smooth although the landing did seem a bit bumpy.


Descent into Singapore

Disembarkation didn’t take too long and we were out through door 1 on the left hand side. I was then able to get a proper glimpse at the big bird.


The Qantas A380


The Qantas A380

Singapore airport at this time in the morning seemed very quiet so I was quickly through immigration, no questions asked. I then collected my bags and jumped into a waiting taxi and made my way to my hotel, the Singapore Marriott.

Overall Impressions

The Qantas A380 is an amazing achievement. The plane itself is very quiet and I believe that it is also pressurised at a much lower altitude than other aircraft which makes for a more pleasant in flight experience. I certainly felt able to drink and get to the point of being slightly drunk without feeling rough, which is definitely a plus! The IFE was amazing with an excellent choice of the latest films and TV programmes. The food was also excellent. Little touches such as a large cotton covered pillow, a very good quality blanket (no static in sight), the comfort of the seats and the snack bars dotted around the cabin made for a top notch economy flight, certainly the best that I have experienced to date by far.

Last edited by matthandy; Nov 27, 10 at 6:57 pm Reason: Update image location to resolve bandwidth issues
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 7:49 am
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Stopover in Singapore

I spent a couple of nights in Singapore and visited the Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, the Singapore Flyer as well as spending time wandering around Orchard Road and Clarke Quay. The temperature was unbearable at times, with 33 degree heat and incredibly high humidity.


The F1 Circuit - Start/Finish Straight


A White Tiger at Singapore Zoo


The Singapore Flyer at Night


Looking towards Clarke Quay at night

Last edited by matthandy; Nov 27, 10 at 6:59 pm Reason: Update image location to resolve bandwidth issues
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 7:56 am
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Singapore to Melbourne – Qantas 747-400 – Premium Economy (Op-Up)

Flight: QF10
Carrier: Qantas
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Departure time: 20:15 pm
Duration: 7h 15m
Arrival time: 06:30 am (local)
Routing: Singapore (SIN) T1 – Melbourne (MEL)
Class: Premium Economy (Op-Up)
Seat: 37A

I took a taxi from the hotel at about 5pm, giving me plenty of time to get to the airport and check in. Upon arrival, I started looking for the Qantas Business desks to check in only to first come across a desk labelled ‘British Airways Silver Card Holders’. This seemed a bit weird but it was the most appropriate place for me to check in. Anyway, there was no-one waiting at the desk so I placed my overweight bag on the scales, again, no eyelids batted and after the usual security questions, I received my boarding pass. On inspection I realised that I had been upgraded to premium economy, excellent! I texted my mother who admitted to being somewhat envious, as she never gets to fly in anything but economy. I’d heard a lot about the Qantas premium economy product, reports of it being a J- rather than a Y+ product and also so very different to BA premium economy which I’d flown a few times before. I was glad of the opportunity to try it out. Immigration was quick (security takes place at the gate) and I was on the hunt for the Qantas/BA lounge. This was to be found up an escalator and after having my boarding pass checked I was welcomed into the lounge by name. Wow, first impressions were really good. The lounge was very spacious and decorated to a very high standard. The reception was adorned with white marble and everything had a very high class feel to it. This was certainly worlds apart from the lounge at T3, well, it felt like that on first impression.


The reception area


The food bar


Main seating area


Computer work area


View from my seat in the main seating area


The bar, with service, if the staff are around

I found myself an excellent spot, a set of four chairs, facing each other, with a large table in the middle and crucially, power sockets to charge up my laptop and iPhone. I wanted to use the free wifi but couldn’t see any details about it so I popped back to reception to enquire. The lady at the front desk remembered my name, which I thought was impressive and handed me a piece of paper with the wifi key. I returned to my seat and felt like a drink. I only needed to walk a short distance to the bar behind me where two staff were waiting to serve. I asked for a glass of champagne (Tattinger) and then helped myself to some water also. After a bit of skyping, a bit of watching 24 on my iPhone I took a bit of a stroll to get some photos. The lounge was indeed huge. It was then time to make my way to the gate, as boarding was announced. It was quite a long trek to get to the gate where I found the usual sight at Singapore airport, long queues for security at the gate. It took a little while to get through security, which was very thorough. Once in the gate seating area it was clear that boarding was already underway so I boarded immediately. I was greeted at the door and directed to the premium economy cabin (just in front of the economy cabin, behind door 2. My seat was 37A which is the last row of the section, just before the curtains for economy. As I settled in I was greeted by the male crew member serving my side and offered champagne, water or orange juice, I obliged by relieving him of a glass of champagne. I felt a little sorry for him as it was difficult to serve with people moving through the cabin to reach economy behind. This made boarding a little hectic for those seated in premium economy.


Legroom

My first impressions of the seat were very good. The configuration was 2-4-2 meaning that at worst you only had to step over one person to get the aisle, wherever you sat in the cabin. The space between the seats was good, offering very decent leg room and the width of the seat was very generous compared with economy.


The premium economy cabin

On the seat were a pair of noise cancelling headphones, an amenity kit (the same as the ones in economy), a large cotton pillow and a thicker quilted style blanket.

Once boarding had finished one of the crew members came and introduced herself and welcomed each passenger onboard personally and explained the flight time and crucially, that the toilets were located at the rear. I thought that the greeting was a nice touch, something usually reserved for business and first (if you are lucky). As we were ready to push back the captain came on the PA to explain that he’d received a brake warning fault in the cockpit and this needed to be investigated. He elaborated by saying that if it was a faulty sensor then it could be replaced relatively easily, however, if in fact there was a fault with the braking system we’d have bigger issues. I was getting increasingly concerned as I had a 2 hour connection time in Melbourne and I knew that this was going to be tight with the immigration and quarantine process. It took about an hour to replace the sensor during which people from economy kept wandering around and even into the galley area at door 2, this was very annoying. Finally we were underway, the safety demo took place during which the FA demonstrating at the front of economy commented on how lucky I was to have no-one next to me. She said that there were a few “wingers” in economy. I laughed at this and told her that I’d been upgraded at check in and asked her not to tell anyone, with a wink all in good spirit. Menus were handed out and the dinner service commenced reasonably quickly. Dinner was served from a cart with a choice of two mains which both sounded good. For each passenger, the table was laid with a linen table cloth and metal cutlery. With one crew member serving each side and with the all of the preparation necessary it did take a little while to reach me. By the time the FA got to me I was under the impression that he may have run out of my first choice, the pork. I saw him check the cart and noticed that he did have a couple of both choices left, however he told me that only the fish was available. Perhaps this was to ensure that fare paying passengers (not op-ups) were able to receive their first choice. I didn’t mind this, but he could have done a better job of lying to me. Anyway, the fish it was. Warm bread rolls were offered as well as a drink. All of the wines, including the champagne were the same as those offered in business class. Having had enough champagne I decided to stick with water.


Asian fish main with noodles


The food was all served on china, with metal cutlery and I was always addressed by name. The quality of the food was excellent and matched the quality of the food that I have had in business class in the past. Desert was ice cream, which was mostly melted so it made for a rather messy affair. After a Baileys I tried to get some sleep. The seat reclines quite a way back and I was able to get comfortable easily. This was the only downside of the premium economy seat. The service and food up to now had somehow convinced me subliminally that I was in fact flying in business class, however, the seat brought me back to the fact that I wasn’t. Don’t get the wrong impression though, the seat is excellent and many times better than the BA offering. I tried to sleep but didn’t really manage it and dozed for a couple of hours. I tried out the IFE. The 8” screen is stored in the arm rest and is the older style AVOD IFE system. While still good, it does not really compare to the impressive high quality widescreen system in economy on the A380. A good selection of films and TV programmes were still available. I decided to watch ‘Up’, which was ok, but wasn’t too clear on the screen.


Watching 'Up' on the IFE

It was then time for breakfast, and despite eating most of the main meal, I was still quite hungry. Breakfast was a huge disappointment and I was quite surprised by how limited it was.


Breakfast

Breakfast consisted of a couple of pastries and a small bowl of fruit, plus drinks. This really wasn’t enough for me and I was left feeling hungry. After breakfast was cleared away we started our descent into Melbourne. The captain made an announcement warning of air traffic delays and that we may have to circle for a few minutes before landing, great, more delays, less and less chance that I’d make my connection. I believe that we circled for around 20 minutes and then made a smooth landing into Melbourne. After taxiing to the gate we were then informed that a passenger had been taken ill during the flight and quarantine would have to come on-board to confirm that the passenger was ok to leave the aircraft. This meant that we were not able to disembark until the all clear was given, more delays! I was getting pretty frantic at this point but had started to resign myself to the fact that I was going to miss my connection to Alice Springs. I texted Mum and she informed me that there was only one flight a day to Alice Springs from Melbourne, so if I didn’t make this one, I’d be stuck and our plans of driving to Uluru that day would be somewhat scuppered. Announcements were made about what to do regarding the various connections that passengers had, including mine. I was told to meet the Qantas rep at the gate. After about a 15 minute delay we were allowed to disembark and I was off the plane quickly due to being close to the front of the aircraft.

Overall Impressions

The Qantas premium economy experience beats the pants off of the tired BA product in terms of the seat, the amenities and business class quality service. The service was the same as business class, the wines were the same and the food was close (breakfast was limited however). Even the little touches like high quality lined blankets mean that the BA offering just cannot be compared. In short, and here’s the real test, I would pay for it with my own money if travelling to Australia again.

Last edited by matthandy; Nov 27, 10 at 7:00 pm Reason: Update image location to resolve bandwidth issues
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 9:31 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: TSV, Australia
Posts: 2,363
Thanks for posting.

Nice to read a Y trip report that isn't full of moaning about the horrors of it all.
camsean is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 11:16 am
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Connection in Melbourne – What a bloody nightmare!

I was met by the ground rep at the end of the air bridge. There were a couple of other people who were going to Hobart, I was the only person going to Alice Springs. I had about an hour and 15 minutes before my flight was due to take off. What she told me was rather astounding, she essentially told me that I wouldn’t make my flight unless I ditched my checked luggage at Melbourne and claimed it later! No way was I doing that. She unhelpfully told me that there were no more flights that day and the ones in the next few days were all full (not sure how true that was, it seems unlikely). She was rather rude and had the attitude that the delay to the Singapore to Melbourne flight was somehow my fault and that I was now causing her great inconvenience. I didn’t like the sound of her plan so I decided to see if I could somehow make the flight, and still collect my bag.

I ran to immigration where the queues were reasonably short. The immigration guy was grumpy and rude, telling me that I was going to miss my flight, nice. I asked the customs guys near the baggage claim what I should do and they made it very clear that I should not leave my bag and that the Qantas rep should not have suggested that I do. The queues for quarantine were huge and I estimated that it would take me at least at hour to get through, and I still had to collect my bag, check in, go through security and make it to the gate. The Singapore flight baggage claim was on carousel 5 which was around the corner from the other belts. Some bags were starting to come out but I couldn’t see mine. I rang Mum who was as stressed as I was, there would be no other way to get to Alice Springs today if I missed the flight as the flights from Sydney were already en-route. If I missed the flight I’d be stuck. While still waiting for my bag a quarantine/customs man was going around the queue checking people’s forms and additionally they opened up a side gate right by the carousel, things were looking up. My bag arrived after about 10 minutes of waiting and then I quickly made it through the exit and tried to find my way to domestic.

In Melbourne the international and domestic terminals are in the same building so I should be able to walk straight through to the domestic check in desks. After baggage claim I emerged in the departure are for some reason, the signs to domestic were very lacking. I had to exit the departure area and then managed to find the way to the Qantas domestic check in. At this point I had about 45 minutes before my flight was due to push back. Spotting the check in desks I ran to speak to one of the group of Qantas ground staff that were by check in, talking to each other. The lady was very uninterested that I only had 45 minutes left before departure and directed me to the long snaking check in queue. She was more interested in finishing her conversation with her colleagues. I joined the queue, but then came to the conclusion that I was not going to miss my flight for the sake of politeness so I went back to the same lady, again explained that I only had 45 minutes and that I was going to miss my flight and she just waved me back into the queue. I was rather annoyed at this point. 30 seconds later, the very same lady started calling out for passengers going to Alice Springs and moved them to the front of the queue, stupid cow! I went up to her and told her that I’d spoken to her 30 seconds ago about my flight but she didn’t seem interested and just waved me to the front. What terrible service! I admit to muttering something rather rude under my breath. Anyway, with disapproving looks from my fellow queue members (clearly it was my fault that I was going to miss my flight) I made my way to the front, actually starting to believe that things were looking up. My bag was overweight and this was picked up but the lady noticed that I had just come off an international flight so waived it. Boarding pass in hand I quickly made it through security and jogged to the gate. I arrived about 5 minutes before boarding started.
I rang Mum to explain that I was going to make the flight, although I wasn’t sure if my bag would.

Last edited by matthandy; Dec 30, 09 at 2:05 pm
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 11:44 am
  #6  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: London, UK
Programs: BA Gold, IHG Platinum Ambassador
Posts: 14,066
Top quality report - looking forward to the other segments

It looks like QF have a pretty solid overall product across all four classes, something which my J experiences on the A380 and 747 would confirm.

The reason you couldn't see any 'Business' check-in desks at SIN is that there is a secluded premium check-in area utilised by a number of carriers (not just oneworld) for their F and J passengers - on the left, behind a screen as you approach immigration. It's a sit-down check-in affair, with a private channel to immigration.
Genius1 is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 12:01 pm
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Originally Posted by Genius1 View Post
Top quality report - looking forward to the other segments
Thanks! The Cathay segments were a bit more fun, since they were in J, I'll be working on them tonight.

Originally Posted by Genius1 View Post
The reason you couldn't see any 'Business' check-in desks at SIN is that there is a secluded premium check-in area utilised by a number of carriers (not just oneworld) for their F and J passengers - on the left, behind a screen as you approach immigration. It's a sit-down check-in affair, with a private channel to immigration.
Ahh, only reserved for the priviliged few! That makes sense then.
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 12:17 pm
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Melbourne to Alice Springs – Qantas 737-800 – Economy

Flight: QF796
Carrier: Qantas
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Departure time: 08:45 am
Duration: 2h 55m
Arrival time: 10:10 am (local)
Routing: Melbourne (MEL) – Alice Springs (ASP)
Class: Domestic Economy
Seat: 8A

Boarding was very civilised and I made my way to my window seat on A side of the aircraft. I was still pretty het up from the mad dash through Melbourne airport but I was starting to begin to feel a bit more relaxed than I was earlier. I was a bit worried about my bag, but if the worst came to the worst, it wouldn’t be a huge disaster if my bag was a few days delayed, at least I knew that I would definitely make it. The flight was not particularly full, and I had a spare seat between me and the man in the aisle seat.


The view seat 8A

We pushed back on time and then were quickly on the runway for take off. Shortly after, the IFE started, with screens that swung down from the ceiling. The local news was first played and then a film, 500 days of summer. Drinks were offered although no food was provided (except in business class). The flight was over reasonably quickly and was pretty uneventful, apart from the views over the desert.


Views over the desert

Landing was interesting. We made a huge long sweep over the town of Alice Springs itself before landing smoothly. Mum later commented that she was able to watch my flight coming into land. I was off in a flash, out into the glorious sunshine and was quickly in the terminal, bags collected, Mum met and on my way to Uluru (Ayers Rock).


The road to Uluru (274 miles), lucky we weren’t driving to Adelaide

Last edited by matthandy; Nov 27, 10 at 7:00 pm Reason: Update image location to resolve bandwidth issues
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 12:52 pm
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Alice Springs to Uluru and Kata Tjuta (by car)

The road to Uluru was long and straight, but never boring, even though there was seemingly nothing in sight for miles around.


The Stuart Highway, nothing for miles

We stopped off en-route near Mount Cook. Mum had packed an ‘eskey’ with cold drinks and sandwiches. Having not had much to eat over the past few this was very welcome. As we stopped for lunch, the heat became apparent, the temperature had soared to 36C and the sunshine was beating down. No joke about needing a hat then.


Stopping for lunch


Our view for lunch

We then continued to Yulara, the resort just outside of the national park. This is a purpose built resort in the desert, housing tourists in a variety of hotels from back packers accommodation (where I’d stayed in 2004) all the way up to 5 star luxury. Personally, I found this place a bit strange, but there are simply no other accommodation options in the red centre. We’d booked a self catering apartment which was perfect for our needs. The next few days were spent exploring the National Park, visiting Uluru and Kata Tjuta. This involved lots of sunsets and lots of walking, which was rather difficult in the hot climate. The walk around Kata Tjuta almost killed us! We cheated when it came to the Uluru base walk, and took the car instead, well, it did have air conditioning. We parked up at various point and walked to the base of the rock.


Uluru about an hour before sunset


Uluru a few minutes before sunset


Walking around Kata Tjuta


Walking around Kata Tjuta


Sorry, we cheated – our air conditioned tour around the rock


Here’s the reason why, climb closed due to forecasted temperatures of 36 or above (it actually got to 39)


Sunset at Kata Tjuta

One evening, we took the opportunity to partake in the ‘Sounds of Silence’ dinner in the desert experience. I’m happy to admit that I was a little sceptical, but it turned out to be an amazing, memorable experience.


Drinks at sunset, overlooking Uluru to the left and Kata Tjuta to the right


Sunset behind Kata Tjuta


Dinner in the desert with Kata Tjuta as a back drop


The didgeridoo player

I'd thoroughly recommend this experience to anyone, even taking into account the rather steep price.

Last edited by matthandy; Nov 27, 10 at 7:02 pm Reason: Update image location to resolve bandwidth issues
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 2:01 pm
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Alice Springs to Sydney – Qantas 737-800 – Economy

Flight: QF791
Carrier: Qantas
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Departure time: 12:25 pm
Duration: 2h 50m
Arrival time: 16:45 pm (local)
Routing: Alice Springs (ASP) – Sydney (SYD)
Class: Domestic Economy
Seat: 5F

After a fantastic few days at The Rock it was time to head back to Alice Springs where I spent a couple of days with Mum and her partner before the time came to fly to Sydney. Alice Springs airport is a bit bigger than I expected, there’s even a lounge, albeit a very small one. We parked up outside the terminal and I made my way to the business class desk, where there was no queue (I love my BA Silver card benefits!). I placed my bag on the scales and was met with a ‘hmm, I’m afraid that your bag is overweight, so I’m going to have to charge you’. Damn. I explained to the guy that my bag had been accepted at London, Singapore and Melbourne prior to this flight but that didn’t seem to work. I even asked if my Oneworld status counted for anything (a little bit of DYKWIA attitude I know), but it didn’t. I asked to see the manager, as I said that I wasn’t happy, given that the bag has been accepted on three flights prior. The manager said that he’d waive it, after all, I was only 1.5kgs over. Yes, I know, looking back on it, I probably should have paid, but I was a bit annoyed that we were arguing over such a small amount of weight. With boarding pass in hand I said goodbye to Mum and her partner and headed through security and into the Qantas Club lounge. This would have to be one of the smallest airline lounges in the world. The lounge consisted of a small number of tables and chairs, a magazine rack (with magazines in plastic covers so that you couldn’t take them) and a small bar. The alcohol fridge was locked, due to local laws regarding serving alcohol before 2pm, so a coke it was.


The Qantas Clube Lounge at Alice Springs


Looking towards the bar


The view over the apron

Boarding was shortly announced with Business and Oneworld status passengers invited to board first, so I did. Making my way out onto the apron (via a shaded path) it was clear that Alice Springs was a funny little airport. Signs directed passengers to the correct flight.


The sign directing passengers to the correct aircraft


My aircraft to Sydney


Qantas livery on the 737


Boarding at the rear

I was welcomed on-board by one of the crew and directed to my seat. I was probably in the first 5 people to board so had plenty of time to store my bag and get comfortable.


Boarding at the rear


Legroom

It turned out that I again had a spare middle seat between me and the aisle seat passenger (a grumpy looking old lady). Boarding was quick and we were taxiing towards the runway a little earlier than scheduled. There are few taxi ways at Alice Springs so it was a case of taxiing up to the end of the runway and then turning around before taking off. Take off was smooth and quick and we were soon on our way to Sydney. Like before, the IFE was turned on with the local news being shown first, before a film (I don’t remember the name). The service consisted of complimentary soft drinks (alcohol could be purchased) and a choice of chicken or beef sandwich, I chose the chicken and a lemonade.


Chicken and dijon mustard sandwich

The flight passed pretty quickly, helped by more 24 on my iPhone. We had a smooth landing into Sydney. My bag took a little while to arrive and then it was straight in a taxi to my hotel, the Sydney Harbour Marriott at Circular Quay.


My room in the Sydney Harbour Marriott


Platinum welcome gift – cheese and biscuits and a bottle of white wine

Last edited by matthandy; Nov 27, 10 at 7:03 pm Reason: Update image location to resolve bandwidth issues
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 3:21 pm
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Sydney

Sydney is one of my favourite cities. I’d been to Sydney several times before and was determined to do something different from the usual, so, no tours of the Opera house or visits to the Aquarium.

I’d arrived in the late afternoon so after checking in I decided to head down to Circular Quay which was only a 30 second walk from the hotel. I’ve photographed the Sydney Opera House many times before and while I think it is an amazing building, I’ve got bored of photographing it in a standard manner. As the sun was setting I noticed that there were a lot of people around so I thought that it would be more fun to photograph people around the Opera house instead of the Opera House itself.


A couple sitting on the steps of the Opera House


People photographing each other in front of the Opera House

The evening was spent enjoying a bit of room service and lots of TV. The following day the weather was a bit different, light rain had moved in and it had got quite cold. I spent the day wandering around Manly and visiting a couple of museums. In the evening I met up with friends from London. For the next days activities I’d booked to go on a wine tour in the Hunter Valley region. I had a fantastic day, my only regret is not being able to buy more wine to take home.


Vines in the Hunter Valley

In the evening I met up with the same friends and we had dinner in Surrey Hills.
I spent the next day wandering around Darling Harbour and also visited the National Maritime Museum. I decided to take a tour on the war ship which was docked close to the museum. A fantastic old gentlemen led the tour, which consisted only of me which meant that I was allowed to sit in the Captain’s chair etc. However, we were interrupted by the rather loud American family who were wandering around the boat shouting at each other about how amazing and ‘cool’ the ‘stuff’ was. ‘Gee honey look at that’ was said at least twice. They showed no respect for the tour guide by going through the ‘Private’ gate where we were standing and started wandering around the control room while he was trying to explain the controls. Grrr, people can be so loud and obnoxious sometimes. Anyway, I took the ferry back to Circular Quay and then headed up to the Executive lounge at the hotel for a quick drink.


The ferry from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay

It was then time to head out for an evening’s photographic activity. I took a ferry over to Luna Park where I got some excellent views of the harbour bridge, the Opera House and the CBD.


The cheeky Luna Park entrance


Walking around near Milson’s Point


Fisherman overlooking the harbour


The sun catching the steelwork of the Harbour Bridge


The view from Luna Park


The Opera House and the Bridge

Once I’d satisfied myself that I’d taken enough photos I took a ferry back to Circular Quay. The crewman working the ferry asked me if I’d seen the moon, I actually hadn’t even noticed but as soon as I got off the ferry I rushed around to get a good a vantage point.


The moonlit Opera House

Last edited by matthandy; Nov 27, 10 at 7:04 pm Reason: Update image location to resolve bandwidth issues
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 3:32 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Brit expat lo these many years: Now in CT USA
Programs: BA, DL, *wd, IC
Posts: 214
Thanks for a very informative TR! We are just in the midst of planning our first (only?) visit to Australia and NZ next October. After some back and forth about the distance and the cost of the Red Center (when we already have a long list of must-sees), we have decided that we should definintely include it. Sounds of Silence dinner looks delightful, so we might squeeze the budget again to add that.

Looking forward to hearing more.
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 3:35 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 9,740
Amazing photos. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to reading the rest.
uncertaintraveler is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 6:18 pm
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Sydney to Hong Kong – Qantas 747-400 – Premium Economy (Op-Up)

Flight: QF127
Carrier: Qantas
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Departure time: 12:00 pm
Duration: 8h 50m
Arrival time: 17:50 pm (local)
Routing: Sydney (SYD) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Class: Premium Economy (Op-Up)
Seat: 36K

Morning came and it was time to head to Hong Kong. My holiday felt like it was almost over. Little did I know that my friends in Hong Kong had planned a full itinerary to make the most of my last few days. I took a taxi from the hotel to Sydney airport at about 9am. The taxi driver tried to rip me off, I hate when they do that.

I checked in at the business class desks where there was a small queue. The lovely agent mentioned that the system was trying to charge me for overweight baggage but she ‘took care of it’. She tagged my bag as business and also gave me a priority pass for Hong Kong immigration ‘even though she wasn’t supposed to’.

I was through immigration reasonably quickly, despite having to fill out a departure card. Security was quick and then I was off to find the lounge. The signs weren’t great here but I found it eventually. I was welcomed by name at reception. Initial signs were that the lounge was decorated in a similar style to the lounge at Singapore, however, the lounge was quite disappointing. In my mind, this should have been the flagship business class lounge for Qantas and it just didn’t live up to the ‘class’ projected by the Singapore lounge. For a start, the views of the apron from the lounge were pretty poor and given the smaller size, the lounge was quite busy. Maybe I’ve just got grumpy? Or perhaps the buzz of visiting an airport lounge has started to wear off? No, as this buzz was back again in Hong Kong, it was just that I was disappointed with the Sydney lounge.


The bar


Seating area


The view of the city from my seat - shame that you can't see the apron


Food on offer

On the positive side, the food offering did seem to be quite extensive and I was also able to get a glass of champagne at this time in the morning.

Boarding started at about 11.20 and I made my way down to the gate. The flight seemed very busy, even the fast track queue was rather long. I joined the queue and noticed that a lot of people were receiving new boarding passes, good stuff. When I had by BP scanned I was upgraded to premium economy, again. So after booking three international legs in economy, I only spent 1 of these actually seated in the economy cabin. I love my BA silver card!

I boarded through door 2 and was offered the usual champagne, juice or water.


The Qantas Premium Economy seat


Pre-departure champagne


The cabin


The cabin


Legroom

At the time, and for quite a while the seat next to me was free, however, there seemed to be some sort of mix up as the people in the row behind me were having problems working out where to sit. It turns out that the person behind me was in the wrong seat, he should have been next to me so he promptly moved. Damn.

There was a short delay before we pushed back and took off. Hot towels and menus were handed out and shortly after drink orders were taken one by one with the drinks being prepared in the galley and then presented to each passenger on a tray. With one crew member serving one side of the cabin (16 passengers) this meant that there was quite a delay in receiving the first drink.

Lunch was served from a cart, again linens were laid for each passenger.


Beef main

Lunch consisted of a salad, main course, bread, cheese and biscuits and ice cream. Again, the quality of the food was excellent.

After dinner I needed to get out to go and use the loo. I discovered that despite the ample leg room, it was practically impossible to get out of the window seat without manoeuvring yourself around the aisle passenger. The gap was just large enough though for the aisle seat passenger to not bother to get up. It made the whole process somewhat awkward.

The blinds were drawn, which I found a little annoying as this was a day flight. I decided to watch a film on the IFE and chose ‘500 days of summer’ since I hadn’t really watched this properly on my Alice Spring flight. It was pretty good. I then watched District 9, which was a bit odd.

A few hours had passed and I was ready for the 2nd meal. The lights were turned on at about two hours before landing. However, there was no second meal listed on the menu. Was this right? The menu simply stated that a toasted sandwich snack could be ordered at any time during the flight. So, it’s almost a nine hour flight and only one meal is offered? I couldn’t understand this. Anyway, it turns out that the other passengers were discovering this also. The crew member serviving the cabin spent the next hour or so going back and forth to the galley preparing sandwiches. There were two to choose from and I ordered the roast chicken option. It took about five minutes to arrive but when it did I was very pleasantly surprised.


My roast chicken sandwich

It was actually a good quality toasted baguette and it was certainly a lot more filling than I had imagined.

A smooth landing into Hong Kong followed and then I completed the usual forms and made my way through immigration. My bag arrived soon after and I decided to try out the Airport Express rail service to take me to Hong Kong island. The service was very quick, taking only about 20 minutes to reach Central station. However, I’d planned to get a taxi from there but the queues were huge. The staff directed me to the free hotel shuttle bus but this took 25 minutes to arrive. I read in the local paper later on that there are big concerns the size of the taxi queues at Central station as it totally defeats the point of having a fast rail service from the airport. I couldn’t agree more.

I arrived at my hotel, The Renaissance Harbour View, by the convention centre and was given a message at reception from my friends who were expecting me.

Overall Impressions

The lounge in Sydney was a bit disappointing but perhaps my expectations were too high? The premium economy service was again excellent although not quite as personal as before, this probably had something to do with the fact that I had a person sitting next to me this time, rather than a spare seat. The food was again good but I was very surprised to learn that no second meal was made available, however, the sandwich substitute was really excellent. So, overall, a good flight which only re-affirmed my belief that I’d be happy to part with my own money and pay for premium economy if I flew Qantas internationally again.

This concludes my adventures on Qantas. Next, Hong Kong to Seoul and back to London on Cathay Pacific in Business. (The photos get better at this point!)

Last edited by matthandy; Nov 27, 10 at 7:05 pm Reason: Update image location to resolve bandwidth issues
matthandy is offline  
Old Dec 30, 09, 7:19 pm
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Programs: BA Gold, SPG Platinum, Marriott Platinum, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 3,810
Hong Kong

I’d been to Hong Kong only once before, and I enjoyed it but felt that it had more to offer. This time was different. I met up with a friend and his wife that had moved back to Hong Kong from London. Both were born and schooled in Hong Kong and spoke the language. I’d given them a brief, any restaurant that we went to I wanted to be the only Westerner there! They took me to a soup dumpling restaurant and ordered up a wide selection of dishes including the one and only soup dumplings (Xiaolongbao). God, these were mouthfuls of pure delight. A standard looking dumpling which contained a hot (temperature wise, not spicy) clear soup and a juicy pork base. I can’t describe it any better than to say that this was the single most delicious Chinese dish that I’d ever had. If you are in Hong Kong or mainland China I urge you to try these, just wait for them to cool down first!

In the morning we headed over to Mong Kok for a bit of man shopping. My friend and I spent the morning in and out of the electronics shops hunting for various bits and pieces. I was able to pick up a very cheap memory card and a new lens for my camera. It really is a joy to be able to this kind of shopping. Anything that you wanted could be found. My friend was an excellent translator, it definitely helped having a local by my side, because we were always taken seriously. The sellers knew that they couldn’t rip off the Western tourist!

The afternoon was spent at the Peak, after a hairy bus ride to get up there. Unfortunately the smog meant that it was difficult to get a good view.


View from the Peak


View from the Peak

In the evening we did the traditional thing and headed over to TST (Tsim Sha Tsui) to view the evening light show. As a special treat they were practicing for the opening ceremony of the East Asia Games which was due to open the following evening. This, along with the smog made it quite difficult to get any good shots of the harbour light show.


The Hong Kong skyline


Photographers along the harbour side


Light boats practicing for the East Asia Games

The next morning we’d decided to head out to see the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island and ended up spending most of the day there. It was truly an excellent day out. Besides from the Buddha the surrounds were very beautiful and there’s also a temple which is worth visiting.


Steps up to the giant Buddha


The giant Buddha


Peaks on Lantau Island


Laterns inside the temple


Incense sticks


The giant Buddha

In the evening we went back to the hotel and positioned ourselves in the Executive Lounge to watch the fireworks for the opening ceremony of the East Asia Games. They were truly spectacular and I’ll remember them for a long time. I’d never seen fireworks like that before. Smiley faces and letters were exploding in the sky with the shock waves literally shaking the glass frontage of the hotel. Amazing.


Fireworks for the opening of the East Asia Games


Fireworks for the opening of the East Asia Games

After that we headed out for a spot of night photography and then called it a day.


The streets around the Convention Centre

The next morning was spent first checking in for my flight to Seoul at the in-town check in located at Central station (more on that in the next post). After that we headed out into the city to browse the local markets around Central.


Laterns swinging in the wind


Incense coils

Overall

My visit to Hong Kong was truly memorable and full credit goes to my wonderful friends for playing tour guide and translator.

Last edited by matthandy; Nov 27, 10 at 7:06 pm Reason: Update image location to resolve bandwidth issues
matthandy is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread