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Experiencing flying as a “non-rev”: Traveling Standby to Australia (AC J/Y,UA Y,QF J)

Experiencing flying as a “non-rev”: Traveling Standby to Australia (AC J/Y,UA Y,QF J)

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Old Jan 4, 15, 1:31 pm
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Experiencing flying as a “non-rev”: Traveling Standby to Australia (AC J/Y,UA Y,QF J)

Experiencing flying as a “non-rev”. Traveling Standby North America to Australia (AC J/Y, UA Y, QF J)

YVR-SYD
SYD-ADL-SYD
SYD-SFO-YVR




Background:

This story starts two years ago on a sunny summer day at a winery in the Okanagan area of British Columbia. After an exotic international courtship, Ms WT73 had decided to accept my hand in marriage set amongst the beautiful vines and August heat of Nk’Mip wineries.



Meeting later in life, our careers, like those of our many of our weddings guests and family, were already established. My sister, being the gracious traveler like myself, had offered us a unique wedding present. Instead of giving the usual wedding gifts of appliances, flatware or electronics, how about an offer to travel anywhere in the world on a strictly “standby” basis?

Some back history here… My sister, works for a large legacy airline. We have approached travel from highly opposite ends. My travel has usually been intensely planned and organized. Reward tickets booked in first or business class arranged sometimes a whole year in advance. I usually arranged time off work during quiet travel and work periods. I researched hotels, flights and attractions with intense detail, maximizing what limited holiday time we get. My sister, living a life of almost unlimited complimentary standby travel, has often had to plan travel on a flexible basis. Her travel, like a military battle plan, is highly fluid and situational. How would the two family travel styles mesh? Would MrsWT73 enjoy the spontaneity of unplanned, unconfirmed travel? You’re about to find out.


Planning:

We started discussing this trip about 6 months out. I had to defer to my sister’s expertise on flight load levels on how to maximize stand by travel.

We had decided on Australia for several reasons: It’s nearly impossible to get there on first / business class reward tickets and the redemptions usually command hefty prices. The paid tickets are often expensive and these days, with many 50% earn rates, aren’t earning enough frequent flier points as they used to. Paid business class? Well, that’s several thousand dollars and it never seems to come on sale. We decided Australia would be a great opportunity to test out standby travel. With the continent of Australia being 1 or 2 flights away from Vancouver, it seemed like a logical choice.

Not being able to book any non-refundable hotels in advance, I settled for making placeholder reservations that I could adjust around the finalized days. Naturally, most came with 24 hr cancellation policies that would have to be managed.

The few days before the trip, both Mrs WT73 and I started getting irritable. Were we coming or going? What did we tell work? How credibly could we postpone meetings or work travel requests without sustaining repercussions? It wasn’t easy. We started to wonder whether this was a sound idea in the first place.

As most of us seasoned reward ticket redeemers around here know, there is a skill set involved with finding reward ticket inventory. Some carriers release seats well in advance, some release everything at the last minute, some play well, some don’t play well at all. Either way, there is predictability factor. You can edge your bets in knowing what will work and what’s not likely to work. With standby travel, there is no predictability. Everything is to the whim of the demand of the flight or weight load. You are not the person in control. And, if things go wrong, you’re left on your own to find your way to your destination. There is no concierge, no re-booking service or travel arranger to handle matters on your behalf.

About one week before travel, MrsWT73 my sister and I met up to iron out all the small details. Flight loads were looking good for our trip down. Even expert flyer was showing at least 20 seats open.

We decided to chance it and pre-book the internal segments we needed for our onward domestic travel within Australia, courtesy of British Airways Avois. More on that in a bit.


In this report.

Vancouver International Airport - Plaza Premium Lounge International
Air Canada - Economy Class - Vancouver - Sydney
Air Canada - International Business Class: Vancouver - Sydney
Four Points by Sheraton Darling Harbour - Sydney
Sydney & Sydney Beaches
Qantas Business Lounge - Sydney Domestic T3
Qantas Business Class: Sydney - Adelaide
Adelaide and 3 days of food, wine and beverage
Qantas Business Lounge - Adelaide
Qantas Business Class - Adelaide - Sydney
United Airlines Economy Class: Sydney - San Franciso
American Express Centurion Lounge SFO
Air Canada Rouge - Economy Class - San Franciso - Vancouver



Links to my previous trip reports:


Alaska Airlines First Class to Las Vegas, and a stay in the Aria Sky Suites “Penthouse” (AS F), August 2014
Family trip to Kenora Lake of the Woods Ontario via Air Canada Business Class (AC J). August 2014
Cathay Pacific First Class to New York, a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum & 4 days of eating in NYC. (CX F) May 2014
The Khors of Oman - via Japan, Poland, & the UAE. RTW in Biz (NH J 787, OZ J, TG J, EY J, TK J, LH J). April 2014
South Africa, Safari in Maasai Mara Kenya, & Mauritius (UA J, SA J, XAK, LX J, AC J) Nov 2013
A family trip to Westin Playa Conchal, Liberia Costa Rica, (UA Y) Aug 2013
Buried Treasure: UAE Empty Quarter and Beyond to Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives (UA Y, EY J/Y, Q2 Y), Nov 2012
The Time Share Presentation, F RTW, Spain, China, Thailand, (AC J, OZ F, TG F, LH J, LH F, AC Y) May 2012.
A visit to Macchu Picchu and Valle Nevado, Peru and Chile. (AC J, LA Y) Sept 2011
Travel after the Revolution of January 25, 2011. Egypt. (MS Y) May 2011
A Step Back in Time: The Twilight of Burma, a visit to Myanmar (MI Y) Sept 2010


Disclaimer: This report isn’t about the finite details of flight crew contingent travel, nor about proprietary information related to the airline industry. Rather, it focuses on the experience of traveling as many airline crew do, on unconfirmed tickets. Out of respect to the employees and the airlines, I won’t be publicly identifying them or any other information that would be sensitive to the carriers involved.

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Mar 14, 15 at 11:07 am
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Old Jan 4, 15, 1:41 pm
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Plaza Premium Lounge (Vancouver International Departures)

Keeping with tradition of my past trip reports, tonight’s journey started with dinner at the The Globe at YVR, my favorite place at the Vancouver International Airport. The Globe at YVR is the lounge and restaurant at the Fairmont Vancouver International Airport. Its’ accessed via the Fairmont lobby and overhead walkway just above the public US Departures concourse. Always pleasant, I enjoyed a Whistler Lager beer along with a clubhouse sandwich. MrsWT73 enjoyed a vegetarian pizza. I’ve visited here several times over the years, both before and after flights and it’s always been a great visit.









It's not every day you get to drink a beer with a beaver on it. . .



We checked in using the kiosk and had our boarding passes printed. Air Canada, despite their clunky IT system on their public website actually had the ability for their contingent travelers to check the loads on the flight to determine how likely it would be that they would get on. I received my boarding pass, without a seat assignment & with SBY (Standby) printed in the seat area. Still, with only 3 hours before the flight, it was not confirmed that we had seats.









We had a long wait at security (15 minutes) thanks to several wide bodies leaving tonight for Taipei (China Airlines), Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific) and Manila (Philippines Air) and only 2 security checkpoints working. The Nexus expedited screening lane was closed for the evening so we ended up waiting with the Asian Kettles.

From the checkpoint, we headed over to the Plaza Premium Lounge. Access is free for Amex Platinum charge card members. It is also the voucher lounge used by almost all other carriers, with a display on the door outside inviting members of Edwiless - Swiss Air, China Airlines, JAL, Eva Air. Only Air Canada, Cathay Pacific and British Airways run their own lounges on the International Pier in Vancouver and most of these lounges are quite small in size given the limited amount of departures.









The website advertised the property as follows:
  • The newly opened flagship lounge boasts a whole new airport lounge design by renowned designer Kinney Chan of KCA.

  • The new facility accommodates up to 180 guests in luxurious comfort. Spanning over 6,800 sq. ft., this lounge has multiple seating zones and a separate dining area, with interactive dining booths, serving international cuisine.

  • Two food service areas provide guests with a wide array of hot and cold dishes, including our signature Hong Kong style Fish Ball noodles. Barista service is available at our beverage counter for our specialty coffees and teas. Need a private area for meetings? The lounge makes available a VIP room for rent. The business centre provides 4 computer workstations and the lounge is Wi-Fi enabled throughout. Magazines, newspapers and TV’s allow you to relax and enjoy your time in the lounge.

  • The lounge has multiple computer workstations that are all Wi-Fi enabled, as well as charging stations to make sure guests can stay connected at the airport. For travellers who require a place for a nap – this lounge has 3 nap rooms available for use. Men’s and ladies washrooms and shower facilities are also available.
  • Location
  • International Departures (Pier D), Vancouver International Airport (directly after security screening)
  • Opening Hours
  • 0830 - 0100 (Sun - Fri); 0830 - 2300 (Sat)

On entry, it was pretty empty. As security took a little longer, and we only had an hour in the lounge, the host was kind enough to pro-actively charge us only one entry fee ($40 CAD) for the two of us. It was a surprisingly service oriented experience not usually experienced in an airport.

The lounge featured a nice, if not unremarkable seating area, with surprisingly the same chairs that we found in the Oman Plaza Premium Lounge from our travels earlier this year. The lounge was decorated in several contemporary shades of grey. The lounge was configured in several room areas, allowing for a private environment.













Probably the neatest feature of this lounge was the indoor terrace that overlooked the departure concourse, allowing for ambient light and open spaces.



There were also separate dining areas. No one was dining on our visit.







The food selection on our visit was pretty meager. A whole bunch of cello wrapped pastries that didn’t look all too appealing. However, this level of offering is pretty consistent for the Vancouver International Lounges, as there isn’t much frequent demand as most serve one or two flights a day. I was glad that we took an earlier dinner at the Globe at YVR, instead of coming straight here and attempting to eat dinner in the lounge.





There was also a simple wine and spirits menu list, featuring the usual well spirits. I didn’t see anyone consuming the famous Hong Kong fish Ball noodles that were advertised in the website, nor were they obvious when I walked around the lounge.





Despite the snazzy write up, it was a pretty plain lounge that was exceptionally clean and new. A bonus was that the hostess only charged us one entry fee at $40 for 1 hour in the lounge. The minimum charge was $40 for two hours. I’d probably find value in it if I stayed the full two hours. Next time, I think I’d spend a little more time at the Globe at YVR and not be in as much of a rush to get over here since there was much more food and beverage on offer at the Fairmont in a slightly nicer setting.
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Old Jan 4, 15, 1:50 pm
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Air Canada
Economy Class
YVR-SYD (Vancouver International Airport – Sydney Kingford Smith International)
AC 33 – Economy Class (standby)
11:40 PM – 10:10 AM + 2
November 2014
Booked: NIL
Scheduled: Boeing 777-200
Flown: Boeing 777-300


We headed over to the gate area at about 10:45 PM, or about T-60. I had our first night’s hotel already booked and the 24 hour cancellation policy was to pass in 15 minutes time at 11 PM Pacific Standard time (which was 6 PM Sydney Australian Time). I was hoping to get a secret handshake from the gate agent: a wink, a smile or a nod indicating that it would be okay and that we were likely to get on, so that I wouldn’t be out any unnecessary hotel costs by canceling after the 6 PM cancellation deadline.

I completed a document check at the podium but didn’t leave any the wiser, with the gate agent mentioning that the entire cargo of the plane had to be weighed to determine the amount of passengers they could let on. We ended up having a quick discussion amongst our traveling group and risk managed it out- if I didn’t get on, my sister and wife would travel ahead and I would travel a day later and play catch up.

Today’s flight is normally assigned a Boeing 777-200ER. At the time of writing, the flight is listed as the 28th longest non-stop flight in the world. Air Canada decided that they were going to schedule maintenance for their 6 Boeing 777-200 aircraft, and had substituted their Boeing 777-300’s to serve the route instead. Aviation geeks will note that the AC Boeing 777-200ER is configured to hold 42J/ 228Y, with a range of 17,446 km / 10,840 miles, whereas the regular AC Boeing 777-300 is configured to hold 42J/ 307Y, with a range of 14,958 km / 9068 miles (a shorter range of 1,780 miles). This meant that the aircraft, despite having an additional 80 seats, was “load restricted” with a specific weight limit required for the shorter range of the Being 777-300 to make it all the way to Sydney. In practical terms, this meant that the weight of the aircraft was being scrutinized closer than ever before. Even with a wide open seat map, there were no guarantees we would get on.

Flight AC 33 originated in Toronto with a stop in Vancouver. On arrival, the transit passengers from AC 33 Toronto – Vancouver portion were in the departure holding lounge. Tonight’s flight was served by gate D50, a swing gate at YVR that can serve both as international and as a domestic gate.

The gate was pretty busy. The construction underway surrounding the gate made the matters a little more cramped than usual. There was also a full double flight crew, with two first officers and two captains waiting in the holding area for the aircraft to be turned over to them.







As with many direct flights, the flight posted a minor flight delay. As we waited, we decided as a group that I would stay behind if there were not enough seats for all of us as the time for canceling our hotel without penalty had passed.

While we were waiting, at T-20, the concierge proceeded to hand out seat assignments for the contingent travelers. My name was called, and I was fortunate to be assigned 57A (a window!). I was super stoked about this simple achievement. Hey- it’s better than one of the 63 rows of middles. It’s an example of how down to the wire standby travel is for those that work in the aviation industry. You really don’t know if you’re leaving at times until the very last minute- in this case a mere 20 minutes before the scheduled departure. Sharp eyed observers will note the ML5 / C5 comments on the boarding pass, reflecting the lowest standby priority level.



My sister and Mrs WT73 were lucky enough to be assigned executive class seats. This isn’t a report on flight attendant compensation benefits, and keeping their negotiations where they belong (in private) I won’t get into the nitty gritty of it. Other than to say that once in a while, they are allowed to list on standby for executive class seating after all upgrades and paid upgrades are completed. There are finite limits to this and unfortunately, the privilege did not extend to me. I ended up taking one for the team and riding solo in the back while they rode up front. MrsWT73’s experiences will be covered in a separate post.

On board, I boarded after executive class, families, and all those above row “50”. I was lucky enough to get a spare seat empty next to me, likely due to the significant amount of empty seats as a result of the load weight factors using the larger aircraft There were heaps of bin space and I was able to get my carry ons stashed without any issues.












Configuration in economy class is the 3-3-3. Each seat features AVOD and 2 out of 3 seats feature EmPower in seat power and 3 out of 3 seats feature USB charging. In our bank, only 1 – 2 Empower outlets were working and 2 out of 3 USB chargers. They appeared to have collapsed due to regular wear and tear.

The AVOD isn’t really anything to write home about and isn’t anywhere near some of the other larger players like Etihad or Cathay Pacific that feature a massive library as part of the experience. I found it a bit lacking, with not enough content on it to truly compete with some of the better world class carriers out there. It contained enough movies to watch on the way down, but I think it would come up short on the way back.









The flight was underway and no waits on the outbound.





Dinner service was served promptly after take off. Tonight’s economy choices were chicken with potatoes or beef stroganoff. No printed menus here tonight like many Asian carriers in economy class. The meals were pretty tiny. I had forgotten how small the servings were in the back.







I settled into Lost in Translation for a bit. My sister was kind and brought me a Conde Nast Traveller to help pass the time.

I crashed out at around 3 AM Pacific Standard Time and slept for about 5 hours. I woke up as the plane was crossing the intersection of both the international date line and the equator as the sun rose for another day. While I was sleeping, there was a small cello wrapped chicken salad sandwich service along with Peak Freans bran crackers that had been dropped off on the seat next to me as a mid flight snack. I always find great sunrise views for the middle of nowhere.





I ended staying up awake for the rest of the flight. I had a group of 4 kids behind me spread across two rows with only one parent amongst them – a bit of long trek for them. She did her best to keep them settled.

Breakfast was served about 90 minutes prior to landing. Again, the portion sizes in economy class have shrunk compared to 20 years ago when I was flying around with my parents.



Finally, we were on the approach for landing in Sydney. Some beautiful coastline on the way in, along with sunny skies.











Some nice large widebodies on the ground in Sydney as we taxied to the gate.







Usually, I’m one of the first off the plane to get ahead of everybody at immigration to avoid the lines. This time, being in Seat 57A, there was no chance for that. I ended up being toward the last getting off the aircraft.

After everyone had long gotten off the plane on the ground at SYD, we managed to get a quick, supervised visit to the flight deck. We had a nice chat with one of the pilots' who was clearly proud to be flying for Air Canada.

It was my first time in the flight deck of a 777 and I was surprised at how roomy it actually was. Seating was of course in two rows of 2, with two seats immediately behind the Captain and first officer chairs for pilots not flying. I googled “Boeing 777 cockpit” photographs and came up with 2 million photograph hits so I figure there are no security concerns about posting these cool snapshots.



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Old Jan 4, 15, 3:32 pm
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My parents know a couple folks from home that are either active/retired with benefits from Air Canada and they have war stories from taking off on a non-rev vacation and getting stuck on vacation, or having to take really asinine routes to get there/back. Either way, there are always tradeoffs, particularly when its free!

Subscribed! Looks great so far!
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Old Jan 5, 15, 9:11 am
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Great TR!
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Old Jan 6, 15, 12:45 am
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Very interesting, worldtraveller73.

Always wondered what it would be like to fly standby on an international flight.

My friend who pilots for EK says that it happens often when he flies standby on the 777. If they decide to fill the plane with cargo there will be alot of empty seats. With the cargo / passenger capacity limits for the A380 though, this is never a problem.

Those meals look really tiny too!!! Although the quality is often mediocre, I've always gotten semi-decent portions in the back of the bus, nothing as stingy as that anyway.
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Old Jan 6, 15, 1:05 am
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Thanks for bringing back fond memories of before I was an ATC and worked for one of the majors (now merged). Many tales of getting stuck in places and doing the strangest routes to get places.....

Eric
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Old Jan 7, 15, 6:37 pm
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Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
My parents know a couple folks from home that are either active/retired with benefits from Air Canada and they have war stories from taking off on a non-rev vacation and getting stuck on vacation, or having to take really asinine routes to get there/back. Either way, there are always tradeoffs, particularly when its free!

Subscribed! Looks great so far!
Thanks for your support krazykanuck.

The chaos and the crazy routings still appear to apply, with the caveat that they are unplanned and unprepared. At least with a reward mileage ticket or a paid ticket, you're expecting and agreeing to dog leg connections or a 4 hour layover. As a non rev, you don't get the predictability of these conditions, or knowing when they will end.

Originally Posted by yerffej201 View Post
Great TR!
Thanks Canadian Kilometres.

Originally Posted by DanielW View Post
Very interesting, worldtraveller73.

Always wondered what it would be like to fly standby on an international flight.

My friend who pilots for EK says that it happens often when he flies standby on the 777. If they decide to fill the plane with cargo there will be alot of empty seats. With the cargo / passenger capacity limits for the A380 though, this is never a problem.

Those meals look really tiny too!!! Although the quality is often mediocre, I've always gotten semi-decent portions in the back of the bus, nothing as stingy as that anyway.
Thanks DanielW. Always enjoy your photography.

The cargo weight limits are something that passengers don't usually hear or have to worry about. The biggest concern is whether they will be charged for the 51 lbs bag when 50 lbs is allowed. Obviously its evermore a concern to airlines these days.

The meals were small but not really unexpected. I'd plan a bit better next time and bring some extra food instead of only extra water.

Originally Posted by ZFW-ATC View Post
Thanks for bringing back fond memories of before I was an ATC and worked for one of the majors (now merged). Many tales of getting stuck in places and doing the strangest routes to get places.....

Eric
Thanks ZFW-ATC. I'm sure that the experience hasn't changed much over the years. The conversations that we had amongst our fellow travellers / peers attempting to do the same thing around the podiums were always entertaining.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 6:52 pm
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Air Canada
International Business Class
YVR-SYD (Vancouver International Airport – Sydney Kingford Smith International)
AC 33 – Business Class (standby)
11:40 PM – 10:10 AM + 2
November 2014
Booked: NIL
Scheduled: Boeing 777-200
Flown: Boeing 777-300


My sister and MrsWT73 were fortunate enough to gain last minute access to seats in the business class cabin based on “once in a while” certificate upgrades. This isn’t a commentary on flight attendant compensation, or flight attendants blocking up the business class cabin instead of revenue passengers. Rather, their seats were also assigned at the T-20 minute level along with mine, after all the upgrades, last minute upgrades and revenue passengers were given an opportunity for access. Needless to say, there certainly wasn’t enough to go around so that all of us could enjoy. While my sister and MrsWT73 enjoyed 15 hours in international business class, I enjoyed sitting in the back next to the ruckus 4 kids seated around me.

Air Canada Executive Business Class is configured in a 1-2-1 configuration on the Boeing 777-200/300. The load upfront on this flight was 42 out of 42. Some recycled photos from a previous revenue flight of the Boeing 767 & Airbus 330 configuration which is 1-1-1.



















A pre-departure beverage was offered. Mrs WT73 went for the champagne / sparkling. This was followed by the usual warmed nuts, which is accompanied with a cocktail beverage. Some photos from her portable camera. . .



The menus were passed out with dinner orders were taken on the ground in Vancouver. The menu has been dressed up a bit lately, having had the same format for the last 5+ years. Despite the newer design, the menu items are similar to as in past. This means that the beef tenderloin favourite remains a fixture on "le menu".







The wine list is included with the menu. The New Zealand Sauvingon Blanc was popular with MrsWT73.





Out of four entrée items, by the time the last of the orders came around, MrsWT73 was left with either the Risotto or the beef. It’s worth also noting that her order was intentionally taken last behind all of the other status and paid passengers. If you are on a fully paid fare, you’re likely to have greater selection.

MrsWT73 didn’t have rave reviews about the catering; calling it the usual Air Canada fare. Based on prior experiece, the catering is typically predictable. I would describe it as "traditional" with an attempt at being contemporary.





MrsWT73 skipped dessert and went with some port to finish off the meal.

Air Canada has upgraded the amenity kit compared to the last flight that we took with them. This one was branded in the new colors of the Air Canada Boeing 787 aircraft with striking red and grey cloth. It also had a magnetic clasp that closed the kit, containing the usual amenities. It was definitely a “keeper”. The photographs of this one are taken on my economy class table at the back of the plane. It helped pass the time.





MrsWT73 skipped the usual mid flight snack, opting for 9 hours of comfortable, horizontal sleeping. She commented that the sleeping blanket felt like it had been upgraded to a thicker, more comfortable variety. Despite that, she finds the pods a little firm for her liking, being a side sleeper. She also alleged that she returned to visit me in economy on several occasions, but I only saw her the once about 45 minutes before landing.

Prior to landing, a breakfast service was provided. MrsWT73 went with Greco yoghurt and fruit. She passed on the main.

One major advantage to flying business class are the fast track cards that are made available to business class passengers. These cards were distributed, branded with the Air Canada logo (all carriers use the same styled card, branded with their logo). They were of tremendous use as they applied for both the immigration line and the customs / quarantine line which were both really long. I waited around while the women were kind enough to stock up on duty free on arrival before we hit the immigration checkpoint.



Overall, MrsWT73 enjoyed the crew on this particular flight, noting their personable service. She reported sleeping for most of the flight, which is probably a good sign. Amid all the AC long haul flights over the years, there was nothing that stood out about this particular one, other than it’s longer than usual length.

It's worth noting that Air Canada offers the only non stop direct aisle business class in Star Alliance to Australia. Air New Zealand offers similar pods, however their Australia service involves a stop in Auckland. The United Business Class pods operate in a 2-4-2 configuration (Boeing 777 ex Sydney) or a 2-2-2 configuration (Boeing 787 ex Melbourne), meaning that single travellers will have to step over someone if they want the window seats. Unwittingly, Air Canada appears to have a strong competitive advantage for single travellers if aisle access is a priority for you.

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Jan 11, 15 at 11:07 am
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Old Jan 7, 15, 7:06 pm
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Wow. Looks like AC J wine is even cheaper than a year ago other than drappier. Pretty soon they will have GReat Wall Red and be on par with China airlines
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Old Jan 7, 15, 7:11 pm
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Four Points Sydney Darling Harbor.
Premium City Side – 2 Single beds.

We ended up at this particular property as I had a free weekend night certificates gained from meeting a minimum annual spend on the Canadian SPG American Express Card. Being a Starwood Category 4, it was the only hotel in Sydney where we could use up the expiring certificates, which are given a one year usage duration.

We took the Airport Link train from the airport into the city. We walked to the hotel from the Town Hall Station with our rollie suitcases. It took a few blocks to get there (5-8 minutes) over mostly flat sidewalks with a slight downhill grade. We sure noticed this going the other way. We arrived to the hotel entrance on Sussex Street. The main entrance is actually at the rear city side of the property.



The hotel exterior is undergoing a large scale upgrade and the hotel has a few cranes on the roof, which takes away from the idyllic décor somewhat.

Overall, the hotel is somewhat of a strange location. The hotel sits beautifully on Darling Harbour with half of the rooms having a terrific water view. What the brochures don’t show is that the hotel sits on top of a freeway interchange, and that there is no direct access from the hotel to the water without walking around a city block and a freeway to get there. There was a direct walkway, however it was closed for refurbishment on our visit. The back side of the hotel overlooks a quiet 2 lane city street. The hotel is the white building structure here interlaced amongst the freeways. Unfortunately, there’s no way to take a great photograph of this buiding. It lacks the beauty, of say, the Burj Al Arab.







You can see the freeway running underneath the hotel in this shot. Thankfully, we never noticed any strong noise or vibration from the freeway.





On check in, points were offered as Gold Amenity, along with free wifi in the lobby. Since I was staying on several back to back reservations, the hotel was kind enough to apply the points bonus for each reservation, despite only one check in and check out.





The service of the concierge was very proactive in dealing with matters. When I approached the front desk, I was remembered by name each and every time. It was a bit unusual for a Four Points.

Our room was not immediately available on our arrival at 12 PM. I had read that many people were upgraded to the water side views when staying here. Regretfully, no room upgrades were available – unfortunately the hotel was totally full. An SPG Gold late 4 PM checkout on a weekday was offered without any negotiation or complications.

We went for lunch and a Victoria Bitter at the nearby Cargo Bar which was a great spot that we would visit several times on our stay while we waited for the room to become available. Darling Harbour itself, is an interesting collection of patios and restaurants. More on that in a bit…







After lunch, our room was assigned. The room was functional, if not a little compact. The room was well equipped with minimal scuffing or wear and tear. Surprisingly, the usual complimentary water for SPG floor guests was missing. I didn’t notice it the first day, but after the second day, it became something that was a bit lacking about the property compared to other Starwood hotels.











There was a small mini bar fridge with enough space to store some of your own bottles (duty free) and ample plug ins to allow for charging of devices. There was also an Ipod alarm clock and in room safe and instant coffee dispensing service

There was a full service, unattended gym located on the property.







The hotel also offered a rooftop patio bar, which was very sunny on our visit. The highlight was the views. And, I don't mean the view of the woman in the red blouse.









There was also a Starbucks coffee shop located within 5-7 minutes walk from the hotel on the waterfront with complimentary wifi with purchase. There was also complimentary wifi in the lobby of the hotel. It required a sign in on each visit.



Darling Harbour itself is an interesting venue. It’s a bit of a Las Vegas’y style set up of Darling Harbour. It reminded me of a poorly designed and disowned cousin of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. Darling Harbor appeared to have planning in various phases without any overall synergies that bands the area all together. The hotels of the area don’t really appear to connect to the harbour without running through various access points. There appeared to be a monorail running through the area at one point, which was now in the process of being decommissioned. The tracks are all gone, but the stations remain all boarded up.

On one hand, despite the odd nature of this place, you can’t beat the convenience of having lots of restaurants available at your doorstep. My sister found the area to be a bit over the top touristy, but I certainly appreciated the availability of any restaurant under the sun.

On the other hand, it’s a bit of a touristy experience of older couples and families out for a night out on the town, complete with a Hard Rock Café and a Margeritaville bar with the “it’s five o’clock somewhere bar” in bright signage. Despite the entertainment venue concept, we got stuck one evening with all the kitchens closing on a week night at 9 PM.

Did I mention that Darling Harbour was complete with 20 floating Santas, proclaiming Ho Ho Ho and a tipped over South Pole? It's either your idea of paradise or an eternal kitschy nightmare.





The Four Points Darling Harbour provided good accommodation for our visit. While not the nicest place to stay in Sydney, it was fairly well situated and appeared to be among the newer properties compared to the legacy buildings of the Shangri-La, Four Seasons and the Sheraton on the Park. Redeeming points here would have been good value with an upgrade. Unfortunately, we weren’t as lucky. I’d consider visiting again if I wasn’t able to get in at the Westin Sydney.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 9:02 pm
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I read Canadian nationals can now use smartgate for entry into Australia: http://www.customs.gov.au/smartgate/...p#whoSmartGate

Did you try that out?
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Old Jan 7, 15, 9:28 pm
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Great TR! I completely understand the elation/fear that comes with stand-bys when boarding winds down and you're sitting there hoping your name gets called. This whole year was on stand-by for me and the missus, and we luckily only got stuck once....YYC-YWG of all places.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 10:41 pm
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Originally Posted by PitaPan View Post
This whole year was on stand-by for me and the missus, and we luckily only got stuck once....YYC-YWG of all places.
Personally I think not getting onto the plane to YWG is better than actually having to go to Winnipeg; but hey...one FTers opinion.

I've been stuck on standby twice, once on a UA rev ticket due to my family dropping me at the airport 8 hours before my flight (thanks guys...?), and once on an award ticket when my scheduled DL flight took off early without me and I had to wait around for the next flight 5 hours later during a thunderstorm (thank you Platinum card for Sky Club access).


Back to the TR...Australia looks interesting to visit, both this and other reports, but it really doesn't rank high on my visit list because it seems like a really expensive version of Canada/US except with Kangaroos and Koala bears. I'll get there some day, though probably not anytime soon.
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Old Jan 7, 15, 11:18 pm
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Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
Personally I think not getting onto the plane to YWG is better than actually having to go to Winnipeg; but hey...one FTers opinion.
I'll second that opinion, especially as it was in the dead of winter
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