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Denver to Honolulu via Canada in 1976 (On a trip that was supposed to go to Mexico!)

Denver to Honolulu via Canada in 1976 (On a trip that was supposed to go to Mexico!)

Old Jul 25, 2003, 6:34 pm
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Denver to Honolulu via Canada in 1976 (On a trip that was supposed to go to Mexico!)

I was going to post this Qantas First Class menu in my thread on First Class Menus and Memories from Bygone Years but the story behind how I came to be on this particular flight seemed potentially interesting enough to the two dozen or so hard core inflight service fanatics out there that I’ve decided to present this as its own separate Trip Report.

In late April of 1976, I had just finished my first year of college and, with the whole summer ahead of me, began to make some travel plans. The summer before, I’d made $700.00 last me the entire summer as I hitch hiked back and forth between Colorado and various destinations in the American West. This time I was in better shape financially, having just recently inherited a little over $3000.00. Through my high school years, I’d been living on $25.00/month allowance and so had never before seen so much money! What to do . . . With no real interest in accruing material possessions such as clothes, a car or a quarter pound of good weed, I immediately set to work planning a trip somewhere.

The first thing I did was hitch up to Grand Junction and buy a First Class ticket down to Denver aboard the Rio Grande Zephyr. This entitled me to my own private bedroom aboard the ex-California Zephyr observation dome car “Silver Sky” that brought up the rear of the train. Although I spent most of the eight hour trip up in the dome or in the vestibule between cars with my head out the window, the novelty of having my own private room was certainly fun for the first hour.

From Denver, I’d planned to go camping with friends on the weekend of April 23-25 in Rocky Mountain National Park. Then, on Monday the 26th, I was booked to fly from Denver to Vancouver on a joint fare using Western Airlines to Calgary and then on to Vancouver via Air Canada. Total cost for those tickets in Coach Class: $110.00. From Vancouver, the plan was to fly down to Seattle aboard Pacific Western, then connect to a Northwest DC-10-40 down to Portland. From there, I’d hitch hike down the coast to Los Angeles where I’d bought First Class tickets down to Mexico City and back using a joint fare between Continental and Air France via Houston. I’d fly a Continental DC-10 to Houston and connect to Air France’s 747 down to Mexico City. The return trip to Los Angeles called for flying Pan Am’s 707 back up to Houston and connecting to Continental’s four stop 727-200 milk run back to Los Angeles via Midland/Odessa, El Paso, Tucson and Phoenix. The First Class one way joint fare between LA and Mexico City was $168.00.

As fate would have it however, it snowed the weekend we were supposed to go camping and so I changed my plans and left for Vancouver on Saturday, the 24th of April. Western Airlines was celebrating its 50th Anniversary and offered a fine service featuring First Class leg room and free champagne aboard all of its flights. It was truly a dreadful quaff though... Franzia Brothers if I remember correctly. Probably $5 per bottle. On the one hour flight between Denver and Salt Lake City, we received a full hot breakfast featuring an omelet, hash browns and sausage. The aircraft was a 737-200 which Western operated in an all economy configuration. In SLC, I connected onto another 737 for the milk run up to Great Falls. That flight made stops in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Butte and Helena along the way. From Great Falls, it was nonstop to Calgary aboard yet another 737. After a short layover, I boarded an Air Canada DC-8-61 for the short flight over to Vancouver. I remember that all the seats on that DC-8 – both in First Class and Coach – were solid red. The 1970s were a time of wildly colorful interiors aboard America’s airlines so I found AC’s arrangement rather bland by comparison. Today however, it would be perfectly normal if not a bit too bright compared to the blues and greys that are currently the industry standard..

I spent the night on the floor in the Vancouver airport and, after breakfast Sunday morning, decided to have a look around and do a bit of plane spotting. Aircraft from Air Canada and CP Air dominated the tarmac. I was particularly excited to see a CP Air DC-8-43 and DC-8-63. I’d always liked the DC-8 and in CP Air’s bright orange and silver livery it certainly looked distinctive and inviting.

CP Air DC-8-40

In my youth, I used to write to all the airlines requesting postcards of their airplanes and brochures about their aircraft and inflight service. Back then, many airlines printed beautiful full color brochures highlighting their new widebodies and one of the nicest ones was produced by Qantas. I remember spending many an hour looking over those brochures and doing a lot of daydreaming. Qantas’ 747 brochure showed beautiful pictures of the First Class cabin and in particular the upstairs lounge called “The Captain’s Club”. This lounge was beautifully designed in a nautical fashion with ocean charts, ropes and a big wooden ship’s steering wheel mounted up front. Of course, there were comfortable high backed swivel chairs and a stand up bar as well. I’d always wanted to fly aboard that Qantas 747 but since I’d have to go all the way to Australia to do so, I’d pretty much written off any chance of doing so, at least in my immediate future. As for enjoying the luxury of a First Class seat and the upstairs Captain’s Club, that was unquestionably relegated to my dreams.
Captain's Club upstairs lounge aboard the Qantas 747-200

At some point during my wanderings about the airport that morning, I discovered that Qantas happened to be operating a flight that very evening down to San Francisco and on to Honolulu, Nadi and Sydney. I don’t recall how I discovered this – perhaps on the international departures board or while walking by the Qantas ticket counter – but I quickly put two and two together and realized that now suddenly, I had a chance to turn those dreams of my recent childhood into reality for the very affordable price of $241.00 for a one way First Class ticket to Honolulu. Normally one could never fly Qantas to Honolulu from the US because it was a US domestic market but this flight originated from Canada and so constituted an international route. Add to this the fact that I’d never been to Hawaii and you can just imagine the excitement of an 18 year old making his first flight in international First Class - to Hawaii no less! As for my tickets to Mexico City and back, they were quickly cancelled. They were full fare First Class tickets and there were no change or cancellation penalties back in those days. I’d cash them in when I got to Continental’s city ticket office down in Honolulu.

One of the most interesting aspects of all this is that Qantas only operated one weekly flight out of Vancouver, departing on Sunday. Had I arrived in Vancouver on any other day, I would have ended up going on down as planned to Mexico. And, considering that what ultimately happened to my travel plans in Honolulu had repercussions not only for the rest of that summer but potentially the rest of my life, I’ll just chalk it all up to incredible fate that it happened to snow that April weekend back in 1976. If it hadn’t, as things ultimately turned out, I very likely would not have been in Alaska today doing what I’m doing. But that’s another story.

QF 004 departed Vancouver for San Francisco at 5:00pm. If Qantas operated a First Class lounge at Vancouver, I was either unaware of it or too busy checking out the airplane for that evening’s flight, 747-238B VH-EBA, named the City of Canberra. This was Qantas’ very first 747 and I believe it may also have been the very first –200B model in service. How fortuitous to have it operating this evening’s flight! Up to this point, I’d flown only three 747s, aboard Continental and United, and never in First Class.

When boarding was called, I was amongst the first in line. My seat was 2A (Even back then, I knew where I belonged) and I had a good look around the airplane before the doors were shut and we pushed back from the gate. There weren’t very many of us in First Class. Sleeper seats had not yet been introduced, so the First Class cabin was very much like today’s domestic First Class but slightly more spacious. I recall the seats as being upholstered in purple and fuscia patterned fabrics. The Economy cabins featured pastel blues, greens and ochres. If preflight drinks were offered, I didn’t take advantage of them. I was only 18 years old and had never had much interest in alcohol. At that time in my life, a good joint or a tab of blotter would have been far preferable. Needless to say, Qantas neither stocked nor condoned anything along those lines so I settled for a soda. Following is the transcript from the menu for this flight. Although I only flew as far as Honolulu, I will also include the service for the sectors on to Nadi and Sydney.


Vancouver to San Francisco
2 Hours 10 Minutes


Assorted Hors D’Oeuvre

Smoked Salmon
Artichoke Hearts
Anchovy Eggs
Crab Legs
Pate de Foie Gras


Strawberries Chantilly


French Chocolate Choux


Melba Toast


** ***** **

San Francisco to Honolulu
5 Hours 5 Minutes



Version of the classic Bouillabaisse from San Francisco’s famed Fisherman’s Wharf
Artichoke Salad

Seasonal Garden Salad

Roast Rib Eye of Beef Marchand de Vin

Horseradish Cream


Duckling Bigarade

Chateau Potatoes
Buttered Beans
Tomato Provencale

Sweets From The Trolley


Fresh Fruit


** ***** **

Honolulu to Nadi
6 Hours 15 Minutes


Mai Tai Cocktail

Hot Monte Christo Sandwich
Cheese, Ham and Chicken between two slices of white bread, dipped in egg and baked to a golden brown

Crabmeat Quiche
A combination of Crabmeat, celery, Onion, parsley, Sherry, Egg, Cream and Nutmeg, baked in a short pastry crust

Crepes a la Reine
Chicken and Mushroom in Veloute Sauce, lightly baked


** ***** **

Nadi to Sydney
4 Hours 20 Minutes


Fresh Orange Juice
Tomato Juice

Chilled Seasonal Fruit

Scrambled or Boiled Eggs

Pan Fried Filet of Walu

Lemon Butter

Grilled Bacon
Broiled Tomato

Bread Rolls
Buttered Toast

Fresh Fruit

Coffee – Tea – Chocolate

** ***** **

In retrospect, this isn’t much of a menu compared to today’s offerings. Still, this being my first ever long flight in First Class, I was quite pleased if not a bit overwhelmed with all of it! Hors d’oeuvres, salad, the roast and dessert were all served from the trolley and I remember the Cioppino as being most delicious, along with the roast, from which the flight attendants were carving massive slabs if you so desired. I did.

First Class cabin aboard Qantas 747-200 in 1976

Interestingly however, the wonderful upstairs Captain’s Club lounge remained empty throughout the long trans-Pacific sector over to Honolulu. I stayed up there all by myself for about an hour before finally returning to my seat downstairs.

We arrived fairly late in Honolulu, so I spent my first night in a nice dark corner of the airport. The next day, I headed into town and got me a $10.00/night room at the little Waikiki Surf Side Hotel. This was 1976, remember. The Circle Hotel next door cost a whopping $15.00! The Surf Side was a small, 8-10 story building painted in light pink and located right across Kalakaua Blvd. from the heart of Waikiki Beach. My $10.00 room featured a pair of single beds mounted on concrete blocks, a small black and white television with tin foil on the antennas, and a small balcony overlooking the concrete wall of the building next door. It was perfect! I mean, considering the cost and the location, plus the fact that I only used the room to sleep in, what more could I want?

I spent a week on Oahu before deciding I’d had enough of the island life and was ready for a return to the Mainland. Rather than pay for a ticket all the way back to Colorado, I’d bought a First Class ticket to San Francisco on United. I could easily hitch back to Colorado from there. I was in line to check in for that flight when I discovered via an old OAG that I’d scored from a local travel agency that the airfare up to Anchorage, Alaska was the same as it was to San Francisco. Not only that, but there was a joint fare using Pan Am to Seattle and connecting on to Alaska up to Anchorage. I’d not flown on either airline yet and with no real reason to be back in Colorado, I got out of line and headed over to the Pan Am counter.

I love impulsive, spur of the moment travel – here I was originally supposed to be wandering around Oaxaca, Mexico right now and suddenly, on about 30 seconds consideration, I was buying a First Class seat aboard a Pan Am’s 747 up to Seattle with a connection the next morning to an Alaska 727-100 on to Juneau and Anchorage. From there, it was only a 4000 mile hitch back to Colorado. But that’s another story that I may include someday when I get back up to Fairbanks and dig up the menu from that Pan Am flight. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this little Trip Report.
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Last edited by Seat 2A; Sep 19, 2023 at 2:04 am
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Old Jul 25, 2003, 6:46 pm
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I wanna hear about hitching? Pan Am? What's the other story?????????????? That got you to alaska. and
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Old Jul 25, 2003, 11:47 pm
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A classic Seat 2A trip report - thanks!
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Old Jul 27, 2003, 12:15 am
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A guy dressed for the NW and Mexico ends up in warm Hawaii in April. Ok, I can understand dressing for the warmth of Mexico and our 50th state. What I eagerly await is how someone didn't freeze to death thumbing from Alaska to Colorado.

Please hurry as I am aging rapidly waiting.

Another inimitable 2A read!!
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Old Jul 27, 2003, 8:36 am
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Seat 2A...another miraculous report...I am once again beside myself...

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Old Jul 27, 2003, 11:50 am
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Great story! I want to know all the subsequent developments, too!
When I was about 10 or 11 years old I wrote to all the airlines in the yellow pages and asked them for a printed schedule and postcards. It was so exotic getting all the schedules from the foreign airlines. I used to stockpile the schedules in my drawers. My parents would always ask what I was going to do with the mountain of expired Delta timetables I had. Well you never know.....are people selling them on ebay now?

Any other childhood (or adult) confessions out there?

[This message has been edited by elsie (edited 07-27-2003).]
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Old Jul 27, 2003, 6:43 pm
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What a wonderful report - I loved hearing about your experience. I too used to write off to all the airlines and anxiously awaited what glossy brochures you received. I remember on overseas holidays with my parents, I would use up the 1st day by schleping around all the airline offices and collecting all the material that I couldn't possibly get back home. Also, those days where security wasn't like it was today, I would head out to the International Airport with a few mates and often would approach airline staff and were taken onto transiting aircraft for a tour - with this method I was able to see aircraft like: JL DC8, PA 747-SP (with dining room in the sky!), SQ 747-200 with slumberettes in upper deck, UT DC8, NZ (TE then!) DC10, CP DC8, JAT 707, MH 707, Air Nuigini 707 and a few more. This was great fun - but as I said it was at a time that security was very different and airline staff had time for excited 12 year olds!
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Old Jul 27, 2003, 6:58 pm
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Another Seat2A classic
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Old Jul 28, 2003, 5:38 am
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Seat 2A once again inspires me to visit Alaska, and buy him all the drinks he can accomodate.

These great stories can only get better when told live.

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Old Jul 28, 2003, 8:07 am
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Simply excellent. Can't wait for the rest.
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Old Jul 28, 2003, 8:48 pm
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I've said it before -- I'll say it again, I hope the theory of reincarnation is true so that I may come back as Seat 2A.
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Old Jul 29, 2003, 1:17 pm
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Growing up in Playa Del Rey (area next to LAX) in the 1970's I'd ride my bike to the Airport Marina Hotel which is now called something else and get on the airport shuttle van and go to LAX and collect all the airline timetables and brouchers too. One nice CSR at Pan Am got so used to me that she actually took me on a tour of a 747, what a treat. Great TRIP report 2A
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Old Jul 31, 2003, 3:18 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by opushomes:
A guy dressed for the NW and Mexico ends up in warm Hawaii in April. Ok, I can understand dressing for the warmth of Mexico and our 50th state. What I eagerly await is how someone didn't freeze to death thumbing from Alaska to Colorado.</font>
When I left college in Durango and headed up to Denver, I had just about everything I owned in my backpack. Sleeping bag, down parka, shirts, pants, etc. - all of it would have gone to Mexico, Hawaii, Antarctica, wherever. That down jacket also made a good pillow when I stuffed it in my sleeping bag stuff sack at night.

Thanks for all the comments, as well! I'll try and get more of this little story published in the next couple of days. It may be a bit before I get up to Fairbanks so I'll probably add the Pan Am menu later.

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Old Jul 31, 2003, 7:41 pm
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Thanks for the report. The Qantas menu then doesn't seem all that different from the menu now!
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Old Aug 3, 2003, 3:46 am
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How could you ever get sick of island life???

Great report! ALOHA
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