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A New Yearís Travel Extravaganza Featuring AF, CI, SQ, LX, BA, EI, EY, LH, KM and KL

A New Yearís Travel Extravaganza Featuring AF, CI, SQ, LX, BA, EI, EY, LH, KM and KL

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Old Jan 2, 19, 11:34 am
  #1  
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A New Yearís Travel Extravaganza Featuring AF, CI, SQ, LX, BA, EI, EY, LH, KM and KL

First of all, a happy new year and only the very best in 2019 to you all!

In two daysí time, I will be starting a travel marathon of eight weeks. Iím in two minds about how I feel about this right now. On the one hand, Iím looking forward to the first trip, which will be my winter vacation. On the other hand, Iím a bit concerned that Iím going to start feeling like a bit of a vegetable before the eight weeks are up. Fortunately, the long-haul and mid-haul sectors will be either in First Class (Air France and Singapore Airlines) or in Business Class (Air France, China Airlines, and Etihad Airways), which Iím hoping will help to minimise my suffering.

Stay tunedÖ

Ė William
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Old Jan 5, 19, 3:32 am
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Part 1: ZŁrich to Paris CDG with Air France Business Class

Here's the link to the photos

INTRODUCTION

The first two months of 2019 Iíll be spending travelling more or less nonstop, and six of those eight weeks will be for work. But luckily, the start into the new year sees me going on vacation first.Unlike my usual vacations, which normally have me travelling to a lot of different places, this time around Iím planning to spend most of my time in one place. On the one hand, I just need a place to wind down after a very hectic and overall not very pleasant 2018. On the other hand, now that Iím a PhD student, I guess I had better make a start if I intend to complete my degree within the minimum permissible timeframe of three years.

There will be a slight detour getting to some of the destinations, but by my standards, Iíd like to think theyíre only minor ones. But Iíll come to all of that later on. The first leg of this trip is more or less a positioning flight Ė the preamble, so to speakÖ

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
One day before departure, I receive an e-mail from DNATA, Air Franceís handling agent in Switzerland, informing me that everything is ready for my flight in La PremiŤre and if I have any requests, I should not hesitate to contact them by mail or phone. About two hours later, I receive a phone call from Air France, inquiring about the pick-up for the complimentary transfer to ZŁrich airport. We agree for the car to pick me up at the office in Winterthur at 13h30. The journey to the airport should take about thirty minutes, which means I will get to the airport just around 14h00, a bit over an hour before departure. At exactly 13h30, I receive a message from my driver, informing me that heíll be expecting me outside on the parking lot. It turns out the car Air France has sent to collect me is a BMW 730X, and itís absolutely gorgeous. I honestly have no idea about cars and I havenít even got a driverís licence, but this car is just really nice. Of course, it also helps that the interior is colour coordinated with my PumasÖ

CHECK-IN
The driver drops me off in front of Terminal 2. He takes out my luggage and wishes me a pleasant journey. I havenít checked in yet, so the first stop will be at check-in. The agent there immediately checks me in to my final destination and puts a print out of the whole itinerary and the boarding passes in a bright red La PremiŤre branded folder. He suggests having somebody escort me to the lounge, but I tell him Iím quite familiar and know my way. And so I decline.LOUNGE /

AIRSIDE

In ZŁrich, Air France uses the Aspire lounge, which is operated by DNATA. There is no dedicated or separate First Class section to the lounge, but that seems hardly necessary.

BOARDING
My flight will be departing from gate B 34. Boarding starts with a delay of about thirty minutes. Apparently, the aircraft was late departing from Paris on the inbound. Boarding is done by zones, and the first to be allowed aboard are zones 1 and 2. As I am travelling in La PremiŤre, I am invited to use the manned gate instead of one of the automatic gates.

CABIN
I like the Air France cabin. First of all, because I think it looks very colourful with the dark blue leather seats and the bright read headrest covers and pillows. There are four rows in Business Class with a total of 16 seats on this flight, although I would say only half are occupied on this flight.

CREW
The crew on this flight is really excellent. There are four ladies in total and they are very charming and professional in their demeanour and the way they go about their duties. As soon as boarding is completed, the maÓtre de comes to welcome me aboard and offers me a welcome drink. She also brings me a bottle of still water and a pre-packaged, scented towel. She also informs me that she will send a message to Paris to make sure there will be somebody at the arrival gate to pick me up. Funnily enough, she also checks if there was somebody there to escort me from the lounge to the gate and on to the plane. When I say no, for a moment she looks quite upset. So then I explain that I specifically declined an escort because I didnít think it necessary. And she seems to accept that.

SERVICE
The flight time is announced as one hour, which isnít really very much. Even so, the crew still succeed in delivering a professional and unhurried service. As soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off, the lovely smell of something heating in the ovens starts wafting through the cabin, and Iím curious what the source of the smell isÖ

THE MEAL
The meal consists of one tray. On it there is∑ a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel with cucumber∑ a small plate with pumpkin and zucchini salad∑ a bowl of apple compote∑ a small dark chocolateAs it turns out, the divine smell is from the waffles that are served warm with the meal. And man, their good. To drink I have a Coke Zero.

ARRIVAL
As soon as I finish, the crew come to remove my tray and shortly thereafter, we start our descent into a dark and cloudy Pairs. The maÓtre de comes to let me know that she has been informed that there will be somebody expecting me upon arrival. We land on the southernmost runway and then take the long way around to Terminal 2F. The doors open and thereís a gentleman standing there holding an iPad with my name displayed on it. He takes me downstairs and packs my bags into the booth. As I said, Iím not the expert, but I think this is the same type of BMW that picked me up in Winterthur to take me to the airport.
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Old Jan 5, 19, 4:48 am
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Nice to have you back! Impressive AF La PremiŤre service at an out station! Looking forward to the rest.
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Old Jan 5, 19, 3:14 pm
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Part 2: Paris to Singapore in Air France La PremiŤre

Here's the link to the photos.

TRANSFER IN CDG 2

The driver takes me to Terminal 2E, which is where the First Class lounge is located. He explains that afterwards, heíll also be escorting me to the aircraft when the time comes. Along the way, the driver chats pleasantly about this and that. Funnily enough, his curiosity gets the better of him and he cannot help but ask how my experience so far compares to the First Class product of other carriers.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE
Once we arrive at the terminal, he takes my passport and boarding pass and tells me heíll return them once the police have checked them. After that, he leads me upstairs and gives me a brief explanation of where everything is in the lounge. There are a few passengers in the lounge, but I would not go so far as to say itís crowded. Quite the contrary. The lounge is large and the way it is laid out, there is plenty of room for passengers to disperse. The lounge is well equipped with anything the travel-weary passenger may seek or desire to relax and revive from the labours of modern air travel. There are large, well-appointed showers with toiletries, a dedicated dining area, a relaxation area and a small spa. But apart from all that, the lounge is very elegantly appointed and both the facility and the staff have a lot of style about them. The lounge is not flashy, but itís definitely comfortable.

BOARDING
Around forty minutes before departure, my driver comes to pick me up and drive me to the waiting aircraft. Theoretically, I could have walked. But to be honest, I figured that if we took the car, that might give me a better chance of taking a picture of the aircraft carrying me to Singapore tonight.

CABIN
As I step aboard the plane, the driver welcomes me aboard and introduces me to the First Class flight attendant, who is already expecting me. The driver then bids me good bye and wishes me a pleasant journey. I then make the right turn into the cabin and Iím really speechless. Of course, Iíd already seen pictures of the new First Class cabin, but seeing it for real is something else. Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into the design of Air Franceís First Class cabin, both in terms of the comfort and functionality of the seat, but also with regard to branding. The little seahorse, Air Franceís trademark, is omnipresent in the cabin. You will find it on the lamp, pillows, pyjamas, slippers, etc. But I think was surprises me the most, is the mint condition of the cabin. Either this is a fairly new aircraft, or Air France just takes excellent care of its fleet. In the take-off and landing position, the seat doesnít offer much privacy. However, there is a screen that can be raised around the back and side of the seat. In addition, there are curtains that can be drawn and which provide a lot of privacy and darkness. The seat has an ottoman, which could also be used for a second passenger to join for the meal, for example. Below the ottoman is enough storage space for a large laptop bag, the slippers and a blanket.In the sum of all thing, I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience the First Class product of quite a few of the worldís leading airlines. But the Air France hardware is definitely my new favourite.

CREW
The First Class cabin is served by a very charming and very professional middle-aged lady. I really cannot express how good she is at her job. I know it probably sounds like a horrible stereotype to say this, but sheís just so very French in the best possible way. Her manners are impeccable and her attention to detail is flawless. For example, it strikes me during the meal service that whenever she brings a new dish, she always makes sure the seahorse logo on the crockery is the right way up. I know this may sound like a small and unimportant thing, but I still think itís a nice feature that enhances the First Class experience.

SERVICE
While weíre still on the ground, the crew bring me my pyjamas and a vanity kit and check to make sure Iím properly settled in my seat for the next twelve hours. With that out of the way, I am offered and subsequently brought a glass of the Krug Champagne and a small ramekin of mixed nuts and dried fruit. The menus are not handed out until after take-off.

AMENITIES
The amenity kit contains the usual collection of mostly useless items. There is no toothbrush or toothpaste in the kit, but these are available in the lavatory, where there is also mouthwash.The pyjamas come in a very nice felt folder. They have a nice, comfortable cut. The cabin crew will ask you what size you would prefer. Iím 184 cm tall and the size L fits me perfectly. Slippers are also provided and can be found in the drawer underneath the ottoman.

THE MEAL
The meal service is definitely one of the highlight of the Air France First Class experience. The table is set up nicely, with a choice of either balsamic olive oil or tomato infused olive oil and a choice of both salted and unsalted butter. Throughout the meal, the crew replenish the bread and drinks. For each dish, a new set of cutlery is provided. And I really must say, in terms of the quantity and quality of the food, itís excellent:

Amuse bouche
Caviar with a crÍpe and sturgeon cream.
Soup
Cream of chicory soup.
Mixed salad
Made to order Ė it contains chicory, mushrooms, smoked haddock and beets.
First course
Pan-fried scallops with potato rose and a balsamic vinaigrette.
Main course
Chicken breast glazed in a rare pepper and citrus honey, with caramelised pineapple and mango and vegetable sticks.
Selection of gourmet cheese
Beaufort, Pťrail and Langres.
Dessert
Blueberry tarte by LenŰtre, served with two scoops of gingerbread sorbet.
Drinks
I stick to Perrier with the meal, and for dessert I have a mint tea, which is served with a box Michel Cluizel of chocolates.

The meal is excellent, and with every new dish that she brings out, the flight attendant makes a point of explaining to me what Iím eating and what the dish includes. By the time the service finishes, Iím totally full and completely and utterly impressed. I think, if I compare this service to the Garuda First Class experience for example, the Air France service just seems a lot more polished and experienced. Furthermore, because all the dishes have a very European or French touch, the crew just come across as being very authentic in their explanations of what the food is.

SECOND SERVICE
I actually manage to get about five hours of sleep. When I wake up, weíre still about three hours out of Singapore. As soon as the flight attendant notices Iím awake, she comes to ask me if thereís anything I need. So I request a cup of coffee and ask her to remove the bedclothes while I change back into my clothes. About two hours out of Singapore, I decide itís time for breakfast, which the flight attendant thinks is a brilliant idea.The breakfast is quite extensive, and all the dishes are brought more or less at once, instead of having them served as different courses.

My breakfast consists of

Coffee and orange juiceFruit
A small bowl of grapefruit and orange.
Yoghurt
Served with granola.
A selection of pastries and bread
I have a small bun and a brioche, served with butter and jam.
Choice of hot dish
I go with the scrambled eggs with mushrooms and a mushroom sauce.Everything tastes excellent and the presentation of the hot meal, which is served with the lid still on the dish, is just so elegant.

Once the meal is over, the flight attendant clears my table and we have a nice little chat about flying and travelling until itís time for her to start preparing the First Class cabin for landing.

ARRIVAL
We land at 16h30 local time, five minutes ahead of schedule. Itís either just been raining or itís just really very humid outside because the ground is wet. Air France serves Terminal 1 at Singapore Changi airport. The doors open, and thereís already a young lady expecting me to guide me through security. The flight attendant bids me good bye and hands me over to the ground crew. And with that, my La PremiŤre experience comes to an end.

EPILOGUE
To get into town, I will be taking the MRT, which is fast and efficient. The MRT departs from Terminal 2, so I first need to take the Skytrain from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2. The Skytrain is a complimentary service. Purchasing a ticket for the MRT is not as straightforward as one might assume in Singapore. A single ticket into town will cost you SGD2.80. However, you can only purchase a single ticket if you buy it at the machine and only if you pay in cash. If youíre not paying in cash, you need to go to the counter, but there you canít only purchase a single ticket. So instead, I buy a two-days card for SGD10 plus SGD16. The SGD10 are a deposit that is refunded when you bring the card backÖOnly the green line runs into town from the airport. At the second stop, which is Tanah Merah, passengers alight and connect to another green line train heading into the city from the opposite platform.

CONCLUSION
This experience with Air Franceís La PremiŤre has impressed me. First of all, I think the overall quality of the product is very high and also very consistent. From the car they sent to pick me up in Winterthur, to the very elegant experience in the lounge in Paris and the beautifully appointed cabin and amenities aboard the aircraft, clearly a lot of thought has gone into the design of the product. Not only of the cabin and seat, but also of the ancillary products. I think Air Franceís interpretation of the First Class seat with the curtain is brilliant Ė because it offers a level of privacy that most other carriers simply cannot match. Even with Garuda for example, where you have a fully enclosed suite, you are not completely concealed from view because the doors of the suite do not reach all the way to the ceiling.

I also just love the branding of the First Class product with the little seahorse, which is omnipresent in the lounge and in the cabin and promotes this sense of consistency of the experience and in the product. And finally, there is the professionalism of the staff, who have all clearly been trained well for their roles working with the First Class product. The maÓtre de on the flight from ZŁrich to Paris went out of her way to provide as much of a First Class experience even on a short sector of 50 minutes. Then the driver, who managed to make pleasant conversation but without being either tedious or prying and who had excellent manners.

And finally, last but certainly not least, there is the fabulous, splendid and simply formidable flight attendant working the First Class cabin. I think she did a really outstanding job. I know I already mentioned this above, but her attention to detail and the fact that she made sure the seahorse logo was always the right way up says everything about her work ethics and the service standard she delivered. Itís difficult to say from memory which First Class product Iíve enjoyed the most over the years. One thingís for sure though, of the four European carriers that still offer a First Class product, to my mind Air Franceís is definitely the best.
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Old Jan 6, 19, 6:10 am
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Part 3: Singapore to Taipei in China Airlines Business Class

Here's the link to the photos

INTRODUCTION

I spend 22 hours in Singapore, which just gives me enough time to have a rest, get some food and have a shower. And now Iím off again. This is one of those slight detours I mentioned previouslyÖ The reason why Iím taking it, or rather, one of the reasons Iím taking it, is that Iíve been wanting to try China Airlines for some time and itís also been a while since I logged a new airline. As I write that, I can literally just see my friend, the wiry R. doing an exaggerated eye roll.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
In Singapore, Iím staying at the Sofitel City Centre, which is on the MRT line that goes to Changi. Itís twelve stops from the hotel to where the line branches off for the airport. The journey from the Sofitel to the airport takes me close to an hour to complete. My first stop of course, is at the MRT service desk, where I return my travel card and have the depot refunded in cash.

CHECK-IN
China Airlines checks in at Terminal 3 in Changi and their counters are located on row 11, right in front of the escalators that bring you up to the departures hall from the station.Iíve already checked in online, but seeing as Iíll still have to go to a counter to pick up my boarding passes, I figure I might as well drop off my carry-on suitcase so at least I wonít be carting that around with me.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE
China Airlines is one of only four carriers to use the DNATA lounge in Terminal 3. In all honesty, itís not a very pleasant lounge. That last time I visited was with the tall, blond M. and it hasnít improved much since. Itís also very hot in there. So I leave the lounge after only spending about ten minutes there and instead go one floor down to the food court for a bowl of noodles. The views downstairs are much better too, as the windows in the lounge are covered in dots. What kind of cruel soul does thatÖ?

BOARDING
The flight is late arriving from Taipei, which is why boarding is delayed by about thirty minutes. In Singapore, the security check takes place at the gate. In other words, there is no centralised security checkpoint. This can be a bit of a nuisance at times, but seeing as the flight is delayed, most passengers are already in the holding area by the time I reach the gate. Oh yes, and there are no loos in the holding area. So think twice before you enterÖThe first boarding call is for passengers in Business Class and passengers with children and other disabilities. Thereís a separate air bridge for Business Class passengers leading to the L1 door. Economy Class passengers use the L2 door.

CABIN
As it happens, Iím the first to enter the aircraft, so I take the opportunity to take a few photos before the masses arrive. Initially, Iím on 1A and thereís another person sitting on 1B. But the seat pair on the other side of the aircraft is still empty, so once weíre airborne, I pack up my things and shift to seat 1K, which is also a window seat but has nobody sitting on the aisle seat. So now I can really spread out!The Airbus A 330 is one of my favourite aircraft, because I think itís just so elegant to look at. This example though, is clearly starting to show its age on the inside. The seats are in a 2 + 2 + 2 configuration and the inflight entertainment system seems almost prehistoric! But the flight time is announced as four hours and ten minutes, so I think Iíll liveÖThere is one feature of the seat thatís quite irritating: the position of the armrest between the two seats is awkward. On the one hand, itís uncomfortable to rest your arm. But also, more than once I accidentally end up pressing one of the buttons to extend the seat into a bed or raise the footrest inadvertently.

CREW
There isnít really very much I can say about the crew. Their English language skills appear to be much better than those of crews working for the airlines of mainland China. But other than that, interaction with the crew is limited.

SERVICE
The service begins on the ground with a welcome drink, served with a packet of nuts and Japanese crackers. To drink there is a choice of champagne, water or orange juice. Once that has been cleared away, the crew distribute cold, scented towels. After take-off, thick slippers and the menus are distributed for those passengers who havenít already ordered their food. I should perhaps explain that the China Airlines app is really good and allows you to pre-order the meals for all your flights, even if you do not have any special dietary requirements.

THE MEAL
As I already mentioned, the flight time is just slightly more than four hours. This means that in Business Class the first service consists of a drink and three small canapťs. The main meal is served about ninety minutes out of Taipei.The canapťs are: duck, crab meat with apricot and bell pepper with tomato pesto.Exactly two hours out of Taipei, the lights in the cabin are turned on again and the smell of hot food, with a lot of garlic, comes wafting through the cabin.The meal consists of:
Starter
Prawns with a ginger and mango salsa and salmon with crŤme fraiche and capers.
Main course
Herb crusted fillet of beef in a red wine sauce with mashed potatoes, zucchini and pumpkin.
Dessert
Bowl of fruit and a choice of either ice cream or a coffee and chocolate mousse cake.

Iím not really sure what exactly I was expecting from the meal service on China Airlines, but this is actually very tasty and much better than what I was expecting. The salmon and the prawns are not at all fishy, the beef is perfectly cooked for my taste and tender, and the mashed potato is divine and so creamy!

ARRIVAL
I finish the meal with another cup of black tea from the Sun Moon lake region of Taiwan and then close my eyes until itís time to land.Eventually, we arrive in Taipei at 18h50, with a delay of only five minutes. The last time I was in Taipei was exactly 11 years ago. Alas, the airport hasnít really changed much during that time. Itís still an odd layout, old and gloomy and seriously unattractive. I now have nearly five hours to make my connecting flight.
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Old Jan 7, 19, 9:56 pm
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Part 4: Taipei to Sydney with China Airlines' A350-900

Here's the link to the photos

TRANSFER IN TPE

My flight to Sydney will be departing from the D concourse, which is either new or newly renovated, because it doesnít look quite as drab as the arrivals concourse my flight from Singapore ended at. Taipei has two Terminals and technically, the D concourse belongs to Terminal 2, which is not the China Airlines terminal. There is a China Airlines lounge on the D concourse, but from what I understand, their main lounge is over in Terminal 1. But that seems like just too much of a schlepp right now. If youíre transferring between international flights in Taipei, you will not need to go through either immigration or customs, but you will have to undergo security screening.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE
The entrance to the lounge is right opposite from gate D4, which rather conveniently happens to be the departure gate for my flight to Sydney.The lounge looks new and well maintained. Like the rest of the D concourse, itís basically one long and narrow room. It has all the basic facilities, including computer work stations, toilets, showers and a dining area with a noodle bar. The lounge is located in the basement, so there are no windows. In the sum of all things, itís not a bad place to wait for your connecting flight. But my layover is nearly five hours and for that both the terminal and the lounge are not really very pleasant.

BOARDING
Boarding starts with a slight delay due to Ďground operationí issues Ė whatever that means. Never mind, itís only a minor delay and all I plan to do on the flight is sleep. There is a separate air bridge to the L1 door for Business Class passengers. Economy Class passengers use the L2 door.

CABIN
China Airlines has a herring bone seating configuration on its Airbus A 350-900, which provides direct aisle access for every passenger and a lot of privacy. On China Airlines, the seats are staggered, so that once youíre seated, you canít actually see your neighbour on the other side of the aisle unless you lean forward. The colours China Airlines has gone with in the cabin are very dark. And admittedly, that does make the cabin look elegant and stylish. But with the dimmed lighting during boarding for one, and the fact that I have seriously deteriorating eye sight for another, the upshot is that itís rather difficult for me to actually see anything much as I stow away my things and settle in for the flight. It also strikes me that the colours theyíve gone with for the carpets, upholstery and the shell of the seat do not reflect the livery or the logo of the airline.Storage space on this seat is somewhat limited though. There is a small compartment in the armrest adjacent to the aisle, but that already contains the amenity kit and a bottle of still water. Then there are two small compartments by the window for storage, but one of these contains the slippers and the earphones. And then there is another small compartment by the side of the seat, but this is not very large either and couldnít hold more than a kindle, and certainly not a laptop. But there is more than ample storage space in the overhead bins, even if there are only bins on the sides of the cabin but not in the middle.

CREW
The crew on this flight is much better than the previous one. Theyíre welcoming and go out of their way to make sure passengers are comfortable. They also make a point, I think, of interacting with the passengers and chatting with them about little things. And itís doesnít seem forced either, so as a passenger youíre made to feel very welcome.

SERVICE
While weíre still on the ground, a welcome drink with a packet of nibbles is served. To drink, there is a choice of still water, orange juice, champagne and smoked plum juice. Of course, it goes without saying that I decide to try the plum juice, because it sounds interesting. And well, letís just say Iím guessing itís probably an acquired taste. More than anything, itís just very sweet. While weíre still on the ground, I quickly nip into the loo and change into my shorts to be ready to sleep once weíre airborne.

THE MEALThe flightís scheduled departure time is 23h55 and the flight time is announced at eight hours and forty minutes. Even at this time of night, the crew are planning on doing a full meal service after take-off and a breakfast service later on. But I tell one of the flight attendants that I will not be having anything, despite having pre-ordered my dinner, and will be going straight to sleep. And indeed, the last thing I remember is the crew handing out the wine list. And then Iím off to the land of nod for nearly seven hours.

When I awaken, Iím feeling rather hungry. The maÓtre de spots me and says Ďoh, you woke upí with a laugh. She also asks me if she can bring me something to eat ahead of the breakfast service. I may perhaps agree to that a little over eagerly, because she laughs again and a short while later returns with plate of fruit, cheese and crackers.

About thirty minutes later, the cabin gradually starts to dawn and the crew start preparing the cabin for the breakfast service. The breakfast is served on one tray. It includes:
A croissant with butter
There are no refills though, and no jam either.
MŁsli
A small ramekin of mŁsli with fruit and nuts.
Fruit
A bowl of fruit salad.
Hot breakfast
A hot dish with frittata, tomato, bacon and polenta.

The meal is tasty and hits the spot nicely. Itís quite a large meal for a second service, especially considering that the flight is not that long.

AMENITIES
The vanity kit comes in a nice hard shell case I may actually be able to use. Whatís more, this one also includes a small bottle of Moroccan mint oil, which Iíll be able to use to keep my beard from drying out the skin on my face. And thereís also an A 350 Sticker! So full brownie points to China Airlines for that! The slippers are of the same fluffy variety as those on the previous flight. Other than that, China Airlines does not provide pyjamas or bedding for the seat.

ARRIVAL
Much to my surprise, the weatherís really ...... in Sydney. Itís overcast with a chance of rain and visibility is limited. I know for a fact that we flew past the Sydney CBD with the opera house and the bridge on the approach, but I very much doubt the passengers on the port side were able to see anything much.We arrive at the last stand on our pier and from there itís a long schlepp to immigration and customs.

China Airlines provides its passengers in Business Class with express immigration vouchers, which give passengers access to the fast track. However, if you have a biometric passport, you probably neednít bother as the e-gates are much faster and more efficient than the fast track. Iím taking public transport into town. I exit through customs and do a sharp right. Then I continue to the end of the arrivals concourse where the entrance to the railway station is marked out. To purchase your ticket, you can either queue at the counter or at a vending machine, or you can just badge in and out with your credit card. The T8 line will take you right into the heart of Sydney, with stops at the central railway station and Circular Quay. Iím staying in Darling Harbour tonight. Normally, I think Iíd probably take the train to Town Hall and then walk to Darling Harbour from there. But with the rain, I decide to get off at Central Station and then take the 501 bus instead, which more or less drops me off right in front of my hotel.

CONCLUSIONAll in all, I rather enjoyed my China Airline experience. I think their product is solid and makes for a pleasurable journey. The crews were good and especially the crew on this second flight were very pleasant. Of course, it also helps that the A 350 is a pretty mean machine. Itís quiet in the cabin and the interior design of China Airlinesí aircraft is nifty. As I already mentioned above though, next time I transfer through Taipei I think I would try to get a better connection, because the airport really isnít very pleasant for a longer layover.
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Old Jan 9, 19, 1:27 am
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Nice read. Hope the Sydney weather got better they are having a wet summer
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Old Jan 9, 19, 3:31 am
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Hi wtcmor
Certainly improved a lot. Today I had the glorious idea of going for a run in the sun at around 11h30... and nearly collapsed with the heat. There's a nice breeze going here in Manly, but I think my body's still adjusting to the warm weather.
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Old Jan 9, 19, 6:54 am
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Great trip report. thanks so much.. Enjoy Australia!...
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Old Jan 12, 19, 10:50 pm
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This is a great trip report. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy the rest of the journey
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Old Jan 14, 19, 3:59 pm
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Part 5: Sydney to Melbourne in Virgin Australia Economy Class

Here's the link to the photos!

INTRODUCTION

Next year Iíll be going on sabbatical for six months. Right now, the plan is that I will spend at least part of those six months working and living in Melbourne Ė if theyíll have me, of course. So today Iím on my way to Melbourne to introduce myself to the people at the language testing research centre of Melbourne University.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
This has to be just about the coolest commute to an airport ever! My day starts at 06h00 in the morning, when I leave the house Iíve rented in Fairlight and make my way down to Manly wharf for the 06h35 fast ferry to Circular Quay. The journey into Sydney takes roughly thirty minutes to complete and includes some of the most beautiful abd spectacular vistas of the Opera House and Hanger Bridge.At Circular Quay, I transfer to the railway station for the suburban trains to Sydney airport. The station is just opposite the wharf at Circular Quay and the journey to the domestic terminal at Sydney airport takes just over fifteen minutes. The trains run to the airport run frequently.

CHECK-IN
I alight at the station for the Domestic terminal, which is one stop before the international terminal. There are two domestic terminals. Terminal 3 is for QANTAS, while Terminal 2 is for everybody else. Iíve already checked-in online using the Virgin Australia app, which is a good thing because the Virgin Australia counters look very busy.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE
And so I head directly for the security checkpoint. Access to the Virgin Australia lounge is on the right side, just as you exit from security. Iím not entirely sure, but as an Etihad Gold member I think Iím entitled to use the Virgin Australia lounge despite the fact that Iím travelling on an Economy Class ticket. But it turns out the a) the lounge is way too busy and b) the views outside the lounge are much better, with the sitting area for the food court located right by the windows overlooking the domestic apron.

BOARDING
Boarding starts exactly on time and there is a separate lane for Business Class and priority passengers. If this were Europe, the moment the gate agent announced that boarding had started, thereíd be a scrum to get on the plane. But here in Australia, passengers obviously have better manners and just wait until their group for boarding is called.

CABIN
The cabin of this aircraft is nice. It looks and smells new and with the grey seats it looks rather elegant. This aircraft also has those new style overhead bins that drop down, instead of the old-school bins you still find on many narrow-bodies, where the lid opens upwards.Seat pitch on the emergency exit is also good. I addition, the flight is not completely full, which means that by the time boarding is completed, the middle seat remains empty.And then we have a problem. The captain comes on the loudspeaker to inform us that Melbourne tower has had to be evacuated and it is unclear if they will be receiving traffic any time soon. Eventually though, we push back with a delay of one hour. The flight time is announced as one hour and five minutes.

CREW
The crew on this flight consists of five attractive young females. Whoever selects the female crew clearly has a type, because they all look the same and theyíre all wearing way too much make-up. Other than that, they seem okay, if not exactly very warm.

SERVICE
In Economy Class Virgin has a strange mixed concept, the merit of which kind of escapes me. Tea, still water and a protein bar are complimentary. In addition to that, there are various items to eat and drink which can be purchased on board. Payment is possible in cash or by credit card. I order a Coke Zero to drink, which costs AUD3. The protein bar however, is a total abomination. Itís disgusting, to the point where they make you wonder why on earth to they even bother in the first place? Having said that, the bulging biceps on 13C seems only too eager to demolish his bar. Wouldnít want to start losing muscle mass would weÖ?

ARRIVAL
Eventually, we land in Melbourne at 11h35, only slightly behind schedule. I step outside and catch the Skybus heading for the city centre to Southern Cross station. The journey to the city takes about thirty minutes, a return tickets costs AUD38.
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Old Jan 14, 19, 6:30 pm
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Part 6: QANTAS Economy Class from Melbourne back to Sydney

Here's the link to the photos!

INTRODUCTION

The meeting with the people at the language testing research centre was interesting and I feel quite excited about visiting again, even if that wonít be until next year. At least this will give me something to look forward to.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The meeting ends just after 15h, which gives me enough time to leisurely make my way back to the airport for the return flight to Sydney. To get from the University of Melbourne, I first take a tram 19 back to Bourke Street and then from there a tram 86 or 96 to Southern Cross. The tram stop is right across the road from the entrance to the coach terminal at Southern Cross station.

CHECK-IN
There are four terminals at Melbourne airport that are connected to each other. QANTAS domestic flights operate out of Terminal 1, which is the last one of the two stops of the Skybus, although the distance is short and you might as well get off at the first stop and then just walk over to Terminal 1. Iíve already checked in, which is a shame really, because QANTASí check-in and the whole departure area look very fresh and modern. Seems as though QANTAS is trying to keep up with Virgin Australia in projecting the image of being hip and classy.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE
Right behind security there is the food court and the entrance to the QANTAS lounge to the right of that. I havenít had lunch yet, so I figure I might as well treat myself to a snack while I enjoy the excellent views of the apron.In hindsight, I have to say it was totally worth it for the view, but the egg and lettuce sandwich I got at one of the shops is justÖ meh!

BOARDING
Boarding is from gate 1 on the C pier, which is the gate closest to security and which, I guess, is why it is probably reserved for the Sydney flight. Both Virgin Australia and QANTAS operate a shuttle service between the two cities. What I always find interesting with QANTAS, is that the cabin crew are also the ones who do the boarding at the gate. Because this is something that, to my knowledge, is not done in Europe even though, come to think of it, itís not a bad idea.

CABIN
The seats are all in black, which certainly makes for a gloomy but elegant looking cabin. I guess it probably also saves on cleaning. In contrast to Virgin Australia, QANTAS has individual video screens installed in every seat back and there are also USB plugs. Complimentary earphones are available as you pass through the gate for boarding and should you forget to pick up a pair, the crew will come by offering earphones just before push-back.

CREW
The crew is clearly what tips the scale in favour of QANTAS, as far as Iím concerned. First of all, theyíre older than the ones on Virgin. Perhaps thatís why they all come across as having a lot more personality. Furthermore, the way they interact with the passengers is just a lot more professional. For example, on QANTAS the cabin crew giving the safety briefing for the emergency exit row makes a point of giving a very detailed explanation and that everyone seated on the exit rows is addressed. In contrast, the crew on Virgin did the same briefing in about half the time and with such a total lack of enthusiasm.

THE MEAL
Once weíre airborne, the smell of hot food starts wafting through the cabin and I kind of assume if for the Business Class section. Much to my surprise though, despite the flying time of only one hour and five minutes, QANTAS will actually serve a hot meal in Economy Class too. In fact, there appears to be a choice between either the minced pork in gravy with pak choy and jasmine rice or a cold salad of grilled chicken breast on quinoa salad.

ARRIVAL
About 25 minutes out of Sydney, the pilot eases back the throttles and we start our descent. The approach into Sydney brings us in over the sea and itís quite spectacular flying along the coast with the sun setting in the distance. We touch down at 19h22. I then make my way back to the trains station and then from there to Circular Quay. I arrive at the wharf at 20h02 and it looks like Iíve just missed the regular ferry back to Manly. The next one is not until 20h45. Fortunately, there is also the express ferry, which costs slightly more and only take 18 minutes to make the journey. And as my luck would have it, that boat will be leaving at 20h15. A single ticket for the express boat will cost you AUD9.80.

CONCLUSION
Hands down, QANTAS wins this round. While the cabin and branding of Virgin Australia are all modern and glitzy, you somehow canít shake the feeling that theyíre trying just a bit too hard to be different. Which is okay, as long as you donít forget that what makes the passengerís experience is not only the hard product but also the soft product. And thatís where I think QANTAS has the advantage. First of all, as I already mentioned above, the crew came across as being a lot more polished, professional and experienced. In addition to that, the meal service on QANTAS is definitely way superior to that of Virgin Australia.
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Old Jan 16, 19, 11:48 pm
  #13  
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Part 7: Sydney to Townsville with Jetstar

Here's the link to the photos.

INTRODUCTION

In language testing, the Rasch model is used in psychometric measurement to determine the probability with which a minimally competent test taker will be able to provide a specific response to a particular test item correctly. This probability is interpreted as a function of the test takerís actual language ability on the one hand, and the true level of difficulty of the item that the test taker is being submitted to and for which they must provide a response on the other hand. As it happens, one of the leading experts on Rasch modelling is Professor Trevor Bond. Very kindly, Professor Bond has accepted for me to visit him in Townsville to pick his brain, and so thatís where Iím heading today.

Currently, the only direct service between Sydney and Townsville is with Jetstar, QANTASí low-cost subsidiary. All other connections require a change of aircraft in either Cairns or Brisbane. The booking process on the Jetstar website is tedious, especially if youíre using Firefox. In which case, youíre likely not going to be able to complete the booking. Safari works reasonably well though.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
To get to the airport, I make the same journey I did on Monday when I flew to Melbourne. Donít get me wrong, Iím not complaining. Because the journey by ferry from Manly to Sydney is just so beautiful and tranquil.

CHECK-IN
Jetstar has an app, but obviously itís not foreseen that people from Switzerland, or at least with a Swiss mobile will fly Jetstar. Which is why the app is not available for me to download. However, you will receive a link to the web check-in page with the e-ticket confirmation you receive by mail and then one day before departure by SMS. But you will have to print that boarding pass at home or at one of the self-service devices at the airport.Jetstar operates out of domestic Terminal 2, along with all other domestic carriers except QANTAS.

AIRSIDE
My flight will be departing from gate 53, which is both good and bad. Itís good, because from gate 53 you have a more or less unobstructed view of the aircraft on the approach. Itís bad, because really I should be reading up about objective standard setting in Professor Bondís book without distraction, to brush up a little on Rasch before I meet him. But itís like a compulsion, every time I see a movement in the corner of my eye, I have to check what type of aircraft/airline it isÖ

BOARDING
Boarding starts with a minor delay. As I pass the gate, the attendant checking my boarding pass asks me if Iím aware of the fact that Iím sitting on the emergency exit. I tell her I am, but her next question catches me slightly off guard, because she asks me when was the last time I flew and sat on the emergency exit? I do a quick think and tell her that must have been two days previously. And for some reason that catches her off guard. Eventually though, she smiles and wishes me a pleasant flight.

CABIN
The cabin looks well-kept and clean. Iím not sure if itís intentional or not, but the orange colour in the Jetstar logo, which also features in the cabin, seriously reminds me of easyJet. But maybe that just lies in the nature of the beast.Seat pitch on the emergency exit it good. But there are no video screens or electricity/USB plugs on board this aircraft.

CREW
There are five cabin crew on this flight. The young man standing by the emergency exits is kind of strange, because he looks preoccupied and rather unhappy. But I think it must be just his normal face, because heís actually rather friendly and accommodating once the flight gets underway.

THE MEAL
The Jetstar website allows you to purchase a whole list of ancillary services, including seat reservations, Ďcomfort kitsí, and food. I order the sandwich trio online, which comes with a hot drink included.

ARRIVAL
The flight to Townsville take two hours and fifteen minutes. The landscape on the approach is fascinating. Itís quite hilly and very green. The airport sprawls over a vast area, mainly because it is a mixed military and civilian facility. The actual passenger terminal is rather small though, with only a handful of gates and no segregation of arriving and departing passengers. Accordingly, it takes me all of three minutes from stepping off the plane to arriving curb side, where Iíve arranged to meet Professor Bond.

CONCLUSION
There really isnít very much I can say about Jetstar. They delivered me to Townsville safely. Other than that, the flight was unremarkable and calm. Pretty much like taking the bus actually.
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Old Jan 17, 19, 3:37 am
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Parts 8 and 9: Townsville via Brisbane to Sydney in QANTAS Business Class

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE PHOTOS

INTRODUCTION

My time with Professor Bond is a real eye-opener. I think I was able to ask him all the questions for which I was seeking answers. Having said that, he also gave me a lot of answers to questions I wasnít even aware I had!

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The journey to the airport takes about ten minutes by car. After all, itís still very early and there are hardly any people on the roads.

CHECK-IN
The landside part of the terminal is disproportionately large, compared to the somewhat tight and narrow airside area at the gates.Each one of the major airlines operating out of Townsville has its own dedicated check-in zone. I can bypass this today, because Iíve already checked in on the QANTAS app.There is a queue for security, but it moves quickly. Of course it helps that in Australia they only want you to remove your laptop from your bag and not also your toiletries etc.

LOUNGE
Once Iím through security, I only have ten minutes before boarding starts. But Iím gagging for a coffee. Much to my surprise and delight, there is actually a fairly large QANTAS lounge, where the baristas will even make you a cappuccino to go!

BOARDING
So with my coffee in hand, boarding starts on time with an initial call for Business Class and frequent flyers passengers. Itís only once I settle in my seat that I realise itís raining quite heavily outside.

CABIN
QANTAS has a dedicated Business Class cabin on its Boeing B 737-800 fleet. There are three rows of seats in a 2 + 2 configuration, which makes for a total of twelve seats. Every seat is equipped with its own video screen, an electricity plug and USB port. There is also a footrest that can be raised when the seat is in the recline position. The wifi on board works surprisingly well.

I think the Americans in particular tend to frown upon the European interpretation of Business Class seating, which basically means blocking the middle seat on a row of bog standard Economy Class seats. Which is, admittedly, pretty lame. But it seems to me that the average sector length in Europe is probably much shorter than in vast countries like the US or Australia, and which therefore hardly warrants the installation of a more comfortable solution with a dedicated Business Class cabin and seat.

CREW
The maÓtre de is serving the Business Class cabin and I have to say, this guy is really absolutely brilliant. His manners are impeccable! He addresses every passenger by name and no request ever seems too much for him.

SERVICE
The service on the ground consist of a welcome drink. There is a choice of still or sparkling water or apple juice. There are no towels, newspapers or anything. The flight time is announced at one hour and thirty minutes.

THE MEAL
Once weíre airborne, the meal service begins. There is a choice of either Quiche Lorraine with bacon or an omelette served with a mushroom sauce, spinach and bacon. I go with the latter option. The tray comes with two slices of sourdough bread, butter and apricot jam. Thereís also some awfully healthy looking packed thingy, which I decide to steer clear of. Later on, the maÓtre de passes through the cabin offering cranberry muffins that are fresh out of the oven and taste lovely. To drink with the meal, I have an orange juice, still water and a coffee. Oh yes, the coffee! Full and extra brownie points for QANTAS on the coffee front. Instead of that horrific instant stuff you get on most airlines these days, QANTAS serves a lovely brew made in a coffee press, which just tastes so much better!Once the tray is removed, the crew pass through the cabin with small bottles of still water and ask passengers if thereís anything else theyíd like. I order a Coke Zero and then settle in to read the latest book of the PC Grant series, which my friend the wiry R. and I both find quite entertaining.

Transfer in Brisbane
We land in Brisbane about ten minutes ahead of schedule. I disembark the aircraft through gate number 23. I check on one of the FIDS, only to find that my flight to Sydney in slightly over an hour will be operated by the same aircraft from the same gate.

The glorious beauty of the English languageÖ
Language change is unavoidable. One of the key drivers of language change is exposure of the language as it is used in a specific area to the other languages in use around it. In which case there may be regional approximation of two or more languages coexisting in that region. Why am I even bothering you with this? In British English a thong refers to a particular type of knickers or underpants. If you look up the term on onelook.com, it will give you as a definition: Ďa piece of underwear or bottom part of a bikini with a very narrow piece of cloth at the backí. So basically, itís the type of underpants that look as though they need to be surgically removed from your butt crack.Which makes it all the more hilarious that when I enter the QANTAS lounge during my layover in Brisbane, the lounge dragon will not let me enter because they have Ďa strict no thongs policyí in the lounge that sheís asking me to respect. Of course, what sheís referring are what we call flip flops in Europe that you wear on your feet.

THE MEAL
In any case, the only other thing worthwhile mentioning on the next leg to Sydney is that there are three options for lunch: a kale and spinach frittata, fruit salad or a smoked salmon salad. The tray comes with a large tub of blueberry yoghurt on it. The bread is served separately.

ARRIVAL
Our arrival into Sydney is stunning. We approach the city from the north. At some point, we make a gentle left turn for the downwind, which brings us in right over Manly. In the distance I can see the harbour bridge with the opera house and CBD. It just looks so spectacular from above! I shall miss this when I leave again for Europe tomorrow.

CONCLUSION
I rather enjoyed these two short-haul flights in QANTAS Business Class. My previous experiences with their Business Class product have been on longer sectors, on which the meal concept was somehow always a bit odd. So itís good to see that this is not the case here. But apart from that, to me QANTASí selling point are definitely their crews, which are friendly and courteous and really do represent Ďthe spirit of Australiaí.
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Old Jan 17, 19, 4:59 am
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Originally Posted by William Agius View Post
Here's the link to the photos!

Next year Iíll be going on sabbatical for six months. Right now, the plan is that I will spend at least part of those six months working and living in Melbourne Ė if theyíll have me, of course. So today Iím on my way to Melbourne to introduce myself to the people at the language testing research centre of Melbourne University.
I wish I was also going on one!
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