Lufthansa, First Class – B 747-8: Hong Kong to Frankfurt

lufthansa_logo_big

Airline: Lufthansa
Aircraft:
Boeing B 747-8
Cabin:
First Class
Seat:
1K
From:
Hong Kong
To:
Frankfurt
Date:
25. August 2013
Departure:
23:10
Arrival:
05:20 (+1)

BSLFRA

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

At 20:45 the shuttle leaves from the Novotel to take me back to the airport. There are only two other passengers with me.

I like the design of the terminal structure, it’s really quite impressive.

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CHECK-IN

Check-in for the Lufthansa flight is done in row F, with two First Class counters on the far left. The check-in agent issues my boarding passes for the flight to Frankfurt and the onward connection to Basel. She also hands me a voucher for the golf cart shuttle through the terminal. I still have some time on my hands, and so I decide to walk instead.

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Once check-in is completed, I am escorted to the security check. On our way, the young lady escorting me explains to me that I have a choice of either using the United Airlines lounge or the Thai Airways one. I decide to go for the latter. It’s the same lounge I sat in the day before on my way from Hong Kong to Bangkok with Thai Airways. I will be picked up from the lounge once boarding commences.

THE LOUNGE

There is one other passenger in the First Class section of the lounge. One of the lounge attendants immediately brings me a menu and asks me if I’d like a drink. I order a Perrier with lime and to eat a selection of dim sum.

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BOARDING

True to her word, the escort appears to pick me up about thirty minutes before departure. As we reach the gate there are already two long queues forming for boarding. But the intrepid young lady takes my boarding pass and marches right past the queue to the counter with the scanner. The gate attendant scans my pass and I am cleared to board.

THE CABIN

This is my first experience with the B747-8 and I’m rather curious to see how the First Class cabin compares to that of the older -400 model, with First on the upper deck. There are three window seats on each side of the cabin and one double seat in the middle.

The first impression is good. For one, there is a lot more storage space than there is upstairs. For another, I always find it a bit iffy that a First Class passenger – once on board – should have to schlepp his luggage through the Business Class cabin and then up those stairs. So that’s certainly an improvement. As on the A 380, Lufthansa has also provided individual lockers for passengers.

On the downside, the cabin down here seems more cramped and less intimate. I am on 1K, which is in the tip of the beast’s nose, where the curvature is most pronounced. The proximity here to 1A is a bit too close for me.

Generally speaking, one thing that has always bothered me with Lufthansa, is the complete lack of privacy in First Class. There is of course a screen that can be raised. But even so, compared to the seat Malaysian has on the A 380, you’re still quite exposed as a passenger.

But all of this shall not be of any concern on tonight’s flight, as there are only two other passengers in First tonight, both of which have settled in on row two.

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SERVICE

Service in the First Class cabin is by a friendly German young woman. She’s very pleasant in her manner, she strikes a balance between making passengers feel at home, without however being intrusive.

At my request, she brings me a glass of water, together with a bowl of nuts and a plate with a warm towel. The rose petal on the plate with the towel is an elegant touch I find.

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After that, in sequence, she brings me the pjs, slippers and the vanity kit. Since my last trip with Lufthansa to San Francisco in January, they appear to have changed the vanity kit and replaced it with something by Bogner. It looks just as boring as the previous one to be honest.

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DEPARTURE

Traffic is quite busy in Hong Kong at this time of night (we’re approaching midnight). Finally, behind the British Airways and Virgin flights to London and a Hog Kong Airways A 330 it’s our turn. The departure route seems somewhat circuitous. We take off in a northerly direction and then initially turn eastwards, then southwards before eventually turning north-westwards in an elegant, wide turn. It’s stunning to watch the clouds lit up by the city below them.

THE MEAL

The flight attendant brings me an amuse bouche of crabmeat with roe in a steamed bun and the menu with that.

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As she sets the table I can’t but notice that Lufthansa has done quite a bit of revamping of it’s product. It’s small things, like the new cutlery or the napkin holder. All in all I like the changes, they make the experience more elegant. Apart from the butter dish there is now also a dish with olive oil.

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I choose a slice of garlic bread and some focaccia from the breadbasket, and then we begin.

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The first course is the signature caviar service with trimmings.

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For the second course I have a small dish of smoked salmon with blinis, a bowl of mushrooms marinated in rosemary infused olive oil with crème fraîche and a salad of mixed leaves with pine nuts and dried tomatoes. Just of word of caution here: I go for the tomato dressing, which comes in a jar and is produced by Heinz. Whatever you do, at all costs try to avoid this dressing. It’s an abomination!

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On a side note, the étagère the second course(s) used to be served on has been replaced by a rectangular platter.

For the main course I have the braised beef in a red wine juice, with grilled vegetables and potato gnocchi. The sides are okay, but the beef is just way too fatty and so I leave most of it.

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For dessert I have a plate of cheese with crackers. I opt for the Stilton, Cheddar and Brie. While the cheese is rather nice, it would have been good to have some dried fruit or, better still, a bit of chutney with the cheese.

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After the meal I go and change for bed. When I return, the flight attendant has already made up my bed. I lie down and only wake up again much later, three hours out of Frankfurt.

Two hours out of Frankfurt the flight attendant brings me a coffee with milk and sugar, followed be a hot towel to wake me up and a glass of orange juice. She then dresses the table for the breakfast service.

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I start with a plate of fresh fruit.

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This is followed by a selection of cheese with bread and toast.

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For the hot dish, I have an omelette with tomato coulis and broccoli.

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To drink I have mint infused still water, which is very refreshing.

ARRIVAL

Once the meal has been cleared away, I busy myself with collecting my stuff from the various stowage compartments and make a few notes for the last in this series of trip reports.

We arrive at gate A69, which at the far end of the newly opened A+ concourse. From here it’s quite a trek where ever you’re going. But that’s alright, it’ll do me good to stretch my legs after the flight and my onward connection to Basel is not for another four hours.

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So I make my way to the First Class lounge. First thing I do, is have a shower. Perhaps I should send these to British Airways…

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CONNECTION TO BASEL

Eventually, at 09:15 I head over to the pick up area for passengers being driven to their aircraft. Which is the case here, as a Canadair Regional Jet, using a remote parking position, will operate my flight today.

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I shan’t do a full report on this last leg, after all it’s only a hop of 35 minutes. I have here a few pictures from our departure and of the meal.

I am delighted to see that Lufthansa has finally decided to improve its catering on shorthaul regional routes: instead of those fully disposable plastic and cardboard trays, this meal here is served on real crockery, with real cutlery. And it even tastes good. So well done for that Lufthansa.

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CLOSING REMARKS

This brings to an end my excursion to Australia. For those of you have joined me along the way, thanks for your interest and also for your patience and endurance.

So how does one bring to an appropriate close such wonderful journey? Here’s my suggestion. While I was at Uluru I visited the Cultural Centre of the Anangu People. The centre is certainly worth visiting. During my visit, there was a woman sitting outside, working on a painting of the Seven Sisters, which is a story from the Dreamtime. There was something so serene about the concentration and accuracy with which she worked on her painting. I feel very fortunate in that this lady accepted my offer to buy the picture from her once she’d finished it. To me, this picture is the essence of my journey to Australia.

– William

The Seven Sisters, by Teresa Curtis

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Malaysia Airlines, First Class – A 380: Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong

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Airline: Malaysia Airlines
Aircraft:
A 380
Cabin:
First Class
Seat:
1A
From: Kuala Lumpur
To: Hong Kong
Date: 25. August 2013
Departure: 09:15
Arrival: 13:05

BSLHKG_2

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

I spent the night at the Hotel SamaSama at Kuala Lumpur airport, which is connected by a walkway to the main terminal building. In its previous incarnation, the SamaSama used to be the Pan Pacific Hotel.

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CHECK-IN

Malaysia Airlines have a dedicated row of check-in counters for their First Class passengers and platinum members of their frequent flyer programme. It’s quite busy when I arrive, so one of the check-in agents asks me to take a seat while I wait.

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THE LOUNGE

From check-in I head one floor down to immigration and then from there to the security check. For some reason there are two security checks in Kuala Lumpur – one immediately after immigration and another before you enter the holding area of the gate.

The Malaysia Airlines lounges in the satellite are located right above the station of the shuttle train. There is one entrance to the lounge. Business Class passengers are then directed to the left of the counter, while the First Class section is located to the right. There are some good apron views to be had, but at this time of day the place doesn’t appear to be too busy.

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The selection of hot and cold dishes in the lounge is great. I haven’t had a proper breakfast yet, so I decide to have some Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut) with Chicken Rendang.

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BOARDING

Half an hour before departure I leave the lounge and head for gate C27, where the big bird is expecting me. Passengers in Business Class are instructed to head one floor up for boarding. On the lower level there are two airbridges, the B bridge for Economy Class and the A bridge for First Class passengers.

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THE CABIN

Wow! I definitely like the Malaysia Airlines First Class cabin. The colours are rather dark, but the cabin is very beautifully appointed and sumptuous. The seat provides ample space and privacy. It all looks very elegant.

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So far when I’ve travelled on the A 380 with Thai, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines it’s always been on the upper deck. So this will be my first ride on the lower deck. Two things strike me from down here. First, the engines and wing look even more enormous than they do from one floor up. Secondly, there’s more noise on the lower level. The good news is, we’re only two passengers on the flight today.

SERVICE

What can I say? Today’s crew really are deserving of Malaysia Airlines’ reputation for the best cabin crew. They are truly excellent and very professional. There are two ladies and one gentleman in charge of the two of us. They take their time to provide a very personalised and utterly charming service. They soon realise I have a bit of a thing about planes and we get talking. Very obviously the crew are very proud of their product and the A 380 and competently answer all my questions.

I am offered a drink and choose an orange juice, which is brought to me with a hot towel. The menu is already at my seat.

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DEPARTURE

Departure is the same sluggish affair as it was yesterday with Thai Airways from Hong Kong to Bangkok. Well okay, fair enough. I suppose with this big bird take-off will never be sprightly.

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THE MEAL

I start writing this trip report. It’s quite bumpy as the flight attendant comes to dress the table for the meal service. So I place my MacBook Air on the side, on the rail in the space between the seat and the cabin wall. Suddenly there is a bum from the turbulence, followed by a thump. It takes me a moment to realise that the thumping sound came from my laptop, which has managed to slip through a small gap.

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It’s so tight I can’t get my hand down there. The flight attendant suggests I move seats to the other side to give her more space to manoeuver while she tries to get a hold of my laptop. Eventually though she gives up and informs me that the captain has been advised and that he has requested engineers to come on board upon arrival in Hong Kong to retrieve the laptop. How embarrassing!

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The meal starts with a plate of amazingly fresh and juicy fruit – grapes, dragon fruit, melon and papaya.

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This is followed by a selection from the breadbasket. I just have a croissant.

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Next I have the Nasi Lemak with spicy shrimps. The dish is served with peanuts, boiled egg, cucumber and dried fish.

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And then for dessert I have some vanilla ice cream.

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With the coffee the crew serve a bowl of warm nuts and another with chocolates.

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After the meal I take a tour of the cabin and the loo.

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ARRIVAL

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After we land, the purser comes to my seat and asks me to wait for the engineers to arrive to retrieve my Mac. We pull onto the stand and wait for all the passengers to disembark. It’s amazing how long it takes to unload a nearly full A 380. Once everybody is gone, the engineers arrive. It takes then about 20 minutes until eventually, with the help of one of the flight attendants and her slender hands, they manage to get the laptop out. I’m really embarrassed about the whole thing, which is only highlighted by the fact that all the crew were really very friendly about the whole thing.

I collect my belonging and thank them for their service and their kindness. My next flight will not be until this evening. So I head to the hotel bus shuttle stop and catch the shuttle bus from gate 29 to the Novotel City Gate, which is located about 10 minutes away from the terminal.

Thai Airways, Business Class – B 777-300: Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur

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Airline: Thai Airways
Aircraft:
Boeing B 777-300
Cabin:
Business Class
Seat:
12G, aisle
From:
Bangkok
To:
Kuala Lumpur
Date:
24. August 2013
Departure:
16:40
Arrival:
19:50

BSLKUL

TRANSFER IN BANGKOK

The transfer in Bangkok is a swift and efficient affair. The Thai Airways First Class pick up ejects me by the escalators leading one floor up to the security checkpoint and the transit area.

THE LOUNGE

From security I am escorted to the Thai Airways First Class lounge, where I receive a refreshing towel and a welcome drink. My stay here will not be long, so I just order a lemon ice tea and check my mails before it’s time to leave again. The lounge is very quiet at this time of day.

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BOARDING

About twenty minutes before departure, one of the lounge attendants comes to inform me that my flight will be departing shortly and I should make my way to gate C5. I am one of the last Business Class passengers to board. Unfortunately I only manage to take one picture of the aircraft taking me to Kuala Lumpur this afternoon.

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THE CABIN

The aircraft operating today’s flight is an ex Jet Airways bird in the herringbone configuration in Business Class. I always thought that this would be the same seat as what Air Canada and Cathay Pacific used to have. To be honest I’m still not quite sure if it is or not. Somehow this seat feels a lot more spacious, more roomy. It also strikes me that you’re a lot more exposed in this configuration and you have the passenger on the aisle seat in full view – and vice versa.

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Regrettably, Thai Airways has not been a very careful surrogate to this plane. There are traces of neglect and damage throughout the cabin. During the take-off roll my IFE screen – which apparently should be locked for take-off and landing – comes undone from the acceleration and won’t close anymore. I have to hold on to it to stop it from swinging about. Judging by all the clicking noises in the cabin, I am not the only one with this problem.

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SERVICE

Service is efficient. On the ground we receive, in sequence, a welcome drink, hot towel and the menu.

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THE MEAL

The meal is served on a tray from a trolley. The first and main course arrive at the same time, which is hardly surprising given the flight is only 90 minutes. For a starter we have crab meat in a smoked salmon parcel, which is quite good. There are three choices for the main. I go with the shrimps and scallops with pomme duchesse and vegetables. And for dessert there is some toffee and banana cake on a biscuit base, which is okay.

Drinks are not served from a trolley. Instead, the crew come round with a tray of different drinks for passengers. Other drinks are however available on demand.

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ARRIVAL

As we begin our descent, the crew pass through the cabin distributing priority lane cards for immigration. We arrive at the satellite, from where it is just a short trip by shuttle to the main building. I have arrived back in Kuala Lumpur.

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Thai Airways, First Class – A 380: Hong Kong to Bangkok

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Airline: Thai Airways
Aircraft:
Airbus A 380
Cabin:
First Class
Seat:
3K, window
From:
Hong Kong
To:
Bangkok
Date:
24. August 2013
Departure:
13:25
Arrival:
15:05

BSLBKK

It’s only at this stage that things got really out of hand when I was planning this trip. I’d got my dates all messed up and realised rather late that instead of spending one night in Hong Kong before eventually heading home, I’d be spending two full days in Hong Kong. Of course the easiest thing would have been to simply rearrange the rest of my schedule. Like that I might have had a full day in Perth for example, which I really liked the look of – from what little I saw.

Or I could do something else that would be tremendously fun. I could significantly increase my carbon footprint with yet another bout of senseless flying, simply for the joy of cruising at 38’000 feet.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

At 11:00 I check out of The Peninsula. It’s such a beautiful hotel. Even the lobby is a work of art.

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And this here will be taking me to the airport today. Sitting in the back, the sound of the engine is but a mere murmur, like the satisfied purr of a fat cat that’s just polished off a bowl of rich cream. It’s quite sexy actually.

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The journey by car from Tsim Sha Tsui on the southern tip of Kowloon to the airport takes approximately thirty minutes to complete. We pull up in front of terminal 2, where a porter from the hotel is already expecting me to take my luggage and escort me to the Thai Airways check-in counters.

CHECK-IN

Thai Airways has got quite an operation here in Hong Kong. Check-in is quickly done for the flight to Bangkok as well as the onward connection. I am also issued a lounge invitation.

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Before I leave, I inquire about the possibility of paying to upgrade to First Class. The check-in agent informs me that all seats are already taken, but one passenger has failed to turn up so far. She instructs me to contact the lounge attendant about thirty minutes before departure to check on the situation of the seat.

THE LOUNGE

From check-in I am escorted to the entrance for the security check. The porter bids me farewell and hopes I enjoyed my stay at The Peninsula. Oh you have no idea!

Terminal 2 is essentially a separate building with a set of check-in counters on the opposite side of the road from the main terminal building. Behind security and immigration there is an escalator leading down to the automated shuttle that takes you across to the gate area attached to terminal 1.

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From there I change trains and take the shuttle to the far end of the pier where gates 33 through 80 are located. The Thai Airways lounge is one floor up from the gates, overlooking gate 40. My flight today will be leaving from gate 62.

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The lounge is very colourful, with a good selection of hot and cold dishes.

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The big bird arrives.

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About thirty minutes before departure I approach the lounge reception where I am informed that the upgrade worked – jay! The flight has been closed for check-in with one empty seat up front. I am advised to go to the gate and pay the fare difference there, where I will also be issued a new boarding pass. The fare difference is merely HKD1600.

BOARDING

So I contact one of about ten gate attendants for my flight to pay the fee. The new boarding pass is promptly issued and I shall be on 3K for this flight, a window seat.

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There are three separate queues for boarding. The left one is for Economy on the lower level of the vessel, the middle one is for First Class and the right one for Business Class, both of which are located on the upper deck.

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THE CABIN

The cabin is very nice. Using a combination of wood and beige colours, there is something very soothing and inviting about the seat. There are two comfy pillows on my seat, as well as a day blanket for this short flight. There is also a folder with A 380 and Thai Airways stationary.

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SERVICE

We begin with the obligatory hot towels. If I’m not mistaken, they’re scented with Bulgari’s Essence de Thé Vert, which has a very refreshing and subtle perfume.

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Next, another flight attendant comes through the cabin with the Dom. I think he’s a bit upset when I ask him if I could have a Perrier instead. A bit later on, the same attendant brings me the menu and the wine list for today’s flight.

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DEPARTURE

Just before we push back, another big bird arrives at the gate next door.

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Take-off is sluggish, to say the least. You’d think we were flying all the way from Hong Kong to Europe, judging by how long it takes us to get airborne. Once we do take off, we hit some rather severe turbulence. It’s quite impressive really. To see or rather feel a little 737 doing all sorts of summersaults in the sky is one thing, but when it’s an A 380 it’s quite another. Fortunately before long we’re clear of the clouds and cruising through much calmer air.

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It’s quite funny to watch the other passengers. One guy has already lowered the blinds and another has changed into something a little less al dente. I’m not quite sure what’s going on exactly, the flight time to Bangkok is only two hours and ten minutes anyway.

Once the fasten seat belt sign goes off, I decide to explore the loo and the lounge area on the top floor.

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The loo is very stylish, I must say. It has a changing area which kind of sectioned off from the toilet.

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THE MEAL

We begin with an amuse bouche of smoked salmon on cucumber and grilled vegetables. To drink I have a Singha beer.

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Then the table is set for the meal. The crew pay a lot of attention to detail. For example they make sure that the logo of the tablecloth is the right side up. And whenever one of them fills up my glass, they make sure the logo on the can of beer is facing toward me.

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There is also a breadbasket. Initially I think I may have been spared the temptation to overindulge on garlic bread. But it turns out that they bring that separately. In the end I think I have seven pieces of the stuff. I can’t help it, it’s a compulsion…

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The first course is boiled Canadian scallops with capers mixed with almonds, sundried tomatoes and frisée lettuce and cucumber. A very tasty dish.

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Next comes the main course: pan-fried sea bream filet with a garlic sauce, served with vegetables and herb millet. It’s a nice chunky piece of fish, although it is perhaps a little on the dry side.

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Then comes a plate of anonymous cheeses with crackers and fruit – it doesn’t say on the menu what cheese it is.

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And finally for dessert we have Mövenpick yoghurt ice cream with diced fresh fruit.

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The meal concludes with a coffee and another scented hot towel. By this time we’re only 34 minutes out of Bangkok. Not bad at all.

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ARRIVAL

The weather in Bangkok is pretty much the same as in Hong Kong: overcast, occasional rain and a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Before the take their seats for arrival, the three cabin crew working the First Class cabin stop at every seat to say good bye, which is a nice touch.

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As I exit the airbridge I am already being expected by a Thai Airways representative with a golf mobile. We wait for another passengers and then off we go to the security check for my next flight.

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Cathay Pacific Airways, Business Class – A 330-300: Perth to Hong Kong

Catahay-Pacific-Logo

Airline: Cathay Pacific
Aircraft:
Airbus A 330-300
Cabin:
Business Class
Seat:
15A, window
From:
Perth
To:
Hong Kong
Date:
23. August 2013
Departure:
07:10
Arrival:
15:10

BSLHKG

Hey, who turned the lights out? It’s just gone 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s still dark outside and I’m all bleary eyed. My mouth feels dry and the vestiges of yesterday evening’s meal – which included a rather hefty dose of red onion – make my tongue feel as though something small and furry decided to surreptitiously crawl into my mouth and then unexpectedly lost its will to live. This really is rather early. But you see, today I am leaving Australia – unfortunately. I’m heading for Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific Airways.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

The taxi I ordered the evening before is already expecting me as I exit the hotel at around five in the morning. The journey to the international terminal in Perth takes about 15 minutes to complete. Traffic is good, but I’m still surprised to see quite a few cars on the road at this ungodly hour.

CHECK-IN

Check-in is in full swing when I arrive. Fortunately the queue for Business Class passengers is a short one, so I don’t have that long to wait. Strangely enough, the place is littered with Asians with their suitcases open and busy rearranging their bags. One young man approaches me and asks me if he might be able to check-in with me as a member of the same party so he won’t have to pay excess baggage. I politely decline but I must confess I am rather curious as to how much extra he’ll need to pay.

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From check-in I head upstairs and change what’s left of the Australian Dollars into Hong Kong Dollars. And then I officially exit the country. But I’ll be back.

THE LOUNGE

Cathay Pacific don’t have their own lounge in Perth and instead use the Qantas Club lounge. The lounge is not nearly half the size of the domestic lounge I was in yesterday in Adelaide. But it is equally well stocked and has a good selection of well prepared and tasty food options.

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BOARDING

Boarding starts slightly behind schedule due to the late arrival of our flight. The turn around is normally only 85 minutes for the morning service, which means that even the slightest delay is likely to have a knock on effect.

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There is a separate lane for Business Class passengers to pass the gate. From the departures level it’s two flights of stairs down to the entrance of the airbridge.

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THE CABIN

As I enter the cabin I am delighted to find that this aircraft has been fitted with the new Business Class seat. So no herring bone. There’s nothing wrong with the herring bone in terms of comfort but it really is a bitch to look out the window in those seats. The new Cathay Pacific Business Class seat is very much like the British Airways First Class seat, just not quite so roomy. This must be one of my favourite Business Class seats and certainly beats the Singapore Airlines one they have on the A 380.

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The load on today’s flight is pretty light up front, I only count ten passengers in total. The smaller Business Class cabin behind the L2 door remains completely empty.

SERVICE

The crew in Business Class are all female and very friendly. Shortly after I take my seat, one of the ladies appears with a choice of either orange juice or champagne.

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And then after that it’s the scented warm towels, which are a nice, rich texture quite unlike the ones British Airways uses in First Class.

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And then as the last thing before we push back, the vanity kit and a bottle of Evian arrive.

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DEPARTURE

Departure is from runway 03. The taxiway from the international apron does not reach all the way to the end of the runway. So at some point we have to cross the runway to the taxiway at the other side and then from there we reach the threshold.

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The acceleration is good, but it still takes us a while until we are finally airborne. And with that, I have left Australian soil.

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After take-off the crew come through the cabin distributing the wine list and menu for today’s flight.

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THE MEAL

Unlike my previous experience with Cathay Pacific, on this flight the meal is served on a tray directly from the galley, instead of from a trolley. Presumably that also has to do with the light load in Business today.

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In any case, the crew come to take my order for the meal and the drinks. We start with a plate of seasonal fresh fruit. The pineapple, melon and kiwi are fabulous and have remained fresh. The strawberries however, are somewhat bland in flavour.

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The tray arrives with the apple juice and milk coffee I’d ordered, as well as a glass of still water.

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This is followed shortly after by the breadbasket. There is a choice of different types of bread, croissants and muffins and a selection of preserves and honey.

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After that comes the vanilla yoghurt, which is very rich and creamy.

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For the main course I have the butter milk pancakes with caramelised walnuts, apples and strawberries with maple syrup – divine!

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The meal concludes with the mandatory scented towels Cathay Pacific seem to have an abundance of on their aircraft.

And now I think I’ll listen to some music. Here’s a nifty feature of the console to operate the IFE. At the top it constantly displays the time left to go to destination. I think this is a really neat feature!

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About two hours out of Hong Kong the lights go on again and a fresh set of hot towels herald the beginning of the second service. Much to my surprise, the second meal service is another full meal and not just a snack.

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For an apéritif I have one of Cathay Pacific’s signature non-alcoholic cocktails – but alas I forget the name. It is a refreshing mix of kiwi, mint leaves and coconut milk. The drink is served with a small bowl of warm salty almonds.

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We begin with a trio of gravlax, seared tuna in sesame seeds on pesto and a lime marinated shrimp.

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With that I have some garlic bread. Well okay, three slices. But they really were quite small.

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On the tray there is also a salad with feta cheese, cranberries and a balsamico vinaigrette.

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For the main I have the vegetarian option, which turn out to be palak paneer, dhal masala, mushroom and peas with turmeric basmati rice. The dish is moderately spicy and simply excellent, with a variety of different spices and flavours miraculously crammed onto one dish.

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The hot meal is followed by a selection of fruit and cheese: Maffra Sage Derby, Jindi Blue and a Tasmanian Heritage Brie. With that I have a small glass of port.

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And as though I hadn’t already had enough, the meal closes with a mint tea and a dessert of dark chocolate ganache tart on a raspberry coulis.

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And this is how far I got with the tart.

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And just in case there are still some passengers who haven’t had enough yet, the crew pass through the cabin with a box of pralinés, which I decline. What a meal!

ARRIVAL

Our arrival is delayed slightly. Apparently arriving traffic is rather busy.

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Cathay Pacific provides an excellent arrivals lounge, which is located landside, right under the station of the Hong Kong Airport Express.

If you’re travelling to Hong Kong by public transport, I can highly recommend the Hong Kong Airport Express. Should your hotel be on the mainland, get off the train at the stop Kowloon. From there follow the signs to the Express shuttle bus. This is a complimentary shuttle for passengers with a valid train ticket and there are many different lines that will take you to the largest or best known hotels in the area.

During my brief stay in Hong Kong I shall be staying at The Peninsula, which is a truly lovely hotel. I did try taking pictures, but somehow they hardly do this grand building justice. So I will leave it here with a few pictures of the view from my room.

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Qantas, Economy Class – B 737-800: Adelaide to Perth

qantas-logo

Airlines: Qantas
Aircraft:
Boeing B 737-800
Cabin:
Economy Class
Seat:
14A, window
From:
Adelaide
To:
Perth
Date:
22. August 2013
Departure:
14:40
Arrival:
16:40

BSLPER

I spend four blissful days at the Barossa Pavilions in Lyndoch, a small rural town just under one hour away from Adelaide airport. The locals here are a very relaxed and friendly bunch. Wherever you go, somebody will strike up a conversation and once they realise you’re not a local they’re only too happy to help you make plans for things to do and places to visit. This truly is my idea of complete and perfect relaxation.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

In theory the journey by car from the Barossa Pavilions in Lyndoch do Adelaide airport should not take longer than about an hour to complete. As you approach Adelaide there is currently some major roadwork in progress, which poses a serious challenge for the GPS. So eventually it takes closer to 100 minutes to make the journey, including a fuel stop.

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CHECK-IN

The airport has changed dramatically since I my last visit sometime during the nineties. In fact I’m not even sure if the original terminal structure from back then is still standing, or if they simply demolished the whole thing and built the current facility from scratch.

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I checked in for the flight the evening before using the Qantas App, which allows you to check-in for domestic services. Once you’re checked in, you can elect to have the board pass transferred to your Passbook App.

THE LOUNGE

The Qantas lounge here in Adelaide is positively enormous. It’s also nearly deserted today. The lounge is very well stocked. There is a huge business area as you come in, right behind reception. The food options are very good, with an interesting selection of hot and cold dishes. In addition to the self-service drinks bar, there is also a separate bar where you can order all sorts of things.

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So I get myself a bowl of pumpkin soup and a selection of items from the antipasto buffet and settle down by the window overlooking a small part of the apron. The three turboprops parked here don’t look as though they’ll be going anywhere much anytime soon, but that hardly matters.

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BOARDING

At 13:53 my iPhone goes off and alerts me that boarding for the flight to Perth has started. I take a last sip of my Ginger Ale, make a quick pit stop and then make my way to gate 22, from where my flight is in fact not yet boarding.

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I wish…
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One must be realistic about one’s expectations…
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On my way down to the plane I grab myself a pair of earphones before heading down the airbridge.

THE CABIN

I turn right into the cabin, only to find that the aircraft is still in the old configuration and with no individual screens. But never mind, I have my music and I have my Kindle. Let the journey begin.

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SERVICE

The crew on this flight is a bit of a mixed bag. The cabin crew are all ladies and there are five of them. With the exception of the purser they all seem genuinely friendly. The purserette however is a bit irritating. Her announcements are just a tad overdone with the marketing bull – she’s just a bit too enthusiastic. Generally speaking enthusiasm for your work is a good thing, especially if working with people is your business. But her eyes betray her, and while her voice is smiling – her eyes are not.

DEPARTURE

Departure is on time and the pilot is obviously in a flaming hurry to get us off the ground. We haven’t even properly lined up with the runway when he applies full throttle and we go thundering down the runway. Shortly after take-off we cross the beach, Glenelg I presume, and head out to sea. For most of the journey ground visibility is very limited due to the clouds, making it impossible to know what route we took.

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THE MEAL

Oh Qantas, that meal. You have made an old man so happy. Well I’m not quite that old – yet. I’ve still got more than a month to go before I hit 39, not of course that I’m counting or anything of the sort. But I digress. My point is, the meal Qantas provides on this flight today is something like a trip down memory lane. The smell, the appearance and even the taste of the food bring back fond memories of carefree adolescence, when the mere prospect of getting on a plane would give me sleepless nights for at least a month in advance with excitement and when a hotmeal in Economy Class on a sector of 90 minutes was considered perfectly normal in Europe and only the really dodgy airlines would stoop so low as to use – dare I say it – plastic instead of proper plates and cups.

There is a choice of beef pie with green beans and mash or sweet and sour chicken with steamed rice. I go with the beef and I really must say, it’s quite delicious. On the tray there is also a bun with some butter, a small packet of tic tacs, a small bottle of still water and a very rich Belgian chocolate Brownie.

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To drink I have a sparkling apple juice. And I am even given the full can!

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The tempo of the meal service is swift and efficient. The crew leave enough time for everybody to finish their meal, but without keeping you waiting an eternity for them to remove the tray.

After the meal I count two drink runs with still water from a tray. Not bad.

ARRIVAL

Arrival in Perth is twenty minutes ahead of schedule. I’m looking forward to being back in a time zone with no half hours, it’s just all so confusing!

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In Perth I’m staying at the Crown Metropol. The hotel is somewhat out of town, but at least I have a good view of the city from my room. The hotel was chosen more for its close proximity to the airport than anything else.

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Qantas, Economy Class – B 737-800: Alice Springs to Adelaide

qantas-logo

Airlines: Qantas
Aircraft:
Boeing B 737-800
Cabin:
Economy Class
Seat:
13A, window on the emergency exit
From: Alice Springs
To:
Adelaide
Date:
18. August 2013
Departure: 
13:10
Arrival: 14:50

BSLADL

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

I just arrived in Alice Springs from Uluru. I like the airport, passengers are allowed to walk the short distance from the terminal to the aircraft and vice versa.

THE LOUNGE

As you enter the terminal through the arrivals channel, the Qantas lounge is located on the left hand side, adjacent to the Qantas gates. The place is quite full when I arrive, with the flights to Melbourne, Brisbane and Darwin leaving ahead of my flight to Adelaide. In fact it’s so full it’s standing room only initially.

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Eventually the place clears as the flights are called for boarding. I find a place to sit and enjoy some of the sandwiches on offer.

BOARDING

It looks like the flight is going to be pretty full. I am the last one to board, mainly because I’m busy taking pictures. Eventually the gate attendant aka one of the flight attendants catches up with me and we have a nice littler natter about her job and the differences between working in aviation in Australia and in Europe.

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As I board she takes my suitcase off me and stows it in one of the Business Class bins. Which is kind of ironic, given that I wanted to travel in Business Class on this leg but the booking engine never showed an availability. Eventually I figured the flight simply didn’t have a Business Class cabin.

THE CABIN

Originally I was booked on 14B, which is the middle seat on the second emergency exit row of the Boeing 737-800. Fortunately though, it turns out that the three seats on row 13, the first overwing exit row, are all completely free. So I quickly settle into 13A. The flight attendant places another gentleman on 13C, apparently they must have two persons on each side sitting on the emergency exit, and we have an empty seat between us. I’m happy!

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The cabin and seats are very clean and modern. The only thing I don’t really like is that the colours are very dark and give the cabin a somewhat gloomy appearance.

Every seat is equipped with a video screen in the back of the seat in front. From what I can tell the selection is more or less the same as on the long-haul flight I took from Tokyo to Sydney.

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DEPARTURE

The flight is slightly delayed departing. Apparently the inbound arrived on time but there were no stands available and the aircraft had to wait for one to become available.

But the delay is no more than 15 minutes or so. We taxi out. There is a further, brief delay as we wait for a Boeing 717 to land, backtrack and eventually exit the runway. And then we’re off.

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The weather for most of the flight is nice. It’s a smooth flight and a cloudless sky right until we reach Adelaide. That’s when it gets windy and the weather deteriorates rapidly, with heavy showers in the area.

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THE MEAL

To eat there is a choice of either an apple or a chicken sandwich with spinach and Dijon mustard. I go with the latter. To drink I have a still water and a cup of coffee. Qantas provide you with a rubbish bag for your meal. I think this is a really neat idea and certainly something they should introduce in Europe.

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ARRIVAL

As previously mentioned, the weather deteriorates rapidly as we near Adelaide until eventually we make our final approach in the most horrible weather. It’s a very bumpy approach and it’s raining cats and dogs.

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It’s only after I reach arrivals that I realise I’ve left my camera on the plane. So I head upstairs again to departures and explain the situation to the guys at security. I ask if I might be let through again to try to retrieve my camera. Fortunately it’s no problem at all. I go through security and immediately head for the gate my flight arrived at. The aircraft is already in the process of boarding for its next flight. Fortunately my camera has already been found and is sitting on the counter. I show the gate agent my passport and she hands me the camera. Thanks a bunch.

I’m not actually staying in Adelaide on this trip. Instead I’m heading out of town into the Barossa valley. No, I’m not a wine connoisseur. I just want some peace and quiet, which is exactly what I find at the Barossa Pavilion, a lovely B&B located about an hour away from Adelaide in town called Lyndoch.

QantasLink, B 717 – Economy Class: Ayers Rock to Alice Springs

Qantaslink_Logo

Airline: QantasLink (National Jet Systems)
Aircraft: Boeing B 717
Cabin: Economy Class
Seat:
2C
From:
Uluru
To:
Alice Springs
Date:
18. August 2013
Departure:
10:35
Arrival:
11:20

BSLASP

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

I leave the Longitude at 09:00. Today we are travelling by multipurpose Bush vehicle to the airport.  The journey takes about 15 minutes to complete.

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CHECK-IN

Uluru airport is a fairly small building on one level. As you enter there are arrivals to the right and the check-in counters to the left. There are separate counters for QantasLink, Virgin and for Jetstar. The concierge at the hotel checked me in the evening before.

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THE LOUNGE

Well, there very simply is none. The departures area is relatively small. But then again the facility only has two gates anyway. In the departures area there is a bar and a souvenir shop selling Uluru memorabilia. But the views are good!

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BOARDING

Boarding starts on time. I exit the building and head towards our aircraft, looking forward to the opportunity to take some photos of my aircraft before I get on board. But alas, some gentleman doing I’m not quite sure what job takes it upon himself to inform me of just how bad a safety hazard I am to the aircraft by my intention to take pictures…Fair enough, I’ll take pictures in Alice, where I’m sure they probably won’t be quite so anal.

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By the way, it turns out that the gate agent scanning the boarding passes as we board is also one of the cabin crew on the flight. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before!

THE CABIN

The cabin on this bird is in fairly good shape, although it’s quite apparent that it is well used. There are stains on the seat (Do I want to know of what?) but other than that everything seems in working order.

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DEPARTURE

The engines start up and we backtrack to the end of runway 13. It’s really quite amazing just how quiet the B717 is when you’re sitting on row two. Even when the aircraft accelerates for take-off the engines are barely audible.

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THE MEAL

The meal service on this flight is probably the biggest surprise, especially considering that the flight has an expected block time of only 40 minutes. Every passenger receives a packet with two soft biscuits – dark chocolate and white chocolate with nuts – a cup of water, crackers and a slice of cheese which tastes mostly like a cheddar.

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ARRIVAL

I’m just swallowing the last of the crackers and cheese when the throttles are pushed back and our aircraft dips its nose for the descent into Alice Springs. And shortly thereafter we land.

Like in Uluru, we have to backtrack to reach the entrance to the apron. I disembark and take a few pictures of my aircraft. As expected, nobody really seems to mind. Next stop: Adelaide.

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Uluru and Kata Tjuta

My posts normally include pictures of airlines and aircraft at some stage. And perhaps some of you may wonder what on earth the attraction is for me in spending hours on end in a metal tube careening through the sky. Of course, I confess freely that I really do enjoy flying for the sake of flying. More than anything though, it’s the places the aircraft take me to  that matter, places like Uluru.

– William

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Virgin Australia, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Sydney to Ayers Rock

virgin_australia_mustangSally

Airline: Virgin Australia
Aircraft:
Boeing B 737-800
Cabin:
Business Class
Seat:
1A
From:
Sydney
To:
Ayers Rock – Uluru
Date:
15. August 2013
Departure:
10:00
Arrival:
13:15

BSLAYQ

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

The transfer in Sydney could not be easier, even if, like me, you’re connecting from a Qantas flight to a Virgin Australia service. As you come out of customs, turn left and keep on going to the far end of the arrivals concourse. That’s where Virgin have their transfer desks. At check-in you will receive your boarding pass and a voucher that gives you a free ride on the airport shuttle between the international and the domestic terminal.

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The journey takes about 10 minutes to complete.

CHECK-IN

I would recommend to anybody to do check-in at the international terminal, as the domestic terminal is packed when I arrive, with the queues moving only very slowly.

THE LOUNGE

The Virgin lounge is located on the right hand side as you come out of security. It’s quite a funky and attractive lounge. But alas, it’s also quite busy, so I have to restrain myself with the picture taking.

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BOARDING

Boarding starts on time, with an initial call for passengers in Business Class and passengers requiring assistance. So I grab the opportunity to board first and take at least one picture of the cabin before the pushing and shoving fully sets in.

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I am greeted at the door by two very friendly flight attendants, and I am quite impressed that they check the boarding pass of every passenger and make a point of addressing them by name to welcome them aboard.

THE CABIN

The cabin of this B 737-800 is decked out with the new interior, which features what I call the triple seven style overhead bins. There is a dedicated Business Class cabin of two rows, which is separated from the main cabin by a bulkhead with a violet coloured glass screen. After take-off, the Business Class cabin is cordoned off.

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For inflight entertainment there is a tablet in every seat pocket, with a selection of films and music and a rather funky looking set of earphones.

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SERVICE

Service begins with a welcome drink while we’re still on the ground. There is a choice of orange juice or still water.

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DEPARTURE

We leave the gate more or less on time. There is, however, a slight delay for departure, as we have to wait for a whole line up of widebodies to depart ahead of us. Once we do take-off, the views are simply spectacular.

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THE MEAL

Once we’re airborne, the cabin crew come to take orders for drinks and the main meal. I have a Coke Zero, which is served with a small ramekin of spicy warm nuts.

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The meal is served in two parts. The first course is a very tasty cauliflower soup. This is served with warm bread. The tray arrives with a small dish of butter, salt and pepper and the dessert already on it.

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For the main I go with the salad of beetroot, spinach and Feta cheese with a raspberry dressing, which is indeed very tasty and blends in perfectly with the Virgin brand colours.

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And then to end, I tackle the dessert – black forest gâteau – with a cup of coffee. And after that, I start to dose off. You can hardly blame me, I think…

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ARRIVAL

At some point the lead flight attendant comes on the blower to inform us that we are about to begin the descent into Uluru. Without wanting to put too fine a point on it, I have, in the past, been accused of talking too much. But there are those rare occasions when even I am lost for words and left simply speechless – like today. It catches you quite unawares. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Uluru appears before my eyes and it is truly magnificent.

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CONCLUSION

I am writing this part of my journey from my ‘tent’ at the Longitude 131 hotel. When I look up, I have an unobstructed view of Uluru – and I still can’t fully grasp that I am finally here. It is like experiencing a dreamtime.

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