Qantas, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Townsville to Sydney via Brisbane

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 wasn’t even aware I had!

Getting to the Airport

The journey to the airport takes about ten minutes by car. After all, it’s 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 I’ve 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.

The Lounge

Once I’m through security, I only have ten minutes before boarding starts. But I’m 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. It’s only once I settle in my seat that I realise it’s raining quite heavily outside.

The 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.

The Crew

The maître 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.

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 we’re 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. There’s also some awfully healthy looking packed thingy, which I decide to steer clear of.

Later on, the maître 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 there’s anything else they’d 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 language…

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: ‘a piece of underwear or bottom part of a bikini with a very narrow piece of cloth at the back’. So basically, it’s 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 ‘a strict no thongs policy’ in the lounge that she’s asking me to respect. Of course, what she’s 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 all been on longer sectors, on which the meal concept was somehow always a bit odd. So it’s good to see that this is not the case here.

To me QANTAS’ biggest selling point are definitely their crews, which are friendly, properly trained and really do represent ‘the spirit of Australia’.

Qantas, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Perth to Brisbane

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Introduction

At this point you’re probably wondering why the heck I didn’t just fly directly from Bangkok to Brisbane, instead of taking the detour through Perth. It’s a long story and I’m not even going to attempt to explain. It has something to do with a compulsion for flying, a fascination with aeroplanes and probably some deeply rooted neurosis a psychologist would likely have a field day with…

Getting to the Airport

To get to the airport, I take the bus line 935, which makes the journey in about 30 minutes. The fare is AUD4.70 and the bus stop is literally across the road from the hotel. In the photo below, my hotel is the tall building in the background.

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Check-in

I’ve checked in using the QANTAS app. If you’re checking in at the airport, QANTAS have these very funky self-service check-in machines at which you can check yourself in, issue the baggage tags and drop off your baggage. It nearly makes me wish I had more than just hand luggage!

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The Lounge

There is a separate queue for Business Class passengers for security. The process is swift and efficient. From security I head straight for the QANTAS lounge.

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I really do think QANTAS seriously has the best lounges of all airlines. Ever. In the world. And the lounge here in Perth is no exception. It’s beautifully appointed and offers a wide range of seating options. Even the loos have style!

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There is a large buffet with an extensive selection of hot and cold dishes. Apart from that, there is a coffee station where they make excellent coffee and a separate drinks bar. Oh yeah, and the apron views are pretty good too!

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Boarding

Boarding for my flight is from gate 14. Business Class passengers use the L1 door of the aircraft to board, while all others use the L2 door. From what I can tell, the flight is completely sold out in Business.

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The Cabin

Qantas operates the A 330-200 in two different configurations. There is one version with a seating capacity of 199 in Economy and 36 in Business Class and another with a seating capacity of 243 in Economy and 28 in Business Class. The lower-density configuration is used primarily on international services but is also deployed on domestic routes, while the higher density configuration is only used on domestic services and to New Zealand.

The international configuration has the Qantas Skybed, which is sufficiently comfortable but offers very little storage space and is really quite ugly to look at. This configuration has angled lie-flat seats that are 21.5 inches in width and have a pitch of 60 inches. The seats are in a 2 + 2 + 2 layout.

The domestic configuration is definitely much nicer and obviously newer. This is a completely lie-flat seat, width is also at 21.5 inches. Stretched out into the bed position, the seat is 78 inches long. The seats are laid out in a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration. On uneven numbered rows, the A, F and K seats are aisle seats. While on even numbered rows only the E seat is directly on the aisle.

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Apart from the fact that it looks much nicer, the domestic configuration also provides a lot more storage space. And fortunately for me, today’s flight is operated by an aircraft in the domestic configuration.

The Crew

There are four female cabin crew working the Business Class cabin. They’re friendly enough I guess, but their interaction comes across as being slightly put on. But at least they are very professional in the way they deal with the passengers. But I have to say, throughout the flight the crew come through the cabin repeatedly to make sure passenger are hydrated and have something to drink, which is something for example the Thai crews didn’t do.

While we’re still on the ground, welcome drinks are served. There is a choice between wine, water and some cranberry juice spritzer, the name of which I didn’t catch.

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The Meal

The meal service is something I never really quite get about QANTAS. I’m assuming they think is very stylish and sophisticated. I just think it’s weird and more than just a little pretentious. The menu has a choice of two starters, four main courses and two desserts, which is quite extensive I think, especially on a domestic flight. But the things they have on the menu are just slightly odd.

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First Course

For the starter I go with the mozzarella with grilled radicchio, green beans and crushed hazelnuts. This is rather unusual and quite good. So far so good. The dish is served with a minute side order of salad and two slices of sourdough bread.

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The Salad

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The Main Course

For the main course I have the chicken parmigiana, which is also quite good but just looks slightly forlorn, sitting on the plate with just a slice of lemon and nothing else. I mean, some sort of side dish might have been nice.

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Dessert

And then for dessert I have the cheesecake with berries.

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I spend the rest of the flight watching an Australian film called ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert’, which I can highly recommend. The film is not that recent, but I thought it was hilariously funny in a tragic sort of way.

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Arrival

Eventually we land after a flight time of just over four hours. The approach is spectacular and brings us in right past the city of Brisbane on our left.

The temperature is more or less the same as in Perth, but it’s definitely more humid here.

Getting into Town

In Brisbane I’m picking up a rental car. My first stop is a small town on the Sunshine Coast that goes by the name of Mooloolaba and which has a lovely sandy beach. I have to say, it really does feel so nice to swim in the sea and feel the heat of the sun on my body again. With the rubbish weather we’ve had back home recently, I’d started to forget what the sun even looked like!

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Qantas, Business Class – A 330-300: Brisbane to Hong Kong

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Introduction

It is time to start the long journey home. Today I shall be travelling from Brisbane to Hong Kong, where I will spend two nights before I continue to Europe.

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Getting to the Airport

Transport: Taxi.
Journey time: 25 minutes.
Fare: AUD40.- My flight this morning will be leaving at 10:50. So I have enough time to have one last tasty breakfast at the hotel. My taxi arrives to pick me up at 08:30.

Check-in

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Location: Rows 9 and 10.
Counters: There are four dedicated Business Class counters, all of which are staffed. There is a bit of queue for check-in at the Business Class counters this morning. This is mainly due to a large family of Chinese travelling with a hideous amount of luggage. There are boxes, suitcases and trolleys all over the place. And kids. Everywhere. What is more, I suspect that of the eight people standing there, only about half are in fact flying. The others are just there to add to the general chaos. My suitcase is checked in to Hong Kong and labelled with a priority tag. The check-in agent prints my boarding pass and hands me an express card to get me through the fast track at security and immigration. I will also have to complete an embarkation card. From check-in I head for departures, which is clearly marked by a huge yellow arch. I pass through the arch and go down stairs, where the security check and immigration take place.

The Qantas Club Lounge

The Qantas lounge is located opposite gate 80. Currently the airport is undergoing reconstruction. But everything is clearly signposted.

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Location: Airside, one floor up from the departure gates.
Type of Lounge:
Dedicated Qantas lounge.
Facilities:
A large selection of hot and hold dishes and drinks, work stations, toilets, showers
Internet:
– The lounge is fairly small and rather crowded when I arrive. Apart from my flight to Hong Kong, there is another A 330-300 heading for Singapore, a Boeing 747-400 bound for Los Angeles and there is also the Cathay Pacific flight which, presumably, also uses the Qantas lounge. The lounge offers some good views of arriving aircraft, which glide past the terminal before eventually touching down.

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The lounge has all the amenities one can expect. Moreover, I am somewhat surprised by the generous breakfast offerings in the lounge, which certainly put the SWISS Senator lounge in Zürich Airport to shame.

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Boarding

Boarding for the flight starts about forty minutes before departure. There is a separate queue for Business Class passengers and status card holders. The first call is for families with children, followed by Business Class passengers, and then passengers sitting in the rear Economy Class cabin.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 2
Seat: The Qantas seat may not necessarily look very attractive, but it is very comfortable as a seat and bed. When fully extended, it is of the angled lie-flat type – although the angle is not uncomfortable. The hard back of the seat is very high, so once you extend the seat into a bed, you feel as though you are lying in a cocoon. It is very private for a Business Class seat. In addition, there is also a privacy screen on every pair of seats. However, I tried it out and I really must say it is mostly useless because the screen is simply too small. It is also superfluous because once you are in the lying position, you would have to lean up anyway to take a look at your neighbour. Apart from a pillow and blanket, Qantas also provides a thin mattress to place over the seat, and once the aircraft is airborne and the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off, the crew pass through the cabin asking passengers if they would like to have the mattress placed on the seat. Perhaps the seat’s biggest drawback is the complete lack of storage space for your personal belongings, which is inconvenient. There is a holder for magazines in the side of the back of the seat, but this is not even wide enough to place my tiny MacBookAir 11’ in.
Pitch: 60 inches.
Width: 21 inches.
Facilities: Reading lamp, magazine holder, electricity outlet.
Length as a bed:
Audio and Video: Touchscreen AVOD – there are about thirty films available to choose from. However, the selection is a bit odd.

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The Crew

The service on this flight is excellent and restores my faith in Business Class flying, following my really crap experience with Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane. The crew are all quite senior and very friendly and very professional.

Amenities

Before we depart, the vanity kits are distributed. A menu has already been placed at every seat before the passengers start boarding.

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After take-off, the inflight service manager – ISM (M., please note the funky abbreviation, nearly as good as the POC…) introduces himself and the crew. He addresses every passenger by name as he distributes the landing cards for Hong Kong.

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The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Choice of orange juice, water or champagne.
Hot towel before the meal: Served while still on the ground.
Pre-meal drink: Ginger Ale, served with a packet of cashew nuts and pretzels.
Choice: Three starters, four main courses, four desserts.
Type of meal: Lunch.

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The Salad

Garden leaves with balsamico dressing.

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The First Course

Blue cheese, walnuts, baby beans and tomato salad with pickled onions. The starter is excellent, it is very tasty and flavourful. The blue cheese goes really very well with the walnuts, which seem to be slightly caramelised and sweet.

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The Main Course

Roasted eggplant and silverbeet lasagne with cucumber, tomato and feta salad. The main course takes quite a while to arrive, in fact by the time I receive my dish, my neighbour has nearly already demolished his plate. But the flavours of the dish are really excellent. The combination of the hot vegetable lasagne with the cold cucumber, tomato and feta works really well. There is also a vinaigrette with the dish which works rather nicely.

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The Cheese

Selection of cheese served with accompaniments and a glass of sweet wine. After the main course I have some cheese, there is a blue cheese and a Camembert. The cheese is served with a selection crackers, a date and some fog bread.

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The set up of the meal service is interesting in that there is no tray. Instead, the crew place a tablecloth and then a napkin with the cutlery rolled up in it a side plate for the bread and the side salad. The dressing for the salad in added by the cabin crew before serving, and there is a choice of two different dressings. With the meal I just have still water to drink. All in all this was a really good airplane meal. The tastes and combinations were interesting, especially the main course was unusual. I only have to complaints really, if I may. First of all, the service takes ages to begin after take off and when eventually it does, it takes a very long time to complete the whole service. The other point is the cutlery. Good heavens, I know it is Alessi design and all that, but who on earth picked that stuff for Qantas? The cutlery sits badly in the hand and apart from all that, it just looks ugly. I finish the meal with a cup of mint tea, which is served with a small Valrhona dark chocolate stick.

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After the meal I settle in for a nap and only awake three hours later as the second service begins.

The Second Service

The second service starts fifty minutes out of Hong Kong. It is simple but effective. I rather liked it. Basically there are three dishes to choose from. Each one is served in one of those boxes they normally use in Chinese take-aways. I know it may sound a bit strange, but I thought it was rather a good idea. And it is very tasty too. I have the Rigatoni Arrabiata with green olives, capers, broccoli and Parmesan. Delicious!

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Arrival

By the time we reach Hong Kong, the sun is already setting. There is a lot of haze in the air today. Even so, it truly is a very beautiful approach and we descend over some of the outlying islands of Hong Kong.

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Getting into Town

Transport: Hong Kong Airport Express.
Departs from: Terminals 1 and 2.
Frequency: Every six minutes.
Journey time: 24 minutes to Central on Hong Kong Island, with intermediate stops in Tsing Yi and Kowloon.
Fare: HKD100.- To reach the city, I take the Hong Kong Airport Express to Central, from where I will continue my journey to the Hotel Indigo using the MTR. Note that the ticket machines do not accept credit cards. If you are out of cash, you will have to purchase your ticket at the counter, which normally has quite a queue.

Conclusion

This was a very enjoyable flight with Qantas from Brisbane to Hong Kong. The crew were not even overly friendly. But they were competent and they did their job properly. The food was very tasty, with good sized portions too. I also very much liked the seat, at least from the comfort perspective. Now if only there were more storage space… This flight really was in stark contrast to my previous experience on Malaysia Airlines in Business Class on my way from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane.

Qantas, Business Class – B 747-400: Tokyo Narita to Sydney

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Airlines: QANTAS
Aircraft:
Boeing B 747-400
Cabin:
Business Class
Seat:
11K
From:
Tokyo Narita
To:
Sydney
Date:
14. August 2013
Departure:
20:30
Arrival:
07:05 (+1)

BSLSYD

Getting to the Airport

Check-out for the day rooms at the Narita Hilton is at 18:00, which gives me about two and a half hours to take a shower and have a rest – and watch the planes. I’m fortunate enough to have a room on the top floor overlooking the approach to runway 16R.

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At 18:15 the shuttle pulls up outside to take me back to Narita’s Terminal 2 for the flight to Sydney. The photos really don’t do the bus justice, but the interior is brilliant and very seventies, complete with chandeliers and draped blue curtains. The journey takes about 15 minutes to complete.

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Check-in

Check-in is done by JAL for Qantas in Narita. And tonight it’s unusually chaotic, particularly given that this is Japan, where normally everything works like clockwork.

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I am assigned seat 11B, an aisle seat on the first row of the upper deck. The flight is not full though and once we’re airborne and the seatbelt sign is turned off, I move across to 11K and have the whole row of two to myself.

The Lounge

Qantas operates its own lounge in Tokyo, which is located on the second floor of the satellite concourse of Terminal 2 adjacent to gate 82, from where my flight will be leaving tonight. The lounge offers some great views of the aircraft. Unfortunately though, being dark I’m unable to take any decent pictures.

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The food selection in the lounge is good, with a combination of Asian and Western dishes and the ubiquitous soft drinks machines.

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Boarding

Boarding for the 20:30 departure already starts at 19:55. By the looks of it it’s not going to be a full flight tonight.

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The Cabin

The cabin is much nicer than I expected it would be from the pictures I found on the net, and Qantas has obviously put a lot of thought into providing sufficient storage space in the cabin on the upper deck.

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The Crew

As soon as I take my seat, one of the flight attendants comes to welcome me to the flight and asks me if there’s anything I’d like to drink. As usual it’s an orange juice for me.

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Shortly before departure hot towels are distributed.

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Amenities

The seat is equipped with a small bottle of Vittel mineral water, earphones, a thin cover for the seat and a blanket. Before we push back, one of the crew brings me a vanity kit and the famous grey Qantas pyjamas.

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Seriously, who on earth designed these things? I am given a size L/XL. I change in the toilet and can only pray that the lights have already been dimmed by the time I come out again so as not to make a spectacle of myself. The pants are rather tight, to say the least…

By the way, what’s missing is some sort of inflight magazine. Do they actually have one?

The Meal

The meal begins with the drinks orders. I’m having another Ginger Ale. This stuff is starting to grow on me. No peanuts or anything of the sort are served with the drink.

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The entire meal service takes an eternity to complete, for no apparent reason. It also strikes me that although the crew are really quite personable and friendly, the whole experience seems somehow a bit soulless. The composition of the menu for instance seems haphazard and the portion of the dishes is somewhat variable.

The table is set up with a tablecloth, followed by a side plate which contains the cutlery, salt and pepper, butter and a side salad. The salad is tiny and even the flight attendant comments that it’ll be hard trying to make that last for more than two mouthfuls.

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First Course

Miso soup with shitake mushroom and wakame.

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There is only one bread round and judging by the content of the basket, a second round is not envisaged.

The Main Course

For the main I have the Gnocchi with a tomato sauce and grilled pumpkin and sautéed leeks. I must say, this tastes very good, the portion is decently sized and the meal is still hot when it arrives at my seat.

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Dessert

It takes the crew quite a while to come to remove my dish. Actually I suspect they may have forgotten about me. The flight attendant is eager to make amends though and asks me if I’ll be having dessert, which he brings me straight away. And this really is divine: chocolate and caramel tart in a short crust pastry with a dollop of crème fraîche. Lovely!

Once that has been demolished, I settle in for a short nap before breakfast.

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The Second Service

Ninety minutes before we land the mood lights go on again and feign a sunrise at lighting speed.

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The breakfast service begins. Again I am struck by the somewhat odd combination of things on offer. Fresh fruit in passion fruit juice with a dollop of yoghurt, orange juice, filter coffee and a salmon onigiri. Don’t get me wrong, I like onigiri, especially the salmon ones. But it just seems like a strange thing to serve on a breakfast flight.

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Again the meal is not served on a tray.

Arrival

Once the meal is done, I start packing all my belongings that I have managed to spread around all over the place during the flight.

The approach into Sydney is truly spectacular and brings us in right above the city. We head out towards the open sea, passing Bondi Beach on the left hand side, before doing a wide right turn to line up for landing.

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Fortunately I have an express card for immigration from Qantas, which should save me some time. You see, I have a connection from the domestic terminal. You didn’t seriously think I’d be done after only three flights, did you?