Aircraft: Boeing B 747-400
Cabin: Business Class
From: Tokyo Narita
Date: 14. August 2013
Arrival: 07:05 (+1)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The food selection in the lounge is good, with a combination of Asian and Western dishes and the ubiquitous soft drinks machines.
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.
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.
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.
Shortly before departure hot towels are distributed.
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.
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 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.
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.
Miso soup with shitake mushroom and wakame.
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.
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.
The Second Service
Ninety minutes before we land the mood lights go on again and feign a sunrise at lighting speed.
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.
Again the meal is not served on a tray.
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.
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?