Andes

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We flew with KLM’s Boeing 777-300ER (ER = Extended range) from Buenos Aires to Santiago in Chile, so as to connect with the Qantas B 747 to Sydney.

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All went well until we reached the Andes when I realised that I’d left my camera in the overhead bag, and I was sitting in the centre seat of three in economy.
If I asked the passenger next to me to move, so as to allow me to find my camera we’d have missed the Andes and more than likely on landing approach to Santiago, so I used Maureen’s phone.

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I am unable to ID any of the mountains . . .

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I clicked away like mad, but many are uninteresting so I’ve just picked five.

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As a passenger looking out it was quite spectacular, as you can see we had a beautiful clear sky.

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Santiago, Chile, we were in transit at the airport for two and a half hours.

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The flight from Santiago was fourteen hours, and after crossing the dateline into the following, day we arrived home.
I never get tired of photographing the view of Sydney harbour.

 

The Good the Bad and the Danger, of flying with over 40 different airlines.

 

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Over fifty-five years of flying as a passenger, with comments on various airlines that I have used. In alphabetical order, not in historical order.

I flew part way across the Pacific Ocean in the above aircraft, and years later I found her at a small aerodrome near where I live – no longer in service.

My flying experiences began in the early 60’s when I flew to / from the Far East from the UK to either join a ship or to fly home on leave.

Aer Lingus

Aer LingusFlew trans Atlantic with them from Manchester via Dublin and Shannon to New York in the early 70’s. The next time I used them was in 2009 from London to Dublin. They were pleasant flights.
I did find it a little odd in Dublin on the way to the US that after using the toilets I opened the wrong exit door and ended up in the street. Fortunately I was able to get back in to the building as I was ‘in transit’. This was well before the high security system that we have today.

Air Asia

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Flown with them around Asia and found them to be very good, particularly as their fares are so low.

Air France

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I worked for BOAC at Manchester Airport when Air France offered £7.00 (return) tickets to Paris to advertise their new service. Maureen & I took advantage of a weekend in Paris.

Air Nauru

Air Nauru 737-200 C2-RN6 (70)(Grd) SYD (RFY)(46)-L

In another life I had to visit a number of the Pacific island, and Nauru was one of them, and Air Nauru was the only direct flight from Sydney. Sometimes they left on time and at other times they waited for the Nauru President.
The one thing I remember about flying with this airline was that they insisted on putting the red wine in the fridge, and they would leave the white wine out in the tropical heat. They parked their aircraft in lay-by in Nauru, and the main road passed between the aircraft and the taxi way. A little odd, but it was a Pacific solution.

Air New Zealand

ANZ

I’ve flown with them in the 80’s & 90’s from Sydney & Auckland to Fiji & Western Samoa – never had a complaint.

Air Pacific

Air Pacic 1990

Not a bad airline, flown with them for short journeys between the Pacific Islands, such as W. Samoa to Fiji, or Fiji to Tonga in the late 1980’s.

Air Vanuatu

Air VanuatuOnly used them once between Sydney and Port Vila.

Alitalia

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London to Venice to join a passenger ship in 1965 – haven’t used them since. I sat next to a very attractive lady and we spent the flight discussing perfumes – she was only in transit in Venice, never saw her again.

Ansett

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Flew Sydney to Melbourne for the first time in the early 70’s – Ansett always seemed to be a happy airline. Flew with them many times later after we emigrated in 1980.

AOM

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In another life (different from the first ‘other’ life) I was involved with AOM as their GSA (General Sales Agent) and I flew with them from Sydney to Noumea in New Caledonia. Nice leather seats in business class.
The DC 10 was not a particularly profitable aircraft for the Paris, Colombo, Sydney, Noumea run.

Australian Airlines (also known as TAA – Trans Australian Airlines)

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An Australian domestic carrier – (early 80’s), I used either this airline or Ansett.

Austrian Airlines (when I flew with them they were called Lauda Air)

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Sydney to Manchester via Vienna, it was a very pleasant trip.
Due to the long transit in Vienna all transit passengers were offered a tour of the city. We were not allowed off the bus, but it was a pleasant way to use two to three hours before the Vienna to Manchester flight.
On the return flight they had engine trouble in Manchester and we were delayed for some hours. Eventually we left Manchester and I realised that we had missed the connection in Vienna to Australia.
There were a number of passengers in the same situation. The cabin crew told us over the public address system not to worry because they had booked us all on the Lufthansa flight from Vienna to Frankfurt, to connect with the Lufthansa Frankfurt to Sydney service. Being in the airline industry I called the stewardess and whispered that Lufthansa didn’t fly to Australia, did she mean the Qantas flight QF 05 ?
She insisted that it was Lufthansa. So I left it at that. In Frankfurt I boarded the QF 5 for Sydney. It did carry a code share LH number so I suppose we were both correct.

BMI – used to be called just British Midland.

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They were code share with Malaysian Airlines between Edinburgh and London, so technically I was flying Malaysian Airlines, not British Midland, because I had a Malaysian ticket. The flight was OK, I’d use the again.

British European Airways (BEA)

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Flew with them domestically UK.

British Overseas Airways Corporation – BOAC

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In the early 70’s flew Manchester to New York on the VC 10 – at that time nobody had TV or overhead films. We spoke to our neighbour or read, because we didn’t have an iPad, IPhone, laptop, computer and an old fashioned Kindle was called a book.

BOAC 707I also flew London to Singapore via Rome, Beirut, Bahrain, Bombay, Rangoon, Kuala Lumpur and eventually Singapore. This type of routing was normal in the 1960’s.
Later the airline changed to British Airways, when it merged with BEA.

During the late 1980’s I was fortunate to fly Concorde, London to New York on my way back to Australia, via the US west coast. When flying Concorde you do see the curvature of the Earth and the deep blue of space. You can feel yourself pressed in to your seat as you go through the sound barrier – but you don’t hear anything, because you have left the sound behind.

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Of course I mustn’t forget the workhorse of most airlines – flew Sydney – London, return quite a few times.

B747

Boeing 747

Cathay Pacific

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Flew Melbourne to Hong Kong & return. It was very pleasant, and plenty of room in economy.

Emirates 

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Flew with them last year from Sydney to Rome – very disappointed with the on board service, particularly after all the hype, and we were flying business class as a treat.

 

Finnair

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Business class from Bangkok to Helsinki. Very pleasant flight, excellent cabin service, good food and wines, but the AVOD was very poor with limited entertainment value.
On the return between Helsinki & Bangkok, we were offered reindeer steaks, so told the grandchildren that Rudolph was very tasty – not one of my better ideas.

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We flew from Helsinki to Venice, packed tight because the configuration was all economy.

Iberia 

IberiaVery cramped from Madrid to Lisbon – we renamed this airline Air Sardinia due to the lack of room. My legs were in the aisle most of the flight, because I was bothered that the seat in front if angled back would damage my knees. To be fair, the return flight was quite good with plenty of legroom.

Iran Air

Iran airNot one of my favourite airlines.

I paid off a ship in Khorramshahr, which is in Iran, and drove to Abadan (nearest airport) to fly Iran Air to Tehran, and then BOAC to the UK.
This trip from Abadan sticks in my mind due to the huge amount of hand baggage that the passengers were allowed to carry on board. Including one guy who had a small primus stove.
After we had taken off, and the seat belt sign had been switched off, the passenger with the primus squatted in the aisle and lit the stove to make himself some tea.
The surrounding passengers didn’t react. I could see him in the aisle a few seats ahead of me, and as I unfastened my safety belt so as to go and tell him to put the stove out, there was a blared movement of a stewardess moving from the for’d part of the aircraft to the tea maker.
I’ve never seen a cabin crewmember move so fast before or since. We landed safely and the primus passenger didn’t get his tea.

Japan Airlines

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Flew business class Sydney / Tokyo in the late 80’s and found that the Japanese Airlines business class seat to be as large as Qantas’ economy seats. Being 188 cm (6ft 2 in) I was disappointed in the space available in business class on this airline. I am sure things have changed in the last thirty years.

Jetstar

JetstarSydney to the Sunshine Coast for a holiday in 2007 – the trip was ninety minutes, and that was about as much as I could take due to the cramped seats. I suppose one gets what one pays for, and as the ticket was cheap it was an experience.

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Flew business class, Bali to Sydney a year or so ago, it was a night flight so slept most of the way, but I doubt that we will use this airline again.

KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines

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We flew Cityhopper from Frankfurt to Amsterdam, and then on to Norwich in the UK. Couldn’t fault the service or the aircraft, which was a Fokker 70.

Laos Air

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Flew Chiang Mai (Thailand) to Luang Prabang (Laos) and couldn’t fault the trip. Laos Air flies French built aircraft, which were well maintained.
Later I flew from Luang Prabang to Vientiane (capital of Laos), again a good flight, but had the feeling that the pilot might have just left the air force, and that he was used to fighter planes. It was the way he landed a steep dive and  – BANG we were down!

Malaysian Airlines

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I think I have flown with Malaysian Airlines more times than with any other airline. Over the years I have noticed a falling off of their standard of economy service – I fly mostly economy, but have flown twice in business class (to Europe) and on both occasions I couldn’t fault the service.
The problem is that I have the impression that accountants are now running this airline instead of airline people – which is a shame because most of the staff that I have met have, (all but one), been very helpful and keen to help.
Malaysian Airlines was classed, not so long ago, as a five star airline, but they have slipped and are no longer rated by Skytrax, (under review). Unfortunately, since about 2011, they have slipped down and down.
For old times sake, and to see what has happened, we will be flying Malaysian Airlines from Tokyo to Sydney in April 2018, because I am keen to see if  the fall from grace has stopped – and the ticket cost was attractive..

Northwest Airlines

NowestIn 1970 my wife & I were on our way home from Australia after our delayed honeymoon, and we had tickets with Northwest from Honolulu to New York, where we would catch the B.O.A.C flight to Manchester.
Northwest was kind enough to upgrade us to business class (no idea why), but it was very nice. Sat down and the stewardess came up and offered us drinks, which I accepted and tasted, it contained gin, which I hate. I returned the glass and mentioned that the drink contained gin and I didn’t like gin.
The glass was removed and a rum based drink was placed in front of me – layers of different coloured rum, topped up with ice & Coke in a very tall glass.
I took off before the aircraft.
Our first stop was Chicago – I didn’t realise that the DC 8 had the range, but we arrived several hours later – at that time the airlines didn’t have TV or overhead films, and definitely no AVOD!
Arrival in Chicago was a shock after the heat of Honolulu – heavy snow. An hour or so transit and it was off to New York (economy) again more snow, before boarding the BOAC flight for Manchester.

QANTAS

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What a fall from grace for this airline, now rated as a four star airline. When I worked for BOAC / BA, Qantas were considered to be the standard of service to which we should aim. They were held in very high esteem, but sadly have fallen a long way due to the ‘you have to fly with us’ attitude – they forgot about the Asian carriers who offered better service, at cheaper rates.
Only recently have Qantas started to come back and offer customer service. I stopped flying with QF in the mid 1990’s because of their attitude, but they are now offering good ticket prices and I hear that the service is a lot better. Generational change perhaps.

May I suggest that the current crop of senior Qantas managers stay out of making political statements and concentrate on running the airline for the benefit of their employees, shareholders and passengers.

Qatar Airways

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I first flew Qatar Airways in 2012. I researched business class tickets from nearly every origin around Australia, New Zealand & Asia. Being retired allows me time to do this type of research.
By combining an economy ticket to Asia and business class ticket from Asia to Europe (the long haul bit) we managed to get a through fare for around $2800, mainly business class.
We used Malaysian Airlines, in economy, to Kuala Lumpur, stayed overnight, and then flew with Sri Lanka Air to Colombo. The business class experience of flying with Qatar Airways was the best experience on an aircraft that I have had for years.

Year after year this airline is consistently in the top three or four airlines for overall service and it listed as a five star airline.
In 2016 Maureen and I had enough frequent flyer points to ‘buy’ a business class ticket from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur. A quick phone call to Qatar Airlines in Doha and all was fixed, without any comment of ‘blackout’ dates, and the lady I spoke to apologised that they could not give me business class between Dubai and Doha, but they would upgrade us to first class without charge. The flight was just over an hour, but the focus on customer service left certain other airlines well behind.

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It’s a toss up whether I prefer the new B 787 or the B 777 for space and comfort – both are very good.

Samoan Airlines

Samoa AirSome of the passengers were weighed and some of us were not. The aircraft was small so every kilo was counted and the Western Samoans are known for their size.
The flight from Apia to Pago Pago in American Samoa was not long, about fifteen minutes, but it was still an international flight.
The baggage was stowed behind the last passenger.

Singapore Airlines

SQSingapore Airlines has become the benchmark for a number of competitors and they are only one of the ten – five star airlines (March 2018).

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Asiana Airlines

Cathay Pacific

Etihad Airlines

EVA Airlines

Garuda Indonesia – what a leap this airline has made from being banned in European skies to being one of the best airlines in the world.

Hainan Airlines

Lufthansa

Qatar Airlines

Singapore Airlines

Only one airline is not from the Middles East or Asia. There’s a message there for those airline CEOs who can read the future for western airlines.

The flying public judge each airline, and through airline customer feedback, via neutral Skytrax, they are rated.
I’d flown with SQ (code for Singapore Airlines) during their B707 period in the 1960’s when I was at sea.
In 2007 eight of us planned a trip to Vietnam, so I checked the various discount airlines for a ‘good’ price. The actual discounted tickets were cheaper than the standard airlines, but after you added in various charges for meals, baggage handling, entertainment and a few drinks, I found that SQ basic economy fare was cheaper than the discount airlines with all their add-on bits, so we flew SQ to Vietnam.
Because we flew SQ, we decided to stay three nights on our way home in Singapore. This stopover entitled us to a discount off our hotel, plus we had a free bus tour of the island and discounts to various places of interest, just by showing our boarding pass from Vietnam to Singapore.

Sri Lankan Airlines (used to be called Air Lanka)

SriLankan-Airlines-Airbus-A330-200Flew a number time between Malaysia & Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Plenty of room in economy seating, and I did enjoy the food – always had a choice of fish or vegetables curry. I used to alternate between them because I love Sri Lanka curries.

Sun Flower Airlines – a mix of airlines.

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In the 1980’s I used to visit a number of Pacific Islands (someone had to do it), and I flew from Sydney to Nauru, with Air Nauru, (B737) then on to Tarawa in Kiribati (again on Air Nauru’s B737, they only had one aircraft).

Kiribati used to be called Gilbert Islands, and then on to Funafuti the capital of Tuvalu (which used to be called Ellis Islands) via Air Marshall HS 748.
Each aircraft was getting smaller and smaller –
The picture below shows the Air Marshall HS 748, in which I flew from Tarawa to Funafuti. The green bit is the runway . . .

Airline of the Marshall Islands

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On reaching Funafuti we buzzed the airfield because it was only a grass strip and the local boys were using it for a game of football. It was quite funny to see them run to the side as we bounced along their pitch.
The aircraft came to a halt in front of a small concrete structure.

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The customs ‘hall’ was a concrete open sided small building, not much larger than the average garage, where our passports were inspected. The inspection table was concrete and the seat bench behind, for the inspector, was also concrete.
On leaving the ‘garage hall’ I noticed a young lady in a half airline uniform (native skirt, but an airline blouse). I spoke to her about my onward flight to Fiji on Monday (my arrival day was Friday). She asked if my name was Woodland and when I acknowledged this, she told me that they were not bringing a plane in just for me, because I was the only one who wanted to leave on Monday, and I was to return to the airport on Wednesday!
Try ringing head office, in Sydney, to tell the CEO that I was stuck on a Pacific island and was forced to stay another couple of days. . . . .
BTW – The highest point in Tuvalu is about eighteen feet. I just hoped we would not be hit by a tsunami.

Sunflower

On the Wednesday I boarded Sunflower Airlines aircraft for the four-hour trip to Suva in Fiji.
The route used to be flown by Fiji Air, but they had aircraft problems and Sunflower was helping them out. The distance is not great, only about 1100 kms, perhaps an hour and a half in a B737. The aircraft in the picture had a cruising speed of about 295 knts – hence the four-hour trip.
It was a memorable flight; the door between the cockpit and the passengers would not shut, so we were able to watch the pilot fly the plane. The co-pilot was also the steward, so after take off from the grass strip of Funafuti the ‘steward’ drags a cardboard box from under the first passenger seat and starts to issued plastic wrapped sandwiches for lunch.
The aircraft-seating configuration was seven seats down each side. So as not to walk the short length of the aircraft the ‘steward’ skimmed the sandwiches through the air and the passengers caught their lunch.
For drinks it was another carton under the seat and this time the steward handed various cans of drink to the passengers, Coke a Cola, orangeade or lemonade. I was given lemonade and was about open it when it was removed from my hand and exchanged for a Coke.
Apparently the passenger across the small aisle didn’t like Coke, so the steward exchanges it for my lemonade, curtesy was not their forte’.
The noise of the engines did not allow for much conversation with the passenger in front, behind or even across the aisle. At least we all had a window seat. The view was interesting until we left the small group of islands of Tuvalu behind, and we had the vast ocean to keep us company.
I am not sure how high we flew, but I could see the tops of waves breaking and the fine spray blown by the wind. From memory we did not have access to a toilet, because the space where it should have been had been used for cargo & our baggage.
I sipped my can of Coke very slowly. . . . On arrival in Suva (not Nadi Int’l), I think we were all very pleased – I know that I was!!

Thai International

TGI like this airline – they are not mean with their drinks – but they do have an odd system of shutting the blinds on leaving Sydney. When I asked why, I was told so that passengers could sleep – this was at 9.00 am and most passengers were origin boarding passengers, so they would have been in bed a few hours earlier.
I’d flown with Thai in the early 80’s when I worked for an Australian company, so it was interesting to note the changes twenty years later. This time I was paying for my own ticket, so of course I was very interested in keeping cost down.
It was an interesting exercise to cost eight tickets from Sydney to Bangkok, paying for them in Sydney, as against buying the same tickets over the internet from Bangkok and saving $60 to $70 a ticket – guess which set of tickets we bought? I love the internet!

United Airlines

800px-United_Boeing_747SP_MaiwaldI’ve only flown once with this airline from Los Angeles to Sydney. This time I was business class and the company was paying for the ticket.
On check-in I asked if the aircraft was non- stop to Sydney, and I was told that it would be non-stop. I then asked for an upstairs seat in business class, which I was given.
After take off I asked the cabin crew where would I find the in-seat video screen (at that time they were normally in the seat arm) and was told that they didn’t offer in seat video upstairs, and all business class seats downstairs were full.
It was going to be a very long flight and I was half way through my last book. The aircraft was ‘tired’ and I had the feeling that United Airlines was a domestic airline trying to fly international routes with domestic cabin staff. They failed to reach the minimum passenger standard for international service levels.
About three hours from Sydney we were told that we would have to divert to Fiji for fuel . . .so much for none stop. I’ve not flown with this airline since.

Vietnam Airline

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Only flown domestic Vietnam with this airline from Ho Cha Min (Saigon) to Hoi An (Da Nang is the airport for Hoi An,) and then on to Hanoi. Both aircrafts were clean and they looked new, and we arrived safely, so I can’t complain.

Virgin Atlantic

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Flown a couple of times with this airline from Sydney to Hong Kong. Both fights (economy) were fine.
The only comment I can make is that the use of UK staff with their regional accents was a nice touch. I have a Merseyside accent, so it wasn’t long before I met a cabin crew Scouser.
Virgin Atlantic no longer fly in or out of Australia.

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia

First time I used this airline was to fly Sydney to Melbourne. A day I remember well, because as we waited in the departure area for the flight to be called, all the passengers stood and watched similar planes crashing in to the Twin Towers of New York.

Vueling Airlines of Spain

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A pleasant flight between Seville and Madrid, with friendly crew.

Sunflower

I never expected to see the above aircraft again – never say never again – it’s in Sydney, or it was some time ago, at Bankstown aerodrome.

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Dubai to Rome

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Breakfast was in the hotel, after which, we were ferried by private Emirate Airline car to the airport, for the final leg of our journey to Rome.

DSC08421rDeparture area in Dubai Airport – very clean and impressive.

We passed through emigration & security & boarded a train for the short ride to the satellite area.
Once in the satellite area we approached the bank of lifts that took us up to the ‘boarding’ area – which was also the shopping area and airline lounges.

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Behind the lifts they had computer controlled fountains to keep you amused while in the lift  . . .

Once inside the Emirates business class lounge we realised how large this area is in comparison to Emirates Sydney – it was huge.

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Just one small area of the lounge which contained much of the food and drink.

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Dedicated area to Gate A 12 (our departure gate), which is within the main lounge area.

Power and internet sockets at every seat – if you wish a waitress will bring you coffee, just ask.

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A view of the public shopping area below – picture taken from within the business class lounge.

When called we made our way to boarding.
Once again, we had ‘staggered’ seats – I was behind Maureen, for the much shorter flight of six hours to Rome.

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As expected we were offered Champaign, along with menus for lunch.
The airport was busy so we had to wait our turn before turning on to the runway for our take-off.

DSC08441rView from the nose camera as we made our take-off run.

Once airborne the cabin staff started preparation for lunch. First course shown below, smoked halibut.

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This was followed by chicken Baharat, with Arabic seven spice – the problem was that I forgot to photograph the main dish, and the sweet course, before eating.

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But the above shows that I liked the pudding . . . . before the coffee.

On arriving at Rome Airport we found our way to the Emirates chauffer area where we met our driver, and because we were not staying in Rome city, but in Civitavecchia, which is the port for Rome, we had to pay an additional fee for the excess kilometers to the port. Considering the cost of a taxi and the level of service I was ‘happy’ to pay the fee. The driver kept a steady speed of about 130 km per hour (81 mph), so the whole trip only took us about 50 minutes.

The trip was very smooth, comfortable and virtually soundless, so conversation within the car was easy.

We’re off !

Our driver arrived five minute early, I do love efficiency, and at 3.00 am we had the fastest drive ever to the airport, which was just over twenty minutes instead of the normal 45 minutes.
Check-in went smoothly and our bags checked through to Rome. We were given vouchers for a hotel near Dubai airport, Le Meridian.
We had been told that Sydney airport didn’t open until 4.00 am, but it actually opens at 3.00 am, but emigration & security didn’t open until 4.00 am so we had to hang around for about fifteen minutes.

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I’ve never seen Sydney airport so quiet.

Once in the emigration line we inserted our passports to a scanner and stood while our photograph was taken, and I suppose compared to the passport. The whole process took about thirty seconds, and we had existed Australia.
Next stop was security – due to my pacemaker I couldn’t pass through the normal X-ray machine, but was asked to stand in a see-through box with my arms up and I was checked out. I was told that this security system did not allow any forms of ‘waves’ to pass through the body so was safe for pacemakers.

A five minute walk had us at the entrance to Emirates Business Class Lounge – a beautiful spotless waiting area with a large choice of food and drink. I had some very nice coffee, fruit and juice, which was all that I wanted, and of course a glass of Moet Champaign. After all, one doesn’t want to waste the opportunity of a glass of Moet even at 4.00 am!

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The call to board was made around 40 minutes before take-off, not a problem as the aircraft was not full, and we had to use the lift to go down to the boarding level.
Maureen had a window seat and my seat was behind. The layout is such that the business class seats are not behind each other, but staggered. My seat was behind Maureen’s stowage areas, which was also where my TV screen was located and my footrest area. This allows each seat to be converted in to a flatbed if the passenger wishes to sleep. Before we had taken off the cabin crew were offering mattresses for those who wished to sleep once we had reached cruising altitude.

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The area to the left of my screen was the rear of Maureen’s seat, which was next to her window.

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The above picture was taken from my seat, showing that I was not next to the window. The unit to the right of the picture is the rear of Maureen’s seat.
Once at cruising altitude the crew came around to take our breakfast orders.

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 I chose the granola with vanilla yoghurt & pomegranate seeds.

As I write this on my laptop (universal power sockets located at each seat) we have been flying for 4.5 hours and we are still over Australia.

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The sun is chasing us as we fly north west over Australia.

Breakfast went well, after which we all settled down to watch films, read or sleep.

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I couldn’t help but watch The Magnificent Seven, just one more time.

Maureen & I had our window blinds ‘open’ to watch the passing scenery as we flew over Australia. I found it strange that all through the fourteen-hour flight many passengers, a little further back from where we were sitting, never opened their window blinds throughout the flight, and just sat in the dark.

DSC08395rQuite often Maureen prefers to watch the pasting view rather than watch TV.

The toilets were in the rear of the upper business class section, so when visiting the facilities and walking through the darkened area, I found it slightly depressing that so many were sitting in the dark when it was full daylight.

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The one happy area after the darkened section was the bar. It was never crowded, with just six to ten people sitting or standing around chatting. I had a lengthy conversation with the Chinese barman (he took this photograph), who had worked for Emirates for over three years. He was interesting and in my opinion an asset to the airline.

DSC08407rLater back at our seats it was lunchtime.

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I forgot to photograph the first course and decided to have cheese instead of something sweet.

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After floating in the air for just over fourteen hours we approached Dubai.

Although I enjoyed the overall experience of flying business class in an AB 380, I think I prefer business class in a B787, which is much smaller, and for me, a more personal experience. Flying in a B787 allows the cabin staff to be attentive to each individual passenger that one can be addressed by name, without interrogating a iPad before speaking.
On our flight, there were seventy-six business class seats in our section, so is it any wonder we hardly saw a cabin crew member other than rushing back and forth with trays of food.
The B 787 has twenty-two business class seats and even with far less staff they managed to build a small personal relationship with each passenger. If you would like something in between the AB 380 and the smaller B787 try the B777/ER business class with forty-two seats. Having experienced both the B787 and the B777/ER I enjoyed both, and the largest toilet I’d ever seen, after flying with over fifty different airlines, the B777 wins hands down.

On arrival in Dubai I could not fault Emirates Airlines for the efficiency of their operation. We had been given fast track cards that saw us through immigration very quickly.

Our main suitcases had been tagged all the way to Rome, so we didn’t have to worry about baggage on arrival. Once through the normal procedure we were shown where to go for our chauffeured car to the Le Meridian Hotel for our overnight stay. The driver was waiting, and we were quickly on our way to the hotel. At the hotel, where we were guided through a dedicated Emirates check-in area.
As one staff member checked us in another offered us vouchers for lunch, dinner and breakfast. We didn’t require lunch having eaten during our flight.
We followed a porter to our room in a special section of the hotel for transit Emirates passengers.

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DSC08416rThe two above pictures show our room.

Our onward flight was scheduled to depart the following day at 9.10 am.

DSC08418rInside the Dubliner – Guinness :-o)

Later we had a look around the hotel and a complete area was set aside for assorted styles of restaurants from an Irish pub (called the Dubliner), to Thai, Middle Eastern and other types of food. Clutching our dinner voucher, we wondered through each area and were shown special menus that listed various dishes for transit passengers.
The only thing that we paid for was my beer, Guinness of course, in the Dubliner, chilled, thick and tasty and Italian beer in the outside restaurant that we picked for our evening meal. Soft drinks for Maureen were included in the voucher. The burning heat of the day had passed by the time we sat down and the warm breeze added to the enjoyment as evening turned in to night. With such a wide choice of food it was funny that we both chose a New Zealand steak and salad.

DSC08419rFor breakfast, before being taken to the departure area for the next leg of our journey, we had a large choice of food.

Flying North for the Winter – part two

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Once the decision had been made to join the Majestic Princess in Rome, and to sail back to Singapore, the next thought was how to get to Rome and home from Singapore.

I checked various airlines that we have used in the past, and considered the cost via each one, but as one gets older one wants that little bit of ease and comfort.

The cost to fly in to Asia, and then over night, and fly daylight to Rome was higher than I expected, so I looked at flying direct from Sydney to the Middle East and then on to Europe.

Taking in to account the passenger comments on Skytrax I fancied Emirates Airline, AB 380, even though we haven’t flown with this airline before. The price was ‘right’ for a multi-stop ticket, and we would be able to break the journey.

From Sydney to Dubai, to connect with the Dubai to Rome flight, is a fourteen hours and fifteen minutes flight from Sydney. We had the choice of two take off times, 6.00 am or 9.10 pm. We do enjoy day time flying, which allows us to enjoy the whole experience rather than sleeping through much of the transit over Australia.

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We picked the 6.00 am flight, which would require us to leave home at 3.00 am  . . .

The advantage of flying business class with Emirates is that they offered us a chauffeured car that would pick us up at 3.00 am and have us checking in around 4.00 am, this sounded fine with us.

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Once we have checked-in we will be escorted to the Emirates business class lounge at Sydney airport. Although they code share on many flights with Qantas they do have their own Business / First class lounge, which is in addition to Qantas’ own lounges.

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EKsyd15-1024x768Champaign breakfast and scrabbled eggs?

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AB 380 business class seats on Emirates Airlines – plenty of stowage space and leg room, and it folds flat to make a bed if this is required.

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If we get tired of sitting (14 hours . . )
we can visit the bar at the rear of the business class section.

Menu for breakfast & lunch  on our outbound flight from Sydney to Dubai.

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Inflight dining.

2500 TV and radio channels to help pass the time. I have hopes of trying to write, but being a film buff I’ll check the films first  . . . .then maybe update the novel.

On arrival in Dubai we will be picked up and taken to a hotel (I believe it is Le Meridien) for an overnight stay. Our connection is 9.10 am the following day to Rome. A much shorter flight at 6 hours 15 minutes.

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The cost of the hotel and transport is included in the airline ticket.

Pool

I might get the chance of a swim.

On arrival in Rome we will be met by another chauffeured car to take us to our hotel in Civitavecchia, which is the port for Rome. The drive is about 45 minutes.

We are looking forward to the whole experience.

The homeward leg starts in Singapore, after a two night stop over.

Emirates Airlines do not fly Singapore to Sydney, but they do have a code share arrangement with Qantas, so we will fly overnight from Singapore to Sydney with an Emirates flight number on the QF 82, which is an AB 300-300.

QF

Qantas do not fly day time flights from Singapore to Sydney, so we didn’t have any choice but to accept the night flight.

Qantas don’t offer a chauffeured car for their business class passengers flying to / from Asia, which will mean that we will make our own way to Singapore airport, and from Sydney airport to home. This will not be a problem, but the difference in service was noticeable. Emirates Airline fly Singapore to Melbourne with their own aircraft, and if we lived in Melbourne, Emirates would have offered the chauffeured car, even though we are ‘short-haul’ from Asia.

The Emirates business class lounge in Singapore has recently be refurbished (it took six months) and reopened in April of this year. I assume that we can use this lounge with an Emirates ticket flying on a Qantas aircraft – we’ll see.

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256550_nuw-4ow4XLnFzDlS-FfwhcNZ7qONOIPq2kKQt8xN3hY   Emirates lounge – two pics above.

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Qantas Singapore lounge – two pics above – we’ll be spoilt for choice.

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Qantas business class seats on the Singapore to Sydney sector.

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Business class seating area on Qantas AB 300/300

All of the above photographs have been downloaded from the net from both Emirates and Qantas web sites.

I will be commenting on how close reality the advertised services are, and how each airline matches, exceeds or fails, to reach my expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

The lowest advertised fare is not always the lowest overall cost.

When I arranged our holiday in Vietnam for my wife and I, and our friends, we were all price sensitive, so I had to be careful of the costs.

Flying out of Sydney we could fly with Vietnam Airlines VietnamAirlines  or Qantas Qantas_Airways_Limited_logo.svg, but when I checked on the prices I realised that Vietnam Airlines had a virtual ‘monopoly’ on the route. Qantas did not operate their own aircraft, but sold tickets on their subsidiary airline Jetstar  Jetstar . Once I knew this I checked the cost of the Jetstar tickets. Their tickets were still too expensive after one added various additional charges for food, drinks, and entertainment.
My wife & I and another couple had flown Jetstar on a domestic route for a ninety-minute flight. We found them satisfactory, but as I am over six feet tall (188 cm in new money), the limited space in economy was tolerable for a maximum of ninety-minutes, so for a flight of eight-hours or more it was was out of the question, so it had to be Vietnam Airlines. Or did it?

I spent some time checking a number of different airlines Malaysian Airlines  MH (our old friend), which would require a night stop in Kuala Lumpur (more cost), Cathay Pacific Cathay_Pacific_logo.svg via Hong Kong was too expensive, Thai International  250px-Thai_Airways_Logo.svg ; a possibility over Bangkok, but they were expensive, so I finally checked Singapore Airlines Singapore_Airlines_Logo.svg and their rate was the same as Jetstar fare when I add on the additional cost for food, drink & entertainment. In fact Singapore Airlines was a few dollars cheaper than the total Jetstar price, and much cheaper than Vietnam Airlines, so it was Singapore Airlines, which would require an hour and a bit transit time in Singapore; but our bags would be booked through to Saigon. (Ho Chi Minh ).

Having flown with Singapore Airlines before I retired, I knew that their economy seating was larger than Jetstar – more room for all of us..

I booked with Singapore Airlines and we left Sydney at 8.30 am and connected with the 2.40 pm flight from Singapore to Saigon, arriving at 3.45 pm local time. I found it ironic that if we’d have booked the more expensive Jetstar we would not have arrived in Saigon until around 10.00 pm.

By using Singapore Airlines our booking would give us the opportunity of taking advantage of their ‘special offers’, which included discounted hotel rates in Singapore, discounted entrance fees to many places of interest, a free tour of Singapore, so a couple of nights in Singapore, at the end of our Vietnam trip, was the way to go.

Am I the only one that finds it funny that Ho Chi Minh’s city code, for the airline industry, is still SGN (Saigon). I suppose it is the same as PEK (Peking) for Beijing or RGN (Rangoon) for Yangon, BOM (Bombay) for Mumbai, CCU (Calcutta) for Kalkata . . . . it must be me.

A parsimonious virgin, and a generous Arabian oryx

For the last twelve years my wife and I have hoarded our frequent flyer points by doing our best to only use airlines in the same ‘group’ as Virgin AtlanticVirgin_Atlantic_Airways_Logo
In May of 2014 Virgin Atlantic stopped flying to / from Australia. Our aim was to have enough points to ‘buy’ a business class round trip ticket from Sydney to Hong Kong, but the points would be valid on their partner airlines, which included Virgin Australia.new-virginaustralia-logo
Earlier this year we had notice from Virgin Atlantic that our points would be void at the end of July unless we generated some activity. Between my wife and I we had just over 142,000 points, too many to ignore.
After thinking about how to use the points we decided that we would like to visit Broome in North West Australia, a place my wife has had on her ‘bucket’ list for some time.
I checked Virgin Australia frequent flyer system to find out how many points it would cost us to fly business class to Perth. The required number of points one way was 36,500 – so we would need 146,000 points in total, which would require us to buy an additional 4000 points from Virgin Atlantic.
As a member of the Virgin Atlantic frequent Flying Club this would not be difficult. I made a note of the times and flights that we would like to use, because I knew that I would have to go through Virgin Atlantic in the UK to book tickets on any partner airline, which included Virgin Australia – not a problem I thought as Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia where in the same ‘camp’.
I rang Virgin Atlantic UK and spoke to a very helpful staff member, and told him that I would like to book two business class seats from Sydney to Perth. He asked me to hold while he checked the seven pages of regulations for Virgin Australia frequent flyer seats. Eventually he came back on line and told me that Virgin Australia didn’t allow frequent flyer business class tickets for short haul flights. Sydney to Perth is about five and a half hours, which is just short of flying from London to Kuwait (six hours), or New York to Panama City (five and a half hours), so I asked what was long haul for this airline, Sydney to Abu Dhabi (thirteen hours fifty five minutes) or Brisbane to Los Angeles (thirteen hours, ten minutes), was the reply.
I ended the call to London and my wife and I discussed flying economy – which we decided to do.
A day or so later I rang Virgin Atlantic again in the UK and was asked by the computer to hold, while I listened to their adverts. I hung up after six minutes – holding on during peak phone times is not fun. In fact I spent the next three hours trying to get past a computer telling me how important I was . . . on the eighth time of trying I spoke to a real person.
I explained my request for two economy tickets to Perth and gave the flight numbers and dates – he told me that the cost in points was 40,000 each and the only available flight from Sydney was the VA 551, which departed at 7.15 am, requiring a check in around 5.15 am, which for us meant leaving home at 4.15 am (we live 45 minutes from the airport), so setting our alarm for about 3.45 am.
The only available return flight for frequent flyer points purchases from Perth for Sydney was the 5.30 am, VA 552, which would require a check-in of around 3.30 am, because we would have bags to check-in, so was it worth paying for a hotel room if we flew from Broome the previous afternoon?
At our age – 72 & 73 – the thought of very early morning starts has lost its appeal. After saving for twelve years I now wonder if it was all worthwhile being a loyal frequent flyer supporter of the Virgin group of airline companies – I don’t think so.
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Now for a much more positive comment – in the last three or four years my wife and I managed to collect 60,000 points with Qatar Airways  296px-Qatar_Airways_Logo.svgand we wished to use them to fly from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur.
I rang Qatar Airways Privilege Club number in Doha (their head office) and spoke to a very helpful lady who booked our tickets over the phone for business class from Doha to Kuala Lumpur, and when I corrected her that we wanted to fly from Dubai via Doha to our destination, she apologised because they didn’t have any business class seats from Dubai to Doha, so she would book us First Class for the one hour flight to catch the Doha to Kuala Lumpur business class flight. Now that was customer service for two people who were using points and not cash – now which airline would you use again?
For the record our flight departs Dubai at 6.30 pm local time, a sixty minute flight, and our onward flight departs at 8.05 pm local time Doha – all very civilised – and the flight time is seven hours twenty five minutes (short haul?). What a pleasure to deal with a company that honours in the sprit as well as the word, of why people collect Qatar Airways frequent flyer points.
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I post about our experiences to warn others that, in my opinion, collecting points for ‘free’ flights is not worth the effort with a virgin.