Circle Pacific on oneworld – Transpacific on an A380 in Business Class

QF94 Los Angeles Tom Bradley International LAX – Melbourne Tullamarine MEL
04 May 2011
Airbus A380-800 VH-OQI
Named after David Warren
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 2330-0820 (+2)
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 0021-0909 (+2)
Seat No: 22K

A trip across South Pacific on the Flying Kangaroo
Concourse B for oneworld flights

From the Getty Centre I drive myself to the airport and it was a really tiring journey amidst LA’s terrible traffic on I-405. Reached the rental car return at 1915 and boarded the shuttle to TBIT. From there it was easy to spot concourse 3 where the large signs of BA, QF and CX lit up the area. As it was early, there was little to no queue on the Qantas check in line. There does not seem to be a self check in desk counter or area though so even after checking in online, I still had to head to the Business check in line to get my boarding pass printed. I was served almost immediately, and I also got the grey Qantas sleeve for the boarding pass. Nice!’

Qantas check-in desk

I headed next to the ticketing counter as I wanted to make some changes on my Circle Pacific itinerary and after getting everything in order, I headed to security. The priority line was slightly shorter than the normal one but there doesn’t seem to be much problem for the mass traveller today as well. Thus far throughout my trip in the States, I haven’t really encountered the horrendous queues in security as mentioned by fellow travellers. Maybe I was lucky?

Entrance to the oneworld lounge
Shower room in oneworld lounge

Security went by smoothly and the rest of the people behind me were flight crews for a departing BA flight. The oneworld lounge was easy to find past security as the signs led me to the elevator to the 5th floor. I really like the wood accent welcoming me though only 2 counters were serving the lounge guests. One for first class and another for business. This led to some wait as both counters seems to be busy catering to guests. And the lounge was really crowded, similar to the Pier in HKIA, so it was straight to the shower as it was a really hot two days in LA. Having arrived from cool Vancouver, I was sweating and feeling tired. It was however my first time having a shower in an airport. I had to go to the end of the lounge and exchange my boarding pass for a metal tag indicating the shower cubicle I would be using. Initial impressions were nice with clean toilets and fresh towels. There was even Molton Brown amenities, though they come in huge bottles for common use, a sign of cost cutting I guess. But still great nonetheless since I liked the Molton Brown fragrances. The helpful attendants were also able to provide me with some cotton tips to end the refreshing shower.

Chicken fiesta soup and tomato basil soup
Rice with chicken fajita style

After feeling clean and refreshed, I helped myself to a bowl of chicken fiesta soup and tomato basil soup both of which were superb and the spiciness of the latter was just right for my taste buds. Next on the plate was some Asian chicken wrap and Greek vegetable wrap which was kind of awful, though the rice with chicken fajita style was delicious and I had seconds for it. For beverages I chose Ginger Ale not Canada Dry but still quite good. To end my dinner I went with a chocolate brownie, cookies and a helping of fruit cocktail. All of this gulped down with a cranberry juice! It was a satisfying meal at the lounge and I set on to read some magazines and browse the Internet.

Bar counter in the lounge
Salad and appetizer bar

It was painfully slow to surf the web and time past by fast, before long it was time to board the plane as boarding call was made at 22:45. I made the trek towards gate 123 which seems specifically made for A380 boarding as there were 2 separate gates for boarding. I queued up at the Business line and it wasn’t long before i walked along the sloped entryway up to the upper deck.

Boarding gate at LAX

The best part of this trip was that I was actually able to obtain a seat on the front section of the Business class which had 3 rows of seats giving it a more quiet feel. I got around to placing my bags into the overhead bins and realized the ones on the side are smaller and it seems upper decks always have smaller overhead bin which is to be expected. However, it was still good enough though to fit my bags.

Onboard QF94

The flight steward soon came over and offered drinks and I chose to go with orange juice. Both flight stewards serving the front section of the Business class seems to have the aura of English butlers and it was really respectable for an airline to have such great staff quality. Something different from the usual female stewardess!

Welcome drink of orange juice
Business class lounge on the upper deck

Blankets and pillows were already at the seat and I really liked the Qantas grey and red seats which Garuda has also adopted for their Executive class seats. There was also the flight menu which could be hanged by the front so that the steward could bring food for a later dining time and also allow travelers to pre-order their breakfast. I filled mine up and specifically requested not to be served with beans. From the choices, I am expecting a very nice spread for breakfast before arrival. Great feature that is not found on Cathay. I am loving the little details so far. My window seat also had a stowage area by the side which meant I could place my pillow and blankets by the side for the moment. But the stowage bin was a bit dirty and even had some leftover almonds stuck on the edge. I also had time to explore the mini lounge by the front of the aircraft which had an array of magazines and the nice backlit Qantas logo at the bulkhead by the stairs.

Breakfast menu
Nut stuck in storage bin

By 23:20, everyone has boarded and the plane’s door closed, though the plane remained stationary as it seems to be a busy time for LAX with several international departures going on. The only drawback so far is the lack of footrests while on the ground waiting for take off and no entertainment either since the TV is hidden away. This was unlike seats in First and Economy I think. At least the narrow Cathay seats had an ottoman for resting one’s travel-weary leg up while waiting on the ground. But I am not going to let this small issue affect my mood. While waiting the captain came back with news that the fuel tract is broken and they’re trying to fix it, but well take your time since I am well relaxed in my nice seat up there 🙂 the delay continued until 12 midnight when the plane started its pullback behind a CX service to Hong Kong. While waiting on the ground, the crew started to pass out amenity kits to passengers. The crew also came around with special editions of the Sydney Morning Herald for passengers.

Sydney Morning Herald – Qantas special edition
Amenity kit in business class
Taking off from LAX

Finally the plane took off for the night skies at 00:21, nearly an hour behind schedule, and it seems I just do not get an on time departure ever on the A380. Hot towels were soon provided to passengers after take off and I found the towels to be thinner and gets cold really fast. SIA’s hot towels are still the best ever and they even provide it to economy class passengers! The flight steward then went around with trolleys filled with pyjamas and water bottles. I got offered a medium size one which i think should fit me quite well. They also mentioned that Australian customs forms will also be given out shortly. I changed into my pyjamas before settling into the seat.

Pyjamas and bottled water

Returning to my seat, the flight steward soon came over and offered beverages and enquired my choice for supper and I requested for the lamb option. The supper menu for the flight was:

SUPPER 

Our extensive Rockpool designed menu allows you to enjoy a completely personalised dining experience. You can choose the full menu after take-off, or if you prefer to dine later, simply complete the dine-later card for collection by your Flight Attendant. 

MAIN COURSES

Toasted Ciabatta with Pastrami, Cheddar, Slow Cooked Tomatoes and Dijon Mustard

Big bowl of Minestrone with Pesto *Healthier option

Seared Steelhead Salmon with Radish, Celery and Lemon Salsa and Fingerling Potatoes

Roast Rack of Lamb with Caper and Olive Sauce, Broccolini and Cannellini Beans

Green Leaf Salad with Asparagus and Cucumber

DESSERT

Selection of Seasonal Cheese and accompaniments

Chocolate and Pistachio Semifreddo with Poached Cherries

Sliced Fresh Fruit

CHOCOLATES

Valrhona Chocolates

REFRESHMENT

Enjoy a range of snacks and drinks at any time throughout your flight. Your Flight Attendant will be pleased to prepare your selection or simply snack from our inflight bar.

Toasted Ciabatta with Pastrami, Cheddar, Slow Cooked Tomatoes and Dijon Mustard

Char Grilled Zucchini and Ricotta Pizzette with Rocket Leaves

Sea Bass, Leek and Dill Pot Pie

Jalapeño Tortilla Chips

Oat Cookie with Chocolate Ganache

Whole Seasonal Fruit

Ice Cream Tubs

Chocolate Bars

The first course was a salad platter with some sort of soy vinaigrette and there was whole meal or white bread to choose from. I also got the 2008 Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon which was a nice dessert wine, sweet and fragrant, but not as fruity as the ice wines of Canada. The lamb that came was good and much better than other lamb dishes I have ever tried on a plane. However, the middle of the lamb chop was a bit on the rare side…

Meal service set-up with appetizer of salad
Roast rack of lamb for supper
A bit on the rare side…
Qantas iQ home screen

While having the meal I took the opportunity to watch a movie from the iQ system of Qantas. I really liked the touch screen function and the nice name of the inflight entertainment. Though the selection of movies pales in comparison to Cathay’s StudioCX. What it wins in is the ease of use of the system and how it just works instead of failing on me in CX.

Chocolate cake for dessert

Dessert was chocolate cake and I also requested for the fruit platter since it is my habit to have some fruits after every dinner/supper and I didn’t have any at the lounge.There was an additional beverage service and I got a cup of hot chocolate to come with the dessert. The chocolate cake was delicious and the poached cherries made it even more wonderful. I would have to say I enjoyed the dessert most.

Dessert with hot chocolate
Watching Silence of the Lambs

After finishing dessert, I checked out the various parts of the jet to digest the food. From what I can see, Qantas has a pretty good premium economy product, they even have similar snack bar at the back. I walked to the end of the A380 on what appears to be a full flight and head down the stairs towards the economy cabin, which was quiet and noticed that there wasn’t any crowd at the back galley.

On returning back to the upper deck, I noticed an enclosed drew rest area behind the small premium economy cabin. Back in my seat, I restarted the psychological thriller ‘Silence of the Lambs’ the first of the Hannibal Lecter movies. Having read ‘Hannibal’ and watched ‘Red Dragon’, I chose this from the Oscar selections in the iQ system. It was a fitting portrayal of Hannibal though being tired out from the day’s activities, I fell asleep halfway through and converted the seat to the full recline mode. Again compared to CX’s lie flat seats, I would have to say Cathay’s old Herringbone system was equally good and provided as much shoulder room as Qantas on it’s business class. In fact  by making sure all the seats connects to the aisle, the seats on Cathay was much more private and perfect for the single traveler. Though the A380 wins by a long distance on cabin comfort and noise, and this is all that matters in the long haul service. Even with the turbulence encountered along the way as we cross the Pacific, the plane felt stable and comfortable so much so that I was able to get a nice 4 hours sleep.

Self-serve snack bar
Qantas inflight magazine at the lounge
Economy class on the lower deck
Assortment of chocolates

I woke up to walk around the plane a bit, got some chips from the snack bar, and returned to my seat for the continued screening of my movie. At the end of the movie, I went back to sleep since we still had 6 hours of flight time to go. This time round I managed a shuteye of around 3 hours before getting woken up by the sounds of trays in the galley. It also seems that some of the passengers have chosen to have an early breakfast. The flight steward came over and offered me hot towels to freshen up again and brought me my breakfast, just as I had ordered it, without any beans. The breakfast set also came with a great smoothie, which really perked me up for the day ahead. I was also able to enjoy several episodes of Hawaii Five-O during and after breakfast. Noticing the ice cream on the menu, I asked the steward about it and he came back with 2 small tubs of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream since he said they were partially melted. Anticipating the passenger’s wants beforehand was really a great way to make me remember the service on this flight!

Let’s watch Hawaii Five-O
Free range scrambled eggs on toasted sourdough with Applewood smoked bacon and sausages, without the braised beans
Tailcam View
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream

After ensuring I ate as much of the ice cream as possible, I sat back to enjoy the remainder of the flight. Opening the window shutter, I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise over southeastern Australia. The completion of breakfast service also meant the lavatories were quite packed as most of the passengers went on to change out of their pyjamas. I waited for the crowd to disperse before taking my time to change into my clothes.

Mood lighting on the A380
Sunrise over Southeast Australia
Sunrise over the clouds

Back on my seat, I opened the window shutters and the sparkle of the sun against the terrain was really a fitting finale during the descent. It was a cloudy day on landing at Tullamarine, and one thing I always remember for Australia’s airports are that the city skyline is usually visible from the airport. As expected, Qantas birds are everywhere here, though they had to share some space with SQ’s A380 and my home airline – Garuda Indonesia’s new A330. The sight of Garuda informed me how much closer to home I would be and makes me miss returning home after so long in N. America.

Legroom in Business Class; no worries of claustrophobia here
Bushland beside Tullamarine Airport
Garuda Indonesia A330 at MEL
Huge back end of another A380

Upon docking safely beside the other Qantas A380 I spotted earlier, the passengers alighted. Disembarkation was very orderly and I was soon out into the terminal. I had hoped for a vantage point to capture the A380 but alas, there was no such opportunity. However, while browsing through some of my photos, I realized I had taken a shot of the aircraft that had brought me to Australia back in LA when I was visiting the city. As such, there is the photo of VH-OQI here 🙂 Immigration and baggage claim was also fast and efficient in Australia, with priority-tagged bags receiving the appropriate treatment. Upon exit out of the terminal, I was immediately pleased with the autumn weather which I had gotten used to in Vancouver and was welcomed in contrast to the heat of LA.

A last look at the Qantas A380 business class cabin after a 15 hour flight

The flight on Qantas A380 was my third on an A380 and first time on the business class service. Comparing Qantas and SQ’s A380, I would have to say the Qantas configuration is slightly skewed towards the leisure traveller since SIA has individual seats and no premium economy class. I liked what Qantas did with their premium economy cabin and the A380 still amazes me, making it my favourite aircraft of choice to fly long haul. The service quality in this Qantas flight was amazing and while the crew didn’t seem to be seen in the plane in between meal times, they were very pleasant during meal service. For in-flight entertainment, I still think that SQ and CX has better selections in terms of movies and TV shows, though I found that Qantas has more episodes of each TV Shows, but a smaller selection. Overall, this flight still makes it one of my most memorable ever and the longest one I have taken thus far!

Flying across the Pacific with Qantas 🙂
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