Voyage to Australia

For as long as I could remember, visiting Australia was at the top of my bucket list.  As a tennis journalist, I longed to cover the Australian Open.  As a travel and wine writer, I couldn’t wait to see and taste what this country had to offer.  The one thing I wasn’t anxious for was the long trip required to get Down Under.

I flew to Los Angeles a few days before my scheduled flight to Australia for practical reasons.  It is winter in the Midwest and the odds are good that it is going to snow at least once a week.  I didn’t want that snow day to prevent me from catching my flight to Melbourne and it was also a good excuse to spend a few days with my California cousins.  All went as predicted (including the storm that came after I took off, delaying flights).  I was safely on the West Coast, though, and made it to LAX in plenty of time for my 11:20 pm Qantas flight.

I have to say I was very disappointed in the Bradley International Terminal at LAX.  Shopping, restaurants, even internet access was virtually non-existent.  As much as I complain about the logistics of JFK, it has a world to offer in comparison.  I was also extremely disappointed to find out the flight was totally sold out and I wasn’t getting an upgrade.  Between my American Airlines (which joins with Qantas in the One World Alliance) status and my profession I am lucky enough that I fly first class more than not, and here I was heading on a 16 ½ hour flight in economy, the lowest of Qantas’ four classes!

As much as the spoiled traveler in me hates to admit it, I survived the night in Qantas’ economy section, which had its good and bad points.  Yes, there’s not a lot of room and when the person in front of you is reclining (which is not unreasonable in the middle of the night) you cannot even attempt to put your tray table down without stabbing yourself in the chest, but it does offer a bit more space than you’ll find in the coach section of your average domestic cabin.  I was impressed with the fact that Qantas doesn’t totally skip amenities in the back of the plane, it just lowers the quality a bit.  The economy cabin, for example, didn’t receive the down pillow and blanket, which turned out to be a plus for allergic me; the headphones weren't top notch, though more than adequate; and a small bag included just a toothbrush with toothpaste and an eye mask, instead of high priced lotions.

I wasn’t at all pleased with dinner, a tasteless short rib and stale roll.  On the other hand, I thought the vegetable frittata breakfast was excellent and the croissant that came with it fresh and tasty.  We were given a bag with applesauce cookies, water, a granola bar and mints right after dinner, which was good since the “snacks throughout the night” that turned out to just be pretzels and apples.  While there wasn’t any other alcoholic beverages offered in coach, we were each given a small bottle of wine with dinner and I enjoyed the Australian Pinot Grigio, made by Juliet, though not as much as  the Cadbury Hot Chocolate – complete with marshmallows!

The flight had a few problems that weren’t anyone’s fault.  We hit quite a bit of turbulence just past the Hawaiian Islands that rivaled that of a roller coaster.  There were also endless issues with the movie channels, forcing constant resets, but I did still manage to watch more movies than I had in the last six months combined.  Since I was in the first row of economy I got a glance at Qantas’ Premium Economy cabin and didn’t see a lot of difference.  The seats were a bit larger and the meals served a bit more formally. I didn't have a chance to speak with anyone in there, but I certainly hope I'm able to experience more of what Qantas has on the way home..

We arrived in Australia over 32 hours after we left, if you include the 16  hour time difference.  The customs lines were a bit disorganized and the luggage took more than an hour to get, but I was soon off to start my three week trip, dropping off my luggage at the Oaks at Melbourne hotel and then on the tram for a day full of matches at the Australian Open.


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