Oct 192019
 


So, a bit of background is necessary to understand this trip. No, I’m not talking about the fact that I have a few screws loose when it comes to traveling; that part is a given.

I’m talking more about Lufthansa’s gimmick of the “first class duck.” I’m not quite sure where this tradition started, but as I understand it Lufthansa many years ago started offering souvenir ducks to passengers taking a bath in their first class lounges and first class terminals.

Then, one day, someone had the novel idea to make a “special” thematic duck for spring, or summer, or some such reason. This caught on, and more and more Lufthansa started to offer other special ducks.

By this point, people had started to collect them, and they were no longer just for people taking baths. People came up with all kinds of reasons to stop by a get one. Seriously. One of the first phrases I ever learned in German was “Kann ich zwei Enten für meine Kinder haben?”

Yeah, there was a bit of embarrassment and shame and made up children involved in getting the ducks. I know I’m not the only one. (In all fairness, I’m much less shameful now and just ask for one….unless it’s a special one…and then the made-up children may come on board to justify needing two.)

Right, so over the years, I may have amassed quite a few of them. I know this is less than half of the ones that are out there, but thankfully my “problem” isn’t so bad that I’ve taken to eBay or such, but I may have engaged in a few trades. So, yes, my problem:

Yup. We have “Euro Duck” and then there’s “Dirndl Duck” and don’t forget “Corporate Wanker in the First Class Lounge with his Bluetooth Headset Duck.” Ok, maybe it’s not called that, but you get the drift.

So, you’re asking yourself, what does this have to do with anything?

See, a week or so before my birthday (yes, if you’re keeping track this is about a week after being home from so much back to back travel this summer and looking forward to a solid month at home) I learned there was a special duck out there…one you could only get on your birthday…the elusive “Birthday Duck.

Of course, this led to planning out trips…maybe even going to Frankfurt just for a few hours as an excuse to get it. But see, unfortunately, my birthday was on a Thursday this year, and that makes things a bit difficult for work. It also turned out I had a big “can’t miss” meeting I had wisely scheduled on my birthday at 9am in DC, (3pm in Germany – pay attention – this is important) so given flights arrive from the US in the morning it meant it just wouldn’t work out this year. There would be no Lufthansa love for me.

Fast forward to Wednesday, the day before my birthday. I woke up with an inspiration: what if I could find a way to fly to fly to Frankfurt today, spend the day in the lounge, and fly out after 5pm? Surely there would be a way to chair my meeting from the lounge, right?

All I needed was a flight after 5pm. The meeting would last 90 minutes putting me done at 4:30pm German time, and Lufthansa generally drives you from the First Class Terminal to the plane around 30 minutes before departure, so I just needed to find a flight from Frankfurt that left after 5pm – there has to be something back to North America, right? (Oh, and I should probably check to make sure DC to Frankfurt isn’t sold out in First tonight, right? Though I suppose I could fly business into Frankfurt if needed.

After spending my entire commute into the office searching, there was nothing. I was crushed.

But wait, why turn right back around and go home? Johannesburg leaves from Frankfurt around 10pm, that would work! Ugh, completely sold out…search, search, search. Whoah, Shanghai! Leaves Germany at 5:10pm which would be perfect. Without a second thought I pulled the trigger. Sent a note I would be taking a half day and working remotely on Thursday, and two hours after getting to the office headed back home to throw things in a bag.

Ok, great, no time to plan…gotta get to airport. Packing is both harder and easier when you don’t how how long you’ll be gone. I would leave DC on Wednesday (birthday eve) and arrive in Shanghai on Friday night, so I figured I should be home on Sunday hopefully? Ok, that’s enough to plan to pack for roughly four days away.

Off to Dulles mid-afternoon (remember, this whole plan was only hatched about five hours prior) and all the way I was searching for ways to get home. Try as I might, I wasn’t finding anything interesting. If I was going to be in China, I figured I should go all out and make it a true round-the-world and come back over the Pacific, right?

After a couple hours of searching, I found it: Tokyo Haneda to Los Angeles on ANA All Nippon Airlines in first class! Score!

Now….there was the matter of getting from Shanghai to Tokyo, but I wasn’t worried about that. There are plenty of flights and not too expensive, so that was the least important piece.

A bit more searching, and I found an Air Canada 777 with proper business class from LA to Toronto (because why fly LA to DC direct when you can connect in Toronto and get a proper product?) and with a little more searching I found a perfectly-timed Shanghai to Tokyo Haneda flight with Japan Airlines.

Now, all I needed was a ticket from Toronto to DC. That would be easy…all sorted and purchased right as I was arriving at Dulles.

Amazing what I’d pulled off in under eight hours of planning, and just in time to relax and enjoy the experience a bit. The final route would be DC – Frankfurt (9 hours) – Shanghai (30 hours) – Tokyo (3.5 hours) – LA (4.5 hours) – Toronto (2 hours) – DC.

Whew. I’m tired just typing that. I couldn’t imagine how tired I’d be in 86 hours when it was all over. Oh well, I can sleep when I’m dead. Time to enjoy the adventure!!!

All this, just for a duck….

Oct 192019
 


Having had a great four hour nap, I finally left for the airport around midnight for a 02:50 flight, just in case there was traffic or other snafus. The flight appeared completely sold out in all classes, so I definitely didn’t want to risk it!

As it turned out, there were no problems at all, and I was at the airport a good 2.5 hours before the flight. Even immigration and security were unusually quick considering how full the flights all seemed tonight, so I was left to kill time in the lounges.

Now, I really don’t like the lounges at Delhi late at night. They always seem to be heaving with people, and a pain to even find a seat. Tonight I decided to try the Singapore lounge first, and it was completely empty…maybe five people total. I have to wonder if it’s because United and Air Canada both still had their flights cancelled, so having 100+ less people spread across the lounges helped?

Either way, it worked out charmingly, and I headed off to the gate about an hour before flight time. Gotta take a selfie with the giant statue!

Boarding for this full A380 was a bit nightmarish. Despite getting to the gate an hour before departure, I was at least 50th in the queue for boarding group one. Fortunately, no problem finding storage for my bags once on board.

Lufthansa flight 761
Delhi, India (DEL) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 02:50, Arrive: 07:40, flight time: 8:20
Airbus A380, Registration D-AIMJ, Manufactured 2012, Seat 22G
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 117,958
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,810,546

Something about Lufthansa’s pre-departure sparkling wine (or is it actually champagne?) is so much classier than United’s.

What’s for dinner on this very late night/early morning flight?

Snack was fairly substantial, and served all at once if you wanted to eat. I would say about 90% of the cabin opted to go straight to bed instead. It wasn’t the most appetizing looking, but was reasonably tasty.

About 90 minutes before landing all the lights were turned on, and breakfast was brought by. I imagine even if you wanted to sleep it really wouldn’t have been an option.I like the alternating colours in the melon…

With six hours between flights, I thought it was worth getting a room to get just under four hours of sleep, which turned out to be a good decision and helped me beat jetlag a bit.

I even had time to stop by the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for a snack on the way to the gate. I never tire of the cheesy pretzel with a sausage and potato salad! Yum!

Off to the gate, where in direct contrast to the flight from India, I was wondering where everyone was! The gate area felt really empty for a 747, and I hoped my looking at the seatmap was really accurate.

Lufthansa flight 418
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 13:15, Arrive: 16:05, flight time: 8:50
Boeing 747-8, Registration D-ABYT, Manufactured 2015, Seat 82A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 122,039
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,814,627

I know lots of people love to sit upstairs on the 747, and I admit that I love to as well, however, I refuse to sit in climbover class if at all possible, so on Lufthansa I always skip it. Plus, downstairs, the seats in the middle section have much more space between them and are much roomier than the side seats.

However, today’s flight was under 50% full in business class – something I’ve never seen on Lufthansa before…and not only did I get two seats to myself upstairs, the two seats behind me both stayed empty as well.

The strange part? I saw at least three groups of seats where strangers were sitting next to each other. With this much extra room why wouldn’t you want to spread out?!

What’s to eat and drink on the way to Washington?

Today’s mixed nuts after takeoff….almonds!

Marinated black angus beef….tasty, but served almost TOO cold….

The salmon, however, was excellent. I’ve been eating a lot more fish in-flight lately, and really wonder why I was so stuck on the terrible beef courses for so many years. Healthier AND better prepared almost every time!

Even the cheese course was above average for Lufthansa…and look at those crackers…in their own cute little plate/bowl and not wrapped in a package. *MIND BLOWN*

So, I admit it: to me this was better than United’s sundaes. Yes, it’s still ice cream, yes, it’s in a package and not a bowl, but it’s nice to have adventurous flavours instead of the exact same desserts that United has served on every flight for years and years. Mango & Maracuja crème brûlée?! YES PLEASE!

We took a super northerly routing for a Frankfurt to Washington flight, and passed right over Greenland….not a Trump Casino as far as the eye can see!

Even the pre-landing meal was much better than normal! A nice salad with parma ham, crayfish soup, and a pretzel! Normally, Lufthansa business class flights are just kind of “meh” in my opinion, but this one really stood out for me.

Part of it was being upstairs in a semi-empty cabin for sure, but the food and definitely the crew really stood out. Once the flight attendant working my section found out I’m working on my German she made a point to speak only German, but also clearly and slowly so I could follow along. It was really a treat and left me with a great impression! Unfortunately, I need to fly as much United as possible the rest of the year if I want a chance at Global Services….

With that, seven weeks of crazy back to back travel with less than five total nights at home was over. Switzerland, South Africa, India…what an adventure it was. I was really looking forward to four weeks at home until I had to head to Ghana for work.

…and then I woke up on my birthday and thought “I wonder if I could go around the world in first class for my birthday on a long weekend?”

Oct 122019
 


After just a few days at home, it was time to head out again and cross the Atlantic back to Switzerland. In this case, it was a total coincidence that I was connecting in Switzerland, but keeping in the spirit of maximizing time at home I left for the airport at the last possible minute.

An Uber to National Airport takes me about 12 minutes, and with CLEAR at the A Terminal only taking two to three minutes, I can easily be door to gate in under 20 minutes. So when I left home 55 minutes before the flight, and got to the gate before the incoming had even arrived, I knew I had maxed out every possible minute at home!

I stalked the gate a little bit, since the biggest problem sitting in 1A is no storage space, and you really have to be one of the first one if you want to find overhead space near you. No problem, and off we go.

Air Canada flight 7615 operated by Sky Regional
Washington, DC, National (DCA) to Toronto, Ontario (YYZ)
Depart 12:45, Arrive: 14:12, flight time: 1:27
Embraer ERJ-175, Registration C-FXJC, Manufactured 2009, Seat 1A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 87,495
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,780,083

Takeoff on runway 1 today, and another great view of the Pentagon as we climbed:

Air Canada was mixing up the snack today, and we were offered smoked salmon which was good. Not amazing, and certainly not filling, but good. I feel like this “meal” could have used a small sweet to go with it.

After relatively quick transit security in Toronto it was off to the Air Canada Signature lounge for a more substantial snack and some champagne. Horror of horrors they were out of rosé champagne today (something to do with LCBO being out of stock) but the smoked meat sandwiches more than made up for it!

After finishing up some work it was off to the gate, where the usual chaos of rush-hour boarding at YYZ was already well-underway.

Air Canada flight 878
Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) to Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH)
Depart 18:05, Arrive: 07:40 next day, flight time: 7:35
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration C-FRAM, Manufactured 2008, Seat 11K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 91,540
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,784,128

Having changed my departure date rather late, there was only one window seat left, so I was curious to see how sitting in the last row – 11K – would be. Turned out, it was actually nice and quiet. The folded napkins were a bit weird to me – is this supposed to be fancy or something?

Shortly after takeoff was the usual warm nuts with some wine.

Sigh. Shrimp appetizer yet again. At least there were five of them so it was a reasonably substantial amount…and they were relatively tasty.

None of the other options sounded all that good today, so decided to go with the beef which was as expected rather overdone.

The usual Air Canada cheese course. Nothing adventurous, but it was tasty enough with a bit more wine.

Ahhhh the absolutely amazing Air Canada brown sugar tart. Absolutely delicious as usual.

Managed about three hours of sleep which is pretty good for me on such a short flight, especially when I knew I’d be napping shortly after arrival.

Woke up in time to have a little bit of breakfast – which I really didn’t need, but it’s just so hard to resist the Air Canada omelet with that unusual salsa and cottage cheese concoction.

Landing was right on time, and there was no line for immigration this morning and soon I was in the train station and headed straight to my hotel where I planned a solid five hour nap before getting up to enjoy a little bit of time in Switzerland.

Had no trouble at all sleeping, and woke up early afternoon and headed out for a short walk around Zurich to enjoy the city a bit and stretch my legs. The hotel had been kind enough to agree to a 6pm checkout (this was the same hotel I’d left just four days prior and I’d arranged this with them in advance) so I also enjoyed a small snack in the executive lounge before catching the train back to the airport with plenty of time before my flight.

I had a bit of drama with my return seats (SWISS had for some reason canceled my “throne” seat and put me back in a regular seat) and spent some time at the airport trying to solve it – but was unable to as the return flight was completely full.

Admitting defeat, I headed to the gate in the satellite terminal to wait for my flight. At least I would have 4A tonight – a throne seat – so I would have an enjoyable flight to Johannesburg.

Wanting something a bit more substantial I found these unusual turkey roll-ups in the lounge that were basically deli turkey, cream cheese, and a bit of pickle all rolled up in a tortilla. What’s not to love!

I spent my time in the lounge obsessively checking the seat map to make sure they didn’t take my throne seat away again tonight, and everything seemed on the up and up, so headed off to the gate to board.

Waiting to board, I chatted a bit in line with the passenger in front of me, an older gentleman who was headed to Zimbabwe. We talked about life in Zimbabwe a bit, how hard things are with the currency situation these days, and soon enough it was time to board.

The gentleman boarded first, and the machine made all sorts of angry noises when his boarding pass was scanned. The agent informed him “I’m terribly sorry sir, but we’ve changed your seat to 1A in First Class. I hope that won’t be a problem.”

I joked with the agent that if it was I’d be happy to take that seat instead…and then scanned my boarding pass…which was also met with angry noises…and an upgrade to seat 1K!

I have no idea what process SWISS uses to do upgrades when business class is full, and maybe it was a psychic wavelength, but I wasn’t going to argue – my first operational upgrade to First Class on SWISS and I couldn’t wait!

SWISS flight 288
Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH) to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB)
Depart 22:40, Arrive: 09:10 next day, flight time: 10:30
Airbus A340-300, Registration HB-JMH, Manufactured 2004, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 96,751
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,789,339

Warm grüezi on board from the super friendly crew, and was promptly welcomed with a glass of Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle and an amuse bouche which set the mood for what was sure to be a lovely flight!

Tonight’s menu:

Being quite a late departure, the table was set right after takeoff, and it was perhaps the most elegant table setting I’ve seen in quite a while. Loved the wooden salt and pepper shakers.

Decided to go with the balik salmon as a starter. Slightly disappointing that there’s no longer caviar in SWISS first class, but the salmon was absolutely delicious.

The flight attendant was a little hurt I didn’t want a second appetizer, so I decided to go with the meat platter from the Canton of Vaud. Super tasty, and just small enough it wasn’t too filling.

I decided in for a penny, in for a pound, and decided to risk the veal. OMG I’m glad I did, because it was cooked to a perfect medium rare with an absolutely delicious sauce. One of the best steaks I think I’ve ever had in flight!

I was getting pretty full by this point, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to try a cheese plate on a new first class product. I was very glad that I did, because it was an absolutely delicious sampler of Swiss cheeses – once again from the Canton of Vaud. I think that may have been tonight’s theme….

I really didn’t need desert at this point, but it sounded way too delicious to pass up. Layered chocolate cake with salted caramel, praline ice cream, and caramelized hazelnuts. I could have eaten several of these!

Hard to say no to a few pralines with a glass of Johnny Walker before heading off to dreamland.

Still six hours left in the flight, so plenty of time for some shut-eye!

Woke up and wasn’t all that hungry. so decided to have a mini pain au chocolate, some fruit, and being SWISS of course a bit of Muesli. I decided to skip the heavy caffeine in favour of a diet coke since I was hoping for one more short nap upon landing.

With that, a wonderful treat came to an end. I knew how fortunate I was to receive this upgrade, and it really is all about expectations. When you have no expectation of it happening it really is a wonderful treat, and your mood can go from zero to one hundred in an instant.

Now, if only the same could happen on the return….off to my Johannesburg hotel!

Oct 112019
 


After a bit over three weeks in Switzerland, it was finally time to head home. I would have just a bit under four days at home before heading out on the road again for a couple of back-to-back trips, but after three weeks away every day matters!

Got to the airport, and what better way to say tschüss to Switzerland than to pose for a selfie against the SWISS sign. Not really goodbye, however, since just four days later I would be connecting through Zurich again!

Strangely, my United flight would be leaving from the B Gates today (which I’ve never seen before) and while it would save me a train ride out to the E gates, I wondered if there was a respectable lounge on the other side of immigration in B.

Yes, it turns out there was, but there was no air conditioning! According to my temperature gauge, it was 81 degrees in the lounge too. Ouch! Fortunately, they had brought in a few fans, and sitting in front of one of them it was just barely tolerable.

You know what makes it tolerable, though? Swiss chocolates and Mövenpick ice cream! Mmmmm!

Off to the gate after about 30 minutes in the lounge. I’d never actually been to the B Gates before, so wasn’t sure just how long it would take to the gate…or how long and confusing the boarding process might be. Every day a new adventure!

United flight 53
Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 11:55, Arrive: 14:45, flight time: 8:50
Boeing 787-8, Registration N29907, Manufactured 2013, Seat 1D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 87,136
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,780,083

Boarding was relatively chaotic, with people not really line up well or the agents controlling things well, so it was unclear where to queue up. It’s one thing I really like about the newish boarding is that as a 1K you can pretty much stand anywhere you want, and hopefully if the agents are good you’ll still be called ahead of group one.

Worked like a charm today, but it didn’t really matter since we were at a remote stand and it would be a bus gate anyways. Off to the plane, easy boarding, and time to explore what’s to eat!

Pre-departure beverages. Trying to be positive and remember for someone that doesn’t get to do business class often this is still considered a real treat. However, unless it’s a special occasion I need to start giving the pre-departure sparking plonk a pass. It’s just not worth the calories on a regular basis. I do, however, appreciate the real glassware now.

Meal started off with some Spiderman socks from the amenity kit and mixed nuts and wine. I’ve started requesting water more regularly inflight now to survive the crazy mileage I’m flying this year, and this crew was great and proactively offered lemon or lime with a stirrer to make it easy to fish out and squeeze. Oh, and some shiraz, but that was probably a given.

I like the salads United has been serving out of Switzerland lately, and they’re relatively fresh, light, and tasty. Throw in some garlic bread and it’s delicious. In principle, the tomato, basil, and mozzarella caprese would make a nice starter, but every time I’ve had it the basil has had rotten spots and the tomatoes have been bland and underripe.

I went with the chicken breast and polenta cake as a lighter option, and with the skin off (and skipping the polenta) it did the trick without being too fancy. Kinda looks like institutional cafeteria food.

Note to self: ice cream sundaes for dessert are always worth the calories, especially with cherries and fudge. Cheese was decent without being too memorable, but I wish they would try some more memorable crackers to go along with it. Maybe something nice and savoury?

After a bit of a nap, decided to hit up the snack cart because I was craving the little pastries they always have. Goes well with a side of Ebola monkey on the iPad as well.

Was curious about the pre-landing chicken ragout option, and while it was pretty tasty and would make a great domestic dinner, it actually felt a bit heavy for a second in-flight meal on a relatively short flight.

I have to admit – I was starting to miss the relatively heavy “hamburger wellington” that’s been around for a lot of this year.

The flight passed relatively quickly, and just like that I was home after more than three weeks away. Time to see if four days is enough at home, or if I would really be craving getting back on the road sooner.

I had originally booked just one night at home, and then three days vacation at my next work stop before the work began, but I gave up that three day mini-vacation in favour of the time at home. I was very glad I had, but four days, well, I might start craving travel….

Sep 272019
 


After a whole 68 hours at home (well, closer to 65 if you count the travel time from and to the airport as well as waiting time) it was time to get on the road again. 18 days of vacation was a nice break, and slightly under three days at home was just enough to catch up on the essentials before heading out of town for more than three more weeks.

Unfortunately I had to book this trip rather late and wasn’t able to take either the Geneva or Zurich nonstops out of Dulles, so had to “settle” for Air Canada out of DCA which meant leaving home about two hours earlier. Every hour matters when you only have three days at home in six weeks!

I always forget how convenient DCA is. I can be there by Uber in about 12 minutes if nothing goes wrong, through CLEAR in less than five minutes from the time I step out of the Uber, so in theory it would be possible to leave home about 50 minutes pre-flight and still be there before boarding starts.

I chickened out a bit (and I was packed and ready) so left about two hours before the flight which left me plenty of time to grab a real lunch at DCA. I’m a pretty big fan of the restaurant in Terminal A at DCA, so on the occasion I do fly Air Canada I try and stop by for what passes as a Cholesterol Madame…I mean Croque Madame…and a beer. I mean, even the iPad told me soda was the wrong thing to drink when flying!

I love Terminal A at DCA. It’s incredibly nostalgic for me. Back in the old days when I used to nonrev during university Northwest flew out of Terminal A and I was there multiple times most months headed home…or to other exotic locales. I even remember when Northwest did their giant expansion at DCA (whose slots did they buy again?) and suddenly they were flying to Hartford, Boston, LaGuardia, and if I remember right some places in Florida as well. Of course, I tried as often as possible to take these odd connections as opposed to the nonstops to Minneapolis!

The terminal has modernized slightly with a big restaurant in the waiting space, and has certainly changed with the introduction of Spirit and Southwest to the terminal as well.

Got to the gate right as the door was opening to let incoming passengers off, so I was right on time to be the first to board…essential when you’re in Seat 1A as you have no underseat storage space. You do have more legroom and nobody reclining into you, however, so it’s still my seat of choice whenever possible as someone who’s 6’4.

Air Canada flight 7615 op. by Sky Regional
Washington, DC, National (DCA) to Toronto, Pearson (YYZ)
Depart 12:45, Arrive: 14:12, flight time: 1:27
Embraer ERJ-175, Registration C-FUJA, Manufactured 2009, Seat 1A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 78,934
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,771,522

One of my favourite parts of DCA is that 90% of the time you take off to the north on runway 1 and do a sharp bank to the left right after takeoff which affords those in A seats great views of the Pentagon.

This is always a snack flight, and I definitely didn’t need it after the cholesterol bomb at the airport, but I’m a sucker for a deli plate…especially when there’s pickles!

Uneventful flight…until the last minute. So, seriously, what is it about YYZ? Today we had a go around, and from the picture below you can see why. There was still a plane on the taxiway under us! Seriously!

I ask “why YYZ” because I’ve had probably 10 go-arounds or other unusual experiences in-flight (yes, I know that’s not a lot given how many I fly) and at least half have been at YYZ. This was my third go-around at YYZ, which is half of the total go-arounds I can remember.

I also remember an incident climbing out of YYZ on a US Scareways CRJ-200 years ago when we hear a loud BANG and the plane pitched pretty violently to the right. It felt like we were at a 45 degree angle (was probably a bit less) and the captain – very professionally and calmly – as soon as he’d fixed the situation came on and told us what had happened: ATC hadn’t spaced us far enough behind a 747 on takeoff, and we hit its wake at around FL20 which is what caused the bang…who knew wake could be that strong?

Right, well, this was a pretty short go around as the map above shows, and soon we were on the ground and I was through the transit area (basically scan your passport at a kiosk and good to go back to the transit/departures international area) and time to enjoy a couple hours in the Air Canada Signature Suites.

I still really like this lounge, though I can’t help but feel it’s much more crowded these days and the food offerings from the buffet are quite a bit poorer in quality. I know there’s a dining menu, but since I planned to eat on the plane I just wanted to drink and nibble.

The staff, however, were fantastic as always and I enjoyed a couple of glasses of rosé champagne and a cocktail called the “J Class.”

Boarding was absolutely mayhem, as it always is between 5-6pm at Pearson. The departures area is simply not large enough to handle around 10 widebodies going out full all at once, and it took me a few times, but I’ve finally realized generally you should just go up to the podium and ask where they want business class to board from.

Air Canada flight 878
Toronto, Pearson (YYZ) to Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH)
Depart 18:05, Arrive: 7:40 next day, flight time: 7:35
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration C-FIVQ, Manufactured 2008, Seat 7K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 82,979
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,775,567

I do love the Air Canada business class seat. Private in that you have lots of space to yourself and nobody next to you at the window, and even more private in row 7 (my first choice after row 1) because nobody is looking at the back of your head. (Us tall people worry about such things sometimes.)

Lots of big poofy clouds on takeoff. For years, I was never much of a window person, but lately I’ve really enjoyed watching the cloud formations and sunsets.

Warm nuts (too warm, mushy a la United), and some red whine and noisy water to start things off. Short flight today, barely 6.5 hours to Zurich! I wasn’t going to be getting much sleep!

Sigh, shrimp starter. I hadn’t been paying attention, so I took it for the greens (which I dumped on the salad and enjoyed), and a bit of garlic bread. Seriously, why does everyone think a few cold shrimp are a nice starter these days? At least Air Canada serves four while United cheaply serves only two.

Decided to go with the chicken pesto main since it sounded healthier than the beef. The chicken was a really weird rubbery consistency, but seemed to be completely cooked so I risked it. Tasted ok, the texture was just odd. I haven’t ordered chicken on planes much lately…but lately feel like the fish is often the best option – beating out overcooked beef and rubbery chicken.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of Air Canada’s cheese course, because it’s just boring. Today was no exception. Tasty enough, yes, but in-flight when things lose a bit of their flavours something bolder than cheddar and mozzarella would be nice.

All was forgiven, however, when the brown sugar tart was served. OMG delicious…

I did manage about three hours of sleep before landing, but I’m not sure many others did since the windows were all thrown open and breakfast served about 90 minutes before landing. This isn’t a comment on the crew, more on the other passengers who already seemed to be up.

Not a problem, however, since I have a soft spot for the Air Canada omelet with that weird cream cheese sauce they serve it with. Plus, they always serve a really fresh and ripe fruit plate which is delicious.

I used the wifi during breakfast to book my onward train, as pre-booking in Switzerland can save you as much as 75%. Last minute to Bern is often nearly 90 francs, but I found if a took a train two hours after landing I could get it for 29.90 francs.

I decided I could enjoy some coffee at the airport even if the immigration line was long and save over $60, so it was an easy decision. Landing was nice and smooth, zero line at immigration, and it was coffee time before heading to Bern for three weeks!

Sep 272019
 


Talk about a bit of an anticlimactic end to a trip. I had been all excited to fly two long segments with EVA Airways in their Hello Kitty service on the 777, but due to crew strikes the flights were canceled. At least I had an option that would get me home comfortably. No, it wasn’t exciting or new, and certainly not the way I wanted to end this really cook AvGeeking trip, but hey, make lemonade from lemons and all that jazz!

Woke up early after only about six hours of sleep, figuring I could always sleep on the super long flight and crossing 12 time zones my body wouldn’t really know the difference anyways. Grabbed an early coffee before heading to the airport, and what Hong Kong Starbucks called a “croque monsieur.” Close, but no croque…

Off to the airport by train again, and one thing I was looking forward to was checking out the American Express Lounge. The United Lounge in Hong Kong is known to be one of their nicer ones, but I’d also heard great things about the American Express Lounge.

I know everyone loves the AmEx lounges in the US, but they frustrate me a bit. I find them very crowded most of the time, and hard to find a seat. It also really bothers me that as a Centurion Card holder I can barely find a seat when some guy and his family of six with a Platinum Card are taking up seven seats. Anyways, rant over.

So, why was I looking forward to the AmEx Lounge then? Hong Kong, like Buenos Aires and Mexico City actually have Centurion Lounges within their “Centurion” Lounge. I always found it weird that “Centurion” lounges let platinum card holders in, but whatever.

The lounge in Hong Kong was pretty quiet, and had a nice menu to order from. How can I say no to eggs benedict and champagne in the lounge? That’s right…I can’t.

Service in the AmEx lounge was amazing, and it was easily one of my top AmEx Lounge experiences ever. Next time, I’m going to have to make much more time to stop by than just the 45 mintues or so I had before this flight.

Fortunately, my gate was not far from the lounge, and caught this view of my chariot as we waited to board:

The plane was named the “New Spirit of United” but beyond Polaris seats (which I do actually really like) I wasn’t expecting too much.

United Airlines flight 180
Hong Kong (HKG) to Newark, New Jersey (EWR)
Depart 10:25, Arrive: 14:10, flight time: 15:45
Boeing 777-300ER, Registration N2331U, Manufactured 2016, Seat 11L
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 78,376
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,770,964

Somehow I think this 8,063 mile flight is going to take a bit longer than 0:00 as the screen seems to promise:

Pre-departure sparkling plonk and water were offered. I commend United on upgrading to actual glass glasses for PDBs, but the Spider Man napkins and terrible sparkling wine were a stark reminder I wasn’t on Emirates anymore…or Qantas…or Thai…or Cathay…or, well, you get the point…

I love planespotting outside the US where I get to see lots of airlines I don’t see every day…today it was Air Mauritius:

Warm nuts were served right after takeoff, with more Spidey napkins. I honestly have always wondered what United “does” to their almonds. They always seem kinda mushy to me and stale.

The salad was a pretty below average offering today, and the appetizer was two rather sad looking shrimp with “yellow mushrooms”. Way to put the class in business class, United. *frown*

I felt like something was fishy with this meal, so I went with the “pan-fried halibut” with lemon caper butter sauce. It was pretty decent, and less heavy than the overcooked beef options, so overall it passed muster.

Cheese and deserts finished off the exactly-as-expected United meal. I would say the cheese was just average today (I never really find interesting or adventurous cheese on United) but the bonus cherries on the sundae were definitely a win!

Having only gotten about six hours the night before, I decided that after lunch was a perfect time for a good long nap….which lasted nearly six hours!

Woke up at exactly the perfect moment! I looked outside and the sun was just rising over extreme northern Alaska. Absolutely gorgeous views!

Pre-landing breakfast was served, with the usual offer of congee, “smoked salmon and spinach frittata” (aka cholesterol and sodium bomb) or “fruit with cereal and milk.”

There was nothing high-end about it, but the fruit and cereal were nice and light and did hit the spot, so overall it was the right choice for me.

Landed at the B Terminal at Newark, which seems to be where all my international Star Alliance flights have been coming into lately. I know SAS always lands there as does Lufthansa, but even my United flights seem to land there now. Is immigration and customs at Terminal C just that busy?

Caught the AirTrain over to Terminal C, and fortunately my flight to DCA would be leaving out of C today and not A so I could spend my layover enjoying the Polaris Lounge, which I hadn’t visited in Newark before.

I asked the bartender for a Paper Plane, but made with Mezcal (thanks ORD Polaris Lounge for introducing me to this) and the bartender gave me the most perfect Jersey “what’s wrong with you” look. She made it though, and it was delicious, and she was an absolute hoot to chat with, so bonus!

All too soon it was time to head to the gate for the short hop to DCA.

United Airlines flight 3434 op. by Republic Airlines
Newark, New Jersey (EWR) to Washington, DC, National (DCA)
Depart 15:45, Arrive: 17:17, flight time: 1:32
Embraer ERJ-170, Registration N642RW, Manufactured 2005, Seat 1C
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 78,575
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,771,163

When I booked, only economy was available on this flight for an award, but the great agent did waitlist me for first. Oddly, 24 hours before the flight, there were still five seats unsold but still no upgrade for me….it dwindled to four, then three, then two…and held at one…and finally cleared for me at the gate. That was a close call.

Nothing to say about this flight. No drinks, no snack basket “due to the short length of the flight” but I really didn’t care for barely 40 minutes of flight time.

Most notable part of this flight was the beat to hell United plane at the gate next to our arrival at DCA. Get this thing a new paint job!

…and just like that, I was home from an epic 18 day vacation….and when I say home, I meant for 68 hours…because it was already time to head out to Switzerland for work….for three whole weeks! Next segments, coming up soon!

Sep 262019
 


When figuring out how I was going to get home from Singapore, none of the options looked overly attractive. EVA Air offered to try and find an option to rebook me, but since I’d paid more than I wanted to for this segment just to fly the Hello Kitty service, I wasn’t really interested in getting a lesser product for that high price.

So, I asked for a refund, and set out to search. There were options, of course, all in business class, and all cheaper than I’d paid EVA – but none of them were particularly enticing. Air China? No thanks. A few other random Chinese airlines that would get me into JFK and I’d have to take the train home? No thanks.

Then, finally, after a lot of searching, I found Hong Kong to DC on United at a standard award level! That will do nicely! No, it’s not exciting, but the Hong Kong to Newark 777 would at least feature the new Polaris seats, so I knew it would be comfortable…and save me a good deal of money.

There was, however, that small matter of how I was going to get to Hong Kong. Paid flights were about $600 which was still much less than I’d paid EVA, but I wasn’t excited about spending that AND the miles from Hong Kong. A bit more searching and I found award space on Singapore Airlines to Hong Kong…but of course United couldn’t book it.

I decided to transfer points from Chase to Singapore Airlines and hope they went through before the space disappeared, and fortunately they did, and I was all set. Whew!

9:55 was a bit earlier than I preferred to get up and go to the airport, but it still wasn’t crazy early. I decided to maximize sleep and then use Grab to the airport and grab some Starbucks once I got there. All that sorted I didn’t even have time for the lounge, but hey – if I have to choose between sleep and the lounge I’ll take sleep every time!

Singapore Airlines flight 856
Singapore (SIN) to Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart 9:55, Arrive: 13:55, flight time: 4:00
Airbus A380, Registration 9V-SKZ, Manufactured 2018, Seat 96K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 70,311
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,762,899

I’ve flown the A380 in business on plenty of airlines, but with a 1-2-1 configuration I was looking forward to seeing how roomy the seats would feel on Singapore compared to some of their competitors. The answer? Very roomy. I could be super happy in this seat even for a 12+ hour flight! Plus…how in the world could I resist the novelty of sitting in seat 96K in business class. One day, someone needs a row 100!

Pre-departure champagne was served – I really liked the simple but elegant glasses that Singapore uses – though with such a small base I wondered how stable they would be in turbulence.

I can’t remember the last time I had a window seat behind the wing, not to mention one on the upper deck. It was fun watching the wing during takeoff, especially once in the air and you could actually see the air moving over the wing!

Not terribly long after takeoff breakfast was served, which started with breakfast breads, a fruit plate, and of course since it was brunch a bit more champagne!

The fruit was followed by a cereal course, where raisin bran was on offer today. I never eat cereal at home, but it was kind of a fun novelty in flight I guess?

After the cereal there was a choice of hot meals, and I chose the cheese omelet, but who knows what happened to the pictures. It’s not like me to forget to take a picture, so I’m going to guess that it got accidentally deleted. Oh well, you’ll just have to trust me that it was tasty!

The meal didn’t end there, however. There was also a strawberry cream cake for dessert. Breakfast with dessert and champagne, what’s not to love about this!

Flight wasn’t really short at four hours gate to gate, but also didn’t feel super long. I definitely could have enjoyed the seat and the Singapore service a bit longer without wishing the flight was over!

Immigration line was fortunately not too bad when we landed, and I grabbed the train into the city. One of the nice things about the W Hotel in Hong Kong is that it’s connected to a mall right above the train station, so a straight shot from the airport and a short indoor walk (read: no need to go outside and get sweaty) and you’re there.

Strange comment at check-in: “we are sorry as a platinum member we were not able to offer you a suite on a previous visit, so we wanted to make sure to get you one today.” Wow, front desk staff that actually looked at guest history? That’s pretty impressive!

I don’t know if I should consider a view of the freeway and water filled with cargo ships a good view or not, but hey, it’s always fun to have something to look at…right?

Protests were unfortunately happening very near the hotel this weekend, and there were quite a few police hanging out near the hotel. The protestors had targeted mainland visitors this weekend, and the mainland express train also left from the mall, so there was quite a bit of action in the area.

That said, it still didn’t seem to horrible, but rather than try and deal with transit I foolishly decided to grab an Uber to head out to get some beers. Unfortunately, the police had closed several streets due to the protests, so the ride was much longer than it should have been, but at least at the end I was rewarded with some tasty beers!

Post-beers I decided to save a bit of time and grab an Uber back to the hotel as well, and snapped this artsy shot looking straight up as I waited for the Uber. There’s something about the dense chaos of Hong Kong that I find really energizing!

Off to bed – I wanted to get up in time to enjoy a lazy coffee before heading to the airport and the excitement that would be a flight home on United!

Sep 242019
 


Thanks to a relatively solid night of sleep I was up at a reasonable hour, and able to have a leisurely morning and coffee before heading to the airport to begin the next leg of the journey. While enjoying coffee, I looked up in the atrium and thought “this might make a neat artsy picture” – you be the judge if it was successful!

Back to the hotel to check out – the “for sale” display in the lobby of the W Bangkok always cracks me up. The giant sequinned muay thai boxing gloves that are always on the bed are funny enough, but I really wonder if they manage to ever convince anyone to buy any of this stuff….

Uber is no longer operating in Bangkok, so I had to use Grab to get to the airport. Worked just as well and just as conveniently as Uber, so not really a huge deal – I assume Uber has been spinning off some of its less profitable countries to other companies?

Check-in was nice and easy, and there was no line at first class immigration or security, and soon I was into the Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s a really neat airport, but my biggest gripe is that it always feels quite humid and warm to me. Probably due to all the glass. I do love the Thai art throughout the terminal, however!

The Cathay Pacific Lounge was actually quite difficult to find, tucked away behind some elevators, but when I did eventually manage to find it it was absolutely packed without a seat to be had in the whole place.

This isn’t a small lounge, either. I was pretty surprised Cathay has so much traffic at Bangkok that it could fill a lounge of this size, but in addition to my flight to Singapore I assume there was also one to Hong Kong, so maybe because they use it as a transit point? Why knows.

I did finally find a seat at a computer in the “business center” area to enjoy a glass of champagne. I have no idea what I was thinking, since I was feeling a bit sketchy from the night before at this point, but I guess it’s always time for champagne! (and of course a few delicious biscuits!)

Boarding area for my flight was relatively quiet, which compounded the question of why the lounge was so full. Hmmm…

Cathay Pacific flight 717
Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi, Thailand (BKK) to Singapore (SIN)
Depart 11:55, Arrive: 15:25, flight time: 2:30
Airbus A350-1000, Registration B-LXA, Manufactured 2018, Seat 21K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 68,724
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,761,312

This was my first time on the A350-1000, and my first impression was positive. The seats were quite private, had a ton of space, and the cabin felt open and light. I’d selected a seat near the back of the cabin, and it was completely empty back there. All told, business was hardly 50% full to Singapore today.

Pre-departure beverages were offered, and I decided it was still an appropriate time for champagne, but I did also get some water…because it’s important to remain hydrated you know!

For a two hour flight, I was pretty impressed that a full meal was served with salad, bread, a tasty thai pork main course, and some ice cream to finish. Nice meal for such a short flight!

We landed in Singapore at the newish Terminal 4, which I have to say at least from an arrivals perspective did not impress me. Everyone pretty much universally loves Changi Airport, but this terminal felt like what it is: a budget terminal. I’m quite surprised that Cathay opted to relocate to this terminal.

Grabbed a grab (see what I did there?) to my hotel since apparently Uber doesn’t work in Singapore either, and on the way we passed by the Singapore Flyer:

I had two nights in Singapore, and hadn’t made any plans. I was meeting up with a friend who was making a mileage run from the States for the weekend, so we decided to play things by ear. First night was really just chill, a few drinks and early to bed.

Woke up the next morning without too much of a plan, so started with coffee…and thinking about next steps.

In all my visits to Singapore I’ve never really done a proper visit to a hawker center for food, so today seemed like as good of a day as any to give it a try. Our first stop would be the Maxwell Hawker Center, since it was just about a 10 minute (hot and humid) walk from our hotel. We were there by around 11am, but the long line had already formed and was around the corner for the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. I have to say it was quite tasty, but somehow I expected something a little more mind-blowing.

After some lunch we walked a bit more to try and walk off the chicken rice before our next mean, and walked through the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple on the way. Very cool, and packed with locals.

The next stop would be Hawker Chan, which is known as the world’s cheapest Michelin Star restaurant. For something like $5 you got a plate of chicken rice. The place was so popular they actually moved out of the hawker center and into a proper storefront. I have to disagree though on the chicken rice – I thought Tian Tian was much tastier. This didn’t really impress me at all.

Full of chicken rice, and having had about all the heat and humidity we could handle, we headed over to the Marina Bay Sands mall to walk around indoors and cool off for a bit while still getting in a tiny bit of exercise.

After some cooling off we took the elevators up like 50 stories to the rooftop bar for some amazing views of Singapore:

Stopped for drinks at the bar which had recently-ish been renamed “Cé La Vi” and of course, I had to do the tourist thing and enjoy a Singapore Sling…while enjoying the great views! Despite the humidity, it was nice and relaxing up there.

By this point in the afternoon, the heat was really taking a toll, so it was back to our hotel the Westin for some relaxing in the lounge, catching up on email and such while resting up.

After snacks in the Westin lounge we really didn’t need a full dinner, so decided to just head out to Mikkeller Bar Singapore for some craft beers. Of course, after a few beers you really need food, so we decided to end the night back where we’d started the day, in the hawker center near our hotel.

Lau Pa Sat is known for having one street outside that at night turns into “satay street” with well over a dozen different stalls selling satay. The smell of grilling meat was heavy in the humid air, but it made an absolutely delicious late-night snack before heading back to bed!

After gorging ourselves on satay it was back to the hotel to get some sleep. I had really been looking forward to leaving Singapore on EVA Airways Hello Kitty planes first to Taipei and then Chicago, but unfortunately due to the strike my flights had been canceled. Sad kitty!

Fortunately, I managed to find a reasonably good alternative home which while not as interesting and “fun” as Hello Kitty, would at least be nice and comfortable while saving a good deal of cash!

Stay tuned!

Sep 142019
 


After getting to my hotel it was still relatively early, so I figured I had a bit of time to head out and get some drinks with friends. Couple of pints and a relatively early night, and I was hoping that I would finally be more or less adjusted to the time zone. Tried to make sense of cricket at the pub, but it still completely mystifies me.

Woke up, found a decent-looking place I forgot the name of that made a pretty respectable french-press coffee, and I was caffeinated and ready to make the most of my full day in Melbourne!

Friend picked me up in the (wrong side of the) car, and off we went to the Yarra Valley for a day of exploring outside Melbourne. One thing I think I never make enough time for is getting out of large cities when I travel, and it seems to be where I always have the best time so I was looking forward to this mini adventure!

First stop was the Yarra Valley Dairy which served up an amazing and huge platter of fresh farmhouse cheeses. I can’t believe I neglected to take a picture of all the cheese, but possibly that’s because we were so busy devouring it.

I did, however, remember to take a picture of the amazing cow at the entrance to the tasting room:

After stuffing ourselves with cheese (and of course a couple more delicious flat whites) it was down the road a bit to go to the Chandon Winery. For those of you who don’t know (like me) Chandon is indeed related to Moët and Chandon, and was born when they decided to try and produce some sparkling wines outside of France. The Chandon Winery is the result.

It was truly a gorgeous day to be out in the vineyard (although a bit chilly and windy) but was nice to walk near the vines before headed to the main event…the wines!

Decided the most proper way to explore all they had to offer was the tasting tray…and I swear I didn’t do this just because it made an amazing picture!

Super tasty wines, and even better company. It’s always great when travel allows the opportunity to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a very long time, and honestly that was much more fun than any sparkling wine or cheese…and if you know how much I love sparkling wine and cheese that’s like the biggest compliment possible!

Back to Melbourne, walked around a bit, and I was starting to get a bit sleepy, so what better than another flat white…and a delicious mango and lemon tart. A bit more on the posh side than it needed to be, but absolutely delicious nonetheless!

Fuelled by caffeine and sugar, it was off to stroll randomly around Melbourne a bit more, and ended up outside a theater where some Harry Potter nonsense or another was just ending and it seemed half the city was outside taking pictures of some things I had no idea why I should be interested. So, I just took a picture of all them taking pictures instead.

More walking, random palm trees, seemed very out of place on this evening that was becoming rather cool and windy.

Ended up at some place that a colleague wanted to go where we literally ate squid, drank beer, and were entertained by aged hipsters. It was a rather strange environment, but also one of those cool and unique experiences you would only have when traveling!

Off to bed, more catching up on sleep….and after a good long rest it was time to get up and randomly stroll around trying to find somewhere intriguing to find a good coffee.

This random sculpture on the street was far too terrifying before I’d had a proper caffeine fix:

Caught the tram to the train station (cool fact about Melbourne: trams in the City Centre are completely free!) and then the bus to the airport which was rather convenient. In no time at all I was at the terminal and through security, and ready to enjoy one final Qantas lounge.

It was just about lunch time, and I was rather hungry, and the Qantas buffet definitely didn’t disappoint. Can you imagine a selection like this in the US, on a domestic flight, solely by virtue of purchasing a business class ticket? Oh, that’s right, in the US you’d get no lounge at all!

Qantas, however, had a make your own toastie machine, proper sparkling wine, and delicious pickled veggies and lemon bars. Grilled cheese? Beetroot? Sparkling wine? AND lemon bars? I was honestly in heaven…

Off to the gate, where we were a little behind schedule in boarding. Our incoming aircraft was late from Tasmania due to some weather nonsense or another, but soon enough we were aboard our 737 for the rather short hop up to Sydney.

Qantas flight 440
Melbourne, Australia (MEL) to Sydney, Australia (SYD)
Depart 14:30, Arrive: 15:55, flight time: 1:25
Boeing 737-800, Registration VH-VYH, Manufactured 2005, Seat 02D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 63,187
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,755,775

Super impressive three choices of meal on a flight that was barely an hour long, however, despite being in the second row there was only one choice when they got to me which was a “vegetable lasagna.” It wasn’t all that impressive, except it was a hot meal with great bread on a one hour flight! That alone was impressive!

Despite the late start we got to Sydney right on time, and it was time to catch the train back to the Marriott again and enjoy the first of several nights in Sydney.

Sep 122019
 


Since my last visit a couple years back, a new Bonvoy hotel option had opened in Perth, and I liked the location a bit better than the Four Points, so I opted to give the Westin a try. I’m usually a fan of Westin’s clean aesthetic (and a sucker for the white tea scent they blast throughout the property) and along with Renaissance and AC they tend to be my preferred Bonvoy brands.

This property was no exception, and I had an upgrade to what I believe was called a junior suite, but regardless it was pretty spacious with a nice sitting area as well.

After a long walk to stretch my legs I stopped by the room to clean up a bit, and enjoy the gorgeous nighttime view from the room. This will do, this will definitely do!

Some small snacks in the lounge which was nice and had a pretty reasonable spread (but as is usual at international Bonvoy properties the lounge was packed with American business travellers and their families…and yes I realize this is the pottle calling the kettle black, but hey, at least it was just me…) so I enjoyed a glass of wine before heading out for an evening walk.

You know you’re in Australia when you walk by the Kangaroo Inn….

Found a good, happening pub with several local craft beers on tap, but with all the time changing I didn’t last long and it was off to the Westin for a good night of sleep to try and catch up after all the travel from Tunisia.

…of course, what did I wake up to? Yup, my evening flight from Perth to Melbourne was canceled, and I was supposed to “call Qantas to rebook.” I can’t do that without caffeine, so off I went to find breakfast at a quirky little coffeeshop I’d found on the previous trip.

La Veen Coffee serves not just amazing coffee (I am a huge fan of their rocket fuel cold brew) but also delicious brekkie: (I mean come on, when you’re in ‘Straya you can’t really call it breakfast can you?)

While enjoying a delicious eggs benedict with bacon and fresh spinach on homemade sourdough (and a couple of delicious cold brews) I did a bunch of searching, and it turns out supposedly Qantas has a text messaging service where they will answer customer service problems.

I decided to text them despite my 50 cent/text roaming fee, and see if I could accomplish this for just a couple dollars. Based on looking online it seemed there was a flight a few hours earlier which had not been available on points when I booked, and a bit more sleuthing revealed why. It only had two seats left, and was the continuation of the “world’s longest flight” from London to Perth which continues to Melbourne.

I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask since there were two seats left, and my flight had been cancelled. It took them about 45 minutes to answer my text, but after they did the back and forth took only another 15 minutes or so, and about six texts later I was confirmed on the Dreamliner. Cool!

Unfortunately, this meant my nearly full day in Perth would be reduced to a morning, so fortunately I’d had a couple of very powerful coffees to power me through it. Right, off we go!

First stop was a wander down to the river, where an ice skating rink had been set up! It was chilly (maybe 10C?) or so outside, but not cold enough for this. The condition of the ice definitely showed it…plus $24 to go skating? Yikes!

That’s so punny of them….ig-loos…get it?

I totally wanted a picture as the kangaroo or snowman, but unfortunately (or fortunately) maybe, there was nobody around to assist me.

Scenic stroll along the river…it was slightly overcast, but a great day for pictures.

This reminded me of the Dragon Blood Tree from Socotra Island Yemen, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the same.

Beware of giant, bronze statues of Skippy!

After walking for almost two hours it was back to the hotel for a quick shower and freshen up before heading to the airport to check in for my flight to Melbourne. I would have cut it a bit closer, but unfortunately the Qantas app wouldn’t let me check in online.

When I got to the airport, I found out why. Because this is the continuation of an international flight, all domestic passengers have to go through special procedures since passengers continuing from London to Melbourne don’t clear customs until Melbourne! I got the appropriate sticker on my boarding pass, and headed up to security and the lounge.

As usual, despite being a domestic lounge the Qantas lounge was fantastic, and had nice fresh pizza and good Aussie shiraz to enjoy while I waited. For some reason, we’d been warned to leave the lounge an hour before boarding to head to the gate. Uh, ok?

Soon it became clear why: we had to go through security again and clear immigration to “leave” Australia despite not “leaving” Australia. Spoke to the immigration officer, he saw the sticker on my boarding pass, gave it some official stamp that said “domestic passenger” and off to the gate it was. We didn’t actually clear immigration (aka they didn’t “check us out” of Australia) but we had to be cleared to go on an “international” flight as domestic passengers. Confused yet?

The gate area was quite small, and was filled with the passengers continuing from London, and there was a really nice outdoor area next to the gate where you could wait to board:

Boarding was pretty quick, and while business was completely full, economy class seemed to be nearly empty. Maybe there’s a lot of economy traffic to Perth, but business class folk tend to continue to Melbourne? Who knows.

Qantas flight 10
Perth, Australia (PER) to Melbourne, Australia (MEL)
Depart 13:25, Arrive: 18:55, flight time: 3:30
Boeing 787-9, Registration VH-ZNC, Manufactured 2018, Seat 03K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 62,748
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,755,336

Upon boarding the seat was similar to the seat on the A330, but I’d managed not only to get one of the last seats, not only to get a window seat, but also to get the kind next to the window instead of next to the aisle. Score!

What’s not to like about a printed menu for a barely three hour flight?!

Plus pre-departure champagne…real champagne since it was still an “international” flight, but unfortunately the cabin was quite steamy and warm according to the temp sensor cube….

Sourdough bread, artisan/craft butter, and a nice salad to start with more champagne. Jacquart Mosaique was the bubbles on offer for this short flight. Not sure if it’s the same for the longhaul segment.

Poached egg, bacon, and spinach on sourdough. No hollandaise sauce, so you can’t claim I had eggs benedict twice in one day! I decided I’d stay with the champagne as long as I was on the brunch theme.

…and a cheese course. Perfectly lovely. I should have switched to red wine maybe, but hey… Maggie Beer ice cream again, today was burnt fig, honeycomb, and caramel – I think it’s their tastiest flavour.

Sun setting on approach to Melbourne. I love how the orange bounces off the engine and wingtip!

Landed right on time, and being a few hours earlier than expected I figured if I hurried I might have time to still go out and get a bite to eat. Making lemonade from lemons, I might have lost my lunch in Perth, but I’d be gaining dinner in Melbourne!

Unexpectedly, we landed and everyone was sent to immigration – including domestic passengers. Had to show passport and boarding pass with the stamp, and still got questioned as if we were entering Australia…a bit strange. This was definitely a unique experience!

Fortunately, didn’t take more than a few minutes and I was off to my hotel by Uber and ready to enjoy Melbourne!