Oct 202019
 


I had been so busy running around all day after deciding I was going to not only make this work, but getting it booked, that I’d pretty much forgotten to eat all day.

I popped in to the Turkish Airlines lounge at Dulles which I know lots of people are a fan of (and which generally has better food than Lufthansa) but…it was its usual late-afternoon standing room only and the only option would be to share a small table with someone. I don’t need that kind of hassle before a hectic but fun trip, so back to Lufthansa it was!

It always bums me out that Lufthansa doesn’t have a first class lounge at Dulles, and makes me sort of giggle that they just rope off a section of the lounge for First Class and Hon Circle passengers. Looking at the lounge, which was surprisingly not crowded today.

Food was nothing overly special, but enough to hold me over until the flight. The flower was a nice touch, since I’d be away a short time (and remember how hot ANA likes to keep the cabins) I’d decided to bring my own USB fan with on the trip.

Also, apparently they “don’t have anymore” champagne glasses today, so will this be ok? Hah!

Boarding was straight from the lounge which is one of the things I love about Lufthansa at Dulles, and the agents came and got the first class passengers individually before announcing boarding for business class. Nicely done – even without a dedicated lounge!

Lufthansa flight 419
Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 18:15, Arrive: 08:10 next day, flight time: 7:55
Boeing 747-8, Registration D-ABYD, Manufactured 2012, Seat 2K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 126,120
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,818,708

Friendly crew immediately upon boarding, and when I got to my seat…wow…wine list was brought over along with macadamia nuts and champagne right away. I could tell this was going to be an extra-good (and photogenic) flight!

Despite a snack in the lounge I was still hungry, so perfect time to explore what’s to eat today!

It was a little warm during boarding, but fortunately I had come prepared! The crew got a good laugh out of it.

…and when I say a little warm, I’m not kidding!

Slightly late departure, but a mercifully short taxi, and soon we were lined up on runway 30 ready to take off into the sunset!

This crew was absolutely fantastic. About 15 minutes after takeoff they came around to each passenger in first, introduced the crew, and asked how we would “prefer our flight paced.” I told them I probably wouldn’t sleep much, if at all, so I’d prefer the meal service to be slower and drawn out. They were more than happy to accommodate, starting with a canapé.

About 30 minutes into the flight we were treated to a gorgeous purple sunset above the clouds. Loved the way the purple hue came through the windows across the cabin.

What better way to start a fabulous, spontaneous trip around the world than with caviar service! Smallish portion today, but it seems everyone was enjoying it so this is just the “normal” portion…

Since it was a leisurely meal, I decided I would go with all the appetizers. From right to left, the halibut on vegetable ceviche was super light and tasty. The burrata and baby tomatoes and maitake mushrooms was also outstanding, and the beef tenderloin with baby beets and tartare sauce was also really good. Usually at least one of the three appetizers is a little weird or not great, but tonight they were all super. We were off to a fantastic start for the trip!

I’ve been skipping the beef on planes lately, but how could I resist “tenderloin of beef with lobster claw.” It was really tasty, a nice medium, and the lobster was really good too. I worried the beef might be overcooked like usual, or the lobster rubbery, but my fears were totally unfounded tonight.

I have to admit, I do love seeing the giant cheeseboard wheeled out on Lufthansa, and watching as the cheese is cut up and served. The lovely flight attendant asked me if I would mind, however, if she plated it in the galley as by this point the lights were out as all the other passengers were asleep.

No problem at all – and a delicious selection as always tonight!

Finally, the grand finale, passion fruit panna cotta with butter crumble. Out of this world, and with a glass of Johnny Walker Blue or two it was a perfect way to end the first decadent meal of the trip.

I did end up napping about three hours before landing, which was unexpected, but I also had a hotel room booked since I would have nine hours in transit…and only planned to spend the last three in the lounge.

Managed to get four hours of sleep on top of the three I got on the plane, which was absolutely wonderful. Then…it was time for the short walk to the First Class Terminal (with a stop at Starbucks on the way of course) and enjoy a bit of food and drink…all while chairing my meeting!

Oct 172019
 


After a whole 24 hours at home (which, let’s be honest, was mostly laundry and taking care of errands I could only do at home) it was time to head back to Dulles and fly to India. The good part is: I woke up at like 05:00 thanks to my body still being on Africa time, so in theory the jetlag wouldn’t be too bad and despite my flight being at 5pm I should be able to sleep on it…right?

Thanks to CLEAR security was a breeze, and soon I was in the United lounge. I find it extremely insulting that Newark, Houston, LA, Chicago all have Polaris Lounges, and at Dulles if you buy a C fare you get this. I get the construction delays are somewhat out of United’s hands, but couldn’t they at least give a few coupons for premium drinks? I know DC has a ton of government clients so maybe they take the market for granted, but come on…this just says “we don’t care.”

Off to the gate which fortunately was right next to the lounge, and boarding right on time.

United flight 106
Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD) to Munich, Germany (MUC)
Depart 17:25, Arrive: 07:40 next day, flight time: 8:15
Boeing 777-200, Registration N220UA, Manufactured 2001, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 110,475
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,803,063

I was actually looking forward to this flight, because it might be my last chance to fly in the old Global First seats. Everything else could be mediocre about this flight (and pretty much was) but having the old Global First seats made it a huge treat!

Tonight’s dinner options – a whole menu of meh.

The best thing about early evening departures? Great twilight lighting at Dulles for planespotting out the windows.

After takeoff, the usual – mixed nuts that were over-warmed and soggy and a glass of Château l’Oscar 2019:

I can’t decide if the Polaris cart covering says fancy or “corporate cafeteria” to me. I remember the first few months of Polaris when it really seemed United wanted to make an effort to step up the “class” of its offering. I do wonder what killed this: the extra (maybe?) $1,000 per flight total it cost them, or the realization that none of their customers actually choose them over competition based on food so why bother.

That said, the duck appetizer is actually decent (way better than the shrimp!) although the salad was wilted and had lots of brown spots tonight. Mostly inedible.

The salmon, on the other hand, was actually really tasty and I’d be happy to order it again. I know it’s a super minor nitpick, but could we please have reusable/nicer ramekins for sauce instead of environmentally-nasty disposable foil ones? For an airline that brags about “EcoSkies” this is pretty disappointing.

The usual cheese. We’re not on Lufthansa anymore.

Today’s sundae choice was caramel which was actually sort of watery, and four cherries. Hmmmmm.

I actually love the little mini apple pies, however. Temperature gauge in the background confirms it’s a nice and comfy temp on top of the comfy Global First seats.

Landed a bit early in Munich, and since I had a pretty long layover I decided I’d exit immigration, walk around a bit, enjoy the cool air, and stretch my legs a bit. Got a few questions from the immigration officer about why I was leaving on a five hour connection, but was proud that I managed the exchange in German without him switching back to English. Small victories!

Love this Lufthansa ad outside the arrivals area:

After enjoying a cool, brisk walk and some Starbucks (of course) it was off to the Lufthansa First Lounge to enjoy a bit of brunch and a shower. I decided to eat first since I was having a difficult time cooling off (jetlag gets my core temp up every time) so first it was brunch time. Opted for a glass of orange juice out on the outdoor terrace as I cooled down, and then some eggs benny followed by more espresso and a glass of rosé. Also stopped back with my duck after a shower for a pastry, because, hey….

Soon enough it was time to leave the lounge (and Schengen Area) which conveniently can all be done while exiting the lounge thanks to an immigration desk, and off to the gate to board my first Lufthansa A350!

Lufthansa flight 762
Munich, Germany (MUC) to Delhi, India (DEL)
Depart 12:10, Arrive: 23:15, flight time: 7:35
Airbus A350-900 Registration D-AIXC, Manufactured 2017, Seat 3D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 114,148
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,806,736

First impressions were pretty much what I expected. I knew people weren’t happy with the A350, and it was easy to see why. Exactly like Lufthansa’s A330s, it was super crowded in business class, with the middle two seats feeling almost right on top of each other, and the two sides featuring climbover class. I need to make the case to United that since I was supposed to be on the EWR-DEL nonstop they should give me full Global Services credit for this C fare!

Cabin felt almost identical to the A330 on Lufthansa.

What’s for lunch….and pre-arrival dinner:

Today’s meal started off with a ramekin of almonds and a nice glass of wine.

I went with the chicken carpaccio for a starter which was pretty good, but could have used a bit more flavour as it was relatively bland.

The salad…felt more like something from a north american airline, as it had way too much iceberg lettuce in it!

More chicken as a main. Again, could have used a bit more flavour, but felt slightly healthier than the usual suspects? Overall, pretty forgettable.

All was forgotten, however, when dessert arrived. The blueberry and coconut cream dessert was outstanding!

Sadly, however, I was told “cheese OR dessert, you can’t have both” which was a first for me. No big deal, I’d already eaten more than enough, so I spent the rest of the flight catching up on work (I was behind on preparing for this trip since it was back-to-back with the previous one) and soon enough it was time for the arrival meal.

Dinner was a choice of “meat” or “asian vegetarian” and I asked for the meat option, which was supposed to be “andhra mutton roast” with avial (not sure what that is), coconut pulao, savory lamb stew with chili, and some other things. Pretty sure that’s not what I got, but since I also don’t know what “gobi mirch masala, dal hara moong, palak pulao” is, maybe I did? I didn’t see anything “meaty” and it was tasty, so really didn’t matter!

Overall, the flight was exactly what I expected from Lufthansa. A sadly disappointing hard product on the A350, good crew who were more or less as expected, and reasonably tasty food. Nothing special, but I can imagine if you don’t get to travel often – or fly business often – it’s a pretty nice experience!

Now, off to work in India for a few days so I’ll share just a few photos from the time there…and then it’s time to fly home and finally be done with almost seven weeks of back to back travel with less than five nights at home!

Oct 142019
 


My time in Johannesburg was over far too quickly – as it always seems to be – and soon I was at the airport preparing for my trip home. Due to work finishing a bit sooner than expected I had moved my flight forward by a day, and in the process moved from SWISS to Lufthansa up to Europe.

I immediately waitlisted both flights for upgrade, but with the flight to Frankfurt at F2 it looked pretty hopeless. The flight from Frankfurt to DC, however, was F6 so looked much more promising! I tried to stick with United over the water to build more flights towards Global Services status, but the United flight only had J class availability and was more than double the price. No thanks!

At check-in, the agent offered to immediately confirm my upgrade out of Frankfurt (didn’t know they could do this!) and called a supervisor to try and clear my upgrade to Frankfurt as well. I found this odd as the flight was down to F0 in the meantime, but wasn’t going to argue. Unfortunately, she couldn’t and told me it would have to wait for the gate.

Got to the South African Airways lounge, where my favourite bartender in the world remembered me instantly and told me to “go sit down, I will bring it to you!” No order, no anything, and he showed up immediately…with two glasses of wine. I might need to break this reputation…

Boarding was absolute chaos as it always seems to be with Lufthansa in Johannesburg (I’m not sure what’s behind this, but it’s always a madhouse with a million pre-boards and salty gate agents) and I asked about the upgrade and politely told “if you get it we will tell you.”

I wasn’t counting on it, so when boarding started I joined the mass rush to the plane…and enjoyed a glass of bubbles while everyone else tried to part the sea and get on board as quickly as possible.

Lufthansa flight 573
Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 19:00, Arrive: 05:35 next day, flight time: 10:35
Boeing 747-8, Registration D-ABYS, Manufactured 2015, Seat 8D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 102,131
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,794,719

We had a great crew tonight, and they worked on being quick with service so people could sleep while at the same time being professional. It’s a nice balance. Also, I think Lufthansa might be the only airline I know who puts macadamia nuts in the business class mixed nuts (but why are they always over-roasted in business but perfect in first?!) along with walnuts.

Salmon appetizer was relatively light, but tasty. A nice change from the ever-present prawns lately.

A salad was offered separately (wow, a multi-course meal in business!) which was really tasty with feta cheese and roasted vegetables. Small, but one of the best appetizer salads I’ve had in business class in quite some time!

Grilled beef with chimichurri sauce, asparagus, and polenta. I still don’t understand the recent fascination airlines seem to have with polenta, but maybe it’s trendy again?

Baked bread and butter pudding with vanilla sauce for desert was outstanding, but the cheese course, sadly, was well below-average.

After dinner, I still wasn’t tired, but after a few more hours did manage to fall asleep and get around four hours of sleep in flight. Woke up to breakfast being served, and figured I might as well try it. I went with the roasted vegetable frittata, but it was very meh and I only had a few bites. the deli plate and muesli were more than enough food, however.

After landing, I did my usual with a seven hour layover and headed straight to the Sheraton Hotel for a solid four more hours of sleep. Feeling nice and rested, I walked to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal since my upgrade had already been confirmed.

I do love what I call the “Wall of Whiskey” that greets you upon entering the terminal.

But first, a glass of rosé and the seasonal duck to kick things off.

I wasn’t terribly hungry, but also didn’t want to pass up the usual deliciousness in the lounge, so grabbed a seat and helped myself to some snacks from the buffet. Mmmm quail eggs!

I had to order it because, I couldn’t imagine Tom Kha Gai soup in a lounge in Germany could be good. I was right. It was outstanding…and amazingly spicy just as I requested!

After lunch, it was time for a quick shower (I had maximized sleeping time in the hotel room, and went straight to the lounge sans shower) and some whiskey tasting to round off another outstanding Lufthansa lounge experience. So much choice!

It never gets old being driven from the lounge to the plane, and taking a selfie below the plane that’s about to deliver you more than 4,000 miles away!

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-ABYO, Manufactured 2014, Seat 2K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 106,212
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,798,800

Boarded….and love seeing the reflection of the plane in the window!

Pre-departure mixed nuts…odd…usually first on Lufthansa is macadamia nuts only, but today included almonds and cashews. (…and the macadamia nuts were perfect as always in first…not over toasted!)

What’s for lunch today?

I may have enjoyed the champagne a little TOO much before departure…that or it was the whiskey tasting in the lounge…

….beautiful sight on pushback from the gate

Off we go!

Once airborne, I noticed there was a second champagne on offer as well (but only one bottle) and the purser was a total character “I call her Alex, because she is beautiful. Perhaps you’d like to take a picture with her?”

Lunch started with an amuse bouche of tuna tartar.

Followed by caviar service with a rather generous helping.

Alex also kept me company during the appetizers, which today were roast beef with asian glass noodles, tuna with mashed green peas, and “coconut mousse with curry bok choy, cliantro, and ginger mayonnaise.” The last was a bit odd, but they were all pretty tasty.

Palate cleanser of sorbet and champagne before the main event.

The butter gets me right in the feels every time.

I decided to go with the tomato and pine nut crusted tenderloin of beef which was delicious, and almost perfect at a nice pink medium.

Lufthansa first’s always-delicious cheese cart. It’s hard to pick a winner in this category between Emirates, SWISS, and Lufthansa. Now that would be an amazing trip….

Desert was outstanding – which has been the case on many of my flights lately (with the obvious exception of United and their sundaes which are basic, but good) – iced dome of white chocolate on curried pineapple carpaccio with crumbles.

Napped and worked for a few hours, and then it was time for some light bites before landing. I didn’t really need them, but it’s so hard to say no. Started with a “gourmet salad with water melon balls, olives, baked feta, and grape seed oil vinaigrette.”

Couldn’t resist trying the “club sandwich” which was incredibly soggy and disappointing. Not often I’m let down in Lufthansa First, but this one was a huge miss by a mile.

After years of not knowing that Lufthansa offers arriving passengers at Dulles a private car to immigration instead of having to take the shuttle I’m now much wiser, and sought out the agent outside the jetway, and got one more pic of my beautiful plane. YO! this was an awesome flight! (look at the wheel well…)

…and with that I was home…for a very short two nights before heading out on the road for the last instalment of this epic six weeks of travel. Next up: off to India!

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
 


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 242019
 


Decided to take the train to the airport in the morning despite my early flight, mainly because the train station was only a five minute walk from the hotel and based on previous taxi experiences it might actually be faster to take the train.

Everything was on tie and worked out really well, and soon I was at the Thai Airways check-in desk and getting my boarding pass. Nothing unique about check-in, security, or immigration, and soon enough it was into the scary duty free area before you could get to the gates and lounge.

When I say scary duty free, I mean it: complete with M&M wearing a genuine aussie cork hat:

Had just a little time to enjoy the Singapore Airlines lounge, but despite being a little bit after 8:00 in the morning it was time for a glass of champagne. I mean, it was….oh wait, even earlier in Bangkok, but I suppose 5am doesn’t justify a glass of champagne…unless you subscribe to my theory that champagne is always appropriate.

Always liked the work/etc cubicles that the Singapore lounges have:

Soon it was time for boarding, and when I got to the gate people were swarming, so I walked up to the podium and introduced myself as a first class passenger, and they were happy to board me right away. I love the service with Thai!

Thai Airways flight 476
Sydney, Australia (SYD) to Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi, Thailand (BKK)
Depart 10:00, Arrive: 16:20, flight time: 9:20
Boeing 747-400, Registration HS-TGG, Manufactured 2003, Seat 01A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 67,849
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,760.437

This wasn’t my first flight in Thai first on the 747, and the seat was pretty much as I remembered. Reasonably private and comfortable, but very open – reminds me a lot of the Lufthansa First seat, but with a bit more colour:

Pre-departure Dom Perignon bubbles are always welcome, especially with an orchid:

Tyler Oakley is extremely amused at the macadamia nuts and hors d’oeuvres that were served shortly after takeoff. I totally wanted to keep the mini cocktail sticks, but had no idea what I would do with them!

Next up was the caviar service, which scored an A+ for me for presentation. Mother of pearl spoon, amazed curved condiments tray, caviar in a classy glass jar, silver trimmed plate…it just oozed class. Well done Thai! I think this is my new favourite caviar presentation in-flight…sorry Lufthansa…I still love you!

I don’t do shellfish on a plane. Ever. One too many bouts of food-borne illness, but I decided to take one for the team since I do love me some scallops and lobster…and oh, look, duck too! How can I say no! It was pretty darn tasty…

Next up was Thai beef soup with tomato and chili…it was good, but not super to my taste, so I just had a few tastes of it and saved my room for other courses. I do love the classy silver-rimmed service-wear though!

I decided to go with the “Samrab Thai” main course, which was described as “Pork Tenderloin in Pa-naeng Curry served with Som Tam Kung (Thai Papaya Salad and Prawn), Thai Northern Style Chicken and Tomato Dip, Stir fried broccoli, grilled mixed bell peppers, steamed jasmine rice.” It was pretty delicious, and I really liked the curry….

I wasn’t expecting much from the cheese course, which in my experience on Asian airlines never lives up to their European counterparts, and this was pretty much confirmed. It was ok, but not really worth leaving room for.

Dessert was Thai pumpkin custard, which was absolutely amazing!

Watched a little more tv, took a nap, and soon we were 90 minutes from Bangkok and the crew was insisting that I had to try a snack before we landed. Not one able to resist Thai hospitality, I gave in to a light snack.

Chicken satay, of course with a splash of Johnny Walker Blue on the side.

Second dessert of a frangipane raspberry tart with vanilla sauce was astounding, and paired very nicely with my friend Johnny.

There were agents waiting for first class passengers when we landed, ready to whisk us to immigration in buggies. I insisted I preferred to walk and stretch my legs, but they would have none of it and insisted I have a ride. Which was kind of weird, because when we got to immigration they just dropped us off and sped off – no indication where the premium immigration lines were. Very well-intentioned, but lacking in execution.

Grabbed a taxi to my hotel…and here’s where I confess that Bangkok is probably the only place in the world where I intentionally give in to the airport taxi service. It’s hot, it’s humid, I’ve just landed, and the last thing I want to do is take a “normal” taxi with questionable AC…or walk to the train to take that. It’s well worth the extra money to me.

Arrived nice and early at my usual hotel, the W Bangkok, which I’ve come to like because of the reliable suite upgrades and fabulous breakfast spread. I mean, how can you not like a suite upgraded like this:

I was exhausted at this point, but dragged myself out to at least enjoy a little of the city before crashing. The Skytrain is less than a five minute walk from the hotel, and was absolutely packed tonight:

Stopped by the Siam Paragon Mall, where this absolutely delightful t-shirt was for sale. I was really tempted to buy one, but figured they probably wouldn’t have “westerner sizes”

The mall was also home to the world’s saddest Zamboni. Growing up, every little kid dreamed of being a Zamboni driver, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this guy and his attempt to maintain ice inside a shopping mall where the temperature was way, way too high for it.

I made it until maybe 10pm, despite a series of disappointments that included my usual dinner restaurant having shut down…and my favourite “New Zealand Ice Cream” shop also shutting down. I was so used to some hokey pokey ice cream! That’s not to say I didn’t eat well in Bangkok:

With that, my all-too-brief stop in Bangkok was over, and it was time to head to the airport and catch my first-ever flight on the A350-1000!

So long Bangkok! Off to the airport we go!

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!