This trip has been pretty amazing. I can't believe how much work has gone into it over the last 12 months or so. The planning, the organizing and then in the last month or so the execution of it all. It was so much work, but yet it was totally worth it in the end.
The trip itself was over 22,000 miles (22675 to be exact) and there was both good and bad parts. The good far outweighed the bad. The delays, losing my stuff, all bad. But yet it is fairly small things that happened and are fairly meaningless in the overall scheme of things.
The good outweigh everything here and make this trip the fully memorable journey that it is. Heidi and I had a blast in so many places and it was so good introducing Heidi and her parents to what felt like my entire family. We shared so many good moments and enjoyed doing it.
All of the trip has been sorted out now, putting things away, working out what I brought back and what I didn't. I have fixed up the majority of my photos (still have all the spotting photos to go) and they are now online at the following links:
Friday 29th July 2016
After saying farewell to our ANA crew we headed to immigration. About 10 steps out of the jet bridge I realized I was still wearing my cardigan from onboard. No one stopped me & there was plenty of staff to do so. Guess it's mine now! Immigration lines were long but Global Entry was empty. I had problems figuring out how to use it since I had never done it before so the CBP guy came over and gave me a hand. Once u figured out what go do it was easy and helped a lot.
Global Entry didn't help all that much as we were quickly through immigration but stuck waiting for bags. It wasn't a huge long wait and before we knew it was off to customs (which was a non event as usual). After customized headed to baggage recheck where after waiting in line for a significant amount of time we were able to check our third bag in (since the other two were good to go). The walk to T3 was a few seconds & waiting at pre check was non existent.
Stopped by the Centurion Lounge for a sticky beak before heading to the United Club. Unfortunately the club had no empty seats so we went to the gate (which changed again) to wait it out.
United Airlines - UA424
San Francisco to Seattle Tacoma
Airbus A320 (N855UA)
First Class - Seat 2A
Boarding: 1405 (Gate 62)
Push Back: 1431
Take off Roll: 1450 (Runway 01R)
Top of Descent: 1600
Touch Down: 1625 (Runway 34L)
Shut Down: 1632 (Gate A8)
Pre boards were called and then Group 1 which was us. However due to the gate lice we had to push our way to the gate. Pretty sure my camera bag smacked someone blocking the line. That will learn them! Once onboard we found our seat (old worn out legacy United First Class) and waited as the cabin filled up.
Once things died down a little we were offered a drink of choice for our PDB. I just had a water because I was really feeling tired all of a sudden. We pushed back early and had a fairly quick taxi to the gate. I know this because of the timing, not that I saw much of it as I fell asleep twice.
Takeoff roll had us the winner as the UA 320 next to us never took off and most of the climb to cruise I was on and off asleep. Ugh! Once we were at height and the seat belt sign was off I hit the can and informed the crew of my broken seat…. Fun!
Drinks and the snack basket was offered and I took a cookie, banana & a fig bar to tide me over till dinner. I had spent most of the last 48 hrs eating so food was not that high on my list of important things to do. Coffee on the other hand was so I made sure to have as much as I could.
Pretty soon we were on descent to Seattle as we passed over Oregon. The captain came on and told us we were just to the south of Portland (and we were) and we began a fairly on and off descent. We must have done some slow downs as well because we started doing some S Turns just around Olympia. When we left SFO destination winds should have had us landing South Flow however we started a North Flow approach. We were wheels down over Tacoma and started to descend down over Federal Way (passed over Heidi’s parents house) and Des Moines. We touched down on the far left runway (the 3rd runway) and spent a good 5 or 6 minutes taxiing over to the terminal side. We also had to taxi over to the A concourse which added more time.
After pulling into the gate, we had to wait as they “have a problem with the jetbridge so they are getting someone to come look at it” (or so they said). What I really think is that whoever was working it didn’t know what they were doing and screwed things up. We got off after only a 2 or 3 minute wait. Not bad at all considering. As we were getting off I got a text update from United saying that the bags made an earlier flight so they were already here and to go see a staff member. Made a brief stop at work, and then down to baggage claim. Our bags were in storage and they had to pull them out so we could go. Even with that hassle we still made a 5pm cut off for Lyft’s half price deal and made it home shortly after! Well and truly done!
Friday 29th July 2016
We began our journey back to the airport by first taking a Yamonote Line train back to Tokyo Station. It was a bad start as we went to an entry without escalators to the platform and then to make things worse than having to lug my suitcase up steps. We went to the wrong platform but didn’t work it out till almost to the top. Got ourselves back on the right platform and it was ok.
We made it to Tokyo Station and weaved our way down to the N’EX platforms and made it just in time for the 12:03pm train to depart right in front of us. Now we had a 30 minute wait till our scheduled train. We waited on the platform for a while and unfortunately seating was lacking so we had to stand. I ended up eating my Ekiben and repacked it all before we even boarded as I wanted to make sure I had it packed away securely.
We boarded the train for our quick hour long ride out to the airport and unlike the train the night before, this one had free wifi! Made the ride a little bit less tiring. It flew by and before I knew it, we were at Narita Terminal 2-3 Station. Once we left the station Heidi and I got ourselves ready to disembark.
Once off the train and out of the station we made our way up to the check in counters for ANA First Class which is in the Z section. The “ANA Suite” check in was a very private, sectioned off area and while we waited for our staff member to check us in (it was kind of complicated with bags etc already through checked etc). From there it was through a private security channel and into the immigration area. Immigration was heaving and again took about 20 minutes or so to get through. We watched as a couple of Asiana staff paniced when people were still in line as they were trying to close the flight.
After clearing immigration we headed off to the ANA Suites Lounge (they don’t have suites, they just call it that) for an afternoon of plane spotting and relaxing. The lounge had fantastic views of the airport runways and a great relaxing atmosphere. Plenty of food choices and both buffet and cooked to order options. The first thing I did was get my stuff situated, camera set up and leave Heidi with the gear while I went off in search of my usual Tokyo spending habit…… Kit Kats!
I knew exactly where to go as there were two stores close by that always seem to have all the different varieties. Wasabi is always the hardest one to find and today was not my day. I did manage to get the usual Matcha and Sakura, I also managed to pick up some Strawberry and also some Hokkaido Melon (which I have never seen before). Decided against the big boxes of the Strawberry and Blueberry Cheesecake ones, due to space. They would have to wait until next time.
Back to the lounge to settle in with some Pork Cutlet curry and some treats. The desserts on offer were pretty delicious yet strange. I tried an Edamame cake thing that was delicious yet disturbing at the same time. Lots of good photos this afternoon with numerous Oneworld and Star Alliance liveries but the two big hits this afternoon were the BB-8 777-300ER (parked next to our gate) and a Pakistan International A310 (don’t see those very often). After a while we decided to head down a little early to get in some steps and stretch before we were stuck inside a tube for a while.
All Nippon Airways - NH8
Tokyo Narita to San Francisco
Boeing 777-300ER (JA783A)
First Class - Seat 1K
Boarding: 1636 (Gate 55)
Push Back: 1709
Take off Roll: 1731 (Runway 16R)
Top of Descent: 1020
Touch Down: 1046 (Runway 01R)
Shut Down: 1112 (Gate 94)
Plenty of gate lice today as the airport just seemed to attract them, however we hung back till we saw people approaching the First Class lane, then we hurried over to get our spot in line. You could spot the americans a mile away as they were the first ones in line at each lane, no matter how long they had to wait. All wanting to vie to get the most amount of overhead bin space.
We actually boarded a few minutes before the posted time (which is rare for Japan, as usually it is extremely punctual) and we were the 2nd and 3rd people into the Cabin. Lots of photos and greetings and Heidi was given a personal run through of the seat. The crew seemed to love Heidi on this trip (and so they should because who wouldn’t right?) and they spent a good 10 minutes showing her everything. I declined to be shown as I just watched along as Heidi got the royal treatment.
Everything was laid out at the seat waiting for us including a sweater, pyjamas, blanket, slippers, headphones and the piece de resistance, a Samsonite Amenity kit. Rimowa it is not, but damn sure it is good enough! I stashed it all away when I could and spent a good portion of time fighting off the cabin crew from unwrapping it all. We eventually pushed back and started the long way out to the active. I missed a picture of the traditional farewell bow from the ground crew (dammit) and got a few good shots of some of the Star Alliance aircraft spotted around T1.
We made it out to the end of Runway 16R and as we turned the GE90s powered up (I may have made a mess in my pants as usual when I hear that noise so close 😉 ) and towards the sky we went. The climb angle felt steeper up front and as usual with Narita departures, it was a little bit bumpy (though not the worst). Once the seatbelt sign went off, I jumped up to grab my stuff and stash a few things. Phone charge on, glasses and laptop out, shoes off and stashed. Time to settle!
I worked a bit on the trip report before the crew started the dinner service. The menu was presented and drink orders taken. Post Departure beverages were served with an amuse bouche of a few items. The menu looked good tonight and there was no way I was going to turn down the Japanese Menu. All 10 courses of it!
The meal began and it was all so good. Exactly as I remember having it in business a while back. The courses were so well plated, physically beautiful yet delicious at the same time. Course by Course kept on coming and a lot of them were served together at the same time. I ended up having some green tea with the latter courses and it complimented the food well. After all of that I was offered the choice of dessert and I selected both the japanese and one of the western options. The western option was a good cleanse but the japanese dessert was just simply amazing. A mixture of red bean and matcha… my two favorite things!
After dinner the crew made up the seat into bed mode and I relaxed into the rest of the flight. I gave it 10 minutes or so of watching a movie before giving in to the sleep. I lay down on the bed and tried to take a nap. The seat was pretty comfy in bed mode with a thick mattress pad and a nice doona as well. The blanket was soft and comfy if you needed it. The pillows just were not big enough for my liking, but isn’t that always the problems on most flights. The rest of the seat was great there was ample storage and thankfully ANA had not removed the overhead bins.
I got just under 2 hours of sleep before it was getting pretty bumpy (although no seatbelt sign ever came on). So I went back to enjoying my movie as the sun came up outside. Time to start waking myself up as the time outside was similar to a time I would be getting up in the real world. This journey was slowly coming to an end and unfortunately I was getting a little bit sad 🙁
As one movie finished and another one started the smells of breakfast began to waft throughout the aircraft. Time to get myself slowly ready for the impending rush of people wanting to do things. The last part of the flight flew by. The crew offered breakfast items from the menu and also from the snack menu. I took a couple of different options that were mostly breakfasty since it was that time of the day. I did go against the grain and got a pork cutlet sandwich just because I wanted to try it. It was worth it though because it was delicious!
As we started descent the crew came by to give us a little gift full of lots of ANA star wars jet goodies including playing cards and some other random stuff. The cloud cover was pretty thick below until all of a sudden it cleared and we turned so that SFO was in a spot I couldn't see… typical. After that we had to track almost down to San Jose before turning back North to line up for a landing. We thankfully did not come in on the same runway that Asiana crashed (they had a L landing we had a R) and we touched down nice and easy. Pretty good right?
We pulled off the active and headed towards the taxiway where we then parked for another 10 minutes or so waiting for our gate. It was United 747 central on the ramp as I saw at least 6 in all different states (at the gate, on the taxiway, being towed). By the time we hit the gate, they did not have us waiting long before the first class guests were ushered to the door. They held back Business class and made sure that we were first ones off the flight. That was nice of them. Heidi and I grabbed our gear and headed for immigration… it was good to be back home… kinda.
Thursday 28th July 2016
Woke up way too early this morning to make sure we had as much time as possible in the airport. Since Changi is sooooo huge and there is so much stuff to see we didn’t want to have to rush. Got some coffee from our butler (yes, I said butler) and saw a little nice presentation they had left for us on the balcony (some kissing swan towels). After paying our bill we headed off in an Uber to the airport. We were sad to be leaving the Raffles but super excited for the day ahead.
Back when Heidi and I first started dating we were planning a journey to Japan. Heidi & I were both planning on coming back from Tokyo in Suites and in fact I was considering proposing to Heidi onboard. Things changed when we actually got engaged and we had to cancel the trip (thanks immigration). So we were finally able to ensure that on this trip back from Australia, we were going to do suites.
We rolled into the Singapore Airlines First Class check in and their were porters and staff waiting for us at the driveway. The porters took our bags and the check in staff showed us through to a desk. We checked in and there was a lot of typing as it was a US flight, they had to make sure all the APIS data was intact (I tried doing it before we left, but it never stuck). So that took a little while and then it was out of check in and into the private immigration channel. A smile, no questions just stamp stamp stamp.. “Have a nice day” and that was it, we were out of Singapore.
Straight out of immigration and up the steps to the Lounge complex and into the Russian Doll of airport lounges. Heidi was asking us where the lounge was, and I explained it was a lounge within a lounge within a lounge. Off to the Private Room and time for some breakfast. We were escorted all the way in and showed to a table. Coffee and food ordered shortly after and you could also help yourself to a limited buffet. Not sure if the set up was as good as the First Class Lounge (you had to ask for most things that would have been self service) and there was very little in the way of liquid refreshment on show (so knowing what you could have was tough).
Heidi had a bowl of noodles, I went with Bacon and Eggs and Toast along with a bowl of cereal. Didn’t want to eat to much as we were going to eat well onboard. Our time in the Private Room was extremely relaxed and I enjoyed it all. The staff helped me organise some duty free onboard (they couldn’t make sure that we had it, but they did tell me how to make sure we got it onboard first.
We left the Private Room a little bit early to go and explore the airport a little and get rid of the last of our Singapore Dollars. We came across the butterfly lounge right by our gate, so that was awesome! Lots of free flying butterflies just floating around. We went through security at the gate (as it is designed in Singapore) and we found a spot in the boarding lounge. We had no real wait at security but didn’t look like we would have to wait long to get onto the aircraft.
Singapore Airlines - SQ12
Singapore to Tokyo Narita
Airbus A380-800 (9V-SKN)
Suites Class - Seat 2D
Boarding: 0850 (Gate B2)
Push Back: 0946
Take Off Roll: 1013 (Runway 20C)
Top of Descent: 1715
Touch Down: 1747 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1755 (Gate 45)
Wheelchairs and kids were shown onto the aircraft (there was plenty of them) and then a few minutes later they called boarding for Suites Class guests. We were right next to the boarding lane and we were shown onboard shortly after. Down the jetbridge and then allowed into the first door. There was a staff member blocking the first door access and she let us through once she saw the gold boarding pass.
Once we stepped onboard we were shown to our seats by the first of our crew for today. He gave us a brief introduction to the suite and also took our Pre Departure beverage orders. Heidi went with the dom, i stayed with sparkling water for the moment. We went through so much fun taking photos of everything and just playing with all the nooks and crannies. The crew were great and they looked after us so well.
The stewardess on our side (green dress makes her a senior i think) had a familiar name. It was none other than Janesis who has been written about so much online. It was great to meet her and she really did look after us. She brought out menus and all the goodies for us like amenity kits (which I topped up from supplies in the lavatory) and pyjamas. We put in our orders for lunch and let them know we would delay our lunch till around 1ish singapore time as that would give us plenty of time to rest and catch up on life.
After we had a delayed push back thanks to a lack of refuelling trucks we finally hit the taxiway for the active runway. Bit of a long taxi and also a wait behind a number of aircraft for our turn to depart. Soon enough we were in the air and headed north towards Tokyo. We had a quick drink of Champagne each while we snacked on some Satay (Heidi went with Dom, I went with Krug). After that we watched as the two crew put our suites into bed mode. It was such an interesting process to watch.
Lying back in bed it allowed me to watch some tv in some privacy and write a bit of the trip report. We got to relax in total comfort before lunch. Once our lunch time rolled around it was time for the show to begin. We headed over to another seat and we had a couples dining experience. Heidi sat in the seat and I sat in the ottoman. The place was set and we started what was to be a 2 hour lunch. Course after Course kept on coming and it was delicious all the way.
Crab appestiser followed by Cream of spinach, followed by a salad and then followed by the main course. I went with the Laksa as my main and it was such a great lunch. I didn’t need to add any further spiciness to it at all, it was pretty much perfect. After the main came the dessert course then cheese and fruit. Finally we were presented with a tray of chocolates accompanied by a hand created card celebrating our honeymoon. It was such a fantastic gesture. Janesess even made Heidi a hand made flower and gave us a card to post our photos on facebook and to write nice things about them (we were going to anyway).
After lunch we had about 90 minutes left in the flight and returned back to our double bed to relax a bit more. As we started to get closer and closer to descent it was time to get ourselves back into the groove of things and get back ready to hit the ground in Narita. I returned to the window seat and got everything into its place. We took a photo on the steps with the crew. I started to think back over all of the flights I have taken so far in my life and I have to say this is my favorite flight. The food, the service, the seat, it was all perfect. You can’t ask for better than that.
After all was said and done we started to approach Narita. The approach into Narita was pretty easy. We touched down around 25 minutes late and it was a great taxi to the gate. There was a great variety of aircraft and it was also the rush hour departure period. There was way to many 787s on the ground. I saw Air Canada, JAL and about a dozen ANA’s including one of the first two built (they have a special livery). We pulled into the gate and at that moment it was all over. We were standing in the boarding area of Main Level Door 1L as they waited for the jet bridge to connect and ok the doors to open. It hit us both at that moment it was time to leave.
We headed off the flight, away from the gate and into Narita Airport where we had to go what felt like the entirety of Terminal 1 to get to immigration. When we got there it was like hell had broken loose. The foreigners line was HUGE. It took us a good 30 minutes to get through the queue and then it was out to our bags which were already waiting for us. We were quickly able to clear customs and within 5 minutes of officially being in Japan we had tickets for the next N’EX to Tokyo Station.
Monday 25th July 2016
It was a slow start to the morning with a final run through my old neighborhood (Heidi went for a “prance”) and breakfast with my folks. We made the final touches to our packing and then headed off to the airport. I didn’t really want to say goodbye, but I was excited to get back into the air. We gassed up the car at the airport thinking we were going to get rammed on the price and surprisingly it was pretty much on par. The drop off for Avis was not that great as there was not a single person present at the return area and then when we took the keys back to the counter, they didn’t seem to care at all. If we had not taken a photo of the kms driven, we would have had to go back to the car.
Checking in for the flight took a little bit, but that was mainly because Heidi and the Qantas Staff member were talking about Kate Spade, they seemed pretty excited as well. After that it was pretty effortless to get it all done. We checked our bags and all of them totalled up to the allowance for just one person. It was pretty funny. After stopping for a few minutes to get our departure cards filled out we headed down to security and immigration.
Security didn’t have much of a wait at all, but it took a while after they made me empty out all of my camera equipment into trays. Such a hassle. My laptop had to go for 3 passes through the xray and then get swabbed for explosives. Heidi got selected for secondary thanks to a “random” beep which was pretty bs if you ask me. What should have taken just a minute or two, took almost 10. O well! At immigration we were funnelled out through the smart gates (I wanted a stamp 🙁 ) and Heidi was totally confused (i had never used them and she was looking to me for guidance). I was just doing as they told me so I had no idea either, not a good start.
After claiming some tax back on my new boots (thanks TRS!) we headed off to the lounge. Unfortunately the Qantas Club was closed so all Qantas pax were headed off to the Plaza Premium Lounge. This was the first contract lounge in Brisbane Airport and barely just opened but it was still pretty nice. Plenty of food and drinks on offer (not that great on the cookie options) but Heidi and I had some snacks from Mum and Dad, so we were covered. I went for a bit of a walk to figure out the gate area, grab the reg on the aircraft and just get in some walking. Heidi stayed put doing what she usually does, playing on her phone. We relaxed with our snacks and some coffee for a while before heading to the gate.
Qantas Airways - QF51
Brisbane to Singapore
Airbus A330-300 (VH-QPG)
Business Class - Seat 4A
Boarding: 1145 (Gate 85)
Push Back: 1208
Take off Roll: 1222 (Runway 19)
Top of Descent: 1726
Touch Down: 1753 (Runway 20R)
Shut Down: 1800 (Gate C13)
The gate area was fairly full and we waited for a while to board. The flight attendants were already headed onboard as we got there, but the flight crew showed up 10-15 minutes later carrying some coffee. Showing up late to the flight thanks to a coffee stop is a little bit lame. But eventually we got to board. I was excited to try out the new Qantas Business Class seat but we all boarded through 1L meaning that unfortunately we couldn’t take all the photos we wanted to as everyone was boarding through the one door.
I got settled eventually and Heidi was enjoying herself spreading out and was planning on getting snuggly once we got airborne with the big giant doona waiting out the seat. We pushed back about 7 minutes early (proving that you can get onboard faster when you are not dealing with Americans). We had a long taxi out to the Active today at the far end of the runway. We went past a newly repainted 77W from Air New Zealand and a Thai 787 (although it was on the wrong side of the plane). No holding at the active, it was a slow turn to line up and then the engines went to take off power and out we went.
Climbed out from Brisbane’s Runway 19 today and a few bumps as we banked North West towards Asia. While we were waiting for push back orders had been taken on lunch, but once in the air the purser came through to give out immigration cards and speak to everyone. The crew working our aisle took our drink orders couple by couple and brought them out one by one, making for what felt like a more personal service.
While lunch was starting to be served I decided to try and start watching a movie, unfortunately that was not going to happen as every time I tried to watch something, it wouldn’t start. I had to ask to have the system go through a full reboot for my screen and it took almost 15 minutes for that to happen (which by that stage i was just having my first course arrive). Lunch was pretty decent, but the service was fairly slow. It didn’t worry me with this being a daylight flight, I was not in any hurry for any sleep. I was going to be up all flight 😀
After lunch progressed I reclined back down into a more comfortable position to watch a movie and just enjoyed the flight as the Australian coast passed by below. About 3 hours out of Brisbane we passed the final parts of the Australian Coastline and headed out over the ocean, towards Asia. Watching as the blue passed by below meant that our time over Australia was finished, and there was no going back, that part of the trip was fully over.
I relaxed in to watch another movie and do a bit of writing, watching as the flight went by. The cabin was pretty much dark apart from a few windows open (why you would want to sleep on a daylight flight is crazy to me). The flight had been fairly good, the crew were a little indifferent but not horribly so. The new Qantas Business seat was not too bad. This was a very different seat to what had been had before with the Skybeds (either Mk1 or Mk2). I had not flown in this specific maker of seat but have flown similar (Swiss & ANA). This one wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t perfect either.
The seat had its foibles for sure, but it was still pretty decent. I wasn’t happy that it was not really great for reclining while eating or working. You had to pretty much have the seat fully up while doing either of these things, there was not much choice. In bed mode it was great but the armrest on the outside was very annoying (I couldn’t figure out how to move it). I liked the fact that if I put the seat into bed mode the screen moved down so you didn’t lose a good viewing angle. There wasn’t much storage space in the seat I was in, however the middle seats had plenty. I was happy with the amount of space as the overhead bins were still intact. Taking them away would have made for a really bad experience.
The IFE system was very good, extremely responsive and was from what I could tell, an Android based experience. My favorite part was that if you wanted to check the inflight map during the video, it just paused the video in the background and picked it back up the second you went back to the movie. There was plenty of choice (although I had already seen some of it from our last flight over the water) across all categories and I wasn’t hard pressed to keep myself entertained.
As we approached Singapore they were going to run an afternoon service, however I declined in favor of getting a decent meal on the ground in town. This felt like a better idea than trying some of the items, that I didn’t think was all that great. The fun part of the service though was that all the options were offered in a Chinese Takeout Box. Something a little bit different. The fruit I got instead was a good snack in my opinion.
As we approached Singapore, I managed to find the Ready for Takeoff series on the IFE and spent most of the time watching that all the way up till landing. The approach to Changi sent us all the way out and around so it gave us a good look of all the housing around the island. On finals into Changi we came in over a bay area and even spotted a couple of hovercraft of some kind.
The landing was smooth and we taxiied back to Terminal 1 as we landed on the T3 side of the airport. Lots of good things to see to begin with including one of the 50th Anniversary SQ A380s and a Scoot 787-9. Once we pulled into the gate we didn’t have to wait long to get out and it was a bit of a walk to immigration but nothing horrible. It is so strange to be just let out into the terminal and not into a sterile area before heading off to immigration. Security is done at the gate in Singapore and it means that everyone is mingling in the terminal.
Immigration was a breeze (the guy didn't even speak to me) but because we were through so fast we had to wait a while for baggage. We got our bags (eventually) and trudged off down to the Ground Transportation desk to arrange a car to the city. Cabs are fairly cheap in Changi but when arrive in the middle of peak hour, and metered cabs also get levied at that time, it was easier to just get a flat rate cost car into our hotel (was about $10 extra). Pretty soon we were being whisked away to our hotel.
Wednesday 20th July 2016
We pulled into the gate and were off the plane relatively slowly but once we were off it was bedlam. A full A380 full of passengers along with also other flights that had hit the ground. It was a mess! The lines were stretching back past the duty free store into the terminal itself which was scary. I had to make a quick stop at the duty free store to pick up some stuff for mum and dad (that was a mistake, hello dealing with a US card) and then it was on my way to the line.
I had pushed Heidi to go on ahead after I got held up in duty free and we were separated. I got stuck behind several flights worth of crew in the express path. When we landed we had 1 hour till our flight boarded so less than an hour to make that baggage cut off. Well, that was not going to be easy at all. By the time we got through immigration to the baggage belts (Border Security was being filmed apparently, didn’t see them anywhere) we had about 30 minutes to make that cut off. This was doable if our bags came out quickly. What do you think happened? Our bags were the last two off the plane, and it was past boarding time by that stage.
So we made it through Customs super quickly and the staff told us where to go for connections. We made it up to the Qantas Domestic terminal and a staff member pointed us towards the Service desk to get rebooked. Thankfully i knew already the 1010am flight had space (thanks to Cranky Concierge) and it should be easy for them to fix that up. We reconsolidated a bit of baggage and went to security which was its true, Australian amazingness. Not a single person ahead of us at security and friendly people who wanted to help. It was effortless!
We got through and headed up to the Qantas Club where we were able to get a snack and a drink (although all the coffee machines seemed to be broken… what the hell!) and we were able to call home and let them know of the new arrival time (just an hour later). Everything was able to calm back down. Unfortunately not enough time for a shower today or even a change really, just enough time to clean my teeth and feel somewhat better.
The QF Club had great views of the ramp and of our gate in particular. What was fantastic was that we were able to watch our plane pull in. Not just any plane, it was one of Qantas’s two Retro Liveries. I was hoping to get to see one while I was here, but flying one was a double treat. A lot of people were at the window taking photos when it rolled in and I was super excited. We started to head towards the gate not long after that which took about 5 minutes or so.
Qantas Airways - QF612
Melbourne Tullamarine to Brisbane
Boeing 737-800 (VH-VXQ - Retro Roo II)
Economy Class - Seat 18A
Boarding: 0956 (Gate B22)
Push Back: 1006
Take off Roll: 1028 (Runway 16)
Top of Descent: 1150
Touch Down: 1213 (Runway 01)
Shut Down: 1217 (Gate 24)
I had barely been at the gate to take a few more photos when 2 old ladies were pre boarded and then seconds later a very informal “come on in guys” to the line of people waiting happened. There was a good 10 people onboard before they made an announcement. I had totally forgotten just how pleasant flying could be. As we stepped onboard there was the traditional wall plaque of the Qantas logo, but this one was the retro logo, which gave it the old “Flying Kangaroo” name as it was a Kangaroo with wings. Couldn’t get a photo at the time but I was determined to do so later.
We got ourselves sorted in the seats and boarding was set for about 25 minutes, so way less than in the USA and although the flight wasn’t 100% full today, It still pushed back 6 minutes early. Take that Alaska! This was the first flight on this trip so far where we had been on time. Crazy! The push back took a few minutes and then it was off to the runway where we were number 3 for line up. But that number 3 had to wait for a number of arrivals first.
By the time we lined up there was another 6 or 7 planes waiting to go after us. We were up and into the air pretty easily and within a minute or two the seat belt sign went off. Service started quickly and they had everyone covered with headphones and also with newspapers. After that it was a good 10 or 15 minutes (on a 1 hour 45 minute flight) till they had the snack trolleys out. Only one pass through of the drink trolley today (I made sure to get coffee to keep me going through the day) and some snacks. No real choice it was both Savory and Sweet snacks today and i traded my savory for heidi’s sweet. Good Luken and May cookies on offer this morning of which I only had half and kept the other half for later.
I was watching TV shows on the tablet for most of the flight and just relaxing looking out the window. I did manage to get up and take a photo of the Retro Roo logo by the front door (I made sure to ask about going forward into the Business Class cabin which would have been required in the states but the Qantas crew just laughed and said not to worry). Even though this aircraft didn’t have the BSI it had the newer QF seats and even a space lav fitted. That was a first time experience for me and it was quite the difference involved.
We started descent over the Gold Coast Hinterland and unfortunately I was on the wrong side so didn’t see any of the coast but I did get to see plenty of the city as we came in over it. It looked so different and just so built up now in comparison. Everything seemed so different. I was shocked. Heidi had fun poking fun at me as I was shocked at how different everything seemed.
We landed on Runway 01 and had a nice quick taxi to the gate. Everything at the airport looked familiar from the airside portion of things, but once we got to the terminal, it all ended there. I got off the plane into what seemed like a whole new airport (although to be honest I wasn’t flying Qantas much in those last few years) and met up with Mum and Dad. First time in almost 3.5 years. It was good to be home.
Monday 18th July 2016
We dropped off the rental car at the National depot and got ourselves onto a shuttle over to the airport. This time I unfortunately got stuck waiting for a fresh shuttle to fill up. I had made sure that we had extra time today as we had to go check in to get boarding passes. We headed over to the Bradley Terminal to check it out. The last time I was there was way back in 1994 and back then it was a dump. Now it looks amazing!
Check in was a breeze and we had our boarding passes and instructions on getting to the lounge (though they were not as easy as they really should have been). Security meant the full show today unfortunately as there is no Pre Check in that terminal as it is mainly International Airlines. We got ourselves into a relatively short line and had to spend forever waiting as our bags had already gone through the scanner. Thankfully joking with the TSA agent got me to the front of the line through the WTMD rather than the nudoscope.
On the other side we headed off to the lounge and it was a rather large place. Took a minute or two to check in but they let us loose into this giant canvernous area. They had plenty of different spaces but my priority was power. I wanted to make sure that I got my phone charged up and I could do some stuff on my laptop. Sadly it was at this moment I lost my shit. No seriously I had lost my shit. I could not find any of my charging stuff at all. This wa NOT good. I checked through all my bags and tracked it back and it must have come out while in the rental car. Dammit!
I was on the phone frantically trying to track down all the stuff, but National was making things difficult. I eventually got through to the LAX desk and the bad news came out. The Lost and Found team were done for the day. So much for getting my stuff back! Even if they did have it, no way was I getting it today. Time to go and try and replace them! I knew I had some chargers back home in Australia, but the cable for my phone was the essential item. I wasn’t sure if I had one at all anywhere else.
The one store with the cable I wanted had them for $30 as they only had the official Apple version. Considering I paid $2 for mine, wasn’t going to happen. Heidi had a cable of mine so we were covered there thankfully! I checked with the lounge staff and they confirmed that there was a USB charger at every seat and a universal power adaptor as well. Problem solved!! I could deal with it in Australia (since I had other chargers waiting for me at home in Seattle as well).
I took the time in the evening to use the one real charging area of the lounge, write some trip report and relax as best I could. Airline cutlery may have made it into my bag, or it may not have 😉 The food was pretty decent and it was changing up most of the night. It became extremely packed in the lounge though and we started to head out to the lounge with about 20 minutes to go. I wanted to get onboard fairly shortly after it started.
Qantas Airways - QF94
Los Angeles to Melbourne Tullamarine
Airbus A380 (VH-OQL)
Economy Class - Seat 36K
Boarding: 2132 (Gate: 156)
Push Back: 2257
Take Off Roll: 2339 (Runway 25L)
Top of Descent: 0708
Touch Down: 0738 (Runway 16)
Shut Down: 0745 (Gate D9)
Boarding was called and I had checked beforehand as to how we board since we were not on the main Economy deck. We had 2 seats in the 5 rows of seats on the upper deck. So we were wayyyyy down the back, but better than the same on the lower deck to be honest. We got onboard and had to walk all the way through Business and Premium Economy. The small cabin at the back was pretty good. We had 2 seats in the very last row and they were right in front of the Galley side. We didn’t have to deal with the rest room side.
Once we got settled in to our seats (thankfully the window has the side storage bins on the upper deck… woooooo) it was time to wait. I was fending off snuggly wife every few minutes so I had my hands full. We waited quite a while. Departure time came and went and thanks to the Skycam I could tell when the boarding doors were still open. We had a wierd guy up the back sitting just about anywhere he could in the hopes someone didn’t show up. Suck it up moron and take your seat!
We eventually pushed back almost 45 minutes late and at that point we had been onboard like an hour and a half. Ugh… so not going to be a good connection in Melbourne. Life was going to be rough. The crew up the back were pretty good, after a small grill about my batteries (stupid lithium battery problems these days) they were really friendly to everyone. We even got a pre departure beverage which was really nice as they had to many poured from Premium. Being upstairs has its benefits!
Took a while to push and get started up. Taxiing at LAX is all over the shop these days. We headed to the east, to go back west. Down the far side taxiway for some reason. Ugh… confusion. We finally got our turn to take off and it was a long slow climb away from the USA, out over the pacific. The seat belt sign went off at a non us airline point so we were able to really get ourselves settled before things got too out of hand. The meals were being heated up so the cabin started smelling of deliciousness.
One downside to our seat was the fact that we were the last ones to be served, so there may not have been much choice. But they had all options and the best part. They had Premium Econ leftovers, which are a larger portion. Qantas has stopped giving the whole tray style main meal thing and it is really more a plate with the meal placed on top of it. Apparently makes it quicker and easier to clean. It is also less food, which is good when it is almost 1am. This meal should be more a snack than a full meal. Food was good, giving my wife her first real drink of Bundy though, that was priceless. The crew were not light on the pouring either, very generous tonight!
Once the meal had been served and cleaned, I had been starting to drift off. So I did my best to get some form of rest. Next thing I know almost 2-3 hours had passed! That was probably about as good as it would get and Heidi had just woken up, so we swapped seats as I was pretty sure my sleeping was done. I tried for a little while longer and failed, so I decided to just run with it. Coffee and snack time!! Spent the rest of the time finishing off the movie I had started and then writing. Interspersing the time with walks and chats really helped me out!
It wasn’t an easy flight, but it had it’s moments. I was happy to be on the flight and once I got this flight over and done with, all the rest of the long haul would be much, much easier!
After a little while longer I had been watching another movie and again halfway through it, fell asleep. Nothing but consistent apparently! But the flight continued on. I went for some real coffee at one point while Heidi was awake and I was even given it from a real china cup! Nothing but amazing service from the crew today. I was very impressed!
Within a few hours of landing there was smells filling the cabin and that meant one thing. Fooooooooood. Breakfast was either a hot breakfast of the usual styles (eggs etc) or a fruit platter. Heidi went with the eggs, I went with the fruit. Both looked good and Heidi scored a premium economy version again! A couple of coffees later I was finished watching TV and we were approaching Australian shores. We crossed the coast just south of Sydney, thought we couldn’t see anything due to cloud. We were definitely going to be late so that was going to eat into that connection time. It was all going to come down to how long we spend in immigration and waiting for a bag.
We came in from the north of Melbourne so there was no real views, only of the surrounding airport area and we were off the runway fairly quickly. We got to the gate in a short amount of time, but had to wait to get off the plane. We were the final people off the upper deck, but that put us right in the middle of bedlam.
Monday 18th July 2016
It was an o dark stupid wake up this morning after a night of barely no sleep at all. It was also going to be the longest day of my life. I had 3 flights to get through before I could sleep again in a real bed. By the time I got everything cleaned up and ready to go, we ordered a lyft to take us to the airport (hello 50% off deal) but that took a while as the first guy cancelled on us because of the distance. I thought Uber and Lyft were not meant to play taxi games.
We sailed over to the airport and there was not much of a line to check in. We got our bags checked through to Brisbane but unfortunately we couldn’t get boarding passes the whole way. TSA precheck came in handy today as we were through security in just a few minutes. Then it was off into the terminal for some rest, relaxation and a little breakfast. We rested up and headed out to the gate about 10 minutes to boarding. The aircraft was doing a short turn from Anchorage and was still letting off passengers as we got there. Unfortunately when boarding time came, the gate door closed and that did not mean good things.
We started delaying, with no real explanation and eventually got word that it was a maintenance issued, but no real information. 7am departure came and went and eventually it looked like an 8:30am departure. At one point they pulled everyone away from the gate area on the ramp and did a full engine run. Once that was complete they started boarding within a few minutes.
Alaska Airlines - AS462
Seattle Tacoma to Los Angeles
Boeing 737-900ER (N224AK)
Economy Class - Seat 8A
Boarding: 0750 (Gate D2)
Push Back: 0827
Take off Roll: 0841 (Runway 16C)
Top of Descent: 1045
Touch Down: 1106 (Runway 24R)
Shut Down: 1143 (Gate 65)
We boarded for what was going to be another wait. But i got myself situated and started watching TV shows on my tablet to pass away the time. Before I knew it we were pushing back on a fairly off weather morning and headed towards the runway. We had to wait in line for single runway departures this morning and on the center runway as well, so it meant that we had to wait for more people to land before we could hold on the other side. Makes for slow going.
We took off into the sky and it was fairly cloudy and boring so I focused on my t and tried to enjoy myself. I had been pretty annoyed for the lack of information and real caring on the airlines part, so being able to switch off was good. Thankfully we had a 12 hour stop as if this had happened with a 2 hour layover, not good things will have been said.
We cruised south and the crew were super slow about getting service out. Was this going to be another lazy Alaska crew like my last flight. Probably! Didn’t phase me, I was engrossed in my shows. 3 of them later we were approaching descent into LAX. The descent was pretty rapid but as we headed in I could see another plane running parallel to us, that was not good. North runway ops 🙁
As we landed in on the north runway it was pretty crowded down there so I knew that it was going to be a while till we got to the gate. I figured it would just be a long slow taxi. Boy was I right. At one point we took a full 180 turn and faced the opposite end of the field. Yep… penalty box time! We sat there a good 10 minutes before a crew member even confirmed that we were waiting for a gate. We had to wait for that, along with also dealing with an emergency on the ramp. A flight had landed and it was surrounded by 5 fire trucks and an emergency air stairs. Unsure why! We taxied past it eventually and got to the gate where we were soon onboard and I was able to use the restrooms…. Tmi?
Off the plane and out to the street to watch a National Shuttle roll straight past us. Had to wait about a solid 10 or more minutes for another one to come by. By the time we got over to the rental lot we were over 2 hours behind where we wanted to be. But at the lot we were greeted with a smiling face and when I asked where the convertibles were, he said “what color” and said he would bring one up. I asked him to bring us the newest one he had. He rolled back up a few minutes later in a silver 2017 Mustang Convertible.
We spent the afternoon grabbing some lunch at Souplantation (to make my wife happy) and doing some plane spotting at Imperial Hill. I managed to snap some good stuff and we headed over to the beach for a while so Heidi could enjoy the sand and water. I spent most of my time walking and or watching planes take off. We ran a few errands and finished off the afternoon at In n Out watching the planes land. Pretty good sunny afternoon.
So the trip is now over, and I have been back to work almost a full week now. It is a tough, tough feeling knowing that the trip is over and all the fun has stopped. All in all I got to knock off four new states (WV, NE, KY, IA), one new aircraft (MD-80), three new airports (OMA, RDU, SNA) and visited a whole lot of new cities.
The trip to me was a blast and brought back a lot of memories of driving in the car with Heidi for our road trips, both long and short. It makes me want to do the same thing again, but this time with Heidi, rather than spending all that time alone in the car myself. Speaking of which I have been asked a lot how it went and the answer to that question is fine. The drive was not that bad and I enjoyed it. The longest day was the first and that was mainly because the road did not allow a decent high speed. With the winding roads and the up and down through mountains, it kept the speed lower than the other days. But the two days in the car was not at all that horrible.
If you wanted to see what I looked at, feel free to check out one of these time lapses that I created:
Or you can just check out my photos, because hey who doesn't like photos:
I had a blast on this trip and now that there is a big gap till I get to fly again (July for the big one) who knows what will change in the mean time. All I know right now is I have some time to work off all the crap I ate while I was away. Because hotel waffles are to good to avoid right?
Friday 19th February 2016
After dropping the car back at the rental counter and waving goodbye to Horseman for the final time, I walked along the walkway into the Omaha terminal. It was time to head on home. Alaska has their check in at the opposite end of the airport to the Car Rental area (the southern end). It was an easy 2-3 minute walk past the counters for Southwest, United, past some baggage claims and the car rental counters.
Alaska’s check in area was covered in balloons in Green and Gold for some reason. I didn’t ask why at the time, but it was going to be my first attempt at the Self Tag facility, since that was the only choice. I started the process but it turns out the only record locater I had accessible was not the Alaska one, so the system crapped out on me. Thankfully they allow you to look up by name! The Omaha staff was right by my side to offer assistance and even put the bag tag on for me. They were fantastic and a special shot out to Gloria who was hilarious and very helpful.
After checking in and handing off my bag I headed upstairs to the departures level. I decided against purchasing steaks (sorry Heidi) and had a quick look around in the pre security area. There wasn’t much and there was signs saying there was more stuff after security, so I headed down. Didn’t have to wait long at all (this is Omaha after all) and soon enough was through security (after a pat down.. sigh).
There was some things after security, but not much. There was a bar with ramp views and power points so that was going to be good enough. I bought a bottle of water and camped out by the windows watching the few planes coming and going. The two hornets that flew past while I was on my way to the airport were parked on the far side and were joined later on by 4 more! Watching them do standard Navy approaches was fun and I managed to get a few half decent photos with my point and shoot. Soon enough the inbound aircraft showed up so it was time to pack up and head to the gate.
Alaska Airlines - AS3469
Omaha to Seattle Tacoma
Canadair - CRJ-700 (N216AG)
Economy Class - Seat 2A
Boarding: 1426 (Gate A9)
Push Back: 1450
Take off Roll: 1458 (Runway 32L)
Top of Descent: 1604
Touch Down: 1625 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1630 (Gate C16)
While I waited at the gate for boarding to be called I had a chat with Gloria who remembered me by name from the check in area. The benefits of working at a small airport. I watched the staff in action with all the guests coming off the plane and they were fantastic. No wonder they get rave reviews here. Boarding was called and I had to wait to be the last group to board. Sadly without Alaska status it is how I have to deal with boarding. I made it on eventually to have to settle into my seat. That wasn’t easy as I was in 2A (not sure how I snagged that seat) and since it was a CRJ, there is no way to store my camera bag up top. The camera bag went under the seat in front (barely) and the backpack went up top. Which never works right? Because I want to access the stuff in my backpack and now I can’t? Sigh! I am going to be one those seat mates today it seems.
We sealed up tight not long after I boarded and pushed back early. Things work nice and easy when you fly an RJ and you work at an outstation. I should do this more often! We taxied away from the gate and headed for the runway. I did not realize there were multiple runways at Omaha and we had a bit of a longer taxi than I expected. The view out my window was not all that fantastic due to a very scratched and dirty window. I took what photos I could and would deal with whatever turned out later.
We climbed out and away from Omaha and left the Midwest behind. I wanted to sit back and catch up on some TV that I had brought with me and was yet to finish, and with the sun coming directly into my window, I had to drop the blind. The guy in the aisle didn’t mind about that, what he hated was my constant fidgeting of my feet. The camera bag wasn’t helping either of us, so when I got a chance, I asked the flight attendant if there was a place to store it. She offered up the closet where they store their bags (so much space available) and I accepted and thanked her profusely.
Now that I could actually move about a bit, I settled in to watch TV and read for the rest of the trip and with a flight time of 3.5 hours, it was not going to be all that comfortable. To be honest after spending 9 hours or more stuck in the driver’s seat of a car, even that was more comfortable than the cramped confines of the CRJ today. O well!
The flight went past ok, a couple of drink runs by the 2 flight attendants and a lot of time for them to stand around chatting in the galley and we hit descent about 35 minutes out of Seattle. I packed up my stuff and stashed it at my feet, deciding not to interrupt my seat mate again. We came out of the clouds from our descent over Totem Lake to the north of Kirkland and tracked for a South Flow landing. Coming in over downtown and the Museum of Flight, we were vectored in for a 16R landing. This would put us on at least a 5-10 minute taxi to the gate… on a good day.
Taxi time today was fairly average and we pulled up at Gate C16 today. With a CRJ on the ramp at SeaTac it means that Horizon are looking after the plane and that means boarding onto the ramp. So much fun on a rainy Seattle day O well could be worse. It could be pouring rain and blowing a gale. I was off the plane fairly rapidly and with most of my stuff in hand, I was on my way to the gate. Most people had to wait around for their gate checked bags, me I was heading into the terminal post haste. I stopped by work to check my roster for Sunday (making sure it had not changed) and then it was downstairs to get my bag.
My bag was trundling around the belt by the time I got there. It’s sad; because I wanted to get some extra points to help out with the fact my accounts were now all bone dry. It was off to the shuttle bus for me, ending this trip the same way it began. Now the problem was trying to remember where I left the truck.