Seattle to Los Angeles
Los Angeles to Brisbane
Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra
Canberra to Melbourne
Qantas First Lounge Melbourne
Melbourne to Los Angeles
Los Angeles to Seattle
After Dinner I bid farewell to Kevin and reluctantly handed the 300C back to National Rental Cars. I didn’t want to give up what felt like my new love but I had to as there was a long fight ahead of me and some faces I wanted to see on the other end.
I was on the shuttle back to the airport and check in once it was full (which took about 10 minutes at that hour of the night). Once we arrived at T3 I grabbed the Suitcase of doom (which thankfully wouldn’t exist for much longer) and I was heading towards check in. I have previously blogged about T3 at LAX (since it seems to be my common terminal to fly out of there) but tonight was different. I was checking in and dropping a bag off for a Virgin Australia flight, not Virgin America.
There was no wait at the priority check in as I handed over my passport and I was asked how many pieces of luggage I was checking. As i put the suitcase of doom on the scales I tried to distract her from the weight of the suitcase by asking about the loads of the flight, but it didn’t work. This bag was way over weight and would of set me back $100 in excess luggage weight, but I had a little trick up my sleeve. Since the suitcase was sacrificial on the other end I pulled a rabbit out of my hat and did what I didn’t really want to do till I got to Aus. I split the suitcase in half.
I pulled out the suitcase I was using for my flights out of the suitcase of doom and left all the giveaways and gifts and candy in the suitcase of doom. Zipped it up and now miraculously I had 2 pieces of checked luggage, well within my allotment of 3 x 23kg. HAHA! I win! This stunned the check in agent as she looked at me and said “You seriously had 2 suitcases in one?” I explained that the bigger suitcase was “returning to its owner” which although a little bit of a lie was more of a stretch of the truth as I was still the owner, it was just returning to its country of purchase and never going anywhere again since it had fulfilled its duty honoribly.
With bags checked, lounge invite in hand, boarding pass printed I consolidated my crap ready for security (and the destruction of my boarding pass by TSA with their random scribbles). Security wasn’t nearly the zoo it could of been as I had timed it well to avoid the Sydney flight which probably would of been full as it had been lately. This flight tonight though according to the agent was “About 90% full” pfft!
I had managed to snag myself an exit row, a consolidation prize since again, no upgrade with Virgin (suprise suprise) but this time not my usual seat as I was in the 2nd economy exit rows more towards the back of the aircraft. I headed up from security to the Virgin America lounge where nothing much had changed from my last visit in January though they did tell me they would call the flight at boarding time so that was good.
I settled in to finish off the night with the yummiest cookies that seem to exist in LA and a number of coffees and a view of the runway as the new colours Virgin Australia pushed back right infront of me as I sat down. My lounge time was spent between inhaling coffee and cookies, twitter and catching up on emails.
The time in the lounge seemed to fly by and as I was surrounded by Aussie Accents everywhere it really did feel like I was heading “home”. Though I feel like Seattle is my new home, I will always still love Australia and feel comfortable around the accents etc but it was good still to have that little reminder of my home country, even if I won’t get to spend much time there on this trip.
Virgin Australia – VA8
Los Angeles to Brisbane
Boeing 777-300ER (VH-VPE)
Economy Class – Seat 39A
Boarding: 2300 (Gate 38)
Push Back: 2355
Take Off Roll: 0019 (Runway 25R)
Top of Descent: 0641
Touch Down: 0702 (Runway 19)
Shut Down: 0708 (Gate 81)
I headed down to the gate a little early in the hopes of getting onboard first so that I can grab a few photos of the empty cabin and thankfully I did as they announced boarding about 10 minutes earlier than indicated which was a good omen I guess.
Even though I was flying on an aircraft that I had previouly flown on multiple times I was greeted onboard to the new look as it had been refurbished with the new seat designs. So the flight really was off to a good start. Even better is that unlike the previous exit row seats I have had which had no window, this exit row kind of did, though it was offset. But I won’t complan!
The boarding process was long and the cabin didnt fill but my exit row did (I wonder how much these guys paid for their exit row seats?). I should of really asked at check in if I could get a row of 3 to myself as there was plenty of opportunity for this with economy only about ⅓ full. A good portion of the pax had rows of 3 seats to themselves.
We were boarding complete a good 10 minutes before scheduled departure and since the full load of fuel had not yet been taken on, we had to wait and that meant numerous announcement not to buckle your seat belts yet. The Aussie accents were flying thick and fast not only on the crew but the passengers as well. It was good to be “home”
We pushed back dead on time as I was chatting away with my seat mate about Cars & truck prices in Aus vs the USA as he was a Dodge Fan and I was just happy to talk about my Ram and the 300C I had driven that day. Good way to start the flight. The flight attendant in my area was not at all happy with me snapping a photo during the safety demo, or having a pillow in the small of my back and kept admonishing me for every little thing (apparently having a pillow in my back is an impedanment to evacuation of the aircraft?). Whatever!
We taxiied all the way to the South side tonight which was wierd as the Sydney flight had taken off from the north (right infront of the lounge) and this was a serious waste of precious fuel and we were loaded down as we slowly taxiied around. After a brief hold just off the runway and a clearance to 25L the big GE90s wound up and started to scream bringing a smile to my face. Though I couldn’t see these beasts from my seat, I could feel and hear them. That sound as they wind up on the take off roll brings a smile to any Avgeeks face. Such raw power, I still stand by the saying that GE90s are the engine that doesn’t fly push the aircraft along, it sucks the world around below it so instead of pushing the aircraft to your destinatin, the engines pulls your destination to you!
Once at cruise I was greeted by the Cabin manager as expected being a Velocity Gold, offered a newspaper and given an express pass for Brisbane (another one since I have one stashed from last time, which now that I have two I might send them to a client or something… maybe). Dinner service was conducted quicky… REALLY quickly and we had been fed and watered and coffee/tea offered barely 90 minutes into the flight. The lights were dimmed, the cabin prepped for sleep and pretty soon people were conking out left right and center.
I tried to get some sleep but couldn’t find the right position so after a little while (about half way through the flight) gave up, went and had a chat with a couple of the extremely cute crew (this may have been the reason I went to ask a favour 😉 ) and got some work done over a coffee, before my laptop battery was due to die as there was no power up the back in economy…. sadly.
I had a bit of a mid flight snack that I had brought with me as there was nothing to snack on other than chips during the flight and I really don’t like them these days so after some nuts from the Virgin Lounge and a coffee I set in for a couple of movies, and to watch as we tracked over the pacific ocean leaving open ocean behind and approaching the islands as they appeared on the map display.
The sun rose as we tracked past Nadi (Fiji) and this brought with it a little bit of a realisation that I was now closer to Australia than I was to the USA or anywhere else. I was getting closer and closer to being back to my country of birth. Not that it was worth much of a difference but it was something to think about. The flight at this point was pretty boring actually. I managed to finish watching Argo (since I think i may have fallen asleep in the middle of it) and also watched all of Django Unchained which is almost 3 hours long. Just as I was finishing that movie the seatbelt sign went on and we hit some good lumpy bits for a little bit so I started another movie, Hurt Locker.
I was originally going to watch something else but figured I would save that for the way back (if Qantas has it as an option, if not I had it on my hard drive). After coming out of the turbulence we were about 2 hours out of Brisbane and the breakfast service had begun and I declined this really with just taking the small little bowl of fruit salad and getting some caffeine into me. I would have breakfast waiting for me at home in Brissie, so why have 2 of them (plus the two options didn’t really interest me all that much).
As we started a very very gradual descent into Brisbane the area around my seat became extremely crowded. I don’t think people on the flight quite understood that there were lavs at the very back of the aircraft and that there really wasn’t a wait for these at times. Each time I looked at the lav indicator (which pointed to the ones at the back of the aircraft) they showed as vacant yet these was generally a line of 6 or 7 people clammering to get into the one right infront of my seat. O well!
When we started our official descent into Brisbane about 25 minutes out I had just literally finished watching Hurt Locker so it was good timing. I was just in the middle of packing my stuff as it happened. As we came into Brisbane from over the bay on a direct 19 approach it was a bit of a shame as I kind of wanted to see a quick glimpse of the city. It was a bit surreal though as we approached the threshold of the airport as I had landed here so many times but yet it thrilled me every second of the way down, even if to some it was the most boring approach ever.
When we hit the ground they taxiied almost the full length of the runway before turning off which most long haul pilots dream of as within minutes of wheels on the ground we were at the gate, however it took 10 times that length for me to get off the aircraft as I was banished to the back of the plane it felt.
Once off the plane I tried to get through the process as quickly as possible to maximise my time with my family (what limited time that was) but it was almost a solid hour before I had cleared immigration, collected my bags and cleared customs. The problem was immigration and bags. As we had touched down you also had QF16 from LAX, Emirates from Dubai, Air Nuigini and also Singapore Airlines all at the same time. Heaps of widebodies disgorging passengers all at once. Not pleasant!
Baggage was slow and by the time i walked out of the doors into the terminal proper I could hear my mum shouting my name above the crowd and running after me. It was good to be home….. even if only for a couple of hours!