Tasting Australia: Flying the Qantas A380…My Top 10!

by Matt on August 27, 2012

My trip to the Northern Territory and Southern Australia wouldn’t have been as phenomenal had I not arrived pampered, rested, refreshed and happy. And I have Qantas to thank for all of this. Even though I’ve logged many miles over the past two years I must say that when air travel is done right it can enhance the journey, and I’ve never looked so forward to a long haul as I was with Qantas. While my flight to Australia was on a 747, my flight back home allowed me to check out first hand the plane I had been drooling over since it was first announced: the big giant A380. But enough plane geekness, let’s do this! I give you my Top 10 Qantas Moments!

10. The Qantas First Lounge In Sydney
All flights should begin this way. Shake whatever airplane travel juju you have built up by walking along the vertical wall garden before ascending into the Marc Newson-designed lounge. Depending on when you arrive, you may be enjoying a fantastic breakfast (I absolutely loved my sweetcorn fritters with bacon, avocado, creme fraiche and tomato jam) in the Neil Perry restaurant or an afternoon cocktail at the sparkling white marble bar. In my case you might even just have a glass of Veuve with your breakfast. If work duties refuse to wait you’ll find plenty of space to conduct business, read in the library, or visit the spa.  Almost a shame to call this an airport lounge, really.

9. The Realization That The A380 Is One Big Mama.
Boarding a  plane this large is like embarking a ride at Disneyland: A lane for regular riders, another for Fastpass (business and that elusive first, in this case). Once on board, your sense of scale shifts to automatically accept the larger accommodations. Next, you being to curse American economy travel, realizing that this is the only way to fly. Wide passageways, high ceilings, it’s indeed spacious.

8. The Lounge
I’m not sure if I’d ever have any need to get up from my seat (see #7), but just in case I needed to take a small meeting I could do it in the Qantas Onboard Business Lounge. Or I could just watch TV. Or I could just act like I was and ask a flight attendant to snap my picture. Because that’s what I did.

7. My seat
I’d put this higher in my list but I don’t want my pajamas to get jealous (see #4).  I’ll say this: I could live in this seat. I can find no faults with it. It’s comfy, automatic, cocoon-like enough and it reclines, offering me a full night’s sleep. Which I did on both parts of this trip, resulting in a very happy and rested Matt Upon Arrival.

6. The small amenity kit
Florence Broadhurst-patterned bag with everything you’d need for the flight? Why, thank you. And like many Qantas passengers the world over I’ve hung onto it since my travels. I love this thing.

5. Cheese Tray
When I was young I always thought cheese at the end of the meal was strange YET the only way you could be sophisticated. Shows you how classy I was. Now as an adult I relish this observance (thanks, France!) and was happy to see that a selection of cheeses and accompaniments was available post-meal. And on a plane, no less! These savory bites along with a glass of sticky wine made me feel oh-so-special.

4. Pajamas
Everyone talks about Qantas’ tradition of offering travelers complimentary pajamas, but I wasn’t so sure about this. I usually try to find a happy medium between looking presentable during travel and full-on comfort, but when I was handed my own PJs I immediately took a look at them, observed fellow passengers as they headed off the the restrooms and did the exact same thing! And you know what? I’m so glad I did. Dinner and a movie while relaxing in stretchy comfort is the only way to go and were wholly appropriate. Plus your travel clothes don’t wrinkle so much upon arrival. But I’m still going to chide you if you ever wear pajamas to the supermarket. Oh yes I will.

3. In-flight Entertainment
Making a 13-hour or longer flight enjoyable relies on the confluence of factors, and battling mind-knumbing boredom is at the top of the no-fun list. However, the airline makes sure this can’t possibly happen with a pretty extensive list of movies, tv shows (both American and Australian), a live camera cam and a robust list of music. As a symbol of national recognition I only listened to Kylie Minogue and Empire Of The Sun and watched Hugh Jackman movies. I swear.

2. Food & Wine Selection
I took an informal poll with fellow travelers about memorable airline food experiences. Sadly, not one American carrier was mentioned. Ouch. And naturally, the top of the list included various Asian airlines and Qantas — of course. I’ll go so far as to say it was the best food and beverage program I’ve encounted on a flight, and glancing through the  menu was enough to get me hungry. Mushroom Ragout with Verjuice and Baked Polenta, Pan Fried Salmon and Crushed Peas and Preserved Lemon Dressing, Roasted Chinese Duck with Pickled Cucumber and Shiitake and Bok Choy…hardly the names of dishes you’d expect to find 36,000 feet in the air. Yet Qantas, in conjunction with Chef Neil Perry, has created such an amazing dining experience that most airlines pale in comparison. And the award-winning wine program offers an extensive selection, but I’m fine with a glass or two before reclining and falling fast asleep. And my lamb chops above were delicious, pardon the blurry iphone shot.

1. The Service
None of these on-board amenities would mean a thing if the service and guidance of friendly Quantas folks was missing. It’s not. In fact, each flight employs a Customer Service Manager to make sure things run smoothly. I’m just surprised that an effort as specialized as flying the A380 can also be done with an ease and friendly graciousness, but then again they don’t ask you to “enjoy the Qantas hospitality” for nothing.

Many thanks to Qantas Airways for the service and care to and from Australia. Per FTC regulations, this flight was provided by Qantas.  Check in tomorrow for my last Australian post..an interview with Chef Neil Perry!