So after 69 days, it was time to head home. Our last day in Sydney we spent packing and walking around the city on a beautiful spring day. The Naval Parade was in town and we saw seamen from many countries dressed and lining the sidewalks ready for the parade.
Our Qantas ChaufferDrive pick-up from the Marriott came right on time, 11:55AM. Our flight, QF7, departed Sydney at 2:25PM and we had no reason to be rushed. The Mercedes S class was beautiful and the driver a friendly Aussie from The Port Douglas area. He is very interested about our visit to Port Douglas and made for an entertaining ride. We were at the airport in less than 30 minutes.
Sydney, Australia to Dallas, USA
Departure Time: 2:25PM
Boeing 747-400 Longreach
Business Class Seat 15K
Duration 15 hours 20 minutes
This would be one of the “longest” days we would ever have. You see the flight left Sydney at 2:25PM on Wednesday October 9. It would arrive 16 hours later in Dallas at 1:25PM on the same day. By the time we would connect and make it to home to Charlotte it would still be Wednesday.
We arrived at the Sydney international terminal and made our way to the Departures area. We didn’t immediately see the Qantas Business Class check-in but eventually found it. The check-in with an agent was quick and there was no gruff about the weight of our carry-on bags. Our boarding passes were issued all the way through Charlotte and we were given Immigration/Customs/Security express passes.
Sydney Qantas Business Class Check-in
Express passes through immigration, customs, and security in Sydney
We followed the signs for ExpressPath and made it through all departure formalities in about 15 minutes. I was randomly picked for a body scanner at the security checkpoint instead of going through the Walk-Through Metal Detector like most others. I tried a Shoulder Syndrome opt-out and was granted it and went through the Walk-Through Metal Detector and had a light pat-down. Success. We then made our way to the Qantas lounge to enjoy a drink and relax before the massive almost 16 hour filght.
Escalator to the Qantas lounges. We did not have access to the First Class lounge but the Business Class lounge was plenty nice.
The Qantas Sydney Business Lounge
The food spread was excellent especially compared to offering by the US based airlines in the USA. They also had very friendly staff that would come by and take food orders in case one wanted to indulge in a massive meat pie. Lady Tocqueville took the bait on that and really enjoyed what seemed like a homemade pastry stuffed with chicken in a nice wine sauce.
The food spread also included lamb in a curry sauce that was quite nice.
The booze selection was pretty nice. I went with a Peroni on draft. I really like beer and have been lucky to enjoy it all over the world. I haven’t been very impressed with Australian beer, even the few “microbrews” that have been available. Over the last 10 days my go-to Aussie beer was Coopers but I still preferred Peroni, which seemed to be highly available in Australia, better. The cold Peroni hit the spot and Lady Tocqueville cooled her jets with some Aussie Sparkling Wine.
We hung out in the lounge for about an hour and then left for our gate a few minutes before boarding.
View of our bird, the Qantas 747 Longreach taken from the gate area. We were lucky enough to be in the upstairs cabin which is smaller and has a more private feel.
View of the gate area for QF7 to Dallas.
Boarding was called on-time and we made our down the jetway, onto the plane, and up the stairs to the upstairs cabin. This plane had a 3 cabin configuration, business, premium economy, and economy. Of course we were rockin’ business for this mega long-haul. This flight, I believe, is currently the 3rd longest commercial flight operating in the world and by December will be the longest when Singapore discontinues some of their Singapore mega long-haul service. There is business class both downstairs near the nose of the plane and upstairs. Downstairs its in a 2-3-2 configuration, while upstairs a 2-2 configuration. We opted many months in advance for the 2-2 configuration upstairs to have that private cabin feel.
As soon as we boarded we were seriously impressed with these seats. They were definitely the best business class seats we have had on all of our trips (although the Turkish 777 business seat I think would be pretty similar but as I noted we got moved to the First Class Suites seats on that flight and didn’t get to try those out). They were spacious, new, clean and so functional. Cubbies and storage everywhere. The seat could move any which way you wanted and even had massage action. This would be a comfortable nest for the next 16 hours.
View of the seat when in the take-off/landing position.
A view of the mini-cabin upstairs.
Leg-room while seated was epic.
Menus were passed out. There would be a dinner service and a breakfast service on this beast. The breakfast orders were taken on a filled-out card sort of like ordering room service breakfast the night before in a hotel by hanging your order on the door. Dinner had multiple choices of appetizers and entrees. I went with the Swiss Cheese and Schnitzel sandwich while Lady Tocqueville got after the Venison with Polenta. For breakfast I ordered the mushroom cheese toast and opted to have them wake me up for breakfast by checking a box on the card.
To handle jet-lag as smoothly as possible our strategy for this trip home was to stay up for about the first 8 hours of the flight and then try to sleep for 5 hours. We would commence our sleep at 10PM Sydney time which seemed normal for our bodies. By limiting ourselves to 5 hours of sleep we would wake-up at around 10AM Dallas time. Then if we could survive the rest of the day we would try and go to bed at the “normal” bed-time once in Charlotte to try to get us quickly back on track.
The extensive drink menu on the Qantas Sydney to Dallas QF7 flight.
The multi-course dinner menu.
The flight attendants came around with water, orange juice, or sparkling wine for a pre-departure drink. We had to go with a sparkling wine toast just as we had done at the Charlotte airport on August 3 when we commenced the trip.
The flight attendants passed out very nice looking amenity kits. Kits for the ladies were manufacturing by Kate Spade. The ones for the gentlemen were made by “Jack Spruce” or something like that.
We pushed-back from the gate on-time and made our way to the runway. On take-off we had awesome views of Sydney and the harbor as we made our way up and out towards the ocean.
Awesome views of Sydney and the harbor on a drop-dead gorgeous spring day.
Shortly after take-off the flight attendants brought around pajamas. I went with the L/XL size which were still a bit small on my 6’4″ frame but fit me just the same. They were comfortable and made of a decent cotton blend.
Qantas Business Class Pajamas passed out on QF 7 Sydney to Dallas
A view of the swing-out TVs. 22 minutes into the flight we still had about 15 hours to go.
Our in flight entertainment systems worked fine for about the first 30 minutes of the flight, and then conked out. They tried resetting them 3-4 times and finally after over an hour of them freezing and not functioning the Flight Supervisor came to us and apologized. He explained that he did not know what was wrong or how to fix it. There were no more seats left in Business Class on the flight. He offered us each any one item we wanted out of the Duty Free Catalog as compensation and we could use a Premium Economy seat to watch TV or movies. While this was a nice gesture, this was going to be pretty weak. Part of the premise of the nice long meals is that you can enjoy a movie while you are eating. And/or watch a movie while lying down or strongly reclined.
Luckily we did not have to take him up on this offer. Randomly about 90 minutes into the outage the system started working again. This same issue happened to only one other passenger in the Upper Cabin and per the Flight Service Supervisor nobody was impacted downstairs. What a strange error! He never came back by to let us know if the duty free compensation was still on or not and we didn’t feel like asking since it was working again and was only out for about 90 minutes.
During the first 8 hour stint before we attempted sleep I mostly played Railroad Tycoon II on my laptop and watched an interesting French movie, Renoir. Lady Tocqueville watched an entire slate of Donton Abbey episodes she had already seen. She freakin’ loves that show.
We each had a Vodka and Ginger Beer aperitif which hit the spot before the meal service.
First course was potato croquettes and some salad.
Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich as my “main” was a bit greasy but pretty good.
Lady T really enjoyed the Venison and Polenta. We both took some White Wine blend from Western Australia to wash down these great meals.
A view of one of the two flight attendants that serviced the Upper Deck Business Cabin and the drink cart.
We finished the meal with a cheese plate and some Cognac. Now that’s what’s up.
I feel obligated to add a note about the service on this flight. Up until now, we have had 4 Qantas flights and in each case we found the service spectacular. Hell on one the Qantas flight attendant gave us a full wine bottle to-go. We expected more of the same exceptional service on this flight. In this regard we were disappointed. Both flight attendants seemed very disinterested in their job, one even more than the other. They reminded me of the older USA flight attendants you get on long-haul flights who are very senior in the Union pecking order and just biding their time until retirement and pensioning. For example when request some water, on past flights the attendant would come right in front of you and present the water to you in a face-to-face non-rushed manner. On this flight the flight attendant would angle sideways to avoid non-verbal and face-to-face contact and reach with one arm and hand you water from almost behind the seat. At one-point I asked for water while I had my headphones on. The flight attendant took the empty bottle I had on my tray presumably to get me another one. She said something to me which I interpreted (incorrectly) as “would you like some more water?” I said, “yes, please I’ll take another water.” She then retorted rudely, “I SAID I WILL REFILL YOUR BOTTLE.” I said “OK, thank you” that was fine. Saying “please” and “thank you” were usually returned with a mutter or nothing at all. If all other Qantas flight attendants we had got an A+ rating, these flight attendants got a C+ and a D.
After dinner, movie watching, and being a railroad tycoon it was time to attempt some sleep. The seats folded into fully flat horizontal beds and they even had a mattress pad to put on to make it more comfortable. When fully flat the seats were very comfortable. They were a bit narrow which was fine for my ectomorph frame and plenty long, probably a full 2″ taller than my 6’4″ build. The blanket was big and warm and the pillow solid. This was an amazing airline seat. I would even say the seat functionality, “newness”, and comfort while eating and sleeping was better than Thai Airways First class on their older 747’s (the one we had was Bangkok – Sydney about two weeks ago).
A view of the seat turned into a bed with a duvet and blanket. The seat wasn’t fully flat at this point.
While our goal was 5 hours of sleep we both attempted sleep for about 6 hours. During that time sleep came off and on but was decent. I would guess 4 hours of actual sleep total. This left us with about 2.5 hours of the flight just in-time for breakfast.
Breakfast was delicious after waking up from my sleep. The cheese toast with bacon and mushrooms were yummy and so was the warmed apricot danish.
View of the flight map right when we got to Mexico.
The flight proceeded on to Dallas and arrived about 20 minutes early. Once at Dallas we deplaned down the stairs and made our way to a thankfully empty immigration and customs line.
We headed to an American Airlines transfer counter to try and get our next flight sorted. Way back when we booked these flights in November 2012, our original flight from Dallas to Charlotte left Dallas at 4PM, giving us a nice 2 hour layover. About two weeks ago there was a schedule change and our flight wouldn’t depart for Charlotte until 6PM, giving us about a 4 hour layover at this point. I called AA before we left Sydney to try and get on an earlier flight to Charlotte that departed at 3:15PM which would put us home at 6:45PM instead of 10:00PM. AA said there were no seats left in first class for award bookings. I asked if they could inquire to revenue management to open two seats since our request was based on a schedule change delay caused by American. They said they would ask and let us know within 24 hours. They never got back to us, but I checked the AA app on my Android phone and it showed us stand-by for the 3:15PM flight. So that was good. Except for one thing. Once we had checked-in at Sydney for the Qantas flight I pulled up the AA app again and the 3:15PM no longer showed up on our itinerary, just the 6PM flight. So my goal was to:
1) Get us on the 3:15PM flight to Charlotte instead of the 6:00PM flight
2) Get us on Economy to have a confirmed seat
3) Get us on the stand-by list for First Class which was as of current showing full.
We accomplished 1 and 2. We were also put on the stand-by list for First class and at the top of the list. We then proceeded through security and onwards to our gate and maybe the AA Admirals Club if we had time.
On our amazing Trip of a Million Lifetimes we had something like 30 flights in over 10 countries. We saw how security screenings were handled in many places in the world. Some places were better than others. The #1 worst place to go through airport security in our opinion is the USA. The TSA, we feel, is an invasion of our natural rights, unconstitutional, and just Security Theater and not actual security. So we were dreading seeing the lethargic jobs-program goonsquad in Blue again for security screening. We were not eligible for TSA Pre-Check on this flight and the DFW transfers security checkpoing we were at didn’t even have one. There was a business class line which we used but it was as miserably slow as Economy. The checkpoint wasn’t busy, maybe only 20 passengers in front of us waiting for screening. But somehow it took 30 minutes. Walk-Through Metal Detectors were roped off and the cattle was being herded into the Nude-0-Scopes. I successfully executed a TSA Shoulder Syndrome as my shoulder was hurting from the long flight and lugging around luggage. This one was comical:
Me (Standing in front of the Nude-O-Scope with my left arm up facing a TSA agent): Hi, right now I can only raise my left arm, my right shoulder is hurting;
TSA Agent facing me: Your right arm is up;
Me: (blank stare until he figures that when you are facing someone your right and left are switched from your current orientation)
TSA Agent: Oh yea, I see it’s your left arm that is up. You can’t raise your right arm?
TSA Agent: (unropes Walk Through Metal Detector) OK go ahead
Me: Passes through Walk Through Metal Detector and is on my way
After security we took the inter-terminal train and made our way to the gate. We saw our names had been cleared from the Standby list, but that just meant that we had our Economy seats and not First Class. We then proceeded to the lounge for a quick 20 minute stop to get sync up on the Internet and have a glass of water.
AA Amirals Club in Terminal A at Dallas
We were admitted as a virtue of being on a OneWorld Business Class International Itinerary since we had no status with American Airlines. The lounge was pretty full and offered the standard fare for USA based domestic lounges.
A view of the food and drink spread at the DFW AA Admirals Club Terminal A. I knocked back an espresso to try to keep alert and not go to sleep until night-time actually fell on the East Coast of the USA on this long Wednesday.
After about 20 minutes we headed to our gate, A28 to catch our final flight!
Dallas, Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina
Departure Time: 3:15PM
Economy Class Seat 14B
Duration 2.5 hours
Just before boarding we asked the gate agent if anything had opened up in First Class. He said it had checked-in full. For us it was a no brainer to take this flight in Economy instead of a flight almost 4 hours later in First Class. It would be nice to get home. And by taking this flight we made a quick 1 hour 30 minute International to Domestic connection in Dallas. All said and done we would transit Sydney to the East Coast of the USA (Charlotte) in 19 hours and 20 minutes. That has got to be about as fast as it can possibly get.
The only two seats together were in the very last row of the plane so we accepted seats 14B and 14E, seats apart from one another but at least in the Emergency Exit row with plenty of leg-room. I was a bit disappointed to miss out on First Class on this flight. This airplane is a brand-new Airbus A319 that American has just rolled out. First class only has two rows, but brand new state-of-the-art seats for USA First Class. I haven’t seen many trip reports of this plane yet so I was hoping to make a novel contribution. Nevertheless, Economy class was fine. Leg-room was excellent. Each seat had a brand-new in-flight entertainment system with your own personal TV. The overhead bins were slightly bigger and less of a struggle. This was one of the most comfortable full economy flights I have ever had.
I passed on drinks to focus on working on trip reports. We arrived in Charlotte on-time and without incident.
Well there you have it, 19 hours and 20 minutes from Sydney to Charlotte. The Sydney to Dallas flight was incredibly comfortable even if the service was a miss. We were fortunate to make our connection so quickly and get on the earlier flight home.
We each have four days at home to recover and get our lives back in order before we head back to work. I already have gotten my next work assignment and so I’ll be on a plane to Houston come Monday morning. I have a feeling that flight will be a little bit less enjoyable than any of our “Trip of a Million Lifetimes” flights.
Stay tuned for Concluding Thoughts from our trip.