Qantas, the Shangri-La and our first hours in Sydney, Australia
We’re en-route to Silversea’s newest luxury expedition vessel, the 120-guest Silver Discoverer, which we’ll embark on Monday for a 12-day voyage from Broome, Australia to Bali, Indonesia. But it would be criminal to fly all the way to Australia and not stop over in Sydney, which is why I am spending two nights here at the gorgeous Shangri-La Hotel Sydney.
Yesterday (or is it today?), I flew from Vancouver to Los Angeles to board Qantas Flight 108 from LAX to Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport. From LA’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, Qantas flies to Sydney, Melbourne & Brisbane, making it an extremely popular gateway to the famous land ‘Down Under.’
But as I stood at Gate 154 looking at the sparkling-white Boeing 747-400 that would take me to Sydney, I was a bit intimated by the flight duration. Fourteen hours is a long time to spend on an airplane, and even moreso when you’re travelling in economy. But those fears went away when I got onboard; my 747 (VH-OJT) has been entirely reconfigured to match the product found aboard Qantas’ massive Airbus A380 aircraft. To that end, new Boeing 777-style luggage bins have been added and seats have been changed out for a newer, sleeker model. The plane first flew in 1999, but you’d never know it; it could have just left the factory.
I fly a lot, and when you’re up in the air as much as I am, you tend to see the same things over and over again. Not so on Qantas: even in Economy Class, there were so many firsts on this flight that I had a tough time keeping track of them.
Some notable Wow! moments:
- Being provided with a grab-bag of snacks before the cabin lights were turned off for the evening. A clear transparent “Refresh” bag with two orange drawstrings was distributed to each Economy Class passenger. Inside was a bag of potato chips; a bottle of water; an Apple-Cinnamon Fig Bar; and a Kit-Kat. Awesome touch!
- Realizing the pillow provided was a real pillow, miniaturized, and not one of those overstuffed Kleenex ones most airlines utilise.
- The foot rest that actually cradled your feet. No kidding! A large mesh pouch at the bottom of your seat can be used to store items or it can be used as a little cradle for your feet. In fact, that’s what it was designed to do! With your feet off the ground and the seat fully reclined, even standard economy felt like it was closing in on the comfort level of Business Class aboard some airlines.
- The In-Flight Entertainment System that Worked – and was actually good. Not all IFE’s are created equal, and most are an exercise in frustration, with low-quality video, terrible sound, and unresponsive controls. The IFE on Qantas is modern and interactive, with hundreds of movies and entire seasons of popular television shows like Downton Abbey.
Our Live Voyage Report from Silversea’s adventurous Silver Discoverer continues tomorrow as we explore Sydney from the Shangri-La Sydney! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.