: Qantas 747-400 HND-SYD J
Background: My favorite airplane is the Boeing 747, a classic widebody operated by airlines around the world. Unfortunately many airlines have begun retiring their 747s, which means that the time to fly on them is now! My mission is to fly on 747s with as many airlines as possible before it's too late. Here is the down under edition of my Mission: 747
series of trip reports.
American Airlines scheduled a devaluation of their AAdvantage miles at the end of March 2016, at which time the number of miles needed for redemption would increase, particularly in premium cabins. Seeing as how my primary goal for my miles was to fly to Australia in Business Class, this move prompted me to start planning my trip before the mileage rates increased. My second goal was to get a flight on the Qantas 747. This aircraft is very difficult to fly with Qantas. The 747 isn't used on very many routes, and premium cabin fares are usually very high. Furthermore, AA award availability in Qantas premium cabins is hard to come by. I researched all the Qantas 747 routes and continually checked AA for availability in Business Class. Finally I found a seat on the Qantas 747 on the HND-SYD route. It looked pretty good: a long 9.5h segment on the Qantas 747, available for AA mileage redemption in Business Class. With the Qantas 747 coming up for retirement sooner rather than later, with AA mileage redemption rates increasing, and with no other Qantas Business Class seats available for AA mileage redemption on any aircraft from any city, let alone on my desired 747, it seemed to be a perfect storm of reasons to take this flight. I booked the ticket approximately 11 months in advance, and hoped the aircraft type wouldn't change. In the end it didn't change, and after the long 11-month wait, I was ecstatic to fly to Sydney on the Qantas 747.
Please enjoy my Qantas 747 report, and I look forward to your comments.
Departure: 22:00 (actual 21:53)
Arrival: 09:35+1 (actual 09:21+1)
Actual Block Time: 9h28
Actual Flight Time: 8h54
Seat: 15A Business Class
This evening I rode the Tokyo Monorail to the HND International Terminal, then headed to Check-in Area J. I found no line to check-in, no line for security, and no line for Japanese exit immigration. I was airside at 19:45. Boarding was set for 21:20 with departure at 22:00. Qantas makes use of the Japan Airlines lounge near Gate 112, just past security. I enjoyed a stop in the lounge and took advantage of the showers there. My flight was due to depart from Gate 147, so I left the lounge at 21:05.
At the gate in HND:
My plane today was VH-OJS, a Boeing 747-400 built in 1999 and flying for Qantas her whole life. Pre-boarding was already in progress, and Business Class was called shortly. I was the first onboard, through L1, turned right and headed back to the stairs.
I never tire of climbing the stairs on a Boeing 747. I was the first one upstairs and the flight attendant was waiting for me, a friendly Australian gentleman who immediately showed me to my seat. When initially attempting to secure a seat assignment at booking, I found that Qantas had blocked all the upper-deck seats except those in the last two rows (and additionally, rows 1 and 2 in the nose) for their elite frequent flyers. From those seats available for immediate assignment, I had picked 15A, the last seat on the left-hand side. There is one additional row on the right-hand side across from the stairs. On the left-hand side, there was a bulkhead wall directly behind my row, behind which there was a crew rest area, and behind that the stairs.
I have to say that at this moment, I almost couldn't believe I was here. I was upstairs in Business Class on the Qantas 747 heading down to Sydney. I think Australia is high on the list for a lot of Americans. It is so hard to get there, and is pretty much the farthest away destination from the US east coast. Seeing my favorite plane parked at the gate, looking great in the elusive Qantas livery, then climbing the 747 staircase and being the first one to meet today's flight attendant, having him welcome me onboard with a great Australian accent, and then seeing the Qantas flat-bed seats, while realizing I am going to wake up in the morning in Sydney, Australia, one of my top destinations for years, and now it's finally happening, and on a free flight courtesy AAdvantage miles! I felt really happy and fortunate at that moment.
Qantas 747 Upper-Deck Business Class:
I found a 4-window view, very impressive. The seat was stocked with a pillow, blanket, head set, and menu. The flight attendant quickly asked me about a pre-departure beverage, suggesting champagne, which I accepted. It was immediately served, seeing as how I was the only one onboard.
A sleep suit and amenity kit were delivered next, wow, my first flight ever with a sleep suit. That's a very nice touch, and I had forgotten that they offer that on Qantas. Settling into my seat, I found excellent legroom on offer, and acceptable width, too. Oh! And this was a massage chair! I immediately set about enjoying the massage function. And of course the 747 signature side storage compartments, a convenient perk of the upper-deck. Qantas' flat-bed seats are a unique design. They aren't staggered or herringbone, they're just oriented straight ahead. That seems like it might be an inefficient use of space per seat. For comparison, I found that Qantas fits 18 seats into their upper-deck, less than British Airways, KLM and United at 20, but more than Delta at 14. In any case, I always enjoy trying a unique seat, and I do indeed like a 4-window view.
Legroom shot - among the best of the best:
Shortly it was time for the cabin services manager welcome announcement, with a great Australian accent. "Glad to have you onboard Qantas flight 26 down to Sydney!" The message was repeated in Japanese. Pushback was early at 21:53, and we were then given the safety demo of "the features of this Boeing 747-400 series aircraft." It was a manual safety demo due to the screens remaining stowed at this point, but it was to the narration from the video. Taxi began at 22:00 with ground crew waving goodbye.
The view from 15A during taxi:
It was a long taxi to Runway 5. Takeoff was at 22:17. It was quiet up here on the upper-deck, but it was a decent takeoff smoothly into the night sky. I was treated to a good skyline view of Tokyo. By this point I was very tired, but this was my Qantas 747 experience on my first ever trip to Sydney. I needed to complete the inflight experience with onboard dining.
And we're on our way down to Sydney:
As soon as we passed 10,000 feet, mattress pads were brought out and beds set up. Wow, Qantas offers mattress pads in J too! Water bottles were quickly given out, they were clearly trying to give passengers maximum sleep time on this 9.5h flight. Make that 8.5h. That's right, the moving map was showing a full hour shorter than scheduled flight duration. Doesn't that always happen on the best flights!
Meal orders were taken, and my special-order meal was confirmed. Prior to the flight, I found that you could pre-order your meal on the Qantas website, a feature of their longhaul international routes. Pre-ordering affords you the ability to lock-in your meal to ensure its availability, and also provides an additional, exclusive choice only available online. That was the meal I'd chosen: Qantas Ponzu Beef
. Sleep suits, mattress pads, and online pre-ordering of meals? So far, so good on Qantas.
About an hour after takeoff, dinner was served. The side salad was dressed to order with balsamic. I was served a whole grain roll and my online-exclusive entree. I was offered wine, but requested an Australian beer, how better to begin my trip to Australia than with an Australian beer? I was given James Boag's Premium Lager, Tasmania's Finest
. It was a refreshing, if not particularly flavorful, beer. Dinner hit the spot nicely. It had good flavor on the entree, good quality rice, and a really nice dressing on the salad. Freshly dressing the salad really seems to make a difference over a packaged dressing.
Dessert was offered: fruit, cheese, or ice cream. I selected ice cream and was given a small, very frozen Japanese ice cream. It ended up being vanilla bean. It also ended up being very tasty.
I changed into the Qantas sleep suit in the lavatory; there was only one lav at the front - aren't there usually two on the upper deck? Perhaps not. The load upstairs was 18/18 tonight. It was now midnight (or 02:00 Sydney time), so it was time to go to sleep. I settled into my comfortable bed in the sky, in a Qantas sleep suit on a mattress pad in the 747. I was so excited to be going to Australia. I was loving Qantas very much so far, and it was my third time ever flying upstairs on a 747, something I always enjoy.
I woke up at 05:25. I had slept wonderfully, and a pretty long time, too. At 6'4", sometimes a flat-bed seat isn't long enough for me, but I'm happy to report that the Qantas bed was long enough, plus my feet could hang over the end of the bed, below the shell of the seat ahead. I did find the shoulder width to be a bit too narrow, but it clearly didn't prove to be a problem, giving me one of my best and longest overnight flight sleeps. An 8- to 9-hour flight is just enough for a good sleep.
Breakfast was immediately offered, and I asked for Baked eggs with mushrooms, pancetta and slow roasted cherry tomatoes
with tea. The breakfast was quite good.
Our progress after breakfast:
It was now time to change back out of my sleep suit, but only one restroom on the upper-deck made things a little difficult. Everyone needed to change out of their sleep suits at the same time. After breakfast we had about 1.5h to go, with a projected arrival time of 09:12.
The cabin services manager morning announcement advised 1h to go. Mattresses were collected. The first officer announced 500 km to go and arriving at 09:15. The weather was quite warm and humid, 29-30 degrees.
Welcome to Australia!
It was soon time for the cabin prep announcement. We had a bumpy decent through the cloud layer, and then, much to my surprise and delight, flew south right past downtown Sydney, giving me an amazing view of the city, harbor bridge and opera house! I really wasn't expecting a city view on arrival!
Seeing Sydney from the plane really got my excitement for Australia going, even more than before. This had been a very nice flight. I really liked the Australian flight attendants with the excellent Australian accents. Service had been good. Food had been good. Bed had been good. I felt very refreshed and awake for our arrival. No access to the aisle wasn't ideal, but it wasn't troublesome either. It was easy to climb out with so much pitch and a grab handle on the seat ahead. Qantas is not an easy airline to fly living in the US, but I quite liked flying them for the first time. Getting on the 747 didn't hurt, and flying on the upper-deck in Business Class certainly didn't hurt, either. I'm not sure I could think of a better way to go to Australia for the first time.
We continued flying south, past Sydney Airport, then turned around to land to the north.
Flying past Sydney Airport:
I was thrilled to land at 07:11, with a smooth touchdown and calm braking. We got to the gate at 07:21 (09:21 Sydney time). What a great flight and so excited to be in sunny Sydney, Australia!
Thai 747 in SYD:
Qantas 747 with Oneworld livery in SYD:
My 747 at the gate in SYD:
I headed into the airport and deliberately avoided the kiosk to make sure I got the Australian passport stamp. There was no line to meet with pretty much the friendliest immigration officer ever. I love Australia already!
To complete my incredible start to Australia, I booked a Tesla taxi transfer to my downtown hotel through Evoke. How better to begin this trip than by meeting a Tesla driver holding your name on a tablet!
Previous Mission: 747
trip reports:Mission: 747: United 747-400 SFO-ICN JMission: 747: EVA 747-400 PVG-TPE JMission: 747: Thai 747-400 BKK-HKG FMission: 747: Delta 747-400 CDG-DTW JMission: 747: British Airways 747-400 DEN-LHR JMission: 747: Virgin Atlantic 747-400 MAN-MCO JMission: 747: Air France Final Scheduled 747-400 JMission: 747: United 747-400 SFO-NRT F