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Part One (of Two): MEL - SIN on QF9 in FC

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  • Part One (of Two): MEL - SIN on QF9 in FC

    Airline: Qantas
    Flight Number: QF9
    Aircraft: 747-400 Wunala Dreaming
    Departure Airport: MEL
    Arrival Airport: SIN
    Departure Gate: 3
    Date: Wednesday 16th March, 2005
    Estimated Departure Time: 1710
    Actual Departure Time: 1730
    Estimated Arrival Time: 2110
    Actual Arrival Time: 2150
    Class: First
    Seat: 2K
    Load: 100%

    (* No photos as I do get somewhat self-conscious…unlike most of you seasoned spotters.)

    A visit to sunny Singapore was on the board once again. With only five days notice, my travel account manager (ever accommodating Fiona) was able to organize my airfare and accommodation within half an hour – with my seat preallocation (2K on the onward journey and 2A on the return) Ideally I would prefer row 1 on QF metal, but alas was already taken. However, on BA 744s I much prefer row 2 due to no middle seats.

    Leaving home at 1405, the leisurely drive took a little over 45 minutes on the account that I was stuck behind a semi-trailer almost the entire way to Melbourne Tullemarine Airport. Still made good time considering. Entering the main road leading to the arrivals and departures, I took a right at the first set of lights, following the signs to ‘Qantas Valet Parking’.

    As I pulled up to the drop off point, I felt somewhat overshadowed by the other vehicles within the parking bays: BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Land Rovers. Then here I come driving up in my Honda Accord Euro. With no signage explaining the procedure, I pulled up behind a Mercedes S320 and debarked. I was met by a very friendly attendant who found my booking and frequent flyer details. “We’ll take good care of your baby for you. Have a great trip, Mr XXX.”

    Turning 180 degrees, I walked to the dedicated Valet Parking check-in counter.
    “Good afternoon.”
    “Where are you heading off to today, sir?”
    “You’re flying direct from Melbourne or will you be flying to Sydney first?”
    “Direct from Melbourne to Singapore.”
    “If that’s the case, I apologise but I cannot process your flight here. You will need to walk up to international departures to get your boarding pass. I can only check you in if you’re flying via Sydney.”
    “No problem, gives me more time to have a smoke.”
    “That’s right, no smoking lounges in Melbourne airport.”

    Ever impressed with QF’s high level of professionalism and service, yet with the flexibility for the individual FA’s personality to colour their service methods.

    Extinguishing the cigarette, I walked straight up to the QF first class counter.

    “I’m sorry sir, but this counter is for premium customers; business and fist class. The economy line is behind you.”
    “Yes, I am aware of that.”

    I was taken aback somewhat, but wasn’t too perturbed as I have this happen to me nearly every occassion I travel. Many say that I have a baby face for a 26 year old. Once the initial confusion was clarified, I had my boarding pass within three minutes.

    After one final cigarette, I headed toward immigration.

    “Excuse me, sir. Can I weigh your bags?”
    “Of course.”
    “What class are you flying? Economy or Business class?”
    “No, first class.”
    “Oh well then, just keep going.”

    Walking against the main throng of passengers, I turned left and walked all the way to the APEC lane. With a line of 0 compared to the 70 (at the very minimum) general public line, I almost felt a little guilty as I waltzed up to the counter and went through without a wait, while the other plebs had a good 20 minutes from the end. I’d unclasped my laptop bag in preparation for scanning procedures, emptied my pockets and placed the contents in the provided container and pushed everything through the scanner.

    I followed the main corridor all the way through to gate 15, and followed the directions to the airline lounges. As I came down the escalators, a sign showing the location of the various lounges (Malaysia, United, Qantas, Singapore, etc) directed me to the QF lounge. Upon presenting my boarding pass, the attendant graciously pointed to my left.

    “The first class lounge is to your left, Mr XXX.”

    Thankfully I got into the lounge when I did. With only an initial eight users, the lounge size and amenities were suitable. However, within half an hour, a further 30+ filled the lounge. It became somewhat impersonal, not exactly the atmosphere one would expect from their flagship lounge. I was discouraged to use any of the IT facilities due to their somewhat antiquated dial-up speed connection. With a further 50 minutes before the estimated departure time, I decided that traversing the general public would be far more comfortable than being in the lounge.

    Alas, I was wrong. Walking a full 360 degrees around the terminal, I saw nothing out of the ordinary: Qantas, British Airways, Singapore, Air Pacific and Jet Star. As I walked up to gate 3, my heart leapt into my throat. Blinking several times and rechecking my boarding pass…yes, that is the aircraft I will be flying tonight. Wunala Dreaming sat resplendent in the afternoon sun as she looked at me with all her beauty.

    The boarding time of 1615 came and went in a blink of an eye.

    “Attention Ladies and Gentlemen. To all those flying on QF9 and BAXXXto Heathrow via Singapore, we would like to apologise that departure has now been pushed back to 1630 due to a computer malfunction at immigration. Thank you for your patience.”

    We were all kept abreast of the boarding progress/delay. Finally we were able to board at 1630. This is where Qantas fails to deliver a concise, thought out product. Boarding was an absolute clutter. There were no calls for first, business or one world members to board first. It was an in-for-all chaos. To make things worse, three attendants were allocated to check passports and boarding passes, then only two processing the boarding passes. Two bottle necks before you even enter the air-bridge.

    As I handed my pass to the flight attendant, “Welcome aboard, Mr XXX. If you would like to go straight forward and turn left. I take it you’re aware of your seating?”

    Lifting my heavy cabin bag into the storage compartment, I was assisted by the CSD.

    “Can I offer you a pre-departure drink, sir?”
    “Flute of champagne, please.”
    “Very good choice. We are serving Dom Perignon on the flight today. Would you prefer almonds, olives or both to accompany your champagne.”
    “Just the almonds.”

    * Sigh * Man, I really had it tough. Having my very own personal man-servant, opulent surroundings, champagne and a great view from my window. What more could one ask for?

    Due to the computer malfunction in immigration, our flight was further delayed an additional 30 minutes as the remaining passengers rushed to board. Unfortunately, two passengers proved too protracted in making their way to gate 3. The captain made the executive decision to unload their luggage as we had a very tight slot to meet. As we were push backed, I spied a beautiful BA aircraft heading out. As we both headed towards the runway, a company 767 carried out a textbook landing. The BA bird quickly took off ahead of a landing Air Pacific 737.

    We lined up perfectly straight with the runway and the engines were spooled to full power. As we hurtled down this green mile, my mind was suddenly awashed with the tasks ahead of me in Singapore. Dang, I was hoping to enjoy this flight without having to worry about work.

    Upon reaching cruising altitude, enroute to Adelaide, the seatbelt signed pinged off. The FAs kicked into action, making a whole lot of racquet in the galley. First class menus were handed out, followed by amenity bags. They’ve changed their Oroton bags to a more slimline design, much more suitable for the seasoned traveler. Contents included: shaving foam, razor, mints, socks, ear plugs, toothpaste (colgate), toothbrush, Neutrogen lip balm, Clarins face wash and Clarins Moisturizer.

    Brooke, the FA looking after my quadrant of the cabin, came by and asked if I had made a decision on my dinner choices. “Yes, I’d like to start with the blue cheese salad, followed by the seared Kingfish main with a side of zucchini/capers salad, followed by fresh fruits for dessert.”

    Presentation for the canapés (beautiful on Chinese porcelain spoons) were ‘Restaurant Rules’ grade. The entree was equally impressive. Unfortunately, the main was a major left down. Served haphazardly in a hybrid plate/bowl, the presentation was dismal even by my local’s standards. The pan fried kingfish was perfectly cooked, but tasteless. The potatoes were still undercooked. The zucchini salad with capers, on the other hand, was sublime. Lovely combination which I will incorporate into my own repertoire. For dessert I had a plate of seasonal fresh fruits; grapes (lovely), cantaloupe, honeydew (hard and tasteless) and pineapple (sublime). Throughout the meal, I stuck with orange juice and water as I felt an approaching headache.

    My table was cleared and I was allowed to return to my viewing. At this stage, we were well past Adelaide and skimming the Great Australian Bight. Viewing didn’t take my fancy this afternoon as I’d already watched majority at the movies/video, with selection including: Ray, Shrek 2, Incredibles, Being Julia, Spotless Mind, Kill Bill 2, Q Comedy (Simpsons, Kath & Kim, French & Saunders), etc. I decided to watch Kinsey and was surprisingly impressed with it. Where do you all sit on the 0 – 6 scale?!

    As we headed over Western Australia, the shades were drawn and lights turned onto dynamic lighting mode. A subtle blue ambient light emanated from above the storage bins and a directional blue light at the base of the front closet lit. Very soothing and conducive for slumbering. Unfortunately, I had my laptop out and had to turn my light on to gain better vision.

    An English lady was seated in 1A, enroute to Heathrow, a tanned and peroxide blonde beauty. She reminded me of any number of characters from ‘Footballers Wives’. Proved very demanding and constantly had a FA by her side throughout the entire flight. Seats 1K, 2A, 2K (mine), 3K, 4A and 4K were occupied by single business travelers, while the remaining seats were occupied by 3 business associates and a couple in row 4.

    The flight was very smooth and nothing out of the ordinary. The toilet was clean but not very well stocked. With two hours out of Singapore, I requested a bottle of water but was informed that they had run out and gave me a glass instead.

    I mysteriously dozed off with only another 1.5 hours before landing and came too when the FO announced our impending arrival. Just a quick note, our FO this flight was incredibly chatty. He graphically described our routing, video programming, Singapore immigration procedures, Singapore connecting flights, etc, throughout the entire flight. IMHO all captains/FO should take a leaf out of his book. He made me, as a passenger, feel very comfortable about…well, practically everything. Decent into Singapore was choppy for 20 seconds but leveled out once we broke through the clouds. Beautiful, beautiful Singapore.

    Landing was perfect, with possibly the shortest taxi I’ve had at Changi. We docked at gate C24 (which meant that we had a very LONG walk to the arrivals hall). Next to us was another company 744. The BA aircraft which left MEL was already docked and all PAX had fully disembarked. Couldn’t see much but did observe the following: Turkish, Australian Airlines, JAL, Singapore.

    The walk from gate C24 to immigration took just under 20 minutes, could have been quicker if I wasn’t dozing off. Remember, my body was still interpreting everything on Melbourne time of 1:30am. Immigration officer was friendly (unlike Australian immigration officers) and processed me through in a matter of minutes. I especially liked the personalied touch, “Welcome back again, Mr XXX. Hope you enjoy your stay.”

    As I had no checked luggage, I was off the plane and out to meet my colleague within 25 odd minutes. Phenomenal.

    Verdict (0 – Awfully Disgraceful, 5 – Average, 10 – World Class):

    QF First Class Lounge = 5
    I’m sorry to saw that nothing exceptional shone out about this lounge. Food was very limited, alcoholic beverages were suitable (not exceptional), IT infrastructure abysmal, seating/tables not adequately designed (being a short ass, I found the tables and seats too high meaning that I was somewhat uncomfortably dwarfed by the furniture)

    QF FC Cabin = 8
    As much as I adore the BA product, I much prefer how Qantas and Cathay position their seats against the wall. This allows easier viewing. Having said that, BA entitles more privacy which is a bonus. BA also has no middle seating in row 2 (my preferred row).

    QF FC Cabin Service = 7
    Capable staff, especially Brooke. Noticed some favoritism by the FAs to select passengers (customer in 1A and 4C). I was thirsty for a large portion of the flight, with a raging headache…and no FAs to be seen. I do feel somewhat guilty ‘calling’ for a FA, but I guess I do pay good money for my seat.

    QF FC Catering = 6
    Food was suitable but cannot match the high standards of Asian carriers. I do enjoy QF and BA’s ala carte menus, but much prefer MH’s trolley service. Guess it’s a shining reminder of a bygone era…what the Hindenberg journey might have been like.

    QF Overall = 6.5
    Overall an enjoyable journey despite my horrible headache (which mysteriously disappeared once I was out of the airport). The FO’s candidness and continual updates/progress reports proved a hit. The landside agents in MEL were exceptionally friendly and made the check-in process very easy.

    SIN Arrivals Procedures = 9
    Well, what more can I say? Changi airport is as near to a perfectly run and designed airport as you can get today. Short of making the gates closer to the departure gates, I can’t fault this lovely airport.

    Part Two: SIN – MEL on BA17/QF388

  • #2
    Excellent read mate!!! I have found simular problems with Qantas as yourself & could relate to the way you would of felt in some situations.

    Last time i went to Singapore I flew on BA16 out of Sydney. I love those afternoon flights over OZ to Changi.

    I do agree with you in that Changi Airport is perfect.

    Thanks again.


    • #3
      Originally posted by $747$
      Excellent read mate!!! I have found simular problems with Qantas as yourself & could relate to the way you would of felt in some situations.

      Last time i went to Singapore I flew on BA16 out of Sydney. I love those afternoon flights over OZ to Changi.

      I do agree with you in that Changi Airport is perfect.

      Thanks again.
      Tanks a million for your comments. I've flown BA16 in their first cabin a number of times and will be choosing that airport in future, so as to be able to use their FC lounge as opposed to the MEL variant.

      Plenty to do at Changi, even if you don't have access to the various airline lounges. As I am a fan of asian fare, I prefer to visit the 24-hour food court, as opposed to One World's First lounge (very little hot food) spread.


      • #4
        hey there .. i would like to say that I enjoyed reading your report !!!
        Inactive from May 1 2009.


        • #5
          Originally posted by OY-KBN
          hey there .. i would like to say that I enjoyed reading your report !!!
          Thanks, OY-KBN.


          • #6
            Very informative reading from first letter to last one. Here too, our custom officers can claim the title of the most uncongenial-inefficient lot worldwide !
            Thanks for visiting
            *Avimage's Monthly Slide list *


            • #7

              Great review, enjoyed reading it.

              Happy Flying!


              • #8
                Lovely report! Don't we all love changi? It really is a perfect airport and running around it for a couple of hours definitely gives you grand exercise
                ahhh, the almighty baby face
                I know too well how you feel- I'm 18, almost 19 and I still hate asking for wine when I fly- they don't believe I'm more than 14


                • #9
                  nice report
                  Airlines: XT,KL,SN,ACA,DL,AF,TV,SN,OS,LX,WA,NW,FI,US,AW,CO,OH,OO,9W,AA,AE,FL,B6