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Heathrow to Sydney with Qantas

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  • Heathrow to Sydney with Qantas

    December 23rd 2006
    QF032 Heathrow-Sydney

    I woke on time at 0645 and following a brisk shower and a snack for breakfast I re-packed my luggage to take account of the clothes switch overnight and then double checked everything before making one more check on the BAA website to ensure my flight was still expected to operate before going downstairs and checking out. A short walk to Hatton Cross in the crisp yet still somewhat damp morning air ensued and I made use of my Oyster card for the final time this year on the short 2 minute hop to Heathrow Terminal 4. On arrival I suddenly remembered to switch the baggage labels on my luggage which not only had the details on them from the cruise with my ex-wife in July but also had my old address still encrypted on them! I then headed to the lifts to take me to the departures level only to find that both escalators were out of order and one of the lifts was also unserviceable leaving the remaining two lifts somewhat oversubscribed. Eventually I made it to departures to find the whole departure level resmebling a Moroccan bazaar with disorientated people all over the place. The screens said that QF032 was not yet opeb for check-in so I took the option of going outside and taking in some air. I then went into one of the marquees erected outside T4 for the passenger overflow and was asked to wait inside until my flight was called. BAA seems to have been quite cagey about allowing the media inside the marquees to see the conditions but in all honesty it was much better than I expected, it was warm, there was food and drinks (complimentary) for everyone, plus newspapers, TV, videogames etc. Seeing as the marquees were erected in the 'drop-off' area it was a little disconcerting to see people quite literally sitting in the gutter while awaiting their calling but overall it was much better than the misery being portrayed by the media. Within a mere ten minutes my flight was called and as I came out of the marquee with dozens of other people it the TV crews were simply grabbing people as they walked by for a quick interview-funny how they only seemed to be picking out the white middle class families and the young blonde girls for interviews!!
    So then came stage two, I joined the back of the queue in Zone D at 0830 and finally at 0920 I got to the front and within under a minute I was done. It was so much better than what I had been expecting based on the media and I must say that I have had worse check-in experinces than that. I then had to hurriedly consume the two bags of crisps I had purchased in anticipation of a long wait, once all my food and drinks were gone I was ready for the security queue. Somehow I managed to blag my way into the fast track screening queue although it didn't appear to make any difference to the speed of the process. To be honest it was all pretty swift, queues for security at US airports are far far worse, and even this queue was fairly small compared to some the last time I flew from Heathrow (although that was from Terminal 3 which can only be described as the black hole of Calcutta). So looking back at the whole experience from my perspective as somebody who has actually been there I can only say kudos to BA and BAA for not letting the situation get out of hand and keeping things running smoothly, from my experience I thought things were well organised and it was only the media who were making the situation worse by preparing everyone for armageddon when the reality is that it was one of the most straightforward experiences I have had at Heathrow-certainly better than some of my previous visits. The only real drawback was the long queue for check-in, but then what do you expect for the last flight from the UK to Australia before Christmas.
    So I ended up with loads of time to wander the airside section of the terminal, not being much of a shopper I just went for a walk, took a few pictures, stocked up on drinks (which of course are now banned through the security check point) and then taking a seat (and there were plenty spare) to sit down for a while and start writing this report. Naturally within five minutes of sitting down the flight was called but I held on a little longer to avoid getting caught up in the throng of people who immediately formed a long queue as soon as the call went out. Quite unusually there was no apparent order to the boarding process, normally passengers are called by row number to avoid congestion in the cabin and to speed up the overall process, but for this flight (and maybe others) Qantas just made a general boarding call so it was somewhat chaotic once I got on board-although far less so thanks to the wisdom of being patient once the boarding call went out. I texted Joanne from the gate just for old time's sake-I always used to text her just before getting on a plane and just as I got off a plane so I thought I would do it just for the last time. Then, once I had been checked off the list at the boarding gate I proceeded to walk down the jetway to my aircraft-the last thing I did before I got on board was to text Rachel and tell her I was just getting on the aircraft, then I switched off the mobile and proceeded to board Boeing 747 registration VH-OJP.

    My immediate impression on boarding was to be a little astounded at the number of empty seats-I really thought this flight would be full to capacity, at least in economy. So I meandered my way down to 53C, put my bag in the overhead locker and my carrier bag of drinks and reading material in the seat pocket in front of me and waited for the boarding process to close. Once that was complete I finally got confirmation that I had an empty seat next to me and a young lady in 53A (window seat) who very much kept herself to herself and was asleep before we even pushed back from the gate....lucky for some I guess. I always prefer the aisle seat on a long haul flight so I can have the freedom to move around whenever I want to, I don't need to climb over people to get out of my seat etc, window seats give a nice view but I prefer the liberty of movement, in any case row 53 on a Qantas 747 is right over the wing so there isn't really a great deal to see in all honesty. Naturally there was an Air Traffic Control delay (as per usual at Heathrow) but it was only around an hour so it wasn't too bad given the circumstances of the previous days. I boarded at 1105 and we pushed back from the gate at 1217from Gate 402 which located right at the back of the terminal so it was a reasonably long taxi to runway 09R although we were pretty lucky to get straight on the runway without having to hold anywhere and after a minute or two of waiting on the runway we began our thunderous roll down the tarmac at 1235 and in no time at all we had a huge amount of moisture passing over the wings as we gracefully rose up from the earth's surface and aimed for the sky and an initial destination of Singapore Changi (the 21st time I will have been to Singapore!!). Our departure route was Brookmans Park 5J, a swift left bank two miles out of Heathrow to pick up a 54 degree heading and interception of London RO74, ten miles out banked again and started heading for Brookmans Park VOR after which we banked right and continued our journey across Essex, over Ipswich and out across the North Sea towards Amsterdam and Hamburg.


    During the long wait on the ground the crew came round with a snack pack of water, fruit, biscuits, chocolate etc and about 45 minutes after take off came the drinks and coke for me-as if I would drink anything else! About two hours into the flight we had the dinner service, I chose lamb but was really quite disappointed with the quality of the meal, I have had plenty of meals when flying out of Heathrow using Qantas, British Airways, American Airlines, Virgin and Singapore Airlines-this was probably the worst I have experienced and really didn't bode too well for the remainder of the flight nor my return journey. By the time lunch/dinner was finished I had already made good use of the in-flight entertainment system which had recently been voted the best in the world although I would have to disagree, nothing I have yet exdperienced comes close to the entertainment on Virgin. I watched a couple of episodes of 'Extras', then 'The Office' and the the US version of 'The Office', was a little disappointed not be able to watch an episode or two of 'Friends' as that seems to have become just as much a part of the flying experience as the safety demonstration in recent years! After that came time to try and sleep which was met with very little success so I got the laptop out and started writing up this report, then read some of the newspaper that I had picked up in one of the marquees at Heathrow compliments of BAA. Another attempt at sleeping was a dismal failure so I decided to spend some time with Stuart 'Psycho' Pearce.....or at least his autobiography (very good read by the way). Shortly after I started reading the young lady sat in 53A asked if I would mind if she used the vacant 53B seat to stretch out a little and being the gentleman I am I of course agreed. What I found somewhat disturbing was the fact that instead of using the window panel to rest her head and put her feet next to me she ended up doing the opposite and rested her head somewhat uncomfortably close to my groin......fair enough she was reasonably fit but if I am the gentleman I said I am I would have thought of nothing else than being loyal to my new girlfriend back home-but then I guess what happens on the plane stays on the plane
    Time for a walk down to the other end of the plane I thought, gotta keep that DVT at bay! After stretching my legs for a while I settled back into my seat and back into the book, a while later I finally managed to get around an hour of fairly light sleep and woke to find us the Bay of Bengal, not long after this the cabin lights were turned up and the crew came round with some hot towels. Breakfast soon followed about 90 minutes prior to arrival in Changi which for me was the omelette which was at least an improvement on the dinner serving. A quick glance out of the window brought the sight of a beautiful sunrise as December 24th dawned over the Malaysian Peninsula. I went to freshen up in the toilets and then started to organise my cabin baggage in order to make a reasonably quick exit at Changi as I knew our time on the ground would be limited due to our late running. After that I went back to reading the paper until we were well into the descent for Singapore. We came in over the city and passed over Sentosa Island before making a left turn to line up with 02C, this is the best way to arrive as it gives you a good view of the city and the expressway that runs up to Changi, then a cursory glance down to the golf course is a sure sign that you are almost there. We had a nice smooth landing at 0814 local time after a flight of eleven hours and thirty nine minutes. We arrived on gate C01 shortly afterwards but then had a lengthy wait while a sick passenger was removed from the upper deck by local paramedics, only once this was completed could the rest of us get off which I did at 0833 having spent thirteen and a half hours on board the aircraft. My first stop upon reaching the terminal was the cactus garden for some fresh air, but I only lasted about a minute as it was just a bit too humid for me so I returned to the cool air of the terminal and went in search of some refreshments.

    After about half an hour of wandering I went back to the gate and got processed through the checkpoints and took advantage of the free internet point to write a quick email to my ex-wife in reply to something she said to me just before leaving Heathrow. After a short wait we were called on to the aircraft by row number and I was back on board at 0920 and took my seat once again for the second and shorter leg of the journey. After a swift pushback we had to taxi a very long way down to 02C again, this was due to work being undertaken on 02L which we would normally have used. After waiting in a queue (unusual for Singapore) we rolled down the runway at 1012 local time and headed northeast for a while before turning around and heading out towards Bali and the northwestern corner of Australia. Lunch was served just over an hour into the flight-by Santa Claus no less, (It was Christmas eve remember). After lunch I read a little more and then actually managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep so that by the time I woke up it was time for some dinner and we were not much more than an hour from Sydney. Although I was glad to have got some sleep I was still extremely tired but at least we were almost there and at around 1920 local time I began descending into Sydney for the eigth time in my life. The weather was not so good in Sydney, low cloud cover prevented us getting much of a view on the way in but at least it was another smooth landing as we touched down at 1946 local time, a flight of six hours thirty four minutes-giving a total flight time from London of nineteen hours and thirteen minutes. Upon arrival at the gate we had yet another sick passenger to be dealt with by local paramedics, in the rear section this time, this delayed our deprtaure from the aircraft but those passengers in the rear section had to wait until the passenger was removed through one of the local doors before they could get off at least the rest of us got off reasonably quickly.

    I spent over 21 hours on that aircraft with just a 45 minute break in Singapore, I was so glad to have room to move once again! I don't normally do LHR-SYD in one hit, I prefer to take a day or two in Singapore or Hong kong when I do this journey but on this occassion I had no choice but to do it one go and I was now so glad that it was over. Immigration and customs were completed fairly quickly and I found myself in my hotel room only 45 minutes after getting off the aircraft!

    Matt for my personal gallery.

  • #2
    Very detailed trip report! I hope you had a good stay in Sydney!


    • #3
      What an excellent detailed account!!! That has livened up 20 minutes at work. Cheers.

      Why don't I ever get nice young ladies on long hauls sitting next to me?


      • #4
        Last time I flew QF (LHR-BKK-SYD) I had a lovely young Spanish Lady sit next to me for the LHR-BKK sector. She was terrified of flying but we had a good chat. Sadly she said goodbye in BKK .


        • #5
          I just hope on my next trip, Man-Dohar-Lahore-Islamabad-Gilgit, I will have someone sat next to me that doesn't snore, grunt, waffle or support mcfc etc etc......