This one is a particularly long report about the flight from Hong Kong to London. Happily I got on Wunala Dreaming, the Qantas Boeing 747 painted in the special aboriginal scheme. It is always nice to get on a special aircraft, especially when you’re heading to Europe for the first time in your life! Here’s the report as written in 2005, so enjoy!
I flew into Hong Kong from Beijing on Cathay Pacific at 11:30am on 7 April 2005. Cathay had booked me into my assigned seat 11A on the upper deck. They were unable to give me exit row, as this could only be done at Qantas check-in. It was great to have my luggage checked through to London though!
I spent the day with my Aunt and Uncle in Macau, and then got the train back to the airport. I arrived sometime around 9pm. Took myself to the Qantas counters, and was told that yes, an upper deck exit row seat was available. My seat was changed to 16K, which was brilliant. My second flight in QF international business, and both times in an upper deck exit row window seat (last time being 16A).
Lounge and Boarding Gate
The British Airways / Qantas lounge was packed with people, and one of the computers for Internet access wasn’t working, so I had to be really quick when it was my turn as a lady wanted to use the service. Around 12:30am, I walked down to the gate, and kept seeing people with Qantas stickers on their clothes. I asked what they were for, and they were the passengers going on to London on my flight who had come from Sydney.
Got to the gate and began the long wait. To my utter pleasure, our aircraft was Wunala Dreaming, meaning that I would get my first B747-438ER flight, as well as my second Qantas special. I’d managed to score the B747-300 painted up in aboriginal designs in January.
QF29 – Hong Kong to London Heathrow (HKG-LHR)
8 April 2005
Boeing 747-438ER – VH-OEJ – “Wunala Dreaming”
Seat: Upper Deck Business Class 16K
The gate was being handled by Cathay Pacific staff, and they kept paging various passengers in barely understandable English. We boarded the aircraft around 1:15am, a little late. As I was first to board, I took the opportunity to take a shot of the Skybed as well as the upper deck cabin.
Ready For Take-Off
Our flight attendants, Louise and Fiona, asked us to fill in our breakfast orders for the morning. These were on those cardboard things with the round hole like you get in hotels. You ticked off what you wanted from the menu, and they’d bring it in the morning. Classy, I thought!
Safety demonstration done, and the crew sat right in front of me at the exit. It’s also fun sitting there, because you can see how they arm the doors. I could do it if I had to as well! Shortly after we were in the air, and I had my entertainment screen out.
Have you ever seen those flip down screens in some of the Boeing 737s or on the A320s of various airlines? You know, the ones that come down from the passenger service units?
Well the screens on Qantas Business Class are the same size as that – enormous, especially compared to Cathay business class. I was wondering if we’d be served a meal, or if we were expected to just go to sleep then have breakfast, when the F/As came around with menus! We were to get fed!
Supper In The Wee Hours
The supper menu was a choice of mains between Parmesan Crumbed Chicken with Lemon Potatoes, Asparagus and Aioli / Seared Sea Bass with Onion and Chilli Sauce and Asian Greens / Beef and Mushroom Pot Pie with Tomato Relish / or Toasted Provolene, Capsicum and Zucchini Foccacia. They all came with a Green Leaf Salad with Cucumber and Cherry Tomatoes.
For dessert was a choice between a Selection of Seasonal Cheese and Dried Fruit / Banana and Hazlenut Syrup Cake with Creme Anglaise / or Sliced Fresh Fruit. There were also chocolates on offer, Valrhona Chocolates.
I had the chicken dish, which was superb and really filling, and the cake for dessert which was also very decent. With it, I of course had various drinks, which is always good!
Also on the menu, if you got hungry during the flight, was the create your own toasted sandwich, with the following ingredients – Foccacia or Ciabatta with Roast Chicken / Smoked Salmon / Cream Cheese / Cheddar Cheese / Roast Capsicum / Char Grilled Zucchini / Semi Dried Tomatoes / Aioli. You could also get Fresh Whole Fruit, Chocolate Brownie Biscuits, Cheese and Biscuits, or Chocolate Bars.
Sleeping High Above The Earth
Once the meal service was done, I put my Skybed into the sleeping position. The pillows are really quite comfortable and not lumpy or too thin. The blanket kept me nice and warm, though perhaps a little too warm. I didn’t sleep so well in the bed, but I never sleep well on planes anyway. A contributing factor was probably that I had stuffed my face with everything put in front of me not 15 minutes before, so I had plenty of energy.
In the middle of the night we hit some turbulence, and the seat belt sign came on. You could see on the interactive map that we had made a bit of a detour to get around the worst of it. The flight attendant sat down on her seat, and the other was in the crew rest area on her break. It passed after 10 minutes or so.
Passing The Night Hours
After a few hours of catnapping, I perused the sorry selection that Qantas offers for Duty Free. It’s nothing special at all. Cathay Pacific have a glorious selection of things you just want to buy, and so I did with them. Nothing at all on QF.
The Qantas Inflight magazine is also pretty boring. It is bare bones compared to the likes of Icelandair, which offered many interesting articles. Even BA have a good magazine. Qantas need to pick up their effort there.
Had a couple more drinks, the crew serving me nice and quietly after I asked in the galley. I think they were happy to have something to do, as it was pretty quiet. The LED mood lighting in the cabin also makes for a brilliant look in the cabin. It’s nice and soothing and very much conducive to sleeping.
The IFE had started another round, so I managed to catch Ladies in Lavender about 10 minutes in, and by then breakfast was being served. You could tell everyone was waking up, because it was a stampede to the bathrooms and they were hardly free for the next hour.
Breakfast Is Served!
The Breakfast menu was as follows. Orange Juice / Apple Juice / Berry Energiser Drink / Fruit Salad with Yoghurt / Toast / Croissant / Toasted Museli / Breakfast Sausages with Potato Cake, Braised Beans and Sauteed Mushrooms. Or you could have the Chinese Breakfast, which was the same drinks, then Fruit Salad / Steamed Bun / Congee with Oyster Mushrooms / Turnip Cake with Dim Sum. Needless to say, I had the regular breakfast, and once again it was brilliant. I certainly can’t complain about the food!
During the meal I used the back massage feature of the Skybed which is really really nice for ironing out the kinks! It feels like someone has taken their fist and is kneading your back like pizza dough – it’s great!
Lots Of Love To The Flight Attendants
I got chatting to the F/As, and I asked why they were so bouncy and happy. One of them said that she had just come off several weeks of leave and she was glad to be back. Both of them were absolutely wonderful. They sat down for landing and we got chatting about London, and how it was my first visit to Europe and things like that. Louise told me she had almost fallen asleep in her seat when the turbulence hit mid-flight, because she was so tired and the seat was so comfortable!
We landed and we all kept chatting as I was given my coat back and as we disembarked. They were superb Qantas staff, and made the Hong Kong to London flight an exceptional experience.
Heathrow Immigration Hell
From there, I couldn’t remember how to get to the arrivals lounge for a shower and a freshen up, and no-one could help me. I ended up standing in line for Passport control in Heathrow Terminal 4 for two and a half hours! Yes, 2.5 hours after a 13 hour flight. I was really really not happy.
It was bedlam as heaps of flights had arrived, and the queue was right down the corridor. Welcome to the UK – not. What a disgrace! From there I had to hoof it to Terminal 2 with my luggage before waiting another couple of hours for my Icelandair flight to Reykjavik. Not the best experience ever. I don’t understand why Heathrow is so sought after to get slots in, especially when it’s a bastard of an airport compared to Gatwick, but I survived.
Loved the flight, very pleased that on both my Qantas Business Class flights that I had great F/As, great food, decent IFE (though AVOD is desperately needed), and I wouldn’t hesitate to pay the premium to do it again.
And that is how I reported on the Hong Kong to London service back in 2005. Heathrow is a hell of a lot better these days, but I never forgot waiting around for so long in that queue. It was awful! Nowadays I also sleep a little better on flights as I tend to change out of my jeans.
The next flight is Finnair from Amsterdam to Helsinki, so please read on if you like. What did you think of this report? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Rick Cox via Wikimedia Commons.