Sunday, June 10, 2012

Qantas Flight 107, All Expenses Spared

Right. So we're in LA and we're completely knackered. We've had a short nap of 2 hours sleep after being awake for 24 hours... now we're trying to stay awake until it gets dark here.

The most important thing is that we're alive. Thanks to Qantas and its dodgy maintenance work, this is something I'm especially grateful for. More on that in a bit.

Our big trip started at 3am in the pouring rain on Sunday 10th when the limo arrived.. We thought it was worth an extra $35 to get a limo instead of risking a taxi at 3am on a public holiday. The driver was all dressed up and helped us pack stuff in the pouring rain before whisking us off in the super-clean Statesman. We felt very special and rock-star-ish. In a jiiffy we were at Brisbane international, arriving three hours before our flight like we're supposed to.

There was nobody there.

Well, nobody except the cleaners and the three backpackers that had opted to save money and just sleep at the airport. And us.

Check in didn't open until 4.30am. Security didn't open until 5am. Lucky we got there early (and paid for a limo!).

We were waiting at the bag drop when two familiar faces strolled up  - Toni and Phil Powell, who originally started Gympie's Hearr of Gold Festival. They were off on a six week USA adventure like us, making a documentary on the philosophy of gratefulness. By co-incidence they also booked the same flight home as us. So suddenly we had a couple of travelling companions and had a good chat over coffee.

The first leg was so promising. A Qantas 747-400 that had been newly refurbished. It was so shiny that the crew seemed to be distracted by its fabulousness. Their announcements were the vaguest I've heard.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We'd... er... we'd like to... er.." Silence. "The seatbelt sign... has been er... so... er..."

Our seats were in the middle, there were two empty seats beside us. The entertainment system was so swish and had more movies than you could poke an ipad at. I started the trip by listening to Elvis (seemed appropriate) and then set about going through Status Quo's Greatest Hits to see if all of their songs really do sound the same.

Yes, yes they do. ( But they're still brilliant.)

We had to change planes at Sydney and we filled the waiting time with a quick shower and felt great.

LA, here we come.

I think I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the 2nd leg was the Worst. Flight. Ever.

Qantas no longer lets you choose your seats unless you pay them a $20 fee. So we were at the mercy of the seating fairy. And this time around there wasn't much mercy to be had.

We got put in a set of three seats right down the back. Every single seat on the plane was taken. And those seats  must be the crappliest ones I've ever sat in. Bar Jetstar. Never mind the fabulous 747 we had from Brisbane. Now we were crammed into what could be the oldest 747 in the fleet. Tiny screens, clunky computer things taking up foot space, the seats smelled like urine, Luke's seat was broken, my headrest was buggered, the American next to me at the window seat couldn't get his TV to work at all.

All that would have been fine except for the almost 2 hour delay where we sat, crammed into that goddam plane, going absolutely nowhere. It turned out that they had a problem with a fuel gauge. Then they discoverd they didn't have enough fuel for the flight. THEN they discovered that there were issues with the refuelling valves so a whole mainenance team swung into action. While we sat there. For two hours.

I was fervently hoping they'd give it up as a bad joke and let us get on the A380 like they'd promised me in the ads. No dice. Which didn't make me feel very confident. If you've had a problem with a fuel line... do you really want to fly that thing 11,000km?

At least they discovered it on the ground.

It took another 15 minutes to take off due to delays. Even then I thought they were going to abandon the flight when we sat on the tarmac and nothing happened. I thought I was getting good with flying but that was not a pleasant takeoff. I really did expect something awful to happen.

Throughout the flight people's reading lights kept flickering on and off. Then we had a major bit of turbulance over the Pacific that had us strapped in for an hour (and Luke got pretty airsick).

Finally, finally, after 13 hours (plus 2 on the ground) the plane touched down safely at LAX and we taxied to the gate. We were waiting to be towed in when the whole plane just shut down. Lights, air conditioning, everything. Dead silent. The attended came on and said:

"Oh, well, it seems we've had a complete shutdown of the electrical system. I'll... er... we'll just crank that over and get it back up again for you."

I am very grateful that happened on the ground.

And I'm now feeling very nervous about the trip home. I really, REALLY hope we get a new plane. And  I don't think I'll be flying Qantas anytime soon.after this.

So anyway, here we are in LAX, staying at an airport hotel and doing nothing much until tomorrow. We walked to the chain diner Denny's and I ordered $2 pancakes, couldn't finished them, so much food. Luke's pancakes had icing on them. Because maple syrup and sweet cream and strawberries are not enough. The waiter didn't look happy when we asked him how much we should tip. Will try not to do that next time. This tipping thing is going to take some getting used to.

* Update: It turns out that our horror flight was the very last one that plane did. It was apparently decommissioned straight after. And thank the sky fairies, we got a new 747 on the way back.

1 comment:

  1. Tipping: take the tax & double it. You'll be really close.