I was scheduled to be flying on QF94 in business class on the evening of Sunday 1st March 2020 to land in Melbourne at 9.40am on the Tuesday.
A few weeks before the flight, I decided to throw in a cheeky first class upgrade which was fortunately accepted around midday in New York (or around 12 hours before take-off from Los Angeles). Wonder if the 61,600 QFF points would be worth it?
Whilst travelling from JFK on QF 12 (trip notes coming at some stage), the cabin crew approached saying that the QF94 service was cancelled, but not to worry, we’ll be accommodated on other Qantas flights.
On landing, the First Class host told me the options:
- Fly premium economy to Brisbane and then call the Qantas team when home for a refund. From experience in the past, the refund would be average (they’d probably price it at premium economy flexible fare or similar, whilst I’d booked business saver - I’d probably owe them money).
- Stay overnight and fly out 9.30am the next morning on QF94 (they needed to wait for another A380 to land from Australia to fly this flight) and put us up in a hotel.
I took the latter option. Battling for a refund and landing in Brisbane not as refreshed as a lie flat wasn’t that appealing.
I assume as a lowly Bronze at the time of the 12 hour delay, that other more important customers were taken care of first (fair enough - I always get looked after as platinum with Virgin Australia). Maybe next time as a gold member (gold being courtesy of this one trip!) I'll get accommodated on another flight. Regardless, landing in Melbourne in the evening rather than the morning wasn't a huge deal.
All of us delayed overnight were put up in the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport. A quick shuttle out to the hotel to check-in, and provided with a USD 60 meal allowance (supposedly USD 30 per meal) - excluding alcohol and tips. Hotel was quite nice - although being an airport hotel, lots of noises overnight from people moving about.
Qantas First Lounge LAX
The next morning, first stop was a quick checkout and shuttle ride to airport. Had some trouble getting through security as the date on the boarding passes was wrong (still had yesterdays date, but the correct boarding time), and after some fluffing around, the Qantas check-in staff sorted the security out and we got through.
Worth noting that the airport was very quiet at this time (around 6.30am), and probably just on the precipice of all the Coronavirus slowdown (New York seemed quiet too).
After security, I headed straight to the lounge. This was my first Qantas First class lounge experience. Having only ever been to a Qantas lounges three times previously (Sydney domestic business lounge, and the Melbourne and LAX business lounges on this trip), I was looking forward to checking it out.
With the flight being delayed until 9.30am, I was attending the lounge in the morning rather than the standard evening time flights back home to Australia. Due to this, the lounge was super quiet. Obviously, not many first class or platinum flyers were made to stay overnight in LA!
The lounge was nicely fitted off, and the breakfast was fantastic. As I didn’t want to fill up too much before the flight, I grabbed the Light Breakfast (poached eggs, smoked salmon, kale and parsley) as well as a latte. Breakfast was comparable to a great cafe breakfast from home, and the coffee probably the best I’d had in the past week whilst in the US.
After breakfast, I sat down to wait for the flight on some comfy seats with a sparkling water. Not much of a view compared to my previous LAX lounge experiences over the years (with Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, at both the Star Alliance and Emirates lounges).
Having only flown on the A380 once before (AUH-JFK Etihad business class), and also have never flown first, I was fairly excited to get on the big bird. I didn't particularly know what to expect compared to flying business class (didn't expect it to be too much different). But once walking in and seeing the seats, you kind of knew this was going to be a bit different to business class.
Getting settled into Seat 5A
First impressions were definitely being a bit blown away by the size of the seat area. I could have my luggage in the seated area, and still stretch out. Two full windows to myself. Felt like a very large cabin, especially with only 15 seats. Could tell this should be a great flight!
This was also the refurbished Qantas A380, which apparently doesn't give much of a change for the first class cabin (new upholstery?), but provides the new business class seats (which I flew on the way across on the 787). Luckily haven't had to try the 2-2-2 configuration Skybed Mark II. Regardless, the cabin looked great in first.
A look around from Seat 5A
Luckily, travelling internationally, you are allowed to partake in morning alcohol (in my rule book), so when some champagne was offered, it would have been rude not to have a glass. On offer was the Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime Champagne 2002 ($289.99 at Dan Murphy's), as well as some mixed nuts.
Amenity kits, including the all important pyjamas, were provided and we taxied out for take off. The first class pyjamas seem a lot better quality than the business class pyjamas from the way across, and they have pockets - a massive win (and now a favourite to wear at home).
As our flight was a morning flight rather than the usual evening one, the meal service was switched around. We started with some breakfast in which I ordered a Bloody Mary, English breakfast tea, croissant, toast, bacon, poached eggs, sausage and a potato & chive fritters. By far the best breakfast I've had in the air - actual poached eggs. And a full pot of tea.
After breakfast, it was time for a quick stroll around to check out the stairs and upstairs lounge area. The lounge area is quite big, and had no one else in it when I was checking it out. Must say, I think I prefer the Virgin Australia 777 bar area, where there are a few stools where it feels more relaxed and encourages mingling of travellers.
With no in-flight internet, I did a little bit of organising of photos from my trip, some email replies (queued for sending) and then onto the in-flight entertainment. I generally don't use the in-flight entertainment systems (usually books and work), but with no internet, and having finished my book, TV show time it was. On the JFK-LAX flight, I'd settled on iZombie and continued to smash out some more episodes.
After a bit of binge watching, it was time for a simple lunch. Settled on a veal schnitzel roll.
After lunch it was time for a nap and to test out the lie flat bed. Whilst getting settled into the pyjamas, the seat was transformed into a bed by the Qantas crew. And wow, it is a big bed. Felt like it would almost be a single bed size. And the full quilt and doona were fantastic, as well a proper sized pillow.
After the nap, a perfect time to stretch out and go upstairs for a bit. After getting upstairs, was promptly asked by crew if I'd like a drink. A gin and tonic ordered and quickly delivered. Up at the lounge area, I struck up a conversation with a fellow first class passenger who was from Phoenix and travelling to visit a friend in Melbourne. During this time, dinner service orders were taken with the some canapés being served upstairs, before heading down for the rest of the meal service.
My dinner meal ordered was:
- Tuna crudo with witlof, sunchokes and pickled fennel.
- Beef fillet with skordalia, snow peas and port wine sauce.
- Chocolate mousse cake with coffee, raisins, hazelnuts and crème fraîche.
With all being amazing. The beef was up there with great steaks served at sea level.
And with dinner over, time for some more iZombie as we inched closed to Australia. Just before landing, Morgan, the fantastic hostess who had looked after me for the flight, offered some extra champagne. If I didn't drink it, it was going to waste - so the answer was simple. A very full champagne glass was consumed as we descended into Melbourne.
By far the best flight I've had with any airline. The personal level of service was hard to beat with fantastic staff, albeit there were only 5 out of 15 in the first cabin. The quality of the food and drink was amazing.
The size of the seat was fantastic, with the bed (the linen and pillows) being huge and the easiest I've ever gotten to sleep on a plane (and a day time flight to boot).
No in-flight internet on Qantas international flights is my only major gripe with the flight. My US flights are usually with Virgin Australia (and a couple of times with AirNZ), who both offer decently priced and generally fast in-flight internet. Without the internet, a flight is a lot less productive, especially the day time ones. Definitely something Qantas needs to address when we are all back in the air.
Hope to be back at the very point end of a Qantas A380 soon -- or potentially cash in some Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles for some first redemptions!
This flight was well worth the 61,600 Qantas Frequent Flyer points to upgrade from business to first class.