The Long Journey to Europe

This part of the diary is unusually detailed because it was posted as a trip report on Flyertalk. If you're not really interested, you could go back to the Europe 2004 index.

1. Perth to Singapore with Qantas

March 24, 2004
Qantas QF 17 PER-SIN
Scheduled: 16:50 - 21:30
Actual: 17:10 - 21:45
747-400 VH-OJA seats 25B/C

I arrived at Perth International Airport at 14:40, and my fiancée arrived 10 minutes later. There were a few people in front of us in the business class check-in line (which I could use as a QF Silver), while the queue for the economy counters seemed quite lengthy. Check-in was efficient and we were pleased to see the orange "Priority" tags tied to our luggage, even though we weren't entitled to them. Our bags weighed in at a combined 30.4kg, which we were reasonably happy with in anticipation of our encounter with the Ryanair 15kg limit.

We went upstairs, had a quick look at the duty free shops, then sat with our mums in the cafe. When the time came, we proceeded quickly through security and customs (and got our first stamp in our passports). On the other side of customs are a few more duty free shops in which we browsed without enthusiasm. Perth International Airport isn't a very busy place, with few shops and only five gates, three of which were occupied at the time (us, a Qantas 767, and a Malaysia Airlines 747-400). We had no lounge access at the time, so sitting and waiting was the most attractive option.

We boarded slightly late and then didn't push back until 20 minutes after our scheduled departure time. My fiancée and I were seated in 25B/C, the front row of economy. Directly in front of us was a screen separating us from business. The curtains were closed shortly after take-off, despite the entire section being empty (presumably to remove the temptation for those of us considering the possibility of a seat-swap). I agreed to sit in 25B in exchange for the isle on the longer flights, and it was the best middle seat I've ever had. There was plenty of legroom, and a personal video screen that folded up from underneath the arm rest, as well as a detachable table.

The inflight entertainment consisted of approximately eight movies, various other channels of news and TV programs, and several unexciting games such as hangman and patience. I watched The Last Samurai, which was quite long and boring in parts, but good for filling in time. Restricted somewhat by the broken right arrow on the controls (there always seems to be one direction that doesn't work), the only "game" that I could play was the quiz, which had six categories each with 20 questions.

We were served dinner on this flight, which was similar to the usual Qantas domestic offerings in both content and quality. Being unaccustomed to writing trip reports, I forgot to take the menu so I can't remember what I had. I think meat and rice were involved. The available drinks included red and white wine served in 187.5 mL bottles, a disappointing assortment of beers including Fosters and Victoria Bitter but not the Hahn Premium Light that is sometimes available on domestic flights, plus spirits and soft drinks that I took no interest in.

We arrived in Singapore 15 minutes late. Everyone disembarked, and with little time to play with we went straight through security into the gate lounge at the adjacent gate for our flight to LHR.

2. Singapore to London Heathrow with British Airways

March 24, 2004
British Airways BA 16 SIN-LHR (ticketed as QF 319)
Scheduled: 22:40 - 04:55
Actual: 22:50 - 04:45
747-400 G-CIVM seats 50D/E

I spent about 15 minutes in the gate lounge wandering backwards and forwards before boarding started on time. Since we were right down the back, we were in the first group to board. We found our seats and were immediately disappointed by the lack of legroom. Perhaps it was only because we had come from the relative luxury of the front row of economy, but I still remember these seats as having the least legroom of all our flights.

Prior to our departure, the captain announced that we would be leaving slightly late due to "favourable flying conditions". I've never heard that excuse before! True to his word, we pushed back around 10 minutes late then sat on the tarmac for another 15 before taxiing to takeoff.

Dinner was served shortly after takeoff. Although it was our second dinner for the evening, I had no trouble finishing it. Again I can't remember what it was. I know I was drinking a Lindemans 2003 Bin 65 Chardonnay because my fiancée peeled off the label to add to our collection. We noted that it was acceptable, but only when given freely on planes.

From the description of the in-flight entertainment (facilitated by a TV on the seat back) the system appeared to be identical to the earlier flight. But in reality the unexciting games had been omitted and we had to make do with the movie and TV channels. I tried watching the comedy channel for a while, but I find the TVs in the seat backs never tilt upwards enough so I was slouching uncomfortably in my seat. Eventually I gave up and read my book for a while, and then tried to get some sleep. I managed a respectable amount of sleep (7 hours?) but never more than 1.5 hours at a time.

Breakfast was served at about 3am London time, and consisted of an all day deli-box. I prepared myself for the worst but opening the box revealed a surprisingly tasty cheese and sausage roll.

By around 03:45 the captain announced that our "favourable flying conditions" mentioned earlier had been a little too favourable, and that we would have to circle around London until Heathrow opened at 04:30. As we arrived over central London we turned around and headed back to the east coast of Britain, where we once again turned for our approach to Heathrow. We took a slight detour over central London this time, where my fiancée and I contented ourselves with picking out famous landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye.

We eventually landed in Heathrow at 04:34 and then taxied to our gate in terminal 4; I was pleased to catch a glimpse of a Concorde as we did so. We found the baggage carousel and waited a while for our bags, which dutifully arrived about 10 minutes later with scant regard for the "Priority" tags. We quickly breezed through the "Others" line at passport control where we given a quick quiz on our travel plans, and wandered through the green customs channel which was deserted at the time.

It didn't take us too long to find our way to the coach station at terminal 1 via the free Heathrow Express and by 06:00 we were on our way to Oxford, the first stop of our grand little holiday.

I must mention that I consider 04:50 a stupid time to arrive anywhere. It's painfully early, and makes the eight hour time adjustment far more difficult than it might otherwise be. Amazingly, our hotel gave us an early checkin at 06:45, but I'm sure that doesn't happen often.

3. Lessons Learnt

  • The front row of economy is a good place to be, so...
  • Try harder to get good seats.

Back to the Europe 2004 index.