My return from NZ was originally planned as a short hop from Queenstown to Melbourne in Qantas Business Class, followed by JAL Business to Tokyo and finally a BA First to Heathrow. I also had a backup booking from Christchurch to Melbourne because I wasn’t sure where I would actually finish my trip. This was all booked about 10 months before travel, but I think I must have cycled through more than 10 iterations of the routing over the period leading up to actually flying!
- BA cancelled the Tokyo to London flight, which I was very pleased about because it allowed me to change onto the much nicer Qatar A380 and also allowed me a free date change because I now wanted to get home earlier for NY. This then required me to change the date of my Queenstown to Melbourne leg, and the only thing that worked was via Brisbane so I booked that, and BA were kind enough to not take any more miles or cash, even though technically they should have.
- Few months later, I decided that I actually did want to come back on the original, later, date. Airlines are forced to give you a lot of flexibility with rebooking when they make a schedule change, but they only allow one change, which I had already used up. I called up a few times to see if a kind agent might make an exception, but it wasn’t to be. First class miles redemption seats from Australia very rarely have availability so I did not have much hope but I set some alerts using my Expert Flyer subscription so I would get an email if something popped up. With a couple of weeks to go, I couldn’t believe that a Qantas First and BA First seat had opened up, with a perfect connection time on exactly the date I need, and to cap it off, both were on the A380! I got on the phone to BA immediately and happily paid £35 to make the change. The $100 Expert Flyer subscription paid for itself just on this one win!
- This new change meant changing the Queenstown to Melbourne flight yet again, and the only availability I could find was via Sydney, so I booked that. The next day I realised if I’m passing through Sydney on New Year’s eve then maybe I should spend the night there to see the fireworksd and fly to Melbourne the following morning, so changed it once again! And then in the last couple of days before flying, I realised that I would potentially have 2 nights of not much sleep before going straight to work on arrival if I stayed up for the fireworks in Sydney, so I changed it back yet another time! The change fees are adding up now, but having the flexibility to change flights on a whim is still priceless.
- In the interim, I realised that I would be finishing my ride a bit earlier than planned and thought it might be nice to get to Melbourne a few days early and do a road trip there instead. So I had booked yet another flight from NZ to Australia, using Etihad miles for a direct Virgin Australia flight in Economy, which I then promptly changed the date of when I got even further ahead of schedule. 24 hours before the flight, I decided to cancel it and stick to the later Qantas Biz I had because I ended up doing a road trip in NZ instead. I also finally cancelled the very original Christchurch to Melbourne booking as there was now not much scope for further changes.
Anyway, as I get more used to flying in First, the excitement leading up to the flight has been wearing out a bit, but the prospect of flying First on an airline or aircraft I have not experienced before does bring back the old pre-flight anticipation. And so I was excited to get on board a Qantas A380 for the first time, and it would also be my first time on a BA A380. Having flown the BA 777 and 787 already, I have now only got BA’s 747 First class left to experience, which I’ll be doing later this year!
As if Qantas was aware of my excitement, I got a call from the Qantas First host the day before the flight, just as I was about to takeoff in Queenstown, asking if I wanted to book a spa appointment for the lounge in Melbourne. I’m not the biggest fan of massages, but I took up the offer and the 20 minute back and shoulder massage actually turned out to be ok.
Qantas has quite an unusual seat in First, which points forwards during take-off and landing, but then swivels around to face the window and screen once you recline it. It also has a car style seatbelt that goes across the shoulder for takeoff/landing… my theory is that First Class passengers’ lives are more precious and therefore need the extra safety :P. Soon after boarding, pre-departure champagne was served, along with some olives and roasted almonds. I asked for a fork for the oily olives but the flight attendant said he could only give me a little spoon.. very strange!
The meal service started with an amuse bouche with a miniscule amount of tasteless caviar.
The smoked salmon salad starter was absolutely delicious, even though I’m not usually a big fan of fish.
I chose the fillet steak for mains and asked if they could try to not overcook it, which they agreed to half-heartedly. It was served pretty well done but it was actually not dry or chewy. The mac and cheese side was less tasty, or posh!
The mango and ginger cake dessert was absolutely divine and I would have liked to had more of it, if only I wasn’t already so full!
My jet lag defeating strategy required me to stay up for the whole of this 8 hour flight, so I didn’t have the bed made, and instead reclined the seat and settled into some mediocre TV shows. Of course, I deployed my usual mix of staying-awake methods, i.e. a continuous stream of snacks and drinks… a cheeseplate, wine, whiskey, tea and coffee in this instance!
I had a 6 hour layover in Singapore so I went through immigration to go into the city but just before getting on the metro, I changed my mind and went back airside because I didn’t really fancy wandering around in the heat and I’ve already been to Singapore a couple of times previously so there’s not much new to see. I settled into BA’s Concorde lounge, which is reserved for First class passengers only, but the food options were worse than Qantas’ business class lounge, which I later visited just before boarding the flight.
I was pretty sleepy as this stage, but I needed to keep up for the first 4 hours of this flight to make sure my 8 hours of sleep was as close to UK nighttime as possible. This being a quite busy BA flight, I had hoped for a nice slow meal service which would keep me up for a while. Sadly, I seemed to have an annoyingly efficient crew, just when I needed a slow one for a change! So the amuse bouche was served within 5 minutes of the seatbelt sign going off.
Followed by a pretty disappointing satay chicken starter, which was cleared away seconds after I was finished!
And a mediocre seabass main, also done and dusted in the space of 10 minutes. The dessert was a berry crumble (which I forgot to photograph) and it was the highlight of the meal, as is usually the case with BA catering. Being as full as I was, it was a real struggle to stay awake for another 2 hours, and I went to bed earlier than I’d planned. This meant I woke up at around 2.30am UK time after a full 8 hour sleep, which had me slightly out of sync with the daily routine hours for the first few days on my return, but on the whole I’m quite pleased to have successfully avoided jetlag in both directions of this journey!
I was actually pretty hungry by the time breakfast was served due to this being a long 14 hour flight. I started with some fresh fruit and pastry. For the third flight in a row on BA, the espresso machine was not working so I had some rubbish filter coffee!
I planned to have a more substantial breakfast in the arrivals lounge while I waited until it was time to go to work, so I tried the pancakes for the main course on-board, which were not too bad.
In typical BA fashion, my bike box took about 30 mins to arrive despite the First Class priority tags after which I had a shower and breakfast in the Concorde Breakfast Room in the arrivals lounge before heading to the office for a full day of work.