The QF94 Experience

Going into this “flying to Australia” thing, I had one thing on my mind, and one thing only: first class. After a long night looking at the Qantas (Aussie airline) features of economy, business, and first classes…I had my heart set on the full-bed experience.

In typical Emily fashion, nothing went as planned. When I got to Toronto, I got a boarding pass that put me in 88E from Los Angeles to Melbourne. That put me in the last row: middle seat. There was no way I could let that happen to me.

I had to make some changes… 88E was a little to far from my first class bed! I chose the airport employee based on my vibes and their general likeability. I went up to the middle-aged woman with a Leafs jersey. I was confident that she would cave and give me the 10,000$ plane ticket we all know I deserve. She didn’t say no, per se, because she actually had no power to do so—I had to wait until I got to LA to deal with Qantas myself.

The flight to LA was pleasant and I was even able to get on wifi (one point for American Airlines). Unfortunately it cost me 12$…but I figured it would be worth it to watch Leafs vs. Bruins in Game 7. After my credit information was fully locked in, I realized I couldn’t stream video (typical American Airlines). Facebook was totally worth the money though.

“For you few Canadians on this flight… unfortunately Toronto’s season is over.” The pilot said this over the intercom with no emotion. I got really sad, and then we started to descend into Los Angeles. Watching the sun set over the Hills made me get over it. My first leg of the journey was complete.

Upon my arrival to LA, I was excited to eat, and to get myself some first class seating on QF94 with direct service to Melbourne! Naturally, the international terminal had no food except pre-made American sandwiches. Not happening. I had a banana. The first class situation was about as successful as my dinner.

First class attempt 1: Girl said she would upgrade me to premium economy. For 3,000$. Got an aisle seat, though. Now in 88D.

First class attempt 2: Girl said I can have 2 seats at 88D or one seat at 52. I like sitting close to the front because I hate turbulence, but two seats was tempting. I made the wrong choice. To the front of economy I went.

First class attempt 3: A male at the desk. One last shot. Shut down. “If you want to pay 10,000$ you can sit in first class.”

*Text from mom assures me that my writing will be more realistic if I’m not in first class, because most travellers don’t have that luxury. So essentially, I sat in economy for the sake of my blog.

I have to note that a few people in my life (I will keep their names a mystery) told me that John Travolta is a commercial pilot for Qantas.  He is the spokesperson and does own a Qantas Boeing 707, but he is clearly not flying 16 hours for the love of being a pilot. I think his movie star life is more profitable.  This launched me to imagine having First Captain Travolta and all the passengers putting on a musical production of Grease, ending in a cast party in the business lounge. Not quite what ensued.

I got onto the plane (note that by this point I have taken 1.5 mg of Ativan, a drug that calms anxiety and makes normal people sleep. I can’t sleep on planes, but I thought considering it was 3 am my time while I was boarding, I might be able to) and was not at all welcome at 52H at first. I sat next to a boy and his Nan, but for the sake of this article I will call her Gran (a la Angry Boys). The best part is that his name was actually Nathan. If you love Angry Boys like I do, you will love this.  Gran and Nathan seemed cool but they outright said they were hoping that they didn’t have someone sitting beside them. To the right of me were two babies: both crying. In front of me; a baby and a toddler: both crying. I went to talk to the flight attendant.

Me: Is the back of the plane a lot more turbulent that the front?

Her: Oh yes. And it’s going to be a bumpy ride, too. The front is much more stable.

Babies it was! I snuggled in with my new Aussie friends. Turns out the baby/toddler combo were Gran’s grandkids, too. Probably should have kept the rolling eyes and “what’s up with all the babies” comment to myself before I knew that. Luckily she didn’t take it too personally, we started chatting, and we were en route to Melbourne.

Dinner came. Ativan kicked in. I took one bite of beef…started thinking of where the meat potentially came from, and pushed my plate aside. I shoved some Bugles  in my mouth and passed out before my food was taken away.

I woke up feeling dizzy and like I’d drank too much, (solidifying that I can only take 0.5 of an Ativan) but was happy I slept a chunk of this marathon flight. I excitedly checked the time to see how much longer. 14 hours. So, between takeoff, food service and my nap, I’d been on the plane for less than 2 hours.

I don’t really know how the time passed. It was slow. I did a lot of walking up and down the aisles, chatting with flight attendants and hitting up the snack/drink bar. I mostly drank water because I made the idiot mistake of going to hot yoga before my flight. Not only was my body tight, but I was so dehydrated I couldn’t stop drinking. Which also meant I couldn’t stop peeing. No problem though, since I had an aisle seat and wasn’t disturbing anyone. Until…

About 6 hours in Nathan started vomiting. Luckily he had time to grab the barf bag. When he got back from the bathroom, Gran asked me if he could sit in my seat for a bit in case he had to run to the bathroom again. I didn’t want to (obviously), but the kid was sick; what can I say? He was also a super sweet kid so I had compassion for him.

Nathan puked for 8 hours. I sat in the middle seat, crammed and having to disturb a half sleeping/ puking child every time I wanted to walk around for EIGHT FULL HOURS. Did I mention that the babies were crying? Just assume that’s a constant.

All of the sudden I got nauseous. It was a combo (I think) of my Ativan hangover and the mystery meat. I ran to the bathroom to throw up and instantly, I was four years old.  I got super emotional and all I wanted was for my mom to rub my back.  I was hysterically crying in the bathroom. I felt sick, but I also wanted my aisle seat back. Not to mention I had 8 hours left on the plane. It was too much. I watched Safe Haven (which set me off again), and then I remembered I had a plane letter from my family. Needless to say, I cried a LOT on this plane.

*This horrible flight is karma from a situation last year. I was flying to Paris, and I was in the aisle seat beside a couple with a baby. They asked if I would take the window seat, so the mom could get up with the baby. I said I couldn’t because I’d be too anxious in the window. (This IS true. I am a nervous flyer, and I like to get up a lot.) I felt really bad. Meanwhile, my friend Patricia was a few rows up. I went and asked the man beside her if he wanted to switch. He said as long as I had an aisle seat to switch, he’d do it. I looked back 5 minutes later, and there he was, in the window seat beside a crying baby. In that moment, I set aside my guilt and acknowledged that something unpleasant was coming for me another day.

With three hours left in the flight, light was starting to stream in, and we were approaching Australia. I was thrilled to see land underneath us after a day and a half of knowing there was only Pacific Ocean for 10,000 km around me.

Landing in Melbourne was breathtaking. First, I saw mountains. Then, I saw crystal blue water. I could point out palm trees; they looked like little dots along the coast.  The CBD (downtown) was literally glistening; the sun was blaring and it looked like I was landing in heaven.

My final thoughts upon arrival:

I am in the Southern Hemisphere. I travelled 17,000 km, and I am here, on the ground. That is just the most surreal thing ever. I was picked up by a wonderful friend (whose name I cannot reveal over the internet as he/she called in sick today), re-united with my old mate Damien, and was introduced to a monsoon style rainstorm. I think I got over my fear of flying today, too.

My neighbourhood and apartment couldn’t be better. The 20’s style architecture is beautiful! My bedroom is a sunroom—one side looks over the city, the other into a courtyard with palm trees. I have a desk, a closet, and a bed. I’ve got two cool Aussie roomies to keep me company. I love it here.

It’s going to take a lot to get me back on that length of a flight home…so looks like I’ll be staying a while.

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