Monday, 14 October 2013

Economy comfort from London to Sydney in a Qantas A380

We’ve been in Sydney a few days now* and things are beginning to calm down enough to consider a bit of blogging. A lot’s been happening since my last proper posting period and I was not sure where to start but the trip over seemed like a good place to start. [*At time of writing.]

I’ve made a fair few long haul flights over the past couple of years and although this was one of the longest it was also one of the most comfortable - even though we were just in standard economy class. Things did not start out too well, it must be said. Despite checking in literally the minute that online check-in opened - I was there hitting “refresh” until it would let me - we had a choice of 3 seats, only two of which were next to each other. I generally like a pair in the centre block of four, so there is no need to disturb (or be disturbed by) a stranger when exiting the seat. Instead we ended up with a window and middle seat in one of the outer three seats with me in the middle.

Lesson 1. Pay the extra $25 to pick seats as soon as the booking is made! For a long haul flight of that price, it is not much extra to pay - and apparently everyone else does it, if seat availability was anything to go by!

On a 747, this might have been an issue. Happily, we were travelling on an Airbus A380, which have three things going for them in the comfort stakes:

1. New. I think it’s fair to say that new planes are always more comfy than old ones - the seats are new and comfortable, the plane is quiet and the entertainment system is better. The A380 ticks all three boxes.

2. Big. These guys are big. Really big! As a result, the inside is really rather roomy, even - on Qantas planes, at least - in economy. Although I spent 13 hours with a person each side of me, often with the chair in front reclined, I never felt particularly cramped or claustrophobic. The cabin ceiling is also high, which adds to the sense of space, and the overhead lockers for hand luggage are roomy and accommodating.

3. Well-designed. In addition to being shiny and massive, there were some little touches that added to the space and comfort. For example, the seat base slid slightly forward when the back reclined, which gave the person behind a little more knee space. They are also surprisingly quiet on the inside for a 600 ton lump of metal being jet propelled at 30,000 feet. I did use my noise-cancelling headphones but they were not a necessary as for most planes.

As a result, despite a very good selection of movies that I had not seen and a usual inability to sleep on planes, I managed to get a fair few hours, especially on the long Dubai to Sydney leg.

Lesson 2. Always book on an A380 where possible, even if the times are less convenient. I would rather have a couple of extra hours on the plane we flew over on than have a shorter trip on the BA 747 that I flew back to the UK on in February. (Happily, the Qantas route via Dubai is also the shortest!)

The only real negative on the flight over was that we were given some dodgy advice in Heathrow regarding Duty Free. Having scoped out our chosen whisky to bring over (Dalmore Valour), we were advised that this would not be possible as we were travelling through Dubai. Nonsense. Although you have to go back through security, they just take your duty free off you at Dubai and put it in the hold to collect later.

Lesson 3. You can buy duty free, even when travelling via Dubai.

And therein ends the lesson(s).

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