Delays can't keep a jumbo down on its first domestic flight.
WHEN there's a long flight ahead, the last thing you want is a sizeable delay after boarding. But that was the case with the inaugural Qantas B747 service from Sydney to Perth last Monday.
A flash mob was dancing to the Village People's Go West in the departures hall. The chief executive of Qantas, Alan Joyce, shook hands with passengers as they boarded.
However, no amount of fanfare could stop the freakish inclemency Sydney experienced, creating mayhem and delays across all manner of transport, including the first internationally configured Qantas service from the east coast to the west.
Fully boarded, doors closed and having taxied, flight QF581 sat on the tarmac awaiting its window for nearly an hour after its 10.10am scheduled departure time. It could have been a PR disaster.
It wasn't. In fact, it highlighted perhaps the biggest advantage of the national carrier's decision to fly the Sydney-Perth-Sydney route daily with an aircraft fit for international haulage.
The Boeing 747 was substantially faster than the Airbus Qantas has most commonly used on the route. Once airborne, the pilot let passengers know they would touch down in Perth not much more than 15 minutes behind schedule.
Even without having to make up time, the scheduled flight time to Perth from Sydney - 4¼ hours - was 15 minutes shorter than usual. On the way back, 20 minutes was knocked off.
There are other advantages: the B747 service boasts a full premium-economy cabin and a large business-class section.
Qantas has previously offered business class between Sydney and Perth - but not with the international Skybed-equipped cabin the B747 service provides.
Sky Report was fortunate to pull one of the luxury flat-bed pews for the inaugural jaunt and can report it was the most painless crossing of the Nullarbor we've experienced.
As always with travel to the west, it was an exceptional experience. The usual blue blazers and loafers in business class were given over to hoodies and baseball caps as miners made their way from home to their lucrative boom-town jobs.
However, service was pure international pointy end.
The lunch menu included a lovely Moroccan-style barramundi and couscous dish accompanied by fine wines: a Cullen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2008, a Red Claw Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2008 and a Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010. Cheeses, a Mitchelton Botrytis and Maggie Beer passionfruit ice-cream topped it off.
For all cabins, on-demand movies played until the plane pulled in at the gate. All in all, it was a very pleasant experience.
Sky Report's only black mark was our flight attendant's (albeit gentle) mocking when we put in our coffee order as "a long black".
"A long black. Would you like a twist with that?" he quipped with a friendly smile.
It took us a while to puzzle it out. Then we realised: there was no espresso on board, as many international services do have in business class these days.
This might be a largely international configuration. But there are still some things you can't get when you're not leaving Australian airspace.
The writer flew courtesy of Qantas.