Melbourne to Los Angeles
The loyalty scheme
Qantas Frequent Flyer
13 hours and 38 minutes. The flight is 37 minutes late, but makes up some time along the way.
Once a day
Economy class, seat 69a.
This is a much sought-after seat, four rows from the rear of the plane where the seat numbers drop from three to two on the window on both sides of the plane. That means, as the fuselage narrows, there's not enough room for three seats – leaving a not-quite-seat-sized space between the window and the window seat. As the rows go back, the space gets smaller, so the seat 69a where it begins offers the most space. You can throw your bags down there (although not during takeoff and landing) or use it to spread out for the extra legroom.
I immediately see an issue when the person behind me decides the space next to me is her under seat storage space. First, she's got her bag stashed there. And then when she's asked to remove the bag during takeoff, she takes off her sneakers and leaves them there, right alongside my seat.
Another problem is if you use the window seat as something to lean against when you're trying to sleep, you'll find this seat annoying as it's too far from the plane wall. You also can't shift the armrest to swing your legs towards the space.
Regardless, it's still way better than having another person wedged into that space. You can still throw your legs under two seats in front. Plus, you avoid the traffic of the emergency exit rows, which I find fellow passengers like to use for their mid-flight yoga routines or to escape the confines of the aisles.
Two pieces of checked luggage at 23kg with carry on.
I'm comfortable with my extra space, but I am not sure how well everyone else is doing. But the one thing I do observe is that this plane has seen better days, especially the four tiny bathrooms at the rear. One in particular looked like it was halfway through a reno.
My extra space's seat in front had a faulty tray table that flipped out when the passenger on the seat wriggled too much and the seat pocket was broken, so don't think you can use these to store your possessions. Plus, this space contained discarded tissues from a passenger on the previous flight.
I've seen a handful of new releases which means the selection isn't great for me, but I'm pleased that La La Land is there and watch again, given we are heading for Hollywood.
The rest of the selection I've found to have ploughed through on my last Qantas long haul, but I dig out a few gems I hadn't heard of such as the HBO series with Sarah Jessica Parker, Divorce, which I almost devour whole over the 14-odd hour flight.
I'm heading to wine country in California soon so choose the movie Sideways, strictly for research purposes.
On both this journey and the return I find the USB port for mobile phones and tablets to be sub par, not charging my phone to full capacity.
The service was adequate for an economy class seat, although I did hear the flight attendants complain that people were still awake when they expect them to be sleeping – the flight left at 12.50pm. Subsequently, they ran out of items they didn't expect sleeping people to be needing.
Something I hadn't seen on a long-haul flight for a while was shelves of toothbrushes, eyeshades and flight socks, which you could help yourself to during the course of the flight, as well as mini Carmen's muesli bars (under 100 calories! It advertises) and singular Tim Tams (with fewer calories than the Carmen's bars, take note).
Stupid me, ordering the vegetarian special meal. Apart from the possibility I've immediately lost my chances of getting an upgrade, I'm handed a menu on board and realise I've made a huge mistake. The vegetarian "special" meal is, of course, different from the delicious sounding pumpkin tortellini with roast pumpkin, spinach, ricotta and parmesan on the menu.
Why do they do this? I ask if I can swap it but am instead handed another special vegetarian meal which is a Thai curry flavoured dish with thick, rubbery looking egg noodles sitting stiffly around pieces of pumpkin and green beans. Still, it looks slightly better than the vegetarian meal that was first on offer, mostly rice with a bean mixture to one corner and a cauliflower mixture to the other, like challengers to a boxing match, but also two of the worst things you can eat on a long haul flight.
The meal is accompanied by a hardy looking goji berry "brekkie bite" for lunch, a roll with margarine (argh), and some low fat soya milk, while everyone else gets garlic bread and sticky date pudding with caramel sauce. Later in the flight, I'm thankfully able to swap the extremely heavy vegetarian sandwich-brick for a slice of pizza.
Breakfast is even more bewildering. The special meal is an egg dish (not vegan, like the dinner) yet the meal on the menu is a fresh fruit platter with yoghurt. Yes please, Qantas! I don't dare ask to swap this flight, but on my return I am – albeit, reluctantly – allowed to make the trade.
The wine list – consisting of a Pocketwatch Shiraz – is good.
Two more things
You have to pay to choose a seat – any seat – in economy, and the charge is $30. Refuse to pay at your own peril, plenty of middle seats await.
You can also pre-order your meals with Qantas before you fly.
As a regular flyer to LAX, and with so many options heading direct from Melbourne, I'm pretty keen on seeing what the alternative airlines have on offer on the same route. Especially attractive options will include those with newer planes and having the option to choose your seat for free.
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