Flight QF11. Sydney to Los Angeles
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Qantas Frequent Flyer, part of the Oneworld network.
Economy, seat 57C
Thirteen hours, 35 minutes. We take off five minutes late, and land one minute late. Getting sloppy Qantas.
Nightly (from December 18, 2021). Qantas have switched up the schedule till at least March 2022, so that rather than taking off mid-morning, QF11 leaves in the late evening (9.55pm) and arrives next afternoon (around 4.35pm). Which is better for sleeping and jet-lag.
All passengers on international flights operated by Qantas must be fully vaccinated (with some exceptions for children and medical exemptions). To enter the US, you'll need an International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate and provide proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than three days before departure (testing is available at Histopath at Sydney Airport). You'll also need to print and complete a passenger disclosure and contact tracing form. And don't forget your ESTA.
Qantas advise passengers to arrive at least three hours early for your flight. All your paperwork must be checked in a separate line-up before check in.
The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner has 166 Economy seats in a 3-3-3 cabin configuration. Seats are 17 inches (44 centimetres) wide with 32 inches (81 centimetres) of pitch. The joy of the Dreamliner is just how quiet it is - these are the things you notice on a night flight like this. There's a nice soft blanket too, and my pillow has a slip that goes over my headset so that it doesn't shift around when my head does as I drift off. Somehow, I manage six hours of sleep, which means I wake up feeling like LA time won't be too much different for my body clock.
Economy passengers on this leg can travel with one checked bag not exceeding 32 kilograms (Gold and Silver frequent flyers are allowed more). You're allowed one carry-on item not exceeding seven kilograms with one additional personal item like a lap-top or hand-bag.
Each seat comes with a 1080p full HD TV screen with thousands of hours of new release movies, TV box sets and games. Qantas (and Emirates) still rule the air for viewing pleasure, even though this service is all about sleep. There's a drop-down shelf for your tablet too, and power and USB plugs.
Who'd have known some of the cabin crew were off work for months – for every element of the service goes as smoothly as it did before COVID clipped everyone's wings. I press my button once and an attendant is with me in less than 30 seconds. This is a night flight, so crew aren't chatty, but they're certainly smiley.
With almost nothing available to eat at Sydney Airport, we're thankfully served supper an hour after take-off. There's plenty of it too. It begins with a salad of Moroccan chicken with chickpeas, feta and rocket, before ratatouille pasta with panko topping, roast cauliflower and green beans. The main is braised Wagyu beef with broccoli and soft polenta. Breakfast is served two hours before landing, the scrambled eggs and potato cake has me for ready to take on US Immigration.
ONE MORE THING
Don't let COVID-19 put you off international flying. There's comfort in knowing everyone's not only vaccinated, they've also just produced a negative COVID test. And everyone must wear masks, except when they're eating. I feel safer on-board than I do in most restaurants or bars.
I'd dreaded being confined for over 12 hours across the Pacific after nearly two years of barely flying at all, but the flight goes smoothly, and quickly (a spare seat next to me helps). I get six hours of sleep and watch seven hours of guilt-free TV. Not too terrible, right?
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
The writer travelled at his own expense.