Qantas jumbo haul: flying the world's longest 747 route

Kay O'Sullivan settles in on board Qantas's new long, long-haul to Dallas - the longest 747 route in the world.

Are we there yet? A pesky but predictable question 14 hours into a flight. With the exception of two other flights, you'd be there by now, wherever there is. But this is QF7 and it's taking us from Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth.

It's Qantas newest and longest flight -- 13,804 kilometres to be precise and a scheduled flying time of 15 hours and 25 minutes. It's the third longest flight across the world, only Newark to Singapore (15,327km) and Singapore to Los Angeles (14,09km) are longer.

It's also the longest route in the world flown by Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

The airline opted to cease flying direct to San Francisco in favour of Dallas as the latter is major hub for flights in North America. It is also the headquarters of Qantas's US codeshare partner American Airlines.

But how does one kill time on a 15-hour flight?

You can fit an awful lot of movies into 15 hours, read an entire book (War and Peace anyone?) or write a story on surviving the third longest commercial flight across the world ...

1.30 pm. QF 7 pushes back from the gate. By my clock we're a couple of minutes late. For once, the gods that are the Sydney air traffic controllers are smiling on us; it was getting past the boot scootin' pom pom-waving cheerleaders at the gate that caused the problem.

(Bless 'em, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders they are not, but what they lack in the way of big hair and precision, they make up for with enthusiasm.)


But some things remain the same, inaugural flight or not. Like "Captain" John Travolta telling us that every Qantas plane is different, which is why we should pay attention to the safety briefing.

For once, I heed his words, and listen intently, especially to that bit about the life jackets. There's an awful lot of ocean between the land of Oz and the good old US of A.)

Our real captain, David Oliver, a Qantas veteran of 35 years, echoes the actor/captain's words when he comes downstairs from the cockpit for a visit. No land between here and the US, he confirms, unless you count Noumea - which I do not, given that this a 747- 400 ER, one of the biggest planes going around the world and Noumea is a speck in that vast, vast ocean.

1.40pm. Lift off. Only 15 hours and 10 minutes to go.

2.20pm. Yvette and Graeme, who assure me they are here to make my flight comfortable as possible, suggest it's time I had a drink. (Do I look that bad already?)

"Perhaps a glass of something sparkling, Madam?"

Madam agrees, perhaps a tad too quickly. But it would be churlish to refuse such an invitation I reason. And it is the afternoon here, and the cocktail hour where I'm going, so here's cheers to both time zones.

3.30pm. Just worked out how to use the inflight entertainment system. Have to confess that young Tom beside me, who is all of 28 and, therefore, born with an innate sense of how to work gadgets, did provide assistance, but I figure I would have had it figured out by the time we crossed the dateline ... in five hours' time.

4.20pm. Lisbeth Salanander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, who plays with fire and kicks hornet's nest, is fighting for her life (yet again - this is the third installment) while I'm wrestling with the Neil Perry prawns. Lisbeth and the prawns are both winners.

4.45pm. Lunch/dinner, whatever it is, now over I give my full attention to the movie and still can't work out what is happening. Memo to Kay: No more subtitled movies on planes.

5pm. Michaelangelo moment. Lift shutter to look outside. Clouds part, sun streams through, believe in God again for the first time in 40 years, get over that ten minutes later when the pink-tinged clouds disappear, along with the Pacific, into darkness. Can't decide whether this is a good or bad thing. Nothing to look at, but, come to think of it, there wasn't any way.

5.50pm. Lights about to be dimmed. Time for a quick trip to the loo before settling down. Don't think young Tom will be impressed if I fall on top of him in the middle of the night.

6pm. Try another movie. Decide to watch something I've seen before so I don't have to concentrate. King's Speech just as good second time around and it passes one hour and fifty eight minutes exactly.

7.58pm. Six and a half hours down, eight to go. Getting sleepy.

12.10 pm. I change to Dallas-Fort Worth Time. Are there yet? Not quite but we're getting closer, there's an hour and 41 minutes to destination says the en route map. Glad I didn't deliberate too long about having that second glass of pinot with dinner. Is there any better way to kill a chunk of time on a long-haul flight? Much more fun than herbal sleeping pills. There's land ahoy and breakfast is within sight too. We ARE nearly there now.

Our captain - the real one -- interrupts to give us the good news. The tailwinds have given us a big shove along and we're well ahead of schedule. Clever fellow, he's also found a short cut for us over Mexico. Best of all, there's something to see below us, like the Sierra Madre Mountains, Chihuahuo is to the right, El Paso is down there, too.

12.45pm. I'm starting to flag, even the coffee with breakfast is not working. This is the heartbreak hill bit in the Sydney to Surf.1.25 pm We've passed over Springfield and Waco, the tarmac is within sight. Got to keep going.

1.30pm. It's touchdown 20 minutes ahead of schedule. The appropriately named Longreach has done her job, she's the first Qantas plane at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. We're treated like stars and whose there to greet us? Yep, Captain "Aussie" John Travolta. I've got chills and they're multiplying.

The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas.

Qantas is flying four times a week between Sydney and Dallas Fort Worth.