Ok - so people are always asking for feedback and experiences with various
airlines and various ways of travelling so I figured I'd give a bit of a write up
while its all fresh in my mind, apologies if this is deadly dull - but thats the
reality of long haul travel. Anyone NOT familiar with long flights and curious as
to how it all goes on might get something useful out of this:
We bought our return tickets (BNE-SIN-LHR-SIN-BNE) for a total of $4600 for the 4
of us back in February when Qantas announced their 'kids fly free' promotion. The
price was too good to pass up on and despite not being a qantas 'fanboi' - it
seemed worth a go (and of course earning a shedload of QFF miles never hurts).
Travelling with a 3yr old and a 5yr old was never going to be fun as such - but
we were prepared as we could be and were well rested on the morning of our
departure. We jumped in our taxi at 10:30 in the morning and made our way to the
airport. The queue for check in (2 hours before departure) was minimal and we
soon found ourselves at the weigh in. Much to my surprise the qantas clerk told
me our 27Kg bag was too heavy and shouldnt be allowed under the 'new' terms of
luggage allowances. She agreed to let it go on this occassion but warned us to
pack into seperate bags on future occassions. We had 1x27Kg bag and 1x15kg bag to
check in between 4 of us, which after reviewing every single piece of
documentation I have published by Qantas on the topic doesnt seem to breech the
32kg 'single piece' limit, or the 23kg per passenger limit. Obviously the poor
woman was confused - but since she 'let us go' anyway it wasnt really a problem.
After grabbing a bite to eat to pass the time we soon found ourselves boarding
the A330 to Singapore and managed to get all our stuff (carry on bags for all 4
of us AND a stroller for use in Singapore) into overhead lockers without any
problems. Our seats were 2 sets of window pairs, which was good for us as keeping
the girls apart helps minimise fighting and over-excited play between them.
We took off on time at 2pm all feeling reasonably fresh and soon settled into our
flight routines. Our 5yr old daughter scribbled in the kids activity book given
to her by the crew for an hour or so before eating dinner (adult meals - we dont
ask for kid meals as they are totaly rubbish) and settling down to watch an
endless stream of Dora the explorer, Thomas the tank engine and a few movies like
Madagascar, Bolt and Wall-E.
I reached for my newly purchased $200 noise cancelling headphones and thought I'd
give them a go. Slipping them on my head they felt comfortable enough and
flicking the active switch was like closing a car window at speed - the engine
roar just gently softened to a dull hum - FANTASTIC!!!! I plugged into the
entertainment and really enjoyed watching a couple of movies with a listenable
soundtrack! - My only problem was the interuptions from my daughter saying "Dad -
I dont want to watch this anymore!" and forcing me to lean over and change her
Meanwhile my wife and youngest just behind us were similarly engaged in movie
watching - albeit both struggling with the crappy airline headphones which dont
fit a 3yr old very well and dont actually enable you to hear much of the
soundtrack of anything anyway!
Eventually after another decent meal (with a surprisingly ok shiraz to drink) we
decended down to Singapore for our 3.5hr transit stop. Being at the back of the
plane we were of course amongst the last to disembark. We'd been on the plane for
8 hours?(ish) and were all very tired.
We put our youngest into the stroller and had a brief look around the familiar
surroundings of Singapore airport. If you havent been to Singapore - its a
strangely serene place for an airport. The carpetted surrounding help keep the
peace and louges with quiet sleeping passengers, or those glued to TVs watching
sports or news are scattered around. 3.5 hours sounds like a long time to transit
- but it isnt. By the time we were off the plane and travellatored to the middle
of the terminal we'd already used an hour. A quick stop for the kids to change
and brush teeth and we really only had an hour more to kill before the gate
opened for us to board again. Wife and kids hunkered down in the corner of a
lounge and I went on a duty-free expedition. There are lots of the usual high-
priced duty free shops in Singapore for those into perfume, jewelry and designer
named stuff - but my interest lay in the liquids! So I wandered to the drink
section and marvelled at the staff to custmer ratio. It seemed every 10ft of
shelf space had its own sales assitant keen to persuade you to part with your
money. Once I indicated that yes I WAS looking for a bottle of single malt I was
offered a tasting so warmed my chops nicely on a 12yr old, 18yr old and 30yr old
something or other before doing the economically responsible thing and buying the
Soon enough we made our way to the gate - still having had no sleep and found
ourselves back on board the 747 taking us to London. This time we had a row of 4
so the girls were able to fight each other and giggle whilst pre-flight stuff was
done and other passengers boarded. At this point we took the decision to drug
them. "Painstop" - a cocktail of antihistamine, analgesic and other good things
was reluctantly consumed, but to our relief by the time we had taxi'd to the end
of the runway they were fast asleep (exhausted as they'd been up for FAR too many
hours and very excited too).
I slipped on the noise cancelling headphones again and grinned as the engine
noise once again just disolved into nothingness and left me absorbed in movies
for a while. After eating another good evening meal the cabin lights were
switched off and I finally drifted off to sleep for a bit. I woke up 4 hours
later, cramped and uncomfortable and after disappointingly checking our progress
and seeing we were only over Afghanistan with a LONG way still to go - I got up
for a walk. Of course there isnt far to walk on a plane, but I went to the back
and used the toilet (more to pass time than anything else) - and then hit up the
galley for a gin and tonic and a stretch. Most passengers were asleep and the
flight was peaceful, so I sat back down and settled into another movie. The girls
all woke up somewhere over the Caspian Sea and clearly boredum was going to take
its toll. Once again Dora and the Pixar selections managed to just about keep the
littlies occupied for a couple more hours until breakfast was served and everyone
on board started their pre-landing 'faff about' routines of queuing up for
toilets, brushing teeth and re-locating shoes stowed away in overhead lockers.
We landed at Heathrow a little late at around 5:45am and after a long taxi and an
almost unbarable wait for those in front of us to get out we finally stepped off
the plane into the cool but grubby surroundings of T4.
The joy of arriving in London is always the complete lack of Australian red-tape!
We (being 75% UK passport holders) strolled right up to a vacant passport officer
who had a cursory glance at my wifes Australian passport before waving us
through. We had 10 minutes waiting for our bags to get onto the carousel and then
the stroll past the ever-vacant customs benches before emerging into the terminal
to meet my dad.
Finally getting home at shortly after 7am we were all clearly dazed and confused.
Should we sleep? Should we try and stay awake? We had another breakfast (when in
doubt eating always seems good for the soul) - after all our first breakfast was
at 3:30am and had somehow managed to stay conscious and chatting until lunchtime.
By this stage the girls were dropping off falling asleep on their feet so we all
crashed into bed for a few hours rest and slept instantly.
At 4pm our pre-arranged alarm call managed with great dificulty to raise us from
the dead and our fuddled brains struggled to get back into gear. A brief shower
and freshen up did wonders for our revivals and we lasted the rest of the day
before flaking out again around 10pm... a satisfactory result!
Over the next 2 days we still woke up a little early (6-7am) but essentially had
no devasting ill-effects of jetlag.
Once again starting our day well rested we got Heathrow at 7:30pm 2.5hrs before
departure. The queue for check in was long in the grubby, crowded unpleasantness
of T4 and the security checks thorough and officious (although this time the QF
staff said nothing about our so called 'heavy' 27kg bag). Why we have to have
shoes x-rayed at Heathrow and not anywhere else in the world is just bizarre...
would a shoe-bomber not be able to work out a way to bypass Heathrow and go
Anyway - boarding time was soon upon us and once again we waited at the gate to
be shepparded into our confinement for the long trip back.
All of us slept for about 7 hours of the 13. Once again I LOVED the noise
cancelling headphones - best $200 I ever spent!! Kids seemed to get into the
swing of long-haul travel and didnt play up too much at all.
After our 3 hour transit stop (again long enough to stretch legs, brush teeth,
glance at overpriced designer gear and then make your way back to the gate). The
light at the end of the travellign tunnel was there... final flight...
A couple more hours sleep all round and a last chance to watch some of the more
interesting movies on offer - or the brainless entertainment drivel on offer when
I didnt want to think or commit to 2 hours viewing (the threat of falling asleep
is ever present and missing out on sleep just because your in the middle of a
movie would be silly!)
With 2 hours to go we had our last airline meal and I settled in for the long
task of filling in the Australian arrival paperwork (and for 4 people thats a
LOT of paperwork!).
Before we knew it we'd landed at 7am on a sunday morning and were home at last.
We got home and felt numb.... Once again the doubt about the appropriateness of
sleep hit us and we decided to occupy ourselves with the business of unpacking,
doing laundry, and other menial tasks. We managed to hang on until lunchtime and
after quick easy McFeed all retired to the much enjoyed comfort of our own beds.
3 hours later and our alarm struggled to bring us back to consciousness again.
The girls were almost unwakable, but we managed to get them up and kept ourselves
busy for the rest of the day before retiring slightly early - exhausted again.
Monday morning we all woke up at 5am.... I went to work at 7am feeling fine, hit
a wall briefly at 10:30am but recovered after a drink and went home again at
3:30pm to find the rest of the family asleep having just crashed. The briefest of
naps seemed to revive us all and we managed again to last until a reasonable
This morning we once again all woke up early at about 5:30am and although I'm
awake I *am* struggling to get into the swing of 'work mode' (hence writing this
rather long distraction!). I'm hoping that tonight will see us approach normality
and that by tomorrow perhaps my brain may start operating fully!!!
Edited to add: Wednesday morning now and girls woke up at 3:30am... They woke us up and then *they* managed to go back to sleep. I may have had some broken sleep since then but now 8:am at work and I feel worse today than I did yesterday - Jetlag REALLY sucks!!!!!!
Qantas as a carrier were fine. Food was all edible, service efficient and
effective (even if not particularly servile and sycophantic) and the planes
operated on time. Yes I was cramped - but at 6'3" thats a given in ANY economy
cabin. Would I chose to fly with them again? If the price is right YES. I remain
ambivalent about variations in airline quality and my experiences of Qantas, BA,
JAL, Thai, Tarom, Avianca, AeroPeru and many others leave me fairly confident
that choice of airline should be made using factors that are important like
convenient timetabling and affordable prices!
??? The only advice I really have for anyone travelling a long way is sleep when
you can in the air and if you can afford noise cancelling headphones do it - you
wont regret it!!