everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

The little things count at 35,000 feet

Australia’s national airline is nicknamed ‘the flying kangaroo’, due to its logo that looks like a kangaroo in mid-leap. I guess ‘the leaping kangaroo’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it, especially when trying to give the impression of smooth travel over long distances. Anyways, people tend to give Qantas a hard time – complaining about the service, the food, the cabin space and pretty much every aspect of the flight. ‘Airline X is soooo much better than Qantas’, you’ll hear the cool travellin’ kids say. But I say boo to that negativity – and I’ll tell you why.

Sure, it took me a really long time to check in my bag in Sydney because there were only two Qantas desks attended. But then the nice lady turned a blind eye to my slightly overweight suitcase (I still don’t understand how that happened – on the way back, of course I get it, but on the way over?!) and told me there was another much faster check in desk I could use next time. Good to know.

Sure, our flight was delayed as the plane was late arriving from its previous voyage, but they were working as quickly as they could to make up the time. I don’t like hearing that, as my mind immediately wonders what corners they’re cutting in order to load us on sooner. I have visions of the cleaning crew darting around the cabin as their team leader looks on, stopwatch in hand. Changing the little pillows? No time! Swapping the head rest covers? Don’t even think about it! Floors? Just pick up the biggest bits of rubbish, peeps!

Could it be? Two empty seats next to me all the way to NYC? Alas, no, it could not.

All seemed in order when we boarded and I experienced that feeling of pure childlike hope as the two seats next to my window seat remained empty as most passengers settled into their spots. I kept looking down the aisle at the incoming prospects – fat guy, please no; giggly girls, uh oh; and finally a pretty blonde lady took the aisle seat. I liked her because when they said the doors were closing, she realised we had an empty seat between us and gave me an excited ‘yesssssss!’ with a little fist pump.

Some people enjoy sleeping under the stars. I tried to sleep under the moon-like glow of the No Smoking sign above my head.

You may have read of my disastrous menu troubles on a recent long haul flight where the beautiful menu promised many delicious treats, including Banoffee Pie. Then when my vegetarian meal turned up, the delicious treats were nowhere to be found. Even though that was a different airline, the pain of that experience lingered and so I’d boldly cancelled my vegetarian meal request for this flight online. Good move – the ‘normal’ vegetarian penne option was actually ok. And it came with cookies & cream mousse. And a little chocolate bar. This is how it’s meant to be, I tell you.

Oh, is that the sun? NO. It’s the annoying lady in front of me being the only person in the cabin to turn her light on when it’s meant to be sleeping time. Grrr.

But the real reason that I love Qantas? Cadbury hot chocolate. Oh yeah. They make a special trip down the aisles to peddle it from their little carts, along with peppermint tea, and pour the steaming chocolatey goodness from special giant purple jugs. And then they add a marshmallow, which melts to a gooey mess, so you know it wasn’t one of those cheap, crappy marshmallows that never change shape. I guess it probably makes me shallow, but that’s what I look for in an airline.

Hot chocolate with marshmallow. The highlight of the flight.

So let the cool kids whinge about how the flying kangaroo doesn’t measure up to other global airlines. I’ll take their real Qantas mousse over non-existent Etihad Banoffee pie any day. And I haven’t yet found another airline that offers rivers (ok, cups) of delicious creamy hot chocolate – it’s like flying with Willy Wonka, I tell you.

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Plane speaking: Sunrise

Before I go on, I do want to say that I realise how lucky I am to be able to travel – especially on overseas adventures to the other side of the world. So, any criticism that I make of plane travel is in that context – a lighthearted whinge, not a serious complaint or gripe about the sad state of my world. Just so we’re clear.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, my first travellin’ post is about the craziness of long haul flights. I think I’ve mentioned before that on the height scale, I’m closer to ‘pixie’ than I am to ‘giant’, but even so, I find myself tucked into crazy yoga positions as I try to fit in my seat – the one that is to be my chair, bed, cinema, restaurant (and everything else) – for the first leg of my trip: the 14 hour flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi. At least my neighbour was lovely and just the right amount of chatty. A German chap who’d lived in Sydney for six years, he warned me early in our conversation that he had a strange eye condition as he had been hit at close range with a tennis ball a few days ago and now had a medically-induced dilated pupil to ensure that his eye didn’t explode. We joked about the inconvenience of an exploding eye while flying, but luckily he survived the flight with both eyes in order. Although I did panic when I heard a loud hissing noise – turned out he was just deflating his neck pillow. Phew.

Anyways, it was my first time flying with Etihad and they were pretty good. A feature that I particularly liked was the way they managed the ‘wake up’ part of the flight. It’s always so arbitrary – you board at a certain time and you know your arrival time at your destination, but everything in between is really just a mish mash of hours and days as you cross time zones and you’re served dinner when your brain is expecting breakfast. In the olden days, the staff used to just plunge the cabin into darkness to encourage people to sleep, then flick the bright white lights back on whenever the plane clock said it was time to wake up. Like the end of a disco, it was always a shock to the system and felt a bit like being punched in the face. Those days are gone – I appreciated Etihad’s thoughtful way of sending you to sleeep and gently waking you up with their version of sunrise / sunset. Here’s the overhead light sunrise – imagine it through bleary eyes and a frazzled mind to get a better idea of how it seemed at the time…

And to finish that first leg of the journey, here are some mugs that I noticed in a shop at the airport in Abu Dhabi, where I had a few hours between flights. Just because in my confused state, I thought these were pretty amazing.

PS, I’m posting photos on Instagram as I go – I’m everydaysparks there if you want to join me…

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