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For the first time in flying career, I can say the flight experience on a new aircraft feels significantly improved over all other aircrafts currently in operation (excluding the Dreamliner which I have yet to fly). The improvements have nothing to do with the seats or the service, it is about the sensations of sound, pressure, lighting, and overall smoothness of flight on the A380 which set it apart from what’s out there now.
- Introduction and Trip Planning
- LAX Oneworld First Class Lounge
- Qantas A380 LAX to SYD Economy
- Park Hyatt Sydney Part I
- Sydney Qantas Business Lounge
- Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas
- Exploring the Great Barrier Reef
- Cairns Qantas Club Lounge
- Park Hyatt Sydney Part II
- Exploring Sydney
- Sydney Qantas International First Class Lounge
- Qantas 747 SYD to LAX Economy
When boarding was called, we exited the LAX OW First Class Lounge and walked over to the gate for QF12 form LAX to SYD.
At LAX, the A380 leaves the TBIT which supports the unique boarding requirements of the A380. As one can imagine, the gate was a mess with loads of people everywhere preparing to load this nearly sold out flight. Fortunately I used my OW Emerald status to allow us to cut the line and be one of the first to board. For the Qantas A380, First Class and Economy are on the lower deck while the Business Class and Premium Economy seats make up the upper deck.
We used the lower deck boarding door and headed towards the middle of the plane where we had reserved a middle and an aisle seat in a 3 seat section of the 3-4-3 configuration.
While I wanted to check out the new bigger windows of the A380, the two of us like to stay hydrated (aka drink martinis) inflight and wanted the ability to use the restroom without bothering the seatmate on this 15 hour flight. Just for the record, when our seatmate sat down, I whispered that this guy looks like a great seatmate. Shockingly, he ate every single meal and had drinks yet did not get up once during the entire flight!
Let me be blunt with regards to the Economy seats on the Qantas A380. They are terrible! The physical seat itself is potentially better than most but they have crammed so many seats in such a small space to the point where it is literally impossible to enter your seat when the person in front of you has reclined the seat. When entering your row, you have to grab the top of the seat in front of you to brace yourself as you shimmy sideways into the seat. I was woken up every time someone in the row behind me got up during the night and I know I woke up the people in front of me when I got up. There is no other way out.
For those who like the window seat to lean against it to sleep, it is not really feasible on the A380. The shape of the cabin means there is a large gap between the window seat and the window wall itself.
After coming to terms that we would be spending the next 15 hours with diddly squat for legroom, I started to investigate the seat technology and amenities looking for positives. I found several.
Each economy passenger was given a relatively thick pillow which was very helpful for getting some shuteye.
Each seat also had a small amenity kit with cheap-feeling eye masks and earplugs. I used my own Lufthansa First Class eye mask but I still like the gesture for Economy passengers since many airlines offer no amenity kit at all.
The silver lining to the new jam-packed economy seats are that the seat technology has been significantly improved. Each seat comes with its own touchscreen LCD with lots of entertainment content and an awesome live camera outside the aircraft. SO very cool! There is also AC seat power at every seat in Economy so you can keep your laptop going the whole flight if interested.
After an hour long boarding process, everyone was aboard and we were ready to go. We taxied for a quite awhile at LAX and finally the jets fired up. Instantly I realized this aircraft is different than any other I have flown. We are cruising down the runway and the cabin is nearly silent! The persistent noise of the engines that is prevalent on all airplanes is no longer intense in the cabin. Airbus has clearly made significant advances with the sound insulation and it makes a big difference for passengers.
It is difficult to quantify the smoothness of a flight, but both of us agreed there is a significant change with this aircraft. From takeoff to touchdown to handling turbulence inflight, it just feels like a smoother experience. Furthermore, I don’t personally have ear pressurization issues inflight but my travel partner does on occasion and noted not ever having to equalize as is normally the case.
The other aircraft improvement I noticed was the lighting. The A380 ceiling looks like a blue sky and adjusts throughout the flight such as a gradual ‘sunrise’ lighting to wake passengers for breakfast.
When put together, this aircraft represents more change to the flight experience than any other aircraft I have experienced in my flying career.
The Economy service was solid but not quite to the level of the Cathay Pacifics/Asianas of the world. Shortly after takeoff we were handed menus which included the meal choices and all the drink choices available along with a cool journey planner along the bottom which noted when meals would be served.
The meals were what you would expect for a long haul Economy flight on a non-US carrier, tasty and filling but nothing spectacular.
The drink and meal highlight for me was the Ginger Beer. Finding a good Ginger Beer is a tough challenge in the US so I loved having it on the menu for this flight to Australia. It went well with both Vodka (Moscow Mule-like) and Rum (Dark and Stormy-like). I may have wiped them out after 15 hours.
Sweets were passed out after dinner was complete.
After the quietest and smoothest flight of my life, the external camera revealed we were on final approach in Sydney. We touched down without even a bump and taxied to the terminal. In need of a shower and a nap, we quickly deplaned and headed straight for the Park Hyatt Sydney.
The bottom line
There are really two stories to tell on this flight. The majestic A380 is an amazing aircraft offering the smoothest, quietest flight I have ever been on. If you have a chance to get on this aircraft for a flight, do so because it is very different from what is out there now and is a significant step forward for the future of commercial flight.
The other story to tell here is that Qantas has put Economy passengers in a very tight spot with the seats, if you will. Entering and exiting the seats is extremely uncomfortable if not impossible for some and sitting with so little legroom for a 15 hour flight is downright scary. I can’t necessarily recommend the Qantas A380 over their 747 for flights from the US to Australia. The 747 is older and louder with worse technology, but the seats were not as cramped and that makes a big difference for most, especially on 15 hour flights.
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