Frequent international travel does not preclude one from making egregious bone-headed travel mistakes. I kicked off this trip to Australia by violating the cardinal rule of international travel.
- 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
After an uneventful Southwest flight from DEN to LAX (my favorite kind of domestic flight), we headed out on the sidewalk with our bags to walk over to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX. Qantas operates international flights out of two terminals at LAX so it helps to know your terminal before you begin your walk or take the shuttle.
We approached a well-staffed Qantas check-in desk approximately 3 hours before our flight to Sydney. As an Oneworld Emerald member, I appreciate that Qantas clearly articulates on their signage where benefits apply such as at the check-in lines and the lounges.
We walked to the First Class check-in line and were waved over to an available agent where we began the check-in process. I handed him our two passports and he went to work typing away at the keyboard. At one point he stops and asks if we have our visas for Australia. I chuckle and tell him NO thinking he was trying to tease us but quickly realize he isn’t joking. I just violated the cardinal rule of international travel! This being my 6th international trip of the year, I felt like a complete idiot that I hadn’t bothered to answer the very first question one should ask when attempting to enter a foreign country, “How do I get in?”. In retrospect, I did pull up Australia on Wikitravel prior to travel but had just misread the entrance requirements. It clearly states a visa is needed and I flat out missed it.
Before I have time to realize how stupid of a mistake I had just made, he lets me know they have a process to electronically request and pay for the visa. He begins the electronic request process though warns that there is no guarantee both will be immediately accepted. A few scenarios are running through my head such an IT system being down on either side or a random check on one of the requests that requires follow-up. To add to the drama, he provides a play-by-play. “Passenger 1 now can enter the country, now let’s see if I can get Passenger 2 in.” Thankfully both of us clear. Whew! I pay the best 50 USD (25 USD per person) I have ever spent and we are handed our tickets on the A380 to Sydney. The agent lets me know that this happens about once per day though that didn’t change the fact that I was frustrated with myself for such a glaring oversight on my part.
As a Oneworld Emerald member, I have access along with one guest to the Oneworld First Class lounges when flying on ANY Oneworld flight. I had read that the AA Flagship lounge in Terminal 4 is a little nicer than the Oneworld First Class Lounge in the International Terminal so I inquired about accessing Terminal 4 seeing as Qantas also has flights out of T4. However, the agent told me that was not an option.
We cleared security quickly and walked down the long lonely corridors of the TBIT. We took an elevator up to the Oneworld Lounge where I presented my BA Gold card. This lounge has both a Business Class and First Class section though Emeralds are allowed into the First Class Lounge.
Because we were a few hours early before the evening wave of Oneworld flights, we initially had most of the First Class Lounge to ourselves.
The First Class Lounge is nice in design but relatively small. When we arrived it was great because it was still very quiet but as the evening flights came closer to their departure times, the place became swamped with people. There are longhaul flights from Qantas, British Airways, LAN and Cathay Pacific all leaving around the same time in the late evening so you can imagine how many Emeralds and First Class passengers can fill up a small lounge. I watched several passengers enter and leave the First Class side immediately because there were no seats available at all.
For drinks, there was a solid selection of some higher end liquors along with beers, wine and champagne that were all self-serve.
I was dragging a little bit so I tried out a latte from the self-service cappuccino maker which hit the spot.
For food, there was a self-serve buffet set out with a small but tasty selection. We were flying economy so we preferred to eat dinner here assuming the plane’s food would not be as good. There were 6-8 hot dishes along with breads, salads, soups and deserts. The food was better than what one would receive in Economy but not worth spoiling an appetite for an onboard First or Business Class meal.
I plated a few items that looked interesting and poured us a couple of champagnes to cheers to the start of an exciting vacation down under.
After dinner, I decided I wanted to take a shower and change clothes before the 15 hour flight to Sydney. The shower rooms are all located in the Business Class side of the lounge so I used the backdoor to enter that side. There was a long hallway full of shower rooms which I appreciated since the shower is probably my favorite lounge benefit (well, maybe second to the drinks!). There was no wait even with a crowded lounge so I was handed the keys to my room immediately.
The shower rooms were functional and clean. The rooms were supplied with Molton Brown bath products.
After a refreshing shower, I headed back to the First Class Lounge for a few more minutes and then our boarding was called. We grabbed our belongings and excitingly headed to the gate to catch a glimpse of the majestic A380 taking us to Sydney.
The bottom line
First thing is first. Don’t be bone-headed like me and forget the cardinal rule of international travel. Always have a valid passport AND a valid visa (when necessary) on you when you travel.
The Oneworld First Class Lounge at LAX is a nice place to hang out before a long flight but don’t expect anywhere near the awesomeness of International First Class Lounges such as Lufthansa First Class in Frankfurt/Munich or Qantas First Class in Sydney/Melbourne. Our enjoyment level was very high when we first entered the quiet lounge but continued to reduce as the lounge filled to capacity. When it was time to leave, it was so crowded and loud in there that it no longer felt like a lounge at all.