So yeah. Salut from Paris, everyone.
As those who follow me on Twitter may be aware, I’m on the road. Big family holiday to Europe and north America, in fact, and will be away until early 2015.
This trip is a long time coming. Because, like, don’t get me wrong; I love Australia. It’s great. But it is so fucking far away from everywhere. Which means that Australians tend not to do small overseas holidays; when we travel, we save up leave and go for a month or two. This is our month or two. And it’s been fun; so far, we’ve done a few days in London and a few days in Paris. Tomorrow, we do one more half-day in London then jet off to Reykjavík, Iceland. It’s a busy schedule.
I’m not going to talk about that right now, however. Instead, I’m going to talk about our flight over.
The flight between Australia and the UK is roughly 22 hours. That’s a long time to be stuck in a plane. It’s not the longest time in the world, probably, and it’s not one single stretch of time, but still. A 14 hour flight followed by an 8 hour flight isn’t super-fun.
Except, as it turns out, if you fly first class on an A380. Which I did.
And let me tell you. First class international flights? Are a whole different world to economy. Seriously.
Step 1: Melbourne airport
Our connecting flight lands in Melbourne airport. We’ve got two hours or so to kill before the plane to Heathrow, so we dutifully shuffle off to the lounge to wait it out.
You ever been in an airport lounge? It’s like this magic land of free food and alcohol, and slightly more comfortable chairs.
The thing about lounges–the thing about plane travel in general, in fact–is they’re one of the few places where social class divisions are still really blatantly obvious. So you’ve got the “regular” airport, where the economy travellers go. There’s the lounge, which is a bit nicer and has better toilets. Then there’s the business class lounge, which is fancier again and has slightly better food.
Then there’s the Qantas First Class lounge.
It’s basically a restaurant, and specifically the Rockpool. So we walk in, and the lady at the reception desk gives us the hairy eyeball until we hand over our tickets. Then it’s all “Ms. Franklin this” and “Mr. Franklin that”, and running off to chat to the plane staff to make sure they were aware of something we wanted to do on the flight. Then a man in a nice white dinner jacket comes and seats us at our table, and hands us a menu, and we have dinner and cocktails.
It was pretty good. Y’know. For airport food, FFS.
Anyway, we had to rush dinner a bit because we had our “spa treatment” booked in. So yes, turns out there’s a day spa in the first class lounge, and so we had a lovely relaxing massage in preparation for getting on board our flight.
Step 2: Melbourne to Dubai
This is the long leg of the flight, about fourteen hours in the air. My husband was “only” (quote-unquote) in business class, so he got shuffled off to a separate part of the plane, while I got lead into my “suite”.
Yes, you read that right. I said suite.
That’s not the chair, incidentally. I’m sitting in the chair to take the photo. That chair you can see is the visitor’s chair, because of fucking course it is. See, the “suites” are all individual, so you’re not sitting next to anyone. The seat is in the event you’d like to have dinner with one of the other passengers. No, really. In first class, on a plane, you get a spare chair to invite people to dinner; that bureau thing on the right, near the cup holder, folds out into a full-on table. We’ll see it a bit later, but for now: Visitor’s. Fucking. Chair.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: other first class passengers only. My husband wasn’t even allowed to come down and visit me from business. I had to go up to visit him.
I know, right?
Anyway. When you get on the flight, the attendants come over and call you “Ms. Franklin” (or whatever your name happens to be, if you’re not a Ms. Franklin), and ask if you’d like a drink. I got some champagne. Also a free pair of pyjamas, a bag of toiletries, and some more food.
There’s dinner, of course, but I don’t order it,1 instead mess about with the TV a bit, recline the chair, kick my shoes off and put them in the special shoe storage compartment… y’know, usual plane things.
At about 10pm or so, they turn off the lights, and the people around me start vanishing, then reappearing wearing their special pyjamas. I hold out until about midnight or so, but eventually I decide to try and get some sleep. The flight attendant notices my desire to do this, and asks if I’d like her to make up the bed. I’m like, “… er, sure?”
So I go off to the bathroom, and by the time I come back, my chair looks like this:
It’s a bed. The flight attendant went and got a duvet and a fucking lambswool mattress, and turned my chair into a straight-up lie-down bed.
At this stage I’ll note that I did not, in fact, change into my special jammies. Total rookie move, but whatever. I crawl into bed, still in my jeans and t-shirt, and try and get some sleep.
I won’t say it’s the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, because it’s still on a plane which is incredibly noisy, but, like. It’s a fucking bed. On a plane for godssakes.
So I have a nap.
Eight hours later, I wake up, order a hot chocolate, some breakfast (waffles with caramelized pears, not pictured), and do a bit of work. And by the time that’s all done, we’ve landed.
Step 3: Dubai airport
So, like. Remember how the flight lounges in Australia are pretty fancy? Turns out the flight “lounge” in Dubai is basically just an entirely separate part of the airport, reserved just for rich people. You don’t even have to leave it to board the plane.
The first thing we did upon getting there, however, was have showers.
The big dark shape to the right is where the towels, slippers, robes, and combs were kept. It would’ve been a pretty great shower, but for the fact I couldn’t work out the fucking taps. You’d think taps would be one of those things that wouldn’t change much between countries, but there you go. So I ended up having a shower under the little hand sprayer thing, which was still pretty good after fourteen hours on a plane.2 Fortunately, I had some clean clothes to change into. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack deodorant. Fortunately, they give you that on the plane, so I was only stinky while eating second breakfasts.
Speaking of second breakfasts:
Like, don’t get me wrong, I’m not hungry by this stage. But those salmon cakes were really freakin’ nice. And this is also the point where I remind you all of this is “free” (i.e. it’s part of the price of the ticket you’ve already bought), so damned if I wasn’t going to try something.
One nice breakfast and shit coffee later, we’re back on the plane.
Step 4: Dubai to London
By this stage, everything is a bit “been there, done that”. Dubai to London is about eight hours, and I spend it mostly flaked out watching movies. I watch a lot of movies, of which the best is What We Do in the Shadows, a New Zealand mockumentary about vampires in a share flat. It’s awesome. Y’all should go see it. The Lego Movie was also unexpectedly awesome (I had no idea the Thing At the End happens, and was pretty much bawling), How to Train Your Dragon 2 less so, with Frozen and Rise of the Planet of the Apes being my “meh” films. I also got through about ten minutes of Guardians of the Galaxy before it gave me the shits and I turned it off.
Obviously, I also ate.
The latter two photos show that table I was talking about before. The attendants came and set it for me, pulling it out and putting down the tablecloth and cutlery (with real metal knives). The food was, as it turned out, really, really good. Like, I was super not hungry to the point I don’t think I’ll ever be hungry again… but it was still really good.
Anyway. That was basically it. Oh, except for getting through immigration at Heathrow. Because, hah! Guess what? Turns out, if you’ve got first (or business) class tickets, you get to go through a special immigration line which is like ten million times shorter than the regular airport immigration line. So there’s that.
The verdict? Flying first class international is basically like having an extremely lonely sleepover, with way too much food and booze. The first night in London was still a bit interesting, timezone-wise3, but walking off the plane full of good food, showered, and rested? Yeah. That’s pretty good, hey.
A+ flying experience, would recommend if you happen to have a few extra grand lying around. I’ll just… be trying really, really hard not to think about it, next time I’m stuck in economy.
- Yes, you order food in first class. Like, from a menu. [↩]
- For the record, I believe there is, in fact, a shower on the plane itself. But you have to book or something? And, IDK. Showering in Dubai was fine. [↩]
- We went to see Billy Elliot and had to leave halfway through when the jetlag monster caught up with us, which is a shame because the first half was fucking fantastic. [↩]