Qantas's flight from Dallas to Sydney is the longest flight in the world in operation today. Lasting 15 hours plus another 1.5 hours to Sydney, what can one get up to on this flight? Apart from watching movies about serial killers, I also took a peek into the crew's sleeping quarters and into the cockpit!
There are two types of people. People that look upon flights as a means of getting from a to b and then there are people like my friend Freaky Flier who are so besotted by planes that they arrive at the airport four hours ahead of time to absorb all of that jet-setting atmosphere. To him, time spent us in the air is vastly superior to time on the ground.
It's the latter that I'm thinking of when I board this flight. The Qantas route from Dallas to Brisbane is currently the world's longest flight at approximately 13,800kms clocking in at a total of about 15 hours plus another leg to Sydney and approximately an hour of layover at Brisbane airport. And I'm about to do it.
Let's get all the details sorted out first. The plane itself, a 747-400ER is a modified plane with an extra fuel tank that can accommodate carrying the fuel for such a distance. It burns 42 gallons of fuel per 40-45 seconds flying requiring 205,000 to 220,000 litres (55,000 to 58,000 gallons) of fuel per flight. Just starting to do the numbers for the 15 and a half hours in the air is dizzying in itself. While the Sydney to Dallas route is direct, headwinds require a stop in Brisbane for the reverse journey. Headwinds! Where are you when we need you (I clearly have no idea about headwinds).
There is no first class cabin on this plane and the small section in the front is business class as well as a larger section behind it and a section in the level above. I should have perhaps perved a little on the upstairs section but I didn't know whether I could and I didn't want to get told off so early in the flight. The seating is in a 2x3x2 configuration although the bulkhead rows have a 1x3x1 configuration. Behind the lower business class section is premium economy and economy with a total of 364 seats.
I am offered champagne, orange juice or still water. Our seats are comfortable at 60.9cm/ 24in wide with a 203.2cm/80 inch seat pitch with massage options. The plane pushes back about thirty minutes late and we start our ascent. We're told that the record for the most movies watched during this flight is nine movies. I'm up for a challenge!
I don the noise cancelling headphones and press the button for the television and it doesn't pop up like it does for my seat neighbour. I give it a bit of a prod and then press the button again and it springs up. I guess it's true that a swift prod or kick helps things. I'm in seat 6E which is in the centre but the seat to my right is free so I hop over there once we take off. We are encouraged to fill in the breakfast menu which has an option to skip breakfast if you are asleep. A part of me always thinks that I could sleep through a meal but has that ever happened? No siree!!
I quickly change the time on my phone so that I have no trace of the fact that it's now around 11pm Dallas time. For the first while I take a recommendation and watch the new Halle Berry thriller movie "The Call" which assures me that I will remain alert and alarmed. They hand out pyjamas and the new Kate Spade toiletry bags which are larger and flatter with a cute design on them. Inside are Malin and Goetz products including a lip moisturiser, face lotion and hand and body lotion (the latter two are also stocked in the bathroom). There is also a toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, eyemask and earplugs.
The Neil Perry designed food and drink service starts and my first course arrives. It's a green leaf salad with a balsamic vinaigrette and a really good crusty sourdough loaf. I'm surprised at how fresh this is because bread on planes is generally best used as a weapon.
Pan fried black cod with herb and pine nut salsa, roast cumin carrots and fondant potatoes
Apparently the trend is smaller meals whenever you want them and I was surprised to see calzones, sandwiches or cheese plates on the menu (I've been told that the steak sandwich is one of the most popular dishes) but as it was a supper menu and we were flying out late, most of us (me included) already had eaten dinner. But I was curious to try the black cod as it is one of my favourite fish. The cod was buttery soft albeit a touch overcooked but not to the point of being dry and it came with a pesto topping (called salsa on the menu, perhaps that's for the American market although I'm sure they have pesto too). It didn't really need the pesto, I prefer it just pan fried but the cumin carrots were excellent and the fondant potato good.
When it was time for dessert, the customer service manager Troy comes over and offers a fruit plate, chocolate mousse or cheese plate. I ask about the cheese - having eaten a lot of road food, I had a serious hankering for good cheese and chocolate and he just suggested that I have both. I love him immediately.
The chocolate pot de creme is silky and sweet but I really go for the cheeses, a Point Reyes blue cheese from California and a Grafton Village cheddar from Vermont. The oat cakes on the plate are particularly good and it also comes with a dried fig and fresh date. It's served with a glass of lovely Seppeltsfield muscat. Sweet wine, yes, you are lovely.
A bit keyed up from the movie and the food, I flip through the music selection while being offered a cup of chamomile tea and some Valrhona and Green and Black's chocolates to nibble on. Ahhh there's Prince, excellent! I get the sudden urge to sing the beginning of let's go crazy "Dearly beloved we are gathered here to get through this thing called life..." but I think that my fellow travellers won't really appreciate that. They dim the lights and I make another poor life decision and watch a documentary on serial killers. Suddenly the dark cabin looks full of dark alleys and miscreants. Also the cabin is now blue as evidenced in the images. To be honest, I'm not sure what that features means - does blue calm people down? But there are serial killers!!
After this I watch the Louis CK special and start to find him strangely attractive. I also think that he might be a serial killer. Confused, I decide that I simply must fall asleep. I am thankful that they've laid the mattress down on the bed to make it more comfortable. Because that's the sort of thing that happens when you go business class I guess, people do nice things for you.
After a good seven hours sleep (huzzah!) I wake up and watch a documentary on "My big fat fetish". I suddenly realise that I'm a feeder. I've over fed every pet that I've had and I try and over feed Mr NQN but he's tall and skinny and resistant to plumping up. And then I turn over because I'm full of two dinners. Perhaps I'm an eater too...
Getting up to use the facilities I peer into the pantry and see that there's Anjou pears, small Green & Black's chocolate bars, sweet potato chips and other snacks available to help yourself. I resist but only just. With about two hours left until we land in Brisbane it's time for breakfast. I didn't get my first choice but a tray and tablecloth is laid down with my meal.
The fruit salad and pineapple danish that I requested is there but the main is a scrambled egg, chorizo, mushroom and zucchini cake breakfast which is a bit heavy for me at this early hour and I really don't like plane eggs. I eat the mushrooms and fruit salad and try the pineapple danish but my stomach didn't really want any more. The cabin is now pink. Perhaps pink wakes people up?
Did you ever wonder what it's like to take a peek into the staff sleeping quarters? With just a little bit of time left on this long flight I'm given an exciting little tour into them - the beds are right at the back of the cabin behind what looks like a secret doorway. A spiral staircase leads to these lie flat beds. It's like being on a ship and the mattresses are thick, they have the same blankets as business class passengers and they take turns sleeping.
And once we have landed I get a quick look at the flight deck with its dizzying array of buttons. The first officer explains that each section is compartmentalised and the buttons above are the ones that mainly drive the plane. Good to know of course, in case I'm ever called upon to land the plane. Because serial killers you know ;)
All of the passengers disembark with all of their luggage and go through another security check at Brisbane Airport this one seems unnecessary and confusing as we'll go through another here and some passengers lose the duty free items that they've picked up at other ports that are over 100ml or 3.5 ozs. I would be really annoyed if I had bought a really nice bottle as is one gentleman.
We board the same plane that has now been cleaned and I take a seat in seat 5D, one row ahead, an aisle seat. The flight time from Brisbane to Sydney is short at one and a half hours and I'm offered champagne, a mixed fruit drink with strawberry or water. I'm boring and in need of hydration so I go with the water. I'll make a terrible alcoholic at this rate.
Breakfast is a choice of a fruit salad and yogurt or a sandwich and bizarrely I'm suddenly famished (it's dinner time in Dallas where my stomach has firmly planted itself). I eat the fruit salad and then devour the toasted cheese, ham and semi dried tomato sandwich and then eat the lightly toasted fruit bread spread with butter. And before I know it, I've quite happily passed the longest flight in the world and I feel surprisingly well rested and full. We land at 8:20am and I am awake until 9:30pm that night! Like a boss. Or a child...
So tell me Dear Reader, what is the longest flight that you've been on? And what would be your time limit for flying? Do you ever stay up watching movies or tv shows?
NQN tested out the flight as a guest of Qantas
Boeing 747 400 modified