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Old 27th October 2013, 01:17 PM   #1
yflyer
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Default On QF's first 744 VH-OJA to Sydney, and the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney

No, this TR is not about an inaugural -- more about what is becoming an increasingly rare opportunity for flyers based in Singapore: flights operated by a 744.

There is no shortage of options for flights from Singapore to Sydney. Apart from SQ, and Scoot, we can also choose from QF, Emirates, BA and others. Here is a picture of SQ232 in Sydney, taxiing to the runway for take off to Singapore, as Scoot TZ002 arrives in Sydney after departing from Singapore at the ungodly hour of 2am.



This TR covers my recent flights on Qantas, on their 744.

I flew QF6/5 to and from Sydney in Y. This flight is operated by 744's. Usually these are not the refitted 747-400ER's, where the interiors are similar to QF's A380's, but the older birds with non-refurbished interiors.

My outbound was on VH-OJA, apparently the very first 744 delivered to Qantas in 1989. On that flight J was the Skybed Mark I (Angled lie-flat), Premium Y was the new PY product.

On this flight, Y was a retro/nostalgic affair, showing it's age but warm and comfortable, and infinitely preferable to that abomination, the 10-abreast 777.

On this trip I also got to check out the amazing Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney. Not only does this lounge have great facilities and food, it is a great place for plane-spotting (For example, both the pictures in this post were snapped from the QF F Lounge.).



More on these flights, and the lounge, to come!

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Old 27th October 2013, 01:42 PM   #2
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Qantas departs from Changi Airport Terminal 1. I really like T1. Now that the renovations are done, it is a really comfortable terminal, less sprawling that T3, which means shorter distances to walk.

You also get installation art like the brilliant Kinetic Rain.

Once inside, I can hardly tell the difference between T1 and T3 these days. The overall look and feel is almost the same, except that T1 doesn't have vertigo-inducing carpeting.



Before checking in, I checked the price of a paid upgrade from Y to PY or J. SGD 400 (Or was it SGD 420/450? Can't remember) to PY, or SGD 1000 to upgrade to J one way? Nope, not for me. I would stick with Y today.

QF have a new lounge at T1. It is a combined Business and First Lounge.



Like most Qantas lounges I have been to, this was a stylish and upmarket affair, with a unique and distinctive designer look to them. Very different from the characterless "design by committee" approach that SQ has to their lounges, especially their KF Gold lounges, at Changi.







Part of the lounge is designated as mobile-free, which is a great way to get away from the numerous loud businessmen on cell phones you find in airports all over the world.


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Old 27th October 2013, 01:50 PM   #3
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There is a very well stocked bar, with a wide selection of spirits and a good wine selection, showcasing Australian and NZ wines.





There was also a good selection of coffee on offer.



There was a proper dining room where a variety of hot and cold selections were available.





There was an open kitchen where a couple of local/Asian mains were on the menu, and cooked to order.





Here are some of the buffet selections.





A selection of both Asian and Western hot mains. All covered, up, though.



This is an example of one of the Asian mains...a spicy chicken preparation that looked delicious.




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Old 27th October 2013, 02:14 PM   #4
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Boarding that evening was from C23. There was a separate queue into the holding area for premium pax. Why doesn't SQ do this?



My ride for the evening would be VH-OJA, the oldest 744 in the Qantas fleet, and the first 744 delivered way back in 1989.



For most aircraft, newer is usually better, but I will never get sick of flying a 744.

These planes were built for long haul comfort, and incredibly, in terms of pure seating comfort, there is very little to differentiate the Y experience on the newest planes to what it was back then, especially if IFE is not a consideration (I have an iPad -- I bring my own IFE). This was a very comfortable Y seat -- it was back then and it still is now.



That said, cabin ambience in Y was really quite dated. This must be one of the few planes in the QF fleet where Y is still the old blue colour scheme!





The seat was wide and comfortable, with more cushioning than any of SQ's Y products I have used, including the A380 Y seats. Recline and legroom were good too.



The safety demo was a live performance, presented in the aisles by cabin crew who managed to appear enthusiastic about what must have been their 1000th repeat of the oxygen mask and emergency door location macarena...

And to round off the retro experience, the safety card had icons for electronic devices long consigned to the recycling bin.




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Old 27th October 2013, 02:20 PM   #5
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I settled into my seat as we taxied from T1, across to the other side of the airport for take-off on Runway 02C.



One day I hope to catch a clear photo of the control tower and the road towards the airport as my aircraft taxis across the aircraft bridge, over Airport Boulevard below.

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Old 27th October 2013, 02:24 PM   #6
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Each Y pax gets a bottle of water.



And an amenity kit.


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Old 27th October 2013, 02:32 PM   #7
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There were two choices of main course on this flight.







There was no round of drinks after take-off. Cabin service started with dinner.



I chose the western-style chicken as my main, accompanied by Capel Vale Chardonnay from Western Australia. Wine was served in small bottles -- a fairly good selection of both red and white wines were available, as was the option of sparking Chardonnay/Pinot Noir.

Soft drinks were provided by the can (with ice available on request, not automatic...).

I would have liked a pre-dinner round of drinks, but apart from that, dinner was fine. Not the gourmet selection you get in SQ Y, but a reasonably good meal.

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Old 27th October 2013, 02:35 PM   #8
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IFE on this flight was a full AVOD system. Not the newest QF system, but one which was perfectly adequate, and on-par with what SQ offers on the older refitted 777s.







I had a gin and tonic as a night cap, before donning eye-shades and sleeping for the rest of the flight.



I skipped breakfast as I was asleep, but woke up close to landing time when the plane was already fairly close to Sydney.

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Old 27th October 2013, 02:44 PM   #9
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I had read news about forest fires in NSW, but the sky that day was clear and blue. We were treated to great views of the countryside and coastline as we approached Sydney Kingsford Smith airport for a landing from the South.



We had great views of Sydney and the airport on the left side of the plane as we approached Sydney.





Stunning views of the coastline as well as we lined up for landing.



We landed on time on a cool, sunny morning.



As the aircraft taxied to the gate, I caught a glimpse of the Qantas F lounge, the dark grey crescent-shaped expanse of dark glass perched atop the international terminal. I was looking forward to heading there before my flight back to Singapore in a few days time.

Overall a very comfortable flight, which I would not hesitate to repeat. I would also add that QF's cabin crew were engaging, friendly and professional. My experience with the QF cabin crew has been wholly positive in recent years flying Qantas.

Obviously the QF and SQ A380's still provide the ultimate Y experience, and the older QF 744 Y product is one that cannot really be compared with SQ or QF's new Y. But there is something to be said for a plush, comfortable Y seat and the raw charisma of a 747.

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Old 27th October 2013, 04:01 PM   #10
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I spent a few days in Sydney, where I stayed at the Hilton Sydney at George Street. This hotel is superbly located right in the heart of the city, close to the shopping and the Sydney Tower, and a walk or a jog away from Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, the Opera House and the Royal Botanic Gardens.





The rooms at this hotel are not large, but are new and elegantly decorated with a very modern theme. There is also a great lounge, and a wonderful restaurant, the Glass Brasserie.

The Hilton Executive Lounge on the 36th floor of this hotel has recently been renovated.



Guests with lounge access (Exec Floor or premium HHonors members) can have breakfast in the morning, as well as drinks and hors d'oeuvres between 6pm and 8.30pm.



The staff member manning the bar that evening was a warm and engaging young lady from Mississippi, who made me a gin and tonic with a lime instead of a lemon, which she said was the way it was always done "back home". It tasted great, a perfect gin & tonic with just a hint of sweetness that you didn't get with a G&T with a regular lemon slice.





Apart from hot and cold Asian and Western selections, the summer menu included a spicy tomato gazpacho and cold prawns.







Out of the windows in the lounge, if you looked closely in between the skyscrapers in the city, you could even make out parts of Sydney Airport in the distance.

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Old 27th October 2013, 04:09 PM   #11
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The other big draw for me at the Hilton Sydney is the Glass Brasserie, by celebrity chef Luke Mangan. This is a wonderful restaurant within the hotel, that serves superb contemporary Australian cuisine as well as classic brasserie fare, accompanied by an eclectic selection of Australian and international wines.

Luke Mangan has a couple of restaurants in Singapore as well. I did not have a good experience at his high-end restaurant, Salt, at ION Orchard, when I dined there when it first opened, and I have not tried his tapas restaurant at Raffles City in Singapore, but the Glass Brasserie at the Hilton is one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney, and I would highly recommend it.

Some of the starter/entrees are Luke Mangan's take on sashimi and a grilled pork "slider" (or mini hamburger), which I had for lunch after I checked into the hotel that morning.



Later in the week, I went to Glass Brasserie again for dinner, where I had a wonderful steak tartar, washed down with a glass of Australian pinot noir.






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Old 27th October 2013, 04:26 PM   #12
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After a hectic week of meetings, it was time to head back to Singapore. After a browse through airside duty free shopping, I headed up the escalator to the QF First Lounge.





Through the glass doors, you pass a lush wall of green before heading up another escalator to the large lounge perched high above the terminal.





This lounge has a stunning design, in the shape of an arc, with marble and wood accents and beautiful views of the tarmac.







Rather than go with the practical choice of flat panel monitors, they have taken the trouble of installing a large flipping display for flight information. What a nice touch -- in this digital age, anything analogue should be cherished...



Australians take their wine and spirits seriously, and Qantas lives up to expectations with a well stocked bar.







There is a proper sit-down dining area, with a menu presented by Neil Perry of Rockpool fame.


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Old 27th October 2013, 04:32 PM   #13
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Before lunch, I explored the lounge, and settled into a recliner to observe the comings and goings on the tarmac.







In addition to a business centre, there was a small work area at one end of the lounge.



There was also a spa that offered complimentary 20 or 30 minute treatments.

I returned to the bar / restaurant area for lunch.



A properly decanted glass of Clonakilla Shiraz...



Open kitchen where an impressive selection of both Asian and Western/Fusion cuisine was being prepared.


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Old 27th October 2013, 04:41 PM   #14
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I settled into my seat at a table with a tarmac view for my lunch.



This was a proper sit-down meal with full table service.



Something to be said for sitting in the lounge for lunch with the city skyline, tarmac and runway in view.



I started with the spiced carrot and coconut soup.



Followed by the pan-fried snapper as my main course.



I skipped dessert and finished with a macchiato.


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Old 27th October 2013, 04:46 PM   #15
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Overall, a wonderful lounge, with exceptional dining and facilities. I would put this lounge on par with the various CX F Lounges in Hong Kong.

I have never been to the new SQ F Lounge or the TPR in Changi, so I don't have a view on how those lounges compare. I suspect the tarmac views from the QF lounge would be better, though :-)

To be continued.

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