A380 or not, economy is economy

BY HEATHER TYLER
Last updated 12:50 06/04/2010

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This is the tale of two long hauls.

One was good, the other bad - in fact it was downright ugly.

I'll confess my conflict of interest right now. The great flight was part of a junket (known in the industry as a travel famil) and infuriatingly, the awful one I paid for.

It would have been less annoying if it had been the other way around.

The A380 has been hyped to the max, but I'm convinced cattleclass remains cattleclass, even on the biggest bird of them all.

One of the differences on smaller planes - such as the A320 or the Boeing 747 - is that you know you're going to be sandwiched in that seat, the blood pooling in your lower extremities, for a strictly finite period.

You recline the seat to the angle that is still not near a comfort zone, have a couple of drinks, eat the food (or not), watch a couple of movies, take a nanna nap and it's almost time for landing.

On the Emirates A380 Sydney to Dubai flight no amount of alcohol and back-to-back movies could compensate for 16 hours in economy.

For a start, the flight was chockers.

The globe-trotting backpacker sitting next to me had probably last showered two continents ago, and about two hours after takeoff a woman sitting behind me started to vomit. It was so constant, it almost became background noise.

Not many people seemed as concerned. Tucked up with their blankets and eye masks they snored on. Sleeping pills helped, I learned later.

I crawled over comatose shapes, inched my way to the back of the plane and eventually fell asleep at the bottom of the staircase to business and first class.

A flight attendant came and moved me on, finding me another seat wedged in between two children who had also fled the serial vomiter.

She leaned over to ask me if they needed anything.

"They're not mine," I explained.

"OK, great," she smiled and nodded.

Two hours later she was back - I was still awake and numb in both arms - to ask me if the kids needed snacks.

When I arrived in Dubai I fell immediately asleep in the lobby of the Ibis Al Barsha while waiting for my room.

I lost a whole valuable day to rest and recovery.

The good flight was on Qantas - Sydney to Mumbai return.

It was a really long haul, with several hours to kill at Singapore's Changi Airport on the way there which made it a 21-hour trip, and about 14 hours on the return leg.

Qantas lounges in Sydney, Singapore and Mumbai are oases of calm, where you can shower, rest, eat, drink, read the newspaper or check your emails.

I did all of that. I didn't want to miss a thing.

As a mother, pampering and relaxing with no interruptions is extremely rare.

Once on board I was greeted by name and my window seat was oh so big.

I lay almost flat in my Skybed pod and watched movies in comfort until my eyes were square.

A flight attendant spread a white linen napkin across my lap and served me fine, restaurant quality meals.

I was served drinks even before I thought I needed them, and then settled down for a sound sleep, all cosy in airline PJs.

By the time I returned to Sydney I was a spoiled brat, ready to pout at the slightest in-flight service defect.

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The worst part is that I did the good flight before the bad one.

I returned from India to pack my bags for Europe four days later. Warm fuzzy feelings about business class remained with me as I checked in for the flight to Dubai.

The moral of the story is don't get too smug in business class when reality is about to bite.

- AAP

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