A few quick words about Melbourne’s airport: It has a Hilton attached to the international terminal via an enclosed walkway (wonderfully convenient, especially for early-morning flights or overnight connections), and the first-class Qantas lounge is just lovely. Rather than go over-the-top in opulence, they focus on service, offering a full restaurant (rather than a buffet, as in the business class lounges where I’ve spent time in recently) with cuisine from Neil Perry (my eggs florentine were delicious), a complimentary spa and even a library. (The showers were wonderfully spacious and had silk-padded hangers for clothes—I was almost sorry I didn’t need to use them!) Naturally, drinks are available throughout the lounge, and I honestly think I’ve never had a better Bloody Mary.
I flew out of Melbourne because I wanted a chance to try out the A380, the newest model of plane to take to the skies. (Only a few airlines have the planes so far—Qantas among them.) The planes are enormous, with four classes (First, Business, Premium Economy and Economy) spread out over two stories for a total load capacity of 450 passengers. (Qantas actually carries the fewest number of passengers on its A380 planes of all the airlines that have them, meaning each guest has more room. Nice.) Most flights begin boarding about 30 minutes prior to takeoff. With so many people, this flight started boarding 40 minutes in advance, and divided passengers onto two different gangways to get to each level on time.
In business class, the seats stretch out to a flat bed (at a much better angle than on the 747), and the storage options for carry-on luggage are much improved. (Finally, an airline has realized that if we’re going to use laptops at our seats, we need a convenient place to put them for takeoff and landing!) Each seat has a small wide-screen TV that pops out of the armrest—and the entertainment options are very impressive. (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a really good movie, by the way. Brutal, very violent, but really good.) Even better, the plane is quiet enough to actually enjoy the films, and the noise-canceling headphones certainly help.
The food and wine options are also quite good—the red curry chicken paired beautifully with a dry Riesling, and I heard good things about the cream of broccoli soup. Nice Qantas touch: For overnight flights, they set out a breakfast menu before takeoff so that passengers can choose what they want in advance. When they wake up, their breakfast is ready for them.
The one negative about this flight: Once again, no small pajamas. Adding insult to injury, all they had left was extra-large. And, if you’ll recall, I’m not even five feet tall. I can use these PJs as a tent, they’re so huge. Maybe if I wash them in hot water, they’ll shrink enough for me to wear them on the next flight…