En Route to Australia for Corroboree

 

Qantas' Admiral's Club lounge at LAX

 

So here I am, back in Oz after just three months away. I was really starting to miss Australia, too. It’s the kind of continent that just grows on you. But I’m back again for Corroboree, which will be held this year on Hamilton Island in Queensland.

Now, if you’ll recall from my sojourn to ATE back in May, I flew all the way here from New York on Qantas, using their business class service. This time, I started my trip on American Airlines, flying to Los Angeles in the main cabin. The service was fine, and what one would expect for a domestic flight—free sodas and water, and sandwiches for $10. For a six-hour flight, it’s acceptable, but I made sure to get a hot meal at JFK before boarding, because seriously? $10 for a sandwich? I realize every U.S. airline is doing it now, but taking advantage of a (literally) captive audience is just wrong.

At LAX, the lovely people at Qantas had arranged for me to relax in the Admiral’s Club during my layover. The Club is just huge—possibly the biggest lounge I’ve seen yet in my travels. I enjoyed a shower in a very spacious and comfortable bathroom before trying the restaurant and bar for another meal before the 14-hour flight to Brisbane. (Officially, I was booked for an economy seat, and didn’t know if I’d get an upgrade or what kind of meal service would be available in that cabin.) Somewhat surprisingly, the bar and restaurant at the Admiral’s Club was not complimentary, though Qantas passengers do get drink vouchers. Advise any clients who might want to use the lounge that they’ll have to pay for their food and—unless they’re flying Qantas—their drinks. (The quesadilla I ordered was very nice, by the way.)

When I got to the gate to board my flight, I found I’d been upgraded to Premium Economy. These seats, I learned, are the same seats I had in business class back in May: angled, but spacious and wonderfully comfortable. Furthermore, even though it was already 11:30 p.m. LA time (2:30 a.m. New York time—I could barely keep my eyes open), we would still be served a full dinner once we were airborne. The only real difference I noticed between the business class service and the Premium Economy was a smaller cosmetic case and (I could be mistaken here) a little less food. The seats, blankets, pillows, entertainment options and service were all the same as I enjoyed on the ATE trip. I slept for most of the flight and woke up feeling perfectly refreshed. (The jet lag will hit with a vengeance later today, if history is any guide.)

Oh, yes, about the food: The short ribs we had for dinner were delicious, and there was plenty of wine available. (I really regretted ordering that quesadilla before we left. It was completely unnecessary.) I struck up a conversation with my seatmate, who was also heading to Corroboree: Judi Hay, an American Express Travel representative and an Aussie-Kiwi specialist. When I mentioned that I hadn’t known we’d get a meal onboard, she started to laugh. “Qantas feeds you,” she said several times. Even on flights of a half-hour, she explained, the airline will hand out a snack. On a long flight from LA to Brisbane, two set meals are included and sandwiches are available all throughout the flight. (Are you listening, U.S. airlines? American? United? Half-hour flights get a complimentary snack. Seriously. If Qantas can do it, so can you.)

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