Sunday, July 06, 2008

Airline hell

We've just arrived home after seven and a half weeks on the road, involving trips to Australia (vacation), the Philippines (work) , Lebanon (my father-in-law's funeral) and two trips to South Africa (work).

Here's what that looked like in terms of flights:

Denver to Los Angeles (economy)
Los Angeles to Brisbane (economy)

Brisbane to Canberra (economy)
Canberra to Brisbane (economy)

Brisbane to Sydney (business - complimentary upgrade)
Sydney to Hong Kong (economy)
Hong Kong to Manila (economy)
Manila to Sydney (economy)
Sydney to Brisbane (economy)

Brisbane to Singapore (business)
Singapore to Abu Dhabi (business)
Abu Dhabi to Beirut (business)

Beirut to Dubai (business)
Dubai to Johannesburg (business)

Johannesburg to Sydney (first - mileage upgrade)
Sydney to Brisbane (business)
Brisbane to Sydney (business)
Sydney to Johannesburg (business)

Johannesburg to Sydney (business)
Sydney to Brisbane (business)

Brisbane to Los Angeles (business - complimentary upgrade)
Los Angeles to Denver (economy)

That's 63,504 miles between May 10 and July 1.

It went smoothly until the trip to Manila. Our flight from Brisbane to Sydney was delayed due to mechanical problems so Qantas moved us to another flight (with a complimentary upgrade which was nice) which was also late due to mechanical problems meaning we missed our connection in Sydney (only by 20 minutes which will be relevant later).

Their initial solution was for us to hang round in Sydney all day and then put us on an overnight Philippines Airlines flight, not an option I was happy with, so after some encouragement from me they booked us on a flight to Hong Kong with an overnight there and then a morning connection to Manila. Unfortunately the flight to Hong Kong was also delayed due to mechanical problems (four hours!) so our overnight in Hong Kong turned into less than 4 hours at the hotel.

Our flight back to Sydney went smoothly enough, but I've learnt that arriving at Sydney airport on a Friday morning is to be avoided at all costs, especially if you have a domestic connection. The international to domestic transfer at Sydney is third world at the best of times, but on a Friday morning you need to allow at least three hours. Of five connections through Sydney on this trip I made one successfully and that was only because I flew from Brisbane to Sydney the night before!

After missing the connection to Manila by 20 minutes, I was not amused two weeks later to be sitting on the aircraft in Sydney waiting to leave for Johannesburg when the captain announced that we would be delayed half an hour waiting for connection passengers from Brisbane! I wish the hell Qantas would be consistent on this, either wait or not wait.

Even worse was our trip to Beirut which wasn't under the best of circumstances anyway, but to arrive and find that our luggage had not been transferred in Abu Dhabi and wouldn't arrive for another 24 hours. Not what you need when you've got a funeral to attend. Between this and some of the most disinterested staff I think I've ever seen in a front cabin, I wouldn't recommend Etihad's business class.

The one major plus on our trip was receiving a complimentary upgrade on our flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles. Not something Qantas are known for.

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