My 17-hour Qantas odyssey in kangaroo pyjamas | Travel

This is the story of a flight. But it begins with a couple of caveats. Firstly, it’s not a traditional flight – the passengers usually are not your common travellers as they embrace ministers, CEOs and extra journalists than politicians would usually be comfy sharing a small house with.

Secondly, it’s not your common payload – the baggage embrace cameras, tripods and particular pyjamas – and it’s a history-making flight. The first to attach Australia and the UK, continuous. And thirdly, your Guardian correspondent doesn’t usually fly business class – so this can be a dose of unreality.

Aside from all that, it’s a story a few little bit of aviation historical past, which – relying in your viewpoint – must be wildly celebrated or met with indifference.

Whatever your views, when you’ve ever puzzled what it might be prefer to be airborne in a airplane for 17 hours and 6 minutes on the primary flight from Australia to Europe, then let this be your hour-by-hour information.


I’m at Perth airport and speeches are being made in regards to the imminent flight of QF9, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with the code VH-ZND. Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, is right here together with Steve Ciobo, the Australian federal minister for commerce, tourism and funding and Mark McGowan, the premier of Western Australia. There’s a number of media and aviation obsessives. And me.

On board: I’m in seat 10A. That’s business class however concern not – I received’t be right here on a regular basis as I’m moving again to financial system for a dose of actual life. But since I’m right here I’ll describe the environment.

It’s nice. Two large home windows, a seat that transforms right into a lie-flat mattress with a quilt (dunna), a Dreamline pillow and probably the most attentive of cabin crew readily available for champagne, water and extra champagne. A big touchscreen TV is simply one other delight. You would get used to this.

A business-class seat on Qantas flight QF9. Photograph: David Munk for the Guardian

Hour one

We push again about 10 seconds early. 6.50pm Perth time. It’s darkish as we’re taxiing out to the runway however from the home windows you’ll be able to see the bottom crew stopping to look at QF9 and take photos because it goes previous.

About seven minutes later, we’re airborne and a spherical of applause is delivered by lots of the 236 passengers and crew. Hopefully not the pilots although.

But any considered quick partying subsides as one of many two captains on board, Jeffrey Foote, tells us that we’re experiencing turbulence. Cyclone Marcus – a somewhat highly effective storm, is about 160km away, which implies bumps on and off for the following 50 minutes confinement to our seats.

Hour two

All is steady and a film is chosen: Blade Runner 2049. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford however no Rutger Hauer. Will it stay as much as the unique with traces equivalent to: “All those moment will be lost in time – like tears in the rain. Time to die”?

Joyce has arrived on the galley and the press surge ahead to have a chat. He holds courtroom wearing fancy new Qantas pyjamas and the dialog ranges from plane configurations to Trump’s commerce battle and what it would imply for the global financial system. Joyce makes an fascinating level that somebody flying in 1947 on the Australia-UK route (seven stops taking 4 days) would have paid the equal of $150,000 (£81,700 in present change charges).

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is interviewed by journalists during the flight.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is interviewed by journalists through the flight. Photograph: David Munk for the Guardian

Foote comes on the intercom to say that Cyclone Marcus is behind us and our flight path will take us over Sri Lanka, Dubai, Iran, Turkey, central Europe after which into London. Landing on time at 5.05am, he predicts.

Interviews are over and dinner is ordered.

Hour three

Lisa Norman, one other of the captains on board, returns from the combat deck. She allays fears (mine) of the airplane operating out of gas. “We could get to London and still have an hour and 40 minutes left,” she says. She then rattles off some statistics about how we’ll travel eight,032 nautical miles (9,243 miles) at a velocity of as much as .85 mach (652 mph). I slip in a silly query about concern of flying. Does she ever get scared?

“I love this. This is what I do. For me, nothing excites me more than flying an aeroplane. I absolutely love it. It’s in my blood.”

Back to Blade Runner.

Hour 4

Still watching Blade Runner and Robin Wright is questioning Gosling about his childhood. He’s speaking a few wood horse and a fireplace.

Dinner arrives. For this vegetarian, it’s mozzarella and tomato with a salad to begin, some good bread and a Goan vegetable curry for the primary course. Glasses of chardonnay, shiraz and water are foolishly left untouched for now.

The business class menu on Qantas flight QF9.

A business-class menu. Photograph: David Munk for the Guardian

Hour 5

Blade Runner, nonetheless. Harrison Ford has turned up (within the movie) nevertheless it feels a bit overlong. Temptation is to drink extra. I someway heroically resist.

After cheese and crackers have been offered, service is over and it’s time for mattress. The crew have handed out luggage with pyjamas that includes a silver, flying kangaroo on the entrance. In business you get a mattress protector and a quilt. Pressing a button turns the seat right into a mattress and crushes your cell phone when you go away it close to the mechanism.

Eye covers, earplugs after which sleep.

Hour six

Sleeping – no thought what’s going on.

Hour seven

As above.

Hour eight

As above.

Hour 9

As above.

Hour 10

As above.

Hour 11

I’ve overstayed my appointment in financial system. I have to swap seats with somebody so I can remind myself what I usually really feel like on a airplane.

The view from economy class.

The view from financial system class. Photograph: David Munk for the Guardian

I stumble alongside the aisles till I attain the very again of the airplane. Here, a small gathering of individuals are chatting about why they’re on board.

I meet a younger American, JT Genter, who works for an internet site referred to as The Points Guy, which provides recommendation to travellers on the right way to finest leverage frequent-flyer miles. JT is delighted with my supply to change my seat for his economy-class aisle quantity.

Hour 12

I’m now in seat 56D and I can see why JT was delighted to depart. I’m in a center row subsequent to a really massive man who is subsequent to a different massive man who is loud night breathing.

There are almost six hours left to our vacation spot. Our velocity is 559mph and we’re 38,000 ft over Iraq. Baghdad is to our left and I see our path takes us a couple of hundred miles over Mosul – as soon as Islamic State’s HQ.

Hour 13

It’s fairly cramped on this seat. I can’t sort this story on the laptop computer because it’s too squashed whereas the particular person in entrance is reclining so I make notes on my cellular and watch the final episode of Fargo. I someway I by no means noticed it.

Hour 14

More tv.

Hour 15

Still right here however have obtained as much as stroll round and examine the snack cabinet in the back of financial system, which is nice. It’s all lit up and filled with goodies.

Here I discover Mark Andreassen, a Perth resident. Mark is in seat 51J. He’s caught within the center and slightly squashed, he says, however he has had a couple of good conversations with folks in regards to the historic nature of the journey. He tells me why he’s on the airplane.

“You can’t be the first one to climb Everest, you can’t be the first one to the south pole but I can be the first one who did something amazing like this.”

Hour 16

Passenger Michael Smith on board Qantas flight QF9. UK.

Passenger Michael Smith. Photograph: David Munk for the Guardian

Getting close to the tip. Breakfast is coming quickly. I have a chat with Michael Smith, who runs cinemas in Perth and is a pilot who flew his flying boat across the world in 2015. He has been wired up by scientists for the flight to trace his sleep patterns, actions and meals consumption. They hope to search out methods to beat jetlag.

“I’ll be fascinated to know much I really did sleep,” he says.

Hour 17

Back in business class as breakfast has been served and pre-landing rituals are taking place (everybody has rushed to the bogs). I cross Ciobo as he waits to get modified out of his pyjamas.

Joyce comes on the intercom to congratulate the crew and requires a spherical of applause. Foote follows the applause. He says he has been receiving messages of congratulations from air-traffic-control items alongside the lengthy path to London.

“Many people have been watching this flight,” he says.

Hour 18

At 5.03am London time we contact down. It’s been 17 hours and 6 minutes within the air (in line with my iPhone) and we’re 20 seconds early in line with Foote.

A screen showing the plane’s location during the last moments of the flight.

A display displaying the airplane’s location over the last moments of the flight. Photograph: David Munk for the Guardian

Ross, the cabin supervisor, is talking on the intercom: “It gives me immense pleasure and pride to say this: welcome to the United Kingdom,” he says.

A fast overview earlier than we get off: it’s not rocket science to conclude you’re going to take pleasure in it in business class however it might be onerous to take pleasure in 17 hours in financial system. Like most flights with the primary airways, you get what you pay for.

Soon, it’s “cabin crew disarm doors and cross check”.

The doorways swing open. It’s 7C. And it’s over.

David Munk was a visitor of Qantas for the inaugural Perth to London flight

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