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Amsterdam to Melbourne (via Brazil)

Mattg

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My time in The Netherlands came to an end last month and I've come back to Australia (specifically, to Melbourne) for a little while.

I'll be returning to Europe later in the year, and wanted to use up some of my Qantas points, so booked a 280k Oneworld Award that starts & finishes in Europe. I've now completed the first half of the Oneworld Award and will pick up the rest of it in a few months (with several interesting stops along the way). I'm happy to have booked this award before Qantas puts up the price in September!

Some friends of mine in Belo Horizonte recently had twins, and I wanted to visit them so I stopped off in Brazil for a week on the way back to Australia. Conveniently, this was just a few weeks after Brazil removed the visa requirement for Australians.

As there was no award availability on the date I needed out of Amsterdam, I departed Europe from Hamburg instead. And I finished off this part of the trip in Canberra, before heading down to Melbourne separately. Therefore, the itinerary looked like this:

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I travelled from Amsterdam to Hamburg by train, so not much to report there. On my last day in Germany, I did a day trip from Hamburg to the nearby town of Lübeck which was quite nice.

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After that, it was off to the airport.
 

Mattg

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IB3269 Hamburg 19:50 - Madrid 22:45
Airbus A320
Business class


The first leg of this trip was to Sao Paulo, flying with Iberia via Madrid.

At Hamburg Airport, Iberia uses the "Airport Lounge" which is a Priority Pass lounge operated by the airport, located upstairs next to the Emirates lounge. For what it was, this lounge was surprisingly good with lots of seating, a reasonable selection of drinks, work stations, runway views and showers. There were also separate rooms for smoking and sleeping. It's directly on top of the airport concourse though and is fully open, so very noisy.

As is usually the case within Europe, my "business class" seat on Iberia was just a regular economy seat with the middle seat blocked. The seat itself is actually quite comfortable for what it is - I think it's the same design as the British Airways A320 seat. I was in row 1, which had restricted legroom due to the bulkhead in front - I probably would choose the row behind next time.

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The hard product on this flight was predictably underwhelming, but honestly, the soft product wasn't much better. This was the dinner menu:

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I chose the burger which OK, although it didn't exactly scream "premium". The salad was bland and the bread was tasteless, but at least it was served warm. I asked the flight attendant what wine he recommended and he suggested the Spanish rioja. I'm sorry to say that it was served way too cold and tasted cheap.

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The crew served the meals promptly and were friendly enough, but then disappeared to the galley where they gossiped for the remainder of the flight. There were only 50 passegners on the whole flight, so perhaps they just had nothing to do. But when I used the bathroom later in the flight, there was faeces on the floor. This is probably the kind of thing the crew should have noticed - it's not as though they were busy!

There was no in-flight entertainment or wifi for this 2.5 hour flight, but there were power outlets.

The flight was fine, considering I had booked using points. But there is no way I would pay money for Iberia's Euro-business experience. It's just not worth it.

Thankfully, we did arrive on time in Madrid. Which was just as well, as I had a 1:10 connection and had to change from Terminal 4 to Terminal 4S - a process which took 25 minutes.

I spent around 5 minutes in the very nice Iberia lounge before my next flight started boarding. The non-Schengen lounge is huge, with a good buffet selection and even a wine & spirits bar.

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Mattg

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IB6827 Madrid 23:55 - Sao Paulo 05:45 (+1 day)
Airbus A340-600
Business class


Business class on this aircraft had a staggered 1-2-1 layout, and the seat was spacious and comfortable. I was in one of the even-numbered window seats which is directly beside the window and found it private enough.

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The flight was supposed to leave at 11.55pm. Around midnight, the flight attendants started serving pre-departure champagne while we waited for late connecting passengers. We ended up leaving half an hour late.

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Meals were served quickly after takeoff. This time, I found the quality of the food very good. After dinner, a choice of desserts and sweet wines were offered.

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As with everything about the A340-600, the Business cabin is large - to the point that you almost feel like you're on an assembly line. The service was alright but there was a definite language barrier. You could tell that the crew were engaging a lot more with the Spanish speakers. A couple of the attendants continued addressing me in Spanish throughout the whole flight, even though I'd been speaking to them earlier in English.

After dinner, I reclined my seat into lie-flat mode. A blanket and pillow was provided, as were amenity kits.

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The bed was comfortable enough that I was able to sleep pretty well. I woke up while they were serving breakfast about an hour before landing.

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Breakfast was served cold. As there was a lot of turbulence in the later part of the flight, no tea or coffee was served with breakfast.

There was wifi available on this aircraft, but it was expensive. Business class passengers were given a voucher for 4MB (!) of complimentary internet... my allowance ran out within a minute.

We made up time during the flight and arrived pretty much at 5.45am. I had a comfortable flight and was able to sleep well enough to enjoy a full day ahead in Sao Paulo. The only problem with arriving at 5.45am in GRU is that a heap of other international flights arrive just before then. The queues for immigration and customs were huge and it took 2 hours to get out of the shopping mall airport!

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OZDUCK

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We went in for cake and coffee - it was great! :D
We had something to drink and eat there as well. My wife actually likes marzipan more than me and was in her element. However, I was impressed by the almost endless variety of marzipan creations. Lübeck as a whole was great.

Anyway, please keep the good photos in the TR coming.
 

Mattg

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I had a nice couple of days exploring the vast metropolis that is Sao Paulo. As always, lots of street art and delicious food to be found.

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I stayed at Aparthotel Adagio Barra Funda and was happy with the property and the location. This was the view from my balcony:

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Mattg

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G31324 Sao Paulo 17:35 - Belo Horizonte 18:50
Boeing 737-800
Economy class


I had originally booked a flight from GRU to CNF with Avianca Brasil, but they have since gone bankrupt. So I booked a new ticket on GOL Airlines for 3,000 Etihad Guest miles and $12 in taxes. After booking I paid a little extra to add a bag and upgrade to Economy Comfort, which basically gets you an extra legroom seat in rows 1-5, priority check-in and priority boarding. For the extra ~$10, Economy Comfort was worth it.

GOL uses an interesting system for priority boarding. There are basically 4 groups:
1. Passengers with disabilities/young children/requiring assistance
2. Economy Comfort/status passengers
3. Economy passengers without hand luggage
4. Economy passengers with hand luggage

The system seemed to work pretty well and boarding was efficient, although there were a surprisingly large number of passengers in group 1.

The seats with the best legroom on GOL's 737-800 would be 1D-F. These seats had pretty much unlimited room and even more than 1A-C. My seat was in row 3 which also had good legroom.

When we boarded, all of the window shades were down so the cabin was dark. The shades remained closed for the entire flight, including takeoff and landing.

We were served a small bag of crackers and a choice of water, coke or fanta for free. Additional snacks, beer and coffee were available for purchase. Wifi was available for a fee.

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Most announcements were made only in Portuguese, but a couple were made in rather poor English including the safety instructions. One of the flight attendants could speak English.

The flight ran slightly early and I was happy with the service. Based on my experience, I would call GOL a good low-cost airline.
 

Mattg

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I had a really nice week in Belo Horizonte. This was my fourth visit so I didn’t do a whole lot of sightseeing, but we did do an overnight trip to Santa Bárbara, a charming little colonial town in Minas Gerais.

A few pics from Belo Horizonte:

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Santa Bárbara:

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Mattg

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On the way back from Santa Bárbara we stopped off at another nice historic town, Catas Altas.

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Also nearby was Santuário do Caraça, a peaceful old monastery situated in the mountains.

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There were also a range of hikes you could do in the area.

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Mattg

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AD2725 Belo Horizonte 17:15 - Sao Paulo 18:35
Airbus A320
Economy class


My flight back to Guarulhos Airport was with Azul. I booked this airline on the recommendation of @ajca and was not disappointed, other than when they changed my 1pm E190 flight to a 5pm A320 flight. At least they informed me of the change several weeks in advance.

Azul happens to be a United MileagePlus partner, so I was able to use priority check-in and boarding (due to my United status), and earn United miles for the flight. This time there were 5 boarding groups... I was in group 1, which was the third group to board (go figure).

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I was impressed with Azul's A320 product. The interior was modern and there were seatback IFE screens at every seat. I watched live TV for the whole flight; TV shows and movies were also available.

I had paid around $15 to upgrade to Espaço+, which like on GOL means getting an extra legroom seat in the first 5 rows. During the flight I was served a complimentary drink and offered a choice of snacks from a basket of crisps, cookies, peanuts and gummibears.

English is not widely spoken in Brazil and on this flight, again, only one flight attendant could speak English. All announcements were made in Portuguese only.

I only had one short night in Sao Paulo so stayed close to the airport this time. I had booked at Hotel Matiz, which (I was surprised to learn upon arrival) no longer exists. The building has been rebranded as Hampton by Hilton Guarulhos Airport. Luckily for me, they still honoured my Hotel Matiz booking. I chose this hotel because it was one of the only airport hotels with a complimentary airport shuttle that runs during the night. This was necessary as I was back at the airport at 4.30am the following morning.
 

Mattg

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Check-in was uneventful and I made it to the LATAM Airlines lounge at 5am the next morning. At this time on a Sunday morning, it was very empty. I do like the LATAM lounge at GRU; it has a reasonable selection of food and drinks, great showers and different sections for sleeping, watching TV, etc.

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LA8026 Sao Paulo 06:45 - Santiago 10:10
Boeing 767-300
Business class


Boarding for this flight started over an hour before the scheduled departure time. When I got to the gate 52 minutes before departure, most passengers were already on the plane and the LATAM staff were frantically running through the terminal shouting at Santiago-bound passengers to hurry up as the flight was about to close. How bizarre. 🤷‍♂️

This flight was completely full, and in fact I saw several business class passengers being downgraded at check-in. Apparently LATAM had cancelled a flight to SCL the previous night and rebooked as many people as they could on this service.

On the Boeing 767, LATAM has a 2-2-2 Business class layout. The seats are lie-flat and there is plenty of room, so I was happy with the product for this 4-hour flight. Pillows, blankets and a mattress cover were provided, so I was comfortable. An amenity kit was also provided, which was disappointingly light on actual amenities.

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Alessandra was the friendly flight attendant looking after our section. She introduced herself before takeoff and offered a pre-departure water or orange juice.

We took off as the sun was rising over Sao Paulo, marking the start of a very long day of travel for me.

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Hot towels were served after take-off, followed by breakfast. This was the menu:

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My meal was very ordinary - bland and dry.

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The range of in-flight entertainment content was pretty good. After finishing a movie we were about an hour out from Santiago and the crew were preparing the cabin for landing. The seatbelt sign came on early due to anticipated turbulence over the Andes as we approached Santiago. There was indeed strong turbulence, but the views were incredible!

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Mattg

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I had a pleasant few hours in the LATAM lounge at Santiago while waiting for QF28 to board.

QF28 Santiago 13:30 - Sydney 17:50 (+1 day)
Boeing 747-400ER
Business class


Ever since I was a small child, I've wanted to fly on the upper deck of a Boeing 747, the queen of the skies. On this flight, I finally got to do it and I was more than a little excited! With the impending retirement of most Boeing 747s (and today's announcement that Qantas will switch its Santiago route to Boeing 787s), I'm glad I didn't leave it much longer! 😲

It had been 8 months since I was last in Australia, so it was nice to step on board a Qantas aircraft and be greeted by Nina and Joseph, the very friendly cabin crew looking after the 18 passengers on the upper deck.

I was seated in 14A, an exit row seat by the window. This was a great seat as there was tons of room, making it easy to get out even when the passenger in the aisle seat was reclined. There were also some very large storage bins by the windows on the upper deck.

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Pyjamas, amenity kits and menus were handed out before takeoff. Pre-departure champagne or water and hot towels were also offered.

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By 13:25, everyone was on board and the captain welcomed us to the flight. He informed us that today we'd be flying as far as 68 degrees south, so we should get some views of the Antarctic icebergs.

We departed punctually and had some great views off the coast of South America for the first part of the flight.

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About an hour into the flight, drinks and bags of pretzels & nuts were served. This was followed by lunch.

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Here is the menu:

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The empanadas starter was nice, although I can't say I was a fan of Neil Perry's garden trimmings salad which was awful.

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My main course, the salmon, was good.

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Mattg

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This was followed by a panna cotta dessert, which was served with chocolates.

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After lunch I decided to have a quick nap and reclined my seat into the lie-flat position. A mattress cover, pillow and blanket were provided and, although the SkyBed seats do have a bit of a droop in the middle, I found it very comfortable. I must have been tired because when I woke up from my snooze, we were already 7 hours into the flight! I peaked out the window and noticed that, sure enough, we were flying over the icebergs of Antarctica. Being the middle of winter, it was quite dark outside so the views weren't quite as spectacular as those posted in this thread.

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Mid-way through the flight, Simon the CSM announced the Wimbledon men's tennis final and Cricket World Cup results over the PA.

Dinner was served about 3 hours before landing. I went for the South American fish, and it was really delicious.

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This was followed by a cheese plate and tea.

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We arrived in Sydney 40 minutes early, just as the sun was setting.

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This was a really nice flight. I know many of us criticise Qantas from time to time, but this time they got everything right. The service was genuinely good and I had a pleasant, comfortable flight. Nina, if you happen to be reading this, thanks for a great flight!

QF1499 Sydney 20:15 - Canberra 21:10
Dash 8 Q400
Economy class


My final flight for that day was a short Dash 8 hop to Canberra, so I made my way over to the domestic terminal. By this point I was pretty tired so the extra few hours it took to reach Canberra really dragged on. At least I was allowed into the business lounge due to my inbound flight being in business class (which isn't available on the Dash 8).

We boarded on time and I was looking forward to getting home, when the pilot announced there was a mechanical problem and an engineer would be coming to look at the aircraft. Then another engineer came. And then two more. Thankfully they were able to fix it after 40 minutes or so, and I was on my way home. Other than that, the flight was uneventful.

That concludes my trip from Europe back to Australia! Stayed tuned for part two of my Oneworld Award in November ;)
 

ellen10

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Thanks for your trip report. I enjoyed reading it and viewing the photos.
I have an IB flight from Venice to Madrid in J so now I know what to expect. I haven't been able to select my seats but I won't worry about it, it is only a 2.5 hour flight.
Thanks again
 

OZDUCK

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Thanks very much for your TR. It looked like an interesting way to come home.
 

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