Berlin to Canberra - the even longer return journey

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Cool Cat Phil

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Wow!
I can't remember the last time I travelled on a legacy Airline in the USA or Canada.... As I've since discovered the efficient & customer focused airlines such as West Jet & South West.
Speaking for myself, If I was to travel back to the USA again, I really would think twice about travelling on AA based on the " stuff up's" you had to endure Matt.
One or two odd mistakes from AA... Fair enough, but what you had to endure takes the Cake.

Montreal is a great city & is certainly a very vibrant cosmopolitan city that leaves the ugly duckling of Toronto for dead (IMHO) but in the winter the weather makes Montreal, at times, unbearable.
But I hope you go back in the summer some day..... I know of some wicked haunts that are off the beaten track.
I also know of a walking/bike tour that I reckon will be the best one you've ever done! ( well at least for me the one I've done in Montreal tops the lot).

Anyway looking forward to hearing about your plane ride home from Dallas to Sydney on the " World's longest Route".... I sure hope that Qantas looked after you & you were able to experience a flight somewhat more enjoyable than your friends on AA would have provided :)
 

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When the seatbelt sign was turned off, one of the flight attendants suggested that I move to another block of three seats where the armrests would lift up (the armrest between 80J/K is fixed), before other passengers discovered our private cabin and decided to join us. Sure enough, over the next couple of hours most of the empty seats were snagged by other passengers but everyone had a block of three or four seats to themself.

I was able to spread out very comfortably:

image.jpg

I had a wander up to the front of economy and to the upper deck and observed that the other sections of economy were about 40% full, except for the upper deck which was almost completely full. I’m not 100% sure about first, business and premium economy but I believe there were higher loads in the premium cabins.

Although the cabin crew agreed that the load was unusually light, they did say that Qantas block 100 economy seats on QF8 due to the length of the flight. With a scheduled time of 16 hours and 55 minutes, QF8 is actually the longest non-stop flight in the world and apparently they need to restrict the load or risk not having enough fuel to get to Sydney. I believe that the number of blocked seats is seasonal and depends on the winds over the Pacific, so there may be fewer blocked seats at other times of the year. But either way, you can pretty much be sure that there will be some empty seats on this flight!

I got to know the flight attendants looking after my zone and received some of the best service I have ever had on any airline! Mark & Angie in particular were fantastic and went above & beyond to ensure I had a comfortable and enjoyable flight.

Menus were handed out and around an hour after take-off breakfast was served.

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Due to the strange timing of the flight, they swapped breakfast and supper. For breakfast I chose the hot option:

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I don’t usually drink champagne with breakfast but made an exception. ;)

We had some nice views of Texas and then Mexico as we headed west towards the Pacific Ocean.

One advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it) of the re-timing was that the entire flight was during the day so we got some great views out the window… until we reached the Pacific Ocean, anyway.

Around the border between the US and Mexico:
image.jpg

And the Mexican coastline:
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Mattg

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A few hours into the flight most of the window shades were shut and the lights were dimmed.

The length of the flight hit me about 3 and a half hours in when I looked at the map and it said there were still 12 and a half hours to go! :shock:

image.jpg

Having said that, the flight went quicker than I expected it to. Mark brought me some nicer noise-cancelling headphones and a business class amenity kit and I was able to make my block of seats into a comfortable bed and get some sleep between watching movies.

There were constant drinks runs during the flight where the crew brought around water, juice, tea, coffee and even blueberry & pomegranate cordial. The self-service snack bar at the back of the plane was great too.

About half-way through the flight some small pizzas were brought around. I was offered two. They weren't anything special but I did notice an improvement on the soggy pizzas they used to (and maybe still do) serve on the SYD-SIN run.

Apologies that these photos are quite dark, the cabin was dark when I took the photos.

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Dinner was served a few hours out of Sydney. I chose the salmon & vegetables and it was delicious for an economy meal.

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We arrived into Sydney just before sunset and had some nice views of the city on the way in.

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Despite the delay, this was one of the best flights I have ever taken. It was such a refreshing change from the coughpy service in the Americas! I have sent feedback to Qantas as I could not fault the crew. Well done, Qantas. I knew there was a reason I liked flying with you and you have successfully reminded me.

I was back in Australia but not quite home yet! I was supposed to have a connecting flight to Canberra, my final destination, however our flight had arrived after the last flight for the day. As we disembarked, misconnecting passengers were met by a team of ground staff who advised us of the accommodation Qantas would be providing and our new flights. I felt sorry for some of the passengers who had to overnight in Dallas as well the previous night. But I have to say, the delay was handled very well considering the circumstances.

Unfortunately most hotels in Sydney were full that night due to a cricket world cup game and Chinese New Year (or so we were told, anyway) so apart from a couple of lucky people who got to sleep at the Rydges at the airport, most of us were put on a bus out to the Comfort Inn in Casula. It was about 21:30 when we arrived. Dinner was provided free of charge on arrival. My room was actually great – it had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a kitchen, washing machine etc. etc. but it was totally unnecessary! All I wanted to do was get some sleep before the bus back to the airport left at 5am the next morning!


To be continued...
 

Mattg

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I was rebooked onto QF1511 to Canberra on Thursday morning.

Flight 16: QF1511 Sydney – Canberra
Boeing 717-200 | VH-YQW
Departure time – 06:50 (Actual – 07:05)
Arrival time – 07:45 (Actual – 08:05)

The bus picked us up from the hotel at 5am and dropped us at the international terminal at about 5:35. I was told to go directly to the Qantas domestic transfer area but found they didn't actually open until 6am so just took a train across to T3.

It was nice to be back in the Sydney Qantas Club where my trip began last June! After a crazy 8 months away there was just one short hop to go and I would be back at home!

I think we take for granted the quality of most Qantas Club lounges. They are far superior to most lounges in North America and Europe and in many South American airports (especially in the domestic terminals) there are no lounges at all!

I could see our 717 at parked Gate 9 from the lounge:
IMG_9913.jpg

The final flight of my trip was relatively uneventful. Our departure was delayed slightly as a passenger failed to board and their bag needed to be removed. But soon enough we began the long taxi to 34R and took off, turning and heading out over the ocean.

The cheerful flight attendants served everyone a slice of banana bread and a drink for breakfast. Although it was announced that iPad entertainment was available on the flight, there weren’t any iPads in the seat pockets. I’m sure I could have had one if I asked but with a flight time of 28 minutes I hardly saw the point.

We landed in Canberra twenty minutes late and the CSM “sincerely apologised” for the delay and any inconvenience it may cause. Wow… I never once got an apology from American (or TAM for that matter) and some of those delays were way over 20 minutes!

And with that I was finally back home, just over 22 hours later than planned!
 

Mattg

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What a trip it has been. The past 15 months have been without a doubt the best time of my life so far! During my gap year I have flown around the world twice, visited 99 cities in 31 countries and 6 continents, lived in Germany for seven months and learnt so, so much. I have had to do some work (I pay for all of my travel myself), and in fact there have been a couple of weeks when I have done nothing but work, but most of the time I have been travelling, having fun and just enjoying life!

Sadly my gap year has now come to an end! This week I start university, but not in Canberra. I have moved to Sydney where I am attending UNSW.

I have just updated my profile accordingly. :)

My mind is still all over the place and I don’t really feel like I am back in Australia, to be honest. The final three weeks of my trip were some of the craziest three weeks of travelling I have ever done and to be honest it was a bit more exhausting than I expected. But you know what, I had a blast and would totally do it all over again!

It's hard to summarise all of the things I learnt over the past 15 months, but I want to share with you a few of those things in no particular order:
  • Don't ever take for granted how lucky you are to live in a first world country where you can afford to travel. I met so many people all around the world that genuinely can't afford to travel even though they want to so badly.
  • Make an effort to learn another language! You will get a lot more out of a country if you can speak the local language and you will almost certainly be respected for making the effort.
  • Don't judge people who don't speak perfect English. They probably speak it as a second or third language and have made a genuine effort to try to learn English. Working in Germany, I did occasionally make mistakes and at times had trouble making myself understood. It was actually very embarrassing for me.
  • It's okay to leave your comfort zone! When I moved to Germany I had no job or even a place to live. It was a scary leap of faith but ended up being well and truly worth it!
  • Hard work can get you anywhere you want to go. I got my first job when I was nine and had been saving up to travel around the world since I was fourteen. There is no secret to this - I just set myself a goal that I wanted to travel when I finished school and by working hard I made it happen!
  • Some of the best travel experiences are ones shared with others.
  • Don't worry about things you have no control over. You are better off focusing your attention on things you can change.

I’ll leave you with a summary of my travels since leaving Berlin, as well as my travels over the whole gap year:

The return journey:
gcmap TXL-CBR.jpg

And the whole year:
gcmap RTWx2.jpg

Happy to answer any questions. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed my trip report and thanks for coming along for the ride!

Oh, and I’ll let you all know if I do ever hear back from TAM about that refund, but I’m not holding my breath!
 
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Demon_fan

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Well done Matt.

Im sure others will agree but your two TR's over the last 12 months are easily up there with the best TR's this site has seen (not that it's a competition).

I don't have a lot to add, but as a complete stranger I have loved reading about your travels. I remember reading about your times in Berlin (destination guide) and was jealous and really wanted to go back. As luck would have it, I'm back there in May.

Anyway, well done again on a great report.
 

drron

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A masterpiece Matt.You certainly have learnt the important things in life-it isn't a dress rehearsal.
All the best for your studies and for lots of travel in the future.
 

Mattg

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Thanks so much everyone for your kind words!

Well done Matt.

Im sure others will agree but your two TR's over the last 12 months are easily up there with the best TR's this site has seen (not that it's a competition).

I don't have a lot to add, but as a complete stranger I have loved reading about your travels. I remember reading about your times in Berlin (destination guide) and was jealous and really wanted to go back. As luck would have it, I'm back there in May.

Anyway, well done again on a great report.

I'm thrilled you are heading back to Berlin and to be honest I'm slightly jealous myself that you will be there in May! I really miss that place!

Have a coffee at Silo, a pork knuckle at Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt, a coughtail at Hannibal in Friedrichshain and/or a beer at Madame Claude's for me! :)
 

sjd

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Great trip report Mattg and well done on throwing yourself out of your comfort zone so often. All the best with your studies.
 
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JessicaTam

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Welcome home Mattg. You have had quite the adventures. I look forward to catching up at a meet sometime and hearing all about the things that never made it to print! ;)
 

Demon_fan

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Thanks so much everyone for your kind words!



I'm thrilled you are heading back to Berlin and to be honest I'm slightly jealous myself that you will be there in May! I really miss that place!

Have a coffee at Silo, a pork knuckle at Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt, a coughtail at Hannibal in Friedrichshain and/or a beer at Madame Claude's for me! :)

I will do my best!!! Only there for 3 nights (like last time), but nothing beats some advice from a local!

cheers
 

Mattg

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I will do my best!!! Only there for 3 nights (like last time), but nothing beats some advice from a local!

cheers

Can I give one more piece of advice? Stay for more than 3 nights! :p

Seriously, I hope you love Berlin as much as I did. And please make an effort to see some of the districts outside the city centre. Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg in particular are great places to explore!
 

Mattg

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Well, I got an email out of the blue this morning from American Airlines. I sent off a complaint outlining my many grievances a couple of weeks ago and actually got a response today. They apologised for "disappointing me" and credited my AAdvantage account with 7.5K miles. I specifically asked for a cash refund as compensation and not a voucher as I don't plan to fly AA again in the near future. I guess that at least miles aren't a voucher, and they're better than nothing. I will be using them to fly on QF. ;)

However they "respectfully declined" to provide a refund for the baggage fee Air Canada charged me in Montreal after I was bumped off a super-delayed AA flight, on the grounds that "once your ticket is endorsed to the other airline, all their associated procedures and polices apply to your travel."
 

marki

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Mattg just finished reading your trip report a bit late but worth it thanks for your unique insights
 

hutch

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Mattg just finished reading your trip report a bit late but worth it thanks for your unique insights

Just read through this TR. Great reading! Looking forward to following your Berlin recommendations later this year.

It's a shame you're now in Sydney, but I'll try and take up the Canberra representation on AFF.
 
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