Fifteen Days in Australia
A Trip to Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, and Diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea
- United Global First Class Lounges – Washington-Dulles and Los Angeles
- United Global First Class Los Angeles to Sydney
- Sydney: Days One and Two (Arrival, Walking Tour, Manly Beach, and Darling Harbour)
- Sydney: Days Three and Four (Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo, The Rocks, Bondi Beach, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, Woolloomooloo, and the Sydney Fish Market)
- New Year’s Eve at Sydney Harbour
- Virgin Australia Economy Class Sydney to Brisbane to Cairns
- An Evening in Cairns and a Flight to Lizard Island, AU
- Spirit of Freedom Live-aboard Dive Trip (4-night Coral Sea and GBR)
- Qantas Economy and Business Class Cairns to Sydney to Melbourne
- Two Days in Melbourne and the Park Hyatt Melbourne
- United Global First Class Sydney to San Francisco
After disembarking the Spirit of Freedom after four insanely great days of diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, we accompanied several of our fellow passengers to a bar in Cairns for lunch and a few drinks. Many of the crew members of the boat met us there for a great summer afternoon. When it was time to head to the airport, several of us split a cab for the short ride. I’d booked my dad in business class for these two segments, while I bit the bullet and agreed to ride back in economy. Upon check-in, the very nice Qantas check-in agent proactively changed my seat assignment to an exit-row aisle seat when she saw how tall I was – this was a very nice touch and a great way to start the trip down to Melbourne.
After passing through security, we spent some time in the Qantas Club before it was time to board for the flight. Despite Cairns being a regional airport at best, the club was extremely well equipped and certainly much nicer than pretty much any other domestic lounge run by a carrier in the US.
Qantas (QF) 927
Cairns (CNS) – Sydney (SYD)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 14D (Economy Class)
Monday, January 6
4:15 PM – 8:15PM
My dad took his seat in 1D in business class, and I kept going back to the second row of exit row seats. The plane was a fairly new B737-800 with nice, leather seats and an in-seat IFE system. Since I did have an exit row seat, I had tons of legroom — this was much appreciated, though even the standard seat pitch didn’t look all that bad.
Service on the flight was pretty fantastic. We had a light snack on-board that consisted of a decent sandwich — the flight attendant from business class even brought me back some ice cream and a drink from business class at the request of my dad — a nice touch for sure. I watched a movie on the IFE, and before I knew it, we were on final approach into Sydney. This was one of the easier flights in economy that I’d experienced, and it was certainly a better experience than my flights on Virgin Australia a few days before.
We were scheduled to have a couple of hours in Sydney before our connecting flight departed for Melbourne, but it was delayed for about an hour. No worries — we just headed to the Qantas Club in the domestic terminal to kill some time. Once again, it was very well-appointed and provided a wonderful respite from the somewhat vacant domestic terminal at that hour.
Boarding for the short hop over to Melbourne began about 45 minutes behind schedule as the flight was awaiting a connecting crew.
Qantas (QF) 497
Sydney (SYD) – Melbourne (MEL)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 4E (Business Class)
Monday, January 6
10:05 PM – 11:40PM
Since my dad enjoyed business class on the much longer between Cairns and Sydney, he offered his seat in business class to me for the shorter flight to Melbourne. I gladly accepted his offer, and was pretty thrilled to ride up front on this domestic version of the Qantas B767-300. The domestic version of this aircraft is situated with 30 business class seats — five rows of six seats. It’s a regional business class setup, with a larger, reclining seat. It wasn’t up to the standards of the regional business class product I flew last year on Cathay Pacific, but the seat was certainly better than your typical domestic first class seat in the States. Though I didn’t use it, the IFE on the B767-300 was via pre-loaded iPads. Each of these IFE systems were loaded with a ton of entertainment — movies, TV shows, music, etc. I do prefer in-seat IFE systems, but this system wasn’t that bad — especially considering there was a slot in the seat where you can hang the iPad, making it a de-facto seat-back IFE system.
The business class cabin on this evening flight was practically empty. In fact, there was only one other passenger in the business class cabin with me, and that person was seated up in row 1. There were two flight attendants working the business class cabin, so it came as no surprise that the service on-board was pretty phenomenal. The flight attendant was young and attractive, and actually sat with me for quite some time giving me some recommendations for things to do in Melbourne.
Thought the flight was listed as an hour and thirty-five minutes, in reality it was no more than a fifty-five minute flight, wheels-up to wheels-down. Despite this short flight time, there was still a legit meal service. The dish was a couscous salad with sliced, chipotle pork, with lime. It was very light, refreshing, and pretty delicious — a perfect snack for a short, late night flight.
The flight was over too quick, but after the end of a long day I was pretty good and ready to be in Melbourne.
This short little hop was a pretty ridiculously good flight, albeit a short one. I was quite happy with the domestic business class service provided by Qantas — and the economy flight was pretty impressive too.
How I booked it…
Domestically in Australia, there are three major players: Qantas, Virgin Australia, and JetStar. This left me with several options. Since Qantas is partners with both American and British Airways, I could easily redeem those miles for travel should the flight be expensive. For short-haul flights, British Airways Avios would work best, as it features a distance-based award chart that can be very advantageous — especially on flights under 651 miles. For the Cairns to Melbourne segment, I decided to use miles for a flight on Qantas. At the time, I had very modest balances of both British Airways Avios and American Airlines miles. I ultimately wanted to fly the both of us in business class, but unfortunately there was only one seat in business left on the Cairns to Sydney segment. The cheapest way to do this flight in business was with American miles, as it only ran 17,500 miles for this one-way flight in business class.
I then used British Airways Avios for another ticket on the same flights, but in economy. This came to 14,500 Avios due to the distance of Cairns – Sydney – Melbourne clocking in at two segments (10,000 + 4,500 avios). See this post for a background in the distance-based British Airway Avios program.