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
I awoke on Christmas morning anticipating one of my longest travel days of the year. My mom dropped my dad and I off at Tampa International Airport where we boarded our first flight of the day, a two-hour flight from Tampa to Washington-Dulles. We were seated in first class on a B737-800. The flight was quite nice and went by pretty fast. There was not a full breakfast service, but scones were served. I watched some SportsCenter and took a nap, waking up just before we landed at Dulles.
5 hours at Washington-Dulles (IAD)
Due to award availability, we were forced to spend a five-hour layover at Dulles. Because of this glut of free time, we headed over to Terminal B to spend some time in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. Since we had a same day international first class ticket, we had access to the lounge (I also have access as a Star Alliance Gold member). This lounge is without a doubt the nicest Star Alliance lounge at Dulles Airport, and is one of the better lounges in the US. We had a couple of drinks and lunch in the lounge, as Lufthansa has a decent spread that features four hot items and a variety of cold sandwiches and salads. After a couple of hours, we decided to try out the United Global First Class Lounge.
Upon checking into the Global First Class Lounge, the lounge agent informed us that we didn’t have access to the lounge since our International flight was out of LAX, and not IAD. I questioned this logic, since that’s not what the United lounge access policy says, so the lounge agent begrudgingly allowed us access to the lounge, but really acted like she was doing us some sort of favor. This rubbed us the wrong way since we were, after all flying in global first class out of LAX later that day, and were in first class on IAD-LAX later that afternoon. The lounge itself was completely empty, as my dad and I were the only two people in the lounge. There was a small food spread, which didn’t look all that appetizing. We did help ourselves to the open bar for a drink though. The lounge agent requested us to leave the lounge at 2pm since it was the end of her shift. We found this strange, but we did so anyway and went next door to the regular United Club. Upon checking into this United Club, the lounge agents here were rather bewildered as to why we weren’t using the Global First Class Lounge. We explained to them the hassle we were given upon entering the Global First Lounge, and that really upset the lounge agent who offered to escort us back to the lounge and have a word with the agent there. Since at that point we only had twenty or so minutes until boarding time, we declined, as we just didn’t want there to be a scene since this United employee was pretty bothered that we had been given a hard time. United just really needs to figure this out and preach more consistency on the education and/or enforcement of policies by their employees. This whole experience really did leave a sour taste in mouth to start our long day of travel with the airline.
Finally, it was boarding time for our flight to LAX. We were seated in seats 2A and 2C for this flight. I enjoyed a pretty decent diner of pasta, and then watched a few Anthony Bourdain videos on Sydney and Melbourne before dozing off for a nap. I must have been really tired since I didn’t wake up until the flight attendant was preparing the cabin for arrival into Los Angeles. This was actually a very nice transcontinental flight — things were improving!
LAX Global First Class Lounge
We only had about two hours at LAX before our long flight to Sydney, so we headed straight to the Global First Class Lounge and were greeted by an extremely friendly lounge agent. The offerings at the LAX Global First Class Lounge are far superior to that of Washington-Dulles. Apart from a full bar, there were several warm appetizers and snacks. We were also provided a limited menu from which we could order a small meal. We each ordered some udon noodles, which were brought out to us after about ten minutes. They were delicious, and proved to be a great little snack since unbeknownst to us, it would be more than a couple of hours before we ate again.
Overall, the LAX Global First Class Lounge was far superior to that of IAD. The employees at the LAX lounge were friendly, accommodating, and provided great service — the complete opposite of our experience at Dulles. The physical facility, while not amazing was much better than the Global First Class Lounge at Dulles. At the end of the day, I feel that United needs to vastly improve its consistency. While lack of consistency is a major weakness throughout the United brand at the present time, it was never more painfully obvious than it was given our two experiences at two of United’s “premier” lounges. Next: United Global First Class Los Angeles to Sydney