B712 VH-YQW “Tassie Devil”
Boarding: 1645 Gate 13 Seats 3E/F (Business)
Takeoff: 1714 to North
Landing: 1754 from North
Back in Business!
The first flight of eight: Canberra to Tehran via Sydney and Dubai, down to Shiraz, tour bus back to Tehran and home via Dubai, Singapore and Melbourne. One in Economy, two in First, the rest in Business.
You’d think after so many long trips I’d be blase about another, but no, I’ve been counting down the days to this one for months now.
Our plane, when our flight is called, is a Boeing 717, the latest incarnation of the venerable Sixties-born DC-9. A slightly narrower fuselage than the Boeing 737, it seats five across in Economy, four in Business. Used for shorter routes, it is comfortable enough at the back of the bus if seated on the left, where lucky or experienced travellers sit two abreast rather than three.
Seats at the pointy end
Business has leather seats with more space. And better food, of course, though on the short hop to Sydney, forty minutes on this flight, there is barely time for the crew to serve a light meal. Sometimes, if the winds are fair and Air Traffic Control smiles, the flight takes thirty minutes and the crew have to scramble to get everything done.
Normally, I wouldn’t bother with Business Class for the flight to Sydney. The extra cost is hard to justify, and even the delights of domestic bubbly in the lounge are a frill.
But I booked this trip as a return flight from Canberra and on the overall cost, the difference between Economy and Business on this leg is negligible. Might as well enjoy!
Qantas seems to have “enhanced” their preflight drinks. In the old days, passengers in the Business cabin would be offered a choice of water, juice, or sparkling wine before takeoff. The wine option has vanished, and I celebrate with fruit juice, as the plane is pushed back from the terminal in a drizzle.
In-flight entertainment has moved to the “bring your own screen” option. There is an arrangement on the seatbacks for a tablet to be hung up for watching movies or whatever. Qantas used to supply the tablets, but this has also been enhanced out of existence.
I settle for the Sudoku in the paper. I’m making solid progress on the “Advanced” puzzle when the seatbelt sign goes off and the aisle is full of cabin crew performing the Food Service Olympics to get everyone served with a meal, a drink, and a cuppa before the captain orders the cabin prepared for landing.
A meal full of taste
The meal is small – not that anyone would have time to enjoy, let alone consume, a full meal – and beautifully presented. Wine is offered and I accept the white.
Smoked salmon with green soybeans and broccoli. My wife consumes hers in a flash, but I chew on the vegies for a while. I leave a tiny broccoli tree on the plate and she looks accusingly at me. “You didn’t eat your vegetables!”
I’m still chewing on the beans. They are okay, but my mouth doesn’t welcome them the same way it did the salmon. I could go for more of that. I scavenge up the last few morsels of fish, leaving the broccoli. The flight attendant scoops my plate away before I can make a final decision.
“She was too quick for me,” I tell my wife, who rolls her eyes.
I return to the Sudoku. It has turned into a fiendishly difficult one, I get all the way to the final two squares before discovering I have made an earlier error, and it won’t go.
We dive under the Sydney clouds in time for an evening view of the upper harbour before plonking down at Kingsford-Smith, smiling our way down the jetway and off to baggage claim. Step One on the road to Tehran!