Post 1 of a series detailing our Australian adventure. Access the full series here.
Before yesterday I’d never been on a flight more than four hours long (nor with any non-budget airline). So it will come as no surprise that I was apprehensive about experiencing my first two long-haul flights back-to-back: the first to Abu Dhabi lasting seven hours and the next to Perth lasting 11 hours, both of them with Etihad. But minutes into the flight I was already asking where long-haul flights had been all my life.
First there was the cushion and blanket waiting for me in my seat – complimentary! Then there was the leg room – enough space for my cabin bag, feet and removed boots! And the personal entertainment system was frankly a wonder. More movies that I wanted to watch than I had time to and even games that I could play with Steve (and theoretically anyone in the plane… except the crew). It was a bit annoying that mine and Steve’s connections to the cameras mounted on the plane’s nose and underside didn’t work, but this was something I could overlook when thrashing him at Tetris.
Last but not least – especially not for me – was the food. I have heard dreadful things about airline food all my life, so admittedly my expectations weren’t high, but I was literally thrilled by what arrived in that little plastic tray. A greek salad for starter, chicken with a red pepper sauce, green veg and potato rostis for main and something called a ‘chocolate orange delice’ that turned out to be a kind of jaffa cake mousse for dessert. I couldn’t even fit in the bread, cheese (a dairylea triangle…) and crackers that came with it. All this yumminess with only the slight compromises of everything being rather homogenous in texture and having to be eaten with the tiniest, bluntest knife I’d ever seen out of plastic trays. This could be washed down with free drinks (including alcohol!), limited only by how frequently I could get the attention of a stewardess (which wasn’t all that often). The food gradually declined in yumminess from meal one to meal three, but I remained extremely happy about the whole four-courses-on-one-tray thing.
I felt as if I had become one of the humans in Wall-E: being fed a constant stream of entertainment and food while remaining completely immobile. A level of laziness and gluttony so great as to be indecent, not to mention undignified. But for those 18 hours I reveled in it.
The part where you’re supposed to sleep was less luxurious. The miserable woman behind me moaned when I reclined my chair, so I brought it back up and thus struggled to get to sleep for hours (despite the complimentary eye mask and ear plugs helping considerably). But somehow I did get to sleep eventually (about 5am Western Australian time) and afterwards remained comatose right up until Steve woke me so that I could eat the lunch that had been set in front of me.
I managed to watch Boyhood (though dozed through a chunk of his later teenage years) and Guardians of the Galaxy (not as good as I’d hoped), in addition to playing Steve at Tetris, Pong and a trivia quiz. And for hardly any of that time did I feel like I was suspended many thousand feet in the air. I’d highly recommend long-haul to those afraid of flying.
Eighteen hours of flight and two hours’ stop off in Dubai later, we touched down in Perth. Despite feeling bloated and in need of a good wash, I nevertheless felt surprisingly bright-eyed and bushy tailed considering I’d traveled half way round the world almost without moving a muscle. We were picked up from the airport by Steve’s relatives and pretty much spent the rest of the day continuing to not move while being fed. To be fair, we probably need all the relaxation we can get considering the jam-packed ‘holiday’ we have ahead.
Tomorrow, we explore Perth City and Fremantle!