Wednesday, December 5

Flying into Summer

Summer is off to a roaring start in Sydney.  The first official days of Summer were marked by a brief, but searing heat wave.  Temperatures in the city’s Western Suburbs soared to a scorching 39°C, while on the coast, the mercury hovered in the slightly more merciful low 30s. As luck would have it, I’d chosen Friday to schedule a series of business meetings. As a result, it became a feat of true endurance, wandering the CBD’s streets in a suit and tie.

Yesterday I caught up with friends who’ve recently relocated from the USA.  We met for lunch in the International Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay.  The harbour looked spectacular.  The Opera House literally sparked in the sunshine, creating the perfect backdrop during lunch.  Days like this remind me why I wanted to be back in Sydney.

Returning to Australia has also seen me clock up a few new experiences.  As I mentioned in my last post, I flew to Melbourne last month for a business engagement. I decided to book my flights with Virgin Australia. This was the first time I’d flown the airline since its launch more than 12 years ago.  My decision was prompted in part by Virgin Australia’s offer last year to match my Qantas frequent flyer status in its own loyalty program.

This let me try out the airline’s lounge, priority check-in and boarding benefits and complimentary luggage allowance.  The verdict?  Check-in was seamless.  The lounge in Sydney was a little lackluster.  Melbourne’s lounge was much better.  However, neither was on par with the Qantas Business Lounge.  However, the real delight was the aircraft I flew. 

I found myself flying south on one of Virgin’s new Boeing 737-800 airplanes.  The Boeing Sky Interior is simply gorgeous; artfully curving panels, backlit by a warm, iridescent glow. The interior is beautifully complimented by translucent bulkheads Virgin’s installed between business class and the rest of the cabin.  The cabin crew was also wonderfully attentive.  Sorry Qantas.  Virgin’s onboard experience won hands down.

I also flew Air New Zealand across the Tasman for the first time in almost a decade.  This was also an eye-opener.  The interior was clean and new, with an impressive seat-back inflight entertainment centre.  I was also impressed that staff knew I was a Gold Status member with Virgin. Best of all, I got to experience the airline’s Lord of the Rings inspired safety video. I’d already seen it on YouTube, but it’s never the same when you're sitting in a plane on the runway.  Air New Zealand is also giving Qantas a run for its money.

Finally, while in transit at Wellington Airport I got to see its latest tribute to the Hobbit trilogy.  The first installment received a world premier red carpet launch in Wellington last week. The airport's retail food court has been transformed into a super-sized underwater diorama.  A giant Golum is depicted plunging his head into the terminal, reaching for a quick marine snack.

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