Setting out on a journey with the expectation that it's going to be long and hard is a my least favourite way to start a holiday. However, the world is full of surprises and Virgin Australia's economy flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles proved to me that not all long haul flights are special sort of hell.
Instead I arrived at my first destination after over 13 hours in the back end of the plane feeling able to tackle another flight leg without serious damage.
Researching for the best flight for my one week trip to New York, I was looking for a price/time combination which would give me the quickest flight at a reasonable cost. Virgin Australia's route won out with their Brisbane flight that departed at 11.20am and arrived at Los Angeles at 6.30am.
I didn't board with high expectations but straight away, I was also impressed that there was already a bottle of water waiting for me in my seat pocket. On the seat was a collection of goodies designed to make the flight more comfortable - eye mask, earphones, blanket and pillow.
Inflight entertainment options were good and the seat back screen was easy to operate. I would request more movie options as on a long haul flight its easy to burn through the acceptable movies quickly. When I start watching Disney films I'm hoping the end of the flight is near.
The food was reasonable, even good for an economy airline flight, with only one minor exception.
|No complaints about this economy meal on my Virgin flight.|
|Nothing nice about this meal.|
The flight over was comfortable but the journey back was even better on a newer Boeing 777-300ER jet which had more spacious lavatories. It's only a small thing, but being able to move around in the lav without using yoga poses is a happy moment on a long flight.
Unfortunately the Virgin America flight from Los Angeles to New York brought everything undone. At five hours duration this flight was about a third of the long leg but it was a shattering experience. A full flight, no room to move in the seat, little opportunity to recline and sleep were just the start of the differences. It was also goodbye free entertainment and food replaced with a pay-as-you-fly system. Definitely a cattle class experience and a big difference between an international and domestic flight. Five hours of no fun that felt like twice as long. I thought it would be better on the way back as we would be fresh to flying but it was even worse.
Would I do it all again the same way? Yes, because flying with the one airline streamlines the process of moving bags and also gives a little assurance that should you miss a connecting flight because of an airline problem, they will help you out.
How to make the best of it? A sleeping tablet was my partner's choice and he got off the New York LA flight feeling so chipper that he found himself in duty free spending up. All I could do was sit on a lounge for two hours waiting to board.
My secret weapon for long haul flights is 1Above. It's a flight drink that you make by putting a fizzy tablet in water. Designed to ensure you don't become dehydrated, it also helps avoid blood clots and swollen ankles. My ankles definitely usually swell up and I had no problems with swelling on these flights.
The Newark Liberty International Airport at New York and Los Angeles Terminal 3 make Brisbane's domestic airport look like a dream. At both you'll enjoy long queues for everything from food to security and lots of unhappy people.
Congratulations to those behind the revamp at Brisbane's International Airport. It's a people friendly space with lots of wood and greenery, plenty of charging stations and work areas, a giant chess game and a video screen for children.
Disclaimer: Ed+bK's flights were part of a Royal Caribbean trip to New York.