Wild about Travel reaches 20 000 page views!

A new record for September with my greatest readership yet and a new milestone achieved. Thanks everyone

Thursday Place Report: San Francisco in 24 hours

I started the day with a run along the waterfront near the Embaracdero with the city on one side and the Bay on the other: -outstanding! I ran 5miles (8 kilometres).

This got me ready for breakfast at the Ferry Plaza Farmers market. Held three times a week, it has an amazing range of local, fresh and often organic fruit and vegetables.

I bought the most delicious peach I have had for years, As the juice rolled down my fingers, I marvelled at the difference to the supermarket ones I buy from time to time. No comparison.

I also bought raspberries, strawberries and blackberries (the green bag in the photo is full of berries).

Listening to the music being played by the musicians around the market and watching the buzz i wandered inside the wonderfully restored ferry building. I was tempted to buy fresh buttermilk biscuits (thinks scones for Australians, New Zealanders and British people) or organic steamed pork buns but resisted. My destination was Recchiuti Confections, the best chocolate store in San Francisco according to me and yelp!). I love their Burnt Caramel Almonds. I learnt that they ship all across the United States but was disappointed to learn that their ginger chocolates no longer contain Australian ginger.

I popped across the road to Noah's Bagels on Market Street weaving my way through the outdoor craft market for a bagel with cream cheese!

Cover of "Transit Maps of the World"Cover of Transit Maps of the World

Nearby is the Municipal railway museum which for  a train geek is a must visit every time. It is small, friendly - and free. Best of all they are the nicest place to buy the Muni passes which are essential if you are planning to take  more than one a cable car because they save so much money. A cable car costs $6 and a daily pass is $14, three days is $21 and five days is $27. You can use the pass on every bus, streetcar and subway of the Muni transport system but not on the other systems that also move through San Francisco. For those I have a Clipper card which is the area's multi modal transport system. I bought three books from the Museum:
  • Railway Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden - and signed by him 
  • Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden - also signed by him
  • History of the Muni system
Yeah, I am a geek.

The streetcar (tram) outside the Museum is for the F Streetcar line  to Fishermans' wharf. I always get on there because you are more likely to get a stop as the next stop is always very busy. This line uses historical trams form all over the world. I have even ridden a Melbourne Tram in San Francisco! Today's  tram was originally from Philadelphia.

Confession: I hate Fisherman's wharf and Pier 39 don't understand why every tourist feels they have to go there! I like the sea lions that have been living there for the last 20 years or so but that's about it.

The other feature I love is Ghiradelli  Chocolate Factory. A tradition of mine is that on every trip I have a Cable Car Sundae: Rocky road, chocolate chip and chocolate ice cream with marshmallow topping, home-made hot fudge sauce and  whipped cream. It used to have a chocolate cable car but now they just have a chocolate and a cherry. They also now use corn syrup in the fudge which has spoilt that a bit.

A San Francisco cable car on the Powell & Hyde...Image via WikipediaI took my sundae out of the noisy crowded store and sat in the Maritime Park opposite gazing at the water and out across to Alcatraz. Its  a very peaceful park. Sadly, I am assuming the sundae  cancelled out my run!

A short stroll to Hyde Street and the line up for the Hyde and Powell Cable Car. This is a very popular ride and if the line is too great, I walk up a couple of stops hoping to sneak on there. Today, was fine. I flashed my Muni pass so the ride was free.  My favourite spot is to stand at the back of the car with the conductor. This is my favourite cable car line with a couple of amazing hill climbs.  I rode to the top of Russian hill and hopped off to gaze at the view across the bay. I never get tired of it. Back for the next cable car - this time grabbing a spot standing holding the handrails at the front- and down the hill to California Street where this cable car line crosses the California Street line. I have now almost got my money's worth for my $21 three day pass with $18 worth of cable car rides! and my $2 streetcar ride).

From here I walked to Grace Cathedral. I got a tourist to take a picture of me but it didn't come out! The Cathedral has an amazing rose window and an indoor and outdoor Labyrinthh that I always try to walk.

Back on the cable car, down to Grant Ave for Chinatown. The sights, smells and noise of Chinatown are great fun. I grabbed a pork bun from one of the amazing noodle shops. After it, I ate the delicious apple bought at the markets earlier.

I walked back from Chinatown to the Union Square shops. I popped into Neiman Marcus which is a beautiful store (I have yet to buy anything there!).  I noted that my favourite Borders is gone and felt a little bereft of a rainy day browsing spot. I was looking for jeans but don't find any at Ross or Old Navy that I like. The shopkeepers told me the stores are full of Australians spending their Aussie dollars that are now worth so much more!

I cross Market Street into the SOMA (South of Market). This used to be dodgy but has been revitalized extensively. One of my favourite stores, the Container Store is here and I looked at Kitchen storage items which I cannot carry with me this trip!

A short walk away is SFMOMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Great building with very enjoyable exhibits. Right now there is one on about Dieter Rams, the top designer from Braun. Its amazing how art like many of their appliances are and an exhibition full doesn't seem out of place. He developed ten principles for good design which are used by other companies including Apple.

The Contemporary Jewish Musuem is near by. They also have great exhibits but I don't get to visit them today.

From there I caught BART to the Mission District where the City's Central American population are centred. I was in search of Pupusas, my favourite El Salvadorian food.  Its a tortilla stuffed with beans or meats or cheese.

The restaurant that I have been to before for my fix was completely empty. That made me worry: has this restaurant "lost it"? When my corn chips arrive, they are burnt.  Now I was concerned. However, the pupusas I eat are perfect. The accompanying salad is fresh and delicious. The store has none of my favourite Salvadorian drink: Kolashampan but I am still happy!

There are two ice cream shops nearby but I was good. (I will go back tomorrow for some from the Ice Creamery but give Mitchells a miss!).

From there I walked to Mission Dolores Park where there were hundreds of people gathered for an outdoor showing of Top Gun. Amazing atmosphere. After that, it was off to meet some friends for a drink.

A perfect day in an awesome city!

Air New Zealand ups its stake in Ansett er Virgin Blue

Air New Zealand took its stake in Virgin Blue (owners of V Australia and Virgin Australia) to 19.9% as a result of a fairly low share prices.

The last time they took an interest in an Australian airline, it almost bankrupted Air New Zealand and the end result was that Australia's longest running domestic carrier Ansett ceased to exist.

250Image via WikipediaTen years later, Air New Zealand are hopefully wiser and Virgin are a better business. Former chief executive Rod Eddington "described Ansett publicly and internally as a great airline, but a poor business".

It makes huge sense for Air NZ to have a strong relationship with an Australian carrier. The tie ups with V mean passengers can flow into and out of the Australian and New Zealand markets and Air NZ international routes.

It also makes sense for Virgin to join Air NZ in the Star Alliance network just as Ansett was a member. They are clearly out to compete heavily with Qantas domestically.  The question is long term whats the plan for V Australia, their international arm?. They will come in under the Virgin Australia banner in 2012 but what are their plans beyond that. Flights to Phuket and South Africa are halted. Fiji is off the cards and China seems on hold. Qantas is ramping up Asian expansion. Will Virgin focus on middle east  or do the same as Qantas?

In the meantime, an ex Virgin executive has gone to Tiger.

As always, the Australasian airline scene remains interesting.

Tuesday Trip Report: 777 on Air New Zealand 777

After 43 years of flying I flew on my 777th flight.

My plane parked at LAX gate
In a previous Blog post, I was trying to decide whether to fly my 777th on an Air New Zealand or V Australia 777. I appreciated the advice from friends to try Air NZ's new 777-300 and was glad I did. I have recently blogged about V's superb business class product on the 777-300. This Air NZ flight gave me lots of opportunity for comparison.

For those who haven't been following: I flew #737 on a Southwest B737, #747 on a Qantas 747, #757 with United and #767 with Qantas. For some the number 777 represents perfection and my 777th flight was indeed close to perfect! I took 78 pictures would you believe?!

Check In: 10 out of 10
Air NZ have a dedicated Check in for Business and Gold passengers at Auckland Airport.  The beauty of this is that a lift (elevator) leads straight from the check in straight into customs, immigration and security. The time saved walking around the long way is brilliant. Worth staying gold for just for this feature! I checked in early, was the only one using the check in area and was through the whole process in just under 10 minutes!

Lounge: 10 out of 10
V Australia use Air NZ's lounge so any comparison isn't warranted. The NZ lounges continue to be superb. I enjoyed wifi, meal, snacks and a shower. I ate carefully because I wanted to save room for the on board meal!

While waiting in the lounge, I met the on board Concierge, Belinda (pictured next to me).  I have not seen this innovation on any other airline and its beyond impressive.  My previous experience suggest that the team that Air NZ have chosen for this role are all very good and Belinda was no exception. Concierges answer questions, problem solve, help develop itineraries and make life aboard more pleasant for travellers. Belinda was saying she gets a huge variety of questions – from “can I store luggage at LAX” to “where do I connect?" to "what restaurants are good in San Francisco". I introduced myself to Belinda as the plane geek flying for the 777th time on a 777. She acknowledged me telling me that she had been sent a message from reservations to that effect.

Boarding 9/10
After leaving the lounge, we had another passport and boarding pass  check. Some passengers were randomly searched. How someone can have got through check in and immigration with a wrong or false passport I don't know. It seems like overkill. Do they really think they will catch them at this point?

There was almost no line up for the priority boarding line and I zapped through it being wished a good flight by ground staff. Belinda was on hand in the lounge area and welcomed me by name which was a nice touch.

There was a small line to get on the actual 777 but it was moving quickly. There was a sign in the passageway reminding passengers to have their boarding pass ready to show in the aircraft. I have not seen that before but it is helpful especially for people who are not expecting this. I have noted there are some countries where the staff don't look at the boarding pass as you enter the aircraft. On board, I was  invited to go left into the front business class cabin.

On Board: 10 out of 10
The Air NZ 777-300 has three cabins as does V Australia. V dedicates more of their plane to Economy.

Air NZ
V Australia
Premium Economy

Air NZ
V Aust

You will see from the diagram that Air NZ have opted for the herringbone design resulting in four seats across the Business cabin as opposed to V Australia's more traditional layout with seven across.

The front cabin was about half full on this flight.  There were plenty of staff bustling around. Within seconds of putting my bags in the roomy overhead locker, a flight attendant appeared to take my jacket for hanging.
Seconds later, another approached bearing drinks. I asked for champagne.
She smiled and said:  "I can give you sparkling wine on the ground and champagne in the air. Well at least until we beat the French in the Rugby" (which they did indeed do, a few days later 37-17).

I said “oops. Forgot about the French". 

The Air NZ Business Class Seat: 9 out of 10

I sipped my drink and enjoyed my cashews as I inspected my seat.

The seat is leather 22" wide. It has a separate ottoman footrest which you can store stuff on, invite visitors to sit on when chatting to you or put your feet on. 
The seat has a 12" TV screen which could be moved into multiple angles, life jacket, a very small pocket (I felt Qantas and V Australia have a little more stowage room around the seat and I like the way QF has a slot available for a bottle of water. The Air NZ bottle didn't seem to quite fit anywhere.

Headphones were noise cancelling.

Next inspection was the all important amenities kit. Coming in a big box the kit consisted of a very colourful pair o f socks, and La Prairie brand moisturiser etc. Air NZ didn't provide a toiletries kit. I would love an airline to give me a quality clear sturdy plastic kit I can take through security anywhere in the world.

Auckland Newspapers and international  magazines were distributed. There was some disquiet from some passengers that there were no Wellington or international newspapers. 

Safety: 10 out of 10

The safety briefing was the humorous Air NZ rugby one. I always feel that Air NZ take safety seriously without officiousness and try to engage their passengers in the safety process. I did wonder what non-Kiwis would make of some of the "in-jokes" in the video briefing.

Takeoff: 9 out of 10
2130 (930pm) Takeoff out of Auckland was pretty with the city lights  spread out below. There were a few minor bumps out of Auckland but nothing dramatic. The seat-belt sign soon went off but came back on very quickly, however as we hit some turbulence. This  seemed to be the pattern for the first half of the flight. The sensation of sitting at an angle to the direction of takeoff and landing is one I have not got used to. It does feel quite odd.

Dinner: 10 out of 10
There were three choices with Business Premier for dinner:

  1.  Express option which gets a meal out very quickly 
  2.  Full meal option at the Crew's timing
  3. Meals when you wanted them
Sorry folks, I am not sitting up front to have an express soup and sandwich and I went for the works and must admit I was probably a little piggy.

  • Entree (starter for the Americans) was a cold mixed seafood dish with a choice of breads. Superb. I combined it with a Bird Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough.
  • I chose a streak for the main course. This was accompanied by a Syrah wine which was a little drier than I wanted.
  • For dessert, I chose an ice cream sundae which was delicious if not unusual. Vanilla ice-cream with popcorn and a yummy sauce. This was followed by a cheese platter. I accompanied these dishes with a lovely dessert wine which I forgot to note down.
The team turned my seat into my bed with a nice thick mattress, duvet and two pillows- duck feather and hypo allergenic. Air NZ do not appear to provide pyjamas. Qantas and V do so I wore my Qantas Pjs on this Air NZ flight!

Sleep came quickly and I reckon I got about seven hours. The bed is a little more comfortable than Qantas business class bed and about the same as V Australia's bed. Air NZ mattress is probably a little more comfortable than V Australia;s but I did feel a little strange sleeping at an angle. I must have overcome that because I slept for almost seven hours-soundly.

Snug in my bed-thank you

I must tell you about the lavatories on board (I ended up inspecting almost all of them!). Two of the three business class ones have real windows in them so you can look out at the clouds while using the facilities. The lavatory for disabled people has a mural of a bookcase in it.

I was more restrained with Breakfast having fruit, muesli and yogurt and a croissant  This is where the 777 fun really started. The crew really went out of their way to celebrate the fact it was my 777th flight.

Using ingredients on board they had made Little decorative plaques celebrating with me. Thank you.

We were right on time into a smoggy lax. We left at 930pm NZ time and landed into lax at 240pm the same day because of crossing the dateline.

The amazing Air NZ team
It was hard to fault this flight. It confirmed to me that on this sector that V Australia and Air NZ now lead business class with Qantas following. Way at the bottom on this sector is the woeful United offering. I haven't tried Delta's Business Class on this sector yet. That's for 2012!

Thank you to the Captain and the whole crew of NZ2 for a superb flight.

Next big flights? I was hoping for 787 for my 787th but that's not going to happen because the plane will start flying the week after that milestone. Instead I have A380 flights with three of the carriers I have not sampled the A380 with yet: Korean, Lufthansa and Air France. 

Below is a summary of my 777 flights and a world map showing where they have taken me. Some other Flightmemory facts:
I have flown Air New Zealand 39 times travelling 2 times around the world.
I have only flown the 777 17 times including this flight. 

See 787 handed over to ANA - LIVE

Apparently you can see the handover of the 787 from Boeing to ANA (at last) at 0900h US Pacific time Monday 26th- midday US Eastern time, 2am Sydney on the 27th and oddly 1am Tokyo on the 27th.

I would have thought an afternoon time in Seattle would have been better. It would allowed people to watch it live at a civilised hour in the Airline's home country. eg 8am Tokyo time which equals 4pm Seattle time.

Wonder why this timing?

Wild about Travel hits record audience numbers

The number of readers to this blog has been rapidly climbing which I am thrilled about. June, July and August were my three biggest months. September is shaping up to beat them. To do that I need 33 more readers every day. Love you to do one of four things please:

  1. Keep reading each of my blog posts
  2. Comment on them
  3. Tell me whats missing-what do you like reading about in my posts?
  4. Recommend to others please

Thank you for joining me in my travel adventures.

Way out Wadi Ramm (Wadi Rum)

Wadi Ramm or Wadi Rum as it is more commonly known,  is a long valley cut into sandstone and granite rock in southern Jordan about km from Amman (see my post about that amazing city).  It is one of the longest inhabited places on the planet with people living there since prehistory (at least 4500BC). The Nabateans who built Petra (see my Report on that amazing place) lived in Wadi Ramm.

T. E. Lawrence known as Lawrence of Arabia based his operations here during the period of the Arab Revolt from the Turkish Empire at the end of World War One. The 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia film was filmed there, a fact the locals are very proud of. In the 1980s one of the rock formations in Wadi Rum was named "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" after Lawrence's book though there is no direct connection between the two.

I took a tourist bus from Petra to Wadi Rum. It was very cheap.
First stop upon arrival  the Wadi Rum Visitor's Centre. There the bus was swarmed by local tour guides looking for clients. 
I had booked my tour in advance online which I think on reflection was a mistake. I could have got a place on a tour when I arrived for cheaper.
The canny tourists bargained down the guides at the Visitor Centre where as I, like most Westerners had assumed the web price was the actual price. The others on my tour paid a quarter of what I paid! Learning for next time. On the other hand, I was happy with my price. In addition, the money was going to a local family. And if you are not a fan of bargaining, then just shrug your shoulders, grit your teeth and pay!

My two day trip included several stops at key points around Wadi Ramm, a dinner under the stars and a sleep at a campfire with a Bedouin family (well the males of the family)
After the Vistors Centre is the small village of Wadi Rum. It has several concrete houses and tents and lots of camels (see right) . There is a boys' school  and a girls' school. I found a few shops selling water. (interestingly my guide included lunch and water into my tour and made the others pay for their own!). The village is also headquarters of the famous Desert Patrol founded by the British and handed over to the Jordanians.

A few minutes walk from the village lies the remains of Allat Temple originally built by the 'Ad tribe. and rebuilt by the Nabataeans (who built Petra) in the first century B.C. 

From the temple, I walked a small part of the way up the hillside of Jebel Rum  (the second highest mountain in Jordan) to "Lawrence Spring" (also known as 'Ain-Shallaleh'). The village seems to still use this water as drinking water. It tasted very pure. 

As I came close to the source of the water, I overheard some women talking. About to round the corner, I noticed over the ridge (I am tall) that they were chatting with their burqas sitting on the ground next to them. I quickly and quietly retraced my steps, then started back up again very noisily. As I came back up to the ridge, I paused on the other side to "take in the view" , dropping my water bottle onto the ground. A few moments later, the women passed me fully dressed with a quiet but polite "salaam". I am sorry that I interrupted their day but I hope I preserved their modesty. 
The Bedouin people are very conservative and tourists need to take this into account. If you are an unmarried couple travelling together, the correct answer when asked "are you married", is "yes". One couple found they could not share a bed for answering that question wrongly, even though they had lived together in Europe for eight years. 

Likewise, I was stunned (and the locals horrified) by what some tourists wear. Despite the climate, the Bedouin (men and women) cover up. Having young women trip past in high heels and tiny shorts with low cut tops will get an urgent request to "cover up" or the silent handing over of a blanket or a hissing through teeth. 
Public displays of affection by men and women got a polite "we don't do that here". 

After lunch in the village, we were away, crammed into a single four wheel drive without seat belts. Our driver who was no more than 18 told us cheerfully he had had three car accidents as he zoomed off bouncing through the sands, rocks and tracks. Thankfully we didn't have a fourth!


The sights were astoundingly beautiful. At times we were alone on the vast plains sitting in complete silence. At other times, another four wheel drive or jeep would join us. We encountered a family camped in the desert and passed herds of goats and camels being driven by young boys.  We saw rocks and oases and sand dunes.
We stopped at several tents and were offerred endless cups of sweetened black tea - very refreshing in the heat. 
There were tables of soap,  perfumes and jewellry for sale at almost every stop (bargaining expected).

Dinner that night was a delicious stew cooked over an open fire accompanied by a seemingly endless supply of pita breads.
A magical end to a magical day came with the setting of the sun in that amazing place, followed by the rising of a stunning moon amidst a star encrusted sky. Sleep came easy followed by an early morning (the Bedouin seem to rise early).

The area is not totally isolated. Cell phone coverage was very good it was amusing to watch young kids on camel back texting. The young Bedouin guys all had cassettes of Arabic music that at times, they would play at full volume.
Leaving Wadi Rum was tough. I could have stayed longer in this timeless place. 
I travelled with Seven Pillars tours run by Audeh Krayem. He was very nice and helpful. You will end up on a  tour run by one of his myriad of nephews. Just make sure you bargain first! Oh and he owes me 20 dinars which we never worked out he could get back to me.  If you claim it back from him, let me know! And say "Salaam" to him for me.

Another Jordan related post is my Trip Report on Royal Jordanian Airlines

Lufthansa names an A380 "Zurich".

On Tuesday13th September,  Lufthansa named A380 D-AIMF "Zurich", after the Swiss city which is hub for the Lufthansa owned SWISS airline.  This particular A380 was the sixth in the Lufthansa fleet and has been flying for them since April this year.

While the plane is named Zurich, there is no suggestion of it moving from its Frankfurt base to the Swiss city. Passengers will have to fly from Zurich to Frankfurt to connect with Lufthansa to its A380 destinations  (Beijing, Miami, New York,

Only a couple of weeks for my Lufthansa A380 flight, which will be my fourth A380 carrier (already flown Emirates, Qantas and Singapore)

New Names for Qantas Asia

Picture from The Age is a digitally altered plane. 
The fairfax Press (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers) are suggesting RedQ or RedQ Executive Express is emerging as the most likely name for Qantas Asia ahead of  RedSky and OneAsia.

The new 49% venture will be 49% owned by Qantas and is one part of Qantas restructuring. Alan  Joyce CEO of Qantas said that the move would create a “newer and stronger Qantas,” by tapping into the major growth that is occurring in Asia.

I hate the sound of RedQ. It doesn't sound enticing. It definitely does not sound like a Premium carrier. It sounds cheap and nasty. Perhaps Qantas discount subsidiary Jetstar could be renamed RedQ and the new airline named Jetstar. For Jetstar sounds classier than RedQ even with Executive Express tagged on the end. Will tourists fly an airline named Executive Express?

I can't think of a better name? Perhaps Offshore Airline? or Outsourced Kangaroo? to reflect the shift of Qantas services to the new cheaper version?

Exciting News Coming

I can hardly contain myself as I have a secret!

I have some very exciting news regarding this blog:  "Wild about travel"

Watch this space for more!

In the meantime, thank you for your readership and comments (more comments please!)

Stay Away from Seattle

Theres a very strange website around which called people to "Stay away from Seattle".

 Apparently September 16 is "Stay Away from Seattle Day. It is meant to  "give 'America's Best Place to Live' city a break from the influx of people moving to the area."

Tourists bring 5.5 billion dollars into Seattle every year but not everyone wants them it seems - at least one day a year.

There have been a few places in the world that I have been to where I have wondered if people actually want tourists. I have never been made to feel really unwelcome but I have wondered.
Many people say Paris is famous for not wanting tourists. My experience has been the opposite. However, I do get the sense that some Parisians get tired of sharing their marvellous city with gawking rude tourists who make no effort to really get into the la vie de Paris.

Have you ever felt unwelcome in a city?

In the meantime, Happy Keep Away from Seattle Day!

Korean A380 for Seoul-LAX

Korean Air now has four Airbus A380s as of last Thursday.

The newest A380 will undergo the usual tests and will start flying from Seoul/Incheon to Paris ( Mon, Wed, Fri) from 26 September until 29 October and to Los Angeles (every Tue, Thu, Sat) from 10 October 2011.

I plan to fly the Seoul-Lax route in November. Anyone want to join me?

Economists's Top Ten Liveable cities

Melbourne, Australia is very excited that it scored 97.5 out of 100 in the Economist's annual most liveable cites survey knocking Vancouver out of top place.

The Economist designs the rankings for  employers to use when assigning hardship allowances as part of job relocation but they have developed a life of their own with the rankings capturing the attention of people in the street and politicians.

The indexes also ignore other issues like the cost of living in those cities, sustainability, and equity and other factors. For example housing costs in Melbourne are now some of the highest in the world when then Australian dollar's strength is accounted for.

Having said that I agree with the Economist's ranking of Melbourne. It is for me the most livable city in the world taking into account its Cultural aspects, Safety, Public Transport and aesthetically pleasing street layout, buildings, parks, river and bay. I have listed my top ten cities below.

The Economist 2011 list:
  1.  Melbourne 97.5 
  2.  Vienna 97.4 
  3. Vancouver 97.3
  4. Toronto 97.2  
  5. Calgary 96.6
  6.  Sydney 96.1
  7. Helsinki 96
  8. Perth 95.9 
  9. Adelaide 95.9 
  10. Auckland 95.7
My Top Ten Liveable Cities:
  1. Melbourne, Vic, Australia - see above
  2. Adelaide, SA, Australia - a city where you are ten minutes from anything: shops, beaches, forests. A good arts scene with amazing food. The Economist said 9th place, I say second.
  3. Portland, OR, USA-  ticks all the boxes of big city facilities with small city fee; 
  4. San Francisco, CA, USA -one of the most stunning and interesting cities on the planet
  5. Reykjavik, Iceland - an unusual contendor- cool, fun and safe!
  6. Seattle, WA, USA- Scenery, culture, jobs and transport all combine to create this delight
  7. Washington, DC, USA  an amazing city apart from its astonishing crime rate
  8. Paris, France- many Parisians would disagree but there is a lot to attract one to living in the capital of France. 
  9. Wellington, New Zealand- I prefer New Zealand's capital over the Economist's choice (Auckland). A more compact and navigable city straddling stunning harbour and  hillsides with a great cultural scene
  10. New Orleans, Louisana- seriously. Like nowhere else in the world, I could easily live here- tomorrow!

Where would you most think would be a great city to live in? 

Comparing Trans Pacific Business Class

Yesterday's Trip Report covered my recent V Australia's Business Class trip between Brisbane, Australia and Los Angeles, USA. Today, I compare the various Business Class offerings of all the trans Pacific carriers. I chose a travel date of of 12th October from Sydney to LAX and travel back 19th October to find pricing. Hawaiian had the cheapest business class fares for those dates.

I have ranked the airlines from Best Business Class on the Australian -US route (V Australia) through to the worst on this sector (United). This is based on  both my experience and reviews by others. Happy to be challenged! Or have comments. What have been your long haul Business Class experiences?

Rank Airline Fare* Plane Stops Flight time Layout No of seats Seat Pitch Seat width Bed Length
1 V Australia $8,696.00 777-300 Non Stop 13:35 2-3-2 33 77” 23.5” 74”
2 Air New Zealand $8,227.00 777-300 Auckland 17:15 1-2-1 44 79.5” 22 79.5”
3 Qantas $9,099.00 A380 Non Stop 13:30 2-2-2 72 80” 21.5: 80”
4 Air Tahiti Nui $11,723.00 A340 Auckland & Tahiti 21:45 2-2-2 24 53” 21” Not lie flat
5 Air Canada $15,371.44 777-200 Vancouver 19:57 1-2-1 42 32” 20.4” lie flat
5 Air Pacific $8,191.42 747-400 Fiji 17:10 2-2 28 57” 21” Not lie flat
5 Delta $8,418.00 777-200 Non Stop 13:55 1-2-1 43 44” 20-26” 76”
5 Hawaiian  $5,115.24 767 Honolulu 19:00 2-2-2 18 42” 18.5” Not lie flat
9 United $8,426.00 747-400 Non Stop 13:28 2-4-2 & 2-2 52 77” 23.5” 78” or 74”

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Tuesday Trip Report: V Australia Business Class...Stacks up?

So my new friends are V Australia, the international arm of Virgin Australia the "second" mainline Aussie carrier (Qantas being the first). I have now flown in all three V Australia classes between Australia and Los Angeles on their beautiful Boeing 777-300ERs (I really do like V Australia!). Check out my trip report about International Premium Economy Class .
I have now flown with V Australia to LA out of all three of their Australian ports: Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. They have been consistently excellent at all of them.

Today's Trip was actually several months ago. Like this blog post, the flight was significantly delayed! The flight ended up leaving seven hours late. This was due to a V Australia 777 shredding an engine while taking off in LA. The knock on effect of one aircraft out of action had a significant effect on their operations. V made up for the delay by arranging a hotel room, meal vouchers and transportation. Their communication about the delay and options was very good unlike the first time I ever flew out of Brisbane with Virgin Blue in 2000 when the plane was delayed ten hours! (check out post)

Los Angeles
11,546 km
15:43 h
V Australia
VA 7
Boeing 777

Check in at the business line was fast, friendly and fun. A great start to a great trip. Security line and immigration using express line was very zippy.

V uses Air New Zealand's Koru Lounge at Brisbane. Air New Zealand have some of the best lounges in the world so its always great to get inside them!

On arrival at the gate, I found they had already started boarding. A flash of my Boarding pass and the V Australia staff halted the economy line and pushed me up front. Kind of embarrassing and kind of fun. My friend Andy says the best bit about flying in business is enjoying the envious look of economy passengers! (seeing I spend more of my time down the back than the front I know what that envy feels and looks like!). If he is in business he likes to get there early so that people can see him sitting up front!

On boarding the aircraft, I was invited to turn right which surprised me. I thought I would be going left. I then discovered that V Australia has five rows in Business class. The cabin is split between four rows in front of the main door and one row between that door and the Premium Economy Bar. This Row 5 was where I was spending my flight.  And it has to be the best place on the whole plane. After take off the area is screened off so that you are effectively in your own 7 passenger cabin!

V Australia's International Business class has a 2-3-2 configuration with fully horizontal flat beds that are 188 cm (6'2") long and seat pitch of 77".  This is more than double that of their economy cabin.

The welcome aboard was the best I have ever had on any business class on any airline. The welcome was thorough with a good explanation about the cabin, the seat, bed, entertainment, meals and lavatories.  Business Class have access to three lavatories - one of which is a women's only lavatory (although I was shown inside it when I got a cabin tour!). There are also the two Premium Economy toilets close to hand. Compare that to the seven available in Economy!

There is a personal workstation with laptop power, USB slot and reading light. Business Class In-Flight entertainment has a 30.7cm (12.1 inches)  touchscreen Personal TV with a Panasonic Audio and Video on demand (AVOD)  system called RED. I have discussed V's system before.

The 777 has groovy mood lighting that changes from purple to pink to orange over the trip. I love the lighting. In the middle of the night, they even have little stars twinkling overhead! The only disadvantage of it is that every picture of me was too dark so I can't show you me in my snug seat! I have seen the same lighting on Virgin America. I think Etihad have it. Anyone else?

Now dinner! One word: yum. You can order and eat at any time you want or enjoy meals at the airline's timing. I chose the airline's timing.

The serving of the meals was of the same standard as Air New Zealand and Qantas who do this superbly. One of the cute features is that the salt and pepper shakers are in the shape of the Sydney Opera House's sails!

Ice cream biscuity dessert-- very yum

After dessert, determined to switch to US time as soon as possible (one of my tricks for avoiding jetlag), I asked the staff to make my bed up while I changed into the V Australia pyjamas. Unlike Qantas, you  cannot keep the PJs and V take them back to be washed for a future flight. One friend thought the idea of sharing pyjamas was a bit gross! The amenity kit was very nice and came in an amazing mini suitcase I used to carry my laptop into a few meetings! Sleep came quickly and I slept through the night.

Breakfast was magnificent with a good range of fresh choices.

Unlike my first V Australia flight which pulled up in the middle of nowhere at LAX, this flight rolled into a gate.

We were farewelled by the amazing crew and I was genuinely sorry to leave their friendly company and the comfortable plane- even after 15hours!

My rating: 100% Yes even with the delay - 100%. They nudged ahead of Qantas and Air New Zealand*

Got an opportunity to fly V Australia? Do it! They stack up in every class! Tomorrow I compare the business class offerrings on the Pacific sector.