Baby flies the A380

We were running late. Keeping to time is very difficult with a baby and today was no different. Sacrifices have to be made and in this case it was our stomachs that were martyred to the sacred cause of travel.

Woken up to Alex singing happily in his bed, we fed him and sent him back for his morning nap, while I raced up to the local shopping centre to drop off library books and have a haircut. When I returned there were still things to pack, another feed for Alex, other small tasks that still needed to be completed before departure from the house.

Finally we packed Kita, his kennel and food, and our bags into the car, dropped our dog off with the dog-in-laws, and dropped me with the bags at the bus stop. B then returned to the house, changed Alex’s nappies and walked him back up to the bus stop in the stroller. Frightened by the vagaries of Sydney’s transport system I was continuously checking my watch.

Less than 10 minutes later we dragged our baby, bags and stroller into the bus and were on our way to Sutherland station. Incredibly the ticket machine actually accepted my proffered notes, but the indicator boards were refusing to display any information about upcoming trains. Fortunately, within 5 minutes there was a train that stopped at Wolli Creek.

From there we took the lifts down to the lower platform, and 3 minutes later were on our way to the next stop of the International Terminal. We might actually make it to check in 90 minutes prior to departure!

Then we saw the queue at the Qantas check in desks. The remnants of QF5, passengers for Qf31, our flight, and those for QF1, all lining up for their boarding passes.
We were deep into the line when I overheard that an adjacent line had been setup for QF31 passengers now that the cut-off time approached.

Somehow that second line was very slow, despite its shortness. By the time that we reached the very friendly check-in attendant there was less than an hour to go before our departure. He assured us that we were still safe (this wasn’t Tiger Airways), but should go straight to immigration.

This we did, but were again confronted by long queues. At the end of the queue we were directed to wait for a specific desk, forming another mini-queue. It was now boarding time according to our passes.

We watched as others breezed through the immigration desks, but there seemed to be a hold up at ours. Eventually the immigration officer told the blonde headed Europeans in front of us that there was something wrong with their visas, closed his gate and accompanied them to wait outside the office, thus stranding us.

Fortunately, the man in the adjacent queue to ours had seen how long that we had waited and directed us to go in front of him. This we did, the immigration officer taking care to compare a sleeping Alex in his stroller with his passport photo. Poor Alex was dragged out of his stroller to allow security to x-ray it.

Neither B nor I had eaten breakfast or lunch.

There was no chance to now. We walked straight to the gate.

A big crowd milled around, waiting. There was a delay in boarding. We were not too late.

Alex had to come out of the stroller again as I had to present it to the gate staff for loading into the aircraft. We took some photos of the whale jet A380 that we would soon board. It was Qantas’ first A380 again, the Nancy-Bird Walton, same as I flew to Singapore in June. If we had departed the next day we would have flown on Qantas’ newest A380, just delivered earlier that week.

As I was in the toilet changing Alex’s nappy I heard the announcement requesting that “First class passengers and passenger with young children should board now.” I complete the nappy change in record time and we began our walk to the double decker aircraft.

The aircraft was pleasantly empty as we made our way past the red seats and into our green section of economy class on the lower deck. It still looked fresh and clean. We sorted out toys, electronics and books from our bags and strapped ourselves in. Alex was excited and a little noisy.

I had the window seat, B the middle seat and eventually a young Asian lady sat next to us in the aisle seat. Once in flight she moved to another seat.

Last time I flew on the A380 the captain had describe the weather as “perfect for flying”. As we taxied under orange-grey evening skies the captain came over the PA to apologise for the late departure, due to a slow trip for the aircraft to the gate. He advised us to buckle up as things were pretty windy us high. Oh no!

But I wasn’t going to let it spoil the flight. Anyway, we were over the wing, the most stable region of an aircraft.

I set the seatback screens for B and I to display vision from the tail camera as we aligned ourselves towards the north for take-off. It was difficult to focus on it, as I had to entertain Alex on my lap. The take-off was smooth, and slower than a 747. Though most of our view was of the A380’s enormous wing I snapped away at what was left of the receding ground. There were some fantastic views of Sydney’s CBD and Harbour Bridge.

Soon after we had lifted off the aircraft experienced the shakes of the winds. Unlike on the flight to Japan with Alex I just ignored the turbulence rather than worried about it. Plus I was rather distracted by Alex. Our poor baby had not had a decent sleep during the day and was obviously tired.

Meanwhile, we were hungry. I told B about the self-serve snackbar and she flagged down an attendant to ask if it was open. Instead, he went back himself and brought us chocolate chip cookies and sunflower biscuits. Yum!

We were handed hot towels, and so I gave Alex a nice wipe of the head in lieu of his evening bath. He was tired, hungry and whinging. One of the male flight attendants asked what he could do to make our lives easier. We asked if they might have any teething rusks on board, but he couldn’t locate one.

An hour later the meals were served. The choices were exactly the same as on my flights. B chose the lamb, but I decided to try the ginger chicken, tofu and noodles. Alex had his own meal, two tins of pureed food and a bottle of fruit juice.

Alex was fed first, then B ate her meal and finally it was my turn. I was so hungry that I had started to feel sick and didn’t really enjoy the food.

I had ABC Kids programs showing for Alex on the screen. The airline headset didn’t fit his head, but I had purchased a cheap headset that was a better, though not perfect fit. In the end the television didn’t engage him for long and familiar John Williams film music played from my MP3 player worked better.

Alex slept fitfully. We would sing to him, tell him the Pirate Suit and Gruffalo stories continuously from memory to keep him quiet. Finally, four and a half hours into the flight he fell asleep on my lap, wrapped in the warm airline blanket, his headset on and listening to John Williams.

B got through a couple of movies, but I only just managed to squeeze in the new Star Trek film. The selections were better this time, so hopefully Alex will give me a chance to watch something on the way back. I did note that there were no Little Britain episodes screening this month. Probably a good thing not to remind Alex of “bitty”!

People in exit rows annoy me. We were right behind the exit row. Not satisfied with the huge leg room in front of them, the passenger in front of us reclined their seats to the maximum. I asked them politely not to because I had a baby on my lap, but the lady in front of me just ignored it. So I let Alex tap and kick on the hardback seat whenever he felt like it. When I accidentally reclined my seat to the full when trying to adjust it the passenger behind me complained, and I didn’t want to make them suffer (plus, with Alex blocking it, I knew that I couldn’t later reach the button to readjust it for meals). It was just like the KLM flight, only Qantas still had reasonable feet space.

The seats themselves were really comfortable and I appreciated the lumbar support.
B had the pasta supper, but I couldn’t be bothered to try to eat with Alex still fast asleep on my lap.

With an hour left on the flight Alex awoke. He was in quite a good mood after his sleep. I had to squeeze in the last 15 minutes of Star Trek while keeping him occupied.

Thirty minutes left and we began our descent into Singapore. We watched it on the tail camera, a computer game aircraft flying across a sea of lights, ships waiting to dock, cars, apartments and street lights. Then we aligned ourselves with the runway, drifted down and down and before we knew it, the jerk of landing.

We taxied past many other A380’s, owned by Singapore Airlines, as we approached our gate. Our scattered belongings were put back in their bags, then we stood up to leave. The young lady who had moved from the seat next to B couldn’t stop smiling at Alex now and I wondered why she had moved in the first place!

We chatted with some flight attendants while we waited for the door to open. The cabin crew had been so cheerful and friendly on this flight. Absolutely fantastic and the flight itself had been so much better than last time with Alex. Really impressed!

We were tired, Alex was tired and we couldn’t wait to get to the hotel. We went straight to immigration, not even stopping for a toilet break. The queues didn’t seem too long, and they were moving fairly fast. That is, until the person in front of us went forward to the official. A delay. Then the immigration official got up, closed his gate and took the person to the immigration counter. Not again!

Thankfully he returned and processed us. Our luggage emerged quickly and we exited in no time. Then we had to wait half an hour for the courtesy bus to our hotel.
The ride was under a canopy of trees lit orange by the street lights. The city was still alive at this late hour. But we couldn’t make a late night dash out for food as I did in June, because by the time we arrived at the hotel it was 2am Sydney time. Alex had fallen asleep on my lap in the minibus, but was woken up when we got out. He needed a bath because he was smelly with perspiration.

The hotel delivered a cot into our very spacious room, but settling him was difficult. He screamed and complained, but all we wanted to do was sleep ourselves. It was a relief when he finally settled, and so ended a very long day.

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