Auckland AKL Qantas San Francisco SFO Sydney SYD

Qantas Economy San Francisco-Sydney-Auckland hurtling through space and time

a plane on the runway

Long distance air travel still blows my mind in a physical relativity space and time sort of way. I boarded a Qantas 747 in San Francisco on Friday evening and after 14 hours in flight across the Pacific Ocean, I ate breakfast in Sydney Airport on Sunday morning.

And you may think pushing the clock back an hour this morning in the USA for daylight savings screws up your biological clock. I am sitting in an Auckland, New Zealand hotel room writing at 6:30am Monday morning, while my wife is probably still sleeping in bed right now at 9:30am Sunday morning in California.

Auckland Parnell

Auckland, New Zealand hotel room view

Sorry Sir, No Qantas passengers are allowed in our SFO lounge this evening

One of the most useful benefits as an American Airlines Executive Platinum member is the opportunity to use Oneworld Partner airline airport lounges on international flights. The initial part of my travel plan went poorly when I arrived at San Francisco SFO at 3pm Friday afternoon for an 11:25pm departure. I had planned to hang out in the international lounges at SFO working for several hours.

What I had not anticipated was the inability to check in for my flight and get a boarding pass until 7:45pm, the time Qantas is scheduled to open their SFO ticket counters. I had no way to get through security to access the SFO international terminal lounges.

SFO Dining is not for the budget traveler

San Francisco Airport has promoted its local restaurant dining options for years. That is a nice option, but in my experience, SFO is one of the most expensive airports in the USA to buy food. There are no fast-food places to eat and most dining options are a minimum $10 per person meal, without adding any kind of drink.

For $9.86 I had a delicious vegetable udon soup and I drank water. Reasonable price for one person dining, but kind of expensive when it takes $50+ for a family of four to eat a meal with any kind of beverage at SFO while waiting for a flight.

Looks like the new international terminal food court remodel is going to include a Wendy’s. While I am not a proponent of unhealthy fast food, at least this may give flyers at SFO an option to buy something to eat for $5.

Hooray, Qantas check-in opens 30 minutes early

At 7pm I was first in line at the Qantas Business Class counter. I watched staff set up the terminals for the Sydney flight. Fortunately I was checked in early at 7:15pm, however, my experience at SFO is I never get a TSA pre-check clearance as a Global Entry member when I am on international flights. I spent the next 30 minutes in line with the masses to clear security.

Past security I headed to Oneworld airline partner Cathay Pacific’s airport lounge. The desk agent informed me their flight would be full and no Qantas passengers were being admitted. I looked around the lounge I have visited several times before when flying British Airways or American Airlines international flights. There were no people to be seen in the dozens of empty seats on the entrance portion of the CX lounge. She directed me to the Qantas Lounge downstairs.

There were no signs for a Qantas lounge when I checked the airline lounges board past the security checkpoint. Back downstairs, I saw the Qantas sign outside the Air France/KLM lounge. Turns out Qantas rents space in the evening for its Sydney passengers.

The lounge was crowded. The self-serve bar had a selection of wines and distilled spirits, but there was no beer in the refrigerators. I asked the hurried staff about beer and was told there would be some beer coming. Feeling thirsty, I left that lounge and headed over to the British Airways lounge.

Déjà vu – Sorry Sir, No Qantas passengers are allowed in our SFO lounge this evening

The header states my experience at BA lounge. Déjà vu.

Back to the Air France/Qantas lounge and I saw some Kronenbourg 1664 beers added to the refrigerator during my lounge hopping excursion. Two problems with the Kronenbourg. The bottles of beer were not cold. Problem solved with ice cubes. The other issue is I have not drank a Kronenbourg 1664 since buying a duty-free 12-pack for my trip to Arctic Norway September 2015. I came down with an illness during that trip and the sweet taste of Kronenbourg was nauseating to me. Apparently a year has been sufficient time passed that Kronenbourg was palatable again.

While I have only been AAdvantage Executive Platinum for the past year, I was a United 1K flyer for several years a decade ago and used the benefit of partner airline lounges with many different carriers in many different airports. One of my routine visits when flying United to Asia was a trip to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer lounge in Tokyo NRT for Haagen Daz ice cream during transits to Singapore or Bangkok. I frequently went to Thai Airways in SFO for good Asian food rather than the United Red Carpet Club. I was taken aback to be refused admission at both Oneworld Alliance partner airline lounges in SFO.

Qantas economy class

When I purchased my $238 Qantas SFO to Auckland round trip ticket last April, I planned this as a solo trip since I knew my wife would not want to travel that long in economy class. It was about 14.5 hours on the plane for SFO to Sydney, Australia. This was my first time flying Qantas long-haul. My opinion is their 747 economy class for the SFO-SYD flight was the best 747 economy experience I have had. In my recent experiences over the past year with American Airlines and British Airways, I avoid flying 747 aircraft due to the lousy inflight entertainment compared to their newer aircraft.

Qantas economy on the 747 offered an extensive selection of dozens of films and hundreds of music albums.

My routine for long haul flights is watch a movie or two, listen to music and drift off to sleep for an hour or two, then wake up and watch more movies or chill out with music.

14 hours to Sydney was sufficient time to watch 3 movies and listen to 8 albums and sleep two or three hours.

Overall, a pleasant experience.

Qantas SYD First Lounge

Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney

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  • Easy November 6, 2016

    Awesome! Where did you find that fare?

  • françois November 6, 2016

    thank you. great read for those of us who think there is flying that doesn’t include taking showers at 10000m altitude….
    appreciate the positive review. last Qantas flight generally made me dismiss them.

  • Alex November 6, 2016

    The reason you don’t get tsa pre when flying international is that most international airlines don’t participate. SFO has nothing to do with it.

  • Jelani Zarathustra November 6, 2016

    I had a similar fair ($190 r/t to AKL) and experience 1 week earlier lol. October 28. They told me no Qantas people can go into the CX lounge despite it being super empty. They told me they needed space for the incoming CX passengers (I didn’t know you could arrive there? but also the incoming CX flight was after my Qantas would leave! I tried to go to the JAL lounge near the CX but it opened at 10:30 so I was stuck at that awfully crowded KLM/Air France one.

  • Tony November 6, 2016

    Lounges are always allowed to refuse partners due to “capacity constraints.” My success rate getting into a Krisflyer lounge when theres a UA Club in the same terminal is nonexistent. the CX lounge in SFO is nothing special but since you’ve been there before you should’ve already known that. I would’ve just flown SFO-LAX-AKL instead and use the better lounges in LAX.

  • Bernard Beston November 6, 2016

    If you’re a frequent flyer you should know the problems you’d encounter before you fly. LAX is almost the worst US Airport for passengers but the combined British Airways/Qantas Qantas Lounge (and Separate First Class Lounge) upstairs is always open before flights and with the exception of the usually grumpy staff, is a reasonable ask. The real issue is TSA who seem incapable of operating a friendly and efficient system. I wondered why you never mentioned the Admiralty Lounge. T
    The Drinks prohibition perhaps!

  • […] Qantas inflight entertainment system with full headphones at loud volume. I failed to mention in my earlier post on the Qantas flight to Sydney that my economy class headphone jack snapped in half when I got up from my seat to use the toilet. […]

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