Whilst not quite having the romance of train travel, getting to the UK any way other that jet propulsion would be quite an undertaking. As much as I love riding the rails, the distance between Sydney and Manchester might be too much even for me.
So, an airplane it is, and all the associated rigmarole this brings. Checking in online. Getting to the airport hours before you are due to fly. The pain that is airport security. Not that I think we should reduce this security, not for a moment, but, you have to admit, it is a bloody painful process.
Working your way through lines that snake around those mobile barriers. All the while, some little kid is lifting up the spring loaded barrier and unclipping it, throwing the queuing system into disarray.
Once you have negotiated this, you then have the screening. Ensuring you have no liquids in your bag. Scratching your head and wondering of this is one of the airports that make you remove your iPad from your carry on, remove your shoes, belt, or even your watch. You then go through the scanner yourself, only to beep and suddenly remember the erroneous 10 cent coins rattling around deep in your pocket.
Survive all this, and you still have to negotiate the retail hell that has become all but the tiniest airports. You are deposited into the duty free stores, which are harder to navigate than IKEA on a Sunday morning. With thirteen after shave samples, on those little cardboard strips, in your pocket, all you want is a cold beer. Where has the pub gone? It has been given a facelift, a very modern name, and is now a gastro-wine-artisanal-microbrew-resto-eating establishment.
By the time you eventually get your beer, you have to down it rapidly, as the announcements start that your gate is open, and plane ready for boarding. So you skull your beer, and run to the other side of the airport, where your gate is located, only to find that your plane isn't in fact boarding. Yet every passenger has decided to start queuing in anticipation, even though everybody has a seat booking, and a boarding card that proves it, and will all get on the plane. Eventually.
You know you are going nowhere fast. You would have had time for a few more ice cold pints, a burger with hand cut chips, and a bag of pork scratchings. Now you are going to have to settle for a dry bread roll, and a little aluminium tray with a scrawny chicken sausage and a cheese omelette with a splash of brown water in a plastic cup, masquerading as coffee, whilst having yourself elbowed from both sides, and trying to drown out the screaming child in row 44. Oh the joys.
Unless. You accept the airlines very generous email offer to upgrade to business class. And so this is what we did. I have never before been offered a reduced rate upgrade. Having had the opportunity to experience the delights of business class previously, with Singapore Airlines, I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity. No sir.
Whilst the above describes the Sydney to Doha flight (15 plus hours), what followed, for the Doha to Manchester flight (approx 8 hours) could not have been more different. Champagne upon boarding. An a la carte menu. From which food is served on demand. On a crisp white table cloth. With wines expertly matched. And a seat that fully reclines into a flat bed for your post lunch nap, with a real pillow, and thin duvet. Not that I did much sleeping. I was far too excited to sleep.
As I finished off the last of the cheese board, I totally forgot that I had flown around the world, over the last 24 hours, as we slowly descended into Manchester. Going home, in economy, just won’t be the same. All suggestions of best way to snag an upgrade are most welcome.