The purpose of my trip was to take up an invitation to spend a week with best mate of 43 years, also from Melbourne, who owns a modest apartment in the Slovenian coastal town of Piran, on the Adriatic Coast.

My trip was from July 18 to August 11 2016, starting and finishing at Melbourne's international airport. The Slovenian segment was from July 29 to August 6, which took us through some of Western Slovenia's spectacular alpine scenery.

The European part of my trip commenced in Milan (Italy) whence I travelled by train through to Trieste, on the Slovenian border.

After leaving Slovenia, I travelled from Ljubljana through to Vienna, where I spent a few days, before flying back to Melbourne.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tales, Trials and Tribulations - an Australian in Europe! (Flights Part 1)

This European journey was in the height of the summer season, and spanned a period when daytime temperatures were in the high 30s and humidity around 95%.

Europe had been visited on several precvous occasions, but never in mid-summer, and this trip showed how cruel the climate could be. Melbourne was ih midwinter, with daily maxium temps around 10 degs, and the fierceness of the weather was huge, particularly in Italy and Slovenia. Leaping from 10 degs in Melbourne to 35 degs in one day was very tough!

This Post is an attempt to set down some experiences, anecdotes and events encountered during the three weeks, including a few obscure aspects of travelling!

Over Western Australia, Sky is nearly black!

 These were with Singapore Airlines, starting and fiishing at Melbourne International Airport.

  • Melbourne to Singapore - Airbus A350-900 - 7hrs
  • Singapore to Milan - Boeing 777 - 12hrs8mins
  • Vienna to Zurich - Embraer E90 - 1hr15mins (Helvetia Airlines code-shared)
  • Zurich to Singapore - Airbus A388 - 11hrs57mins
  • Singapore to Melbourne - Airbus A350-900 - 6hrs52mins

Airbus A350-900
The A350-900 is brand spanking new, introduced In late May 2016. Carries 42 souls in business class, 34 in premium economy, and 187 in economy ("cattle class"!) 3-3-3 seating. Many presents to keep or consume are handed to passengers in economy - earphone buds, zipped nylon bag (including toothpaste, toothbrush, dark blue flight sox, eye mask), a printed menu, a large apple, bags of peanuts, an icecream. The peanuts were on no interesty and were given to a kid across the aisle - the apple got lost on the floor!  

Newspapers are help-yourself from a stand just before you enter the plane.

Between Changi and Melbourne. Computer school!
My seats on all flights are on the aisle, meaning that every two hours the two people next to me had to visit the loo - the distance between seat rows is very small and it's necessary for the aisle passenger to get up to allow others to get out. On the 12 hr long haul flights, they visited the conveniences six times each, meaning 12 occasions of disruption. Queues always formed for these forays, with three toilets provided for 187 passengers. Access blocked at times due to food and drink trolleys being carted down the narrow aisles. Foor appeared at various times - tip: if you preselect a vegetarian meal, this will be delivered to you before the standard version! Cabin staff place a round sticker on the headrest to identify you as a vegetarian. The food was good, but the bread roll was not, hard as a stone!

Economy Class A350-900
"Meal One - Dinner" appears about one hour after takeoff on night flights, "Meal Two - Supper" arrives about four hours later, "Meal Three - Breakfast" appears about one hour before landing" Glasses of water are offered at many times. They don't have "mineral water"!

"LIghts out" on night flights in this ship is about one hour after dinner dishes are collected. Cabin staff close the blinds for most of the flights, even those across darkness zones. People daring to open the blinds to see if they were still In same universe resulted in attendants rushing up to shut the blinds to allow people to sleep, even though the only light on the night flights was from the moon! Why have windows at all?!

The A350 takes 35 seconds to lift off but 15 secs to land. The moment of truth arrives when the plane is at the end of the runway (waiting) and the captain releases the handbrake, puts the machine into "drive", then moves the throttle to full on. The power of the two engines is enormous, and it seems to take forever to gain sufficient lift to get off the ground. Once up, there is an almighty clunk as the wheels retract, and we're pushed back into our seats under what appeared to be 100 gs! Angle of ascent is about 30 degrees. Flea-power!

We use 9600 ft of runway at take-off at Melbourne and Changi.

Landing is diffrerent. The descent starts about 300 km out, long and slow. There are three runways at Changi - two of 4000 m, and one of 2750 m. The last-named is used by the military. Arriving at Singapore from Melbourne, we use one of the three 4000 m runways, needing 6100 ft.
Flight Screen, over Western Australia

Large touch screen monitors and a remote control are on the backs of the seats. You may watch 600 movies if that is your thing! I don't do movies, nor do I sleep, so I spend my time watching the flight screen map on my console, which refreshes every three minutes. I like the "Window View" which shows the real-time view from the tail-mounted forward-looking TV camera. That is in military night-vision green, whether day or night! I see details of elapsed time, distance and time to/from destination and origin, time at destination and origin, altitude, speed. I also see the terminator in glowing colors. A special screen shows distance to, and arrival time at destination. There are USB ports on the console - a WiFi service is available for smartphones and tablets for US$10 per flight sector. I pass.
Time to Melbourne!

We descend into Changi over rice fields and hills. Flaps and other devices are deployed. Wheels are lowered - as we land there is a huge thump,  but tyres are OK. As we come to a stop, the masses rise as one to retrieve their luggage from the overhead lockers. There is only one exit working, at the front of the ship. The masses try to escape with jostling and shoving - there is a delay as the stairway doesn't couple properly with the door. The cabin staff smile at the masses, some of whom say "thank you".

The masses escape in a conga lineWe see security guards with sub-machine guns, then head to find out the Gate for our next flight.