Sunday, May 19, 2024

Bound for Oz

We’re en route to Australia, our 18th trip there since our first visit in 2007, and our 16th time to attend Oz Fest, a FlyerTalk “Do” or get-together sponsored by volunteer  FT members for other members.

We’ve seen a lot of Australia (and New Zealand) and met some wonderful people along the way, at least a dozen of whom have visited us at our house over the past 17 years.

First, a pro tip. Most foreign nationals are required to download an app and obtain a form of visa called an Electronic Travel Authority or ETA.

It only takes a few minutes and costs AUD $20, a bit over USD $13. Just make sure you’re careful when responding to the questions about criminal convictions, and take note that NO is listed above YES for those.

Brian, still sipping the morning’s first cup of coffee, failed to notice that, and was shocked to learn his application had been refused, until he reread his YES response to “convicted of domestic abuse” and discovered why. Oops!

A half an hour of filling out a supplementary Australian government form resulted in a surprisingly quick approval. Whew! We were going to Australia after all.

We’ll fast forward to our departure day from BLI, Bellingham International Airport.

As we waited to board our flight to SEA, Kathy noticed availability on a SEA-LAX flight two hours earlier, landing at 6:30 rather than 8:30. Not only that, there were five open first class seats, while we were consigned to economy on our original flight.

She made phone contact with Alaska and finalized the change literally as we were boarding.

After a one-hour stop in an Alaska Lounge, we were flying in SkyWest Airlines EMB 175 first class seats, enjoying a light meal, and even catching a glimpse of Oregon’s Crater Lake from 35,000 feet, as announced by our pilot.

We often find it confusing to reach the hotel shuttle pickup areas at LAX, but after three earlier stops here this year we’re getting better at it.

We’re staying at the H Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. We waved a shuttle down quite promptly (the big H on the side helps), and relaxed for the short ride.

We were checked in by 7:00, upgraded to a large and pleasant room on the 10th floor, complete with sound-insulated views of the airport.

After a light appetizer in the restaurant, taking advantage of our $18 Hilton Diamond credit each, we checked out the hotel’s 12th floor rooftop terrace, having it to ourselves on a cool evening.

We may return later today, once the weather warms up - it’s actually a little chilly here today. In our earlier travel days, we would have flown our itinerary in one fell swoop, but we’re pampering ourselves these days. 

After this overnight stop, we’re leaving the hotel around 8:30 PM and shuttling back to the LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal. We already have our Fiji Airways boarding passes, but will stop at their counter to see if we require passes for lounge access. Maybe they’ll want to study Brian’s ETA.

Our nearly 11-hour flight to Nadi Fiji (LAX-NAN) is on an Airbus A350 in business class flatbed seats. We’ll be on the ground in Fiji for about three hours before flying FJ onward to Sydney (NAN-SYD) on another A350. This cost us only 55,000 Alaska points (miles) each, quite a bargain by current standards.

We’re overnighting at the Rydges Hotel where we’ve stayed before, a short walk across the street from SYD international arrivals, but we’ll leave that for another post 7,490 flight miles from here.

For now, we’ll enjoy some plane spotting from the H Hotel’s rooftop terrace. An Emirates flight…

Here’s a Qantas A380 landing almost in front of us.

And another Lufthansa A380 appears.

Fun to watch!


FriendlySkies said...

Have a great time! Feels like forever since OzFest 2012…!

Kathy and Brian said...

Thanks very much! It has been awhile for you. Canberra? We enjoyed it. The Crowne Plaza there was one of several Aussie IHG properties that honored our credit card Platinum status with an upgrade to a large two-story suite.