How far back can you remember? I recall flying to Brisbane with my Mum when I was only three. We were going to visit my grandmother who was not well and I recall being given a little plate from Mum’s tray (as I destined to find food fascinating even then?) and a rather bumpy ride. But I thought it was fabulous – and my love of travel has never diminished – and a love of flying has grown with the capacity to fly in somewhat more comfort than my first trip to London in the 70s when it was very definitely back of the bus. Now the minute I am in the lounge or on the plane with a glass of champagne I am in heaven.
Each airline has their own personality and I value them for different things – Qantas has Aussie staff, a great international departure lounge in Sydney, Neil Perry food and Australian wine. Emirates has great entertainment. I love the A380 flight which leaves Sydney around 9pm at night and goes straight into Dubai and then it’s one stop to so many different European capitals avoiding the need to go through Heathrow. I love the different uniforms of the different nationalities – and I relish the different cuisines.
For me when flying I am concerned about main things: comfort, food and wine, entertainment and service.
Comfort – privacy or togetherness?
Recently I flew Cathay to London and back and was able to try a whole new experience. Many years ago I had flown with them to Hong Kong and also Canada but things in the air move fast. I was flying solo so much as I love the “love seats” on the A380 I was delighted with the seat configuration in the Airbus 333-300 to Hong Kong. The seats in business were wonderfully private, being slightly offset with high sides. While this might not be so conducive to conversations for couples it saved the problem of trying to sleep next to a stranger who snores – uncomfortably intimate!
Food and Wine
Airline food is the butt of so many jokes yet it is all important as a wonderful time filler. Many airlines employ celebrity chefs to help them revise their offerings but I think the challenge with airline food is in presentation. Think about it. When we plate food we love big white plates, because it enhances the look of the food. Yet it’s hard when everything has to fit on a small tray.
The next challenge is temperature. Often champagne is too warm when you board (it was deliciously chilled on this flight) and then table wines and cheeses can be too cold. The thing to beware of is what I call Cuisine Internationale. I always go for the cuisine of the country which owns the airline. So for Cathay I went Chinese all the way. I’m always nervous about seafood in the air (unless it’s cold like gravlax or smoked salmon) but stir-fried seafood in XO sauce, steamed Jasmine rice, kalian (sic) and carrots comprised tender scallops and prawns, with a hit from green chilli. Best of all I was offered chopsticks and a sachet of chilli sauce with every meal. Why is it that Chinese food tastes better with chopsticks?
Not long before we landed I opted for a “refreshment” of Braised 5 spice beef shin and choy sum in noodle soup. A winning choice. I was pleased to see my friend Maggie Beer’s passionfruit ice cream on offer but most amazing of all was how good the coffee was. I normally just don’t drink it on planes but I tried it because I didn’t want to eat anything else, preferring to save myself to experience The Wing Lounge in Hong Kong.
Braised 5 spice beef shin and choy sum in noodle soup