Australian Adventures

That One Time I Toured an A380…

Emma led me behind the red partition and into the galley. “Hey guys, this is Hilary. She’s a travel blogger from the States. She’s going to be the next Bear Grylls and she’s going to write all sorts of cool things about us.”

I gave a meek smile to the gaggle of flight attendants. We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. God help me if there’s a test on their names, I thought.

“The next Bear Grylls, eh?” One of the guys asked in between bites of his dinner. “That’s pretty cool.”

I blushed at the thought. “That’s quite the compliment, thanks.” And while I certainly didn’t think myself deserving of the accolade, my mind took off and ran with the thought. Could I be the next great adventurer? What would my reality show be called? Who would want to watch that? Would I finally get to fulfill my lifelong dream and play harmonicas with Craig Ferguson on his Late Late Show?

Emma snapped me out of the depths of my fantasy.

“We’re really excited to have you on board, Hilary. We’re going to start by taking you through first class and up to the Lounge. We’re going to have to wait to give you the full tour until after everyone has disembarked the plane, so as not to disturb anyone’s flight experience.” Sounded fair enough to me.

Emma escorted me through the first class cabin, which was pitch black. All the rich people were sleeping. “We can’t have you walk through unattended. Customers pay twelve grand per seat so they expect privacy.” Couldn’t argue with that either. “The cockpit is right through that door. We’ll take you in after we land,” Emma whispered, pointing to the door across from the staircase. “We’re going this way.” She waved a hand up the staircase.

I felt like a modern-day Cinderella but instead of descending a flight of stairs to the ball, I was climbing the rungs of the status ladder to business class.

The business lounge popped with red furniture and stainless steel amenities. If business class passengers weren’t privy to watching their thousands of movies from the comfort of their seats, they could walk out to the lounge and couch it up, viewing their show from the widescreen.

“Here we are, Hilary. Go ‘head and have a seat. Please feel free to help yourself to anything in the mini bar and I’ll send some of the attendants up to talk with you. Would you like a beverage?” I declined her offer and sat down on the red cushions. Emma walked over to the phone by the bar and pressed a button. “Yes, she’s here. Feel free to come up when you’re ready.” She hung up and turned to meet my fascinated expression. She smiled and explained. “The plane is too large for us to communicate without it.” I nodded, remembering reading about the A380 being twice the size of a blue whale and ten stories tall. It also weighs as much as over 150 elephants.

Emma offered me a drink again and upon hearing my, “No thank you,” disappeared down the stairwell with a smile.

I folded my hands in my lap and slowly inspected my surroundings. I felt the need to do something drastic, like jump up and down on the cushions, take my shoes off and sprawl out. After all, I was mile-high rolling. Should I pop the tiny bottles of champagne in the bar and dance around? This baby was just screaming to be the party bus of the sky.

But then another thought occurred to me. What happened if a business class passenger came out in their business class pajamas and saw me making a spectacle? Would they cry, “imposter,” and have me removed? Would they be able to smell the economy on me?

I couldn’t decide on an appropriate action for the moment, so I went to my default and started writing.

“Hilary?” I looked up from my notebook to quite possibly the friendliest face in the world. “My name is Helen Carlile. I am the Qantas Supervisor. So nice to meet you! Can I get you anything?” I laughed at the gesture.

Helen spent some time chatting with me and we became fast friends. I felt like I was talking to an older sister rather than the supervisor of the flight’s entire operation. “I love working on the A380,” she gushed. “It’s the flagship for Qantas. And my favorite space is definitely the lounge we’re sitting in,” she explained. “It’s a great tool to use in case there is ever an emergency or situation that needs to be handled away from the rest of the passengers. As the supervisor, I wear many hats and that sometimes includes playing a psychologist or mediator.”

“Really? What do people argue about?”

A smile spread over her lips. “Often times one person wants to recline their seat. And the person behind them doesn’t want them to. It can get heated. Luckily, we have this great space to use to work it out so it doesn’t disturb the other passengers.”

I laughed, “Naturally life and death situations.”

“Well, Hilary, I’ve got some business to attend to, but feel free to hang out as long as you want. We’ll come and get you after the passengers disembark the plane.” I nodded and gave her a hug before she disappeared on important Qantas business. I couldn’t believe how nice everyone was.

And you wouldn’t believe how fast time flies while hanging in a lounge instead of your assigned seat.

I must have drifted off, for the next thing I remember I was told to return to my seat to prepare for landing. The couple sitting next to me watched me curiously as I buckled back up, obviously wondering where I had been. I smiled and whispered, “You wouldn’t believe.”

I looked out the window, finally seeing the sun peeking its way over the wing. We had finally managed to meet the dawn of a new day. Double win.

I tried to wait patiently for the other passengers to disembark our vessel. It was a haphazard attempt at best.

“Hilary, are you ready? We’re going to have you wait in the galley.” Kate, a tall and lean flight attendant escorted me around the other passengers and into the kitchen. I peered through the front curtain to watch the first class passengers deplane. I had to do a double take of the tall man leaving the first row. Was that Tony Robbins? I had heard rumors we were on the same flight, but I hadn’t believed it.

It wasn’t much of a wait. Turns out people are more efficient when it comes to getting off a plane than getting on. Katie came back into the galley with a smile. “Okay. You want to meet the pilots?”

I quickly said yes and followed her through the empty cabin. It felt eerie to be walking through a place so recently filled with life. The thought was quickly dismissed as we entered the cockpit.

“Welcome to the magic!” One of the pilots said, offering me his seat. I stared wide-eyed at all the buttons in front of me. He gave me his skipper hat to wear. “What are you looking for?” he asked.

I blushed and replied, “An Easy button?” They laughed. I wondered what it would be like to actually pilot this beast 30,000 feet in the air. The thought made me wish I were a bad-ass.

I said my thank you’s and goodbyes to the pilots. Kate quickly shuffled me upstairs to business class.”Why don’t you try one of the business class seats?” She waited for me to settle in before she reclined it. “What do you think?” She asked.

I thought for moment, allowing my body to relax. “I am a fan of the leg room,” I started, “but it’s a little too hard for my taste.”

Kate smiled and led me back downstairs, “Just wait ’til you try first class.”

I anxiously got into a first class pod, suddenly realizing why their ticket cost so much. “Now this is just right!” I had to laugh at myself; who was I, Goldilocks? “It’s like being in a cocoon!” I pulled a blanket over myself, feeling the fatigue wash over me. “Could you guys just leave me here?”

“We still have to take you to our favorite space in the Airbus.” I sat up, intrigued. She led me to the hatch downstairs.

“These are the staff’s sleeping quarters. This is where we sleep and spend our break time.”

“It’s like camp!” I exclaimed.

Emma watched my hammy expressions and said to Kate, “She’s so animated. She could be one of us!” I smiled at the thought.

We came back up to the galley. Kate smiled at me and folded her hands in front of her. “Well, Hilary, I think that covers it! You’ve already been to the lounge, and now you’ve seen the ins-and-outs of our Airbus. Do you have any questions?” She and the other flight attendants gathered to see me off.

I picked up my oversized backpack from the floor and moaned. I steadied myself and then replied, “Yes, just one more question.” She waited expectantly. “How do you all manage to have perfect hair after fifteen hours on a plane? I just sat here and look like hell.”

Laughter erupted from the attendants. They waved as I disembarked.

I suppose somethings will always remain a mystery.

52 Comments

  • Reply

    Hailey

    September 5, 2012

    Awesome! Sounds like being on the plane is an adventure in itself!

  • Reply

    stevenwwatkins

    September 5, 2012

    Love the shot in the captain’s cockpit seat. Way to go!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Thank you so much, Steven! I was so excited to pretend to be a pilot for a minute. Maybe one day I’ll be a real one. You never know! =)

  • Reply

    gene3067

    September 5, 2012

    Sure. Post this while I get stuck on a US Airways to Ireland. (So Jealous)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Oh no! What a bummer! All the more incentive to try flying Qantas. They are real winners. =)

      Hope you made it out to Ireland okay! Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

  • Reply

    Ingrid

    September 5, 2012

    Great story and photos :-) That plane is amazing!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Thank you so much, Ingrid! It was such a cool experience. I hope you get the chance to ride on one someday. =)

  • Reply

    larkycanuck

    September 5, 2012

    who is Bear Grylls?

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Haha. He’s not as popular here as in other places but he’s on the guy that does the Man vs. Wild reality show. You can check out the link to learn more about him and his bad-assery. =) http://www.BearGrylls.com

  • Reply

    zirconiumrose

    September 5, 2012

    Awesome pictures!

  • Reply

    Zee

    September 5, 2012

    Great post and thanks for sharing! I’ve been on the A380 but obviously did not have a chance to tour the plane! So this is great ;)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      What did you think of the A380 experience? Which airline did you fly? Would you do it again?

      Hope you’re having some amazing adventures!

  • Reply

    Browsing the Atlas

    September 5, 2012

    This is so friggin’ cool!!!! I am so envious. I can’t even tell you.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      I felt pretty cool, lemme tell ya. But I’m so excited to share the experience with you. Have you ever flown on an A380?

  • Reply

    A Gracious Life

    September 5, 2012

    Lol! This is a “so Hillary” post! And they’re right…you are so animated. Missed you here!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Hey you! How’s life? I missed you too! It’s so nice to finally have this post up. It took forever to write because I wanted to make sure it was ‘just right’. =)

      “So Hilary” post huh? I don’t know what that means but I hope it’s a good thing. =)

      And I know. I really would be better suited as a cartoon character than a person. But that’s neither here nor there.

      Lots of love to you!

  • Reply

    ghummakkad

    September 5, 2012

    What a tour! Am glad you got to take it!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Thank you so much! I am glad I got to do it as well. Qantas was so friendly and helpful. I feel truly blessed to have had such a wonderful airline experience. They are the way to go!

  • Reply

    Barry Peddycord III

    September 6, 2012

    This whole entry could have been summed up in: “DEAR BLOG TODAY I BASICALLY FLEW ON A SPACESHIP”.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Oh my god, I cannot stop laughing. This is going on the facebook page, it’s so awesome. Thanks for commenting with so much awesomeness.

      I wish I could keep an app of your responses on my phone, so I could add in your witty comments to the blogs. If I ever get rich you’re going to narrate my life.

  • Reply

    Anastasia

    September 6, 2012

    Wow…. So envious of those first class seats. Can’t wait for solar powered planes, so it won’t matter how many there are and everyone can have seats that don’t violate the geneva convention rules about treating prisoners.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Hi Anastasia!

      Yes, those first class seats are pretty swish, not going to lie. Have you heard about the new plane concept that NASA is funding? Check out this craziness:
      http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/09/03/nasa-awards-funding-for-s_n_1851392.html

      And yes, sometimes I feel like leading revolutions on planes because they make you feel like you’re a second class citizen, but Qantas was wonderful about this. They have assigned staff for each class and you are treated with the same respect and rapport as a first class passenger, even if you are only economy. I was very appreciative of their customer service. =)

      • Reply

        Anastasia

        September 7, 2012

        I saw that plane, but was more curious how it would be fueled. Planes are up there soaking up sun. Why can’t they be solar and cleaner? Or fewer, smaller but better seating… at least that would provide jobs for pilots and attendants. hahaha. I think it’s unreasonable that not only is first class more expensive, it’s more expensive by, like, 4x. Completely out of reach for normal folks. And, frankly, we’re the ones doing the work and who deserve sleep and better lumbar support. hahahahah.. okay, not that funny.

        I’ve always wanted to do the longest flight, I guess Australia, but in major major first class. Sleeping compartment. Shower. sigh

        • Reply

          Anastasia

          September 7, 2012

          Sorry.. not fewer.. MORE, but smaller with better seating

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          September 9, 2012

          Interesting fact about the A380, they are actually more fuel efficient than any other aircraft (using 17% less fuel per person than your typical jet) and has the least amount of emissions.

          I suppose solar would be difficult because of weather, night flying, or cloud coverage. And given that solar paneling is so fragile (easily disengaged from leaves, small animals running across the panels, etc.) the technology is not yet at a state ready for planes and the elements they encounter. But that’s my amateur guess on the matter. And hopefully one day! =)

          And maybe one day you will! I hope to do the same someday too. =)

  • Reply

    odysseyatw

    September 6, 2012

    Great post Hilary – been looking forward to this! :)

    Hope you’re doing well.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Thank you so much! I’m so sorry it took me so long to write it. I’ve been working on how to craft it properly. I wanted to make sure I did justice to the experience. I hope you enjoyed it!

      Lots of love to you!

      • Reply

        odysseyatw

        September 12, 2012

        No worries – you did a great job, and still really jealous that you were able to tour an A380 :)

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          September 12, 2012

          Thank you. =)

          I do hope you get the chance some day! I’ll keep putting positive vibes out there for you regarding the matter. =)

  • Reply

    haileyjw

    September 6, 2012

    Ahhh that’s so cool! Not only did you get a ride in the most bad-ass thing that’s ever flown, but you got to see all of it’s neat inside bits up close and personal! Great post!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      Thank you so much! I was pretty blown away that they gave me such a detailed tour, but I am so appreciative of it! And I’m even more excited that I get to share it with all of you wonderful people. Now when you get a chance to ride in one you can think about all the cool spaces that are surrounding you. =)

  • Reply

    Grandpa and Grandma

    September 6, 2012

    Grandpa is soooo jealous-even if it isn’t a Lockheed plane!! Love

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 7, 2012

      I thought about him the entire time! I knew he would be so excited for this post. I’m glad you guys enjoyed it! Love you too!

  • Reply

    jheem

    September 7, 2012

    Thanks for posting. That is a ridiculously awesome plane!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 9, 2012

      Thanks for reading! I’m so glad I got to share this with you. And yes, yes it is. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to ride in one someday!

  • Reply

    kinmar

    September 8, 2012

    Hilary, if you haven’t already done so you should read the book “QF32” by Richard de Crespigny. It gives you a perspective on the A380 I hope never to experience. But it shows how awesome the technology is and how totally awesome those Qantas crew are.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 9, 2012

      Thank you so much for the recommendation! I will be sure to look that up. Qantas and their technology are a notch above, that’s for sure!

  • Reply

    Lissa Rabon

    September 8, 2012

    you were treated like royalty! They were so professional but friendly too. Guess that’s why they get to do what they do. Seems like a cool job but I’m sure it has it’s insane moments like every other job.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 9, 2012

      Hi Lissa!

      Yes, I felt very special, that’s for sure. The great thing is that Qantas seems to do that with all of their customers; they sure know how to treat people! And I have to give kudos to all the flight attendants. I sure couldn’t do their job!

  • Reply

    aidaweb101

    September 9, 2012

    What a tour!Thanks for sharing!
    Cheers!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      September 9, 2012

      Thanks for reading! It was quite an experience. Qantas gets mad props for being such an accommodating airline!

  • Reply

    Erica

    December 21, 2012

    yay! how fun! I love all of your pictures :)
    It’s so good to hear when airlines are super nice. I’ve never flown Quantas, but this definitely makes me want to! Especially after the nightmare that I had to go through to get back home from Japan.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 21, 2012

      Thank you! We had so much fun taking them. It helps that I’m such a ham.

      Yes! Qantas is super awesome! I love that they work so hard to provide the best customer service to everyone. And man, do they work for it!

      Ugh, I remember you talking about that. You’re not scarred for life, are you? We have to get you back out there!

      • Reply

        Erica

        December 21, 2012

        Are you talking about the time I forgot to get my visa, or this most recent time when I whined about it on twitter, fb, and my blog… I was obviously not a very happy camper then. I will just have to get over it since it’s part of flying these days. But seriously. Who changes a direct flight to one 7.5 hr layover of death?! Oh, right. Thanks, Punited*
        *Names have been changed to protect the parties involved

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          December 23, 2012

          I do remember you mentioned the visa part before I left for AU but it seemed like more of a cautionary tale than a traumatic moment for you. I was referencing your whiny one. =)

          Punited, huh? Is that pronounced “P-U- nited?” like Pepe le PU? ;)

          • Erica

            December 23, 2012

            Haha true, though I was pretty panicked at the time ;) ahaha yes. very whiny.

            It’s a word that’s open to interpretation, you could, say, decide that it’s a silent p, if you wanted. heh.

          • Hilary Billings

            December 23, 2012

            Oh boy, I bet you were! I would have FLIPPED. Possibly even just decided to turn around and go home right then, deciding that OBVIOUSLY the universe didn’t want me to go. Props for braving through it!

            And haha! I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. ;)

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About Me

About Me

Hey fellow adventurers, my name is Hilary! After being rejected from grad school, I took off on a solo journey around the world. Now I constantly challenge myself to take on new experiences. This blog documents my journeys from Europe to Fiji, swimming with sharks and living with tribes, to becoming an accidental beauty queen and working for one of the top national media outlets. If you like what you're reading, please subscribe! Here's to the next great adventure!

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