The economy seat headrest is too high, or not high enough, my neck feels like it’s been kicked by a donkey’s hind legs and I’ve lost all feeling in my right leg.
The much-hyped Dreamliner this may be but let’s get one thing clear, this is a long-haul flight and, as with all long-haul flights, there are places you’d much rather be – bed for a start.
And while we’re talking about sleep, did I mention we have a few snorers on board?
That said, these complaints are universal. But, if you’re sitting at the back of the bus, Qantas’ spanking new Dreamliner is about as good as it’s going to get.
Gleaming windows, just-upholstered economy seats and mechanisms that seamlessly click into place (no temperamental tray tables here), it’s hard not to be taken in by the shininess of the factory-fresh jet-lag beater we’d boarded.
So, like everyone else, I started off my 17-hour marathon by doing what we all do when arriving somewhere new – pressing all the buttons.
Gone are the old remote-control-on-a-wire handsets, like all things these days, everything is accessed through a touchscreen.
An A-Z of Hollywood blockbusters, the flight map, podcasts, Sam Smith’s latest album and the trusty old reading light are all on a high-definition touch screen.
They’ve thought of everything here, there’s a stand for your iPad, plug sockets and USBs and a netting foot cradle which would prove a godsend when the lights were dimmed.
But first, the food.
As a regular long-haul flyer, there have been many times I’ve relied on a mid-way stop to get myself a decent meal. As a person who suffers from serious “hanger” on an empty stomach, a lot was going to hinge on Neil Perry’s menu.
The choices are undeniably fancy (salad of cumin spiced beef, anyone?) but do they deliver?
I reckon they do. My vegetarian meal of Mediterranean vegetables and red rice seemed fresher than anything else I’ve eaten in the air. Meanwhile, my neighbouring passenger raised his eyebrows at lettuce that wasn’t soggy.
Later, veggie burgers and bacon butties (sorry, “baguettes”) make their way through the cabin – another popular choice and we were woken with a cooked breaky.
But, it is plane food in the cheap economy seats after all. We’re eating with plastic cutlery and the cups of tea arrive in paper cups, this wasn’t Rockpool and it wouldn’t be on any other flight either.
On a flight that takes off a few hours before bedtime and a restless cabin from having eaten after 10pm, sleep was going to be critical to prevent cattle class from descending into a scene from the Muppets.
The cabin lights gently faded to a red glow after dinner and the temperature dropped, this was our cue to try and catch a bit of shut-eye.
A disclaimer: I ended up with an empty seat next to me, which makes sleeping without a neighbour drooling on your shoulder a whole lot easier.
Yet, those around me appeared to have nothing to complain about when it came to the width of the seats.
The legroom, however, was a common niggle. The second the seats went back, we were squished in inches of space. Watching a movie? Tough! You’d better get used to watching your favourite Hollywood stars in close-up.
Then again, sleep is possible and this was way more comfortable than other economy class flights I’ve done. The foot cradle kept our feet elevated, the pillows were huge and the adjustable headrest was a nice touch – providing you could get it just right.
As we reached the point where we’d be usually be expected a wander around a middle eastern airport, I was out cold. The last thing I wanted was to be thrust into the fluorescent airport lights shopping for duty free.
It’s for this reason the non-stop flight wins out for me. A family sitting near me would have had to disturb their children to traipse through security once again. The parents didn’t want it, the kids didn’t want it, nobody wanted it. We wanted to keep resting – and we could.
The service, as expected on a historic flight full of pollies and media, was exceptional. Teas and coffees were offered whenever they caught a passenger awake and they were happy to hop in and help when people like me struggled to work all the fancy buttons.
One passenger did seem miffed there were no warm towels and another thought the tea cups weren’t big enough. Yet, their grins when we were only an hour from landing, were tough to hide. “I’m feeling fresh as a daisy, it’s that good air,” one passenger declared.
As we hit the tarmac at Heathrow, there was a loud round of applause at the back of the plane and not only because the inaugural flight has made it in one stab (let’s be honest, we were all a tad nervous). It was over, far quicker than we expected.
Despite the snorers and aching necks, we’d made this world-first flight with a good three hours to spare, compared with our previous trips to the UK.
Time enough to find a tea in a proper cup.