Standard international travel disclaimer: I am in business class on this flight through approved, fiscally responsible policies of IBM Corporation.

It is an eerie thing to board a plane on a route that I haven't travelled in 18 months, and find that I've been assigned exactly the same seat as the previous journey.  However, things are a bit different this time.  Qantas has installed impressive new business class seating.  These seats recline to a fully flat, truly 180-degree position.  I've not experienced this before in business class (though I have on a few fortunate travels in first class).  British Airways has started to offer something similar, but I haven't flown them in a bit.  Thus, I'm declaring the Qantas business class seat the best I've flown anywhere.  How does United compete with this on the same route???

Why is this the best?  Simply, it's very well-appointed.  Even little things like a compartment specifically for a water bottle have been provided.  There is an small overhead light in the "pod" (back of the seat) for reading when reclining or sleeping, and another at the chair's side (both are subtle enough to leave neighbours undisturbed).  There are small cubbies in front of the seats to store shoes/books, and one in the armrest that is just the right size for an iPod.  The individual television screen is about 11 inches in size, very clear and easy to work with (and offers 18 channels).

The seat itself is fully motorized.  With one touch, it stretches into the 180-degree position.  I've been able to sleep about seven hours so far, very deep and restful sleep. This is especially impressive since I'm on an aisle -- nobody walking by has disturbed me.  Cleverly, the outside armrest is dropped when the seat is fully flat, reducing the confined feeling I've had in other similar airline seats.

What a contrast from the "Super 80" that American is flying on the Chicago-LAX route this summer.  With their bigger planes flying seasonal routes to places like Rome and Glasgow (and readying to start Chicago - Delhi!), they've taken some of the old TWA buckets of bolts and are running them on a route that really deserves more respect.  All I can say for that first flight was "at least I got the exit row".

Sydney lies four hours ahead.  It's supposed to be a lovely week, with bright sunshine and reasonable temperatures.  Alas, I will be working a fair bit, but there should be some time for a few good stories.

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