Our experiences in getting to Melbourne have been quite varied over the years. Here, I'll give you a rundown on them, which will, hopefully, help you a bit if you ever get the chance to do the journey.
(There'll not be too many images on this page, as I never thought to take any photos at the time.)
Anyway, as you probably know, there are many airlines that do the UK-Melbourne run. At first, the obvious choice for us was British Airways in conjunction with Qantas. The plan was to stop over in Hong Kong for a few nights on the way out, then Singapore on the way home.
Unfortunately, using BA from Manchester in getting to Melbourne involves initially flying to London Heathrow, then changing terminals to catch the connecting flight to Hong Kong. Those of you familiar with Heathrow will know it's the size of a city and changing terminals is a major operation, when you may actually have to catch a train!
This scenario lends itself to missing connections. It happened in 2011, when the shuttle from Manchester was late and we just missed the other flight. (In fact, it hadn't taken off, but the "doors had been closed", so we couldn't be let on.) Rather than just let us on the plane and be done with it, BA chose to put us up at a hotel next to the airport. We only had our hand luggage, so no toiletries and just the clothes we were stood up in. We had to buy toothbrushes and toothpaste from the hotel reception (at an exorbitant price, I thought).
Anyway, there was an upside the following day when we were put on a Cathay Pacific flight. Now their economy class seats aren't half spacious and comfy. Onboard service was excellent, too.
The next notable thing in our getting to Melbourne adventures was prior to our 2012 visit. Our travel agent contacted us to tell us that Qantas had an offer on to upgrade to business class for a fraction of the normal cost. After a few seconds thought we agreed to it. Well, that was it! We were spoilt forever. Economy class would never be the same again!
However, as we were still flying BA/Qantas, on each of our returns the first four years, we had the terminal transfer ordeal at Heathrow to go through again. You have to queue up for a bus that doesn't exactly run every few minutes. Bearing in mind that you're part of a plane load of a few hundred people and each bus will only take so many passengers, you have to hang about for ages. After a 13 hour flight, that's not the best thing to have to do.
Now we'd done the Hong Kong out, Singapore back for the first four visits. I love both places, but Alison had sort of tired of Hong Kong (plus it was always the middle of winter when we were there), so we decided, in 2013, to do the Manchester-Melbourne journey all in one go. Also, we didn't want another Heathrow experience, so we needed an airline that flew direct from Manchester.
There were, of course, several, but we'd also decided, as we were saving money by not going to Hong Kong or Singapore, to splash out on business class. So, the cost of the fare was crucial. At the time, the cheapest seats that our travel agent could find was on Etihad, the United Arab Emirates airline. There would be a stopover of a few hours in Abu Dhabi.
Everything went perfectly smoothly in both directions - and get a load of the cabin we were in!
The airline also provides chauffeured limousines from your home to the airport and the destination airport to your hotel. Nice!