To celebrate the launch of the new Qantas Dreamliner earlier this year, the airline invited a lucky few passengers to experience five days in the United States. The group were fortunate to stay in some of California’s best business and ‘bleisure’ hotels and enjoy a variety of group activities, with the trip culminating in flying the new Qantas Dreamliner from Los Angeles to Melbourne.
Corporate Travel Management Corporate Consultant Matt Hawkins shares his experience.
“Our first night was spent in Sydney at the five-star Sofitel Darling Harbour, newly opened in October 2017. The luxury hotel features 590 rooms ranging from junior and standard suites a selection of superior options. Part of the AccorHotels Group, the Sofitel’s signature French feel was highlighted as staff greeting us in the language and it just so happened that French President Emmanuel Macron was also staying at the property.
Departing to the US from Sydney International Terminal was a seamless experience. It took just 25 minutes from arrival at the airport to being seated in the Qantas International Business Lounge. The lounge offers all the expected trimmings including WiFi, meeting rooms, self-service dining, comfortable couches and a shower should you wish to freshen up before or between flights.
Members of our group were lucky enough to experience both Qantas Business Class and Premium Economy for the 13-and-a-half-hour Sydney to San Francisco flight on the retiring Qantas 747. After a champagne upon boarding, we were able to change into our complimentary pyjamas shortly after take-off, while the Cabin Crew made our beds. After a restful sleep, I enjoyed the International Business menu carefully designed by Neil Perry, restaurateur and founder of the Rockpool group.
On arrival in San Francisco, we headed to The St. Regis San Francisco. This beautiful five-star hotel is located downtown, just a few blocks from Union Square and the financial district, making it a great property for business travellers. It offers lush boutique rooms along with a few family-sized two-bedroom suites sweeping around corners on the higher floors, and all the facilitates you would expect in a property of this standard.
There is an abundance of activities available in San Francisco perfect for visiting corporate groups. We took a guided tour of Chinatown, learning more about the history of the city while experiencing some traditional Chinese food, tea brewing and making our own fortune cookies. We then visited Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Exploratorium After Dark and the Susan Sarandon-owned Spin bar. We were also able to visit the notorious Alcatraz complex and take a ride on motorised push bikes for a self-guided tour over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.
From San Francisco to Santa Barbara, where we checked in to the Hotel Californian. This newly built 4.5-star hotel has a Spanish-Mediterranean feel and arriving during Cinco De Mayo allowed us to sample some excellent margaritas. Breakfast on Sunday was provided at the hotel and consisted of the best in gourmet and fresh produce.
The Ritz-Carlton Santa Barbara was the first stop on our road trip back to Los Angeles. There we were treated to a guided buggy tour of this lavish hotel before an amazing breakfast on the beach overlooking the ocean. Our last night was spent at the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, a standard 4-star hotel with a street-side pool, comfortable rooms, a small business centre and basic gym facilitates. The hotel is located on the Ocean Avenue strip, overlooking the beach and just one block away from the famous Santa Monica Pier.
A final day of group activities included a wine tasting tour of the Malibu Hills, visiting a film set and some celebrity spotting.
For our return trip, we travelled aboard the new Qantas Dreamliner. Business Class consists of closed pods in a 1-2-1 formation with lie-flat beds that can comfortably sleep a 6’2” person. Guests can choose from a selection of gourmet meal choices, altitude tested wine and a vast selection of onboard entertainment making for a high-end experience.
The humidity in the cabin is set higher than standard to ensure you feel fresh upon arrival and the windows are touchscreens with adjustable light settings for comfort. To complement all these advancements, the Dreamliner also incorporates several environmentally friendly features including better fuel economy and lower carbon emissions.
I enjoyed eight-hours of sleep, falling asleep before taking off, which I attribute to the care taken by the Cabin Crew to ensure our comfort. After a pleasant 14-hours and 20-minutes we touched down in Melbourne. The trip was an amazing experience from the airline travel to our group activities and accommodation. I would recommend staying at any of the hotels mentioned for your next business trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The high standard of service provided by Qantas also ensured that it was unforgettable for all who were able to participate.”
The Qantas Dreamliner now flies from Brisbane to Los Angeles, Melbourne to San Francisco and Perth to London.
If your business is looking to engage or change TMC contact CTM today for an obligation-free review of your travel program: