I waited a year before booking passage on the brand new Airbus A380. That was a miracle in itself because I wasn't sure at first, like those who first saw the 747 before me, that I wanted to fly on something that big. Having bought a car or two in my time there is good in waiting until they got most if not all of the kinks out of the thing before committing time and body to riding in one. Still, Qantas offered an irresistible fare and my plans dovetailed nicely with booking their A380 service for the return flight to the United States so I said why not? Sadly for them, on this experience I got more than I bargained for.
After a two hour delay followed by a total of five hours of flying our shiny A380 diverted to Melbourne due to a fuel management problem. We cleared customs as "Never Left" travelers then collected our luggage and were trundled off to various hotels in the area to try again in the morning. First Class passengers were sent across the parking lot to the Hilton. It was the closest and they could walk without having to wait for transportation. Business Class were sent to the Holiday Inn while we denizens of the deep in economy were packed off to a local brand of hostelry known as the Mantra.
In a word, it was heaven. Each and every one of us, minus the inconvenience of a 24 hour delay and enduring a bus driver who didn't know how to get there, felt that we received the best of the three accommodations. Only 10 minutes drive from the airport terminal the hotel is a business property despite being miles from downtown and on the edge of a nearby suburb. Check-in was very efficient despite the lateness of the hour and the sudden uptick in business. From the start I had the distinct impression that the Mantra personnel had been through this kind of thing before and knew exactly what to do to move tired and disoriented people with bed and other places on their minds.
The picture of my hotel room should give you an idea of the quality product offered by the Mantra hotel chain. The Mantra was not bedecked in frills and finery being a suburban business oriented but it didn't matter. The king-sized bed was comfortable, including the largest pillows I'd experienced on this entire trip. The bathroom was huge, all facilities and areas were spotlessly clean and the staff completely unperturbed, friendly and efficient in helping this stranded boatload to settle in and get as comfortable as possible for their inconvenience. By 1AM we were all well fed and in bed after a long day of non-flying which for some of us had started the night before thanks to the red-eye from Perth!
Upon check-in at the hotel we were informed that our flight would "try again" at 1PM the following afternoon which gave us an even greater sense of relief. We had no estimated departure information from Qantas leaving us all to wonder if we would only have a few hours of rest before heading back to the airport at the crack of dawn. A full English breakfast awaited us at the civil hour of 9AM with our better informed bus driver returning us to the Melbourne Airport an hour later.
Hopefully the next time, however, the airline will be on schedule and my lodging on purpose!