I had an unexpectedly emotional departure from Brisbane last week. It was supposed to be a standard flight to Sydney, but became something a lot more.

When I first started travelling by air, flights to Melbourne were on 737s and to Sydney were 767s. I guess you knew you were going to the “big smoke” when you were on the really big plane (sorry Melbourne, you know I love you). As flight schedules changed Sydney started getting serviced by more 737 flights, but you could often still find yourself on a 767 depending on the time of day, etc. I would seek out the 767 flights, sometimes just for the sake of a change of scene from a 737.

Of course there was another, real, reason why there were fewer 767 flights on Qantas, but I was oblivious to that… until last Monday.

The original flight I was booked on got cancelled. I had a moment of disappointment that I wouldn’t be on the 767 flight I’d planned, but since Qantas has phoned me well in advance and sorted me onto the next flight I couldn’t fault the situation (it gave me some extra time before flying).

When I got my seat assignment I realised I was going to be on a 767 after all. I wondered if they simply pushed the plane from my original flight back to the time of the later flight. Anyway it didn’t matter, I was happy to get my ride on the Seven-Six.

While we were taxiing for takeoff, the captain made an announcement. He did the usual welcome, and then said something remarkable — I don’t remember the exact words, but I’ll paraphrase…

Thank you for your patience, I know some of you were booked on the flight that was due to go before this one, but that aircraft became unavailable. Luckily the airline had the option to use a bigger aircraft to carry the load of the two flights. It’s an option that we won’t have very soon, as this aircraft is due to be retired on the 27th of December. So unless you’re going to be with us again very soon, this could be your last flight on a Boeing 767.

The captain then went on to advise us our departure procedure, but honestly I wasn’t listening. I started looking around me, trying to soak up as much of the environment as I could. Then I thought to myself “it’s just a plane”, but no, it was more…

When do we ever get the chance to know that we’re doing something for the last time? I’m not talking about the extraordinary things, the once-in-a-lifetime things that you know right then you’re never likely to do again. I mean things that are a part of your life, things that… things that until they are gone you do not think you’d miss… or the things that you know damn well you’d miss if they weren’t there, but you just can’t imagine anything could possibly cause them to be gone…

VH-OGO

Upon disembarking in Sydney

Even as I write this, days later, I’m choking up.

When we arrived in Sydney I took a photo of my last 767, VH-OGO, which I saw again a couple of days later while I was waiting for my return flight to Brisbane.

Thanks to a captain who knows that there are still people out there who think that flying is more than just the cheapest seat, I got to know in advance that a chapter in my own personal logbook is ending… and as if I needed one, I also got another reminder that nothing should ever be taken for granted.

VH-OGO

A couple of days later… OGO probably about to make a return trip to Brisbane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started writing this on 7 December, the day that VH-OJA, Qantas’ first ever Boeing 747-400, was scheduled to make its last commercial flight as QF107 From Sydney to Los Angeles. Not only was OJA the first Qantas 747-400, it was the aircraft that set the stage for the “Kangaroo Route” by making a promotional flight non-stop from London to Sydney (a record-breaking run, and the record still stands). I wonder how many times I’ve flown on that plane, never knowing its history. I hope the people on that flight got an announcement similar to the one I got on my 767 flight.