As we prepared to leave Sydney, it was with mixed emotions that we packed our stuff, grabbed an Uber and headed to the airport. The trip has been a once in a lifetime experience and while we truly enjoyed everything that each locale had to offer, I think everyone is also ready to eat a home cooked meal, drive on the right side of the road and sleep in their own bed.
Unfortunately, those simple requests would be easier said than done. In fact, the day was a comedy of errors unlike anything we experienced on any other leg of the trip. When we arrived at the Sydney airport at 10:30 am for our 12:30 pm flight, the gentleman at the check-in counter let us know that there was a mechanical issue with the plane and the flight time had been pushed back to 6pm. At first I thought he was joking, but quickly realized that was not the case. The bigger issue, however, was that with the delay, we would miss our connection in Dallas and potentially have to spend the night there when we arrived.
After a series of conversations with the Qantas "sales" desk (and a supervisor or two), we were able to re-book on the 1:00 pm flight to SFO. This was critical as it would allow us to make the direct 11:20 am PST flight to BNA. As luck would have it, the SYD to SFO flight ended up being delayed as well by two hours. In the context of a 13 hour flight, two hours wouldn't normally be an issue - the problem, however, was that our connection for the SFO to BNA flight was only two hours as well and that included time to go through customs and immigration. We decided to chance it and finally left SYD a little before 3:00 pm local time.
Our experience on Qantas, both in Business class and Coach was markedly better than the American Airlines experience and everyone seemed to be suitably pleased. After a long flight with little sleep (kids were awake the majority of the flight which meant I was awake the majority of flight), we arrived in San Fran around 10:15 am having made up an hour of the delay due to some tailwinds.
That still left fairly little time to get through immigration, grab our bags, clear customs and make it to our BNA flight.....but, as you might guess from the theme of the day, the leg from SFO to BNA was delayed until 12:15 pm. After a little lunch and a 12:15 departure time that ultimately turned into a 2 pm departure, we boarded the plane and headed for Nashville. A full 25 hours after we began, we landed in BNA ready to grab our bags. True to form, however, three of our four bags came off the carousel with the fourth routed to Chicago - a fitting end to a long and frustrating day.
Interestingly enough, I'm not sure any of us were the least bit perturbed at any point in the day as we recognized how fortunate we had been for each and every one of the 14 other flights we had taken during our trip, all of which essentially went according to plan. And with that our grand exploration came to a close.