Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has dished on the weirdest culinary requests from customers in the Sydney airport lounge and revealed how emotional he felt following Australia's Same-Sex Marriage result he personally campaigned for.
Speaking at the opening of the new Qantas London Lounge at Heathrow Airport, Joyce said his staff was used to eyebrow raising requests, but three in particular stood out.
"Somebody asked for a plate of really small diced up vegetables raw," he said. "The second weirdest was we had an American that came in and said they didn't want a burger that was burnt they wanted extra burnt so charcoal nearly."
"The weirdest one was somebody wanted burger and chips. That doesn't sound that weird but they wanted it as a smoothie...There are no requests that the staff won't deliver on."
The London Lounge is the Aussie airline's first Heathrow hub despite nearly 70 years of the "Kangaroo Route" in operation. Next March, Qantas will begin a new 17-hour direct service from London direct to Perth in what will be the world's third longest flight on new 787 planes.
Joyce said the ultra-long haul has been designed with passengers in mind and includes the opening of a lounge in Perth with an outdoor space and barbecue for those desperate for a taste of Australia once they step off the plane.
The airline has teamed up with the University of Sydney to study the effects of long-haul travel and come up with a range of meals and drinks to reduce the impact of being on a flight for so long.
"The lighting on the aircraft is designed with [University of Sydney] input and the meals with Neal Perry and their scientists are actually designed to minimise jet lag and making you feel refreshed.
"The 787 is the best product in the air with the best seats we've ever put on an aircraft and it's going to have humidity levels and altitude levels to make the experience really good as well," he said.
The 236 seat London lounge features drinks from Rockpool Mixologists and unique Aussie dishes like brunch bowls. It's expected to help burn through 50,000 servings of the most popular salt-and-pepper calamari dish, 38,000 scones and 200,000 bottles of champagne each year.
The luxury design that feels more like a high-end bar includes specifically chosen British and Australian drinks including a Northern Territory "green ant" gin featuring critters floating around the bottle.
The new flight marks a huge change in travel for the route that used to take four days, nine stops and cost more than four years of an average salary when it began 70 years ago. Joyce said despite Brexit-related uncertainty he's confident London will remain an aviation hub for years to come.
The weirdest one was somebody wanted burger and chips. That doesn't sound that weird but they wanted it as a smoothie...
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"These spaces have become event spaces. We've had people propose in the lounges, we've had birthday parties. We haven't had a wedding yet but I'm sure we can hire one out for that particularly when same sex marriage is legalised in Australia," he joked following his high-profile personal and corporate involvement in the campaign.
Speaking about the moment the result was delivered, Joyce said he was in Sydney with his partner Shane who had worked on the campaign and leading figure Magda Subzanski when the result came in.
"I've never been as nervous about anything, I had a knot in my stomach," he said, adding that he was "ready to kill" the chief statistician for taking his time with the result.
"I was ready to kill him and then we got there and it was a big relief and there was just all the tears."
"It was an amazing occasion. I'm very proud of Australia. I'm very proud of the country that I've now live in. I was very proud of Ireland two years ago but I was even prouder of Australia with this result."
As for whether he might be hiring a Qantas Lounge for his own marriage, Joyce placed the ball firmly in his partners court.
"My partner hasn't built up the courage to ask me yet! So I'm still waiting for that so hopefully," he joked.
The Qantas London Lounge is open to Qantas customers travelling in First and Business and Qantas Platinum One, Platinum and Gold Qantas Frequent Flyers and their guests. It is also open to eligible Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire customers, Emirates Skywards Platinum and Gold customers and Qantas Club members and their guests.