This is my first trip report on Airliners – I’ve been an avid reader of this site for many years and only recently decided to join and actively participate in this wonderful site.
I have a couple of international trips coming up this year, and look forward to writing about them. However, unfortunate circumstances at the end of 2010 meant that my family and I were required to make our way to Mt Isa, Queensland very quickly.
If you have any comments about the style of writing, inclusions or exclusions, please let me know so I can make the next trip reports better!
I also already know that I have a significant lack of photos from this trip – I only had my iPhone on me, so this will be corrected for the next adventure.
3 January 2011
Route: Melbourne - Brisbane
Carrier: Virgin Blue
Departure Time: 17:00
Departure Gate: 5 (T3)
VH-VOA at Terminal 3, Gate 5
A Malaysian 777
My sister and parents took the Virgin Blue flight before mine as I had to work before taking this first flight, so I was travelling solo on this leg. Operations were quite busy at Terminal 3 in Melbourne, no more than 5 minutes after the aircraft at Gate 5 been pushed back did VH-VOA turn into the gate to offload passengers and load up the next Brisbane flight.
Unless I’ve been living under a rock for my whole life, I have genuinely never noticed that for 737 pushbacks the tug is attached to one of the rear bogeys, rather than being attached at the nose gear.
Boarding was quite a smooth process, save for the relatively large group of foreign tourists who, after taking their seats, decided to change around while other passengers were still boarding. The tourists also kept the flight attendants busy throughout the flight, disregarding directions like remaining seated, electronics switched off etc.
My seat in 11C was quite comfortable, one of the reasons I choose to fly Virgin are because of their comfortable seats and generally ample leg room. I’m 6’4” and legroom is constantly an issue for air travel for me. The aircraft was wonderfully cool, which by contrast later flights were unfortunately warm.
The cabin crew were fantastically friendly and helpful, fun and polite. The flight itself was quite smooth, save for some minor mid-flight turbulence. We landed in Brisbane dead on 6pm, with an extremely powerful reverse thrust, probably the most powerful I’ve experienced on a 737. We had to wait a little while for the ground staff to make their way to our gate to allow us to disembark.
3 January 2011
Route: Brisbane - Townsville
Carrier: Virgin Blue
Departure Time: 19:20
Departure Gate: 40
The 737-700 taking us to Townsville
I was unable to get the Registration of this aircraft due to the distance the aerobridge is from the terminal, I wasn’t quite able to see, and also given that the only camera I had on me was the iPhone, digital zoom didn’t allow me to see the registration clearly.
I was taking this flight with my family with whom I had caught up to in Brisbane. We were the very first to board, and even though we were seated in the rear half of their aircraft, decided to board through the bridge, as my mother was rather ‘particular’ about boarding through the bridge and not going onto the tarmac. Once we reached the aircraft and were being directed to our seats, I overheard my mother joking with the attendant that “we’re being rebels, boarding through the bridge”… The family trip to Singapore for my sister’s 21st should be a real treat…
Boarding took a fair while as it was completely full. I assume that this is in part due to the floods in Rockhampton, making driving or travelling by train to the north of the state unreasonable without massive detours, or impossible altogether. The only issue on boarding was when a passenger from a connecting flight took his seat from the previous flight. The passenger whose seat he was in was happy to sit in his assigned seat, which was only one row in front of where she was originally assigned.
The crew was happy and professional, though didn’t seem as fun and friendly as the Melbourne-Brisbane flight. The flight was again quite smooth and we experienced some mid-flight turbulence, nothing too serious. The -700 had less legroom than my previous flight on the -800, but it wasn’t too bad – my knees were touching the seat in front but I wouldn’t say they were fully pressed into it. The aircraft was also hotter than the previous flight, and this was significantly noticed while we were travelling through significant turbulence on descent. My mother and sister had the safety cards out fanning themselves as we came in to land, and I wasn’t far off doing so myself.
We landed at around 9.30pm, and were told that we were only disembarking through the front doors, so I had no chance of getting the registration of the aircraft at the end of the flight.
All in all, it was a decent flight, and it had been a long time since I’d taken connecting flights – I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Driving Townsville to Mt Isa
The next morning we met with family friends and split into two cars to drive the approximate 10 hours west to Mount Isa. Given all the rain it was rather green along the whole trip, and we only encountered one flooded road that was sitting at 0.4m above the road. Normally this wouldn’t be much of a problem, as trucks and 4WDs were driving through, but one of the cars in our convoy was a VE HSV R8 – the owner wasn’t so concerned about the car getting wet, more about the electrics in the engine bay. We waited for 45 minutes for the water to subside a little, and to watch other vehicles go through, and eventually once the water was at 0.3m, decided to give it a go. After that, it was pretty smooth sailing.
The reason for the drive was because the cost of a flight into Mt Isa at short notice for the day that we had to be there was about $1200 one way with Qantas from Melbourne to Mt Isa via Brisbane.
6 January 2011
Route: Mt Isa - Brisbane
Departure Time: 12:20
Departure Gate: 2
VH-VYD arriving in Mt Isa
Luckily there were two flights out of Mt Isa on Thursday, one at 12:20 and the other was around 6/6.30pm. There was only a $100 difference in fare (the lunchtime flight being more expensive), but taking the earlier flight meant that I could make a connecting flight back to Melbourne and get home on the same day. As I had to work on Friday evening, I didn’t much like the idea of having to overnight in Brisbane airport (something I have done before) and fly home on the 5am flight with no sleep and have to go to work.
Fortunately, my sister was also flying back on this flight so I had someone to share it with. She was adamant about having the window seat, which meant I would need to have the middle seat. I was concerned about this because I always feel more squished on Qantas, and we were expecting a 737-400 on the flight, according to the website at the time of booking. However, after checking in, we found that another family friend who had travelled to Mt Isa was also on the same flight, so we checked her in to seat 20C and agreed to swap so I had the aisle and she was closer to the window.
When the aircraft pulled up I was very excited to see a -800 operating our flight given the older appearance of the -400 interiors. We got away just on time, no thanks to a late passenger who reeked of alcohol as he made his way past me. The takeoff run felt quite long, and knowing that the runway is rather short, it was nearly quite concerning! The flight was fairly full, but there were a few seats spare scattered across the cabin.
The legroom on Qantas noticeably less than on Virgin, with my knees jammed into the seat in front of me. The passenger in front of me decided to recline very early on and left me even more squished in the seat than previous. Fortunately there was noone behind me and I felt happy to recline myself, though it was still a little uncomfortable.
Lunch was served on the flight and was a beef and pasta with broccoli dish. Again, this is where my lack of photos let me down as I didn’t take a photo of it, and while it was nice to have it, I don’t think it was necessarily photo-worthy anyway. I’ve always been an advocate for airline food, given that you’re flying around the countryside or even the world, it’s pretty good that you get meals that are relatively tasty at all. I mean, you’re travelling, not going to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, what can you expect? The bread roll was quite tough, but still tasted fresh, and we got a juice and a miniature Toblerone, in addition to the non-alcoholic beverage we were also served.
Tea and coffee came around nearly immediately after the cart service had gone, and I thought “I’ve got a cup of juice and a coke still on my table, I can’t fit a tea on here too”, so I had to decline. I found the staff, while professional weren’t as warm and welcoming as the Virgin crew I had experienced on the previous two flights, and most other flights I have on DJ. It felt a lot more just handing out trays rather than actually serving, which may be a result of the fact that on Virgin you do need to be served – you need to have that dialogue with the attendant to get what you want, whereas here you just get what you’re given. Of course, the attendant could have been having a bad day, so I’m not going to overly labour the point – they were never rude, just never seemed to be overly friendly.
Significant storm activity around Brisbane again made the flight bumpy on the cruise and descent. We had some strong jolts sideways which were a strange experience, but before too long, we were descending out over the water and swinging around for final approach into Brisbane.
6 January 2011
Route: Brisbane - Melbourne
Carrier: Virgin Blue
Departure Time: 16:15 (Delayed)
Departure Gate: 46
Virgin Blue's 50th aircraft pulling up to the gate.
I was originally booked on the 5pm flight out of Brisbane, so as to allow enough time for the Isa flight to arrive. Seeing as I had arrived into Brisbane at 2.30, I went to find the service desk to see if I can be moved to the 4pm flight instead, if there’s an availability.
I walked the whole distance from the Qantas terminal (the far end) to where I assumed the Virgin counter was, but since the introduction of V Australia, the counter seems to only be manned when there is a connecting flight coming through Brisbane. As such, I had to proceed to landside and go to the Service Desk to enquire. I needed to do this anyway, as I had used Mobile Check In for this flight, and due to autofilling from my Velocity details, and my own fault for not making the change in the process, my mobile phone number was slightly incorrect (it included the ‘61’ from the ‘+61’ phone number in my Velocity details). As such, I had been successfully checked in, but I never received the mobile boarding pass.
The service desk agent was very friendly and helpful, who pointed out that there were issues with the mobile check in system and their new reservations system. I know I’ve used mobile check in before from Melbourne to Brisbane in July last year, but it did stuff up on the return flight, though that was a different error in the system, so I’m not sure how true it is. I also made mention of the new look check in counters, which look quite stunning. I was looking for any visual cues to a new brand revamp but found nothing else other than the Virgin Blue logo across the top of the wall had its own segment, like it could easily be replaced if needed.
The service desk agent offered me a spot on the 4pm flight before I even asked, and also had an exit row seat for me, which I was very grateful for! Fantastic service! I had to go through security again, however, and when proceeding to the queue a Virgin Blue staff member pulled me aside to make sure my carry on bag both fit in the frame and that it was also on target for weight. This was the first time I’d been checked on this whole trip, and fortunately came in at 6.8kgs – and I thought I had packed light for this trip!
The weather outside in Brisbane was terrible, and flights were all being boarded and disembarked via the bridges only. My flight was delayed due to flight DJ951 from Sydney being late itself. However, we weren’t too late and before long we were on board and jetting away.
Virgin Blue exit row on 737-700
Again, the storm activity kept the flight turbulent and the seatbelt sign on well past 41,000 feet (12,500m according to the flight tracker). The crew were kind enough to leave Live2Air in free mode as we had been late departing Brisbane, which I thought was a nice touch. The crew were again friendly and helpful, though when I requested to purchase a snack wrap after the cart service, it took a long time for the attendant to bring my card back to me, I genuinely thought they’d forgotten it!
Otherwise, it was smooth sailing to Melbourne, a soft descent and landing, and quick disembarking from the aircraft.
Overall, it was a good trip, as far as flights go, though all flights encountered some level of turbulence, some worse than others – not that it’s anyone’s fault! My favourite flight would have to be the first flight, Melbourne to Brisbane, and least favourite would have been the Mount Isa to Brisbane leg.
I look forward to my expected travels – Singapore in March with Jetstar, returning via Darwin, and USA in May, travelling with V Australia and a variety of carriers domestically. Expect more pictures and GPS flight tracking on those flights.
Cheers, and thanks for reading!