Sorry for the lack of photos; this is a bit of an afterthought trip report.
I travel to the outback town of Broken Hill quite frequently, for work purposes. Whilst I usually go by chartered coach with my students, I have taken to flying recently for several reasons:
1> It's less exhausting on me. Given the arduous nature of the trip in general, I find it better to arrive and not feel totally shattered. That way I can attend to my (University aged) students better, and run the trip much easily.
2> It frees me up to attend tedious meetings but necessary meetings, as I had on this particular day.
3> Regional Express have recently opened up connecting flight from MEL to BHQ via MQL, meaning I no longer have to transit and change airlines in ADL. It also means a later departure, and an earlier arrival. Win-win-win!
So, with the students well underway, my meeting sorted, I was off to MEL for my two short hops. I'd checked in both myself and my colleague online, allowing me to choose seats for the MEL-MQL leg, but not MQL-BHQ leg. At bag drop, the check-in clerk (who was a little tetchy) managed to get us two seats together in the exit row for that leg, at no extra cost, so that was a definite win. Rex share a terminal with Virgin Australia, and have a handy interline agreement on baggage. I feel both could really benefit from a proper agreement, allowing people to book flights from major cities to regional destinations on one itinerary, rather than two seperate ones as it is now. Ok, Rex will benefit more than Virgin will, but they'll still pick up some extra business!
The Rex gates are at the far flung end of the terminal, so after a stop for a donut, it was on down the corridors to Gate 14. We arrived, and sat in the lounge staring blankly out the window. Well, what a sight that was for sore eyes! A QF A380 trundled past. Then an SQ A380. Then a Virgin A330. Then a Skywest 717 (WTF???) and finally, a plane I did not recognise immediately, with a livery that had me scratching my head. In a moment from a movie or TV show, the nearby TV immediately started playing a story about the inaugural Air India 787 landing in Melbourne. I looked up at the TV, and back outside...and there it was in front of me. I curse my choice of cheap phone with it's pissy camera, all it did was take blurry snaps focussing on the rain on the window. Crap!
Anyway, boarding time came, and my colleague and I gathered ourselves, proceeded to the "gate" where our boarding passes weren't scanned, but looked at and had our names ticked off a sheet. Very low-tech. Down the escalator to the lower lounge, we stood about before an airline employee in shorts (why do they always wear shorts, no matter the weather?) opened the door and pointed out the plane, then walked away. Classy stuff!
Onwards to the Saab340, where a young looking pilot stood by the wing as we boarded. The FA directed us to our seats, where we plonked in and got comfy. I actually find the seats on REX quite comfortable. Not longhaul comfortable, but soft enough and wide enough to be happy in. Leg room is ok, better than some jets for sure. With everyone boarded, the turboprops were started (how I love that sound), the safety demo was done, and we started our taxi. It always feels like a race car compared to a jet. We headed to the East/West runway, faced West and were hurtling down the runway within 5 mins of departing the gate. Very prompt indeed. We left the gate bang on time too.
The flight was smooth, we flew a bit lower than normal due to headwinds above us, but were still slowed by some 60 knot winds. In flight service, such as it was, consisted of a little water, a tea or coffee, and a snack, either sweet or savoury. All served promptly and pleasantly. Additionally, the FA took orders for taxis at Mildura. The weater was fine apart from the headwinds, so it was nice to see the Victorian countryside pass by.
Just prior to landing, some lollies (candy) was handed around for all. A nice little touch! The landing was smooth, about 7 mins early. We backtracked on the runway to get to the terminal, pulled the usuall 270 degree turn to line up, and engines were off. Within 3 mins, i was out the door.
MQL has recently undergone a refurb. I'm not impressed. The old outdoor viewing area is gone. The cafe and lounge are all past security, meaning friends and family have extra hassle to come through to see you off (not that any of mine were around). Whilst the old airport had that definite "regional airport" friendly vibe, the new one screams "bland".
Anyway, after entering the airport, we headed straight in to the secure area, meaning off came the belt, the hat, the sunnies, out came the laptop etc. Why they can't just direct us back in to the sterile area I don't know.
We had a 25 minute stop in Mildura. Our connecting flight from Adelaide landed minutes after we did, and was already taxied up in to position. They started to call for boarding for a 1815hr flight at 1750 hrs. I hadn't even got my belt back on yet! I decided to visit the loo first, by the time I'd finished they were already saying "last call". Off I trotted like some recalcitrant late comer, even though I was a full 15 mins ahead of schedule. Clearly there weren't many connecting pax, as they virtually shut the door behind me, and at 1800, engines were started.
The FA on this trip was a male, and not quite the kind of guy you'd expect to see working as an FA. He looked and sounded extremely "ocker" (Distinctively Australian), and was quite casual in his approach to his job. Not in a bad way, just the air of someone who knows he has a plane load of people who aren't travelling virgins. Indeed, he recognised a few by sight and greeted them warmly. He ran through the safety demo, came to check on us exit row people that we understood the drill. By 1810, we were lining up for take off, and we were airborn shortly thereafter.
The flight, heading to Broken Hill and then Adelaide, was scheduled for 55 mins. The pilot said it would take 35. It took about 30. Time enough for a water and a snack, and a lolly again. Taxis were dutifully ordered, and we landed in BHQ a few mins after we took off at about 1815 (BHQ is on central standard time, 30 mins behind Eastern standard time. Don't ask why). Interestingly, all passengers, Broken Hill bound or not, were told to leave the aircraft, as they seemed to need to wait there until actual departure time (not until 1900). Bags were available promptly, and we headed to our cab. A guy, who'd been on the flight all the way from Melbourne, hadn't booked a cab when asked, so was a little desperate. He offered to pay for our ride if he came with us. Didn't bother me, so that's what we did.
All up, the flights were exactly what I expected: prompt, comfortable, with courteous but not ridiculously fawning service. I do enjoy riding on a turboprop, and will do so where given a choice. Given Rex have the monopoly on the route, and indeed are the only airline in to Broken Hill, the price was relatively steep, but it sure beat 14 hours in the coach. I wish Rex would bring back their FF program, or link in with VA so i could get points for the flights I take with them, but it's not to be.
For anyone wondering where the return leg is: I took the bus home. I can write a review of that if you like