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2 Hours In Paradise: Hamilton Island (JQ/DJ) +Pics  
User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6715 posts, RR: 77
Posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 11130 times:

2 Hours in Paradise: Hamilton Island on Jetstar & Virgin Blue


Intro
Back in spring when I planned my trip to Australia I checked how to include Jetstar and Virgin Blue in addition to the Qantas domestic sectors. Since my schedule in Australia would be tight I searched for a destination which is served by both DJ and JQ in order to book a day trip combination. I was already moving towards booking a round trip to Newcastle when I discovered Hamilton Island (HTI), the largest inhabited island of the famous Whitsunday Islands, located in the Great Barrier Reef.

Here's an impression:


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Photo © JB
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Photo © Darren Howie



After finding these pictures and reading a report about constantly blowing winds and a tricky approach into HTI with its 1800-meter-long runway my decision was clear. I didn't mind about an extra AUD 40 I had to invest for the return trip.



Wednesday, 27 September 2006
Brisbane (BNE) - Hamilton Island (HTI)
Jetstar JQ726
10:45-12:20 (10:50-12:22)
Flying time: 01:23 (hrs)

Airbus A320-232
VH-VQZ (msn 2292), first delivered 11/2004 to Jetstar Asia as 9V-VQZ
Seat 2A



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Photo © Achim Stemmer
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Photo © Jon Logan




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Photo © Ryan Fletcher
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Photo © Achim Stemmer




Check-In
Unlike Virgin Blue, Jetstar doesn't offer the option to check in online, so I showed up at the airport early. I found out that the counters don't open until two hours prior to departure, so waiting was inevitable. However, when the counters opened I managed to check in as sequence number 1.
Over many weeks I had tried to figure out which side of the aircraft would be the "right one" - depending on the approach direction, aircraft have to pass the island first before turning in for landing. Based on different sources I wanted to choose the right aircraft side.
Being sequence number 1, I expected to find myself in the first boarding group for sure, but then I was told free seating would not be available any more (the JQ website suggested it wouldn't be discontinued until 29 October). Only four window seats left, the agent said. And apparently none on the right side. I wondered how that was possible because I was "seq. 1" and Jetstar doesn't offer an option to reserve seats in advance. There was nothing I could do and had to accept seat 2A - sitting up front, on the left side...


Flight
Jetstar's concourse is located closer to the runway than the rest of the terminal so I could use the remaining time for spotting. Some 30 minutes prior to departure VH-VQZ arrived at the gate.




Boarding was started 15 minutes later and since there aren't any jetbrigdes at JQ's concourse all passengers had to board the aircraft via stairs.




Orange star under a blue sky...




...and a silver engine.




The purser welcomed us on board, though she didn't appear very friendly - in contrast to the two other FAs. The black leather seats are quite comfortable, the seat pitch comes up to today's low cost standard.




Cabin views:


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Photo © Brian Conway
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Photo © Quinn Savit




The flight was packed, load factor was somewhere between 95 and 100 percent. We left the gate exactly on time and turned in for takeoff only five minutes later.




Climbout over the ocean before turning left and heading north.




Long before the trip I had planned to do a "sandwich test" on both JQ and DJ. Therefore I ordered a ham & cheese sandwich for AUD 5.




The sandwich tasted good, but it was a bit dry - it lacked mayonnaise, butter or mustard.




After finishing the snack I leaned back and simply enjoyed watching the beautiful coastline.




The remaining flight was uneventful - until we started our stunning descent.




Small white clouds over a turquoise ocean...




Here's a facility which looks like a ship terminal:




Countless smaller...




...and bigger islands appeared on the surface.





A little piece of paradise under a band of thick clouds...




I had expected a right turn to follow any time soon, but then I discovered an island on the left which seemed to be equipped with a runway...and indeed it was Hamilton Island. So the left aircraft side turned out to the the "right" one.




After starting the final descent the plane was increasingly shaken by the local winds...




...and a young lady in the middle seat next to me said something about "turbulence" to her boyfriend. I couldn't resist and told them that the approach to Hamilton Island was always tricky due to local winds...




...and a relatively short runway. "Both thrust reverse and brakes would be fully deployed", I added.
They looked a bit surprised and asked "Really?" Wow!




What a scenery...




...simply beautiful.




A nice tiny island with a part of Hamilton Island right behind:




Passing Hamilton Island's marina...




...and a considerable yacht.




Touchdown followed seconds later and it was as rough as expected. Indeed both thrust reverse and brakes were fully deployed - pressing passengers forward. The couple looked at me, nodded and said "Yes!"

Just after slowing down the aircraft had to turn already...




...and we taxied back on the runway.




Sister ship VH-VQQ, bound for Sydney, turning in for departure:




HTI's terminal building is small, but functional and pretty.




Picture time on the tarmac...




...and again, a last shot of the tail.





Hamilton Island Airport
The airport consists of one main building and some other small facilities. Arriving passengers get their luggage within minutes in a small hall next to the check-in "chalet" and need to walk only a few meters to the pickup zone. Mainland motor vehicles are prohibited on the island, with a few exceptions (e.g. small busses). Transport needs are mostly served by golf buggies:




"Hamilton Island hub": several smaller islands are served by either boats or seaplanes. VH-VQZ about to return to Brisbane.




Beautiful beaches in walking distance from the terminal:




Spotting "Hamilton Island style": Virgin Blue B737-700 VH-VBU on final descent...




...and only seconds from touchdown:





Wednesday, 27 September 2006
Hamilton Island (HTI) - Brisbane (BNE)
Virgin Blue DJ582
14:35-16:00 (14:44-16:05)
Flying time: 01:14 (hrs)

Boeing 737-76Q
VH-VBU (s/n 1322), delivered 05/2003
Seat 11F



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Photo © Brenden
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Photo © Sam Chui




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Photo © Micheil Keegan
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Photo © Micheil Keegan




Online check-in
Only two hours after arrival I passed one of the two security checkpoints and took a seat in the departure hall. I didn't need to check in because I had already printed the boarding pass in the evening before. Unlike Jetstar and Qantas, Virgin Blue offers an excellent online check-in. Seats in the back had already been blocked, so I had chosen row 11 on the right side.


Flight
Boarding was started on time and again we had the pleasure to walk to the aircraft.




After zooming in "Darwin Diva", a member of Virgin Blue's ground staff approached me and said: "No pictures on the tarmac!" For whatever reason...




The cabin was equipped with comfortable cloth seats - not the leather seats I have often seen on pictures. (Please note that this picture was taken after arrival at BNE)




Boarding was completed soon, the load factor was somewhere around 70 percent. Passengers were addressed as "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls" and the FA speaking was indeed funny and very friendly. When she explained the safety procedures she said: "There are 1000 reasons to leave your lover, but only six to leave this aircraft." More jokes followed and people laughed.

One of the local yachts/ferries waiting for passengers at the airport pier:




Short stop...and full power for takeoff.




Climbout...




...and right turn.




I had a look at DJ's menu card and I ordered a "fresh seasonal sandwich" for AUD 5. Interestingly, DJ sells sandwich packages as "combos". I tried the one with Virginia ham, cheddar cheese and sweet mustard pickle accompanied by slow roast beef with fruit chutney and baby cos. It tasted excellent - one of the best airline sandwiches I have ever tried.

Note the saying on the box: "Keeping the air fair and your tummy full"




Not even an hour after departure we started our descent into Brisbane...




...which was rather unspectacular compared to the approach to HTI.




Shortly before we touched down I had spotted very dark clouds and as we stopped at the gate it started raining. It got worse and worse, with thunder and even lightning strikes around the airport. Later in the gate area I heard a Jetstar announcement about a delayed flight to Launceston - an engine had been struck by lightning and engineers would check the damage. Some minutes later all ground operations at the airport were stopped...I was really glad my round trip had started in the morning already.


Conclusion
Both Jetstar and Virgin Blue offer efficient and reliable services, though I would prefer Virgin Blue over Jetstar in the future. They offer an excellent online check-in, employees seem to be very motivated (e.g. announcements enhanced by jokes), the on-board catering appears to be more diversified - and they won the sandwich contest.
Additionally, Virgin Blue currently installs PTVs on its entire fleet, unlike Jetstar where not even overhead screens are available.


For all those interested in my other recent trip reports (Qantas domestic):
Testing Qantas: SYD-MEL-SYD-BNE (B738, B763, A332) (by PlaneHunter Oct 4 2006 in Trip Reports)
BNE-SYD-BNE: Domestic Run On QF’s Oldest B747-400 (by PlaneHunter Oct 5 2006 in Trip Reports)


As usual, comments, opinions and questions always welcome!

Best Regards,
PlaneHunter

[Edited 2006-10-18 17:30:38]


Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
16 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineSemsem From Israel, joined Jul 2005, 1779 posts, RR: 3
Reply 1, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 11116 times:

Thanks for your report. I was in Hamilton / Hayman 20 years ago and I completely forgot what it even looked like. It's a shame you went for only 2 hours. The trip by seaplane or boat to the actual barrier reef is a unique experience.
However in July when we went it was somewhat chilly as it's their winter.


User currently offlineDoor5Right From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2005, 707 posts, RR: 16
Reply 2, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 11027 times:

Great report and pictures, Mr. PlaneHunter.

That sure is one great Day Trip to do - the Virgin Blue sandwiches look good in that box. Good to know they tasted good too!



My soul is in the sky...
User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6715 posts, RR: 77
Reply 3, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 10948 times:

Thanks!

Quoting Semsem (Reply 1):
It's a shame you went for only 2 hours. The trip by seaplane or boat to the actual barrier reef is a unique experience.

My sole intention was to combine JQ and DJ this time, but I'm planning to come back in the future and spend some days in the area.


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineSkyvanMan From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 224 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 10722 times:

BTW That ship on the second to last picture in the first set, if anyone was wondering is the one that is used to transport guests to Hayman Island. I remember that well. Anyways I loved reading your trip report. I've flown to that airport before and remember the security being rather lax, was your experience that it was really laxo r was it the same as you've experienced at other Australian airports?


The 3 best planes of all time: Shorts Skyvan, 330 and 360
User currently offlineJoffie From Australia, joined Mar 2006, 806 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 10618 times:

Great report

Interesting how JQ had allocated seats when you flew in September. They were supposed to have them at the end of October, but changed it to October 1.

Perhaps some sort of trial.

Typical VOZ staff saying no photos.


User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6715 posts, RR: 77
Reply 6, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 10491 times:

Thanks for all new comments!

Quoting SkyvanMan (Reply 4):
BTW That ship on the second to last picture in the first set, if anyone was wondering is the one that is used to transport guests to Hayman Island.

Thanks for the info!

Quoting SkyvanMan (Reply 4):
I've flown to that airport before and remember the security being rather lax, was your experience that it was really laxo r was it the same as you've experienced at other Australian airports?

It wasn't different from all the other checks at Australian airports, at least that was my impression.

Quoting Joffie (Reply 5):
Typical VOZ staff saying no photos.

Do you know why?


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineBA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8506 posts, RR: 55
Reply 7, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 10449 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Another great report, many thanks! Smile

Quoting PlaneHunter (Thread starter):
I wondered how that was possible because I was "seq. 1" and Jetstar doesn't offer an option to reserve seats in advance.

- Interesting, if not annoying.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Thread starter):
Just after slowing down the aircraft had to turn already...

- Great view!

Rgds

Mark



111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
User currently offlinePanAm_DC10 From Australia, joined Aug 2000, 4119 posts, RR: 90
Reply 8, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 10340 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
COMMUNITY MANAGER

Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 7):
- Great view!

Thankfully you got the right seating for the approach to HTI PlaneHunter and didn't rely on the advice of an Aussie who last flew in on AN 20 years ago  Wink

Excellent report and I'm pleased that all your trip reports showed that you had a pretty good time when in Australia. Also, weather is better in SYD now!

Regards and thanks
PanAm_DC10



Ask the impossible to achieve the best possible
User currently offline777ER From New Zealand, joined Dec 2003, 12082 posts, RR: 18
Reply 9, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 10257 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
FORUM MODERATOR

Excellent report. Hamilton Island looks a very nice Island, wonder what hotel fees are like. Maybe I might need to fly there next time I'm in aussie

User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6715 posts, RR: 77
Reply 10, posted (7 years 9 months 2 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 10162 times:

Quoting PanAm_DC10 (Reply 8):
Thankfully you got the right seating for the approach to HTI PlaneHunter and didn't rely on the advice of an Aussie who last flew in on AN 20 years ago

It was simply luck! The approach direction seems to change more often than I originally assumed.  Wink

Quoting 777ER (Reply 9):
Maybe I might need to fly there next time I'm in aussie

The approach alone is worth it!


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineIndustrybuff From United Arab Emirates, joined Dec 2003, 347 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 10064 times:

As much as I enjoyed planehunters trip report, I would like to clarify some of the inconsistancies raised.

Jetstar commenced allocated seating on 04 October on all flights right across their network. JW advised me on a recent flight that as Airport staff needed to be trained, selected flights were trialled prior to the launch date.
All flights are seat assigned in advance, for parties of two or more passengers. Seats are not assigned for travellers on a single booking, hence as planehunter tells the flight was full, families and larger groups were preseated which results in limited single seats being available. Planehunter was indeed very lucky to get a window seat at all, given the make of mostly families that travel to HTI.

JQ seems to have no plans to offer online checkin - I think its a case of one step at a time for the newest airline in Australia - just 2.5 years old...It took DJ almost 5 years to offer online checkin !

Jetstar rents digital DVD players on most services however it appers BNE to HTI is a short flight time and therefore they are not offered. They range in price depending on the sector.

Many people, myself included, find the jokes offered on DJ flights very tired and boring, they have been the same for the past 4 years and whilst the mostly vacation passengers on the flight might have enjoyed it - business travellers on a SYDBNE or SYDMEL vv flight weekdays do not !

Im pleased, planehunter, that you enjoyed your sandwich, it looked great !

Cheers
industrybuff


User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6715 posts, RR: 77
Reply 12, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 10000 times:

Quoting Industrybuff (Reply 11):
Jetstar commenced allocated seating on 04 October on all flights right across their network. JW advised me on a recent flight that as Airport staff needed to be trained, selected flights were trialled prior to the launch date.
All flights are seat assigned in advance, for parties of two or more passengers.

Thanks for that explanation!

Quoting Industrybuff (Reply 11):
JQ seems to have no plans to offer online checkin - I think its a case of one step at a time for the newest airline in Australia - just 2.5 years old...It took DJ almost 5 years to offer online checkin !

I don't think that it matters how long an airline is in the business - I also criticize that Qantas doesn't offer online check-in yet.

Quoting Industrybuff (Reply 11):
Jetstar rents digital DVD players on most services however it appers BNE to HTI is a short flight time and therefore they are not offered. They range in price depending on the sector.

Interesting, though I'd still prefer PTVs (probably with an airshow channel) available on all flights. Let's see how long the DVD players are offered - other LCCs stopped their offering after some time.

Quoting Industrybuff (Reply 11):
Many people, myself included, find the jokes offered on DJ flights very tired and boring, they have been the same for the past 4 years and whilst the mostly vacation passengers on the flight might have enjoyed it - business travellers on a SYDBNE or SYDMEL vv flight weekdays do not !

No doubt old jokes are tiring, but do most frequent flyers really notice them actively after numerous flights? Also, it's not just the jokes, but the general attitude of DJ staff my conclusion is based on.


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently offlineBMIFlyer From UK - England, joined Feb 2004, 8810 posts, RR: 58
Reply 13, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 9962 times:

Wow  eek 

Absolutely fantastic report and pictures too Big grin

Well done!


Lee



Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
User currently offlineJlbmedia From United States of America, joined Jun 2002, 622 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 9884 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Great report!  Smile Thanks for the great comparisons between the airlines. John


JLB54061
User currently offlineSafs From Australia, joined Dec 2005, 199 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 9808 times:

Another great report from Plane Hunter. I am glad you enjoyed Australia. I have yet to experience JQ and I hope to one day so I can make up my own mind about it. I have heard many negatives about JQ, however any airline has its bad days.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 12):
I don't think that it matters how long an airline is in the business - I also criticize that Qantas doesn't offer online check-in yet.

Qantas now offers online check in for domestic flights only: http://www.qantas.com.au/info/bookings/onlineCheckin

I look forward to your future trip reports!

Safs


User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6715 posts, RR: 77
Reply 16, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 9777 times:

Thanks for all new comments!

Quoting Safs (Reply 15):
Qantas now offers online check in for domestic flights only: http://www.qantas.com.au/info/bookings/onlineCheckin

Great to hear - now their excellent website has been completed.


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
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