Trip report CBR-MEL-ADL-SYD-CBR ON DJ/QF
Without too much variety left in the Australian skies, this trip provided about as much as is possible on an Australian domestic journey, though some might dispute this.
WED 27 MAR 02
It started with me being dropped off at CBR by a friend about 1.25 hours before my Virgin flight to Adelaide was due to depart. Canberra, though suffering like the other airports, doesn’t seem to have done as badly, as KD is still represented on the two busiest routes from CBR, namely CBR-SYD and CBR-MEL using Saab 340s. In fact, am I right in thinking that CBR-MEL is the only major route in the country served by three domestic carriers?
Whilst the Qantas check-in lines were almost out the door (a familiar story everywhere these days, it seems), I was the only one at the Virgin counter, situated where Impulse used to be. Ansett’s administrators have stupidly denied DJ access to their terminal despite there being plenty of room to accommodate not only KD and DJ but even more. Allowing Virgin in surely just brings in cash, which is something Ansett’s ex-employees don’t have much of. In fact the situation is such that Virgin passengers arriving in CBR have to pick up their luggage from the kerbside.
Anyway, I digress. On check-in I was told there were no windows left, which I disputed, knowing I was there early and that Virgin didn’t pre-allocate seats to non-existent FFs. So she checked for me and lo-and-behold, the emergency exit window was free… Being Seq#28 meant that there must have been at least half the windows yet to be allocated… The other contention was their inability to check my bags through to Adelaide. Apparently this now possible but if and only if you have booked a through ticket on their website. Much as I love Virgin, this is a major problem of theirs as it is not popular with passengers (especially those with 25kg of luggage). What is more, their offerings of through flights do not cover all connecting options. SYD-PER via ADL (now possible with new SYD-ADL flights) comes to mind.
On that note I headed upstairs to the new lounge, built to accommodate Ansett’s CBR expansion, in particular the CRJs… Not surprising that it was a little quiet. However, the tarmac was busy, with as many as 3 QF 734s in at once, which must be a record for little old CBR as well as the inevitable Dash-8s and 146s. Kendell had 2 Saab 340s on the ground and Virgin’s flight to BNE (VH-VBB) was just pulling out.
Regarding the terminal, CBR Airport is currently in court against Ansett’s administrators, wanting to wrench control of the terminal due to a breach of contract. For some reason CBR wants AN to demolish its newly built extension to allow other airport developments. To me this sounds crazy, but someone might know more which might explain this.
CBR-MEL, DJ 716, 737-700, VH-VBC ‘Betty Blue’, PB: 1756, TO: 1803 Rwy 35, LA: 1849 Rwy 16, FT: 46mins.
This flight was packed (flight crew wrote 148 pax, 7 crew on my log – can that be right?), but generally uneventful. As usual, the Virgin crew was friendly and enthusiastic, which never ceases to amaze me after the usual Qantas (and sometimes Ansett) ‘bored’ look. I was pleased to be on VBC as being my 4th -700 flight on Virgin I was afraid I would start doubling up. But no, I have now been on VBA, VBB, VBC and VBF. Landing in Melbourne was smooth and on schedule, and after collecting my flight log from the Cabin crew (here in Australia they are always most happy to help, unlike in some other countries) and I was soon walking along the looooong corridor from the arrival gate to the baggage collection.
As usual, my bag was among the last, and once collected I joined the long queue for re-check-in. As there were only 2 flights leaving in the next little while (ADL and LST) I figured the planes must be quite full. With Easter approaching, this is not surprising. However, I still managed a window seat (8F) and soon wandered off to the main terminal to see if anything interesting was happening. There being little of interest but for an OA A340, I grabbed a Hungry Jacks burger and headed back to the Express terminal to await what I was hoping would be VH-CZQ, the Virgin hybrid.
And to my great pleasure, the “Virgin Albino” soon pulled into gate 3.
MEL-ADL, DJ 181, 737-300, VH-CZQ, PB: 2026, TO: 2038 Rwy 27, LA: 2102 Rwy 23, FT: 54 mins.
As usual I was among the first to board and quickly passed on my logbook sheet to the captain who happened to be greeting the passengers. Seemed like a nice bloke. Got to my seat and arranged a few safety cards for later hoarding (the DJ 733 ones have got to be rare). As expected the plane filled up, except for my row. The doors were closed and a quick glance around the cabin showed the plane packed except for Row 8 which had only 1 of the 6 seats filled – mine. Obviously a bunch of no-shows as the flight had been listed as sold-out. No complaints from me though. After takeoff I moved to 8A because a Rwy 23 arrival into Adelaide is great for views of the city from the LHS and is particularly spectacular at night (note to all those intending to travel to ADL: always ask for an ‘A’ seat and hope for a 23 arrival).
The flight passed quickly and just as we commenced the descent, the F/A went up to a couple of middle-aged women and invited them to the cockpit. I was stunned, not thinking of asking since S11 thinking it was banned. However I thought it inappropriate to start asking at that late stage. What was more frustrating was seeing one return but one stay for a jumpseat landing… Grrr… In the future I will always ask on VB. You never know your luck…
Indeed we landed on 23 and were soon taxiing to Bay 52 at the international terminal. With three planes landing a few minutes after each other, it was chaos at the tin-shed baggage collection facility that Virgin have. Low-cost for sure but I think it’s something else Virgin needs to look to as a priority.
MON 1 APR 02
On arrival at the Qantas domestic terminal, I joined the long queue to check-in. On arrival at the desk, I was most interested in getting a window seat and seeing if the plane was indeed the 767-200 I was hoping for. However, I got a better surprise when the agent said that no, she couldn’t give me a window, but that I had been upgraded to business class. I almost died, because I have never been upgraded on any of the 244 flights I had taken before and I had almost resigned myself to never having that luxury… It’s just a pity it was ADL-SYD and not SIN-LHR or similar. But I’m not complaining.
So armed with by pass for 3B I headed to the gate area (in ADL it’s just a big room with windows and lots of doors outside marked “Gate”) and watched to my satisfaction as 762 VH-EAN pulled in.
ADL-SYD, QF 738, 767-200, VH-EAN “Alice Springs”, PB: 0926, TO: 0934 Rwy 05, LA: 1135 Rwy 16R, FT: 1h 31.
I boarded early and headed to 3B and my nice comfy business class seat. I took out the complimentary newspaper and admired the brand new A3 (folded in half) safety cards that Qantas had introduced. A couple now grace my room. Looking out the window I noticed VH-OGN pulling in – it’s unusual to see 2 767s in the ADL domestic terminal at one time these days. I assume it was doing a MEL run, with my flight going to SYD.
Takeoff was smooth and more unusually on Rwy 05 which once again allowed a great view of ADL. Soon drinks came around and a couple of very nice smoked salmon and beef rolls. A pity it wasn’t a meal flight because the food was good but just not plentiful enough. After watching the news and “Everybody loves Raymond” from my reclined seat (plus footrest… oh the luxury…), we were on descent. I was soon cursing not having brought my camera when a perfect view of the Opera House and Bridge became available – it would have looked great with the plane’s window frame around the edges… Oh well, not to be and a few minutes later we touched down on 16R and pulled into the gate. From there it was to Gate 15 (regionals) to await my QantasLink flight to Canberra.
SYD-CBR, QF 2073, Dash 8-102, VH-TQF, PB: 1239, TO: 1241 Rwy 16R, LA: 1318 Rwy 30, FT: 37 mins.
We bussed out to the plane which had been hidden from view behind the Gate 16/17 pier. Upon boarding,it became obvious that the flight was practically empty, which is a rarety these days in Australia. In fact there were only 13 pax – no wonder the flight had been downgraded from a -300 to a -100. The reason is probably that Parliament is now out for a break meaning CBR traffic drops off hugely.
SYD-CBR is an up and down flight and by the time we had scoffed down the miniscule snack we were heading downwards again. The F/A was kind enough to hand my sheet to the Flight deck and even searched for the plane’s ID plate on the main door to find the delivery date. The flight was also one of the bumpiest I have had in a while despite quite clear conditions. I love turbulence however so it was just an added bonus.
Not long after we touched down at CBR on Rwy 30 which I have rarely used – most use Rwy 34 because of the added length and width. However, Dash-8s are pretty versatile and it meant arriving at the gate within 2 minutes of touchdown.