SECTOR: MEL - PER
ETD: 15:10 (local) ETA: 17:20 (local)
ATD: 17:30 (local) ATA: 19:40 (local)
FLIGHT TIME: 3:35
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 767-338ER
REGISTRATION: VH-OGE “City of Orange”
DEPARTING GATE: 5/7
DEPARTING RWY: 27
ARRIVAL RWY: 21
ARRIVAL GATE: 3
Photo © David Bindon
I had flown to Melbourne the day before for a final job interview and at about 10:00am this morning after yet another but final interview I was informed I got the job. I could not believe it. The strange thing was I had to fly back to Perth early this afternoon and then back to Melbourne for a week leaving on Sunday afternoon so I will be back to start work 9:00am Monday morning. I had a cab pick me up from the office in Queen’s street and was taken direct to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport. The drive is just about 30minuites and costs just over 50 bucks.
The driver dropped me out the front of the Virgin terminal at 1pm. Plenty of time for me to get processed for my 3:10pm flight. I was dropped outside the Virgin terminal as the traffic and parking was so busy my cab driver did not think he would be able to find a park easily outside the Qantas 'terminal. That was alright as it is only a short walk from the Virgin terminal past the International terminal to the Qantas terminal.
Once I was inside the Qantas terminal I was presented with a scene of pure chaos. There were so many people and many long lines. I found an available check in kiosks and chose my seat, which naturally was a window one and printed out my boarding pass. I then found what I thought was the end of the line of the quick bag drop off. I asked the people in front of me if this was the line for the quick bag drop off and they said yes but I had pushed in and the line started way over the other end of the terminal. I apologized profusely and made my way to the actual end of the line.
I thought this was madness and that at Perth the quick bag drop of line is A, much shorter and B quick. Something else must be up or maybe Melbourne airport is a bit of a shambles. I mean it was Friday afternoon which is one of the busiest times of the week. I was funny to hear lots of other passengers on their phones calling loved ones saying I am at the quick bag drop off line and then use their fingers for the inverted comer symbol. I mean as if the other person at the end of the can see their finger movement.
Anyway after about 30 minutes I finally made it to the counter. I was greeted with a smile by a nice lady who weighed my bag. I felt sorry for her, as she must have encountered a lot of frustrated travelers today and I could tell she was working as hard as she could. I said you must be tired having to deal with all these people. She said yes and she was supposed to go home 2 hours ago. She explained that Melbourne airport is not usually like this but because to some freakish weather this morning Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney Airports were all closed for two hours due to heavy fog and that they were dealing with all the back log of flights. She said that unfortunately my flight had been affected and that I had a new boarding time of 16:10 but I would have to look at the departure screens to find the gate as my flight had not been allocated one yet and there have been many gate changes today. I thanked her for staying and helping me and wished her luck.
I the security lines moved very quickly and within a couple of minutes I was processed. The scene after the security check point was chaos as well. The display screens all had delayed or canceled messages. The Qantas flight to Perth that was supposed to leave two hours before mine was just beginning to board at gate one. Sydney seemed to be the most affected city with many flights to and from that city cancelled. The service desk had huge lines trying to book people onto other flights. The average Sydney flight looked to be delayed by 4 hours.
Photo © Darren Koch
Photo © Darren Koch
Photo © Darren Koch
I decided to explore the terminal and take some photos while I waited for my flight. I wondered to the newer pier which is where all the 20 something gates are. It makes the other pier of the Qantas terminal look very dated. I wondered to the dated terminal found a quiet area in the lounge of gate 9 and sat in front of the windows looking at the planes. VH-ZXA which was operating to Perth was pushed back from gate one whilst VH-VXD was pushed back some 5 hours late for her flight to Sydney. Whilst VH-VXR was heading to Adelaide from gate 7.
4pm was approaching and I decide to walk to find a display screen to tell me which gate I needed to be at for our departure. Every time a QF 767 landed I thought this must be my plane and anyone who had been to Melbourne would know there are a lot of QF 767 movements. 4pm and still no gate shown for my flight to Perth yet all other flights had a gate listed.
I was getting very anxious now as it was 4;10pm and this was when our revised boarding was supposed to happen and still no gate was listed. Then at about 4:15pm an announcement was made over the P.A that passengers traveling on Qantas QF777 to head to gate 5. Gate 5 was a short walk away. When I got there were some people already there and the crew and pilots were standing by the door ready to get on the plane which had not arrived yet. I then saw a 767-338ER pull into the central ramp area and turned gate 5. This looks like this is my flight.
Photo © Darren Koch
Photo © Darren Koch
On closer inspection I could see that today’s ride was a Boeing 767-338ER registration VH-OGE christened The City of Orange. I had actually flown this bird before on the 14th of September 1997 from Perth to Denpasar as QF75. This would be the first time I would actually be on the same aircraft twice (on separate flights). It would later turn out that I would sit in the very same seat as I did before on her (37A). Now there was some confusion in the lounge, which had got very full at this point. The display screens were showing that this flight was heading to Sydney whilst the announcements were saying QF777 passengers go to gate 5. So we had two-flight load of passengers waiting at a gate both not sure if this was their flight.
Photo © Darren Koch
Photo © Wolodymir Nelowkin
Photo © Wolodymir Nelowkin
It actually turned out that this would be our flight (thank goodness). But I did feel sorry for the Sydney bound passengers as their flight was originally supposed to depart two hours ahead of us. The flights previous passengers disembarked and our crew boarded and the old crew disembarked. Qantas has turning a 767 around down to a fine art. It only took about 30mins. It was 4:45pm and we were invited to board Cityflyer 777. The flight was full but boarding seemed to happen very efficiently and quickly. I guess everyone was eager to get home. The CSM came over the P.A and welcomed all of us on board and explained about the delay. I got to see VH-ZXB in Socceroo colors taxi into gate 24. Soon after the captain came over the P.A and also welcomed us on board and told us that they would be loading extra fuel so we could fly faster and try and make up some lost time.
Photo © Darren Koch
We waited till fellow QF767 VH-OGK who had just been painted back in Qantas colours after a stint with Australian Airlines taxied behind us and parked in gate 1. Our doors were closed and we began our pushback. We would be pushed back with our nose facing south until we were out of the alley way between the two Qantas piers and then face west where our engines would be started. We were pushed into position and we waited for the engines to start. I though it was quite odd as the crew were standing around and not getting ready for their safety demonstration. We held for about 5 minutes and then we were pulled back towards the gate.
The Captain came over the P.A and explained that we were being towed to the gate because we had to let off a passenger due to health reasons. I was quite pleased and surprised that no one groaned after hearing the news. I guess us Perth people are pretty laid back. After a wait of about 10mins at gate 7, the Captain then came over the P.A and said that we would be pushing back from the gate in about 5 minutes as they were finishing off the new paper work that needed to be completed to due the change in the manifest. It was now getting quite dark outside.
Eventually we pushed back from the gate and we were pushed to where we were before to start our engines. After they were started we began our quick taxi to runway 27. The cabin lights were dimmed and we taxied straight onto the runway and did not hold for takeoff. Melbourne really is a 767 capital. I counted 6 Qantas 763s on takeoff. Finally we were airborne. I could see the lights of Melbourne quite clearly. There was some light chop on the climb from some low-level cloud. Our climb out of Melbourne Airport had us flying on the runway heading for a very long time. The cabin lights were switched back on and the CSM informed us that the dinner service would start shortly and due to our delayed departure today spirits beer and wine would be complimentary. I thought there were complimentary on evening Cityflyer services. The captain came on again and apologized again for the delay (poor guy like he could help it) and gave us some flight information. We would be cruising at FL300 to and would be flying over the Great Australian Bite and be making landfall again over Esperence in Western Australia. Weather in Perth was expected to be fine.
Tonight’s choice of meal was Chicken in Neapolitan sauce or Beef in a red wine sauce. I opted for the Chicken, which was pretty good. The movie began to screen, which tonight was 8 Below. I opted to listen to my Ipod instead. The TV screens on the 767-338ERs are awful. You have one big one at the front of economy class section then a couple of smaller old school TVs spaced along down the cabin. It is more easier and comfortable to watch TV on Qantas’s 737-838s thanks to those great LCD screens. I heard that Qantas is upgrading some of their domestic 767-338s with the new LCD screens. I hope that is true.
Anyway after a while the meal trays were collected and the icecreams were dished out. The lights were dimmed so people could try and sleep. I eventually fell asleep, as it had been an exhausting day. I woke up an hour before landing and watched a bit of the TV. The movie had finished and they were now playing some music interview with Coldplay. About 15mins before landing the captain came over again and said it was a beautiful clear winter’s night in Perth and he could see the city’s light in the distance very clearly. We would begin our descent soon and we would be landing facing the south.
Sure enough soon after the captain made his announcement you could hear the engine thrust being reduced and we began our descent into Perth. The cabin lights were switched back on and the cabin crew started to walk through the cabin to collect the service items. Out the window I could make out a few lights of small towns on the outskirts of the city. The seat belt signs were turned on and the crew took their seats. I thought it was rather strange as they did not collect the headphones for landing and Enough Rope with Andrew Denton was still playing on the TV screens. The lights were dimmed again and out the window I could make out car lights. We were flying quite low and very slow over the countryside east of Perth. Apart for a few lights the ground was all black but I could make out the lights of Perth out in the distance.
The flaps were lowered and now it really felt like we were floating. We were now flying over the suburbs of Perth and we began are sharp left-hand turn for finals on runway 21. The landing gear was lowered and while that was happening the engines spooled up for a bit and felt like we had started to speed up for the runway. The final approach had a bit of buffeting probably due to the effect of the winds and the Perth hills. Touch down was in typical blunt 767 style and the thrust reversers were applied. During the whole landing the television program was still playing. As we vacated the runway the credits started rolling and I could hear the people behind me commenting that that was good timing and that they have never watched anything while landing. It was a strange experience having the whole plane laugh at the TV (except for me who was looking out the window) during one of the most anxious parts of a flight. A good distraction for those who are a nervous flyer I thought.
We vacated the runway and taxied to the terminal. We passed the empty Virgin terminal and docked at gate 3 at the Qantas terminal. We were finally home. I eventually de-boarded and met with my parents who were ecstatic I got the job. Neither them nor I thought I would actually get it. We made our way down stairs to the baggage claim and after a small wait I collected my bags and we fought our way through the ridiculous mess that is Perth’s domestic terminal carpark.
GROUND HANDLING: 4/10
Melbourne’s Qantas terminal looks dated even though it might have received an upgrade not too long ago. The pier I left feels and looks old. The pier with the 20 numbered gates has a much more modern feel. I would still be happy to transit through this terminal any day tough. The checkin lines for the quick bag drop off was atrocious as well as the lines for the E kiosks. Traffic outside the terminal was a shambles. Not knowing what gate to depart from till the last minute caused a few anxious moments and having two different flights called to the same gate was a big mistake by someone. But under the difficult circumstances the Qantas staff at Melbourne handled it the best they could. Perth despite its nightmare of a car park was ok to use but we were the only flight to arrive that time.
I love the 767 even with its brutal touchdown thanks to its main landing gear. I actually find them quite attractive and very comfortable to fly on. VH-OGE was in good shape despite her age. Though the cabin fixtures did look a little worn. I hope she gets LCD screens if the QF 767s are not going to get PTVs
Good job. Polite and friendly but nothing spectacular. Felt sorry for them as they were continuously apologizing for the delay. These guys did look tired (probably from all that waiting around) and they would have to operate the return sector back to Melbourne.
Quite tasty. Ice cream was nice too.
Good radio selection as well as an interesting TV programming. The movie which, I did not choose to watch was a type that seemed quite boring but at least it appealed to a large selection of people.
X FACTOR: 4/5:
It was a very tough day for Qantas with all though rolling delays and Friday is not a quiet day to fly especially on the Eastern Seaboard. All Qantas staff handled it in their stride and a smile on their face. The quality of their domestic product especially their long domestic routes have service levels comparable to many international carriers.
TOTAL 34/55 = 61.82%