Well, once again, here is one of those trip reports you would only find on a.net – that is, one where we take you to twice the number of airports we need and fly on such a mismatch of carriers that you can’t even check in to your destination at the origin. However, at least in my case, the rather circuitous routing belied significant savings and the potential use of valuable QF FF points (maybe
Anyway, on to some of the details. CX had yet to release their Australia-Europe special J Class fares in January so I got fed up of waiting and decided to be a bit inventive. Having looked on the CX Hong Kong website, I discovered I could fly to Amsterdam (being the cheapest destination in Europe for some reason?) from HKG for some HK$27,000. For a CX fan, this was good enough so I went ahead and booked after securing a QF redemption booking from BNE and a BA redemption back to SYD. So, what to do now?
Well, there was obviously a hole in the trip for getting up to Brisbane and another one for getting out of Amsterdam. Regarding the first, I went ahead and secured a standard QF domestic flight for AU$199, which isn’t amazingly cheap, but it isn’t amazingly expensive either, and given that DJ couldn’t beat it by more than $20-30, I booked this too, knowing that my baggage would be safely interlined. Last challenge was to get to Leeds-Bradford, close to the place where my family were scheduled to get together. Jet2, a LCC based at LBA, were offering the sector for 60 euros, so I went ahead with that too.
I’ve done my best to include some pix, as I know a report without photos is rarely so good (unless you are a champion of travel journalism unlike me and like Mr Door5Right). Unfortunately, many of them are embarrassing and blurry but I include them still because hopefully they give you a feel for what I’m trying but failing to explain :O
Sydney skyline on the morning of departure
I booked a cab sometime in the week before the trip for 8am but unsurprisingly it didn’t turn up, to which they claimed it was booked for 9am. Anyway, after a call they sent the first available one, which arrived close enough to 8.30am. It turned out the cab driver was second-generation Lebanese with a degree in finance and a passion for politics :O He got us to Kingsford Smith in good time for a domestic sector, after I planned for delays. The line for domestic check-in was snaking and massive, but happily, QF has two separate counters for pax with international connections. The queue was of one person.
The lady on check in was friendly and seemed surprised that I was organised enough to have the itineraries for different sectors in one place and that I knew which airline we were flying on! Apparently a lot of people don’t. Anyway, she checked our bags to AMS and I was glad to walk straight past the fat queue and through an efficient security. Interestingly (or not) as we lined up for security, a fairly well-known (and large Australian politician, Amanda Vanstone, who’s known for her Immigration Department stuff-ups, was queuing immediately behind us with her extremely bored and grumpy looking public servant. Presumably they were on their way to the QF Club and then a flight home to Adelaide.
Qantas Domestic Terminal, Departures
Thanks to the cab, we didn’t have a great deal of time to waste in SYD though that wasn’t necessarily a good thing because for a domestic airport, there is an extremely good range of shops and cafes. To name a few – a Metropolitan Museum (NY) outlet (selling jewellery etc), a boutique called Comme Ci Comme Ca, and a stylish bookshop with moody lighting and a coffee bar at the back. Plus all the standard souvenir/newsagent places.
Although I have been to SYD T3 many times before, I was particularly impressed with the quality of the airport experience here. Meanwhile, QF 516 was preparing to board, with VH-OGN on stand. As you can see from the picture below the gate lounge is relatively full, certainly with a diverse range of people. Among those who stood out were an American band – ‘Fish.. something’ if I recall correctly and a guy standing in a kilt clutching an accordion. QF boarded the whole aircraft together and so I made my way to 41A, which offered a good view of numerous other QF domestic flights preparing for departure. Departure was from Gate 6, on the main concourse, not the satellite, and opposite QF maintenance hangers.
View from my seat of neighbouring QF a/c
Airline: Qantas Airways Ltd (QF/QFA)
Date: Thursday 5th April 2007
Flight Number: QF 516
Route: Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD/YSSY) – Brisbane Eagle Farm (BNE)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER
Scheduled Departure: 10.05
Actual departure: 10.18 (Gate 6)
Ticketed Cabin: Economy Class
Before pushback, the British-sounding Captain came over the PA to tell us we were delayed for a short while because the crew were being assembled from different places. He also said we would have some turbulence as we would be crossing several jet streams. At this point, a FA was giving the safety briefing to two unaccompanied minors in the row in front. She dropped a pillow on my mum, commenting “it would’ve been good if that was a bag of money.” Meanwhile, the American band had taken their seats in the row behind and must have been rather bemused that there was actually something called service on this flight. Having said that, he probably had other concerns, “Oh God, where did I put my guitar?” I know the feeling..
It looked like Y was pretty much full on today’s flight, mainly with interstate tourists going away for the Easter break, I think. Although we did push back at 10.18, I was getting worried about making the connection because we were awaiting clearance for a long time, or what seemed like it given the threshold of 16R is very close to the domestic terminal. Finally, after a CZ flight took off for CAN, we did too, at 10.38. Airshow told me we had 466 miles ahead of us.
For those interested, at the QF terminal were VH-VYA, TJG, EBV, TJX, OGI and OGJ. In other words, the usual collection of 738s and 763s plus the 743 off to PER. Noted here that I’d travelled on TJG from HBA to MEL a couple of years back. On the international scene, there were more QF birds plus the new JQ A330s. Also, an MU 343 was on stand, with a TG 744 and VS 346 on remote.
We climbed out of SYD eastwards over the ocean before banking left to hug the coast all the way up to BNE. Once we’d done this there were some great views of SYD terminals and the CBD skyline..
I was getting hungry by now, and thankfully QF haven’t scrapped Domestic meal and snack service. First came the food cart which carried a bowl of apples and trays of Byron Bay cookies (premium brand, sold in Australian coffee shops). No prizes for guessing the popular choice – though some people had both, which the FAs were happy with).
Byron Bay Cookie and coffee - snack on Q
Drinks were not far behind and I decided there would be nothing like a cup of coffee to perk me up and the good old H2O for some intense hydration. QF even have multi-coloured coffee cups which creates a splash of, well, colour in the cabin. Notice too they provide a tablemat which is a marketing device to make you feel special and labour-saving device to save the FA’s poor little hands . After the snack, I snapped the cabin..
View from 41A of this B767-300 cabin
Mr Captain then announced our descent into Eagle Farm (I hadn’t been here before so had visions of birds) and told us, yes – you guessed it, we’d need to fasten our seatbelts. Anyway, I thought the descent was very interesting, as, it seemed, did the Korean girl on the aisle who was peering through my window. The Brisbane hinterland looked very green which surprised my little brain given that Queensland=Hot=Drought=Brown. Oh no. We banked left for finals and landed over what looked to me like mangrove swamps, it certainly seemed flat.
QF 516 touched down at 11.40, Airshow informing me now that we had, in fact, travelled 519 miles. My first impressions of BNE were that it was extremely spread out and that the domestic terminal had lots of gates, few of which were in use. We were on stand soon after and disembarked/deplaned as the Americans were considering their onwards travel to Whistler, Canada.
As some of you might know, BNE domestic and international are a mile or two apart which means you have to catch the Airtrain to transfer. This is actually the same service that runs into Brisbane city and then to the Gold Coast, which means the frequency is less than great. QF have a policy of giving you a complimentary transfer if you have a QF international boarding pass, otherwise you must pay. However, we managed to persuade the AirTrain agent that we didn’t really need to pay given that we were flying on CX and so he agreed.
We then headed across the passenger bridge over the car park and into the station. Luckily for us, the train came almost immediately, which was very fortunate. The picture below is a shot of the domestic terminal and footbridge from the Airtrain carriage, hence the reflections, sorry
Domestic terminal at BNE and station footbridge
QF and SQ a/c parked on remote stands near international terminal
And so that concludes Part I. Hopefully you have enjoyed.. please leave comments, compliments and criticisms Look out for the next leg of this trip coming soon, in Cathay Pacific Business Class