Part 1 at Capital Connect: The New Old Virgin to Canberra
After three days work in Canberra it was time to fly home to Sydney. Due to technical issues with the website migration that was the purpose of the visit I had an opportunity to return earlier in the day than my original 5.35pm flight. Great! I called up Qantas Business Travel and they quickly booked me on a 4pm flight. A Boeing 737-400 replaced my original Dash-8 Q400 booking, which was okay by me. Might as well enjoy flights to and from Canberra on aircraft the respective airlines were attempting to remove from their fleets.
I checked in using my mobile phone, but instead of being asked to select a seat I was just presented with a requirement to accept an exit row window seat. Thinking that wouldn't allow me to stow my bag under the seat I rejected the offer, but was then placed in a middle seat without the choice of moving. Unhappy, I visited the Qantas website on my laptop, but the only windows I could get were right down the rear... Okay, they would do for now. But I couldn't print out the new boarding pass due to the lack of a printer.
A taxi drove me to the airport under calm and clear blue skies. The Qantas check in area was quiet, populated mostly by automatic kiosks and a few staff waiting around to help. I mentioned that I wanted to change seats and was pointed to a desk. The lady then had to go to the Qantas ticketing desk and got me 13A, a seat which I had selected on previous flights. I was happy!
Check in area
Security presented no hassles and I was quickly into the bright and clean airside section of the terminal.
Qantas 737-400 to Melbourne
My Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver status gave me one complimentary visit to the Qantas Club lounge. I figured that this was as good as time as any to use it, so I went up the escalator to where I was presented with the choice of a Private Lounge, Business Lounge or Qantas Club, along with a selection of automatic check in terminals. There was also a bathroom with shower facilities that didn't seem to be attached to any lounge.
Check in machines and lounge entrance
Upon entrance to the Qantas Club I was asked if I already had a boarding pass, to which I verbally replied "Yes", then allowed in. I was surprised how large it was. Canberra is mainly a domestic narrowbody and turboprop port, with only the odd 767, but the passenger mix is different to any other Australian port. Being the nation's capital there are a large number of public servants and private contractors that fly in on corporate travel contracts for short periods (like me). Many of these are possessed of Qantas Club memberships (not me).
Lounges are a very new concept for me, but I thought this recently built one seemed rather comfortable and well equipped, with nice views out across the tarmac. A small selection of antipasto salads, breads, dips, wedges of gouda cheese and crackers, along with an apple tart was available, as well as self-service softdrinks and juice and a bar serving alcohol and, I assume, coffee. I had a nice little meal before using the big Mac computers, loaded with both OS X and Windows, to do some last minute work. There is free wifi as well.
Good boys eat their salad first
A choice of OS X or the Rolls-Royce of operating systems
I can see why you would want Qantas Club membership if you had the kind of role that required you to fly around the country regularly...
There was an exodus out of the lounge when our flight was called. It's not far to the gates.
Then down the glass airbridges and on to the tired 737-400.
Cloncurry is a Queensland town that was home to the first ever Royal Flying Doctor Service flight. They used a Qantas aircraft
We waited for everyone to board the packed flight. It looked like the only space available was in a couple of "business" seats up front.
I'm not a fan of the seat fabric
A Dash-8 flight arrived
We taxied out to the runway, stopping for the safety demonstration, then a powerful take-off to the north. Our course took us south of Warragamba Dam, over southern Sydney before turning north and descending into the airport over Kurnell and Botany Bay.
Rather than more photos of this familiar flight I made some video. Apologies for the quality - these are unedited.
Safety video audio
Taxi and take-off
Descent over Botany Bay and landing
Snack and drink
Lavosh and kasundi dip - DJ's banana bread was nicer
In contrast to the young Virgin Australia crew on the flight up the Qantas cabin crew looked like many of the public service passengers seated around them; mature and professional, confident and friendly. When the time came to serve snacks and drinks (bottled water, bottled fruit juice or alcohol - no ice provided) on the flight the male attendant glided down through the cabin and everyone was served. Then it was time to begin our descent and they came through and collected everything. Virgin Australia have a bit to learn with their Capital Connect service.