After spending more than 7 months travelling, working en sitting around NSW, Victoria, SA and the southern/south-western part of WA...it was time to take the skies and take a flight to Darwin and skip the west coast for now, because my travel time in Australia has become very limited and I've recently made a decision to combine the western coast of Australia with my next year's visit to New Zealand.....
So I booked an e-ticket about 2 months ago, when I was working and enjoying the WA rural life in Pemberton. After 7 weeks of apple and grape picking and a lot of pruning and a few days relaxing in beautiful Perth, 2 days ago (april the 27th) was the day to take the skies. My first Qantas experience (flying Qantas has always been one of my dreams ) travelling from Perth, WA to Darwin, NT.
To PER Airport:
I booked a skybus to Perth airport 1 day earlier at the backpackers hostel in Northbridge were I was staying the last couple of days. Because I wanted to be at the domestic terminal as early as possible, I took one of the earliest airport buses available, the 5.15 bus....that picked me up about 15 minutes later then scheduled, but the ride to the airport took just about 10 minutes, if you don't count the 2 pick-ups we first made in the city before heading for the airport.
@ PER Airport:
We arrived at the domestic terminal at around 6am, I headed for the QF check-in right away, standing in a long queue that filled up very fast but dissapeared just as quick, because the check-ins were surprisingly fast (surprisingly for me, because I'm used to longer, international check-ins). Backpack was labelled, boarding pass was given, and photo ID was checked very fast (no comments given about the fact that I hardly had any hair on my head compared to the passport photo )
Time to head for the waiting area, after a X-ray check and explosives check. (I wasn't surprised that of all the people in the queue they had chosen me to check body and handbaggage on explosive material, it happens to me all the time )
airline: Qantas Airways
flight number: QF792
from: Perth (PER), Western Australia
to: Darwin (DRW), Northern Territory
aircraft: Boeing 737-838
boarding time: 07:25
departure time (scheduled): 07:45
departure time (actual): 07:45
arrival time (scheduled): 12:40
arrival time (actual): 12:35
Photo © Montague Smith
I killed my time in the small waiting area reading some airline mags in the bookshop and watching the morning news of channel 7. I had a good view over the international terminal (even smaller than the domestic terminal), and I could see a Cathay Pacific A330, 2 Qantas 763's, a Royal Brunei 763 and a Garuda 737 (I tought Garuda used A330's on their Australian routes?).
Our 738 bound for Darwin at gate 3 was already beautiful, but thanks to the sunrise she even looked more stunning! A nice feature was the slogan "Boeing 75th anniversary of the first transpacific flight" at the back of the aircraft.
Boarding started on time, the rows in the back boarded first, the front rows after that, including me with seat 12F. Boarding pass checked, I picked up a headset for the IFE, and after standing in a queue for a short time and getting annoyed by that automatic "Quarantine restrictions in WA" speech in the bridge, I could finally enter the 738.
Photo © Glenn Stewart
Don't mind the emptyness on the photo above, compared to that flight, my flight was completely full. I took my seat, took a quick look around the cabin (the cabin looked and smelled very fresh....quite obvious since this aircraft was just a couple of months old). After 15 minutes, everyone was seated. The seat pitch was nothing to rave about, the normal economy seat pitch I'm used to. Not that I mind, as a quite short guy I can handle a lot. A welcoming speech was made by the cabin crew, and finally....push-back!
During push-back the safety demonstration was made, on the overhead screens and by cabin crew. And taxiing to the runway for take-off took just a fraction of what I'm used to. I was quite surprised by the quick handling of this flight, but you can blame that mainly on the fact that this is my very first domestic flight experience. I've been on a short domestic flight back home from Amsterdam to Maastricht 2 years ago, but the handling of that flight was at the same Schengen-standard as alle other flights operated from Amsterdam to Schengen-countries.
The radio programmes of the Q IFE system were already turned on, so I turned out me headset and plugged it in to search for a good channel to enjoy during the flight.
Take-off was very smooth and on time. Overhead screens popped up after reaching cruise altitude, and the IFE programme started. Normally they are showing the latest news from Channel 9, but due to technical problems, they showed an episode of "Yes Prime Minister" instead, I didn't mind the suspension of the news broadcasting. I prefer the news of ABC or SBS anyway, since the news of commercial networks is mainly about "boss finds dog back" and Footy (no hard feelings my Aussie brothers and sisters, be glad you don't have to suffer from all the disasters as shown on our national news programmes daily)
After the captain gave us information about the (inland) flight routing and weather in Darwin, breakfast was served! Breakfast on my flight included Scrambled egg with toast, a small croissant, strawberry yoghurt, a bottle of spring water and a cup of tea. In my opinion, economy meals are hardly ever filling, but given the fact I only had a can of Red Bull for breakfast, at 5am waiting for the airportbus in a deserted street in Northbridge, this breakfast was a welcoming addition to my stomach!
During collection of all the trays a movie started on the overhead screens; "Mona Lisa Smile", I was too busy reading my Lonely Planet guidebook and was enjoying channel 11 of Q Radio; "Soul Food". Soul and R&B are by far my favorite inflight musical genres, and a collection of songs by artists like En Vogue, Marvin Gaye, D'angelo and Aretha Franklin gave my remaining flight time a welcoming satisfaction, together with a marvellous view of outback Double-You-Ay. During the remaining flight time, cabin crew passed me by about 3 times with drinks.
Landing @ DRW Airport
About 20 minutes before landing, the captain gave us some more information on time and weather in Darwin and our landing route, as we were already approaching the city of Darwin and the view outside now looked more Amazone then Outback. I was in the Northern Territory, finally! The movie ended just a few minutes before landing, and after the overhead screens were turned off, the final approach was made. At first, I had a feeling the landing would be quite bumpy, thanks to the large amount of wind that attacked the aircraft during approach. But fortunately, the landing turned out to be very smooth.......and quite on schedule, about 5 minutes earlier.
We reached gate 3 just a few seconds after landing. Located next to another QF 737, bound for Brisbane. I said goodbye to the friendly crew, got off the 738 and walked trough the small but descent terminal of Darwin International Airport.
@ DRW Airport:
The baggage collection was just a short walk from the gate, and since my flight was quite busy, and my baggage was one of the first checked in @ Perth, I avoided the crowd and booked a airport busticket outside of the terminal. I collected my bagage, waited for the next airportbus to arrive, and continued my trip overland to a backpackers hostel in the city of Darwin.
Very smooth flight, friendly cabin crew, loads of amenities, and a good meal. My first Qantas experience was a very good experience, that definitely will have a special place in my aviation heart
But wait....there's more!
My 2nd Australian domestic flight experience will be next sunday (may the 2nd), from Darwin to Alice Springs on a Qantaslink BAe-146. The flight was even cheaper then a Greyhound busticket, so the choice of taking a bus or flight was quite obvious
And I might consider taking a domestic flight from SYD to BNE in June, depending on the price. After all, I'm still a backpacker with limited financial funds, so I have to watch my back with Mastercard & co.
Other (comfirmed) trips in the next months include my flights to Thailand and back to the Netherlands: SYD-BKK with Qantas (first international QF experience), and BKK-HKG & HKG-AMS with Cathay Pacific............
Hope you enjoyed my trip report, more will follow very soon!! Ofcourse, reactions are more then welcome in the mean time
Danny (KL713) Aussie rules! (the country, not footy )