Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Trip to China - Day 1 - And so it begins.

Flying Qantas, Brisbane to Sydney, in a Boeing 737-800

Like any trip by plane, there is this need to make sure you arrive at the airport several hours earlier than the advertised departure time.
For an 8:00 departure, this means getting to the airport at 6:00 or thereabouts.  Then there's the pre-flight effect, getting up at the crack of dawn, or in darkness, and leaving adequate time to get from home to the airport.
It is astonishing just how many things can go wrong on any road that leads to an airport with the probability increasing exponentially when you are running late.
This morning, everything goes according to plan.
At the airport, we have to leave everything to do with our air travel to chance, as it is a group booking and tackle the service line.  Our early arrival ma knew this less of a queuing nightmare.
Are we sitting together, yes.  The check-in staff are familiar with the Trip a deal modus operandi, and our baggage is seamlessly checked through to Beijing.
The only disappointment, that we are in the middle group of four seats on the A330-200 to Beijing, on a plane that is a 2-4-2 configuration.  We seem destined never to get those elusive two seats.
Oh, well, back to being a sardine again, only for the ten-hour flight, it's going to be a new sort of hell.  It just depends on how old the plane is.
The flight to Sydney is due to depart at 8:10.  Loading started five minutes early.  Everyone is on board and the door closed at 7:58.  It looks like an early departure, maybe.
Pushing back at 8:00.  Take off: 8:08.  At 8:28 it is estimated that we will be landing in Sydney at 9:17
Before that breakfast will no doubt be served in a hurry.  Breakfast cereal, just right and a muesli bar, who said Qantas wasn't trying to keep it's passengers healthy.
Start descent at 8:56, not far from Newcastle.

On the ground at 9:18, at the gate at 9:30.  This means we have just over two and a half hours before the next plane departs.
Travelling from domestic to international at Sydney requires a bus transfer from a station near gate 15.  All you need is an international boarding pass and the wherewithal to stand if the bus is full.
It might only be a short journey but very stop-start and jerky.  It's much better if you can get a seat, but...
The seats are so small they are not designed to sit you and your cabin bag without being thoroughly squashed.  And it's sitting on the max 7 kg, ten minutes might be just long enough for your circulation in your legs to shut down
Mine nearly did, and that last step off the bus could be your undoing, before your holiday starts.  Someone needs to rethink the means of transport between terminals.

Once inside the international departures area, you can be overwhelmed by the vast duty-free store, swamping the other stores, and then on a mission to find a bargain, don't bother.  Some stuff is cheaper than outside retail, but not by much.  I suspect its more tax-free rather than duty-free ever since we moved to having a GST.
Probably what is different is the range of different products you might not necessarily get outside, but you will be paying a premium for them.
And, just to underline the great duty-free myth being just that, the bookshop inside the duty-free zone sells their books duty and tax included.  Make sure you buy any reading material, particularly books, at your nearest Big W store.  There they are half the price of what they are at the airport.
Soon, we'll be moving to the gate lounge in preparation for boarding.  It's not something I'm looking forward to because it's another middle seat, but this time for ten hours, not one and a half.
I wonder what it's like in a Chinese asylum.

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