Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Every flight is different - Brisbane to Sydney

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

Like any trip by plane, there is this requirement to make sure you arrive at the airport several hours earlier than the advertised departure time.
And, for some reason unknown to any of us, there’s always a nervousness about when to get up, when to leave, and what precautions you have to make to get to the airport on time.
Today, it’s even more critical than usual.  We have a connecting flight in Sydney, heading for our final destination, Beijing, China.
It’s the one day when we can’t be late.
It’s astonishing just how many things can go wrong on any road that leads to an airport, with the probability increasing exponentially if you’re running late.
This morning, everything goes according to plan.
At the airport, we must leave everything to do with our air travel to chance as it is a group booking and for some reason, we can’t check-in online.  Instead, and one of the main reasons to get to the airport early, in this instance, is to tackle the service line with time to spare
Our early arrival made this less of a queuing nightmare.
But, we are waiting with bated breath to find out exactly where we are on the airplane.
Are we sitting together, yes
The check-in staff is familiar with the Trip a Deal modus operandi, and our baggage is seamlessly checked through to Beijing.
The only disappointment; 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 window side seats.
Oh, well, back to being a sardine again, only this time 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, making for an early departure, maybe.
Pushing back at 8:00, take off: 8:08, and when the pilot speaks to us at 8:28 it’s estimated we’ll 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, and at the gate at 9:30. 
This means we have just over two and a half hours before the next plane departs.

Traveling 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 if your carry-on bag is sitting on the max 7 kg, ten minutes might be just long enough for the circulation in your legs to shut down
Mine nearly did, and that last step off the bus was nearly my undoing, not particularly useful 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 all the other stores.
It then becomes a mission to find a bargain, and all I can say is don't bother.  Some stuff is cheaper than outside retail, but not by much.  I would recommend that you do some homework on the prices of those items you are thinking of getting, before hitting the duty-free stores.
Probably what is different is the range of products that 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.  I guess a middle seat is the same as any seat, with little width and less leg room wherever you sit, but somehow the stigma of a middle seat makes it seem worse.  And, it’s not something I do every day.
I wonder what it's like in a Chinese asylum.

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