Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The perils of travelling - Melbourne to Brisbane - A week means little improvement

 Melbourne to Brisbane by Qantas


The experience coming from Brisbane to Melbourne was interesting, considering that Qantas has been in mothballs for nearly a year and a half.

We've thrown all Covid rules into the bin, the plane is at sardine level, no separation and if just one passenger has Covid then the rest of us are in deep shit.

As an example, the passenger next to me coughed for the whole two and a half hours.  I doubt whether people even check these days if they have it or not, so reliant are we on the herd immunity theorem.

It might account for the hostesses being taciturn to the point of almost being rude, they only came down the cabin once to deliver the snack and once to collect the rubbish.

That was it.  The rest of the time they were invisible.  I'm guessing that Covid is on their minds and see how easy it would be to get it in such an enclosed environment, the less contact with passengers the better.

Will it be better on the way back?

...

It is not.

This is a bigger disaster.

It's 10 minutes past departure time, and they can't find the baggage handlers to load the bags, so they're forlornly sitting on the tarmac, and we are squashed into a steel cocoon, hoping like hell someone hasn't lied about not having Covid.

Something else I find amusing, other than the fact they're shuffling people around seats after everyone had been seated, is the instructions to maintain a safe distance while loading.  

If 25cm is a safe distance, then we're ok, but if it's the one and a half meters that's the usual safe distance then their airline had suffered a mega fail in social distancing.  Of course, it's not practicable in a plane, so why do they continually labor the point?

They eventually find the baggage handlers, which, to me, seems incredible there isn't a roster to tell them where they're supposed to be, something you think the Qantas CEO would be addressing rather than looking for $19 million houses in upscale Sydney, but apparently not.

It seems that Qantas has fired all of the local employees who used to look after baggage and clean the planes, and it is now in the hands of contractors, who are profit-orientated so less staff to do more work in half the time.  So, there might be a wait for baggage, and a longer wait to clean the plane if they actually do 'clean' the plane - in the few minutes they have because it arrived late, and because of that the plane lost its slot in the roster!

Everything withstanding, we finally push back at 4:05 pm, 45 minutes late, and, by the way, all that time we were cooped up with no air filters keeping the virus at bay.  It's beginning to look like the Ruby Princess saga all over again.

Seven minutes later, we take off, the pilot continually telling us they will be making up time, and those with ongoing connections, not to lose faith.  Sorry, but that ship has sailed!

But, sometimes, there isn't a lot of time between plane arrivals and departures at connecting airports, and there is one on arrival in Brisbane causing major concern, a flight to New Zealand around 7 pm.  With our arrival after 6pm, that rule of arriving at the airport 2 hours before is looking very shaky.

Glad it's not me.  I've been there and it's not good for either nerves or heart rate.

On this flight the aircrew is more visible, checking if everything is stowed before take-off, and then when snack service is upon us.

I often wonder who comes up with the idea, four corn chips, some nuts, three pretzels, and some tomato seltzer.  And a soft drink in a small can.   There used to be tea or coffee once, but that seems to have disappeared, along with the cake and/or biscuits.

Despite everything, we are tracking to arrive in Brisbane 'on time', sorry, the new 'on time' of 6pm, with the plane suddenly heading for the ground a half-hour before touching down.  Always a heart-stopping moment when the engines make a sudden and 'funny' noise.

Touch down at 5:57 pm, this one was relatively smooth, if not very fast.  It seems the 737 can't land at anything less than what feels like 200 miles an hour.

Terminal by 6:00 pm, but getting off the plane, getting to baggage collection, waiting for the bags, then head for wherever you're going, that can be up to another hour before you get out of the terminal.   Today it was not so bad, there weren't 5 planes arriving at the same time!

As for the international connection passengers, they got a bus directly from the airplane, which would save a lot of time finding the transfer desk, then finding the bus, if there was one waiting for them.

 







Thursday, June 30, 2022

The perils of travelling - Brisbane to Melbourne - First time flying after the pandemic

Every flight is still different, but this time it has more significance.


So, it's the end of the restrictions induced by the pandemic, and against my better judgement, we're travelling again.

The pandemic is not over, it's just we've moved it to one side and trying our best to ignore it.  Try as we may, it ain't going nowhere.

But we can't all stay locked up forever.

It's been over two years since we've been to Melbourne where our relatives are, and it's going to be a two-and-a-half-hour flight, wearing masks, and hoping against hope there's no one with Covid on the plane.

It's a forlorn hope, by the way.

These days people have it but aren't isolated because they can't afford to.  All the government handouts are finished, making it impossible for people not to be working.

Of course, the country had a very high vaccination rate, and I'm covered, having just had a booster.  If comes died to susceptibility, and so far I've managed to avoid it, even with my better half working in an office where nearly everyone has had Covid at some time or other, and at a stage where it could be passed on 

Perhaps it's just been blind luck.

Going on this plane will be a good test.


We decided to park the car for the six days in the long term car park.  We were going to get dropped off but it was wet, raining very hard, and the roads were a nightmare, with ghastly traffic jams.

Our driver would have been out recently licence's granddaughter and it would have been too much for her, even though she wouldn't say no.

The walk from the car park was long, but direct.  Sometimes it can be convoluted when having to park on the higher floors.  We're on the ground, and it's easy just to jump in the car and drive out.

Inside the terminal building, its masks on.  This place doesn't recognise the end to mask restrictions, so the threat of covid I'd very real.  I hope they got that memo on the plane.

It would be pre-flight entertainment if they had to bodily drag a dissenter off kicking and screaming, or dies that only happen in America?

The food choices are still as appalling as they were before the pandemic, and I still don't get why all the reasonably good choices are down one end, and, you guessed it, not the end we're departing from.

I go for a walk, but an angry customer returning half-cooked food puts me off everything, until I got a chicken schnitzel roll, which after I got it failed to show any sign if chicken, schnitzel or otherwise.

It did have ham, slightly dry around the edges, cheese, tomato, and lettuce, sad the roll itself was quite tasty, so a three out of ten for trying.

The price, like all airport food, nearly broke the bank.  But here's the thing, they wouldn't charge it if people didn't pay it, so it's everyone else's fault!


Of course, we wouldn't need to buy food, if you could call it that, before getting on the plane if the miserly airlines weren't cutting costs, i.e. food, to make that extra buck to put in the CEO annual bonus.

Once, the meal options were quite good, but over time, these have got less and less and less, until now if you get a cookie, you're lucky.

It will be interesting to see how further the standards have fallen, anywhere hearing sane said CEO wailing about not being able to fly during the pandemic, showing that he is more concerned about profits than passenger safety.

All while everyone else is citing the mantra, 'your safety is our priority'.  I guess one day the message might come from the top down, but I won't be holding my breath.

I read up on the safety procedures they implement in between flights so I'm expecting to get on a disinfectant-smelling plane with shiny clean surfaces.  It would be a huge improvement over that which prevailed before the pandemic where planes could be anything from apparently clean to don't look below the surface.

Like I said, having not flown for so long, and the fact the pandemic is anything but dead and buried, there are so many things that could go wrong.

Meanwhile, we're sitting in the gate lounge ticking off the minutes before boarding.  No matter what changes Covid had brought, that will be the same, people ignoring the seat road loading instructions and others pushing in as though the plane might leave without them if they didn't.

Good News!

The incoming flight is here, 20 minutes before boarding time, so we're going to be late leaving.

Or will they sacrifice the deep cleanse?

Stay tuned.

News flash...  9ur crew is coming in on another flight which is running late, no, just landed, so they have to finish up there, and come on over, go through pre-flight, and hen we can board.

Yep, we're going to be late leaving.  Who would have guessed?

Boarding as always is amusing but it's made even more so by the constant reminder to keep our distance from other passengers, and if you can't, and as you know sardines have nowhere to go, we should rely on the mask.

Wow.  These people seem to think masks will save us.  Sadly, they won't, but they know that.  But it looks good and makes them feel better while cramming people into their small planes.

We were supposed to leave at 6:15 pm.  The late arrival of the operating aircraft and waiting for the crew from yet another late-arriving aircraft, takes its toll.  

Good news though.  More time to clean the plane.  It looks clean, but there's no tell-tale disinfectant aroma, so what did they do?

6:37 push back.  Overall, it's not a bad result, pushing back 22 minutes late.  It's time, they say, they can make up in the air.

They allow 2 hours and 20 minutes for the end-to-end departure and arrival from and at the gate.  The actual flying time, give or take, is 1 hour and 45 minutes, so we have 45 minutes for taxiing.

6:47 take off, so 1 hour 45 minutes added means we have a touch-down time of 8:32.  Our scheduled arrival time was 6:15 plus 2 hours and 20 minutes, so it would be 8:35.  Three minutes from touch-down to disembarking at the gate.

I don't think so.

We'll just have to wait and see.


I must have dozed off for a few minutes because the next thing that happens is food service, and it's going to be arancini balls, which I like, so it sounds good.  But it's airline food so it will be interesting

Something else that's bordering me, the woman on the seat next to me gas a persistent cough.  Mask or no mask this is a problem, especially if she had Covid, and doesn't know it yet.  Or it's symptomatic or something else. 

I'm immuno-compromised so anything floating around in that tin can I'm likely to be susceptible to.  Time will tell if it's serious.

Past that fear, the balls were delicious, all four of them, and a coke for a drink.  We've moved on from tea and coffee, and polite flight attendants, because they insisted, that we keep masks on till after they passed handing out the food.

It shows the staff have no faith in the company's health directives, so they know each flight they're dicing with death.

Scary thought. 

But, all's well that ends well, and we make up the time and end up being 7 minutes late which is acceptable in anyone's language.

8:37 on the runway with a bang.

8:42 at gate


My take on travelling by plane in the post-pandemic world, it's too soon and vaccinated or not, we are all still susceptible to getting the virus and it is killing us.  I have to travel home yet, but I have to hope the lady in the next seat hasn't hexed me.

Not after dodging it for so long by keeping myself safe, a proper distance between me and the rest of the world, and keeping away from those in isolation, because those few I could trust would stay in isolation.

For the rest of the world, when money is the driving object to disobey or flout the rules, they become a serious problem, one that nothing is going to overcome, and therefore we will quite feasibly never get rid of the virus.

Let's hope the trip back is less traumatic.