Saturday, January 7, 2017

TRIP REPORT - Hamilton Island (Great Barrier Reef Airport) to Sydney - Virgin Australia Airlines - Boeing B737-800 VH-VOO

TRIP REPORT – Hamilton Island (Great Barrier Reef Airport) to Sydney – Wednesday 14 December – Virgin Australia Airlines – VA1280 – Boeing B737-800 – VH-VOO.

Having spent a couple of nights at the lovely Reef View Hotel on Hamilton Island, it was time to depart and head to Sydney for a week or so.  This would be the first time I’ve flown out of the Hamilton Island (Great Barrier Reef Airport) - I flew into Hamo Airport from Melbourne some time ago - so I thought I’d share this experience.

Mini-bus transfer from the Hotel to the Airport was a little chaotic with people and bags and then mini-busses everywhere but eventually we found a seat and travelled over to the Airport which is only about a 5-minute drive on the other side of the Island.

There is also a dedicated ferry terminal at the Airport for passenger transfers from and back to the mainland (Airlie Beach or Shute Harbour).

Bags collected off the bus and into the nearby check-in hall – almost all major Australian airlines fly into Hamo except Tigerair – and all have dedicated check-in counters and contacted staff.

Check-in was reasonable quick with the ‘usual’ problem of some tourists having to shuffle items from and to bags if they were overweight.   We were assigned the pre-booked exit row 13 with a window and centre seat.

Meanwhile, outside of the terminal, the high tide was VERY high today and the water level was rising into the carpark and onto parts of the Airport, including a taxiway used by smaller passenger charter aircraft from the mainland.

Through security and into the modest terminal.  One food outlet and a general retail outlet along with toilets.  Nice views through louvred windows to the aircraft parking apron and out to the Runway 14/32.

Our aircraft was Boeing B737-800 VH-VOO (ex ZK-PBA with Pacific Blue) named “Peaceful Bay” and it arrived from Sydney pretty much on time.

Soon after the bags were being removed and much to my surprise a pre-boarding call of 5-minutes was made.  This is a very quick turnaround and the ground crew were certainly working hard!

Virgin Australia Business Class passengers boarded first followed by the main cabin.  I saw our bags heading onto the plane as we lined up to board somewhere near the end of the queue.  Out onto the tarmac and up the steps to be greeted on board and directly to our seats.

Plenty of legroom – well worth the extra money to be paid for this 2 hour and 10 minute flight.

Today’s flight was probably about two-thirds full – plenty of spare seats – and quite a few people looking to swap seats to have more room!

Front door was closed, engines started and we commenced taxiing for Runway 14.  Holding for the Qantas B737-800 from Sydney before we back-tracked and lined up just as the safety demonstration finished and the crew was seated.

Quick departure with spectacular views out of both sides of the plane over the sunning Whitsundays.

We flew overheard Mackay and then West of Rockhampton before we levelled and set-course for Sydney.

Cabin service started with all crew providing a muesli bar as a snack along with a drink.  Certainly a nice change for Virgin Australia offering a complimentary snack.  They still have menu items available for purchase and so feeling a bit peckish (it was lunchtime after all) I also purchased a wrap with an extra drink.  Good value and a good lunch.

The rubbish was collected and we sat back for the remainder of this pretty uneventful flight .

In terms of in-flight entertainment, this flight had none – unless you have a smart phone/device and downloaded the special Virgin Australia in-flight entertainment app.  There is Wi-Fi on board to connect your device to the app only and the app provides a substantial range of entertainment options including movies, TV shows, music and games to mention a few.

We started descending into Sydney and were advised that we were running 10 minutes early!  On the downside though was the strong Westerly winds passing through Sydney and that there may be turbulence.  We continued flying South until pretty much overhead the Sydney Harbour Bridge when we made a 90 degree left-hand turn – what turned out to be downwind for landing on Runway 25.

No major turbulence and after a long-final approach we landed and exited Runway 25 on the taxi along Taxiway ‘Golf’ back to the Sydney Domestic ‘Terminal 2’, crossing the main Runway 16R/34L along the way.

Fairly long walk to the baggage collection area from the end of the Virgin Australia terminal pier, followed by another wait for our bags to come out.  Eventually bags were collected and we were on our way from the terminal around 15 minutes after landing.

Overall, a good flight.  Very friendly and professional crew.  Glad there was additional items from the menu available for a decent lunch – the ‘snack’ is certainly not filling.

Enjoyed passing through Hamilton Island Airport, and especially enjoyed the views from the plane on departure!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

HOTEL REVIEW - Accor Hotels - IBIS Mackay Hotel - Mackay Airport

An awesomely convenient hotel for travellers and aviation enthusiasts alike has opened in Central Queensland with Accor Hotels launching the IBIS Mackay Hotel at Mackay Airport - and I couldn't wait to give it a try!

The IBIS Mackay Hotel is a mere four minute walk from the Mackay Airport terminal and offers a premium experience with comfort and convenience at an economy price.  Despite being located beside the Mackay Airport terminal, each window is double glazed and core filled block walls ensure rooms are very quiet.

The Hotel also has a 24-hour reception and friendly team members, all at a reasonable price.

The IBIS Mackay Hotel advertises that every room features 'IBIS Sweet Beds' - they have a multi-density mattress and 7cm topper to ensure comfort.  Top floor rooms offer a mix of Queen and King bed configurations - our room on the Northern side of the top floor was a King room.

The view out of the room was over the Mackay Airport carpark, terminal building, Northern parking apron, Western General Aviation Apron (WGA) and further to the runway and Eastern side of the Airport.  There are also nice views towards the Mackay CBD.

Queen rooms on the top floor with a Southern view have more limited views towards Paget and further to the coal loading terminals at Hay Point.

The hallway on the top floor also has a nice view window with more views over Mackay Airport terminal building, parking apron and runway.

For guests, rooms have an in-room safe, and tea and coffee making facilities, plus there is complimentary car parking, complimentary WiFi, a fully equipped gymnasium and modern restaurant/tavern named 'TurBARlence' which offers gastro pub food and craft beverage offerings with a great outdoor beer garden.  'TurBARlence' is also open during the week for all-day dining and coffees.

We really enjoyed staying here - I especially enjoyed the plane spotting opportunities from the conveniently located hotel - and my wife enjoyed the comfort of the 'Sweet Bed'.