Friday, December 24, 2010

TRIP REPORT – Royal Brunei Airlines – Brisbane to London (Heathrow) to Brisbane – Boeing B777-200 – LONG!

The actual routing of this trip was Brisbane – Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan) – Dubai – London – Dubai – Brunei – Brisbane

Saturday 11 September 2010 – BI0074 – Brisbane-Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan) – Boeing B777-212(ER) – V8-BLB

Check-in was to open at about 10.30am (2 hours prior to take off) so we had some time to have a drink and sit around for about an hour. The check-in queue was not that long by the time we joined the queue, and with 6 check-in points for the economy section, after 20 minutes, we were at the front of the queue. One surprise once we got the front the queue was that we were checked-in on a business class check-in point – obviously this section is a little quieter – so it is a nice touch that they process more passengers by ushering them into the business class line!

Unfortunately though, being checked-in on a business class didn’t equal an upgrade. But we enquired and received a pair of seats in the bulk head row (52) which meant extra leg-room for the trip to Brunei.

The flight (like all on the Royal Brunei) was going to be full, so hand baggage restrictions were strictly adhered to – 7kg – we had to shuffle some jackets and pants to the big suitcase so we could carry our laptop and other toiletries on board. Our bags were checked right through to London, and we were also issued with boarding passes for the next sectors from Brunei to Dubai and then London. We had to check on the ground in Brunei about the availability of bulk-head seats as system locked Brisbane agents out.

Boarding was by row number and was strictly enforced. We were eventually called aboard and found the other passengers in our row had taken pretty much all of the overhead space… so we pushed and shoved and managed to make all our stuff fit!! Turns out my wife and I got to spread out across the centre three seat of Row 52 – the economy section of these ex-Singapore Airlines aircraft are 3x3x3.

Also on these B777s are Personal Televisions with Audio Visual Entertainment on demand, with movies, televisions shows, radio, video games, and travel maps and times.

Hot towels came out, followed by comfort packs with socks, eye mask, and toothbrush and toothpaste. There was a spoken safety demonstration, before push-back about 5 minutes late. Take off was from Brisbane’s Runway 01, and with the IBUNA SID, we made a series of right-hand turns to overfly the field and then towards the North-West.

As with all these long-haul Royal Brunei flights, a snack is served first – about 10-15 minutes after take-off, followed by a main meal about one hour or so into the flight. Royal Brunei is an alcohol-free airline which suited us fine, and seemed to keep most of the younger and perhaps rowdy passengers away from this airline with the majority of passengers on these flights being married with children and generally over 40! Drinks (water/juice) and nibblies are offered regularly, before another meal service about two hours prior to landing. The selection of meals was pretty limited – generally beef or chicken.

One thing I did like was that the Royal Brunei Flight Attendants, when not serving food and drinks, kept freshening up the toilets, so while we were seated close to the toilets, a fresh essence kept wafting out!! Even after 6 hours of flying the toilets were very clean and fresh!!

The flight time seemed to pass fairly quickly, probably helped by watching a couple of the movies on the AVOD system. It was indeed a great system, with plenty of new release and classic movies that would suit all ages!!

We were starting our descent into Brunei and the captain turned the seatbelt sign pretty much straight away advising that there are some tropical storms nearby. There were some light bumps but nothing major. We broke through the clouds and made a series of left hand turns and landed at Bandar Seri Begawan Airport on dusk.

A nice little International Airport that has got its market well identified and catered to. Transit passengers (like us) were ushered off the plane and through a well signed passageway into the waiting area of the terminal – no chance of passing through immigration “by mistake”!! The terminal area has plenty of seating and a nice selection of souvenir and food shops, including two cafes that serve hot and cold food, and coffee and tea! There are also day-stay rooms down a set of stairs – something we investigated for the return journey – as well as toilets and showers.

The pictures below show the terminal area and aircraft parking area with two of Royal Brunei's B777-200's waiting for departures later in the evening.

Saturday 11 September 2010 – BI0097 – Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan)-Dubai-London (Heathrow) – Boeing B777-212(ER) – V8-BLA

No bulk-head seats available for this long sector to Dubai and then onto London (Heathrow). Our flight was called about 2 hours prior to departure (after about 2 hours waiting in the terminal), and we passed through a security check-point before proceeding to a smaller departure gate lounge. Some people were found out and not happy about this procedure especially with the restrictions on liquids seeing numerous bottles of water being surrendered. We emptied our water bottle in the terminal and were able to refill it onboard the plane!! Nice!!

We boarded and had a window and centre on row 58 – with another passenger in the isle. It was interesting that a prayer was said before this flight unlike the service from Brisbane. The plane pushed back pretty much on schedule, and after a nice long roll down the runway, we set off for Dubai.

Despite not having the extra legroom of the bulk-head seat, these seats were fairly comfortable for my six foot frame, and with a bit of wriggling around, I was able to get fairly comfortable and catch some shut eye! Same sort of in-flight service occurred in this sector, and again the Flight Attendants when not serving food and drinks were doing a sterling job at keeping the toilets clean and fresh.

Nice smooth descent and some great views over the city and high-rises of Dubai, saw us land about midnight Dubai time to a balmy 38 degrees centigrade outside!!

Upon disembarking the plane, we surrendered our boarding passes at an arrivals gate and received a numbered card. Upstairs into the arrivals area – and toilets and drink taps – before we were diverted to a security screening point and then back down to the lower level departure area.

WOW!! Dubai is an opulent terminal with big open spaces and plenty of intricate and beautiful decorations (as shown below).

Plenty of easy to read sign-postings – and plenty of shopping outlets!! Also plenty of gates, and ours was about a 5 minute walk back down to the end of the terminal. With this essentially being a transit stop, with only a handful of passengers leaving and joining the flight, by the time we had reached the gate area, the gate was open and we were able to sit in the waiting area for the flight. It was here that our numbered cards were swapped for our boarding passes which were the original ones received in Brunei. V8-BLA is pictured below waiting for its passengers.

Boarding was a little late, but a short taxi to the runway, saw us in the air shortly after 2am. I took a couple of pictures of the AVOD TV flight map shortly after leaving Dubai and overhead Europe.

We had the same seats as one the previous sector, and again we were fortunate to be able to get some sleep on this sector. In-flight service was again the same as the previous sectors, however the meal before landing at London was a nice breakfast of a beef roll.

We commenced descent shortly after crossing the English coast, and were advised that we needed 20 minutes of holding for a landing time of 6.05am (which was still early then scheduled). This holding seemed to go on forever, and included a thorough spraying of the cabin. By my watch, we circled for about 30 minutes, but that said, we then had some direct tracking to overhead London – with some fantastic dawn views over the Thames, O2 Arena, Houses of Parliament, and Hyde Park - some grainy pictures below!

We landed Runway 24L at about 6.10am and with Royal Brunei operating from Terminal 4 at Heathrow, a short taxi had us on the Gate at about 6.15am. V8-BLA is pictured below parked at Heathrow.

It was quite cold outside – a big change from Dubai!! With Terminal 4 not at its busiest yet, immigration was pretty quick and easy, through to baggage reclaim, and wonder of wonders, our bag made it safe!! Quarantine is pretty relaxed as compared to Australia, with an unchallenged path through the ‘Green Line’ (nothing to declare).

In all, I was really impressed with Royal Brunei. I don’t mind that they don’t serve alcohol as I’m not a drinker on aeroplanes. I thought the menu items for the meals, despite being limited in range, were really tasty and I enjoyed each meal that I had whilst on board. The extra touches that the Flight Attendants do – fetching extra food and drinks, assisting with sick passengers, and the cleaning/maintenance of the toilets – was really impressive and should be commended. A really great in-flight experience – I was really looking forward to the long journey home at the end of the holiday!!

Thursday 30 September 2010 – BI0098 – London (Heathrow)-Dubai-Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan) – Boeing B777-212(ER) – V8-BLE

Well our holiday was over… An early start in Central London had us on the way to the airport at 5am for our 9am departure. Made it to Terminal 4 to find that check-in wasn’t open, and a queue about 30 people long. We decided to join the queue, and ended up waiting about 30 minutes before check-in finally opened with 6 agents working the Economy lines.

Had a nice check-in agent, who checked us and our bags through to Brisbane. Enquires were made about a seat in the bulkhead row and much to our delight, we were provided with a window and centre on the left-hand side of Row 52 (just behind the wing). Through security at Heathrow to find some breakfast (eventually at Starbucks), and a seat to relax and watch some arrivals on Runway 27L. Boarding began about 30 minutes prior to departure, and was again by row number. We took our seats – plenty of room in the overhead lockers this time – and with all passengers aboard, we pushed back about 5 minutes after the scheduled departure time.

We received our hot towels – but they were cold – and then received our comfort packs. Taxi to depart on Runway 27R – crossing Runway 27L and taxi past the redevelopments on Terminal 2. We had to wait for a couple of departures, but about 15 minutes after push back, we were airborne and heading South-East towards Dubai.

A fairly slow climb up to 36000 feet, with some nice views over the English countryside as shown below.

The flight attendants got the go ahead to start their in-flight service about 10 minutes after take-off, with the seatbelt sign eventually being turned off about 25 minutes after departure. Service was essentially the same as the previous flights, with nuts and soft drinks or juice coming out first, and then a meal – either beef or chicken (again) following about an hour later. We settled in for the cruise, enjoying the Personal TV Entertainment unit, which again was working faultlessly. As we approached the Middle East, our attention was then drawn to the Jett8 Cargo B747 Freighter flying below us as we commenced flying over the Afghanistan mountains. Some of the 'sights' are pictured below.

Night was falling as we commenced our descent into Dubai, with some spectacular views again of the city (the grainy picture below was the best I could do!).

We landed a little early, and with a short taxi, we were parked out our gate. Same procedure as the London bound flight – we were ushered off the plane, we received our numbered card, through the security check point for transit passengers, and back down to the departures lounge. We had a bit of time to spare, so had a quick look at a couple of shops (so many!!), and stocked up on water for the next leg of our journey. Also bought a Dubai magnet for the collection and was shocked at the very favourable exchange rate (compared to UK Pounds!).

Boarding gate opened, and we traded our numbered card for our original boarding pass. About a 20 minute wait and we were back on the B777 and ready for the next part of the trip to Brunei.

Pushed back pretty much on time, and a short taxi to the active runway – now in the opposite direction to our landing – so take off was about 5 minutes after we commenced our taxi. Again lovely views of Dubai on our climb out, and the in-flight service was again similar to the other flights. We decided to settle down and try to get some sleep, as departure from Dubai was at about 8pm and landing in Brunei was expected at about 8am (local).

We did manage to have some shut eye (which was good), but were woken up for the morning meal service about 2 hours prior to landing. Breakfast was egg or soup – the egg was quite tasty! Like the last sector into Brunei, the captain of this flight warned us of tropical storms on the approach path, so soon after we commenced descent, the seatbelt sign came on. Shortly after this, the spray also came out for the cabin. Descent was smooth, and with limited traffic into Brunei, we landed a little ahead of schedule with the sun shinning and the humidity running high!! We taxied past the military area and the Sultans VIP aircraft parking hangars (both pictured below on the opposite side to the terminal).

Brunei is really a quiet little airport, with only an Air Asia X Airbus A320, as well as some parked Royal Brunei B777s and A320s noted at the terminal (pictured below).

Before we disembarked the plane, all passengers were advised of their options for what to do during their time in transit. Passengers can be issued with temporary visitor visa for about $5 Brunei dollars, and then travel into the city where some passengers had booked hotel rooms for the day. There are also as many as three transit tours to different parts of Brunei, and all of differing lengths, available for passengers to sign up to once they have landed. Alternatively, passengers can try their luck in getting a day-room at the airport to be able to have a sleep and shower before their next flight.

We decided that we needed sleep, so after disembarking the plane, and making our way back into the terminal waiting area, we promptly made our way down the stairs in the centre of the waiting area to the day rooms. Fortunately, there was one (of about 15) available, and for 60 Brunei dollars (about AUD$50), we enjoyed the use of this room for about 10 hours (9am until 7pm). The day room is pictured below - it’s not much of a luxurious room – but at least there is a bed for much needed sleep – and there is a shower with a towel available for 5 Brunei dollars.

For those who don’t want the relative ‘luxury’ of using the dayrooms, the seats in the waiting area of the terminal don’t have arm rests so lying down on these and catching up on sleep in possible. There are also showers available to the general public within the downstairs toilet blocks, although I do believe that there is a small charge for their use.

For the transit passengers that took the tours, we heard a couple of them say that they had fun and thought that the tours were well worth taking – especially the tour to the ‘golden palace’ and the ‘monkey’ tour.

In our dayroom, my wife enjoyed the time sleeping, while I made several trips back up the stairs to terminal for food, coffee, and some plane-spotting. Not too many planes to spot though – just about the entire Royal Brunei fleet of all their types pass through in a day, while other aircraft of note were a Malaysian B737, Singapore B777, and an unidentified Antonov 12. The café and restaurant in the terminal have pretty good quality food, and potato chips and chocolates are also available from a grocery type shop. All the souvenir shops were open for business, with the traders offering the tourists (like me) great deals on their jewellery and other assorted souvenirs and knick knacks.

Several monsoonal showers passed through during the afternoon – quite heavy showers as shown in the photo below!!

After showers and some dinner, we returned our dayroom key, and proceeded upstairs and though security and into the waiting area for our flight to Brisbane.

Friday 1 October 2010 – BI0073 – Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan)-Brisbane – Boeing B777-212(ER) – V8-BLD

We checked about the bulkhead seat, but a pair together weren’t available, so we took what we were given, which was a window and centre seat in Row 57. While we waited, the evening flight back to London (via Dubai) departed.

The flight boarded a little late (supposedly there was a late gate change due to an unserviceable boarding gate), and after all was on board, we pushed back some 15 minutes late. Long taxi and long take off roll, before some right hand turns towards Australia. Being a night time flight, we hoped for a bit more sleep, but feeling surprisingly refreshed after spending the day in the dayroom at Brunei Airport, we settled back and enjoyed some of the movies and TV shows on the personal TV.

In-flight service was again the same, with a snack followed by evening meal, and then breakfast served about two hours out of Brisbane. When not attending to passengers, the flight attendants kept a close eye on the toilets, and kept them smelling fresh!

With the sun rising out to the left side of the plane, we knew that we were approaching Brisbane. We started descending about 5.30am and landed about 5.50am. As we were the first plane at the terminal for the morning, immigration was fast, our bags came out eventually, probably after about 20 minutes, before we passed through Customs, and went outside for some breakfast!

Again, this was a really enjoyable flight with Royal Brunei Airlines. I would again thoroughly recommend them as a long haul option between Australia and England.

Monday, November 8, 2010

TRIP REPORT – Jetstar Airways – Brisbane to Mackay – Airbus A320

Trip report – Brisbane to Mackay – Saturday 2 October 2010 – Jetstar Airways – JQ884 – A320-232 – VH-VQF.

At the end of our long journey overseas, we returned to Brisbane early in the morning, and courtesy of a lift (thanks again Mum and Aunty!!), we arrived at the Brisbane Domestic Terminal about 2½ hours before our flight. Jetstar have a fully automatic check-in system in Brisbane, meaning we had to simply type in our reservation number into the kiosk, specify how many bags we had to check-in, collect our boarding passes and bag tags, apply the bag tags (per attached instructions!!), and proceed to the bag drop and away we go!! Simple!!

And yes – it was very simple and easy!! We walked straight up to a check-in/bag drop agent (no queue necessary) and gave the bags straight over, and since exit row seats were available, we took them, and we were issued with our new boarding passes.

It does seem that all Jetstar passengers are encouraged to use the automatic check-in now as some people who said they couldn’t use the machines were being re-directed back to them to try again – perhaps the check-in agents will be done away with soon??

Up through a fairly big security queue – which we were now used to thanks to travelling though European airports – and straight to Gate 38 where VH-VQF (in new colours and pictured below) pulled up to take us north.

Boarding was though the front door only and by row number, although I don’t think the public like to play by these rules as there were people in just about every row when we eventually decided to board. Flight ended up being about 75% full. Push back and start – complete with "barking dog" – was pretty much on time, followed by taxi and fairly quick take off from Brisbane’s Runway 19. Through the clouds and a fairly smooth flight up North with the luxury of the extra legroom of the exit room – as shown below.

Snack service came through very quickly with no one really buying anything, so with that done, the cabin crew (only three) weren’t seen until preparations for landing. A very cloudy Mackay awaited us and the seat belt sign came on shortly after we started descent. We flew the VOR approach from overhead the airport with a left turn onto finals and landing Runway 14 at Mackay. Bags came out after about 10 minutes.

Jetstar service is great – I like the idea of the (nearly) fully automated check-in procedure – and as usual the on-board service was great.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

TRIP REPORT – QantasLink (Sunstate Airlines) – Mackay to Brisbane – Dash-8-Q400

Trip Report – Mackay to Brisbane – Saturday 11 September 2010 – QantasLink – QF2511 – Dash-8-Q400 – VH-QOJ

Well this (comparably) small trip started my wife and I’s journey to Europe. A 6.45am departure meant an early start and we arrived at the airport at about 5.30am. Check-in wasn’t open, and neither was the airport's café… hmmm… we waited about 15 minutes and check-in opened with 2 agents checking our QantasLink flight in. Small queue and soon to the agent where our big (28kg) bag was checked in to Brisbane without dramas. We also checked in a smaller bag too. We were assigned seats in the back row of our plane, which again isn’t an issue as legroom is ample in the Dash-8-Q400.

By now the airport's café had opened so we settled back for some breakfast, then through security, and then waiting for our flight! The morning's Virgin Blue Embraer E190 service to Brisbane boarded, and whilst it was starting and taxiing away, we commenced our boarding. All this was done in about 15 minutes – flight was full. Engines start, taxi onto the runway and back-track to take-off Runway 14 at Mackay.

Some nice early morning views over the Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay Coal terminals (just South of Mackay Airport) with as many as 70 ships anchored out to sea waiting for their turn to load.

Breakfast was served and consisted of yogurt and muesli bar, along with orange juice and tea/coffee.

Smooth flight and descent with a nice view of Caboolture Aerodrome out to the left side.

We overflew Redcliffe and made a visual approach to Runway 19 into a fine and sunny Brisbane. Got to the stand-off gate, seat-belts off, passengers standing-up and keen to get off, bags were coming off… but we waited… and waited… and waited… Turns out another Dash-8 was taxiing out before we could get off the plane. We obviously then collected our bags pretty quickly and waited for our lift up to the International terminal (thanks Mum and Aunty!!).

Overall another great flight with QantasLink!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

TRIP REPORT – QantasLink (Sunstate Airlines) – Emerald to Brisbane to Emerald – Dash-8-Q400

Emerald to Brisbane – Saturday 14 August 2010 – QF2404 – VH-QOA

Early flight from Emerald and surprised to use the newly opened departure/waiting area. This area is a little bigger than the old terminal (now a pile of rubble!) and will soon feature security screening (so hopefully Virgin Blue can start flying to Emerald!!). Nice views out the windows over the apron saw QantasLinks oldest Dash-8-Q400 arrive to take me to Brisbane (photo below). We boarded and lifted off about 10 mins late.

As mentioned in a previous report, I reckon that these aircraft are quite roomy. I have included a photo below of me sitting in my seat – an aisle seat and there is plenty of legroom – I’m over 180cm tall and I’m not cramped up. I will concede that the seat is narrow, but not uncomfortable.

A light refreshment consisting of foul tasting yogurt and a sesame seed bar was served along with drinks. Pretty ordinary selection – I didn’t each much!!

We managed to make up a bit of time in the air, but a landing on Runway 14 and subsequent long taxi at Brisbane saw us pull up pretty much on time.

Brisbane to Emerald – Wednesday 18 August 2010 – QF2404 – VH-QOP

Easy check-in and waiting downstairs at Brisbane – was advised of a 20 minute delay due to the late arrival of the aircraft. Once it did arrive there were no less than 4 wheelchair passengers (plus partners) who had to be taken off the plane, so that delayed our flight even more. Ended up boarding and departing Runway 01 about 45 minutes late.

The usual departure path off Runway 01 is a series of right turns that take us back over Brisbane Airport before heading west. Today however, we received a nice shortcut from ATC, and headed west via a left turn straight after departure. We were treated to fantastic views of Redcliffe, including Redcliffe Airport – both shown below.

About 10 minutes after take off, our ‘light refreshment’ came out and as shown below – a nice pull apart and some apple pieces – much better selection on this flight!! Drinks followed and then we settled back for cruise.

Coming into Emerald it was a normal descent, however we seemed to orbit around Emerald Airport at least once, before completing the approach and landing. This was a bit bumpy with some steep turns – unsure why we did this – possibly a bit high. Unfortunately, some passengers were reaching for the sick bags. We eventually landed about 50 minutes after the scheduled ETA.

Baggage came out pretty quickly and was collected from the new temporary outside area adjacent to the new Emerald terminal – shown below. In all, apart from the delays, another pretty good flight with QantasLink.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HOTEL REVIEW – Accor Hotels Formule One Hotel – Sydney Airport

During a couple of recent plane spotting trips to Sydney, my wife and I stayed at Formula One Hotel which is located at Sydney Airport. During our most recent trip in June 2010, we requested and were given a room on the top level (six) of the building, and overlooking the Airport.

Incidentally, we flew with Virgin Blue, and a Trip Report can be found HERE.

The hotel staff have always been very friendly and understanding of this request – they indicated to me that they do have a lot of enthusiasts as guests. Incidentally, the reception is open 24 hours a day.

The hotel itself has always had good views over the General Aviation area of the airport, but these have been enhanced with the recent opening the hotel’s new accommodation wing. Several new rooms were added – and the walkway to the end of the Southern end of the rooms now provides even better views over the corporate jet parking area of the GA apron – see photo below.

There are also distant views over to the main Runway 16R/34L, and fantastic views of all aircraft and departing from the smaller parallel runway 16L/34R.

Facilities at the Hotel are basic – it is officially a 2-star hotel – and their market is for transit passengers who need a bed for a day or a night. The room is small – ours is pictured below – double bed and bunk bed with a closet style bathroom/toilet, which unfortunately floods when guests take showers. There is also a small TV and desk and chair. The windows are double glazed and keep out the aircraft noise!

On-site parking is available for a fee.

Breakfast is available daily in a sitting area on the ground floor of the hotel, and vending machines also provide ample selection of food and drinks for other times of the day. There are also nearby fast food outlets which also offer in-store free wireless internet connections!

Overall, for the enthusiast, this hotel is perfect for a one or two night stay, at most. For a longer stay near the airport, there are other airport hotels nearby that range from three-star to five-star. These offer better facilities, and some enthusiasts report that views of the airport are comparable to the Formula One.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

TRIP REPORT – Virgin Blue Airlines – Mackay to Sydney to Mackay – Embraer 190 / Boeing 737-700/800

Mackay to Sydney (via Brisbane) – Sunday 4 July – DJ600 – Embraer E190 VH-ZPD / DJ938 – B737-800 VH-VUE

Early flight out of Mackay – due to having the connecting flight the quick check-in kiosks didn’t allow us to check-in so up to the counter we went – checked through to Sydney with a 1½ stop-over in Brisbane. Boarded on time – departed straight out of Mackay – smooth flight – in-flight service came through fairly quickly as not too many purchases were made. The Embraer 190s have plenty of room for a big bloke like me - and with the 2x2 seating, they actually feel like you're riding in your own private jet!! We had a smooth descent and landing in Brisbane – arrived on time. Our aircraft VH-ZPD is pictured above at gate in Brisbane.

For the Sydney leg, we noticed our flight was running 15 minutes late and with a gate change. We ended up pushing back 20 minutes late – departed to the South with a smooth climb to cruising altitude. Shortly before decent the pilot announced that due to weather we were slowing, and allotted a landing time some 35 minutes after scheduled arrival – slow but smooth descent with great views out the right side over Sydney – landed Runway 25 (cross runway) - and then a quick taxi past the International Terminal. Ended up leaving the plane about 45 minutes after our scheduled arrival. Bags came out without much delay - and so we started to walk to our hotel, the Formule One Hotel – Sydney Airport - review HERE.

Sydney to Mackay (via Brisbane) – Wednesday 7 July – DJ925 – B737-800 VH-VUL / DJ613 – B737-700 VH-VBY (Virgin Blue’s 50th aircraft)

From arrival into Brisbane we were to have only 30 minutes before our departure to Mackay. We should have thought about these flights a bit more carefully, despite Virgin Blue offering this combination as a bookable pair. Again the kiosks wouldn’t let us check in so up to the counter we went. I asked about the connection time in Brisbane and was told there shouldn’t be a problem but that there were ATC delays due to weather… oh oh!!

Sure enough our flight to Brisbane was delayed – ended up leaving about 30 minutes late – but we were reassured a couple of times that our Mackay bound flight would be held in Brisbane as there were about 20 passengers on our flight that were connecting like us. Typically long taxi in Sydney and then an uneventful flight, although we did slow when approaching Brisbane due to the weather. The Mackay bound passengers were given permission to deplane first, but as we did, the plane operating to Mackay was pushing back from the gate, and then the CSM announced that unknown to her, the decision was made not the hold the flight. We landed some 35 minutes late.

So began a 5-hour wait and then a further 20 minute delay for our Mackay flight. Thank goodness for the Blue Room!! Eventually in the afternoon we took off for Mackay in Virgin’s 50th aircraft VH-VBY pictured above arriving at gate in Brisbane. This flight was full, and the amount of room in the B737-700 seems to be a lot less than Virgin Blue’s other aircraft – B737-800 and Embraers. Long final approach into Mackay with great views over the city. Our bag came out fairly quickly which was a surprise as other airlines operating into Mackay actually put bags onto the conveyor belt after they have actually loaded the outgoing flight.

Monday, July 12, 2010

TRIP REPORT – QantasLink (Sunstate Airlines) – Emerald to Brisbane to Emerald – Dash-8-Q400

With the monopoly that QantasLink has on this service, and the usually high load factor, I was surprised to get reasonably priced fares booked only a couple of weeks prior to the flights. QantasLink now operate between 4-5 services on this run each weekday, and 2-3 on the weekend.

Emerald to Brisbane – Monday 28 June – QF2413 – Dash-8-Q400 VH-QOT (pictured below departing Emerald)

Checked in at the new terminal counters at Emerald Airport – very fast with no other pax waiting – conveyor belt to the baggage area is loud though – had to walk past the construction zone to the old terminal waiting area – the new terminal waiting area is under construction and will feature security screening – there will also be a state-of-the-art QantasLink lounge for Qantas Club and Platinum and Gold Frequent Flyer members.

Flight to Brisbane left about 20 minutes late and was smooth and uneventful – full flight but plenty of room (I'm over 6ft tall and not skinny) - these aircraft are surprisingly roomy – light refreshments were served about 20 minutes into the flight, followed by tea and coffee – arrived in Brisbane about 15 minutes late – managed to make up some time due to favourable tail-winds at the cruise of 25000ft. In all, great service and another great flight from QantasLink.

Brisbane to Emerald – Wednesday 30 June – QF2406 – Dash-8-Q400 VH-QOU

I used the Quick Check-in facilities at Brisbane Airport – was assigned a window near the rear of the plane – checked the seat map and there were no other seats available – a full flight??

Boarded through the downstairs waiting area in the Qantas Domestic Terminal at Brisbane Airport – it was busy at this time with three other QantasLink flights and a Brindabella Airlines flight all departing about the same time – and then via the tarmac. Flight wasn’t full with just about every isle seat vacant – yet the check-in kiosk had the marked at ‘unavailable’??

Flight left on time but due to headwinds at cruising level 16000ft arrived into Emerald about 10 minutes late – light refreshments were served about 20 minutes after take off – followed by tea and coffee and the complimentary beer and wine service as happens on all Qantas and QantasLink flights after 4pm. Great service and a great flight with plenty of room again on QantasLink.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

HOTEL REVIEW – Accor Hotels Formule One Hotel – Perth Airport

I stayed at the Formula One Hotel Perth Airport once before and thought it was okay. I have also stayed nearby at a little more expensive motel, but decided to save and go with the cheaper Formula One again in January 2010. After this last time though, I will never stay there again!

I flew in with Virgin Blue in the early evening - a Trip Report can be found HERE - and picked up my hire car and drove to the Hotel where parking is free and there is ample room to find a carpark.

On the previous occasion, I arrived into Perth about 9pm to find the reception closed – there is no 24 hour reception here! There is a machine outside the locked door that, with a swipe of the credit card used to prepay the booking, you are issued with your room key which will also access the building.

I arrived earlier this time and found reception still open, so received my room key from the girl behind the counter.

The problem came when I entered the room – there was a fairly strong odour – like a public toilet – and much to my surprise an automatic room deodoriser that sprayed air freshener every couple of minutes – essentially I felt like I was staying in a public toilet!

I also found that the window in the room did not seal properly, and being in the middle of a hot dry Summer (January), the draft that came in through the unsealed window was quite warm and meant the air conditioning didn’t really have much effect on the room (pictured below). To make matters even worse, the TV could not be used properly as the remote control batteries were dead, and the buttons on the TV are almost inaccessible due to the security measures used by this Hotel chain in their rooms.

Reception couldn’t or didn’t want to help – I was told there were no other rooms available – the hotel was full – this was probably the truth as these hotels are usually pretty busy. The girl couldn’t even find batteries for the remote control!!

Overall, I was not impressed. I had the feeling the room had not been used for a while and had been badly soiled by a previous guest. While appearing to be clean, the room did have a strong odour about it, and as mentioned some facilities were not up to scratch.

Friday, January 22, 2010

TRIP REPORT – Virgin Blue Airlines – Brisbane to Sydney to Perth to Brisbane – Boeing 737-700/800

13 January 2010 – DJ966 – Brisbane-Sydney – B737-800 – VH-VUS

I had just landed in Brisbane from Emerald (there is a Trip Report HERE), and I was due to fly out to Sydney at 5pm. As I only had carry-on baggage (my camera bag), I tried my luck and managed to sweet talk Virgin Blue into getting me a seat on the 4.30pm flight – free of charge – for this time only!! Cool I thought – more spotting time in Sydney!

I managed to fly on one of Virgin’s newer planes, and was assigned an isle seat towards to back (Row 23). The flight was just about full with a few spare seats here and there. Took off on time and climbed to 39000 feet for the journey South. In flight service trolley came out and I purchased a coffee and crackers and cheese – total $6. A nice afternoon snack.

Unfortunately, the weather in Sydney was deteriorating – storms and rain showers over the airport which meant 30mins holding over Scone (NSW). Seatbelt sign came on, and after all the orbits, we headed to Sydney and landed Runway 16L. Very cloudy and showery outside, but a smooth enough descent and landing. After the long taxi back to the Virgin Blue terminal, I grabbed some food and drink inside the terminal and then checked the arrival screens and discovered that this flight ended up landing only 9 minutes ahead my original scheduled 5pm flight which, by that time, had already landed!!

Overall a pretty good fight with Virgin Blue – it left me looking forward to my other flights over the next few days!!

14 January 2010 – DJ565 – Sydney-Perth – B737-700 – VH-VBR

After a good day’s spotting in Sydney from the Domestic Terminals, I proceeded to the Virgin Blue check-in area in T2 and had a boarding pass in about 30 seconds! The automatic check-in booths are great – first time I had used them – punched in the confirmation number – picked my seat – viola! Although, I did then go to the check-in supervisor’s desk to enquire about an exit row seat and was pleasantly surprised to have the choice of all six in our B737-700. Chose the window at 12A.

Flight left on time – departed from Sydney’s Runway 16R with a right turn over the Blue Mountain – some lovely views! Flight attendants made two passes with the food and drink cart – I decided on a couple of snacks and coffee and water. Live-to-air was up and running – swipe your credit card and over 20 channels from Foxtel are avilable. I settled for some cricket from overseas! Overall, it was a great flight but for the live-to-air mucking up about 20 minutes out of Perth with only half the channels working.

Virgin operate from Terminal 3 at Perth, which is also where Skywest, Tiger Airways and Alliance fly from. Facilities on the domestic side of the airport have been improved since I was there last, with a walkway joining T3 to the Qantas Terminal (T2). I got my hire car and straight off to the Formule One Hotel – Perth Airport for the night, where a review can be found HERE.

15 January 2010 – DJ473 – Perth-Brisbane – B737-700 – VH-VBR

After a big day at Perth Airport where spotting is pretty easy from the International and Domestic terminals, I returned the hire car and proceeded to the Virgin Blue check-in area. With no counters open, I tried the check-in booth again, and again, it was easy to retrieve my details and boarding pass! Finally, the supervisor’s desk was attended and I asked the lovely supervisor about an exit row seat and was given one - she actually advised me that CASA requires Virgin Blue to fill these seats despite Virgin not selling any at all for this flight.

Through security and to the waiting area, which was quite busy with frustrated passengers waiting for a delayed Tiger Airways flight… which wasn’t coming any time soon!! Through the window I noted 14 Virgin ground crew working on their inbound EMB190 flights - it took them about 20 minutes to have all passengers and bags off followed by daily engineering then it was towed away to parking for the night – impressive turnaround!!

VH-VBR turned up and this would be the second time in two days that I was in the same seat of 12A. A fast turnaround from the Perth ground crew has us on the plane and pushing back on schedule. Take-off from Perth’s Runway 21.

I noted a few other people must have also asked about sitting in the exit row as row 12 was now FULL!! It was also amazing to see how many people on both these Virgin flights asked about being re-seated in the empty premium economy seats - all received the same answer - "no sorry not today"

Unfortunately soon after take-off it was noted that VH-VBR’s live-to-air was still broken - still only half the channels available. I advised a flight attendant and was told this was the *first* anyone had advised the crews of problems during the day. The crew tried two resets on the system but it was still not fixed. As per Virgin Blue policy, a broken live-to-air system meant all passengers got those available channels free for the entire flight.

The night owl flight to Brisbane was reasonably full, and the Virgin Blue service was fantastic – not only trying to get the live-to-air working, but the food and drinks service was very thorough and professional – they did two passes again – one for ‘dinner’ and then another about 45 minutes out of Brisbane.

The flight arrived into Brisbane about 10 minutes early – got to love tailwinds – and we disembarked about 5.35am. Off to have some breakfast before I fly back to Emerald about 10am (a Trip Report for this flight can be found HERE)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

TRIP REPORT – QantasLink (Sunstate Airlines) – Emerald to Brisbane to Emerald – Dash-8-Q300/Q400

13 January 2010 – QF2401 – Emerald-Brisbane – Dash-8-Q300 – VH-SBI

The Emerald Airport terminal is about to be redeveloped (a large three-stage project), and while the current terminal is still operational, there are some obstructions at the outside drop-off area. From the outside it looks like they are constructing a mirror-image of the current terminal. This will be the new check-in area and airline offices. A central part will be the new terminal lounge. Paid parking will also be introduced shortly – I probably am enjoying my last time of free parking at Emerald Airport!

Check-in was smooth as always, although the terminal was quite busy with a full flight on this sector. I made a request for and was given an exit row seat (Row 12) and realised that this flight would be in a ‘Classic’ Dash-8 as opposed to the newer Q400 series. VH-SBI arrived to take us to Brisbane – a surprise to see a Q300 still on this service with most now operated by the larger Q400 aircraft. Boarded quickly and left on time. I managed to squeeze my large camera bag in the overhead locker – QantasLink restrict carry-on to 4kg of which I was probably over!

An uneventful flight – snacks (a bag of nuts and water) and tea and coffee were served about 10 minutes after take off by the two lovely flight attendants. Touched down pretty much on time and with no checked-in baggage was through the terminal and off on my next flight to Sydney with Virgin Blue (a Trip Report for this flight can be found HERE).

16 January 2010 – QF2404 – Brisbane –Emerald – Dash-8-Q400 – VH-QOU

At the conclusion of a big weekend of plane spotting I was ready to fly back home. After my tiring flight from Perth, I remained airside at Brisbane and was able to check-in at the Qantas passenger information desk on the upper floor at Brisbane Airport. After breakfast and some more spotting, I went downstairs to the QantasLink lounge and waited for my flight. A busy part of the terminal with several other regional flights leaving at the same time.

That said though, this flight to Emerald was about half full.

I received a seat toward the back of the plane – about the last row of passengers as five unaccompanied minors joined the flight and sat in the back two rows. The poor flight attendant had her hands full entertaining the kids for the hour and a half flight – I think she only raised her voice once!!

VH-QOU is a fairly recent delivery for QasntasLink and the it still had the new plane smell!! The Q400 is quite roomy and despite not receiving an exit row seat (Row 1 and 2), I had plenty of room for my six-foot frame. The flight was uneventful with snacks delivered about 15 minutes after take-off which was via Runway 01 with the right turn and overfly of Brisbane Airport. We landed in Emerald 5 minutes early – with a quick taxi to gate – straight off and to the car for the hours drive home and a nice warm shower!!

A couple of great flights with QantasLink. I was surprised at how roomy the Q400 seats are with plenty of space to stretch my legs.

Friday, January 1, 2010

TRIP REPORT - Brisbane-Seoul-Tokyo-Anchorage-Fairbanks-Anchorage-Tokyo-Seoul-Brisbane with Korean Air, Northwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines

Wednesday 28 June 2006

Korean Air - KE814 - Brisbane-Seoul(Incheon) - A330-300 - HL7554 - Seat 32A then re-assigned to 40F (isle)
Brisbane push back: 0845 (all times local) Gate 82
Take off: 0905 Runway 19
Cruise: FL360 (36000ft) then FL380
Seoul(Incheon) touch down: 1740 Runway 33R
At gate: 1750 Gate ??

Checked in reasonably early but didn’t manage to secure an exit row seat – they seemed to go to all the parents with little kids… Asked about a seat with extra legroom – received 32A – a window seat – but at the gate a call came over for me to approach the gate staff who gave me a new boarding pass and seat 40F – an isle with no one next to me so I could stretch out. Push back was 5 minutes late but got into Incheon on time. Flight was smooth enough with the seemingly usual turbulence over the equator. Breakfast and dinner were served – I had both of the ‘Western’ options of omelet and then beef. Korean Air service was friendly and very professional. I was most impressed with this flight. Seoul was reasonably clear and taxi was quick to our gate – didn’t catch which gate we pulled into but it was out on one of the two satellites so we had to make a long walk to immigration. I joined the line of a new immigration officer and stood there for about 15 minutes and didn’t move so changed lines and was processed in about 10 minutes.

Straight through customs and then transfer to the Hotel Zeumes in downtown Incheon for the night before flying to Seattle tomorrow.

Thursday 29 June 2006

Northwest Airlines - NW008 - Seoul(Incheon)-Tokyo(Narita) - A330-200 - N856NW - Seat 10H (exit row isle)
Seoul(Incheon) push back: 1105 Gate 43
Take off: 1130 Runway 15R
Cruise: FL410 with 170km/h tailwind (our groundspeed 1035km/h) the FL310 due turbulence
Tokyo(Narita) touch down: 1320 Runway 16L
Engine shutdown: 1335 then towed to Gate 21 At Gate: 1340

Incheon was very foggy today and I thought that flights may be delayed but unlike Australia where there would be chaos, Incheon is a CAT III airport!! After lining up for check-in I got to the front of the line and the assembled security guards (all women) took my e-ticket and passport away and they had a discussion about me. They came back and asked numerous questions of my travel intentions and then I had all my bags searched. Turns out that being a non-US citizen and traveling to the USA via another country aroused a lot of suspicion. So after that interrogation, I checked in okay – got an exit row seat for the hop to Narita but had to settle for a window to Seattle. Through security then immigration, I was able to photograph every plane that was parked at gate and saw no security, only airport employees in the airside areas.

Boarded about 30 minutes before departure and we were able to push back 5 minutes early. Exit rows were full of babies being transported to the USA for adoption. Northwest service was very professional and friendly. Crew ensured that all instructions were heard and adhered to (it is illegal to ignore them!) Tokyo was clear but hot – pity I didn’t have the camera out as we taxied to gate as I saw two JAL soccer planes and the Malaysian B777 dream machine!

Thursday 29 June 2006

Northwest Airlines - NW008 - Tokyo(Narita)-Seattle(Tacoma) - A330-200 - N856NW - Seat 15A (window)
Tokyo(Narita) push back: 1530 Gate 21
Take off: 1545 Runway 16R
Cruise: FL370 then FL390
Seattle(Tacoma) touch down: 0820 Runway 34L
At gate: 0830 Gate S1

A couple of hours at Narita but sadly it was very hot so walking around Terminal One and taking some photos was a bit sweaty and then there was the heat haze… Through the transit security check easily and then to the lounge where I heard some murmurs of a cancelled Northwest flight. I think it was a jumbo service to Detroit so there were a lot of unhappy passengers checking at each desk for spare seats… but our flight to Seattle was (apparently) already full. There were numerous announcements for passengers from other Northwest flights to transfer to other airlines flights to the USA, so assumed that was Northwest trying to offload booked passengers to make room for the passengers from the cancelled Detroit flight(?). Anyway, got onboard our flight and had a nice young guy heading home to Seattle sit next to me. We chatted a lot about Australia and Seattle and his holiday through Europe but he had the foulest smelling sleeping tablets, of which he took a couple and was straight to sleep! Short taxi at Narita and soon off over the Pacific. Northwest A330s have AVOD so settled back and watched some movies and listened to music. Meals were again a choice of Asian or Western foods – dinner and breakfast. The Northwest service on this long sector was not as personal as the Korean Air service however the cabin crew were always professional and were more experienced.

Landing into Seattle on time and since we were the first International arrival for the day, we started the US Immigration and Customs people into action!! Easily through that (bags in about 5 mins after arrival) and then was able to re-check my bag straight away up to Anchorage. Caught the driver-less train to the South terminal for the next flight and eventually getting to Alaska!!!

Thursday 29 June 2006

Alaska Airlines - AS99 - Seattle(Tacoma)-Anchorage - MD-80 - N981AS - Seat 22F (exit row window)
Seattle(Tacoma) push back: 1055 Gate C9
Take off: 1110 Runway 34R
Cruise FL320
Anchorage touch down: 1340 Runway 14
At gate: 1345 Gate C3

There was a small tech problem with our machine so we got away about a half hour late. Funnily enough though the passengers didn’t get too grumpy… this might have been because of the fantastic Alaska Airlines rep behind the desk… and it meant I could do some more spotting – Seattle was bathed in sunshine!! Heaps of different US airlines and some International services including China Airlines Cargo that landed. Sorry no details of the flight as I slept all the way - the exit row seat was very comfortable – but I did note that the three cabin crew for our flight were a lot older than crew that I had so far. We landed at Anchorage on time after a long slow descent and a wide right base. Straight off the runway and to gate, bags came out about 15 minutes after we arrived.

Stayed at the Barratt Inn in Anchorage and would recommend it for the price – even got a free upgrade to a deluxe room!

Spent the Friday spotting at Anchorage Airport from 7am to 7pm – sadly it was a cloudy day with light rain showers – spent the morning at the Runway 14 end and had landers in front of me. Runways changed after lunch so went around to the South Air Park to get landers 7L/R and Runway 32 departures.

Sunday morning went to Merrill Field and had the run of the airport with a couple of pilots who showed me around… basically saw all the present aircraft and took about 100 photos.

Sunday afternoon I walked home from Anchorage Airport (had to return the cute little Chevy hire car shown above) to the Motel via Lake Hood/Spenard. Spent time at Alaska Air Taxis, Rusts’ and the USAF Auxiliary so there were heaps of photos to be had. Then spent time next to the ‘runway’ and got buzzed by several arrivals and take-offs – spectacular views. Didn’t manage to get around to the sealed strip though – no doubt more photos could have been had there to but by the time I got back to the motel it was 10pm and I was very tired!!!

Monday 3 July 2006

Alaska Airlines - AS89 - Anchorage-Fairbanks - MD-80 - N962AS - Seat 22A (exit row window)
Anchorage push back: 0707 Gate C6
Take off: 0720 Runway 7L
Cruise FL230
Fairbanks touch down: 0800 Runway 1L
At gate: 0805 (very quick!!) Gate 3

Day-trip to Fairbanks today – booked these flights online myself through the Alaska Airlines website – pretty easy! At the Anchorage terminal, I checked in manually (Alaska is big on electronic and quick check-in with bag drop) and got an exit row seat. Through security reasonably easily and straight to the Anchorage Observation Deck for some early morning photos (Runway 14/32 and the parallel taxiways can be seen from this small area on the top of the Anchorage terminal) and breakfast!

After take off, the pilot came on and advised that since we would be making good time to Fairbanks we would do some sightseeing over Mt McKinley but as would happen it was covered in cloud. Mt McKinley reaches 20,000ft into the air so the views would have been spectacular. This flight had 20 passengers on it so service was very personal. Again the three cabin crew weren’t young, but I chatted to all three who were fascinated that I would travel half way around the world to photograph planes!!

Fairbanks was cloudy but dry. Visited all the major operators on the Western side – Everts, Northern Air Cargo, Frontier, Arctic Air, Brooks and was lucky enough to be invited airside to take photos – most were also surprised that I would come all the way from Australia to photograph their aircraft! Met my contact from the East side who took me on a tour of that side – since it is not secured I could basically go where I pleased – heaps more photos to be had!! Went to Fairbanks city for lunch and a look-around and then returned to the airport for my flight back to Anchorage.

Monday 3 July 2006

Alaska Airlines - AS112 - Fairbanks-Anchorage - B737-400 - N708AS - Seat 14A (exit row window)
Fairbanks push back: 1930 Gate 4
Take off: 1940 Runway 19R
Cruise FL350
Anchorage touch down: 2020 Runway 14
At gate: 2025 Gate C1

Finally back in a Boeing (ha ha!!) Again to my surprise a small number of passengers (about 50) and three middle aged cabin crew – one female crew member had a very plasticized face and raised a couple of eyebrows amongst waiting passengers and the disembarking crew. This was an uneventful flight – no views of Mt McKinley again due to cloud so chatted to the crew who again loved chatting to an ‘Aussie’.

Back in Anchorage and straight back to the motel to pack for the long journey home. I Stayed at the Barratt Inn in Anchorage and would recommend it for the price – even got a free upgrade to a deluxe room!

Alaska has been magnificent!!!

Tuesday 4 July 2006

Alaska Airlines - AS14 - Anchorage-Seattle(Tacoma) - B737-700 - N---AS - Seat 13A (exit row window)
Anchorage push back: 0752 Gate C1
Take off: 0800 Runway 32
Cruise FL390
Seattle(Tacoma) touch down: 1205 Runway 16R
At gate: 1210 Gate D8

The start of the long journey home… Had my bags checked all the way through to Seoul despite changing planes and Airline Companies in Seattle – I was a little concerned… Security was easy again and spent about an hour in the observation deck. Goodbye to Alaska and again we had an older crew of three. This flight was full and it was interesting to note how ignorant some Americans are as despite the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign being lit, at least a dozen passengers got up to go to the toilet… at least the crew saw the funny side as when we leveled they happily announced that “you can all now go potty!”. Into Seattle on time and de-planed and played dumb and double checked that my bag would be right going to Seoul… all seemed okay so got the train over to the International (South) terminal. Cleared US immigration using a new self-service kiosk arrangement that they have – very quick and easy. Spent a couple of hours spotting but sadly the views in the South Terminal are not the crash hot… but I still got some photos and Seattle was again bathed in sunshine!!

Tuesday 4 July 2006

Northwest Airlines - NW007 - Seattale(Tacoma)-Tokyo(Narita) - A330-200 - N859NW - Seat 11A (just behind the exit row!)
Seattle(Tacoma) push back: 1442 Gate S9
Take off: 1500 Runway 16L
Cruise FL360 then FL380 then FL390 then FL400 then FL390 then FL280 (all this due turbulence)
Tokyo(Narita) touch down: 1625 (Wednesday 5 July) Runway 16R
At gate: 1630 Gate 23

This was the flight I was not looking forward to with the time changes… we got away from the gate on time but then had to wait in traffic for take off clearance but once away we were soon established over the Pacific and heading for Japan. Over flew the southern part of Alaska but couldn’t see anything outside due to cloud. Also didn’t spot any North Korean missiles that were being fired that day as we were heading towards Japan and then South Korea… We were served dinner and then breakfast and again I opted for the ‘Western’ choices. Also managed to have a power nap during the flight but basically spent the flight watching movies and listening to music again on the AVOD. Crew were again very professional but could have been a little bit more friendly. Arrived into a very wet Narita would have become visual less than 1000ft.

Wednesday 5 July 2006

Northwest Airlines - NW007 - Tokyo(Narita)-Seoul(Incheon) - A330-200 - N857NW - Seat 29J (yay an exit row window!)
Tokyo(Narita) push back: 1850 Gate 26
Take off: 1915 Runway 16R
Cruise ?? Don’t know – fell asleep…
Seoul(Incheon) touch down: 2125 Runway 15L
At gate: 2130 Gate 46

The time-zone change and jet-lag really hit me at Narita – especially after walking all through Terminal One trying to take photos off all the present United and Northwest aircraft in the wet conditions. Don’t know much about this flight as I fell asleep very shortly after take off and woke up directly overhead Seoul (about 10 mins out of Incheon). I can tell you that we were in a big queue for take off behind an Air New Zealand B777 and the JAL Soccer B777.

Landed and through immigration a bit quicker this time around! To the baggage reclaim hall and the wait for my bag… And eventually here it came! Wow! A bag checked from Alaska to Seoul and it made it safely – very impressive!! Through Customs and found the transfer to the Zeumes Hotel again for a big sleep!!

Thursday 6 July 2006

Korean Air - KE813 - Seoul(Incheon)-Brisbane - A330-300 - HL7587 - Seat 46H (exit row window - yay!)
Seoul(Incheon) push back: 2028 Gate 26
Take off: 2058 Runway 15R
Cruise FL310 then FL370 over Australia
Brisbane touch down: 0656 (Friday 7 July) Runway 19
At gate: 0705 Gate 82

Heading home… thought about touring around Seoul but alas it started raining so went to the airport in the hope of being able to check in. To my surprise Korean Air said I could check at any time for any of their flights… fair enough – checked in and was through security and immigration in about 15 minutes – little security checks – I didn’t even have to remove my (Colorado) shoes and belt. Burger King lunch in the airport and then to the end of the satellite closest to the runway for some photos.

Again at no time was I challenged by any official about taking photos… the cleaners were about the only curious ones and even took a couple of photos of each other with my camera! Had a couple of flights board near the gate where I spotted including one to Mumbai… interesting to see some of the interpretations of carry-on luggage!! My Korean Air flight was great – exit row window seat so enjoyed heaps of room to spread out and had a small bloke next to me – so there was some bonus room too!! Enjoyed the Western dinner (again!) of steak and then settled back and to my surprise fell asleep. Pretty much slept through to the northern tip of Australia. Had the ‘usual’ turbulence over the equator and by the flight tracker took quite a few track changes during the flight. Breakfast of an omelet (the Western option) was served and then landed into Brisbane and home.

With the Brisbane 'rush hour' of morning flights, the wait at customs was unbearably long – a great welcome to Australia!! Suppose though this is because *every* passenger is now scanned either by hand or x-ray.

Overall, a great holiday, I am so glad that I have been to Alaska. Going through Seoul to the USA was frowned upon but for the price and ease of travel (immigration/customs), I’d do it again. All flights were great and I would recommend Korean Air, Northwest, and Alaska Airlines to travel with.