Sunday, November 1, 2015

HOTEL REVIEW - Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina

The Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina is regarded as Mackay’s premier accommodation, dining and conference destination. It is located at the Mackay Marina Village - around 7km from the Mackay CBD - and overlooks the tropical waters of the Coral Sea and Southern Whitsunday Islands.

The Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina provides self rated 4.5 star luxury Hotel facilities with 79 accommodation suites - from Deluxe Studio Suites through to Executive Suites and the luxurious Spa Suites complete with spa baths overlooking the marina.  The suites are quite spacious and fully appointed, including a kitchenette and coffee machine, and are designed so each room has an ocean view and a private balcony to enjoy the cooling sea breezes.

On two stays fairly close together, my wife and I stayed in one of the Deluxe Studio Suites.  During our first stay (pictured) our suite was one of those which was undergoing a 'revamp'.

During our second stay, we were given a room which had been 'revamped' with new decor and carpet.

The Hotel also boasts large function and event facilities, a large resort style pool and Latitude 21 Bar and Restaurant which hosts a sumptuous Seafood Buffet Dinner each Friday and Saturday night.

The Clarion Hotel Mackay Marina is truly a luxury place to stay - and given the views over the beautiful Mackay Marina and the Coral Sea (including migrating whales during the year) - it is a highly recommended option for one night or a weekend away from the weekday grind!

Monday, October 5, 2015

TRIP REPORT - Townsville to Rockhampton to Gold Coast Return - JetGo Australia - Embraer ERJ-135LR VH-JZG - Four First Flights

TRIP REPORT – Townsville to Rockhampton to Gold Coast  – Monday 28 September – JetGo Australia – JG70 – Embraer ERJ-135LR – VH-JZG

I felt quite honoured to be part of some history as JetGo Australia launched their latest foray in the Regular Passenger Transport (RPT) marked by introducing thrice-weekly flights from Townville to the Gold Coast via Rockhampton.  JetGo have a crew base in Townsville and look to be operating one of their Embraer ERJ-135LR jets which is based at Townsville on these flights on the days where they don’t operate their regular Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) flights to Osborne Mine.

JetGo operate three ERJ-135LRs – VH-JTG, VH-JGB and the aircraft for today’s flights VH-JZG.  This particular aircraft is a second hand machine having being delivered in 2013 after operating in the USA as N836RP for Chautauqua Airlines on behalf Midwest Connect.

These sectors introduced by JetGo are to cater for both the business and leisure markets with the link between Townville and Rockhampton traditionally a popular one.  It is also currently serviced by QantasLink Dash-8-Q400 turbo-props, but has also in previous times, been flown by Virgin Blue (now Virgin Australia) Embraer E-170 jets.

I booked tickets on today’s inaugural flight via the easy-to-use JetGo website with a $99 fare to the Gold Coast from Townsville, with the same cost for the return to Townsville.  Interestingly each of the four individual sectors is also priced at $99.

Anyway the big day had arrived and after a big weekend at the Airlie Beach Airshow, I had driven to Townsville the previous day and was at Townsville Airport around 6am to check in.  There were already 3 people waiting in line and the check-in staff looked to be having an issue with the ticket machine.  A quick re-boot of the system and I had my boarding pass to the Gold Coast – sitting in seat 8F which is the window on the right-hand side of the aircraft.  The cabin features 36 seats and is in a 1x2 configuration with row 9 being an exit row.

I took a few more photos inside the Townsville terminal which has recently undergone a facelift at the Southern end to now feature facilities to cater for Jetstar’s recently launched International flights services to Denpasar (Bali).  I spotted VH-JZG resting on what could be called the ‘commuter’ apron next to a Regional Express (REX) SAAB 340B.

After having some breakfast I proceeded through security and into the waiting area which is split into two levels at Townsville.  Upstairs is access to five of the boarding gates – including four aerobridges – and nice views of the main Runway and further to RAAF Base which is part of the Airport itself.

Boarding commenced around 10 minutes late after a QantasLink and then a REX flight were boarded through our same boarding gate.  Outside and onto the tarmac and out to the E-135 VH-JZG waiting for us on the ‘commuter’ apron.

I took my seat and found a nice souvenir postcard commemorating the first flight to Rockhampton.  This was closely followed by each passenger receiving a ‘goodie bag’ from the Rockhampton Regional Council.  Legroom is ok but I was a little squashed in considering my six-foot-plus frame.

Door closed, engines started, the long safety demonstration completed, and we taxied out via the main Taxiway to the holding point for Runway 01 at Townsville.

We were eventually airborne about 10 minutes late.  After a couple of right hand turns we were established Southbound to Rockhampton, flying past Collinsville and Nebo on the right, and Bowen, the Whitsundays and Mackay on the left.

Despite a flight time of less than an hour, cabin service was completed with our flight attendant for the day “Miho” offering a full range of hot and cold drinks and a snack.  A complementary bottle of water was also waiting for us when we boarded.

No in-flight entertainment is provided and I thought it was a bit strange that the ‘in-flight’ magazine was a Brisbane Airport magazine.

We soon commenced our descent from 37,000 feet – a pretty rapid one it was too! – and soon had Rockhampton in sight.  Our pilots decided that given the historic nature of the day, we would overfly the city at low level.  This was pretty spectacular and afforded me great views of the city!

It also looked pretty spectacular from the ground too!

Touchdown was on Runway 15 at Rockhampton, followed by a short back-taxi and enter the Airport apron on Taxiway Bravo where we were greeted by the local Aviation Rescue Firefighters (ARFF).

We parked on Gate 4 towards the Southern end of the Rocky Airport apron and were told to stay on board if were continuing to the Gold Coast.  Most of the passengers who got on in Townsville got off, and these were replaced by about half that number again who were travelling from Rockhampton to the Gold Coast.  These passengers who joined at Rockhampton were also given a ‘goodie bag’ from Council.  Doors closed, engines started, we taxied away back to Runway 15 – past some impressive Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) helicopters – about 10 minutes after the scheduled departure time.

Quickly airborne and South via Thangool on climb to 37,000 feet again.  Once again cabin service was provided and “Miho” also gave lollies towards the end of the flight – a nice touch!

On descent we overflew Brisbane Airport and continued out over the water before we made a series of right-hand turns to land on Runway 32 at the Gold Coast Airport.

Sadly, there was no fanfare to greet us, only ground handlers being trained on how to service the E-135.

VH-JZG was parked on Bay 13 – engines shut down – window shades drawn – with the aircraft closed up until out departure later in the day.

The Gold Coast Airport (formally Coolangatta Airport) is now Queensland’s second busiest Airport and the fastest growing Airport in Australia.  Passengers travel on domestic flights all over Australia and on International flights to Asia and New Zealand.

A really great start to the day with a couple of great flights down to 'the Goldie'!

Plane spotting at the Gold Coast Airport is pretty easy with some easily accessible fence-lines and good views from the terminal.  As mentioned above, there are a couple of international carriers that service the Gold Coast however, unfortunately, I had arrived a little too late to capture any.

TRIP REPORT – Gold Coast to Rockhampton to Townsville  – Monday 28 September – JetGo Australia – JG70 – Embraer ERJ-135LR – VH-JZG

After some plane spotting and getting my feet wet at the beach – just across the road from the Gold Coast Airport! – I checked in for the return flight all the way through to Townsville.  The JetGo check-in counter opened about 90 minutes prior to our flight.  I was given seat 2A at the front on the left hand side of the plane.  This was a seat all to myself.

Through a very busy security check-point and down to Gate 6 where more computer issues saw boarding for out flight delayed by around 10 minutes.

A long walk out to VH-JZG still parked on Bay 13.

After all passengers were boarded – and more ground crew training was completed – we were pushed back and taxied to the end of Runway 32 at the Gold Coast.  We powered up and took to the air about 20 minutes late.  After a couple of right-hand turns, we made a left-hand turn and headed North over water past Brisbane Airport and Redcliffe, before we flew pretty much overhead the Sunshine Coast heading North.

Again on this flight “Miho” provided a drink and snack service before we started our descent into Rockhampton – past some nasty looking showers and storms that were passing through parts of Central Queensland on this day.

We touched down on Runway 15 about 10 minutes late and after taxiing in, we parked on Gate 4 again.

After a delay on the ground due to late passengers, we ended up taxiing away from the Rockhampton airport terminal about 40 minutes late.  Back in the air off Ruwnay 15, and following a series of right and then left-hand turns, we were established on our North-Westerly track to Townsville.

Again, a quick snack and drink service was provided as we cruised at 36,000 feet.  Another quick descent and a couple of right-hand turns and VH-JZG was established on the ILS approach onto Runway 01 at Townsville.

We landed shortly after sunset and taxied park to our original parking position where we stared the day some 11 hours earlier.

Before we left the plane, “Miho” handed me another couple of postcards which upon closer inspection showed four individual postcards were produced for each sector today.  Each sector was an inaugural flight so it was a pretty historic day to fly four inaugurals in one day!

A couple of quick snaps to finish off and we were back in the terminal to signal the end of a great day of flying with JetGo!

Thanks to “Miho” for her hard work in the cabin, along with the tech crew of Captains Sheppard and Gilmore who flew us all day from Townsville to the Gold Coast and back!

I do sincerely hope that JetGo are successful in this RPT venture.  They also currently operate RPT flights out of Brisbane to Tamworth and Dubbo, and have planned to also start operating out of Melbourne (Tullamarine) in late October.  JetGo have a proven track record when it comes to FIFO and other general charter work, however they have struggled previously to make a significant dent in the RPT market having failed previously on the Sydney to Gladstone sector.  They have also previously announced Sydney to Roma flights, however the downturn in the mining sector saw this venture never come to fruition.

A really great day was had by all on the JetGo flights – speaking to a couple of other passengers they found this new service to be extremely useful and convenient – and one can only hope that more people will have a similar belief and see these services continue well into the future!

Finally, sincere thanks to Kayanne H and Aaron C for sharing with us the additional photos you see in this trip report!

Photos taken by Kayanne Hardsman and Aaron Coghill  ©