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Qantas and Northern Territory Aerial Sampler

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Kiwi Flyer

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Here are the links to my previous trip reports.



Index to this trip report

  1. Intro
  2. Auckland to Sydney (AKL-SYD) on Qantas 767-300 domestic configuration
  3. Sydney to Cairns (SYD-CNS) on Qantas 737-400
  4. Cairns to Gove (CNS-GOV) on Qantas Link 717-200 operated by National Jet Systems
  5. Gove to Darwin (GOV-DRW) on Qantas Link 717-200 operated by National Jet Systems
  6. Darwin to Sydney (DRW-SYD) on Qantas 767-300 international configuration
  7. Sydney to Wellington (SYD-WLG) on Qantas 737-400 operated by Jet Connect
  8. Sydney to Wellington menu
  9. Wellington to Auckland (WLG-AKL) on Qantas 737-300 operated by Jet Connect
  10. End
 

Kiwi Flyer

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INTRO

Always on the lookout for new places to go to, with a rare free weekend and a nice sale I was able to take advantage of.

Sorry for the break - a flight got called sooner than I expected. Where was I?

Oh yeah, a happy combination of circumstance meant that I could finally get to fly to some northern parts of Australia that I had yet to visit. Despite being on sale the fare wasn't a fantastic mileage run or status run. However it was very good value compared to the normal fare sold in Australia, yet added trans-tasman flights were included. And a fine weekend of flying and relaxation - my every need (hopefully) taken care of by Qantas. Readers familiar with my other trip reports will not be surprised that I am not taking the most direct route but rather managed to add some extra flights into the routing to take a scenic route, increase my mileage and status earning, and at the same time to sample some extra aircraft types and different services.

I didn't maximise the mileage and status earning. Other routes and flights offered more for the same or lower fare. However, some of the places visited are not so easy to schedule in for someone like me who prefers to save longer holidays for more exotic locations and has to make do (mostly) with a weekend here and there to visit places closer to home. So my chosen routing is a compromise.

It's time to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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AUCKLAND to SYDNEY (AKL-SYD) on Qantas 767-300 domestic configuration

I arrived at the airport early due to forgetting I wasn't on the super early flight for once. Probably just as well as check in for those early flights had closed. I saw from the screens that 2 Qantas flights were significantly delayed - the one from LAX that continues on to MEL and also the BNE flight. Apparently some business class and sapphire and emerald elite passengers were rerouted on Qantas, some put on Air New Zealand flights, and the rest had a long wait.

The Qantas premium check in facility is near deserted - one agent and a bored looking immigration officer. I pay my departure tax (credit card only unlike most other airlines at AKL). It seems there is some glitch to do with entry to Australia so boarding passes can't be issued. The agent heads off to give Canberra a call to sort it out. About 15 minutes later she is back with a fistful of boarding passes. That is a surprise as Qantas has recently been advertising the introduction (only several years after Air NZ) of same day trans-tasman return check in. I'm not returning the same day.

I'm quickly processed by immigration and so upstairs to the pre-cleared immigration line and security. Again quickly through and off to the lounge where one of my favourite Qantas lounge agents is on duty. I have enough time to catch up on some emails, FT and a bit of work I'd run out of time to finish yesterday.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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As I headed to the gate I noticed a new large departure screen on the upper level past the duty free shops – much easier to read than the smaller monitors scattered around. Once again a domestic configured a/c is being used, as increasingly seems to be the case. So no single seat but with the light load in business class we’re invited to spread out. After a pre-departure drink (choice of juice water or champagne), we leave on time. When we taxi I see a Thomsonfly a/c parked up in a hangar alongside some NZ widebodies, undergoing maintenance and refurbishment.

Once seatbelt sign comes off the personal DVD players are handed out (for the domestic config a/c has no personal tv, only mainscreen). No listing of available DVDs, but my pouch has about 6 to choose from. I later find there should have been a few more options.

Breakfast is offered – a choice of continental, omelette or poached eggs. No printed menu (there normally is).

The usual head winds are absent or lighter than normal and so we make good time, even allowing for a zig zag approach into Sydney. We land heavily on the far runway. As we taxi into the terminal we pass 3 Air NZ aircraft taxiing for departure. There is a small delay as we wait for another aircraft to vacate our gate at the very end of the pier.

I race down to immigration. There is no queue at all – a very nice change from the earlier flights I normally take which have queues right down the pier. I tense, expecting some questioning after the visa issue on check in and my rather unusual itinerary. I do get asked why I have listed my duration in Australia as 2 days without providing an Australian address. My answer of taking a red eye flight out of Darwin satisfies the officer and I’m through.

With no bags to collect I immediately join the huge queues for quarantine/x-ray. After a while waiting I get invited to use the “D” lane for domestic leg passengers. My track record at Sydney in particular is good, about three quarters of the time I can bypass x-ray

I made my way through the throngs of arriving passengers and people waiting for them and turn right to go to the transfer bus. As a Qantas passenger there is no need for me to take the most overpriced (per time/distance) train trip between terminals. There is a modest queue at the recheck desks by transfer bus, but as I already have my onward boarding pass I can bypass those and go straight to security.

I’ve just missed a bus and so have to wait 10 minutes or so until the next one. The bus ride is okay but relatively uninteresting this time as it is a quiet period at the airport. By the time I arrive at T3, it has taken just over an hour to transfer even with the good luck with queues, not having checked bags to collect and already having the onward boarding pass.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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SYDNEY to CAIRNS (SYD-CNS) on Qantas 737-400

I had a choice of flights and chose this one for less rushed connections, avoiding a possible repeat of the hassles I got at Cairns arriving as a domestic passenger on an international flight yet not having entered Australia, and to sample a different aircraft type of 73H. However, with very light loads our aircraft had been substituted with a smaller 737-400.

The food on offer in the lounge has improved significantly since my previous visits. A couple of different soups, cold cuts, cheese, a couple of different salads, pasta, rolls. Being before 1pm the bar isn’t open but water juice tea and coffee are available.

I was catching up on some email and work in the lounge when boarding was called some 35 minutes before departure – much earlier than I expected. At the gate boarding had just commenced. The load was light in economy (and full in business class), so boarding was quick. Ah an early departure is on the cards. Meanwhile out the window I see bags are still being loaded and even some dogs, which proceed to make a lot of noise once put into the hold. Then a delay for the paperwork to be presented and another to get a tug driver. So despite boarding very early we push back late and a short taxi to the cross runway. Having missed our slot we then have a long wait at the end of the runway for several departing and arriving aircraft, eventually taking off more than 30 minutes after scheduled departure.

The 737-400 has convertible seats at the front and I get a bulkhead seat, as usual. The guy next to me clearly hasn't been in these seats or business class before but soon gets the hang of things.

IFE consists of main screen only, plus several audio channels. A movie plays, which takes the entire flight time.

Lunch is offered – salmon with salsa, mashed potatoes and beans; or beef salad. 1 roll, either white or wholemeal. Small green salad. For desert banana flavoured Nice Cream (ice cream). A small selection of drinks – just 1 white and 1 red wine available.

The first part of the flight had little glimpses of the ground below but mostly the cloud cover was complete. Further in the cloud cleared and we saw parched drought stricken farms, major riverbeds with none or little water (or at least none visible from our height). We reached the coast over Townsville, flying past the airport nestled in the city and over the brilliant waters. We had great views along the great barrier reef as we headed north. Many hues in the water, reef and scattered islands. We descend over the valley south of Cairns and over the city centre. A month after my previous visit here I was back, this time in daylight.

The dogs get barking – heard even over the IFE.

The flight time was fast and we made up some of the lost time on departure but still arrived late. A short taxi to the domestic terminal. There was a delay in deplaning waiting for someone to operate the airbridge.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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CAIRNS to GOVE (CNS-GOV) on Qantas Link 717-200 operated by National Jet Systems

The arrival gates lead to landside so I head through security to the lounge to await my next flight. Unlike Sydney the food on offer is pathetic – consisting of crackers and cheese. That is all. The bar is open and many lounge patrons seem happy enough just drinking wine or beer while they wait for their flight. The lounge is fairly full but no one is on the sole computer so I hop on to start this report. I don’t get very far as boarding is again called rather early.

The way to the prop gates are marked off with colour coded lines much like they have in some hospitals. Green is gate x, black gate y and so on. That is probably just as well, for there are multiple flights leaving in a short period. Up the stairs and onboard. Again I hear dogs in the hold below.

The 717 is all economy, with no IFE. Seating is 2-3 and with a light load the 3 side has no more than 2 people in any given row. We wait in the humid evening air for a few stragglers to board and then wait further while the cabin crew try to decide if we are missing 1 or 2 passengers. Eventually they close the door without anyone else boarding. We have a long wait at the edge of the runway, waiting for some arriving aircraft. For some reason I am unsure of, we don’t use the taxiway and instead taxi the length of the runway, turn and then take off back the way we came.

My hopes of viewing the northern Australia scenery are dashed as the sun rapidly sets while we are on the ground.

Dinner offered consists of a meal box. A pasta feta and tomato salad, roll, mini mars bar. Juice, soft drinks and water are free. Alcohol is A$5 or $6. This contrasts with similar length domestic Qantas flights in New Zealand which offer a biscuit muffin or pastry, free water, juice and soft drinks NZ$2 and alcohol NZ$4 or NZ$5.

The ratio of crew to passengers is very high – 5 cabin crew to about 50 passengers.

In the dark tropical night there is no view until we see some lights moments before landing at Gove airport. Everyone deplanes, even those continuing through to Darwin.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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GOVE to DARWIN (GOV-DRW) on Qantas Link 717-200 operated by National Jet Systems

Gove airport is fairly small, but by no means the smallest I have been to. We arrive landside and so need to go through security to get to the gate. As with other domestic airports in Australia and NZ no need to be a passenger to go airside. The gate area is very sparse. If you need a drink or to use the toilet, you need to do this landside. I do my usual trick to avoid getting the continuous check for explosives, adjusting the timing of collecting stuff from x-ray machine to suit.

The transit is longer than announced on arrival, but not excessively late. I walk across the tarmac slowly - there is no real hurry. Load is lighter than on the flight in, perhaps 30 passengers. So now the crew to passenger ratio is truly excellent.

A light supper is served - cheese and crackers, mars bar, complimentary water tea or coffee, other drinks available for purchase.

Still no view on this short flight, until we are on approach to Darwin airport - with the small city spread around us. We arrive slightly early to a fairly deserted airport. One 767 parked up. A few really bored security officials waiting around for passengers on the red eyes to turn up, a couple of baggage handlers. That's about it. Again, we arrive landside.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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DARWIN to SYDNEY (DRW-SYD) on Qantas 767-300 international configuration

After a couple of hours spent wandering around I decided to head airside. There wasn't much landside or near the airport at this time of night. The check in counters were all still closed even though only a couple of hours before the first of the red eyes depart (my flight) and some bored passengers who turned up too early are lying around waiting for someone to turn up.

The huddle of security staff are chatting away - what a stressful job (not). I'm through and up the escalator before one wakes up and realises she was supposed to check my things for explosives - bad luck to the person behind me who cops it instead. It seems I'm not the only one who already has a boarding pass, although I suppose that should be no surprise now Qantas allows print your own boarding pass for Australian domestic flights (but not domestic flights in NZ).

Upstairs a shop and cafe are just opening up for the night, and a dozen or two passengers are spread out. A couple of tvs are on. There is a shower in one of the bathrooms (around to the right from the top of the escalator), but the light bulb is gone so that rules me out from using (I'd brought my own towel and soap expecting there to be none supplied, which there isn't).

There is a little enclosed deck for smokers, with a poor view thanks to the design.

The Qantas Club opened under 2 hours before departure, so I head inside to grab a shower, and afterwards surf FT supping some wine. A reasonable selection of food (various nibbles, some quite healthy), wine (half a dozen to choose from) and beer (about 4 to choose from) on offer here unlike at Cairns. Some young kids have taken over the remaining computers and are playing videos and stuff at high volume - grrr.

By the time boarding is called I am very sleepy, so I settle into my seat. A bit annoying that an international configuration aircraft is being used on this red eye flight where I won't be enjoying the benefits of it, when daylight international flight had a domestic configuration aircraft. Oh well.

I struggle to stay awake for the safety video and barely notice the lights of Darwin below us as we turn for Sydney. So I popped on my Air NZ eye mask and I am out cold. I know a meal was offered, but cannot give any details since no card and not awake to find out what it was. There was also no little micro-amenity kit, which I recalled getting on Perth red eye flights :( I get woken up by the pilot's announcement for our arrival in Sydney. Not bad - more sleep than I expected, although still not enough.

Thanks to good tail winds we have arrived early and thus fly low and slow south along the coast to make sure we land after the curfew lifts at 6am. While we do so dawn slowly arrives, on a crystal clear morning. Very nice view of Sydney Harbour and surrounds to wake up to.

We pull up to the end gate about ten past six, alongside the 747-300 that has just arrived from Perth. I made my way to the transfer bus at the far end of the terminal to find I'd just missed a bus and the next one is in 20 minutes.

So I back-tracked to the lounge for a quick freshen up and headed back to transfer bus 10 minutes later, collecting a departure card at the desk. I was lucky with the timing for the bus sitting there was almost full and pulled out just moments after I climbed onboard.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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SYDNEY to WELLINGTON (SYD-WLG) on Qantas 737-400 operated by Jet Connect

Arriving at international terminal I was happy to see no queues at immigration, and walked up having already filled in my card during the short bus ride. Through in seconds and just a few seconds more for security and the walk through the duty free shop. Hmm lounge signs still point towards the interim first lounge, I'd hoped the new first class lounge would be open by now (opening dates have already been pushed back several times). Inside the lounge I am told the opening is currently due 21st May (although another well connected FTer has posted 23rd May so maybe I was mistaken) and the agent seemed sceptical that it really would open by then.

A significant portion of my connection is taken up with the transfer so I decide against a shower and instead catch up on email and FT.

I don't particularly like the interim lounge. While it offers great up close views of 747s pulling into and pushed out of the adjacent gate above us, it is a bit gloomy and noisy. It is open plan. There is a modest selection of breakfast options, but no hot foods. Plenty of booze, plus a couple of juices, water tea and coffee.

It is time to board and for the first time on the trip no early announcement in the lounge. I head over to the gate anyway, as it is at the other end of the one world pier. I see out the windows a few Qantas aircraft parked up at the other pier - a bit annoying for passengers but only a minor annoyance on arrival.

This flight is totally full in business class. The last time I flew in this particular aircraft it had convertible seats. Now it has the old style business seats (limited recline but wide and comfy).

In the seat pocket is a DVD guide - ah there were meant to be more DVDs on the flight over, 11 different ones a mixture of movies and tv shows. Yes this is a nice service to compensate for the poor main screen IFE. There is also a wine guide, similar to the one introduced by Air NZ a couple of years ago. It seems this is a new product as it is the first edition. Unfortunately the contents bear no relation to the limited wine offering onboard (again only 1 white and 1 red in business class - disgraceful, even economy on other airlines do better than this).

One issue with the DVD is there is very little room to put them while eating. The FA partly solved it by opening it out and putting into the seat pocket (first clearing all my junk out of there). But it slid down a bit and could only see the top half :( I ended up balancing the DVD and meal tray on the tray table, a bit precariously balanced.

Between watching a movie, eating and dozing I filled in the flight time. Interrupted too many times by the window passenger who kept wanting to get up many times - to go to the loo (a few times), get something from the galley, get something from the overhead bin, get something from the forward locker, talk to someone else in the cabin. Each time I have to pause the dvd, find somewhere to put it, take off headphones, put tray table away, unbuckle seat, stand up and stay out of the way of the cabin crew.

We get some nice views of Nelson and Tasman Bay areas which are having a sunny day, but the Marlborough side is clouded in so no views there. We have the usual bumps into Wellington.

This is the first time in a few years I've had an international arrival into Wellington. Immigration, customs and quarantine x-ray are downstairs. The usual duty free on arrival shops. With so few international flights there is no wait. The agent seems to not like the countries listed on the form as having visited in the past 30 days and sure enough I get secondary :( Fortunately they are quick about it and so I'm only held up 20 minutes or so.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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Sydney to Wellington menu

Yes, this flight had a printed menu ^ Does the menu seem familiar?

From The Bar

Marinated Olives

Roasted Nuts

Main Courses

Grilled Salmon with Tomato Caper Sauce and Green Beans*
Served with Prosciutto and Mesclun Salad
* Healthier Option

Roasted Honey Duck with Mashed Potato and Peas
Served with Prosciutto and Mesclun Salad

Bresaola with Italian Coleslaw and Lemon Vinaigrette
Served with Fresh Fruit Selection


Ciabatta and Wholemeal Bread

Dessert

Selection of seasonal Cheese and Dried Fruit

Ice Cream and Biscotti [yup - Banana flavoured Nice Cream]

Chocolates [which the FA forgot to offer to my row being interrupted through the service, no matter to me]


Beverages

Champagne

<snip long winded text that doesn't actually say what champagne is on offer>

Aperitifs

Campari

Spirits

Bacardi White Rum
Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky
Inner Circle (Green Dot) Dark Rum 57.2%
Tanqueray London Dry Gin
The Glenlivet Malt Whisky
Wild Turkey 86.8 Bourbon
Wyborowa Classic Vodka

Beers

A selection of premium international and Australian beers is available onboard today.

Non Alcoholic

Apple Juice
Orange Juice
Spicy Tomato Juice
Mineral Water
Soda Water
Tonic Water
Bundaberg Ginger Beer
Cola
Diet Cola
Ginger Ale
Lemonade
Solo - Lemon Squash

Hot Beverages

Grinders Coffee
Bodum
Decaffeinated

Dilmah Tea

Chamomile
English breakfast
Jasmine Green
Peppermint

Hot Chocolate

Liqueurs

Bailey's Irish Cream
Cointreau

Fortified

Penfolds Bluestone 10yo Tawny
Rutherglen Liqueur Muscat

Cognac

Martell VSOP
 

Kiwi Flyer

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WELLINGTON to AUCKLAND (WLG-AKL) on Qantas 737-300 operated by Jet Connect

I'll keep this short since so many reports already on this flight.

In the lounge I had a shower to help wake up properly and some drink and a snack. The flight was lightly loaded. As expected no business seats (some Jet Connect aircraft on domestic routes have them - either convertible style or old style) but many do not and I normally get the no business seats aircraft. Flight time is fast so we arrive ahead of schedule. Small delay in deplaning waiting for airbridge operator. I dozed during the flight. The extensive cloud cover offering no views to speak of.
 

Kiwi Flyer

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End

Thus ends a short jaunt on Qantas on my Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Sampler.

I sampled mainline and 2 subsidiaries, 4 different aircraft types, 2 classes of travel, mix of international and domestic (in 2 countries). Got far too little sleep. Flew in and out of a couple of airports that were new to me. Had a relaxing time.

My overall impression is that Qantas service has slipped from a year ago, and there are lots of inconsistencies between flights that I'd expect to have a similar offering on.

I hope you enjoyed this little report.
 

serfty

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Nice report Kiwi Flyer.

Yes there are many inconsistencies with service. Some little, some large. In the last 5 weeks I have had 4 Trans Tasman flights and can make some observations.

Little thing:

I can assure you that printed menus are available for both WHY and J on most trans Tasman flights. Many times the FA's simply can't be bothered distributing them. on three of these J menus were distributed; on one of these Y menus appeared. (Yes, on one flight no menus were presented to anyone)

Big (?) thing:

As for the Video Tablets; on one flight from BNE these were distributed to all J PAX and the first two rows of Y (on ZK QF 734's, rows 5 & 6 are underneath the forward monitor and the mainscreen entertainment cannot be seen by PAX seated in them). However, on a flight to BNE, they were only distributed to J pax as the flight was full and they only had enough for J. From MEL they were distributed to all J pax (73H), back to MEL NOT AT ALL.
 
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serfty

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... Now it has the old style business seats (limited recline but wide and comfy). ...
Note that none of these 'old style' millenium seats are any older than ~2000. IIRC, they were introduced by Qantas with the first of the VH-ZX* series 763's. Quite reasonable for a day flight; I find them a bit ordinary when trying to sleep and a lot worse when trying to sleep on JQi StarClass where they are covered in leather.
... international configuration aircraft is being used on this red eye flight where I won't be enjoying the benefits of it, when daylight international flight had a domestic configuration aircraft. ...
FWIW, I believe you got the best of those Dreamtime seats; for sleeping I find they are much better than the Millennium seats and absolutely S||t on most AA domestic 1st Class Seats.
 

Altair

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I cannot believe that it has been 4 months since I have done the Trans-Tasman run, soon to be rectified next Wednesday on the LAN flight.
From what I can remember the service was always good on QF (Jetconnect)but there were inconsistencies, such as not distributing menus or the Duty Free service all up they were minor, I usually do not take a menu anyway.
The refitted Millenium seats are much better than the convertible seats that were offering up to the end of January this year, I think I was on one of the first flights Trans-Tasman.
The DVD issue, it can be annoying when they DVD players are not recharged and in a full J flight you may not be able to get another.
Regarding the first two row in WHY recieving the DVD players, you get different services depending on the crew. eg. I recieved the DVD of the main screen movie, no choice, I received one choice of the DVD menu, I received the entire DVD libary for my own choice. Either way it is better than main screen.
Oh Row 5 has the best situation on how to handle the DVD balancing issue, well when they have the convertible seats, use the try table from row 4 and then for food use the fold up arm rest tables, heaps of room.
 
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