February, 2012

now browsing by month

 

GBD

What is GBD? Its a term Alton Brown uses quite a bit. Stands for Golden Brown & Delicious. Something that happens when you bake a lot (or cook a lot). Which is what I seem to be doing lately. So rather than some huge huge post about random topics. Here is some really bad food photos (yeah they arent the best). It’s about as close as your gonna get to food porn around here:

First Up – Cheeseburger Cup Cakes:

From Random Baking 2012
From Random Baking 2012

Some Failed Green Tea Macarons

From Random Baking 2012
From Random Baking 2012

Green Tea & Lemon Marble Pound Cake

From Random Baking 2012

Pumpkin Spiced Latte Muffins:

From Random Baking 2012
From Random Baking 2012

A New Adventure… Set to Begin

I was going to make a post about my Easter Travel plans this morning, but that will be put to the way side for a few more days. I got home from the Gym this morning to some truly epic news that just made my day (although I am sure once I get to work that excitement will die. But either way I am over the moon right now. This process I have hidden from most people for a while now, keeping it kind of quiet. But now that the first lot of hurdles are over, and the process is moving forward, its time to reveal all.

Back in September on my way home from my round the world trip, I ran into the owner of the company I work for. We got to chatting about my travelling and my time off and I had said how much I loved the USA and was a touch dissapointed I never got my Green Card through the lottery. At that point I had just gotten the thoughts of working in the USA out of my head and also the temptations of working in Canada and had decided I would be staying in Aus, settling down, getting some surgery done (thats a whole other story). To which he countered with “If you want a job in the US, all you have to do is ask and I can set it up”.

Now he has done an epic amount of things for me in the past, you all know how much he has helped me, how much I admire this man. But that was like a dream come true/tease all in one. I had to put some serious thought into that. We decided to discuss it a few weeks later when I would see him again on a work trip, and to be honest, It was all I could think about for weeks. But I made up my mind… It was full steam ahead… lets go!

Little did I know, that decision would change things and that little meeting would make things different. I was given an offer to help out with the office I would be working for in Seattle for a week late last october (a lot of people would of seen me blogging/tweeting from over there but wondering what was going on) and I got to meet my new employers, the staff and it felt right. I love Seattle. The weather although not like Qld is still awesome, the food is amazing and to be honest, It is Aviation Porn Central with 2 Boeing Factories (Renton & Everett). What more could I want.

Will since then they have been helping me out, we have been back and forth trying to work on my options for my Work Visa. It has been a very convuluted process. I have been through dozens of rewrites of resumes, references, employment histories and just general mind numbing stuff. I had held most of this back as it all weighed on one bit of data. I had to have the equivalent of a US Degree. As I never went to Uni, this would make things so much easier for me.

Well this morning that Equivalency was approved. Third times a charm! I couldn’t believe it! So now, it’s all real. I will be leaving Aus. Who knows how long for, who knows when (next few months I would say) and ticking some more stuff off my bucket list I am sure. But to say I am excited… well.. Thats an understatement.

So on the right I have added a new category… I’ve called it “Expat” cause thats essentially what I will be. An Aussie Expat… living in the USA!

Decisions Decisions!

I can never make up my mind. This year it seems that I should be able to get easter off. I am rostered to work the full weekend before easter which would put me off for easter weekend.

But what to do! I don’t want to spend a 4 day break sitting at home. Part of me wants to have a quick hop up to Tokyo to get in some more #avgeek times (787, 747D flight) and also see the Cherry Blossoms in bloom in Tokyo.

Or I can stay local, finish off my Gold Qualification with DJ in 2 days, spend a solid day spotting in Sydney giving my lenses a good work out and maybe even a luxurios night at the Park Hyatt Melbourne.

The 2nd option will most definately be cheaper, less time flying, but probably not as adventurous and doesn’t require me to take any leave. Option #1 means at least 1 day annual leave required. 10 hours each way in Economy to Tokyo (from Sydney mind you so means positioning to Sydney in each direction). Along with that it would be the most expensive. But probably the most adventurous and fun as I would get to go back to a country I love and have a few days of craziness.

I don’t know how I get myself in these issues! But I always seemingly do. Now to try and decide before the Sales all end…

Wish someone could make up my mind for me!

Book Review: Chesty

This is a book that has been sitting on my shelf since last christmas, taunting me, wanting me to read it. I finally gave in.

Chesty

The book is Chesty by Colonel Jon T Hoffman. This book is a biography of one of the United States Marine Corps most legendary officers. Lewis B “Chesty” Puller.

Right about now you are thinking to yourself, “why the hell would Mal be reading a book about a Marine?” Well it all stems from my running. I started listening to Military Cadence when I was running. It is the perfect thing to help me run and keep my pace. I have a number of CDs of the stuff and a few of them are “Run with the Marine Corp” A number of the Cadence’s mention Chesty Puller. From here my interest was sparked. Add in the fact that “The Pacific” was released and Chesty makes a few appearances in this with Guadalcanal. My interest was spiked even more! So my parents ended up giving me this book for christmas last year (well 2010 really) and I have finally managed to get around to reading it.

Chesty is what is known as a “Mustang” in the Corp. Which is an Officer who has come up from the Enlisted Corp, although technically he was an officer first then an Enlisted Marine, then an officer again (gotta love being an officer for a whole 3 days when WW1 comes to an end and the officer corp is cut dramatically). Chesty fought in Haiti, Nicuragua, was an officer in China as a prestigious member of the “Horse Marines” and then during WW2 he took over his first combat command.

During the War, he took command of a battalion of the 7th Marines and then eventually he took full command of the 1st Marine Regiment. From there, he went on to lead the 1st marine regiment in Korea, then Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Marine Division and then on to command the Division. Along the way Chesty fought in the battles of Guadalcanal, New Britian, Pelilu, Incheon and Chosin Reservoir. He also had some state side training commands where he could help mould new marines to his way of thinking.

Chesty was famous for his straight ahead, hard charging, no nonsense focus on combat. He spoke exactly what he thought and would not hold back (which later in life would come to bite him in the ass). His leadership and his care for his men became legendary and people would do anything for him.

This style of leadership described in the book is exactly the kind of thing that I would hope that I would be like, I would hope that his style of leadership would be able to help inspire others and that I could do it justice as well. If I could be a leader even one percent of what Chesty was, I would be thoroughly happy with my life. Being the sort of person that soaks in all the lessons of leadership etc, I would hope that some of this book rubs off on me and that I can learn from some of Chesty’s ways of leadership.

If you are at all interested in this sort of thing, I highly recommend this book for several reasons. The book has some great accounts of the interwar period and what was reffered to as “The banana wars” as well as good detailed accounts of fighting in the early pacific campaign. I also learnt quite a bit about Korea and now going to add some of the Korean War to my future reads. But most of all, this book is about leadership, about how one man can make a difference in so many people’s lives. About being true to yourself and not holding back… the kind of person i hope I am.

Trip Report: 5 Flights, 2 Days, 11 Coffees & To many Diet Cokes

Saturday 11th February 2012

A typical morning for me when I am travelling. An early rise, out of the house to pound the pavement to get the blood pumping before a day of sitting down. The best way to start a day really. By the time I was heading to the airport the sun was fully up and shining. I parked the car at the office car park, after repeating my registration almost 6 times to the staff (sorry what did you say?) I jumped in the shuttle heading towards the terminal. I was lightly loaded today with just my small backpack full of essentials. Dropped off at the Virgin Terminal I was inside and through security in minutes, no need for priority security for me today, as there was no one there. Took my time redressing to ensure no explosive swab and timed my walk away from security perfectly.

The lounge beckoned for me at this hour, and I made my way past my gate to the lounge. Today was going to be almost a tour of lounges. I was greeted upon entering and asked if I wished to check in and the lovely staff were shocked when I told them where I was flying. All three boarding passes were spat out of the printer and after a few minutes I was free to enter.

First priority in the lounge at this hour is always one thing, order my coffee. The Virgin Australia lounges in the main cities all have baristaa on staff to give you your morning caffeine hit. With coffee order placed I grabbed myself some breakfast (shocked by the fact no fresh fruit this morning) and found a quiet spot to begin the day.

After a couple of coffees, some toast and a good relax I wandered out of the lounge heading towards the gate for my first flight of the day.

Virgin Australia
DJ924
Brisbane to Sydney
0800-1035
Boeing 737-800 (VH-VUU)
Economy Class – Seat 3A

Boarding: 0740 (Gate 39)
Push Back: 0757
Take Off Roll: 0808 (Runway 19)
Top of Descent: 0949
Touch Down: 1011 (Runway 16L)
Shut Down: 1028 (Gate 32)

As I approached the gate, snapped a few photos of my ride, boarding was called for special assistance and seconds later for priority boarding. A quick scan of the boarding pass and info the aerobridge I went.

The aircraft had the new fit out (I believe a the 800s do by now) so row 3 is the ultimate perk for the elites with DJ. The seats are in the row behind the new Business class “bulkhead” which means oodles of leg room and as the flight filled it seemed that I was going to have the seat next to me free. Win! My seat mate kept to himself so this was looking like a nice little morning flight south. We pushed back a few minutes early and the flight looked fairly full, I wasn’t going to complain really. We taxiied out to Runway 19, past an empty Loop Road (guess there was nothing good coming in that morning) before holding just short of the runway. As the morning Qantas flight from Singapore landed in front of us, we held till it was clear and then the Captain wasted no time in giving it the beans this morning. We were quickly heading towards Sydney as we turned left after rotation and climbed out over the clearish morning, through the cloud bank and South towards Sydney.

Service was the typical Virgin Domestic service now, Tea, Coffee, Water (although no announcement again) and coffee #3 helped me wake up (I swear next time I am going to tweet a coffee count for those who follow me) and my book kept my brain far enough alive to avoid passing out. I wish all domestic flights were like this, nice and easy and by the time we hit descent I was feeling marginally human. Tracking south for arrival into Sydney past the city, a few snaps of the harbour and seeing 3 cruise ships in town (wondering which one my friend was about to jump onboard for the next week or so for work) and noticed that we were tracking quite a bit more to the left than usual.

My brain started processing… O crap! 16L is the arrival runway today. That means a solid 10-15 minutes of taxiing. O well, at least I should get some good photos, and that I did. SQ 388, 2 x BA Heavies (772 & 744) and a TG 744 all sitting in the Stand off bays and o, what is that I spy! One of the holy grail of photo ops and I don’t have my SLR with me. Damn it! The Thai Airways retro jet taxiing out of sydney. Unfortunately I just could not get a half decent close enough shot but I hope the ones I do have are not to bad. By the time we finally got to the terminal I had missed the departure of the Retro jet, so headed off to the Terminal for a bit of a stroll.

Visited a few shops and had a good laugh when I heard some store staff complain about “How can another set of headphones get stolen?” I laughed to myself over this one for a while, before getting told $10 minimum for card purchases and giving up my shopping to hit the Sydney lounge. With only about 45 mins to an hour in the Sydney Lounge there wasn’t much time other than Coffee #4 (I think they use a different bean to Brisbane as this was not as good as my first two) and some fresh fruit (thank god Sydney had some as Brisbane didn’t). A little bit of a read and some people watching in the lounge and I was headed for the terminal again (not before some of their addictive nut mix that only the Sydney lounge seems to have) for a wander to stretch my legs.

After a stroll through the terminal, some more photos of the comings and goings of flights at T2 and soon enough boarding should of began… but it didn’t. I wasn’t to phased as I was waiting for a shot of Air Austral taking off (saw it go past thinking it was taxiing for departure, it wasn’t) so was more focused on what was going on outside.

Virgin Australia
DJ1473
Sydney to Mackay
1150-1320
Boeing 737-800 (VH-YFF)
Business Class – Seat 1A

Boarding: 1145 (Gate 33)
Push Back: 1200
Take Off Roll: 1215 (Runway 16R)
Top of Descent: 1305
Touch Down: 1328 (Runway 14)
Shut Down: 1332 (Gate 3)

Boarding was eventually called (about 15 minutes late) but again, wasn’t to phased. I was 2nd through and into the Airbridge, hoping and praying I was not going to get one of the “Rogues” today. My brain obviously was not thinking all that straight as it took a few minutes for me to notice what was going on when I stepped onboard. Greated at the door by the lovely “Tara” who pointed me towards my seat and left me to settle in while I got my stuff together. I got all my stuff together, and even after putting stuff away in the Overhead bin, I was thinking more of the seat than the aircraft. Then I noticed it. The Overhead bin was different. Wait a second, took a 2nd look. BSI!!!

What a score! I managed to get myself on a Boeing Sky Interior fitted aircraft. It looked good, stunning actually. Much better than the old interiors and if this is what is going to be fitted fleet wide from now on, this was going to be a good change. Then it was back to focusing on the lovely black seat I was enjoying. As I was greeted again by Tara, offered my choice of PDB (Water or Orange Juice) and even offered a copy of “The Weekend Australian” (politely declined in favour of my new book). The door was closed, and I looked around. I had the holy grail of Premium Cabins. 1/8! If only this was a long haul trip for like the next 6 hours in something like Cathay First. But I wasn’t going to complain.

The announcements were made all giving special mention to “Our Guests in Business” (ie Me) and each time I kinda felt embarrased for some reason (not sure why). We had a nice short quick taxi after push back as it seemed the active take off runway was the nice long 16R and we lined up behind a few Heavies. Got a few good shots of the Delta 77L heading towards LAX and after watching a QF 767 take off ahead of us, it was our turn. As we climbed out we turned right and took the long way around the southern Suburbs, blue mountains and then finally started our journey north.

Shortly after the seat belt sign finally came off, I was offered a “Morning Snack” Say what now? Its like 1230 Sydney time by now, we are going to Arrive into Mackay around 1pm and it is just a snack. Poor Form! I was a little bit dissapointed being that I was in Prime Lunch service time and especially with all the advertising of the Luke Mangan food service. I was a tad dissapointed. O well. In saying that though, the food wasn’t bad. The snack was a Warm Egg & Bacon pie (not much bacon present) served with some Fruit salad (I won’t say no to some fruit) and a pat of butter (not sure why? no bread was evident or even offered). A couple of diet cokes on the side and I was fairly content. I was even happier when offered some coffee. Tara sure knew the way to my heart! Cup #5 was soon on the arm rest as we cruised north and my book pages were turning.

Cup #6 was delivered right as you would expect, just as we hit turbulence, with the coffee rolling around as much on the seat as in my hand I was trying to get it to a level I could just let it sit safely between bounces. But we cleared through and a treat came just as we got through (thankfully I still had a good half a cup left). Tara had offered me something else to keep me going and she offered “Cheese, Crackers, Cookie?” I took the offer of the cookie and then the best thing she ever said “how about I get it warmed up, you won’t regret it” She was right…. I didn’t. Dear god, if anyone else flies Virgin and buys the Cranberry, White Chocolate cookie, try and get it warmed up. In my opinion it is GLORIOUSLY addictive. Warm and delicious, Soft yet Crunchy. I am drooling just thinking about it again. This put me in the happiness spot and although it couldn’t make up for a full lunch, I was content.

The rest of the flight went past with more reading, some water which was constantly kept topped up without even needing a prompt and some photos out the window. As we started to descend I started to wish the flight wasn’t over. To be honest it was probably one of the best crewed flights I have had with DJ. Being in the A seat I missed most of the coast on our approach but I did get a good view of the city as we circled around to approach from the North and soon enough we were landing in Mackay with a little red E190 sitting at the gate and a Smash 8 spinning up near by.

As we pulled into the Apron the Smash 8 moved out past us and the crowd for the Brisbane flight emerged from the Terminal to board the E190. The door finally opened and the crew held everyone else back so that I could hop off first with a “Your welcome to disembark now Mr Muir”. I thanked Tara for the wonderful service on the flight and quickly got down the steps before someone from Economy started a riot for me taking to long.

I was chastised for taking a photo (what would be a common occurrence to come) and soon walked into a very, very empty terminal. I looked around, everyone who was there, was waiting to go to Sydney on the flight I had just come in on, and they were inviting them to board meer seconds after we had cleared the doors. The Terminal in Mackay was not big, a Bar, A Café, A newspaper stand and some security. I didn’t feel like exploring the rest of the terminal if I could afford to and started to look around for the new Virgin lounge.

Not knowing where to look and starting to think it was before security, I finally saw a purple wall and a glass door. This is it! I walked into a totally empty lounge. No Staff in sight. O dear! But within seconds a staff member was greeting me, asking me where I was off to. When I said “Brisbane” her first thought was OMG! She seemed to think I was heading to Brisbane on the E190 that was just starting to taxi towards the runway behind us. I calmed her after telling her I would be sticking around for the next 3 or 4 hours.

This got great smiles, a quick welcome, an offer to show around or explain the lounge if needed and lots of smiles. With only 1 other guest in the lounge I had an endless supply of places to sit, and helped myself to a couch, the start of a flow of diet cokes and a giant bowl of nuts (my treat for the week). The lounge attendant (I can’t call her a dragon she was just to awesome) asked if I minded if she did a bit of vacumming and considering she knew the other person by first name fairly well and I was always addressed as “Mr Muir” I was pretty sure no one else was gonna be in the lounge for quite some time so let her do what she needed (who am I to think a few minutes of vacuuming is going to destroy my afternoon of peace and relaxation).

I settled in with my book for a while and this was one of the reasons I had chosen to do this status run. Flying relaxes me, sitting in an airport somewhere, people around, planes taking off just relaxes me. Add in a lounge somewhere and I could sit there all day really. Drinking my way through their supply of diet coke, watching the movements outside (at Mackay… their wasn’t much trust me) and just thinking to myself “I love travelling for this pure reason”.

After some time on Flyertalk, writing up my book review from my last finished book (ready for publishing a day or two in advance thanks to delayed posting) and an impromptu visit from a Brisbane Football God (Darren Lockyer got lost and thought the Virgin Lounge was the Qantas Club, but to be honest, his flight was leaving minutes after a little chat with the lounge attendant while I was to shy to get up and get a photo) the time flew by.

The Mackay lounge is good, it may be small but it’s only a small airport and the staff were great. The only downside is that the bathrooms are outside of the lounge (although after chatting to the rep this morning, that issue should be fixed in coming months once a plumbing issue is sorted) but that’s not all that big of a deal. The lounge filled up (and by that 4 other people came in) just before our flight to Brisbane and I went for a stroll to stretch my legs and get a photo of our aircraft coming into the Apron.

Virgin Australia
DJ616
Mackay to Brisbane
1720-1840
Boeing 737-800 (VH-VUT)
Economy Class – Seat 3A

Boarding: 1700 (Gate 3)
Power Out: 1718
Take Off Roll: 1723 (Runway 14)
Top of Descent: 1803
Touch Down: 1831 (Runway 01)
Shut Down: 1835 (Gate 41)

Boarding was called and since I was close by I was first up to the barrier, with a snide comment from one of the CUB’s (cashed up bogans) close by of “Well someone’s special”. Headed out, got told off for another photo (didn’t care) and walked up the steps onto my 3rd 737 for the day. New fit out (yay!) and quickly settled into what is becoming to feel like my usual seat (well hopefully If I can manage to requalify). My seat mate would soon join me and after a little chat about the flight and speculation if we would have a middle seat buddy tonight (my theory was no, as if my luck held out, the staff from Brisbane had blocked the seat if I was lucky). He was heading to Singapore and then onto Beijing and we had a quick chat about the seats and stuff in their business after he was surprised that Virgin even had a Business Class (hell half the people I work with don’t even know it yet!). Our hopes and prayers were answered when the doors shut and the middle seat was empty!

We quickly headed to the runway and I was jealous of the two people up in Business. Wishing I could be up there in those seats, but I sucked it up and took my leg room and settled in while we taxiied away from the bay.

We soon were in the sky, flying south after an effortless take off and the sun slowly setting off to the right. Service was what you would expect on this short hop south (about the same length as my flight to Sydney). Coffee #7 was needed to try and keep me awake as I was slowly starting to crash and still needed to be awake a little while longer.

The book pages went by without effort and soon enough we were descending over the Northern Suburbs of Brisbane. I didn’t even realise we were over the suburbs till I looked down and spotted Bribie Island off in the distance and then saw the most glorious red sky as we passed Depression Deception Bay. As we cruised down towards what would be an arrival into the opposite direction from this morning’s take off, I was spotting all the landmarks and being blown away by how they looked from the air.

The sun was dropping fast as we came into Land on 01 and I noticed something weird sitting in the Alliance hangar. I thought I saw a 737, but thought it was nothing and put it out of my mind (this would later be confirmed thanks to a post from some spotters later on the next day). We pulled into the gate mere moments from turning off the runway and after quickly deplaning as the gate staff seemed to be ready and waiting for us, I was into the terminal, and as I stepped onto the Kerb a parking shuttle was right there. 30 minutes later, I was walking in my door at home. Tired yet looking forward to more fun the next day.

Sunday 12th February 2012

My alarm sounded at the same time as yesterday yet I was thinking to myself “its way to early, go away”, yet yesterday it was “time for a run before starting the day”. No time for that this morning though as I was needing to be at the airport earlier, so morning preparations were done quickly and calmly.

De Ja Vu set in as I dropped the car off and headed to the shuttle for the ride into the Airport. Only 3 of us onboard this morning so no needing to feel like a Sardine against the guy next to me like yesterday and we were dropped off Kerbsite at the Virgin Terminal. Headed to security which was a little busier this morning so out came the gold card for Priority Security and was through in seconds, yet delayed myself again to ensure no explosives (yay dodged again!).

Up to the lounge with a quick detour to the gate to get some photos of the ATR’s sitting there warming in the morning sun. 2 of them were sitting there and I was starting to think to myself which one was taking us north today.

As I headed into the lounge my mind was on one thing… Cup #8. The sooner I was checked in the better! I was greeted by the same person who saw me yesterday and after a double take after “Good morning” she said “More flying today?” Check in was a little bit slow as my pre set seat had been overridden by the Gold member default of the very last row, then having to explain why I wanted a seat further forward in front of the wing instead of behind the wing (I didn’t really want to say, that photos of propellors from the front look prettier and gave her some BS about it being less noisy).

After they got permission to open up Row 1 for me since my original seats had since been taken, I was happy enough to be boarding pass in hand for my 1 sector with Virgin this morning. Cup #8 beckoned and I dropped my gear in the same area as the day before and made a beeline for the Barista. “Long Black” was uttered and I perused the mornings offerings while it was made. Fresh fruit was evident and the Museli looked unappealing so Toast, Vegemite, Fruit & cup #9 it was this morning.

Cup #8 went down a treat and I looked at my watch, still time for a 2nd cup in the lounge before my flight as the gate was literally just outside. I headed back to the Barista but they were no where to be found. So I waited, and waited and waited. No one ? One of the service agents who fix all the lovely problems you may have, came over and asked my order and even apoligised that I had to wait and said she would get my coffee for me. Awesome++!

Cup #9 eventuated, Toast finished, no reading managed and hell, even managed to find a new part of the lounge I didn’t know existed. Good quick prep for the morning and I walked out to the gate mere moments before boarding was called for Special Assistance guests. The Boarding calls came thick and fast after that with Priority Boarding barely invited before the rest of the Aircraft was called so I managed to get ahead of the scrum.

Virgin Australia (Operated by Skywest)
DJ1233
Brisbane to Rockhampton
0700-0835
GIE Avions de Transport Regional – ATR-72-500 (VH-FVM)
Economy Class – Seat 1A (Exit Row)

Boarding: 0635 (Gate 50)
Power Out: 0655
Take Off Roll: 0703 (Runway 19)
Top of Descent: 0803
Touch Down: 0818 (Runway 33)
Shut Down: 0822 (Gate 1)

Outside and down the steps, a pre emptive advise by the ground staff to “Not take any photos” after she saw me take one at the top of the steps and I went towards the aircraft thinking that all the ground staff are just being mean! Stepped onboard and ducked to make sure that I didn’t hit my head as I hopped onto this lovely new ATR. Compared to the last ATR I was on this one felt like it was fresh from the Factory (turns out it was Manufactured in November 2011).

I settled into my seat knowing that no one else was able to sit next to me as I know they block 1B & 1C as it is the Exit Row and for some reason 2 people is better than 4? First impressions on the inside is that it is very Spartan but being a regional aircraft, I wouldn’t complain. Legroom looked good, seats were comfy (although no headrest was a bit weird to get used to at first) but no recline (not usually a big issue on short regional sectors I guess).

My window was covered in the mornings condensation so photos this early were going to be a bit of a problem, but to be honest the shots I really wanted I probably wouldn’t be able to get on my little camera anyway. We powered up fairly early and left the bay earlier than expected and boy can that little ATR taxi quickly.

We took the long run up to 19 but didn’t need to go the whole way and turned off earlier than the jets would of. Today’s pilot didn’t hold back and gave It a good amount of gas as we lept down the runway. We turned north and slowly climbed our way to cruise altitude. I say slowly cause it felt that way in comparison to all the climb outs I had been on so far to that point. To be honest, it was slower but I didn’t care.

We were given the lovely in service spiel by the Skywest crew as they explained that service today would be different to all other flights and that this mornings “light breakfast” would be complimentary and served with “Tea, Coffee, Juice or Water.” Being that Skywest operates the ATR’s for Virgin I am not sure why they don’t offer Buy on Board but I have a feeling it’s space restrictions or something but either way it’s nice of them.

I wasn’t hungry anyway so by the time they came to my seat, I took what was offered (Banana bread) and grabbed my usual. Cup #10 was on my tray while as soon as the rest was snapped in a photo went promptly into my bag for later if I felt hungry in the terminal (I didn’t). As we cruised north I was to engrossed in my book by this point to even look out the window and the noise wasn’t all that bad with my headphones on.

We descended into Rockhampton fairly quickly and it was the sort of descent you only get in a little turboprop. It feels like your gliding to the ground rather than the clunky descent you get with a 737 or similar.

We came into Rockhampton over some dams and the photo opportunities were great and we touched down with what I was expecting to be a thump but was a gentle kiss on the deck by the crew. Then the noise started. Props to reverse, engines up. God DAMN! The noise was there all right, that unmistakeable racket of a Turboprop trying to slow down. Guess it was good while it lasted.

We slowly this time made our way to the Apron which was totally devoid of life apart from us, and we had to wait onboard with seatbelt sign on till it was “Safe” for us to disembark. This felt like an eternity, was probably about 4-5 minutes. Being right at the front and only a rear door gave me plenty of time to get my stuff together and since I was not in a rush, didn’t mind.

Disembarked through the rear door, thanked the crew for a great experience and got told off again for a photo (not giving a rats by this stage) but this time told not to use “electrical equipment on the tarmac” so waited till I was off the tarmac till I tried to take another. Walked into the terminal and found the place slightly full but looked like most people were going to clear security at the last minute before the flight headed back to Brisbane.

I walked towards the check in area as I was heading home with Qantas but the place was devoid of life. So I wandered aimlessly taking photos, watching the ATR depart before I could snap a picture and started to write this Trip Report (which in the end would not save so lost it all!). After a little while Check In opened so strolled over, got my boarding pass and after working out I got a window seat, took 2 steps and thought, its Qantas… ask…. “Are their any open Exit Rows?”

I always forget with Qantas as I have no status I won’t get the good seats unless I ask. So I asked. And I scored! 12G was promptly handed to me (little did I know I scored big time). Still had plenty of time to go, so went back to the Trip Report. Time seemed to go by of its own accord because next thing I hear is a Dash 8 turboprop winding down and a call for people heading to Brisbane via Gladstone to clear security.

At this I knew the F100 would not be far behind so I walked to the outside viewing area (love these little airports that have them since most of the big city terminals don’t) and managed to get a shot of the lovely Fokker landing. Cleared security after this and settled into the first spot of reading I had done since I landed in Rockhampton.

Qantaslink (Operated by Alliance Airlines)
QF2352
Rockhampton to Brisbane
1045-1150
Fokker – F100 (VH-XWQ)
Economy Class – Seat 12G (Exit Row)

Boarding: 1027 (Gate 2)
Power Out: 1044
Take Off Roll: 1049 (Runway 15)
Top of Descent: 1120
Touch Down: 1138 (Runway 01)
Shut Down: 1141 (Gate 27)

After watching the staff go backwards and forwards to the plane a few times (Qantas seems to have slower turnarounds compared to Virgin & Jetstar) they finally made the boarding call. A queue formed quickly and I was scanned through.

Took a photo while not even on the Tarmac and was promptly told that “taking photos is NOT allowed for safety reasons” (where do they come up with this crap!) and I walked out onto the tarmac snapping away now just in spite! As I stepped onboard I was a bit shocked with the difference of how this aircraft was going to be operated in comparison to the Skywest ATR. Considering this is a similar agreement, No Qantas uniforms, no real Qantas branding at all. It was all Alliance, all the way! (not everything was all Alliance it would later show).

I was greeted onboard and as I headed down the aircraft I was greeted by the old school interior. No shiny new slimline seats on this board. Just decent leg room and old leather seats that looked akin to what Southwest has. As I approached my Exit Row I saw how much I had scored on this flight. There is exit row seating then there is Exit Row #12 onboard this Fokker. There was more legroom than my business class flight yesterday!!! I could stretch my legs out and they still didn’t come near the seat infront!

I was joined at the row by a stunning blonde (giant leg room & eye candy, dear god be stil my beating heart) and I tried not to look like to big of a geek. I snapped away as this was probably one of the only chances I will get to fly this lovely bird and I was in heaven really. I had a good chuckle at the boys (by this I mean two mine workers in their early 20s) in the exit row on the other side as they kept getting in trouble for just about everything (moving seats, eye shades on before take off, headphones on before take off). They obviously just wanted some sleep after a big night on the town the night before it seemed.

Soon enough the Rolls Royces were spinning up and the noise wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be (heh soon to be proved wrong). We powered out away from the terminal towards the runway and after a full length taxi, a slow turn to the left and as we barely straightened up, those Roll’s were at full power throwing us down the runway. We climbed out quickly and abruptly and I was glued to the window for what was my first flight with no engines on the wings (I have never been on a rear engine mounted aircraft before). Service introductions were given as “Light Breakfast” followed by a Tea or Coffee run and then a Cold Drink Service. Wow, lots of service on this flight today! It seems that Qantaslink give their guests more than what mainline Qantas does.

We climbed out and I had my snack served to me well before the Seatbelt sign was off. Today’s “snack” was a lovely little box full of goodies. 2 Cookies (Chocolate Chip & Roasted Almond), Some Cheese & Crackers and a slice of some kind which sounded better than it tasted, Bolognese Slice. This was a pretty damn good offering along with a full drink service, if Qantas was as cheap as DJ on this sector I would pick it any day.

I had half demolished the snack (the slice would have been better warm rather than cold) before I was offered a drink and this is when the FA asked if I was a boeing employee (was totally going Avgeek today) as she saw me taking photos and suspected I was working for them (I wish). By the time I had finished Cup #11 and some water and 2 yummy cookies, we were starting our descent into Brisbane.

As I looked out we had descended much later than yesterday as we were practically over my house by the time I really noticed and the seat belt sign was on. Snapping away with great views of the city as we turned for 01 again and landed with a gloriously big thump. This is where the noise seemed to just be worse than ever. Those Rolls Royce engines on the F100 lull you into a false sense of security. In reverse thrust they take your ears and just violate them… repeatedly.

As we turned off the runway we started to taxi past the Qantas terminal (confusing) and headed to the Common user terminal (good for photos as this was the first time I had been there). We pulled up to the gate and after a while I was able to hope off after most of the plane went first, my blonde seat mate ahead of me ;)

Decided against copping another chastising for photos and waited till in the stairs and then popped out into the recently refurbished Common user terminal. I ran into a fellow spotter and best mates dad and in no hurry, chatted a way for a while and ended up walking out of the terminal since Alliance’s new 737 had eluded him all morning.

For the first time I had to wait for the parking shuttle for a good 15 minutes and within an hour I was home and on my bike to wipe off the calories consumed from this mornings flights (it was that slice I swear).

Status Run Weekend

Off on a Run… a status run!

Well the day is here… I am off on my first ever Virgin Status Run. I will be flying up and down the East Coast this weekend with 5 segments (only 4 with Virgin, 1 with Qantas). It should be a good weekend.

I have time in the Brisbane, Sydney and the new Mackay Virgin Lounges so this will be a good way to experience it all and some new services as well with the Skywest ATR, an Alliance F100 (soon to fly for Virgin) as well as a seat at the pointy end!

Keep an eye on Twitter today and if your in the air, feel free to hit me up, I can guest you into the lounge!

How life should be

I wish all weekends could be as relaxing as the last 3 days. Sure I didn’t sleep much, I didn’t spend much time at home in front of the pc, hell I was not even at home most of the time.

The weekend was just relaxing because I got to do the things I love. It is crazy when you realize what your missing in your life. The thrill of travel, the sensation of flight. New places, new faces, watching your team lose the biggest game of the year again (only time I’m gonna mention it that’s how cut up I am) most of all though, I miss life. After 3 solid months of office time and little relaxation like this it felt good to just be me!

Wish it could happen more often but I know that I gave up certain things for this job but if it can return me times like this, well what the hell!

Trip Report: A Whale of a Weekend

Saturday 4th February 2012

There’s early, theres OMG Oclock, There is O Dark Thirty, but this morning, I was up so early there is a new term for it. Stupid O clock. I was up super early but to be honest, I needed to get a run in before the day of indulgence ahead. Thankfully my gym is 24hrs so that was worth it. After a good run, I was feeling more human and by the time I left the house, the sun was rising.

I was also tring something new out this morning. I was going to drive to the Airport rather than rely on my usual mode of transport (the parents). So with an empty road ahead I made it to Andrews Airport Parking with plenty of time to spare and an easy pre paid check in, and all was done! I just had to wait about 5 minutes or so for the next shuttle to the airport. Pretty simple and pretty good value considering a two day stay was HEAPS cheaper than a cab to or even from the airport. A one way taxi is around $60 from my place. So this is a good alternative.

I was dropped off at the International Terminal soon enough and after a few minutes wait at the Virgin Australia Priority check in I was promptly served. Even though my check in was painless, I had to ask for an express pass, was not provided with a Lounge invite (apparently not needed anymore) but was not told which lounge I could use (although I was going to try and get into the Silverkris Lounge if I could manage it). Through immigration easily, hell I had to wait longer at the Express Pass lane for security than was at the normal security lane. Stupid stupid move mal! Pocketed the express pass to clear immigration as there was no wait there and I was out without effort.

I avoided the Duty Free store and headed over to the Silver Kris lounge to try and see if I could get in, now that Virgin Australia is partnered with Singapore Airlines, but I was denied access after being told I needed to be on a Star Alliance flight. I wasn’t sure of the rules, figured will try again in the future, and headed off to the Air New Zealand Koru Club as I knew I would be welcome there. Into the lounge, and minutes later I am coffee in hand. O dear delicious black liquid, you are what I needed. After a relaxing time in the lounge, reading my book, about 3 coffees, some toast I was ready for the morning’s flight ahead.

About 15 minutes before boarding I slowly made my way towards the gate as I wanted to get my customary photo and figured I could do with a bit more walking. Was hoping for PBJ to be on the flight but nope, PBG. Damn, no peanut butter jelly time for me :(

Virgin Australia (Operated by Virgin Australia NZ)
DJ186
Brisbane to Auckland
0830-1440
Boeing 737-800 (ZK-PBG)
Economy Class – Seat 3A

Boarding: 0800 (Gate 77)
Push Back: 0833
Take Off Roll: 0847 (Runway 19)
Top of Descent: 1408
Touch Down: 1435 (Runway 05R)
Shut Down: 1441 (Gate 9)

Boarding was soon called after a lonely gentleman had been standing around waiting at the gate since I arrived and just stood there, waiting in line. He just had to be first onboard but whatever! Strolled onboard to find that this ex Pacific Blue aircraft had not been refitted yet, but who cares Row 3 means good seating either way! Old Premium economy seating at Economy prices. Gotta love the leg room though. We waited a long time while this flight packed to the rafters… all the way to the back this little 737 was packed full of people, all heading off to New Zealand (most looked to be heading home).

As we taxiied up to the far end of the airport to Runway 19 we passed Norfolk Air coming into the Terminal and was happy to get one last shot of it, because it won’t be around for much longer. We were about 2nd in line behind a Virgin Australia domestic and ahead of a Virgin Australia domestic… busy morning for Virgin! We lept into the air and soon enough were turning left and reversing course towards the east. Goodbye Australia, see you tonight!

Service onboard was up pretty quickly, no offer for Elites to fill the empty Premium Economy Cabin but meh, I had leg room, I had my book and noise cancelling headphones. Feed me some coffee and I will be even happier. Well Virgin made me a happier man, because they are now offering free Tea, Coffee & Water to all guests. w00t! Black coffee, water and my book. I was in flight heaven. I love to fly, feed me coffee while I am flying and I am even happier, give me those three things I just mentioned, I could sit on that flight for hours (well till my back started hurting at least).

It was a pretty good flight really, a few bumps on descent into Auckland and with a very low cloud deck, that was to be expected. We popped out below the cloud deck on finals into the Airport, I did not expect to be that low after coming out of the clouds so it was a suprise to say the least. As we descended into Auckland I saw a lovely looking Black Airbus sitting waiting at the runway threshold. A Few quick photo snaps and thankfully I scored another All Blacks livery to the collection. And then I saw the other one! Quick finger work got this one as well. Then we turn toward the terminal and There is another score, A Cathay Pacific One World livery. Lordy what a haul.

As we pull into the gate, all the way out on the end of the old pier, I have to trudge across the airport to the Immigration then clear the world’s longest immigration line (thankfully there was no wait at the Smartgates, passport stamp be damned). I was through immigration pretty quickly and painlessly. No having to answer questions of why I was spending about 4 hours in the country before flying straight back again. But my punishment was about to begin. All the priority bags came off quickly but mine was nowhere to be seen. Not again!!!!! It eventually came off, in the last grouping of bags. Check my bag and no priority tag.. Fail Virgin Australia… #fail. With my bag in hand and a solid 30 minutes of lounge time wasted, I quickly walked my way to the other end of the terminal to the Emirates Check in desks.

I had remembered where Emirates Check in was located from last time I flew out of Auckland at easter last year. But this time, I was heading to a different section. A red carpet awaited me, a Beautiful empty red carpet with the words “First” emblazened all over it. I was only in line about a minute before I was beckoned over, I had barely enough time to pull out my own things before I was being told apologies for having to wait a few extra seconds. Now that is service! Hell I was happy to wait, gave me a few seconds to get my stuff in line. I was quickly checked in, a few First Class tags pilffered as momentos and then I was being pointed in the direction of the pre clearance for customs. I pre cleared and then was instructed to turn left as I went into the Departures area.

Upstairs, into Departures which was all decorated up for Chinese New Year, and through the Pre Cleared lane. This was effortless! No need for express passes, no need for explanations, hell not even a question about my length of stay in the country. Forgot my belt at security, but rather than make me take it off and go through again, they just did a manaul grope scan instead. What can I say, the kiwis are different. I headed towards the Emirates Lounge, which I thought was downstairs but is in fact upstairs next to the Qantas and Air New Zealand lounges. I was expecting extravagence at every turn. But what I found was quite suprising. Their was a service that you would expect onboard an asian carrier. The term “Lounge Dragon” would not even enter my mind, this lady was the epitome of nice. After a quick run down of what is in the lounge and what to expect for a first timer, well I was impressed.

The lounge was not over the top, in fact it was quite subdued. Plenty of big comfy cream coloured sofas & chairs spread about it made the place look elegant yet comfortable. Reminded me of Palazzo Versace before the refurb, before it became to over the top and silly. This was elegant, refined and inviting. Just what I was not expecting. The booze was laid on pretty thick, good quality and lots of it. The food looked fantastic, very snacky but yet some substance to it. Staff moving about every where and to be honest it all looked to good to be true.

I settled into a couch with a plate full of vegies (and a bit of bread and protein but not much as I am sure dinner will be full of that!). More book reading, in front of CNN going on but I wasn’t in the lounge for all that length of time. I was planning on checking ou the duty free to see if I could get some stuff in Auckland cheaper than in Sydney. So after leaving the lounge about 30 mins before boarding was meant to commence and a quick browse drooling over the Breitling watches in the watch store, I couldn’t find what I was after, so wandered around. Spotted the All Blacks 777 and then made the long walk out to Gate 15. Took it slow, enjoying the view of the airport movements going on around me.

The gate area was packed full of people, no doubt all flying Economy as I was probably the only one in the upper classes sitting around at the gate. Hell I had my First boarding pass half hidden, one to see if I could trip up the gate agents. With about 5 mins before boarding was due to commence they started to take the pre boards down to the gate, their was a family with a wheelchair and about 15 Unaccompanied minors. This caused the biggest rush of Gate Lice I have ever seen. They came from no where!! There was about 30 of them by the time boarding was called. I mean seriously, I have been through that A380 boarding process before, you have to wait a LONG time and they take their time loading the A380.

Emirates
EK413
Auckland to Sydney
1840-1953
Airbus A380-800 (A6-EDB)
First Class – Seat 3A

Boarding: 1800 (Gate 15)
Push Back: 1839
Take Off Roll: 1849 (Runway 05R)
Top of Descent: 1910
Touch Down: 1940 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1950 (Gate 61)

A Boarding call was made inviting all First Class guests to board at their leisure, and I was away! First to the gate, first onboard, first time in Real First class. I wanted as much time as possible to experience this!! I made my way up the ramp on the A380. Only the 3rd time I have flown this type of aircraft and only the 2nd time I have trekked upwards to get onboard. But this time, It was upstairs and “Welcome Mr Muir, right this way please” and with that I was in First Class.

I was shown to my seat Suite, and with that the photos began. They must see people taking photos all the time, because the crew member instantly offered to take my photo in the Suite, so who was I to say no. After a number of shots (with me trying to supress a giant silly grin on my face) and lots more pics of the cabin. I was offered a Pre Departure Beverage of choice and when I said just “Sparkling Water Please” it was as though they were dissapointed. Plenty of offers of Champagne but I decided to wait. I had been told they hold off on the Dom until you get in the air and I figured a glass of Dom after a shower was the way to go.

With my water quickly delivered, I got to chatting with the Purser about 777′s (my Boeing shirt turned out to be a good conversation starter) and how great one would make as a Private Aircraft (o if only I had a spare 3 or 4 Hundred Mil). As the cabin started to fill slowly (would of been so much better if I had the place to myself, I arranged to have a shower as soon as we were in the air) and then I settled into the Suite to play and explore. We were at the gate a LONG time, the air bridge for the Upper Deck was pulled quite early compared to Downstairs. I was just happy to be chilling. A hot towell was offered, but no Arabic Date or Coffee. This was a bit of a shock as I knew this was part of the service. I think the reason behind that was the couple taking up the middle pair of seats declined and I was just forgotten, but after an offer for a Water Top up, I declined but gave them a prompt that I wasn’t offered a date or coffee, and they quickly brought some out for me (of which I had time for two cups before take off).

By the time we started pushing back, I was just happy to have this experience start, the sooner we were in the air the sooner I could get the bucket list item ticked off. Shower time! We taxiied out but this time the take off was slightly louder. But to be honest, I didn’t mind. It didn’t feel like we had taken off (maybe thats an A380 things) but the noise was definately more distinct this time. We took off, and for a while the Seat Belt sign just never came off. I was needing to make a pit stop but didn’t realise that the Toilet IS the Shower spa for first class and they told me that they were prepping the shower for me and they would be with me shortly. The crew kept reffering to me as the “your the one having a shower” which wasn’t what I expected! Would of prefered my name to be honest but what the hell.

I was collected a few minutes later and taken to the Shower Spa where I was promptly shown all the facilities, how the shower works and again I was trying to supress a silly smile. A minute or so later they left me to my own devices, so after a number of photos of the shower spa, I had my shower. When I hopped out, we were at a cruise altitude of 12000m. What a wierd feeling and experience. My one and only complaint was the shower was just not hot enough for my liking. But damn, it felt good! I was clean, refreshed and feeling human. Time for some dinner and some relaxing! After heading back to my seat, my pre ordered drink was promptly served. A glass of Dom Perignon 2002! O yes please!

There is where the service got a bit wierd. Everything from here on out was super rushed, but we were barely 25 mins into the flight with 2 and a half hours to go. I was asked what I would like for dinner, and I had not even been handed a menu, no nuts with the drink (I had to ask for them) and the meal was brought out so quickly after that it felt like they were trying to cram it down me! I was hoping for a relaxed meal but that was not to be! I did take my time as much as possible with the courses though. I didn’t even touch my starter until I had finished the gloriously hot nuts. Not warm nuts ala United and American. These were piping hot, and tasty!

First up I went with the “Hot Cured Salmon Filet” served with Kawakawa Potato Salad, garnished with Fresh Cream and Dill. This was stunningly yummy and the salmon was just devince. Caviar looked to be kept for the longer sectors but this was still good for me! I skipped the soup and went with the “Seared Lamb Loin with Mediterranean Vegetables” served with creamy mashed potoated, roasted courgettes, eggplant, onions and tomatoes. The lamb was tender and beautiful but the potato was far from “creamy” But I had some beautiful wholemeal bread to go with it (with a little bit of butter cause I am in first class).

And then my eating went out the window. I was offered Dessert, Cheese or fruit… what came out of my mouth… “All three would be nice” By this stage I was drinking my usual diet coke and this was promptly replaced with coffee while I enjoyed some lovely cheese, crackers and fresh fruit and the coffee went extremely well, served in a little silver pot and I got a good 2 or 3 cups out of each pot. I was pretty much stuffed by the time I finished all this and had a bit of a rest enjoying watching Pan Am. With the show finished, I went for a wander up the back to the Upper Deck lounge. As I walked back through Business, it was empty!!! About 1/3 full really and its a big business class cabin.

The upper deck lounge was empty and I got myself a drink (after having to ask, no offers) and then the snacking began! I mean seriously why would I do this to myself. I was offered some chocolates which I had one of instead of the cake I was also offered but instead, decided to try some Baklava. I had never had any before and it was tasty, but not something I think I would have all to often. After a lengthy conversation about travelling with the Crew member staffing the Bar I wandered back to my Suite to settle in. Just before descent I asked for some more coffee (I was starting to crash a little) and this was brought out with a few more boxes of chocolates. These promptly went into my bag to avoid me eating it (since I had decided to have the ones I brought back to my seat). To be honest, this wasn’t the first things to go into my bag. I felt like I was taking just about everything that wasn’t nailed down. Suite Guide, inflight magazine, writing kit, hell I grabbed the two arabic coke cans (one for me, one for a friend) and then at the last minute, all the chocolate bars as well (greedy I know).

We started our descent into Sydney as the sun started to set. This flight was coming to an end unfortunately. But I had enjoyed it never the less. As we came in for approach to Sydney I flicked to the Flight cameras and was alternating between the Downward cam and Tail cam and then soon enough we were on the ground in sydney. As we taxiied to the gate, part of me wished I was continuing onto Dubai. I was handed an Express Pass for immigration (didn’t realise until today this was actually for New Zealand and wouldnt work in Sydney cause I was given the wrong one). We disembarked and being in first meant we were first off as they held business class back and they connected our Air Bridge first.

I had time to shop and get some duty free, before the masses made it through to the gates, hell Immigration was desolate and my bag was waiting for me on the carosel. No need for the express card as their just wasn’t any lines and within 10 minutes of disembarking I was walking out the doors. I spotted my Emirates provided chauffer waiting for me and within minutes I was heading towards my hotel for the night. 15 minutes from Disemberkation, Shopping, immigration and bags and then on the way to the hotel and 20 minutes after that I was walking into my hotel for the night the Sofitel.

I had selected the Sofitel to test out how my newly scammed Platinum A|Club would be recieved as it was either the Hilton or the Sofitel and I figured that since I had stayed at the Hilton before, might as well check out the Sofitel and kill two birds with one stone. My bag was taken by the Porter the second we pulled up and I was promptly greeted and shown to reception. A|Club card presented with my credit card and they had me checked in within minutes. I heard all the things I wanted to hear “here are your Welcome drink vouchers (didn’t end up using them but will pass them to a friend), “We have upgraded you” but when I was handed a little box of chocolates I figured this was my welcome gift. Boy was I wrong!

I got up to my room and there was the BIGGEST fruit bowl known to man, sitting on the table. Dear god it looked good but such a waste considering there was no possible way I could eat it all! I unpacked and packed up all my bounty from the flight and promptly jumped into the Sofitel My Bed. I love this bed for its softness but it is ALWAYS to warm for me. But either way, passed out shortly there after, fairly early but it had been a LONG day.

Sunday 5th February 2012

Woke up a little bit early and went for a lovely run along the harbour as the sun came up to its full height. This is one of the things I love about my new life and travelling. I can see these amazing sites while doing something I enjoy. Felt very very good by the time I got back and was ready for the morning ahead. Took a few minutes after getting myself ready to down some water and take a few photos of the hotel lobby and explore it a little before packing up and setting off towards the train station. If I got their early enough I could “Next Flight Out.” Timed it pretty well because after buying my ticket at the Station, the airport train was sitting right there! Score! Within 15 minutes I was hopping off at the station and less than 5 minutes later I was up in the terminal.

Checked in and after asking if I was on the 9am flight, I did let them know that i was on the 10am but if they could get me a window seat I would be happy to take the 9am flight if there was time. I was handed a boarding pass and told that boarding would begin in about 15 minutes. w00t!! barely enough time to get to security, get stuck in a giant queue, but then told to head right to the end where no one was, then into the lounge and get myself some toast for breakfast. I will keep my thoughts more on the Virgin Lounge system for next week but It was a good spread for breakfast. With about 5 minutes till the boarding time given to me on the boarding pass, I headed off after only 1 coffee but thankfully I could have another on board. I headed towards the gate and thats when I heard another boarding call for a flight leaving in 20 minutes. It seems they tell you a 30 minute board time, but they only board 20 minutes prior to departure. Damn, could of had a few more minutes to relax my breakfast or time for another coffee. Damn.

Virgin Australia
DJ925
Sydney to Brisbane
0900-0930
Boeing 737-800 (VH-VUI)
Economy Class – Seat 10A

Boarding: 0840 (Gate 33)
Push Back: 0905
Take Off Roll: 0920 (Runway 34R)
Top of Descent: 0901
Touch Down: 0924 (Runway 01)
Shut Down: 0928 (Gate 39)

Boarding was called and I strolled forward and followed a mother with her baby onboard all the while hoping that she was not sitting next to me! As I was heading to the plane I knew this was the time of the new Virgin Australia game called “seating gamble” where you get to see if you get a new fitted aircraft or not. Success! New fitout! but then things got confusing, as Live2Air was still fitted…AWESOME!!!

We loaded up fairly quickly and 10B stayed empty (thank you check in lady!) and we sat and waited as we were all loaded ahead of time. As we waited and pushed backk a bit late it was explained to us later it was due to traffic around the gates, which there was planes going everywhere and we were tailgating a new livery 737-800 to the runway. We past the Tower Mound (now called Shep’s Mound) as we took the long long journey out to 34R or as I like to call it… “the Sydney Runway that is actually in Auckland” We took off to the North with a lovely view of the City as we climbed out and that is when I switched off really. I did hear them announce the service order for the flight and they didn’t once mention the free Tea, Coffee or Water so I was quite suprised to get a dirty look when I asked for my usual Coffee & water. But whatever. I zoned out for most of the flight, finishing off more of my book, getting some coffee into me and slowly waking up.

As we came into descent over Brisbane we were told the weather was to be good and it was beautiful. Warm but not to hot, no clouds with lots of sunshine. I missed a good shot of the City but there is always next week. We landed and within minutes were pulled up to Gate 39. This was a good omen, its the gate closest to the Baggage Claim and to be honest, one of my favourite gates in Brisbane. This was the first Gate that I remember ever departing on a flight from out of this Airport. Back in the old Ansett Days, heading off to Sydney for my big journey to the states. The aircraft shut down at 9:28 and within 15 minutes I was off the aircraft, bags in hand (for some reason my bag always comes out upside down) and onboard a shuttle to the car park (timed it good as I had to run to jump on one about to leave). As we pulled up, my car was just pulled up and i walked in the door, grabbed my keys and was quickly heading home! That was worth the trip.

Conclusion

This weekend, though expensive was totally worth it. I had a very crappy weekend back in December when I had decided to tick an item off my bucket list and do some flying. Everything seemed to go wrong. Well this time around, everything seemed to go right! Things were by no means perfect. Their was a number of flaws with the Emirates First Class that could of been better but to be honest, It didn’t detract all that much from the experience. Their was a few hiccups on my Virgin Flight to Auckland but nothing that isn’t to shocking really. I could pull them all apart but that would be niggling way to much. To be honest, I enjoyed this weekend so much, I can’t wait to get back in the air again next weekend for 5 more sectors of fun!

Emirates First Class

Feeding an addiction

Well it was about time I took this new Hobby Addiction of mine to a new level. I was trying to renew my newly found Gold Status with Virgin Australia and it has been fun with it, so I mean I can’t lose it!

Well I am currently about 280 status credits off renewing it, and I have a bit of flying planned but not all that much. Well Virgin has decided to help with renewal… well kind of. They have put in a special for Double Status Credits on all Business Fares. Which means for a fairly cheap investment I can make my requalification all the more reasonable! Works out about $4 per status credit, much cheaper than most cheap Economy Fares which are around the $8-10 per status credit mark.

Pretty much my flights will be a little crazy for a 1 day trip but what the hell, I am up for some fun. I will leave it all a mystery till the day but it shall be fun none the less. I have a good amount of flights coming up over the next two weekends. First up will be my bucket list flight this weekend and then my status running the weekend after!

More to come but looking forward to getting up in the air!