Trip Report – Down Under in a Flash: Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra

Seattle to Los Angeles
Los Angeles
Los Angeles to Brisbane
Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra
Canberra to Melbourne
Qantas First Lounge Melbourne
Melbourne to Los Angeles
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Friday 5th April, 2013

By the time I had reached Brisbane I had no idea what day of the week it was, nor where I was and I think my body by this point was running on pure adrenaline but it was good to get home, pick up some stuff and spend a few hours with my folks and also catch up really quickly with some of my old work colleagues and drop off a gift or two.

Pretty soon though my flight time was approaching and I was returning to the airport mere hours after I had landed. This is what it felt like to be an american! Always on the go! I was dropped off back at the Domestic Terminal this time and man was it like being back home as this terminal had been like a second home. I even contemplated heading around to the loop road even if for a few minutes. But I needed to get my phone fixed and clear out some emails, which I managed to do.

Considering todays flights were a semi mileage run as I needed to make 4 Virgin Australia segments to requalify so had staged my flights to Canberra with a 2 hour layover to force the ability for seperate bookings. However about 2 or 3 months after booking this, Virgin Australia changed their rules and alowed points on all segments regardless of how it was booked. Damn!! I could of gotten this with only a 30 minute layover 🙁

After being told my flight was super delayed at check in they would try and move it to the earlier flight but this did not seem to work either and eventually I think he just gave up and told me that he couldn’t move me but my connection in Sydney was sufficent enough anyway. I had told the person checking me in that I did not want to move to a direct flight as I needed the extra segment to requalify and he was wondering why till I explained it to him. Then it was like a switch went off in his head.

I was mentally preparing myself for TSA style security though and ditching all my gear into my backpack and was ready to start removing my shoes and my belt but then was told by the security officers nicely that I need not worry, all that much as they were not nearly as strict. In fact they were so nice it felt wrong. I did have to end up removing my belt and my watch as it seems nothing has changed with the Brisbane metal detectors as they are still super sensative but it was nice to keep my shoes on and not be nude o scoped or yelled at.

Once through security my old stomping ground laid ahead of me and I was quickly through the airport to the lounge for more coffee. I also double checked the status of my flight and was told it was now running on time…. wierd. Things certainly were wierd because even though my flight showed on time departure I was getting tripit alerts telling me my arrival was delayed 2 hours! What the hell! A three hour flight to Sydney did not seem right but I kept being told it was all on time.

An espresso in the Lounge at Brisbane was welcome as the good coffee and the straight caffeine hit felt so good! I did chow down on these tiny little cookie bites to keep my body fueled as I was now starting to hit a slump where the sunburn from LA was kicking in, but the weather in Brisbane helped perk me up. Humidity!!! To be honest the thing I was looking forwards to the most was a bed, but that was still 2 flights away.

I got myself plugged in and the phone charged while I tried to set things up but that didn’t get all that far, hopefully I would have it all fixed up by the time I got to Canberra (dunno) but I did get to clear out all my emails and also get in a quick blog post to let everyone know I was alive, safe and well in Australia.

Just as I headed out of the lounge I heard the announcement pre warning of boarding in 10-15 minutes and that the flight was NOT delayed. When I got to the gate though I double checked that everything was 100% ok and explained what I was being emailed and they assured me it was fine and that I should relax. So I did (albeit freaking out another pax in the mean time).

Virgin Australia – VA950
Brisbane to Sydney
Embraer E190 (VH-ZPF)
Economy Class – Seat 6A

Boarding: 1240 (Gate 45)
Push Back: 1300
Take Off Roll: 1309 (Runway 19)
Top of Descent: 1501
Touch Down: 1519 (Runway 16L)
Shut Down: 1534 (Gate 42)

The flight was eventually called and I tried to get onboard as quickly as possible. I had thought this was a 737 flight but somewhere along the way either I wasn’t paying attention or it got equipment swapped as there was an E190 sitting at my gate. I didn’t have the amazingly good row 3 but 6 is good enough, especially on an E190 anyway. What it meant though was one last blast of Brisbane good weather before being on the flight as you got to tarmac walk (but I made sure to take a photo before touching the tarmac to avoid the yelling at that usually happened).

Once onboard I was pleasantly suprised to see that this E190 had been reconfigured to the same set up as the 737s have with the new Business Seats (not that it mattered to me all that much). I quickly stashed my gear and took my seat at Row 6 but then I remembered the one thing I didn’t like about these E190s. Offset windows! It’s nice to have windows at real height and all but why offset them, honestly.

We filled up pretty quick and as we did so I saw a non reving flight attendant walk onboard. She looked so familiar and then I saw the name tag. IT was her! My last mileage run in Australia had culminated in what I had described as being staffed by the best crew I had ever come across. Well that FA was standing right there. There was no way she would remember me, but I sure did remember her, and if I got the chance at some stage I figured I would say that I still thought she was the best crew I had ever dealt with to this day.

We shut up shop and pushed back dead on time and I snapped a good number of photos as we taxiied back out to 19 past the loop road (no one in attendance today) and without stopping or slowing down the pilot put the throttles forward, gave the tiny little engines some gas and pointed us towards the sky.

Thus begins a boring Virgin Australia flight as usual on the Brisbane to Sydney run. Up into the sky, seat belt sign off, laptop out, start working, Free tea, coffee or water (and thanks to my seat mate an offer of a free meal which I declined as I was going to rest up a bit in Sydney with some lunch) and a speedy journey south. I moved my clock forward again, totally confusing my body as to what the time actually was and I don’t think it ever caught up at all and soon enough we started descent into Sydney. tipping over and pointing earthward at that crazy angle you get in the “Jungle jets”.

I packed up my laptop (and stopped working on the trip report obviously) as we quickly began decsending into Sydney from the North. I was sitting on the A side for one simple reason. I was hoping for an approach over the City as that would give me the chance for those iconic shots of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge…. I was not dissapointed.

As we came in for final approach onto 16L aka the runway that is closer to New Zealand than it is the terminal in Sydney we flew straight past the Sydney city skyline and I got a good series of photos. As we plonked down on the runway it meant we were going to taxi quite a while from this point. But meh what can you do. I switched my new phone on in the hopes that things were working, which they were so that was good. I could finish getting it set up in the lounge.

As we had to hold for arriving traffic on one of the taxiways there was a good amount of heavies in at the International including Tulip United 744, new colours Thai, Etihad, Virgin Atlantic, 2 whales (1 Singapore, 1 Qantas) and a smattering of smaller stuff. It was good to be back in variety land! Brisbane is pretty boring traffic wise (then again so is Seattle really).

Finally reached the terminal and I could see the new extension to the gates at the end of the Virgin Pier and they did look nice from the outside, we pulled into gate 44 and the plane disgorged pretty quickly. I didn’t get a chance to approach Savannah so that was probably good on a creepy scale. Things were different in the pier though. Sydney Airport has definately had some work done in the last year and looks pretty swish!

There was a good amount of flash backs though as I walked towards the lounge, seeing familiar stores etc but there was a lot of new, fresh stuff as well. The old Escalators to the lounge were closed so it was up in the lift to the lounge I went then once checked in up the steps to the new upstairs extension (just to say I did). I was hunting two things. Power and Wifi. With those to things I could get my phone situation fixed up and then all would be setlted in the world. Both were fixed as I found a row of bench style couch on the far wall, plugged in, got my phone fixed then it was the other basic necessity…. lunch!

A quick toasted sandwhich, some nuts (though not the nut mix I used to like) and a small bowl of popcorn for something different and I was out of the lounge because it was getting super crowded. With my phone fixed and me not needing to worry much anymore I headed down towards the gate a little bit early. Being a walk out gate I wanted to get through early to make sure I could get a photo.

When I got to the gate though things didn’t look right, it was about 10 minutes to boarding, their was no aircraft and it was showing a time of departure 15 minutes late but no notice of the flight being delayed. Has my brain been totally off? I approached the staff and they did confirm the delay and apoligised and said they would make an announcement, which they did. I sat down and just got twitter working on my phone. Can’t hurt right?

Virgin Australia – VA662 (Operated by Skywest)
Sydney to Canberra
ATR-72-500 (VH-FVI)
Economy Class – Seat 15A

Boarding: 1730 (Gate 31)
Power Out: 1748
Take Off Roll: 1759 (Runway 16R)
Top of Descent: 1829
Touch Down: 1840 (Runway 35)
Shut Down: 1842 (Gate 9)

The plane eventually arrived, disgorged it’s pax and then boarding was called for us. I was first through as it was a really light load by the looks of it and about half way down the corridor one of the Cabin Crew who had walked off from the previous flight said out of no where “hey I’ve shot guns there” Not realising what the fuck he was talking about I just said “umm thanks” and kept walking. Then realised i was wearing my Machine Guns Vegas shirt… Awesome work dumb ass!

I snapped a quick picture from just inside the steps before heading out on the walk to the tarmac getting the last of the Sydney sunshine on my sunburn. Then with that it was up the tiny tiny steps into the aircraft. I was greeted again by a familiar face as the last time I had flown a Virgin Australia/Skywest ATR (only once from BNE to ROK) I had one of the same crew working the flight. How do i know this? How can I forget that beautiful face? She was stunning this crew member 😉

I tried to stash either of my bags in the overhead and failed miserably so gave up and just jammed them both under the seat in front in the hopes and desires that there would be no oe sitting next to me, cause I would of felt REALLY bad had that happened. In the end no one sat down. The flight was about half full and within less than 5 minutes we were buttoned up, safety briefing complete and powering out of the bay onto the taxiway.

As the smallest aircraft in the VA fleet passed the largest in the domestic fleet (VH-XFD pulled in about 2 gates up) we headed out quicky towards 16R (the main runway in Sydney) and joined the queue up of other domestic aircraft including a Qantas Dash 8, 737-800 and a Virgin 737-800 for departure.

When it was our turn, the piots gave the aircraft what little power these tiny turboprops have (sure aint no GE90) and the take off roll was suprisingly quick and we turned right back over the Southern Surburbs towards Canberra, climbing out with this wierd rainbow ring affect which was pretty cool.

As we climbed up the seatbelt sign went off soon enough and the crew completed their free service quickly. Beer, Wine, Juice or Water and a free “Sweet Box” today on the Capital Connect service. The “sweet box” was actually a dark chocolate brownie bite and tiny shortbread cookie. With the bottle of water it went down well. I read, I snapped a few photos and when we reached cruise we were only up there about 5 minutes before we started to descend again as total flight time today… 40 minutes!

Descent into Canberra was quick as the sun was setting and by the time we hit the ground I was glad to finally be at the end of my flying “Day”. I did manage to see one of the RAAF A330-MRTT at the RAAF installation along with a Dutch Air Force 757 from the tail markings (I don’t think it was a Kiwi one).

We pulled into the Gate on the older side of the Canberra Airport and as we disembarked it was into what looked like the old Gate area, however you had to follow the older terminal area through into the new one. Strange.

I got myself a bit lost in the terminal, ended up coming out at the Qantas baggage claim which was kind of convienient as it was next to the Rental car desks and I ended up grabbing the keys to my car (which was a crappy car compared to my LAX rental) and then grabbing my bag before heading off onto the Canberra streets.

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