Seattle to Los Angeles
Los Angeles to Brisbane
Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra
Canberra to Melbourne
Qantas First Lounge Melbourne
Melbourne to Los Angeles
Los Angeles to Seattle
Sunday 07th April 2013
After a morning catch up with my friends over breakfast and a quick few last minute photo ops, I headed back towards the airport for my flight. It was still pretty early but there was a reason that I was going to do this that early. I wanted to get through to the airport a bit earlier as I needed to fill the car but next to the airport was something that I had wanted to check out. An Aussie costco. Now they were just opening up when I left Australia almost a year ago and they were pretty popular.
Since I had seen what the real costco was like (and I had actually been to the original costco), it would be nice to see what the aussie version is like. That and I had been told they had giant tubs of vegemite, which was going to be tempting to see if it would be worth taking one of them home compared to tubes.
So I stopped by and was surprised at just how expensive some things are in comparison to normal prices. To give you an idea 2 x 1125ml bottles of Bundy rum set me back $54 AUD duty free. Costco wanted 1 for $45. General 700ml bottles go for $45 at most bottle shops. So in the end the prices are still pretty high but cheaper than normal but not as cheap as duty free (in the booze scenarios).
With costco explored and the car filled (at $1.55 per litre, which equates to $6.20 per gallon) I was wishing that things were not over so soon. Unfortunately it meant that my time in the city was coming to a quick end and I had to go and head off. I dropped back the car and there was not a single person around to scan the car back in. So I grabbed all my stuff and headed back inside the airport, to which when I dropped it all off, the person was almost wanting to just get rid of me without a receipt or anything. O how much I was wishing that I had National over in Australia as well.
Car dropped off I headed upstairs to departures and the terminal was EMPTY! The new Canberra airport is almost finished and it was really nicely designed and looked a treat so I was totally looking forward to exploring some of the newer areas. Last time I had been through only the Qantas side had opened but barely 2 weeks prior the new Virgin Australia side had opened. Which was great because I could see the new lounge. Check in was a bit slow thanks to an older lady who wasn’t even flying that day tying up the staff complaining about baggage costs or something. Eventually an extra staff member had to come over and check me in cause the old lady was causing hassles.
While checking in I was asked if I had been through the new lounge and was given directions to it from check in, which was very welcome as I had no idea where the new lounge was. Security took all of 30 seconds. Shoes still on, belt still on, watch still on (hear that Brisbane airport), only thing required out was my laptop. No silly liquid restrictions either!. Hell thll the new security check point had comfy looking couches so if you needed to remove your boots or something (if they had metal in them) you could do so comfortably. God I was going to miss this!
The flight wasn’t going to board for a good 90 minutes or so, so I had plenty of time to relax in the lounge, catch up on some work and have a chat to my folks and touch base with them, maybe even make a few other phone calls. So off I went to the new lounge following the directions I was given (through security, turn left, up about 40m, through the glass doors, up the escalators, turn around and you can’t miss it).
The new lounge follows the same design as Brisbane, Melbourne and to some extent Sydney (though the Sydney lounge has not yet finished refurbishment) but damn it was nice! So open and beautiful! Big picture windows with the best views of the runway (perfect for spotting). The lounge was very quiet with only about 15 people there, but could easily hold about 150. Perfect to my liking as I like quiet (which is what i like about lounge access).
The lounge had the usual lunchtime offerings so after a couple of coffees, some work, some spotting and a nice healthy lunch of sandwich, salad and pumpkin soup (god yes!) it was time to get myself ready for the flight. It was at this point i realised something not so good. I had NOT brought with me my earplanes (which are special kind of earplug that I have to wear). I had left them in my suitcase which was now checked in. I would have to go and purchase some.
There is only one problem with that, though they are readily available in the airports the cost to buy them in Australia is extortionate compared to the US. I usually pay about $4 a pair at walmart (each pair is good for a return flight) whereas over here in Aus the airport pricing is almost $20, off airport you are lucky to get them for about $12-15.
So when my aircraft landed I knew it was time to head down to the gate via the newsagent to bend over and take that wallet hit. With that handled I headed over to the gate itself to wait for boarding which was not all that far away from when I got there. People were lining up everywhere and I heard a lady bitching about elite guests and how they always take up the overhead bin space. seriously? She had 4 bags herself!
Virgin Australia – VA268
Canberra to Melbourne
Boeing 737-800 (VH-YIA)
Economy Class – Seat 7A
Boarding: 1240 (Gate 7)
Push Back: 1307
Take Off Roll: 1315 (Runway 35)
Top of Descent: 1343
Touch Down: 1407 (Runway 27)
Shut Down: 1415 (Gate 8)
Boarding was called and I had to wait for the loan person to finish his announcement so that I could get onboard as I wanted an empty cabin shot as I wasn’t sure but I had a feeling about this specific aircraft. That feeling was justified when I walked onboard. BSI! Yep that’s right. Boeing Sky Interior! I had only ever flown 1 flight with a BSI and I was up front in Business so this would be good to see it from the Economy perspective.
I was totally impressed and I still love this aspect of the new 737 fit outs. Other than that this was a pretty normal flight with Virgin Australia. The boarding process took a while but we pushed back on time pretty much and taxied out past all the Qantas Aircraft (but I had sat on the wrong side as usual, why do I always go for A seats?). We held short of the runway for a bit for some reason, there was no arriving or departing traffic ahead of us, so maybe the crew were double checking something? Maybe the sequester is affecting Australian Airports to 😉
When we finally turned onto the active, gave the engines some JP1 and hit the skies it was good to know that the last leg of my qualifying was now over. With me in the air and winging my way to melbourne on this short 45 minute flight (as announced) it would all be over. I settled in for the usual Capital Connect freebie service, with my book and that’s about it really. We took off to the north, looped around the city to the right and headed south for Victoria.
The free service was the usual, juice, water and “take this snack or your getting nothing” option which today was some savory biscuits but since I wasn’t hungry, into my bag they went. The water did help though.
As we approached melbourne the clouds came in and it turns out that some weather that we should’ve avoided was looking like it was going to hit earlier so our forecast of “all is good” became “sorry you will get wet now”. But the landing on the cross runway at Melbourne was non eventful and as we taxied the long way back to the terminal we got a good sight of 3 different Whale Jets (SQ, EK & QF) all at the gates along with Cathay, China Southern, Malaysian and even a Thai 777 about to head skyward for Bangkok.
We pulled into our assigned gate easily and with that my flight was over. Boring yet true! I grabbed all my stuff and fought the crowds to get out of the plane and then saw just how busy this place was today. It was packed! So many people, security was a mess of people as well. But it was a sunday in Prime weekend flight returns so people heading home etc.
I dropped by the Lounge to say hi to an old friend who works there and then went off on my way to the baggage claim where my bag was doing laps of the belt, single, solitary and all alone. I was lucky the AFP had not yet destroyed it as a suspicious package. With suitcase in hand, I paid for a Skybus ticket and I was off to the city. Quickly & Easily. Shouldn’t travel always be this effortless?