Thursday, January 20, 2011

TRIP REPORT – Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) to Brisbane to Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) – Virgin Blue Airlines (B737-700) / Jetstar Airways (A320)

Trip report – Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) to Brisbane – Sunday 26 December 2010 – Virgin Blue Airlines – DJ1118 – B737-700 – VH-VBK.

With the prediction of flooding rain for the Whitsundays we left Airlie Beach early to head to the airport. The Whitsunday Coast / Proserpine Airport is about 10km out of Proserpine. All up it was about a 40km journey from Airlie Beach.

We got to the airport about 9am to be greeted by the cleaner and the sign below. The cleaner stated that the Virgin Blue staff will open the terminal when they arrive at about 12.20pm. This is a Whitsunday Regional Council regulation. With my wife heading home, it left me with a 3½ hour wait outside trying not to get wet.

Whilst sitting outside it was interesting to note that the airport currently has a very small carpark. It had quickly filled up, meaning most arriving cars had to park on grass or in mud and even in some cases illegally. This needs to be improved - do not drive and park here!!

Also, the terminal is currently undergoing a major redevelopment as shown below.

Several airport staff arrived around midday, as did some other early bird passengers. Right on cue at 12.20pm the doors opened.

There were about a dozen people there so check-in was quick and easy at one of the three desks. In fact for most of the time, the queue was never really long despite three or four buses arriving with groups of passengers from Airlie Beach and surrounding areas.

The simple canteen was quite busy - especially being lunchtime - and the limited seating quickly filled up. Some people were left standing with most of the outside seats wet or having smokers nearby.

About 40 minutes before departure Virgin Blue announced that passengers should go through the single security check point to avoid congestion. Most people did this and the security queue was never really long. Through to another seating area before proceeding past the works area and out to the tarmac and the plane – no aerobridges here!

There is basically one gate for arrivals and departures with the rest of the terminal closed for the redevelopment which should see more gates and bigger seating areas.

One of Virgin Blue’s Boeing B737-700s, VH-VBK, arrived for our flight to Brisbane.

Once boarding commenced so did another torrential downpour, but to Virgin Blue’s credit two large bins of umbrellas arrived for passengers to use to get to the plane. It was then interesting to note the Virgin Blue staff - who only service this one flight for the day - were then going about their duties in the pouring rain without any covering!! That's commitment!!

And then right as the front door of the plane closed, the rain stopped!

We started and taxied away on time and were quickly in the air off Proserpine’s Runway 11. Some good views of the flooding around the Bruce Highway before we disappeared into the clouds. The next sighting of the ground was on late finals into Runway 01 in Brisbane!

I paid for the extra legroom of Row 12 and was assigned the window with a clueless woman in the aisle next to me. Live TV was working fine too! Plenty of room - remembering the seats in Row 11 in front do not recline - something a young couple couldn't understand until I explained this to them after they accused me parking my knees in the back of their seats!

Just after an hour in the air, we were into a very wet Brisbane. Taxi to Gate 41 and then off the plane - in all we were dead on time! Bags came out quickly - but wet!

Trip report – Brisbane to Whitsunday Coast (Proserpine) – Friday 31 December 2010 – Jetstar Airways – JQ830 – A320-232 – VH-JQX.

With the Virgin Blue lunch time flight to Proserpine having only the flexible expensive tickets available, it was Jetstar that I had to take back to Airlie Beach. The downside was an evening arrival into Proserpine with scheduled touch down at 6.35pm local.

Like previous flights with Jetstar, check-in opened 2 hours prior to the scheduled take off time of 4.55 pm. I had already booked the exit row window seat of 12A, and was issued with my boarding pass and baggage tag using the automatic check-in kiosk at the Jetstar terminal in Brisbane (pictured below).

Through security and a wait to see one of Jetstar’s oldest Airbus A320s – VH-JQX - arrive to take us north.

Boarding commenced a little late through Gate 38 which is an aerobridge gate at Brisbane. The flight looked to be pretty full but everyone was soon seated and we ended up pushing back about 10 minutes late. We taxied out past the centre finger which is looking to be nearly complete, and then we later passed the main spotting spot at Brisbane - the Acacia Street "Loop Road" - some pictures below taken through a dirty window!

Take off from Brisbane’s Runway 19 with some nice views (although through the dirty window) out to the Eastern suburbs of Brisbane and Moreton Bay. The other side of the plane had the best view of Brisbane city! With the CORAL SID we completed our turn to the North to be greeted by the low afternoon sun shining brightly though the left side windows. Window shades down!

The seatbelt sign remained on for some time before the cabin crew started their cart service. This was quick with not too many purchases from the cart - I had the Pringles!

Everything was completed pretty quickly and after about another 10 minutes we started descent into Proserpine. The seat belt sign came on pretty quickly as well, with some big patches of cloud around Mackay and Proserpine, but all the way to touch down there weren't too many bumps.

After a series of left turns from overhead the field - which couldn't really see due to cloud - we were on a long final to Proserpine’s Runway 11.

We touched down a little late and after a back taxi along the runway we parked on Jetstar’s gate at the northern end of the apron.

Off the plane and into the terminal which was quite busy and hectic with about a dozen or so transfer, taxi, and limousine drivers all milling around with their passengers. After finding my wife we went outside to wait for my bags which come on a trolley to the baggage collection area for both airlines which is outside of the terminal.

With Jetstar’s container usage, the bags needed to be unloaded from these and placed onto the trolleys. This was a time consuming process and then of course the outward baggage had to be loaded onto the outbound flight as well! The bags eventually came through after about 20 minutes and then it was a free for all to get the bags.

Bags collected, it was time to hit the road with a slow drive out of the airport and pretty much all traffic headed to Proserpine with most continuing to Airlie Beach.

A nice flight with Jetstar. Although the current situation at Proserpine Airport, with the luggage collection described above needs to be improved. Hopefully this will occur with the redevelopment in progress. A baggage collection area with a carousel will be installed. To be honest, this facelift and the others can't the finished soon enough!!

In all, it will be interesting to see the final product of the Proserpine redevelopment - it is currently a small airport with few facilities - and only has two scheduled RPT flights each day - hopefully a bigger and better airport will encourage more airlines and destinations to come to Proserpine!!

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