Monday, May 16, 2011

TRIP REPORT - Mackay to Brisbane to Melbourne - QantasLink/Qantas Airways - Dash-8-Q400 NEXT GEN / B737-800

Trip Report – Mackay to Brisbane – Saturday 16 April – QantasLink (Sunstate Airlines) – QF2511 – Dash-8-Q400 NEXT GEN – VH-LQB.

It was an early start for this flight with a 6.40am departure out of Mackay. Put the car in the undercover long term carpark at Mackay Airport, and off to the QantasLink counter.

This was the first time I had used Qantas/QantasLink online checkin – I checked both my wife and myself through to Melbourne the previous day and received four boarding passes which were easily saved and easily printed! Dropped our bags off at the counter and after a little wait time (there was also a QantasLink flight heading North due out shortly after ours) and they were checked all the way through to Melbourne.

I had a quick look around and took a few pictures of the Mackay Airport terminal redevelopment. There has been nearly $3.5million spent on terminal facilities including a new newsagent/book store and a bar. There has also been refurbishments made to the snack bar, car hire desks, and security screening, which have also changed locations within the terminal building. Eventually when the redevelopment is complete, there will be around 700 seats in the new and expanded passenger waiting area.

For the first part of our flight was to Brisbane. We were given seats in Row 11, about half way down the cabin. QantasLink’s brand new Bombardier Dash-8-Q400 NEXT GEN aircraft – VH-LQB – was parked outside and this was to take us South. The NEXT GEN Dash-8-Q400s have nicer mood lighting system on the inside as well as bigger overhead storage lockers.

Leg room is still ample on in these Dash-8s as well.

After some mucking around with final paperwork we eventually taxied away from the terminal about 5 minutes late. But being a quiet morning we taxied straight out onto the runway, all the way down to the end of Runway 14 at Mackay. Straight off and up through some low cloud before the seat belt sign was eventually turned off about 10 minutes after take-off. Mind you it was still a little bumpy but it was bearable.

Cabin service commenced soon after with breakfast consisting of a hot Danish pastry as well as a pack with yogurt and a muesli bar, and some juice. I also had a coffee. A lovely breakfast on this flight - similar timed flights with QantasLink out of Emerald provide a little less breakfast than this!

Cabin crew were very efficient and had the cabin cleared up after another 20 minutes or so. With this longish flight (one and a half hours) we then spent about an hour of reading and entertaining ourselves with the cabin crew never to be seen.

Descent started and the seat belt sign came on as we started to break though the cloud layer over South-East Queensland. Nothing majorly uncomfortable but there were some bumps with a couple of the bigger ones making some passengers gasp!

We touched down pretty much on time onto Runway 19 at Brisbane. Our captain obviously wanted a quick exit off the runway and some heavy breaking was applied (heaviest I've experienced) and we managed to make taxiway A4 and then straight onto the QantasLink apron - where VH-LQB is pictured below later in the morning.

We had a gate on the QantasLink remote parking (Gate 15 I think) and after a short wait for a bus we were soon in the terminal and straight through security to head upstairs in the Qantas terminal and the next part of our flight to Melbourne.

Trip Report – Brisbane to Melbourne – Saturday 16 April – Qantas Airways – QF617 – Boeing B737-838 – VH-VZD.

We got upstairs at the Brisbane Domestic Terminal, but didn't know which to gate to go to, so we took a guess and walked to the end of the Qantas terminal finger in the Brisbane terminal as this is where the ‘City Flyer’ services operate from. Sure enough, we were to depart from Gate 16.

The other good thing about waiting in this area is some good plane spotting opportunities of aircraft at Brisbane taxing to and from Runway 19.

I decided to ask at the Qantas desk about exit row seats and after a bit of passenger shuffling, much to my surprise we were changed to Exit Row 13 - complete with a window!

I do remember from previous flights on Qantas B737s - which we were on today to Melbourne – that the space and legroom of the regular seats in the aircraft is actually quite limited, and for a 2 hour flight, it would probably start to get a bit uncomfortable for my 6-foot plus frame. Better to sit in a roomy seat than squeeze into some other seat!

Anyway, some plane spotting done, boarding was on time and when we sat down, the amount of legroom in the exit row is really fantastic! The B737 features three abreast seating and we did have a person sitting next to us but still the amount of room was fantastic!

Push back was on time and after a short taxi to Runway 19 (past some spotters at the Acacia Street Loop Road) we had a rolling start and take off for the trip South. Nice sweeping left turn after departure on the Laravale SID, which took us toward the Brisbane Bayside, followed by a slow right turn down toward Armidale, and further South.

As we climbed up through the clouds the seatbelt sign was turned off after about 10 minutes, although there still a few bumps with the occasional bigger bump. Captain came on and welcomed us aboard and advised of a 1 hour 55 minute flight to Melbourne, so we settled back and enjoyed the radio with the occasional change to the cabin TV where an episode of Top Gear was playing – no news on weekends!

I noticed that the cabin crew were aged a little older and more experienced than other Australian airlines I have flown with recently. I didn't think they were as was friendly as some of the other airline crews I've had, but they were fine to me and most of the other passengers.

Cabin service began but as the trolley got to about row 10, we hit some pretty heavy turbulence and the seat belt sign quickly came on – but only briefly. Once service resumed we were served a lunch choice of a sandwich or quiche, followed by a drinks service. I had the quiche and some water. The quiche was so fantastic that I asked for more but they had run out they were so good! Even the crew missed out! Oh well…

My wife took the other options of sandwiches, and she also had a (mini) Coke!

I settled back and enjoyed the entertainment and after what didn’t seem like much time at all, the captain came over the PA with the good news that we had picked up a tailwind and we would land about 20 minutes earlier. So a 2 hour flight time became a 1½ hour flight. Nice!

Descent was uneventful with the seat belt sign coming on as we were breaking through some low level cloud. Touch down on Melbourne’s Runway 16 was smooth. Off the runway and taxi past the Virgin Blue terminal and the International terminal, with a Qantas A380 parked on the remote stand.

We taxied onto the Qantas apron and onto our parking gate. Shortly after, we were off the plane and after a couple of plane photos (Singapore Airlines B747-400 in Star Alliance Colours), we went downstairs to collect our bag and pick up our hire car. Our bag was actually one of the last ones out – but at least it made it all the way from Mackay!

It was really great to be travelling with Qantas again – I don’t get to travel on this full service airline much, and I enjoyed it. Although not the friendliest crew to speak to, they were thoroughly professional and really good at their Job. All up, great food, good service, and a great seat although as mentioned, we were lucky to sit in the exit row seat, and be comfortable for the entire flight.

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