Joyrides Down Under Part 4: International On Domestic
Noun: A ride in a vehicle taken solely for pleasure
Verb: A ride in a vehicle with no particular goal and just for the pleasure of it
This is a continuation of trying out various planes in Australia. To get the full appreciation of this report, it is advised to read the previous one - Joyrides 3. These flights were taken a day after the flights I took in the previous report; and includes another trip SYD-MEL on a Virgin 738 (should have been on a Tiger Airways A320) and a new one for me – flying an international tag on route MEL-SYD on a JQ A332. I booked the DJ flight because it was the cheapest flight in getting me to MEL in time to catch my flight back to SYD on the JQ A332. When I booked the flight on DJ, I didn’t even consider to get my money back because I was so angry. But I couldn’t let them get away with my $50.
Their terms and conditions clearly state that if the change to the schedule is more than 4 hours before or after the original scheduled departure, I may choose an option. It was quite clear by that stage what I was going to do. The bit below the options really annoys me – “we will use reasonable efforts to inform you of any such cancellation or alteration”. I don’t accept the fact of “we sent you an email on the xth of November and got a reply” (which was what the check in agent told me) when I didn’t actually receive any notification as a means of informing me of any such alteration. I was happy that I knew I had a chance of getting a refund but that depended on whether the customer service the next day would be able to answer my call..
The next day came around very quickly as I was woken up by my alarm. The time: 6:00am. I’m not used to these super early wake ups, especially when on holiday! But when catching a plane, you’re left with no alternative! I arrived at the train station and realised I’d probably missed the train by a couple of minutes because the next one was due in 15 or so. I shouldn’t have panicked as I had allowed myself plenty of time to check in. I arrived at the airport, rushed upstairs to the DJ self service check in booth with 50 minutes before the flight departed so I was definitely safe. In contrast to a couple of days before, my credit card wasn’t accepted by the self service check in booth! I was left to type my booking reference into the computer. After that, everything went smoothly and I had a window seat! Out popped a rather nice boarding pass (not the supermarket docket type quality boarding passes like the machines in NZ have) for a change!
The Self Service Kiosk
No To My Credit Card
There was no point in me hanging around landside so I quickly went through security. One downer – the coffee from Quikshots was appalling. They use Allpress Coffee which is roasted in New Zealand and it made a complete mockery of it. I think that the coffee I had at Krispy Kreme the next day was better than that!
My Plane To MEL Disembarking
The terminal was completely covered from the previous day so I went to the gate and sat around until the boarding call.
25 Nov 2009
Routing: Sydney – Melbourne Tullamarine (SYD-MEL)
Airline: Virgin Blue Flight: DJ814
Scheduled Time of Departure: 0745hrs
Actual Departure: 0747hrs (pushback), 0809hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 0935hrs
Flight time: 1hr 27 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-8FE
This 737-800 is slightly newer (half a month) than the one I travelled on the previous day – registered on 4 September 2003.
Once again before boarding, they invited people to grab a headset to use their Live2Air IFE system. And it was working on this aircraft. I apologise in advance for the dirty windows that I had to shoot out of.. But a nice walk out onto the apron and not being told off for taking photos got me to the rear entrance of the plane. The usual welcome and greeting by first name continued and I made my way to my seat, the 4th row from the back.
Next Door 73G
After watching a QF 738, JQ A320, QF A332 and an NZ A320 departing from taxiing down to the end of the runway, it was our turn to line up with Runway 34R.
The departure to the north was soon followed by a right turn out to the Tasman Sea. We crossed back over the coast just south of Wollongong. It was a very uneventful flight and all other aspects of DJ have been covered in the previous TR. All but one feature – Virgin Blue’s IFE. Their system is called Live2Air which gives you a free preview of quite a few FoxTel channels until just after takeoff where you have to swipe your credit card and pay $7 to keep viewing these channels. Or alternatively, you could just watch the Airshow channel which has ads in between but at least it’s provided. You can also dim your TV right out so you can have some peace without the screen constantly flashing at you. I question the accuracy of the Airshow function as it showed we were nearing CBR in one of the shots when we still hadn’t crossed the coast.
QF Terminal And QF Maintenance Area
Nice View Of Sydney
Bondi Beach Under Winglet
Are We That Far Inland?
Service was the same as the previous DJ flight I took and I wasn’t feeling hungry so I passed on the buy on board snacks. We cruised at 39,000ft (according to Airshow) past Canberra and onto Melbourne.
Close To Canberra
The flight itself seemed rather short and soon enough, the airbrakes were deployed and we descended through the clouds. On descent, we passed these green forests but not long after, we passed another mountain range and I noticed that all the trees were black. Then I realised that we were flying over the area affected by the Black Saturday fires which occurred in early 2009. On a confirmation lookup on Google Maps, I noticed that we flew over Kinglake, one of the hardest hit areas. It was a very sombre experience flying across that charred belt of fire affected forest. Our descent continued and it wasn’t long before we landed on Runway 27, Melbourne’s shorter runway. We taxied past the international terminal towards the DJ terminal. And I was back in Melbourne.
Fire Affected Hills
Outskirts Of Melbourne
I decided to use my down time in MEL to try and get my refund. First up, I went back to the TT terminal to see if anyone was there who I could try and talk to. Obviously not. I had figured that the only way to try was to call them on their customer service helpline. So I saved this call until I was airside. As I had only been running around MEL the previous day, navigation was extremely easy. Check in for my JQ flight to SYD had already opened so proceeded to check in. After a couple minutes’ wait, I was at the desk. Because this is technically an international flight, you have to go through immigration/customs. The check in agent puts an orange sticker on the boarding pass which has a ‘D’ on it referring to domestic travelling and also details some form of photo identification plus a signature. It was a fun process to be checking in for an “international flight” but only flying domestic! With that cleared, all I needed to do was to clear immigration.
Tiger Airways Terminal
A Long Queue I Wouldn’t Ever Like To Be In
No It Isn’t.. But Tiger Is
JQ Check in
With very little to do landside at MEL, there wasn’t much choice but to head through immigration. Immigration didn’t take very long as there is an express lane for those travelling domestic. However there were a few sneaky people in front of me who used the express line instead of lining up in the rather long queue to get through immigration. You must be wondering what they stamp, if anything. They actually stamp the boarding pass as you’ll see below. It looked pretty cool. But the sad part was the fact that the quarantine officer at SYD took everyone’s boarding passes (no souvenir). It was stamped again upon arrival into SYD too. The only annoying thing about this domestic flight is that it’s subject to international rules such as the LAGs rule so it basically meant more plastic bags for me and an empty drink bottle to take through security. After a few minutes of waiting in line, I was through security and happily into international airside. Only to be met by a large Duty Free store. Oh well, the good thing about it was the fact that I got free samples of products in there!
The international pier isn’t the most flash but it certainly does the job. Some of it has had a facelift. The new section of the pier hadn't been open. But I was primarily set on getting that refund of mine seeing I was airside and didn’t stand a chance of missing my flight.
Tiger’s customer service is based in Melbourne so it was a national call from my mobile to try and get hold of what seemed like the only CS rep available. This was one long wait full with the hold message rambling on about Tiger Airways and the fact that you can go online and do stuff there. Finally, after about 15 minutes, someone answered the phone and I was able to get my point across after referring to the conditions of carriage many times. That took another 6 minutes. And I was given the option of a refund, credit or reschedule but I persisted with the refund as I knew I’d never have to deal with them again after that. I was ready to rage at the rep but I didn’t actually need to – the company puts all these people in such bad situations in a way I feel sorry for them but then again, they could probably just as easily head somewhere else if it was too much for them.
A Peek Into The New Pier
A New Nose Already?
My JQ A332 On The Left, NZ 772 On The Right
Stamped Boarding Pass
Thankfully I still had plenty of time before boarding commenced. I had another wander around the place. Boarding was supposed to commence at 11:20am but it took another 15 minutes for it to start boarding.
25 Nov 2009
Routing: Melbourne Tullamarine – Sydney (MEL-SYD)
Airline: Jetstar International
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1150hrs
Actual Departure: 1249hrs (pushback), 1308hrs (rotate)
Scheduled Time of Arrival: 1315hrs
Flight time: 1hr 23 min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-202
JQ’s A332s were previously operated by Qantas and used on their Cityflyer routes which mainly meant SYD/MEL-PER for the A330s. EBB was the second A332 delivered to Qantas, registered on 27 Nov 2002. The first 6 A332s delivered to Qantas were -202 versions, designated to be used on domestic routes.
Unlike other JQ boarding passes, the international one didn’t come with a barcode so the traditional ripping off of the stub process was undertaken by the ground staff. I eventually boarded the plane at 11:40, 10 minutes before the scheduled departure and I knew we were obviously never going to leave on time. We all boarded to the same tunes I was greeted to on all my other JQ flights I’ve taken. The seat itself was very comfortable as you’d hope for if you took it on a long haul flight (they fly AKL-SIN), although my flight wasn’t exactly long haul. The recline was excellent, just as much as the QF A332 had on the flight I’ll be reporting on in my next TR. It went a long way back! And not only that, it was extremely comfortable in full recline.
Down The Jetway
And A First Look At My First A330 Ride
JQ Abstract Art Yet Again
A warm welcome from the flight crew rang out through the cabin with a strange message – pushback and departure would be delayed as a can (with luggage on it) fell onto the apron, slowing the process down. And so they apologised for that. Then, about 20 minutes later, the pilots came back on over the PA to announce that there was a no show with their bag in the hold. So this created further chatter amongst passengers who were already rather frustrated. I wasn’t bothered one bit because I was able to spend longer onboard the A332 in a nice and fully reclined mode. The welcoming music didn’t take long to start being extremely boring though and the yells of “I don’t have a job, I never liked them.. I just wanna play in the sunshine” (The first couple of lines of Thirsty Merc’s song ‘In The Summertime’) started to get to me even though I liked the song. Their playlist isn’t particularly long so soon enough, the 4th, 5th, 6th and possibly 7th repeat of that song was heard. I was making up for lost sleep by resting. I wouldn’t mind flying JQ if they sent these across the Tasman! What surprised me was the fact that they didn’t do the safety briefing while we were all still on the plane. Maybe it’d put their checks etc out of sync but everyone that was flying were onboard and it could have been more efficient.
Boredom Shots – There’s Not Much To Do When Trapped In Your Seat Waiting For Pushback!
More Comfortable Wall To Lean On Than The A380
Finally we were told by the pilots that we were about to push back.. But then they said that the QF A380 had just got there first so we had to wait for them to push back (and therefore take off too) before us. But it didn’t take long before we were on the move! There was quite a while between pushback and takeoff. We were stuck behind 2 heavies – somehow the UA 744 snuck in between us and the QF A380. But it was great fun for me watching both of them take off and do the exact flight path out of MEL. One super heavy and one heavy. Then we were to follow them once we got off the ground. So a few minutes after both heavies had departed, it was our turn. I wasn’t sure about what to expect from departure but it was quite a nice powerful one. So powerful that we rotated quite a bit before even reaching the terminal – about the same distance it took the 738 to depart the day before. And just like the 2 heavies that took off before us, we banked right and followed them out of MEL.
More Traffic In Front Of Us! UA 744
Melbourne Essendon Airport
Soon after takeoff I went for a wander around the cabin, before the cabin crew began their service. It’s a nice plane and definitely different to the 763 I'm used to. The cabin looks quite nice, especially for a LCC. Toilets would have remained the same from when it served QF. They only have a few IFE screens – on the bulkhead and some drop down monitors every few rows. For this flight (and I presume every flight as if you want to watch a movie, all you need to do is press the attendant call button and hand over some money for a screen), airshow was operating on the overhead screens.
We cruised at 39,000ft for this flight according to the pilots. The cabin crew came around for the buy on board service and seemed much more enthusiastic about selling items than JQ domestic cabin crew. They seemed much more professional too. I turned down buying something in favour of finding something back in Sydney which would cost me less.
The flight was too short and soon enough, we were starting descent. The worst part of descent is having to put your seat upright. I don’t like having to get out of a really comfortable position, similar to what this A330 helped me get into! We were treated to a nice view of Sydney and this time it was clear so we could see for miles. Touchdown was smooth, albeit very late, and we decelerated quite quickly before taxiing into Gate 35.
Sydney And Airport From Above
All these Australian airports have massive duty free areas you must walk through on your way in our out of the country. Sydney’s no exception – probably the worst of them all! Anyway I was soon through immigration again, down past the baggage reclaim and walked straight to the quarantine officer standing at the express lane where I unwillingly surrendered my boarding pass and was allowed landside. That concludes my first experience on the A330!
Later that evening, I went back to the airport and snapped a few more photos:
Flying the A330 was very fun. It was lucky that I didn’t have any connecting flights that could have been in jeopardy due to the massive delay of my flight. The flight itself more than made up for the delay and my time onboard was prolonged by about an hour. The crew were good and they fully deserve serving JQ on their A330 and not on their A320/321s. So all in all, it was a very satisfying day for me - being able to try a new aircraft out.