Thursday, January 30, 2014

Australia September 2013 - Qantas Airways 862 Economy Class (SYD → OOL)

***This post is part 7 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

With my MyMulti 3 ticket and a roundtrip GatePass fare already paid for, it was a quick and easy process to get to the Sydney Airport. From Circular Quay Station, the trip took less than 20 minutes. Terminal 3 is now home to all domestic Qantas flights, with QantasLink finally moving their operations over from Terminal 2 last summer.

Circular Quay Station

Much like my experience in Melbourne, the entire check-in process at Terminal 3 was automated. Once I arrived, I headed over to the check-in kiosks, entered my information and printed out both the boarding pass and the checked luggage tag. I attached the tag to my large backpack and proceeded to the bag drop stations. There, I scanned my boarding pass and watched as my backpack was automatically inspected and then whisked away.

Check-in kiosks

Bag drop stations

Terminal 3 is quite fancy for a purely domestic terminal. From the grand check-in hall to the quick and efficient security screening to the wide variety of dining and shopping options airside, the entire operation reminded me far more of an international terminal.

Scattered throughout the building were advertisements touting all of the extra perks that are included in the price of a Qantas ticket, such as checked luggage, pillows, entertainment, and food. I found it surprising that Qantas hasn't already followed in the footsteps of U.S. carriers and other Australian LCCs with the unbundling of basic services on domestic routes, but I suspect it may only be a matter of time.

Qantas emphasizing all the extras that are included with the cost of your ticket

Security screening

Airside dining and shopping

After grabbing a quick bite to eat, I sauntered over to Gate 12 and fiddled around with the complimentary WiFi, which was extremely fast compared to most other airports. There were plenty of windows throughout the terminal for some good plane spotting opportunities, but you'd be hard-pressed to witness any other airline besides Qantas in the near vicinity. About half an hour prior to departure, boarding was called.

Our Boeing 737-800

Qantas 862
Boeing 737-800
Sydney (SYD) - Coolangatta (OOL)
Tuesday September 17, 2013
Departure: 11:45 AM (scheduled) / 11:47 AM (actual)
Arrival: 1:10 PM (scheduled) / 1:07 PM (actual)
Duration: 1h 25m (scheduled) / 1h 20m (actual)
Seat: 19A (Economy)

We passed through the business class section first, and I was able to snap a few photos before proceeding on to cattle class. The seats looked very similar to those found in the domestic first cabin on American and United Airlines back at home. Economy class seats had a standard 30" pitch and looked clean and well-maintained. Unfortunately, unlike my flight from Melbourne to Sydney, there were no iPad AVOD systems included here.

Business class

Economy class

After a slight delay on the tarmac, we took off without incident. Thankfully I chose a seat on the left side of the plane, as the views over Sydney Harbour and the city were absolutely phenomenal. In fact, we had a perfect bird's eye view of the downtown skyscrapers, Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and eventually Mosman and the northern suburbs.

View of Sydney after takeoff


After reaching cruising altitude, the meal and drink service began. To be honest, I hadn't expected any food beyond a cookie or some chips on such a short flight, hence my purchase earlier at the airport. However, when the flight attendants came around, I was handed a full tray with a butter chicken wrap, some chocolates for dessert, and a small container of water (in addition to the wide selection of drinks). Not bad for a one-hour-twenty-minute hop to Gold Coast!

Butter chicken wrap

The rest of the short flight was rather uneventful, although we did experience some mild turbulence as we prepared for landing. I didn't know much about the Gold Coast, so my first introduction to this area was the amazing view as we descended towards land. All I could see were miles upon miles of gorgeous beaches, stretching out into the horizon. In fact, I've never seen such a long, continuous stretch of beach in my life, period.

Miles and miles of beaches

The approach and landing were a bit bumpy, but we made it down safely. The Gold Coast Airport, also known as Coolangatta Airport, is quite small, with only one terminal and no jet bridge service. Interestingly enough, the runway actually straddles the state border of Queensland and New South Wales, despite the airport being officially located in Queensland.

Upon deplaning by stairs and entering the terminal, I followed the signs through the departures hall to baggage claim, where I located my checked backpack after a brief wait. The Gold Coast Tourist Shuttle desk is just past the baggage claim area, and you can book door-to-door airport shuttle service with them. They also sell the TransLink go card, which is a reloadable electronic ticket good for use on all buses, trains, and ferry services operated by TransLink throughout South East Queensland (including Brisbane).

Departures hall

Baggage claim

Gold Coast Tourist Shuttle

The TransLink go card requires a refundable $10 AUD deposit in addition to any amount you wish to initially load onto the card. I would highly recommend using cash for this transaction since the $10 AUD deposit can only be refunded in cash this way. Otherwise, you are required to have an Australian bank account where the refund will be deposited directly (if your payment method was by debit or credit card).

Be aware of peak and off-peak hours for the TransLink system. If you are traveling during off-peak hours (9:00 am - 3:30 pm and 7:00 pm - 2:00 am on weekdays as well as all weekends and holidays), ticket prices will be somewhat cheaper. For the journey to Surfers Paradise, the off-peak price was $5.03 AUD, while the peak price was $6.28 AUD.

The airport bus stop is located just outside the arrivals area. When I was there in September 2013, the 702 bus serviced the long stretch of road between the airport and Surfers Paradise. However, since then, that bus number seems to have changed to 777 instead. Before your arrival, be sure to use the handy TransLink journey planner to figure out exactly which bus or train to take and which stop to get off at.

Unfortunately, buses do not stop unless a passenger presses the stop request button, so you have to be aware of how far you are along the route. Luckily I had my iPhone with me and I could track our progress towards the hotel on Google Maps. Once I got off at the Ocean Avenue stop along Ferny Avenue (Gold Coast Highway), I walked the remaining two blocks north to my final destination at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa.

Gold Coast Airport bus stop

TransLink bus to Surfers Paradise

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