Sunday, May 4, 2014

Australia September 2013 - Virgin Australia 1117 Economy Class (BNE → PPP)

***This post is part 11 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Before heading to Brisbane Central Station, I made sure I still had enough funds on my TransLink go card. Using the handy journey planner tool, I was also able to find out the exact departure times for Airtrain and how long the trip to Brisbane Domestic Terminal would take (approximately 26 minutes).

Since last September, TransLink discontinued the off-peak discount for this route and the fare is now $16.50 AUD one-way throughout the day. However, if you pre-purchase the ticket online on Airtrain's website, there is still a small discount and the cost is $14.85 AUD.

Central Station to Brisbane Airport's Domestic Terminal

Boarding Airtrain

Much like the journey from Gold Coast to Brisbane, this train was fast, clean, and most importantly, complimentary WiFi-enabled. I honestly can't say enough good things about the public transport system in all the major cities of Australia.

Following a quick and pleasant ride, we pulled up to the Domestic Terminal and disembarked the train. Just past the station exit is a ticket counter where you can return your TransLink go card and get a refund for the $10 AUD deposit and any funds that may still be remaining in your account.

As I've mentioned already in a previous post, you must have used cash for your initial purchase (or the most recent top-up) of the TransLink go card to receive your refund in cash. If you used a credit or debit card, you will need to have an Australian bank account for them to deposit the refund directly.


Arriving at the Domestic Terminal

Airtrain ticket counter

A wide elevated walkway connects the Airtrain station to the Domestic Terminal. Virgin Australia occupies the southern section of the terminal, while Qantas and QantasLink take up the northern end. Jetstar, Tiger Airways, and others use the central portion.

Spotting another pink bunny

Virgin Australia

When I entered the terminal, I noticed lengthy lines for both the serviced check-in counters as well as the dedicated bag drop counters. I checked in using one of the kiosks instead and then made my way over to the bag drop queue. Initially, I figured the line would move pretty quickly, but I was mistaken. We inched along at a glacial pace, and after almost 30 minutes, I finally had my backpack tagged and sent on its way.

Self-service check-in kiosks

Check-in counters and bag drop

Bag drop line

Having only flown Qantas up until this point, I was experiencing a mild case of culture shock. I was really missing the super-fast and automated check-in and bag drop systems, but worst of all, I was having complimentary WiFi withdrawals, as Virgin Australia doesn't feel the need to install them inside their terminals.

Airside, there was an adequate selection of quick-service restaurants and shops. With my flight departing soon, however, I decided to head directly to Gate 48, which was located inside the circular satellite arm of the terminal. A lush garden occupied the center courtyard, and provided a bit of distraction in an otherwise monotonous waiting hall.

Restaurants and shops

Old livery

Gate area

Lush garden

Gate 48

Our Embraer E-190

Virgin Australia 1117
Embraer E-190
Brisbane (BNE) - Prosperpine (PPP)
Thursday September 19, 2013
Departure: 1:40 PM (scheduled) / 1:40 PM (actual)
Arrival: 3:25 PM (scheduled) / 3:18 PM (actual)
Duration: 1h 45m (scheduled) / 1h 38m (actual)
Seat: 15F (Economy)

This was my first time flying on an Embraer E-190, and from the outside, it looked quite small, perhaps on par with a CRJ1000 aircraft. Boarding was completed by stairs at the front entrance of the aircraft. Once inside, I was surprised to see a compact business class cabin. There were only six seats total arranged in a 1-2 configuration. Pitch was a reasonable 38".

Boarding via stairs

Business class seat

Economy class was arranged in a 2-2 configuration with a total of 92 seats. Pitch was somewhat generous for such a short route at 31". The leather-padded seats were very comfortable, and the interior was immaculate. In fact, the entire aircraft looked quite new, and couldn't have been older than a few years.

Economy cabin

Good legroom

We pulled back at exactly our scheduled departure time of 1:40 pm and quickly taxied to the runway for a smooth takeoff. After leveling out at cruising altitude, carts were rolled out and the drink service began.

Continuing the culture shock that was my "virgin" Virgin Australia experience, I soon realized that the only complimentary refreshments offered were water, tea, or coffee. Everything else cost money, and it wasn't cheap either. Sodas were $4 AUD, alcohol $6-$8 AUD, snacks $3-$5 AUD, and small meals were $10 AUD.

Complimentary water

Descent into Prosperpine

The flight was uneventful, and we soon began our descent into the Whitsunday Coast Airport near Prosperpine. After landing safely despite some crosswinds, mobile stairs were rolled into place and both the front and rear doors were used for disembarking.

I was not aware of this regulation prior to arriving in Australia, but apparently, all electronics must be switched off while walking on the tarmac, meaning no pictures and no talking or texting on your phone. We were warned about this while at the Brisbane Airport (although I was able to sneak in a few pictures), but the Whitsunday Coast Airport really took the rule seriously.

While walking down the stairs and across the tarmac, I tried to sneak in a few more pictures. One of the airport security agents noticed and started shouting at me to shut off my camera while on the tarmac, which I promptly did. Once I got off the tarmac and onto the grass walkway, however, I took out my camera and started taking a few more pictures.

At this time, another woman approached me and said sternly that I had already been warned once about shutting off my camera. I responded that the first agent only warned me about the tarmac, and I thought I was already off the tarmac at this point. The woman then shook her head and said the rule applied anywhere outside the terminal. Okay then.

Arriving at Whitsunday Coast Airport

My illegal picture

Also an illegal picture

My backpack was one of the first to show up on the baggage carousel. Prior to the arrival, I had already booked a transfer to Airlie Beach with the Whitsunday Transit Shuttle. The approximately 40-minute one-way journey costs $18 AUD, and includes drop-off at your hotel. Round-trip tickets cost exactly double.

I was the first to board the large and comfortable bus, but after 15 more minutes, nearly every seat was occupied. While the shuttle option is a lot cheaper than booking a taxi or renting a car, the downside is that with so many passengers to drop off, it can take an eternity to get to your accommodation. Luckily, my hostel was one of the first stops along the road through town.

Baggage claim

Whitsunday Transit Shuttle

Comfortable seats

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