Saturday, August 23, 2014

Australia September 2013 - Qantas Airways 1940 Economy Class (AYQ → ASP)

***This post is part 19 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Originally, I had planned on flying directly from Ayers Rock to Perth, bypassing Alice Springs completely. However, in late 2012, Qantas cancelled their non-stop AYQ-PER service, and I was forced to detour through ASP. Complicating matters more, the flight schedules made it impossible not to overnight in Alice Springs. While this wasn't an ideal itinerary, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to see an isolated part of Australia I'd otherwise have skipped.

It was a hectic morning driving all the way out to Kata-Tjuta for the sunrise and back, but I actually made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I returned my Hertz rental inside the terminal and paid for the additional kilometers driven. While I expected this to be a pricey rental given the remote tourist destination, I was still a bit astounded to pay over $120 USD for a 24-hour economy car rental. To say Ayers Rock is an expensive place to visit is a gross understatement.

Ayers Rock Airport check-in area

A short lined had already formed for the QantasLink check-in counters, but the wait was quick enough. After my large backpack was tagged to Alice Springs, the agent printed out my boarding pass and directed me to the security checkpoint towards the left of the counters.

QantasLink counters

Security was an effortless affair, as it always is in these tiny, far-flung locations around the world, and I was airside within minutes. There wasn't much to see or do in the two-room departures hall, and I swiftly exhausted the few options I had, including perusing the surprisingly extensive gift shop and checking out the only dining option at the airport.

Departure gates and gift shop

Quick service dining option

Gate 1

There are few flights into and out of Ayers Rock Airport, and on the day of my departure, there were only three destinations: Alice Springs, Sydney, and Cairns. With just a short time left before boarding, I decided to relax in the small waiting area to the side of the main departure hall and enjoy the decent views of the tarmac. Unfortunately, there was no complimentary WiFi available in the terminal.

Departures for the day

Waiting area

Our Boeing 717-200 arrived on time, and after the passengers had disembarked the aircraft, boarding was called at Gate 1. Of course, there were no jet bridges at this airport, so we all filed out onto the tarmac and boarded by stairs. Luckily, security was fairly lax and nobody stopped us from taking pictures of the aircraft.

QantasLink Boeing 717-200

Walking to the aircraft

Boarding by stairs

Qantas 1940 (Operated by QantasLink)
Boeing 717-200
Ayers Rock (AYQ) - Alice Springs (ASP)
Saturday September 28, 2013
Departure: 10:35 AM (scheduled) / 10:33 AM (actual)
Arrival: 11:20 AM (scheduled) / 11:21 AM (actual)
Duration: 0h 45m (scheduled) / 0h 48m (actual)
Seat: 5F (Economy)

I previously wrote about this aircraft, which I also got to experience on the Cairns to Ayers Rock route. The layout was identical, with a 3x2 seat configuration and 30-31 inches for pitch. Unlike my previous flight, the load factor this time hovered around 90%, perhaps owing to the fact that many are forced to connect through Alice Springs, which has more scheduled flights and destinations.

Boeing 717-200 interior

I located my window seat at 5F and got settled in. The interior of the aircraft was once again immaculate, with very little visible wear and tear. Both seats next to me were occupied as the boarding process finished, but I wasn't too concerned since the block time was scheduled for a very quick 45 minutes. In fact, at 207 miles, I think this was one of the shortest flights on a jet aircraft I'd ever been on.

Seat 5F

31-inch pitch

Boarding complete

We pulled back slightly ahead of schedule and took off without incident. Prior to boarding, I was wracking my brain intent on figuring out if I had chosen the right side of the plane for an aerial view of Uluru during the climb out. Luckily, I chose correctly, and was treated to a spectacular sight of the giant monolith as we left Ayers Rock Airport behind.

Aerial view of Uluru upon takeoff

Australia's Red Centre

On such a short flight, I was amazed that anything was served to passengers at all, but in true Qantas form, a fairly generous snack pack was provided, featuring a serving of delicious banana bread, cheese, crackers, and a small container of water. Service was extremely fast and efficient, while still maintaining the warmth and geniality I'd come to expect from Qantas flight attendants.

Snack pack

Banana bread, cheese, crackers, and water

The rugged landscape of central Australia is quite stunning, and I spent much of the flight staring outside my window taking pictures of interesting formations in the topography. It's hard to imagine anyone or anything surviving in such harsh conditions, but for tens of thousands of years, Indigenous Australians flourished in this region, and even in present day, Alice Springs still supports a population of more than 28,000.

Changes in geology

Landscape outside of Alice Springs

We barely even reached cruising altitude before beginning our descent into Alice Springs Airport. Despite some mild turbulence as we aligned with the runway, the landing was smooth, and we promptly pulled over to our remote stand before disembarking. Again, security wasn't terribly concerned with photography on the tarmac, and I was able to snap a few pictures before following the long walkway into the terminal building.

Arriving at Alice Springs Airport

Walkway into the terminal building

I noticed the terminal was quite bit larger compared to Ayers Rock Airport, and certainly teaming with a lot more activity. Since there was no physical separation between arrivals and departures, retail stores and restaurants were accessible by all airside passengers. Shopping and dining options were plentiful throughout the main hall, with Outback souvenirs of every imaginable variety for sale.

Shops and restaurants

After a brief delay at baggage claim, I picked up my backpack and proceeded to the Alice Wanderer Airport Shuttle desk right next to the exit doorway. The hostel I booked with, Alice Lodge Backpackers, provided complimentary airport pickup via Alice Wanderer (as long as you give them a minimum 48-hour notice), so all I had to do was show them my booking confirmation, and I was checked off the list and welcomed onto the shuttle bus. With a few other passengers to drop off first, I arrived at Alice Lodge Backpackers in just under 25 minutes.

Baggage claim

Alice Wanderer Airport Shuttle

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