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An FTer flies to a Do (or Why take the nonstop when you can fly 10 flights instead?)

An FTer flies to a Do (or Why take the nonstop when you can fly 10 flights instead?)

Old May 15, 09, 9:10 pm
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An FTer flies to a Do (or Why take the nonstop when you can fly 10 flights instead?)

Index to my trip reports

If you like this report, you may be interested in some of my other trip reports.
  1. AKL-YYZ with NZ/AC in F & C - my first trip report
  2. Europe to Iceland & return on Icelandair (FI) - somewhere different
  3. Some FTers DO the Inaugural Worlds Longest Flight SIN-EWR vv 28 June 2004 - 2 long flights back to back
  4. 7 Crazy Days - includes an almost inaugural flight
  5. Champagne and figure eights on ice - Antarctica flightseeing
  6. a Lit.tle sPRinG.Ly JoUrney (BUDding KiwiS Can zig-ZAG around Europe) - mostly central and eastern Europe
  7. Big DO DOs - or a Kiwi Flyer's Month of Madness - lots of flights
  8. Another Manic Month for Kiwi - again lots of flights
  9. Mini Tour of NZ - over 100 domestic flights in New Zealand covering all domestic routes (ongoing)
  10. Across the Globe in 5 Continents - criss-crossing the globe
  11. Auckland to National Park by Train - train in New Zealand's North Island
  12. Across the Globe in 5 Continents Again - criss-crossing the globe, but this time mainly on One World
  13. A Warm Embrace of the Tropics - short trips to the tropical South Pacific
  14. Singapore (SQ) new first and business class, plus a medley of 12 F & C SQ flights - name says it all really
  15. Across the Globe in 4 Continents - around the world on star alliance, including some unusual flights
  16. Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Sampler - a sampling of Qantas flights, domestic and international, in economy and business (ongoing)
  17. Around the World in Under 60 Hours - around the world in a weekend
  18. The Heat is On - another longhaul economy trip in under 60 hours - what a contrast, Asia and Qantas' new first class lounges
  19. Fast on the ground and in the air - it must be Shanghai – a flying visit to Shanghai + Maglev
  20. It's a Fine Line Between Pleasure & Pain: 4 wacky weeks 2 RTW C, inaugural longhaul Y – mostly One World
  21. Back and forth across the Pacific on a variety of airlines in a selection of classes - 16 crossings of the Pacific plus some other related flights
  22. It isn't every day that you witness a hijacking attempt + NZ's forgotten 4th island - a visit to Chatham Islands coincides with New Zealand's first hijacking attempt
  23. There and back - first day Air NZ flies to Coolangatta (Gold Coast)
  24. A Run Around (part of) The Axis of Evil: A Perfect *A RTW in C? - Axis of Evil 0 US Immigration 1
  25. Wellington to Auckland by train - self-explanatory title
  26. A mad couple of days flying, including domestic international flights - a double longhaul inaugural, domestic international shuttle and domestic leg of an international flight
  27. Regional C *A RTW & (hopefully) finishing flying every route (100+) for an airline - featuring new QF First on A380 special flight, "you have to get off now", and 105th different current route with NZ
  28. One World Revolutions - Around Mostly the Southern Hemisphere - mostly Southern Hemisphere and mostly on One World on a mix of products
  29. Cris-cros the Med & the Globe on Emirates, Qantas & Star Alliance in mix of F/C/Y+/Y – starting with EK First on A380 and ending with Qantas economy, with a lot of travel mostly on *A in between
  30. An FTer flies to a Do (or Why take the nonstop when you can fly 10 flights instead?) - combining an FT Do with an aerial tour of northern Queensland
  31. The Ultimate Qantas Flight - short report on the ultimate flight
  32. Premium Flying Across the Ditch (Between New Zealand and Australia) - experiencing the forward cabins on Trans-Tasman flights (ongoing)
  33. 5 Boeings Straight to the Airbus Do - FTer feasts in first, business & economy - my journey to & from the *A / Airbus Mega Do
  34. NZ route oddities & One World turns by night (redeye special) - an odd collection of flight routes & schedules around the world
  35. From my first low cost redeye to a first class trifecta - an insane fortnight - some firsts of all types
  36. G'day, kia orana - it's another inaugural flight in Air New Zealand business class - a day & night tripping around the South Pacific on Air NZ
  37. A Feast of First Class Flying on British Airways, Qantas and Emirates - long distance in style
  38. A Weekend of Old and New - Lufthansa first & business, Air New Zealand business - a quick longhaul trip featuring some old and new products
  39. Star Alliance tres primo, and tres biz - a trio of first and business on Star Alliance
  40. A few flights to end 2011 - a quick trip around the world + more
  41. Five Continents in 3 Days and Some Other Mad Trips in 2012 - a selection of my 2012 travels
  42. Sky Team madness - 14 weeks, 200k miles, 5 continents, CI brand new business – mostly Sky Team
  43. Off to Star megado on Oneworld - mostly business incl brand new AA 787
  44. A Glutton for Punishment: red eye, new world's longest flight & more, in comfort?

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Apr 1, 16 at 3:48 pm
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Old May 16, 09, 2:07 am
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Link not working.
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Old May 16, 09, 12:22 pm
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Originally Posted by Kiwi Flyer View Post
Index to this trip report
  1. The cunning plan
Yup, this link not working.
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Old May 16, 09, 9:12 pm
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Maybe that's part of his cunning plan.
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Old May 17, 09, 2:33 pm
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Sorry - I ran out of time to do the first post.

==================


Index to this trip report
  1. The cunning plan
  2. The plan unravels
  3. Auckland to Brisbane (AKL-BNE) on Qantas 737-800737-400 in economy class
  4. Brisbane - floods, FT drinks, Holiday Inn
  5. Brisbane to Cairns (BNE-CNS) on Qantas 737-400 in economy class
  6. Transit in Cairns
  7. Cairns to Weipa (CNS-WEI) on Qantas Dash 8 Q400 in economy class
  8. Weipa to Cairns (WEI-CNS) on Qantas Dash 8 Q400 in economy class
  9. Cairns - Holiday Inn
  10. Cairns to Port Moresby (CNS-POM) on Air Niugini Fokker 100 in economy class
  11. Port Moresby
  12. Port Moresby to Cairns (POM-CNS) on Air Niugini Fokker 100 in economy class
  13. The missing bag
  14. Cairns to Horn Island (CNS-HID) on Qantas Dash 8-300 in economy class
  15. Horn Island to Cairns (HID-CNS) on Qantas Dash 8-300 in economy class
  16. Bag returned
  17. Cairns to Brisbane (CNS-BNE) on Qantas 737-800 in economy class
  18. Brisbane transit
  19. Brisbane to Auckland (BNE-AKL) on Qantas 737-400 in economy class

map of flights

==================

The Cunning Plan

I've been to a few OzFests which are held in various locations in Australia late May (US Memorial Weekend I think).

When almost a year ago it was announced that this year's OzFest will be in Cairns I started thinking about how in all the times I've been to Cairns I haven't yet made the short hop over to Papua New Guinea or to Solomon Islands. If I'm going to be there for some days (longer than normal) then I could combine both in the one trip. That will be much more satisfying than taking Air New Zealand on a simple nonstop round trip to Cairns.

It didn't take me long to rule out Solomon Islands - they are more easily reached from Brisbane than from Cairns and at the time I was searching had an awkward schedule. Indeed in January this year I flew to Solomon Islands and Nauru from Brisbane. However the options for Papua New Guinea seemed easier.

Fares from New Zealand were high, and from Cairns relatively high for the short flight duration. So I checked out awards. Qantas codeshares on air nuigini and thus awards are possible on the flights from Sydney, Brisbane or Cairns. When I booked, many months ago, there was plenty of availability on these flights and also on the trans-tasman flights.

Then I noticed the award cost and thought about other possibilities. Qantas Frequent Flyer awards are mileage based. Spending some time with the online award booking tool I realised I could add some more flights around Queensland for little or no extra point cost.

I saw that some partner airlines have milk runs in various parts of the state and found one that seemed to work. Brisbane to Charleville (via Roma), connecting to Charleville to Mount Isa (via Quilpie, Windorah, Birdsville, Bedourie, Boulia), connecting to Mount Isa to Cairns. map of milk run and map of draft itinerary so far.

Then I noticed I still had some mileage up my sleeve within the points cost band, and added another couple of intra-Queensland flights. At this point I have 10 flights booked with 16 takeoffs and landings scheduled.

The online booking tool accepted the routing as valid but decided it was too complex to ticket. I called, spent some time explaining my odd itinerary and was booked. Several days later a paper ticket was mailed to me.

Next - the plan unravels.

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Apr 1, 16 at 3:48 pm
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Old May 18, 09, 1:54 pm
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The Plan Unravels

I was looking forward to the Do, and also to a day flying around the Queensland interior on the milk run. I've never been to Mount Isa. From previous trips to Alice Springs and Uluru, as well as overflying the centre of Australia to/from southeast Asia, I knew I had some spectacular scenery to look forward to. But unlike those other trips this would be from reasonably low altitudes on a little metroliner - great.

Fast forward several months to a couple of weeks ago. In the OzFest thread there were some posts about Qantas and Virgin Blue cancelling some flights. This reminded me it was about time to do my usual itinerary checks a couple of weeks before departure. Oh dear, the 2 flights between Charleville and Cairns have been cancelled without Qantas notifying me. I did some hunting through the online timetable first before calling to see what options I had open. Qantas agreed to my request to reroute and substitute a different "destination" for my day's jaunt. After a bit of toing and froing I have 3 new flights booked that day ^, but no milk run .

I needed to get the ticket reissued, and this has finally arrived - just in the nick of time.

For some tips on how to check itineraries see my recent blog post on why itinerary checks are important and how to do it.
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Old May 20, 09, 8:22 pm
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AUCKLAND to BRISBANE (AKL-BNE) on Qantas 737-800 737-400 in economy class

I was at the airport and check in hadn't yet opened for the flight, so I headed to the domestic Qantas Club so I could get some work done in comfort while I waited. It was a cold wet day, and so I was surprised the Queenstown flight departed rather than being cancelled. Not many Qantas domestic flights in the middle of the day so I had the lounge to myself for a while.

The cold showers (some heavy laced with hail) stopped and I decided it was time to walk across to the international terminal. First I said goodbye to the lounge agent, then got a lecture from security about using the lounge (or rather using security service instead of letting them stand around talking, not that he said that) when not flying from this terminal.

I got a third of the way across when another cold shower passed. Slightly wet I arrived at the premium check in lobby. The passenger being attended to had some issue or other that took at least 15 minutes to deal with. The poor lady in front of me had been waiting patiently only to be told at the counter she had been in the wrong queue - she was flying Cathay Pacific who share the premium lobby but do not share the business/first/OW emerald line. Perhaps the signage could be improved?

I got my boarding pass quickly, was through immigration, then upstairs to the precleared immigration and security, avoided the random explosives check and patdown and up to the lounge. I know this route so well I don't even have to think about it and my mind wanders. I got my smartgate processing out of the way using the machine by the lounge and was warmly welcomed back.
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Old May 20, 09, 8:41 pm
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The inclement weather had delayed some flights. As a result there were few aircraft at the international terminal - an NZ 767 headed for Perth, 3 arriving Emirates aircraft and our little 737. On the remote stands were 4 NZ 747s (plus a couple of other widebodies).

Boarding hadn't yet started when I reached the gate, but began a couple of minutes later. Some passengers only half listening to the PA announcements started panicking about a delay ... but it was the Air NZ flight to Brisbane.
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Old May 21, 09, 6:31 pm
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Sorry for the delay. Looks like the next bit won't be posted until I reach the next airport, or the one after.
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Old May 22, 09, 3:09 pm
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We had ZK-JTS, which has not yet been converted from 16 business seats to 12. There was no cabin divider between business and economy which meant the cabin crew had to work hard to enforce the front toilet is for business class passengers only rule during the flight.

The load was moderate but most elite passengers travelling by themselves in economy had a blocked middle seat.

Lunch was a choice of Moroccan chicken with rice or hospital food (aka steamed hoki fish and soggy mashed potatoes). Neither looked particularly appealing. Also beans, small hard square thing that might have once been flour, and a Streets ice cream. Drinks offering was water, juice, tea, coffee, beer, shiraz, merlot, chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. They were not catered with enough glasses, running out very quickly. Plenty of refills.

The IFE was main screen "He's Not That Into You" followed by Top Gear (San Francisco to Bonneville) and a Brisbane arrival video.

I got an express arrival card, but only by going to the galley to ask for it. No other elite pax in economy got one.

We arrived slightly early, but then had to wait 15 minutes for the airbridge. This happens a lot when arriving in Australia on international flights. When it did arrive the airbridge was soggy with numerous leaks in the heaviest rain in 35 years. En route to immigration I noticed international transfers are locked and everyone has to pass a thermal camera and clear immigration. There is also a health declaration form for everyone to fill in and hand to immigration or customs.

I headed straight for smartgate. Unfortunately it wasn't working for me this time so I ended up getting a stamp in my passport. Grrr. I strode purposefully past the baggage claim and managed to again get clearance to bypass the x-ray.
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Old May 22, 09, 3:19 pm
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Brisbane

I thought I had missed the airtrain I was aiming for so I got some cash and wandered slowly to the station, picked up a return ticket and waited in the rain. The station roof wasn't providing much protection. Fortunately the train was running late and arrived a minute later. On the way to Eagle Junction (first stop) there was significant flooding on both sides of the tracks. We halted for about 20 minutes. I wondered if the track was flooded ahead. Eventually we restarted the trip. At the inner stations the train soon filled to capacity with commuters joining us. I slowly made my way towards the doors in between the last 2 stations before my stop, worried I'd be stuck at my seat otherwise.

At Roma Street I got off and a couple of minutes later checked in at the adjacent Holiday Inn. I was welcomed back and given the corner exec room as I often manage to get (even on this ridiculously low sale room rate). The trip from the airport had taken well over an hour tonight, leaving with barely enough time to freshen up before heading out for drinks & dinner. I got the last hotel umbrella, for which I was very grateful. Without it I would have cabbed the few blocks to avoid the downpours.

It was great catching up with friends, although we had to move to make ourselves heard over the rain and also to avoid some leaks.

The next morning I took a walk in the sun, then checked out and trained back to the airport. Trains were still affected by the rain and flooding (lots of delays and cancellations), even though the worst of the storm had moved south.
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Old May 22, 09, 10:03 pm
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BRISBANE to CAIRNS (BNE-CNS) on Qantas 737-400 in economy class

As I had a paper ticket there was no option to OLCI or use the quick check machines. Fortunately not much queue in the business class / Qantas Club line and I soon got 3 boarding passes. Security was fairly quick although annoyingly a rude couple decided the queue didn't apply to them and they barged there way past everyone else depositing carryons and purse on the x-ray in front of a flabbergasted line.

I went to the Qantas Club first even though I had access to the Business Lounge by my status, for I wanted to meet up with Itsalongwaydown and Sue_Oz before our flight and they didn't have Business Lounge access (other than as my guest). The Qantas Club was fairly busy.

I nabbed a computer and then some drinks (bar opens at 12) and nibbles. The quality of food and drink had gone downhill since my previous visit. For example no hot food at all.

When Itsalongwaydown and Sue_Oz arrived we decamped to the Business Lounge. This is my first time here (in the Brisbane one that is, I have used Melbourne and Sydney ones). It was even more crowded than the Qantas Club, although at least the food and drink were much better. A maintenance guy was draining the ceiling. Apparently a few bucketfuls of water got in during the storm the previous day. Wijomas popped in to say hi between his Virgin Blue flights.

We had an airbridge gate but not hooked up so drop down stairs to the tarmac, a short walk in the warm sunshine and climb the airstairs to board. The flight was only moderately full and so I got a blocked middle seat.

Food was a snack despite the flight length - cupcake, tea, coffee, water and apple. Ie no more than what we get in domestic NZ flights that are about a third as long.

IFE was main screen showing Bondi Rescue then a music video. I noticed the cabin crew were not enforcing (or even attempting to enforce) front toilet is for business class only.

With fairly clear skies we had view of flooding just north of Brisbane, then hills and valleys and eventually the Great Barrier Reef. We arrived late meaning my connection will be short. I spied the aircraft for my next flight landing right behind us. It had a shorter taxi so had arrived at it's stand when we pulled into our airbridge gate.
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Old May 22, 09, 11:24 pm
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An FTer flies to a Do (or Why take the nonstop when you can fly 10 flights instead?)
Exactly my philosophy!

When flying from LAX to DEN, dont go direct go LAX>JFK>IAD> then DEN... (Im gonna get that route name patented and copywrited to "UAL4lifes roundabout fun" )
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Old May 27, 09, 2:15 am
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Apologies for the delay. I'll endeavour to post the rest more quickly but I only have enough time for a little bit today.

Transit in Cairns

For those that haven't been to Cairns airport, which is a modest-sized airport, transits can take a surprising amount of time because of the unusual layout and the propensity for flights to arrive and depart in large banks with few flights in between. The airport is currently undergoing renovations (and has been for over a year) but transits were a bit odd even before this.

The airbridge gates are along the western side of the domestic terminal and towards the southern end. They lead to an outside but covered passage that runs northwards all the way to the northern end of the terminal and deposits you landside. At the moment there is a temporary arrivals facility containing baggage claim for Qantas and Qantas Link which is a separate building adjacent and to the north.

For connecting domestic flights go into the main terminal and head south. It used to be open along eastern side inside the terminal all the way to the security check point - albeit past baggage claims and check in desks. With the renovations currently you cannot reach security remaining inside but instead exit the building and walk along the outside to the check in area at the far southern part of the terminal, and then enter backtrack to the north to reach security. Those following closely will have noted we've just about circumnavigated the terminal by this point.

With lots of flights departing at the same time, security queues can get rather large. And they were today. Fortunately they were moving quickly. Unfortunately for me when my carry on bag reached the xray machine they officers decided to stop and argue amongst themselves for a few minutes as to whose turn it was to take a break.

The result was I had no time to visit the lounge and they were already calling me for the next flight, boarding having commenced while I was making the circuit of the terminal.
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Old May 28, 09, 2:22 am
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CAIRNS to WEIPA (CNS-WEI) on Qantas Dash 8 Q400 in economy class

This was one of the few replacement itinerary options that worked. Most people have not heard of Weipa. It is a small community on the northwestern side of Cape York Peninsula of Australia, closer to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea than any significant town in Australia. Weipa has 2 claims to fame - site of the world's largest Bauxite mine (source material for aluminium) and the location where Europeans first reached Australia (in 1606).

Where is Weipa?

The load on the flight was light and we were seated at specific seats for balance reasons. The only prior times I'd flown in this part of the world were at night time from Cairns to Gove, and a couple of times headed to Singapore from Auckland when the jetstream gave us a flightpath far to the north of the usual tracks. So I enjoyed seeing the peninsula for the first time reasonably close up.

We had fantastic views coast to coast including parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the peninsula is very lightly populated with just one road up the middle serving the various mining sites and tiny communities - it is about the size of New York state with less people than a small town.

The land itself seemed old and aged by the tropical rains, worn down to gentle valleys with many serpentine rivers emptying into mangrove-lined estuaries. Mostly there was bush and scrub with just a few cleared patches near the one road.

We had some turbulence on the first part of the flight then clear air. On the 80 minute flight we got a snack pack containing brioche, cheese and crackers, water. Plus a full drinks service of tea, coffee, juice, wine or beer; complete with refills. Only the flights after 4pm get free alcohol.

As we descended the sun sank in a race to see which would be first - our landing or the setting sun. We won that race, landing on the strip inland from town in the gathering dusk. There was a customs spotter aircraft parked up on the tarmac - a reminder of our far northern location.
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