Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007 Trip: Cairns International Airport

Cairns International Airport, Cairns Australia (CNS)

I cleared Immigration again (it is confusing) and then Customs and had to hand over my boarding pass. I had notes on it since the computer had failed, so I had to write them off on another piece of paper.

I walked over to the shuttle bus counter and the lady said it was 7.50 AUD each way to get into Cairns. I could arrange for them to take me back when I was ready.

I then walked over to the Avis counter and checked the price of a car for the day; the guy initially said he had nothing, but then that he had a Hyundai Getz for 55.65 AUD plus a boat load of taxes per day. I told him I'll take it as I checked online to see if I could get the same rate. I had found WiFi from an airport Lounge as the computer was working again.

I did not take the insurance as I thought that American Express would cover it. I later called them using the direct line and they do not cover Australia and five other countries (Jamaica, Ireland, Japan, Italy and New Zealand). So I headed back to the guy and signed up for the insurance. In a foreign country where they drive on the other side of the road, one cannot be too cautious at all.

I did notice that there were three showers at the airport, but you have to bring your own towel and soap although someone had left soap in one of them. They were free of charge and located in the International terminal.

I finally left the airport and headed for the SkyRail that would take me through the rainforest. I also needed to get an adapter so I could charge the computer that had now died. I tried using the plug for the razor in the toilet, but that did not work well at all, so I gave up.

Cairns, Australia

I arrive there in no time as I got good directions from the Avis guy. I was in luck they had space (apparently you have to book 24 hours in advance). I would go up with the SkyRail and come back down with the train, then be shuttled back to my car; what fun!

I bought the tickets and headed up the mountain. It was fantastic, you could see almost all of Cairns below including a spectacular view of the airport in teh distance. At one point, as far as you can see was rainforest.

The stop also included a look at Baron Falls which provides hydro-electric power for the area.

Note: I'm a bit tired now and have to get going so I can get to the airport and get checked in, etc. it is now 9:47p local time on 27 Dec. I will continue this in a bit...

Christmas 2007 Trip: Sydney to Cairns

6 QF167 9:05a 11:15a Sydney, Australia (SYD) to Cairns, Australia (CNS) 763 VH-OGT

I figured that the person sitting in my seat was upgraded and the new seat was not yet assigned. I’ve done this to many times, I internalized… He told me to wait just outside the door and entered the airplane. In a few minutes he returned and got on the phone and called his colleague; looked like I was right, so he went to advise the lady who was sitting there. In the interim, the purser said hello to me and we struck up a conversation. I told him about my itinerary and he said; hey, we’re going to Tokyo why don’t you continue on with us. I told him that I was purposely taking the long way and he laughed. They were heading onto to Tokyo with a 1:40 minutes or so ground time in Cairns. The layover in Tokyo would be about 25 hours.

By now the agent had returned saying my seat was now empty. I said thanks for chatting and good by for now and headed to my seat.

The Business Class cabin on this Boeing 767-300ER is configured as a 1-2-2; it is always interesting to see how each airline configure the premium cabin of the Boeing 767s. Economy class was the standard 2-3-2 configuration with the cabin in two compartments. This one is much different from ANA’s as the aircraft has two Exit forward of the wing as opposed to ANA’s two exits over the wing. Qantas also uses a coat closet to divide the cabins and ANA’s does not.

I settled into my seat saying hello to the lady who seems to be sitting with her husband. I managed to stuff my bag in the middle overhead bin as the side ones that are taller were all full.

The purser came on and explained our delay saying that we were waiting on some paperwork. The Captain also explained the delay and apologized for it. He also gave some updated information on our journey today. Cairns was 26C with rain and we would arrive at 11:05a. in addition, Cairns is an hour behind Sydney. So, I wonder what I will do in rainy Cairns…

The safety demo started and it was funny to see the word “aeroplane” being used in a sentence. The demo was in English with subtitles for the hearing impaired.

We eventually departed at 9:27a and headed out to the runway. As we pushed back, I noticed a LAN Airlines Airbus A340-300 at the gate (CC-CQA), that is a nice flight from Santiago, Chile (SCL), umm… There was also a Cathay Pacific A340 taxiing around, OneWorld alliance at work, I thought.

I remember seeing the tower on our way out, but the next thing I remember is seeing the flight attendants in the aisle with breakfast; I must have dosed off.

A 250ml bottle Fruit Frusion (pineapple, orange and mango juice), Kellogg’s Sultana Bran Crunch with milk, a warm raisin bread with butter and a yoghurt was served immediately after takeoff; that was an excellent breakfast. On the main screen there was some Qantas promotional items and then the “Simpson’s Movie” started with 2:17 to go.

Tea and coffee was served immediately after and the clean up came about 10 to 15 minutes later. I got up and used the lavatory and also looked for the magazines that were missing from my seat pocket. I was able to find the Duty free one and the missing December 2007 Australian Way inflight magazine; which was almost as thick as the one from ANA. The one from Singapore Airlines was quite thick as well. I did also find “Travel + Leisure” the Australian edition among many other titles.

I sat back down and started doing some typing and fell asleep; when I awoke, they were serving some water in a bottle and a muselix in a packet which seemed like a crowd pleaser, but I declined to eat it.

I also watched a video about Cairns and decied that I would try to see the rainforest when I got there.

We landed in a few minutes a little delayed but not by much. We were instructed to ensure that we had the boarding pass with the "D" on it if were exiting in Cairns; some people did not have it and had to go find it onboard. Sucks to be them I guess.

Christmas 2007 Trip: In Sydney Airport

Sydney International Airport, Sydney Australia (SYD)
27 Dec at 7:15a

I followed the signs to Immigration and Customs. There was not much of a line at all, so it was smooth sailing, well almost. The officer asked me the flight number for my connecting flight, to which I answered “I don’t know.” He looked at me strange, then asked, is it the international Qantas flight, to which I said no as I was planning on taking the domestic flight at 1:20p anyways. He then let me through saying as long as I don’t take the international flight then it is O.K.

At customs, they sent me to the quarantine area and then another officer asked if I had any food and if it was all my bags and then let me go through without doing the quarantine as he deemed I was not a risk and had nothing to hide.

As it turns out, I damaged the edge of the computer, so when I close it, it does not stay off, but keeps shutting itself down as the latch seems to be broken. This is bizarre as this feature has been broken since I got the computer and I’ve been trying to get Fujitsu to fix it all the time; now they will just blame it on the computer being dropped and it will never be fixed at their expense; sigh…I can’t wait to hear how much they will charge me.

But I digress; outside, there were several meeters and greeters. I was thinking of possibly driving up to Cairns as I saw the car rental signs. I walked over to Thrifty and asked how much of a drive was Cairns. The lady looked at me strange and said that they only rent cars and that I should ask at the information desk and pointed to it. I ignored that comment and went over to Avis and asked the guy there the same question. He says, that it is about 12 hours to Brisbane and he was not sure how much further to Cairns. His answer for the time to Brisbane did it for me as I don’t have that much time to make it up there and stop and enjoy the Gold Coast. At Avis, they do try harder. I thanked him and headed towards the departure area which is located upstairs. I saw a Citibank ATM and stopped to use it, but the line was too long so I gave up.

While I waited, I was trying to connect to the Internet; Sydney airport had a connection which told you to connect to Opus and Telstar; the rates (quoted in AUD) from Opus were hard to comprehend, so I decided not to bother since I was not sure what I was doing just yet.

Upstairs, I saw that QF167 was leaving at 9:05a; it was 8:08a and you had to check-in in area D. I went there and told the lady of my plans; she says I should try the flight although is fully booked, actually over booked. I also asked about the other flights to Cairns that day. She said the 1:20p looked O.K., but the later one at 7:35p or so was full. I decided to just go ahead and try 167 then, so as not to chance it.

In a few minutes, I was called and given a seat. I cleared security and headed towards the gate through the Duty free area. As I walked, I saw a free Internet kiosk; I was in luck I thought. I waited until 8:45a and gave up on it. I did see the A380 at the gate across the way though and took pictures and a video, so you will see those later.

I went down to the gate and presented my boarding pass, which the electronic gate reader rejected. The agent checked and said that my seat was assigned to someone else. He said I should walk down with him and he will sort it out.

Christmas 2007 Trip: Singapore to Sydney on the A380

Cairns, Australia

I finally found a place that has Internet access and I can use my computer. I had no luck in the Sydney airport and when I got to Cairns airport, my battery ran out before I could make the update and I could not find a place to buy an Australian adapter in that airport. So you can catch up with me in the next few posts.

26 Dec. 2007
Singapore Changi International, Singapore (SIN)

As instructed, I went back to the Transfer Desk at 7:50p and waited. I then asked the agent if the standbys were cleared and she went and got my ticket. She asked me for my passport and then gave me a boarding pass for seat 33E on the main deck. I asked if there was a seat available on the Upper Deck and she advised me to ask when I got to the gate. She then instructed me to get to the gate as they were boarding. I then thanked her and went towards the gate.

I stopped briefly to enter a blog post about getting a seat on the flight. Needless to say, I was very excited about this happening.

I walked over to gate F31; the only area specifically designed for the A380 at Changi and cleared security. I had forgotten about the water I had taken from the previous flight and the security folks tagged me on that one. I just drank it right there and then.

I asked the agent if I could switch my seat from the lower deck to the upper deck and she obliged, writing the number on the boarding pass and changing the “MAIN DECK” designation to “UPPER.” Cool, I figure that I always fly on the lower deck, so now it is time for a change.
I took a picture of the seating configuration, noting that I was at the back of the bus in row 80; kind of nice I thought, row 80 on the A380…

5 SQ 221 26DEC WE Singapore (SIN) to Sydney, Australia (SYD) 380 830P 700A 27DEC 9V-SKA

As I boarded, I went to the right for the upper deck and passengers in the main deck and Suites (although they are on the upper deck) went to the left. It was weird going up so high while boarding an airplane. I stopped and looked outside to see how high I was. An agent cautioned me to come this way, so I did.

On entering the plane, I was greeted by two flight attendants. The male took my boarding pass and sent me down the aisle on the right. I walked past the Business Class seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. They are so wide, I think that three persons can sit in them with ease. A flight attendant was handing out hot towels as we were boarding.

When I got to the Economy Class section, a flight attendant took my boarding pass and showed me to my seat; WOW! I thought. She even offered to hang my jacket, which she took along with my boarding pass. Now this is service I thought.

I actually scored a seat in the Exit row at the back of the plane, just three rows from the back; the last two rows have a 2 seats together configuration. The Economy class section is configured in a 2-4-2 configuration. The cabin interior is that of a combination of an Airbus A340-600 and the Boeing 777-200 as the lighting is from the Airbus and the bins from the Boeing . It is all really nice and clean; very well done I thought. The windows are huge, tapering to a smaller circumference as it goes to the outside of the plane.

They had poinsettias on the sides of the plane as it is Christmas; this was a very nice touch and added character to the cabin. Every seat has a video screen with Audio/Video on Demand service. There also an Ethernet cable, a USB port and a port for what looks like a headset or a video in/out cable. Below the seat is a power cable to charge your electronic stuff. All that is missing is the Internet now.

People were just getting themselves settled in and taking pictures all over the place. There is a step at the back of the galley that leads to the lower deck. It is actually quite steep though. I’ll have to take the camera around later and take some pictures.

I looked through the KrisWorld entertainment guide and oh wow! Way too many movies. The menu choices are:

· Entertainment
o Movies
§ New Releases
§ Action
§ Comedy
§ Drama
§ Family
§ European
§ Chinese
§ Japanese
o TV
o Music
o Radio
o Games
o Settings
· Just for Kids
o Movies
o TV
o Music
o Radio
o Games
· Travel
o Flight Path
o Connecting Gate
o Live Text news
o City Guide
o Inflight Phone
· Learning
o Health Info
o Executive Book Summaries
o Cultural Quest
o Take a Flight
· PC
o File manager
o Spreadsheet
o Presentation
o Media Player
o Photo Viewer

We pushed back at about 8:41p and it was difficult to tell; I had to look through the window by the door to tell. The two right engines were started first and I did not even hear when the left ones started. In a few moments, we were on our way. I was psyched!

For takeoff, we had to clear the seat area of everything, but we were able to place them under the seats in front of us. Except that folks by the doors did not have that luxury; their stuff had to go in the bin above.

Takeoff was smooth and very quiet. It is different being so far off the ground, you hardly feel it all. I talked with the flight attendant who was sitting in front of me after we were clear of the ground for a bit. I wanted to know if this was the only plane they had so far. He said yes and they were getting another in January and then one more and after that one per year I think. Additional routes would include London and Tokyo. I felt special to have been on the only aircraft they have which had only been flying since Oct. 25, 2007 when I was here last.

I got up to use the lavatory after the seatbelt sign went off and while the service started with the flight attendants handing out a brown amenity kit that contained a pair of socks as well as a toothbrush and toothpaste. This was followed by a menu; you know how I love that part of the flight. I was talking to another passenger and we decided to take a walk downstairs to check it out. We chatted for a bit and before long the seatbelt sign came on as we were having some turbulence. So we had to go back upstairs to our seats. This plane is huge!

Today, well tonight, we will have dinner followed by breakfast. The menu had a page with all the beverages listed. It is the normal fare, except on Singapore Airlines you also have the Singapore Sling included.

For dinner we would have:
Marinated prawns with crispy romaine lettuce

main coursesBaked fillet of perch with garlic paste, wood fungus and carrots, fried rice
Beef goulash with vegetables and mashed potatoes

Cheese and crackers

Ice cream

from the bakery
Roll and butter

hot beveragesCoffee – Tea

For breakfast

fruit appetizer

from the bakery
Assorted breakfast rolls (roll, muffin)
Butter – fruit preserve

Hot beverages
Coffee – tea

The crew then came by with glasses of beer, wine, apple juice or orange juice and as usual always smiling. Then they followed that up with roasted peanuts in a plastic packet with a napkin included.

Dinner was then served and I opted for the perch which was really tasty; the lady next to me had the beef which also looked good, but would have been too chewy for me. Although the meal was good, it took a while to chew it as there was some shrimp in it that really stuck to my teeth.

Dinner was quite good and was cleared up expeditiously; I was able to brush my teeth after chatting with two guys for quite sometime. I also was able to check out the cabin below, although out efforts to see the Suites were denied. I did find out the Business Class was full except for possibly two seats. Economy class looked very full as well.

There are three compartments on the main deck for Economy Class and not enough lavatories I think as the lines were quite long on both decks. The main deck had a 3-4-3 configuration while the upper is 2-4-2 as it sloped at the top. It was hard to see so many people in one space, but it is impressive!

I then walked back to the back of the plane and took the stairs back to the upper deck. It was time for a little sleep and watch some more of the spectacular entertainment system.

With about 1:30 to go, we got hot towels although I just missed it as I was asleep. We were then served breakfast which was quite good. The sun had come up so it was good to see outside.

We landed without any issues after the crew prepared the cabin. It was weird to land when sitting so high off the ground. The engines were not as quite as I thought they should ne though.

The GE90s are much quieter on landing.

I started to gather my things and ended up dropping the computer :-(. This will cost me to have it fixed now, I thought since it is my fault. As we deplaned, there was some kind of hold up and I got a chance to see the Business Class cabin and take a few pictures. There is really no way of seeing the Suites if you exit this way. I assume that there is another stairs near the forward galley behind the cockpit.