Qantas, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Townsville to Sydney via Brisbane

Introduction

My time with Professor Bond is a real eye-opener. I think I was able to ask him all the questions for which I was seeking answers. Having said that, he also gave me a lot of answers to questions I wasn’t even aware I had!

Getting to the Airport

The journey to the airport takes about ten minutes by car. After all, it’s still very early and there are hardly any people on the roads.

Check-in

The landside part of the terminal is disproportionately large, compared to the somewhat tight and narrow airside area at the gates.

Each one of the major airlines operating out of Townsville has its own dedicated check-in zone. I can bypass this today, because I’ve already checked in on the QANTAS app.

There is a queue for security, but it moves quickly. Of course it helps that in Australia they only want you to remove your laptop from your bag and not also your toiletries etc.

The Lounge

Once I’m through security, I only have ten minutes before boarding starts. But I’m gagging for a coffee. Much to my surprise and delight, there is actually a fairly large QANTAS lounge, where the baristas will even make you a cappuccino to go!

Boarding

So with my coffee in hand, boarding starts on time with an initial call for Business Class and frequent flyers passengers. It’s only once I settle in my seat that I realise it’s raining quite heavily outside.

The Cabin

QANTAS has a dedicated Business Class cabin on its Boeing B 737-800 fleet. There are three rows of seats in a 2 + 2 configuration, which makes for a total of twelve seats.

Every seat is equipped with its own video screen, an electricity plug and USB port. There is also a footrest that can be raised when the seat is in the recline position.

The wifi on board works surprisingly well.

I think the Americans in particular tend to frown upon the European interpretation of Business Class seating, which basically means blocking the middle seat on a row of bog standard Economy Class seats. Which is, admittedly, pretty lame. But it seems to me that the average sector length in Europe is probably much shorter than in vast countries like the US or Australia, and which therefore hardly warrants the installation of a more comfortable solution with a dedicated Business Class cabin and seat.

The Crew

The maître de is serving the Business Class cabin and I have to say, this guy is really absolutely brilliant. His manners are impeccable! He addresses every passenger by name and no request ever seems too much for him.

The service on the ground consist of a welcome drink. There is a choice of still or sparkling water or apple juice. There are no towels, newspapers or anything.

The flight time is announced at one hour and thirty minutes.

The Meal

Once we’re airborne, the meal service begins. There is a choice of either Quiche Lorraine with bacon or an omelette served with a mushroom sauce, spinach and bacon. I go with the latter option.

The tray comes with two slices of sourdough bread, butter and apricot jam. There’s also some awfully healthy looking packed thingy, which I decide to steer clear of.

Later on, the maître de passes through the cabin offering cranberry muffins that are fresh out of the oven and taste lovely.

To drink with the meal, I have an orange juice, still water and a coffee. Oh yes, the coffee! Full and extra brownie points for QANTAS on the coffee front. Instead of that horrific instant stuff you get on most airlines these days, QANTAS serves a lovely brew made in a coffee press, which just tastes so much better!

Once the tray is removed, the crew pass through the cabin with small bottles of still water and ask passengers if there’s anything else they’d like. I order a Coke Zero and then settle in to read the latest book of the PC Grant series, which my friend the wiry R. and I both find quite entertaining.

Transfer in Brisbane

We land in Brisbane about ten minutes ahead of schedule. I disembark the aircraft through gate number 23. I check on one of the FIDS, only to find that my flight to Sydney in slightly over an hour will be operated by the same aircraft from the same gate.

The glorious beauty of the English language…

Language change is unavoidable. One of the key drivers of language change is exposure of the language as it is used in a specific area to the other languages in use around it. In which case there may be regional approximation of two or more languages coexisting in that region.

Why am I even bothering you with this? In British English a thong refers to a particular type of knickers or underpants. If you look up the term on onelook.com, it will give you as a definition: ‘a piece of underwear or bottom part of a bikini with a very narrow piece of cloth at the back’. So basically, it’s the type of underpants that look as though they need to be surgically removed from your butt crack.

Which makes it all the more hilarious that when I enter the QANTAS lounge during my layover in Brisbane, the lounge dragon will not let me enter because they have ‘a strict no thongs policy’ in the lounge that she’s asking me to respect. Of course, what she’s referring are what we call flip flops in Europe that you wear on your feet.

The Meal

In any case, the only other thing worthwhile mentioning on the next leg to Sydney is that there are three options for lunch: a kale and spinach frittata, fruit salad or a smoked salmon salad. The tray comes with a large tub of blueberry yoghurt on it. The bread is served separately.

Arrival

Our arrival into Sydney is stunning. We approach the city from the north. At some point, we make a gentle left turn for the downwind, which brings us in right over Manly. In the distance I can see the harbour bridge with the opera house and CBD. It just looks so spectacular from above! I shall miss this when I leave again for Europe tomorrow.

Conclusion

I rather enjoyed these two short-haul flights in QANTAS Business Class. My previous experiences with their Business Class product have all been on longer sectors, on which the meal concept was somehow always a bit odd. So it’s good to see that this is not the case here.

To me QANTAS’ biggest selling point are definitely their crews, which are friendly, properly trained and really do represent ‘the spirit of Australia’.

Jetstar, Economy Class – Airbus A 320: Sydney to Townsville

Introduction

In language testing, the Rasch model is used in psychometric measurement to determine the probability with which a minimally competent test taker will be able to provide a specific response to a particular test item correctly. This probability is interpreted as a function of the test taker’s actual language ability on the one hand, and the true level of difficulty of the item that the test taker is being subjected to and for which they must provide a response on the other hand.

As it happens, one of the leading experts on Rasch modelling is Professor Trevor Bond. Very kindly, Professor Bond has accepted for me to visit him in Townsville, QLD to pick his brain, and so that’s where I’m heading today. 

Currently, the only direct service between Sydney and Townsville is with Jetstar, QANTAS’ low-cost subsidiary. All other connections require a change of aircraft in either Cairns or Brisbane.

The booking process on the Jetstar website is tedious, especially if you’re using Firefox. In which case, you’re likely not going to be able to complete the booking. Safari works reasonably well though.

Getting to the Airport

To get to the airport, I make the same journey I did on Monday, when I flew to Melbourne. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Because the journey by ferry from Manly to Sydney is just so beautiful and tranquil.

Check-in

Jetstar has an app, but obviously it’s not foreseen that people from outside Australia and a few Asian countries might also fly Jetstar. Which is why the app is not available for me to download onto my Swiss mobile.

You will receive a link to the web check-in page with the e-ticket confirmation you receive by mail and then one day before departure by SMS. But you will still have to print the boarding pass at home or at one of the self-service devices at the airport.

Jetstar operates out of domestic Terminal 2, along with all other domestic carriers except QANTAS.

Airside

My flight will be departing from gate 53, which is both good and bad. It’s good, because from gate 53 you have an unobstructed view of the aircraft on the approach. It’s bad, because really I should be reading up on objective standard setting in Professor Bond’s book without distraction, to brush up a little before I meet him. But it’s like a compulsion, every time I see movement from the corner of my eye, I have to stop and look up to check what airline/type it is…

Boarding

Boarding starts with a minor delay. As I pass the gate, the attendant checking my boarding pass asks me if I’m aware of the fact that I’m sitting on the emergency exit. I tell her I am, but her next question catches me slightly off guard, because she asks me when was the last time I flew and sat on the emergency exit? I do a quick think and tell her that must have been two days previously. And for some reason that catches her off guard. Eventually though, she smiles and wishes me a pleasant flight.

The Cabin

The cabin looks well-kept and clean. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, probably not, but the orange colour in the Jetstar logo, which also features in the cabin, seriously reminds me of easyJet. But maybe that just lies in the nature of the beast.

The seat is comfortable enough for a flight of more than two hours and the seat pitch on the emergency exit it good.

There are no video screens or electricity/USB plugs available for passengers on board this aircraft.

The Crew

There are five cabin crew on this flight. The young man standing by the emergency exits is kind of strange, because he looks preoccupied and rather unhappy. But I think it must be just his normal face, because he’s actually rather friendly and accommodating once the flight gets underway.

The Meal

The Jetstar website allows you to purchase a whole list of ancillary services, including seat reservations, ‘comfort kits’, and food. I order the sandwich trio online, which comes with a hot drink included.

The sandwich is good. It’s probably one of the better sandwiches I’ve had on a low-cost carrier, actually.

Arrival

The flight to Townsville takes two hours and fifteen minutes. The landscape on the approach is fascinating. It’s quite hilly and very green.

The airport sprawls over a vast area, mainly because it is a mixed military and civilian facility. The actual passenger terminal is rather small, with only a handful of gates and no segregation of arriving and departing passengers, which gets a bit tight during deplaning on a short turn around…

It takes me all of three minutes from stepping off the plane to arriving curb side, where I’ve arranged to meet Professor Bond.

Conclusion

There really isn’t very much I can say about Jetstar. They delivered me to Townsville safely. Other than that, the flight was unremarkable and calm. Pretty much like taking the bus actually.