Upon return to Melbourne, Mrs. Tim84 and I were pleasantly surprised to find that our entire family had booked a vacation in the Whitsunday Islands in tropical North Queensland. This trip report will cover QF's domestic offerings, servicing both a purely tourist destination, and one of the busiest domestic air routes in the world.
Part 1 – MEL-HTI [QF 870, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – You are here Part 2 – HTI-SYD [QF 867, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – Coming soon Part 3 – SYD-MEL [QF 493, Airbus A330-200, Economy] – Coming soon
We left our home in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne at around 5.30am and we had reached MEL by 6.30am; QF's domestic check-ins are all automated, and the machines are quite user-friendly, although placing those pesky luggage tags can be annoying when you're all thumbs and no coordination! Mrs. Tim84 eventually helped the entire Tim84 clan fix their luggage tags to their luggage, and we proceeded to clear security into the airside area of the Qantas domestic terminal. Whilst you certainly wouldn't call any of the security staff 'friendly', it was definitely less stressful and pretty quick in comparison to other airports. We then grabbed a quick breakfast / coffee in the food court area, before our plane began boarding about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time (we boarded from Gate 3.
Out of all the terminals at MEL, I like QF's domestic terminal the best, but in comparison to the other major Australian airports (with the possible exception of PER), MEL does feel rather dated - although it serves its purpose well enough of getting passengers through and onto their flights and onwards.
Boarding was completed quickly and efficiently. I estimated the flight to be about 75% full - we had the entire row 19 to our family (which was awesome!), and the back of the plane was a lot less full than the front section. The crew were efficient and polite in welcoming the passengers, but everyone seemed rather subdued - not surprising given the early start!
Our plane today:
The seat (30" pitch, which surprisingly felt fairly spacious - although I'm 5'11 and not the tallest person in the world):
Personal IFE, headphones (which were GREAT!), and seatback contents:
From memory, the in-flight entertainment had around 10 new release movies, with a similar amount of 'favourites' and a adequate selection of TV shows. Although not as exhaustive as QF's longer haul routes, it was more than enough to pass the time, and I had a very pleasant 3 hours switching between playing in-seat Trivia, watching Kung Fu Panda 3 and of course, the Flight Path. The screen size and resolution was more than adequate!
Take-off and cabin shots:
I'm a huge fan of Boeing's new SKY interior, especially on the B737-800. It just feels infinitely more classy than pale fluorescent lighting!
About half an hour after take-off, the crew came around with a small breakfast. We were served a warm muffin and a vegetarian quiche; they were both delicious but tiny! I had a tea and an apple juice to go with my breakfast. I do enjoy Qantas's inflight meals but they could definitely increase the portion sizes - I'm not a huge eater but I miss the old yoghurt / fresh fruit / muesli continental breakfasts that QF used to serve on their domestic routes!
After the crew had finished serving the breakfast in the cabin, there was nothing else to do but watch the countryside go past and look forward to six days of bliss in tropical far north Queensland!
Flight path and cabin shots post-breakfast:
As the plane began descending, we could see the Great Barrier Reef out of both sides of the plane. The Tim84 clan was captivated as we flew over one of the world's most beautiful and majestic coral reefs:
Quite simply, the descent was breathtaking; I could not tear my eyes away from the window as island after island, golden beaches and blue water flashed by right before our eyes!
Landing and disembarkation (HTI has no airbridges, so we disembarked via the rear stairs):
HTI is a quaint little airport that suits its sleepy holiday-town vibe. We were through the little hut that doubled as its terminal in about 30 secs and when inquiring as to where the luggage reclaim area was, we were directed to the following area (which we all had a little giggle about):
Melbourne - MEL
Hamilton Island - HTI
A pretty decent domestic flight. The crew were efficient and polite without really standing out, the meal was delicious (but tiny), the IFE was good considering the duration of the flight (and far better than QF's domestic rivals who don't offer anything at all!), and both MEL and HTI were pleasant enough to fly through. QF's domestic product is solid and as one of their fairly frequent flyers, I was pleasantly surprised by the little touches (eg their new headphones, the refurbished interiors, the surprisingly comfy seats) that they have obviously invested in making their 'hard product' one of the best in the over-saturated Australian market!
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