Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Getting with the spirit

A Qantas Boeing 767 at Sydney Airport

Australia's airline Qantas, which uses the slogan 'the Spirit of Australia', has been in the wars a bit lately both industrially and in performance.

I travelled with Qantas to and from Brisbane over Christmas. Both flights were uneventful but actually getting onto the return flight yesterday had a touch of the Keystone Cops about it.

My flight was due to depart at 11.25am Brisbane time with the boarding listed for 11.05am at Gate 25. Typically I arrive at airports well before when I need to and yesterday morning was no exception. I was checked in and waiting in the club lounge by 9.30am. I listened to podcasts on my iPod oblivious to any announcements but kept my eye on the departure screens which continued to show my flight boarding at 11.05am.

At 11.00am, and without any change to the boarding time on the departure screens in the lounge, I decided I would proceed to Gate 25. I could see our aeroplane parked there and apparently being loaded with baggage etc for the flight but I was surprised to see that the departure display at the gate was showing boarding to commence at 11.35am. I found myself a seat near the gate but out of sight of the departure display. At 11.35am I moved back to the gate in anticipation of boarding only to find the display had changed to 12.15pm boarding.

I went for a walk, bought myself a drink and returned to Gate 25 around 11.50am taking a seat, this time in sight of the departure display. Boarding was still listed for 12.15pm. About ten minutes later I noticed the display had gone blank. The lounge was still full of passengers, the aeroplane appeared to have been loaded and I assumed it wouldn't be long before we were called for the flight.

At about 12.20pm came an announcement that there was a change for our flight which now would depart from Gate 17. A couple of hundred passengers moved en masse to the new gate about a ten minutes' walk away. At Gate 17 our flight was displayed to be boarding at 12.35pm. We all took a seat at the new gate. My ears were glued to my iPod again.

Around 12.30pm I noticed that most of my fellow passengers had suddenly formed a queue at the airline service desk. Most had boarding passes in hand but I hadn't heard the announcement so wasn't sure exactly what had happened. I also noticed that not all the passengers had joined the queue so I waited a while keeping an eye on what was going on. I started to get the uneasy feeling that boarding passes were being replaced and that I should be in that queue too but still noticed that not everyone had joined the queue. Moments later my feeling was confirmed when I heard what I imagine was a second announcement that passengers for my flight were required to be issued with new boarding passes.

Joining the queue I saw that the passengers ahead of me, once in receipt of their new passes, were returning to the seats at Gate 17. Meanwhile and with me still to receive a new pass the clock had passed 12.35pm but still no boarding had commenced.

At last it was my turn at the service desk. I received my new pass and then was informed that the plane parked at Gate 17 was of a different type from that we were originally to travel so all business class passengers had been transferred to another flight altogether. I would have to make my way to Gate 24 for 1.05pm boarding. My bag would be transferred to that flight, the service attendant assured me confidently.

Another ten minutes' walk back through the terminal and I was at Gate 24 where there seemed to be few passengers waiting for the flight. I was a little concerned but soon after 1.05pm the flight was called and I finally departed Brisbane two hours and ten minutes later than originally scheduled.

We landed at Sydney at 4.00pm Sydney time; an on time arrival for that flight but two hours later than I had been booked. My bag was on the flight. I don't know the reason why we didn't travel by the original flight but I assume that 'technical fault' figures in the mix somewhere.


  1. Looks like you kept your cool despite the delays. Having been in similar situations, I always find it unhelpful when passengers start to get loud and obnoxious.

  2. A Rad, I was as serene as Princess Grace.

  3. Yes Mark, I knew it could have been worse. Did you end up on flight 533 too?

  4. And they wonder why people want a high speed train. Airline compensation for delays seems to usually be a flight voucher. Err, no. I don't want to fly with you again.