Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Australia Day 11--Going home, Part 1, Cairns to Brisbane

Australia series

Australia Day 1--Qantas flight 8 DFW-BNE (Dallas to Brisbane)
Australia Day 2--Flight to Sydney, the Westin Sydney hotel & sightseeing
Australia Days 3/4--Hunter Valley & the Blue Mountains
Australia Day 5--Sydney sightseeing and Manly Beach
Australia Day 6--Paddy's Market, Bondi to Coogee Walk & Darling Harbour
Australia Day 7--Sydney to Cairns, Holiday Inn Cairns & the Cairns Esplanade
Australia Day 8--The Great Barrier Reef
Australia Day 9--Kuranda Koala Gardens, Skyrail & Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Australia Day 10--Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation
Australia Day 11--Going home, Part 1, Cairns to Brisbane
Australia Day 11--Going home, Part 2, Brisbane to Honolulu

Sadly, it was time to leave Australia. My cousin once again had an early flight back home via Sydney, so she took a taxi to the airport around 5 am. 

My return flight to the USA was three legs, Cairns to Brisbane on Qantas, Brisbane to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines and finally, Honolulu to Dallas on American Airlines. The entire journey was scheduled to take around 31 hours, including layovers in Brisbane and Honolulu. Again, I booked round-trip in business class for 125,000 AA miles. Essentially, these were first class flights, as they were all two-cabin planes. 

I would have preferred the direct flight home from Sydney on Qantas, but since I was returning from Cairns, it didn't seem to be an option. Other options from Cairns included layovers in Los Angeles, however the prospect of a nine-hour layover in Hawaii was enticing because it seemed like a "bonus trip." 

I talked to the porter at the Holiday Inn Cairns the evening before leaving about arranging a shuttle to the airport. The shuttle was through Sun Palm Transport, an outside company, and cost $15, which was cheaper than a taxi ride since I'd be traveling solo. He said he booked the 10:10 am shuttle for me, but to come down around 10 am since the shuttle is sometimes early. He said it could also run a few minutes late. 

Well, after checking out at 10 am and waiting until 10:20, there was no shuttle. I went to the porter desk (there was a different guy there in the morning) and asked if he could check the status of my shuttle. He called the company and they seemed to have no record of my booking. The porter found my reservation on his computer and had the shuttle company promptly send out a driver to pick me up. Like the hotel's other staff, he was very apologetic and offered me free drink coupons, which I used to get a Coca-Cola from the bar.

The shuttle came within 10 minutes and gave me a direct ride to the domestic airport, which was nice because it meant I didn't have to wait around while they picked up people from other hotels. 

At the Cairns airport, I checked in and cleared security pretty quickly. I decided to check in my luggage. Normally, I wouldn't, but I they said it would be checked through to Dallas (though I would have to pick it up to go through customs in Honolulu and drop it off again). I did this so I wouldn't have to lug around my suitcase since I planned to leave the airport during my long layover in Hawaii.

Cairns Airport
Then I had some time to visit the Qantas Club lounge, which was located upstairs. I showed my business class boarding pass to the attendant to get free access to the lounge.

Qantas Club lounge at Cairns Airport
I thought the lounge was quite nice. There was a selection of free hot and cold food items.

Free food in the Qantas Club lounge
There was lots of comfortable seating and nice big windows to watch the planes taking off and landing. 

Lots of comfortable seating

Big windows to watch the airplanes

I was on Qantas Airways flight 649 to Brisbane, which was scheduled to leave at 12:55 pm. However, the aircraft was late getting in, so we were late departing. I had selected seat 3F, the window seat in last row in the business cabin. This was a short flight of around 90 minutes or so.

Seat 3F
Looking out the window before departure
I had a pre-departure glass of water, then champagne with a package of pretzels and cashews before meal service.
Snack and drink before meal service
For the meal service, I was offered a choice of tuna salad or toasted ham and cheese with tomato sandwich. There was also a soup option, but the flight attendant said they had run out. I tried the toasted ham and cheese sandwich. That was not something I would normally eat, but it tasted okay. 

Toasted ham and cheese with tomato sandwich
Shortly after meal service, we were on the ground in Brisbane and I headed from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this report with my thoughts on my Hawaiian Airlines flight, long layover in Honolulu and American Airlines flight from Honolulu to Dallas.

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