QF 865 Review OOL to SYD

Flight Number: QF 865

Departing: Gold Coast Airport OOL 15:10 (15:37)

Arriving: Sydney Domestic Airport T3 SYD 17:40 (18:26)

Operated By: Qantas

Class: Economy (Y)

Type: ‘Red E Deal’ Fare

Seat: 4A

Aircraft: Boeing 737-838 VH-XZE

Frequent Flyer Program: Qantas Frequent Flyer

To conclude a short holiday to the Gold Coast, I decided to try fly the Qantas 737 home to Sydney for what would have been about a one hour and ten minute flight if not for the severe weather in Sydney which forced a late departure from OOL and left us in holding pattern after holding pattern until we finally were able to land; even once we had landed, we had to wait on the aircraft a mere “10 metres short” (Captain) from the aero-bridge as there was lightning meaning that no ground staff were allowed on the ground and the aero-bridge couldn’t be remotely operated. None the less, the flight itself was quite nice, as is to be expected from Qantas whilst the Captain and First Officer were excellent with continuous updates about connecting flights and our flight path into Sydney.

For most domestic flights, apart from those departing from certain ports including Hamilton Island for some bizarre reason, Qantas allows you to check-in online or through the Qantas App 24 hours before your flight’s departure. I chose to check-in using the Qantas App on my iPhone which allows you to gain your boarding pass and download it straight to ‘Passbook’ or ‘Wallet’ to be scanned at the gate as a normal boarding pass. If you have checked luggage which I did not, you simply take it to one of the remote Qantas kiosks at the airport, print a label for it there and send it off at the bag drop area.

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Qantas App for IPhone Boarding Pass

Both express entry and normal entry lines leading to security at OOL were pretty much empty when I arrived and within a matter of no more than 2 minutes I had my carry on ready to be scanned, from there it took a minute for it to be scanned and for me to gather my valuables before I was off and into the terminal.

As I was running a little bit late, I didn’t have any time to go to the lounge, it is located on the left hand side directly after security and can be found by the massive ‘red roo’ on the wall next to the entrance. A note to Business Class passengers, Qantas operate only the Qantas Club lounge at Gold Coast Airport which offers a little bit less than a Business Lounge and is a bit busier also. I have flown both Qantas and Virgin Australia from OOL to SYD and I would recommend the Virgin Australia lounge by far over the QC lounge as it offers a better atmosphere, better view and is quieter as it only caters for Business Class, Gold or Platinum Frequent Flyers.

Boarding began early with a dedicated line for Business Class passengers or Frequent Flyers with Gold status or above, this line was very short compared to the line for economy which was quite long, indicating that the plane was pretty much full in Economy as well as Business Class. There are no aero-bridges at all at Gold Coast Airport which means once your boarding pass is scanned, you walk out on to the tarmac and up a set of stairs to the plane, for passengers seated in rows 1 to 16 you enter from the front stairs and for those in rows 16 to 29 (or 30 depending on the 737 layout) you need to enter from the rear. Another note is that if you use the Qantas App and have your boarding pass stored on your phone, you will be issued with a paper stub at the boarding gate as pictured below.

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All passengers had been loaded on to the plane in good time for the scheduled departure and I was eager to get going end enjoy the view from seat 4A, but……

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Qantas Boeing 737-838 VH-XZE at OOL

An announcement from the First Officer came overhead with an introduction and naming of the crew followed by some information concerning the flight path. It seemed that we would have to wait on the ground for 20 minutes after scheduled departure before we were able to take off and head for Sydney due to the weather and available slots at SYD, not a problem, there was plenty of legroom in 4A and the flight attendants were offering water to everyone and apologising for the delay and were trying to gather information about connecting flights for other passengers. A little delay was no problem, we were advised that the flight time would still be 1 hour and 5 minutes into Sydney.

Surely enough, after 20 minutes on the ground, the doors were closed and stairs were retracted, not a moment too soon as I was beginning to melt in the sun from the 32 degree heat and cloudless sky in the Gold Coast. The safety video played with the cabin crew displaying all the safety features. It is worth noting that the television screen is located in the armrest in row 4 meaning that you cannot view the safety video as the screen must be stowed until the seatbelt sign is turned off. After the safety demonstration it was a short taxi to the runway where we were immediately cleared for take-off towards the north.

From the left on the plane you could see the Gold Coast and glistening Surfers Paradise beach with little specks of people basking in the afternoon sunlight. We then made a series of right turns and began heading inland from the coast, an interesting flight path I thought to myself though probably an attempt to slow us down for our slot at Sydney Airport. The flight path looked like this…..

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Screenshot of QF865 flight path from Flightradar 24

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Screenshot of QF865 flight path over Sydney from Flightradar 24

What became apparent soon after we flew over Newcastle was that we would be in for a bumpy ride to Sydney, the First Officer again made an announcement about our flight indicating that we would be beginning our decent into Sydney and that there were thunderstorms in the area with the expectation that there would be some slight turbulence closer to Sydney though it proved to be a bit more dramatic than first thought!

 As can be seen on the close-up image of QF865 over Sydney was that we began our first approach to Sydney in an attempt to land towards the north and it is at the point where the colour of the path changes from dark blue to light blue and green indicating a decrease in altitude where we first encountered some severe turbulence, following this we continued on our path to land and continued our decent as indicated by the yellow part of the path. This attempt to land ultimately proved unfruitful and the decision was made to increase altitude, loop ‘for a little bit’ and then land towards the south with the First Officer again relaying this information to passengers. From this point onwards people became anxious and coupled with the turbulence some people felt uneasy. Beyond the point on the map marked with A38, we began another approach towards the south from the Northern Beaches where the turbulence again became uneasy, most people were comfortable with the slight swaying from side to side though the constant and sudden drops and lightning again made people uneasy though it was to end shortly as our approach and landing were fruitful with the plane gliding into Sydney with a slight thud upon landing though in the conditions it was barely noticeable. A round of applause resonated through the cabin and people were relieved to be out of the storm, though the ordeal wasn’t over yet.

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Delay index at Sydney Airport, Screenshot from Flightradar 24

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As the saying goes… A picture tells a thousand words!!

We had finally landed, though the ordeal wasn’t over yet! It was a slow taxi to the terminal where the Captain announced that we were “10 metres short” of the aero-bridge and that we would have to wait until the lightning had passed before we would be able to move to the bridge and ground-crew were allowed back out on to the tarmac. We were advised that we would be able to take off our seatbelts, move around the cabin or wait for the flight attendants to serve water. From here it was a ‘short’ 30ish minute wait before we were finally allowed to disembark.

Enough about the weather though. I had chosen seat 4A for this flight, a window seat on the left hand side in the first row of Economy right behind Business Class which was separated only by a thin curtain. At booking, row 4 is typically set aside for members of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge with other rows towards the front set aside for other high tier members; in essence, the higher the tier, the closer to the front you can get, though this doesn’t mean that they are unattainable for people with a lower frequent flyer status. My advice is to check the availability for this row during T80 and hopefully you’ll get lucky, don’t be fooled though, lots of people are looking for them too. Here’s why…..

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Seat 4A aboard a Qantas 737

You are in the first row of economy meaning that you’ll disembark right after the Business Class passengers. There is also a copious amount of legroom between your seat and the Business Class seat in front, there is no wall dividing the classes, just a curtain which hangs above the seat; I had my legs stretched as though I was in Business Class too!! Unlike an exit row which probably has less legroom, you don’t have to pay any more for the privilege of stretching your legs out. There is a slight catch though, the tray-table and the television are in the armrest which means your seat is ever so slightly narrower than the others and you cannot watch the in-flight entertainment until the seatbelt sign has been turned off. Another issue which may arise is when the person in row 3 of Business Class reclines their seat, though the person on my flight didn’t, it would reduce your space though probably just as much if not less than a person in economy reclining in front of you due to the large amount of space; the tray-table may also be a bit flimsy to work efficiently with your laptop on also. None the less, I would without a doubt recommend this seat over any of the other economy seats, though to be fair, I’ve never tried any other row on a Qantas 737 but have on a Virgin 737.

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Seat 4A aboard a Qantas 737

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Plenty of legroom in row 4 aboard a Qantas 737

I usually regard Qantas’ cabin crew service as one of the best in the world no matter what class of travel, though on this flight there was something missing, it was enthusiasm. On many Qantas flights I have encountered crews which were happy to have a joke and were enjoying themselves and the company of their passengers though on this flight it seemed that everything the crew was doing was a chore and there were no smiles what so ever. An announcement from one of the crew even said it it was a good thing that we were delayed because it meant everything else was as well, not a good message to tell people who have to go through this whole ordeal again on connecting flights which the crew weren’t able to gather information about. Regardless, the Captain and First Officer made up for the somewhat lacklustre effort from the crew through their regular though not over the top announcements, their announcements were a real relief to some with relevant and precise information given about our flight path, turbulence and wait time given. It was somewhat ironic that the crew were giving smiles when we were disembarking the plane, almost as if they were glad to see us gone!

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Refreshments aboard QF865

For a flight which is usually no longer than 1 and a half hours, the snacks and drinks were adequate as well as the entertainment on-board, though I didn’t watch anything, there was a wide variety of movies and television shows. Row 4 on the 737 is definitely a highly sought after set of seats especially on business routes compared to the leisure route of QF865, though if you can, I would certainly recommend sitting in this row, even in the middle seat just for the legroom. Despite the low effort from the crew, I must however thank the Captain and First Officer greatly for their expertise shown throughout the flight, it was well beyond what I have experienced from any other airline service and they should truly be commended.

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