Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Flying Domestically

North American travelers are advised to arrive at the airport two hours prior to departure for domestic flights, and three hours for international.  Australia is a bit different, at least for domestic flights.  Every Australian citizen aspires to arrive at the airport no more than a half-hour prior to their flight.  The goal is to check-in at the last possible second, before they cut you off and give your seat away to some salivating stand-by traveler.  I’m not quite sure where this phenomenon stems from.  It could be that Australians simply hate waiting in airports, or it may be from the intense thrill of living on the edge.  Whatever it is, it drives North Americans crazy.

I hate living on the edge.  The edge scares me.

Flying domestically is a very laid-back process in Australia.  First of all, they hardly check ID.  I was checked when we dropped our bags off, but Karen wasn’t, and Cade only had a carry-on.  I was sure they’d check ID’s at security or at the gate, but I was wrong.  I could have booked tickets for Karen and Cade and brought Muhammed and Jihad Jane along instead, and nobody would’ve asked to see any ID whatsoever.  Scary.  I guess Islamic terrorists wouldn’t really gain anything from targeting Australia, seeing as Australia doesn’t really have any major enemies, so that’s comforting.  Who’d really want to fly a plane into a koala anyway?

Security was quick and painless.  No removing your shoes.  No checking your boarding pass.  Just walk on through.  And anyone can walk on through – as they don’t check your boarding pass, you don’t have to be a ticketed passenger.  The reason:  there are stores beyond the checkpoint and they want business.  I’d usually go to the mall if there was something I needed, but I guess the airport works too.  One good thing:  you can walk your friend/spouse/child/mistress/etc. to the gate or meet them at the gate – just like in the 1980’s or in the movies.  All those movies must be set in Australia.

And there aren’t any restrictions on liquids which Karen was shocked to find out after 2+ years of checking her bags on domestic flights in Australia.  You can bring shampoo and liquid soap and VitaminWater and all sorts of goodies and they don’t have to be less than 3.4 ounces and fit into one tiny zip-lock bag.  So, go on, bring those gallon jugs of whatever on board.  They want you too.

Then, when you board, the jetway forks and you have to quickly determine where to go.  One way leads to rows 1 – 13 and you enter the plane as normal.  The second way takes you outside and you go down stairs and you walk across the tarmac to the back of the plane and climb up stairs and enter the plane from the rear.

Haha!  I said “from the rear”!  Haha!

That way, the back half of the plane and the front half of the plane can board at the same time – speeding up the process and making it far more efficient (unless you’re an Asian person sitting in the last row and you just MUST enter the plane from the front because you might get hit with the sun or trip up the stairs or something obnoxious.  Ugh.)  The whole thing is extremely quick and probably even more efficient than Southwest’s boarding process.  Who knew that was possible?  Getting off the plane works the same way, just in reverse.

Haha!  I said “getting off”!  Haha!

Other observations:   Domestic and International terminals are completely separate – usually requiring a train or taxi between them, I imagine because of all of the reasons above.  They don’t give you food on flights, which I’m used to, but they also don’t give you a drink.  No freebies.  Not even one little plastic cup of Coke or ginger ale.  You must bring your own or purchase it on board (credit cards only).  This may be just Virgin Blue, but I imagine the other airlines are similar.  The cockpit door was open for a while (it may have been while on the ground but I’m not totally sure) and I seem to recall that not being allowed anymore in the U.S.  In addition, there’s always at least one attractive gay flight attendant, and just like in the States, they tend to ignore me completely.  At least one thing is the same.

And then, when you land and walk off the plane onto the tarmac and into the heat of whatever hot Australian city you are in, you see the welcome sign.  And it’s not the grandest welcome sign, but it’s welcoming nonetheless.  Nowhere in the States do they welcome you BEFORE you even enter the terminal building.

I like this place.

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