Travel Editor Susie Boswell discovers a smarter alternative to getting away on your next overseas trip.
A new year, and time to take a new look at old travel patterns from a fresh, updated, perspective. Travellers throughout the state have traditionally looked to Sydney, as our capital, as the natural departure point when considering overseas trips. Yet this inclination is misguided for the massive, and growing, population of North Coast NSW … for whom Brisbane Airport is now the logical, and logistically ideal, international gateway.
Consider: 27 international carriers fly to 31 international destinations from Brisbane International Airport (BNE Intl). On average, there are 160 services a week to Asia and Middle East destinations including all the popular ports: Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Beijing, Denpasar, Dubai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, KL, Manila, Seoul, Shangai, Shenzhen, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo. To the Pacfic and North America there are 78 direct flights weekly – to Honolulu, mainland USA (LAX) and Canada (YVR), as well as to all our favourite Pacific holiday islands, such as Fiji. And then there are nearly 100 – non-stop – flights to choose from each week direct to New Zealand’s five main entry points … including way down south into Dunedin.
And see here the image of the international terminal: not only a breezy relaxed tropical ambience by contrast with Sydney International’s closeted atmosphere, but far less crowded without passengers criss-crossing the departure halls like agitated ants! Its $45m facelift two years ago added innovative touches such as the provision of sun lounges where waiting passengers can enjoy the rewards of checking in early – and then lie back and indulge in some plane-spotting, with sweeping views across the apron and runways. Timely arrivers will also enjoy shopping at a variety of new terminal stores with all the sought-after designer brands but fewer other shoppers competing for attention than in Sydney, or Melbourne. For premium patrons, several new airline lounges have opened since the redevelopment. And for passengers from, say, Port Macquarie – the biggest centre of population between Newcastle and the Queensland border – booking through Virgin and commuting on Alliance Air’s daily services to BNE, a number of new hotels have opened for pre/post-flight stopovers: the five-star Pullman (with year-round outdoor pool) and budget 3.5-star Ibis Hotel, both with shuttle services to the terminals.
If you choose to self-drive to BNE (but why?!) long-term parking options include the premium Park Valet to AIRPARK, an open-air carpark with free bus transfer to the terminal. Regardless of your choice, the wise advice is to book online for best deals or specials: drive-up prices are much more costly.
Like elsewhere, the new technology of self check-in is said to have streamlined this tiresome process, although I find lengthy bag-drop queues at any airport barely better than the previous system. Whatever, BNE leads its rivals in industry awards. It was voted by air travellers Best Airport and Best Airport – Staff Service in the Australia-Pacific region in last year’s Skytrax World Airport Awards and Best Airport Oceania region in the 2017 Future Travel Experience Asia Awards. It’s also been acknowledged in previous years, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and, tellingly, is the only Australian airport to achieve the highest rating for quality of service for 13 consecutive years in the ACCC’s Airport Monitoring Report.
BNE Intl’s upgraded terminal even boasts “the best bathrooms in Australia”! And while this might prompt wry amusement, let’s think about what passengers, particularly female pax, most desire pre/post-flight (especially if coming from a sojourn in parts of Asia): it’s a definite relief to encounter clean modern toilets.
A new passenger pick-up area to the terminal’s north has alleviated traffic at the main entrance and a further extension there will open soon as the terminal gears up for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games eight weeks from now, from Wednesday April 4. The airport’s the main gateway for the majority of overseas travellers arriving for the games, handling some 10,000 of the event’s 14,000 visiting athletes and staff. Yet, while it will be extra busy for this condensed 11-day window, the corporation expects no operational impacts thanks to pre-planning and big numbers of staff and volunteers onsite on peak days.
BNE Intl even boasts an airside “puppy powder room” so pax with assistance dogs need no longer exit and re-enter through security when their animal needs heed the call of nature. The “bathrooms”, designed with help from Guide Dogs Queensland, are wheelchair accessible and have separate ventilation systems, with an artificial turf area, turf wash-down facility, a dispenser and bin for disposal of doggy-do bags, a water bowl and a sink for owners to wash their hands. The entry door is electrically operated and the room fitted with hearing augmentation loops and visual emergency evacuation alarms. Once used, an external light alerts cleaners that the facility requires servicing and disinfecting!
Travel Editor, Susie Boswell