Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mid-Term Holiday in Brisbane Australia in June 2012 ~ Section 1

Welcome to the first section of my recent mid-term holiday report to Brisbane, Australia in June 2012. This blog report will be divided into a total of four sections. This will be the first segment of the report, where the in-bound journey towards Brisbane and the road drive towards the Mint Skyline Apartments Brisbane will be covered.

All the videos on this blog report can also be found on my YouTube channel. However, do note that for safety and security reasons, the posting of comments on any of my uploaded videos on YouTube is strictly prohibited, as is the display of advertisements. Should anyone be caught violating this strict policy, their comments will be removed on YouTube.

Part 1 ~ The Opening

Not long after finishing the first half of my fifth and final year in secondary school, my parents decided to bring us on a week's holiday towards Brisbane, Australia during the mid-year May and June school vacation. I had just completed my GCE 'O' Level Mother Tongue Mid-Year written examination, which was held just a week earlier. At the same time, I was looking forward to seeing what Brisbane, Australia, would really be like now.

On the late morning of Sunday (3 June), all of us woke up relatively late at around 11.15 a.m. after having a well-earned good night's sleep. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, we simply packed the remainder of our baggage in preparation for the trip to Australia. Our itinerary for the in-bound journey towards Brisbane would be to fly with Etihad Airways on flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane, which would be scheduled to depart Singapore Changi Airport at 11.35 p.m., and arrive at Brisbane Airport at 9.15 a.m. the next morning.

This trip to Australia would mark our second time visiting the country, as well as our first flight with Etihad Airways. The first and last time I visited Australia was between September and October 2000, where I was aged five and my younger brother was just a toddler at the time. Etihad Airways would also be our second Arabian airline we have ever flown on after Qatar Airways in June 2011.

We had initially arranged for a cab employed by the Etihad Airways Chauffeur Service. But, late that night, problems started to arise with our baggage loading problems into the car. To solve the problem, my mum and younger brother took the chauffeur service towards Singapore Changi Airport while my dad and I drove there, finally leaving the compound of our home by 9.15 p.m.. The entire journey between home and Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 took no more than just half an hour.

Arriving at the departure curb side of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 by 9.45 p.m., my dad went to park the car while the rest of us loaded all of our baggage onto baggage trolleys and went into the terminal building. Entering the departures and check-in hall by 9.50 p.m., we headed over towards the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge to check in for Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane. The entire check-in process took no more than just 10 minutes.

Etihad Airways is one of the flag carriers of the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. Based in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, and established by royal decree in July 2003, it commenced operations in November 2003. The airline is also the second largest airline in the United Arab Emirates, after Emirates, which has its base in Dubai. Since its founding in 2003, Etihad Airways is now striving to become one of the world's leading airlines, and flies to at least 60 destinations in Africa, Asia, North America, Oceania and the European Union.

One of the airline's most important routes is between Bangkok and Abu Dhabi due to high yielding profits on the route. The airline uses a mixed fleet consisting of both narrow-body and wide-body aircraft from both Airbus and Boeing. Each aircraft features the Coat of Arms of the United Arab Emirates on the tail fins, to signify the airline's pride of being the National Airline of the United Arab Emirates. Etihad Airways is also one of the very few airlines in the world today to offer complimentary chauffeur service to its Diamond First & Pearl Business Class customers.


The departures and check-in hall of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at night

The massive departure flight information signboard in the departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The entrance to the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at night

A poster about Etihad Airways in the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge, signifying the airline's pride of being the National Airline of the United Arab Emirates

After the check-in process for Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane at the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge was completed, we finally received our boarding passes at ten o' clock. The check-in agent then reminded us that Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane would depart at 11.35 p.m. from Gate No. E24 and that boarding would commence at 11.05 p.m., approximately half an hour prior to the scheduled departure time.

We then thanked the check-in agents for their warm and kind services before we left the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge for the airside. Noticing that we had yet to change some money, we proceeded to a nearby money exchange counter located just aft of the airline check-in counters to change some Singapore dollars into Australian dollars. Once we had changed some of our Singapore dollars to Australian dollars at the money exchange counter in the departures and check-in hall, the clock was finally showing 10.10 p.m..

Since we still had 1 hour 25 minutes before our flight to Brisbane, we immediately headed over towards the passport control area to clear immigrations before heading into the airside.To clear the passport control area, we made use of the thumb fingerprint checkpoint, which is reserved exclusively for local Singaporean citizens and permanent residents of Singapore. Upon clearing the passport control area, we were finally in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 by 10.20 p.m..

While my family went to do some pre-flight duty-free shopping, I went to do my usual plane-spotting activities. At the same time, I checked my mobile phone for the status of our flight. According to the flight tracking status, Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane would be delayed by approximately 40 minutes, with the new scheduled departure time for 12.15 a.m., due to heavy air traffic congestion in Abu Dhabi.


The escalators leading to the restaurants in the upper level of the departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The view of the departures and check-in hall of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, as seen from the entrance to the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge

My boarding pass for the in-bound segment between Singapore and Brisbane

The view of the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at night

The departure flight information screen in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 at night

A Lufthansa Airbus A340-313X, registered D-AIFC, being serviced at Gate No. E3 in preparation for her long overnight trans-Indian Ocean journey back home to the Federal Republic of Germany as Lufthansa flight LH 791 bound for Munich

Two SilkAir Airbus A320s parked at Concourse F at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

A duty-free shop, The Cocoa Trees, selling chocolates in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

A miniature fish pond containing koi fish in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The entrance to the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Part 2 ~ The In-Bound Birthday Flight Towards Brisbane

Airline: Etihad Airways
Flight No.: EY 470
From: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN / WSSS), Singapore
To: Brisbane Airport (BNE / YBBN), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Aircraft: Airbus A330-243
Registration No.: A6-EYL
Class: Pearl Business Class
Seat No.: 6H
Date: Sunday, 3 June 2012

After spending approximately half an hour of my plane-spotting activities in the airside, the clock was finally showing 10.50 p.m.. Knowing that boarding for Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane would commence in 15 minutes' time, I gathered all of my belongings and proceeded to Gate No. E24. I then met up with my family once I arrived at the entrance to Gate No. E24.

Without wasting anymore time, we headed towards the security checkpoint, in time for a rapid security check, eventually arriving at the passenger waiting area by eleven o' clock. I was lucky as prior to leaving for Singapore Changi Airport, I had informed my family in advance that Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane would be delayed until around 12.15 a.m..

Tonight, Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane would be operated using an Airbus A330-200, registered A6-EYL and powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60 engines. A6-EYL was delivered to Etihad Airways on 31 January 2007 as the 15th Airbus A330-200 and Airbus A330 for the airline. The overall delivery would make the aircraft approximately 5.5 years old today. This would also be my first flight on an Airbus A330-200.


The passageway leading to Gates No. E20 to E28 in Concourse E at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The departure information screen above the entrance to Gate No. E24 showing the details for Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane

Waiting near the entrance towards Gate No. E24

Our aircraft for tonight, A6-EYL, being serviced at Gate No. E24 in preparation for her continuing journey towards Queensland, Australia as Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane after her delayed arrival from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates due to heavy air traffic air congestions

The passenger waiting room at Gate No. E24 relatively packed with waiting travellers

A6-EYL receiving her last minute preparations for her continuing journey towards Brisbane at Gate No. E24

After spending approximately an hour of anticipated waiting in the passenger waiting room, the first boarding calls for Etihad Airways flight EY 470 bound for Brisbane were finally made at midnight. The Pearl Business Class passengers and the Etihad Guest Club members, as well as the passengers requiring special assistance were called to board the aircraft first. With the first boarding calls being made, we grabbed all of our belongings with us and rolled up for the boarding process.

As we walked along the jet bridge towards Door A, we were finally on board A6-EYL at 12.15 a.m., at the precise scheduled departure time. Because of the delayed boarding time and on-ground technical problems, the flight was delayed once more. At Door A, two flight stewardesses warmly welcomed us on board and showed us the direction towards our seats in the Pearl Business Class cabin. The Pearl Business Class seats we would be using for the long overnight flight towards Brisbane were the second generation of the long-haul version of the Pearl Business Class seats, which are arranged in a staggered configuration.

My first impression of the Pearl Business Class cabin was a very positive one, as we truly felt that we were flying in aircraft first class cabin. This felt special to me, since I felt I was sitting in First Class on board an airplane. As a complementary touch, bottled water was provided for every seat. Once we had stowed away all our belongings, we settled down into our seats to begin the long overnight birthday journey towards Brisbane. The flight attendants did their usual pre-flight routines of distributing the food and beverage menus, newspapers and pre-departure beverages to the Pearl Business Class passengers. I selected my usual glass of orange juice to start off with.


The Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin during the boarding process at Singapore Changi Airport

The 'no smoking' and 'fasten seat belt' signs illuminated during the boarding process at Singapore Changi Airport

An All Nippon Airways Boeing 767-381/ER being serviced at Gate No. E26 in preparation for her long overnight journey back home to Japan as All Nippon Airways flight NH 902 bound for Tokyo (Narita)

The seat indication number above the reading light

A view of my seat, 6H, during the boarding process at Singapore Changi Airport

The view of the Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin from my seat during the process at Singapore Changi Airport

The safety information brochure for Etihad Airways' fleet of Airbus A330-200s

My usual pre-departure glass of orange juice on my side rest

The Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin shortly before we pushed back from Gate No. E24

At 12.30 a.m., all the aircraft doors were closed, and we finally pushed back from Gate No. E24, 15 minutes ahead of schedule. As the safety briefing information video was being shown on all our video screens, we began to make our taxi towards our assigned runway for take-off, taxiing past several aircraft parked at or near Terminals 1 and 2 along the way for approximately 20 minutes.

After a relatively short 20-minutes taxi towards our assigned runway, the aircraft's two Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60 engines spooled into action, and we finally lifted off from Singapore Changi Airport at 12.50 a.m.. We then climbed into the pitch black night sky for a long overnight flight time of seven hours over the Indonesian seas towards the state capital city of Queensland in the Commonwealth of Australia.


Etihad Airways Flight 470 ~ Safety Demonstration and Pushback From Gate No. E24

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER, registered 9V-SVM, parked at Gate No. E11 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The cover page for the food and beverage menu for the segment between Singapore and Brisbane

A closeup of 9V-SVM resting at Gate No. E11 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Reviewing the 'Kitchen Anytime' section of the food and beverage menu for the segment between Singapore and Brisbane

Reviewing the 'À La Carte' section of the food and beverage menu for the segment between Singapore and Brisbane

Reviewing the wine list for the segment between Singapore and Brisbane

Reviewing the normal beverage menu for the segment between Singapore and Brisbane

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER, registered 9V-SRJ, parked at Gate No. E12 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

Approaching our assigned runway late at night

Etihad Airways Flight 470 ~ Take-off From Singapore Changi Airport

The view of the Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin from my seat shortly after taking off from Singapore Changi Airport

The seatbelt sign was switched off at 12.55 a.m., which was just five minutes shortly after taking off from Singapore Changi Airport. As the flight attendants sprung into action to commence, I paid a customary visit to the lavatory prior to settling down further into the long overnight journey towards Brisbane.

A few momemnts later after returning to my seat, a flight attendant came over towards my seat to take down my meal order for the in-flight late night supper service. I opted to have the chicken in oyster sauce served with flat rice noodles and seamed bok choy from the 'Kitchen Anytime' section of the menu, along with a glass of order.

My mum also vouched in by ordering a glass of Bailey's Irish Cream for me. With that, the flight attendant took down my main meal order and disappeared into the galley to fetch all of the appetizers on the meal trays. Soon enough, she re-appeared at my seat again with my appetizers and drinks, which I find the fried potato croquette balls to be a nice late night light snack.


The view of the Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin from my seat shortly after the seatbelt sign was turned off

A view of my seat, 6H, during our cruising altitude some over Sumatra, Indonesia

A posted placard in the lavatory that reminds passengers that smoking on board is forbidden by law

The Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin shortly before the in-flight late night supper service commenced

A small platter of potato croquette balls on a stick. Apologies since I had just eaten one stick before I shot this picture!

A glass of water and Bailey's Irish Cream on my rest desk

After spending approximately 15 minutes of anticipated waiting, the flight attendant finally re-appeared at my seat at 1.10 a.m.. This time, she had my chicken in oyster sauce served with flat rice noodles and steamed bok choy. Feeling rather hungry already, I immediately tucked into my main meal. My first impression of the meal was that the chicken was very soft and tender after having a bite, and it really went well with the flat noodles and bok choy.

Upon finishing my main meal, the flight attendant came back to my seat to collect my meal tray, and asked whether there was anything else which I wanted. To end off this fine late night supper service, I simply requested for a nice, hot cup of milk tea, along with a chocolate cookie. These were delivered to my table just a few moments later. The cookie and tea were also good late night snacks, just like the potato croquette balls, which I had earlier.

Once my tray was cleared away, I paid another visit to the lavatory prior to preparing my blanket and pillow to convert my seat into a bed. By this time, the plane was already starting to experience some turbulence. To my impression, the seat could recline to a full 180º to allow a completely lie-flat rest. With that, I was simply left to my own personal devices before deciding to get some sleep at 2.20 a.m..


My main course: Chicken in oyster sauce served with flat rice noodles and steamed bok choy

A cup of milk tea and a double chocolate cookie for myself on my magazine table

About to enjoy my midnight tea and cookie

The mood lighting playing in the Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin

Flying over the night sky somewhere over the Balinese Islands of Indonesia

My dad enjoying his lie-flat rest in the dimmed Pearl Business Class cabin

More mood lighting playing in the relatively dimmed Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin

The view of the Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin from my seat during turbulence

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude over the Balinese Islands of Indonesia

A view of my seat, 6H, in its completely lie-flat position

The Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin dimmed to allow the passengers to get some sleep

Part 3 ~ The Arrival Into Brisbane

After getting approximately 4 hours 20 minutes of completely lie-flat shut-eye, I woke up at around 9.05 a.m., in accordance with the Australian Local Timing, only to find that the in-flight breakfast service was still ongoing, and it was close to being completed. Feeling rather famished already, a flight attendant immediately came up towards my seat to take down my main meal order for breakfast.

Having a very good review through the food and beverage menu, I opted to have the farmhouse omelette with grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms and rösti potatoes from the 'À La Carte' section of the menu. Within five minutes, my breakfast tray was brought to my dining table by 9.10 a.m., followed by my main breakfast course by 9.20 a.m.. As a complement, the flight stewardess was kind enough to wish me a "Happy 17th Birthday".

Without wasting anymore time, I immediately tucked into what would become a very sumptuous on-board birthday breakfast. The farmhouse omelette tasted very hot and mouthwatering, with its tenderness melting in my mouth. This has to be one of the best in-flight breakfasts I have ever eaten. Once I was done, the flight attendant came by to collect my breakfast tray, thereby finishing the in-flight breakfast service.


The view of the Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin from my seat shortly after I woke up

A nice, warm cup of Earl Grey Tea and a croissant (which I usually don't eat) to start off breakfast with

My main breakfast course: Farmhouse omelette with grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms and rösti potatoes

Cruising over the state of Queensland over Australian airspace in the bright morning sky

The Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin shortly before the seatbelt sign was illuminated for landing

The view of the Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin from my seat shortly after the seatbelt sign was illuminated in preparation for arrival into Brisbane

In accordance with the Australian (Queensland) Standard Timing, the seatbelt sign was switched on again at 9.40 a.m., approximately 10 minutes in preparation for descent into Brisbane Airport. As we knew that we were about to arrive in Brisbane very soon, we immediately stowed all of our belongings away and buckled up in preparation for the landing.

After a relatively long flight time of seven hours over the Javanese and Balinese Islands of Indonesia from the Republic of Singapore, we finally touched down in Brisbane Airport at 9.50 a.m., approximately 35 minutes behind schedule. It was then that I knew that it would be the second time I would set foot into an Australian airport, as well as on local Australian soil.


Cruising over the city of Brisbane as the aircraft begins to make its final approach into Brisbane Airport

The view of the Australian seas as we begin to make our final approach into Brisbane Airport

Etihad Airways Flight 470 ~ Landing in Brisbane Airport

Taxiing towards Gate No. 79 at the International Flight Terminal at Brisbane Airport

A China Southern Airlines Airbus A330-343X, registered B-6500, about to be pushed back from Gate No. 78 for her long afternoon journey back home towards the People's Republic of China (Mainland China) as China Southern Airlines flight CZ 382 bound for Guangzhou

A view of my seat, 6H, after the long overnight 7-hour journey from the Republic of Singapore

The view of the Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 Pearl Business Class cabin during disembarkation at Brisbane Airport

After taxiing along the main airport tarmac for approximately just five minutes, we finally docked onto our arrival gate, Gate No. 79, at the International Flight Terminal, at 9.55 a.m.. Once the seatbelt signs were switched off, we immediately unbuckled and claimed all of our belongings, ensuring that none of them had been left behind on our seats and along the window sides.

As we disembarked from the aircraft, the flight attendants thanked us for our patronage with Etihad Airways, and wished us a very pleasant one-week stay in Australia. As a post-flight requirement, all airlines that I fly with will receive their grades for each individual segment, classified under the seat, food service, aircraft cleanliness and legroom space. Each of these five segments are worth 20 points, totalling up to 100 points.

To obtain a passing grade, a minimum grade of 'D' or better, which means obtaining a total aggregate score of 40 out of 100 points or above is a mandatory pre-requisite. As of 1 June 2012, the aggregate scoring systems are as follows:

A+: 85% or above (Airline has an excellent rating and performance)
A: 75% ~ 84% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
B: 60% ~ 74% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
C: 50% ~ 59% (Airline has an adequate rating and performance)
D: 40% ~ 49% (Airline has a fair rating and performance)
E: 20% ~ 39% (Airline has a poor rating and performance)
U: Below 20% (Airline has not met the requirement for the minimum grade)

Etihad Airways Flight 470 Score Report

Seat: 20 / 20
Food: 17 / 20
Service: 18 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 20 / 20
Legroom space: 20 / 20
Total: 95 / 100

In the final analysis, Etihad Airways has obtained a total aggregate score of 95% between Singapore and Brisbane, meaning that they have successfully obtained the highest 'A+' grade. Etihad Airways has successfully fulfilled my birthday expectations, and they are definitely much better than Qatar Airways.

Part 4 ~ The Road Journey To The Mint Skyline Apartments Brisbane

After disembarking from Etihad Airways flight EY 470 from Abu Dhabi via Singapore, we walked along the passageway towards the immigrations area and the baggage claiming hall. The immigrations area that morning was relatively long with lots of arriving travellers waiting to clear the immigrations process. A signboard also stated for airport security and safety reasons, photography was forbidden in that particular area.

Once we had cleared the busy immigrations area, we immediately claimed a few baggage trolleys proceeded towards one of the baggage claiming belts to claim our bulky check-in baggage. Upon entering the international arrivals and meeting area of Brisbane Airport, we immediately proceeded over towards the nearest rent-a-car counter to rent a car for the upcoming one-week vacation in Brisbane, Australia.

Upon receiving our rented car keys, we headed over towards the multi-storey car parking area of the airport, and were presented with our rented car by the lady staff from the rent-a-car counter. Loading all of our belongings into the car, we finally departed the vicinity of Brisbane Airport just before 10.45 a.m.. We then drove along the expressways for about one hour towards our first destination, Queen Street Mall, in downtown Brisbane.


A lineup of cafeterias located in the international arrivals and meeting area at Brisbane Airport

The interior of the international arrivals and meeting hall at Brisbane Airport

Finally approaching the skylines of downtown Brisbane

After a short one-hour road journey from the vicinity of Brisbane Airport, we finally arrived at Queen Street Mall at 11.45 a.m.. Entering the nearest basement car parking area, we parked our car and headed into the open-air streets of Queen Street Mall. Feeling rather hungry already, we walked along the lively shopping arcades and decided to find a nearby cafeteria to have lunch first.

Walking through the lively shopping streets of Queen Street and seeing how lively and busy Queen Street Mall was with dozens of shoppers, we finally stumbled upon an open-air cafeteria named Jimmy's On The Mall. Once we were ushered to an empty table by a cafeteria waitress, we had a good review through the food and beverage menus prior to placing our main orders for the upcoming lunch.


The view of the Parliament Hall near Queen Street Mall in downtown Brisbane

A passageway of shophouses and some small offices near Queen Street Mall in downtown Brisbane

The main open-air shopping arcade in Queen Street Mall in downtown Brisbane

This officially brings the first segment of my mid-term vacation in Brisbane, Australia in June 2012 to a close. Like before, comments and / or questions will always be open for each blog report. The remaining three segments of the report will be published with the best quality images and videos.

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