Flight Report : QF 447 Sydney - Melbourne

I haven't done domestic flights in Australia for a few years. With 30 minute bag drop cutoffs and a short drive to Sydney's airport, the flight experience seems quite pleasant on paper. But as automation invades and human employees get too costly, passengers are increasingly inconvenienced.

Qantas' domestic Terminal 3 was fairly quiet this afternoon. Gone are the long rows of check-in desks and now many small computer terminals dot the check-in area. After passengers check in, they need to drag their bags to the bag drop counters, which have also been automated. There were very few helpers scattered around.

No staff to help. You are on your own.

The check-in kiosk could not recognize my identification and kept on kicking back with an error. I went to the service desk for help and they directed me to a corner of the terminal where 1 human counter was available for Economy Class. By then, I had dragged my bag around the terminal several times, annoyed. Welcome to the new world.

This reminded me of the silly Air Canada check-in procedure requiring to line up twice. This was a little better because there were so few people.

The security line also stretched far out this afternoon and forced a 2nd line to open eventually. There wasn't much in the terminal afterwards with the standard shops, food court, and windows for spotting Qantas planes. There wasn't much variety other than a few turboprops and a couple of Jetstar planes in the distance.

There weren't many departures at this time of the day so most of the gates were fairly empty. Lots of seating space in serenity.

A sign pointing to the heritage museum got my interest at the far corner of the gates. I headed upstairs, where there was a deserted gallery featuring many historic artifacts from Qantas' earlier days. This was an interesting querky exhibition with a bonus viewing gallery of the tarmac area all the way to the international terminal and Botany Bay.

The tarmac views are quite decent from up here.

Boarding commenced timely and I was asked to take the stairs instead of the boarding bridge. Perhaps it was because I was seated at the back. This hybrid arrangement resembled Ryanair but I suppose it made things more efficient. Front passengers would use the covered bridge, while back passengers would head downstairs to the tarmac, walk in the outdoors, and board the back stairs to access their seats.

We departed at 15:57 for our 16:00 departure.

I sat on the good side of the plane as we ascended with full view of the skyline and eastern suburbs.

Each seat had its own PTV and USB plug. The seats also seeemed new. Shortly after take-off, the crew came by with a light snack and complimentary drink. Not bad for such a short domestic flight!

The IFE selection was decent for a short flight.

Qantas' footprint shrank as a result of its partnership with Emirates. Their Europe network was decimated, and they re-focused on Asia instead.

A short hour later, we started to descend into typically gloomy Melbourne. The weather there was drastically different and colder than Sydney this afternoon.

While I got great views on take-off, the skyline was on the other side of the plane on landing.

Welcome to Melbourne. Arrivals shared the same space as departures, with an exit staircase to the baggage claim. My suitcase came out fairly quickly.

While service on-board exceeded my expectations, the terminal experience was substandard. The introduction of technology has eliminated the service culture. For light travellers heading on a day trip to another Australian city, it would seem OK since they don't need to drop their bags and just need a boarding pass, but for the rest of us, this is a big step backwards.

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