No time for a stretch in hop across the Tas­man

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence The Lowdown On The High Life - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

Air­line: Qantas Date: May 18 Flight no: QF121 Route: Syd­ney to Queen­stown, NZ De­par­ture time: 8.35am (on time) Seat: 3F Class: Busi­ness Air­craft: Boe­ing 737-800 THE week­end be­fore this trip it took four hours for me to fly di­rect from Syd­ney to Dar­win, and now this trans-Tas­man flight is but a 21/ 2-hour jaunt. No mat­ter how many times I look at the maps and do the maths, trans-con­ti­nen­tal hops in Aus­tralia al­ways seem shock­ingly long.

It’s there­fore in­ter­est­ing that Qantas has an­nounced it’s putting in­ter­na­tion­ally con­fig­ured air­craft on its Syd­ney-Perth ser­vices; it’s a di­rect re­flex, of course, to Vir­gin Aus­tralia’s fancy new busi­ness-class of­fer­ing, and an ac­knowl­edge­ment that there’s a big mar­ket for ex­ec­u­tive pas­sen­gers who want lie-flat beds and comfy ex­tras on the red-eye route.

Queen­stown makes an ideal des­ti­na­tion for quick get­aways and there are al­ways ex­tra flights in the ski sea­son. There is no time to lie down on such a short flight and the three rows of busi­ness­class seats (two abreast; to­tal of 12 pas­sen­gers) sug­gest there’s lim­ited de­mand in that class.

Such a small cabin means the crew have time to chat and, on this flight, merry Cap­tain Andrew pops out from the flight deck and an­nounces he’s ‘ ‘ work­ing the crowd’’ and ‘‘get­ting in ev­ery­one’s way’’. He tells us it’ll be a ‘‘bask­ing 5C in Queen­stown’’ for our ar­rival.

Break­fast is served shortly af­ter take-off with a choice of con­ti­nen­tal or poached eggs with hol­landaise sauce, sausage, sauteed spinach and sweet onion rel­ish or black­berry crepe with spiced fruit com­pote and mas­car­pone. A straw­berry en­er­giser drink and a bowl of Brook­farm toasted muesli stud­ded with ma­cadamia nuts and cran­ber­ries does the trick for me.

In­di­vid­ual DVD play­ers are of­fered, loaded with eight movies and a se­lec­tion of do­cos, come­dies and va­ri­ety shows. But these re­quire a bit of jug­gling on the fold-out trays, so back to my book, which is seg­mented into stand­alone chap­ters and thus per­fect for dip-into read­ing. It’s No­to­ri­ous Aus­tralian Women by Kay Saun­ders and it is ter­rific, full of of­ten sen­sa­tional de­tails about re­mark­able women, in­clud­ing jour­nal­ists Charmian Clift and Lil­lian Roxon, and lesser-known iden­ti­ties such as Ellen Tre­maye and Mar­ion Ed­wards, who lived as men in colo­nial Aus­tralia, even mar­ry­ing and ca­vort­ing with fugi­tives.

It’s close to land­ing time and I am jerked out of the chap­ter on beauty in­dus­try en­tre­pre­neur He­lena Ru­bin­stein and back to re­al­ity by Cap­tain Andrew, who’s on the PAsys­tem with a chuckle in his voice.

‘‘The Re­mark­ables are laid out like a feast for our eyes,’’ he an­nounces as the plane makes an ap­proach through a cor­ri­dor in these con­fi­dently named moun­tains. The close-up views are fan­tas­tic from ei­ther side: early snow on the hard peaks, cold green-grey rivers wind­ing like gym­nast rib­bons through bare val­leys. Sud­denly we seem to pop out of a fun­nel and land at Queen­stown.

Im­mi­gra­tion staff at this lit­tle air­port are as typ­i­cally friendly as else­where in NZ — none of that ‘‘What do you think you’re do­ing here?’’ ap­proach that is of­ten en­coun­tered at, say, Syd­ney in­ter­na­tional air­port. But the biose­cu­rity mea­sures are very thor­ough and un­for­giv­ing; you would not want to ar­rive with feath­ers, bulbs, fungi, tents ‘‘with soil at­tached’’, in­de­cent pub­li­ca­tions keep­ing equip­ment.

Due to the two-hour time dif­fer­ence be­tween Aus­tralia and New Zealand, lunch is al­ready on the agenda. Off to the House Bar at Eichardt’s Pri­vate Ho­tel for what surely is the world’s best seafood chow­der; I am sure Cap­tain Andrew, an avowed ‘ ‘ fan of Queen­stown’’, knows it well.

Tip: This morn­ing flight gets you into Queen­stown at 1.30pm, which is the ideal ar­rival time for ho­tel check-ins ( usu­ally from 2pm).

More: Qantas flies from Syd­ney to Queen­stown four times a week. All-in­clu­sive econ­o­my­class fares start from $400 one way;


bee- About My Last Flight is an oc­ca­sional col­umn by T&I staff and key con­trib­u­tors.

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