After arriving in Brisbane from Los Angeles, transferring to a domestic flight means proceeding through immigration, picking up baggage and walking it through customs, and then rechecking bags. It also means taking a bus to transfer to the domestic terminal and re-clearing security.
I had the chance to visit Virgin Australia’s domestic lounge in Brisbane, and take a short 862 mile flight from Brisbane to Cairns in business class. All in all, for what it is, I was impressed.
- Introduction: Virgin Australia and Delta Business Class, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney
- Concourse Hotel LAX, a Hyatt affiliate
- Virgin Australia Check-in and Star Alliance Business Class Lounge
- Virgin Australia Business Class, Los Angeles – Brisbane
The arrivals process in Australia for transferring from international to domestic is in some ways similar to that of the States. You have to collect your luggage and clear customs and then drop it back off.
Unlike in the States though — instead of a baggage belt where you just leave your bags immediately past the customs hall — you have to walk through the arrivals level to the airlines transfer desks where you stand in line to leave your bags. Even though the luggage was already tagged I couldn’t just leave it and go.
That didn’t take exceptionally long, though it did take about 10 minutes, and I proceeded outside the terminal to catch the bus that would drive for another nearly ten minutes before arriving at the domestic terminal.
Once inside it took only a few brief moments to clear security.
We walked through the terminal towards the Virgin lounge, there wasn’t much of note along the way besides gates but I did rather like this pun of a restaurant in the food court.
The lounge itself had glass doors that opened to a desk of two agents, but you didn’t need to check in with the agents. Instead, there was a kiosk where you could just scan your boarding pass to determine access. It didn’t appear as though the agents were watching especially closely though so I imagine someone could walk up to the machine and then just past it into the lounge.
The lounge was packed, there was little seating available, but I watched for a couple of minutes waiting for some to free up.
That said, it was very well provisioned with an extensive buffet. And there were showers as well. So it was certainly better than what you find at most domestic US lounges.
I have to say that the staff member making flat whites does a fantastic job.
About half an hour prior to departure we left the lounge for our nearby gate.
Minutes later it was time to board and we headed for the plane. We quickly found a business class cabin that was remarkably similar to US domestic first class.
Coach is coach, but colorful because it’s Virgin.
Virgin Australia doesn’t have inflight entertainment systems, but they do have an app (Lufthansa’s) and streaming content. The planes aren’t wifi equipped, so you need to download the app prior to the doors closing at least (I had done this prior to arrival in Australia) and then you can stream music, movies, television, and the flight map. The system worked quite well. It even pauses when the flight attendant is making announcements.
I was a bit out of sorts at this point so I closed my eyes for a few moments as the plane continued to fill up. I must have dozed off because shortly after we were on the runway preparing for takeoff.
Once in the skies the flight attendants were friendly and efficient, offering drink refills and a meal service that was quite tasty.
Our two hours in the air concluded quickly and we were on the ground in Cairns, positioned for the drive to Port Douglas and our stay by the Great Barrier Reef.