It was to be a sequin and glitter free weekend when my friend Bert and I decided to get out of Sydney over the Mardi Gras weekend. Yes, we were heading to Dubbo in Regional New South Wales and we flew on one of the Qantas group of companies smallest aircraft a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, operated by subsidiary Sunstate Airlines flying under the QantasLink brand.
It was an early start, arriving at the airport at 7:00 am for the 8:00 am to the Western Plains regional centre of Dubbo. I had travelled through Dubbo some two years earlier on the Countrylink (now NSW Transport) XPT on my way to Nyngan, but this was going to be a much quicker trip than that 6 hour trip with the flight scheduled for arrival at 9:00am. Our high-winged turboprop, a 6 year old Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 – VH QOK, was delivered to Sunstate Airlines/QantasLink in 2008.
The -Q400 is the newer and larger variant of the Dash 8 series of aircraft in the QantasLink fleet. The all Economy Class plane has 19 rows in a 2-2 configuration, seating 74 passengers, compared to 50 passengers in its sister plane the Dash 8 – 300 and a mere 36 in the Dash 8 – 200 variant. Bert and I were seated in row 16, seats A and B, 4 rows from the galley located at the rear of the aircraft.
After a short roll along the runway and climbing over the southern suburbs with a quick bank towards the west, the two friendly and smiley cabin crew started the light breakfast service. With no trolley, each crew member carried a few boxes through the cabin asking passengers if they would like one, then they’d ‘dash’ back to the galley for more. I was surprised at how quickly and efficiently these two managed to have everybody served within around 10 minutes! Inside the box was a decent sized rasberry Greek yoghurt and a coconut friend. I’m not much of a yoghurt fan, but this was quite nice, (the friend I actually tucked it away and had it for morning tea while touring the Dubbo zoo!)
After the breakfast boxes were handed out, the cabin crew came down the aisle with a drinks service, this time on the trolley. I opted for a glass of O.J and a water while my friend Bert enjoyed a coffee.
The view from my window seat was pretty amazing. From the kaleidoscopic busyness of suburban Sydney, over the blue hues of the Blue Mountains and onto the khaki, brown and blue veined expanse of New South Wales Western Plains, the view was enhanced by the lower altitude this nimble prop jet flew at.
Our flight was due to arrive at 9:00 am, however it wasnt until bert and I were in the terminal and wondering why the desk for our hire car hadnt opened that we looked at the time and realised we had arrived around a full 20 minutes earlier than expected. O.K now arriving some 20 minutes early isnt something new, but on a flight scheduled for 1 hour, it was super quick.
There is only one other competitor on this route is REX (or Regional Express) flying the smaller Saab 340 seating a maximum 36 passengers. I cant comment on what their service is like as I am yet to fly them. I enjoyed this short regional flight on a comfortable roomy aircraft for a turboprop, no sequins or glitter but comfortable service and free smiles.
FreakyFlier and Bert paid for their flights on QantasLink