We definitely had mixed feelings about the next stage of our trip. The week in Sydney had been very enjoyable and comfortable, and we could easily have stayed much longer. We were excited, though, about our next destination, Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays, in the Far North East of Queensland. This would be a very different experience, but no less enjoyable.
I took one last photograph of the sun rising over the Opera House and today’s cruise liner arrival, and then it was time to check out and head to the airport.
We were slightly nervous about our baggage weight. Lorna’s retail adventures in Pitt Street and George Street, and our collective souvenir purchases, had added several kilos to our luggage. On this leg, we were back to economy, and allowances are much less generous than for other classes. Weighing in the luggage by the self -service check in terminals, Lorna’s case weighed in at 25 kilos -2 kilos overweight.
First stop thereafter then, was to the sales desk, to ask if we could pay excess luggage charges. There was a queue of one ahead of us, and two sales representatives. One was engaged with the party ahead and the other was deeply engrossed in the middle distance in front of her. It was Ethel Jobsworth. Just like Rambo Dad, everyone knows Ethel. She is in every public- facing sales or information position in every travel terminal in the World.
A graduate of the Soviet Union School of Customer Service, and having served for several years at the Income Tax Office Telephone “helpline” division, she has moved on , in the final stage of her career,to seek a more client-facing role, where she can glare at the public, face to face. Ethel’s job is to make the customer feel as small, stupid and troublesome as possible. Ethels are particularly prevalent at airport hire car offices throughout the Mediterranean.
Ethel eventually looked at us and, resignedly, motioned us across. She advised that we would have to pay severe excess charges, she would not authorise or sell any allowance or upgrade and we would have to go to the other end of the terminal to sort it out. It felt as if we were receiving a ticket for a driving offence. It did not matter what kind of frequent flyer we were, or our ticketing arrangements. She was not going to help us under any circumstances.
Fortunately, for every Ethel, there are several dedicated and helpful sales and check- in personnel and I caught the eye of one of them in the check- in line, 10 feet away from Ethel. She looked at us as if she understood our pain and advised that, as we were sapphire ticket holders, we could check in with her and no excess baggage charges were payable.
Faith in customer service restored, we went on through to the Departure Lounge.
It does make me wonder why some people, who obviously hate humankind, should go into a line of work that brings them face to face with the public on a day to day basis.
Ethel aside, Terminal 3 at Sydney airport is pleasant. Modern, light and airy, with plenty of seating. Heathrow Terminal 3 take note.
The flight from Sydney to Hamilton Island takes a little over two hours. Hamilton Island is only 3 degrees of longitude west of Sydney, but, forming part of the State of Queensland, is in a different time zone, one hour behind New South Wales.
Having flown domestically across the continental United States, our expectations of the flight were low. The US does most things (especially customer service) very well, but flying within the States does not seem to be one of them. I suppose it is the US commuter equivalent of taking the 6:o2 Cannon Street to Broadstairs train. One should not expect too much in terms of comfort.
Quite a contrast then for our domestic Australian flight. Very comfortable, a tasty panini breakfast and complimentary refreshments, all provided by friendly and efficient flight attendants.
The scenery on the approach to the Island Airport is dramatic. It’s a bit like when James Bond flies to Scaramanga’s Island Retreat in the man with the golden gun – only a lot less dangerous. Even better than the approach, was the welcome at the airport. Our hotel representatives met us off the plane and ushered us straight into our car to the hotel. We didn’t even have to wait for our bags at baggage reclaim; the hotel collected them for us.
We are staying at the Qualia Resort, at the North of the Island. The Island is not large (it takes about 10 minutes to cross from North to South by car), but it is very hilly, so every guest party gets their own golf buggy to get around the resort and the Island generally. Lorna is whizzing round, as I type, on her way to use the gym.
I was going to go with her, but I need to check out the sofa, mini bar and a wonderful retirement gift of a welcome hamper, provided by a very dear friend back home. Gym? Maybe tomorrow.
The only downside at the moment, is that, as this is a tropical Island, it can rain a lot, and it is raining right now. No pictures of the resort today, but I will add some in due course.
In the meantime, some parting memories of Sydney: