So Brisbane airport…… Hmmmm.
The last time I wrote about Brisbane airport was from the comfortable confines of the Gold Star Lounge. The airport itself is much less than impressive.
I’m on route (via the Cape) to London. I started in Cairns, am now in Brisbane, next is Melbourne, then a stop-over in Hong Kong, which I was (blissfully) unaware of until I checked in this morning, before I can finally board the plane that will touch down at my final destination, London Heathrow. And right now the only thing standing between me and the pleasurable symphony of silent movement and hushed conversations behind those glass panels is quite a substantial number of frequent flyer status credits, a tense woman at the counter who is not interested in what may or may not be possible, and the very obvious LACK of my ultimate travel accoutrement… my perfectly poised Platinum partner!!!
So in the absence of any “specialness” on my part I had to find another option. Glancing around the half construction, dark and dingy Qantas corner of Brisbane airport nearly brought me to tears, my next flight doesn’t even board for another 3.5hours!!
I did get a hot tip from a lovely customer service representative who informed me that there was a courtesy shuttle that operated every 20minutes from the lower level and went to the local DFO shopping mall. Is that Brisbane’s idea of duty free shopping at the airport?!? A free shuttle bus?!?! Heaven help me.
I decided to take a walk, I may as well explore and who knows, I might find a diamond in this rough and be glad for more time to enjoy it! The next 24hours will be spent mostly sitting so a leg stretch seems like a good idea anyway. So here’s my Brisbane airport food rundown for those who find themselves stranded and staring down the microwave abyss!
The first eatery I come across is virtually next to the entrance to the Qantas Gold and Business Lounges. Provided you like the take-out variety, you can entertain your taste buds with Hungry Jacks, Wok-on-In (serving stir-fries, curries etc $15-18), Subway ($8-11.25), a Velocity Cafe, serving wraps, sandwiches ($9.90), muffins ($5.35), tarts and cakes ($8.95-9.95), and NRG cafe and juice bar serving sandwich’s, fruit salad (~$6.95), wraps ($9-10.50), fresh juices ($7-8), bottled water ($4-5).
What gets me in all airports is just how much they jack up the price of food and drink. I’m pretty sure a basic 6inch Subway costs under $5 usually, but here you’re looking at $7-$8 ish….
So venturing onwards, as you walk south from the Qantas gates the next food vendor is a mix-and-match candy store (thanks but no thanks), and next door is an open cafe/ restaurant, aptly named Atmosphere. (Ironically it is the lack-thereof that is more apparent!) Breakfast is served until 11am and a lunch/ open foccacia/ wrap/ sandwich style cabinet is available also. Open chicken schnitzel mexican sandwiches, ham and avocado, roast beef ($11.50), honey soy chicken wraps ($8.50), ham, salad, avo ($8.90)…. They do have a coffee machine, but after Googling “best coffee in Brisbane airport” to get an idea of where to head, and finding that 2 out of 6 reviews slammed their coffee as awful, I don’t think I’ll be stopping to check it out. They do have couches that run along the back wall, booth style, and a bar and sports TV tucked around the corner; so it could be a (more) relaxing spot to hide away from the incessant foot traffic and wait out your transit in (some) peace.
A little further on and I reach the perennial Krispy Kreme doughnut stand! HA! Priced between $2.30-$3.20 I am almost tempted… almost!
Velleso (??) (espresso bar) serves up coffee, foccacias, toasties and sandwich’s, but the anaemic lack of colour (I’m hard pressed to see a vegetable even trying to poke it’s way out), and the feint tell-tale signs of stale bread are enough to keep me walking!
Eagle Boys Pizza. Another fantastic example of full to the brim glass cabinets and not a lot of stock movement! From pizza has spawned toasties, ($7.50) and foccacias ($9.20), but again these fall into the all bread, no filling category! I’m sure the pizzas sell ($6.95) given the aroma slowly permeating the airspace as I pass, the token diner sitting in front, eyes big as dinner plates, smile as wide, teeth revealed and salivating as golden glisten of melted mozzarella stretches out in front of him, threatening at any moment to collapse, or slingshot back at him staining the chin or the shirt, or, even worse, sliding off and taking the coveted toppings along with it!!
The further around I walk the less Qantas my surroundings become and Richard Branson’s approach to freshness comes alive. The dark fabric seating rows are replaced with brushed metal and vinyl cushions, the floor brightens the space with its friendly stone tiling, and you can’t go past the red accents for a bit of life and colour in an otherwise dreary interior; something right away feels ‘lighter’ about this space.
The food choices are perhaps the only thing that defies this lightness. The Virgin eatery area is thick with the scent of Red Rooster and coffee. On approach, Aromas Coffee with its glass case of sandwich’s, salads ($3.50SM/$9.90LG), foccacias, tuscan rolls ($9.90) and the like would probably be my pick of the cabinet fare. They have miniature danish ($2.50), muffins ($3.00) and pastries to satisfy those sweet tooth moments without the need to over indulge. They also have hot meals available, such as lasange ($14.90), filo’s, etc. Coffee is reasonably priced, and of all the places that Google was actually able to give me a review of, this one was given at least one thumbs up! The thing I notice immediately here is that I can visually recognise salad items, I can see tomato and lettuce and contents within this food that isn’t just bread!!! Shame I’m not hungry or I could give you the impression vs expression side of things too!!
This area is popular with the ‘grab-and-go’ type places. Eat and Runway, BLD, and an Aromas Express round out the options available here. The former has a definite imbalance between food stuffs with any nutritional value and sugar loaded, carbonated, and alcohol containing beverages, chips and chocolates, the later has hot options such as canneloni, chicken parmigana, fish and chips ($13.90), steak sandwich ($10.90), BLT ($10.50), and breakfast is served before 11am at $14.90 for the works, meat or vege version.
Looking at all of this so called ‘choice’ almost makes me laugh when I consider how many places are really just serving exactly the same thing, and at similar prices. There’s a lot of healthier options compared to the McDonalds, KFC, Hungry Jacks, fast-food laden food halls of the past; there is a variety of sandwiches, wraps and salads available at many turns, and whilst this is definitely a step in the right direction I can’t help but wonder about the quality and the freshness of all this food!?! There is WAY to much food here at 5pm on a Saturday for it to all be fresh, or to survive being thrown away, which leads me to wonder how many days it may have been sitting out already?!?! Hmmmm.
I understand that airports are a thoroughfare for travellers, and often times people spend (or try to spend) as little time as possible trapped within these limbo zones. That said, I really do think that a little more investment of thought into the comfort provided to passengers who end up on the short end of the stick (i.e. stuck for 3+hours!) wouldn’t go astray! The single-person-slim-body-hard-as-nails-hip-hugging-handrail seats throughout the airport are clinical, unwelcoming, and only function to somehow add to my displeasure of this predicament at this point.
Brisbane airport is very linear, the whole terminal seems to run in a straight line, one side seems to be under construction, and the whole effect is quite ‘unfriendly’. The Virgin end of the terminal has some nice big table areas, large flat desks surrounded by low cushion style seating resembling a very casual boardroom feel that would allow for spreading out with food and friends, or work on the run.
The result of all this ‘straight line’ walking has me wondering if there’s anywhere in this place I actually want to sit down for a moment. So it’s just as I start thinking that there’s no chance of finding a user friendly, comfortable and light space to recline, digest, and wait this out that I decide to take a turn down the hall towards ‘Gates 26-36’, and chance upon a comparative ‘utopia’!
It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it…. but this hallway opened up into a little slice of bright airiness and freedom. There is one cafe in the centre of this round of gates, and it sells a nice range of foods that I would happily explore (again, if I was hungry!) The white tiles are surrounded by grey carpet, lots of seating, more of those boardrooms style tables (complete with travellers who have craftily pushed the stools together to create ‘daybeds’, and a couple of coffee tables complete with single armchairs! A real chair!! Noticeable also here are power points on the support poles, so in essence you could grab a bite, sit down, and charge up in more ways than one!! It doesn’t feel like the airport back here! YAY!!!
So I plonk myself down in the chair, pull out my laptop, feet up on the coffee table and allow myself to sink in and settle down for a long afternoons waiting. Thankfully it’s also quiet, however as time ticks on my only complaint is the volume at which the over-eager stewards are regularly calling their passengers forward, by flight, by name, and by threats of departure to their respective gates. As planes unload people move through, and as the sun starts to set behind the adjacent terminals the blinding eye-level sun almost has me grabbing for my sunglasses. Much to my delight an arriving aircraft perfectly aligns its tail wing with the arcing sun angle saving me the trouble.
Although much more comfortable than your average airport chair, after my extended seating period the foam cushions become less forgiving and my bum is sufficiently numb. (And I haven’t even began the long-haul part of my flying yet!!!!) So with 45 minutes til boarding I decide it’s time to get moving and rejoin the lap lanes of the main building. Blood circulation, oxygen flow, and muscle movement are priority as time ticks down to forced immobilisation!
So thanks Brisbane, it’s been a lot of things, and a fair amount of time that I certainly wont get back, but at least I know exactly how I’ll spend it if I ever get stuck here again! Hope that’s not anytime soon. No offence.