Monday, April 15, 2013

SIN-PER-SIN - April 11-14, 2013

I'm back from my three-day jaunt down to Perth, which happens to be the city farthest from New York and other points on the eastern seaboard for those interested in such points of trivia. I haven't written much about aviation lately, so I thought I'd just post a quick bit about the trip before writing about the games I saw.

I left on Thursday afternoon, taking a bus from downtown Singapore to Changi, which had recently been ranked the best airport in the world in a survey sponsored by SkyTrax. The bus takes just over 30 minutes from where I work, making it a much more affordable option than a cab.

The outbound flight was on Tiger Airways, one of the numerous low-cost airlines that make Singapore a great hub for budget travellers. The one-way trip is about 5 hours and cost about $120 US, not a bad deal at all.

Tiger doesn't have online check-in for non-Singaporeans so I had to line up with everyone else, which took an unbearable 5 minutes. One thing about Changi is that they realize that people standing in check-in lines are not spending money, so most carriers seem to have plenty of staff to make things move quickly and get passengers into the shopping area as soon as possible.

Another benefit here is that security is handled at each gate, so after checking in, you proceed straight to immigration. As a Singapore resident, I am able to use an automated gate both coming and going, a process that is easier on your passport as you don't get it stamped each time you travel.

Changi has three distinct terminals, each with a few interesting attractions. Tiger flies out of Terminal 2 which has a sunflower garden and orchid garden, as well as a spotting gallery. Computers with free internet connections are widely available, although getting used much less these days as nearly everyone is taking advantage of the free wi-fi provided. Either way, there are plenty of things to occupy your time while you wait for your flight.

My flight left on time and 5 hours later, I was in Western Australia. The wonderful experience of Singapore's airport was a distant memory as I  now had the task of figuring out the best way into town. Taxis are too costly so I had to choose between Perth's poor public transit or a private shuttle service.

There are four terminals at Perth's airport, with the international terminal being a 15-minute drive away from the main domestic terminals. I don't know who designs these airports that require such a trek between terminals, but it is massively inconvenient, especially given that there is no public transit at the international terminal. There is a free shuttle to the domestic side, which I took hoping to catch a bus downtown. Just as the shuttle arrived, I saw the bus pulling away, and the next bus wasn't for another hour, so I ended up waiting just 40 minutes to take the PerthConnect shuttle at $25 return. Such inconvenience would be a recurring story during my weekend stay, but more on that in another post.

Return Trip

One of the advantages of these LCC's is that they charge the same price for each flight whether you buy a return or a one-way ticket. In other words, there is no cost advantage to buying the return ticket with the same airline, so I used Jetstar Asia for my return leg, paying just $89AUD as I had a voucher affording a $50 discount. In other words, I flew a total of 10 hours for just over $200, an amazing bargain.

The flight was at midnight which gave me some time to explore the airport. Turns out there is an observation gallery that is completely empty in the evening, giving you some peace and quiet away from the crowds and a nice view of the apron. There were also a couple of computers on the main departure level with free internet but little else worth noting. All in all, I can see why Perth ranks #78 in the world's airports and strongly advise the authorities there to improve their transit options to the city, which lies less than 20km from the airport.



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