Brisbane International Airport: why ‘average’ is not an insult.

​Average.

It’s such a misunderstood word.

Most of the time, when we say something is ‘pretty average’, we actually mean it’s sub-standard. But in the case of the Brisbane International Airport, average means just what it says. Average. Unexceptional. Nothing out of the ordinary .. but also, meeting an acceptable standard.

For those arriving from overseas, Brisbane (Code BNE) is a perfectly serviceable airport. Customs and Immigration is efficient, picking up pre-purchased duty-free booze is a snap, and there’s easy access to the carpark, taxi ranks, or the Airtrain rail service to the city and beyond.

But for those departing through the airport, there are some traps for young players.

Like most airports, it’s a bit out of town (around 20km) but it has quite good transport links. You face a $50, 30-minute cab ride from the city, or $17 per person on the AirTrain (20 minutes – but you may have to wait 30 minutes between trains). If you are driving, there’s lots of on-site parking – but it’s not cheap – or a variety of off-site parks. Andrews offers a discount for auto club members, BAP has a lower rate to start with .. do a google search for full details.

If you arrive on a domestic flight for transfer to the International airport, you can either catch the airtrain (free with certain fares, such as Qantas transit bookings) or catch the T-Bus which runs between terminals. The International terminal is around 2km from the Domestic – so don’t even think about walking between the two in the Brisbane heat!

Once at the airport, check in is ‘average’ for an Australian international airport. There’s a bank of check in desks which are capable of ‘hot-desking’ – ie different airports use specific banks at particular times.

On one our recent trips, Virgin Australia was using two banks and passengers for Dunedin, Nadi and Auckland flights were all checking in at the same time, at the same desks. Staff at the head of the queue directed us to one bank – and our travelling partners to another .. which led to Shirley and me being called over to my sisters’ check-in desk just as we were about to be processed, so we could all be seated together. Very strange 🙂

​Once we’d passed through Customs and Immigration (around 5 minutes of queuing, although it has taken up to 30 minutes on previous trips) we found ourselves in the Duty Free section.

As with most F1RST stores, alcohol and perfume are the main sellers. It used to be that cigarettes were also a big item, but that’s no longer the case – because there’s no duty-free tobacco allowance any more in Australia. People no longer buy cartons for family or friends on their return.

If you are buying duty-free electrical equipment, you are better off to shop around at home, get the best deal you can, and buy it within 60 days of your trip. As long as the item(s) cost more than $300 on a single receipt, you can claim the duty at the Tourist Refund Scheme  Kiosk located on the departure level at the airport. Having said that, make sure you have the receipt, your ticket, AND THE ITEM with you when you go to the kiosk. If you’ve placed it in checked baggage, you are out of luck – they need to see the receipt, and the item, before they will reimburse the 10% GST you paid. And when they do reimburse it, it will be to a credit/debit card, rather than in cash. Oh – and the TRS refund service closes 30 minutes before your flight is due to board, so make sure you leave yourself time.

Most of the food / coffee / bar options for passengers are in the central concourse of the airport. If, like us, your gate is one of the distant ones (we were at 75 – near the end of the gate concourse), you may like to grab something before you trek down to the gate. In our case, the only items near the gate were a salt-sugar-and-fat machine (chocolates, chips, etc from a vending cabinet) and a dodgy looking coffee dispensing machine. But if you DO stay in the central area, make sure you keep listening for the boarding call – it’s a five minute walk or more to the more distant gates.

There are plenty of seats near the gates, and there is air-conditioning – but the large glass windows also let in a lot of heat, so be aware of that. For those who need to charge mobile phones, etc there are a number of electrical outlets … but many are near the floor in areas without seating, so be prepared to be bohemian 🙂

I can’t be certain, but it appears that all gates now use passenger boarding bridges – so you no longer need to go down stairs, walk across the tarmac and then walk back up stairs to the plane, something that used to make Brisbane airport such a delight!

These days, it’s an efficient, friendly, adequate place to transit, or board. There’s free WiFi, a reasonable number of food-and-beverage outlets, a couple of airline lounges for those who have membership, prayer rooms for the devout, showers (but no towels) for those who have a long wait, and the usual mod cons.

It’s not like Changi – which is almost a destination in itself – but it’s not as bad as some we’ve visited, either – which makes the ‘Average’ tag a pretty good thing, methinks.

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