Transit in Perth? Never again.
By Luke Clark - thetransitcafe.com
Thursday, 19th July 2007
LC lands in Australia to find a city literally asleep -

I used to wonder why a friend living in Perth used to insist on saying he actually lived in Fremantle. It always seemed a bit like a Singaporean insisting that no, they were from Tampines.

Passing through Perth on Sunday, I suddenly understood why.

The harrowing process began when I booked a flight on Zuji to Sydney. For the flight down, I noticed the only routing possible was via Perth. Since I had booked the ticket last-minute, I figured that transiting in Perth couldn't be too bad, right?

At first, it honestly could have been worse. I cleared a relatively friendly customs in Perth fairly quickly. The people at customs were friendlier than in Sydney - one even noticed I was going to New South Wales, and jokingly asked, had I got the wrong flight?

I landed at 12:30am, and had a boarding pass for a flight out of Perth airport, boarding at 5:45am. So I sat in the international lounge area, had coffee and did some work. Slept on the couch a bit. All pretty peaceful.

Then the problems began. First of all, Perth insists on closing its Domestic Terminal until 4am each morning. So international transferring passengers just have to wait.

Second, there is no desk on arrival for transit passengers to check in their bags to onward flights. No, they have to wait like everyone else.

Actually, not like everyone else. Because Qantas then doesn't provide transiting passengers a free shuttle between International and Domestic terminals until 4:30am. I assume this was designed to make certain that all locals get a half-hour break on international passengers.

Getting a little nervous now, I asked about the cost of a cab between terminals. It was A$22. I was beginning to see a pattern here.

Aware that Perth-Sydney flights were notoriously full, I swallowed my pride (and rising anger) and jumped in a cab, feeling sorry I had to leave behind those clearly without much English and wondering at the backward airport they'd landed in.

Their impressions would have been confirmed at Domestic. Yes, this was indeed Bangladesh.

Only once have I ever seen a queue as long or disorganised as at Perth domestic airport that morning. It was in Kathmandu, weeks after a hijacking. Now, as the queue snaked almost out the door, and my first two queuing attempts turned out to be decoy lines, I started wishing for a Namaste or two.

I can only figure that Monday morning had been an exceptionally high-traffic time for Perth domestic. Clearly labour flights must leave at this time for mines and projects far afield in Western Australia. And clearly I was not the only one looking tired and frazzled by the experience. Everyone was at their wit's end, including the apologetic Qantas pilot as we boarded the flight.

But the treatment of international transit passengers here was still inexcusable. They had spent thousands to be treated like second-class passengers.

If Qantas and Perth aren't ready to operate a Western-standard airport service here, Qantas should not offer transits to Perth.

It is fine to be a cowboy town - just don't invite exhausted international guests to get caught in the cross-fire of your weekly gun fight.

From the mountains to the sea, Luke Clark has been talking and travelling all his life, so it was a natural career choice. A born performer when not at the monitor, Luke has branched out recently – which when you're as tall as him, is always a little dangerous. Read more of Luke Clark's articles and views at The Transit Cafe ~ www.thetransitcafe.com
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