Taking the T-Bus to our Daybreak Hotel
With our flight to Dubai leaving at 0600 – when Sydney’s airport curfew ends – it was clear that we couldn’t make a regular transit from Canberra. Either we’d have to fly in the day before or take another option, such as catching the midnight Greyhound.
We decided to fly in, spend a night at an airport hotel, roll out of bed in time for check-in, and fly off in comfort. There was really only one choice – Rydges at the International terminal. Only a few steps away from International Departures, it is the only hotel that does not involve another measure of friction and delays with shuttles or taxis or trains.
It also offers views of the tarmac, and “planespotter” packages may be booked to include a high floor with roof access. Our room turned out to be on a low floor, and although bits of planes were visible, and the occasional landing of a set of lights and a dim fuselage shape gave a momentary thrill, it wasn’t the highlight of my aviation geek career.
Oh, well. We wouldn’t be there for the view. Wake up, grab the already packed bags, stroll across the road to check-in, then a leisurely something to drink in the lounge.
Down at the end of airport street
The only fly in our ointment was getting from the Domestic terminal to International on the other side of the main runway. Usually, we just wheel our carry-on bags to the Qantas shuttle bus, show our boarding pass for the onward flight, and are deposited ten minutes later at the Departures area, while our checked bags are trolleyed across by some hidden magic.
But we hadn’t checked in for the Emirates flights, and neither Qantas nor Emirates would handle our bags from the evening flight to the morning.
Luckily Rydges uses the Virgin Australia T-Bus, and vouchers may be downloaded from their site. As an aside, there doesn’t seem to be any checking: just print out the voucher and you can use the shuttle, whether you are a Rydges guest, Virgin passenger, or Charlie off the street.
Finding the pickup point with more luggage than could easily be handled was a challenge, and after a wrong turn, we arrived to find the previous bus had just left and there was a twenty-minute wait for the next. Waiting without seats in a grey concrete zone with evening falling is not my idea of pleasant travel.
The bus arrived – eventually – after the waiting area filled up with an Asian tour party. I glumly remembered previous experiences with queueing in Asia, where the locals would either scramble to the head of the queue or politely and gently rearrange the line to place me at the end.
We were first aboard the already crowded bus, handling the bags was a struggle, and we stood all the way. I would rather have paid for a taxi or the train, I think.
The hotel itself
On inspecting the bathroom, my wife commented that it was decorated in a lovely “soul-destroying” grey, and perhaps the house style leant more towards Pentridge than the Waldorf.
There were a restaurant and bar attached, but we were content with the meal on the plane.
We sussed out our steps for the next morning: across a couple of access lanes, up a lift, and along to the Emirates counters. While in the terminal, we had a look around the shops. My wife found a toothbrush and I browsed the bookshop. There are plenty of fast food outlets landside, presenting dinner for a few dollars. I bought a coffee, rather than face the horrors of Nescafe in our room.
Isn’t it amazing how airports have turned into shopping malls? At some airports, I get the feeling that the planes are a bit of a nuisance, really.
All told, I’d stay here again. A little pricey, but for the convenience, it cannot be beat. The stern grey of the bathrooms can be overlooked, and probably the rooftop views of planes arriving and departing are a big selling point.
Maybe next time I’d take less luggage, or opt for something other than the crowded shuttle bus.