Flight QF351, Darwin to Dili. This is the inaugural scheduled flight. As a QantasLink service, operated by Alliance Airlines, it is the national carrier's first international route using Embraer E190 aircraft and also its shortest international route.
Embraer E190-100. Twelve of these Brazilian-made planes now operate QantasLink flights, with another six scheduled to join the fleet by the end of the year.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Qantas Frequent Flyer with One World alliance partnerships.
We push back on time but before take-off there's a 10-minute delay on the tarmac ("a slight technical issue", according to the flight deck). The 725 kilometer journey north-west to Dili then takes just 50 minutes. We taxi to a ceremonial welcome beneath fire-hose archways sprayed by Dili airport's fire trucks.
107.8kg for an Economy class passenger. Qantas estimates that via its opt-in Fly Carbon Neutral program, passengers have offset more than 3 million tonnes of carbon pollution in the last decade.
The service operates three times weekly, departing Darwin on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and will expand to five flights a week in July. From early 2021, and in partnership with the Australian government, Qantas operated weekly flights on this route in order to maintain important links with Timor-Leste.
If you are fully vaccinated, Timor-Leste currently does not require a negative COVID test prior to arrival. Passengers must present proof of vaccination (two doses) at both Darwin and Dili, and an International Vaccine Certificate. Requirements may change at short notice. Except while eating and drinking, masks remain mandatory within both airports and on the plane. And remember to obtain the online Digital Passenger Declaration required for your return to Australia.
Uneventful. Arrive two hours before take-off to allow staff time to scrutinise your vaccination and other documents. It is recommended to have all information in hard copy as well as electronic form. Leading up to departure, check regularly with the Qantas updates emailed to passengers.
11B is an exit row seat with extra legroom but, being above the wing it offers very limited downward visibility of land or seascapes. The Embraer E190-100 has 84 Economy seats and 10 Business, all in a 2-2 configuration. Every passenger has either an aisle or window seat and there are no middle seats. The standard Economy seat pitch is 79cm (96.5cm in Business) while the seatback reclines minimally by 7.6cm.
The standard checked baggage allowance for economy is 30kg, with 7kg for hand carry. Qantas Frequent Flyers, from Silver category upward have higher allowances of up to 50kg, according to their membership tier.
Bring your own or read the latest issue Qantas magazine. With no seatback screens there is no in-flight entertainment at present. QantasLink is rolling out entertainment across the fleet this year, streamed to a passenger's own device. Content will include 2500 hours of movies, TV series and audiobooks via the Qantas Entertainment app, plus more streaming on Stan.
In a 50-minute flight there is little time for much food and beverage activity. Of necessity, the service is limited but swift and efficient. A simple cookie snack is served in economy (a light meal in business) along with water, soft drinks, tea and coffee. Wine, beer and spirits are offered in Business. There are no in-flight duty-free sales.
ONE MORE THING
Timor-Leste is mostly a cash economy with US dollar notes as the currency. Bring an adequate supply, particularly in smaller denomination bills. All passengers pay a visa-on-arrival fee of $US40 — "greenbacks" only, no cards, no other currency. As with any international travel today, be sure to upload and have at hand all documents and certificates required under current regulations. In all cases, start early.
The flight is brief, uncomplicated and comfortable, and enlivened further by the departure and Timor-Leste arrival celebrations surrounding an inaugural flight. A later bonus was the hand-written boarding pass issued in Dili for my return flight, complete with someone's jotted note "Have a wonderful flight". Very Timor-Leste.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
The writer flew courtesy of Qantas, see qantas.com