QF61 to Tokyo Narita, economy class
Given its modest size, it's a surprise to find that Brisbane Airport is one of Australia's best connected, thanks to Airtrain, which provides a direct rail link to Brisbane city, and all the way down to the Gold Coast. My fare from Roma Street to BNE is $18.05 – not exactly a bargain, but it's a 20-minute journey, the same as a car or taxi, and a cab would cost $40 to $50. If you're coming from south Brisbane or the Gold Coast, the train is a no-brainer.
Brisbane's international terminal is its newest and shiniest, built in 1995 and renovated in 2015. It's a roomy, modern facility with a soaring high ceiling above the main check-in area, plus glass walls, mezzanine levels and live greenery in the airside section to add to the feeling of space and light. Airports are rarely pleasant places to hang out in, but Brisbane does a good job of being comfortable.
There's a reasonable queue for my Qantas flight, though I've checked in online, so I can move through quickly. It's about 15 minutes from arrival until I'm heading for passport control.
There's a longer queue here, and it takes another 20 minutes to shuffle through immigration and the security scanners.
FOOD AND DRINK
The 2014 redevelopment of BNE's international terminal brought with it some new dining options, but still, none are particularly enticing. All the usual hits are here: pan-Asian at Tuk Chop, burritos at Mad Mex, sushi at the aptly named Sushi Sushi, upmarket cafe fare at Spoon, plus juice, coffee and burgers elsewhere. Curiously, there's no McDonald's, which means I can't have my traditional bacon-and-egg-McMuffin-which-doesn't-count-because-it's-at-the-airport breakfast.
A lot of the stores here seemed pitched at foreign visitors departing our shores: you have Australian Way, the Australian Produce Store, Dreamtime Journey, Merino Collection and even RM Williams peddling Australiana. For the rest of us, there are a few travel shops and the standard duty free, but none of the luxury brands you might expect.
BNE has an "artist in residence" program, which is a great idea to incorporate local culture into a major transport hub. The artist is currently Opera Queensland, which is putting on periodic performances in the international terminal. If you miss the singers, there are several original artworks to find here, plus free Wi-Fi throughout, and three airport hotels: the Novotel, the Pullman and the Ibis.
ONE MORE THING
It's significant that if you google "Brisbane international terminal", you'll find almost the entire first page of results dedicated to advising people on how to get from the domestic terminal to the international. That's because the two are ridiculously far apart – we're talking four kilometres – and you'll need either a shuttle bus (free) or the Airtrain ($5) to transfer.
Brisbane's international terminal isn't a large airport, it doesn't have the fancy shops or the big-name restaurants, and it isn't within cooee of the domestic hub. It is bright and spacious though, it does get passengers processed quickly and efficiently, and it is well connected to the city. Sometimes, that's enough.