VA1105 to Brisbane
We arrive by car and alight at the two-minute drop-off zone outside the departure doors of this, NSW's second busiest airport. While things are casual, occasionally a staff member will move you on. There are five different priced parking options with premium at $40 a day and long stay saver $17 a day (or $100 for seven days). There are also public bus services, taxis and Uber. A taxi to the airport from Newcastle CBD will cost you an arm and a leg (about $80).
The airport has had a $22 million overhaul including an upgrade of the terminal building, a fit-out of the customs, immigration and quarantine areas for the operation of international flights and improvements to its passenger and checked baggage security screening. It is planning to redevelop the check-in area, reconfigure the departure lounge and expand the arrivals area. Down the track, there will also be a multi-million dollar upgrade to expand both the existing 3000-metre runway and terminal to accommodate international flights. The single-storey terminal building functions efficiently given a record 1.28 million passengers passed through it last year. The airport's first hotel, the 95-room Mercure Newcastle Airport, is a short walk from the terminal.
There's rarely a queue at check-in and if you travel from Newcastle Airport regularly you get to know the friendly staff and crew. We're the last passengers to check-in for our flight. Our bags are whisked off and we pass through security seamlessly giving us time to buy the paper and have a coffee (the best coffee is from Cibo Espresso in the arrivals hall).
New aviation security technology, which means passengers no longer need to remove laptops from their hand luggage or undergo random explosives detection testing, speeds things up.
FOOD AND DRINK
There are five food and beverage outlets. Valley and Vine showcases locally sourced products while all licensed outlets serve Hunter Valley wines and IronBark Hill Brewhouse's craft beer range. Other Hunter artisan brands include Hunter Valley Cookies, Pukara Estate and Murray's Craft Brewing Co. Broughton & Bay Bar has live music on Fridays from 4pm to 6pm which gives a party feel for those jetting off or home for the weekend.
News Travels is pretty much it. It stocks magazines, newspapers, books, snacks, tech gear and local souvenirs including Fleurette Aromatherapy and magnets, postcards, tea towels and playing cards depicting Newcastle landmarks by artist Trevor Dickinson.
The airport offers free Wi-Fi, sufficient power and USB outlets and plenty of seating although at peak times it can get crowded. If I have time or there's a delay I like to order a glass of wine from the bar and watch the F-18s take off from neighbouring RAAF Base Williamtown.
ONE MORE THING
Newcastle Airport offers 252 flights a week with five airlines (Jetstar, Virgin Australia, QantasLink, Regional Express, and FlyPelican) flying to seven direct domestic destinations and one international destination. With direct flights to Brisbane, Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Canberra, Sydney (and seasonally to Auckland) travellers can connect onward to 65 worldwide destinations. The experience is painless compared with making the 2.5 hour drive to Sydney Airport. See newcastleairport.com.au
Travelling from Newcastle Airport is a low-key affair – bunnies hop around the perimeter and there's a small billabong that is home to water birds. A Virgin Australia flight I caught from Newcastle to Auckland was the most relaxed international flying experience I'd experienced in a long time. As yet there are no airline lounges and for some reason checked luggage takes forever to reach the baggage carousel. Nonetheless, I love walking across the tarmac to my aircraft, the roar of the F-18s, and taking off over the Stockton sand dunes.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
4 out of 5
Sheriden Rhodes travelled at her own expense.