Changing planes in Sydney

In October ’08, I flew to Sydney on United and then immediately connected to a flight to Canberra on Qantas. My bag was checked “through” to Canberra, though I had to claim it, of course, and go through Customs at Sydney.

After asking three people, I discovered that there is a “Qantas domestic transfer” desk hidden away in a corner of the international terminal. I expected I could drop off my bag there, but, after waiting in line, I was told that I’d have to travel with my bags on an airport shuttle bus to one of the domestic terminals. I suppose the domestic transfer desk is only for travelers arriving in Sydney on Qantas and transferring to a Qantas domestic flight.

Finding the shuttle bus, getting my bags loaded on board and then getting to the domestic terminal took about a half hour; the bus has to leave the airport grounds and drive around to a different entrance, and that takes time. Upon reaching the domestic terminal, I had to join the long check-in line at the Qantas counters.

I wrote to the Sydney airport and commented on the shuttle bus transfer problem. A representative e-mailed back, confirming that the airport does not operate any free transfer services between terminals 1 and 3. The current options are commercial transport (T-bus for $5.50 per person, taxi at $8-$12 per taxi, train at $4.70 per person or a free shuttle bus operated by an airline for their passengers and limited to their options).

My advice is to leave plenty of time if you’re flying to Sydney from outside Australia and then connecting to a domestic flight. Even if both your flights are on Qantas, you’ll probably have to switch from the international terminal to one of the domestic terminals, and you can’t do it on foot. The shuttle bus appears to be the only option. Or consider flying to Melbourne instead. I haven’t done it, but Australians are telling me that it’s considerably more convenient.

Washington, DC