Subject: Re: Trip to Australia in November

Yes, you can purchase flights on Virgin Blue and Qantas while in Australia. However, the Qantas Boomerang Pass can only be purchased outside Australia. Qantas flights purchased in Australia will cost more.

In order to purchase the Boomerang Pass, you have to buy it outside Australia and before your trip. You can buy as many segments as you wish but have to buy at least two. Once you're on your trip, you can cancel any segment you'd like,(& get a refund for that segment) change itinerary, change dates, flight times, etc with NO penalties. (as long as there are seats available) As long as you keep a minimum of two segments, you're still qualified for the Pass.

If you've found Qantas fares lower than the Pass, it's just a quirk of the yield management system and those fares can change on a daily basis. Double check with Qantas, but a cheap fare will usually be tied to rules of non-flexibility - ie, change fees or non- refundable. So unless your itinerary is "set in stone", I'd skip what looks like a bargain.

On our trip to Oz in January, we used the Qantas Pass for a few of our trips and used Virgin for one flight from Adelaide to Melbourne. That particular flight was a lot less expensive on Virgin than on the Qantas Pass and since that date was set in stone, we booked it. Though I'm a huge fan of the regular Virgin Airlines, in Oz, I prefer Qantas. It's a full service airline, run the traditional way with complimentary full meals on flights and snacks on short ones. Virgin is a budget airline - so luggage weight is carefully weighed and surcharges are added on if you're over the limit. Seats are assigned at check-in. They sell meals and drinks onboard - even water or a cup of tea has to be purchased. The planes have only one aisle and for most of the flight the FA's are in that aisle with a cart selling items - food, drinks, souveniers and Branson's book. By the time they cleared the aisle so I could get up to use the lav, I was told to get back in my seat and prepare for landing. Of course, if the difference in price is major, most of us will put up with the inconvenience.

There are some other small regional airlines within OZ that you might have to use for short hops. We used REX (short for Regional Express) for the ride from Kangaroo Island to Adelaide. Another one is EMU airlines.

I'd be happy to share any info for Sydney, Melbourne or the Great Barrier Reef - I just don't know what kind of info you'd like. My husband is a diver and when we go up to the Great Barrier Reef, we go to the Daintree Forest and stay at a place called Silky Oaks Lodge. It's about 35 minutes from Port Douglas and just under a 2 hour drive from Cairns airport.(an extremely pleasant drive) We've stayed there 3 times, so obviously, we like the place a lot. For diving, my husband has used Quick Silver and Haba dive. He thinks that Quick Silver is better for beginner divers - they're a good operation but for advanced divers, they're "not enough". There was another company in the area he liked a lot, however, he doesn't recall their name. If you found some names in your reseach and told them to me, I'm sure he would recall it.

I've not been to Ayres Rock, Heron or Lady Elliot Island, so can't help you there.

Hope this helps.

Trivia Question: Anyone know where the name Qantas comes from? It stands for Queensland And Northern Territories Aviation Service.

Note to Lucy: Yup, Ansett went out of biz a few years ago. :-(

Candice NYC