Last year I took Virgin Australia for the first time. A flight from Sydney back to Melbourne, then flying from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast (Maroochydore) and then back from Brisbane. Three flights in one year, all domestic, how did I find them?
Virgin (worldwide and in Australia) is of course the airline of billionaire Playboy Richard Branson. Is he a playboy? I don’t know, that’s the impression I get. The brand has the image of being staffed by tall, very attractive cabin attendants, and being a little bit ‘special’, like you get more than you’d expect – I guess it projects that service on Virgin is exceptional.
How did the experience marry up with the image? Well… we need to take into account that essentially Virgin is also a ‘no-frills’ airline in Australia. Price-wise, they are not the absolute cheapest you’ll get, in fact it’s likely you will find domestically Tiger and Jetstar to be cheaper, whereas Qantas is probably a little more expensive. It was a little under $220AUD for the ticket to the Sunshine Coast, that’s a journey of around two and a half hours. It’s a fare price, it included a snack (VERY minimal, basically cheese and biscuits) a coffee or water, and it included seat selection.
A Boeing 737-800 was the plane for the Melbourne to Sunshine Coast flight (I’ll use this as the principle reference flight as this is the one I have photos from!) This seems pretty stock standard for so many domestic flights in Australia, with the 3-3 configuration. Can I say, this is the crappiest configuration you can get. There’s something about one aisle and three seats either sides that is a little daunting. It makes the plane feel longer than it is, and it is a pain when there’s only the one aisle with so many passengers for the attendants to reach you, or for you to get to the loo. Toilets are usually at the very back of the plane, and sometimes at the front. That’s a long way to go to relieve yourself, and when half the plane wants to go at once…
But not for the first time, I digress. Let’s look at the basic fundamentals for a good flight one by one!
Price – tickets ranged from $150 to $230 ish Australian dollars. Reasonable without being bargains. I mean you can find one way tickets with scoot or Jetstar to SE Asia for less, and all the flights taken with Virgin were domestic. But then, you can say that Virgin were better on
Service. – Yes, I’d say they were better than Tiger, SCOOT and Jetstar, and that’s something. It’s still basic and if you wanted anything decent to eat you’d be disappointed by the selection and you’d also have to pay for it, but that’s par for the course these days. Generally the attendants were pleasant and helpful, although I didn’t really call on them. However, my wide did receive some rude service from one flight attendant on the Melbourne to Maroochydore flight that was disappointing.
Check-In Experience – ranged from pleasantly easy in Sydney, to horrifically messy in Melbourne. I ranted about this in a previous post, using the machines to check in but then spending 45 minutes waiting to bag drop. Much faster in Sydney and Brisbane.
On-Time Performance – Just one delay out of three, and not the airline’s fault. From Brisbane back to Melbourne, on that day flights from Sydney were cancelled and delayed due to a dust-storm there. This had a knock-on effect for us and hundreds of flights around the country waiting on planes and staff from Sydney. It was about an hour delay in the end, but perfectly understandable.
Comfort/In-flight experience – I always take my laptop when I fly, so I rarely rely on entertainment on board. Virgin have, as do many airlines these day – an app you can download to connect to the plane’s entertainment if you wish on your device. You pay I presume for the service. Aisle seat was nice, the food was not worth them handing out, the seat had okay legroom for a semi-budget airline, width seemed a little squashed. Fine for a few hours, a long-haul flight in the seat I imagine would have been a nightmare.
And there you go, that’s how I found Australia’s “second” airline, Virgin Australia. Have you flown them and if so, how did you find they compared to the other options? Please do comment, and as always, May the Journey Never End!