Virgin Australia, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-800: Sydney to Melbourne

Introduction

Next year I’ll be going on sabbatical for six months. Right now, the plan is that I will spend at least part of those six months working and living in Melbourne – if they’ll have me, of course. So today I’m on my way to Melbourne to introduce myself to the people at the language testing research centre of Melbourne University.  

Getting to the Airport

This has got to be just about the coolest commute to an airport ever! My day starts at 06h00 in the morning, when I leave the house I’ve rented in Fairlight and make my way down to Manly wharf for the 06h35 fast ferry to Circular Quay. The journey into Sydney takes roughly thirty minutes to complete and includes some of the most beautiful and spectacular vistas of the Opera House and Hanger Bridge.

At Circular Quay, I transfer to the railway station for the suburban trains to Sydney airport. The station is just opposite the wharf at Circular Quay and the journey to the domestic terminal at Sydney airport takes just over fifteen minutes. The trains run to the airport run frequently.

Check-in

I alight at the station for the domestic terminal, which is one stop before the international terminal. There are two domestic terminals. Terminal 3 is for QANTAS, while Terminal 2 is for everybody else. I’ve already checked-in online using the Virgin Australia app, which is a good thing, because the Virgin Australia counters look very busy.

The Virgin Australia Lounge

And so I head directly for the security checkpoint. Access to the Virgin Australia lounge is on the right side, just as you exit from security. I’m not entirely sure to beginn with, but upon inquiry with the very friendly and helpful receptionist in the lounge, it would appear that as an Etihad Gold member I’m entitled to use the Virgin Australia lounge, despite the fact that I’m travelling on an Economy Class ticket.

But it turns out that a) the lounge is way too busy anyway, and b) the views outside the lounge are much better, with the sitting area of the food court located right by the windows overlooking the domestic apron.

Boarding

Boarding starts exactly on time, thirty minutes before departure. There is a separate lane for Business Class and priority passengers. If this were Europe, the moment the gate agent announced that boarding had started, there’d be a scrum to get on the plane. But here in Australia, passengers obviously have much better manners and just wait until their group for boarding is called.

The Cabin

The cabin of this aircraft is nice. It looks and smells new and with the grey seats it looks rather elegant. The aircraft also has those new style overhead bins that drop down, instead of the old-school bins you still find on many narrow-bodies, where the lid opens upwards.

There are non power sockets and no inflight entertainmennt screens either.

Seat pitch on the emergency exit is good. In addition, the flight is not completely full, which means that by the time boarding is completed, the middle seat next to me remains empty.

And then we have a problem. The captain comes on the loudspeaker to inform us that Melbourne tower has had to be evacuated and it is unclear if they will be receiving traffic any time soon. Eventually though, we push back with a delay of one hour. The flight time is announced as one hour and five minutes.

The Crew

The crew on this flight consists of five attractive, slightly oriental looking young females. Whoever selects the female crew for Virgin clearly has a type, because they all look the same and they’re all wearing way too much make-up. Other than that, they seem okay, if not exactly very warm.

In Economy Class, Virgin has a strange mixed service concept, the merit of which escapes me. Tea, still water and a protein bar are complimentary. In addition to that, there are various items to eat and drink which can be purchased on board. Payment is possible in cash or by credit card.

I order a Coke Zero to drink, which costs AUD3. The protein bar is a total abomination. It’s disgusting, which makes you wonder why on earth they even bother in the first place? Having said that, the bulging biceps on 13C seems only too eager to demolish his bar. Wouldn’t want to start losing muscle mass would we…?

Arrival

Eventually, we land in Melbourne at 11h35, only slightly behind schedule. I step outside and catch the Skybus heading for the city centre to Southern Cross station. The journey to the city takes about thirty minutes, and a return tickets costs AUD38.

Conclusion

This was my first time in Economy Class with Virgin Australia. While I like their branding and the design of their cabin, overall I thought they were a bit of a let down on this flight. Admittedly, the cockpit crew was proactive in keeping passengers updated about the situation in Melbourne, but perhaps that’s just it: I somehow got the impression that the cockpit crew seemed far more service oriented than the cabin crew, which somehow can’t be right.

Virgin Australia, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Brisbane to Melbourne

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Introduction

This ticket was purchased using Etihad Guest miles. In the original booking, I would have travelled on VA334, which departs from Brisbane at 14h55. Really quite by chance, I realise that I’ve been rebooked to VA332, which departs from Brisbane one hour earlier at 13h55.

According to the IATA rule, until departure the entity which made the original booking is responsible for the passenger – so in this case, Etihad Airways. Quite frankly, I think it’s a piss poor show that they can’t even be arsed to at least inform me that I’ve been put on a flight that leaves a whole hour earlier!

And so I leave the Spicers Balfour in New Market and make my way to the airport one hour earlier than expected. The journey by car takes about 25 minutes, depending on traffic. My first stop though, is the BNE Service Centre – as I have to return the rental car with a full tank.

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Once the car is returned, I take the elevated walkway that connects the car park and the airport’s railway station to the domestic terminal.

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Check-in

There is a dedicated Business Class check-in section for Virgin Australia passengers only.

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The Virgin Australia Lounge

Right next to the Business Class check-in counters is the priority line for security. In Australia, on domestic flights you only need to take out your laptop from the bag. Not liquids.

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The Virgin Australia lounge is opposite gate 41. To be honest, I was expecting this lounge to be a bit of an anti-climax after having experienced the lovely Qantas lounge in Perth.

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But much to my surprise, this is also a very nice lounge. I don’t think I could say if it’s better or worse than the Qantas lounge, because they’re just so different. While the Qantas lounge is elegant in a very grown-up kind of style, the Virgin lounge has a much fresher, more modern look that is also very attractive.

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Food and drink offerings are good and include a range of hot and cold snacks. Although where the lounge food is concerned, I think Qantas is ahead of Virgin Australia.

Boarding

The flight is departing from gate 43. There is a dedicated line for Business Class passengers and members of the frequent flyer programme.

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The Cabin

Virgin Australia has a dedicated Business Class cabin on the Boeing B 737-800, with eight seats in a 2 + 2 configuration on two rows. The seat pitch is 38 inches and the seat width is 19.5 inches.

The appearance of the cabin is sleek, with the seats in black leather and a purple, see-through cabin divider. The seat is certainly comfortable and beats the European interpretation of Business Class seating any day. The disadvantage with this seat however, is that while it has excellent recline, there is no foot rest to put your legs up. On a flight of only two hours this is hardly an issue, but I’m not sure what it would be like on a longer flight.

What I really like on Virgin Australia, is that once the fasten seatbelt sign goes off, the crew will cordon off the Business Class section from the rest of the aircraft, which significantly diminished the amount of foot traffic in the Business Class cabin.

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The Crew

There are three ladies and one gent working in the cabin on today’s flight. The Business Class section is being taken care of by the purser, Sarah. I think this young lady does a really outstanding job in the way she goes about her duties. She has excellent manners, she’s friendly and approachable and throughout the flight she goes out of her way to ensure that passengers have everything they need.

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There is a choice of orange juice or water as a welcome drink. There are no refreshing towels though.

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The Meal

The whole meal is served on one tray and consists of

  1. a small salad with parmigiano shavings and an excellent dressing,
  2. a small bun with butter,
  3. coconut and chocolate sweets for dessert, and for the main course
  4. a pork pie served hot,

or

  1. Baba Ghanoush, served cold with flat bread.

The salad is definitely much better and certainly larger than that miserable excuse for a side salad served on Qantas. For the main course I choose the Baba Ghanoush, which is really very tasty.

And the coconut chocolate sweet is lovely and goes well with a cup of coffee.

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Arrival

Eventually we land in Melbourne after a flight time of two hours and five minutes. As we taxi in, we pass a LAN Chile B 787, which seems awfully far away from home!

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Eventually our aircraft comes to a stop at Terminal 3.

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Getting into Town

In Melbourne I’ll be staying at the Novotel St. Kilda, which is right on the waterfront. To get to St. Kilda, your cheapest option is to take the red Skybus express shuttle which runs directly from Melbourne airport’s Terminal 4 to St. Kilda. The journey from the airport takes about 60 minutes, depending on traffic, and will cost you AUD19 one way. On weekdays the service runs every 30 minutes.

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Conclusion

So, Qantas or Virgin? It’s really quite hard to say. The food and the crew on the Virgin flight were definitely better. But the lounge and the level of comfort were better on Qantas. Although the latter point is not really quite fair, given that my Qantas flight was with a wide-body, whereas the Virgin Australia flight was with a narrow-body.

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Virgin Australia, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Adelaide to Melbourne

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Date: 09. February 2017
Departure: 19:20
Arrival: 20:20
Flight time: 1 hour
Seat: 2F, window on the starboard of the aircraft

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Introduction

I step off Qatar’s Airbus A 350 and make my way to immigration, which is deserted. From what I can tell, ours is the only international flight to arrive around this time. The guy at customs seems a bit surprised to see me travelling such a long way with only a small carry-on suitcase, but eventually he lets me pass anyway.

If you are catching a domestic connection, simply exit customs and then turn left. There is an escalator that takes you one floor up to the departures level.

Check-in

Virgin Australia have their own dedicated check-in area and there is a separate counter for Business Class passengers.

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It had not been possible to check me in for this flight already in Frankfurt or in Doha.

The Virgin Australia Lounge

Location: Opposite immigration for international departures.
Name of Lounge:
Virgin Airlines lounge.
Access:
As you exit the security checkpoint, turn left.
Toilets & showers:
Available in the lounge.
Food & Beverages: The food selection in the lounge is limited to junk food and toast. Drinks are ordered at the counter.
Connectivity:
Complimentary wifi is available. The password is given to you at check-in.

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Boarding

Business Class passengers and frequent flyers are invited to board first.

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The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2.
Seat Layout: There are two rows of seats, making a total of eight seats in Business Class. The aircraft has a dedicated, proper Business Class cabin and seat.
Pitch: 38 inches.
Width: 19.5 inches.
AC Power:
Not available.
Audio and Video: Virgin offers wireless inflight entertainment that you can watch on your own handheld device. But you need to download their app for that first.

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The Crew

The crew seem friendly enough. They work efficiently to get the service through in just one hour, but without making it feel rushed.

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Taking off over Glenelg.

The Meal

Welcome drink on the ground: Sparkling water.

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Choice: There is a choice of either chicken or a salad with beetroot.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Dinner.
Main course:
Chicken breast with creamed corn and tomatoes.

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Dessert: A really very tasty carrot cake.

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Cheese: A plate of camembert with fig chutney and rice crackers.

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Beverages: Coke Zero.

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Bread: One bun, served with butter.

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Coming from Europe, it is quite amazing to be offered a hot meal on a flight of only one hour and to have a proper Business Class seat at your disposal. I am certainly impressed!

Arrival

We arrive in Melbourne more or less on time. Virgin Australia have their own terminal in Melbourne.

From arrivals it takes me about five minutes to walk the short distance to the Holiday Inn hotel, where I will be staying for just the one night.

In summary, I rather like Virgin Australia and I am very glad to say that their service is still as good as I remember it from when I travelled with them last back in 2013.

Virgin Australia, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Sydney to Ayers Rock

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Airline: Virgin Australia
Aircraft:
Boeing B 737-800
Cabin:
Business Class
Seat:
1A
From:
Sydney
To:
Ayers Rock – Uluru
Date:
15. August 2013
Departure:
10:00
Arrival:
13:15

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Transfer in Sydney

The transfer in Sydney could not be easier, even if, like me, you’re connecting from a Qantas flight to a Virgin Australia service. As you come out of customs, turn left and keep on going to the far end of the arrivals concourse. That’s where Virgin have their transfer desks. At check-in you will receive your boarding pass and a voucher that gives you a free ride on the airport shuttle between the international and the domestic terminal.

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The journey takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Check-in

I would recommend to anybody to do check-in at the international terminal, as the domestic terminal is packed when I arrive, with the queues moving only very slowly.

The Virgin Australia Lounge

The Virgin lounge is located on the right hand side as you come out of security. It’s quite a funky and attractive lounge. But alas, it’s also quite busy, so I have to restrain myself with the picture taking.

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Boarding

Boarding starts on time, with an initial call for passengers in Business Class and passengers requiring assistance. So I grab the opportunity to board first and take at least one picture of the cabin before the pushing and shoving fully sets in.

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I am greeted at the door by two very friendly flight attendants, and I am quite impressed that they check the boarding pass of every passenger and make a point of addressing them by name to welcome them aboard.

The Cabin

The cabin of this B 737-800 is decked out with the new interior, which features what I call the triple seven style overhead bins. There is a dedicated Business Class cabin of two rows, which is separated from the main cabin by a bulkhead with a violet coloured glass screen. After take-off, the Business Class cabin is cordoned off.

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For inflight entertainment there is a tablet in every seat pocket, with a selection of films and music and a rather funky looking set of earphones.

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Service begins with a welcome drink while we’re still on the ground. There is a choice of orange juice or still water.

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We leave the gate more or less on time. There is, however, a slight delay for departure, as we have to wait for a whole line up of widebodies to depart ahead of us. Once we do take-off, the views are simply spectacular.

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The Meal

Once we’re airborne, the cabin crew come to take orders for drinks and the main meal. I have a Coke Zero, which is served with a small ramekin of spicy warm nuts.

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The meal is served in two parts. The first course is a very tasty cauliflower soup. This is served with warm bread. The tray arrives with a small dish of butter, salt and pepper and the dessert already on it.

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For the main I go with the salad of beetroot, spinach and Feta cheese with a raspberry dressing, which is indeed very tasty and blends in perfectly with the Virgin brand colours.

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And then to end, I tackle the dessert – black forest gâteau – with a cup of coffee. And after that, I start to dose off. You can hardly blame me, I think…

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Arrival

At some point the lead flight attendant comes on the blower to inform us that we are about to begin the descent into Uluru. Without wanting to put too fine a point on it, I have, in the past, been accused of talking too much. But there are those rare occasions when even I am lost for words and left simply speechless – like today. It catches you quite unawares. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Uluru appears before my eyes and it is truly magnificent.

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Conclusion

I am writing this part of my journey from my ‘tent’ at the Longitude 131 hotel. When I look up, I have an unobstructed view of Uluru – and I still can’t fully grasp that I am finally here. It is like experiencing a dreamtime.

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