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Topic: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: allrite
Posted 2012-12-11 19:08:16 and read 9455 times.

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What's the point of another trip report on the world's second busiest air route, the skies between Sydney and Melbourne? Good question! All I can say in my defence is that this was my first sample of Virgin Australia's new interior product and that I enjoyed the scenery so much that I thought I'd share.

Virgin Australia have been in the process of reinventing themselves from the pseudo low-cost Virgin Blue to a full service airline capable of challenging Qantas for dominance of the Australian skies. In the process they have changed ownership, partnerships, name, livery, interior product and added aircraft types. My recent experience of them has been primarily on their Sydney - Canberra Capital Connect service utilising both Embraer E190 jets and ATR72-500 turboprops. However, the stalwart of their fleet is undoubtedly the Boeing 737-800 and it was on this aircraft that I would be travelling on this journey.

As I had flown between Sydney and Melbourne on Qantas in February with family to see the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular (coincidently, we are off to see a Sydney concert in a couple of days) this was also an opportunity to compare the services.

The decision to fly Virgin was due to the work policy of selecting the cheapest flights. Otherwise I would have selected Qantas (my bias is showing). Virgin Australia weren't the absolute cheapest, but in my opinion LCCs like Tiger Airways (never flown 'em) and Jetstar (frequently flown) are great for holidays, but due to tight timings I wanted to use a business focussed airline with frequent flights in case of trouble.

While colleagues at the conference I am attending spoke of 3am starts in order to reach the airport in time, I left at the same time as yesterday and even caught the same train. The difference was that I got out at Wolli Creek and changed to the airport line. With a preprinted boarding pass from the online check in facility in hand I raced through security, though was detained as I almost always are for an explosives swipe. This has been happening for twenty years now.


Having eaten breakfast and thinking I'd get a snack on the flight I didn't bother with any of the eateries inside Terminal 2. Instead I went straight to the gate, just stopping briefly for some photos of my aircraft. The booking had said a 737-700, but this was obviously a 737-800. Small and largely irrelevant difference, except to an aircraft nut. Unfortunately, the circular area at the end of the terminal was under refurbishment so there were no great views of the runway operations today.


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3/DEC/2012
CARRIER: Virgin Australia
FLIGHT: DJ820
SECTOR: SYD - MEL
CLASS: Economy
SEAT: 8A
ETD: 08:30 (local)
ETA: 10:05 (local)
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 737-800
REGISTRATION: VH-YVC

Business class and higher frequent flyer card holding passengers were asked to board first, then passengers at the rear rows up the external stairs. Finally the front half of economy could board through the air bridge.

I'm not impressed by the mainly white with red trim exterior livery of Virgin Australia aircraft, but upon entry into the cabin I was very pleasantly surprised. It looked almost brand new, with dark grey faux leather seats with pale grey, purple or red head rests and an purple perspex divider between economy and business. The seats were soft and comfortable and I felt like I had plenty of legroom, though YMMV.


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As we backed away from the gate and had the safety demonstration, done live, mauve mood lighting was switched on. There were no screens at all in the cabin, the tiny 7" seatback screens now gone. Nor was there any audio to the seat. Truth to tell I was a little disappointed as I rather like listening to music during take-off and landing - not possible with your own player. Also, if trapped in an aisle seat it can be nice to have a little distraction.


It was off on the "scenic route" to the end of the third runway today for a take-off to the north. There were some great views of the terminal as we took off, then performed a tight right hand turn towards the east with some impressive views of Sydney's central business district, sunlight glinting off the skyscrapers under clear blue morning skies.


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After crossing the coast we turned south over the blue Pacific waters, small hints of white horses in the sea below. The offshore clouds were visible but always distant, tinged a hazy brown-red, but unthreatening. It was not until south of Wollongong that we turned southwest to cross the coast again and down towards our destination of Melbourne.


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Long white beaches marked the outline of the coast, but behind them the Great Dividing Range was a rippled dark green. Then pale greens turning to yellow brown as we penetrated inland, until we came to the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, though their name was not in evidence today. We flew high and smooth, lovely comfortable flying.

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I was feeling a bit peckish, but unlike Qantas meals were only included for full-fare and business passengers on this leg, unlike the Sydney - Canberra service that I am more used to. Between the major eastern capitals there is also free coffee, tea or water, but I felt like not of those. Knowing that we would be fed in Melbourne I did not buy any food.


A couple of reservoirs appeared like bright blue fractals below us as we neared what I thought was the Victorian border. Glimpses of mountain granite replaced the sandstone of the coastal areas. Clouds also appeared below, increasing the closer we got to Melbourne. Initially we were making good time to our destination, but the captain announced over the PA that we had been placed in a holding pattern, doing a flat loop in the sky.


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Now permitted to proceed, we descended into the 40 kilometre per hour winds and rainclouds north of Melbourne. It was very rough and I was glad to emerge from beneath the cloud.


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The countryside and cityscape of Melbourne looked as familiar as it was, that comfortable familiarity of returning home. I could feel the sou'wester pushing against us as we approached Tullamarine Airport, the airport from which I took my very first flight aged about two years old. We touched down on its yellow fields and taxied past the widebodies from Singapore, the Middle East, China and elsewhere in Asia, before docking at Terminal 3. There we were told that there had been a change of plan and disembarking would be from the front exit only.


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That would be my exit anyway.


We were now 20 minutes late, so I rushed out to the taxi rank. Once aboard the yellow cab we were soon further delayed by an accident on the freeway. Turning off along Bell Road we stopped behind a level crossing, which made me think of how much Alex would like to be here. Despite the somewhat rundown nature of the suburbs outside, I knew that this was my home city, I could feel it in my bones.

View from the room

Sunset silhouette

More photos

[Edited 2012-12-11 19:22:34]

Topic: RE: The Purple Patch: New Virgin Aus SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: allrite
Posted 2012-12-11 19:16:44 and read 9431 times.

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Thank heavens for mobile phone boarding passes! The connection from the bus ride back from Bell City to Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport was tight and I raced through security and down to the gate as quick as I could, making it well prior to boarding.


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Virgin Australia's home in Terminal 3 was in a sorry state, looking temporary and under construction. I was too eager to return home to spend time admiring the airport.


Rudolf the Red Nosed Virgin

Boarding was via stairs front and back, being seated at the front meant that I was in the last group to board. I was too fearful of more Virgin Australia scoldings so I didn't take any photos from the outside.


Unlike the flight up, which was in a new Virgin Australia 737-800, this aircraft still had the old red exterior. I find it quite ugly, but the new livery is awfully bland.


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Despite the old exterior, the inside was a mixture of old and new. The purple perspex divider between business and economy made an appearance, but not the purple mood lighting. The seats had been reupholstered with the dark grey faux leather and red, purple and pale grey headrests. However, they retained the tiny seatback screens with their Foxtel feeds.


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The first thing I did was to change the screen to the flight map feed. The map itself is quite poor and constantly interrupted with advertising, but it's better than nothing. I never find much to watch on cable television anyway, but on a longer or night flight it could be a welcome diversion. Unfortunately, there was no music to accompany it over the audio system.


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After a long wait we taxied out to the runway, taking precedence over a Tiger Airways flight that had left the terminal first. It's difficult to believe that Virgin would want to acquire this low cost airline with such a dreadful reputation without rebranding it.


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Under silvery skies of high cloud we launched into the air and over the pale brown-gold plains of outer Melbourne. It is such a different city to Sydney. The landscape is so flat and broad, the colours khaki and pale yellow over Sydney's dark greens, red roofs and blue waterways.


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Our flight path followed the Hume Highway almost the entire way to Sydney. So familiar was I with the highway that the flight map was virtually redundant, despite the cloud early in the flight. I love this countryside from the ground and, in the red gold and stark shadows of the late afternoon light, I loved it from the air too.


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Albury-Wodonga

Thrown into sharp relief were towns nestled among the hills, avoided by the highway, the Molonglo River carving out at path through the granite hills, irrigated green on either side.


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The crew came through serving drinks. I think alcohol might have been free for this service, but I just had a glass of water. Again, I would have appreciated a small snack, like on Qantas, but it was either full-fare or buy on board for such.


I was surprised how soon we began our descent, shortly after Yass, though it was a gradual decline in altitude. High above the Earth I was happy. The scenery was so much more interesting than the northern plains. It was a textured landscape, rich in memories of holidays and sneaky meetings with the girlfriend who would be my wife.


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Suddenly we were at the great sandstone walls of the Blue Mountains, red in the smoky light, like a barrier to our destination. Though we came from the southern extent of Sydney our flight path took us all the way up to the northern extremities, over shimmering rivers and waterways that reminded me of evening arrivals into Bangkok.


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Holsworthy Army Barracks


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The undulating dark green bushland of Sydney suburbia was an amazing contrast to the brown flatness of Melbourne. We swung south again, taking us right overhead of my workplace and Alex's childcare, though he had already left for home.


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This is my favourite approach to Sydney Airport, with magnificent views of the CBD, the Harbour Bridge and evening reflections off the glass skyscrapers, over rapidly gentrifying inlets losing their industrial port status. Lower and lower, over the model railway setup of the container farms and across the threshold of the airport, landing on the main runway.


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A slow taxi to the gate, perhaps airport congestion again. Along the way I spot the complete set of Virgin aircraft (or those soon to be), the Tiger A320, the Skywest ATR, the mainline Embraer, 737, A330.


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In this perfect light after a perfect flight those widebody aircraft parked at the International Terminal called for me to join them on a great adventure. But so did a desire to return to my family, and so I rushed as fast as I could down and out of the terminal to the train for home.



I have to say that the Virgin Australia flights were perfectly decent. The cabin crew seemed more professional than with earlier experiences. I still feel that Virgin Australia lacks that intangible class of Qantas, but that's only a personal opinion to which I know many disagree.

More photos

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: NWADTWE16
Posted 2012-12-11 22:12:12 and read 9135 times.

Didnt realize their operation down there so great report! I agree the Blue scheme is hideous..i rather think the new one is professional and i love the way the name is written..the virgin on the tail brings it into par with their other global sisters..however i do agree im getting really sick of this lack of enthusiasm for any creativity at all with livery... =(

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: rushed
Posted 2012-12-12 02:07:03 and read 8776 times.

I agree the old virgin blue livery is horrid but i really like the new Virgin Australia font. Very professional and stylish   Great trip report too - love the use of colors!

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: allrite
Posted 2012-12-12 02:55:46 and read 8670 times.

Quoting NWADTWE16 (Reply 2):
I agree the Blue scheme is hideous..i rather think the new one is professional and i love the way the name is written..the virgin on the tail brings it into par with their other global sisters..however i do agree im getting really sick of this lack of enthusiasm for any creativity at all with livery...
Quoting rushed (Reply 3):

I agree the old virgin blue livery is horrid but i really like the new Virgin Australia font.

Thanks for your comments! I agree that the new font is very nice, but I rather preferred their V Australia 777 (the aircraft missing from my lineup) silver livery over the new all white bar titles and a couple of engine stripes . We already have an incumbent red and white airline called Qantas. I have a fun little conspiracy theory that John Borghetti (previously of Qantas) is a mole on a secret mission to deliver Virgin Australia to Qantas and the newer livery will save on repainting costs! Look at how similar their strategies seem to be these days...  

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: MSS658
Posted 2012-12-13 03:07:32 and read 7603 times.

Hello

Great trip report, thanks for sharing! DJ doesn't look bad at all. However I'm surprised not to see PTV's on the SYD-MEL sector.

Greetings
Marc

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: BNEFlyer
Posted 2012-12-13 05:03:33 and read 7486 times.

Nice report, always good to see some Australian reports here.

Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
I'm not impressed by the mainly white with red trim exterior livery of Virgin Australia aircraft, but upon entry into the cabin I was very pleasantly surprised. It looked almost brand new, with dark grey faux leather seats with pale grey, purple or red head rests and an purple perspex divider between economy and business. The seats were soft and comfortable and I felt like I had plenty of legroom, though YMMV.

You're right, the plane was almost brand new (13 months approximately). And the mood lighting can be attributed to that plane (and all of their new builds) being BSI aircraft.

The new aircraft come delivered with IFE, but as you found out on the return trip, any older aircraft with IFE have retained it, but had new seat covers, Business Class and the divider installed.

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: adamspotter
Posted 2012-12-13 08:29:29 and read 7336 times.

Hi there,

Nice report you made here with many nice pictures! Australia sure is a beautiful country and what a great approach into Sydney with some fantastic views!
Looks like you had 2 decent flights here although I agree at least a little snack with the beverage would be much more appreciated! Nevertheless I like their colourfull interior.

Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
The purple perspex divider between business and economy made an appearance, but not the purple mood lighting.

The mood lighting is because you had the new Boeing Sky Interior on your first flight and this 737 was one of the older ones hence no mood lighting!

cheers,

Brendan

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: allrite
Posted 2012-12-13 14:46:33 and read 7157 times.

Quoting MSS658 (Reply 5):
However I'm surprised not to see PTV's on the SYD-MEL sector.

Virgin are offering Galaxy Tabs and digEplayers for selected flights for a fee. Note that they also offer pay per view movies on the aircraft with seatback screens (live2air) for flights longer than 2 hours, according to their

Quoting BNEFlyer (Reply 6):
And the mood lighting can be attributed to that plane (and all of their new builds) being BSI aircraft.
Quoting adamspotter (Reply 7):
The mood lighting is because you had the new Boeing Sky Interior on your first flight and this 737 was one of the older ones hence no mood lighting!

Thanks. I suspected that was the case.

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: vhsmm
Posted 2012-12-14 01:05:47 and read 6859 times.

Another solid performance by both Virgin Australia and you.

I am travelling on QF489 to Melbourne tonight, if it ever arrives. A 30 min dedlay has just been announced. Bloody QANTAS

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: allrite
Posted 2012-12-14 02:19:17 and read 6825 times.

Quoting vhsmm (Reply 9):

I get the feeling that lateness these days is more due to congestion and ATC than the airlines when it comes to the major routes. At least Melbourne has plans to expand.

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: Ditzyboy
Posted 2012-12-16 03:24:01 and read 5837 times.

Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
The seats had been reupholstered with the dark grey faux leather

It's leather.

Topic: RE: Virgin Australia's Purple Patch: SYD-MEL Rtn
Username: allrite
Posted 2012-12-16 04:58:39 and read 5783 times.

Quoting Ditzyboy (Reply 11):
It's leather.

Thanks! My mistake, I've seen so many others talk about faux leather and airline seats that I just assumed. I assume Jetstar and Tiger are the same, so I guess that leaves Qantas as the only choice for those against the use of animal products!   


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