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The Virgin Australia ATR72 To Canberra  
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2070 posts, RR: 4
Posted (2 years 8 months 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 8176 times:

After my massive Malaysia Airlines report it's time for something a little less ambitious. And trips rarely get much shorter than the Sydney to Canberra run.

I keep writing up these work runs because I keep experiencing something new. This time it was Virgin Australia’s new ATR72-500 aircraft and their lounges. I suspect that this might the first trip report about them, though I am happy to be corrected.

I often have to travel down to Canberra for work reasons and we are supposed to select the lowest fares through our booking system. In this case Virgin Australia flights worked out the cheapest and most convenient for me. They also afforded me the opportunity to try out their new ATR72-500s, operated by Skywest.

Last time I flew Virgin to Canberra was the first day of their new “Capital Connect” service and they had a few stumbles with their meal service. I was curious to see if they had improved three months later. My government fare also gave me access to the Virgin Australia lounges and, being a relative neophyte in the lounge space, I wanted to try them out.

Up before 6am to catch the bus and train to the airport after a rough night of Alex with a fever. B would be staying home to look after him anyway. One of the bad things about Sydney Airport’s Terminal 2 is that it has a decent kids shop called Kaboom, so I often end up spending money on gifts for Alex.

I wandered around for a while looking for the Virgin Australia lounge.

The “new” Virgin Australia A330 as an E190 in the old livery descends in the background

The three big users of Terminal 2: Virgin Australia, Jetstar and QantasLink

It took me a while to find the lounge - it’s right next to security! I thought it quite nice with a reasonable, though mostly cold, breakfast buffet selection. There were decent views of airport operations and the overall design looked quite professional, probably a big change from the “Blue room” of times past, though I never visited one of those.

I don’t feel comfortable taking photos in a lounge, so please excuse the lack of them in this report.


.


.

That’s my plane!

Lounge entrance

It was time to go to the gate.

Our ATR72-500

The ATRs were a new addition to the Virgin Australia fleet, more efficient than the E170s which were on the way out (or gone already). They competed with QantasLink’s Dash8s which also flew on the Canberra route. Certain flights were also done with Qantas 737s and Virgin E190s - jets were probably too popular with the high officials that travel in and out of Canberra to replace entirely - there’s been more than one day I was glad I was on a jet on the route.


.

Once boarding commenced we made our way out on the tarmac and up the rear stairs of the ATR72. There were two cabin crew on board.

My sole experience of an ATR72 had been on Firefly between Kuantan and Singapore. I had been very impressed by that flight, especially in contrast with the restricted Dash8 cabins.

Now this second time on the ATR72 the cabin wasn’t quite so spacious and jet like, the fuselage curvature did restrict foot space like the Dash8 (though not quite so much). I think I still prefer the cabin to a Dash8, but it’s not a huge factor for me anyway and both are fine for this run. The restricted space did mean that I placed my daypack in the overhead compartment

Seating

Legroom

The cabin quickly filled up.


.

The Virgin Australia A333 bound for Perth departed first, then it was our turn to taxi out towards the main runway. Whilst the actual flight time of the turboprops on the Canberra run is longer than the jets, they have the big time advantage of using the main Sydney runway over the more distant third runway.

Qantas Freight 767

The change of name from V Australia to Virgin Australia was announced the next day

We took off towards the south, then turned right, parallel to the the coast, crossing the Kurnell Peninsula much further inland than the jets do.


.


.

Kurnell Peninsula

Cronulla and Port Hacking

As we crossed over the Royal National Park we began passing through the clouds that covered the sky until our descent into Canberra.


.

Out to sea

Above the clouds


.

The crew came through handing out muesli biscuits and juice - the same drinks served on Qantas. This time they completed the task before descent without any difficulty. I like the apple guava juice, but the biscuit was only okay, pretty much par for the course on a short domestic leg.

Meal

Time for our descent into Canberra.


.


.

Land ahoy!

Lake George has water!

A Qantas 734 at Canberra

The Qantas line, 734s, 763 and Dash8 Q400

We exited on to the tarmac and entered the older part of the terminal.

Last photo of our aircraft

All in all a low fuss but full service flight into Canberra. The ATR72 flight was quite smooth and reasonably comfortable, better in my opinion than the Dash 8, but not significantly so. My seat should have been a noisy spot, but I didn’t find it too loud.

[Edited 2012-01-16 20:02:15]


Applying insanity to normality
16 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2070 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (2 years 8 months 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 8173 times:

The next day it was time for the return trip, also on Virgin Australia. Last time I had tried the Qantas lounge and I was interested to see how the Virgin Australia lounge compared.

Straight ahead to the Virgin lounge

Not quite as good in my opinion. A selection of antipasto and sandwich fillings and onion soup was available, along with free drinks. The lounge wasn’t as large a Qantas’ and soon filled up to a point where spare seats would have meant sitting next to a stranger. The big screens showing Foxtel were annoyingly loud.

.


.

The bar

There were decent views of the tarmac to entertain.

Our E190 back to Sydney

Back towards the Qantas gates

A Virgin Australia ATR72 taxies towards the runway

While I was sitting in the lounge a formation of three army Kiowa helicopters approached, followed by two of the Navy’s three A109E helicopters, a black and a white one, and a UH-60 Blackhawk or Seahawk, which then flew away towards the coast. The five remaining helicopters descended to the RAAF Fairbairn base across from us. According to the official Navy website the leased A109Es are used for “public relations support and recruitment activities.” i.e. They look cool.

The Kiowas

A109Es

On the ground. The RAAF/VIP Boeing 737 is in the hanger

After visiting the men’s room I found no convenient place to sit, so I departed the lounge. Bad move. There was even less space at the gate, possibly due to a late departure to Melbourne. I was glad to finally board.

Pointing nose. RAAF Fairbairn is in the background

E190 with the old livery

I’ve been on a few Virgin Blue/Australia E190s now, including one the previous month, so there is not much to say about them.

Interior remains much the same

Legroom

An old Qantas 734 lands

The Virgin Australia fleet


.

A Qantas Boeing 734 preceded us along the taxiway, but we turned on the runway first, whereas they went all the way to the far piano keys. I don’t know if this is representative of the performance differences between the aircraft.

Reflections on the wing

The 734 in the background

Our takeoff was towards the north. The E190 seemed to get a little shaky as we rose - I’m still not convinced of its handling in turbulence in comparison to the bigger 737s.


.


.

I am endlessly fascinated by Lake George and its highly variable water levels

Up through the clouds


.


.

Once in level flight the crew began the meal service. We had been reminded that the meals were only included on this route, not elsewhere on the Virgin Australia network. There is no time for dawdling on these Sydney Canberra flights and the crew were still not as efficient as their Qantas counterparts. We had already begun our descent by the time the spinach and ricotta muffin and fruit juice was place on my tray table and almost immediately they had to start collecting them again.

Not so great muffin
I guess that they might as well serve “free” food on the Sydney - Canberra route as they compete for government business. There really is no time for a buy on board service.

Back down to the clouds

It was raining with poor passenger visibility as we began our final descent into Sydney airport. We must have swung round over the northern suburbs, though these were mostly obscured by the cloud.

Annandale


.


.

Braking

Wet window

Barring an emergency, surely after this report there is nothing more that I can write about the Sydney to Canberra route. Virgin Australia are really taking it to Qantas with free meals and lounge access included in many government tickets. Their ATR72s are probably a little more comfortable than QantasLink’s Dash8s and their speed difference doesn’t come into play. Their E190 jets are fresher and more efficient than Qantas’s 737s and feature 2-2 rather than 3-3 seating. Unlike the 737s they lack any entertainment (it’s nice to listen to music or watch the news when there’s no time to use personal electronic devices). Apparently, the E190s will be refurbished with a true business product in the near future. Why anyone needs to fly business between Sydney and Canberra is beyond me though. There is still a difference in the lounge and cabin service that is probably still in Qantas’ favour, but the crowded Virgin Australia lounge is possibly a sign that Virgin has become a popular choice.

Thanks for reading!



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlineFlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 30
Reply 2, posted (2 years 8 months 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 7746 times:

All right, allrite! (Sorry, couldn't resist).

A nice comparison between an E-jet and the new ATR-72 service on this short but busy hop. To me it looks like Virgin Blue/Australia is maturing to be a real airline instead of the LCC player it started as - just look at the fleet variety from your inflight magazine shot for example. Very good, I'm sure you Australians need some competition for Qantas ever since Ansett folded...

That ATR looks just gorgeous in the Virgin livery, but then again I'm a complete sucker for the type anyway.

I'd love to go to Australia one day, I just love that varied scenery you have there and also evident on your photos!


User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2070 posts, RR: 4
Reply 3, posted (2 years 8 months 3 days ago) and read 7468 times:

I forgot to add links to the full sets of photos:

1) ATR72 flight
2) E190 flight (inc 15s video)

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 2):
All right, allrite! (Sorry, couldn't resist).

That's alright!  
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 2):
To me it looks like Virgin Blue/Australia is maturing to be a real airline instead of the LCC player it started as

That's what they are trying for.

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 2):
That ATR looks just gorgeous in the Virgin livery, but then again I'm a complete sucker for the type anyway.

Then check out Firefly's livery - much nicer!

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 2):
I'd love to go to Australia one day

And I want to visit Finland! Swap?  



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlinecam747 From Australia, joined Sep 2011, 29 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (2 years 8 months 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 7328 times:

thanks for this great trip report, the new ATR's look pretty good. I might have visit canberra just to try them out!

Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 2):
Our takeoff was towards the north. The E190 seemed to get a little shaky as we rose - I’m still not convinced of its handling in turbulence in comparison to the bigger 737s.

I've flown Virgin's E190 many times now, and I absolutely love them. I hope they don't get rid of the E190's like they did the 170's. But I do agree they don't seem to handle turbulence at all well.....but that's what I love  


User currently offlineroberts87 From Netherlands, joined Dec 2011, 986 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (2 years 8 months 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 7152 times:

Thanks for sharing. I also read your other trip report, so it's nice to compare. Glad to hear that you enjoyed your flights, it's certainly nice to get a snack and some juice on such a short hop.

User currently offlinesignol From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2007, 3005 posts, RR: 8
Reply 6, posted (2 years 8 months 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 7060 times:

Hi Allrite,

nice to read about another variation on the Sydney - Canberra hop!

As has been said, those ATRs look great. I've still yet to sample one, despite their commonness around Europe.

And again Virgin Australia look like shedding the LCC image they had - becoming more like Virgin Atlantic in "hip and cool" image.

I hope Alex is feeling better soon  

Thanks again

signol



Flights booked: none :(
User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 15
Reply 7, posted (2 years 8 months 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 6730 times:

Hi

Nice report you have there, thanks for sharing it with us. Never realised Virgin had ATR's as well.
Seating looks quite comfortable.


Greetings
Marc



Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2070 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (2 years 8 months 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 6331 times:

Quoting cam747 (Reply 4):
I might have visit canberra just to try them out!

It's too short a flight to really enjoy any of the aircraft. Wonder if they are being used on more interesting routes yet.

Quoting roberts87 (Reply 5):
Glad to hear that you enjoyed your flights, it's certainly nice to get a snack and some juice on such a short hop.

The lounge access kind of negates the benefits of the food service, though not all flyers would have such access. On other times flying Qantas from Sydney to Canberra in the early mornings the meal service was a saviour as I often wouldn't have time for breakfast before boarding.

Quoting signol (Reply 6):
becoming more like Virgin Atlantic in "hip and cool" image.

I get the impression that Virgin Australia is heading more for "conservative and corporate" under the ex-Qantas Borghetti, though some of their flight attendants have a "hip and clueless" look about them.

Their website is certainly much more corporate (and pleasing to look at too I might add) these days.

Quoting signol (Reply 6):
I hope Alex is feeling better soon

Thanks. This trip was in late November so he is well and truly over that bug and so far free of any others. He is constantly demanding to go to the airport and fly to Bangkok. I think next month's flights to Melbourne will be blog only however.

Quoting MSS658 (Reply 7):
Never realised Virgin had ATR's as well.

A recent addition to their fleet.



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlineDJMEL From Australia, joined Oct 2008, 140 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (2 years 8 months 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 6106 times:

Hi allrite,

Nice to read your trip report - SYD/CBR/SYD - on the ATR 72-500 and the E190, yes on all flights to SYD/CBR/SYD and MEL/CBR/MEL - they are known as Capital Connect services which offer a complimentary snack and drink (water or juice) and tea and coffee.

I have just completed the Inaugural BNE/EMD/BNE flight on the ATR 72-500 and I was on the Inaugural BNE/GLT/BNE ATR 72-500, I have found the aircraft very comfortable and fast and efficient, I very much like the complimentary snack service for all guests on these ATR Services.

Thanks for sharing your experience of the Virgin Australia lounge, yes they are certainly getting more busier these days!!!! there probably will be a larger lounge in the new Western Concourse when it is completed no doubt!!!!

Thanks for providing another great trip report!!! Keep up the travels!!!!

Oh and yes I do work for Virgin Australia!!!

DJMEL


User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2070 posts, RR: 4
Reply 10, posted (2 years 8 months 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 6080 times:

Quoting DJMEL (Reply 9):
SYD/CBR/SYD - on the ATR 72-500 and the E190, yes on all flights to SYD/CBR/SYD and MEL/CBR/MEL - they are known as Capital Connect services which offer a complimentary snack and drink (water or juice) and tea and coffee.

I think I was on an E190 jet on the first day of the Capital Connect service. It felt like a more professional service this time round, which is what is called for on this route, what with all the stuffy suits that fly between Sydney and Canberra (me excluded - I'm the guy in jeans - or shorts in the normal office).

Quoting DJMEL (Reply 9):
I have just completed the Inaugural BNE/EMD/BNE flight on the ATR 72-500 and I was on the Inaugural BNE/GLT/BNE ATR 72-500,

Cool! Do the ATR's park in a remote bay like the QantasLink services, or right next to the other DJ jet flights? When flying down from ROK with QantasLink (and Alliance Air) it's a pain having to go through security again in order to transfer to the jet flights to, say, SYD. It's one advantage the Virgin has on the ROK routes as they currently only use jets. Wonder if this will go ATR - if so my Mum won't be happy!



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlinepalmjet From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1223 posts, RR: 17
Reply 11, posted (2 years 8 months 17 hours ago) and read 5660 times:

Hi allrite

Excellent report - thanks for posting this one too. I think this must be the first Virgin ATR72 report to be posted? I really enjoyed reading about your experiences and great to see so many pics as well.

Likewise, I recently sampled the new ATR72 when I was back in Australia over Christmas. I flew Brisbane - Sydney - Port Macquarie - Sydney - Canberra, with the last 3 sectors all on the Virgin ATR72 (thankfully on two different aircraft -unlike your terrible luck with getting "Penang" 4 times on your flights to Europe!!!). I am still getting around to writing the report as it was a good day trip overall. I really love how clean and fresh the cabins were but I wasn't overly impressed with the Virgin Australia service. We also had a 2.5 hr delay in PQQ as well with little explanation from ground staff. I will provide more details in my report - coming soon!

ATR has historically had limited success in Australia so it's great to see them now again in the skies DownUnder. I remember seeing my first ATR42 back in 1986 (or thereabouts) when Air Queensland boldy ordered two machines. They are still flying apparently - and are back in Europe with Cimber Air.

Thanks again P/jet



Eastern - Number One To The Sun
User currently offlinerushed From Australia, joined May 2000, 248 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (2 years 8 months 14 hours ago) and read 5568 times:

Great review - I'm tempted to try out the ATR vs the dash 8 which I love. In regards to the current jet services, I think you are right - its for the SES who get to fly in J... Maybe they could put some J seats on the dash 8 / ATR fleets like some US carriers are doing..

Departing a lounge for the terminal waiting area is always a bad move - you should have gone back in. I've always found the gates in Canberra busy in the virign terminal. Also glad you liked my lounge review too: Virgin Australia Lounge In Canberra (by rushed Jan 8 2012 in Trip Reports)



travel blogging enthusiast :)
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2070 posts, RR: 4
Reply 13, posted (2 years 8 months 13 hours ago) and read 5527 times:

Quoting palmjet (Reply 11):
Likewise, I recently sampled the new ATR72 when I was back in Australia over Christmas. I flew Brisbane - Sydney - Port Macquarie - Sydney - Canberra, with the last 3 sectors all on the Virgin ATR72

Quite a day trip - can't wait to read about it! Not sure how wistful I could possibly get from your report on the Canberra leg though.  
Quoting palmjet (Reply 11):
ATR has historically had limited success in Australia so it's great to see them now again in the skies DownUnder.

Yes, I'm glad they didn't select the Dash-8 like Qantas, simply for the pleasure of experiencing a different aircraft. I wonder what most flyers think when Virgin have exchanged the jet service with an ATR. I know from trying to book flights with Qantas that their jet services seem to have been more popular than the Dash-8s on the Sydney - Canberra legs.

Quoting rushed (Reply 12):
its for the SES who get to fly in J... Maybe they could put some J seats on the dash 8 / ATR fleets like some US carriers are doing..

SES? Not familiar with the term. Considering that the ATR's will mainly serve regional areas with relatively short flight lengths I can't see that you would want to put in J seats. I suspect that Canberra, which is an odd case anyway, will continue to be served by jets at peak times - the demand seems to be there. Virgin Australia did say they are putting business on the E190s.



Applying insanity to normality
User currently onlinemelpax From Australia, joined Apr 2005, 1618 posts, RR: 1
Reply 14, posted (2 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days ago) and read 5074 times:

Quoting allrite (Reply 13):
Quoting rushed (Reply 12):
its for the SES who get to fly in J... Maybe they could put some J seats on the dash 8 / ATR fleets like some US carriers are doing..

SES? Not familiar with the term. Considering that the ATR's will mainly serve regional areas with relatively short flight lengths I can't see that you would want to put in J seats. I suspect that Canberra, which is an odd case anyway, will continue to be served by jets at peak times - the demand seems to be there. Virgin Australia did say they are putting business on the E190s.

The 'SES' are the senior executives of the Australian Public Service, 'Senior Executive Service' - generally they are entitled to travel in J class as part of their employment conditions. In the PS agency I work for, most of our 'SES' would be lucky to spend 1 or 2 days a week in their actual office, a lot of them do spend a bit of time on the road. However us plebs are restriced to travelling in economy unless the flight is over 6 hours or so - which effectively means nearly all domestic flights. However we may get a funded lounge membership if we have to undertake frequent travel. Don't forget that MP's & Senators would also be entitled to travel in J.....



Essendon - Whatever it takes......
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2070 posts, RR: 4
Reply 15, posted (2 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 4928 times:

Quoting melpax (Reply 14):
The 'SES' are the senior executives of the Australian Public Service, 'Senior Executive Service' - generally they are entitled to travel in J class as part of their employment conditions. In the PS agency I work for, most of our 'SES' would be lucky to spend 1 or 2 days a week in their actual office, a lot of them do spend a bit of time on the road.

Ahh yes, thanks. In my governmentally affiliated organisation we call our equivalents other things. I shall not repeat them here!   Funny how they need big private offices though when so many of the rest of us try to work in noisy open plan.

Quoting melpax (Reply 14):
Don't forget that MP's & Senators would also be entitled to travel in J.....

Yes, wouldn't want them to spend half an hour with the great unwashed.  

Jokes aside, I wonder how many do fly, how many fly in J and how many on the turboprops of the SYD-CBR route. Many people just drive for the convenience.



Applying insanity to normality
User currently offlineaussiepomm From Australia, joined Mar 2011, 42 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (2 years 7 months 3 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 4900 times:

Thanks for the greeat read, I am yet to do an ATR run, but hopefully I will soon though!

Quoting allrite (Thread starter):
Once in level flight the crew began the meal service. We had been reminded that the meals were only included on this route, not elsewhere on the Virgin Australia network.

I think as of the last week or two, DJ have now rolled out free coffee/tea/juice with a light snack (similar to what you recieved) across all of its network! I will have to go back and look for the source, I think it was on thier facebook wall...
Thanks again!



if my calculations are correct slinky + escalator = everlasting fun!
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