Photo © David Morrell - Avid Creations
Introducing Ozjet, flying ex-European Aviation B737-200s and reportedly ex-Ansett Bae 146s in full business class configuration….
The first aircraft, still registered to and operated by European arrived in Australia in February in full Ozjet livery and with the new Ozjet interior. This plane has been used to fly around Australia to promote the new brand and create a certain amount of awareness of the new product, which they hope to have operating by late August 2005, noting that they are yet to secure an Australian operating certificate.
On 10 March 2005, Canberra, one of the inaugural 4 destinations announced played host to the Ozjet experience.
The aircraft, G-CEAI, a B737-229/Adv arrived in Canberra around 1330 local with a load of travel industry and business people on board. The aircraft parked at the Gate 5 aerobridge, usually used for Virgin Blue operations, but at that time of day, that end of the terminal is empty.
The Chairman (Stoddart), CEO and other passengers disembarked and moved into the old Golden Wing lounge. After a short time, where media representatives etc were conducting interviews and photos were being taken, the CEO invited us on board for a short flight.
10 March 2005 Flight EAF 019 Canberra-Canberra
(Operated by European in Ozjet colourscheme and configuration)
Boeing 737-200 G-CEAI, Seat: 11F. Pushback 1417, Takeoff 1427 Runway 35, Landing: 1538 Runway 35, Blocks: 1543.
Flight route Canberra-Albury-Wagga Wagga- Merimbula-Canberra
The interior of the aircraft is immaculate – media are reporting it has undergone a million dollar refurb. The 737-200, which can seat up to 130 in all economy layout is fitted with 60 seats in a 2-2 configuration (15 rows). The seats are soft blue leather with an Ozjet headrest. I heard someone mention they were old Virgin Atlantic business seats, but I’m not sure if that’s true.
With about 45 passengers on board, we were given our safety briefing by the European crew (interesting to note that the over-wing exit has been disabled and out of use – obviously with only 60 seats it is not needed?), and told we would be taking a short sightseeing trip around the region – over the mountains then across to the coast and back to Canberra. Conditions would be smooth. The flight number was officially EAF 019, operated by European. Flight and Cabin Crew were from European but currently based with the promotional aircraft in Australia (hard job!!). They have four flight attendants for the 60 seats, ensuring prompt and high quality service.
We took off quickly on Runway 35 at Canberra, enjoying the noise and power that only the JT8-Ds can provide (in reality they are not that noisy – the sound is a bit different though).
Once levelled off, the fasten seat belt sign came off and we wandered around the cabin, talking to staff and looking at the aircraft. The two bathrooms at the rear were refurbished and looking quite good. The crew also showed me the dinner to be served on that evening’s flight Canberra back to Melbourne – this was the type of meal proposed to be used by Ozjet. I can say it was impressive. Bone china crockery. Plate of fresh Australian cheeses. Sirloin steak and vegetables for mains and a nice looking flan for dessert – not your typical economy fare, that’s for sure. Plus a little Ozjet leaflet (didn’t have the chance to look at it closely).
Paul Stoddart also come over the microphone and discussed the Ozjet product. Check in 15 mins before, business lounges at the boarding gate, 3 pieces of carry-on luggage permitted, full business class seats and service, all for the price of a full-economy ticket.
As for our flight, we were given champagne glasses (not plastic…) and offered champagne or orange juice. Accompanying this was a bowl of hot nuts, one bowl for every block of two seats, placed elegantly between the two seats on a dark blue linen napkin.
After a pleasant flight of just over one hour, where the Chairman and CEO mingled and spoke with many of the passengers, we returned to Canberra, touching down on Runway 35. This time we taxied to one of the Standoff Bays (Bay 3), which allowed media to take more photos and Paul Stoddart to pose proudly in front of his plane.
I was very impressed by Ozjet and hope for the sake of competition and consumer choice that it is a success. Of course it would also be great to see a new airline in Australian skies and a few 737-200s back in the country.
I have some photos - when I find a place to host them online, I will attach them as a response