CARRIER: VIRGIN BLUE
SECTOR: PER - SYD
ETD: 00:25 (local) ETA: 06:35 (local)
ATD: 00:25 (local) ATA: 06:15 (local)
FLIGHT TIME: 3:50
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 737-8FE
REGISTRATION: VH-VUC “Foxy Rock’sy”
DEPARTING GATE: 3
DEPARTING RWY: 21
ARRIVAL RWY: 34L
ARRIVAL GATE: 8
Photo © Nathan Bartlett
Well after having so much fun on our Europe trip my friends and I decided to do it again, well almost. Due budgetary constraints we would need to travel somewhere a lot closer. My best friend and I were originally going to Sydney by ourselves. We were going over there as she flies to Sydney at least once a year to visit her dad and she has always raved on about the nightlife and wanted to take me this time. But as time grew closer more of my friends decided they would like to come and we thought what the heck, the more the merrier. There ended up being five of us.
We decided that we would fly Virgin on the way there as it was the cheapest option. My best friend wanted to spend the extra 40 bucks to fly Qantas. I did not mind, as a 747 would operate the flight we would get. In the end it was decided to fly Virgin on the way there as it would be the first time we would all be flying together and it would be fun. Since we were flying separate on the way home because 3 of us were going onto Melbourne my best friend and I decided to fly Qantas on the way home from Sydney as we were not going to Melbourne. (Confused yet?)
I left work early on Friday and went home and packed for that night’s flight. I hit the gym then came home had dinner, made sure I packed everything and then got ready to leave for the airport. My Step dad drove me and another one of my friends to the Virgin Blue terminal. This would be the first time I have used this terminal. We were the first ones to arrive in our group. We waited a while and were getting a bit anxious, as we know that in our group of friends punctuality is not common. So we decided to checkin without them and we could always ask the staff reserve the seat next to me for my best friend. We had to be checked in manually because the check in kiosks were inoperable.
Check in did not go as smoothly as planned. I had book mine and one of my friend’s tickets on the Internet and paid with my credit card since she did not have a credit card. But I forgot a letter in her first name. The check in guy notified me of my mistake and said it was a breach of security because she has been booked under a different name and that I was lucky because he was going to change her check in details and let her board the flight blah, blah, blah. Ok so I f’d up but he was carrying on and made me feel like a right old idiot. We were handed out boarding passes which looked like a shopping receipt. My god I reckon they would have had a few passengers discard them before boarding thinking it was just an old Coles receipt.
My other friends arrived 15 minutes after we had checked in. I accompanied them to the checkin counter to see if they could sit next to or near us on the flight. We had the same guy who checked me in 15 minutes earlier. We explained to him what we would like to happen. He then asked my friends “do you want to sit next to this geezer.” My friends were silent and I was thinking, You better not have been serious when asking that and secondly if you were joking then we had not formed that sort of relationship where you can joke about me as 15 minutes earlier who were making out to be a right old twat. We left check in with my best friend say “ that guy is seriously wired”.
The Virgin terminal at Perth is shocking when it comes to amenities. Thank goodness Westralia is investing millions of dollars to revamp the terminal. This money would be great for an interim measure until the domestic terminals move across to join with the international terminal. That is something that really needs to happen soon. My friends and I hung out at Dome cafe for a while and got something to eat and drink. As it was getting closer to our departure time we all headed to the gate. We passed through security and then it was upstairs to the departure lounge. The lounge was packed as there were three Virgin Blue flights scheduled to leave around the same time. Being upstairs in the Virgin terminal it became really apparent that this terminal was very dated and needed more room. I checked the boards and it showed we were to board via gate 3. With the Virgin terminal only equipped with two aerobridges and both of them are in gate 1 and 2, that meant we ere were to board via the stairs. Usually I would not mind boarding via the stairs but it was like 1 degree outside. Oh well at least it wasn’t raining.
Photo © Carsten Bauer
Photo © Norbert Genci
Photo © Alex G
Our flight was soon called for boarding. We had our boarding passes/receipts scanned and made our way down the stairs and out onto tarmac. We entered through door 1L and were greeted by a friendly female flight attendant. First impressions of the cabin were it was very clean. This probably had a lot to do to the fact that VUC was brand spanking new. The seat pitch was a little tight, but that is what you would expect for a low cost carrier. The seats were leather, which I don’t find comfortable and blue. I was glad I was assigned row 12 as row 11 which would be occupied by two of my friends was the row where the windows were blocked out. Boarding had soon finished at it looked like it was going to be a full flight.
The front door was closed and the leading flight attendant came over the P.A and welcomed all of us aboard. Then it was the captains turn and he gave us some flight information on tonight’s flight. As we were pushed back from the gate the crew started to perform the safety demonstration. Our leading flight attendant talked us through the safety briefing. Before she started she introduced each member of the cabin crew before introducing her self as “ my name is Helen and I am gorgeous”, which a few people laughed at. We held for quite some time after we were pushed back from the gate.
After about a 10 min wait we began our short taxi to runway 21 which included us taxiing past the Qantas domestic terminal where a mammoth 747-338 was docked. The lights were dimmed and we turned onto the runway and began our takeoff roll immediately. Our takeoff roll was fairly long and our initial climb was quite steep. Soon after we had lifted from the ground we executed quite a sharp turn to the east. There was a bit of buffeting as we passed over the Perth hills, as usual.
The seat belt signs were switched off and the lights came back on. Helen informed us that the crew would prepare the meal service and for tonight’s service we had a variety of snacks and beverages and for details to check in the in-flight magazine located in the seat pocket in front of us. I bought a small tin of Pringles and an orange juice. Both items were $2.50 each. Not as expensive as I was expecting but still a lot more expensive than I would expect to pay for both items at a shop.
After consuming these items I decided to visit the bathroom. As I came out of the bathroom I saw the crew were walking back up the aisles to collect the left over rubbish and they would be blocking my way. Helen said if I could stay up the front for about 5 minutes till they passed my row thus allowing me access to it. I sat in seat 1 D (the first time I have ever sat in row one) as it was free. I noticed that their was no bulk head in front of seats A, B and C and there was a bulk head in front of D, E, F. with a large Virgin Blue insignia. I wondered what would happen to it when Virgin Blue got rid of VUC as they do rotate their 737 fleet a fair bit. After a small wait I made my way back to my seat the lights were dimmed and I settled down to get some sleep.
It was hard getting to sleep in the uncomfortable Virgin Blue .seats but I managed to do so not because I got comfortable but due to pure exhaustion of getting my stuff at work in order so I would not have to stress while I was on leave for a week. I awoke just over an hour later. I looked out the window and I could see a large cluster of lights. I could make out streets and highways. I wished we had some flight information. I figured due to its size and because of the timings it must have been Adelaide. Slowly my friends woke up and we talked for the rest of the flight.
After a while we conducted a sharp turn to the right. It was now slowly starting to get light and the odd thing was with the positioning of where the light was coming from I had us flying in a southerly direction. We then passed another cluster of lights before we conducted another very big turn and the sun light was now coming in from the other end of the cabin. It was not too long later that the captain came over the P.A to inform us that we will begin our descent into Sydney. He also explained that due to a really strong tail wind we had we would of actually landed a lot earlier than we were scheduled but because Sydney airport was still in curfew mode we had a pleasant detour south to Canberra and back again. Our descent was initiated over the Blue Mountains. It was still dark outside but it was starting to get light. This approach like my last flight into Sydney was exactly the same. This had us fly over Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and then track in a southeast direction over the southern suburbs of Sydney and then out over the Pacific Ocean. Once over the Pacific Ocean we then conducted a sharp left hand turn to put us on final for runway 34L. The flaps were lowered over the Pacific Ocean and we made our slow approach towards terra firma.
Photo © Kurt Ams
Photo © Quinn Savit
Touchdown was at about 6:05am and it was fairly smooth and we had a fairly long landing roll. It was now pretty bright outside so the sun must have risen now. As we pulled off the runway I could see a Singapore Airlines 747-412 taxiing to her gate. She must have landed before us. I could also see a British Airways 747-436 completing her landing roll on runway 34L. She had followed us in and by the looks of the lights on final approach this is definitely a very busy time here in Sydney.
Photo © Prana Mahen
Photo © Craig Murray
We made our way to assigned gate which today was gate 8. We parked next to VH-VBK. We were one of the last people to disembark. After visiting the toilets to wash our faces and put eye drops in my poor eyes, which felt very dry due to the cabin air, me being exhausted. It was then onto baggage claim. After a small wait we collected our bags and then it was off to find a ride to our accommodation.
GROUND HANDLING: 2/10
I did not like my ground handling experience. Being embarrassed by the checkin agent was not pleasant at all. Second rate terminal in Perth. Luckily that terminal does not receive anything larger than a 737-800 these days. The terminal is outdated, too small considering the growing activities of Skywest and Alliance and is lacking in amenities. Sydney’s terminal was ok but it still felt very Ansett with is cabin colours all over the décor. Definitely a mish mash of branding there.
Spotless inside and out but again I believe much had to do with VUC’s young age. I am fan of the 737NGs but the cabin on this particular 737 was not as comfortable as other 737 NG flights I have taken. I would rank Malev 1, Qantas 2, Virgin Blue 3, Easyjet 4, & Ryanair 5. The seats need to be re-thought. PTVs (standing for paid TVs) would be ok for a sector on this length.
Good job. They did try a few jokes but it all seemed a bit forced. They disappeared after they sold us stuff.
Reasonably priced. Selection was a bit poor. But I guess it would complicate the low cost model if we added more food options
Bring a book or and Ipod, or your best friend
X FACTOR: 4/5:
Well Virgin Blue did an ok job. Don’t be alarmed by its low scoring, I guess my judging criteria is better suited for full service carriers. What really let Virgin down was its ground handling and if they could improve their seats then they would have scored a lot higher as well. So that make 4 low cost flights over three carriers. The other two carriers being Easyjet and Ryanair. Virgin is definitely the best of the bunch. But with Ansett’s big shoes and the Australian public demanding and expecting the world’s best domestic airline service because that is what they are used to then Virgin Blue has done pretty well. They did need to shy away from the traditional low cost model and start offering lounges, frequent flyer program and IFE to attract more business travelers who are being lured by Qantas. And let’s face it Qantas would be a very tough carrier to compete with. Would I travel again with Virgin. Well I was given the opportunity to fly Virgin to the Gold Coast for my works summer conference but declined. I guess I did it due to the distance and would be more comfortable to fly from Perth over east on a 767, 747 or a Qantas 737NG. If I made that decision then think about all those people who aren’t price conscious. Why would they fly Virgin. Virgin has clued onto this and has since evolved from a low coat carrier to a new world carrier.
TOTAL 17/55 = 30.91%