Founded in 2000 with just two Boeing 737-400s, Virgin Blue has since expanded rapidly while establishing itself as a “new” type of airline. Low fares, an extensive a-la-cart business style, all-economy seating, and minimal GDS presence would suggest that Virgin Blue is nothing but a typical low-cost carrier. However, one becomes somewhat confused when they discover that DJ has various interline and codeshare agreements, PTVs on most of their airplanes, and owns V Australia, a full-service international airline. Virgin Blue seems to be stuck in some sort of legacy-low cost purgatory, which will hopefully be solved with the current re-branding process.
The decision to book with DJ was strictly price-related. Qantas, the only other choice on this route, was significantly more expensive. I figured that Virgin Blue couldn’t be that bad since it was part of the Virgin Group, so we booked our flights without putting much thought into it.
DJ does not make their flights available for booking through any GDS, which means that all bookings must be done through the airline directly, using either their website or call center. Virgin Blue’s website is extremely basic, but it gets the job done. We needed to book multiple DJ flight segments, but we were unable to book a multi-destination itinerary on Virgin Blue’s website. Therefore, we ended up with multiple one-way tickets. Seat selection is only available when online check-in opens 24 hours before the flight, so I made sure to select seats the day prior to our flight.
The drive to airport was without problems, and we were dropped off in front of Terminal 2. Check-in was again painless, and the friendly agent printed out our boarding passes with our pre-selected seats. Our bags were also tagged to CNS, which we had to pay $12 AUD for at the time of booking.
There was no line for security, and I didn’t have to take my shoes off, which was nice. Our flight was listed as on-time, so we made our way to gate 33.
Date: 24 March 2011
Airline: Virgin Blue
Flight: DJ 1413
Aircraft: Boeing 737-7Q8
Aircraft Reg: VH-VBL
Departure City: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Departure Airport: Kingsford-Smith Airport (SYD / YSSY)
Arrival City: Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Arrival Airport: Cairns Airport (CNS / YBCS)
Scheduled Departure Time: 9:00 AM
Actual Departure Time: 8:57 AM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 11:05 AM
Actual Arrival Time: 10:57 AM
Load Factor: 100%
Boarding was announced about 25 minutes before our scheduled departure time, but premium economy customers and those flying on an Etihad codeshare ticket had priority boarding.
My boarding pass was scanned by a friendly agent, and we made our way towards the jetway. Inside, there was a sign telling those sitting towards the rear of the aircraft that they can walk downstairs and board via the rear stairs. Since our seats were behind the wing, we did just that.
Before welcoming me on board, an incredibly attractive flight attendant told me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. I apologized to her and said I was really sorry, fearing that they would force me to delete the two pictures I had just taken. After my apology, they turned nice and directed me to my seat.
Arriving at my seat, 17F, I realized that I was unable to fit my backpack under the seat in front of me. It got stuck between my seat cushion and the seatback in front of me. Wow, there was almost no legroom. Extremely thick seats combined with only 30 inches of pitch practically guarantee an uncomfortable flight!
During boarding, the lead flight attendant introduced herself and welcomed us onboard, extending a special welcome to Velocity members and Etihad codeshare guests. I’ve never seen codeshare passengers treated so well!
Pushback commenced 3 minutes early at 8:57, and we were on our way!
Taxi to runway 34L was lengthy, but I was rewarded with views of several cool aircrafts including an EY A340, an EK A380, a VN 777, and an MH 747.
Takeoff was uneventful.
Upon reaching our cruise altitude, the flight attendants began the food and beverage service. Everything was buy-on-board, but I was prepared for this and brought my own drink. I opted not to purchase anything, mainly because I just wasn’t hungry. The menu itself wasn’t too bad, however.
Our crew today consisted of only women, and ALL were young and very attractive. Very Virgin-like!
There were PTVs in every seat on this 737-700, however, you must pay $9 AUD to use it. I chose to just listen to music on my iPod and nap.
As the flight dragged on, I must say that I was anticipating its completion more and more. The seats were quite uncomfortable.
Our descent into CNS finally began, which offered very scenic views of the mountains surrounding Cairns.
The landing was smooth, and taxi to the gate was short.
The domestic terminal at CNS seemed almost like a makeshift facility, although from what I understand this is not the case at all. In fact, I believe the airport has recently undergone renovations.
Our bags were among the first to come out, and we were met by a representative from Hinterland Aviation to escort us to our connecting flight bound for Lizzard Island. Hinterland Aviation operates from the general aviation section of the airport, so we had to drive to the other side of the airfield.
All-in-all, I had a nice experience with Virgin Blue. They flew me from SYD to CNS on-time with friendly service, which is what’s most important with domestic carriers nowadays. However, I wouldn’t exactly describe the whole experience as enjoyable. You get the feeling that DJ attempts to nickel and dime their passengers as much as possible, and their 737s are excruciatingly uncomfortable IMO. I would probably only recommend DJ to someone who doesn’t mind paying extra for everything.
Here are some pictures of our flight to Lizard Island on Hinterland Aviation.
Hope you enjoyed!
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