Hi everyone, and welcome to my second trip report on this site.
It's November 2013, and I'm finally done with my undergraduate degree. Having seen the announcement of its initial domestic service introduction within Australia, my friends and I decided to book ourselves on Jetstar's new 787 service from Melbourne to the Gold Coast (Coolangatta) for a short trip to celebrate the end of university. This would be my first trip as a passenger on a 787, whilst my first time on the aircraft was when Boeing brought ZA003 to last year's Singapore Airshow and held tours during the trade days.
The flights operated by the 787 between Melbourne and Cairns (JQ944/947) and Melbourne and the Gold Coast (JQ444/447) are sold as single class flights, with Business Class seats sold as extra legroom seats available for an additional fee (AUD24), which I thought was good value considering that the flight was 2 hours long, so we selected our seats in the business class cabin, which has a total of 21 seats spread across 3 rows in a 2-3-2 configuration.
Getting to Tullamarine Airport is a pain as usual, made less so on this occasion by the fact that we carpooled and parked at an off-airport site which doesn't charge the obscene amounts the airport long term car park does. A short shuttle ride later and we disembark in the new bus zone at the airport, which is constantly changing the configuration of the drop off and pick up zones in the terminal forecourt. It's then on to a kiosk at Terminal 3 (which serves both Qantas and Jetstar) to try and get some proper boarding passes, but the machine refuses and directs us to collect our boarding pass at a counter, which we decide to ignore and just fall back on our home printed paper boarding passes. We head for a quick bite at the Subway in the neighboring Terminal 2, before finally clearing security (where I was pulled aside for extra screening - which I am frequently accustomed to due to my tanned complexion and Asian appearance).
We take our time and head to Gate 11, which is at the end of the pier, reaching when boarding is underway. We take the opportunity to snap photos of the aircraft at the stand which is fully visible from the gate lounge.
The gate has 2 jetways, but only 1 is in use, which connected to door 2L. We proceed to board and are welcomed onboard by the crew, turning left to head to our assigned seats in the forward cabin. The cockpit door was open at the time, so I took a picture just for the heck of it.
The overhead bins were as large as advertised, and easily accommodated the hand luggage our group was carrying. The bins and their handles were easily opened and closed, and were extremely user friendly.
A sky blue lighting scheme was displaying as we boarded, with sidewall lighting being a deep red.
The passenger service units were positioned directly above the seat, with the air vent and reading light able to be adjusted. Air conditioning was very strong and the airflow was good through the cabin.
I was seated in seat 1A.
There is only 1 window at this row, whilst other seats have 2.
Seat pitch was 38 inches, with decent recline and leg rest extending from the bottom. The metal footrest in the bulkhead seats were essentially useless for someone of average height and above, I found that it got in the way and I'm only 1.76m tall, whilst my friend who is even shorter than me shared the sentiment. The seat recline and leg rest buttons were stiff and were not easy to press and operate. The seats would probably be considered as premium economy on a full service airline, and were certainly sufficient for a flight of such a short duration. Legroom in the bulkhead row was generous, but I can't speak for Rows 2 and 3 though.
There is a noticeable gap between the forward bulkhead and the cabin sidewall, which allowed light to shine through from the Door 1L window.
Future services to Honolulu and Japan might not be as comfortable, as the recline is not what I would consider sufficient for lounging, and the leg rest extension provides little or no support to the legs even when fully extended. Just an extra note, seats 3G and 3J are designated tech crew rest seats, and as such have an extra few inches of recline compared to the rest of the Business Class cabin. These will only be sold as revenue seats on shorter legs.
We sat at the gate for quite a while whilst the aircraft was refuelled, and our departure time came and went. The cabin manager introduced himself over the PA and informed us that we would depart late but would make up the time inflight, and that we had 3 Captains and 1 First Officer on the flight deck for the flight, which he later mentioned to me in person was for training purposes. The jetway was retracted, and we pushed back 10 minutes behind schedule.
The safety demonstration was carried out by the crew, and we taxied quickly to Runway 16 where we performed an intersection takeoff from about a third of the way down, and we were swiftly airborne.
We made a 270 degree right turn to head northeast toward the Gold Coast, climbing quickly to our cruise altitude of 43000 feet, the highest I've ever been on any flight.
Despite the high rate of climb, there was no impression of increasing cabin pressure during the ascent, with no popping of ears. The seatbelt was turned off about 5 minutes after takeoff, and the crew closed the curtains to the galley and prepared to start their service. The electronic window dimmers were unlocked by the crew and the cabin quickly darkened as many passengers elected to dim their windows.
I found the dimming to be quick and effective, with the darkness level to be sufficient for someone to be able to fall asleep. From full brightness to maximum darkness took about 40 seconds. The windows are noticeably bigger than any other aircraft I've flown, and especially the A380, which despite the impression of having huge windows on the inside, actually has small exterior windows.
Being in a bulkhead seat, I released the IFE screen from the left outer armrest, and selected the airshow channel for a start. The IFE system fitted is a Panasonic eX2 system, with regular touch screen monitors fitted in Business and Eco 9i Smart Monitors in Economy. The screens were extremely responsive to the touch, though the graphical user interface was not the most intuitive.
The headphone jack was situated between the seat recline and leg rest buttons, beneath the small cocktail table situated between the seats. Earbuds were complimentary for all passengers.
Business Class seats had a IFE controller on the armrest facing forward, in addition to USB and power ports for each seat.
The reading light and attendant call buttons were on the controller as well as within the settings page in the IFE.
IFE in Business Class was complimentary for the flight, and the movie and TV selection were sufficient for the flight, though with the limited options available, longer flights would probably require a more diverse selection. There was a playlist function whereby songs from the few albums in the system could be added and played, which is what I used primarily together with the airshow channel. An observation that I made was that there were distinct categories for Japanese options on the IFE, perhaps in preparation for eventual service to Osaka.
It was then that I decided to check out the forward lavatory, situated on the left side of the aircraft ahead of Door 1L just behind the cockpit. The door of the lavatory was of a new design, which opened on a sliding hinge, such that it did not obstruct the walkway outside the lavatory as it opened, and instead opened outward with the door sliding along the inside wall of the lavatory. It was a standard airplane lav, though the flush sensor was contactless, just a wave of the hand over it and the toilet would flush. The faucet was also sensor activated, with temperature adjustment on the top side.
An important point to note - for an aircraft that carries 335 passengers at full capacity, there are only 6 lavatories. 1 for Business in front of Door 1L, and 5 in economy, with 1 ahead of Door 2R, 2 in the centre at Door 3 and 2 at Door 4. I think that this could be an issue on longer flights, especially during the toilet rush before landing.
Exiting the lavatory, I had a short chat with the crew, who were preparing to start the buy-on-board service. One flight attendant shared her opinion with me that whilst these domestic legs were great, she feared that the lack of galley stowage and storage space on the aircraft would cause problems on longer flights in the future, especially on a full flight with 330+ passengers, with only 3 galleys - half galleys at Doors 1 and 2, and a full galley at Door 4. That being said the ceiling lighting and design in the galley areas is certainly impressive, and has a very open feel. By this time, the lighting scheme in the cabin has changed to a pale yellow, almost like a sunset.
Despite not buying anything during the service, I opened the tray table for the purpose of this report, extracting it from the centre armrest.
It folds in half, and can slide forward to give more room when seated.
There is however an issue in the bulkhead seats where the IFE screen is attached to the opposite armrest instead of the back of the seat in front, as the gap between the table and the screen when extended does not leave much space for any food to be left on the table, so it becomes an either or if consuming a meal during the flight, as the screen will be in the way. Looking out the window, the wingflex on this flight was not as extreme as I've seen on other trip reports and photos, but was still impressive nonetheless.
The pilot then came on the PA for the first time the whole flight, welcoming us onboard (1.5 hours into a 2 hour flight) and then announcing the start of descent and advising us of the weather at Coolangatta. We commenced our descent about a half hour out of Coolangatta, whilst the cabin crew prepared the cabin for arrival. We descended with spoilers partially extended for the better part of 15 minutes. The windows were centrally brightened to full brightness and locked, which was extremely glaring, and the cabin lights quickly brightened to white.
Similar to our departure from Melbourne, there was no noticeable change in cabin pressure as we descended, so again no popping of ears.
We flew out to sea off the NSW coast before a straight-in approach to Runway 32. The approach was bumpy, and the landing was the same, which was reminiscent of SQ's early 777 crews who used to slam their planes onto the runway. The reverse thrust kicked in, and that was the loudest sound from the engines the whole flight.
We exited the runway at the end and taxied to the stand, where stairs were connected to Door 2L.
Whilst waiting for the stairs to arrive, I struck up a conversation with the cabin manager, who shared his thoughts on the aircraft and then kindly demonstrated to us the functions of the high comfort jump seat that Jetstar optioned for Door 1L and 1R, which deploys and extends into a bed of sorts along with armrests and a tray table, and has a recline function to allow the cabin crew better rest on longer flights, as the aircraft is not fitted with dedicated crew bunks, which the cabin manager said was something he would have liked.
These were the bulkhead Economy seats immediately aft of the Business Class cabin.
The crew on this flight were generally friendly, and more than willing to take time to discuss the 787 and their experiences flying it domestically over the last 2 weeks since its introduction into service with Jetstar. They were looking forward to its first international service to Denpasar starting in mid-December.
We then disembarked from the aircraft and walked into the terminal.
The 787 is an absolutely wonderful aircraft to fly as a passenger, regardless of its issues. The cabin interior is far beyond anything Airbus has developed, the cabin pressure and humidity are much improved from the 777, and particularly the cabin noise is much less than any other aircraft except probably the A380. The mood lighting is very pleasant, and adds an additional element to the already beautiful cabin. Whilst the Jetstar configuration is extremely dense, the aircraft still felt very spacious. My only complaint was that the ceiling was very low at the window seat, with the PSU forcing me to bend down every time I stood to leave the seat.
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