Flight VA824 Virgin Australia Route: Sydney to Melbourne Flight time: 1 hour and 35 minutes. Seat: 1A Business Class Membership: Velocity Red
Hello, everyone, this is my first review on Flight Review so I hope you enjoy! Apologies if some are not up to your standards! For every report I do (which will not be often as I am a student and I do not travel as much as the serious reporters - as much as I would like to!!) I will be splitting it into several sections. - Intro - To the airport - Check-in - Lounge - Boarding - Seat - Take off - Inflight/meal - Descent/Landing - Arrivals
Intro: A couple of days ago, I was looking into visiting family for a couple of days in Melbourne which is a very short flight away - in fact one of the busiest routes in the world. School holidays just started for me so I looked at the first Monday that I had off, and to stay for 2 nights with family. As I try and fly Virgin Australia to gain points for our family using their family pooling, I looked into reward flights on both classes which they offer on 737 short hauls.
The 52 flights to Melbourne with Jetstar, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Tiger!
Surprisingly availability was wide open for both economy and business class, so I selected a morning flight leaving at 9:30 and an evening flight that left Melbourne at around 5:30pm on Wednesday, which would mean I would receive a snack and dinner on each respective flights - so I made sure that I would have plenty of time to visit the lounges!
Lots of reward space just a week out from departure!
So, I selected the following flights based on the time I would need to get up at/leave, and so how long I would have in Melbourne overall. It looked something like this:
Overall, it cost 38,000 Virgin Australia points which is very cheap considering full fare would have been around $1600 return at this time. All I need to do is wait :), and plan my travel from Upper Sydney area to the airport in Mascot, which I planned to take the train to get to - more on that soon!
However, the morning of the flight at 3:07 am, I received a message from Virgin Australia stating that I was moved to the next flight at 9:30am. I wasn't complaining because it would mean more time in the lounge!
*Most photos inflight are pretty bad as I am using an iPhone 6 - will use a proper camera next time! To the airport Getting around Sydney is relatively easy with the decent train, bus and tram network that spans most suburban areas. Living on the North Shore means that I would take the train to central, change for an Airport Line service and get off at the Domestic Airport stop built for terminals 2 and 3.
I took a 6:30 train, changing at Central at 7:05 before arriving at the airport at around 7:30. This was a quick and easy process, and the train wasn't very busy - would recommend this over taking a taxi, as it cost $15 on a youth Opal card ticket (Opal is the ticketing system used for transport in Sydney. Central Station
The Domestic Airport Station is quite deep underground, with stations at Mascot and Green Square before, so it was a 10-minute walk past the ticket barriers and several escalators before I reached the Virgin Australia terminal. Again, this leaves you on the arrivals/baggage claim precinct so you need to climb another set of stairs to reach the departures level.
Check-in Virgin Australia uses both self-service check-in and check-in desks, which have priority (for Business, Velocity Gold and Platinum (or partner equivalent) and normal queues. Although I checked in for my flight earlier I had to check-in as I was bumped to the next one at 9:30am.
Check-in was quick and easy, taking 2 minutes as I just had to give my Frequent Flyer Card. The agent directed me to the lounge, however, I took photos of surrounding check-in desks and the departures board.
Tigerair TT (a LCC) check-in
REX (regional Express) check-in, this is a large regional airline operating services to small towns like Griffith and Merimbula with Saab 340's.
Departures board for YSSY
And finally Jestar JQ (another LCC) check-in desks. They operate a variety of services around Australia and to secondary airports i.e Melbourne Avalon.
Security was quick and easy taking 5 minutes, and so I walked 2 minutes to the Virgin Australia lounge which is on your right as you walk down the steps after security. There are many security lanes for peak times, however, priority lanes do not exist I believe.
After security, shopping precint/concourse.
Lounge I completely forgot to take photos of the lounge entry, apologies. To get into the lounge, you need to be flying VA Business, or hold Gold or Platinum Velocity status. Silver status receive 2 passes a year to use. The boarding pass was scanned quickly at the entrance by the 2 staff manning the desk.
Departures board in the lounge, lots of flights around Canberra/Melbourne/Brisbane for commuters.
Straight away, I went and found a seat overlooking the tarmac towards the International terminal for a bit of spotting, and then breakfast before the flight. There were plenty of people in the lounge but attentive staff cleared up plates and offered drinks, reducing congestion. I noticed they were mostly businessmen or single families. (following photos are bad quality again…. iPhone standards!!!)
Virgin Australia piers with Jetstar to the right
Singapore A380, NZ (I believe) and a 777 belonging to BA which operates the LHR - SIN - SYD route.
Korean Air A330 in the background, loading up for the daily flight to Seoul Incheon.
My food of choice: a Cappucino with fruit.
After eating and drinking, I took a walk around the lounge to explore the available amenities and services. The lounge is big with a variety of chairs and workstations, and several coffee machines operated by baristas. There is upstairs which is much smaller but provides a better view of the runway.
Workstations - USB and power ports are available for use.
Toilets - clean and amenity kits are available at the services desk but they are a bit cramped.
Breakfast menu (or what is on offer at the buffet area)
Sky News plays on the TV for business workers
Newspaper offerings (SMH, The Guardian etc.)
After spending more time in the lounge and having a couple of hot drinks and more fruit, I took one last walk around before making my way to the boarding gate as it was just a bit before boarding time (9am).
VA ATR72 - arriving from Canberra.
International widebodies - EK, QF, UA.
Today's aircraft - a 737-800 flying under VH-VOP. It has been with VA for 3 years, originally flew with Pacific Blue (Virgin Blue's old New Zealand offshoot) but now flies domestic short hauls mainly.
Nickname: Indian Head (previously was called Withney Sunday's)
One last shot of QF, CX and KAL widebodies.
Boarding: Boarding began shortly after I arrived at the gate, from gate 41.
Priorities were strictly enforced, at 9:02 Velocity Gold, Platinum and Business class as well as a family with infants/small children were invited to board in the Priority Lane. Boarding for economy by zones started 5 minutes after.
At the door, I was welcomed by Renee (the Business cabin manager) and Vaness who was the Purser for today's short hop. Boarding continued and I took my seat in 2A, and all other Business PAX were situated by the time I was too. Business was nearly filled with 7 PAX, and seat 2E was the only unoccupied one. Renee came around offering papers, and pre-departure drinks of Orange Juice or water.
I took juice.
Economy Class and the cabin divider.
Business Seat - 2-2 configuration.
VA E90 heading to the Gold Coast.
Renee making announcments.
Sadly, Renee forgot to hang my jacket but it happens :D As the final paperwork for the flight was delivered, I overheard ground staff saying there was 161 PAX in Economy class. Galaxy Tablets with entertainment were offered along with headphones at the same time. On short haul flights onboard its 737s and Embraer jets, Virgin uses a Wireless in-flight entertainment system which can be connected with any phone/tablet/laptop device. As I had my iPhone I declined her offer. To connect, you need to have the Virgin Australia entertainment app downloadable from the app store, and then connect to the wifi network of the flight. Automatically it pauses whatever you are doing if an announcement is made while you are on it.
Cabin doors were closed at 932, and captain Mark and his co-pilot Grahame came to welcome us whilst announcing a Flight time of 1hr, 10 minutes, weather (rain) in Melbourne and our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet.
On all 737-800/700 and Embraer flights, Virgin offers a business class in a 2-2 recliner style seat. Economy comes in 3 - 3 with a decent pitch. It is clad in leather and quite comfortable - recline is on the smaller side but for short hops it does fine. Width is fine, and there is plenty of legroom (no footrest sadly!) The drinks tray in between the seats is big enough for both passengers to place devices, drinks etc. on it and a retractable tray just below is used for PDBs, reducing congestion. A coat hanger is on the right hand side, however there is a small partition between row 2 and row 3 of economy where proper hangers can be used to properly stow your coat by the crew. The only other fault in the seat design was a lack of power supply (USB or plug), which is found on most Qantas domestic seats.
Photo credit: Virgin Australia (did not get a good photo of the seat itself, but this shows all I have said).
Taxi/takeoff Pushback began quickly at 933, and we began taxiing after engines were started towards runway 34R, crossing the perpendicular runway 7/25. At the same time, the safety demo was performed.
We had a medium length taxi, taking around 10 minutes.
At 947, we took off, flying over the airport before making a right turn past Bondi beach before tracking the coast. Renee announced economy passengers would receive a snack and drink, before coming to take business class meal orders when the seatbelt time was turned off. Next couple of pictures show our ascent and path towards Melbourne.
We were offered a choice of 4-morning snacks - all of which were quite big! Normally, there are 2 but as the flight before was cancelled its catering was also loaded onto this flight. Choices were: - Bircher Muesli - Zucchini and Bacon Quiche - Fruit platter - Chicken sandwich
I took the former and was offered a choice of drinks to go with. I asked for an Orange juice and a coffee. In the meantime, Renee asked us to sit back and relax whilst she prepared the meals. I believe 4 other PAX in Business class took up her offer for food.
Passing over Canberra, meals were gradually served. We reached our flight level of 30,000 feet just 10 minutes after takeoff.
Passing over the Australian Alps - lots of snow for a change!
Thredbo, Perisher, and Falls Creek are usually the snowfields of choice.
I took a look at the in-flight entertainment offerings on the Virgin Australia app - a decent and varied selection of Movies, TV Shows, Books/Magazines, Music and destination guides (and of course the moving map!) was available. I didn't watch anything, rather listened to my own phone's music and checked the moving map occasionally to see where we were.
20 minutes after take off I received my meal of Bircher Muesli. Renee bought me my coffee shortly after whilst juice was on the tray. She also mentioned that Business class passengers are entitled to anything from the Economy Buy on Board menu.
On the tray was Milk (for the Bircher Muesli), mango yoghurt, butter fruit bowl, the Muesli itself sprinkled with nuts and dried fruit. Provided also was a glass of water and cutlery wrapped in a cloth. Renee also came around and offered a choice of bread or croissants, as well as jam/preserves to go with it. I took a bread roll.
I ate it just as the flight passed over Falls Creek - which is near the Victorian/New South Wales border.
The food itself was of good quality, the Bircher Muesli was hearty and the yoghurt of good quality. The fruit was fresh and tasty and the bread roll nice and warm. Renee came around consistently checking that everything was ok, and offering drink refills and seeing if we wanted anything else. I just stuck with water for the remainder of the flight, and eventually, Vanessa (after finishing the economy service) took my tray away. Everything was finished!
34 minutes into our cruise at flight level 300, the Captain Mark came on to give us an update on landing and weather conditions - all of which were the same. at 1039, we began our descent.
Taking a right turn to line up parallel with Melbourne's runway 9/27.
It was quite quick, and we hit several pockets of turbulence at around 15,000 feet. The whole descent lasted around 13 minutes. Cloud cover was at around 9,000 feet.
Cloudy skies matched the rain well - typical Melbourne weather!
When landing at Melbourne, you begin to appreciate how suburban the areas around it are.
5 minutes later, we were lined up to land on runway 27 at 5,000 feet.
Final approach, widebodies at the International terminal were easily viewable, as well as several QF short-haul jets.
At 1055, we made quite a hard landing on runway 27 at Melbourne's Tullamarine airport! Pilot Mark made an abrupt stop with full reverse thrust and flaps. We turned left off the runway before making a quick 3-minute taxi towards gate 6 as Cabin Manager Vanessa said all the thank-yous and welcomed all passengers to Melbourne over the PA.
In the meantime there was plenty of spotting to do at Tullamarine - lots of flights from Asia land in the morning which makes for some interesting activity.
Scoot (TZ) and Jetstar 787's.
Royal Brunei, Qantas and Shanghai airlines.
Shanghai airlines A330 - anyone know where this flies to?
And so, at 1100 we arrived at the gate and began disembarkation. Business class passengers were allowed to leave first, with Vanessa standing at the economy class cabin divider to ensure this happened - a nice touch. Good to have an on time arrival considering we left Sydney late.
We had arrived at gate 5.
Arrivals: It was a quick walk to baggage claim (I did not check-in anything so N/A to me) and I followed the signs towards the Sky Bus which I would take to get to Southern Cross station, which is relitavely quick and cheap. Unfortunately, Melbourne doesn't have any rail services and taxis are extremely expensive in Australia, so this was the most practical option. Tickets were just $19 for an adult one way or $9 for a child, and services leave every 10 minutes.
Added benefit of passing Essendon airport if you take the Skybus - the DC3 and Skycrane are must see attractions here!
The famous DC3! Unfortunately, the SkyCrane helicopter was no where to be seen!
20 minutes later, I arrived at Southern Cross station. From there I explored the city centre - which ends this FR i suppose!
Sydney - SYD
Melbourne - MEL
A nice flight with VA. Food and service were a highlight, with Renee and Vanessa highlighting Virgin's trademark service in Australian Domestic flights. On time arrival was a bonus, and the lounge was nice - more food options would have been appreciated. Sydney airport is easy to access but Melbourne can be a bit tricky at times. Hope you enjoyed, feedback and comments etc. are much appreciated for my first FR!
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