Flight VA871 Virgin Australia Route: Melbourne to Sydney Flight time: 1 hour and 30 minutes. Seat: 1C Business Class Membership: Velocity Red
Hello again, this is part 2 of my Melbourne trip during the holidays. 2 days ago I flew down in Virgin Australia Business Class (link to report below) and after visiting family and friends I was to fly back on Wednesday, again on a Velocity Reward flight. As what will become the usual, I will write this report in this sort of structure:
- Intro - To the airport - Check-in - Lounge/airside - Boarding - Seat - Take off - Inflight/meal - Descent/Landing - Arrivals
Intro: After spending 2 nights and 3 days in Melbourne, it was time to head home to Sydney on VA871. I timed this flight specifically so I would be served dinner on the flight. Virgin serves dinners on flights longer than 1 hour departing between 5 and 7:30pm I believe. For economy passengers, it is a good time to fly as well as complimentary beers, wine, spirits and soft drinks are served. Usually, they are purchased with the BOB menu.
Melbourne itself is a medium sized city with a population of 5.2 million people - close 2nd behind Sydney which caps in at around 5.3 million. Lots of flights from Tullamarine airport cater to the Middle East and South East Asia, with a smaller international presence by Qantas and a big domestic presence by the likes of REX, Virgin Australia and thus Qantas.
Before leaving, I took several photos of the city.
Famous dognut store.
Food district near Bourke Street. For some reasons photos turn 90 degrees left/right on FR - anyone know how to fix this?
Landscape of the city, with the Melbourne Star on the right.
Getting to the airport
Likewise to my arrival in Melbourne, I took the Skybus from Southern Cross station in Melbourne's CBD after finishing some shopping and walking around. The Bus terminal is below the suburban train platforms and the area has many signs directing you where to go. I would recommend this as an alternative to taxi if you are by yourself and staying in the city, as it costs $18 for an adult (one-way) and children like myself are half-price.
I arrived there at around 3:05pm, walking into the entrance of the transport interchange area (photo from google, FYI)
It was a short wait at the ticket counter, and the staff was efficient and friendly in selling tickets. I had a 2-minute wait for a bus and then boarded a single deck bus with around 40 other people. We left 3 minutes later, at 3:15pm.
On the bus - photo is rotated again for some reason??
The bus ride took around 35 minutes, with some major traffic before Essendon airport. It was a nonstop express (all Skybus' are) so this is another advantage to taxis or perhaps being dropped off by family or friends.
And at exactly 4pm, I got off the bus with my single carry-on and made my way to the entrance of Terminal 2 as pictured, and thus into the Virgin Australia check-in. This is another benefit of the Skybus for Virgin Australia departures - first stop at the airport is Terminal 2, followed by the Qantas terminal and finally the International departures terminal.
Making my way into the terminal at 4:05 I went to Virgin's priority check in, having to climb a flight of stairs to the departures level. Virgin operates Priority check-in for Business, Velocity Gold and Platinum guests, however, no one was in the queue, so I received my boarding pass immediately. The Economy check in queue was empty, and self-check-in machines which I have used previously (they are easy and straight forward, recommended if you have no bags) were also not being used.
(forgot to take photos…. bad FR start!!)
Sadly, the nice lady at check-in informed me that I wouldn't be able to enter the lounge as it is licensed premises serving alcohol after 11am, and as I am under 18 I would need an adult guardian to enter.
Even though I couldn't enter the lounge, I took a quick snap from the outside. Note that at Melbourne, the Lounge is before security and most shops are as well, so if you are planning to spend most time before boarding in the lounge then you should factor this in.
Before security, after check-in.
VA Lounge entry
Security at Melbourne is a bit congested as a bottleneck forms due to the location. However, there is a priority line for VA Business, Velocity Platinum, and Gold guests. I was airside at 4:15pm and so I went to a Hudson's for a quick drink and snack. Checking the departures board and my boarding pass I saw we would be departing from gate 6 this evening, boarding a 5pm.
Hudson's serves good coffee and a variety of snacks and light meals - I would recommend it as it is cheap by airport standards.
I went up to the end of the Terminal 2 concourse for some spotting - past gate 8 in Melbourne there is a good view of the apron, and several widebodies can be seen when looking at the windows of odd numbered gates.
Control tower at YMML.
Lonesome REX Saab 340 - it would later fly the evening shuttle to Wagga Wagga I believe.
Sun is beginning to set - SQ 777 from Singapore taxiing to the international terminal.
QF 737-800 to Sydney
After 45 odd minutes of spotting, I began walking back towards gate 6 slowly in anticipation for boarding, whilst looking at other VA jets on the pier.
Lovely shot of a VA A330 - presumably headed to Perth on the East to West coast run. However, Virgin has just signed a deal with HNA (parent company of Hainan airlines) group for an investment segment, and thus rights to fly between Beijing and Hong Kong from Sydney - meaning these will have to be utilised for those routes unless new aircraft are purchased. Thoughts?
The final shot of the apron towards Melbourne's budget terminal catering the likes of JQ and TT for short hauls around Australia.
Boarding Boarding began shortly after the scheduled time at 5:10pm, at Gate 6. Priorities were strictly enforced, however, families with small children and anyone requiring extra assistance was paged to board first.
At 5:12pm, Business class, Velocity Gold, and Platinum members were directed to the board through the jetway, and row 15 onwards through stairs at the back of the plane to reduce congestion.
Today's 737-800 for the short hop to Sydney VH-VOO, a jet that originally flew with Virgin Blue and Pacific Blue before being transferred back to the renamed Virgin Australia in 2013. It is named Peaceful Bay.
I was greeted with a big smile on entry to the aircraft by Head Stewardess and Business class attendant Belinda, and she welcomed me onboard and showed me to my seat 1C whilst addressing me by name. The cabin began to fill up quickly, eventually with 4 PAX in Business and around 140 in Economy. Most were businessmen/women and surprisingly single parent families.
PDB drinks were offered, with a choice of Orange Juice or iced water. I took an orange juice. Belinda took my coat, and Galaxy tablets were offered as well as a choice of newspapers - surprisingly no-one accepted either offer.
Quick shot of the Galley.
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.
On this flight, the cabin was clean and magazines and safety cards were in every seat, as far as I could tell.
Other PAX were seated in 1D and 1F, and 2D.
The cabin is much nicer than VA E-90's which are cramped and tight in Business with a 2-1 configuration and a 2-2 for the economy.
Takeoff At 5:24pm the last cabin door was shut with final paperwork being delivered. Belinda came around and politely collected all glasses and ensured the Business class passengers were comfortable. Over the PA system, economy attendant Jane introduced Simon and Matthew as captain and co-pilot respectively on this flight, with a rather quick flight time of 1h and 5 minutes back to Sydney. We would be cruising at FL370. Pushback occurred at 5:26pm, with the safety demonstration beginning shortly after.
We taxied to Runway 27, behind a JQ A320.
Sunset views were stunning at the same time.
Reaching runway 27 at 5:37pm, we waited behind the JQ A320, and after it took off a QF737 landed, and we were next for departure. We were airborne at 5:40pm.
Vector out of Melbourne. Inflight/meal
After a short take-off roll, we made an 180-degree turn to heading 090, climbing quickly past 10,000 feet where the seatbelt sign was switched off. We made a series of left turns to get on course towards Sydney.
Inflight/meal Shortly after the seatbelt sign, Belinda came and offered a choice of Lamb Gnocchi or Minestrone Soup with an option of chicken for dinner. We could also have whatevever drink we wished, and were given the option to have something from the economy BOB menu.
I took the lamb gnocchi and asked for another glass of juice to go with it, along with some nuts. Out of the 3 other passengers, 1 took a gnocchi whilst another had the minestrone soup with the chicken option. The lady in seat 1D was asleep the whole time!
I moved across to 1A to have a better view - the national parks on your left-hand side as you fly up to Sydney really look beautiful with the sunset, and sunrise I am guessing!
Reaching FL370 at 5:57pm, my dinner was served.
On the tray we had: - Lamb Gnocchi - Potato, feta and carrot salad as a starter - Strawberry lamington in a box (very Australian) - Butter
Belinda came around and offered us a choice of bread - I just took a white roll which was nicely heated up and began eating!
Lamington - a bit of a disappointment for a business class dessert, this is where Qantas does beat Virgin even on quick flights i.e Sydney to Canberra it serves proper desserts. It did taste good, however!
The food was delicious, as the lamb was piping hot and tasty with the gravy, and the gnocchi was soft and nice to eat. It tasted like a proper home cooked meal - just what you need on a cold weekday night. There was plenty of lamb in the gnocchi dish and it was tender and soft.
The salad was tasty and interesting, I just wished for a bigger serve!
Belinda came around constantly checking on us, and offering drink refills. I switched to water even though Virgin's orange juice is really good! The other passengers seemed to enjoy the dishes and the minestrone soup looked appetizing and hot. I noticed that economy was served what looked to be some sort of savoury pastry.
Belinda came around again and I asked if I could possibly have another serving of the lamb - she wasn't certain there was any left but said she would check and tell me!
Lucky me, I had the last serving and it was delicious again!
(Sadly no extra salad…. oh well!)
I continued to relax and listen to a bit of music from my phone…. nothing beats good food and nice music!
At 6:17pm we began our descent into Sydney and Captain Simon informed us over the PA that we would be having a 34L landing, which would be slightly bumpy due to winds. Weather in Sydney was a cold 12 degrees.
Approaching the outskirts of Sydney
Cabin crew came around clearing trays and rubbish, Belinda came around asking us how everything was and ensuring that we were happy and filled with food and drinks. She also wished us a safe onwards journey and thanked us personally for flying Virgin Australia.
Approaching Sydney - Western suburbs
We made a right hand turn out to be parallel but flying away from 34L - and then we made the final 180 to line up with it at 6:35pm.
By now it was completely dark so I decided not to take any more photos as they would be useless and not very good to look at!
At 6:40pm we had a smooth touchdown at Sydney's runway 34L, with a Qantas A330 taking off after we turned off the runway. We had a short taxi to the Virgin Terminal, and Belinda came on the PA to thank everyone for flying Virgin Australia and wish us a safe onwards journey/stay. We quickly reached the gate at 6:45pm - before the ETA of 6:55pm. Not bad, considering the late departure!
We deplaned at 6:46pm, through the front cabin door only. Belinda stood in between the Business/Economy section so that Business class passengers could deplane at their leisure which was a nice touch.
We were at gate 43, which is in the middle area of the departures pier, and so I made my way down to the arrivals level before walking to the Domestic Airport train station so that I could catch the train towards central and then change onto the T1 North Shoreline. IT costs around $15 to get into the city - Sydney's airport train is quite a rip-off but it arrives around every 8 minutes giving you decent connection options. That ends the FR for today!
Virgin Blue The Lounge
Melbourne - MEL
Sydney - SYD
Virgin has a decent product for its Short haul 737-800s, I hope they revamp the seat with power and maybe more storage and entertainment options like on QF. I can't comment on the lounge so I will base that score off my Sydney review in my earlier FR. Service onboard was great, and Belinda was kind, caring and made sure everyone was happy and had no problems. The food was decent, however, larger servings of the entree and a good dessert would be appreciated next time. I didn't use the entertainment options provided by Virgin but based off their Wifi App system there was plenty of content for a short flight. All in all a decent flight - but does anyone know how to fix this rotating photo problem? Really annoying for me but it must be more annoying for you readers! Hope you enjoyed, feedback will be appreciated. My next FR will most likely be a Sydney to Melbourne hop, so I will try to fly with a different airline for that. Get excited about my trip to France and Switzerland in December where I will be taking 6 flights with EY, VA, and AF.
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