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Review: B737-800 Virgin Australia VA436 Sydney to Adelaide

Review: B737-800 Virgin Australia VA436 Sydney to Adelaide
TRIP Report: Adelaide in Virgin business class



Introduction

With over 36,000 spare KrisFlyer points that were about to run out, I decided to redeem them for a Virgin Australia Business Class airfare on one of my regular trips between Sydney (New South Wales) and Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. That way, I got to travel on Virgin Australia which is not my first choice because I have Qantas Platinum status.

I had already sampled the delights of Virgin Lounge Premium Entry so I headed down about 10 minutes early for boarding that was meant to open at 5:45 pm.

Flight: VA 436
Route: Sydney (SYD) – Adelaide (ADL)
Date: Tuesday, 27 August 2019
Depart: 6:15 PM
Arrive: 7:55 PM
Duration: 1 hr 40 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737
Seat: 2C (Business Class)
WiFi: gogo – free or paid for faster – AU$11 for flight
Cost: 42,000 KrisFlyer Points + US$90 fees ~ AU$130

Boarding

The airbridge doors were open when I arrived at the gate, but the gate check-in was closed.

At 5:40 pm arriving passengers started pouring out. This does not bode well for starting boarding at the scheduled 5:45 pm.

At 5:45 the gate doors were closed. Maybe that means all passengers have deplaned, or maybe it’s so another stray toddler doesn’t try to escape from their mother down the airbridge – as happened when I first arrived.

At 5:52 pm a wheelchair passenger was prepared for boarding. They waited for nearly 10 minutes and boarded at 6:05 pm.

At 6:10 pm my watch pinged with a text message from Kayak – advising that the flight was delayed by 10 minutes – no shit, sherlock!

And then we boarded – after the wheelchair and a few other passengers who jumped my queue, which I was obviously at the head of.

Beaten in the queue
Nervous flyer boarding early?

Boarding early allows you to see the varieties of people you are about to travel with. The botoxed and fillered wannabe model in 1C that just plonks her bag on 1A as if she bought a ticket for it and no one else will sit there. (a businessman does).

The North American accented road warrior with no manners – what my mother would have done about the position of those feet! Is the Hitler biography telling?

Another road warrior with earpieces talking on the phone. The older women with feature eyewear looking at the fillered ‘beak’ of the women in 1C. Is she disapproving or amazed or having a memory of youth? Who knows.

I was first into business, but not by much. Soon all 8 passengers in business had boarded – early.

By the time the doors closed at 6:22 pm, the plane was fairly full, although the first few rows of Economy had their middle seats free.

What Economy looked like when I boarded, and before it filled

The Captain announced that he expected a few bumps on the way out but otherwise the flight should be smooth. He also announced (warned?) that the temperature in Adelaide was currently 12ºC (54ºF).

This announcement was followed by the flight director advising that all devices needed to be put into flight mode. Given the news of this week, it was surprising that there was no announcement about Apple MacBook computers.

Boarding was quite efficient, and we started our pull back from the gate at 6:24 pm.

The Cabin

The business class cabin on the Virgin Australia 737-800 consists of two rows of 2-2 recliner seats, giving the cabin a total of 8 seats.

I could not find any power outlet at my seat, and the recliner control was extremely sophisticated as you can see below:

Highly sophisticated recline control on my seat.

The divider between Business and Economy is a bulkhead topped by a purple perspex ‘window’.

The bulkhead behind Business Class is topped by a purple perspex ‘window’.

Once the seatbelt sign is off they place a magnetic ‘rope’ to block off Business from the rest of the cabin, and they don’t even announce that there is a toilet at the front of the plane.

There are no screens on these planes, not back of the seat, not hidden in armrest – not even shared ones overhead, but they do have free gogo wifi. I didn’t run a speed test over it, but I was downloading/listening to a podcast, and it was fairly good, despite the occasional break. Web surfing and internet, worked fine.

Bathrooms

After my two glasses of Pino Gris (how ladies-who-lunch of me) in the Virgin Lounge, I needed a pee, so took the opportunity to visit the bathrooms. Nothing to see here – (if you will forgive me the Australian colloquialism) – bog-standard.

They were clean, but not with any additional amenities.

The Service

Glen introduced himself as the flight director and at 6:18 pm, prior to takeoff, I was offered a choice of sparkling wine or orange juice or water. I opted for sparking wine, and my row companion went for water. Glen helpfully extended the secondary drinks tray ready for my seat companions glass of water.

My sparkling wine and the secondary drinks tray – extended ready to receive my seatmate’s glass of water.

Glasses were collected after the safety demonstration at 6:26 pm.

We hit the runway at 6:33 pm, which is about right given our 10-minute delay.

There was a largely unintelligible announcement at 6:41 pm when the seatbelt sign was turned off, and the magnetic rope was installed to stop those pesky economy passengers barging into Business Class!

Glen was servicing the Business cabin taking orders, straight after the seatbelt sign was turned off, and after a bit of prep in the galley.

The food choices were a salad involving couscous, and lamb shanks with barley and peas. That’s what I chose, along with some Shiraz and some sparkling water. I declined the choice of sourdough or linseed bread rolls that were offered.

Glen worked from row one, left to right down our two-row cabin.

The tray table could also be folded over to halve its size

Our selected meal options were delivered on a tray at 7:15 (Sydney time) that’s close to 20 minutes into the flight. The food service is different to that on Qantas, where on similar flights, meals are served from a cart.

The lamb shanks came with barley, peas, radish slices and carrot cubes. It was quite good – moist, tender and lamby. The soft cheese (with quince paste) was a little cold and hard, but those biscuits/brownies in that round box in the top left of this image were sensationally delicious.

Again there was another cabin announcement I couldn’t hear at 19:58 – this was about a half-hour out from landing, so may have been a preparation for landing announcement. The reason I couldn’t hear was the dodgy PA system rather than my noise-cancelling headphones.

The meal tray was collected as soon as I was finished, and my wine topped up – with my agreement obviously.

My glass was collected at 19:59, but also offered another drink – which I declined.

A top-up to my shiraz after my tray was removed.

At 8 pm Sydney time (7:30 pm Adelaide time) the captain advised the crew to prepare for landing and the seat belt sign was turned on at 8:07 pm (7:37 Adelaide time)

At 7:45 (Adelaide time) as we could see Adelaide beneath us, the cabin crew were advised to prepare for landing.

We landed at 7:47 pm Adelaide time, and were advised of Virgin’s preferred hire car company and bio-security laws that operate in South Australia. (South Australia is largely free of fruit-fly, so you cannot bring in any fresh fruit from Australia’s other states. Fruit must be surrendered at the gate in the bins provided).

At 7:49 pm, we were thanked for choosing Virgin Australia.

Arrival

We arrived at gate 13 at 7:54 pm Adelaide time. A Virgin flight attendant placed themselves at the bulkhead between business and economy to prevent any economy passengers barging through, as we prepared to disembark.

I made my way out of the airport, passing the International security screening area, which was pumping due to the number of international flights leaving Adelaide in the evening.

I was a little disorientated, as I usually arrive with Qantas at the other end of the terminal. They usually dock at the gates starting at about 20 so I turn right when I hit the terminal. With Virgin using the other end of the terminal, everything is reversed, plus there is some construction at that end of the airport. They are improving the ‘retail experience’ for passengers.

Disembarkation was pretty smooth, and I was soon outside the terminal, over to the Taxi rank, and on my way to Peppers Waymouth Hotel at 8:05 pm, about 10 minutes after we arrived at the gate.

2PAX Takeout

This is a good efficient domestic Business Class product. Food and beverage service was excellent, as were all the flight attendants I encountered.

The two-row cabin is quite small and the presence of a bulkhead makes it feel more intimate.

It’s unfortunate that they don’t have any screens, but good wifi is adequate compensation.

Other Posts in the Series
<< Review: Virgin Australia Lounge, Sydney, Terminal 2

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