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TRAVEL: Every flight is full and late, including on Virgin Australia

TRAVEL: Every flight is full and late, including on Virgin Australia

OK, a provocative headline, and strangely, not about Qantas.

For reasons that are far too complex to go into here, yet, I cancelled a flight between Melbourne and Sydney on Saturday for a flight on Sunday. I then ended up re-booking a flight to get back to Sydney on Sunday morning anyway. That sensible decision at the time cost me about AU$450!

How inflated are airfares at the moment?

My original return economy fare with Qantas, booked way back in June cost AU$294.56, so let’s call the cost of the return section from Melbourne to Sydney half of that, say AU$147. Now, it has always (since de-regulation) been the case that the cost of an airline seat gets more expensive the closer to the date of travel you book it. To book on the same day as travel is a fool’s errand, and one you will always get to pay for. But not necessarily by 400%.

After cancelling that booking, and rebooking on the same day as flying, the cheapest airfare close to the departure time of the cancelled sector in Economy on Qantas was AU$900!!!! In ECONOMY!

a woman standing in front of a glass wall

Hello Virgin Australia

I flipped to REX (nothing around the time I wanted), and finally settled on Virgin Australia at a price just shy of AU$600! for a one-way Melbourne to Sydney in Economy (FLEX) with not even a drink or a meal included, and no WiFi!

I took up an offer earlier to match my Qantas Platinum status with Velocity Gold status, so I would have access to the Virgin lounge, have a drink and get some lunch.

However during the process of booking, and trying to use a travel credit (computer says no!), it looked like the seat at that price had disappeared. If I now wanted a seat on the same flight, it would cost me AU$100 more at AU$700. I opted for a booking a half hour later for the original AU$600, and also managed to nab an aisle seat.

a room with tables and chairs

Virgin running on minimal staff

Of course, the flight was full and did not leave on time. quel surprise! The delay was around 45 minutes, which turned into a 20-minute late arrival back in Sydney.

The flight was uneventful, except for the lack of WiFi, no free drinks other than water, the amount of luggage some other passengers brought on board and that there were literally no spare seats.

However, I think there were only 3 cabin crew – one servicing business class, and the team leader, one (Adam) servicing the front half of economy, and another servicing the back half of the plane. I think on Qantas it is 4?

Anyone, correct me if I am wrong?

Cabin crew as aeroplane cleaners

The staff worked their asses off on this short less than 90-minute flight.

On disembarkation, I was surprised to see the team leader with a vacuum cleaner, vacuuming the floor, and the crew member servicing the front of the plane was cleaning the tray tables in business class.

Who negotiated their award conditions with the rebirthed Virgin Australia?

people sitting in a room with large windows and airplanes

2PAXfly Takeout

This is another timely reminder to wear your seatbelt when seated. Holding you close to your seat will protect you from the sort of injuries sustained on this flight, when unsecured passengers flew to the ceiling of the aircraft, and then came crashing down once the ‘drop’ ceased.

The hope will be that this is an anomaly – a ‘freak accident’ in casual parlance. If it is a systemic error either mechanical or electronic, then this is a larger concern for the airlines that fly Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft. Let’s hope it isn’t. If it is, it will pile on the woes to Boeing’s existing stack.

Other than the lack of WiFi and lack of an actual range of included refreshments for an AU$600 fare, I have no complaints about the airline. They are efficient, no less reliable than Qantas, and even in this extreme same-day fare situation, their prices were competitive. Given the small staff, there is really no staff/passenger interaction other than selling products and enforcing safety provisions.

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