Friday, June 05, 2009

Review of V Australia Airline

This is a review from a clients' recent experience with the new airline, V Australia.

"I'm back after my last-minute run to the other side of the planet to be on V Australia's first flight, which left Sydney on February 27, to tell you that V Australia is a nice airline to fly!

Thought you might like a traveller's review of the V Australia flight experience so that you're not depending solely on what they tell you until you have a chance to go yourself.

Wow, that new plane experience is even more fantastic than the new car experience. Pristine upholstery, seatback pockets that don't contain crumbs, walls without scuffs... just beautiful! So THAT is how the other half lives, in their clean private jets while the rest of us ride mass transit in the air!

Their seatback entertainment system is still a work in progress -- I hung it a couple times, once requiring a hard reboot in the middle of the night in order to re-enable my console, and email and net access are not (yet?) available from it -- but it's promising. The armrest contains a 2-prong headset plug, and the seatback entertainment console contains a USB plug for charging one's phone/device or, apparently, plugging in a USB memory stick/MP3 player and playing music (although since I didn't have one with me, I didn't try this to verify that it worked the way I think it does). I enjoyed a few hours worth of Bejeweled 2 gaming, some Wiggles episodes, and a movie in-flight when not talking with my fellow passengers, eating or sleeping.

The seats in economy seem at least as wide as Qantas', maybe a bit more so, and definitely recline more. There was plenty of space for me to stretch my legs and feat out beneath the seat in front of me, without reaching the front of the seat in front of me (I'm about 5'6"), and at no point did my knees come into contact with the seat in front of me, even when it was reclined! Taller folks might not have the same luck, of course. Business and premium economy seats apparently have power points for laptops and other devices, but those of us in economy have to give our devices to an FA so that they can charge them in the back, which they're glad to do (I did a laptop recharge while I slept). There's one exception -- apparently the first row of seats in economy, row 20, have at least one power point per set of seats. Those seats also have hooks for in-flight bassinets in the bulkhead in front of them.

The premium economy cabin is quite NICE (I think it would pass for business domestically) and even more spacious. I didn't particularly notice first class, so I can't speak to that.

The food is good (breakfast of a belgian waffle, candied peaches and walnuts, plus yogurt, a muesli bar, juice and coffee in economy?!). As usual for Virgin Group airlines, the flight attendants are pretty good eye candy for those to whom that sort of thing matters.

The mood lighting on the plane was fun, albeit imperfect. I was in the front-most economy sub-cabin (of three economy areas on the plane), and our lighting was occasionally out of sync with that of the other areas of the plane -- for a long time, we just had plain white light, while others had mood lighting, and when I asked about this, they said something about it being timed to meal service (?). The lighting was deep blue and pink/purple in the evening, much like Virgin America, and changed to blue and a sort of gold/orange color, presumably reminiscent of dawn, in the morning.

In-flight reading material was a bit sparse, consisting of just one thinnish magazine describing the entertainment options on-board, that contained a short piece in the front welcoming passengers to the new airline. I'm guessing they figure people will either be talking to each other or will have planned ahead and brought their own activities with which to occupy their time.

More on the seats -- the last two rows of seats on the plane have only two seats in the row by the window, rather than 3 as for everywhere else in economy on the plane. Unlike Qantas, which leaves the extra space between the window seat and the window, and leaves the aisle seat right behind the other aisle seats, V Australia uses the extra space in the reverse way. The window seat is still up against the window, but the aisle seat is indented from the regular aisle location (if that makes sense). So, if you have someone looking for a bit of a more spacious feel, but can't get a bulkhead/emergency door seat, you might suggest an aisle seat in one of the last two rows. Additionally, the front economy cabin, immediately behind premium economy, had a more private feel as well, due to its smaller size (just 8 or 9 rows, I think), kind of like Hawaiian's front economy mini-cabin.

I would not hesitate to recommend V Australia over Qantas if the fares are equivalent, or even if V Australia's is a bit higher, based on the novelty of the lighting and in-flight entertainment system options, plus the nice breakfast (dinner was a bit better on V Australia, too, but the breakfast was really a standout.) Service-wise, I can't really compare the two, as I'm sure they had their very best folks on the first flight (that this client was on), and those poor guys and gals seemed to be run ragged by all the special gift bag deliveries to the front of the plane, t-shirt deliveries to the rest of us, helping sort out various glitches, etc. I don't think I saw an FA just sitting around on break at any time during the flight -- I don't know how they did it. My guess is that they're comparable although the relative inexperience of the V Australia staff regarding international flights did show in that they handed me both a US customs form *and* a visitor form, insisting when I asked "Why the new form? I've never seen this one before," that it was necessary (it wasn't). I liked that there was no duty-free shopping arm-twisting on-board (as you probably know, Qantas has its own duty-free catalog in every seatback pocket)."



  1. Thank you, I'm flying Mel-LAX in November and this has been very helpful.

  2. Thanks for this. I'm travelling Syd to LAX in November and have been deciding between qantas and V Australia. This helps my decision.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this! I will be leaving for LAX in 2 days and this helps me feel a little more at ease about the 13+ hour flight!!

  4. Flew Brisbane to LAX on V Australia in April 2010.Worst flight ever. The plane is fantastic but its all show and no go. The ground and cabin staff are dreadful - Have clearly received minimal training. Our flight was delayed by 18 hours and yet we received no communication from V Australia regarding the delay and no help in rebooking connections. The food onboard was inedible. As an example the bread rolls were served FROZEN! The only plus is their onboard entertainment system is good.


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