CNS-SIN, cruise, HKG-SYD-CNS. The ridiculous to the sublime

Discussion in 'Trip Reports and Trip Photos' started by turtlemichael, Jan 20, 2007.

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  1. turtlemichael

    turtlemichael Established Member

    May 24, 2006
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    I said I would never do it but here I am doing it. I’m voluntarily taking a Jetstar flight. My only other Jetstar experience was involuntary. I was returning from Bombay to Sydney on an award ticket when we got diverted to Melbourne because of bad weather in Sydney. This was in January 2006. The upshot was that to get to Cairns Qantas flew us back to Sydney but then we were put on a Jetstar flight to Cairns. I guess I was a little peeved to be downgraded and would have been happy to be put up in Sydney overnight then take a business class flight to Cairns the next day. This however was not an option! So Jetstar it was and, for reasons often stated on this board, I vowed never to do it again.

    I guess time weakens resolution. We decided to fly Jetstar Cairns to Singapore January 4th because: 1. It was two short sectors, CNS- DRW and DRW-SIN of around 2 and 4 hours respectively. Surely that was tolerable? Second, with a Jetflex fare I could pick to Status credits and points and select an exit row. Third, it was the most convenient time wise. I could do things that morning in Cairns and be in Singapore that night. Fourth, there was no other practical option other than going via another Asian or Australian city with a much longer elapsed time.

    But before that I should state the travel plans . We were going on a cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong on Silversea’s Silver Whisper. As anyone who is into cruising will know, this is a pretty good cruise line. We were also to overnight in Singapore and have a couple of nights in Hong Kong prior to heading back to Sydney for 2 more nights then on to Cairns. Total time away would be 15 nights.

    Now for my impressions. This JQ flight is a bit different from most. It is operated by Jetstar Asia and does not have a star class section.

    We arrived 2+ hours before the flight. Check in was operated by 3 agents and there were about 10 pax waiting in front of us. It still took 45 minutes to get to the front of the queue. The major problem was that there were substantial delays caused by probably 5 people with overweight luggage who were unhappy about paying. There was a lot of repacking at the check-in and there were some quite heated arguments; “Its only 1 kilo over”. “It was okay on the way down”. etc etc Another had lost her passport. The consequence was that all the agents were testy and defensive and short. This is not a job I would want nor I suspect did most of them.

    Our luggage was just underweight so no problems there but it was still a very frosty check-in. The agent appeared to be not enjoying her job and I could understand why. But that is not meant to be my problem. I have reported elsewhere that our pre-selected exit row seats were deselected by JQ. I wont go into the details of that again and have sought an explanation from JQ/QF. Suffice it to say that this was about the worst check in experience I have had in many years of flying. I felt at the end of it that I and all the others were an inconvenience to JQ rather than the reason they exist.

    The QF international lounge was the next stop. It’s not the best QF lounge and the food selection is poor. A couple of bracing wines helped though. I wonder about the lounge’s future given the limited number of full service OW flights now using CNS.

    The first, only and final lounge call to go to the gate came 50 minutes before STD. Were we going to get away early? It was thus surprising to get to the gate (6) and find no seating and no agents. A hundred or so people standing around, sitting on the floor and just waiting for the airline to get into gear convinced me that JQ was a true LCC and systems were designed for their convenience rather than the passenger. Eventually an agent showed about 25 minutes before STD and we boarded the A320. There were pillows and rugs on all seats, it was clean and fresh looking.

    The major problem is the seat pitch. I’ve read elsewhere that it's 30 inches and seems the smallest I’ve experienced. Knees hit the seat in front when sitting bolt upright and I am not particularly tall. Anyone over 5ft 10 in old terms is likely to be uncomfortable. Fortunately, the plane is only 2/3rds full so there are spare seats to manoeuvre my legs into. A full plane would be very uncomfortable. If you fly this service do everything you can to get an exit row.

    We take off on time and VDU’s are handed out at $10.00 for the flight. Quite a few seem to take them. Contrary to what I expected there is no charge for the drink or sandwich. It was good economy fare and perfectly acceptable. The Asian crew is friendly smiling and obliging. They promptly answer the call buttons which is somewhat unusual these days. We arrive Darwin 15 minutes early. On reboarding, again early, I adopt standard cattle class practice and collar three seats. Again the beverage trolley does the rounds and a meal is served. Beef or fish. I decline and just have the cheese. It’s pretty clear that one of the issues with the Asian crew is English skills. It’s very hard to make a simple request understood until the senior intervenes. I guess that I need to remember the this is not an Australian airline. :rolleyes:

    We arrive 25 minutes early which is a blessing. 40 minutes after the doors open I am in Singapore Intercontinental.

    My conclusions on this service? Check-in and pre-boarding in Cairns International is the worst I have experienced. In flight service is very good and ahead of most Y services but the comfort level on board is very poor and would be a real struggle for many on a full plane. As the jetflex fare from CNS was about the same as flying on QF to BNE then SIN, I have learnt my lesson and will plan better next time. Not flying JQ is worth a good few extra hours in the air. I rate this my worst flying experience and it is in sharp contrast to the next leg on VS from HKG to SYD. While I expected a basic package I did not expect the sort of ground service we got nor the poor comfort level on board. It’s a case of an extra inch or two making a difference! I just hope the JQ is not the future but fear it is.

    Fortunately the trip was all uphill from here, and substantially so, and I’ll report that shortly.

  2. Evan

    Evan Established Member

    Dec 26, 2006
    SIN / MEL
    Same number of seats in the Jetstar Asia A320's as the local Jetstar A320's ??

    Sounds like i would not like to be in one, i am always fine with the QF 747,767,A330 and for short flights 737, but sounds cramped in thise A320's.

    How does it compare to the 737's do you think ?

    And nice trip report, i hope the CNS QP does stay around as quiet a few flights seem to be leaving from there now.

  3. turtlemichael

    turtlemichael Established Member

    May 24, 2006
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    Part 2

    As this is a flyer forum and this part of the report in part has nothing to do with flying, I’ll keep it brief but am happy to answer any questions.

    At check-in at InterContinental Singapore we are quickly passed to a hostess who escorts us to the room. It’s a two step upgrade to a Premium room rather than the one level usual for an Ambassador “because we are very full” The room is L shaped with separate sitting and bedroom areas. It also has a small dining table. Bed is I think a king and comfortable. We eat outside the hotel at a nearby buzzing seafood restaurant. Its cheapish, cheerful and quick. Good food too. A drink in the lounge at the hotel and its off to bed.

    After my usual 5km walk, we skip breakfast next morning and head off by taxi at 10.30am to Singapore Cruise Centre, opposite Sentosa Island. There waiting is Silver Whisper. :) We are on board and sipping champagne inside 10 minutes. I have done several cruises, but not on anything as luxurious as Silver Whisper. The 9 day itinerary takes in Kuching in Sarawak, HCM City for two days and Nha Trang in Vietnam, and Guangzhou in China. There are 3 sea days. Having been to Vietnam extensively before, this is just a little follow up.

    Highlights of the trip were the excellent suite accommodation, the food, the included alcohol including top shelf, the restful days at sea spent reading, talking, eating and drinking, and the ports. The sail up and down the Saigon River for 4-5 hours from Vung Tau is amazing as you dodge small boats, barges and tankers and container ships. We anchored virtually in the centre of HCM City. In the two days there we did things we hadn’t done before. We went to the market in Cholon and visited the church the Diem brothers took refuge in before being murdered. We also went to the war museum which was very sobering. The pictures and stories are gut wrenching.

    Weather was good and gradually got cooler as we headed north. However we had one night in 60 knot winds which stopped us going to Guangzhou and meant we got to Hong Kong a day early. All up, a great cruise.

    After disembarking we dragged our luggage the 10 minute walk to Golden Mile Holiday Inn in Nathan Road. We got to our room at 9.30am and paid for an upgrade to the club floor (HK300 per day). The hotel is 5-10 minutes from Star Ferry and just across the road from the MTR. The club executive room was spacious, recently renovated and very comfortable but with no view except into someones kitchen in the next door building. The hotel is easily to the standard of some InterContinentals I have stayed in and a good reasonably priced alternative. The club is small and crowded in the mornings but the breakfasts are good with individually prepared hot dishes available and the rest self service. It is set up as a breakfast type room so it doesn’t quite work as a bar at night. Still, drinks are plentiful and a mixture of self service and waiter served. The two computers are very fast.

    I will mention that while in Hong Kong we went to the History of Hong Kong Museum in Kowloon which is around a 15 minute walk from the hotel . It is excellent and a good place to spend a spare couple of hours. Its next to the Science museum which I understand is also worth a visit.

    After check out from the Golden Mile we got the free shuttle bus to Kowloon station and check in for our VS flight to SYD there. It's virtually the same set-up as at Hong Kong station. We headed out to the airport by train. Our trip back to Australia was to be in Upper Class. I had transferred points across from Amex when they were offering a 20% bonus last year so this trip was effectively at no points cost.

    The VS lounge at HKG is near gate 36 and is sort of like the CX wing set up in that it is on the mezzanine level. It has nothing like the same facilities but serves decent food and booze and is comfortable for a few hours. Eating with chopsticks on your knees though is not easy for an amateur and it would benefit from some sort of dining room set up. Internet connections were deadly slow there but there are about 4 computers available. The lounge is shared with Eva Air and though there were a couple of flights during our time there, the lounge was still not busy. All up, a lounge better than most. I’ll be interested to try the VS lounge in LHR some day.

    We are called on board at the last minute and the doors are shut behind us. Coming onto a VS flight for the first time is a strange experience. It looks so different from what I am used to on QF/BA/AA and just about all others I have flown. You first notice the colourful lighting then the box like compartments and angled seats. A quick wander up the back of Upper Class (this is an A340) and the bar looks like something you’d see at Luna Park. It appear well stocked however. Back to our seats and another noticeable difference from QF experience is that all the crew seems cheerful and bubbly. It’s a bit strange and seems more like DJ. A pre-flight drink, menus and sleeper suits are handed out and a massage is offered. We are delayed 15 minutes in take-off when the captain advises that some one has decided not to fly and their luggage is to be removed.

    Seats are comfortable but not more so than QF. After take-off its usual stuff. Drinks are served followed by the meal. The meal is slow and if I had known that I would have eaten in the lounge. It is a very good steak however. AVOD actually works and seems light years ahead of QF. Selection of movies is very current.

    I don’t use the pj’s as there are only 5 hours left in this flight to SYD when I eventually turn in. The bed is ok. Not as luxurious as I expected but ok comfortable. Length is good and of course it is flat and horizontal but I seem to keep knocking my rear end and knees into the sides. I do sleep 4 hours though so I guess that is okay.

    Breakfast is large and tasty. It's then I notice that my next door neighbour is a former West Indies cricketer so great repute. As an incorrigible cricket fan I’m tempted to ask for his autograph but refrain as that does not seem very upper class.

    It’s quickly through immigration and customs with no questions asked. Last time in Cairns I was given the full going over so this is a pleasant change.

    My verdict on my first VS flight in Upper Class is that it’s different in structure to QF but similar in quality to a Business class flight. I’ll happily fly VS again as I try to use the points I’ve transferred from Amex.

    Two nights in InterContinental Sydney follow in a Club room. We are upgraded to an Opera House view room which is fine. For those that don’t know the Club at the IC in Sydney it has great views of the bridge, harbour and Opera House. Breakfast is good but there is not enough fruit for my liking. There are a few hot things available and strong coffee. Evening snacks are fine but there is nothing hot. I’d put the booze, service and food below the level of the HI Golden Mile. But the Golden Mile is exceptional. For a visitor the fantastic view is the club's selling point and worth the money just for that. Be aware too that the club cops the morning sun and the east side is like an oven. Using the two computers in the morning almost calls for another shower.

    After Sydney its back to Cairns on DJ. The ground staff smile, check in is painless and extra 2 kilos of acquired luggage is ignored.

    All up a great trip and I’ll answer any questions anyone has if I can.
  4. turtlemichael

    turtlemichael Established Member

    May 24, 2006
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    Evan, I don't know the answer to the A320 comparison question but I do think that it's tighter than any QF intercity flight I've taken. A 737 is spacious in my view by comparison.
  5. markis10

    markis10 Veteran Member

    Nov 25, 2004
    BNE & SYD
    You were lucky to get lounge access in Cairns for JQ Asia unless of course you are WP, its often overlooked that lounge access is not available for passengers on such flights.
  6. Wunala Dreaming

    Mar 14, 2006
    Hello turtlemichael, thanks for an insightful and interesting trip report.

    Regarding # of seats on the A320s:

    Jetstar (Asia - 3K) = 180Y
    Jetstar (Domestic) = 177Y

  7. austrider

    austrider Intern

    Jan 19, 2008
    I visited this lounge for the first time in Nov and thought it was not too bad. It could be that I was at the beginning of my holidays and was quite relaxed. :D But my expectation could be lower than yours as I am not a WP and probably not used to the luxury of Flounges :cool:

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