Notes from an occasional VA pax

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RooFlyer

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I like to travel VA in domestic, but don't seem to be doing so much these days (only silver ATM :(). I did do HBA-MEL-HBA the other day, and for what it's worth:

* HBA-MEL in Y (T) on 737 and I was pleasantly surprised to find that 4A was still available to me the evening before the flight, for a mid morning departure

* I see the VA web site is still as atrocious as it was when I last used it 6 months ago IIRC. Good grief, web check in was a pain! No doubt frequent users would be more comfortable with the web site, but for me it was nasty. Just how many times do you really need to put in your Velocity number etc?

* Still no lounge at HBA and my opinion is that there will never be, in spite of VA's promises. Big negative, especially as HBA public waiting areas get incredibly crowded and the coffee shops are incredibly expensive. (Mind you the QF lounge gets very crowded as well!)

Pre flight summary: 5/10 A lot of improvement possible!

* Priority boarding in Hobart worked well (not that I qualified) and the cattle then boarded quick and easy. VA pax at HBA are definitely better organised both within themselves and via the airline rope lines etc compared to QF. HOWEVER due to HBA not having air bridges, the VA plane was sitting at the far end of the apron; a measurement on Google Earth tells me we would have walked about 180m in the open to board. This is of course a grizzle against HBA not VA.

* Flight was straightforward; streaming IFE available but I worked. HLO so off and into a taxi.

Flight summary: Really good in Y - straightforward and it got me there without fuss; 8/10

* Return flight MEL-HBA was in J, on an E190. (Y and J combo on VA was the same $$ as Y only on QF, at the late stage it was booked (24 hrs prior)

* I hadn't been to The Lounge in MEL since the enlargement had finished. Its a great lounge, but personally I lament the win of 'form' over 'function'. That is, the designers and marketers got their way with LOTs of glitzy lights (on the outside windows? really?) and curvy glass rather than the people who want to actually please flyers (like me :) ), who'd prefer less glitz and more straight-forward function. It was 5:30 and people were after the hot food. Both the serving area and the floor was pretty messy and stayed that way while I was in the lounge. The mess is of curse made by the guests but as always, its up to the facility to keep it looking presentable. The Vietnamese Rice was very popular but ran out just as I got there and there was about a ~10 min gap before it was replaced. Crowd of ravenous guests hovering for the replacement! Love the coffee bar and the drinks bar worked smoothly.

Priority exit / security was excellent; uncrowded and the guy who took the explosive swap was actually pleasant, and we chatted a bit!! Wonder if this is a VA thing 'please be extra nice to our priority guests'?

Lounge summary - I'd give it 6/10 but it would be 7 if I was indifferent to the décor.

* Very pleasant and welcoming FAs on the return flight; I wish the biz seats had side-adjustable flaps around your head.

* I needed to work, so I declined the meal service (and drinks, as I was driving at the end of the flight), so I just asked for a cheese and crackers from the back. I was just expecting the packet, but it came opened with the constituents very nicely presented on a plate - opened, together with a packet of olives and a bread roll. Top marks! I noticed a choice of 2 reds being offered around, at least.

*FAs continued to be very pleasant

Return flight summary: perfect flight in J 10/10. Big call, but there was simply nothing they could have reasonably done to make it a better short haul flight - especially as QF would have put me in Y for the same money. I do travel in J on this route on QF from time to time and hard to separate the in-air experience on average, but QF would be up against it to beat this flight.

Overall: Very satisfied! 8/10. Most of pre-flight negatives down to HBA, not VA.
 

JohnK

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Nice summary. Something not quite right with their lounge designs. Too open?
 

JohnK

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No spirits?
That's one. But even the lounge design is not quite right. My fiancée noticed huge difference between Qantas and Virgin lounges recently and she is impartial.
 

yohy?!

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I think the lounge design is deliberate in a way to differentiate from the QPs in Syd and Mel which are very open air (Mel in particular is basically a train station these days) - I actually quite like the ability to grab a chair in a semi quiet corner in the VA lounges and avoid the throng - don't really have a comment on the bling/design factor but functional enough for me
 

esseeeayeenn

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Agree that lounge design is definitely one of the few points on which VA is seeking differentiation from QF.
I don't mind it apart from the observation that some of the chairs are, in my opinion, too low to be comfortable.
Will be keen to see what they do with the new PER lounge.
Hopefully it will separate the bar from the café - in the current lounge you can wait a long time for a drink while the barstaff/barista creates ephemeral artworks with the foam atop some hipster's chai soy latté.
 

OzEire

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Slightly off topic, but I agree with the separation of bar and barista .... I have often found the opposite to esssseeyyyann (sp?) and wait for my coffee behind a throng of people salivating for their next beer/etc.
 
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RooFlyer

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Further notes. SYD-MEL in J, MEL-HBA in whY.

I tried to do on-line check-in but got a message saying I had an outstanding charge to be paid and pls call Guest Contact centre to fix up. I did so, unaware of any further charge, and the person said the issue was that I had selected an exit row. They could see that I had paid the exit row fee. I hadn't heard of having to check in in person for exit row, but then I don't fly VA that often.

So I arrived at the airport a bit earlier than I would have otherwise (HLO). Check in agent tapped away for ages. He said he could see that I had paid the fee, but 'it' was still asking for payment. (So it WAS a payment issue, not an exit row issue, contrary to what the phone agent said). He eventually worked around it, and I was off to the lounge premium entry. Love this feature.

The lounge was crowded, almost chokkers, and even at 5pm the upstairs was closed. What's with that? Food offerings weren't that appealing, no hot offerings other than soup from what I could see, but I only looked once and couldn't be bothered waiting to get through the people milling around. SYD lounge experience not nearly as good as my MEL one a few weeks ago.

Boarded OK and I had the pre flight juice. Oh-oh. Discussions in the galley about 'offloading them'. Captain no less stands in the galley and comes on the PA and says "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you WILL be getting to Melbourne tonight; the bad news is that it won't be on this aircraft - this flight has been cancelled." He professed to not knowing why the flight had been cancelled, but I heard a bit later from one of the FAs that the aircraft was going to be used for a Gold Coast flight :evil: ). The announcement by the Captain was actually well done; got straight to the point in reasonable humour.

We trooped off and I was first in the service queue to get re-booked. There were about 25 of us who were connecting onto the last flight to Hobart in MEL, with about a 50 minute connection, and there were a few anxious folk. Single agent at the service desk was quickly joined by 2 others. We were asked to wait for a short time while 'they' (away from the desk) sorted it out. After 5 mins they got a call and started processing people, just straightforward seeing ID, then printing off new BPs and saying we would all be on the MEL flight leaving 30 mins after our scheduled one, and that bags etc would make it.

Funnily enough, although I was first in the queue, and travelling J, I ended up being the last to get my new BP - about 5 minutes after the last Y pax, and only after after a couple of calls from 'them' who were sorting out the re-bookings. I thought it was because there were no J seats available on the new flight, but in the end the agent said it was because they were 'jugging and trying to sort out the fare classes'. Sure mine was an upgrade, but c'mon VA, sort out your admin in your own time and just give me the new BP. When I boarded the new flight there were only 4/8 pax in J, and 2 of us were from the other flight! So plenty of room for me.

Overall, the situation was handled pretty well by VA and I guess they/we were fortunate that there was room on the next flight to MEL. I liked how 2 others quickly joined the service desk to handle the unexpected glitch.

The flight in J was good. Dinner orders I guess are done by status (I am only Silver). Lady in row 2 behind me was asked first, then guy in other side of row 1 from me, then the guy on the other side in row 2, and then me in 1D. I didn't mind, even though there was only 1 choice left when she came to me. Meal was excellent, as was the service. I didn't have the VA application loaded on my phone (I keep forgetting) and I was a bit surprised there wasn't an iPad in J - nether my seat or the one next to me. Is this normal? However short flight and with dinner, and me reading a book on my phone I didn't worry about IFE.

We landed at the 'extension' pier at MEL and we HBA bound had to scoot round to the other, main VA pier and through security for the next flight. Always the way, isn't it for tight connections.

MEL-HBA in exit row seat passed uneventfully. Little bag of pretzels as a 'snack'. I like VA whY (although I like J better! :) ). Just from A to B with no fuss.

Another good experience with VA; 8/10 both legs (considering the classes flown). Happy to fly with them anytime, at least short-ish flights.
 
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