Qantas & Virgin Australia dominate much of the Australian domestic market, but they don’t fly on many of the thin routes between regional locations and country towns. This is where smaller airlines like Regional Express, Alliance Airlines, Link Airways and Newcastle-based FlyPelican can come in handy.
FlyPelican operates a fleet of five British Aerospace Jetstream 32 planes, which it uses to serve destinations across regional NSW and the ACT. This review looks at the FlyPelican service on a short flight between Newcastle and Dubbo.
|Route||Newcastle (NTL) to Dubbo (DBO)|
|Aircraft type||BAe Jetstream 32|
|Class of travel||Economy|
|On-time performance||We arrived on time|
I paid $153.75 for a one-way “Pelican Saver” Economy class ticket, including the 1% credit card surcharge which is not included in the upfront price shown on FlyPelican’s website but cannot be avoided. The fare included 20kg of checked baggage.
It’s worth pointing out that FlyPelican offers its “$72 within $72 hours” fares on the Newcastle-Dubbo route. If I had booked within 3 days of travelling, I would have paid only $72 (plus the credit card surcharge) for my seat. But the last-minute $72 fares do not include checked baggage, which I needed.
I’ll take this opportunity to mention that while FlyPelican does not have its own frequent flyer program, you can earn at least 1 Velocity point per $1 spent on FlyPelican tickets. I earned 154 Velocity points for this flight. However, status credits are not earned and there are no extra benefits for travellers with Virgin Australia status.
Check-in opened 1 hour prior to departure and closed 30 minutes beforehand. There was no queue and with no other flights leaving at this time of the day, Newcastle Airport was deserted!
At check-in I was asked if I had my own face mask, and encouraged to wear it during boarding and on the flight (although the airline does not require this). My carry-on bag was also tagged as it would not fit under the seat and there are no overhead lockers on the plane. Just like QantasLink’s “premium hand luggage” service, I handed my bag to staff as I boarded the plane and it was returned to me immediately after landing in Dubbo.
After checking in and clearing security – a process that took all of two minutes – I found that the only airside shop open was Hunter & King Coffee Co.
News Travels, Red Rooster and all other stores in the Newcastle Airport terminal were closed. Given the lack of passengers, it wasn’t hard to see why.
Boarding for flight FP166 to Dubbo was called 9 minutes before the scheduled departure time and finished with 7 minutes to go. With only 7 passengers on board, it didn’t take long!
The Hard Product
The British Aerospace Jetstream 32 has seats for just 19 passengers on board. There’s a 1-2 configuration with 7 solo seats on the left hand side, and 6 seat pairs to the right of the aisle. There’s a small toilet at the rear of the cabin.
The plane is so small that there’s not even a door between the cabin and the cockpit. You can see what the pilots are doing for the entire flight.
This particular FlyPelican aircraft was 27 years old, and the seats were a bit worn out. They’re just regular Economy class seats similar to those on a Dash 8, but with slightly less leg room. The seats don’t recline (nor should they) but they’re comfortable enough for the short flight.
The seats on the right side of the plane (B & C seats) seemed to have slightly more legroom than the “A” seats, where I was sitting. If you were sitting in 1B, your feet would just about be in the cockpit!
The plane is quite noisy and the ride felt bumpier than it would be on a larger jet aircraft. It was a windy day and there was some turbulence, particularly during the landing. But it wasn’t too bad.
All in all, the hard product is certainly not luxurious. There’s no wifi or in-flight entertainment, other than a brochure in the seat pocket about Port Macquarie. But for the short regional routes these planes serve, the product is fit for purpose.
The Soft Product
There’s no flight attendant on these planes, so the First Officer handed out a cold bottle of water to everyone during boarding. That was the extent of the in-flight service! But again, with such a short flight time this wasn’t really a problem – nor would it be practical to offer any other sort of service on a plane that’s too small for a flight attendant.
Before takeoff, the captain briefed the passengers in the exit row regarding the evacuation procedures. As I was the closest passenger to the rear door, I also got a briefing.
I could not hear the recorded safety announcement played before takeoff over the engine noise!
We took off from Newcastle Airport on time, with great views over Stockton Beach.
And soon enough we were landing in Dubbo…
FlyPelican Jetstream 32 Economy Class
It’s not necessarily a luxurious way to fly, but FlyPelican offers an important service to the communities it flies to – reliably and with a smile. It was a fun flight, all of the FlyPelican staff I dealt with were friendly, and I’d be happy to fly with FlyPelican again.