After spending some time in Brisbane, I rented a car to drive to the Gold Coast. I spent a couple days at a beach resort in Surfers Paradise before flying out of Coolangatta Gold Coast Airport.
My BNE-to-OOL rental car was the Nissan QASHQAI. At the time of my trip, we didn't have this car in the United States, and I thought it had such a ridiculous name that I just had to try it. I believe that we are now getting this car in the US, but it is to be called the Rogue Sport. To me that's quite a downgrade as far as the name is concerned.
Virgin Australia VA746
Departure: 16:55 (actual 16:53)
Arrival: 20:15 (actual 20:00)
Actual Block Time: 2h7
Actual Flight Time: 1h54
Seat: 2A Business Class
The Hertz car rental return was located just outside the terminal. I headed inside to find no one checking in. There were lots of kiosks and bag drop stations, but down at the end I found a staffed priority line. I was issued a cardstock boarding pass. There was only a minimal security line. I was quickly through, and I went to the lounge. I was greeted by very nice agents at the entrance, who offered me a personal tour of the lounge since it was my first visit. It was a very nice small lounge with views of the tarmac, and the tour was a nice touch. I was looking forward to my third Virgin carrier, and to continuing my comparison of domestic-Australia Business Class services on the B738.
I was pretty early to the airport today, so I was in the lounge for about 2h. Boarding was set for 16:25 and departure for 16:55. My aircraft, VH-VUK, arrived to the gate at 16:10. VH-VUK is a Boeing 737-800 built in 2007.
My aircraft, VH-VUK, arriving to OOL as VH-YFC looks on, about to depart to SYD:
My aircraft arrived on-stand and was set up with a ramp to the front door, and stairs to the back door. At this airport you simply walk outside and up into the plane.
On-stand in OOL:
Two individuals pre-boarded, and then boarding began on time with Business Class, Platinum and Gold. I was third to board up the ramp, but first in Business Class.
I was welcomed on board to the expected Virgin atmosphere with dark seats and purple bulkheads behind Business Class. The cabin was pretty beat up though. I settled into 2A, the last seat in the cabin. Virgin's B738s have only two rows of 2-2 Business Class, and unlike Qantas, they did not block any seats for advance reservation.
Virgin Australia B738 Business Class cabin:
I found Virgin Australia to offer very good legroom, I'd say a little more than Qantas and above the average for domestic F in the States. But overall it seemed to be a much older cabin on this particular plane.
Pre-departure orange juice or water was offered, and I took a refreshing orange juice. The flight service director's welcome messaged introduced the cabin crew and then the captain's message advised a 1h58 flight time. The load in J was 8/8, and the door was closed at 16:50.
Push back was early at 16:53. I noticed this plane had no traditional IFE on board, neither overhead screens nor individual screens. Announcements advised WiFi entertainment, though, but I'm not traditionally a fan of that option, so I didn't plan to personally bother with that. The manual safety demo began to recorded narration. Our taxi was straight to Runway 14 for takeoff at 17:01. I enjoyed another above-average takeoff for a B737. Maybe B737 takeoffs are more exciting in the southern hemisphere?
Climbing out of Coolangatta:
At 10,000 feet the seat belt signs were turned off, and I immediately reclined as the curtains were shut to the galley. And I stand corrected regarding the IFE. Samsung tablets and headsets were to be given out to Business Class! Half of the passengers accepted one, including me. It turned out that the tablets accessed the WiFi entertainment. If you're going to offer WiFi entertainment, that's exactly the way to do it: Offer it on your own device, but have a tablet available to access it too, and complimentary in Business Class, you can't get better than that. I wouldn't be opposed to WiFi entertainment if more airlines offered a complimentary tablet.
My surprise inflight tablet:
With only a short flight ahead of me, I quickly selected a film: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
with Johnny Depp. The flight attendant arrived to take meal orders. There was only one option available, but I happily accepted it seeing as how it was soup. I have found I am always a fan of airplane soup. I also ordered a beer. Beers on offer were Fat Yak Pale Ale, Crown Lager, or Peroni. A Fat Yak and a still water for me. Fat Yak - it's a big, hairy beer, but still approachable, like a yak
The meal was quickly served. I found the soup to be pretty good, and way better than anything you'd get on an equivalent flight in the States. Overall, while the Qantas meal was better even though it was on a shorter flight, this meal still hit the spot, and I appreciated the good inflight service, too.
After the meal I decided Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
wasn't for me. There was not much of interest on the tablet, similar to other flights on this trip. Maybe it was a weak time of year for IFE movie selection. I tried to listen to music on the tablet, but it kept crashing, so I decided to listen to music on my own device. With only 40 minutes left inflight, I didn't have enough time to watch anything.
A second round of drinks was offered. I relaxed reclined, listening to music the rest of the flight. We were soon beginning decent. Landing was at 18:55, and we were at the gate at 19:00 (make that 20:00 Melbourne time).
We've arrived to Melbourne:
I enjoyed this flight, but if I'm honest, while it was a good flight, it was just a standard flight...It did not really live up to the cachet of Virgin Atlantic or Virgin America, which really offer a special experience. But for a "standard" flight experience, it was a good one, with a hot meal, complimentary tablet IFE, and good onboard service.
And so the outcome of this B738 comparison? I think that Qantas and Virgin Australia both offer compelling domestic Business Class service. Qantas easily won on the food front, with an incredible meal on a sub-600mi flight. I liked the complimentary tablet on Virgin, though. And both airlines had comfortable seats. Based on my experiences, I don't think you can go wrong by choosing either airline for a B738 Business Class flight in Australia.