There’s an airline joke about a guy going into a bar and the reason for telling it will become obvious.
This cocky Australian walks into an airport lounge bar and spots a good-looking blonde sitting alone. He’s been around, guesses she’s an off duty flight attendant, but doesn’t want to be too obvious. Sits down beside her and says:
‘Fly the friendly skies’.
She looks at him and, without a word, picks up her drink.
Okay, he thinks, she’s not with United.
‘I still call Australia home’.
Again, absolutely no response.
Obviously not with Qantas.
“Smooth as silk’.
She sighs and keeps sipping.
She’s not with Thai airlines.
He’s about to give up when she turns, looks him up and down, and says: ‘What the fuck do you want?’
‘Aha,’ he says.’ You’re with Jetstar’.
The first time I told that joke what got me was the reaction. Everybody got the joke. In an instant. Jetstar, the Qantas weapon against Virgin Blue, had only been flying for a year but horror stories about the fledgling airline were everywhere.
You just had to raise the topic of airline experiences on talkback radio and a flood of Jetstar complaints would hit you.
I had no personal experience. Had never flown them. Partly because I couldn’t see the sense in driving halfway to Geelong to climb aboard a plane at godforsaken Avalon when I’m trying to get to Sydney. Why drive all that way past Tullamarine? And I don’t like no frills flying. I like to be pampered, now that I can afford it again. So what was I doing on a Jetstar flight to Hawaii? Well, I had planned to fly Qantas until I checked the cost of a Melbourne-Honolulu return Business Class ticket. More than $11,000! Couldn’t believe it. Especially when you can fly almost twice that distance to Los Angeles on V Australia – in one of the best Business Class services, with bed size seats – for around $7000.
There were some other options on Asian airlines but they would have taken me via Seoul or Tokyo and taken about 17 hours in the air. I also foolishly thought I could use up some of my 250,000 Frequent Flyer points but those applicable Qantas flights went via Brisbane (and even Canberra) and one, from memory, would take 20 hours.
So 9-1/2 hours on Jetstar didn’t sound too bad. Especially when I read that they had a Star Class which was ‘sort of like Business”. Well, they promised a Business Class sized seat which is a huge start. And a separate Star Class cabin.
And the price was right. Around $3000. That’s $8000 cheaper than Qantas and that saving more than paid for the holiday and then some.
Friends were dubious and by the time I got to the airport so was I. But, a promising start: in the check-in mayhem there was a separate speedy Star Class counter.
I had, somehow, misplaced my American ESTA visa waiver printout. Maybe because, on a previous trip, not one person had asked to look at it. Now I’m told production is essential.
The Jetstar ground staff were terrific. Phoned somewhere and got the details. Next surprise: as a Star Class passenger I was entitled to use the Qantas Club Business lounge.
The trip? I must have been happy with the comfort and the service because there were five babies and toddlers in Star Class and, although several had powerful sets of lungs, I didn’t get grumpy.
In Star Class you get a blanket and slippers and an inflatable neck pillow and toothpaste and a brush. I’m told you can get them if you pay for them down the back.
They also have portable, easy to use, video packs that you prop on your lap or your lap table with a selection of movies, TV shows and music. I filled in a couple of hours, wearing comfortable earphones, watching a good Aussie movie I had missed called Beneath Hill 60. It was a terrific rendition of a great Aussie mission digging under enemy lines in World War I.
Food was OK. I had a chicken stir fry and some English toffee ice cream that was nearly as good as New Zealand hokey pokey.
Over all, I really felt I got value for money which is pretty good these days. Didn’t dread the downhill run home at all.
Footnote: Coming home was just as good. Smooth and quick check-in at Honolulu Airport. Use of the Qantas lounge. On board, friendly and competent staff and plenty of food and drink. Yoghurt and fruit for breakfast (or an omelette and Danish pastries) and for lunch a tasty hot chicken, cheese and spinach wrap with Haagen Das ice cream. Later fruit, cheese and drinks.
I was impressed. As I said, value for money and $8000 less than Qantas. I’ll do it again.