Photo Courtesy of: http://www.smh.com.au/
I had to make a quick return trip to Perth recently. I was actually en route to Geraldton to perform a delightful, and meaningful, task: Unveiling a floating five-tonne granite ball in a memorial fountain dedicated to organ donors.
I was flying Business Class and had a choice of airlines. Did I fly Qantas as would be expected for most pointy-end flyers? Or would I fly the new Business Class on the re-branded Virgin Australia that Virgin boss John Borghetti had been spruiking? Aboard the super comfy fat-belly A330s.
I’d seen the commercials with the ‘lie-flat’ Business Class seats and the sumptuous menus. Plus the boast that ‘Virgin wants to make its Coast to Coast routes into exclusively A330 flights’.
The spruiking was so good that I didn’t realise Qantas also had them. So Virgin got the nod. Should have read the small print. Rocked up to the gate and discovered the flight I was on was accessed through tarmac stairs. Welcome to one of the oldest 737s in the fleet. Even the fuselage paint was peeling around the rivets.
I should have twigged. Between confirming my seat allocation as the bulkhead 1B on the internet it suddenly changed to 2C at check-in.
The senior flight attendant had also obviously been caught on the hop and wasn’t happy. Turned out he’d got the call about the plane change for the 1pm flight at 7 o’clock the previous night.
So much for the sumptuous meals. We were offered soup (not bad) followed by ‘ Not much of a choice. I’ve got vegetarian or one Shepherd’s Pie.’ Lucky that I didn’t mind vegetarian and the cabbage and capsicum salad was quite nice.
He was still complaining about his lot in the tiny galley with soup bowls stacked on the floor.
Mid-flight he’d run out of ice and when I asked for a wine glass ( for my non-alcoholic Edenvale which I’d brought on board) I was told they’d run out of clean glasses and ‘Would you like a paper cup?’
This is a $1300 flight. In a cigar can. If I’d known Qantas was flying the old 747s I would have opted for that.
The trundling old flight from Melbourne to Perth took four hours. Coming home on the much-vaunted A330 we made it in a smidgen under three hours.
And to be fair, that plane is all it is cracked up to be. The seats are international flight class. The reclining pitch is almost horizontal. There is tonnes of leg room and a 2-2-2 and 2-3-2 configuration giving you heaps of space.
It raises the question though: Should you pay the same price for a Business Class seat on an inferior plane? You’d never win it. I’ve flown Qantas across the ditch in ‘sheer luxury’ as Monty Python would say and then come home in a tiny Business Class last row seat where it didn’t recline at all.
After watching the Internet spiel and reading about the new Virgin fleet ‘straight from the Airbus factory at Toulouse’ I belatedly noticed the disclaimer. They mention ‘on selected flights’ between the East Coast and Perth. Gotcha.
Bugger the 737. And to think we once thought it posh.