Lifehackers’s Four Airlines In One Day project kicks off with a trip from Melbourne to Sydney on Jetstar. The flight is timely, but quite a lot else isn’t.
The flight: Jetstar JQ501 Sydney-Melbourne
The cost: $42.65
The airside experience: My day got off to an ominously crappy start when the CityRail ticket machine took my $28.20 for an airport return (ouch!) but then failed to print a ticket. I rang the 24-hour assistance line and got given a reference number which I could use instead of a ticket, but I predict issues when I try and get back on the train this evening. (At 4:45am, all the gates at the airport station are open anyway and there's not a staff member to be seen.)
Jetstar has plenty of check-in kiosks (and not much of a queue for baggage drop-off), but the bar-code reader leaves a lot to be desired: it repeatedly fails to recognise my ticket and then, right at the point when I'm about to select the option to enter my booking reference, suddenly pops up with the details.
As a Qantas Club member, I'm entitled to use the lounge (and want to do so for the power outlets). So it's disappointing when the promised 5am opening time fails to materialise -- it's 0515am before a staff member even shows up -- and doubly disappointing when the free Wi-Fi isn't working either. Having already encountered rubbish reception on my Vodafone dongle while waiting for the lounge to open, I suspect today may end up being all about connection woes.
The onboard experience: We board pretty speedily, and there don't seem to be too many disputes over luggage stowage. The seat on the Airbus A320 is pretty cramped though -- my knees are sinking into the back of the seat in front of me, and the lack of mobile ear flaps would make sleeping difficult, though the bloke next to me is semi-conscious for the whole flight.
That lack of space and a tray table that doesn't slide forward also make using a laptop pretty tricky. My Portegé is fairly compact, but still hangs more than halfway over the edge of the table and I can only just see the screen -- someone with a 15-inch model would have no hope.
I've often found Jetstar crew to be practically Scottish in their dourness, but our attendants today are pretty chirpy, especially given the early hour. The Jetsnack service is about what I'd expect, and the pricing seems pretty typical as well (soft and hot drinks $3, sandwiches $6, alcohol $6 and up). My "cafe style hot and creamy cappuccino" is large and hot, but wouldn't be served in anywhere that was an actual cafe.
Overall: It's a cramped way to start the day, but Jetstar measures up pretty well so far. Landing a few minutes early also puts me in a good position to stride through Melbourne airport to Virgin, where I'm checking in for the next leg: to Adelaide, with a side review of the Virgin lounge, which I've never sampled before.