There's a weird seating coincidence and an overheated boarding, but Tiger delivers the goods. The Four Airlines challenge continues from Adelaide to Hobart.
The flight: Tiger TT822 Adelaide-Hobart
The cost: $65.94
The airside experience: Tiger has a very minimal installation at Adelaide -- a pair of 'soft' check-in counters, no kiosks, no lounge. So for the first time today I've got no choice but to queue and get my boarding pass. I only have to queue for five minutes, though, which is nothing -- bag drop in Sydney usually takes longer than that.
The demeanour of my check-in dude might charitably be described as sullen, but the task is done in double-quick time. And while I might not have a power outlet, Internode offers free Wi-Fi throughout Adelaide Airport, so I don't have to be let down by Vodafone once again, and there's plenty of free seating.
After clearing security and posting about the Virgin flight, I foolishly decide to let Windows install some patches -- a decision I regret when the PC refuses to reboot and insists on a system rollback. I've held off adding Windows 7 to this machine just in case it messes up some of the 3G broadband software, but at this stage that now looks like a sensible move (too much time has been wasted and the 3G software seems rooted anyway). In any case, I end up simultaneously watching Windows restore itself and wolfing down some Hungry Jacks, with the result I don't actually head to my gate until they call the flight (which happens on time).
Gate processing is quick, but there's a long queue of people waiting to actually board the plane (I'm guessing everyone has lots of carry-on to dodge extra charges). Unfortunately, Adelaide has particularly long, glass-sided aerobridges, and they're stinking hot today -- not the nicest way to start the flight.
The onboard experience: Once on-board, there was a weird seating coincidence. On Jetstar, I was in seat 4F (a window seat which I'd chosen myself when I booked). On Virgin, I also got assigned to seat 4F. When I checked in for Tiger, I got seat 4A -- same row, just the opposite window seat. But when I boarded, seats 4A and 4C were occupied by a couple travelling with two small babies who had inadvertently sat on the wrong side of the plane. So I cheerfully agreed to shift over rather than force them to move, and ended up in 4F again.
Coincidence aside, I have a spare seat next to me: despite the apparent luggage kerfuffle, the plane doesn't look even two-thirds full. It's an A320 (like my Jetstar flight), though it feels like there's a fraction more leg room -- at least until the person in front tries to recline. Not much chance with my knees in the way, love.
More importantly, there's a pull-out tray table, so working on my PC is a much more comfortable choice. As it happens, there's no free in-flight magazine, so it's also the best use of my time.
Food pricing is virtually the same as Virgin and Jetstar, and the range is also near-identical (though soup is the only 'meal' option). Presumably each airline watches competitor prices closely, and in practice they might well get their food from the same suppliers. The $3.50 cappuccino I sample for comparative purposes is certainly the same drink as on Jetstar, though the menu mercifully doesn't describe it in such fulsome terms. Unlike the sullen check-in guy, the onboard staff are cheerful and helpful.
Overall: I had pretty low expectations of Tiger -- I figured this might be the kind of it's-cheap-don't-whine non-service that typifies UK budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet, with which I'm all too familiar. In fact, there was virtually nothing different to what I experienced on Jetstar and Virgin, other than the slow boarding (and the cardboard boarding pass). Now there's only Qantas (back to Sydney via Melbourne) left on the menu.