I travelled on flight VA 429 over the weekend between Adelaide and Sydney.
I have a great affectation for Virgin Australia, and think their current reincarnation under the ownership of Bain Capital is going well. I like their service style, and they have adopted a method of communication with passengers which is open and honest. They apologise for and explain delays, and cabin and flight deck staff are introduced by an announcement to all passengers. Seat pitch in economy is good, as is the entertainment streaming available on your own device.
Free v Paid for snacks and drinks you want
What I don’t like is their slightly smaller cabin luggage allowance, the lack of wifi, and the need to pay for everything except tea, coffee or water on every flight in economy. On Qantas, you at least get a free soft drink, and what passes for a ‘snack’, and you even get a drink depending on your time of travel. On the other hand, as my husband observed, at least you can get a decent quality of drink (Archie Rose Gin and Fevertree Tonic) – even if you have to pay for it. He has a point, and given that Virgin fares at all levels are usually cheaper than Qantas – maybe it’s worth paying for a drink and snack you actually want rather than one you don’t really on Qantas.
The other difference I noted, is that cabin staff seem to start cleaning the seats and seat pockets and tray tables, almost as you disembark, and upon embarkation, all the armrests are placed in the ‘upright position’, bar the one on the aisle. This makes it a lot easier for passengers sitting in either the middle or window seat to occupy their seat.
This may be in the eye of the beholder, but it also looks more welcoming to me.
As a longtime Qantas fanboy, I am often surprised by the quality of service on Virgin Australia. Given they both run the same aircraft (737-800s) and have similar interiors (Virgin has fewer business class seats) it’s the service that tends to distinguishes the two airlines.
On this flight, the cabin staff had a nice chat with me, while I sorted out payment for my husband’s G&T because they don’t take Apple Pay – but will soon. I would have said that Qantas led on the customer engagement front if we are measuring that by chatting with customers by cabin staff, but on the experience of this week’s flight, I’d say Virgin is the current winner.
Activate WiFi, sort out the crowding in the Sydney Virgin Lounge, and the horror of T2 check-in, security and baggage drop at Sydney Airport, and I may change allegiance.
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