I was perusing through the travel section, when I actually discovered a listing for the Virgin Blue (VB) airline, which I didn’t think Dooyoo would have as this airline runs internal flights around Australia and was most excited as I have travelled with these more times than I can count while I have been backpacking around the land down under. Branson’s Baby is a backpackers dream, they offer cheap flights around Oz which can save you days sitting on a bus or a train (which may have its charms but does give you a sore backside and if you get stuck in a carriage with a “Wino” or a screaming baby then can become a living nightmare). Also VB flights are usually only minimally more expensive than taking other forms of transport which really surprised me. Currently Australia doesn’t have any other economy airlines and most of the time VB flights are considerably cheaper than Quantas BOOKING FLIGHTS The best way to book a flight is via their web site www.virginblue.com.au, as it gives a $10 discount each way on web bookings. You pop in your departure and return cities and dates in the section on the left of the screen, your computer then crunches away for a minute and then by the miracle of modern technology it brings up any available flights. You just need to choose the most suitable ones and whack in you credit card details and you print off your reservation details (although they have never asked for it at check in) and then you are away. If you don’t have access to a computer then you can always buy flights through a travel agent or call their bookings line while in Australia which is 136 789 but I have never done this. FARES Fares with VB can vary, on the Internet you can buy two types the FAIR FARE or the FULLY FLEXIBLE fare. The FAIR FARE is basically the cheap one, it is non-refundable, and costs you $30 if you want to change it and you have to give them 24 hours notice.
Another thing to note is that you must input your details really carefully, they won’t let you fly unless your details match exactly. The FULLY FLEXIBLE FARE is still non-refundable but changes are permitted up to 30 minutes before you want to fly and the ticket is valid for 12 months. This ticket is usually twice the price though. A rough idea of the flight prices are: Sydney to Melbourne - $90 Sydney to Brisbane - $90 Sydney to Cairns - $280 Sydney to Perth - $240 Sydney to Darwin - $240 This is a rough guide but can change drastically depending on the seasons and events in that region (ie flights to Melbourne around the time of the Grand Prix this year the prices tripled). GETTING THE BEST DEAL Right I warn you though don’t leave your flight booking to the last minute tickets go really quick, and get more expensive the closer you get to your departure date and you can end up paying $100 more for the same flight if you had booked it a fortnight earlier. Also they have been running a thing called “Mid Week Madness” so if you buy your ticket on a Tuesday or Wednesday then you can get flights even cheaper. I would also recommend registering with the site as they often have really great special offers but these seats go really quickly often within 24 hours of them being released they can be sold. (Other backpackers I know have got great deals on these offers one of them managed to book for internal flights for under $250 dollars). DESTINATIONS VB fly to most of the major towns and cities throughout Australia, their website has a map of all the routes but it looks a right mess and is pretty difficult to decipher but generally if an area is worth visiting then Virgin Blue fly there CHECK IN & CUSTOMER SERVICE The Trolley Dolleys at VB are a strange breed they look like something out of Hitlers Über Race – i.e they are all perfectly formed,
tall blonde (really I haven’t seen a brunette in all my flights) specimens of the human race - which can be quite depressing when your clad in track bottoms, a vest covered in greasy sun lotion marks, are wearing flip flops and have the reminder of that “tan” peeling from your nose. The staff uniforms are actually really cool, they have a vague colonial trekking around the jungle feel, beige skirts/trousers and white shirts, which makes a change from some of the other uniforms and colour combos I have seen on other airlines. The staff though can’t be faulted they are impeccable, check in was painless, they ask you to be there 45 minutes before your flight, don’t be daunted by the queues, they always look huge but I have rarely been standing for more than 20-25 minutes. There are always several members of staff walking around to make sure everybody is in the right lane and answer questions. I believe your luggage allowance is 22kgs to check in and 5kgs for hand luggage. After check in you can move down to the waiting areas and the boarding call is usually 15 minutes before take off. I have never been delayed when taking a Virgin Blue flight. IN FLIGHT & AIRCRAFT VB offers cheap tickets so doesn’t give out free refreshments and in flight meals but on short flights who needs that? There is an in flight snack service which is pretty reasonable its about $2.50 for hot and cold drinks, $2.50 for crisps and chocolate $5-6 for alcohol and $5 for snacks such as nachos. Although they never seem to stock the full menu when I have taken flights and on my last flight they didn’t have any bottled water so I got given a glass of ice covered in hot water, I tried to pass but the air hostess insisted ???? The aircraft are 737s’ and are new planes, the cabins are pretty comfortable, clean and have good air conditioning (sometimes a little too good). The seats are a little hard and don’t recline
that much which is ok for a short flight but a Sydney to Perth flight can take 5 hours. Upon arrival at the destination there are usually some strapping young Australians ready to unload luggage and sometimes if your lucky they will even give you a wave (ok perhaps I should stop staring ha ha ha) it usually takes thirty minutes from landing until I pick up my trusty old backpack. So what do I think of Virgin Blue? As an economy airline Dicky Branson has got it pretty much right, cheap seats, good looking staff, decent planes, a few little things like having all the menu in stock and slightly more comfortable seats might improve the service but now I am just nitpicking. Overall a great budget airline.