Review: Virgin Australia, Sydney to Canberra

In 2013 Virgin Australia’s acquired of Skywest which now operates as Virgin Australia Regional Airlines with a fleet of ATR72-600 aircraft, which they use to ply the short Sydney – Canberra route. Virgin Australia and Qantas now both seem to predominantly run turboprop aircraft on the route.

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While this won’t be a long report (particularly as we arrived at the airport too late to use the lounge), we find it worthwhile to report on some of our more routine travels.

Boarding in Sydney, Virgin have a clear distinction between the priority boarding lane and the regular one – entrances are well signposted and separated by furniture (even though some would say that the red carpet is in the wrong place). Priority boarding is offered even for flights operated by turboprops. The same cannot be said for competitor Qantas.

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These planes are boarded through the tarmac, so the jetbridge was roped off.

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It was down the stairs for us. Out the window we spied our plane.

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Despite the flight behind on final call, the tarmac had a long queue of people waiting to board. You wouldn’t want to be doing this in bad weather. The plane boards and disembarks through the rear door so it is preferable to sit at the back (maybe row 16 or 17). Virgin Australia seem to have some informal system to leave your larger luggage at the back of the plane on boarding and pick it up on arrival.

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These turboprop aircraft are configured (unsurprisingly) in a one class configuration. On-board we found the seats surprisingly comfortable for a turboprop aircraft. The crew announced that it was not permitted to use electronic devices gate-to-gate on this aircraft.

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The crew also announced that they would not be serving hot beverages on the flight due to the short sector length. The flight is only 147 miles / 236 kilometres long so most of the 50 minute scheduled flight time is taken up on the ground and in air traffic at both ends.

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As it was a weekday flight between 5 and 7pm, during the flight the crew came through the cabin offering an alcoholic beverage free of charge. They also offered a snack which was the most horrendous tasting, it’s hard to even describe. What were they thinking?

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Flights of a very short length are frustrating given the amount of friction on the ground at either end. By the time you make it to the airport, get through security, on the plane, fly, disembark at your destination airport and make your way by road to your ultimate destination you could have just as well have driven there. Having said that, both airlines seem to get decent custom on these short flights. We found Virgin Australia’s offering to be good for such a short flight.

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