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  • Matt Coughran

Qantas or Jetstar? My Trip Report to Sydney and Back.

Hi All, welcome to another edition of Matt’s Trip Report. This time my trip was to Sydney for a day of plane spotting and a stream with Kurt in the night. I had only booked my flights the day prior to the trip, the prices of the fares were pretty reasonable considering the last minute booking. I had planned to fly with Qantas to Sydney on the 737-800

and Jetstar home on their A321 Neo.


Flight Details:

Airline: Qantas

Flight Number: QF591

Route: Gold Coast - Sydney

Aircraft: Boeing 737-800

Rego: VH-VYL (18 years old)

Seat: 18F


Flying to Sydney, I considered the 3 options for a 6am departure, QANTAS, Virgin Australia and Jetstar. QANTAS offered the best deal for me, 8,000 frequent flyer points and $47.00. So this is why I chose QANTAS. Another reason was to that with in a couple of years QANTAS will be phasing out the 737-800 in favour of the A321 Neo.





As the flight was to depart at 6am, I arrived at the airport at roughly 5am for bag drop, although I was only going for the night, carrying additional camera gear in my backpack means I need a suitcase for everything else (especially when flying Jetstar). As I had checked in on the QANTAS App, I printed my bag tag on the self serve kiosk and proceeded to the QANTAS Bag Drop Counter. Strangely I was the only person there at the time dropping off a bag, and there were 3 ground crew at the counter. As I approached them, they all looked at me like I was a set of headlights and I had to ask who I should go to!

I felt like they were reluctant to put their hand up! I dropped off my bag and headed towards security, checked my gate and headed towards Gate 11.






At 5:30am, there was an announcement that QANTAS 591 would be boarding soon and for us to make our way to the departure gate. Arriving at the gate, the higher tier Frequent Flyers started to board and not long after it was general boarding for the rest of the passengers. My seat was 18F, which means rear stair boarding, which is such a cool experience being able to walk along side the aircraft and under the wing. It allows you to appreciate the aircraft for its size and it’s capabilities.






I took my seat and instantly realised that you often pay a premium when flying with QANTAS for multiple reasons. The seats were fabric compared to leather on other Australian airlines. They felt comfortable and had that “premium” feel.


After sitting down, there is where I started to show my competitive side. As mentioned earlier there were three departures to Sydney all at 6am, so for me it was the race to be the first to depart. Cabin Doors were closed and secured.

So I quickly opened FlightRadar (FR24) to watch the status of the three flights  - QF891 was the first to ping on FR24, followed by VA500 and third JQ401. It was looking good! At 5:56am JQ401 started to pushback. That was when I knew 2nd place was the best I was going to get. At 5:58am VA500 pushed back and it I knew it was 3rd place for QF591, at 6:08am we pushed back for our departure.

Although I don’t fully know, I believe the reason for the delay is that QANTAS and Jetstar share the same ground crew with certain things, so I believe that the Jetstar flight was first, then the crew made their way to the QANTAS  flight to push it back. This is why I think there was a short delay. Although it was a short delay, I was not happy about coming last in my made up game!




We taxied down towards Runway 14 for our departure at 6:14am. Sitting on the left hand side, I had the beautiful views of the hinterland on departure before looking towards Mount Warning and the Cane Fields in Northern NSW.



One unique feature of the QANTAS flight is that all QANTAS 737 aircrafts have free onboard Wi-Fi. REX and Virgin offer Wi-Fi at a cost for most travellers (It is free for Business and Velocity Platinum flyers). I decided to take advantage of this feature to see how good the connection was.




Although the download speeds weren’t extremely fast (satellite connection), it allowed to me stream music, open webpages, look at FR24 and use YouTube. I believe this is what most travellers will be using it for.



Virgin 737-800 heading north (Behind Winglet)


Whilst looking at FR24 I saw a few flights heading north. A quick look out the window and there they were, which was a pretty cool thing to see.





As QANTAS is a full service airline, another premium is the included meal. The meal was 2 mini Quiches. One was bacon & cheese and the other was spinach & cheese.  We also got an orange juice. These were quite tasty and no complaints


At 7am we started our descent into Sydney. This was around Newcastle, and within 15 minutes we were seeing the outer towns of Sydney. Being on the right hand right of the Aircraft usually provides you with some great views of the city if you are to arrive on 16L or 34R. This can be seen in the video below:





We made a 180 degrees right hand turn for approach into Sydney Airport on Runway 34R.


Unfortunately due to the aircraft being 18 years old, the older windows with the sun  shining through made the viewing a little more difficult to see as seen in the arrival video.



Touching down at 8:25am (Sydney is 1 hour ahead) I was here in Sydney, 5 minutes ahead of schedule, with a total flight time of 1hour 11minutes.


https://www.instagram.com/that_airfield_guy/?hl=en Thanks to Nigel for these great photos!

As I was still competitive with the other two flights, I wanted to see who got to Sydney the quickest.

JQ401: 1hr 7 minutes

VA500: 1hr 13 minutes

QF591: 1hr 11 minutes


We taxied past Sheps Mound to Gate 7 at the Qantas Domestic Terminal.


Once I departed the plane, I walked towards the baggage collection. Unfortunately our bags took around 15 - 20 minutes to come out. This is not a big problem as it is all part of the flying experience.


After this, I walked to my hotel to drop off my suitcase and then headed towards the Mound for some morning plane spotting. Enjoy some of the photos from the morning session.




 I then caught up with Tim for Lunch and headed back to my hotel. This is when I unfortunately received the message we didn’t want to have, Kurt was feeling sick and that we would need to cancel the stream. Although this was not an easy decision, health and family will always come first at SydSquad.


This left me in a bit of predicament, do I stay the rest of the afternoon and fly home the next day, or do I head home early and spend additional time with the Family. I chose the latter.


 

Flight Details:

Airline: Jetstar

Flight Number: JQ422

Route: Sydney Airport - Gold Coast Airport

Aircraft: Airbus A320

Rego: VH-VGT (14 years old)

Seat: 5F


I decided to head back home to my family. When I booked this Jetstar flight, I chose the Flex Fare for a couple of reasons, including 14KG of carry on, seat selection and the option to change your flight. I took advantage of this, and had two options to fly home on either the 5:20pm departure ($1.00 Extra) or 9:20pm departure ($11.00 Extra). I chose the 5:20pm option. It was 3:30pm when I made the change so I had to get back to the airport within 45 minutes to make the bag drop cut off which is 40 minutes prior to departure.


I quickly packed my bags, checked out of the hotel and rushed back to the terminal. It’s roughly a 15 minute walk from the hotel to the airport. So that gave me 30minutes to check in for my flight.




At 3:50pm I arrived at the terminal, printed my bag tag and joined the massive line for bag drop. Knowing I had 40 minutes before bag drop closing, I felt a little nervous based on the amount of people in front of me.




There would have been close to 100 - 120 in front. At 4:15pm I was at the front of the queue and dropped off my bag.


Side Note: The reason for such a delay was due to Jetstar having only 2 team members on the bag drop queue for majority of my time in the line. By the time I got to the front of the line there were an additional 2 team members assisting the Customer Service and Closing Flight line. With only 4 team members for a constant flow of people, I do feel sorry for those crew and that pressure on them.



After going through security, I headed towards Gate 52 which is roughly a 5 - 10 minute walk from security. After arriving at the gate, there was an announcement that there was gate change from 52 to Gate 33. Not a big deal. Just Gate 33 is on the other side of the terminal, so that was another 5 - 10 minute walk!



At 4:40pm our plane arrived at the gate, and boarding started at roughly 5pm.

Personal Opinion:

There is one thing that bothers me with Jetstar’s pre-boarding process, and I understand this is clear at time of the booking, but it is the 7KG carry on limit Jetstar have. Before boarding the flight, 2 Jetstar team members stand at the front of the line asking you to weigh your bag. If your bag is over 7kg, there is a $55 fee that must be paid. This process of weighing bags has nothing to do with the operational weights of the aircraft or flight. They do not take note of the bag weights or provide this to the pilots prior to the departure. They will take your $55 if you’re over and move to the next person. I understand this is how Low Cost Carriers make additional money but it just bothers me. If it was for operational reasons and the weight of the bags were handed over the JQ pilots It wouldn’t bother me so much. The other thing that was obvious was that there were more crew at the gate than check in. Two team members for weighing bags, another two for the scanning of boarding passes.

I have once seen a lady being charged $55 for 7.4KG bag. 400 Grams!!


My bag weighed 7.5KG but as I purchased the flex fare, I was entitled to 14KG so it was not an issue.



Once I was through I boarded the plane through the front through the AeroBridge. This was the first time I had been on an A320 in a long time. It was definitely a different feel to my usual 737 trips, the A320 felt more “open” but more like I was in a tube, I had never noticed that before.



I took my seat in 5F. The seat was comfortable but not as comfortable as QANTAS or Virgin. It definitely had a bit more of a budget feel. Leg Room was reasonable.

As we were all boarded there was a call for roughly 15 passengers who failed to have their boarding passes scanned over the P.A. No one rang their call bell leaving a bit of a blank look on the ground crew, wondering why there were so many passengers who had failed to board. You could see the Ground Crew realising that we had a gate change, so she left the aircraft, within 10 minutes these 15 passengers arrived on the plane! I would assume these passengers were unaware of the gate change and were waiting back at gate 52.


After that we were loaded and pushing back from our gate 10 minutes behind schedule, we taxied back past the mound, for a Runway 34R departure with wheels up at 5:41pm





As part of the departure we made a right hand turn, looking down towards Eastlakes, Kingsford and Randwick before being able to see Bondi Beach.



Shortly after the in flight service started, I chose not to buy anything from the menu as I had only had lunch a few hours before.





Flying along the beautiful NSW coastline, there were a few impressive cloud formations to look at. This was before we started our descent near Coffs Harbour. The descent brought us over Byron Bay which on a sunny day, you can see the most easterly point of Australia and the Byron Bay Lighthouse. Unfortunately it was too cloudy for this today. Usually from Byron to touching down it is roughly 10 minutes.


Heading over the ocean, we passed Tweed Heads on the left hand side before making a left hand turn towards Burleigh Heads as we lined up to arrive on Runway 14.



Unfortunately due to the sun setting the video of the landing was not ideal and the video became unfocused. I have edited the video to get the best possible view.


Touching down at 5:41pm, (QLD is 1 hour behind) we arrived at Gate 11. I picked up my suitcase which didn’t take too long after landing (out within 10 minutes). I think the advantage for Jetstar is that the baggage is placed in tubs, so there isn’t double handling.


 

Summary:

After flying two of the domestic options of QANTAS Groups Airlines, QANTAS and Jetstar it was interesting to see if the additional costs with QANTAS are worth it compared to flying with their budget option.

Being honest I’m not really sure. Looking back on the two flights, I don’t feel like I walked away thinking, the additional costs with flying with QANTAS to have in-flight wifi, mid-flight meal and baggage were worth it. Maybe not on a flight that is 1 hour, longer flights between Australia might be different.

The experience I had from Jetstar and QANTAS ground crew felt equal, I didn’t feel like the staff were enthusiastic to serve me, both engagements felt very transactional and not personal. That’s something I would expect from the self serve bag drops rather than a face to face interaction.


There were only two things I disliked with the Jetstar experience, which were the check-in wait times and the carry on 7KG bag checks at time of boarding. Apart from that, I couldn’t fault Jetstar’s on time performance or the in flight service. The food options on the Jetstar Menu were plenty. The food on the QANTAS flight was enjoyable but again not really needed on an hour flight to Sydney.


Taking away Jetstar’s known traits of cancelling flights and flight delays, if you had the option to book between Jetstar and QANTAS on a short flight, I would suggest comparing the two prices, if once you add seat selection, baggage and maybe the cost of food to the booking and you’re saving more than $50 than I would say Jetstar is an option. If the prices are similar then QANTAS is still my pick out of the two but not my favourite. Right now that belongs to Bonza… That would be my choice over QANTAS and Jetstar.



Matt


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