The more experienced Virgin back to Sydney

After my fill of work web stuff I couldn’t wait to return to Sydney to see my family again. After visiting the huge Canberra Qantas lounge on my last flight from Canberra I was curious to compare it with Virgin Australia’s, seeing as it was included on my ticket.

My first impressions were that it was quite nice, though not as good as Qantas, nor as large. There was a bit of selection of antipasto, breads and fillings, along with free drinks. I made myself a sandwich and an onion soup, then had an apple.

Just PC’s and no stylish Macs in the business centre and the televisions were stuck on Foxtel, which I find very annoying. So glad that they aren’t supplying services to the Australia Network instead of the ABC.

While waiting a formation of military helicopters flew over, consisting of three Army Kiowas, a black and a white Navy A109E, all of which landed at RAAF Fairbairn and one NavySeahawk that flew off. Very cool!

When I returned from a trip to the toilet I discovered why the Qantas lounge in Canberra is so large – the Virgin lounge was already full despite there only being two flights worth of passengers. Outside the situation was no better with not enough seating available for the Sydney and delayed Melbourne flights.

Fortunately our flight was on time and we soon boarded the Embraer E190 jet. The flight was absolutely packed – it looks like Virgin Australia are having some success getting government business now judging from the clientele.

A Qantas 737-400 was taxiing to the far end of the runway ahead of us, but we turned in and took off first. As we raced above the clouds there were glimpses of the water in Lake George. I’m not convinced of the Embraer’s handling in turbulence as it seemed to get rather shaky on the way up. It feels a lot lighter than Qantas’ 737s on the route.

As we briefly cruised above the clouds the crew came through with a meal service. It still feels like they have lessons to learn about efficient service. We had already begun our descent by the time the not-so-nice spinach and ricotta muffin and tropical fruit juice were placed on our tray tables. There was little time to eat it before the rubbish was collected.

The heavy cloud over Sydney meant that I wasn’t certain of our route into the airport until we emerged over Glebe. It was raining as we touched down. Our supposed earliness evaporated as we sat for over 10 minutes on the tarmac waiting to access a gate.

Then a quick exit and off to catch the train and return home.

It feels like Virgin Australia are starting to get a bit more professional on the Sydney – Canberra route. I really didn’t mind the flights with them, though I still looked a little enviously at the Qantas aircraft parked beside us.

That should be it for flying in 2011. Twenty-four flights this year on twelve different aircraft types and seven airlines. Time for a nice quiet Christmas at home.

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