Airline review: Virgin Australia, 737-800 Economy Class X, Denpasar to Brisbane

THE ROUTE

Denpasar-Brisbane

THE AIRCRAFT

Boeing 737-800 – the backbone of Virgin's domestic and short haul fleet. Virgin will take delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX, with its "split scimitar" winglets later this year.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Velocity frequent flyer program.

CLASS

I'm booked in 4C in Economy X, which, for an extra $89 (on short haul flights), offers more leg-room.

DURATION

Flight time of just over 5½ hours. Takeoff was delayed slightly due to congestion at Denpasar airport, touching down in Brisbane 20 minutes late.

FREQUENCY

Ten times a week (three daytime flights; seven overnight).

CHECKING IN

Where available, Economy-X comes with priority boarding and check-in. For no extra cost, check-in staff move my husband and daughter travelling on standard tickets to Economy X – although we're not seated together.

THE SEAT

The first three rows and over wing exit rows of the 737-800 are dedicated Economy X seats. Row 3, directly behind business class, is the pick of Economy X seats, offering a pitch of 34 inches (31 inches in standard economy).

BAGGAGE

23 kilograms checked in; seven kilograms hand luggage (extra check in allowance if you're a silver, gold or platinum Velocity member).

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COMFORT

VA's 737s offer the basics when it comes to comfort (this is the same aircraft type they use to fly domestically), but the service is far from standard. No blankets or pillows are offered, however we don't need them as we're on one of the rare daytime flights home to Australia from Bali. Being in an Economy X aisle seat next to my 10-year-old daughter means we can spread out a little.

ENTERTAINMENT

Virgin Australia offers a wireless inflight entertainment system so you need to BYO device (and headphones) or face a movie-less flight. Unless you don't mind sharing, everyone travelling in your group needs to bring their own device and they need to be fully charged as (frustratingly) there are no USB outlets in economy. Also frustrating is the inability to download Virgin's entertainment app to Macbooks (despite downloading the required Microsoft Silverlight multiple times), meaning I had to share my iPhone with my daughter. Once installed, there's a great choice of Australian films, new release blockbusters, documentaries and TV shows on offer.

SERVICE

I think we scored the world's nicest flight attendant. When we declined dinner served at 4.15pm (just after takeoff) he took note of our choice and kept it warm for when we were ready. Ninety minutes later he checked back to see if we were hungry. Water was offered regularly. There are only two toilets available for economy passengers, which at times, proved inadequate. Another flight attendant allowed us to use the business class toilet when the queue got ridiculously long.

FOOD

On short haul flights, certain fare categories receive complimentary food and selected beverages. Otherwise it's complimentary tea, coffee and water only. My tasty chicken dish came with vegetables, salad, cheese and crackers, a chocolate brownie and choice of drink. I opted for a glass of shiraz. My daughter's meal was spaghetti, which was a winner. You can buy food onboard but it's mostly snacks and hot food runs out quickly.

ONE MORE THING

Be sure to download the inflight entertainment app before you fly, pre-purchase meals if needed (or double check that your fare class includes a meal), and BYO blanket, pillow and headphones.

THE VERDICT

The 737-800 may not have all the bells and whistles of, say, the Dreamliner, but being able to fly in the day makes this my favourite new way to return from Bali. Almost all other flights from Denpasar to Australia are overnight, meaning you arrive home tired instead of relaxed. For those who don't live in Queensland, overnighting at the Pullman or neigbouring Ibis Brisbane Airport (located at the domestic terminal) is a good option. We checked into the Ibis just after midnight, had a good night's sleep, then flew home to Newcastle the next day. The holiday feeling lingered, rather than being obliterated on a red eye from Denpasar, where unfortunately you're often travelling with passengers who've had a few too many before boarding.

OUR RATING

4/5

The writer flew as a guest of Virgin Australia (www.virginaustralia.com.au)

See also: Airline review: Virgin Australia 'Economy X' extra legroom class to Los Angeles

See also: Airline review: Virgin Australia, Airbus A330, business class

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