Flight test: Jetstar economy to Hawaii

The Jetstar experience is not too different from flying with a full-service airline, if you're prepared.
The Jetstar experience is not too different from flying with a full-service airline, if you're prepared. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

JETSTAR

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Honolulu.

THE PLANE

Airbus A330-200.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Points can be earned on Qantas Frequent Flyer, depending on the type of fare.

CLASS

Economy, seat 33F.

DURATION

Thanks to a tailwind, we get in early after nine hours, 25 minutes.

FREQUENCY

Depending on seasonal demand, Jetstar flies daily from Sydney to Honolulu and up to three times a week from Melbourne to Honolulu.

THE SEAT

The economy class cabin has a 2-4-2 configuration. Seats have a 31-inch (79-centimetre) pitch and 17-inch (43cm) width.

BAGGAGE

Jetstar's cheapest fares do not include checked baggage. At the time of booking, you had to pay an additional $35 for a 15 kilogram allowance or $39 for 20 kilograms, moving up to $70 for 40 kilograms. If you don't pay in advance and want to check luggage in at the airport, you'll be facing a $160 fee for the first 15 kilograms and $25 a kilogram above that. The starter fares include up to 10 kilograms carry-on luggage.

COMFORT

Being a budget airline, no pillows or blankets are provided. A "Comfort Pack" can be purchased for $10 and includes an inflatable neck support pillow, toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs, socks, eye mask, a pen, tissues, lip balm and hand cream, it also entitles you to a blanket for the duration of the flight. These must be pre-booked and cannot be purchased on board. The seats are tight but comfortable enough. At 31 inches pitch on the A330, they're the largest Jetstar offers, but tighter than the 32 inches commonly offered by most international full-service carriers. I'm in a middle seat but have no neighbour on my left, so I can stretch out. One annoyance is the communal TV screens throughout the cabin - they play throughout the night and make it difficult to sleep without an eyemask.

ENTERTAINMENT

The flight has no seat-back TV screens, but pre-loaded iPads can be rented for $18 (or $15 if you reserve one at the time of booking). There is not a huge range of entertainment on the devices, but it's a case of quality over quantity, with a good mix of mainstream blockbuster movies, more arthouse fare (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Her) and guilty pleasures (Anchorman 2), plus a few TV shows, e-mags and music. There is nothing to affix the iPad to (I did hook the case into the seat cover in front of me, but was told to remove it), so you have to sit it on the tray-table and, while it comes with a stand, the stand is so wide I find it regularly slipping off the back of the table.

SERVICE

The crew are efficient and well presented. Jetstar uses a mix of Asian-based and Australian crews on the Honolulu route. Passengers making their payments for extras on board slows down the service but it's bearable.

FOOD

Passengers can pre-book a meal of pork curry, beef stew or spinach and ricotta ravioli for $24, including a continental breakfast pack. For those who don't pre-book, there are a range of snacks available on board for purchase.

ONE MORE THING ...

Coming from a connecting Jetstar flight in Melbourne, I was disappointed to find the airline was unable to check my bags through and did not offer a transfer between terminals, leaving me to pay the great Sydney Airport rip-off of $5.40 for a train ticket simply to go from one terminal to another.

THE VERDICT

You get what you pay for so the minor inconveniences of having to buy extras are easily forgiven. Pre-booking your entertainment and food options mean you won't notice too much difference from a full-service carrier.

Tested by Craig Platt, who travelled at his own expense.

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