Route Melbourne to Uluru, via Sydney. (There are no direct flights from Melbourne to the red monolith with any airline.)
Aircraft Melbourne to Sydney, 737-800; Sydney to Uluru, Embraer 190.
Class Economy. (Ticket options for this class are a basic "Saver" ticket or a "Flexi" ticket that has the added benefits of checked-in luggage and a meal.)
Flight time Melbourne to Sydney 1hr 25min; Sydney to Uluru 3hr 8min. Changeover time in Sydney 55min. That's a total of 5hr 28min. You could almost be in Bali in that time. At least everything runs to schedule on this long-winded trip. The return journey is another story: delays spin the commute out to about eight hours. You could be in Singapore in that time.
Seat configuration Melbourne to Sydney 3-3; Sydney to Uluru 2-2.
Seat width and pitch 17 inches wide, 31-inch seat pitch for each aircraft.
Luggage The two sectors of my flight are made on different bookings; a big mistake because the Virgin computer system will not allow my bag to be checked right through. I have to pick it up in Sydney and check it in again for Uluru. The baggage allowance with a "Saver" ticket is 7kg carry-on only, but an extra $15 each way allows for a 23kg checked-in bag also. The Flexi fare includes carry-on and a 23kg checked-in bag.
Comfort On the E190, avoid row 26, the very last seats. There is only one rear toilet and plenty of people standing in the aisle waiting to go. The single forward toilet is reserved for a few business-class passengers, and economy trespassers are frequently turned back.
Entertainment Melbourne to Sydney on the 737 has seatback screens with free access to TV and music. The system is good but it is being progressively replaced with wi-fi. The airline says passengers will be able to stream video and audio to their own electronic devices. The Samsung Galaxy 10.1 will also be available in business class and to Flexi fare passengers, subject to availability. From Sydney to Uluru on the E190, no entertainment is provided.
Food and drinks Saver-fare passengers can order from a snack menu. It's limited, and frequent flyers must tire of the same items. It includes a Luke Mangan egg, lettuce and mayo sandwich ($7), a Luke Mangan gourmet New Yorker sandwich ($10), cheese and crackers ($4), Coke ($3) and wine ($8). The more expensive Flexi-fare passengers receive a meal consisting of the gourmet sandwich, popcorn and chocolate.
Flight frequency Daily.
Tested by Robert Upe who flew courtesy of Ayers Rock Resort.