Airline review: Virgin Australia, economy class, Queenstown to Sydney

Our rating

4 out of 5

THE PLANE

Boeing 737-800; VA has 73 of this aircraft in its fleet, typically set up for 176 passengers.

THE ROUTE

Queenstown to Sydney

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Velocity

CLASS

Economy, seat 4A

DURATION

3 hours 20 minutes

THE SEAT

78 centimetre (31 inch) pitch, 43cm (17in) width. It's a 3-3 layout for 168 economy class seats, with eight business class seats in a 2-2 format just in front of us.

BAGGAGE

Virgin's baggage allowances are linked to both the type of fare you've purchased and your Velocity membership status. My ticket entitles me to checked bags up to 23 kilograms, one carry-on bag up to 7kg and one personal item (eg, handbag).

COMFORT

Our flight isn't full and there's an empty seat between me and the passenger in 4C, which is nice as it gives us both a bit of elbow room. The leather seats have a nice feel.

ENTERTAINMENT

It's BYO device on Virgin but you have to download the app before you leave the airport in order to access the system on board. Once you've done that the system is easy to use and you can choose from 300 hours of television, movies, podcasts and playlists, including a section especially for kids. You need to bring your own headphones (or buy them on board for $3).

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There's no power outlet or USB port in economy, though, and my phone dies 27 minutes into The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which seemed an appropriate movie choice for the end of a NZ trip.

SERVICE

Efficient and friendly. I beg a cabin attendant for assistance to recharge my phone and she's happy to help (the Business seats have power outlets).

FOOD

For those travelling on a Getaway or Freedom Fare, a meal and drink is included, with two dishes on offer: vegetarian spiral pasta or Thai green chicken curry with jasmine rice and vegetables, which is delicious with just the right amount of spice, although the beans are soggy. It would go well with a nice aromatic white wine but unfortunately the Richland pinot grigio served in Economy is not a nice wine, so I settle for sparkling water.

If you're travelling on a cheaper Go or Go Plus fare you'll only be offered tea, coffee and water, but you can buy food such sandwiches or wraps and soft drinks. With roughly a $25 difference in fare price (each way) between the Go Plus and Getaway fares you might choose not to bother with a meal. After all, Queenstown and Sydney both have plenty of restaurants where you can spend the difference.

ONE MORE THING ...

Try to nab a window seat. The views over Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables and surrounding snow-capped peaks after take off are unparalleled. There are five weekly flights between Queenstown and Sydney. The frequency varies depending on season with more direct flights (including to Melbourne and Brisbane) in the peak July-August snow season. Virgin's alliance with Air New Zealand offers additional direct codeshare flights.

THE VERDICT

In Kiwi speak, the wee journey across the Ditch is a doddle. The direct flight means you can do a morning of activities before heading to the airport so you don't need to lose a whole day travelling. It's short enough to treat it like a budget flight but, if you want more creature comforts, Virgin gives you the option.

Tested by Sally Webb, who flew courtesy of Virgin Australia.

See also: Airline review: Virgin Australia's new international business class

See also: Virgin Australia launches new 'Economy Space' seats