After staying in Sydney to see family there, we headed up to Gold Coast for six nights where my cousin, his wife and two kids live. My aunt, uncle, and my other cousin and her family actually went up there for three nights too and we stayed for six.
Sydney – Gold Coast, Virgin Australia VA519 12:20 p.m. – 1:40 p.m.
Choosing Which Airline To Fly To Gold Coast
Normally I’d be inclined to pick up Qantas tickets in coach for the short 1 hour 20 minute flight, using my American AAdvantage status for priority check-in and boarding, lounge and extra baggage. But those were pricing at around $300 in economy for the one way trip while Virgin Australia was asking $200 for business class.
I could have halved that cost flying Virgin Australia’s economy, which would have been fine for the hour’s journey. But I decided that the extra cost made sense since it would come with priority check-in (meaningful with lines at the airport on the Friday of a start to a three day weekend) as well as a greater checked baggage allowance. We were traveling for 17 days with a three year old and had luggage. The better seat, meal and lounge access would be bonus.
Awards were available through Aeroplan at 20,000 points apiece plus taxes, way too expensive for a flight of just $200. No Qantas award space had been open.
I credited miles from the trip to my Air Canada Aeroplan account. We were traveling just days into Virgin’s new partnership with United and I credited my wife’s and daughter’s flights to their MileagePlus accounts. Miles for all of us posted smoothly.
Sydney Airport Terminal 2
Local news was full of reports of packed airports, so we decided to turn up two hours in advance at Sydney’s domestic terminal 2 which houses Virgin, Jetstar, Tiger and REX. We knew that there wouldn’t be a premium security line, and we’d have to check bags. Even so we had way too much time to kill before our short one hour 20 minute flight.
The airport was packed but fortunately we only had to wait behind 5 or 6 people in the premium check-in queue to turn over our bags, and then we headed through security.
We kept our daughter in her stroller at this point, and we were directed to the assistance (‘family’) lane which had almost no line and so even without a priority queue we were able to skip security lines. And security is much faster in Australia for domestic flights anyway since there’s no ID check, no boarding pass check, and no liquid ban. We were through in just a couple of minutes, and had plenty of time to kill in the lounge.
Virgin Australia Lounge Sydney
The Virgin lounge was immediately past security and hard to miss because of the giant construction shroud around the entryway. It was a quick elevator ride up a floor from there.
The lounge was super busy but that’s not surprising given how full flights were and how many flights Virgin Australia is now operating out of the terminal (and that elite status provides lounge access, not just class of service or a paid membership). They also offer access to partner elites as well as having a buy-in option.
Drinks were self-serve, except the coffee where there was a barista, but the buffet was staffed where you’d request the item you wanted. Covid protocols are strange.
The number of food items were limited, but they were fairly substantive. You could have a wrap, a sandwich, salad, or tortilla chips.
Virgin Australia Boeing 737, Sydney – Gold Coast
We headed down from the lounge over to the gate about a minute before boarding. Boarding commenced on time and we were on the aircraft right away. Virgin Australia Boeing 737s have just two rows of business class, and we’d pre-reserved 3 of the 4 seats in row two for the underseat storage in front of us.
The first class flight attendant was a bit to the point, not super friendly but efficient enough. The plane boarded quickly, we taxied out reasonably fast for Sydney, and once we were in the air he took meal orders.
As soon as I’d finished my meal he cleared my tray, I watched an episode of the latest season of Billions on my phone, and soon enough we were landing at Gold Coast airport. (It used to be called Coolangatta Airport,Coolangatta being Aboriginal for ‘place of good view’, and that’s where the airport’s code OOL comes from.)
Once we landed and taxied in we disembarked via a ramp rather than jetbridge or air stairs.
Virgin Australia In A Nutshell
I was really curious to see what Virgin Australia was like after having been acquired out of bankruptcy (“administration”) by private equity. And the answer was… it’s fine. Indeed, for basic domestic service it reminded me of flying Virgin Australia before the pandemic.
As one expects in Australia (and Europe and Asia) a short business class flight offers a meal. Business class in Australia is a proper seat like it is in the U.S. (and unlike Europe). Staff were reasonable friendly though didn’t stand out in any way. The flight was on time. In effect, the flight was average and as-expected in almost every way.
Virgin Australia domestic business class flight (1-10):
- Seat (50%): 5/10
Lounge (15%): 5/10
Food and Beverage (20%): 5/10
Service (15%): 6/10
Weighted average: 5.15/10