Ex-Tigerair Economy Class to Australia’s Western Third
I had long wanted to try out Virgin Australia’s Western Australia based subsidiary, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, formerly Skywest, however the airline mainly plies intra-state routes shuttling FIFO workers to mine sites across WA’s limitless interior. Before my flight to Perth however, I had to get to Adelaide, this time on a Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800, one of the ex-Silkair ones with the new interior, so I’ll cover that first!
|Flight 1 Details|
|Aircraft Type||Boeing 737-800|
|Route||Hobart to Adelaide|
Unlike my previous two trips this year, I was departing at the more civilised time of 10:55am, but with the airline, airport, and media warnings of long lines at checkin, I got to the airport about an hour and a half prior. As it turned out, departures was fairly empty, except for a relatively long but fast moving line at the Virgin Australia desks. This was my first solo trip with checked luggage (yes, you heard that right, I did a multi-city mainland trip with just a 7kg backpack) I was a little unsure of what to expect, but I was soon through check-in and security with no issues whatsoever.
In comparison to the check-in area, the departure hall was absolutely packed, with very few free seats, and many people standing and sitting on the ground, giving HBA a bit of a chaotic feel. Despite the Tasmanian Government dropping its mask mandate for airport terminals, I noted that around half of the people in the airport chose to continue wearing masks, not surprising, given they are still required once onboard the aircraft anyways.
Boarding was called a little late, but I was soon at my seat, 4A, right up at the front of the aircraft. Actually an Economy X seat, with extra legroom, I had originally been booked in 18F, however I had been moved (without any notification by VA whatsoever) to the front, presumably as the flight was about 95% full, though I’m not complaining, I would have appreciated the extra legroom far more on my next flight, but more on that later.
We pushed back right on time, and went through the usual safety briefing as we taxied down to the end of Hobart’s runway 30 (am I the only one that thinks that the person who voices VA’s safety demo sounds like Bess from Upper Middle Bogan?). Take-off was pretty smooth by Hobart standards, and we were soon cruising over the snow-capped peaks of the Central Highlands.
A refreshment service was offered, with items purchasable off Virgin’s new Buy-on-Board menu, but I was planning on eating in Adelaide, so I just stuck with the free water.
The remainder of the flight was pretty uneventful, and after a while Lake Alexandrina and the plains south of Adelaide came into sight as we descended and lined up for a Runway 05 landing over Glenelg.
Deboarding was via the front door only due to staff shortages at Adelaide Airport, so it took a little longer than usual, my reallocated seat in row 4 was actually quite useful! After a long walk along the terminal and down the escalator I got the baggage carousel, only to discover that there was an entire other flight’s worth of baggage still waiting to be unloaded. After about a half-hour wait I finally got my bag, and went back up to check-in for my evening flight to Perth.
After having the bag drop machine spit my bag back out multiple times, I finally got it checked in, and headed out to the carpark for a bit of spotting. The Vickers Vimy museum was closed at the time of my visit as the aircraft was being dismantled and moved to a new location closer to (within?) the terminal. My first shots of the trip were of an aircraft that had been evading me for nearly two years, Retro Roo II, before walking round to the cargo apron, where a number of BAe 146s were parked, alongside an Alliance E190 and a Toll 737 classic.
Before heading back to the terminal, I managed to get a few shots of Alliance’s parked Fokker F50s, something I had been hoping to do for ages, as the airline has just announced their complete retirement.
The line at security heading into the terminal took a solid 15 minutes, but after picking up a pretty overpriced, bland sandwich from one of those typical airport cafes, I made my way down to the far southern end of the terminal and set myself up for another few hours of planespotting.
As the sun began to dip below the horizon, I packed up my camera and headed down the other end of the terminal, to find that my departure gate and time had both changed. The gate slowly filled up, and eventually my ride to Perth, 13 year old Virgin Australia Regional Airlines Airbus A320-200, VH-VKQ touched down on Adelaide’s Runway 05.
|Flight 2 Details|
|Airline||Virgin Australia Regional Airlines|
|Aircraft Type||Airbus A320-200|
|Route||Adelaide to Perth|
Boarding eventually began even later than the initial delayed time, as we were waiting for a group of passengers on a connecting flight from Alice Springs, again through the front door only due to staffing shortages. Despite the aircraft having been transferred from Tigerair’s lessor Avolon to VARA in March 2022 the aircraft still retained it’s 180 seat all economy configuration, with a measly 29 inches of pitch, though the somewhat retro, well padded seats made up for the restricted legroom.
After an unusually long takeoff run, we were climbing out to the north before making a turn towards the west, and bouncing through the clouds. The crew soon rolled out the trolleys for the initial service, only to inform me that pretty much everything was out of stock, so I went for the ham and cheese toastie, off Virgin’s new buy on board menu. The cabin crew behaved in a distinctly Tigerair-esque manner, with little of Virgin Australia’s famed hospitality, and fun, youthful vibes on display, though, they were under a fair bit of pressure, as the flight was completely full.
The lights were dimmed shortly after the crew came through to collect rubbish, and we began to experience progressively more and more turbulence as the flight went on. Although I was able to connect to the on-board Wi-Fi, and the entertainment app functioned well enough to load the selection of TV series and movies, however streaming anything was virtually impossible due to the constant buffering.
About an hour and a half out from Perth, the turbulence began to intensify significantly, and the seatbelt sign was switched on for the remainder of the flight. Just over three hours after pushback at Adelaide, we touched down on Perth’s runway 03, ten minutes later than the scheduled time of 8:20pm AWST.
We arrived to a completely empty terminal, and after walking through to baggage claim I headed out to the taxi rank and on to my hotel.
Overall I had a fantastic first day of my trip, and, despite the very limited legroom on the A320, it was an absolute pleasure to finally fly Virgin Australia Regional Airlines! VARA now also operate the Hobart to Perth route on behalf of Virgin Australia, and while I would strongly recommend flying with them to any avgeek, there is a risk of being stuck in an ex-Tigerair cabin for 3+ hours! I would like to apologize for the notably poor quality photos in this trip report, my old phone was on it’s last legs!