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Sunday 30 September 2012

Flying with Virgin Australia ERJ-190


 I was looking at what are my options for BNE-SYD. I wanted to fly either on the 737-700 or the ERJ190. When I saw the ERJ190 aircraft scheduled for the DJ938 flight, I didn't have to think twice on it. A friend of mine checked for me later and told me that the equipment of that flight was actually EQV (Equipment varies), I hate this as it meant that there was a strong possibility of flying the 738 once again. I just had to keep my fingers cross once again. 

Booking was easy, no difficulty at all with the website, I would have preferred to try booking through the iPhone application but once again it wasn't working properly. When I reached the payment mode, there were errors after clicking the 'ok' button. Hopefully, the airline had solved the problem. 

On the day itself, I woke up at around 7 in the morning and went to the Central station to catch a train to the Brisbane domestic terminal. It took about 50 minutes from the hostel to the airport. Once I reached there, I checked in and asked the counter lady about the aircraft type. She wasn't sure about the aircraft type and another lady came over and confirmed with me that my flight was indeed operated by an ERJ190. 

Here are some photos of the Brisbane domestic airport.

Did a little tour around the terminal, saw lots of narrowbodies doing the domestic flights. Did some photography while I was waiting for my flight. Definitely great to add them to my collection. Here are some of the photos! 

Virgin Australia ERJ190

Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800

Fokker 100

                                        Virgin Australia's ERJ190

While I was doing some plane spotting, I noticed that my aircraft which was supposed to be at gate 48 was changed to 47 without any announcement, I find it too be a bit strange. Later on, the announcement came on and informed passengers on flight DJ938 which was mine, was cancelled due to technical problems of the aircraft, and was told to head to Gate 50 to change our flights. At that very moment, I thought my hopes of flying on an ERJ190 was gone since the flights after mine were all operated by Boeing 737-800.

I went to the counter, the nice lady was kind enough to understand my situation. I informed her that I wanted to fly on the ERJ190 badly and she took the effort to search for an E190 flight for me, very good service from her. Fortunately for me, she got an earlier flight (delayed) for me and rebooked me on that flight which was operated by VH-ZPA, the first E190 in the airline's fleet. I thanked her profusely and made my way to the gate.  

When I reached the gate 41, I didn't see my flight details on the monitor screen so I went over to the counter just to make sure my flight was at the gate. Indeed it was, just that the folks didn't bother to update it. What a scare I had, thinking that I may have missed the flight or something. Certainly one of the flights I won't forget in a hurry! 

I thought I was boarding at this gate

                                   VH-ZPA took me to SYD

My aircraft

Carrier: Virgin Australia 
Flight number: DJ938 (flight cancelled, change to DJ934)
Date: 4th September 2012
Routing: BNE-SYD
Seat number: 22F changed to 5D :(  
Load: 100%
Aircraft type: ERJ190
Departure Gate: 46 changed to 47 then finally 41 
Engine type:2 X GE CF34-10E5 
Configuration: Y106
My 1st time on VH-ZPA
Line number: 19000148
Plane delivered: 07-03-2008
Registration: VH-ZPA
Flight Duration: 1 hr 
Scheduled departure time: 0930
Actual departure time: 1045
Scheduled arrival time: 1105
Actual arrival time: 1205
Departure runway: 27
Arrival runway: 16L

I got a seat at the very front of the aircraft, no window seat, unfortunately, but at this moment I didn't care less! Just as long I am on an ERJ190, nothing else matters. Looking at the load later on during the flight, it was 100% full which means I was very very lucky to have gotten on this flight!

Anyway, the gate was closed, aero-bridge was retracted to its original position and the tow truck after a few minutes pushed us back. We started our safety video with 4 crews taking care of us. 2 in front while the other 2 were at the back. After the engines were started, we stayed at the same position for a good 15 minutes without any announcement from the flight deck. Instead, we taxied back to our gate, I think I was one of the first to be stunned and the immediate thought that came into my mind was a technical problem with the aircraft. That proved to be right when the Captain spoke for the first time, fortunately for us, the problem was minor and we should be on the way soon. I was just keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that we won't have to change aircraft. It seemed that the airline had a bad day with the E Jets. 

Looking at the watch, we were definitely going to be late. I had text Kenny to inform him on the change of plan, so hopefully no further delays from that point! Anyway, a few engineers came on board and were at the cockpit with a couple of tools. It took about 10 minutes before the Captain announced we were ready to go.  Once the doors were closed for the 2nd time, we pushed back and the safety demonstration had to be done again, according to regulations. However, the crew that was doing it was pretty professional with a smile on her face. To me, she was the outstanding crew among the lot.

This time around, the plane taxied to the runway and took off quickly. The Captain had mentioned that he would try to get to Sydney as fast as it could, the only problem was that we flying against the wind which meant a slightly longer duration on our flight. I didn't mind at all.

                                Here are some photos of the cabin

Just like my previous flight, there was only complimentary tea, coffee or water on this flight. If you want to order food or other drinks, you have to pay for them.

About the cabin

The width of the seat is great and legroom space is reasonable. I find the cabin to be quite spacious and passenger friendly, it beats flying on the common A320 or B737 if you ask me. 2-2 seating configuration suits me better!  The capacity of this aircraft is 106, 16 of the seats are business and they have one toilet in the front of the cabin to use, while the rest would have to use the toilet at the rear, and mind you just one at the back, so imagine if there is a queue? That's the bad thing about the configuration of this aircraft. I remembered when I flew with BA Cityflyer, there were 3 toilets, 2 at the rear and 1 at the front.

At that time, I needed to use the toilet and a couple of crews were actually selling snacks, this nice crew, let's call her A and the service leader B. A was very nice to me, she knew that I had to go to the toilet but because the trolley was in the way, she asked B whether I could use the toilet in front and mind you at that time no one else was using. A came back and told me I had to use the toilet at the rear, I was disappointed naturally. The lack of flexibility from B  failed to impress me.

What I noticed about B was that she was serving in the business sections and there were 4 rows of business class seats. Her job was not difficult, to serve the first 4 rows as that was supposed to be in her charge. What left me puzzled was that why did she only serve the first row and not the other rows to the 4th. Were the other passengers not non-revenue passengers? At the end of the flight, I was leaving the aircraft, only she was standing near the pilot's cockpit door. She had that grouchy look on her face which was not a surprise judging by how she was working. I wasn't too bothered about it until later on, I saw her face in Virgin Australia's in-flight magazine with the CEO. I was like thinking to myself, that kind of attitude of hers, how did she manage to make it there? As for the other 3 crews, one of them was outstanding while the other two were not too bad.

Yes, I have enjoyed another hour of a joyride on this beauty! An aircraft type that can't be found in Singapore as most of the airlines operate either A320s or B737s on short-sectors with good frequencies.

My rating:

Check-in experience: 7/10

Virgin Australia's website: 7/10
Mobile website: 5/10
Service: 610
Aircraft: 8/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
Punctuality: 1/10 
Comfort: 9/10

Total: 52/80 

Thank you for reading my trip report.


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