The first flight review I ever wrote has the title “Avalon Hell! – Jetstar Experience – SYD-AVV-SYD”. I have reproduced it below, exactly as published on 7 June 2004, the day after the return flight. There are no pictures because I didn’t start adding pictures until four years later!

4 June 2004
JQ 323
Boeing 717 VH-VQE
Departure time: 19:55 (on time)

We arrived at Sydney Terminal 2 on the train at around 18:45 and walked straight up to the check in counter. I found it different to normal check in because the flights are separated – you check in at the desks allocated for your flight, and not any other desks. I imagine this streamlines the operation in some way.

Check-In And Boarding

The lady behind the desk was very chatty and funny, and seemed to be enjoying herself. One of our group arrived later and she scolded him for being late, as we’d been making jokes about his tardiness. That’s the kind of employee you want to have, someone who can make someone feel special and amused all at once.

Security was a breeze, and we boarded the flight at around 19:40. Jetstar boards you in groups of 50, depending on when you checked in – and we were in the first group of 50. I immediately ushered our group to the overwing exit seats, asked Deborah the flight attendant if we could sit there, and sit there we did.

A Flight To Melbourne (Avalon)

We left the gate right on time, and had the safety demonstration as well as being asked if we were familiar with operating the exits and if we would assist in an emergency evacuation. We took to the air, and about 15 minutes into the flight the service started.

The carts work from the back and front to the middle, so we were last to be served. Apparently Sydney catering hadn’t given them much food, so a lot of the stuff we wanted they didn’t have. I mentioned that my Team Leader was very hungry, and Deborah said she’d go and see if they had any noodles, but wasn’t promising anything as she didn’t think they had any.

Not 5 minutes later she came back with the noodles, then came back twice more with hot water for them. While my boss was eating, she came by again and asked if they were okay! Exceptional service, we were very very impressed.

We had a glass of red wine each ($A5.00) which was nice – it wasn’t a bad drop. I also had a cookie ($A2.00).

What Are The Normal Seats Like?

Part way through the flight I saw that someone near me had left their seat, so I went to sit in it to see how close the seat pitch really is. I’m not very tall at 5’7″ (170cm) and the seat in front was very close to my knees – probably about 8cm or 2″ to 3″. Horrible! I vowed from then on to make sure we got exit rows.

To my absolute joy, the Flight Attendants were professional and very nice. They were like Qantas Flight Attendants. I was expecting jokes, stupidity, silly announcements and basically a very Southwest kind of experience and I didn’t get it. Once again Australia seems to have taken the best out of the US and Australianised it. It was very acceptable. Also, the unassigned seating thing is really quite good – and also very efficient. Jetstar is going to put the naysayers into place, that’s for sure.

Arrived at Melbourne Avalon on time after a smooth flight. Proceeded through the pre-fabricated shed that serves for Avalon airport (I flew on day 4 of scheduled passenger operations there), hired a car and off we went.

6 June 2004
JQ 322
Boeing 717 VH-VQE
Departure time: 18:00 (on time)

After getting hopelessly lost trying to get back to the airport, having a car accident and being booked for speeding, we finally got back to the airport. The reason for all the stress is that Jetstar closes check-in 30 minutes before departure – no excuses, you lose the ticket otherwise. Not sure if I like that or not.

The Avalon Airport Experience

The departures section of Avalon airport is very small – it is the width of three check in desks, and the lounge area can take the load of a Boeing 717 with a few seats to spare. I hope Jetstar don’t schedule more than one flight at once, otherwise it will be bedlam in the terminal!

Checked in once more, and I got pulled aside by security. I had an aerosol in my carry on bag – shaving cream. The lady gave me a card which told me that I should cooperate with security and so on. She was lovely – about 40 and really polite. Took out the shaving cream, they re-scanned the bag, and then took me over to the other side.

Over there, they have this vacuum cleaner / dustbuster / wand type thing which is used to check for traces of explosives. She wanted my shoulders, the top of my jeans around the pockets and my shoes, then put it into a machine and it came back negative. I asked her if people were fine to go through this kind of thing usually (as I found it more interesting than intrusive) and she said I was probably the nicest one so far. Apparently most people are terribly put out and annoyed at being pulled aside. How bizarre!

Last Flight In The First Flight Review

We boarded once again and you can tell Australian passengers aren’t in the know about the exit row, because I saw some lesbian couple rushing to the plane, and when we got on they’d taken seats up the front. Other people who were also before us did the same thing, rather than taking better seats with more legroom.

Once again we had an uneventful flight. This time I had a sandwich on Turkish bread and more wine, and that was $A11.00 total. The sandwich was massive, so I think the prices are quite reasonable indeed, though it does seem alien to actually buy food in flight and not just be served it.

Jetstar crew the Boeing 717 with 4 flight attendants, which I thought was excessive, but it’s probably in preparation for the forthcoming A320s. Additionally, they announced that they have tight turnarounds and could everyone help them keep on time by checking the seat pockets for rubbish and giving it to the F/A coming down the aisle with a bag equipped trolley.

The flight back also had good pilots who kept us informed – especially revising arrival times when ATC asked them to slow down. We arrived back in Sydney on time, after experiencing good service once more.

Overall Thoughts

Customer service wise, Jetstar is awesome. Price wise, Jetstar is also awesome. Seat pitch is cramped (is it 30 inches? From memory it is!), the snacks aren’t that expensive and the baggage claim, check-in, and boarding is all very quick.

The Boeing 717 is cramped, but it is a comfortable plane with masses of overhead bin space. The engines have a very different take off whine compared to the Boeing 737, and the 717 feels quite powerful and capable as an aircraft.

Will I fly them again? Yes, when I have to choose the cheapest option due to money. Would I recommend them? Absolutely – the service was top notch, and that is what will make this carrier I believe.

And that’s my first flight review. Funnily enough I’ve never flown Jetstar or been to Avalon airport since. While this is my first flight review proper, I did publish the story of my very first flight ever also. That was a few months earlier on 15 March 2004, but it doesn’t really count.

I wonder how the Jetstar experience is nowadays, as it’s likely changed somewhat over 16 years. What did you think of the report? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Jeff Gilbert on via Wikimedia Commons.