Airline food is not high on Greedy Girl’s list of preferred dining experiences. It’s rare she eats the grub unless she’s at the pointy end of the plane and even then, she hasn’t sampled anything to write home about.
So a recent flight with Australian low-cost carrier Jetstar was a bit of a revelation. Here’s the Foodie World’s review. Many thanks to Daniel Foster for the great photograph at the top of this post.
Route: Melbourne to Bangkok
Aircraft: Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Flight time: 8 hours and 45 minutes
Seats: 29 D and F (economy cabin)
Jetstar is the budget airline affiliated with Australia’s national carrier, Qantas. Like a lot of low-cost carriers, it tends to polarise passengers – especially those who want to take advantage of lower fares but expect the same level of amenity as full-price airlines. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband have flown Jetstar to Singapore, Bali, Honolulu and Tokyo as well as Bangkok and, so far, can’t fault the experience.
This was an unusual trip for us – in the quest to maximise our frequent flyer points with the Qantas program (part of the One World alliance), we added the ‘value bundle’ to our booking. Usually, we pay to add one bag (between two of us) and choose our seats on Jetstar, but that’s it, and we self-cater our food. The bundle gave us 20kg of baggage each, seat selection and meal service, as well as the points (you can opt for a discount voucher to put towards a future Jetstar flight if you prefer).
Melbourne airport has always had a fearsome reputation for queues but the advent of the self check-in kiosks at Jetstar (not available if you’re travelling on their flight to Honolulu) and the smart tech-enabled immigration screening make the process much faster. We fly through the check-in and, despite some very disorganised individuals in line to put their cabin luggage through the x-ray machine, it seems we’re airside in minutes, looking for a coffee.
As this blog was written, the international airside shopping precinct at Melbourne is undergoing renovation. There are very few choices for coffee and we’re treated to constant sounds of drilling and jackhammers. If you don’t have lounge access be warned that the amenities are much reduced until the refurbishment is complete.
Boarding starts early – around 40 minutes before the advertised departure time. It proceeds apace, except for the slightly elderly trio in front of us who can’t seem to match their boarding passes to their passports. A somewhat exasperated gate attendant admonishes them, saying they need to be ready to present their documents as they reach the front of the line.
He’s not having the greatest day – he rips gluttonous husband’s boarding pass in half, taking with it the luggage receipt. We ask the cabin crew to retrieve the receipt and they helpfully come by before takeoff with the number for us to quote if we need it.
The Jetstar Dreamliners are configured in a 3-3-3 pattern across the economy cabin with a 30 inch seat pitch. We opt for the middle bank of seats, as far forward in economy as permitted (before having to pay an extra fee). We choose the aisle seats on both sides, figuring if the plane is full, the person allocated the middle seat would most likely be happy to swap.
We’re ready to go ahead of schedule when the captain announces a missing passenger’s luggage is in the process of being offloaded. Still, we push back right on the dot of the advertised departure time and we’re delighted to find the middle seat between us hasn’t been occupied.
Meals are served fairly promptly after we’re in the air. Greedy Girl has absolutely no expectations but the cottage pie turns out to be very edible especially after salt and pepper is added. Gluttonous husband comments that the peas and carrots on the side taste like, well, peas and carrots and they have texture. It’s a pleasant surprise. The dish is hot and the potato mash on top of the pie is still soft. Greedy Girl didn’t partake of the caramel mousse but gluttonous husband said it was a bit over the top sweet.
Just over half way through the flight a second meal service is brought around, consisting of a steak and cheese pie, a Tim Tam (non-Australian readers of this blog should note that this is a somewhat iconic Australian chocolate cookie) and a container of chilled water. Apparently there is also a vegetarian pie option, but they’d run out on Greedy Girl’s side of the plane. The pie is hot but not scalding and reasonably tasty. Another nice surprise.
Tea and coffee are offered after each meal service. We supplemented what was on offer with some homemade biscuits and a couple of crunchy apples, but this was possibly the best food Greedy Girl’s had in economy on an aircraft for a very long time that hasn’t come from gluttonous husband’s kitchen.
The meals are an excellent way of breaking up a fairly long sector. There is in-seat entertainment (accessed by swiping a credit card) but Greedy Girl opts to use her iPad and just play the flight map on the screen. That’s mildly entertaining as the map is a bit geographically challenged. The Gold Coast is actually around 2000km or so north of what’s displayed here.
We land five minutes ahead of schedule and enjoy the long walk through the Bangkok terminal after spending nearly nine hours on our moneymakers.
Especially for daytime flights, the Jetstar Dreamliners are quite comfortable in economy – even for lanky types like gluttonous husband. The budget airlines do attract young families so a pair of noise-cancelling headphones will be your best friend to block out the squeals and squawks from the kids.