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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

JetStar: the world's worst airline?

The Bargain Queen and Mr Bargain Queen recently flew JetStar for the first time, to Avalon airport outside Melbourne. The verdict: worst airline we've ever flown, beating even Finnair for the title.

Firstly, 'free seating' (i.e. no allocated seats) is a dumb idea. According to their web site, they do this "to help us get your aircraft away on time and keep fares low". Except it took the same amount of time as we're used to, so they're not actually saving you any time by doing this. What they are doing, is saving themselves money.

They also asked that people not bring their own bottled drinks onto the plane. I have no idea how they justify this, but it really seems like a money grab. If you need a drink of water, you can either buy itor be dehydrated. Hmm.

Then there was the advertising all over the inside of the plane, which annoyed The Bargain Queen immensely as she avoids most advertising lest it convince her to buy crap she doesn't need. But how does one avoid advertising when it's absolutely everywhere?

But the clincher is Avalon airport. While Qantas seem to think Avalon can be Melbourne's Gatwick, in reality it's a regional (read: country) airport. Which means it consists of a runway and a shed in a field miles from anywhere, with practically no transport and a long drive to the city.

The experience getting from Avalon to Melbourne was comical. The transfers were booked weeks in advance and a nice email was sent to confirm them. However, Avalon transfers don't work like regular airport transfers, because Sunbus (the company that run it) just aren't up to the task. We expected normal airport transfer treatment: i.e. a dude with a sign meets us and whisks us to our hotel. Instead, just to get on the bus, we had to find the bus ourself and talk to the driver, who sent us back inside to talk to someone else. After ten minutes waiting in line, the woman at the counter told us to go back outside; if we told the driver we'd seen her, he'd let us on. So, this time we were allowed on. Then the woman from oustide came out and unloaded half the coach (a huge double-decker) because the driver had been letting people on without tickets. So we then waited for them to go back inside and buy their tickets; then the driver came around to check where we were all going. By this point, we were both furious.

Finally, about 45 minutes after getting our baggage, we were on our way to Melbourne. Mr Bargain Queen eavesdropped on the conversations going on around us, and noone else on that bus intends to fly JetStar again either. All up, the flight was an hour and the bus trip around two and a half hours. To cap it all off, they didn't even take us all the way to the hotel - we were dropped on a street corner because the bus was too big to get down the street. Fabulous.

While JetStar probably see the bus service as 'not their problem', it is one of the main reasons The Bargain Queen will never fly with them again. As the only ways to get to Avalon are to use the bus, have someone drive you or hire a car (there's not even a taxi rank out there), it becomes a big part of the trip for many customers. Mr Bargain Queen is convinced that SunBus will kill JetStar's business because they make flying to Avalon even worse than it has to be. And after seeing how little SunBus cared that the whole busload of passengers were grumbling, it seems that nothing less than the wrath of Qantas will convince them to provide better service.

As for JetStar's heavily-advertised wide leather seats, they don't make much difference. A little extra leg room for Mr Bargain Queen would have been great instead, but perhaps wider people are more desirable customers than tall people?

Overall, JetStar is a second-rate imitation of VirginBlue. They've taken the 'no frills' approach a step further by cutting back on some of the basics as well, so considering the fares are about the same price, flying Virgin is far better value. The Bargain Queen's verdict: don't bother with JetStar.

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  • At 12:41 pm, Blogger tehnyit said…

    Another tip about Jetstar is that when booking frequent flyer tickets, avoid using Jetstar where possible as it will cost you the same amount of frequent flyer points as for a qantas flight. It would not be so bad if the amount of points are lesser, but that is not the case.

    You are just not getting value for money.

  • At 12:55 pm, Blogger The Bargain Queen said…

    Thanks tehnyit, that's a really handy thing to know. I'll make sure I don't accidentally use my frequent flyer points on Jetstar, they don't even deserve my pretend money :)


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