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Old 24th October 2015, 09:37 AM   #1
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Default Aussie Trip Report Part 3: Capital Shuttle Comparison QF vs VA SYD-CBR-SYD in Y

Aussie Trip Report Part 3: Capital Shuttle Comparison

For a normal tourist, an extra full day in Sydney will mean visiting the Sydney Opera House, enjoying the sun in the beaches or the many activities offered by this major Australian city, but of course I spent the day in the air. One of the interesting routes in Australia is the “Capital Shuttle” connecting between major cities and Canberra, Australia’s capital, and both Qantas and Virgin Australia run almost an hourly flight between SYD and CBR during the weekdays using a variety of regional turboprops, regional jets and even narrowbodies. I am personally interested in trying out Qantas Link’s Sunstate Dash 8-Q400 and Virgin Australia Regional’s brand new ATR 72-600. With a few months advance notice, I was able to find two flights that fit my schedule and are reasonably priced given the exchange rate and they are almost $100USD each way, with Virgin Australia actually being more expensive due to its fee. Since I am both their partner’s elite member (AA EXP and VX Elevate Gold), I have access to their lounges and various priority services. I am pretty surprised at my conclusion.

Full album:

October 12, 2015
QF 1479 SYD-CBR 1245 1340 Dash 8-Q400 Sunstate VH-QOU
VA 657 CBR-SYD 1605 1705 ATR 72-600 VH-FVN “Whitehaven Beach”

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia’s websites are very user-friendly and I have no issue booking the tickets using US credit cards, as well as finding the ideal flights that fit my schedule. I am able to look at aircraft types, but Virgin Australia scores a bit higher because it allows me to get a seat assignment, as well as purchase extra legroom seats. For Qantas, it no longer allows passengers to get an advanced seat assignment for all the Qantas Link flights. When I flew to Alice Springs last September on Qantas Link, I was able to get a seat assignment – an exit row because of my Oneworld Emerald status. I guess something has changed since 2014 and if there is one reason for me not considering flying Qantas, the inability to get a seat assignment will be one of the main reasons. It won’t be important for a Dash 8 flight, but a Boeing 717, that access to exit row is a big deal. At the same time, Virgin Ausralia’s website has issues recognizing my Virgin America’s Elevate Gold status, and since Virgin America does not issue physical cards, it really creates many issues. Getting access to the Virgin Australia’s lounge in Canberra results in me logging in to my Virgin America’s website using my phone. Virgin America really needs to work harder with Virgin Australia.

Here are the final ticket prices:
$156AUD - Qantas
$139AUD + $7 booking fee + $35 extra legroom seat – Virgin Australia – Saver fare (with one pc of bag)

Both airlines offer a priority line and mostly automated check-in experience. Since Canberra is a much smaller airport, I don’t think it is fair to compare, but will say both airlines offer a very seamless check-in experience. I was able to check in and select my seat. The priority lane was very busy at Sydney, and since I did not have a bag, it was a fairly easy process.

Sydney Airport

Canberra Airport is a more low key airport, but the terminal is just gorgeous. It is more like a major architectural piece, rather than an airport. I love the high ceiling, the waterfall, and various sculptures.

As I mentioned earlier, Virgin Australia’s system has problems recognizing my Virgin America’s Elevate Gold status, and the agent actually tried to reenter my Virgin Elevate number, and to try to talk to the lounge agent. In the end, I managed, but it was a disappointing start.
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