Review: Alliance Airlines (Virgin Australia) Fokker 70 economy class

Alliance Airlines offers comfortable (and quick) regional flights on behalf of Virgin Australia, using its Fokker aircraft fleet.

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, September 2 2020
Alliance Airlines (Virgin Australia) Fokker 70 economy class
Route

Brisbane to Bundaberg (return)

Aircraft Type

Fokker 70

Airline

Alliance Airlines (on behalf of Virgin Australia)

Flight

VA2905 + VA2909/8

Cabin Class

Economy

Seat

1E + 11B (aisle seats)

Notes
The Good
  • Competitive pricing, particularly for a regional flight
  • Generous seat pitch, in every row
The Bad
  • Inflight service is currently limited to a cup of water
  • Virgin Australia's app displays incorrect flight times
X-Factor
  • The 2-3 seating layout is ideal for travelling as a pair
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Many of Virgin Australia's regional routes are operated by Alliance Airlines: so although you buy your ticket from Virgin Australia, it's an Alliance plane and cabin crew that whisk you to your destination.

Here's what to expect on those Virgin Australia/Alliance Airlines flights, following a recent journey aboard the Fokker 70 from Brisbane to Bundaberg, onwards to Gladstone and back to Brisbane.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: Velocity Frequent Flyer
  • Checked baggage:
    • 1x23kg: standard ticketed allowance
    • 2x23kg: Velocity Silver and Gold frequent flyers
    • 3x23kg: Velocity Platinum cardholders
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x115cm bag (up to 7kg); or, 2x105cm bags (up to 7kg combined total weight); or, 1x115cm bag plus 1x185cm non-rigid garment bag (up to 7kg combined total weight).

Note, while Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers receive an increased cabin baggage allowance on other Virgin Australia flights, this does not apply to flights operated by Alliance Airlines.

Check-in for these flights takes place at the Virgin Australia counters, even though it's an Alliance Airlines flight.

Airport service: Brisbane to Bundaberg

Flying during COVID-19 and with a myriad of travel restrictions in place certainly makes the experience different than before.

That begins at check-in, where Virgin Australia has disabled online and kiosk check-in for flights from Brisbane Airport in favour of counter check-in to facilitate Queensland ID checks. Fortunately, the priority lane was staffed (and open to Velocity Gold and Platinum), so these were printed promptly.

Virgin Australia's dedicated security screening point remained closed – thus, no priority screening – but with Brisbane Airport's domestic gates all housed under the one roof, a quick trek to the airport's central screening point added no more than 10 minutes to the formalities, queue time included.

At the gate, staff offered all passengers a mask, but they're not compulsory on intrastate flights in Queensland. This saw one passenger who had been repeatedly coughing refuse to take or wear a mask, while still being allowed to board.

Upon arrival in Bundaberg, IDs were checked again by Queensland Police before reaching the baggage hall – but as travel within Queensland is unrestricted, those checks were swift on presentation of a QLD drivers' licence.

Airport service: Bundaberg to Brisbane (via Gladstone)

Online check-in is available on flights from Bundaberg, which avoided detouring via a counter check-in desk when travelling with only cabin baggage. For those who need it, there's still a priority check-in lane.

Bundaberg Airport has a single security screening point, but with only 25 passengers joining the flight, there was no queue at the time we approached the checkpoint.

That said, on the day of departure, Virgin Australia's mobile app incorrectly stated that the flight from Bundaberg had been rescheduled to depart over an hour earlier than planned.

This meant racing to the airport early to avoid missing the flight (being the only service from Bundaberg Airport that day), only to find nobody in the terminal: not even airport staff.

While Virgin Australia has never been known for its IT prowess, showing the correct departure time should be an airline's highest IT priority – and, when you've travelled for a quick weekend away, cutting your plans short to race to the airport doesn't make for a relaxing finish to the journey, especially when it proved to be unnecessary.

Lounge

Virgin Australia lounge members, Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers and other eligible guests would normally have access to Virgin Australia's lounge at Brisbane Airport prior to these flights.

However, all Virgin Australia airport lounges remain closed, despite its competitor Qantas progressively re-opening its own facilities – including in Brisbane – albeit with some delays.

Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah has previously told Executive Traveller that the airline's lounges will remain closed until "the borders are open, and business traffic returns."

Read: What's the future of Virgin Australia’s airport lounges?

In the meantime, travellers who would normally qualify for Virgin lounge access are not offered any alternative.

On the journey back, Bundaberg Airport doesn't have any airline lounges, and the sole cafe in the terminal remained closed. A drink vending machine is available after security, though.

Flight

Particularly on weekends, Virgin Australia/Alliance Airlines services to Bundaberg operate on a triangle route with Gladstone, flying Brisbane-Bundaberg-Gladstone-Brisbane.

This allows the airline to serve both cities using a single aircraft: helping to fill seats, particularly at times of reduced travel demand.

On Saturday mornings, the Brisbane-Bundaberg flight runs non-stop and takes about 55 minutes. Passengers travelling to Gladstone take the same flight and remain on board in Bundaberg.

Returning to Brisbane on Sunday afternoon, the journey begins with a quick 99-mile hop to Gladstone, where those jetting to Brisbane remain on board during the 30-minute transit.

The timings of these flights allow you to make the most of your quick weekend away, without having to travel too early on the Saturday morning, or getting back too late on Sunday night.

Seat

Alliance Airlines' Fokker 70 aircraft aren't unlike QantasLink's Boeing 717s, offering economy class seating in a 2-3 layout. 

Seats are lettered as AB-EFG, making the A+B combo the pair to aim for when travelling with a companion (or to avoid a middle seat, if flying solo), with the E/F/G seats a better fit for trios and families.

Some Alliance Airlines Fokker 70s are fitted with leather seats (pictured below), while others have blue fabric seats (pictured above). Regardless of which arrives at your gate, the 2-3 layout is the same.

Legroom on these regional jets is spacious, with a 33-inch (83.8cm) seat pitch. Even at the bulkhead in row 1, there was ample room to comfortably stretch forward.

Each seat offers a storage pocket, large enough for tablets like the Microsoft Surface, although the overhead lockers on these planes are quite tiny, and while 115cm wheeled bags can be accommodated side-on, space will be tight if everybody packs to the limits.

Speaking of overhead, there's a reading light at each seat, along with adjustable air vents: most welcome, particularly when travelling around Queensland in the hot summer.

In row 1, the tray table folds out from within the armrest, while in other rows (including at the exits), the table swings down from the seat in front.

There's no AC or USB power, but most Alliance Airlines Fokker 70 flights are relatively short, so charge your devices before you fly and you should still have plenty of juice remaining when you land.

Meal

Catering on these services is currently highly limited. All you'll get from Brisbane to Bundaberg is a "complimentary cup of water", as announced over the PA.  

There's no service on the quick hop between Bundaberg and Gladstone – in fact, the seatbelt sign remains switched on from take-off to touchdown – with water again offered from Gladstone to Brisbane.

As there are no liquid restrictions on Australian domestic flights, you may wish to bring a bottled beverage with you (and a snack, if need be), as there's nothing else available on board, even for purchase.

Entertainment & Service

As with food, you'll also need to bring any entertainment with you, as there's none offered on board – and nor is there WiFi.

While you won't need much on the 55-minute jaunt from Brisbane to Bundaberg, on the longer journey back to Brisbane via Gladstone, you'll spend around two hours in your seat.

That's where a good book, a pair of headphones for music or even a tablet for video helps pass the time.

On the service front, the Alliance Airlines cabin crew are friendly and energetic when in the cabin, but with little to do during the flight other than serve water, interactions are limited.

Overall, a pleasant journey from A to B (and back via C) – particularly when travelling as a pair, with no middle seat on the left-hand side – and with tickets from just $99 each way, pricing is much more competitive than on many other regional routes.

That said, Virgin Australia really needs to fix the glitch in its mobile app which confuses arrival and departure times where a flight number has more than one sector on the same day, to avoid panicking passengers into thinking they're about to miss their flight.

Chris Chamberlin travelled at his own expense.

Also read: QantasLink Airbus A320 economy class review

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 536

Hopefully you enjoyed Bundaberg

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 120

Why are ID checks necessary at check in on a Queensland to Queensland flight?

this is a bit over the top. I never carry my drivers licence unless hiring a car.

02 Sep 2020

Total posts 1

When is some airline going to reintroduce Brisbane to Port Hedland Again. Qantas had every Tuesday leave Brisbane 8.30 arrive Port Hedland 1.30 turnaround and leave Port Hedland 2.30 these flight were always full !!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 159

not likely any time soon.......


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Alliance Airlines (Virgin Australia) Fokker 70 economy class