Auckland to Singapore Jetstar Star/Business Class
Flying for nearly 11 hours on a low cost carrier? Not to worry, Jetstar Starclass (now business class) is basic but provides ample amenities with domestic business/first style seating that is more than comfortable particularly as this was an all day flight. Two full meals, plenty of snacks provide plenty of options. Lounge access not necessarily included (was at time of booking) but with my Qantas status, I accessed the platinum/old first lounge in lieu of the regular business lounge anyway!
Jetstar formerly called their business class product StarClass which partly helped avoid misrepresent it as it is more like premium economy to other longhaul carriers. I was fortunate to book the flight on the final night, moments (literally <1 minute) before they shut their booking system down to completely change their fare structures. This meant I received a non-promotional restricted fare with all the benefits. With the new structure the restricted fares (promotional or otherwise) would not earn status on Qantas or provide lounge access (irrelevant for Qantas status holders). Old bookings were adjusted and reissued under the new system, first becoming Business fares (i.e. without any benefits) and then again as ‘BusinessMax’ which is the full benefits and full (max!) prices.
Being school holidays in Australia but not NZ meant the fare was significantly less than anything leaving Australia around this date, again quite lucky. I had positioned down to Auckland with a Qantas Any Seat Reward and was flying to Singapore to pick up another award to London in first class on the A380.
Good morning Auckland
Having arrived late the previous night, I started late this morning. With the morning light Auckland’s weather looked just as miserable the night before but was starting to clear.
Receiving the morning paper, my eye caught the front page that flashed the continuing saga of a drunk passenger who had urinated onboard while passed out. I continued to read discovering it was on the same flight I was taking… Jetstar sometimes has a reputation more for its customers than its service and this wasn’t helping.
Checking In and Out
Fortunately staying in the new Novotel, some 10 metres from the terminal meant I could check-in then go back to my room within minutes. Grabbing my packed check-in bag I strode downstairs to the JQ/3K counters. The economy queue was the typical international check-in line, squiggling outward. Fortunately the Business (StarClass) queue was completely empty.
And with that I was down one bag, heading back to the hotel. All up it took about 5 minutes from the room, checking in and back again. There I could rest a bit, pack up and check out. No need for food at the hotel as breakfast would be provided today by Qantas. From the hotel lobby I walked out, took the outside escalator up over the road and was straight into the customs queue. The hotel is extremely well placed and if you’re transiting or heading out early (thinking of the LAN flight) it makes for a great option.
With a few minor changes to the customs entrance and the pain of not flying Air New Zealand or Qantas with the lack of pre-clearance immigration saw me take the slow, regular path through. Afterward I made my way to the airline lounge area. Into the Qantas lounge and a left turn through the ‘private’ door for us WP/Emerald folk. Some people hate this small lounge but I find it a great throw back to the old first class days and somewhat exclusive. Most importantly it has windows making it the slightly sunnier Qantas AKL lounge. This and the Brisbane equivalent do retain slightly better food/drink options and significantly more privacy. Today there was one family in the F lounge up until I headed out.
Keeping my lounge time to a minimum with a short & late breakfast I left to the board the flight right up to the last moment.
Onboard 11 hours of Jetstar
The AKL-SIN on Jetstar operates with an A330-200. Confusingly it is marketed as a Jetstar Asia (3K) flight but being the A332 service it is run by Jetstar (JQ).
So to the flight I had been dreading a little. It is scheduled for 10:35 in duration but this flight would end up being closer to 11 hours after some slight delays. It is a slightly surprising length, I didn’t realise until after I booked it. Even one of the QF crew was shocked when I mentioned it on my prior flights. It is partly the image that a low cost carrier represents, of cramped seating, dirty planes and no comfort or ammenities. Fortunately for me it would be in the quasi-business class that Jetstar offers. At the time this was the airline’s (JQ & 3K) longest flight, slightly further than Sydney to Honolulu. (In 2012 they withdrew from this route.)
Onboard the flight the best seat – 2D (there is no 1D) – had already been taken so I sat in 1E at the front. This provided good leg room with nobody reclining into me and only a single passenger adjacent. In this case a Singaporean couple were using 1F/H/J, sharing the window seats with their child. There were several children on this flight in the business cabin but in no way a problem. There is little expectation to privacy with open recliner seats but the seat comfort is at its limit on such a long flight.
The amenity kit is the standard affair, still better than nothing. You’re getting all the paid economy ‘extras’ for free so blanket and entertainment system etc. They do include a (rather large) bottle of water on your seat upon boarding. Simple it might be, but surprising how sometimes full service carriers do not provide such things.
You’re early on handed a menu to read and then not soon after orders are taken. They would write down your choice and take the menu long before serving, it feels more informal. You’re taking off just before lunch local time so there is a scheduled full lunch service, followed by afternoon tea and a ‘light meal’ which is basically another main.
So chicken, beef or fish? Probably should of gone for the chicken which was a more Asian (inspired) dish but I picked beef in the moment. Visually quite unappealing but it tasted quite okay and was at least plated better than I expected.
Of course being previously planes used for QF domestic ops there is no personal IFE so the rather bulky entertainment units get handed out. Probably better than the portable DVD players but still… if they’re thinking of eventually using iPads I think that would be a great advancement. Quite unlike me I bothered watching two movies and didn’t fast forward through either of them. Not that you want to accidentally hit stop on these units because it appears there’s no easy random access, they can be incredibly hard to navigate.
There were extra food runs during this flight. One was simply a big basket full of the entire buy on board snacks, but free for business class. Biscuits/cookies, chocolates and fruit+nut were among the various items. In that sense the low cost carrier ends up providing a better service than a traditional one. Stock up however because they only do it once and are happy for you take as much as you can hold. Afternoon tea was a more standard offering, for myself consisting of a cheese plate.
The final meal is served in the lead up to landing. Given the extended flight duration I was happy to see two full meals served. There were two choices, one being a vegetarian Asian dish the other was pasta. Although it is a ‘light meal’ it was more than quite filling for an early dinner and included dessert. The pasta was quite hot, a bit better looking and tasted much nicer than the meat surprise of lunch. Not sure why they serve the ice cream at the same time. Cost effective or pragmatic? It may let it thaw out a bit after being frozen all flight.
So at the end a rather comfortable flight I was pleased. I had entered with quite restrained expectation in the hope of being more easily pleased/surprised. Maybe the consumer is too spoilt these days and this is more like a business class of old. But after being stuck in a Jetstar plane for close to half a day I left feeling quite satisfied. Certainly helped being a day flight so the hard product wasn’t a problem – but might be more troublesome on a night service. The food was good, not great, but tasty. The price was relatively very cheap (and wasn’t even a sale price). With the QFF status and the new cabin bonuses it netted a rather pretty 140SC and 13000+ points. Of course with the fare changes it really does change the dynamics and to be honest I probably wouldn’t fly it again if I’m paying. But for cheap comfort (particularly on a day flight!) the Jetstar ‘business’ product made a good impression even after 11 hours.
I now had a just over a day in Singapore to rest and explore before heading to London in first class the next evening.