Tried & Tested

Jetstar A321 economy

30 Jul 2013 by BusinessTraveller

CHECK-IN  Having taken the Darwin Airport Shuttle service from my city centre hotel (journey time around 20 minutes, cost AUD $29 for an open return), I arrived at the city’s international airport at 1530 for my 1820 departure on flight QF243 (a codeshare with Jetstar’s parent company Qantas).

There was a queue of around ten passengers at the bag drop, and when I got to the front I was asked if I wanted to check my luggage through to the final destination (I was travelling on from Singapore back to London). I was also informed that I would need to pick up my boarding pass for the second leg of the journey in Singapore.

There was no queue at security, and I went up a flight of stairs and into an area serving the gates for domestic flights, with a bar and shop. The international departure gates were through a set of glass doors, although they had not yet opened when I arrived. I was pleasantly surprised to find free wifi access in the lounge, so I used this to catch up on emails until the international departure doors opened at around 1650.

I passed through a second security check, where there was a body scanner for random checks – I was not chosen but the person in front of me was. The process took quite a while, as the lady also managed to accidentally tip all of her liquids out of her plastic bag onto the floor, but the customer and border protection officials were friendly and helped her pick everything up.

I was through to the international departures lounge at 1710, where there was a cafe selling beer, coffee, toasties, croissants and snacks, as well as a newsagents and toilet facilities. The free wifi also worked in this area. Just after 1720 a message was relayed on the tannoy that check-in had now closed for the flight.

BOARDING Boarding commenced at 1745, starting with rows 16 to 30, which included myself. I was sat in seat 28F, two rows from the back on the right-hand side as you look towards the front. The aircraft began to taxi at 1815, and in the distance I could see several streaks of lightning, a common sight in Darwin, particularly in the wet season. We took off at 1630, and it was pretty bumpy until we passed the first set of clouds, after which I could see a lovely red and orange sunset.

THE SEAT Seats are configured 3-3 throughout in an all-economy layout, with 29 inches of legroom. Features include a simple grey leather upholstery, a small recline, a fold-down table, and a slot for magazines (but no stretchable pouch so finding somewhere to stash drinks bottles, gadgets, etc was tricky). At six-foot tall I found that my legs pressed against the seat in front, which wasn’t particularly comfortable on this 4.5 hour flight.

Seats are allocated for all customers, so there’s no need for the rush experienced with some other low-cost carriers – passengers can choose to pay to select a specific standard seat, or to opt for exit row seats, which on the A321 offer around eight inches of extra pitch.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Unless you are going to pay for an exit row seat, there isn’t a great deal to choose between the standard seats on this aircraft. If you are fairly tall like me, it might be worth paying the extra for an aisle seat to avoid being crammed into the middle seat or against the window.

THE FLIGHT Soon after take-off Singapore landing cards were given out, and cabin crew walked up and down the aircraft offering iPad in-flight entertainment units, which on this length of flight can be hired for AUD $12 (on some longer services the charge is AUD $18, but the devices are loaded with more content to compensate for this). Looking through the in-flight magazine, I noted that the film choice included Oz: The Great And The Powerful, as well as plenty of TV programmes, music options and e-magazines.

Being a low-cost carrier I hadn’t expected anything in the way of amenities or complimentary food. But because I was travelling on a Qantas international ticket (London-Dubai-Sydney outbound on the Qantas A380, and Darwin-Singapore-London [BA codeshare from Singapore] on the return leg), myself and a few other passengers were located by the cabin crew and handed an economy amenity kit (consisting of lip balm, ear plugs, toothbrush and paste, eye mask, socks and inflatable neck pillow), and a blanket.

We also benefitted from a free meal, with a choice of lamb with mashed potato or chicken and rice (which I opted for and which was not bad), plus a soft drink and tea or coffee. Other passengers can choose to pay for a bundle ahead of departure entitling them to a meal and soft drink, or alternatively a range of sandwiches, hot meals, snacks, confectionery, soft drinks, fruit juices, beer, wine, spirits, tea and coffee are available for purchase in-flight.

Cabin lights were dimmed after the meal service and I managed to doze on and off for the next few hours, before we landed at 2110 Singapore time.

ARRIVAL On leaving the aircraft, I was directed to transfer desk C to get my boarding pass for the Singapore-London flight. On the way I visited the toilet, which was immaculate, and even had a touchscreen asking visitors to “rate their visit”.

VERDICT I found the legroom tight on what was a fairly long flight, but otherwise Jetstar offers a good low-cost service with optional add-ons such as food and in-flight entertainment. Free wifi at Darwin airport was a bonus.


  • SEAT PITCH 29 inches

Mark Caswell

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