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LAX-SYD on Delta and Other Down Under Flights (various airlines)

LAX-SYD on Delta and Other Down Under Flights (various airlines)

Old Jul 25, 09, 7:34 pm
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LAX-SYD on Delta and Other Down Under Flights (various airlines)

The following flight routes and airlines are reported here:
LAX-SYD round-trip - Delta Airlines
SYD-AKL-CHC one-way - Jetstar Airlines
CHC-MEL one-way - Air New Zealand
MEL-SYD one-way - Virgin Blue

All flights were in economy class.

July 16, 2009
Delta flight# 17

At $588 round-trip, this was an opportunity too good to pass over.

Was able to check in online and print out the boarding pass the day before. Things looked good.

The boarding started out promisingly when they began general boarding about 30 minutes before flight time. But suddenly they halted boarding because the AVOD (the heavily touted new personal entertainment video system) was having problems. I don't see why boarding would have to be halted because of this, but what can you do? Anyway, after about fifteen minutes, they said all was fine and we began boarding again.

Boarding seemed to take about 40 minutes and we were already departing late. Then the captain came on the intercom and said that the AVOD will not be functional on the flight. He apologized profusely and said as this was Delta's newest aircraft, it was an embarrassment to him as well as the airline. He also mentioned there was yet another unnamed "problem" in the cockpit that they were working on. The flight finally departed about an hour late.

In-Flight Experience:
Not only did the AVOD not work, but the power-ports were inoperative. Some people had their laptops, but they didn't last long due to no power available to them. This was a 15 hour non-entertainment flight.

The seats were as comfortable as 32" seat pitch and 18" width can be; i.e., not comfortable but as good as it can be. They had soft leather-feeling surfaces and adjustable side head-rests. When reclining, the seat-bottom actually pushes forward as well as recline. This doesn't make much of a difference to the passenger in the seat, but it does mean that the seat isn't interfering with the knee-space of the person behind you very much. The goes the same for you when the person in front of you reclines. With the help of some Ambien, I slept for about 6 hours.

The flight was packed, but I lucked out in my middle section aisle seat in the 777's 3-3-3 configuration. The center seat was unoccupied.

Food and drink service was free. The flight had two free hot meals and one cold snack. Their dinner had three choices, chicken, pasta and steak. I ordered chicken and it was lousy. But I was hungry so I ate it anyway. For breakfast, the choice was eggs or pancakes. I chose pancakes and they were pretty bad. Delta does not score points in the meal category.

The flight attendants announced that alcoholic beverages were free because of the broken AVOD, but I knew they were free on all LAX-SYD-LAX flights this month because Delta had a press release saying so. Sneaky buggers.

What they did give passengers in compensation for the broken AVOD was $100 credit towards future Delta travel. I don't think this was enough for absolutely no entertainment on a 15 hour flight. Bad Delta.

I had a four hour connection-time in SYD to a Jetstar flight to Auckland (AKL), with a connection there to Chirstchurch (CHC). While arriving over an hour late in SYD didn't affect that connection, I was hoping to get on a Jetstar nonstop SYD-CHC at 9am if they allowed me to (it was doubtful). I rushed to the international transfer desk and a Jetstar agent there said she could put me on the SYD-CHC nonstop but had to check if I made the 1 hour flight cut-off time. I didn't by about 5 minutes. If the Delta flight wasn't so late, I would've made it.

To sum up the outbound flight review, I had a dreadful experience with Delta on this segment.

July 18, 2009
Jetsar flight# 201 (SYD-AKL)
Jetstar flight# 253 (AKL-CHC)

Booking/Check-in/Boarding (1st flight):
I had tried to book a Sydney-Chirstchurch (CHC) nonstop, but the one-way fares for some reason on that Saturday were at least US$350, even on the "low-cost" Jetstar. However Jetstar did have a connecting flight through Auckland for about US$230, still not "low cost" if you ask me. With the assistance of a Jetstar phone agent, I booked that connection. After the booking I realized that the 1 hour 35 minute international-to-domestic connection time would be inadequate as the Domestic terminal in Auckland is a 10 minute walk from the international one and Jetstar has a one-hour cut-off checking-in time.

With this knowledge, as mentioned, I attempted to get on the nonstop SYD-CHC, but while the Jetstar agent at SYD's international transfer desk seemed accommodating to me, she discovered I was about 5 minutes late for the hour-long cut-off time for that flight (despite that flight leaving about an hour late). It's hard for a Yank like me to understand such a strict cut-off time, especially that I've managed to get on many flights in the US without being booked on them within literally 10 minutes of departure time. The agent issued me a boarding pass for my booked SYD-AKL flight, but not the AKL-CHC flight. She said that was "not allowed." I then went to the gate of the nonstop SYD-CHC flight in a last-ditch try to get on that flight. The gate agent there flat out refused to let me on that flight. But after explaining my very tight connection in AKL, I did manage to cajole her into issuing my AKL-CHC boarding pass. She seemed very reluctant to do so and warned me that the gate agents for the AKL-CHC flight would be "constantly paging" me.

Another note on this check-in process; there was no online check-in. This would have alleviated much of the worry of making my connection. Surprising that this "low cost" carrier doesn't utilize this cost-saving function.

Anyway, the SYD-AKL flight left about 45 minutes late, leaving me with about 45 minutes connection time in AKL. More on how this turned out below.

About the SYD-AKL flight itself, the Jetstar ground-staff did an honorable job in getting the flight out as soon as possible despite the flight's gate being occupied by another aircraft that was delayed. The passengers had to use one of those air-busses to take us to the aircraft that was parked on the tarmac.

In-Flight Experience (1st flight):
The Jetstar in-flight experience is nothing to write home about. Very short 30" seat-pitch and you have to pay for every little thing, from soft-drinks to electronic entertainment which consisted of a portable video that is to be placed somewhere at your seat.

I do give kudos to the flight attendant who let me and my seat-mate off the plane first because we both had tight connection times in AKL. When I explained to him that I sort-of had to force my AKL-CHC boarding pass out of a gate agent, he shook his head and said, "With Jetstar, you really have to be persistent with them."

Check-in/Boarding (2nd flight):
After the SYD-AKL Jetstar flight arrived about 45 minutes late and immigration/customs taking very long, I had only 20 minutes to catch the AKL-CHC in the domestic terminal about 10 minutes away. I ran like a madman through the carparks, into the domestic terminal and up the stairs to the gate. I was positive the supposed "constantly paging"-me gate agents were going to deny me boarding. Nope. The AKL-CHC was running about 45 minutes late. They weren't paging me or anybody. When I presented myself and my boarding pass to the gate agent, she had no care about me and seemed to wonder why I bothered her.

In-Flight Experience (2nd flight):
The flight finally left. It had an equally uncomfortable seat-arrangement, but since it was a short flight and I lucked out with having the seat next to me unoccupied, it wasn't too unpleasant.

July 21, 2009
Air New Zealand flight# 791

This was by far the best flight of this entire trip.

I was surprised by the old-fashion check-in procedure. There was no online check-in nor even airport check-in kiosks. You have to wait in line to check in at with a live agent at a counter. I thought this was the 2000's.

In-Flight Experience:
The 6am flight left on time, the seats didn't have much leg-room, but there was an excellent personal video entertainment system with a large selection of films and TV shows and all were free. The screen was large too. Also excellent about this flight was the free hot breakfast. Not very good food, but it was there. For a competitive US$132, this was a great experience compared with the US$100-more flights on the "low cost" Jetstar.

The only truly negative comment I have to say about Air New Zealand is that for their low fare codes, there is no earning frequent flyer points, either on their airline or their Star Alliance or other partner carriers.

July 24, 2009
Virgin Blue flight# 829

I attempted to check in online, but on the website once I clicked "check in", it gave me "Cannot check in" message. No explanation as to why. I tried checking in with 3 different browsers but got the same message. When I called Virgin Blue to find out why, the phone agent insisted that I could check in online. I gave up. At the airport, unlike Air New Zealand, they did have check-in kiosks so I used one of those and got the boarding pass with no problem.

In-Flight Experience:
The flight itself was okay. It left on time. You have to pay for every little thing. There is a personal video screen that plays all kinds of cable channels, but they charge you for using it. The seat comfort was adequate for the short flight.

Overall a good value for the AUS$89-plus fees airfare.

July 25, 2009
Delta flight# 16

I was able to check in online the day before the flight and print out a boarding pass. As I had no bags, I arrived at the airport about an hour and twenty minutes before departure. But at boarding, they refused to honor my printed boarding pass. I had to wait for them to print out a new one. I don't understand this. Why do they allow passengers to print out their boarding passes from their computer when they have no intention of honoring those passes?

In-Flight Experience:
Outside of that hiccup, I was able to board and the flight left on time. Unlike the awful inbound flight, the AVOD was working, kind of. While the movies and TV shows were all running good, the games weren't running at all. On the game introduction pages, when I clicked "play", it would simply re-load the introduction pages. I wasn't too upset as there was a very good selection of movies and TV shows. While they charged for the HBO-related shows, everything else (that was functioning at least) was free.

Like the inbound flight, three free meals were served. Choice of chicken, pasta or steak at lunch, a small cold sandwich as a snack, and a choice of pancakes or eggs for breakfast. All the food was mediocre.

Most of the flight attendants were friendly and helpful. Although one forgot about me when she said I would have to wait "briefly" for my meal choice (chicken) while she served the rows of passengers behind me. As she was well into the 2nd cabin with no appearance of coming back to me for my meal, I approached another FA for my meal choice and she gave me it immediately.

The flight arrived about a half hour early. While under most circumstances this would be a good thing, on our flight it meant we had to wait on the ground for around 20 minutes for US customs/immigration to open at 6:00am. I think scheduling a 6:10am arrival is not smart planning and an easy solution for this frequent problem is simply scheduling the flight to leave a half hour later.

Final Note
The overall impression I have from these flights is that non of these airlines are perfect. In terms of in-flight experience, Air New Zealand's was the best. If Delta's personal entertainment system was operational, I'd give them a better review. Jetstar is best avoided unless the fare is much cheaper than the competitors and you are casual about punctuality.

Last edited by Culrain; Jul 3, 10 at 1:55 am Reason: Some more grammar (probably a lot more problems lol)
Culrain is offline  
Old Jul 27, 09, 4:49 pm
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Thanks for posting your report. I can't imagine trying to pass a 15 hour flight with no IFE or power ports!
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Old Jul 27, 09, 4:56 pm
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Originally Posted by CMK10 View Post
Thanks for posting your report. I can't imagine trying to pass a 15 hour flight with no IFE or power ports!
no IFE? Is that something wrong the IFE is still broken all of the times during the flight.
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Old Jul 27, 09, 5:15 pm
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Originally Posted by N830MH View Post
no IFE? Is that something wrong the IFE is still broken all of the times during the flight.
Do you actually read posts or do you just respond with whatever pops into your head first?
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Old Jul 30, 09, 4:42 pm
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No personal IFE or power in Y and poor meal offerings sounds like a LAX-SYD UA flight!
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Old Aug 1, 09, 9:03 am
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Chicken dinners, worse than Tyson's imo.

Nice Trip Report.
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Old Aug 1, 09, 11:02 am
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Thanks for the report although I think the $100 credit for the broken IFE was more than adequate.
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Old Aug 1, 09, 3:26 pm
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I had a broken IFE for "part" of the flight SIN to NRT. Got a voucher for $50 or 5,000 miles. Since I was sleeping most of the time I appreciated the voucher. My experience with most of the games and other "entertainment diversions" is rather disappointing. Sometimes they work, sometimes they work partly, sometimes not at all. I enjoy my iPod and Ambien.
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Old Aug 1, 09, 6:49 pm
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Culrain - Thank you for your trip report. I guess one could conclude, you get what you pay for. In my limited experience down under, I have found it can be false economy sometimes to book Jetstar (JQ) or Virgin (DJ), instead of QF. And you are correct, Air NZ cheap economy fares do not earn miles.
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Old Aug 2, 09, 12:37 am
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Originally Posted by CMK10 View Post
Do you actually read posts or do you just respond with whatever pops into your head first?
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Old Aug 2, 09, 8:09 am
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Thanks for the trip report.

Your outbound flight doesn't really seem to fall in the dreadful category to me.

Maybe you need to have some bad luck with flights?
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Old Aug 2, 09, 9:23 pm
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I flew DL SYD-LAX on the 29th and the AVOD was working except for the map which for 13 hours said we were west-bound near Tuvalu at a speed of 350kph.
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Old Aug 8, 09, 5:36 pm
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Thanks for the review on the SYD to LAX Flights.
We (our family) are booked on this flight in a couple of weeks. I've been looking for information on meals on this flight as all I get from the Delta website is that they serve breakfast.
Sorry to hear that the In-flight entertainment was down as its about the only thing that keeps me sane on a flight like this.

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Old Aug 8, 09, 6:15 pm
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Sounds like you got exactly what you paid for, save for the inop IFE which is something that just happens, because nothing in this world works 100% of the time.
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Old Aug 10, 09, 10:57 am
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I am not surprised that Jetstar's service sucks so badly.
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