Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Virgin Australia Inaugural Service to Gladstone Airport on Monday
An exciting day at Gladstone Airport on Monday 17 October as the inaugural Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane Airport touched down pretty much as schedule at 11:50am. The DJ1711 service was operated by ATR 72-500 VH-FVH - "Four Mile Beach" - and used the callsign "Virgin 711 Sierra".
Before its arrival, we had a look around the new Virgin Australia check-in area, and speaking to the staff, we found out that many of them were the local Gladstone girls who worked for Strategic Airlines and managed to jump onboard the Virgin Australia team. Some of them were even familiar with this website!!
After touching down, the Virgin ATR parked on the bottom ramp, which is unlike the QantasLink flights at Gladstone. Time will tell whether this becomes the normal parking spot for the ATRs. Access to this lower apron is via Gate 3, which leads to either a set of stairs or an escalator for passengers to access the apron.
Even though the exact disembarking passenger numbers weren't known, it certainly appeared that there was a healthy amount of passengers onboard - even though some of them were airline officials.
It was also worth noting that Virgin refuelled the ATR while in Gladstone, which is odd considering the relatively short flight from Brisbane. The majority of QantasLink flights don't refuel in Gladstone, and once again, time will tell if this is a one-off or becomes the norm.
As noted was some media attention surrounding the inaugural flight into Gladstone. No public speech was made, however they did conduct an interview with the Virgin Spokesman who flew up and back again.
The Virgin Spokesman confirmed rumours of a 3rd (midday) flight per day during the week which will commence in January/February 2012. He also pointed out that the third Virgin Australia ATR 72-500 - VH-FVL - was scheduled to arrive in Australia yesterday as well. It subsequentially landed in Perth, on demonstration to Skywest Airlines, and is due to arrive in Brisbane shortly.
After the brief conference with the media, it was time to prepare and board the plane for the flight back to Brisbane, which was schedued to depart at 1pm. The flight departed on time.
It was interested to note though that very few passengers were on the Brisbane-bound flight.
A historic day!
We wish Virgin Australia all the best on this new venture!