Thursday, April 17, 2014

Little tigers take flight ...

Usually, the VIP types are the first passengers to board a plane.
The first and business class passengers, anyone remotely rich, famous, or influential.
But the other night, Chase and Harmonie were taken to the front of the check-in queue like rock stars, with me close behind.
And when it came to boarding, Chase was the first person to step onto Tigerair Australia's first flight from Brisbane to Darwin.
Harmonie was next, before some random guy galloped up behind her whilst I was madly trying to take a photo to capture the moment.

The occasion was Tigerair Australia’s inaugural flight from Brisbane to Darwin, and MIA and kids were being treated as VIPs.
This particularly route is a big deal for us. The kids regularly fly to Darwin to see their Dad on holidays, and have flown every airline in the past. Sometimes on their own.
They are withering when it comes to flying unaccompanied on Qantas.
"We're left on our own up the back," says Harmonie. "They always serve food I cannot eat," says the anaphylactic brother. (Qantas is always advised of his nut and tree nut allergy in advance, but cannot cater for it). 
As parents around the world know, flying can be trying at the best of times, and it seemed to take just moments from the initial exhilaration of our VIP status to wear off.
Tiger Air prides itself on opening up Australia – and the world – to everyday Aussies, so it comes at a budget price. And that can mean flying at odd times of the day and night.
Which is nothing unusual for a destination like Darwin, where locals are used to making use of 'red-eye' flights to save money. 
In return for a bargain airfare (from $99 one way Brisbane-Darwin compared to hundreds of dollars each way charged by other airlines), we were leaving Brisbane at 8.40 pm, and arriving at 12.20 am the next day local time.
That meant for tired and fractious kids. And hungry ones too. A little unexpected turbulence meant a delay in the food and beverage service, and Mr 13 was starving.
This was despite having an emergency Hungry Jacks meal at the airport and supposedly eating “every 30 minutes” during the day at a relative’s house.
Plus there was ‘nothing on that menu I want to eat’, and everything had nuts in it anyway. (It didn’t. But there were nuts in a few things and this continues to puzzle me these days. Especially when it comes to kids’ meals).
Chase momentarily forgot his discomfort when our flight path went over Brisbane, taking in the lights below.
“Mum, it’s like Disneyland,” he exclaimed! 
Another journalist on the flight later explained she had been thinking exactly the same thing.
When the food finally arrived, both kids were happy.

The all-day Turkish ($9) is one of the few Tiger Air meals to be served hot. This was Chase's pick, and it was filled with egg mayo, bacon, cheese and tomato relish. Even a grumpy Aspie had to give it the thumbs-up. 
I was allowed a taste, and the bread was buttery and moist on the inside, and crusty on the outside. The contents were yummy and fresh.

I ordered a triple chicken platter sandwich ($9) to share with Harmonie, and was a little disappointed. The bread was dry but the fillings were okay.  She enjoyed her hot chicken noodles though ($5). I would have tried a vegie wrap, also $9, but didn’t want to be greedy.

Drinks range from $3.50 for juice boxes through to $10 for bubbly.
Harmonie ordered a hot chocolate later in the evening, and declared it delicious
The staff were really lovely and nothing was too much trouble. When we asked if the rocky road was nut free, the steward brought it out to us to check – and to our delight it was.

Rowie’s Yummy RockyRoad is wheat, yeast, gluten, dairy, egg and nut free, so was a safe treat for us to share.
We were told it was the plane’s maiden voyage, and it certainly had that ‘new car’ smell about it.
The seats were comfortable and fine, and seemed to have a little more space than we are used to.  
And again – that new car/plane feel. Lovely. 
For kids, or adults, who need entertainment, you really do need to be prepared with devices, laptops or books, as there appeared to be nothing available, even for hire.
My kids were happy enough, playing on their Nintendo DS’s, whilst Harmonie made a few bracelets and rings with her loom. She offered a bracelet to one of the stewards but he politely refused.  
At one stage I tried to sleep, but with a 13-year-old Man Child half draped across me and repeatedly grinding his head into my shoulder or side to get comfortable, it was a little difficult.
It didn’t help that he’d forgetten a jumper and had to borrow my favourite travel cardie. He ended up ‘boogering all over it’  - his words – in a case of emergency.
(Like most budget airlines, Tiger Air doesn’t carry blankets).
But I find any flight with kids can be challenging, and our Tiger Air flight got the high-fives from all of us. 
Certainly, I couldn’t fault the service, and the flight left on time and arrived a little ahead of schedule.
It was one of the best and most relaxed flights I’ve flown in Australia, and I’ve been lucky enough to be at the pointy end of the plane. The only difference is you would normally pay extra for what you eat or drink. (On this occasion, Tigerair Australia hosted us).
Personally, I love that Tigerair Australia is making exploring Australia affordable for everyday Aussies.
I'd never been to the Northern Territory in the past, and hadn't really considered it, because of the cost of getting there. And for my kids, it means they can fly rather than drive to see their Dad.
Other passengers included fly-in, fly-out workers, family visiting family, backpackers, and various other travellers.
Apparently, flights are booking out well in advance, so the demand is obviously there.
Chase and Harmonie, who are seasoned travellers on the Brisbane-Darwin route rated it highly. Harmonie said it was the best flight ever, and Chase reluctantly admitted it was great, but advised others to take a blanket and pillow if you want to sleep. (My cardie and I second that)
I’d fly Tigerair again, but perhaps pack a few extra snacks for the kids. Especially in cases of turbulence. 
Followers, where have you wanted to go, but ruled out because of price? And have you ever had a meltdown on a plane?

Disclosure: Tigerair Australia provided our flights to and from Darwin


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I think competition is good for all industry so it's great that Tiger are there doing their thing! :)

Char said...

It's reassuring to hear good things about Tiger. Especially now I've booked my first flight with them.

ALeney said...

We love Tiger. I find them much nicer than their "full-service" competitors and Chase is right, The All-day Turkish is awesome! :-)