I Flew Jetstar Economy — How Bad Was It?

Yesterday we needed to fly from Queenstown to Sydney, and booking a revenue ticket ended up being the most practical option. Virgin Australia had a flight in the afternoon, while Jetstar had a flight in the morning. The timing of the morning flight worked out much better, so we went ahead and booked it.

I have to admit upfront that I had no clue what to expect from Jetstar. I knew they were an ultra low cost carrier who charges for everything, but I wasn’t sure whether the experience would be more like Easyjet/Ryanair/Air Asia, or more like JetBlue. What I did know is that Jetstar has A320s with 180 seats, featuring 29″ of pitch. That’s tight, and the same number of seats that Easyjet crams on their A320s.

I assumed it would be like the former, based on the booking process. I don’t remember the last time I’ve booked a ticket which involved so many upsell options.

From entertainment to discounted inflight vouchers, there were so many things they tried to sell us on.

Jetstar-2

Jetstar-3

While I normally exclusively travel with carry-ons, I assumed there was no way they’d let me get away with my massive carry-ons, so I pre-purchased a 15kg checked bag for 25NDZ.

Jetstar-1

We also went ahead and paid 31NZD (~20USD) to sit in an exit row for the flight. I find this to be well worth it on ultra low cost carriers for a couple of reasons:

  • It gives you significantly more than 29″ of seat pitch
  • In my experience many on ultra low cost carriers are looking for the absolute lowest fares, so aren’t as likely to pay for exit row seating as on other airlines; therefore your odds of having an empty middle seat are better (otherwise you’ll want to resort to Travis’ method for securing an empty middle seat)

Anyway, we flew out of Queenstown, which is a tiny and beautiful airport. We arrived about 75 minutes before departure, and there were no queues for check-in, which was one of my biggest concerns about flying with them. I guess that’s one benefit of flying out of an airport with only one flight at a time.

Jetstar-Queenstown-Airport
Jetstar check-in Queenstown Airport

You board directly through the stairs in Queenstown, which always makes for some great views.

Jetstar-A320
Jetstar A320 Queenstown Airport

As I boarded the plane I couldn’t help but think “yow, that’s a lot of seats.”

Jetstar-Cabin-2
Jetstar A320 cabin

Jetstar-Cabin-1
Jetstar A320 cabin

The legroom looked tight, though not as bad as I was expecting.

Jetstar-Seats
Jetstar A320 legroom

In the exit row the legroom was excellent, and I was happy with the ~20USD we spent to snag those seats.

Jetstar-Emergency-Exit
Jetstar A320 exit row seats

But what impressed me most was the crew. It didn’t fully “click” with me until I was aboard that Jetstar is wholly owned by Qantas, and that was clearly reflected in the service.

There were four female flight attendants, all in their upper-20s or early-30s, and they couldn’t have been friendlier or more professional. So even though the airline operates on an ultra low cost model, I was extremely impressed by the professionalism of the crew.

If you want any food or drinks on the plane you have to pay for them. On the plus side, the menu is decent, with fresh food options, and all kinds of drinks. Here’s the food and drink menu for the flight.

I ordered a sparkling water and an egg & lettuce sandwich.

Jetstar-Food
Jetstar food and drinks for purchase

I didn’t buy an iPad for the flight since I worked on my laptop instead.

The flight time was just under three hours, and soon enough we arrived in Sydney. Unfortunately we were a bit early, and had to wait 45 minutes for a gate, as the Virgin Australia plane using our gate was delayed.

Bottom line

This was my first flight in a while on an ultra low cost carrier. What did I learn?

  • The money it costs to upgrade to an exit row is almost always worth it; however, the 29″ of seat pitch didn’t actually look too bad
  • Jetstar is an extremely professionally run low cost carrier; this isn’t like Ryanair, where they print the safety card on the seat in front of you, or Easyjet, where they plaster ads all over the cabin
  • The cabin crew were exceptional; they were every bit as good as on any “legacy” airline

So while I came into the flight not knowing what to expect, I was very pleasantly surprised, and wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again if the price is right. It just always makes sense to crunch all the numbers, especially if you have elite status with other airlines. It’s not just about the base fare, but also about how much all the add-ons cost.

If you’ve flown Jetstar, what was your experience like?

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Comments

  1. One thing to take into account in Australia is that Qantas and Virgin Australia include checked baggage even on domestic whereas Jetstar and Tiger both charge. When you add the cost on for these it can wipe out any savings from the lower ticket price and you also get some free refreshments onboard (although on Virgin I got the worlds smallest sandwich and both airlines have a terribly small window where they have complimentary alcohol).

    Also you can collect miles with Qantas and Virgin, although it’s a minuscule amount. I think you can collect Qantas points with Jetstar, but can’t credit them to other Oneworld carriers.

  2. Hi Lucky did JQ make you pay an extra “credit card processing” fee? They are trying to get me to do this when I try to book a ticket SIN KUL on them which I find extortionary.

  3. I’ve always avoided the brand out of confusion when booking with Qantas points or revenue
    Looks like I made a good choice
    I viewed it as Qantas lite
    tTank you for the review very helpful
    You have dome some really good posts as of late on some very good topics

  4. I have yet to fly a discount carrier. I live near Seattle and I wouldn’t even fly Southwest as it is always more expensive than legacy carriers like AS. I don’t fly much anymore but unless I absolutely had to I wouldn’t fly Spirit and the rest. My choice would have been Virgin on your flight Ben just because they are a known quantity. Be glad you weren’t in the US doing this, I shudder to think. Great report Ben

  5. I think 29″ pitch with slimline seats is about the same as 31″ pitch on older planes with chunky seats. I was on a AA A319 in coach yesterday that was pretty bad even though it claimed 31″ pitch.

  6. “I didn’t buy an iPad for the flight since I worked on my laptop instead.” I didn´t get this sentence, weren´t you supposed to buy an ipad for the grandma whose ipad you broke? 😉

  7. I flew Jetstar from SYD to HKT a few years ago and it was a pretty good flight. The one way fare was right around $300 then the meal, bags, seats came out to roughly $375 all in. The crew was friendly and the planes were decent. Considering most international one-way fares are ridiculously priced , I had a very positive experience on the 9 hour flight for the price i paid.

  8. Timing on this is perfect – I just booked AKL-ZQN on JQ yesterday and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Thanks Lucky!

  9. I booked 3 Australian domestic segments (Sydney-Cairns, Cairns-Melbourne, Melbourne-Sydney) last fall. Overall, things went very well. Although we also paid for checked bags (we usually only fly with carry-ons), it was still a better deal than any other carrier. We had some lines at check-in/bag drop, but the process was easy and moved quickly. We didn’t pay for extra leg room, since we’re not very tall, but did pay for seat assignments, because we wanted to be sure we could sit together (which also allowed us to get seats near the front of the plane). Service was just fine, and FAs were professional.

    Our 2nd segment (Cairns-Melbourne) was cancelled the night before we were scheduled to fly, and I was a little worried about what kind of customer service we’d get, but I looked up our other options, and used the chat feature on their website to request being placed on the Qantas flight that left at around the same time, which they did with no problem. So we ended up getting Qantas service (including meal, entertainment, etc.) for Jetstar prices.

    I was very happy with my Jetstar experience (but at this point, I’m strictly a leisure traveler, and alway sit in the back of the plane, so I’m used to that) and would absolutely fly with them again.

  10. Thanks for the info, I will be flying jetstar NRT-MEL-AKL on the 24th and esd hesitant and only booked because it was a Qantas owned airline. This helps a lot to put my mind at ease that the service is up to snuff.
    Thanks for the info

  11. Thanks for the info, I will be flying jetstar NRT-MEL-AKL on the 24th and was hesitant and only booked because it was a Qantas owned airline. This helps a lot to put my mind at ease that the service is up to snuff.
    Thanks for the info

  12. Be warned – Jetstar Domestic can be difficult: check-in lines can be exhaustingly long, as is the walk to connect to another flight (Jetstar is often in another terminal), flights get cancelled somewhat frequently with poor options for replacement seats, interlining bags can be a problem (having to collect your bags, recheck them, and then go through security again can be a nightmare), and trying to get refunds is almost impossible. Tiger Air is worse, but thinking of Jetstar as Qantas Lite is not accurate – this IS a ultra-low-fare-carrier.

  13. I love that you are trying new airlines this year! I met a JetStar executive that was on a flight with me on Bangkok Airways. She was super nice and explained that they were working on more flights to Thailand.
    Thank you for confirming what I heard about JetStar and Quantas subsidiaries.

  14. That’s the same pitch and number of seats as Spirit has in their A320s (adjusting by two since their first bulkhead row has four “big front seats”).

    As noted above, the slim seats make the pitch ok. That’s assuming you’re not really fat or tall.

    The bigger issue with some LCCs is the lack of redundancy if your plane goes MX. And they’re sure not going to book you on another carrier either.

    Also, as Lucky noted, having no premium or (in the US) Pre Check lines can be a problem, too.

  15. I flew JQ on AKL-ZQN and CHC-AKL in the last month. I agree with the crew being very pleasant, courtesous, and professional. On CHC-AKL, I also got an exit row seat for free (at the airport during check-in) which was very comfortable. My only complaint would be that on the AKL-ZQN flight I did not get the meal I had pre-selected as part of the bundle I bought when buying my flight. There’s an online menu to select a meal from and I selected one for both flights. However, on AKL-ZQN the crew told me they don’t serve those meals on NZ domestic flights (then why advertise them as such?) and I had NZD$10 to spend on something from the inflight menu (much more limited with only snack items compared to Ben’s description on ZQN-SYD above). However, on CHC-AKL, the crew without question served me my pre-selected meal (steak and beef pie), leaving me confused.

  16. easyJet don’t plaster adverts all over the cabin… there are small adverts on the back of the seat in front, advertising either their partnered car rental firm, or the deals they have on board/ticket deals.

  17. I do like Jetstar a lot, but I’ve only flown them between KUL-SIN. The crew is always friendly, and for a budget carrier, it’s very impressive. Haven’t had a bad experience yet, in the 5 years I’ve been using them. I avoid Air Asia like the plague once I found Jetstar. Have even tried Tiger Air, and while they’re not bad, they’re nowhere near as likable as Jetstar. I did do a doubletake when Jetstar introduced a credit card processing fee but….

  18. We flew Jetstar twice inter-Australia flights (AYQ-SYD and SYD-LST). Our first experience with them was a flight from Ayres Rock Airport that was particularly not good. They only had 2 people checking guests for the plane. We were on a package tour but no one at the airport could clearly explain how the bag allowance worked. We are still not sure if we could only check 1 bag, we could check 2 bags but no bag could be over a certain weight and the total weight could only be something else. All I know is that they insisted that I pay a bag fee (which may or may not have been correct). Not wanting to hold up the line, I gave my CC which they could not process so had to get out paper charge slips. In the end, the charges never processed. The seats were rather small on the plane. Even being 6 foot, I was cramped in. Thankfully the flights were not too long. I do remember the crews being pleasant but I’d go out of my way to avoid them if I could. Our flights on Qantas (CNS-AYQ) and (HOB-MEL) and Virgin Australia (SYD-CNS) were both much more enjoyable in both the ground experience and in flight comfort.

  19. Jetstar are a pretty good LCC in my experience, a step above Easyjet. By comparison Tigerair are more like Ryanair! JQ flights can also be booked as part of mainline tickets – e. g. when my folks came out from Europe the Ayers Rock to Sydney flight was booked on 125 BA stock as part of their trip (you only earn status points and miles if credited to a QF account though).

    IME the key thing with all LCCs is to crunch all the numbers – esp checked baggage and travel to/from the airport if non-standard (I’m looking at you here, Ryanair!) – and make sure you compare the final price with with the final price on a non-LCC carrier. Sometimes it works out, other times the so-called low cost one is more expensive!

  20. “Jetstar is an extremely professionally run low cost carrier; this isn’t like Ryanair, where they print the safety card on the seat in front of you, or Easyjet, where they plaster ads all over the cabin”

    I think it’s a bit much to suggest that Ryanair isn’t professionally run. Am I ever keen to fly with them? No. But they are a professional and safe airline.

  21. @Rand:

    “I live near Seattle and I wouldn’t even fly Southwest as it is always more expensive than legacy carriers like AS. ”

    Not always. Quite often it’s ~equal on nonstops, sometimes less.

    And having flown lots of legacies as well as LCCs, Southwest is fine if you’re a coach traveler on a 90 minute-3ish hour flight, which is a very common stage length for a lot of America (SEA-SFO/LAS/LAX/PHX, DFW/DAL-LAS/PHX, EWR/JFK-MIA/FLL). For a lot of people, the experience is BETTER because they won’t have elite status and thus would get jammed into the back of the plane on a legacy, whereas Southwest has decent pitch everywhere, plus get charged for checked baggage.

  22. @PerthFlyer – Having flown JetStar several times (Perth – Singapore) I can confirm extra legroom seats are the way to.

    To avoid CC charges – purchase a $50 Jetstar voucher (PayPal) – enter voucher details and pay remaining balance with CC – this way negates CC charges surprisingly!

  23. …”this isn’t like Ryanair, where they print the safety card on the seat in front of you, or Easyjet, where they plaster ads all over the cabin”…

    You equate professionalism with advertising or where a safety card is placed?
    Bizarre.

    PS: easyJet don’t plaster ads all over the cabin.

  24. I flew JetStar Melbourne – Tokyo twice last year. Both times in economy but at least the second time around was on their Dreamliner. The crew was lovely, food quite decent, but 10 hours on that tiny economy seat is too much for me.

  25. Good call on buying luggage. Granted I’ve only flown JetStar in Australia (domestic) twice — but both times at the gate the ground staff were weighing everyone’s carry-ons. Anyone more than a couple hundred grams over 7kg was told to gate-check or throw stuff away.

  26. Hello Lucky,
    You were very “Lucky” with your Flight.
    I will not fly Jetstar – they always have a.m. Flights and if they do not reach a certain capacity – cancel the flight – leave you stranded – will try and fit you on next flight or offer a refund at a later date unless you stand at checkin and demand a credit. You can then be left to purchase a ticket with another airline at FULL price if you want a flight for that day.

  27. As an Australian, I’ve flown them hundreds of time. You got lucky with the crew. In my experience, they are almost always rude and unhelpful. Same goes for Qantas. Awful.

  28. My work requires me to fly business on international flights and I often booked J from Frankfurt to Moscow on Lufthansa. It looked exactly like this. In J they block out the middle seat but thee is no pitch and no legroom for 2x the price.

  29. The 29in pitch is quite small if you are tall (over 6″). I fly Jetstar regularly and I hate it, unless I can get row one (1D, 1E or 1F). It’s cheaper than the exit row but a bulkhead so you get the extra room. Otherwise I feel like I have a seat shoved in front of my face and its almost impossible for me to do anything on my iPad or laptop as I almost have my chin touching my chest.

    I’d also say you got a good crew – they are very hit and miss, and if anything goes wrong, you definitely wish you were flying Qantas as they are useless if there are issues.

  30. I flew JQ SYD-HNL over QF solely for the B787-8. I upgraded my seat as well and payed for meals and IFE. Upgraded seat had good legroom but was uncomfortable. IFE was very sparse and honestly not worth it. And food was decent. Crew was OK, not as good as QF especially their international crews. A long haul flight in a B788 was completely worth it.

  31. Living in South east Asia, I can say Jetstar is the better low cost carriers than Air Asia or Tiger Air. The stewards are polite and the seats are decent. But kudos Lucky for trying out different airlines!! I like these different reviews than the usual gulf airlines.

  32. I flew SYD-HNL a few days ago in economy. It’s a long time since I’ve done long haul economy so I stumped up the AU$45 for an exit row seat. Seriously, that was probably the best AU$45 I’ve ever spent.

    No complaints except the length of the check-in queue (it took 45mins to see an agent).

  33. There is always a massive danger in taking one flight on a carrier and assuming that is representative of all their operations.

    Lucky may have had no lines/wait to check in for his sole JQ flight, but that is certainly not representative at all of JQ’s usual massive check-in lines.

    Lucky may not have experienced any irregular ops for his sole JQ flight, but plenty of accounts out there of woe, with JQ stranding or simply ignoring those caught up by JQ cancellations or re-routings. You are typically on your own.

    Lucky may not have experienced the range of seating on JQ’s fleet, given his sole JQ A320 flight, so he doesn’t understand it gets grim seating wise on some of their aircraft.

    Lucky may have not experienced the wide variation in crew quality on JQ, given his sole JQ flight, so he may not understand crew range from OK to US carrier awful. (Which is just scary awful)

    Lucky should have known though (from his knowledge of QFF fees and charges, and the Jetstar website) that Jetstar are never shy of slapping you with ridiculous charges.

    Best contribution here is not Lucky’s, but @PerthFlyer who reveals a good trick to stop Jetstar hitting you up with outrageous credit card processing fees.

  34. I flew JetStar from AKL – Queenstown and again from Wellington – AKL and was thoroughly impressed with the service and attitude of the crew. You do have to purchase the perks; however they are reasonable and do provide an excellent experience. I also noticed that the passengers do not crowd the boarding area as you would find at all American airports. The boarding process was much more tame and less stressful. I would fly JetStar again over and over.

  35. I don’t see the relation between professionalism and safety card location and/or advertising… For sure Ryanair sticks its safety card directly on the seat in front of you but this way they do not get lost (a FA must check before each flight that each seat has a safety card…) and people get to really read them for once! Never heard of cabin-wide advertising from easyJet but Ryanair surely does. What is dislike more is advertising over the audio systems! Does Jet Star have any such practice?
    and beware that Jet Star flies it A320 quite far… For my SIN-PER flights I had the choice between Jet Star, Scoot or Singapore Airlines. Flying in from Europe with small kids and adding all the costs for lugage and seats, I am happy I chose SQ for just a fraction of the cost more! Wide body aircraft vs A320 for an over 5 hours flight!

  36. Where have you been. All the low cost carriers in asia have terrific crews and service: Tiger, AirAsia are arguably better than Jetstar. It has nothing to do with qantas. Nobody flies qantas except dumb foreign tourists.

    Also what kind of professional traveller needs enhanced legroom for a 3 hour flight. See if there’s an option on the jetstar al a carte list for growing a pain and click that.

  37. @Roberto JQ, VA, QF and NZ all charge extra for fares bought in Australia or NZ by credit card. I assume Tiger and Rex do as well (although I’ve never tried them).

  38. It sounds to me like Jetstar is one of the good ones akin to JetBlue and Southwest Airlines. Sure we have our ultra cheap such as Spirit Air, but in the US low cost carriers actually offer better service than the legacy carriers. If I’m ever in Australia, I will definitely give Jetstar a try.

  39. Guess our experience is a little different…
    On our way back to Japan this summer, we got delayed for 8 hours in DC (on United, argh~ that’s another story for another day) so we missed our domestic connecting flight in Japan, and were re-booked to Jetstar for the next morning. We never took a low cost carrier before and therefore it was a big shock right from the beginning. First when the shuttle bus dropped us off, we had no idea where we were – no signs, no any indication. We had to carry our 2 big luggage, plus all the carry-ons and walked through a long road to get to the counter. The check-in counter looked like located in some kind of warehouse, then after the security, we had to walk a long distance (probably 20-25 minutes) to arrive at the gate!
    On the flight, the extremely tight seat (I’m Asian and 5-2) was very uncomfortable. The flight attendants were polite but certainly not up to the Japanese standard, far from it. My son was thirsty and I asked for a cup of water and was told unless we were taking medicine, we need to purchase it. My eyes must have popped out at what she said, but then the flight attendant went back, checked our names and realized we were re-booked due to delay and ANA (my guess) had 500 yen credit for each of us for in-flight purchase, so besides getting water, my son also got a chocolate snack. And thank God, our flight was only 2 hours, but overall, I wasn’t too happy about the whole arrangement. Next year, we probably go back to taking JAL direct to Tokyo to avoid all these from happening again…

  40. We had a really bad experience flying with Jetstar back from Japan to Hong Kong at the luggage counter. The customer service is poor – staff Mio is very cold and unpleasant and does not accommodate to any extraneous circumstances regarding connecting flights. To be honest, I have never encountered anybody as ridiculous and as cold as the attendant Mio at the check-in luggage counter. She insisted us to throw away all luggages that she has no right over our freedom. Very overbearing and unyielding and caused us undue stress. playing games with us for the whole half an hour ordeal. The supervisor is more courteous but still unflexible.

    Also, for budget airline like jetstar, we need to allow more time to commute to terminal 3 for all the budget Japanese airlines at Narita, compared to the other ones. Even the local cab drivers did not know about the subtleties related to terminal 3.

  41. Late last year, we flew to Darwin for a holiday. We flew from Sydney on a Virgin flight. Great service, a very light lunch, it was included in the ticket price and the seats were comfy and comfortable legroom. Flight home on Jetstar, a totally different experience. I put the feeling of uncomfortable seats and cramped legroom down the 1.30am flight and being tired. Nothing was included in the flight price, although the ticket price was only marginally cheaper than the daytime Virgin flight.
    Once home, I decided to check the seating configuration of the two carriers, 320 for both. No wonder I felt cramped. 162 seats on Virgin, 180 on Jetstar. Explained a lot.

  42. This is the first time I try Jetstar and definitely my last. And they rip me off before I even finished booking. For the starter, they would not allow baggage package for one person only. So in order to pay the baggage I required, I had to make two separate bookings for me and my family. And just as I finished my second booking, the system crashed and upon redo, the price went up by staggering 50% in minutes. I ended up booking Virgin Australia instead which is surprisingly cheaper, with extra baggage somemore. So much about lowest price guarantee. When I called to change the date of the ticket, I was initially assured that I only have to pay price difference, if it’s higher. But when I tried to change the date, I am required to pay eventhough the price is significantly lower. A budget airlines ticket more expensive than luxurious Singapore Airlines ticket, and I still have to pay the price ‘difference’. I called the call center to ask why. I was told that because it was the ‘class difference’. As I am a frequent traveller I asked them to search the date for the same class, and I was told their computer could not do the search. In a sense, there is no other class or there is no class at all for an excuse. The operator would quickly and insensitively threaten me that for being ‘rude’ for my rather frustrated voice than actually helping me. Not that she could help me anyway. I am more familiar to their booking site than her. And she could not do more beyond that. I do not see the reason of having a call center that cannot do anything. Jetstar should be ashamed to call itself Australian. And its customers, Australian or not otherwise, do not deserve to be treated this way

  43. Thank you so much for this review as I have really been struggling with whether or not to book Jetstar for an upcoming trip with my kids. The link to the menu was extremely helpful and your glowing remarks make me feel a lot better about selfishly wanting to save money so we can take another big trip much sooner. Great post; thanks!

  44. Jetstar
    HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE!
    Message for supervisor OLAF Melbourne airport:
    OLAF, great to stick your head in the sand like an ostrich rather than listening to customers!
    James, you saw what unfolded on April 2 2017, cancelled flight Melbourne-Cairns-Osaka. James, get a job with a nice airline company instead of those bloodsuckers!

  45. I agree with the above comment – we too were left stranded and out of pocket by the 2nd April flight cancellation. But, it got even better – our return flights? Also delayed/cancelled. So, no, we will not be flying jetstar again…

  46. I don’t know how people can put up with the booking process, i tried and half way through with a million question I gave up. I won’t be flying with them.

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