Flight Review: Travelling to the new Tigerair terminal in Melbourne from the Gold Coast (TT553, TT562)

Tigerair have long been known in Australia for being the cheaper alternative to other major domestic carriers. While some choose to see that is evidence of their being cut-rate in all aspects of their business, Tigerair is more determined than ever to turn the naysayers around. With a fresh new look, a shiny new terminal in Melbourne and a new, stronger approach to customer service, they’re out to show everyone they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Flight Number: TT553, TT562
Route: Gold Coast to Melbourne, Melbourne to Gold Coast
Aircraft Type: A320
Class and Seat: 1F – Window
Flight Time: 2 hours 15 minutes per trip

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Flight 1: 9:35am, Thursday

Pre-Departure Experience:

I flew with Tigerair to Melbourne from Gold Coast Airport earlier this month to attend the third annual PAX AUS gaming convention. On arrival at the Gold Coast terminal, the staff were only just opening up for the day and happily chatted about their shift, the fact it was almost Friday, and where I was off to as they checked my luggage. At the gate, the team were friendly and efficient and, despite a very short delay due to a late arrival from Melbourne (these things will happen when you have to battle two biggest carriers for runway priority), they got us boarded and ready for takeoff in record time. We were in the air by about 10:15am.

Baggage Allowances:

On these particular flights I was allowed up to 12kg of carry on luggage and up to 15kg of checked luggage. As is the standard these days, your carry-on luggage can be taken with you free of charge, but any checked luggage will cost you a little extra if you decide the take it.

In Flight Experience and Comfort:

My seat was in the plane’s front row and afforded a rather lovely view out of the right-side cabin window. My seat was quite comfortable for a domestic carrier craft and, due its technically being an exit row, I was able to get in and out to retrieve stowed carry-on and use the onboard toilet without any issues. The cabin crew were super professional and friendly, and took the time to help a mum travelling with two young kids near me get settled in and allay any fears about take off.

The New T4 Terminal at Melbourne Airport

Once on the ground in Melbourne, I was introduced to the brand new T4 Terminal. Only opened earlier this year, the new terminal’s primary focus is on efficiency. There’s no physical check-in, the entire process is automated and though this system is not without its occasional hiccups, which we’ll talk about later, it makes moving through the terminal a very easy, painless process.

The terminal’s interior, so soon after its completion, is still quite sparsely decorated but its open design keeps foot traffic from ever building up. Heading through arrivals was simplicity itself. We moved from the gate through a well-appointed food court with a number of high profile eateries like McDonald’s, and into the outer terminal. A series of ramps and escalators connects the upper floors to the lower and – just like that – you’re out the door and onto the street.

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It’s a remarkably well-laid out terminal. Everything is clearly sign-posted, everything is where it should be. Power points are plentiful, there is always a bathroom nearby when you need one and there’s plenty of seating for those who wish to wait near the gate entry. Even getting through the metal detectors is a breeze – the staff are efficient and friendly despite being met with the wariness and unnecessary guilt of the non-regular traveler who can’t remember if there’s something in their bag that shouldn’t be there.

Once you’ve been scanned through the main gate, you move down a short set of escalators to the tarmac itself. Here is a small network of bullpens and gangways that can be arranged to meet the daily demand of incoming and outgoing aircraft. Generally, it also means you won’t have to wait long, if at all, in the bullpen before being waved through onto the plane.

Flight 2: 11am, Monday

Pre-Departure Experience:

For the trip home, I arrived a little early for my flight and was able to see on the clearly marked arrival/departure screens that my check-in opened at 11am. I visited a nearby cafe for a drink and a late breakfast while I waited and charged my phone before heading back. At 11am on the dot, check-in opened and I headed the nearest kiosk to enter my booking number. The kiosk software made the check-in process extremely short and efficient, printing my boarding pass and asking me to proceed to the baggage conveyors along the rear wall to drop my checked luggage off.

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There are a row of automated bag drops along the rear wall where customers can take their checked luggage to be sent to the plane. Similar to the automated kiosks, these machines will print a tag for your bag, measure the weight against your baggage allowance and then send it to the baggage handlers for placement onto the aircraft. Fantastic! The more streamlined the process, the better I say.

Here’s the problem, though. The customer next to me stuck their hand too far across an invisible sensory line while loading their luggage and it triggered an automatic safety shut-off that brought all of the automated bag drops to a grinding halt. This is an excellent precautionary measure! I want to be clear about that. I’m glad that the machine does that and keeps everyone safe.

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It did, however, have the effect of causing a bit of a backlog as more passengers arrived to check in behind us. The terminal staff on-hand worked as hard as they could to manage customer frustration, but were forced to wait for technical staff to arrive and restart everything as their iPads were not allowing them to do so.

To be clear, I don’t blame the staff for this in any way. I’ve worked in customer service roles like theirs before. There’s nothing worse than when it all goes to hell and there’s legitimately nothing you can do to fix things. Add to that the fact this is a brand new terminal – there were always going to be teething problems and the odd hitch here and there. I’m sure this will be a problem addressed in short order by the relevant parties and will be a thing of the past before long. I’m sure it works flawlessly 99% of the time and I happened to be there on the one day the system decided to have a bit of a tantrum. It certainly didn’t mar my impression of a terminal that is in every other respect a fantastic addition to Melbourne Airport.

In Flight Experience and Comfort:

The boarding of the flight home to the Gold Coast was an easy one, and despite it being a day typical of Melbourne in a temper – blustery, raining and surprisingly cold for early November – the ground staff got everyone boarded quite quickly and we were on our way. I was seated in the third row this time around, but before the cabin crew closed up and began their preparations, the head of the cabin crew introduced herself and moved me up to the front row once more. It was completely empty on this particular flight except for me, which was great because it meant I could spread out a little and not offend anyone.

I got to chatting with the cabin crew, who were super friendly and happy to talk. One had just purchased a house in Brisbane and was pumped to get home and settle in. In between stopping by the chat, team made sure I was comfortable and kept everyone on board happy.

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There was also some minor turbulence on the way home due to the blustery weather but the pilots handled the issue with pretty amazing grace and even put the plane down with one of the most impressively soft landings I’ve experienced in a while.

Tigerair has come a long, long way in the last few years. With the changes they’ve instituted across their brand, the new and greater level of customer service on display and the move towards a more reliable automated check-in system, Tigerair are determined to compete with the big carriers. If they keep this up, and combine that with their famously low pricing, they won’t have a problem doing so.

The author was provided with a complimentary flight to and from Melbourne Airport courtesy Tigerair. Photos provided by the airline. For more information and to book, head to www.tigerairways.com.au.