Virgin Australia's new Boeing 777 business class is expected to debut on the popular Sydney-Los Angeles route in April, and the airline is confident of making a serious dent in the trans-Pacific business travel market.
The upgraded Boeing 777-300ER will have 37 of Virgin's 'The Business' business class seats, up from 33 in the older configuration – with all of the new seats offering direct-aisle access (compared to the current 2-3-2 layout)...
... and converting into a wide fully-flat bed.
Passengers will find plenty of personal space around the seat plus an 18 inch video screen, in what Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has previously described as "the business class to beat" between Australia and Los Angeles.
Qantas flies its flagship Airbus A380 on the Sydney-LAX route but the superjumbo's older Skybed II seats (below) have a less passenger-friendly 2-2-2 layout, smaller screens and very limited space for working inflight or keeping carry-on items with reach.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously ruled out upgrading the Airbus A380s with the newer Qantas Business Suite, describing the Skybed II as "highly competitive on the markets that it is operating on."
Virgin's primary competitor from Sydney to stateside will be Qantas partner American Airlines, which has a similar seat design to The Business – albeit one based on that of Cathay Pacific – on its own Boeing 777-300ER jets (below) running daily on the Sydney-LA route.
Passengers at the pointy end of Virgin's Boeing 777 will also see a newly-designed business class bar with face-to-face service for up to four seated guests...
... plus additional lounge seating behind the bar.
And while Virgin's refitted Boeing 777 premium economy zone will be almost halved, from 40 seats down to 24, the new seats and smaller more exclusive cabin will be repositioned as a ‘business lite’ product with an extra three inches of legroom – up from the current 38 inches to 41 inches – and a new Luke Mangan-designed menu.
Premium economy pssengers will also have access to a new 'Premium Larder' snack bar stocked with an assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, light meal options and snacks.
"While we pitch our new business class at halfway between business and first, premium economy will be halfway between economy and business but certainly closer to business class," Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller at the launch of airline's new business class.
Further down the plane, Virgin Australia will also introduce 42 ‘economy plus’ seats with extra legroom compared to the standard economy seat.
While the Boeing 777 overhaul will result in fewer seats – the total seat count will drop from 361 to 339 – Virgin is skewing the mix towards higher average revenue from tip to tail.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.