Virgin Australia will upgrade its Melbourne-Perth 'Coast to Coast' flights into an exclusively Airbus 330-only service this month, with the Sydney-Perth service also moving to an all-A330 schedule next year.
"On the Sydney-Perth service we'll step up to all flights being A330 as we go into the second half of this financial year" Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller.
This will hinge on the delivery of a sixth new A330 from Airbus in the first half of 2013.
The move to drop Virgin's smaller Boeing 737-800s from the five hour journey is a significant win for business travellers.
The 737 is typically used for shorter domestic flights, and is fitted with a reclining business class seat with a 38 inch pitch.
The Airbus A330, by comparison, is an international-grade plane for which Virgin's latest configuration sports lie-flat seats with a room-to-stretch 60 inch pitch, plus creature comforts such as a USB port for charging your phone or tablet during the transcontinental trek.
The A330 also carries almost 280 passengers – 100 more than Virgin's Boeing 737 – which plays into the push to dramatically boost capacity on the popular cross-country route.
In turn, it's largely these capacity increases which are driving down business class fares to their lowest point in the past decade.
Virgin plans for two more A330s by June 2015, after which the airline's flagship is likely to be either the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350, with Borghetti due to make his decision and place an order within the next 12 months.
Virgin is also now serving a hot meal and drinks (including alcohol, from midday) plus free inflight entertainment for all passengers – yes, even if you're travelling on the cheapest economy ticket – on transcontinental flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Perth, on both the A330s and 737s.
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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.