EXCLUSIVE | Virgin Australia has backpedalled on selling the pointy end of its old Boeing 737-700 aircraft as business class and will downgrade the cabin and fares to economy by the end of April, along with offering rebates on business class fares already paid by passengers who ended up travelling on those planes.
Unlike the Boeing 737-800s, which all sport Virgin's new business class, most of the 13 older-model Boeing 737-700s in the airline's domestic fleet retain the original premium economy seats in the first rows.
While these seats have been recovered in new material, and include the same meals and service as business class on the -800 aircraft, the difference between the 'business class experience' on the old and new aircraft has become a sore point with many frequent flyers.
Following enquires by Australian Business Traveller, a Virgin Australia spokeswoman confirmed "our entire Boeing 737-700 fleet is now being marketed and sold as economy-only flights" – including the first three 'premium economy / business class' rows.
Rebates offered on business class fares
Passengers who've paid business class fares but landed in a 737-700 are entitled to a travel voucher worth 50% of the cost of their ticket, the Virgin Australia spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller. This voucher can be claimed by calling Virgin Australia's Guest Contact Centre on 13 6789.
Forward bookings for travel not yet made will be offered travel credit equal to the difference between the cost of the business class fare and the lower flexi-fare for that flight. The spokeswoman says that Virgin Australia has already begun contacting some of these passengers.
Until the end of February the meal service in the 737-700's 'business class' cabin will remain the same as for 737-800 flights. Other business class perks such as lounge access will also remain.
From March 1st, meals served to passengers in those first three rows will revert to Virgin Australia's standard flexi-fare offering.
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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.