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Virgin Australia's new business class: what you need to know

By David Flynn     Filed under: business class, Boeing 737, Airbus A330, Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia’s launch of domestic business class is great news for Australian business travellers, as it brings a welcome and overdue dose of competition into the market – something which has been absent for over a decade, since the collapse of Ansett left Qantas as the only player in ‘the pointy end’.

We’ve put together this guide to Virgin Australia’s new business class to break down the many changes into bite-size chunks so you can work out what it means to you and your travel.

If you're keen for a first-hand report on Virgin Australia business class, click through to our detailed review and photo tour.

Business class roll-out

Virgin Australia’s new business class replaces the airline’s ‘premium economy’ seats and service, and as of this week is available on almost of the airline’s Boeing 737s (which are the workhorse of the Virgin Australia fleet).

This includes 12 new Boeing 737s delivered fresh from the Boeing factory – they’re the ones with the cool new Boeing Sky Interior cabin – as well as 44 older-but-refurbished 737s.

A handful of the original 737s have yet to be upgraded to the new business class seats.

The airline tells us that the 737s which Virgin Australia owns will be refurbished by the end of January, but those which it has leased won’t get the new business class seats.

Instead, their premium economy seats will be re-covered in leather and the aircraft eventually retired from the fleet. These older aircraft will be replaced by 15 new Boeing 737s throughout 2012.

(Virgin Australia already has business class on its Airbus A330s, which currently run between Sydney and Perth, with Melbourne-Perth and Melbourne-Sydney joining the roster in May.)

Double points bonus

As a special promotion, all Virgin Australia business class travel between January 26 and February 29 will earn double number of Velocity frequent flyer points and twice the usual number of status credits.

That's got to be one of the easiest ways yet to bulk up your Velocity account, especially if you want to earn (or retain) Platinum or Gold status.

Business class seating

If you’ve flown Virgin Australia in recent months you may already have seen or sat in the new business class seats.

The plush leather-clad business class seats sport a 38 inch pitch, a surprisingly generous recline and a power socket in case you want to keep your notebook or tablet juiced up during the flight.

Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737s are fitted out with eight business class seats, in two rows of a 2-2 configuration.

But even with so few seats to choose from they're not all created equal when it comes to legroom – see our Best Seat guide for tips on choosing the right seat for maximum comfort.

Business class service

The cabin supervisor on each flight is now personally in charge of business class passengers, with an extra flight attendant on deck to take up the slack in economy class. With only eight business class seats in the cabin this should make for exceptional service.

As with the ‘Coast to Coast’ service, Virgin Australia business class will now include a coat check at the door so your jacket can be stowed out of the way. Virgin says this will also include a free coat bag like those used on Coast to Coast flights.

A selection of newspapers are also offered on morning flights.

To emphasise the ‘exclusivity’ of the pointy end of the plane the business class cabin is now roped off from economy (using a clever cable with magnets to affix itself to the divider wall, instead of hooks or velcro fasteners).

Business class passengers also have exclusive use of the toilet at the front of the plane.

Meals

In addition to free choices from the for-purchase menu – ranging from snacks to main meals and drinks – there are now six ‘timed’ meal options served to business class passengers.

These are breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner and supper. The airline promises there will always be “at least two choices”, with flights rotating through a total of six variations.

One of the mid-morning snacks is this toasted ham and cheese croissant, with a fresh fruit salad on the side. From presentation to quality it's a big step up from what Virgin used to serve.

Meanwhile, back on the ground, a new hot dinner offering is now available at Virgin Australia lounges.

In-flight entertainment

Virgin Australia still offers the bulky ‘personal players’ preloaded with movies, TV shows and music, and from what we’ve seen on our travels there’s very little take-up of these – most business travellers seem happy to tap away at their iPad or laptop or bring their own reading material.

These will be replaced from mid-year with iPads as part of Virgin’s move to a wifi-based in-flight entertainment system.

You can read our full report and photo tour of Virgin Australia's new business class here, and we welcome readers who've also experienced Virgin business class to share their thoughts in the comments box below.

Profile

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.

 

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1 on 18/1/12 by KC

I've already expressed my absolute delight with VA'a business product in another AUSBT article by David from my mornings flight!

However, sitting now waiting for the return, I am really impressed to be told by the lounge staff that those on a capital to capital flight  will receive a complimentary beer wine or soft drink irrespective of fare purchased. Though I'm in J class again, this will go down brilliantly with my colleagues on saver fares for the return!

I wont feel so guilty about my front end pleasures in future.

Yet another great move.

And another thumbs up to your reporting David, always impartial and purely factual.

PS. The food options are so much more enticing in taste and presentation than certain others I've been subjected to for the past several years!

1 on 18/1/12 by David

Thanks KC, and yes, the "free drinks for economy" deal (for flights between mainland cap cities, departing 4pm-7pm weekdays) is also going to put some smiles on some dials!

1 on 18/1/12 by AirportAddict

So isnt the free drinks deal going to be available on any other capital to capital flights? i understand it will be on the sydney melbourne route, the melbourne perth route and the sydney perth route, but will it be available on routes like brisbane adelaide and canberra hobart?

1 on 18/1/12 by David

It's on all flights (deparing between 4pm and 7pm) between mainland capital cities - so that covers all cap cities except Hobart.

1 on 19/1/12 by AirportAddict

This meals bizzo gets me. Tiger Airways dont offer free food basically because the airline is plane cheap and nasty. Jetstar doesnt offer free food because it is just a low cost carrier who does as little as possible to keep the costs down. Qantas offers all free food and beverages. When it comes to Virgin, they have fares that are usually around the same sort of cost as Qantas but do not offer food or beverages unless you hop on a specific flight or go the extra mile and book a flexi or a business fare. Is Qantas stupid for offering food? or is Virgin stupid for not?

2 on 18/1/12 by Al

Sounds great, can't wait for my next Virgin Australia flight, especially if I can get an upgrade into business! I can't justify business for SYD-MEL! :(

1 on 18/1/12 by KC

Al, if you use the Lounge at either end I saw them doing heaps of upgrades. And J isn't really much more than the old Premium in pricing. But points reclaim for J is quite reasonable, especially at the moment.

3 on 18/1/12 by haydensydney

I was on a DJ flight in Y+ (J-) on one of these refurbed aircraft from DPS-SYD. Much better than the old Y+ BUT found 6+ hours to be too much in those seats - the recline felt awful. Luckily for me, the flight was empty so I got a Y row to myself to stretch out in. Mind you, most people won't be flying the DPS route so on a shorter triangle run i'm sure they will be perfect. I can't wait to give the inflight J service a run too, and compare to a QF 738 J service.

4 on 19/1/12 by AirportAddict

For those that would like a virtual tour of the VA A330 Business Class, head to http://a330-virtual-tour.virginblue.com.au/ for a look (Note: this virtual tour still has the middle seat in business class)

5 on 19/1/12 by Nicole

Are all flights between SYD-MEL offered on their refurbished product?

6 on 19/1/12 by leigh

I just experienced the new policy regarding the exclusivity of the toilet at the front of the plane. I am a loyal customer who flies every week with Virgin.  However cannot quite afford business class. I felt terrible to be told to go the back of the plane since I needed to go desparately.  I think this policy has not been rolled out with consideration of all the possible factors. There are many reasons why the designers of the aircraft put a toilet at the front of the plane. I remember it was once the policy of Virgin to charge double for a disabled passenger and that policy didn't work for them. Now considering Jetstar. Will check their policy.

1 on 19/1/12 by John

In fairness, though, it's fairly standard internationally that economy class passengers aren't allowed to use the business or first class loos. 

2 on 19/1/12 by AirportAddict

Was this on an A330 or a 737? I can understand it would have been a fair way to go to get to the back of the plane on an A330 but i reckon with a 737 its not so bad.

Jetstar is all economy and therefore not likely to stop you from going to the loo at either end unless there is someone in there! If i were you, i wouldnt be swayed to fly jetstar because of a toilet policy. I am not saying that that is how you are minded of course.

When they welcome passengers aboard, i think they should mention which toilets may be used by each class.

1 on 24/1/12 by leigh

I, along with many other people have a mild medical condition that requires me to use the toilet when required.  I was told by Virgin staff to wait while they continued to serve food.  They then moved but one of the staff said "this is ridiculous".  They then all waited for me to finish using the toilet which was difficult for me to actually get out of the toilet.  I have flown on Qantas before and witnessed the staff member turn away from me when exiting the toilet which I think is a very nice policy.  I think this toilet policy will alienate the remaining economy class customers, some of which are very loyal gold/platinum "price conscious" members.  Meanwhile there was only 1 business class customer.  Obviously the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.

I'm not a gambling man but I bet that I am not the only passenger who is upset with this policy.

By the way, the walk is not the problem, it is the access.

1 on 24/1/12 by AirportAddict

Would you like us to all feel dreadfully sorry for you? I suggest you sit in 28C or 28D next time you go on a Virgin Australia 737-800.

2 on 24/1/12 by Al

Well that's a bit of a different story to what you first mentioned Leigh, it was that you needed to go urgently (we all do at some point!) and are a regular flyer. If you have a medical condition that's a bit different and I hope Virign can work with you on that.

Have you tried letting Virgin staff know this when you check in, and carrying a medical certificate from your doctor to confirm this, so they can advise the cabin crew on your flight that you're a 'special exception' and maybe also seat you in the first few rows of economy (row 3 has great legroom!)? You could also show that medical certificate to the cabin crew as well, I like to think they'd make some speicla allowance for you because of your condition if you have some documentation supporting it.

3 on 24/1/12 by David

Hi Leigh - thanks for sharing that there is a medical condition involved in this. I think AusBT reader Al has made some good suggestions and I'd be interested to hear back from you if you try this (or have already done so).

3 on 24/1/12 by Al

I think it's fair that the loo at the front is for business-class only. I was on a Virgin flight today and they announced this over th PA system at the start of the flight. Yes, you're a loyal customer who probably has Platinum because of the frequency of your flights, but if the front loo is for business class then that's the rule. If you waved your Velocity Platinum card and the FA made an exception for you, then why shouldn't they do that for everyone else on the plane, in fact some passengers might try that as well, "You let him use the toilet so why not me?". Sorry Leigh but I am with Virgin on this, rules are rules.

1 on 27/1/12 by KC

On my last VA J class flight the crew permitted a elderly woman to use the FWD toilet. And I saw the same on my first J class flight with them for a young man who had his leg in a brace. Oposed to that is QF who wont let anyone through! The crew stand at that curtain and quard almost like a pitbull, don't dare to touch the curtain or you get told to return to your own cabin. Their attitude is just one of the reasons I ceased using them except as a last resort.

So there are exceptions. Frustrating as your situation seems Leigh, I have witnessed that if you communicate your needs to the crew or check in then you can be accomodated.

But I don't support an open policy of everyone using the FWD toilet, otherwise what is the point of paying for J class, which is predominantly about the enhanced space and comfort, with minimised disruption so you can work or relax.

As for people choosing not ot fly with VA because of this change! Then they are going to have two choices, Jstar or Tiger, and will strugle in other countries as well. I've never seen an airline with a J class style product permit anyone else to use the FWD toilet.

It seems that VA are just falling into line with standard industry practices, which is something I've often seen VA criticised for not doing on this very site.

2 on 27/1/12 by KC

On my last VA J class flight the crew permitted a elderly woman to use the FWD toilet. And I saw the same on my first J class flight with them for a young man who had his leg in a brace. Oposed to that is QF who wont let anyone through! The crew stand at that curtain and quard almost like a pitbull, don't dare to touch the curtain or you get told to return to your own cabin. Their attitude is just one of the reasons I ceased using them except as a last resort.

So there are exceptions. Frustrating as your situation seems Leigh, I have witnessed that if you communicate your needs to the crew or check in then you can be accomodated.

But I don't support an open policy of everyone using the FWD toilet, otherwise what is the point of paying for J class, which is predominantly about the enhanced space and comfort, with minimised disruption so you can work or relax.

As for people choosing not ot fly with VA because of this change! Then they are going to have two choices, Jstar or Tiger, and will strugle in other countries as well. I've never seen an airline with a J class style product permit anyone else to use the FWD toilet.

It seems that VA are just falling into line with standard industry practices, which is something I've often seen VA criticised for not doing on this very site.

7 on 19/1/12 by 777

Ahem... didn't you promise us "full report and photo gallery of Virgin Australia's new business class" today? 

1 on 19/1/12 by David

Hi 777 - LOL! That'll be up tomorrow, we promise :P

8 on 27/6/12 by Kelvin

Darn I still haven't struck one of the new aircraft yet.

1 on 27/6/12 by AirportAddict

What routes have you been on?

1 on 27/6/12 by Kelvin

Only the hub - syd routes with the E190's, however they do run new/refurbished aircraft some days, guess it's just bad luck.

9 on 19/5/14 by aqua

what time slots are the various meal offereings?

 

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