Flight review: Virgin Australia Economy X

Flight review: Virgin Australia Economy X

Virgin Australia’s new Economy X service allows passengers to escape the confines of regular economy with extra legroom, priority security screening, priority boarding and dedicated space in the overhead lockers.

On longer journeys to Los Angeles, these flyers also enjoy priority check-in, are guaranteed their first meal choice from the menu and are provided with noise-cancelling headphones to use with the inflight entertainment system, rather than the typical economy headsets.

It’s certainly not comparable to a full business class experience with airport lounge access and upgraded inflight dining and service – instead, being a good fit for business travellers needing extra space to work or seeking a better-than-economy experience without the full pointy end price tag.

Australian Business Traveller put Economy X to the test on a recent return flight between Sydney and Brisbane: here’s how it stacked up.

Virgin Australia Economy X: costs and bookings

What you’ll pay for an Economy X seat varies from flight to flight, but always comes as an add-on to the price of your regular economy ticket. This means you’ll continue to book your Getaway, Elevate or Freedom economy fare as usual, and can then purchase Economy X on top.

This can be done either when booking your flight or via Virgin Australia’s ‘manage my booking’ portal for an existing booking.

The latter proves handy for business travellers stuck buying the lowest-cost economy tickets using their corporate travel agent or company credit card, as the traveller can purchase the Economy X seat themselves if desired, without needing to ‘change’ the fare which typically comes with extra charges.

On the shortest domestic hops such as Sydney to Brisbane or Melbourne, expect to pay $29 per person per one-way flight, while on longer routes like Melbourne-Perth and across the Tasman, the price is $49.

Sydney-Perth and Brisbane-Perth flights see that nudged slightly higher to $59, topping out at $149 between Australia and Los Angeles.

Velocity Platinum frequent flyers are the exception to the rule and can select Economy X seats at no charge on domestic and short international flights, such as to New Zealand, and can do the same for anybody else on the same booking too.

Just make sure the Platinum member’s frequent flyer details are attached to the reservation before selecting seats to ensure that the usual fees are waived – although the sticker price will still apply on flights to and from Los Angeles.

Virgin Australia Economy X: seating options

The location of Economy X seats varies between aircraft types, but on the Boeing 737-800 – the workhorse of Virgin Australia’s domestic and short haul international fleet – you’ll find them in rows 3, 4 and 5, along with rows 13 and 14 at the emergency exits.

Keep your eyes peeled for the purple-coloured seats when choosing your spot or completing online check-in, as these correspond to Economy X:

While all Economy X seats feature extra legroom, our pick of the bunch are those in row 3, with nobody in front of you to recline their seat and plenty of space to stretch out:

When row 3 isn’t available, our next preference falls to the exit rows…

… and with a generous seat pitch of 38 inches, we were still able to work on our tablet when the passenger in front had fully-reclined their seat.

(For travellers who BYO noise-cancelling or over-ear headphones, note that these can’t be worn in the exit rows during take-off or landing for safety reasons, but can be worn during the flight in those exit seats or from gate to gate in the other Economy X rows.)

If you can’t nab a bulkhead or exit row seat, rows 4 and 5 become the go-to choices: offering three inches of extra space over a regular economy seat…

… and again, even when the passenger in front has fully reclined, your knees still aren’t touching the seatback:

Compare that to a standard economy seat where taller travellers often find their knees squished in before their forward neighbour has tilted their seat rearward…

… and suddenly, the prospect of paying $29-59 for some actual kneeroom on a domestic flight doesn’t look so bad: and continues to be complimentary for Velocity Platinum flyers, who have long enjoyed stretching out in row three.

Virgin Australia Economy X: service

Along with extra legroom onboard, an Economy X ticket also buys access to the priority security screening and priority boarding lanes on the ground – but only in selected airports where these facilities are available.

Fast-track security lines exist in Brisbane, Melbourne (gates 1-10 only), Perth, the Gold Coast and Ayers Rock, but are notably absent in Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, and elsewhere across the country. Yes, even in Sydney, you’ll need to join the back of the regular queue.

(Velocity Gold, Platinum and The Club members can access Premium Entry in Sydney to skip the lines and waltz directly into the lounge, but this isn’t an option for ‘regular’ Economy X passengers.)

Priority boarding is available at a wider variety of airports – this time, Sydney included – although none of the boarding gate signage we observed had been updated to reflect priority boarding privileges for Economy X passengers, with Economy X instead mentioned during boarding announcements:

Also promoted is “preferred overhead locker space”, signified via stickers affixed within the lockers above these rows, but the use of which wasn’t ‘policed’: so realistically, anybody could have placed their bags here before wandering off to their seat elsewhere.

That’s where the priority boarding part of the equation comes in handy, as Economy X passengers are some of the first travellers to take their seats, making it likely that space in the overhead lockers will still be available.

But despite all the business-class-like priority treatment, keep in mind that you’re still flying in economy – so expect to pay for soft drinks and alcohol outside of the 5-7pm ‘happy hour’ on weekdays, or for anything more substantial to eat than the complimentary snack, even at traditional meal times.

Virgin Australia Economy X: the verdict

Core to the Economy X experience is extra legroom, and on that count, Virgin Australia doesn’t disappoint: especially in the bulkhead and exit rows, but also in rows 4 and 5.

However, with priority security screening offered in only five domestic airports – Sydney notably excluded – priority boarding lanes not currently signed for Economy X and access to “preferred” overhead lockers not enforced, travellers may realistically notice very little difference to the regular economy experience until they take their seat.

It’s for this reason we'd suggest purchasing Economy X only for the added legroom on domestic flights, and if you happen to be departing from an airport that does have priority screening and boarding facilities, consider these to be a bonus before stretching out on board.

Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

29 comments

  • Robert  K

    RobertK

    1 Jun, 2017 05:26 am

    Not worth the price as there is no difference and you still get traveller at the back of the cabin placing hand luggage in tithe dedicated bins , seat and service has not changes it marketing ploy 
    No member give thanks

  • Di Ingelse

    Di

    1 Jun, 2017 09:59 am

    As you get priority boarding, you should be able to get on the plane before the passenger at the back can get at those bins.
    No member give thanks

  • Brackenboy

    Brackenboy

    2 Jun, 2017 03:44 pm

    The first sentence in this article said there was dedicated space in the overhead lockers.
    No member give thanks

  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    1 Jun, 2017 06:05 am

    I'm a platinum and I now don't mind sitting in row 4 because I have room to put my single bag under the seat and also have extra legroom, the down side is my wife is a companion gold, so when she books a ticket separately and we link the 2 tickets she has to pay the additional fee to sit next to her husband.
    No member give thanks

  • AnthonyvB

    AnthonyvB

    1 Jun, 2017 10:38 am

    I flew to Cairns on Sunday via Brisbane from Adelaide.  As a little test I booked 3A for Adelaide to Brisbane then 4A for Brisbane to Cairns.  Must say I now prefer row 4 to row 3.  A decent tray table to work from and if nobody sitting next to you ability to lift the arm rest.  Was very impressed with the leg room
    Member who gave thanks

    Carmilla5

  • GBRGB

    GBRGB

    1 Jun, 2017 07:54 am

    What a great idea, $29 is nothing, I hope it goes well for VA and it might encourage others to follow but if I would imagine on a lot of domestic routes most of the seats will be taken by Plat flyers so I don't know if the financial rewards will work out, time will tell.
    No member give thanks

  • Tancho

    Tancho

    1 Jun, 2017 11:44 am

    I agree. The price is definitely worth that extra bit of leg room, especially the eastern states to Perth sector.
    I think a lot of companies have that "6 or 8 hours and under economy" rule which makes this appealing and affordable for that 4 hour flight.
    No member give thanks

  • Serg

    Serg

    1 Jun, 2017 10:27 am

    " $149 between Australia and Los Angeles." - very democratic price! Kudos to Virgin.
    No member give thanks

  • josh559

    josh559

    2 Jun, 2017 02:15 am

    its stupid   $ 149    yet on lastminute.com.au & Delta.com both FREE seat 39K  $149 on virgin australia  yet DL 6799 as VA 1 FREE  
    No member give thanks

  • Serg

    Serg

    2 Jun, 2017 07:38 am

    I personally understaood nothing in your cryptography. IMHO $149 for such a long leg is great price to get more room for legs so to say. I personally would happily pay such price to secure my seat at reservation time rather than relate on last minute deal or uncertainty of upgrade.
    No member give thanks

  • brebbles

    brebbles

    1 Jun, 2017 10:44 am

    A slight tangent - would the cost of paying for an Economy X seat out of your own pocket when your company has paid the base economy fare be tax deductable?
    No member give thanks

  • Doubleplatinum

    Doubleplatinum
    Banned

    1 Jun, 2017 01:49 pm

    No chance, how would it? You think the taxpayers should be slugged towards getting you a nicer seat?
    No member give thanks

  • Serg

    Serg

    1 Jun, 2017 02:47 pm

    @Doubleplatinum - but you "get slugged" by supporting (through tax deduction) business class airfare for numerous CEO or I missing something?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    1 Jun, 2017 02:00 pm

    Brebbles: The ATO does permit income tax deductions for various work-related travel expenses under specific circumstances, but this is something you would need to discuss with an accountant or qualified tax advisor, who could help you determine whether the purchase of an extra legroom seat on a work-related trip would be deductible - such as if you were able to get extra work done during that flight to earn your income because you had more space to do so, or because you were able to get onto the plane earlier using priority boarding to begin (or continue) that work sooner. (This isn't to be taken as financial advice: merely suggestions of scenarios that could be discussed with somebody qualified to give such advice.)

    Member who gave thanks

    brebbles

  • brebbles

    brebbles

    1 Jun, 2017 02:06 pm

    Thanks ChrisCh - definitely worth seeking out qualified advice.  I figured it would be along the lines of whether it legitimately allows extra work to be done.
    No member give thanks

  • Serg

    Serg

    1 Jun, 2017 02:43 pm

    I fail to see any problem. You may argue that if not extra leg room you would not fly at all and this job never will be done at first place. AFAIK you can deduct travel experience at 100% rate as long as your travel is solely work related - i.e. not combination of work and holiday where you have to deduct only work related "portion" and this is where water became incredibly murky.
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  • Serg

    Serg

    1 Jun, 2017 02:50 pm

    Expences not experience; bloody autocorrector!
    No member give thanks

  • THR

    THR

    2 Jun, 2017 07:11 am

    Try "expenses" next time.
    No member give thanks

  • Serg

    Serg

    2 Jun, 2017 07:31 am

    "Try "expenses" next time." - indeed :-)))))
    No member give thanks

  • GregXL

    GregXL

    1 Jun, 2017 12:07 pm

    This certainly makes me more likely to book with VA for Y flights.  After many flights in exit row seats on wide bodies I can do without being near the galley or the toilets where other passengers will come and stand on my feet!  Also a bonus to have the extra seat width available in some rows due the tray table not being in the armrest. Interesting that VA have made this move immediately after QF reconfigured their 737 fleet.

    No member give thanks

  • Tristan Reed

    trisreed

    1 Jun, 2017 12:11 pm

    Flew in the "X Factor" seats on a 737 from Sydney to Perth last month (before they were launched as such). I'd agree with the above posters; I was first (or close to it) on the flight but by the time we took off I had to fish through a ridiculous amount of bags to find my tiny one in the locker above (and there was an empty seat in the three as well)! 

    Legs are much more comfortable than "regular"economy, but in row 4 I was still afraid to use my laptop (barely enough room for a 15" Macbook) as one stray recline could end badly.
    No member give thanks

  • Adam

    ads086

    1 Jun, 2017 01:35 pm

    There is a security screening lane located on the arrivals level of T2 which caters for the smaller regional aircraft that aren't screened before arriving into Sydney who then connect onto larger aircraft that require passenger screening. If you don't like the long lines upstairs, this can be a handy thing to know. Through the security check then up the escalators and you're in the gates just past the food court.
    Member who gave thanks

    sbmcmahon91

  • josh559

    josh559

    2 Jun, 2017 02:03 am

    Lol  $149 for Economy X  yet its FREE on Delta.com & Lastminute.com.au  DL 6799 as VA  1  
    Member who gave thanks

    Carmilla5

  • THR

    THR

    2 Jun, 2017 07:13 am

    Next two flights are booked 3A/3B; I think it's a great price and offer for the legroom alone. 
    No member give thanks

  • Jon W

    Jon W

    2 Jun, 2017 02:16 pm

    As a VA WP this basically disincentivises me to ever book VA Y on international legs again. Pretty much the only benefit was a seat towards the front of the plane, and now that's gone unless I want to pay an extra $300 for a round trip. No thank you.

    Due to the lounge changes at SYD and this development and decline in onboard service Delta (or ANZ) is now a better airline for VA elites to fly across the Pacific than VA itself!
    No member give thanks

  • BOF

    BOF

    2 Jun, 2017 03:56 pm

    PER to SYD soon in 3A that was booked as extra leg room prior to Economy X. Will be interested to see how the priority security and boarding goes.
    No member give thanks

  • mitchimus

    mitchimus

    2 Jun, 2017 05:48 pm

    I flew Syd - Melb on Tuesday morning in 5F and found the extra leg room great. I was able to stow some stuff under the seat in front and access it easily during the flight, while also having room to stretch. I think it's a great initiative. Only wish they had more than 1 row of on the A330, as I am usually on Per-Syd flights. I guess this may make that flight in the sardine like 737 bearable.
    No member give thanks

  • quick_dry

    quick_dry

    2 Jun, 2017 05:55 pm

    As another VA WP for many years, I can see this is a great deal for non-elite status passengers, but it is worrying to VA frequent flyers since it makes it even more difficult to secure the preferred seats. Continuing the trend of VA diluting upper tier benefits, I know quite a few people thinking of switching and a good incentive from QF would see many jump ship.

    As Jon W said, it's a shame that partner carriers are better options to the actual carrier.

    Also concerning is that in this article and others on the Economy X seats, any critical post is heavily downvote - which I find really strange on a site aimed at frequent flyers (and the most likely to have VA status), it makes no sense that the core audience would vote down a change that negatively impacts on them, and upvote something that benefits infrequent flyers. Is it fair to call shenanigans? 
    Member who gave thanks

    Carmilla5

  • Robert Greenburg

    Bob Greenberg

    2 Jun, 2017 05:56 pm

    Wow I glad to see others have noticed that some obnoxious passangers use the lockers above row 3 or even business class as they are boarding rather than the locker above their seat. I did mention it to Virgin once and they said they were unaware of the pratice.

    As far this Economy X mess goes for gold and platinum members there is now no benefit being loyal to a airline when anyone can buy the same privileges for $ 29.00.  Virgin may sell a few extra upgrades however will lose their loyal corporate clients to Qantas. In our office alone this week we have booked 7 QF flights for staff that normally fly Virgin purely based on seat allocation - row 3 sold out to Economy X. There is even a hash tag #economyxsux doing the rounds. 
    No member give thanks

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19 Jul, 2019 10:42 pm

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