On board Virgin Australia

On board Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia has just received its sixth new Airbus A330, with the modern twin-aisle jet winging its way from Airbus in Toulouse, France to Sydney with a brief Singapore stop-over.

Australian Business Traveller joined the Singapore-Sydney leg of this delivery flight on Thursday September 25, along with a handful of journalists, Virgin Australia executives and the airline’s ‘resident head chef’ Luke Mangan.

We joined Virgin Australia’s newest Airbus A330 – registration VH-XFJ, with the flight tagged as VA9014 – at the private JetQuay terminal of Singapore’s Changi Airport.

This premium terminal is typically used for private jets as well as VIP guests on commercial flights.

Virgin’s factory-fresh A330 was a short bus ride away, and once inside we immediately noticed that ‘new plane’ smell (it’s like a new car smell, but around $252 million dollars more expensive).

While this was the sixth new A330 purchased by Virgin Australia, this particular jet was also the 1,561st produced by Airbus, making it easily the company’s most popular twin-aisle aircraft.

(Other airlines flying the A330 family in Aussie skies include Qantas, Jetstar, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Fiji Airways, Hawaiian Air, Singapore Airlines and Thai.)

All Virgin Australia A330 delivery flights carry a crew compliment of at least two pilots – there were four captains on this trip – plus eight cabin crew and three engineers, who undertook final checks on the new jet at Toulouse before it was handed over to the airline.

Being on a delivery flight is something like a private jet experience, with barely 20 people sharing a plane built to carry 274 passengers.

The eight hour flight was a relaxed affair, punctuated by media interviews with Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti, who explained to Australian Business Traveller that the A330 was “the perfect aircraft” for his airline.

“The thing I like about the A330s, apart from being very efficient and very comfortable, is the flexibility the A330-200 gives us in terms of range and something that people often forget, which is yield management.”

“The larger A330-300 has all those extra rows of economy seats which makes it a harder plane to fill. So the A330-200 is the perfect aircraft for us, and buying them really was a no-brainer.”

Catering on the delivery flight was a special menu literally cooked up by Luke Mangan and served with matching wines.

“The dishes are all drawn from the menus we’re currently flying” Mangan told Australian Business Traveller, “and the ones we’re having today are are my favourite dishes.”

To begin, we enjoyed a warm spiced Peking duck broth which Mangan explained “is designed to get your appetite going while we prepare the first course.”

The choice of starters included king prawns with corn, smoked paprika and chives, dressed with a salsa which the crew mix just before serving and finished with fresh herbs.

… and tandoori spiced lamb with sweet potato, chickpea and coriander salad dressed with a cucumber and mint raita.

For mains, passengers chose between a barramundi fillet with bok choy, ginger, soy and sesame dressing; and braised short rib with shiitake mushrooms, pumpkin puree, broad beans and tarragon.

We opted for the light but richly textured barramundi.

For dessert, a ‘floating island’ of meringue with fresh berries, figs and citrus with crème anglaise poured over the top.

Then came some sweet treats to top it all off.

In the last hours before we reached Sydney a second service was offered including fresh cut fruit, a Reuben-style toasted sandwich with pickles; sweet tarts; and a tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil toasted sandwich (below).

With the plane touching down in Sydney just before 8pm, Virgin Australia’s A330 fleet was now complete.

The new jet is expected to begin commercial flights later this week, joining its siblings on the transcontinental route between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Also read:

David Flynn travelled to Singapore as a guest of Virgin Australia.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

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.
 

29 comments

  • Doubleplatinum

    Doubleplatinum
    Banned

    29 Sep, 2014 08:01 am

    The still haven't gotten rid of Mangan for the food!! You reap what you sow

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  • Fqtv

    Zac

    29 Sep, 2014 09:53 pm

    Seriously? I think the food has been excellent these past few years. My only gripe would be when the caterers don't cook the tougher cuts long enough (and a some penny-pinching starting to show). From a menu perspective, there have been some standout dishes I'd be happy to get in a restaurant.

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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    29 Sep, 2014 08:15 am

    Come on VA with that international route announcement!

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  • RK

    Ryan K

    29 Sep, 2014 09:44 am

    Hear, hear! I'm guessing either SYD-HKG or PER-SIN.

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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    29 Sep, 2014 10:28 am

    I'm bias, but I hope it's PER-SIN just to prove a point to QF here in WA.

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  • Edward Dowling

    edowling

    29 Sep, 2014 10:42 am

    SYD/MEL to HKG would be great. Would bring back London route on Virgin-family metal. 

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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    29 Sep, 2014 11:13 am

    Safe to say that's it's going to be one or the other!

    And VAs new route is....Adelaide to Shanghai!!!

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  • eminere

    eminere

    29 Sep, 2014 09:12 am

    Aircalin also flies the A330 to Australia. 

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  • ILIKEPLANES101

    ILIKEPLANES101

    29 Sep, 2014 09:40 am

     

    Yes they missed a few MH and MK among them. But it did say included...

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  • ILIKEPLANES101

    ILIKEPLANES101

    29 Sep, 2014 09:41 am

    And EY

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  • ILIKEPLANES101

    ILIKEPLANES101

    29 Sep, 2014 09:46 am

    And eva air shanghai airlines china eastern eva air asiana korean air etc..

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    29 Sep, 2014 10:19 am

    Is that the kind of meal they serve on the East/West intercontinental service?

    If it is then they're certainly a lot better than Qantas.

    Or is this a promotional flight, where they've cherry picked the best bits of their service to provide an impression of their inflight service, which in reality will never be offered as described because the length of an intercontinental is never long enough?

    Does Virgin offer flights to Singapore on its own metal, where such an international-grade service would be offered?

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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    29 Sep, 2014 10:26 am

    I've had that style meal on BNE-PER, in fact almost an identical meal.

    It's the best domestic business experience I've ever had - wouldn't be surprised if the same service would be offered on PER-SIN since all classes on VAs A330 are very good imo.

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    29 Sep, 2014 10:39 am

    Chris_PER, with multiple courses and a pudding service?

    If so I stand corrected. 

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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    29 Sep, 2014 11:05 am

    Yes, multiple courses.  I don't remember the canope-style dessert trays - although I was stuffed by the 3rd course or so!

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  • Brendon Williams

    Kiwiscrew

    29 Sep, 2014 11:40 am

    He is correct, they advertise this as well, any flight over three hours on these and you get the three courses, food it great

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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    29 Sep, 2014 12:58 pm

    I just noticed too that the salt and pepper shakers are in the shape of the opera house!

    I didn't have that.

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    29 Sep, 2014 01:14 pm

    Thanks Chris. I just didn't like the idea that Virgin might be misrepresenting itself and with this site as a facilitator for that misrepresentation. 

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  • djcz

    djcz

    29 Sep, 2014 10:39 am

    I have No idea why But I have a feeling that if they announce an International Route it will be BNE-SIN OR BNE-HKG to give Cathay, Qantas and Singapore a run for their money with the new Business class coming out.

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  • Joshb

    Joshb

    29 Sep, 2014 10:55 am

    I don't see VA competing with SQ on any route, doesn't make sense given their partnership. 

    Which would leave HK as they're remaining option, most likely ex SYD but also possibly ex BNE to consolidate some of their international services now that LAX is going daily from there from next month

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  • djcz

    djcz

    29 Sep, 2014 11:12 am

    Yea True, I totally forgot about that.

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  • Patrick Donnolley

    parick

    29 Sep, 2014 11:59 am

    Actually a while a go back when Virgin Australia was Virgin Blue and V Australia, there were plans to fly to HK. In fact the even had the Traffic Rights to fly between BNE-HK. Though this was when the only wide-body was the 777-300ER.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    29 Sep, 2014 12:21 pm

    They may not compete with SQ, but might instead run a fifth flight to complement their schedule. SQ has no mid-morning PER-SIN and no mid-afternoon SIN-PER, so it's possible for VA to slip in a flight there to complement rather than compete.

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  • Joshb

    Joshb

    29 Sep, 2014 12:30 pm

    To run this schedule daily I believe they would need 2 A332's and a lot of ground time

    Plus if QF can't run an A333 profitably on the route I don't see how VA will be able to. I doubt the difference in profitability would have been the difference between an A333 and A332, otherwise, presumably, QF would have done that.

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  • watson374

    watson374

    29 Sep, 2014 04:13 pm

    You only need one A330, with lots of PER groundtime, which can then be worked into the transcon schedule. It is just possible to run a MEL-PER-SIN-PER-MEL, first leg early in the morning (e.g. dep MEL 0700) and last leg redeye.

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  • Phillip Murray

    PJM

    29 Sep, 2014 02:09 pm

    I see some previous written comments regarding possible future VA flights between PER - SIN and vice versa. From my personal observations as a business traveller between Perth and Asean destinations (approx 4 RT flights per month) I have noticed and found that especially in WA the market for travel is fairly high most of the time. This is due to the large amount of FIFO workers that work in WA and either live or travel abroad for their R&R breaks. This is the type of market that should be tapped into because of its consistency and also most companies provide travel cost assistance for FIFO workers. From my observations that if VA had a flight from PER - SIN departing at 12.45pm daily and arrive SIN 17.40pm every FIFO and holiday traveller would be able to make it to there destination on the 1 ticket and less transit time in the 1 day of travel, VA would absolutely blitz the leg of the market........believe I have seen these FIFO workers hanging around Perth and Changi for hours on end wasting travel time. But the key is that the perth flight departs Perth at 12.25pm (not before) as many of these FIFO workers travel down from various work sites in the morning domestic arrivals into Perth. As for the return leg VA can either commence a SIN - (either BNE or MEL) for this aircraft to fly the golden triange as such, due to the fact that SQ has most time slots covered for the SIN - PER leg on a daily basis.

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  • hutch

    hutch

    30 Sep, 2014 04:20 am

    If Virgin can avoid it, I don't see a need for them to launch any Asian route. They have a strong partner in Asia with unlimited rights and a lower cost base. Launching a new route is costly and yields aren't great due to overcapacity to Asia. Unless they get some code share with CX, Hong Kong would be hard... a daily V Atlantic flight ain't much feed.

    Probably better using bird domestically. 

    If they got the right plane, I reckon SFO could be well suited to Virgin. Good yields and feed.

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  • gippsflyer

    gippsflyer

    3 Oct, 2014 05:12 pm

    "we immediately noticed that ‘new plane’ smell (it’s like a new car smell, but around $252 million dollars more expensive)."

    Comedy gold David! Thanks for the laugh :-)

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  • Grant Williams

    gwilli1

    3 Oct, 2014 09:53 pm

    Id love to see some competition on AUS-NRT/HND. 

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