Virgin Australia business class, Melbourne to Hong Kong

Review: Virgin Australia business class, Melbourne to Hong Kong

Route:
Melbourne to Hong Kong
Airline:
VA (Virgin Australia)
Cabin Class:
Business
Aircraft Type:
Airbus A330
Flight:
VA87
Seat:

service:

meals:

seating:

overall:

What's Hot

  • Spacious, private business class seat
  • Superb meals

What's Not

  • Uneven flight schedule

X-Factor

  • The best meals on the Hong Kong flight

Introduction

Virgin Australia has set its sights on Asia for the next stage of the airline's growth, with Hong Kong at the spearhead. Direct flights between Melbourne and Hong Kong have already taken wing, with Sydney-Hong Kong and Brisbane-Hong Kong also on the cards – alongside several cities in mainland China.

So how does Virgin's new Melbourne-Hong Kong service stack up against the incumbents of Qantas and Cathay Pacific?

Lounge

Your Virgin Australia journey from Melbourne to Hong Kong begins at the upmarket Etihad Airways lounge.

Just don't go looking for a la carte dining or a pick-me-up coffee (or something stronger) from the bar, which is closed ahead of Virgin's morning departures.

But it's still a pleasing spread for breakfast or brunch, starting with a standard breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, tomatoes and mushrooms...

... some cereals and lighter plates...

... smoked salmon, yoghurts and fruit salad...

... juice and bakery items...

... and even some muffins to finish off.

Coffee and tea is a self-serve affair.

The spacious Etihad lounge is designed to handle a superjumbo-sized load of passengers, so there's ample room for the more modest demands of Virgin's Airbus A330.

Looking to bring in a fellow traveller? Velocity Platinum and Gold frequent flyers can each sponsor one guest on their flight into the Etihad lounge.

Flight

From the choice of drinks offered after take-off, I opted for the suitably-named Virgin Mary.

It happens that a Bloody Mary is considered one of the best cocktails to enjoy during your flight: its sharp savoury notes remains unchanged and unchallenged by altitude, and the core ingredients of tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce are packed with those flight-friendly 'umami' notes.

However, I take it 'Virgin' style – sans alcohol – when working, and Virgin Australia's spacious and well-appointed business class seat happens to make for a superb office at 30,000 feet.

All that's needed is inflight Internet, which we're told is "coming soon" – although no doubt many would prefer to remain incommunicado above the clouds.

As I was travelling on the inaugural Melbourne-Hong Kong flight there were few special touches, including a fortune cookie for every passenger.

Clearly, I received somebody else's fortune cookie.

Seat

If you haven't already flown Virgin Australia's Airbus A330 or Boeing 777 business class seat – which the airline has christened The Business – all you need to know is that ranks up there with the very best in the world.

We're talking direct aisle access, a seat which converts into a long fully-flat bed, and plenty of personal space around that seat in terms of flat work surfaces and stowage nooks.

This includes a handy pocket for your iPad or other tablet device...

... with USB and AC power (plus a headphone jack) available under the adjacent shelf.

This is a pretty clever design: hook up your USB and AC charge cables and your noise-cancelling headphones at the start of the flight, then drop the lid back into place – there's a gap lined with soft foam so the cables aren't pinched – and it becomes a usable space for your 'office at 40,000 fleet'.

The outer seats are angled towards the window while the paired middle pairs are angled a bit more towards one another, with a perspex privacy screen which slides back in case you want to chat with your seatmate.

Each seat's wrap-around shell adds privacy and makes it a little more of a 'suite'.

Need a nap en route to Hong Kong, or a solid snooze on the overnight leg back to Melbourne? The seat folds down into a fully flat 2 metre bed that's topped with a memory foam mattress, high-grade cotton pillows and doona.

Virgin's standard business class amenity kit comes in a compact Mandarina Duck bag and contains a trio of Ren skincare products.

You can read previous Australian Business Traveller reviews of Virgin Australia's business class flights between Sydney and Perth, Sydney-Los Angeles, Brisbane-Los Angeles and Melbourne-Los Angeles (note that the Los Angeles flights are made on Virgin's Boeing 777-300ER jets which include an inflight bar not available available on the smaller Airbus A330).

Meal

I've travelled to Hong Kong more times than I care to count, with both Qantas and Cathay Pacific, but the meals on this flight – created by Virgin Australia's resident chef Luke Mangan – would rate as the best I've ever enjoyed on a Hong Kong flight.

The menu is a mix of standards for Western palate plus Asian favourites.

First up, starters: a light pork & shrimp wonton soup served with bok choy and bamboo shoots...

... or a roast beetroot salad with chickpeas, sweet raisins, pomegranate and crumbles of yoghurt-based labneh cheese.

(The third starter choice was poached chicken with egg noodles, black mushrooms, soy and sesame.)

On to mains: always finding duck hard to resist, I zeroed in on the barbecue roast duck with vermicelli and mustard greens.

Other options includes braised lamb shank, steamed barramundi and mushroom & ricotta ravioli.

This left just enough room to sample dessert: here are the cinnamon-dusted churros with dark chocolate sauce and crème fraiche...

... and Serendipity ice cream, available in Belgian white chocolate or black sesame flavours.

(If savoury is more your thing, the cheeseboard includes Tasmanian Heidi Tilsert, Victorian Milawa Camembert and a Saint Agur blue from France, accompanied by quince paste, grapes and crackers.)

To round it off – or to enjoy any time during the flight – there's Nespresso coffee accompanied by biscuits or Valrhona chocolate.

Closer to Hong Kong, the second meal service included a starter of dumplings...

... and a platter with rice, steamed pork bun, flatbread and accompaniments, sufficient to keep hunger pangs at bay until tucking into a proper dinner in Hong Kong (given my flight's 5.20pm arrival time).

Summary

For the beginning of its push into Asia, Virgin Australia is putting its best foot forward. Combine a superb business class seat with great meals and service, and all that remains is for the airline to lock down a daily service with more consistent scheduling – something with Virgin tells us it's already pursuing.

David Flynn travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of Virgin Australia

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

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.
 

23 Comments

  • Victor Teng

    victort

    26 Jul, 2017 08:02 am

    I've still yet to experience Virgin's great business class yet, but fingers crossed a destination opens up on my near future travel which will allow me to try this. Great review, thanks!
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  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    26 Jul, 2017 08:24 am

    Virgin Australia, get that service up to daily and you could really be some powerful competition to Hong Kong.
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  • lionelhutz

    lionelhutz

    26 Jul, 2017 09:06 am

    Looks good, they just need to get more frequent flights, including an overnight flight each way. Unfortunately until HKG finishes building a third runway, that's the hard bit.
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  • RK

    Ryan K

    26 Jul, 2017 09:29 am

    This looks fantastic, surely the best business class between Australia and Hong Kong, if not Asia.
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  • Tancho

    Tancho

    26 Jul, 2017 10:21 am

    Looks like a good product. I've only done J on Virgin domestic and I found that to be pretty good. No international out of ADL though.
    Have to say the duck looks pretty exceptional for an inflight meal.
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  • David Ryan

    David69

    26 Jul, 2017 10:25 am

    I've flown "The Business" a few times coast to coast and it's certainly the best business class I've experienced. I'm looking forward to finding a reason to fly to Hong Kong.
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  • Johnsy

    Johnsy

    26 Jul, 2017 03:03 pm

    Shopping and food isn't reason enough ? ;) 
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    David69

  • Steven Beale

    melbtraveler

    26 Jul, 2017 11:40 am

    If only they flew Friday's out of Melbourne and Sunday's out of Hong Kong
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  • Yvan J Drake

    MRYJDrake

    26 Jul, 2017 11:58 am

    VA just found themselves top of my list for my end of year trip... 
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  • bsb

    bsb

    26 Jul, 2017 12:20 pm

    Looks nice, but until they can toP the Q Flounge, I won't be swayed...unless the prices is COMPELLING. 
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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    26 Jul, 2017 12:48 pm

    I assume you mean the Qantas Lounge in HKG.  Just about anything tops the QF Business Lounge in MEL and the EY Lounge is far superior.

    In HKG VA uses the Hong Kong Airlines Lounge which is OK but a fair distance from the gates VA would use.  I understand a new lounge in being built by Hong Kong Airlines currently which should overcome this.
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  • bsb

    bsb

    26 Jul, 2017 06:05 pm

    No I mean the First Class lounge in Melbourne. The First lounges in HKG from CX are equally as awesome
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  • tronixstuff

    tronixstuff

    26 Jul, 2017 01:11 pm

    All very nice, but we're still using CX. You can't beat frequency of service and minimal disruption in case of IRROPS. However the Y fares have looked very good, great for tourists and the time-rich. VA will need daily flights at the least for business travellers to take them seriously. 
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  • Yota Takeshima

    japanair772

    26 Jul, 2017 02:43 pm

    Does VOZ have any plans for SYD-HKG?
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  • Yvan J Drake

    MRYJDrake

    26 Jul, 2017 02:44 pm

    It would be a safe assumption that they do, but nothing has been announced as far as I know
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  • David Flynn

    David

    26 Jul, 2017 07:07 pm

    Yes, Virgin Australia is hopeful of Sydney-Hong Kong as well as Brisbane-Hong Kong, but it's all going to come down to slots and aircraft (although the later easier to come by than the former)
    https://www.ausbt.com.au/virgin-australia-plans-sydney-brisbane-flights-to-hong-kong
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  • mcglynp

    mcglynp

    26 Jul, 2017 02:53 pm

    The business is a fantastic product,  and I really like what VA are doing in focusing on HK.  But VA need to sort out the details.  You cant book a ticket to London connecting on VS on these flights,  and the flight has either basic economy or J.  Would be better to have some space x options ( not just the one exit row ) ,  or even PE.   But its early days,  and this is a good option of VA.   
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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    26 Jul, 2017 03:06 pm

    Premium Economy is very unlikely whilst A330s are also doing trans-continental work.  QF avoids W on its A330s as they say demand on regional routes is quite limited; I wonder if VA believe the same.

    Combined route to LHR with VS is unlikely at this stage as VA and VS both do Aust-UK using SQ (and EY in VA's case).  It is possible to buy a RTW ticket using VA and VS however.
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  • Georgina MONAGHAN

    GigiPk

    26 Jul, 2017 03:00 pm

    I am hopeful of SYD to HK sooner rather than later. Intend going to China early next year & at present have no intent of flying to Melbourne to catch flight to HK! Is good VA intends to fly to "other cities within China, as I will be flying to Shanghai as part of my trip. Etihad Lounge is good, when I flew to / from LA last month, not as crowded as NZ Lounge. 
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  • Johnsy

    Johnsy

    26 Jul, 2017 03:04 pm

    I've flown the old style business to HKG and LAX a few times and cant wait to try the new upgraded version.. Cheers for the review.
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  • Alex Dobrovic

    AlexD

    26 Jul, 2017 03:20 pm

    Just flew Qantas business To HK. The onflight food was very poor - basically low level food court stuff. Outbound I had something called Persian chicken which sounded good but was a disappointment. Hunks of chicken in a semispicy sauce were served on very soggy Mograbia (large couscous). Drinks were good. Unbelievably each passenger was allocated just one bottle of water and after that water came from the "tap" and we all know how that water gets on the plane. HK lounge was however excellent but more attention needs to be placed to the onboard catering,
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  • Ross  Anderson

    serfty

    26 Jul, 2017 03:42 pm

    "Just don't go looking for a la carte dining or a pick-me-up coffee (or something stronger) from the bar, which is closed ahead of Virgin's morning departures."

    hmmm ... when I have taken VA23 to LAX in the Mornings, Bar service in the EY lounge has been available.
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  • Ross  Anderson

    serfty

    26 Jul, 2017 03:43 pm

    ... sparkling wine / beer/ mixed drinks / cider was available.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    26 Jul, 2017 07:05 pm

    The bar was unattended ahead of our VA87 flight, which had a departure time of 9.40am (compared to VA23's 11.30am) – there was even a sign in front of the espresso machine directing passengers in need of caffeine to the self-serve coffee machine near the breakfast buffet – so perhaps those two hours make the difference in staffing? Maybe they figure few travellers at 9am want anything stronger than a shot of coffee :) [Of course, they'd be wrong]
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  • Ross  Anderson

    serfty

    27 Jul, 2017 09:42 am

    Hmmm .... I'd be guessing that won't last too long.  It a part of the generally expected experiance.
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  • Polbathic

    Polbathic

    26 Jul, 2017 03:56 pm

    To reeves35, Air NZ do PE on AKL-HKG 777 and do very well with it, its pretty booked most of the time, flight times are comparable as a "regional" flight!
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  • rrysp

    rrysp

    26 Jul, 2017 04:30 pm

    Completely agree with the review after flying 'the business' from Aus to lax.
    Hard product world leading and food/ service miles ahead of other ME and Asian bus class I have flown lately. Very lucky to have a service like this on our doorstep. Only negative I can think for the a330 vs the 777 is that
    I flew with a partner and found the middle pair seats to be fairly isolated in comparison to other bus class seats. Found it hard to talk with partner and spent a few trips to bar in order to chat and eat together. (Turned out to be a positive exp for us) Without the in flight bar on the a330 Id say the hk flights to be better suited to solo travellers.
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  • Cap'nDave

    Cap'nDave

    26 Jul, 2017 08:39 pm

    Great review, I am looking forward to using this service as soon as I can.
    Will Virgin Australia carry pets (Dog in my case) on this Hong Kong to Melbourne flight especially important now as Melbourne is now the only entry port for animals going into Quarantine?
    I would be grateful if anyone can advise me about this.
    Many thanks,
    Cap'n Dave
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  • melbcollege

    melbcollege

    27 Jul, 2017 09:39 am

    Love Virgin Australia new business class. I love VA long haul on board service as well! Hopefully Virgin starts Beijing flight soon. 
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  • Robert Follis

    robfol

    27 Jul, 2017 11:35 am

    Found The Business beds to LAX rather narrow when sleeping and I'm not that fat (-: Heard this from a few others. Rest of facilities pretty good. Surprised at the downmarket drinks choice in the flight bar, surely VA can afford premium spirits. 
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  • mike kearney

    Bonzer Mike

    30 Jul, 2017 03:01 pm

    Well done David good report  at last a solid competitor to CX and QF both of these airlines need a real challenger in Virgin.
    Their in flight services are not very good especialy for the price you pay for your ticket.
     
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  • lw1962

    lw1962

    1 Sep, 2017 09:28 pm

    David, please confirm that the Etihad Lounge is open for access by J passengers on VA87 at 10:30am? We're flying down from Sydney and hope to enjoy a quick cuppa here before we board our flight to Hong Kong. Thanks for another excellent review, always love reading your well articulated articles.
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18 Dec, 2017 08:29 am

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