Virgin Australia launches Economy X 'extra legroom' seats

Virgin Australia launches Economy X 'extra legroom' seats

Virgin Australia will offer economy class passengers more legroom, priority boarding and exclusive access to overhead locker space as part of its new Economy X service launching on domestic flights from May 2017.

Other perks will include premium check-in and noise-cancelling headphones, as well as a 'guaranteed first meal choice' on flights where a full meal is served.

Economy X pricing will start from $29 extra on short domestic flights such as Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane, with the price increasing as flights become longer.

Trans-Tasman flights as well as Melbourne-Perth will cost $49, with Sydney-Perth and Brisbane-Perth at $59, topping out at $149 between Australia and Los Angeles.

Velocity Platinum frequent flyers will be able to pre-select Economy X seats free of charge on domestic and trans-Tasman flights when making their booking or any time before check-in, along with any companions travelling on the same booking.

However, they will no longer enjoy exclusive access to the prized row 3 on the Boeing 737s – that row, with its sit-down-and-stretch-out legroom, will also be available to savvy economy travellers regardless of status, provided they pay the Economy X surcharge and know to select a seat in row 3.

"People tell us they want speed on the ground and space in the air," said Virgin Australia Airlines Group CEO John Thomas in launching the Economy X package at Sydney Airport today.

"We believe this will revolutionise the domestic economy travel experience."

The Economy X package will replace the airline's current Space+ option, which starts at $20 but offers fewer inclusions and is limited to the emergency exit rows of Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737-800s and other domestic aircraft.

The Space+ rows on Virgin Australia's Boeing 737-800

Virgin will convert the first three rows of the economy cabin (rows 3-5) on its workhorse Boeing 737-800 jets into an Economy X zone...

... with "a minimum of three inches (7.62cm) extra legroom" or 34 inches of pitch over the 31 inches of regular economy seats.

The move was exclusively tipped by Australian Business Traveller in December 2016 following a series of closed-door focus groups held by the airline and its top-tier Velocity Frequent Flyer members.

Virgin expects most of its Boeing 737 fleet to be reconfigured for Economy X by the end of May.

Economy X will also be rolled out on Virgin's Airbus A330 jets, with eight seats in row 28; and on the international Boeing 777-300ER fleet, with 57 seats at rows 20-25, 26 and 39.

Regional ATR jets will have Economy X at row 1; Fokker 70s at row 11; and Fokker 100s and Embraeur 190s at row 12.

Economy X takes a leaf from the playbook of domestic US airlines where passengers can pay an additional fee to be seated in an Economy Plus, Economy Comfort or Main Cabin Extra row at the front of the economy cabin for extra legroom, priority boarding and dedicated overhead luggage space (as well as being among the first passengers off the flight).

Economy X on the Boeing 737

So what's the Economy X legroom really like?

Here's the view at row 4, which has a 34 inch pitch and measures 15 inches from the front of the cushion to the rear of the seat ahead.

For comparison's sake here's the standard economy legroom of a 31 inch pitch, which translates to 11.5 inches from the front of your seat cushion to the rear of the seat in front.

Of course, row 3 remains the prize: located directly behind the bulkhead wall of the business class cabin (which Virgin has nudged forward to help free up the extra inches for the Economy X rows), there's a lazy 30 inches of legroom.

More to follow...

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.
 

49 comments

  • kiwiwings

    kiwiwings

    30 Mar, 2017 12:22 pm

    Any hints as to what will be available for top tier partner pax?
    No member give thanks

  • Matt J

    MattJelonek

    30 Mar, 2017 12:36 pm

    Main Cabin Extra with Delta, a long name but also gets you priority boarding if you don't have an elite status...
    No member give thanks

  • jianga

    jianga

    30 Mar, 2017 01:39 pm

    It's actually called Delta Comfort+ now but yes you're correct about the priority boarding and dedicated bin space.
    No member give thanks

  • Serg

    Serg

    30 Mar, 2017 12:37 pm

    IMHO very positive move. Though I do not believe in commercial success - herd wanna save a dollar. Also I am curious where they got those 9"? It is not enough to remove one row and if they where forced to remove one row then they will create more Economy-X rows. Do they squash rest of economy seats by few mils? And main question - will our "national flag carrier" follow?
    No member give thanks

  • GBRGB

    GBRGB

    30 Mar, 2017 12:46 pm

    I see merit in this and a good move from VA, Good point Serg in regards to QF response but I have always considered JQ would be the one to look at this seriously, many routes in Australia are only covered by JQ with no QF available, to be able to offer a few rows at the front with extra legroom and a few perks would be well recieved, 
    No member give thanks

  • Dean

    deany83

    30 Mar, 2017 01:07 pm

    Didn't they only launch the space+ option a few months ago?
    No member give thanks

  • riley

    riley

    30 Mar, 2017 01:11 pm

    Where does this leave gold pax?
    No member give thanks

  • jorgb

    jorgb

    31 Mar, 2017 09:30 am

    Nothing will change for gold. These seats will open up for gold like they always have 48 hours before the flight.
    No member give thanks

  • AusGirl

    AusGirl

    20 Apr, 2017 10:31 pm

    Hi Jorgb,
    Can you please further clarify how these seats are available to gold members 48 hours before the flight? Do you have to ring up to request this? I am gold and flying tomorrow - I went to online checkin and tried to change the seat but it doesn't let me select from rows 3-6, only from 7 back. I was able to select exit row at row 13, but at a charge of $30 extra per seat.
    Thank you. 
    No member give thanks

  • smoothsilver

    smoothsilver

    30 Mar, 2017 01:18 pm

    Having used the Space+ iteration AKL-BNE, I think this is a great idea, and tbh Y+ is outrageous for the little benefits you get.

    What Virgin really needs to do with this now is push it hard with the staff at foreign airports - the gate staff were almost prepared to physically restrain me from boarding early "because I wasn't a platinum or business class flier" - and I have heard from others that mine was not an isolated instance.
    No member give thanks

  • RK

    Ryan K

    30 Mar, 2017 01:23 pm

    Low cost? Full service? Who knows with VA these days. It's just one change after another lately. No consistency whatsoever. 
    Member who gave thanks

    BJ01

  • GregXL

    GregXL

    30 Mar, 2017 02:06 pm

    Great news for us longer-legged flyers.  Well done VA.  It will be interesting to see how available these seat are to non-Platinums who are prepared the pay for the extra room.   
    No member give thanks

  • Dean

    deany83

    30 Mar, 2017 04:14 pm

    Imagine it's first in first server if you pay for it on booking
    Member who gave thanks

    MattJelonek

  • mcglynp

    mcglynp

    30 Mar, 2017 02:12 pm

    So this is very welcome if confusing..  It seems to be a straight replacement for Space+,  I'm not seeing any difference. It is also very welcome that Plat flyers will be able to select these free, as it improves what is currently a very poor plat offering from VA.   Of course this does also lead to the question of will current plat flyers be refunded for space+ bookings they have on upcoming flights?  Actually I think I know the answer to that.  
    No member give thanks

  • Jon W

    Jon W

    30 Mar, 2017 02:26 pm

    I wonder if this means that they will clamp down on seating myself (Platinum) and my wife (Gold) together in Row 3?
    No member give thanks

  • Jon W

    Jon W

    30 Mar, 2017 02:26 pm

    I wonder if this means that they will clamp down on seating myself (Platinum) and my wife (Gold) together in Row 3?
    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn

    David

    30 Mar, 2017 02:58 pm

    If your wife is on the same booking, you're both good for free access to Economy X.
    No member give thanks

  • otternz

    otternz

    30 Mar, 2017 04:10 pm

    Air New Zealand offer a Space+ for Koru, Gold and Gold Elite passengers.  Theirs is the whole front half of the aircraft.
    Member who gave thanks

    Steve42act

  • aussiflyer

    aussiflyer

    30 Mar, 2017 04:12 pm

    Great move, and a good to see VA doing something to differentiate them to QF. If I was plat i wouldnt be too concerned with all the front rows filling up. Every time i fly Virgin and ask for exit rows, they always oblidge willingly.  
    No member give thanks

  • Kogglogs

    Kogglogs

    30 Mar, 2017 04:13 pm

    Bit-by-bit, they're progressively marginalising their top tier FF pax. It's like they're actually TRYING to drive away their highest value customers.
    Member who gave thanks

    Steve42act

  • Steve Gerards

    Steve42act

    30 Mar, 2017 08:27 pm

    I totally agree ,ive had the same feeling since they cut back the fly ahead even for platinum.
    No member give thanks

  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    30 Mar, 2017 04:14 pm

    I know people who fly VA because of row 3. Making a quick exist off the plane is important and most of these people don't just earn 800 status credits a year. It's good marketing but they need to also watch they don't annoy the decision makers.
    No member give thanks

  • sim86on

    sim86on

    30 Mar, 2017 04:39 pm

    I flew on a VA 737 last Thursday CBR-MEL, seated in row 4. 
    I suspected at the time the aircraft had already been converted for Economy X because the legroom was massive (same as in David's picture). 
    However the headrests were still the normal red/grey/purple. 
    No member give thanks

  • moa999

    moa999

    30 Mar, 2017 05:41 pm

    Was announced that they have already sneakily converted about half the fleet.
    Then just a new headrest cover needed.
    No member give thanks

  • David Flynn

    David

    30 Mar, 2017 07:41 pm

    Yes, Virgin Australia has already got a lot of 737s with Economy X flying, they tell me they deliberately tried to keep them off the Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne 'triangle' in case somebody spotted the extra legroom in rows 4 and 5 and put it up on social media :P
    No member give thanks

  • bagpuss

    bagpuss

    30 Mar, 2017 05:00 pm

    " exclusive access to overhead locker space".
    My ongoing complaint to Virgin is that flight attendants keep placing their carry-on above row3.  Let's see if they stop.
    Member who gave thanks

    grumpytravel

  • Dale

    hakkinen5

    30 Mar, 2017 05:46 pm

    Two questions:

    Where, really does the 9 inches of extra room come from. Not just from the business class wall.

    And... the article says "row 3 remains the prize with 30" of leg room".... do you mean 40"?
    Member who gave thanks

    wdeguara

  • PK

    PK

    30 Mar, 2017 06:37 pm

    No, he means 30". Pure leg room, not seat pitch. 
    No member give thanks

  • Steve Gerards

    Steve42act

    30 Mar, 2017 07:30 pm

    Velocity platinum members will mostly loose our row 3 ,yet another perk taken away lately from virgins best customers .
    No member give thanks

  • Stefan

    Too Technical

    30 Mar, 2017 07:54 pm

    When did VA have Fokker 70's?
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  • wdeguara

    wdeguara

    30 Mar, 2017 09:43 pm

    Will be particularly welcomed by folks regularly flying between Perth and the East Coast I suspect. 
    No member give thanks

  • GregXL

    GregXL

    31 Mar, 2017 01:10 am

    With regard to Perth flights, I read that there will not be any additional extra leg room seats on the A330, just row 28 as it is now.  
    No member give thanks

  • xtfer

    xtfer

    31 Mar, 2017 01:17 pm

    Why would you put these in Row 1 on the ATR? The best rows on the ATR are right at the back... where the door is.
    No member give thanks

  • Sam Shue

    Genji88

    31 Mar, 2017 03:28 pm

    Considering comments about Platinums about getting seated near Reds in row 3 when economy hasn't  been That full, it makes sense to charge for row 3
    No member give thanks

  • Ken Endacott

    bigken

    31 Mar, 2017 04:02 pm

    Not much hope for taller passengers as I suspect that all the Economy X seats will be snapped up earlier by shorties. I wish that we could return to the days when exit row seats were allocated to tall passengers at check in time.
    No member give thanks

  • Stephen Fuller

    SteveWA

    31 Mar, 2017 04:35 pm

    Just another example of the dilution of the Virgin Australia product for regular (Platinum) flyers. Slowly turning it back to those horrible "Blue" days......

    First it was the reduction in A330 aircraft on PER<>BNE, then the general lowering of food quality especially in Business and then on personal note getting charged $120 for being 2.5kg over the 23kg bag limit even although as Platinum I could have taken three bags of 23kg each free. 

    As other people have commented it seems like they just want to get rid of their loyal, frequent and usually high value guests.


    No member give thanks

  • Andrew Lowe

    Zippy

    31 Mar, 2017 05:08 pm

    Maybe I'm being too elitist, but as a platinum member -I've earned those seats and priority boarding through loyalty. If I'd know I could pay $30 for it.. why bother being loyal. Defeats the concept if a 'loyalty program;' when you can pay to play. I'm sure it'll be hard for VA to say no to revenue from a paid seat upgrade over a no cost Platinum member too.
    No member give thanks

  • quick_dry

    quick_dry

    31 Mar, 2017 05:26 pm

    They really had VA Plats that fly economy at this focus group? And they suggested it was a good idea to give up one of the few remaining real benefits to top tier FFs?

    The 'fly ahead' was effectively gutted,  and if the row 3 (and other front row benefits) are simply being sold off, then there isn't much benefit to preferencing VA over any other domestic carrier. I liked having a nicer seat on the bus, but if I'm not even getting a nicer seat for that hour - I might as well go with whoever gives me a better price on the same squishy seats.
    No member give thanks

  • amitchell

    amitchell

    31 Mar, 2017 06:11 pm

    I hope as a platinum flyer this does not reduce my benefits as I am sure many corporates will pay the extra because it is not their money relegating me to seats further back - if it does then I am going back to Qantas - Virgin beware "do not reduce the platinum benefits any further"
    No member give thanks

  • Steve Gerards

    Steve42act

    1 Apr, 2017 07:11 am

    Hi guys,i see my other VA platinum members are as upset as i am for another blow to our hard earned benefits.Please let them know on there facebook page and i even emailed CEO John Borghetti as now its almost a no brainer to go to Qantas after this.However its the time it takes to build up status with a new airline which will be a major inconvenience for business travel until platinum is acheived again.See the following text of my facebook post...........The decision to include row 3 and priority boarding is madness ,you have upset all of your supposed most loyal platinum members.[see Australian business traveler website comments on this subject] .Why not make it at least rows 4 5 and 6?As platinum members we all pay at least 10s of thousands of dollars a year to earn our status and remain loyal.it will be almost impossible to get row 3 now,of course VA will take the revenue firstly over saving platinum priority seats firstly,priority boarding and check in will be much busier also.The lounges will be much more difficult to get a seat at peak times due to the afl football packages you guys offer ,and l aready the Melbourne lounge is hard to get a seat at peak times.Just in the last few months you took away fly ahead on saver fares,less status credits,no status bonus points all for even your platinum.What is the point of remaining loyal now?such a shame as all the staff,cabin crew and especially the lounge staff at Canberra and Melbourne are so great yet you have such bad decision makers in the head offices.I will be watching this space very carefully in the near future as to who to fly my 130 sectors a year with .VA needs to do some major platinum benefit upgrade to keep us.And with your earlier decision to make VIP lounges without platinum access what reason do we have left to choose VA over Qantas????

    Member who gave thanks

    gotogate

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    1 Apr, 2017 11:21 am

    Platinum members get this for free, non platinum guests need to pay for spacex.
    I'm sue row 3 will be provided to platinum guests, as it is today. 
    No member give thanks

  • quick_dry

    quick_dry

    1 Apr, 2017 01:03 pm

    @DownSouth - we know that WP get it for free, the issue is that by making it generally available the seats will be bought by people more often, meaning that the seats are never available to Plats. That it will be a benefit that is not really a benefit because you can never use it.
    No member give thanks

  • Scott Brown

    DownSouth

    1 Apr, 2017 01:11 pm

    I'm sure the airline would of hold out seats (row3) for the final bookings close to flight date and avail to platinum guests. That would seem logical and reasonable, standard procedure for any airline in any premium cabin.
    No member give thanks

  • quick_dry

    quick_dry

    1 Apr, 2017 01:24 pm

    the article and Virgin's own press releases say that you can buy row 3 seats straight away when making your booking - just pony up the $29 and you're in.
    No member give thanks

  • Tom Higgs

    Pointshark

    11 Apr, 2017 11:17 am

    Strongly agree with all previous sentiment that Platinum is being devalued quicker than the Rand. 
    YET I can earn Status credits on a weekly Coles shop??
    Just went to book Reward seats and despite my wife and I both being Platinum we were required to pay extra $ or 3500-5000 (depending on leg) to sit row 3. 
    No member give thanks

  • quick_dry

    quick_dry

    11 Apr, 2017 08:02 pm

    interesting to which posts get downvoted, seems like posts by frequent flyers critical of the change are being knocked down.
    No member give thanks

  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    21 Apr, 2017 10:43 am

    I've seen the new John about, next time I see him I will be saying, I buy flexi fares, I earn a lot more then 800 status credits and Qantas staff want to know why I don't fly with them more often. Row 3 is one reason why.
    No member give thanks

  • Sam Shue

    Genji88

    7 May, 2017 11:22 am

    Let's face it - the bottom line is VA Needs Revenue - BADLY! 
    No one likes their perks being devalued or stripped, but if VA were to cease being a common carrier, 
    All status benefits GONE!
    No member give thanks

  • julius-grafton

    julius-grafton

    18 Jun, 2017 09:31 am

    So they needed 7" - to stretch row 4 and row 5. In row 3 the other day I didn't notice it was 7" less pitch. But it must be, right? David says row 3 has 30" clear legroom, does this mean it had 37" before??
    No member give thanks

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18 Jun, 2019 09:11 am

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