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.
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...