Virgin Australia launches new A330 business class seats & service

Virgin Australia launches new A330 business class seats & service

Virgin Australia is raising the business travel bar with today's launch of its all-new Airbus A330 business class, which the airline will market as 'The Business'.

AusBT review: Virgin Australia's 'The Business' new A330 business class seat

Touted as "a new world standard in domestic business class", the new seats feature wide fully-flat beds, direct aisle access for every passenger due to the 1-2-1 layout, and a wealth of space and storage nooks for keeping in-flight items close at hand.

Each seat also sports a 16 inch high-definition touchscreen, with a turndown service topping the lie-flat seat with a memory foam mattress and high-grade cotton pillows and doonas.

The inaugural flight of The Business will be today's VA559 service from Sydney to Perth on the first of Virgin's six upgraded Airbus A330 jets, with the remaining five to follow by the end of October 2015.

But it's not just about the seats.

Travellers at the pointy end will see a new inflight menu designed by Luke Mangan and available at any time during the flight so that passengers can dine when they want rather than to the crew's own schedule, as well as an 'express dining' service for when work (or sleep) trumps meals.

There's also a new Nespresso coffee service, using the world's first custom-designed Nespresso machine to be fitted to an Airbus A330, which Virgin promises will "deliver the finest coffee in the sky."

Read: Virgin Australia brings Nespresso to the skies

Virgin Australia also today announced that senior cabin crew will now have a grey uniform so they can be easily identified. 

AusBT review: Virgin Australia's 'The Business' new A330 business class seat

Today’s launch is an escalation of the ongoing domestic business travel war, the first shot in which was fired when Virgin Blue relaunched as Virgin Australia in early 2011.

In the subsequent four years, east-west flights have been upgraded from old-fashioned business class seat to the very latest lie-flat beds which you could comfortably fly from Sydney to Paris, let alone from Sydney to Perth.

Read: Timeline – the Qantas, Virgin Australia transcontinental turf war 

"In 2011, we brought choice and competition to Business Class in Australia for the first time in a decade," said Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti.

"The launch of the Business Class suites today sets a new standard in domestic business class around the world."

Virgin v Qantas

Virgin's slick seats will go up against the competitive Qantas A330 Business Suite (below), which has now been fitted to five domestic Airbus A330s – with that number expected to grow to seven by late September.

Almost half of Qantas' transcontinental A330 services currently feature the upgraded birds, including all weeknight red-eye services from Perth to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

However, with Virgin Australia's A330 fleet numbering only six jets compared to Qantas' 18 red-tails, fleet, the upside for Virgin's passengers is 100% consistency in seeing the new business class on all east-west services from November 2015, while Qantas' A330 flights will be a mixed bag until late 2016. 

Avoiding the business class 'lucky dip'

Speaking with Australian Business Traveller earlier this year, an always-optimistic Borghetti mulled that "In some ways this (delay) is good for us."

Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti says the new seat will be worth the wait

"The shorter the reconfiguration time the better off you are to provide consistency of product."

A longer upgrade cycle meant "you actually disappoint customers," Borghetti said, "because they get on a plane today and it's the new product, then they get on another plane tomorrow and it's the old product – it's like a lucky dip."

During the 12-week refit period from August to October, smaller Boeing 737 jets will replace the twin-aisle A330s on selected Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth flights.

Reducing the time in which travellers may see some east-west flight temporarily cancelled or swapped onto Boeing 737 jets is "another reason why you want to do [the A330 upgrades] as quickly as possible" Borghetti says. 

Last month Qantas also revealed changes to its east-west schedule, which will include dropping one Melbourne-Perth flight and swapping several Sydney-Perth services from the Airbus A330 to Boeing 737s.

Read: Qantas trims east-west A330 flights

Boeing 777 upgrade on track

Virgin's refresh for its international Boeing 777 fleet will continue apace so that the new business class seats can launch in November, one month before Qantas partner American Airlines begins flying between Sydney and Los Angeles on December 17.

Virgin's beefed-up Boeing 777 will go up against American Airlines' international business class seat (below).

This is based on the same design used by Cathay Pacific and, like the new Virgin Australia seats, offer direct access to the aisle, a fully flat bed plus sidetables and personal storage space close at hand.

Read: American Airlines Sydney-LAX business class

Virgin Australia's fleet of five Boeing 777s will be refurbished in two waves: from October to December 2015, which is expected to primarily feed the Sydney-LAX and Brisbane-LAX services; and then February-April 2016 to bed down all three of Virgin Australia's international routes including Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights.

The upgraded Boeing 777s will also sport a revamped business class bar...

... plus new premium economy seats.

Read: Virgin Australia’s new premium economy seats, service

This short clip provides a virtual walkthrough of Virgin Australia's next generation business class cabin, beginning with a look at the Boeing 777's new business class bar.

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.
 

39 comments

  • Jason Bird

    Speedbird

    8 Jul, 2015 09:57 am

    Delayed or not, still going to be an excellent product when it comes out. 

    Definitely beats Emirates shockingly bad, B777 biz class 2-3-2 seating.

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  • Rod Harmer

    Rod H

    8 Jul, 2015 10:37 am

    Certainly would beat EK's  pathetic Business Class seats on their B777 and A380- ,

    horrible seats  . I found them way too narrow and restrictive. Never again with EK!!!! SQ  and VA for me !!

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  • petrhsr

    petrhsr

    8 Jul, 2015 10:53 am

    Agreed.  Their F hard product is also old, and very very tacky.

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  • Orus Picarous

    oruspicarous

    8 Jul, 2015 04:28 pm

    and let's not forget the goddamn gold all over the cabin

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  • jubbing

    jubbing

    7 Aug, 2015 01:18 pm

    I suppose companies like Singapore Airlines and Etihad (and to an extent Qatar) have trully lifted their game and made us spoilt for choice - which is only good for consumers as it will force companies to lift their game. 

    Emriates is in need of a refresh - however their flights still go consistently full, so I'm not sure if they think it is an immideate need to (not) go for gold (pun intended)

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    7 Aug, 2015 02:18 pm

    I have to agree that EK's business class seats are not very good. They really need a product refresh. Both QF and VA's new seats are (purely going by the seat) enough to nuke EK from orbit.

    But on the other hand, when you fly EK you aren't meant to be sleeping. You're meant to be boozing it up in the bar! But that's why you should only fly EK on A380s.

    And yes, Virgin's new product looks spectacular. I can't wait to try it.

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  • undertheradar

    undertheradar
    Banned

    8 Jul, 2015 10:40 am

    VA widebody operations will only ever be a 'boutique' arm of VA... 6 A332s ( no-where near the 'coast to coast' frequencies of QFs A332s...and 5 B773ERs(3/week SYD-AUH, daily SYD/BNE-LAX)...VAs widebody operations really pose no threat to ANY other airline on the routes they serve...at the most, VA may be a minor irritation to QF. 

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  • Rod Harmer

    Rod H

    8 Jul, 2015 10:50 am

    Rolls Royce and Bentley cars are also a minor irritaion to Ford and Holden but I know which one I would rather be in !!!

    VA might be a minor irritation but so far I have tried both QF and VA and VA is way better In my opinion. Much friendlier and enjoyable.

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  • Worldflyer90

    Worldflyer90

    8 Jul, 2015 07:42 pm

    I think this forum is fantastic - it opens up so many points of view and experiences. That said though, I think the comparison to VA representing a luxury brand is about as spot-on as a caravan park I stayed at in Mt Isa advertising itself as being a luxury experience.

    I fly both VA and QF regularly and hold Platinum status with both, I appreciate it's different strokes for different folks, but I cannot accept the idea that VA offers a comparable experience. Good experiences on VA are about as rare as those phantom Peking duck sliders in the lounge. It's a low-cost carrier that relaunched with starry eyes, but fiscal realities and the incompatible global aspirations of VA's major shareholders brought it crashing back to earth. 

    There are many great people that work for both QF and VA, but I think it's befitting that the regular flyers on this forum discuss tangibles, rather than something as subjective as the warm-and-fuzzies from a few cabin crew. 

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  • PunditShafton

    PunditShafton

    7 Aug, 2015 02:03 pm

    Well said, what boggles my mind is that i still cannot request special meal on domestic flight in VA. paying over thousand dollars for a ticket and cannot sort ot dietary requirement is rubbish.

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  • undertheradar

    undertheradar
    Banned

    7 Aug, 2015 03:35 pm

    or get a pillow/blanket in y/c on dom flights...VA still don't provide pillows/blankets on 99% of flights...no supply AT ALL...hardly a 'premium' experience... QF at least have a supply to offer pax if required on short/medium dom flights.

    VA is still a LCC...but charges 'premium' fares....but they will continue to do so because they can!!   that's the downside of a relatively small population v land mass and a mainly 2 airline operation in OZ

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  • moa999

    moa999

    8 Jul, 2015 11:06 am

    I somehow don't think VA is a minor irritation to QF - sure it is not as big, but it is still a big competitor.

    Also amazed that VA can refit the J cabin in 6 aircraft in 12 weeks, whereas the QF 330-200s are taking a month each (admittedly also installing WifFi) and new seatcovers/seats in Y for ipads.

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  • smit0847

    smit0847

    8 Jul, 2015 11:51 am

    This is because QF are refitting all seats in their A330s (incl Y) whereas VA are only refitting the J seats. Much quicker.

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  • moa999

    moa999

    8 Jul, 2015 12:24 pm

    They are in the -300s which are taking 2 months,

    but the later -200s are keeping their existing IFE and seats, and the earlier ones just getting an iPad hook (albeit I had read that old-300 seats may be being used in these older -200s)

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  • newbieADL

    newbieADL

    8 Jul, 2015 01:02 pm

    Hi Moa999, am I right in saying the QF Wi-FI installation will be for their Q-Streaming platform only? We're not expecting wi-fi for pax internet use are we?

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  • Hugo

    Hugo

    9 Jul, 2015 08:35 am

    Indeed. Virgin is the difference between having one competitor and having zero competitors, and that's a big difference. I'd hate to live in a country with an airline monopoly on domestic routes. 

    We do pretty well on air travel in Australia, as customers. 

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  • mickeyg

    mickeyg

    8 Jul, 2015 11:58 am

    A cabin re-fresh is always nice, no matter whose metal it is on.  And the added competition can only benifit the PAX.

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    8 Jul, 2015 12:08 pm

    Goddamn, I was thinking of flying VA to AUH next March/April but that would have no guarantee of the good new product :(

    Ahh well, there's always Etihad and they'll be flying Dreamliners to my city soon.

    I wonder if VA will ever re-establish the Hong Kong route... then you could do round-the-world tickets from Australia entirely on Virgin-branded airlines (VA to LAX, Virgin America to JFK, then Virgin Atlantic from JFK to LHR and then on to HKG, then Virgin Australia from HKG back to one's Australian port of choice). But given how QF and Cathay control that market rather brutally I don't think it could happen without Virgin using a Dreamliner or something more efficient than the A330s.

    No member give thanks

  • Alexaqua

    Alexaqua

    8 Jul, 2015 04:29 pm

    I'm not sure about this alleged head start Qantas has over Virgin with new business class product.  Since Feb I have been flying Sydney Perth (because of family illness) return every month in Business with Qantas hoping to get one of the new business class seats.  In the 10 flights I have had a Skybed once and the other 9 times it has been Premium Economy (Current Business) and frankly for the $1,900 each way it is robbery.  I booked my July flight with Virgin instead, at least I know I will get a decent Business Class seat.  When all the Qantas Domestic A330s are fitted with the seats I'll try again.

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  • kiwiwings

    kiwiwings

    10 Aug, 2015 01:09 pm

    Thoroughly agree with the robbery part!! But both airlines seem to price at $1900. I can fly Auckland to perth for under $1500 but almost $2000 booking single sector ie half the trip from Oz. That old QF product isn't even worth paying points for. I'll probably try VA once their whole fleet is done or earlier if there is a reliable route the refurb product is on. Mean time it's back to economy. It's less of a rip off at least and reasonable chances of a seat free next to you with QF 2-4-2 seating. 

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  • Yohy

    Yohy

    10 Jul, 2015 09:16 am

    wish QF had taken time to get their refit right - the move to rush out the product seems to have resulted in a litany of design and fitout problems that are going to cost money in terms of rectification and make the new 330 seat uncompetitive.

    obv QF has a few months before VAs seat comes onto transcon but internationally the new seat has no truck up against SQ and CX equivalents.

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  • someone

    someone

    7 Aug, 2015 11:42 am

    I've sat in a mockup of this seat and the words "unmitigated failure" sprang to mind.

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  • Christopher Campbell

    Chris2304

    7 Aug, 2015 11:47 am

    Why?

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  • undertheradar

    undertheradar
    Banned

    7 Aug, 2015 11:50 am

    It's all very nice to make such a sweeping statement, but it would also be nice if you could mention the reason/s why you have reached this conclusion 

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  • someone

    someone

    7 Aug, 2015 04:14 pm

    It might have just been the mockup, but it didn't feel spacious at all. The seat felt narrow and I felt like I get the feeling of being exposed. But I guess I should reserve judgement until I've flown it. Having flown the QF business suite, I would pick that as the winner of the two at this stage. 

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  • Jack

    jackthomas

    7 Aug, 2015 11:56 am

    Seatmap for the SYD-PER on the 17th hasn't yet been updated. 

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  • Southland

    Southland

    10 Aug, 2015 06:50 am

    VH-XFH has been in SIN for a week so i guess this is the rego of the retro fit. If you can locate the rego on the 17th you save the cheerleader and save the world Heros reborn chaneel 7 blah blah blah

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  • bmc

    bmc

    7 Aug, 2015 12:30 pm

    Surely these seats would be better utilised on a flight longer that 4 to 5 hours

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  • undertheradar

    undertheradar
    Banned

    7 Aug, 2015 01:54 pm

    not this road again!!!  if you can't do the research as to to why...

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    7 Aug, 2015 02:37 pm

    In theory, sure, but face it: they have to keep up with the competition.

    In addition, the workspace of these seats is very useful to corporate clients. Those 4 to 5 hours can pay for themselves.

    You don't HAVE to use the flat-bed for sleeping, either. You can enjoy the private, spacious feel and stay awake while the staff pamper you.

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  • TECHNO

    TECHNO

    7 Aug, 2015 01:12 pm

    Will AUSBT be on the inaugural Virgin flight from Sydney to Perth to try out the new business class seating ?

     

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  • grov

    grov

    7 Aug, 2015 01:25 pm

    Way to go VA! A consistent product for the transcontinental flights, and none of those silly "Indian giver" games where products come and go and it's a lottery that their competition always seems to indulge in.

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  • Horvath

    Horvath

    7 Aug, 2015 02:24 pm

    Qantas only has 18? I thought it was at least 26.

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  • undertheradar

    undertheradar
    Banned

    7 Aug, 2015 02:46 pm

    18 332s  PLUS 10 333s.. 28 330s total

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  • Yohy

    Yohy

    7 Aug, 2015 06:43 pm

    Will be good to try the new seat, the QF 330 one is a poorly manufactured, thrown together shocker.

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  • Shoudy Chen

    Shoudy Chen

    8 Aug, 2015 12:02 pm

    The new business clas seats would provide extra comfort and better seating ergonomics.

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  • Rod Harmer

    Rod H

    11 Aug, 2015 09:15 am

    Which flight on the 17th August is the one with the new seats?

     

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  • Scott Wilson

    Libertyscott

    17 Aug, 2015 06:47 pm

    Domestic competition is clearly more important to Qantas than international. On a trip a few weeks ago I was in Skybed Mk1 HKG-MEL on an overnight A330, but it was the Business Suite on the subsequent MEL-PER daytime domestic flight.   I flex CX in business HKG-MEL last time, and I will go back to CX until QF guarantees the Business Suite.  

    Still, when compared to transcontinental domestic business class transcontinental in North America, Australia is far ahead.  Even the premium products US carriers are launching on selected routes don't come up to par, and let's not even mention European business class - little more than NZ's Works Deluxe with a better meal and lounge access.

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  • Bizflyer

    Bizflyer

    18 Aug, 2015 01:07 am

    Your dig at European Busniess isn't worth it much like having a seat like because the flights are usually about 3-4 hours during the day and alot of major hubs in europe have night bans which render these seats useless as when a majority would want to use them they are sat on overnight stays at airports 

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23 May, 2019 07:25 pm

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