Virgin Australia will raise the transcontinental business class bar in October by putting its big Airbus A330 onto the Sydney-Perth route for all weekday flights.
The smaller and less comfortable Boeing 737-800 will still trundle on some transcon flights on the weekend, but from Monday through Friday every flight between Sydney and Perth will be on Virgin's big bird.
The move will be made possible by Virgin's purchase of a seventh Airbus A330, which like four of its predecessors will be fitted with what is easily Australia's best business class cabin – spacious angled lie-flat seats with plenty of nooks for keeping personal items at hand, plus a large seatback screen with video-on-demand.
Virgin's international-grade A330 'Coast to Coast' service, which also includes Luke Mangan meals and an amenity kit, already serves all weekday flights between Melbourne and Perth, plus two out of three Brisbane-Perth weekday services.
Virgin Australia Chief Commercial Officer Judith Crompton says that "the launch of our new state-of-the-art domestic pier at Perth Airport next year will see Virgin Australia lift the standard of air travel in Western Australia to the next level."
Earlier this year Qantas also switched its weekday Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth flights to the A330, with Brisbane-Perth flights on Qantas' refurbished Boeing 767s.
However, Qantas' latest A330 business class seat comes in a clear second to Virgin Australia's, with a premium economy-style recliner which has the middle seat blocked off by a plastic 'working table' shroud, as reported in Australian Business Traveller last November.
The stark difference between those seats, and the super-competitive nature of Australia's east-west route, which feeds regional flights to WA's resource hubs, will see Qantas upgrade its entire 30-strong fleet of Airbus A330s with a new lie-flat business class seat from the end of 2014.
The airline will adopt an all-new seat design rather than stick with the Marc Newson Skybeds found in its Airbus A380s and upgraded Boeing 747s.
"They're very exciting, there's plenty of legroom and we're very confident that they will get an amazing reaction" Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce told Australian Business Traveller earlier this year, joking that "I certainly swim in the seats given my size!"
"They'll be the best domestic product anywhere in the world, and it leapfrogs anything our competitor's doing" Joyce continued. The refit will also include a new inflight entertainment system plus a refreshed economy cabin.
While the new seats are still almost 18 months away, Qantas has already stepped up inflight dining on flights between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
The new east-west business class menu is based on Qantas' latest international menu designed by Aussie superchef Neil Perry and built around a range of of small and main plates as well as ‘small bite’ starters.
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