Complete with a tended inflight bar, direct aisle access from every business class seat and an array of storage spaces is Virgin Australia's new Boeing 777 business class cabin, dubbed 'The Business'.
Currently flying every alternate day between Sydney and Los Angeles, it's expected to feature on every Virgin Australia Boeing 777 flight by the third quarter of 2016, including on routes between Brisbane and Los Angeles and also between Sydney and Abu Dhabi.
Australian Business Traveller took to the skies on one of Virgin Australia's first trans-Pacific The Business flights to bring you this exclusive review.
- Chauffeur-driven airport transfers: Complimentary for guests booked on higher-priced J and C fare types when requested at least 24 hours in advance, but not the lower-priced D or I fares, or flights booked using frequent flyer points.
- Priority check-in, boarding: Keep your eyes peeled for purple signage at check-in and at the gate to skip the queues, and grab your Express Path card to zip through security and passport control.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg, or 3x32kg for Velocity Silver, Gold and Platinum frequent flyers.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x115cm bags up to 7kg each, plus one small personal item.
Virgin Australia utilises the Air New Zealand lounge at Sydney Airport for guests travelling to Los Angeles, completely overhauled in 2015 to offer a funky new design with different zones to suit different moods... ... whether that's near the bar with a morning coffee in hand... ... or over in the business and quiet zones for that last chance to use the Internet before wheels-up.
AusBT review: Air New Zealand, Star Alliance Sydney Airport lounge
Gone are the days of stepping over your seatmate to access the aisle or being woken by somebody doing the same, thanks to the new 1-2-1 layout with direct aisle access from every seat. You'll also find plenty of room to store your gear... ... starting with two fold-up panels to your side which can comfortably house phones, watches, passports and other smaller goodies... ... with the larger space also including AC and USB power outlets. We found the AC port too close to the base to accommodate our Microsoft Surface charger, although the fixed USB port comes high-powered and worked just as well. Next to that is a literature pocket, plus a separate fabric-lined tablet holder to protect your device: We could comfortably fit our Microsoft Surface 3 once the keyboard had been detached, and as there's room for cables to run from the power outlets and underneath the white side panels even when they're closed, you can charge up easily. But wait, there's more: this side armrest not only raises and lowers to suit your preference... ... it also doubles as an extra storage nook for your water and headphones... ... while this other bin is an ideal place to plonk your amenity kit, or even your shoes: Each seat also offers a cocktail shelf underneath the TV screen... ... folding out to create a full meal table... ... and can be lowered for a more comfortable dining experience by sliding it towards you: You can also find the perfect seat position by using a nearby touchscreen controller, with pre-sets for snoozing, lounging and landing... ... plus buttons to control the seat's various subtle lights, in addition to a personal reading light which pops out and can be swivelled to face your book at the perfect angle: When it's time to turn in, the crew offer to make your bed, complete with two pillows, a comfortable mattress to top the seat... ... a blanket and also pyjamas: Measuring at 21 inches wide, stretching to 28 inches with the armrest lowered and extending to an impressive 203cm when fully-flat, your suite is as lengthy as a queen bed on the ground – helped in part by this fixed footrest which adjoins your seat for maximum space: But don't feel you need to eat and then head straight to sleep: Virgin Australia's revamped Boeing 777s also feature a tended inflight bar in business class... ... with four adjoining bar stools and a further two seats behind that, which we found much more comfortable... ... and a great place to enjoy a coffee – or a cocktail – after the meal service is concluded. However you spend your flight, this coat hook also comes in handy closer to landing when the crew return your jacket: All things considered, this isn't just a step up from Virgin Australia's outgoing Boeing 777 business class offering, it's a giant leap forward and becomes the new seat to beat across the Pacific.
The flight begins with your choice of drink before departure, including the 2006 vintage Ayala Millésimé Champagne... .... which also comes in cocktail form after take-off as a Bellini with peach nectar, accompanied by garden peas, pitted olives and warmed nuts: Afterwards, when and how you dine is entirely up to you: you can tuck into lunch straight away, can have an 'express' meal later in the flight or can pick from a selection of pantry snacks and light bites.
We took the traditional approach, beginning with tasty garlic bread: always a favourite on long Virgin Australia flights... ... followed by fresh king prawns with carrot, daikon and coriander with miso and yuzu dressing, paired with a glass of the Oakridge Over the Shoulder Chardonnay 2014 (Yarra Valley, Australia)... ... and a second sweep of the bread basket. Other options included pumpkin soup with quinoa and chives and a pear, pecan, witlof, parmesan and rocket salad with mustard vinaigrette. Then comes the main course with the following choices, from which we selected the succulent pork fillet and surprise crackle on top, which was as good as you could expect in the air.
- Moroccan spiced lamb and sweet potato on date couscous with almond, preserved lemon and mint
- Pork fillet on parsnip puree with roast eschalot, caramelised apple and broad beans
- Barramundi with black bean sauce, snow peas, rice and spring onions
- Eggplant, zucchini and blue cheese lasagne with basil and toasted pine nuts (vegetarian option)
- Cheese: Heidi Gruyere (Tasmania), Tarago River triple cream brie (Victoria) and Tarago River Shadows of Blue (Victoria), with grapes, fig paste and Byron Bay Falwasser crispbread
- Lamington with poached blueberries and crème fraîche
- Coconut and kaffir lime sorbet
- Mango and cream ice cream
- Chicken and leek toasted sandwich
- Ham, paprika and Manchego cheese croquettes with corn and capsicum salsa
- Mezze plate of dips with spiced flatbread
- Artisan cheese plate with grapes and fig paste
Each option is the perfect size to fill your hunger without spoiling your breakfast, including the mezze plate with regular hummus, beetroot hummus and chickpeas: Speaking of breakfast, you'll receive a hotel-style ordering card when the crew make your bed, and you can nominate whether to be woken up or left to sleep until close to landing.
On offer were a variety of juices, fruits, cereals, bakery items, Nespresso coffee, Madame Flavour tea and your choice of main:
- Fig and apricot Bircher muesli with cardamom and pistachio (selected and refreshing)
- Spiced plum on toasted banana bread with almonds and coconut yoghurt
- Scrambled eggs with tomato relish
- Sides of bacon, celeriac potato cake, smoked salmon, field mushrooms, wilted spinach and marinated feta
For something different, you can also opt to enjoy your full breakfast at the bar or partake in a simple continental brekky in the bar area before the proper breakfast service begins.
Again, we really couldn't ask for more on this 13.5-hour flight.
Entertainment & Service
Every suite in The Business features an 18-inch HD touchscreen panel, joined by noise-cancelling headphones and a remote control if you're leaning back: The entertainment options are surprisingly lacking, though, with just 45 movies and a selection of 'variety' TV shows on tap, most of which centre around cooking rather than categories like comedy and drama.
More importantly, however, we could always find something to watch – and with selections updated monthly, only the most frequent of flyers to LA will ever work their way through the entire collection.
You can also share a flick in tandem with other travellers, discussing the movie or anything else via the screen's chat system... ... while Virgin Australia's renowned flair also makes an appearance, both on-screen during cabin announcements... ... and from the cabin crew themselves who address all travellers by name, are personable and engaging without being intrusive or over-the-top friendly, which is perfectly professional.
Also distributed are Mandarina Duck amenity kits: for gents, it's a black bag with a REN skincare pack of facial moisturiser, lip balm and hand and body cream, along with a dental kit, socks, an eyeshade, ear plugs and a pen:
Ladies receive a similar white bag but with the addition of cotton buds, cotton pads and tissues:
The crew also thoughtfully pre-fill your USA arrivals card with the flight number and date, which tops off an incredibly well-rounded business class product that's sure to tempt travellers across from Qantas, Delta, United and even American Airlines.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Virgin Australia.
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