Happy New Year to you wherever you are around the world!
I spent New Years Day travelling; the first flight was from Darwin to Perth with Virgin Australia (their standard Domestic Business Class) with a 2 hour stopover in Perth plus I finally got a chance to check out the new Virgin Australia Lounge. The second flight is this review of Virgin Australia’s new Business Class aptly named “The Business” on the A330 from Perth to Melbourne.
Australia is indeed a lucky country from a domestic airline point of view. Both Virgin Australia and Qantas offer fairly decent Business products on domestic routes compared to many airlines around the world. To have a fully flat bed for what was only a 3 hour flight as well as a full meal service is brilliant.
I booked this flight in conjunction with a flight from Darwin to Perth and then Perth to Melbourne (one ticket) for 33800 Velocity Points plus $24 in taxes. Considering a cash price for just the Perth to Melbourne leg was $1670 one way or they sometimes offer upgrades available in the lounge for 30,000 points; to get two flights in Business is pretty good value.
Arriving into Perth, I had a chance to visit the new terminal and Virgin Australia’s The Lounge for a couple of hours. The entire feel of the new terminal I personally think is quite sterile, but it was very easy to navigate and plenty of room.
The new The Lounge, available to Virgin Australia guests travelling in Business Class (and Gold and Platinum members as well as a couple of partner airlines) is Virgin’s biggest now in Australia. It has the now standard coffee bar (with barista) and a very long food and beverage area. 9am offerings were the pancake machine, a few salads, cold cuts, sandwich press, cereals and various beverages.
Being the 1st of January there were not many magazines on offer as they would normally have, but the local newspapers and Virgin Australia’s in-flight magazine was available.
One of the best things about this Lounge was the amount of seating; lots of various spaces to either charge your devices, put your feet up on an ottoman or get some work in.
The flight was right on time and boarding was from Gate 49. There is a separate entrance for Business guests and high status Velocity guests which took me right into the “The Business” cabin.
Upon arriving the cabin was completely empty. The A330 has 20 Business Suites with a 1, 2, 1 configuration. I had pre-chosen 2A which had 2 windows. There was plenty of overhead storage space for carry-on luggage and was a little higher than other airlines (which is difficult for short people like myself!)
First impressions were great. Looked very spacious, sleek and modern and certainly the windows seats gave a lot of privacy for solo travellers.
There was a guide on how to use the new “suite” which I thought was a nice touch, as well as all the Flight Attendant’s asking everyone if they had used it before (only 9 passengers on this flight).
The television had 16 inch Entertainment screen with a variety of Movies, Variety, Documentaries, News and other programs. It was touch screen with also a controller in one of the top panel compartments.
The tray table was adjustable at the click of a bottom and I thought it was good position for both sitting and getting work done. It’s certainly big enough to use your laptop and still have a drink or snack on the side bench.
Plenty of side bench space, as well as a compartment with a USB and universal charging point, a place next to your seat with headphones and room under the seat if you needed it.
The seat itself I felt was the “Suite” downfall. It looks great and previous reports from many fellow travellers I know just love it, but I didn’t find it overly comfortable. Yes it has a touch screen control to adjust to different sitting levels with is a good thing, but in lie flat mode it has an annoying bump which hurts the middle of your back and it’s not very roomy being able to move around if you want to nap. I much prefer the softness of Etihad, Thai or Cathay’s Business Seat.
The Flight Attendant did mention that for later night flights they do put a padded mattress on it. As I was in desperate need of sleep, she didn’t offer however to get one for me, which I’m sure would have made a massive difference.
THE FLIGHT AND FOOD
The flight itself departed on time (and in fact landed 25 minutes early). Virgin Australia has teamed up with celebrity chef Luke Mangan for the last few years who does all the menus. I’ve never been a fan but today’s offering was quite tasty. Meal cards were handed out prior to take-off where I was asked which option I’d like. Juice, Water or Champagne was also offered as well as hot towel once we had taken off.
Virgin Australia offer a full meal service of Express service on this route. You can view the drinks and menus below.
I asked for a combination of Express and Main, with a couple of bakery rolls, the Pork Belly and a drink. It came out about 25 minutes after take-off.
The Pork Belly was tender and had plenty of flavour. The accompanying salad was a little on the “limp” side, but overall was fairly happy.
After eating I put the seat in sleep mode and tried to get some sleep. The flight itself was very smooth and the cabin overall quiet.
There were two flight attendants taking care of The Business cabin and I felt the service was attentive and friendly.
Upon landing, Business guests were first off and names used to say goodbye personally to everyone in the Business cabin which I thought was a nice touch.
The Business is a great product for Business passengers on the A330 (though quite pricey). It has set a new standard for business class domestic flights throughout the world and certainly doesn’t even come close to anything on offer in America or Europe.
If only Virgin Australia would roll this out to the rest of their fleet across the country then you’d have the perfect airline!