Virgin Australia Business and Premium Economy review.

first_imgVirgin Australia Business Class Perhaps that is the best way of summing up Virgin Australia’s radical upgrade of its international fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs.Gone forever is the 2-3-2 business class configuration replaced by individual suites that are more at home in most airline’s first class cabins, while premium economy –  now just Premium – has more leg room than most standard domestic business class.To cap off the good news for economy travellers there is a new Economy Space + product which sits neatly between Economy and Premium. Now the airline can boast it has a world class product for all budgets.And not only are the products superb but the atmosphere is stunning with excellent use of LED lighting to create a feeling of an opulent nightclub. The new products underscore that the airline really means business and is after a bigger share of the market.In business class there are 37 individual and private suites that convert into the length of a queen size bed at 80 inches (203cm) and they are set in a reverse herringbone layout, maximising privacy and enabling 100 per cent direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration.There is loads of space to work, multi task and store personal items.And when dinner comes around there is no need to put anything away – just put your laptop or iPad aside. I was surprised by the amount of space on my return flights from Sydney to Los Angeles. The suite is essentially an enlarged version of that fitted to the airline’s A330s that ply Australia’s domestic routes. Big difference as you would expect on a larger aircraft is the amount of gadget space and just the sense of space. I could easy stow all the “stuff” I would need; iPhone, iPad, laptop, charger, and even my “good” camera for those classic sunset shots. Lunch was yet another Luke Mangan special and I chose King Prawns with carrot, daikon and coriander with miso and yuzu dressing. Main course was easy! Barramundi, a much sought after Australian fish, with black bean sauce, snow peas, rice and spring onions.The menu flowed on with range of magnificent deserts and cheeses but as I am on a health kick I resisted the temptation. And there are 10 choices of tea or coffee!But the real plus is the bed with its triple-layer seat cushion supported by a hammock sub-frame which guarantees a really good sleep. On my return flight from Los Angeles to Sydney I had eight hours!I know that compared to economy, business is luxurious but there are some business seats that don’t translate well into a flat bed and thus a good night’s sleep. If you are paying $8000 return from say Sydney to LA you expect to have a good night’s sleep.Of course if you don’t want to sleep the suite has the largest in-flight entertainment screen flying between Australia and North America, with an 18 inch High Definition touch screen claims the airline.I passed on the IFE and simply used my iPad loaded with all the classic movies and David Attenborough documentaries that I love.Virgin Australia has also revamped and expanded its business class bar and lounge and it now rivals Emirates A380 business class bar which I know is a big call. It is an intimate space and would be at home at the top end of Paris or London.The only issue is its proximity to the first row in the second business class cabin but Virgin Australia has now installed heavy duty curtains to block the light and any chatter. The bar also doubles as a place to have a continental breakfast before landing.Virgin Australia Group chief executive John Borghetti is lyrical about the new offering telling AirlineRatings.com that the airline is “committed to product innovation and delivering a superior customer journey on the ground and in the air.”“With competition increasing from Australia to North America and the Middle East, we believe this will be the best Business Class on the Pacific, with the product also being introduced to Abu Dhabi later this year,” said Mr Borghetti.Summing up – stunning product which matches the service!Note: The fleet will be ALL upgraded by the end of the third quarter of 2016. You can easily tell when you go to seat select which aircraft you will be on. Premium Virgin Australia has done a superb job repositioning its top economy product while adding a new twist that is sure to excite. Perhaps you could say the new and upgraded products are a time machine – back to when economy travel was more humane! Firstly it has morphed its premium economy into what it calls Premium. The improvements to the 24-seat cabin are numerous with more legroom than any other Australian airline is offering.Australian Business Traveller makes an interesting comparison noting that Virgin’s Premium offers 3 inches more legroom that the standard domestic offering in Australia. And the product has 9 inches more than economy – with a 19.5 inch wide seat and nine inches of recline.While I did not travel in the class I did take a seat and was surprised at what an amazing difference there is from economy. Essentially it is what the original business class was in 1979.Passengers get a plated meal services served on business class crockery and accompanied by a selection of wines from the business class cellar. There is dedicated check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage, enabling Premium guests to speed through airport formalities.Virgin’s explains that the number of Premium seats have been reduced and it is in a “smaller, more exclusive cabin which has taken seat comfort to a new level and really the positioning is around business light rather than economy plus.”But the big news is the new product, called Economy Space +, which is designed to make travel more comfortable and seamless for budget travellers who want a touch of class. This product will be available for flights commencing 30th of August. Its cost between A$135 and A$165 one way.This new class is located in a dedicated cabin of five rows behind Premium and the exit rows of the main economy cabin. And it’s amazing value!Passengers get extra legroom, check-in via a dedicated Premium check-in counter; pre-boarding, preferred overhead locker; dedicated crew members throughout the flight; guaranteed first meal choice; and premium noise-cancelling headset.Virgin Australia’s chief customer officer Mark Hassell told AirlineRatings.com that the airline believed Economy Space + will be very popular with a range of travellers.“Economy Space + enables you to speed through the airport and enjoy service from dedicated crew members throughout the flight, providing great value for guests,” said Mr Hassell.Virgin is the first Australian airline to adopt a local version of America’s popular “economy comfort” class, which allows travellers to trade up to a seat with more room without the premium economy price tag.According to AirlineRatings.com Consumer Editor Clive Dorman Economy Space+ is “big news” and I would have to agree and its “great news” as well for all those over 6ft or 182cms! “There are a total of 67 seats – 47 of them in the one cabin, the rest further down the main cabin and the “pitch” per seat row is 34 inches (86 cms) compared with 32 inches (81 cms) in economy,” said Mr Dorman.That brings economy back to what it used to be in the late 1960s. And it is amazing what a difference that two inches (5cms) makes!I found that at 193cm I had room to move that the extra sense of space is extraordinary. The feeling of claustrophobia disappears. “Instead of paying double or triple the economy rate, for say business the upgrade costs between $135 and $165 per seat one-way between Australia and the USA,” said Mr Dorman. Summing up Virgin Australia has this product mix perfectly targeted for all economy budgets and pockets – well done!!Premium fares from Sydney to Los Angeles is around is A$2200. Economy can be purchased for about A$800 and thus Economy Space + sits just under A$1000 one-way. (Fares sourced Sunday May 22 for travel August 30th)last_img


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