Flight: VA23, Melbourne – Los Angeles (15 April 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Velocity Frequent Flyer
Frequency: 5 flights weekly
Duration: STD: 11:35am (+10) ATD: 11.35am (+10) On time, STA: 9:00am (-7) ATA: 9:08am (-7) Delayed 9mins
Virgin Australia operates five Boeing 777-300ER aircraft exclusively for their long-haul fleet, with that type of aircraft predominantly flying from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles. All five aircraft have an identical three class configuration which features 37 of Virgin’s medium/long-haul business class product dubbed ‘The Business’, a 24 seat Premium Economy product and 278 Economy seats (75 of those are dubbed ‘Economy X’ which feature an additional 2” of legroom). ‘The Business’ features the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond reverse herringbone seat which is my personal favourite when it comes to Business Class seats.
Melbourne Airport’s international terminal was recently refurbished last year. It’s bright, modern and airy terminal and is by far the nicest terminal at Melbourne. I was connecting from Auckland so passed through international to international transfer which was fast and painless.
Virgin Australia has a myriad of lounge access rules depending on which class, airline and frequent flyer status. As they rely heavily on partners for international flights, it can be hard to keep up. Luckily they do have a webpage which allows you to select the way you are eligible to access a lounge (status or class), and then scroll down to your departing airport.
For my flight to Los Angeles in Business, I was entitled to use the Etihad First and Business Class lounge. Breakfast was currently being serviced with a range of hot and cold options. My goal was to get a shower before my long flight. I found the shower well-appointed but was slightly disappointed by the water pressure which could have been improved.
Other amenities that I enjoyed during my brief stay was the wifi which was fast, plus not to mention the nice views of the tarmac, with single seats line up along the windows.
I assigned myself 2A in the forward cabin. There are two cabins, the main forward one with roughly 7 rows (24 seats) and smaller rear cabin (13 seats). I was greeted by the Flight Attendant working my aisle shortly after boarding and I ordered a glass of the Champagne Ayala Millésimé 2007 Vintage. This was served with the menu of the meals for later in the flight.
The seat itself was set up with two pillows which would later be used when set up as a bed, noise cancelling head phones and a bottle of water. I found it to be pretty lacking in storage with shallow or narrow spaces rather than a usable large space. The tray table pops out from under the entertainment screen but wasn’t intrusive or impeded on my knees which can sometimes happen on other business class seats.
Later in the flight, there was turn down service available with some padding placed over the seat and pillow cases put over the seat pillows. The finishes are beautiful and the shell provides just the right amount of privacy without being claustrophobic. Pyjamas were also offered before take-off along with an amenity kit containing little goodies like moisturisers from Hunter Lab. The medium pyjamas that were provided sat pretty large on me and the amenity kit was mostly forgettable.
Inflight entertainment was offered on this flight courtesy of a beautiful HD screen. Fixed to the shell of the seat in front, I did not experience any issues seeing the screen in any reclined position. The surface of the screen was quite shiny, however with window blinds down, it was bright and clear. Content was reasonable with a fair number of new releases and some classics. Other than that there was not particularly a lot of choice, particularly when it came to TV shows and Music. I had a number of shows downloaded on my laptop (usual power points and USB ports available) so I can imagine I would have been a bit short of choice had I not had brought my own content to watch.
Wifi is not currently available on Virgin Australia international flights, however there are plans to equip these planes with wifi soon.
The Bread and Butter (food and drink)
Virgin Australia isn’t particularly well known for its food when it comes to those down the back (I have a running joke with some friends about domestic economy catering – think tiny muesli bars, Lindt balls or protein balls). One area I can’t fault them however, is that they consistently do Business class meals very, very well.
Lunch and breakfast were offered on this flight. Service began roughly an hour into take off with tables set, drinks and some nibbles (olives and cheesy biscuits). I had a smoked duck starter followed by pan seared salmon on a bed of soba noodles and finished off the meal with both the burnt butter caramel ice cream and churros (oops!). The meal was well paced, with only the churros taking longer to serve than the rest. Overall, I really enjoyed the meal and cleaned it up too quickly that I forgot to take a photo of the main!
During the flight, I was hungry after about a six hour nap and asked for a snack. I was offered the prawn toast with corn salsa and jalapeno mayonnaise. It offering was delicious.
About an hour and a half before landing, breakfast was served. Virgin Australia has guests fill out a breakfast form around take off with the breakfast card, including drinks and all food, which means that the flight attendants don’t need to wake you up prematurely before the meal if you are asleep. I had chosen the smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, baby spinach and goats fetta. This was served with a croissant, some fresh fruit and a fruit smoothie. Again, top marks for presentation and freshness of the food.
Virgin Australia really gets it right when it comes to ‘The Business’. The seat is well designed, comfortable and private. The food is on point – being fresh, tasty and well presented. Service was casual yet attentive and the whole flight was relaxed and enjoyable. A far bigger inflight entertainment selection and more useable storage would be welcome improvements in what was an overly enjoyable flight experience. It is a shame their international network is so small, as they a formidable force when it comes to international business class.
About the writer
I’m a well travelled 30 something who blames it all on his father (though really, I’ve taken it to the next level). Travelling from a young age and continuing to do so independently from the end of high school, I am happy to step on a plane headed anywhere. Indeed my colleagues at work don’t ask me if I’m going away in holidays, but where I’ll be headed. They don’t even bat an eyelid when I pop down to Melbourne for the weeknight just to see some show that takes my fancy.
All of my travel is self funded. Through a mixture of great fares and frequent flyer points I’ve developed a penchant for sitting at the front of the plane. However let’s be honest; I’ll just about sit anywhere if it means I get to fly somewhere.