I was lucky enough take a flight the Inaugural Virgin Australia Business Class A330 service from Sydney to Perth on 26 May 2011. This Sydney to Perth service is Virgin Australia’s first of many domestic business class services that the airline plans to implement this year and which the airline promises will put competition back into the Australian domestic business class market.
Virgin Australia Premium Lounge Entry & Check-in
Virgin Australia’s new Premium Lounge Entry is a breeze and a dream come true for business travellers, my driver dropped me off with-in a few meters of the check-in counter then at the counter there was no queue.
After checking in I headed thru Virgin Australia’s dedicated security check, which took around 3 minutes to clear, and this was only due to the fact that I had to pack and re-pack my laptop for scanning, and then I was the lucky person selected for the dreaded explosives swab test.
Time from Kerb to Lounge: From being dropped off I had cleared check-in and security and was in the Virgin Australia lounge in a record time for me of around 5 minutes.
The Lounge and Boarding
Virgin Australia’s Sydney lounge is modern and inviting and has all the features you would expect from an airline lounge, including meeting rooms, workstation benches, sit down lounge areas, showers, and food/beverage service areas (including barista service).
The features I found that set this lounge apart from your other lounges were:
Barista service – Nothing beats a freshly brewed late before an early morning flight so the fact that the lounge had a Barista service was a plus added to this the quality of the coffee was outstanding.
Sit down lounge areas – Another feature I loved about the Virgin Australia Sydney Lounge is that it was divided into several different/distinct areas, for example the area that I sat in (small area just to the left of the lounge entry) is a quiet and secluded area with only a few tables and chairs it was the perfect place to catch up for a quiet chat, read a book or get some work done.
After several announcements that DJ 553 to Perth was ready for boarding I departed The Lounge heading for gate 40 where the inaugural Virgin Australia A330 service to was departing from. Arriving at the gate our group heads straight for the Priority boarding lane and we are on our aircraft within minutes.
I was allocated seat 4J in Business Class which is a last row, aisle seat. Putting my two carry-on bags in the overhead locker the first thing I noticed was the extremely generous storage space in the overhead locker, well when your seat has a pitch of 60 inch (152 cm) this translates a huge amount of overhead storage.
Not long after getting settled into my seat I am offered a Champagne, orange juice or sparkling water; even though it is only 8 am this was the inaugural flight so opted for the Champagne (a 1999 Lanson Gold Label Brut) then not long later I was offered the breakfast menu to look over, the menu the menu consisted of:
Bakery – Croissant, wholemeal roll or sourdough roll services with a selection of preserves or Vegemite
Fruit – Seasonal fruit selection served with Greek yogurt and honey
Mains Mains Choice 1: Classic
Hot Breakfast – Pork sausage, bacon, spinach and goat’s cheese frittata with roasted trussed cherry tomatoes
Mains Choice 2:Lemon and ricotta pancakes with pineapple, maple syrup and mint
The above included the regular selection of juices, teas & coffee with the addition of Espresso coffee from espresso machine on a domestic aircraft in Australia.
Being a big fan of a hot breakfast when travelling I had already made up my mind selecting the Classic Hot Breakfast.
Due to a paper work issue the flight ended up departing the gate a little late, and then the aircraft was held on the tarmac for a further 20 minutes by aircraft controllers because of a large number of the heavy aircraft traffic at the time. In the end the inaugural service took off around 25 minutes late, however it should be noted that our flight made up the lost time in the and landed on time in Perth.
Virgin Australia’s first two A330 that have been put into operation between Sydney and Perth are leased Emirates aircraft therefore the great news is you are getting an International Business Class seat on your domestic flight.
Virgin Australia’s Business Class seat have a massive 60 inch (152 cm) seat pitch also width wide wise they measure up at 18 inch (45.7 cm) wide and to be honest they are one of the most comfortable seats I have had the pleasure of sitting or lying in on a domestic flight. The seat itself is not a true lie flat seat but a recliner which reclines near 180 degrees and is sufficient to have a comfortable sleep and beats the majority of domestic Business class cabins around the world both in terms of comfort and space
That massive seat pitch also means extra leg room, sitting in my seat I couldn’t get over the amount of legroom I had, placing my laptop/camera bag under the seat in front of me I found during the flight I needed to undo my seat belt and get out of my seat to access items out of my bag, now that’s a lot of leg room!
Food and Beverage Service
A little while after hitting cruising altitude the food service began first up was a selection of bread as well as fruit and yogurt. My mint and blueberry topped fruit salad was a real treat, (very fresh and tasty) the mint and syrup combination was a great zesty yet sweet combination went down a treat, also the Greek yoghurt and honey was a notable mention.
After some time to digest the bread and fruit entree, mains were being served and as I mentioned earlier I opted for the classic hot breakfast which consisted of pork sausage, bacon, with spinach and goat’s cheese frittata with roasted cherry tomatoes again this hit the spot and I would rate the quality and taste better than what you would find at most up market Sydney cafes.
If you are a coffee lover then you would be pleased to know that this aircraft is fitted with the first espresso machine on board an Australian domestic aircraft.
Alcohol wise other than the 1999 Lanson Champagne I did not sample anything else on the drinks menu, however I was told that on my return flight I should give The Australian Cocktail by Luke Mangan a try.
Flight Attendants and Service
Full marks went to the Virgin Australia flight attendants; they pulled this inaugural business class service off with ease and without a hitch, I found them friendly and bent over backwards to ensure the flight was a pleasant and memorable one.
With full marks for each of the other areas I was keen to see how the Inflight Entertainment system performed but unfortunately the system was a little dated and very hard to operate, in that the system was not intuitive. Now I am a technical person however I found myself having figure out how the system worked by trial and error and then later in the flight when I wanted to switch to a different movie or music I had to remember what I had learned earlier. As far as screen size and quality of the video and audio it was good for a domestic service.
It should be noted that when Virgin Australia receive their own A330 aircraft the IFE system should be a more modern and intuitive system (Perhaps the Panasonic eX3 system) and will most likely be Video on Demand rather than a shared streamed video/audio feeds.
Headphone wise in business class you get a set of over the ear noise cancelling headphones, which I found were reasonable in quality, since I own a few sets of noise cancelling headphones after giving the Virgin Australia set a try I decided to switch over to my top of the line set of Sennheiser noise cancelling Headphones.
Touchdown in Perth
As mentioned above even though the flight departed nearly 25 minutes late we made up time in the air actually landing on time. Before leaving the aircraft I grabbed my jacket from a flight attendant and noticed that they had kindly put it into a wonderful new Virgin Australia suite bag (pictured below) which was mine to keep.
Virgin Australia Priority Baggage
Even though I had not checked in any luggage because I prefer to travel with cabin baggage only for short trips, the baggage of my fellow business class travellers came out very quick in fact their bags were the first off the carousel. For the return leg I will defiantly look at checking my cabin bag ensure I properly road test Virgin Australia’s priority bag service.
Return Flight from Perth to Sydney
Stepping forward a few days for the return flight from Perth to Sydney, check-in was a breeze being served and checked in a few minutes after entering the terminal building, after check in we then headed straight to the Virgin Australia lounge which is located just on the left after you clearing the security screening point.
The Perth Virgin Australia lounge was slightly dated however fairly quiet and a nice place to relax prior to boarding, it should be noted that this lounge will soon be renovated so passenger will see lounge the quality of the Sydney lounge by the end of the year (minus the kerb side check-in & lounge access)
For the return flight I was allocated seat 1E and the Business Class cabin was very empty with only 14 passengers, which was great giving me the freedom to move around a few times and experience different seats in the business cabin, and also to take some great shots for this article.
As for the “The Australian Cocktail” by Luke Mangan it was a hit, the group I was travelling with ended up managing two on the return run, the blend of white spirits, cognac and cranberry juice with ginger and lime syrup made for a quite flavorsome yet refreshing drink, if you are travelling on a Virgin Australia business class flight The Australian is highly recommended (Note you can try The Australian on V Australia services also)
Update for the return Perth to Sydney service I checked my small cabin bag and indeed it came out from the baggage carousel in the first lot along with the luggage of the other business passengers. It should also be noted that my bag came out just as we arrived at the baggage carousel.
Following the flight the things that most stuck out for special mention in this review was:
Service and Cabin Crew – The friendliness and attention to detail of the cabin crew was superb, in my opinion this can make the difference between a reasonable and a great flight, and this was a great flight.
Meal & Beverage Service – For me the Luke Mangan inspired meal service was up there as one of the highlights of the flight, the freshness and quality of the meal was top notch, leagues away from a lot of the International Business Class meals which have had in the last year. Also the café Espresso service was another highlight of the flight as well as in the lounge. For an early start to the day nothing beats it.
The only bad comment I have about the service was the inflight entertainment system was a little difficult to operate, I worked it out eventually but it took some playing around with to work it out. As this is one of the initial Airbus A330 aircraft on lease from Emirates I am fairly confident that future Virgin Australia A330 and 737 aircraft will go into service with a more modern and intuitive IFE system.
The author flew on the inaugural Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Service as a guest of Virgin Australia.