Hi Frugalistas! I travelled to Europe recently and was booked on a Virgin Australia codeshare from Abu Dhabi to Sydney on my return. I fly Virgin Australia domestically (albeit in Economy) and have flown the coast to coast service from Sydney to Perth in Business Class, so naturally was interested to see what the International Business Class had to offer.
Things didn’t get off to a great start with difficulties getting my boarding pass (I’ll be writing about this separately in my review of Etihad Business Class), but once in the Etihad Business Class Lounge things improved significantly. For once, the lounge was not packed – pleasantly quiet in fact. A fabulous 15 minute facial in the Six Senses spa also helps to restore my well being.
At the gate boarding is organised and efficient, and I’m promptly shown to my seat, and my fly attendant for the sector, Gary, introduces himself, offers champagne (Lanson I note) and asks if this is my first Virgin Australia international flight. I’m then offered an “orientation” to the seat and entertainment system (which I politely decline. It all looks pretty straight forward – as it turns out to be in practice).
Seating in the Business cabin is arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration, meaning window seat passengers (ie Me) will need to climb over if need be. Seat pitch is massive, so on arrival I’m hopeful I won’t have a problem getting in and out. My travel buddy soon arrives and turns out to be a delightful young woman who works for Virgin ground staff in Brisbane. She’s a great ambassador for her company, and takes great pride in telling me how much she loves her job and what a wonderful company Virgin Australia is to work for. I don’t know about you, but I love using companies where the staff clearly love their boss!
Prior to take off we are offered unisex pyjamas which turn out to be a quality thick, deliciously soft cotton that are fabulously comfortable. A lady’s amenity kit is also offered with a proper size toothpaste (unlike the tiny little offerings that commonly appear in Business Class these days), small hairbrush, lip balm, hand cream, face moisturiser, tissues and a comfort kit of cotton buds and emery board. It is an excellent quality kit and comes in a good quality toilet bag. A good stock of newspapers and magazines (both international and Australian) are also offered.
Once we’re on our way I start to give the seat and entertainment system a thorough workout. The seat folds out into a fully flat bed, and can be adjusted manually to get the exact right position. Foot rests are augmented by padded cushions that the crew promptly bring round as foot rests get raised by individual passengers. I quickly get myself comfy, pull out the pop up entertainment screen and settle in to catch up on some films I’ve missed. I’m impressed with the entertainment system. It can be used either by using a touch screen or the remote control. I start off with the touch screen and it works so well I don’t bother with the remote. There’s an excellent choice of current release films as well as a large number of TV shows (including a full season of Anthony Bourdain, which I progressively work my way through), so there’s no problem finding something to watch. I also note there’s a dedicated kid’s channel. The head phones are great, comfortable and with excellent noise cancelling qualities.
When it’s dinner time we are advised that unfortunately there is no printed menu available, so the lovely Gary comes around to individually tell us what is on offer and take our orders. A choice of three entrees (appetizers) and three mains is offered. I go for a smoked trout salad for entree which is light, fresh and just delightful. I would have happily paid to eat it in a restaurant. My main course is a fillet of beef, which despite being cooked all the way through, remains tender, moist and tasty. Accompanied by a pepper sauce, a cauliflower puree and some perfectly cooked beans, it’s a smart, classic dish. A glass of good Australian shiraz completes the experience well. I pass on the dessert and cheese, and favour a sleep instead. A breakfast order card is in my seat pocket (like a hotel room service order card) so I complete that, and tick the box to say don’t wake me if I’m asleep when breakfast is served (a nice touch).
I’m tired, so ask to go the sleep. Gary makes up my bed with an underlay and a quality cotton duvet and I sleep well in the fully flat seat. When I wake up my neighbour is still asleep, but the seat pitch and height make it easy to get around her bed without having to do a true step over.
When breakfast is served (yes, I’m awake), the still smiling and enthusiastic Gary checks that I still want what I’ve ordered and brings it out. Standard airline fresh fruit and yoghurt, followed by a very non-standard and genuinely delicious spinach omelette served with veal bacon (which I enjoy very much), a chicken sausage and a brilliant spicy tomato sauce. Coffee is served in a mug and is good by airline standards.
Business class has a bar, which I don’t use, but which looks well stocked with plenty of choice for those who want to wander away from their seat and enjoy a quiet drink. The loos are divided into ladies and gents, which I’ve never seen on a plane before. Everything in the loos is in good condition and it remains spotless throughout the flight despite the cabin being full.
So, what’s my verdict? There’s a lot to like about the Virgin Australia International Business Class. The Virgin Australia attitude and service is definitely there, and consistently so. There are a lot of little things that make it seem like the First Class offering on other airlines – such as the quality of the amenity kit, the pyjamas, and the bed making service. The food is excellent. The only downsides I can see are the side by side seating of the Boeing 777 and the set meal times. Move to single seating (such as on the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class) and an anytime dining meal service and you’d definitely have First Class for a Business Class price.
I’d happily fly Virgin Australia International Business Class again.
The author booked and paid for her own ticket on this flight.
Photo credits: As identified
Virgin Australia Sydney domestic lounge review