If you've ever flown from Sydney to Perth, you'll know it can sometimes be a hellish experience. I've done the trip so many times I've lost track, yet each time I ask why I put myself through it again. This trip however, I decided to take things up a notch and chose to fly in Virgin Australia's new A330 Business Class.
Virgin Australia, Business Class
Sydney to Perth
A330, with the new futuristic Sky Interior
Quick and easy. I checked-in online before heading to the airport and received the new iPhone 5 Passbook-style boarding passes. The process is really simple to do, with a text being sent after check-in with a link to download the boarding pass. After that, you just go through the Bag Drop queue.
The Virgin lounge in Sydney is excellent, if a little out of date. It's the former Ansett lounge, so they're in the process of renovating it to align with the Virgin Australia brand. The new look lounge is set to be unveiled next month. The food offering was great, the standard selection of meats, cheeses and hot items, but it was the bar area that really had me drooling. I don't think I've seen a better selection of wine in an airport lounge, and best of all it was self service! No worrying about looking like a drunkard when I went back for a sneaky refill.
At eight degrees from fully horizontal, the sexy business class seats fit in to the lie-flat seat category, rather than being fully flat beds. Each is upholstered in charcoal coloured leather, giving you a feeling more akin to sitting in a sports car than an airline chair. Very Bond. The highlight however is the storage. There are more compartments than a commandos backpack. You have a space for your shoes, your water bottle, magazines, a space to put your phone while it charges in one of the power outlets, and even a spot to sit your 'real' glass of champagne.
Each seat is part of a modular pair, giving Virgin a 2-2-2 layout. There is ample space between the two seats, so you won't feel like you're sitting on top of the person next to you. The only downside of this new configuration is the amount of space in front of you. Unlike the older ex-Emirates Virgin A330’s, in which you could stretch your legs out horizontally from a seating position, your legs now go under the seat in front of you. It made the seat feel smaller, but comfort and storage made up for this.
On board entertainment:
The Red entertainment system is seriously groovy. Complimentary to all guests after takeoff, the new on-demand entertainment gives you access to a wide selection of the latest movies, TV, and audio channels. Options for connecting your own devices - iPads, iPhones, Android devices, laptops etc - are also available, meaning you can download a movie to your phone in the lounge and watch it on the bigger screens on board. While it's great that you can pre-download your movie selection, I don't think it will see much use.
I know it probably sounds cliché, but the service really was the best I've experienced. Unlike some airlines, Virgin staff actually have personalities! No request was too great or too small. My champagne glass was almost always full, and our cabin manager even showed off his napkin origami skills. Swan in the sky.
Food and beverages:
The Business Class menu was created by renowned Aussie chef Luke Mangan. For flights over three hours, you now get a full three-course dining experience for lunch and dinner, and there's also a wide selection of gourmet snacks if you find yourself getting peckish. My chicken was alive with colour and definitely an exotic world away from the standard economy fare.
If you're travelling through Sydney, use the kerbside Premium Entry rather than entering through the main terminal doors. You'll be greeted by Virgin staff as you check in, and then get whisked away to a dedicated screening point and straight into the heart of the Virgin lounge. This option is available to Business Class guests travelling with carry-on baggage only.
-The writer travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia.
Virgin on the Web: http://www.virginaustralia.com