Both Qantas and Virgin offer an outstanding business class product on their A330 domestic services. The newly refurbished cabins set a high standard when they were first released back in 2015. Our selection for domestic business class products is often better than what some carriers serve on long-haul flights. With that being said, who does it better…Qantas or Virgin?

For this review, I’m trying to be as objective as possible. It’s no secret I personally prefer Virgin’s business class product on the A330 over Qantas’s so I will try to compare both side by side, apples for apples.

My review flights were taken a few days apart from Perth to Melbourne and back again. Both flights were evening schedules so I will be comparing dinner flights from and to.

Cost Of Flying Business Class

Qantas prices its business class seat from Perth to Melbourne at $2186 for a one-way flight which is rather expensive. In terms of points, the flight can be had for 36,000 Qantas points + $37 in taxes. However, if you collect Amex points, you can also use Asia Miles to redeem Qantas flights for only 30,000 Asia Miles + taxes. Or you can buy Alaska and or AAdvantage miles at a cost of roughly $560 in business.

Virgin prices its “The Business” seats at $1299 for a one way on the same route (same date) or 35,500 Velocity points + $20.43 in taxes.

Of course, you can get it for much cheaper (around $500 when you buy Etihad points) using Etihad Guest miles which comes in at 21,800 + taxes for the same route.

  • Qantas: 0
  • Virgin: 1

Pre-departure

Flying business class there really is no need to check-in luggage (especially for a quick weekend in Melbourne). Both carriers have never weighed my carry on luggage, so self-check-in and a mobile boarding pass in my Apple wallet were all that I needed. Both airlines offer this option, but Qantas requires you to pick up a paper receipt when boarding which kind of defeats the paperless benefits…I guess you can purchase some “carbon offset” from their future planet website?

Apple Wallet boarding pass

  • Virgin Australia: yes
  • Qantas Airways: yes

Priority Security Screening

This is really airport dependant, Perth is great for both Qantas and Virgin with separate lanes for Gold/Platinum and business class passengers. However, it’s a different story in Melbourne where only one side of the Virgin Lounge has priority screening while the other side of the terminal can lead you right into a lengthy queue, which happened to be our case. Qantas has no priority screening in Melbourne, but the lounge is located past the checkpoint.

Even though on this occasion our gate was 12 (which is the side with no priority line) and faced with a 15 min wait in the queue I will still award a point to both Qantas and Virgin; since they (Virgin) do have a special security lane from the lounge to the gates on the other side. Similar to their Sydney curbside security clearance which is fantastic.

  • Qantas: 1
  • Virgin: 1

The Lounge

The Qantas Business Class Lounge in Perth is a fantastic space and arguably one of the best QF business lounges in Australia at the moment (while others get refurbished).

It’s modern, has plenty of seating options, a great bar and an excellent selection of food, including freshly made pizza.

Virgin’s business lounge in Melbourne, on the other hand, is a rather sorry affair when compared to the QF business lounge.

It’s unfortunate that Virgin doesn’t have a separate lounge for business and Platinum status guest but it’s understandable since they just don’t do the same volume as Qantas.

However, if one were to compare the Qantas Club to the Virgin lounge, Virgin would win this round hands down.

  • Qantas: 1
  • Virgin: 0

Boarding

Let’s face it, Qantas just doesn’t understand the concept of priority boarding. Ask the biggest Qantas fans and they will all agree that Virgin does priority boarding better. Fact.

When it comes to boarding Qantas has 2 lines, one for business, platinum and gold status guest and one for economy passengers. However most of the time they are not enforced, so people line up wherever they please. When the line starts moving, there is no pre-boarding for priority guest, and it’s just a matter of “which line is shorter” to figure out who will get on first.

Qantas A330 Business Class Review (9 of 25)
Virgin Australia business class a330 (13 of 17)

Virgin, on the other hand, starts by boarding priority guests first before allowing economy passengers. People trying to sneak into the priority queue are promptly turned back. It’s a much more effective system.

However on this occasion, Virgin took a royal beating which was primarily due to the long security line outside the lounge in Melbourne.

I started the “boarding timer” after exiting the lounge, Qantas lounge to BOS (butt on seat) was a total of 4:47.45. Virgin, on the other hand, clocked in at 13:42.39

If it weren’t for the security line, Virgin would have won… but since I’m a subjective reviewer…

  • Qantas: 1
  • Virgin: 0

On-Board Service

Overall Crew Friendliness + Pre Departure Drinks

On both flights, the crew were some of the best I’ve experienced flying business with Qantas & Virgin. In this case I found the Virgin crew to be more professional overall and slightly more proactive. Boarding the Qantas flight 2 attendants greeted us at the door, but there was no one on duty to offer pre-departure drinks to guests in business class.

In fact, it took an absurd 14:59.63 before crew started to go around with a tray of drinks (this was after everyone, including economy passengers, had boarded) which had a choice of water or some cordial mixed with water.

Virgin, on the other hand, had 2 crew at the door and 1 crew member in each aisle offering welcome drinks to the guests. Instead of walking around with a tray, the Virgin crew introduced themselves “Hi my name is such and such, and I will be looking after you this flight, would you like a pre-departure beverage?”. I find this approach much more welcoming and it shows a high standard of service right from the start. I could see the crew actively working their way down the aisle instead of hiding in the galley. After an 8:08.93 wait, I opted for a glass of sparkling wine (Virgin cut their champagne option…which wasn’t a bad call as it was somewhat undrinkable)

  • Qantas: 0
  • Virgin: 1

After Takeoff Drinks Service + Meal Order Taken

After the seatbelt signs turned off it took Qantas 23:30.43 to offer a drink of choice with some nuts. I opted for a G&T and made some small talk with the lady looking after our aisle, who was lovely.

IMG-0797
qantas business class lounge perth (6 of 11)

Virgin took 18:57.72 after the seatbelt signs turned off to serve a G&T which came with a choice of nuts or olives (or both). The gentlemen looking after the A row was very professional and took great pride in his work which is something I really appreciate.

  • Qantas: 0
  • Virgin: 1

Meal Service

Both dinners were enjoyable, while Qantas food can be hit and miss, I’ve noticed a lot of improvement in the last few months.
On the Qantas flight, I opted for the crab, pomelo and cucumber salad with chilli and lime nam jim. The great little dish packed with fresh flavours and some heat from the chilli. For my main, I tried the buttermilk fried turkey which tasted great, but the presentation made it look horrible.

qantas business class lounge perth (2 of 11)
qantas business class lounge perth (4 of 11)
qantas business class lounge perth (3 of 11)
qantas business class lounge perth (5 of 11)

Size wise it was more like a snack or entree.
For dessert I went with a cheese platter paired with a glass of sticky wine, which was very enjoyable.

Qantas A330 Business Class Review (7 of 25)
Qantas A330 Business Class Review (6 of 25)

Virgin’s menu had a chicken salad or soup on the menu, considering I was coming down with a cold, I went for the pumpkin, turmeric and saffron soup followed by the Petuna ocean trout with cauliflower puree and broccolini. For dessert I chose the flourless chocolate cake.

qantas business class lounge perth (10 of 11)
qantas business class lounge perth (11 of 11)

Virgin has a great selection of snacks which you can request at any time during the flight. One of their pilots got me onto the caramel popcorn which is hard to pass on.

Regarding wines, I find Qantas has a slightly better selection, and they still have “real” champagne so I’ll have to give them a point for that.

Virgin The Business (1 of 3)
Virgin The Business (2 of 3)
Virgin Australia business class a330 (10 of 17)
Virgin Australia business class a330 (5 of 17)

Concerning presentation, Virgin is a clear winner. While Qantas will give you a napkin full of cutlery, Virgin crew will set the cutlery required for each part of the dinner service. It’s like comparing a restaurant to a takeaway shop. In terms of food presentation, Qantas can do with some improvement. From the time the order was taken, Qantas took 30:48.62 while Virgin came in at a close 32:59.40

  • Entree: Qantas
  • Main: Virgin
  • Dessert: Qantas
  • After Dinner Snack: Virgin
  • Booze: Qantas
  • Presentation: Virgin
  • Time to food: Qantas
  • Qantas: 4
  • Virgin: 3

In-Flight Entertainment

Both airlines feature a 16-inch touchscreen display with a good selection of movies, tv shows and music. For the most part, the new blockbusters are the same on both. I have to give Qantas the edge for the display since the screen tilts down slightly which makes it easier to view. However when it comes to headphones, Virgin is the clear winner since they provide noise cancelling headphones and Qantas does not.

  • Qantas: 1
  • Virgin: 1

The Seat

Both airlines are offering direct aisle access and a 1 – 2 – 1 configuration in their business class cabins, something rarely seen in other domestic business class configurations.

Virgin Australia Business Class A330-200

Virgin has opted for the famous (and arguably best) reverse herringbone design. It provides all passengers with maximum privacy and space. Qantas on the other hand, has gone for a staggered forward facing layout which is hit and miss. On some seats for example, you can look directly at the other passenger sitting next to you across the aisle.

Regarding colours, Virgin features a sporty look with dark charcoal privacy shells and white panelling complemented by a touch of purple. Qantas is a bit more traditional with black leather seats, silver seat shells and faux wood grain panels.

Both seats go entirely flat, and the seat controls are easy to use via the control panel. Virgin’s is a touch screen display while Qantas is operated by a standard button layout. In terms of extra features, Qantas allows a 21-degree pitch on takeoff and offers a massage feature in the chair. Comfort wise, Virgin has the upper hand when it comes to lounging.

For some reason I can’t get comfortable in the “lounge” position on the Qantas seat. I think this is due to the seat mechanism which when in motions moves all parts of the chair. Virgin’s seat can be moved in separate sections without moving the whole seat so you can adjust different elements to suit your position. Both seats have ample storage and power outlets to cater to all your devices.

Onto the dining table, Qantas has it’s table stored in the seat console, and it moves out with a push. It’s convenient, and since the side table is rather big, it works. Virgin has the table mounted under the TV display, and it’s on a rail which slides up or down depending on your personal preference. Personally, I have to vote for the Virgin table since it’s height is adjustable.

When it comes to the middle seat, Virgin wins again by offering a better privacy screen in case you don’t know the person sitting next to you. Though if you do want to chat with your companion, it’s possible since seats are angled towards each other whereas Qantas has a fixed privacy divider.

The only thing the Qantas seat has going for it is the accessibility to get in and out of your seat when it’s already reclined; there’s just a touch more leg room to move your legs.

  • Seat Design: Virgin
  • Seat Comfort: Virgin
  • Seat Features: Qantas
  • Seat Privacy: Virgin
  • Seat Accessibility: Qantas
  • Virgin: 3
  • Qantas: 2

Conclusion

I think we’re incredibly lucky to have such great airlines with fantastic business class seats on domestic routes in Australia. If you’ve ever flown business class in Europe, you’ll know what I mean and can probably sympathise with my opinion. It will be interesting to see what the next move is since Virgin is moving a lot of their A330 aircraft onto Asian routes, swapping them with the less superior 737 (which features a basic recliner). We know Virgin is actively looking to install flat-bed seats into the 737 and I’m sure Qantas would follow suit to keep the competitive spirit alive.

The Winner:

Virgin Australia wins 11 VS Qantas 10!

10
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Rohit
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Rohit

Hey Immanuel, really good piece and enjoyed reading it thoroughly.

Sean
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Sean

I’ll honestly be surprised if The layflat seats ever actually make their way onto the VA 737’s

Barry
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Barry

C’mon…surely someone who writes trip reports knows it’s an aisle…not an isle!

Sam
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Sam

While virgin does have some good features, it does still have the ‘bogan’ factor.

Morgan
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Morgan

Great piece as usual Immanuel I actually just flew QF A330 business and then 737 business to NZ (from Perth via Sydney) I had a true window seat and it was great though Qantas business on the A330 feels more crammed than Virgin though not by much I also think credit has to go to Qantas for having a lot of routes and times with the A330 Virgin needs to get some more A330 or hurry up and configure the 737 and also put entertainment on them like Qantas already have overall I feel as if Virgin has better seats… Read more »