Whilst we are all currently grounded and with so much uncertainty as to when our Australian borders will be open for international travel again, I have been reminiscing about some of my previous flights.
The COVID-19 crisis is having an unprecedented impact on the global economy with the travel sector feeling the brunt of the impact with global stay-at-home orders that have effectively turned off travel overnight.
Heading into this crisis with nearly $7 billion in debt and ‘only’ $1 billion in the bank, Virgin Australia was one of the first major casualties, heading into voluntary administration on April 21, 2020.
At the time of writing this article, four potential investors are circling and preparing binding offers for the airline with bids to be submitted by June. There are suggestions that Virgin Australia should return to its Virgin Blue origins as a low-cost carrier and abandon its costly transformation into a full-service airline. Having flown Virgin Australia’s “the business” both domestically in the Airbus A330 and across the pacific on its Boeing 777, I believe it would be an enormous loss for Virgin 2.0 to abandon its business class product and revert back into a low cost carrier.
The Flight Hacks team are big fans of the Virgin Australia A330 business class product , having reviewed it a number of times . We also rate it higher than the competing Qantas Business Suite .
I had the pleasure of flying the 777 home from the US via Melbourne at the end of November and wanted to share why I hope it survives to fly again soon.
In this post:
Ground Experience & Lounge
Check-in at LAX for Virgin Australia is at T3. It was prompt and friendly.
After a short stroll next-door to Tom Bradley International terminal, the prompt and friendly service ended. Security screening was a disaster. A scanner went down and the TSA agents were trying to swap passengers to the queue I was in. TSA agents were yelling at passengers in my queue, “no pushing the tubs!” and then resorted to being more offensive yelling, “NO means NO in so many languages!” when some passengers didn’t hear him. No passenger deserves to be yelled at like that. This was the only negative to the overall score but was clearly outside of Virgin’s control.
Virgin uses the Emirates lounge which wins the award for most appalling lounge Wi-Fi with an average speed of 0.03 Mbps download.
Thankfully the huge selection of food and cool ‘terrace’ redeemed the experience.
Virgin Australia always nails priority boarding. I’ve never seen such a well organised boarding of a widebody before.
Virgin Australia 777 “the business” Cabin & Seat
Steeping onboard, the cabin looks fabulous and gives you that “wow” moment.
The charcoal fabric seat covers, carpets, and black textured seat shells contrast beautifully against the silver seat-shell trim, and are complimented by white storage covers.
The seat is the same one that you’ll find in its Airbus A330 cabin , Fiji Airways A350 , and Qatar Airways 787 amongst others.
There is ample storage around the seat including on the benchtop and armrest, all of which have covers.
In the bathrooms, I loved the fact they play Australian music through the speakers in the bathroom as no one wants to hear noises from the toilet.
During the flight, the mood lighting transitions through various colours until the stars come out to suggest it is time to leave the bar and get some sleep.
Virgin Australia 777 “the business” Bar
The standout feature on this aircraft is the onboard bar located at door two, in between the two Business Class cabins. This is the only sit-down tendered bar you’ll find on a Boeing 777 and they’ve done a spectacular job with it.
I’ve enjoyed many a beverage on these stools chatting to the friendly crew and fellow passengers, especially on the flights from Australia when the midday departures mean you’re not quite ready for bed after the lunch service.
Speaking of bed, upon boarding there isn’t a mountain of linen waiting for you on your seat. That’s because as you’re finishing at the bar you can ask the friendly crew and whilst you are slipping into your PJs they’ll setup the bed for you. The mattress pad is one of the thickest and most comfortable I have experienced in business class.
Virgin Australia 777 IFE
The only notable area of cost saving is in the IFE content, which is limited compared to other carriers, however I have never had a problem finding movies to watch.
Virgin has Wi-Fi installed across its 777 if you would prefer to stay connected to the ground, something that Qantas does not offer on its international fleet.
Virgin Australia Service
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to experience “the business” on numerous occasions and what stands out is the consistency of the Virgin Australia service.
The crew welcome you onboard with genuine enthusiasm, none of the robotic fake pleasantries I have had from crew on other carriers. They remember your name throughout the flight, remember what wine you are drinking for refills, and remember what coffee you have with your breakfast when they offer you another. I never had to use the call bell and other small gestures such as kneeling down to match my eye level to make my meal orders make for a truly personal and unmistakably ‘Virgin’ experience.
Virgin Australia Business Class Food
Another area Virgin excel is the food. The carrier partners with Luke Mangan and this partnership consistently serves up more delicious dishes than anything I have tasted on a Qantas flight.
With a restaurant style dining experience with the cutest Opera House salt and pepper shakers – and with no plastic packaging to be seen.
Snacks that are served in ramekins, again, no plastic here! It is these details that complete the Virgin experience.
Hot smoked trout with garlic yoghurt, preserved lemon and pistachio tabbouleh for starter.
For main I opted for the oh-so-tender braised beef brisket with ginger and soy broth, bok choy and water chestnut.
With dinner wrapped up with a gloriously sweet chocolate brownie cake with chocolate mousse.
Breakfast orders are taken on a breakfast card before take-off from LA and arrived on a single tray a few hours before touch-down in Melbourne. I went with the banana break with vanilla strawberries, almonds and coconut yogurt which were a tasty, and sweet, change from the standard eggs.
They also have the best coffee on a plane thanks to Nespresso.
Virgin Australia punches well above its weight when it comes to business class execution.
From the comfortable seat with direct aisle for every passenger, sleek cabin, cushy mattress pad, delicious Luke Mangan catering, fabulous cabin crew and stunning onboard bar, “the business” had become my favourite way to fly across the Pacific.
Although there is uncertainty as to how long the travel recovery will take and what demand there will be for filling 777s across the Pacific, or how the onboard service will look in the near future, this article is dedicated to the incredible work Virgin Australia has done with its “the business” product and how much we hope it survives the administration process and current crisis.