FLY THE BUSINESS
VIRGIN AUSTRALIA, BUSINESS CLASS : SYDNEY TO LOS ANGELES
By Rhiannon Taylor, August 2016
AIRCRAFT: Boeing 777-300ER. Virgin Australia has 5 of these aircraft and fly daily to Los Angeles from Brisbane and Sydney. They also fly 3 times a week to Abu Dhabi.
FLIGHT PATH: Sydney to Los Angeles. Domestic transfers from other Australian cities to Sydney are available with Virgin Australia.
LOYALTY PROGRAM: Virgin's Velocity Frequent Flyer program needs no introduction. The award winning loyalty scheme is free to join and you can earn points at BP nation wide and even redeem your points on the spot for fuel. Points can also be earned with several other airlines.
FLIGHT TIME: 12 hours and 50 minutes.
BAGGAGE: Two checked bags up to 32 kilograms, one carry on item and one personal item.
THE SEAT: All seats on the new Virgin Australia's "Fly The Business" Class have aisle access. The layout is 1-2-1 and I'm in a window seat, 4K. Aptly named a "Business Class Suite", you feel more first class than business. The seat is 28 inches wide and reclines out to 80 inches when in lie-flat position - that's the length of a queen sized bed! When you're ready for sleep the staff will set up a mattress and doona for you, with plenty of pillows for a flawless sleep. The cabin's unique starry-sky mood lighting will put you to sleep in no time.
EXPERIENCE: Stepping in to your suite you feel privileged to peace and quiet. The wishbone layout means you feel utmost privacy, not having to face another passenger. There's an easy to read booklet that points out the endless compartments and features. Reading lamp, tablet compartment, headphones, water bottle, adjustable arm rest, power outlets - the list is endless.
The tray table slides under the entertainment system, making it easier to access and also folds in half should you only need to use it for a snack or drink. The included amenity bag is custom made for Virgin Australia by Mandarina Duck. It contains socks, eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, ear plugs and a body kit by REN. Favoured by beauty editors across the globe, REN has put together a kit containing body cream, face cream and lip balm. When you're ready to unwind, change in to your take-home PJ's by Juli Grbac (winner of Australia's first season of Project Runway) - she does a fab job with the crew's uniforms too.
If you need to stretch your legs, hit the sexy bar for on demand cocktails. It's a great place to chat to other guests, swap business cards and transport yourself from being on a plane to feeling like you're in a slick speakeasy. You never know who you may meet here on your way to Los Angeles.
ENTERTAINMENT: The jaw-droppingly huge 18 inch flatscreen is currently the largest on offer for any airline flying between Australia and the USA. There's a hand-held control, stored in a side compartment, but the touch screen is incredibly responsive. There's no lag, like most airline touch screens; rather it responds much like an iPad. Noise cancelling headphones are located in the adjustable armrest by PHITEK. There's a decent selection of current and past films, tv shows and documentaries. There's a small library too, if you're in the mood to read an e-book.
SERVICE: The service on Virgin Australia is a real stand-out. Crew members have dedicated seats to attend to, addressing each guest by name. Champagne is served before take off and the staff take you through your suite so you feel comfortable and familiar. But that's all pretty standard at the pointy end of the plane. Where Virgin differs is their genuine commitment to making sure each guest has a good time on board. The staff are approachable and fun, with loads of personality. They're up for a conversation, be it about the eye mask you're donning mid-flight or the best brunch spot to hit when you land. It's a refreshing change from most airlines.
FOOD: Virgin Australia has reknowned Aussie chef Luke Mangan on board to design a menu that's unique and fresh. Starters such as a fatoush salad and sweetcorn and coriander soup are nourishing, healthy and satisfying. A simple main course of a beef eye fillet comes with a moorish potato gratin and green beans. It's balanced and comforting. There's a choice of cheese or dessert and I opt for dessert. A very adult warm chocolate cake hits the spot with poached rhubarb and sour cream. The wine list features some classic Australian and New Zealand wines and a French Champagne.
Breakfast is a real stand out, with Luke Mangan's french toast being an indulgent winner. A continental option is available and you can dine at the swish bar. The bar is open throughout the flight and it's a great spot for a gin and tonic to knock the edge off mid-flight. If at any time, you're feeling peckish, there's a hot menu on demand. Crisp corn and manchego croquettes felt like a naughty midnight snack and I could have happily had another serving.
VERDICT: Without being crass, Virgin Australia's new business class suite has major sex appeal. It's innovative, luxe and undeniably cool. And for all that swagger, it doesn't sacrifice on service or quality. Outstanding food, interactive entertainment and comfort are the basis of a fabulous experience. But the bar, amenity kit and forward-thinking seat design are the future of what business class travel should look like.
I flew courtesy of Virgin Australia.