A flight from Australia to the USA signifies a serious commitment to travel. You’re signing up for at least 13 hours in the air, another four or so in the airport, and a time zone change at the end that can leave you feeling a bit fuzzy, to say the least. It’s no wonder that travellers seek a higher class of comfort on these long-haul journeys, and not surprising that airlines respond in kind, offering passenger solutions that strive to outdo each other when it comes to innovation and indulgence.
Fully flat-lay beds, direct aisle access from every seat and an onboard cocktail lounge are a few of the features that give Virgin Australia’s ‘The Business’ an edge in this high-stakes competition. Premium economy passengers are also catered for in a cosy 24-seat cabin with inflight service that’s much more ‘business minus’ than ‘economy plus’.
Whichever you choose, Virgin is out to ensure your journey stateside is comfortable enough to brag about.
Chauffeurs, priority check-in
For Virgin Australia business class passengers on ‘Business’-branded fares, the journey to Los Angeles begins at home with complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers from front door to airport terminal.
Travellers on lower-priced ‘Business Saver’ tickets and those flying in premium economy can instead make their own way to Virgin Australia’s dedicated priority check-in desks at the airport for prompt processing, avoiding the often-lengthy economy queues.
A generous checked baggage allowance of 64kg (2x32kg bags) is complemented by a further 7kg cabin baggage allowance in premium economy and 14kg (2x7kg bags) in business class, plus an added personal item such as a handbag, purse or laptop computer carried separately.
Velocity Frequent Flyer Silver, Gold and Platinum members gain a third 32kg checked bag, providing 103kg of total luggage for premium economy guests and a staggering 110kg when booked in business class: adequate for even the most adventurous shopping trips!
Unwind in the Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and Star Alliance lounges
After check-in is complete, business class flyers and also Velocity Gold and Platinum members booked in premium economy are fast-tracked through security and passport control before relaxing in an airport lounge.
In Sydney, that’s the Etihad Airways First & Business Class Lounge: offering complimentary à la carte dining with waiter service and menus that change bi-monthly, plus barista-made espresso coffee, cocktails mixed to order and an array of comfortable leather seats throughout the space.
Virgin Australia also directs business class passengers to the similar Etihad Airways lounge in Los Angeles – as it does for Velocity Platinum travellers flying in premium economy – while Gold-grade premium economy jetsetters receive entry to the nearby Star Alliance Business Class Lounge.
Buffet dining replaces table service in the Star Alliance lounge, but which instead features a fantastic outdoor terrace – often proving a quiet and tranquil place to await a flight, away from the hustle and bustle of the busy terminal.
Eligible guests zipping from Brisbane to Los Angeles instead receive pre-flight access to the newly-refurbished Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge, also featuring buffet dining joined by no shortage of natural light to help smack down jetlag, courtesy of high ceilings and tarmac-facing windows.
Of course, wireless Internet access and private shower suites come standard in all of these world-class lounges.
Relax: it’s time to fly
Business class flyers migrating from lounge to aircraft are welcomed on board with vintage Champagne served straight to their suite: currently, the 2006 Ayala Millésimé: a rich, full-bodied Pinot Noir-based drop. It’s a similar affair in premium economy with a choice between Veuve D’Argent NV – a French sparkling wine of the Loire Valley – and Croser NV from Australia’s Adelaide Hills, a citrus-strong blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While sipping their bubbly, globetrotters can then begin exploring their surroundings.
Getting down to Business
At the pointy end, business class seats with direct aisle access measuring a comfortable 21"/53cm wide, broadening to 28"/71cm with the side armrest lowered. Later in the flight, these transform into fully-flat beds of 80 inches (203cm) – the length of a queen bed on the ground – topped with a memory foam mattress, multiple pillows and a duvet for added comfort.
An 18-inch high definition entertainment screen sits at eye-level with supplied noise-cancelling headphones, joined by copious storage options for keeping personal belongings at hand plus both AC and USB charging ports for smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Virgin Australia cabin crew stop by with Julie Grbac-designed pyjamas and Mandarina Duck amenity kits which high flyers are welcome to keep – the latter stocked with REN Skincare products and inflight essentials including a pen, eyeshade, dental kit, socks and ear plugs.
Loungewear isn’t provided in premium economy, but the promise of amenity kits still delivers that premium touch with a hint of business class. And that’s exactly the idea behind Virgin Australia’s premium economy service – it’s closer to business class than regular economy, with the dreaded ‘e’ word recently scrapped from its branding: now, it’s simply ‘Premium’.
With a 2-4-2 seating layout, Premium passengers are never more than one seat from an aisle, with couples perfectly-placed in the outer pairs. Noise-cancelling headphones too come standard – another nicety extended from business class – with each Premium seat measuring 19.5"/49.5cm wide, reclining a generous 9"/23cm and offering a 10.6-inch widescreen entertainment monitor.
Between each Premium row, 41"/104cm of ‘pitch’, or three inches more legroom than enjoyed in Virgin Australia business class on shorter international flights such as between Australia and New Zealand.
When it comes time to dine, a three-course meal is served on proper tableware in both classes complemented by warm bakery items, a range of Nespresso coffees, Madame Flavour teas, and as expected, a selection of beers, wines, spirits, liqueurs and other non-alcoholic drinks. Business class flyers have the added option of an ‘express’ meal service to maximise their productivity or rest, with seasonally-varied menus designed by Virgin Australia resident chef Luke Mangan. Following dessert and throughout the flight, premium economy passengers can stop by a ‘Premium Pantry’ for snacks and drinks or can order these from their seat – as they can more hearty bites such as a fresh wrap with chicken and roasted vegetables, or a Mornay pie.
In business class, guests can instead meander towards an inflight bar and lounge area to socialise with fellow flyers over cocktails, enjoy a latte or cappuccino at 40,000 feet or partake in a midnight snack. Like all respectable cocktail bars on the ground, Virgin Australia’s Boeing 777 business class too provides a ladies-only restroom with extra space for changing outfits, plus Hollywood-style make-up lighting for any pre-arrival touch-ups. Closer to landing, business class flyers can enjoy breakfast in bed or at the inflight lounge, while premium economy jetsetters can complete a hotel-style ordering card before drifting off to sleep, being awoken only when their morning meal is ready.
It’s then not long until travellers are back on the ground, reunited with their luggage and ready to relish the day ahead – of course, after ‘Business’-fare guests enjoy a second complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfer!
Virgin Australia offers daily return flights from both Sydney and Brisbane to Los Angeles using its flagship Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, offering business class, premium economy and economy service. Non-stop Virgin Australia flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles also take wing from April 4 2017, running five days a week in each direction. From mid-April 2017, the airline’s Brisbane-Los Angeles flights amend to six-times-weekly.
All images courtesy of Virgin Australia.
'It's The Business Flying with Virgin Australia', as published in Inspirations Autumn Edition 2017