In Australia, we are fortunate to have access to a Business Class offering of an extremely high calibre, thanks to strong competition between Qantas and Virgin Australia. This competition is particularly fierce on transcontinental east-west routes, with both Virgin and Qantas offering a Business Class travel experience of an international standard.
Upgrades on transcontinental flights start from 9,900 points for a flexible economy ticket and outright redemptions cost 35,500 points. Upgrades are well within reach if you have a stash of Velocity points sitting in your account waiting for a rainy day.
My partner and I recently completed three Virgin Australia Business Class flights between Perth and Melbourne / Sydney. We flew at different times on the day and experienced both the 737-800 and the Airbus A330-200, where we flew in Virgin Australia’s highly regarded ‘The Business’. Read on to find out how each flight stacked up.
Flight one – Virgin Australia Business Class, Perth to Melbourne
|Flight number:||VA 680|
|Duration:||3 hrs 30 min|
|Upgrade points (per person):||9,900 Velocity points from flexible economy
30,000 Velocity points from discount economy
Our Perth to Melbourne flight was upgraded from fully flexible tickets for 9,900 points per person. On weekends and off-peak periods, Virgin Australia often uses their Boeing 737 on transcontinental routes. There are a few disadvantages with the Boeing 737 as opposed to Airbus A330 on a longer domestic flight; the most significant being a reclining seat instead of a flat-bed suite.
For this flight, I sat in Row 1, with adequate leg room. However, the downside is you have to store all bags in the overhead lockers during take-off and landing.
Upon boarding, we were presented with a Mandarina Duck amenity kit which was a surprise. (It didn’t happen on any of our other flights). This is a cut-down version of what you’d get on their long-haul international flights to Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
There is no in-seat entertainment, only wireless streaming of content. A Samsung Galaxy tablet is provided in Virgin Australia Business Class – difficult to use during meal service.
In terms of catering, meals are served on a tray instead of being individually plated, and one of the three meal options is typically not available due to the smaller galley. For breakfast, we chose the natural muesli with coconut and strawberry, and the chorizo omelette with feta.
The omelette was one of the best egg dishes I’ve ever had in the air. While the natural muesli was presented well, unfortunately it was quite dry and difficult to eat, even with milk.
We enjoyed the flight, but for the same points, you can get a vastly better experience as you’ll see below.
Flight two – Virgin Australia Business Class, Melbourne to Perth
|Flight number:||VA 679|
|Duration:||4 hrs 20 min|
|Upgrade points:||9,900 Velocity points from flexible economy
30,000 Velocity points from discount economy
At a cost of just 9,900 points per person to upgrade from flexible economy, our points outlay to fly Virgin Australia’s ‘The Business’ represents excellent value. The Airbus A330 features twenty Virgin Australia Business Class ‘suites’ arranged in a 1-2-1 layout.
These ‘suites’ are considerably better than some other airlines’ international Business Class. They feature ample storage space, a huge screen and the ability to convert into a fully flat-bed. My partner and I picked middle seats as it’s easier to talk and share food together.
Transcontinental flights in the Airbus A330 which depart after 9.30 am feature a three course lunch or dinner service. However with a departure time of 9:15am, we just missed out and were served breakfast again.
The table was set with crisp linen, and very cute Sydney Opera House salt/pepper shakers. Breakfast started with a pastry, fruit salad and yoghurt.
For the main course we chose the Boston beans with pork sausage, and fruit toast with pineapple and yoghurt.
Having been awake since 4am, we then gratefully snuggled into our doonas and caught up on sleep the rest of the way to Perth.
If you’re on the Airbus A330 service, an upgrade for 9,900 points is a no-brainer. Consider opting for a flight after 9:30am to avoid breakfast and get a more exciting dining experience!
Flight three – Virgin Australia Business Class, Sydney to Perth
|Flight number:||VA 567|
|Duration:||5 hrs 10 min|
|Redemption points:||35,500 Velocity points + $20 AUD in taxes|
As a stand-alone flight, we purchased this ticket outright for 35,500 points and $20 in taxes per person. If you were upgrading from an economy fare, the rate would still be the standard 9,900 points from flexible economy, or 30,000 points from discount economy.
We were really looking forward to this flight, as it was nearly an hour longer than the previous one. As it was a dinner flight, we’d be able to indulge in the three course dining.
The seats and onboard experience was generally the same as before, so let’s jump straight to the food. Service commenced with the menu, mixed nuts and drinks.
We tried each of the starters – prosciutto with fennel remoulade, and Spanish tomato soup.
For mains, we chose the petuna ocean trout and the red duck curry.
To finish, we were presented with an incredibly satisfying passionfruit panna cotta and cheese plate.
We were impressed by this restaurant-level dining on a domestic flight. The service on this flight was professional too, with the cabin crew being friendly, discreet and efficient. This was our favourite Business Class experience by far.
The Virgin Australia Business Class pre-departure airport experience
In general, flying Virgin Australia Business Class grants you priority check-in at the airport, priority luggage tags so you can get your bags quicker, priority security screening, lounge access, and priority boarding at the gate. In many cases, we were arriving at check-in to reaching the lounge in mere minutes.
Sydney (and Brisbane) benefit from ‘Premium Entry’, which is a private entrance and security line. This leads straight into the lounge and is definitely one of our favourite perks.
The Virgin Australia Business Class lounges
Virgin Australia Business Class guests can access the lounge before the flight and on arrival, subject to capacity.
Above: The new VA Perth Lounge
They all have a barista bar for great coffee during the day, and the main bar opens from midday serving a range of wines and beers.
Food is of a similar standard across all lounges – there’s always a sandwich and salad bar. During breakfast, you’ll find pancakes and daily specials such as a cheese and onion frittata.
During lunch and dinner periods on weekdays, there might be more substantial offerings such as soups and pastries.
L: Breakfast in Melbourne VA Lounge R: Dinner in Sydney VA Lounge
Not a bad way to start off your flight!
There’s no denying Virgin Australia has really stepped up its game with transcontinental Business Class. If you book the most expensive flexible economy fares, the 9,900 point upgrade rate for transcontinental flights represents excellent value – particularly when you can travel on the Airbus A330.
Most travellers will likely be on discount economy fares, where the upgrade rate of 30,000 points is not as attractive. Contemplate an outright redemption for 35,500 points (plus taxes), and save your cash for the holiday.
Unfortunately for domestic travellers, Virgin Australia is looking to move all their Airbus A330’s onto international routes (mainly Asia) within the next few years, so availability on domestic flights is getting scarcer. But they’ve also announced they will be launching a new Boeing 737 Business Class specifically for transcontinental flights, which will hopefully offer a better onboard experience than what is currently available.
Collecting Velocity Points in Australia
It’s surprisingly easy to pick up Velocity points – even if you don’t fly often. Especially relevant is The Champagne Mile’s post on six ways to boost your Velocity points balance here. Right now, you can also pick up 50,000 bonus Velocity Points on the American Express Velocity Platinum Card
Readers may also be interested in:
Join the free flights club – a beginner’s guide to frequent flyer points
Six Ways to Boost Your Velocity Points Balance (Without Flying)
You’ll find more of Brandon’s travel experiences, focusing on premium flying and delectable foods, on Instagram @FlightandBites