Before Arabella and I flew to New York a friend asked me what airline we were flying. I told him we’d booked with Virgin Australia and that I was hoping it would be okay as I’d never flown internationally with Virgin. He said, ‘Virgin! You’re lucky. You’ll have a great flight. I know the airline well, they have a great CEO, it’s a really good airline’.
And he was right.
Because when we checked in we were upgraded to business class. It happened to be Arabella’s birthday and I don’t think there’s a better present than an upgrade. We went straight to the lounge which was clean and spacious and really comfortable and here’s a photo of me wearing the ‘upgrade-grin’. I smiled like that all the way to LA.
Economy and business class are two different worlds. There are no parallels. And the worlds are not only separated by a curtain but also in queuing at check-in where the economy line weaves around the airport while the business class line has you up at the counter in just a few moments.
Then there’s the lounge where you can relax and unwind and shower and book a massage, all while indulging in a made-to-order soy latte or a celebratory champagne.
And by the time you need to leave the lounge you’re so relaxed you pretty much float towards the plane, again, side-stepping the lengthy economy queue and stepping on to the plane ready to be escorted to your seat by a smiling hostess.
Or booth as it is in business class on Virgin Australia. While in economy there are 10 seats across the width of the plane, in Virgin business class there are just four booths. So much space!
I was shown to a window seat while Arabella was across the aisle and a little behind me. I loved the chair with the control panel I couldn’t stop fiddling with that put the seat into a thousand different positions including lying completely flat if you needed to sleep. But there was no way I was going to sleep, I was too excited.
The hostess brought over a glass of Ayala Millesime Champagne and gave me a toiletry bag containing all those items that help you get through a flight like a toothbrush and ear plugs and lip balm and hand cream. Then she asked me what size pyjamas I would like and while getting all this attention I couldn’t help thinking of all those poor buggers down in economy.
We left Sydney on a truly stunning day and it was so lovely to fly over the harbour and see just how beautiful the city is from the air.
A 14-hour flight is a long one and that’s plenty of time for your phone to run out of charge. The good thing is that next to your business class seat is a charger so you can arrive on the other side of the world with your mobile ready for action.
The in-flight entertainment was excellent with a large flat screen TV with comfortable headphones. There was an excellent selection of new and old movies as well as TV shows. I’m really pleased that Virgin is supporting new film makers by screening their short films and I was thrilled to see my friend, Warwick Young’s film Stuffed was part of the selection.
The business class menu is designed by celebrity chef Luke Mangan. I’ve previously written about Luke in my reviews of his restaurant Salt that’s in a few different countries as well as onboard P&O cruise ships. Although we boarded the plane at 10am, the day quickly turned to night so a three-course dinner was served followed a few hours later by breakfast.
I loved how the table was set for the meal with salt and pepper shakers in the shape of the Opera House.
The dinner started with a choice of warmed artisan breads. I chose garlic bread that was soft and light and buttery.
For a starter I had a Peking duck salad with pickled daikon, chilli, garlic chives and soy dressing. It was light and crisp and fresh and pretty.
For a main course I had lamb cutlets with roasted fennel, oregano and marinated feta cheese. The lamb was fabulous as it was pink and very, very tender and I do think lamb and feta are very special together.
For dessert there were ice creams and tarts but I chose a cheese platter that went well with a glass of Tatachilla McLaren Vale Shiraz.
A few hours later I was watching a movie and felt a bit peckish so I ordered from the ‘lite bites’ menu. The prosciutto with herb and fennel on garlic toast was a delightful combination of flavours.
As comfortable as it is to sit in a business class seat where the leg room is beyond belief, you don’t have to stay glued to your chair. Just behind business class is a bar where you can sit on a stool or a lounge chair to have a cocktail, a soft drink, a Nespresso or a tea. You can order a range of snacks to enjoy with your drink including nuts, chips, marinated mixed olives and Valrhona milk and dark chocolate.
Breakfast is always tricky to get right. This was my least favourite meal but probably also because it was about 10pm Sydney time and it didn’t seem quite right to be eating breakfast. The freshly squeezed juice was very good as was the warm croissant but I didn’t really enjoy the bacon and scrambled eggs.
After breakfast it was time to put a comb through my hair and change out of the pyjamas and back into my clothes. And that’s the other significant difference between economy and business. You all know what bathrooms are like towards the end of a long-haul flight. Let’s no go there. But by the end of a flight a business class bathroom is almost in the same state as it was when you boarded. So good! It’s just not getting over-used. You can change out of your pyjamas and back into your clothes without issue.
From Sydney to LA, Arabella and I had nothing to complain about. It was a fantastic experience and we are very grateful to Virgin Australia for getting our mini-break off to such a fantastic start. We both have very many happy memories of our 14-hours onboard.
We certainly came to appreciate it all the more when we then boarded a Delta flight from LA to JFK. In economy. Talk about landing with a thud.