Virgin Australia – the Business Class Experience

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.

The ‘upgrade’ look

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.

The ‘upgrade’ grin


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.

The on-board bar

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.

A spectacular view

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!

Welcome aboard

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.

A seat that’s also a bed

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.

Gift packs!

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 spectacular view

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.

Twinkling stars on the ceiling while you sleep

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.

Showcasing upcoming Aussie talent – short films

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.

I just love the Opera House salt and pepper

The dinner started with a choice of warmed artisan breads.  I chose garlic bread that was soft and light and buttery.

Garlic bread

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.

Entree

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.

Lunch

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.

Cheese platter

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.

Prosciutto with herb and fennel on garlic toast

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.

The bar

Bar area

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.

Breakfast

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.

Snacks

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.

Spacious

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.

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Comments

  1. Wow – you lucky ducks!
    I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve flown internationally and I’ve never once been offered an upgrade. Virgin’s Business Class certainly looks great. I’m a bit jealous. 😉

  2. ooh you lucky lucky souls – but a great birthday present – I have had little business class flights in my life and I think I could do with more of it, esp after reading your story of your flight! Though I am too much of a cattle class type to understand changing into your pjs on a plane – I guess it makes more sense when you can lie horizontal 🙂

  3. Now, I want to book a Virgin Australia ticket to come visit you!!! What a fun treat to be upgraded!!!

  4. What a stroke of good fortune, I usually seem to get upgrades on very short haul flights. The amenities look wonderful, and the PJs sound very comfy. I know what you mean about the Economy bathrooms, I usually bring flip flops to enter a WC near the end of a flight, ones that can be rinsed off.
    We’ve got a West Jet flight booked to Arizona, I can only hope that we’ll be upgraded, it’s a five hour flight.

  5. Wow! Would that I could always fly business class…but have only had the luxury a couple of times. But you are right…it is a treat. And this flight looks exceptional. I am still smiling over the salt and pepper shakers, which I think are brilliant. And now I cross fingers you have a fun time in my homeland, which seems to be turning into the land of crazy.

  6. Wow! What a wonderful experience. Maybe one day, I will be upgraded to business class. I only hope it will also be on a long haul flight – both ways. 😀
    Have a beautiful day Charlie.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  7. Ah, business class. Instead of drinking myself into a stupor (I can’t sleep on planes) in business class I actually go to bed early just because it’s so exciting for me to sleep and not feel so horrible the next day! We just booked round trip flights, Dallas to Sydney on Quantas. Hope that’s as nice as Virgin Australia!

  8. Whoa! What an insanely different experience than mine when I last flew to Australia in coach!!! lol!

  9. I am lucky enough to fly on business and first class every so often – but never been on Virgin before – NEVER! I need to change this though because um, YES PLEASE! I remember a time where they were giving back massages too!!!

  10. I love Virgin’s business class offering. Do they still have the women’s only bathrooms? It’s such a great idea because it stays so clean!

  11. At a time so many complain about airline food, these offerings remind me of ‘olden days’ . . . quite appetizing! Have not thought to fly Virgin: homework required 🙂 !

  12. Oh Charlie. How very lucky are you? At my tender old age and after all that travel i have never experienced this. i hope I will one day because it looks fabulous. Yes what a let down going back to the “back of the bus” xx

  13. Wow. That looks amazing. I’d love to try Virgin someday!

  14. I won’t show this to my daughter and her husband who just flew Delta from Minneapolis to Seattle to Hawaii and then from Hawaii back to Minneapolis. They experienced long delays both flying out and flying back. That said, they received vouchers, which they deserved. Not a good experience for them. And no fancy anything on their flights.

    Sounds like you had a fabulous fancy experience before arriving in LA.

  15. Hi Charlie, what a wonderful way to celebrate Arabella’s birthday, sounds like an amazing way to travel. Must of be hard to fly coach after that;)

  16. I hate spending the $$$ on business class, but we almost always do when it’s an overseas flight. Particularly if it’s one of those flights that flies overnight — biz class seats are our only hope of getting a little sleep. Sounds like a great experience. I’ve never flown Virgin — need to check them out. Maybe when I get around to visiting Australia?

  17. We’ve never flown business class, but that obviously is the way to go. I had no idea it was so extravagant and just what one needs for those long flights across big water. Loved just sitting here dreaming to have been in your place. We flew coach to and from Hawaii and that was not fun!

  18. Incredible… I reckon Virgin are an incredible airline to fly with, we flew with them to the States a few years back and loved the experience. I can imagine that the upgrade would have been totally amazing.

  19. Getting an upgrade even when you belong to a frequent flyer program is almost impossible…you lucky girls, how wonderful. My husband and I have never flown Virgin, perhaps we should think about it.

  20. Business class upgrade? What a win! And I love those Opera House salt and pepper shakers too!

  21. What an incredible experience you both had! You know how to do it right. 🙂 I hope everything about the time in NYC was just as exciting as the last time you visit.

  22. One hell of a birthday present, just she wont travel up the back again!!

  23. I think I could never go back to economy after this! Sounds wonderful–and perfect for a long flight.

  24. I wonder how many Opera House salt and pepper shakers they lose. They are definite souvenirs. Your upgrade made me swoon with jealousy just a bit.

  25. I have never been to a flight like this one! It seems like a great experience, Charlie!

  26. Waw, you are 2 lucky ladies! What a difference! That bar looked really cool & apart too!

    All of the food dishes look superb too!

  27. Wow. Virgin is getting it done! I fly Delta business a fair amount, but I have yet to encounter a full service bar on the plane. I think I have been missing out. I hear their lounges are amazing too.

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