How do Qantas and Virgin Australia’s domestic 737 Business class products compare?

Our members have previously posted comparative reviews of Qantas & Virgin’s A330 Business class, which is offered on longer domestic flights between Perth and the east coast of Australia. This week, AFF veteran swanning_it has posted an informative review comparing the short-haul Boeing 737 Business class on Qantas & Virgin Australia.

I’ve been flying almost entirely business now for some time but have only just managed to compare all of the seats (row 1 in QF for the first time yesterday).

Boeing 737s are used by both airlines on most Australian domestic routes, as well as on flights to Bali, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and other destinations in the Pacific. On these aircraft, both Qantas and Virgin offer recliner seats in a 2-2 configuration. Qantas’ aircraft have 12 Business seats spread across 3 rows, while Virgin Australia offers a smaller Business class cabin with 8 seats.

While swanning_it believes that the Qantas Business Class seats are more comfortable, the Virgin Australia seats appear to offer more legroom. Having the seat in front recline is not an issue on Virgin as there is still plenty of space. On Qantas, however, sitting in row one (behind the bulkhead) is advisable as it avoids the possibility a reclining seat in front.

Flight attendants from both airlines provide polished, professional service, although some members note that the smaller Business cabin on Virgin can result in more attentive service. The meals offered by both airlines also rate well. Virgin wins when it comes to “presentation”, but our member gives Qantas the edge for “substance”. Virgin’s competitive advantage is that Business passengers can order additional snacks from the “pantry menu”, as well as anything from the a-la-carte Economy menu.

One area where Qantas excels is the pre-flight experience. Qantas offers dedicated Business class lounges in major airports that are vastly superior to Virgin Australia’s lounges. Even in airports without a Business lounge, Qantas Club lounges are widely regarded to offer better amenities and food options.

Virgin, however, seems to have a slight upper hand when it comes to the overall on-board experience. Our member is highly critical of Qantas for allowing Economy passengers to enter the Business cabin and use the dedicated Business class toilet. Qantas recently removed the curtain separating Economy and Business class, and cabin crew have become reluctant to send Economy passengers to the toilets at the rear of the plane. Virgin Australia aircraft have a magnetic rope separating the cabins. Our member also believes that Virgin does a better job of keeping Economy passengers out of the Business cabin on arrival, until Business passengers have disembarked.

QF J cabin is a “free for all”, with the J loo used by economy all the time meaning a congregation of the loo waitlist around row 1

The overall winner in swanning­_it‘s opinion? Virgin Australia.

Overall, I’d rate them very close to each other with VA possibly being the better J experience. QF really have let themselves down by allowing the J cabin to turn into a toilet waiting room (yesterday, I had a guy doing his leg stretching across row 1 whist waiting for the loo. On a CNS-BNE trip of 2.5 hours, this (youngish … late 20’s I’d think) man needed to visit the toilet 3 times, once before we even took off). On the other hand, QF have a far better breakfast selection in the lounge, which combined with DT-CNS now tightening up on breakfast, edges QF in front a bit. If QF started protecting the J cabin again, they’d probably win as the overall J experience. Otherwise, I’m happy flying either. QF I think row 1 is the pick, with VA row 2 is better (IMHO).

Do you agree with swanning_it‘s 737 Business class assessment? Join the discussion HERE.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

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