Since April 2020, Virgin Australia had been offering a significantly scaled back Business Class service on its domestic flights. But this has now changed, with Virgin relaunching its Business Class menu and on-board service last Thursday.
So, what exactly can Virgin Australia Business Class passengers expect now when travelling on domestic Boeing 737 flights? I found out on a flight from Brisbane to Canberra, which took place the day after the official launch of the new Business Class menu.
|Route||Brisbane (BNE) to Canberra (CBR)|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737-800|
|Class of travel||Business|
|On-time performance||We arrived 5 minutes late|
I will disclose upfront that I attended Virgin’s Business Class Menu Launch event in Brisbane, and took this flight, as a guest of Virgin Australia.
But to give you an idea of Virgin Australia’s value proposition, a Business Saver ticket from Brisbane to Canberra would normally start from $499 one-way. Alternatively, you could book a Business Reward Seat for 15,500 Velocity points + $49.50.
Departing from Brisbane Airport on a Friday evening, there was no queue for priority check-in or security and I made my way to the Virgin Australia Lounge. Note that the Premium Lounge Entry in Brisbane has not yet reopened.
Although Virgin Australia has upgraded the catering in its new Adelaide Lounge and reopened Canberra lounge, there was still limited food in the Brisbane Lounge during my visit. No hot food was available and the highlights were sandwiches and chips, although there were plenty of beverage choices including beer, wine, soft drinks and barista coffee. I’m told the upgraded menu will be rolled out to Virgin’s other lounges, including in Brisbane, in the coming weeks.
Thankfully, the Brisbane lounge was much quieter than it was during my previous visit, on a Monday morning, and it was a pleasant place to wait for my flight.
I headed over to the gate when the lounge closed at 7.30pm. Boarding was slightly delayed due to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft, but the gate staff kept everyone informed. Business class passengers are entitled to priority boarding, alongside Velocity Gold, Platinum and Economy X customers, which worked well on this occasion.
The Hard Product
Virgin hasn’t made any changes to the physical Business class seats on its Boeing 737s. There are still two rows of wide, comfortable leather Business seats in a 2-2 configuration. The seats recline a bit and there is plenty of legroom, making them suitable for shorter domestic flights, although this product wouldn’t be my first choice for a longer overnight flight where sleep is a priority.
The in-flight wifi is still switched off, but in-flight entertainment was available via the Virgin Australia Entertainment streaming app. I found the in-flight entertainment content to be relatively limited, with only a handful of movies and TV shows, and no music available. But at least there was something available; in-flight entertainment is still switched off on all Qantas flights.
I did notice that on this flight, there was a buy-on-board food & drinks menu in the seat pocket.
The placement of a menu with prices listed in the Business class seat pockets could cause some confusion. There’s no need to worry – meals and drinks are still included in the Business class ticket price. But if you’d like something extra off the Economy class retail menu (for example, if you for some reason had a craving for instant noodles or wanted a drink that’s not otherwise offered in Business class), you’ll need to whip out your credit card.
The Soft Product
While the hard product hasn’t changed, the catering and on-board service has significantly improved!
Before take-off, the flight attendant offered everyone in Business class a pre-departure still water, sparkling water or sparkling wine. This was a nice touch. By comparison, Qantas is no longer offering drinks before take-off and Rex offers pre-departure water or orange juice.
After take-off, the flight attendant took everyone’s food & drink orders. There were two meal options on this evening flight:
- Haloumi and quinoa salad with sun-dried tomatoes, or
- Lamb and rosemary pie with pumpkin & feta smash and tomato relish
I chose the lamb pie, which I found delicious and filling. This was served on a single tray with cheese & crackers.
Pro tip: If you would like a guaranteed choice of meals, choose a seat in row 1 or on the left side of the plane. There aren’t always enough of both meals loaded for everyone to get the same thing, and sitting in 2F, I was the last to be offered a meal.
If you’re interested in what the other meal option looks like, I tried the quinoa & haloumi salad at Virgin Australia’s Business Class Menu Launch event. I found it quite tasty, although some AFF members who received this in the air have commented that the haloumi had a rubbery texture and that it wasn’t quite filling enough.
The Virgin Australia Business Class menu will be rotated every two months, and the options served will depend on the time of day. For example, one of the lunchtime “comfort food” options is a sourdough cheese melt. This has received largely positive feedback from flyers so far.
Dinner was served with a choice of drinks, including beer, wine, spirits, soft drinks, water, juice, tea & coffee. On the wine list was Chardonnay, pinot grigio, shiraz or pinot noir, and the sparkling wine was Grant Burge NV Sparkling. Beer options included Great Northern, Pure Blonde and Green Beacon Tropical Pale Ale.
There were also five choices of spirits, served in miniature glass bottles: Gordons Gin, Jim Beam Bourbon, Bundaberg Rum, Johnnie Walker Red Label and Smirnoff Vodka. Virgin Australia is now the only Australian airline serving spirits in Business class.
As always, the Virgin Australia cabin crew were friendly and enthusiastic. I think they were almost as excited about the new menu as the passengers.
Recommended by the Australian Frequent Flyer
Drinks were regularly topped up throughout the flight and the flight attendant asked if I wanted anything else after the meal.
Virgin’s new Business Class meals are not designed by a celebrity chef. In fact, they’re relatively simple and unpretentious. But the food is tasty, modern and fit for purpose. For a flight of under 2 hours, I was happy with what I received.
The new Virgin Australia Business Class meals are served with tableware, metal cutlery, crockery and glassware. By comparison, Rex is serving all of its Business class meals on single-use cardboard trays with plastic cups, bamboo cutlery and everything is individually wrapped in single-use packaging.
While we’re comparing the Business Class meals on other airlines, it’s worth pointing out that I also flew in Qantas Business class on the Canberra-Brisbane route earlier this month. The meal options on Qantas were a chicken pie or a “brunch bowl”. I found the latter option fresh and tasty, although an AFF member who recently received the pie on their Qantas flight described it as “soggy”.
Virgin Australia's New Domestic Business Class (March 2021)
Virgin Australia is back! While Qantas still has arguably better (and more) airport lounges, Virgin is now offering serious competition in the air to Qantas’ Boeing 737 domestic flights. Virgin’s Business Class catering is now comparable to Qantas, and the Virgin cabin crew are excellent. Qantas does have in-flight wifi, but Virgin has in-flight entertainment.
The main difference now between the Qantas and Virgin Australia Boeing 737 Business class products is the price. On the Brisbane-Canberra route, Virgin Business Class fares are routinely available from $499 one-way. Except for occasional sales, Qantas fares start from $905. If you were paying out of your own pocket, it would be difficult to justify spending the extra $406 to fly Qantas.