Virgin Australia Boeing 737 Economy Review (2021)

Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 at the gate in Melbourne
Virgin Australia flight VA846 at the gate in Melbourne. Photo: Matt Graham.

With Sydney and Melbourne finally out of lockdown and state borders reopening, airlines have been ramping up their Sydney-Melbourne flights and reopening their airport lounges.

Virgin Australia has now reopened all of its airport lounges except at Gold Coast, and is back to flying almost hourly on the popular Sydney-Melbourne route after the route was cut back to barely daily flights during the height of the coronavirus lockdowns of 2021.

I recently found out what it’s now like flying with Virgin Australia in Economy Class from Sydney to Melbourne at the end of 2021. This is also the first time I have reviewed Virgin Australia’s Economy Class since they removed free in-flight snacks and relaunched their Economy Class fare brands.

Flight Details

Flight number VA846
Route Sydney (SYD) to Melbourne (MEL)
Aircraft type Boeing 737-800
Class of travel Economy
Seat number 16F
On-time performance We departed & arrived 20 minutes late
Star rating 3.5 stars out of 5

The route

VA846 route map

Flight Cost

I paid $69 for an Economy Choice fare which included 23kg checked luggage and seat selection.

I thought this was a very good price, which Virgin Australia seems to be offering in response to Rex’s $69 fares from Sydney to Melbourne. (By comparison, a Qantas Economy ticket on the same date would have cost $201 – almost triple the price.)

Airport Experience

Sydney Airport hasn’t quite returned to its former glory, but it was moderately busy in Terminal 2 on this Monday afternoon. There was no queue to check in with Virgin, but there was a short wait to clear security. (Unfortunately, Virgin’s Premium Lounge Entry at Sydney Airport is still closed.)

Thanks to Velocity Gold status, I was able to visit the recently reopened Virgin Australia Lounge at Sydney Airport while waiting for my flight. It wasn’t at all busy in the lounge, which was clean and had a very good selection of food & drinks available. The lounge staff were also great.

Virgin has recently launched a fresh new lounge menu, with different snack and meal options that rotate between the lounges, meaning each lounge now has different menu items on any given day. Staff were available to hand over anything you wanted from the buffet or bar.

Lunch buffet at the Virgin Australia Lounge, Sydney
Lunch buffet at the Virgin Australia Lounge, Sydney. Photo: Matt Graham.

As well as salads, wraps and sandwiches, there was a selection of cheese & crackers for afternoon tea…

Virgin Australia Lounge buffet
Virgin Australia Lounge buffet. Photo: Matt Graham.

…and a tasty sweet potato & kaffir lime soup.

Virgin Australia Lounge buffet
Virgin Australia Lounge buffet. Photo: Matt Graham.

While the roof of the Terminal 2 food court and an exhaust fan obstructs the view a little, you can see the runway and taxiways from the bench by the window.

View from the Virgin Australia Sydney lounge
View from the Virgin Australia Sydney lounge. Photo: Matt Graham.

Boarding for this flight started shortly after the scheduled departure time. Priority boarding worked exceptionally well, as is usually the case with Virgin.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that my flight was quite full. It’s a positive sign that people are travelling again!

The Hard Product

I’ve written about Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737 Economy seats before. I find the leather seats with adjustable headrests perfectly comfortable for a short domestic flight.

Virgin Australia 737 exit row
Virgin Australia Boeing 737 Economy seats. Photo: Virgin Australia.

Virgin sells the front 3 rows of Economy, as well as the exit rows, as “Economy X” extra legroom seats for an additional fee (which is waived for Velocity Platinum members). But there was (just) sufficient legroom in row 16, where I was sitting on this flight.

Legroom in row 16 on Virgin Australia's Boeing 737-800
Legroom in row 16 on Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737-800. Photo: Matt Graham.

There is still no wifi on Virgin Australia, but you can stream in-flight entertainment to your personal electronic device by downloading the Virgin Australia Entertainment App before departure. While there wasn’t a huge selection of IFE content on my flight, and I miss Virgin’s music playlists, I found something to watch for the hour we were in the air.

Virgin Australia Entertainment app content in November 2021
Virgin Australia Entertainment app content in November 2021.

The Soft Product

As usual, the cabin crew were delightful – friendly, professional and enthusiastic.

Virgin Australia currently offers complimentary tea, coffee and water to all passengers in Economy, except on shorter services like Melbourne-Canberra where only water is available. Additional packaged snacks are available for purchase from the on-board retail menu.

Given the affordable $69 airfare, I don’t have a problem with paying extra for food. However, I deliberately use the word “snacks” because there are sadly no substantial meals – or even any fresh food – available on the menu. I’m sure the $7.50 cups of instant noodles are tasty, but that’s as good as it gets.

Virgin Australia on-board menu as of November 2021
Virgin Australia on-board menu as of November 2021. Photo: Matt Graham.

Having just had a nice lunch in the lounge, I didn’t feel like paying $5 for a Kit Kat or $7.50 for a bag of confectionary snakes on board – so just stuck with my plastic cup of water.

Seriously though, Virgin – please bring back some fresh options like wraps, sandwiches or some hot food that are actually worth paying for! With this menu, I can imagine passengers would be fairly hungry towards the end of a longer flight like Brisbane-Perth.

Arrival Experience

We landed around 20 minutes behind schedule due to the late departure from Sydney. After landing, the cabin manager announced that Victorian government officials would be meeting our flight and instructed everyone to have identification and their Victorian border permits ready for inspection.

This was a bizarre request, as Victoria had removed the border permit requirement the previous week and nobody met our flight – I simply walked into the terminal and out of the airport without seeing any officials.

I had also received an SMS message with an incorrect reminder to get a Victorian border permit a few days before the flight. (If airlines can’t keep up with the changing domestic border rules, what hope do the rest of us have?!)

Virgin Australia 737 Economy Class (2021)
  • Airport Experience
  • Hard Product
  • Soft Product

Final thoughts

It’s great to be able to travel between Sydney and Melbourne again, and to see that many flights are quite full. Both airports and cities are slowly coming back to life.

The Virgin Australia Lounge in Sydney was great, and it was an enjoyable flight overall. For $69, this flight was a bargain.

But if you’re flying Virgin Australia Economy Class on a longer flight in 2021, make sure you eat beforehand or BYO food as the current retail menu is overpriced and underwhelming.


Related Articles

Recommended by the Australian Frequent Flyer

The Whisky Club Possibly the best subscription service on the planet, designed specially by whisky lovers for whisky lovers. Join the club to grow your collection and drink great whisky.
Book with Virgin Australia - Fly with Virgin Australia We've Increased Our Flying to 30 Destinations Across Australia. Book With Us Today. Change Your Flight, Fee-Free and As Often As You Like for Travel up to 30 Apr 22*. Contactless Check-in. Special Safety Protocols. New Cleaning Practices. Online Check-in.

AFF Supporters can Login Now to remove all advertisements

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.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]


Notify of