With Virgin Australia now out of voluntary administration, lounges are slowly reopening and the onboard service is beginning to improve. Unfortunately, Virgin Australia’s Business Class product still falls short of expectations in 2021, as I recently discovered on a flight from Brisbane to Rockhampton.
|Route||Brisbane (BNE) to Rockhampton (ROK)|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 737-700|
|Class of travel||Business|
|On-time performance||We departed on time and arrived 5 minutes late|
I paid $349 for a one-way Business Saver ticket.
When I arrived at Brisbane Airport on a Monday morning, there was a huge queue of passengers waiting to check-in. Even the priority check-in queue was long – there simply weren’t enough staff to handle the crowd. Thankfully, I wasn’t checking in luggage so headed straight upstairs to the Virgin Australia Lounge opposite Gate 41.
Virgin Australia normally operates a Premium Lounge Entry in Brisbane for Business passengers and Velocity Gold & Platinum members. However, this is currently closed and staff were unsure if or when this may reopen.
Virgin Australia recently started to reopen some of its airport lounges, and the Brisbane lounge was open on the morning of my flight. While I was pleased to have access to a lounge again, the catering was disappointing. There was no hot food and I ended up having corn flakes for breakfast. At least the coffee was good!
I’ve written about the Virgin Australia Brisbane Lounge experience in a separate review.
The Hard Product
I’ve covered the Virgin Australia Boeing 737 Business Class seats in previous reviews. There are two rows of leather recliner seats in a 2-2 layout.
On this flight, I chose to sit in row 2 as I find the legroom is better. (In the first row, there is a bulkhead restricting how far you can stretch your legs out.) Sitting in row 2, I also feel less guilty about reclining my seat as there is nobody directly behind you – although that didn’t matter on this flight as there were only two passengers in Business.
Wifi remains unavailable on Virgin Australia flights, but the in-flight entertainment streaming App was available with a limited selection of content.
This particular aircraft happened to be one of only two Boeing 737-700s in the Virgin Australia fleet. These smaller planes have fewer Economy seats than the 737-800s, but I didn’t notice any difference in the Business Class product.
The Soft Product
The cabin crew were very good, and did as best they could with the limited offering they’ve been given to work with.
Before take-off, the cabin manager personally welcomed the Business Class passengers and asked if we were aware that there is reduced catering at present. This seems like a sensible way to manage passenger expectations, ensuring they are appropriately low.
After eating corn flakes for breakfast in the lounge, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to discover that the snack on this morning’s flight was… yet more corn flakes. In addition to the cereal, the snack box contained a packaged power mix, chocolate brownies and orange & cranberry mini biscuits. The only fresh part of the breakfast was the milk that came with the corn flakes.
An eagle-eyed AFF member recently discovered that these snack boxes are supplied by the Mile One Group, which advertises itself as providing catering solutions to businesses with a “need for cost savings”. The breakfast snack boxes retail for $5.10 each, although Virgin likely received a bulk discount. Honestly, for an airfare of $349 (and higher on most other routes), that’s rather insulting and compares very poorly with the hot breakfast I received in Qantas Business Class a few months ago.
As a matter of interest, I also flew in Virgin Australia Business Class from Brisbane to Canberra in January 2021. On that flight, there weren’t even any snack boxes loaded – instead, we were just given the same meagre snacks as Economy Class. (The crew were very apologetic and tried to make up for it with drinks.)
The good news is that Virgin Australia has restored a beverage service in Business Class. Water, juice, tea and coffee was available, along with coke, sprite, beer, and red & white wine. There were no spirits available, nor sparkling water, and all drinks were served in plastic or paper cups.
Virgin Australia Business Class (January 2021)
I’m pleased to say that Virgin Australia’s domestic Business Class product has improved somewhat since July, when I gave it only a two-star rating. But it still has a lot of room for improvement, particularly when it comes to catering.
The good news is that Virgin is negotiating a new catering contract, and we’re expecting Virgin’s Business Class product to relaunch in around March 2021. Virgin says its new Business Class will be “more accessible” and “better aligned to the expectations of the cabin’s core customers”.
Let’s hope the changes are implemented soon, or Virgin may not have any Business Class customers left. There has been a lot of discussion on AFF recently about Virgin’s poor Business Class offering, and the airline seems to be losing customers every day it persists with it.
The cabin crew were great, and I did appreciate the spacious Business Class seat. But in its current form, I don’t think this product is worth paying a large premium over the Economy fare. I also don’t think it’s really worth redeeming Velocity points for this product now that the 30% discount on Business Reward seats and upgrades has ended.
If you just want a larger seat, or love corn flakes, Virgin’s current domestic Business Class offering may suit you just fine. But if you want a proper Business Class experience, fly Qantas.