Qantas, Virgin Australia domestic Airbus A330 business class compared

By Brandon Loo, November 29 2018
Qantas, Virgin Australia domestic Airbus A330 business class compared

When it comes to transcontinental flights, Australian travellers enjoy one of the world's best domestic business class experiences. Competition between Qantas and Virgin Australia in the lucrative coast-to-coast corridor sees both airlines offering international-grade business class seats and service on their respective Airbus A330 jets.

So how do they compare? On a recent trip between Melbourne and Perth, we took the opportunity to find out...

Getting that Airbus A330 flight

The first trick in getting one of these great business class experiences is making sure you're travelling on an Airbus A330, because many east-west flights take place on the smaller single-aisle Boeing 737 with its far inferior business class seats.

This is one area where Qantas has the edge, due to its larger A330 fleet. For example, a quick scan of Qantas’ schedule for December 2018 shows around 200 flights from Melbourne to Perth, of which 123 flights – roughly 60% – will be on an Airbus A330 featuring the Qantas Business Suites.

By comparison, Virgin Australia is planning 157 Melbourne-Perth flight in December, with around half on an Airbus A330.

Unfortunately, downgrades from Airbus A330s to Boeing 737s do happen with some degree of regularity. If it affects you and you are flexible with timings, it won't hurt to contact the airline and ask to move to a different flight without charge.

Pre-flight: how the lounges compare

Melbourne and Perth both boast relatively new Qantas domestic business lounges with smart décor and specialised cuisine (pizza in Perth and Asian food in Melbourne).

The recently-renovated Melbourne Business Lounge offers many different zones for working and relaxing, although it does get considerably busy during peak travel periods.

The chicken laksa from Melbourne's Spice Bar was flavoursome and a welcome break from the usual buffet fare, though the 'heat' level was dialled down to accommodate milder palates.

AusBT reviews: Qantas Melbourne Domestic Business LoungeQantas Perth Domestic Business lounge

Virgin Australia travellers have to make do with 'one-size-fits-all lounges' in Melbourne and Perth, rather than dedicated lounges for business class passengers and Platinum frequent flyers.

The lounges share similar aesthetics and catering, with an atmosphere noticeably more bland and cold compared to Qantas' warmer hues and upmarket vibe.

As with the Qantas lounge there's barista-pulled coffee, although an inferior breakfast spread, and even from 11am there were no substantial food choices apart from a soup and the usual salads.

Read more: Qantas vs Virgin Australia in the battle of the business lounge breakfast

At their core, despite differences in appearances and catering, the Qantas and Virgin Australia lounges still serve business travellers well with an array of working spaces, AC and USB power ports, decent WiFi and showers.

Priority boarding

Domestic priority boarding has always been a contentious topic, especially with Qantas.

Fortunately, Airbus A330 flights are usually located at gates which have two aerobridges, one of which is dedicated to business class.

Left: Melbourne Airport T1 Qantas gate. Right: Perth Airport T1 Virgin Australia gate
Left: Melbourne Airport T1 Qantas gate. Right: Perth Airport T1 Virgin Australia gate

Both airlines managed the boarding process well for these flights, including announcing priority access for business class, Platinum and Gold frequent flyers first, and checking that no-one was in the wrong queue.

A330 business class cabins

The most common variant of the Qantas A330 on domestic routes has 28 of the airline's branded Business Suites arranged in a staggered 1-2-1 layout.

Designed by Marc Newson and Thompson Aero Seating, these seats are upholstered in black leather with a beige and wooden trim.

The divider in the middle seats is fixed, making a bit more difficult for centre couples to chat (thankfully, this has been rectified in the Boeing 787's updated Business Suites and will be seen on the upcoming Qantas A380 refresh).

Virgin Australia’s six A330s have twenty dark and sleek business class suites in a reverse-herringbone 1-2-1 layout from seat manufacturer B/E Aerospace (now Rockwell Collins), with a retractable privacy divider between the middle seats.

According to official seat maps, Qantas has one lavatory for the 28 business class seats on its domestic A330-200s (the international A330-300 models have two lavs) while Virgin Australia designates three business class lavatories for its 20 business suites.

Airbus A330 business class seats: Qantas vs Virgin Australia

We won’t go too in-depth here, as the seat features are extensively covered in our individual Qantas and Virgin Australia A330 business class reviews.

I selected seat 4K on the Qantas A330 for the Melbourne-Perth flight. This is one of only four seats located directly next to the window for maximum privacy (the others are 2A, 2K and 4A).

There’s plenty of storage for small items in on the side console. The main seat controls are here as well, including an approved recline position for take-off and landing.

Legroom is sufficient and there’s enough space around your seat to keep a small bag with you. The footwell is reasonably sized as well.

For the Perth-Melbourne flight on Virgin Australia, I settled in seat 2K. It’s one of ten window seats in the cabin, which all angle towards the side for a good view.

The seats are covered in fabric, which some travellers may prefer over leather due to breathability and comfort.

The seat functions can be controlled via a touchscreen. Unlike the Qantas seats, these Virgin Australia suites lack some small features including massage capabilities and a ‘do not disturb’ button.

The footwell is noticeably narrower and tapered which may be an issue for larger feet. However, I’m appreciative of the split-level ottoman which enables you to store your shoes underneath when it bed mode.


As my two flights were at different times (Qantas in the late evening and Virgin Australia during the day), there were slight differences in the amenities provided.

Qantas supplied a pillow and a thick blanket for the 8:35 pm departure out of Melbourne to Perth.

A pre-departure beverage of Maggie Beer non-alcoholic drink or water was offered. Meal orders were also taken before departure.

Maggie Beer pre-departure drink
Maggie Beer pre-departure drink

Virgin Australia routinely offers sparkling wine, still or sparkling water before take-off.

Sparkling wine: Petaluma Croser NV
Sparkling wine: Petaluma Croser NV

A water bottle and hot towel were handed out just after departure – a small gesture that was noticeably missing on Qantas. There are no other amenities for this daytime flight back to Melbourne, except for another hot towel before landing.

Dining in the sky

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia offer a three-course dining experience on trans-continental flights to and from Perth.

Here’s the dinner menu from Qantas, whose inflight dining is spearheaded by Neil Perry of Rockpool fame. While there was no printed beverage menu, the wines were a Voyager Estate Chardonnay and Shiraz.

The duck salad was a popular and tangy way to kick off the service.

Unable to choose between the fish and the pork tacos, the friendly cabin crew offered to let me try both if they had some spare after serving everyone else.

Just as well, because the fish turned out to be quite dry. The braised pork tacos were much tastier and moist, being reheated in their own sauce.

A Maggie Beer ice cream bar provided a decent sweet finish, along with a glass of Yalumba Viognier dessert wine.

Over on Virgin Australia, a three-course lunch menu designed by Luke Mangan was delivered before take-off.

The Aussie prawns in cocktail sauce proved to be a delicious starter, with the prawns plump and juicy.

The steamed barramundi turned out much better than Qantas’ attempt at seared fish. It was reheated perfectly and full of flavour.

Rounding off the meal was a small but sweet mango and coconut roulade.

There are also some snacks off a ‘Pantry’ menu to satisfy any late-flight cravings you might have (also pictured here is the wine list).

Both airlines were noticeably slow with the meal service, taking more than 90 minutes to deliver three courses.

Working your way from coast to coast

Need to get some work done during your transcontinental flight?

The sturdy pull-out tray table fits a laptop with ease in the Qantas A330 Business Suite, with easily accessible AC and USB power sockets.

Virgin Australia’s fold-down tray table also does a good job and can be used up high (docked under the screen) or low.

The USB and power outlets are located inside a side console (with enough space for Apple's brick-like MacBook chargers) and there's a small gap for your cables to safely snake out, even with the top lid closed.

Both seats have ample room around your elbows to move, and a few flat surfaces to store items around you as you work.

WiFi is currently available on just one Qantas A330 aircraft, with a second due to be upgraded in December 2018 and the rest of the fleet by late 2019. Virgin Australia plans to fit WiFi across its A330 fleet by 2019.

Relax and rest

Qantas’ HD touchscreen in-seat entertainment screen measures 16 inches across. There’s plenty of new-release movies and complete TV show seasons to choose from.

The in-suite provided headphones weren’t particularly comfortable for me, sitting more on my ear instead of around it. They have an airline adaptor attached to the cable, so you can use these headphones with your own device as well.

Virgin Australia’s HD touchscreen equals Qantas’ at 16 inches. There’s noticeably less content on the system, but it’s perfectly adequate for a domestic flight.

Virgin's over-ear noise-cancelling headphones were located in the armrest and offered reasonable sound quality.

Both business class seats can recline into a fully flat bed for a comfortable sleep (although I only did so on Qantas during the late evening).

Priority luggage delivery

The priority-tagged luggage of business class passengers came out within the first few minutes of the carousel running, which was fast enough in my books.

As an aside, Virgin Australia business class and Gold/Platinum passengers are entitled to use domestic lounges on arrival, whereas the same is extended only to Qantas Platinum frequent flyers.

A330 business class: how Qantas and Virgin Australia compare

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia continue to provide a stellar transcontinental service on what are relatively short flights – sometimes under three hours from Perth to Melbourne.

With the flight experience being quite similar, secondary factors such as pricing, flight timing and frequent flyer program status might become more important.

Qantas has a far superior lounge experience, but many travellers find Luke Mangan’s menus and food to be more appealing than the Neil Perry fare.

Ultimately, the competition between these two airlines has resulted in what is arguably the world’s best domestic business class experience.

Brandon travelled on Qantas and Virgin Australia at his own expense.

Brandon Loo

Based in Perth, Brandon enjoys tucking into local delicacies, discovering new cocktails, and making aeroplane food look good on camera.


13 Sep 2013

Total posts 115

Have to agree that both A330 services are amazing quality J products for a domestic service.
Personally, I would have to say that Virgin just edges ahead of Qantas based on the meals and service, or maybe it's just that I find that sparkling red thing just awful on Qantas :)

12 Feb 2014

Total posts 228

I haven’t flown Virgin in years but those meal offerings are quite starkly different. The Virgin menu looks delicious and well presented. Fish is a hard dish to serve right in the air. Looks like Luke has it sorted. And the dessert looks proper. Might have to give Virgin a go.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Sep 2011

Total posts 77

You’re assuming that aircraft booked are aircraft flown. Sadly my record with VA between Perth & Sydney suggests this is not as constant as might be expected especially given the price of seat

10 Jul 2018

Total posts 105

That is true – I have also experienced a number of downgrades to 737s with VA, given they only have six A330s.

From personal experience, Melbourne is generally the most consistent, followed by Sydney. Brisbane is unreliable when it comes to A330 flights, and they barely have any to begin with.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jun 2017

Total posts 41

Brandon, for a second, I really thought you would be very biased towards VA, but I have to say this article summarises a very honest and precise review. I definitely appreciate it. Very detailed, but still summarised the points that mattered. Thanks.

10 Jul 2018

Total posts 105

Thanks for the feedback silvyc! I do have Velocity Platinum status, but I know how important it is to write neutrally and Qantas did offer a fairly good service :)

An interesting comparison on articles with this domestic product and your new BA international First Class seat.

We are indeed lucky to have good competition

01 Jun 2017

Total posts 8

Qantas Lets economy & business board at the same time Virgin gives Loyal people first on i paid $ 249 virgin got 25 status points paid $ 279 Qantas got 20 status

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 153

The problem is that in Brisbane, VA offers virtually no a330 flights to perth whilst Qantas only has a midnight. Not great timing. If only they offered a morning/afternoon a330 from brisbane to perth...


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 381

Honestly at the end of the day both of these products are best in class worldwide for any domestic flight. Without a doubt on QF or VA up front you are getting a wonderful flight.

What I do know though is that over Christmas NY period 27Dec-6Jan that QF is $2520 all flights SYDPER one way versus VA still offering $1249 on some flights.

As a P on QF I’ve been searching both website for a few days and from QF receiving marketing emails on bonus FF points on QF health insurance while as a VA pleb Red member I’ve already received a “Welcome back” email with a 30% bonus discount on my SYDPER business class booking from ANY biz fare!!!! Yep that’s $1249 minus 30%!!!

Just booked my summer holidays on VA, I’m all good with HCF thanks QF.

29 Nov 2018

Total posts 4

Great article as usual Brandon, thank you!

One thing I think worth mentioning is about both airlines doing equipment swaps. So many times I've been caught out having booked the Airbus only to get the dreaded email a few weeks or days before traveling with a seat reassignment, indicating that the plane has been changed to a 737. Grrr!

It's interesting that there's no customer comeback here as it's in the T&C that the airlines don't guarantee a particular cabin, yet there is a world of difference between the 330 and 737 products on both VA and QF. I'm fairly sure most people would be annoyed and find it completely unacceptable if they booked and paid for a hotel on expedia, only to have it changed to a cheaper and inferior hotel a few days before they travel (with an indication from the travel agent that it's tough luck because "it's beyond our control and in the T&CS")

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2013

Total posts 15

Regarding aircraft downgrading, I have noticed that VA brand their A330 business class flights as ‘The Business’ in their website booking engine and promote it as such in their marketing materials. I wonder if they shoot themselves in the foot trying to then rely on the Ts&Cs about aircraft changes when they have specifically branded and promoted a particular hard product at the point of sale to the consumer. To be fair the one time my A330 flight was changed to a 737 they did allow me to change to a different A330 flight without charge.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 388

agree, but the domestic airlines in Oz don't even undertake to convey us on the day we're booked.

And as for European Commission-style compo., .....

30 Jul 2018

Total posts 6

Very good review! I agree with several of the comments that VA A330 are just slightly ahead. I think that the food and service are better than QF. I actually like the angled window seats as well and overall I find the VA seats better.


I regularly fly PER-BNE and several years ago the flights I took started changing to B737, I guess so the A330's could go off to HKG. Due to international connections I don't have the luxury of chaning flights to get an A330.
That and an incident where I was charged $120 for being 2kg overweight (24.8kg) even although it was well under the 69kg Platinum allowance saw me move back to QF.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Aug 2017

Total posts 17

It’s slim pickings getting a Qantas A330 to BNE from Perth apart from the 11.05pm departure, although when booked in J on this flight you get to use the Business lounge on arrival in BNE to freshen up and have breakfast. I do think the Qantas / Neil Perry partnership has run its course.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Nov 2018

Total posts 109

Agreed. Decades of NP and his warped ideas on food! Someone please end our suffering!

30 Jul 2018

Total posts 6

That's the one I take (QF652) and QF767 on the return which still seem to be consistently A330. Agree on the BNE lounge as well although I have an international after that so I usually bus over there for breakfast and freshen up.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 219

Excellent review wish they flew the a330 on all longer flights over 3hrs


10 Sep 2014

Total posts 25

Re the equipment changing. I had an equipment change from 330 down to 737 this month with VA, called up and they were quite happy to rebook onto the 330 for no fee (3 of us plus an infant).

First time I flew VA 330 J and have to say extremely impressed; best attributes would be the privacy of the seats and the softness of the seat/bed. Found the tray table had a little bit of give in it, but still OK to work and eat off.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 105

Qantas certainly has the edge with dedicated Business class lounges. Both seats are spacious and comfortable. Again Qantas wins for me with Oneworld benefits, emerald with Oneworld opens up worldwide first lounges etc.

Virgin should have joined star Alliance but instead has a mishmash of airline partners.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 322

VA joining any alliance wasn't going to happen when they had a mish-mash of shareholders from competing alliances. VA also doesn't have the money to join one let alone pay the ongoing expenses.

As for VA joining Star, that ship has sailed when NZ exited. SkyTeam is VA's only Alliance choice available to them in conjunction with long-time BFF USA partner DL.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 172

Interesting that the Qantas A330 fits two more business class seats into the same space between the two front doors compared to Virgin.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 118

Could not agree more about the Neil Perry tie up. I think it’s definitley time for a change with QF food.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 163

I’ve had so many a330 to 737 downgrades on QF over the past 12 months. All of those expected pleasant business class experiences turned into 737 ho hum.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 126

In reality, Australia has some of the best domestic products out there. You can compare it to east-west coast US, Intra-UAE/Middle East, and some services in Asia. Whichever of these you take you won’t make a mistake.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2017

Total posts 79

Qantas wins hands down. THe bus shed lounge that VA offer let alone no recognition for business class orplatnimum members, the limited IFE plus limited flights with A330. VA is just above Jetstar in to many ways

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 236

How is that even remotely correct, article says 60% vs 50% something percent for 330 Trancon for December. That is prob only an extra dozen flights QF puts on A330 Over the whole month??

The VA lounge is fantastic, it’s welcoming and well stocked. You clearly haven’t flown either VA or JQ recently (last say 8 years) you comment is so far removed from reality. Go fly a VA 777 or 330 to US or Asia then go try JQ 787 to US / Asia. Go try a VA 330 to Perth then jump on a JQ 320 flight, sent us some pics and we can all see what your on about.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1202

My experience is:

- seats are both excellent but the plasticky leather on the QF A332s is not nice. The cloth on the 300s is much more tactile and less sticky.
- Lounges are good on either
- Food is better on VA
- Extra toilets are appreciated on VA.
- Service is good on either though, like all airlines, some F/As are better than others or just having better days.
- VA handle boarding better and are much firmer in sending ineligible people back to the end of the queue.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

14 Apr 2013

Total posts 326

After reading the above, I logged on to check my 4 VA SYD/MEL - PER flights and like that all downgraded to B737 with no notice.

Seriously, after this I am exclusively only booking QF for Coast to Coast

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 159

It’s not all about product, frequency is important too. Qf yesterday canceled the 1630 per-sin 737, upgraded the 1150 to an a330 and moved us to it. That’s great but we have a midday commitment in Perth and now have to fly the next day which reduces our Singapore getaway by a night. It was a daytime flight was wasn’t too bothered by the 737, but the upgrade has shortened our holiday weekend. Would have preferred to keep the afternoon 737

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jul 2016

Total posts 22

How would these compare to say JetBlue mint suites?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Dec 2016

Total posts 14

Overall VA have it hands down over QF I fly business on a regular basis and look at the lounge on those occasions as a place to get a drink only, I can see why QF has better options on the ground as they can’t get it right in the air actually I can’t remember a decent meal on QF flight in the past including economy.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Apr 2015

Total posts 2

Aircraft type has become increasingly important when flying long distances as is the configuration ie 1 2 1.

From my experience it is hard to beat Virgin Australia A330 Business Class experience.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 716

Agree 100% that A330 on MEL-PER beats the 737, but can I just tell you that Business Class on the Boeing 777-300ER used on VA23 to LAX to another level again. Same great flat-beds and seat config, but having that Bar as the divider to Premium Economy and 3 toilets makes for one great, easy-going journey. (Apols, but this Boeing Tragic just had to fly the flag somewhere.)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 716

"Virgin Australia travellers have to make do with 'one-size-fits-all ... rather than dedicated lounges for business class passengers and Platinum frequent flyers. The lounges share similar aesthetics and catering, with an atmosphere noticeably more bland and cold compared to Qantas' warmer hues and upmarket vibe."

Whilst I agree that VA lounges are just a bit too bright (hospital grade), I'd never call them 'cold', in fact there's too often a 'party-like' atmosphere, but their larger size makes for a comfortable visit. QF's business lounge does have a fresher feel, but the difference in fare cost ( ~ 2 bottle of Lois Roederer) didn't justify it, and the 'atmosphere' of business people try hard to look like they were working on (compared to net-working) made me chuckle. When VA lounges install ambient lighting or give a long overdue re-fresh, WOW, that'll really cause a conflict of loyalties!! :-)

16 Dec 2016

Total posts 55

Brendan’s typical Virgin talk up. You have a bias towards this carrier and I’m not going to bother reading your pieces anymore.

01 Jan 2015

Total posts 3

I thought it was quite objective - criticisms of VA on their shortcomings and highlighting Qantas' strengths where applicable.. so where exactly is it unfairly biased to VA?


07 Jan 2011

Total posts 53

That's quite a claim to make with no back up statements.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

25 Aug 2016

Total posts 2

I thought it was a quite objective article as well.

As someone who has flown numerous times in J on the A330 both carriers have their pluses and minuses and to me that seems well reflected in the article!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 232

Markspark. It would seem to me that you have not read Brendan's report very well or skimmed though it.. I and several others found it refreshingly unbiased and right to the point. Probably one of the most balanced reports in a long time. Keep up the good work Brendan , those who read your reports with an open mind will support you all the way.

28 Mar 2018

Total posts 33

Was there any champagne on VA? The best QF could do was Grant Burge sparkling on domestic.

10 Jul 2018

Total posts 105

VA used to do Ayala Brut Majeur NV for champagne in domestic business (see attached menu) but has since cut that back to an Aussie sparkling (Petaluma Croser NV on this flight).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Jan 2016

Total posts 89

At $4100-$4600+ return MEL-PER in J, I can't see my employer being overly concerned...about me flying economy for four hours... :)

However, the service is SO good compared to BA and other Euro business travel that either would be fantastic.

16 Dec 2012

Total posts 1

I recently flew QF to Perth from Sydney return. I found the food just average and the one (yes 1) business class loo for 28 passengers - what a disgrace. The loo was constantly engaged most times and definitely at popular times (post-meals, pre-landing etc. Not acceptable for the price.

By comparison the food on VA as well as having 3 business class loos sounds a far better experience. For me it will be VA next time.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 232

I would choose VA " The Business " any time hands down over Qantas!!! Vastly better.

BUT. Getting a flight to Perth is not easy now on a VA A330 which is very disappointing. So few flights and unless VA can come up with their " New Transcontinental " seating on the B737 I am delaying my travel until they do or go via Singapore and have a little holiday in between.

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