On board Virgin Australia

By David Flynn, September 29 2014

Virgin Australia has just received its sixth new Airbus A330, with the modern twin-aisle jet winging its way from Airbus in Toulouse, France to Sydney with a brief Singapore stop-over.

Australian Business Traveller joined the Singapore-Sydney leg of this delivery flight on Thursday September 25, along with a handful of journalists, Virgin Australia executives and the airline’s ‘resident head chef’ Luke Mangan.

We joined Virgin Australia’s newest Airbus A330 – registration VH-XFJ, with the flight tagged as VA9014 – at the private JetQuay terminal of Singapore’s Changi Airport.

This premium terminal is typically used for private jets as well as VIP guests on commercial flights.

Virgin’s factory-fresh A330 was a short bus ride away, and once inside we immediately noticed that ‘new plane’ smell (it’s like a new car smell, but around $252 million dollars more expensive).

While this was the sixth new A330 purchased by Virgin Australia, this particular jet was also the 1,561st produced by Airbus, making it easily the company’s most popular twin-aisle aircraft.

(Other airlines flying the A330 family in Aussie skies include Qantas, Jetstar, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Fiji Airways, Hawaiian Air, Singapore Airlines and Thai.)

All Virgin Australia A330 delivery flights carry a crew compliment of at least two pilots – there were four captains on this trip – plus eight cabin crew and three engineers, who undertook final checks on the new jet at Toulouse before it was handed over to the airline.

Being on a delivery flight is something like a private jet experience, with barely 20 people sharing a plane built to carry 274 passengers.

The eight hour flight was a relaxed affair, punctuated by media interviews with Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti, who explained to Australian Business Traveller that the A330 was “the perfect aircraft” for his airline.

“The thing I like about the A330s, apart from being very efficient and very comfortable, is the flexibility the A330-200 gives us in terms of range and something that people often forget, which is yield management.”

“The larger A330-300 has all those extra rows of economy seats which makes it a harder plane to fill. So the A330-200 is the perfect aircraft for us, and buying them really was a no-brainer.”

Catering on the delivery flight was a special menu literally cooked up by Luke Mangan and served with matching wines.

“The dishes are all drawn from the menus we’re currently flying” Mangan told Australian Business Traveller, “and the ones we’re having today are are my favourite dishes.”

To begin, we enjoyed a warm spiced Peking duck broth which Mangan explained “is designed to get your appetite going while we prepare the first course.”

The choice of starters included king prawns with corn, smoked paprika and chives, dressed with a salsa which the crew mix just before serving and finished with fresh herbs.

… and tandoori spiced lamb with sweet potato, chickpea and coriander salad dressed with a cucumber and mint raita.

For mains, passengers chose between a barramundi fillet with bok choy, ginger, soy and sesame dressing; and braised short rib with shiitake mushrooms, pumpkin puree, broad beans and tarragon.

We opted for the light but richly textured barramundi.

For dessert, a ‘floating island’ of meringue with fresh berries, figs and citrus with crème anglaise poured over the top.

Then came some sweet treats to top it all off.

In the last hours before we reached Sydney a second service was offered including fresh cut fruit, a Reuben-style toasted sandwich with pickles; sweet tarts; and a tomato, buffalo mozzarella and basil toasted sandwich (below).

With the plane touching down in Sydney just before 8pm, Virgin Australia’s A330 fleet was now complete.

The new jet is expected to begin commercial flights later this week, joining its siblings on the transcontinental route between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Also read:

David Flynn travelled to Singapore as a guest of Virgin Australia.

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David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

The still haven't gotten rid of Mangan for the food!! You reap what you sow

Zac
Zac

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2014

Total posts 129

Seriously? I think the food has been excellent these past few years. My only gripe would be when the caterers don't cook the tougher cuts long enough (and a some penny-pinching starting to show). From a menu perspective, there have been some standout dishes I'd be happy to get in a restaurant.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

Come on VA with that international route announcement!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 304

Hear, hear! I'm guessing either SYD-HKG or PER-SIN.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

I'm bias, but I hope it's PER-SIN just to prove a point to QF here in WA.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Oct 2013

Total posts 10

SYD/MEL to HKG would be great. Would bring back London route on Virgin-family metal. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

Safe to say that's it's going to be one or the other!

And VAs new route is....Adelaide to Shanghai!!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1136

Aircalin also flies the A330 to Australia. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 165

 

Yes they missed a few MH and MK among them. But it did say included...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 165

And EY

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 165

And eva air shanghai airlines china eastern eva air asiana korean air etc..

Is that the kind of meal they serve on the East/West intercontinental service?

If it is then they're certainly a lot better than Qantas.

Or is this a promotional flight, where they've cherry picked the best bits of their service to provide an impression of their inflight service, which in reality will never be offered as described because the length of an intercontinental is never long enough?

Does Virgin offer flights to Singapore on its own metal, where such an international-grade service would be offered?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

I've had that style meal on BNE-PER, in fact almost an identical meal.

It's the best domestic business experience I've ever had - wouldn't be surprised if the same service would be offered on PER-SIN since all classes on VAs A330 are very good imo.

Chris_PER, with multiple courses and a pudding service?

If so I stand corrected. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

Yes, multiple courses.  I don't remember the canope-style dessert trays - although I was stuffed by the 3rd course or so!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 8

He is correct, they advertise this as well, any flight over three hours on these and you get the three courses, food it great

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

I just noticed too that the salt and pepper shakers are in the shape of the opera house!

I didn't have that.

Thanks Chris. I just didn't like the idea that Virgin might be misrepresenting itself and with this site as a facilitator for that misrepresentation. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 145

I have No idea why But I have a feeling that if they announce an International Route it will be BNE-SIN OR BNE-HKG to give Cathay, Qantas and Singapore a run for their money with the new Business class coming out.

Qantas - QFF Platinum

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 213

I don't see VA competing with SQ on any route, doesn't make sense given their partnership. 

Which would leave HK as they're remaining option, most likely ex SYD but also possibly ex BNE to consolidate some of their international services now that LAX is going daily from there from next month

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 145

Yea True, I totally forgot about that.

08 Aug 2013

Total posts 14

Actually a while a go back when Virgin Australia was Virgin Blue and V Australia, there were plans to fly to HK. In fact the even had the Traffic Rights to fly between BNE-HK. Though this was when the only wide-body was the 777-300ER.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

They may not compete with SQ, but might instead run a fifth flight to complement their schedule. SQ has no mid-morning PER-SIN and no mid-afternoon SIN-PER, so it's possible for VA to slip in a flight there to complement rather than compete.

Qantas - QFF Platinum

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 213

To run this schedule daily I believe they would need 2 A332's and a lot of ground time

Plus if QF can't run an A333 profitably on the route I don't see how VA will be able to. I doubt the difference in profitability would have been the difference between an A333 and A332, otherwise, presumably, QF would have done that.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

You only need one A330, with lots of PER groundtime, which can then be worked into the transcon schedule. It is just possible to run a MEL-PER-SIN-PER-MEL, first leg early in the morning (e.g. dep MEL 0700) and last leg redeye.

PJM
PJM

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2012

Total posts 2

I see some previous written comments regarding possible future VA flights between PER - SIN and vice versa. From my personal observations as a business traveller between Perth and Asean destinations (approx 4 RT flights per month) I have noticed and found that especially in WA the market for travel is fairly high most of the time. This is due to the large amount of FIFO workers that work in WA and either live or travel abroad for their R&R breaks. This is the type of market that should be tapped into because of its consistency and also most companies provide travel cost assistance for FIFO workers. From my observations that if VA had a flight from PER - SIN departing at 12.45pm daily and arrive SIN 17.40pm every FIFO and holiday traveller would be able to make it to there destination on the 1 ticket and less transit time in the 1 day of travel, VA would absolutely blitz the leg of the market........believe I have seen these FIFO workers hanging around Perth and Changi for hours on end wasting travel time. But the key is that the perth flight departs Perth at 12.25pm (not before) as many of these FIFO workers travel down from various work sites in the morning domestic arrivals into Perth. As for the return leg VA can either commence a SIN - (either BNE or MEL) for this aircraft to fly the golden triange as such, due to the fact that SQ has most time slots covered for the SIN - PER leg on a daily basis.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

If Virgin can avoid it, I don't see a need for them to launch any Asian route. They have a strong partner in Asia with unlimited rights and a lower cost base. Launching a new route is costly and yields aren't great due to overcapacity to Asia. Unless they get some code share with CX, Hong Kong would be hard... a daily V Atlantic flight ain't much feed.

Probably better using bird domestically. 

If they got the right plane, I reckon SFO could be well suited to Virgin. Good yields and feed.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

"we immediately noticed that ‘new plane’ smell (it’s like a new car smell, but around $252 million dollars more expensive)."

Comedy gold David! Thanks for the laugh :-)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Jun 2013

Total posts 26

Id love to see some competition on AUS-NRT/HND. 


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