With Virgin Australia’s upgrade of its Embraer 190 business class now underway, Australian Business Traveller took a quick flight on the airline’s Sydney-Canberra Capital Connect service to see how the new seats and updated service stack up.
The E190’s aren’t restricted to this super short hop, of course – you’ll also spy them on the Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane routes.
Virgin Australia tells us that the new seats will be fitted across its Embraer 190 fleet by the end of March 2013.
Virgin’s new E190 business class cabin
The pointy end of the original E190 was closer to the airline’s now defunct premium economy product: two rows of a standard economy seat with just a little extra legroom.
The revised layout has a simplified seatmap with both rows whittled down to a 1-2 layout.
There's a single seat (1A or 2A) on the left, with two pairs (1D, 1F, 2D, 2F) across the aisle, for a total of six seats at the pointy end.
The aisle angles sharply back into a centre line running the length of the plane’s 2-2 economy section.
The E190 borrows some design touches from Virgin’s Boeing 737-800, including the perspex divider panel and ‘thou shalt not pass’ white snake to separate the business and economy cabins.
Virgin’s new E190 business class seats
The seats themselves are covered in leather, well padded and quite comfortable.
It almost seems live overkill on the Capital Connect service – a flight that’s barely a half-hour long and can be as little as 23 minutes in the air – but the politicians and public servants do enjoy their pampering.
And when you catch the E190 on a Sydney-Melbourne or Sydney-Brisbane flight you’ll definitely appreciate the increased comfort factor.
Virgin lists the seat pitch at 38 inches (96.5cm), which delivers ample legroom.
There’s an extra few inches in the first row...
... but without a seat in front, of course, under which you can tuck your feet.
Many travellers will opt for row 2 or seat 1D, where the aisle affords a little more room to stretch your legs.
We measured the business class seats at 19 inches (48cm) wide, which is curiously the same as the economy seats – although in economy of course you need to allow for the armrest whereas in business class every centimetre of cushion space is yours.
The sizeable meal tray has plenty of room for a 13 inch notebook...
... as does the seat pocket in row 2, so you can stow your laptop when your meal arrives.
Even folded in half, there's still room for your in-flight cuppa while you catch up with reading on your mid-sized tablet or Kindle.
We were pleased to see more variety than expected on this short Sydney-Canberra hop.
On our afternoon flight to Canberra there was a choice between the familiar cheese plate...
... and a more substantial salad of smoked trout with diced potato, horseradish and dill.
Both were served alongside Serendipity ice cream.
The return leg to Sydney saw this change to a beef bourguignon lattice pie or a dish of spiced roasted pumpkin, chickpeas, feta and baby spinach.
The sweet spot for Velocity frequent flyers in E190 economy
Virgin Australia earmarks the first row of economy on its 737-800s and E190s for top-tier Velocity frequent flyers, and on the E190 row 3 is definitely the place to be.
There's an exceptional amount of legroom, due not only to the distance from the front of the seat to the bulkhead...
... but also the cut-out at the bottom of that cabin divider.
This shot's from seat 3D, and as you can see there's actually more usable legroom than seat 1A!
Have you flown in one of Virgin Australia's new E190s? Share your comments with other AusBT readers.