Review: Virgin Australia Boeing 737 business class (Brisbane-Melbourne)

Virgin's rebooted business class provides lounge access, inflight dining, and savings of $500+ over Qantas per return trip.

Overall Rating

By Chris C., May 26 2021
Virgin Australia Boeing 737 business class (Brisbane-Melbourne)
Route

Brisbane to Melbourne

Aircraft Type

Boeing 737-800

Airline

Virgin Australia

Flight

VA324

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

2F

Notes
The Good
  • Inflight dining is back, and the meals are tasty
The Bad
  • No priority security at Brisbane Airport
X-Factor
  • Sharp fare prices deliver a $500+ saving per return trip, compared to Qantas
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Virgin Australia's refreshed business class service is now available on every flight, with true sky-high dining bidding farewell to the unfortunate days of snack boxes and noodles at the pointy end.

At almost 2.5 hours, Brisbane-Melbourne clocks in as the longest flight in Australia's 'Golden Triangle' of business travel – here's what to expect when that's in Virgin Australia business class.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: Velocity Frequent Flyer. Miles can also be earned and spent on Virgin Australia through Etihad Guest, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and other partnered programs.
  • Checked baggage allowance:
    • 2x32kg: standard business class allowance
    • 3x32kg: Velocity Platinum members
    • Note: These allowances apply when booking business class outright, or after upgrading from economy using Velocity Points or UpgradeMe Platinum certificates. Upgrades processed through UpgradeMe Premium Bid/Bid Now retain the economy allowance.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance choices:
    • 1x7kg bag: maximum dimensions of 115cm
    • 2x7kg bags (14kg total): maximum dimensions of 105cm each
    • 1x7kg bag + 1x suit pack: maximum bag dimensions of 115cm, maximum suit pack dimensions of 185cm
    • Plus: One personal item for all guests, such as a laptop satchel, handbag, umbrella, overcoat or camera.
  • Airport fast-track: Dedicated priority check-in counters are available at Brisbane Airport, but there's disappointingly no priority security screening options for Virgin Australia's premium passengers at Brisbane Airport, as the priority lane at the primary checkpoint has disappeared, and Premium Entry remains closed. Priority boarding is clearly signed and announced, however.

Lounge

A business class ticket provides access to Virgin Australia's Brisbane Airport lounge, which is also shared with Velocity Platinum and Gold frequent flyers, lounge members, and all other eligible guests.

With Virgin Australia Premium Entry remaining closed, the Virgin Australia Lounge can be accessed by venturing through the regular security screening point (where there's also no longer a priority lane) and heading towards Gate 41.

Be aware, queues at Brisbane security can be very lengthy early in the mornings, so if your flight departs before 9am, allow lots of extra time.

By contrast, rival Qantas reopened its similar Premium Lounge Entry facility at Brisbane Airport in late 2020 (below), so the return of even one priority path for Virgin Australia passengers between check-in and the lounge is now long overdue, and its absence puts Virgin at quite a disadvantage at its own 'home hub' airport.

Qantas Premium Lounge entry returned six months ago: it's time for Virgin to step up.
Qantas Premium Lounge entry returned six months ago: it's time for Virgin to step up.

Once you are inside Virgin's lounge, a selection of simple hot and cold food is served at the counter – the hot option being ready-to-go toasted sandwiches.

However, as inflight dining has returned to Virgin Australia business class, a quick coffee sufficed until boarding.

That barista service is available throughout the day, with the bar opening at 12pm.

Also read: Visiting Virgin Australia's Brisbane Airport lounge

Flight

Virgin Australia currently offers 8-11 daily return flights between Brisbane and Melbourne, with a service departing every 1-2 hours.

These are all served by the airline's Boeing 737 fleet, providing a choice between business class, Economy X, and standard economy.

As domestic travel demand continues to rise, Virgin is also ramping up its Brisbane-Melbourne flying, climbing from 61 weekly return flights at present to as many as 84 weekly return services by October.

The airline competes with Qantas and Jetstar on the route, but not Regional Express (Rex), which counts the Gold Coast as its only Queensland jet destination.

Related: Rex Boeing 737 business class review (Gold Coast-Melbourne)

Seat

Virgin Australia's Boeing 737 business class covers two rows in a 2-2 layout, for a total of eight seats.

Identified as A/C-D/F, this places the 'C' and 'D' seats either side of the aisle, and the 'A' and 'F pods against the window.

Each seat comfortably reclines: best-enjoyed in row 2, which has a bulkhead wall behind. You'll also find the tray in your side armrest.

That bulkhead doubles as a space for jackets and coats – particularly appreciated when venturing from warmer Brisbane to chillier Melbourne, with the crew offering to hang these before departure.

With a comfortable pitch of 38 inches, there's more than ample space around the knees, with passengers in the second row able to store small bags underneath the seat in front. 

For those in row 1, there's space again to stretch forwards, but with bags belonging in the overhead locker for take-off and landing.

A single pouch proves large enough for items like laptops or tablets, (BYO) headphones, water bottles, and other bits and pieces.

As there isn't a dedicated tablet holder, the lip of that pouch can be a great place to hang a tablet for viewing with wireless headphones, when your device's stand or case is sturdy enough. 

Some Virgin Australia Boeing 737s are equipped with inflight power, but others aren't: and whether a socket-sporting jet arrives at your gate is down to luck of the draw.

Unlike Qantas' Boeing 737 business class, Virgin Australia's seats don't offer leg rests.

Meal

Service begins before take-off with an offer of water, fresh orange juice, or sparkling wine.

Being an 11am departure from Brisbane, lunch is served with two options provided:

  • Turkish vegetable and pesto sandwich, or
  • Roast vegetable and smoked salmon farro salad 

Opting for the lighter dish, the salad was tasty, fresh, and enjoyed with a glass of Grant Burge Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV sparkling.

While the cheese and crackers were a nice way to finish, the presentation of these doesn't match the main course – but at least, serving them this way minimises handling.

Beverages remain available until descent, including tea and coffee.

While it's no Nespresso, a Snowy Mountains cookie on the side is a nice touch.

Entertainment & Service

Movies, TV shows and music are available to stream via your own device after connecting to Virgin Australia's WiFi network – but inflight Internet remains suspended for now.

You'll need to have downloaded and installed the Virgin Australia Entertainment app prior to your flight from Apple's App Store (for iPhone and iPad), or Google Play (for Android devices).

However, viewing on laptops and some tablets (including Microsoft Surface) can be hit and miss, with MacBooks currently unsupported, and Windows devices requiring Internet Explorer with Silverlight: which Microsoft will also stop supporting in October 2021.

If this describes your gadget, a better plan is pre-loading your laptop or Surface with content: which serves as a great backup even if you're normally able to get the inflight entertainment working.

Service on today's flight was friendly and efficient, with passengers addressed by name upon boarding and at meal time, with no need to press the call bell.

The verdict

After months of serving sugary snack boxes – and before that, two-minute noodles – it's great that Virgin Australia's rebooted business class has found its footing.

Serving as a tough competitor to Qantas and offering a more premium inflight dining experience than Rex, Virgin Australia is undoubtedly charting ahead in that 'mid market' territory.

Its sharp business class fare pricing will also be attractive to many, with one-way Virgin Australia fares from Brisbane to Melbourne selling from $549 in mid-July, versus $818 on the same dates with Qantas.

That's a difference of over $500 per passenger, per return ticket.

However, Virgin Australia (and Brisbane Airport) are doing passengers no favours by removing all priority security options in Brisbane, and we sincerely hope this changes sooner rather than later.

Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia and Visit Victoria.

Chris C.

A Brisbane-based contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 711

Please reopen the express paths and just make those meal 150% the size. My wife keeps myself on a strict diet but those meal don't touch the sides. The worst was the meat pie and the scoop of potato the size of a cherry tomato.

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Mar 2021

Total posts 5

Hi Chris,

Has there been any movement at all on Virgin rebooting the wifi on domestic flights? Yes, it’s a “nice to have”, but Geeze it’s handy, especially just getting a quick message back to earth when you’re running late. 

Cheers, Jason 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 711

Buying a 6 or 12 month pass would be handy as well.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 527

Inflight WiFi should be complimentary to Platinum members, 50%-off to Gold and 25%-off to Silver VFF members when pre-purchased.  And you'll all agree - that's hardly rocket science.  

Over to you, Ms Jayne.

I agree with Boeing

09 Sep 2020

Total posts 2

The price difference makes it a no brainer !!!

04 May 2015

Total posts 271

Nice that VA is back to normal in the sky, and the comments about the ground experience are spot on. Not having any sort of security fast-track for business/platinum/gold at VA's own home airport is just crazy poor. You'd think airlines and airports would want to encourage those high-spending high-flyers back into the skies and make things as easy for them as possible (so they don't hesitate to book their next journey and fly again), not punish them with up to an hour of security queues whenever do decide to travel and support the travel industry. Makes flying out of the Gold Coast pretty appealing for some Brisbane southsiders I'm sure, as the priority line at OOL is always quick and easy when I've flown through there!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 155

I see the lounge catering still hasn't changed. I wish they would add the food options they have at the newly opened adelaide lounge! Just because it's not a refurbished lounge doesn't mean Brisbane doesn't deserve some food love too, given it is their home hub after all. 

And How much does opening a priority lane really cost them? Miniscule in comparison to the disincentive for lost customers!

19 Jun 2020

Total posts 28

I flew Syd/Adelaide return  last week and thought the Business offer was more or less back to where it was before the collapse. Food offering was simple but more than big enough and quite pleasant , afterall I don't expect to be filled up with food on a domestic flight. I usually save my appetite for a nice meal at my destination.

Service was also pleasant and efficient. All they need to do now is open up Premium Entry and the Club lounge and I will be happy

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 711

I've got a Sydney - Brisbane - Townsville flight coming up with VA and then on Tuesday QF Business with return on VA Business, I'm thinking I'd cancel that QF flight if Jayne showed more love to the top 0.5 percenters flyers. Instead of having a lot of low mile club members that eat them out of house and home lol

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 711

Just to add to my comment, the Dingle wire (Phone) is running hot

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 527

Agreed, but it's not just the 'hoovering up' of F&B some/many of them do, but they really 'pile on' the food to the edge of their plates and typically spill it (accidentally) on the floor when rushing back to their table/stool/chair to consume before their next helping.  Those observations were pre-pandemic, things might have changed (I hope so anyway).  

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 711

For me it's quality rather than quantity even thou I do think the size of some of the business class meals are way to small (most are healthy) but I do agree with both Boeing and Give Flight (Boeing , people overloading the food plate. And Give Flight a good meal at a destination beats airline meals).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 527

What a shame there's only eight (8) business class seats on VA's 737-800s, there should be at least 12, arguably 16.  Perhaps that will change?

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 175

Wow, I find the 4* out of 5 pretty generous for what is described.

- No priority through security

- A lounge in which the hot option is a warm sandwich

- The onboard catering: while the main meal looks good, the sad lonely pre packaged piece of cheese is pretty dire.  And on a 2.5hr flight I reckon an ice cream or some kind of 'sweet finish' would be a nice (and IMHO expected) addition.

- No wifi.

All for a $500 premium.  Not selling it for me at all.

QF

02 Oct 2012

Total posts 45

I know I sound like a dreadful snob but Cracker Barrel cheese does not excite me at all.   And the last few experiences I’ve had in the Melbourne lounge have been so uninspiring in both the food offering and service that I’d rather just stay in the terminal.   I don’t want to sound like the eternal pessimist but to me VA have lost its spark (and appeal)

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 224

You're not being snobbish, a slice of Cracker Barrel cheese would be fine in economy but business class deserves better. Look at the cheese platter served in Rex business class, that's much better!

29 Mar 2017

Total posts 21

Flew VA business the other day. I must agree with other that while the main component of the “meal” is tasty enough and satisfactory from that perspective, the size was incredibly underwhelming. As with the cheese and crackers “accompaniment” - my kids get that in their school lunch... not good enough.

Everything else was great though (no lounge in Newcastle... sob...), staff lovely and helpful and wine was fine. Why is the senior person now called a “team leader” though? Makes it sound like we’re working in a call centre.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 527

"Team Leader", sounds like a Jetstar legacy (copy and pasted).


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