Review: Virgin Australia Boeing 737 business class

With lounge access and fares half the price of Qantas, Virgin’s 737 business is all class.

Overall Rating

By Chris Ashton, March 17 2022
Virgin Australia Boeing 737 business class
Route

Sydney to Gold Coast

Aircraft Type

Boeing 737-800

Airline

Virgin Australia

Flight

VA511

Cabin Class

Business Class

Seat

1F

Notes
The Good
  • Excellent service and lounge access
The Bad
  • The Sydney Premium Lounge Entry is still closed
X-Factor
  • Less than half the price of Qantas business on the same route
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Virgin Australia is the pop star of the aviation scene. Now onto its third reinvention, the airline – which started as Virgin Blue amid the low-cost craze, rose to lofty heights as a direct challenger to Qantas’ crown, and now exists as a happy hybrid of the two models – always keeps it fresh and interesting.

But, is its business class one that’ll have you singing its praises? We put it to the test.

Check-in

The Sydney Lounge Premium Entry is one of the many perks of flying business class or holding Velocity Gold status and above. Although it currently remains closed, the entry normally provides a handy shortcut into the lounge with its own check-in desk (carry-on only) and security screening.

Priority check-in in the main terminal was the next best thing. After a brief wait, it wasn’t long until I was walking up the steps and straight into the lounge.

The entrance to Virgin's lounge at Sydney Domestic Terminal 2
The entrance to Virgin's lounge at Sydney Domestic Terminal 2

Lounge

Business class travellers, Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers, and lounge members are invited to use Virgin Australia lounges in seven locations across Australia.

In Sydney Terminal 2, the lounge entrance is immediately to your right after passing through security. You can't miss it. There's also an elevator from the food court level. 

The lounge offers a mix of high and low seating, as well as desks with power outlets
The lounge offers a mix of high and low seating, as well as desks with power outlets

While it hasn’t seen many physical changes in recent years, it’s still a quality experience, with a mix of lounge seating and high tables, plus a variety of work spaces – and free WiFi.

Self-service is still unavailable at the dining counter, but there were plenty of staff on hand to take meal and drink orders during my visit, so it wasn’t an inconvenience.

No longer self-service, but still plenty of choice
No longer self-service, but still plenty of choice

The menu featured a selection of hot and cold options, like fresh pastries and the popular DIY ham and cheese toastie, as well as a fresh fruit, yoghurt and muesli. Barista coffee, tea, soft drinks and juice were served all day, while bar service was available from midday.

Flight

The Boeing 737-800 is the workhorse of Virgin Australia, with the single-aisle aircraft welcoming a maximum of 176 passengers in a two-class layout.

It’s worth noting my particular aircraft featured the standard cabin interior, not the “prototype” business class and economy seats, which are featured on two of the airline’s Boeing 737.

Virgin's workhorse Boeing 737
Virgin's workhorse Boeing 737

Travellers in business class receive an increased baggage allowance, with 14kg of carry-on (maximum two pieces) and two 32kg bags in checked luggage.

Immediately after taking my seat, the cabin service manager offered a welcome glass of sparkling water or wine. Even though it was only 9am, it was 5 o’clock somewhere.

Virgin Australia has a reputation for their in-flight banter. This flight was no exception. Crew regularly chatted with passengers to see if they needed anything. And with a nervous flyer seated directly beside me, they also did an outstanding job of offering reassurance.

Seat

Business class comprised eight leather seats in a 2-2 configuration, separated from economy by a bulkhead and perspex screen. A removable rope was placed across the aisle after take off.

The business class cabin is divided from economy by an attractive screen
The business class cabin is divided from economy by an attractive screen

Each of the plush, leather recliners had adjustable headrests and a large tray table in the arm rest, as well as a small pull-out drinks shelf and universal power outlet. With a comfortable pitch of 38 inches and width of 19.5 inches, there was ample wiggle room in my seat (1F).

Ample room to stretch the legs in seat 1F
Ample room to stretch the legs in seat 1F

Meal

One of the challenges of a short flight like this is the meal service. As soon as the seat belt sign is switched off, it’s a race against time for the crew to run a full service. But that isn’t a problem in business, with just eight passengers making for a relatively smooth process.

The menu included two hot meal options: ham and scrambled eggs on Turkish bread, and a leek quiche. I chose the latter, served with a baked tomato and a Danish on the side. While it was tasty, it could have done with a spoon of relish instead of the tomato.

Leek quiche with a baked tomato, and Danish on the side
Leek quiche with a baked tomato, and Danish on the side

Due to the limited flight time of just over one hour, only cold drinks were served.

Entertainment & Service

Virgin Australia offers streaming in-flight entertainment via their ‘Entertain’ app. It features a broad selection of movies, television shows, and music, as well as podcasts and books.

Virgin offers an easy-to-use streaming entertainment system
Virgin offers an easy-to-use streaming entertainment system

The app was easy to use and navigate, with video content broken down into genres (action, drama, comedy etc.), and additional flight information accessible via the menu button.

However, if you haven’t downloaded the app from the Apple Store or Google Play prior to the flight, you’ll have to settle for whatever you brought with you – or enjoy the view outside.

In-flight WiFi access and the once-excellent Virgin magazine are both missing in action.

Verdict

Virgin’s business class is a worthwhile option for those seeking a little more comfort on their travels, particularly when you factor in additional luggage allowance and lounge access.

And while it may lack some of the bells and whistles of the Qantas 737 business class, it’s also more than half the price, at $299 versus $685 for a comparable date and timed flight from Sydney to Coolangatta.

For the service you receive, Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737 business class really is exceptional value for money.

The writer travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 333

Travelled last week  ADl-MEL, MEL-SYD and had great flights, with good offerings in Adelaide and Melbourne Business Lounges  Things have picked up at VA,  and now with the United tie-up  time to make the preferential switch to VA  (return flight on Qantas  SYD-ADL in Business was poor, with staff more interested in socializing with each other and with fellow crew/staff  travelling in Business ( from a half full load in C the day before flight to a cabin heavily populated by crew and plain clothes staff )

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 150

Does anyone think the quiche and tomato looks appealing? Business class standard?

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 121

Looks OK for a domestic flight breakfast or substantial morning snack, noting that the review is for a 9am departure flight.

NMC
NMC

Etihad - Etihad Guest

27 Apr 2019

Total posts 4

I think the presentation of all meals has certainly lost it’s pizazz. It would take 3 seconds (perhaps 5) extra to plate this particular meal with some sort of green garnish and some tomato relish. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 349

My wife has taken a number of VA flights intrastate in Queensland for about $210 and she said that food and service was great, especially when you consider what you’re paying.

If your comparing a VA & QF business class fare on a 737, it would have to be a strong case to pay the premium for QF.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 227

Same aircraft, same seat, better service, same lounge, better perks, less status points  / actual $$$ by 1000’s - spend required to reach gold / platinum, more seats available for FF booking on every flight at lower rates, better onboard food than Qf - and all this for 1/2 the Qantas ticket price - there is no case really not to fly Virgin. One airline called a charging $299 the other $685 and that replicated on all routes all over Aust in that proportion is really really a no brainer.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 355

I find it strange that tea and coffee weren't available on a 9am flight in Business Class. Yes, it's a short flight from Gold Coast to Sydney, but Ansett and TAA used to serve over 100 hot meals and hot drinks on flights a lot shorter, such as Melbourne to Launceston.

15 Nov 2017

Total posts 11

in fact they could serve 12 Business class meals (with drinks + tea/coffee) on a 28 minute FTI CBR-SYD in those days!!!!!

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 72

When, oh when, will they open the Premium Entry???????? It would be an extra bonus if the valet parking was restored too for those of us that are only away for a couple of hours.

Talking with several hardcore flyers VA isn't that appealing these days, hard to get a business seat, even one person told myself 2 of them got down graded on a flight. Basically what people are saying is they need to add extra business seats or give extra perks to economy x passengers. VA aren't loving there 1%ers anymore they think they can gain more from the corporate customers...... 

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 175

'Due to the flight time of only one hour only cold drinks were served'.

This I think is a big FAIL especially for a flight during breakfast time.  No tea or coffee?  I mean I know it's rarely decent on a plane anyway but....

On many of the short hops I make in J, quite a few pax will often pass up the offer of food altogether wanting ONLY a hot drink.  I have to say i'd be mighty peeved if I paid a Business Class fare and the only thing I wanted was a coffee on a morning flight and it wasn't available.

I can't see the 'challenge' in being able to offer a full service including hot and cold drinks to 8 pax on a 60 minute flight.  As underwhelming as they are, BA always are able to manage on my 30 minute hop from LHR to MAN.  Including a cuppa.  

22 May 2011

Total posts 75

Been into the Sydney lounge a number of times in the past few weeks - the front desk staff are lovely but the food and drink staff really need some re-training.  Really not enjoying their jobs, borderline rude.  Pumpkin soup?  There’s sour cream, chives and bread rolls on the side.  I had to ask for each and every side item, and by the end, the server gave me a scouring look.  Loving life much?

bsb
bsb

21 Jul 2011

Total posts 83

Don’t expect that breakfast out of any port other than the major cities, you’ll get granola and a muffin shipped in on the last flight the night before.  And remember not every port has a VA lounge so you can’t eat before.

The Sydney Virgin terminal is just the most appalling experience followed only marginally by MEL. 

But for the price of their J fares and the the rapid rise to platinum after very few flights, it’s nice to have in your pocket alongside QF Platinum. But side by side, using the pop star analogy, one is playing at the local leagues club and the other is filling Wembley stadium. Both give you a concert, it just depends on what you need and like. 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 786

Looking at the current airline market in Australia I’m going to have to split my flying between VA and Qantas or just fly Qantas at the higher prices. The problem with VA at the moment is you struggle to get a business seat, the routes aren’t direct, Premium Entry isn’t open, Priority Bags come out last (are the luggage guys upset). All I’m smelling is another Myer coming up with customers holding the bag. As someone said above what about the 1%ers. 

01 Mar 2011

Total posts 5

The only hitch in Sydney is VA doesn’t have priority security access until the direct lounge and security path is reopened. A busy day and you can be stuck for 30 minutes or more. Once this is fixed VA will be the first choice out of Sydney.  

15 Nov 2017

Total posts 11

'it's a short flight from Gold Coast to Sydney, but Ansett and TAA used to serve over 100 hot meals and hot drinks on flights a lot shorter, such as Melbourne to Launceston.'

in fact they could serve 12 Business class meals (with drinks + tea/coffee) on a 28 minute FTI CBR-SYD in those days!!!!!

06 Sep 2019

Total posts 19

I've flown a number of business class flights on both Virgin and Qantas in the past couple of months and without fail, the service is far superior on Virgin. With Qantas, I typically don't see a crew member personally until 30 to 40 minutes into a flight apart from the person checking my ticket upon entry. With Virgin, I get a personal greeting from the person looking after me, an offer to hang my jacket and stow my bag plus a welcome sparkling wine. It's all part of making the trip more special. My experience of food presentation has been much better than the quiche image above.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 333

My experiences also, this year on Qantas and Virgin Business.  Last year almost the same on quite a few Qantas and Virgin domestic business flight to/from PER, BNE, MEL, SYD

Lets face it, qantas is an airline which rides on it's coat tails/hype yet fails to deliver, and Virgin Australia is an airline which generally tries (and always has) to make the experience memorable in a good way (whereas with Qantas  memorable usually in a bad way) ....

24 Jun 2020

Total posts 31

I have flown Virgin a few times of late (Hobart and Gold Coast) in these seats and they are as good as the Qantas product and the food is too.

Where I think the Virgin product differs is the flight attendants which are way above the same on QF. The VA staff seem to enjoy their job more. Just my opinion.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 333

In agreeance, VA  much better attendants, and not as interested in socialising like on board Qantas of late  with the Qantas staff on and off duty who fill up the Qantas Business cabin for the past few years....

Di
Di

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

16 Dec 2015

Total posts 13

Flew business PER-MEL this week on VA, flight left at 9.20am. Breakfast/brunch was excellent with a couple of choices (bircher museli with figs, or zucchini bake), both which came with a fresh fruit salad on the side.
Was only offered still water or fruit juice on takeoff, but sparkling water offered with the meal. About two hours into the flight I noticed other passengers drinking beer and wine, so maybe sparkling wine would have been available if I'd wanted it.
Return flight leaves at 1.30pm so we'll see how that compares.
Indicentally, I got the two seats on points for a very reasonable redemption rate - about the same that economy were being offered for the same flight!
There's still no self-service in the Lounge at Perth, and it seemed to be a bit understaffed in those circumstances. (All I wanted was a cup of herb tea and had to wait with the people wanting full barista service coffee, and others wanting food.)

Rxm
Rxm

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 61

The meal offering seems lacking. Ansett could do a full meal service in economy from Canberra to Sydney. 1 hour is plenty of time to offer a meal and hot drink. 

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 422

It looks like something one could buy from the local Vili's or other Bakery to take on a plane with them.while not a bad effort where is the hot drinks.I have flown Qantas Domestic and Ansett(way back in the day) and you can on a 75 to 90 minute sector get a coffee or tea as part of it

06 Sep 2019

Total posts 19

I fly Gold Coast to Sydney regularly and the only time I haven't been offered hot drinks is when there was turbulence expected.


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