Sydney to Gold Coast
- Excellent service and lounge access
- The Sydney Premium Lounge Entry is still closed
- Less than half the price of Qantas business on the same route
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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