Virgin Australia bullish on new Boeing 777 business class

By David Flynn, January 20 2016
Virgin Australia bullish on new Boeing 777 business class

Virgin Australia's new Boeing 777 business class is expected to debut on the popular Sydney-Los Angeles route in April, and the airline is confident of making a serious dent in the trans-Pacific business travel market.

The upgraded Boeing 777-300ER will have 37 of Virgin's 'The Business' business class seats, up from 33 in the older configuration – with all of the new seats offering direct-aisle access (compared to the current 2-3-2 layout)...

... and converting into a wide fully-flat bed.

Passengers will find plenty of personal space around the seat plus an 18 inch video screen, in what Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has previously described as "the business class to beat" between Australia and Los Angeles.

Review: Virgin Australia's 'The Business' Airbus A330 business class

Qantas flies its flagship Airbus A380 on the Sydney-LAX route but the superjumbo's older Skybed II seats (below) have a less passenger-friendly 2-2-2 layout, smaller screens and very limited space for working inflight or keeping carry-on items with reach.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously ruled out upgrading the Airbus A380s with the newer Qantas Business Suite, describing the Skybed II as "highly competitive on the markets that it is operating on."

Virgin's primary competitor from Sydney to stateside will be Qantas partner American Airlines, which has a similar seat design to The Business – albeit one based on that of Cathay Pacific – on its own Boeing 777-300ER jets (below) running daily on the Sydney-LA route.

Passengers at the pointy end of Virgin's Boeing 777 will also see a newly-designed business class bar with face-to-face service for up to four seated guests... 

... plus additional lounge seating behind the bar.

'Business Lite'

And while Virgin's refitted Boeing 777 premium economy zone will be almost halved, from 40 seats down to 24, the new seats and smaller more exclusive cabin will be repositioned as a ‘business lite’ product with an extra three inches of legroom – up from the current 38 inches to 41 inches – and a new Luke Mangan-designed menu.

Premium economy pssengers will also have access to a new 'Premium Larder' snack bar stocked with an assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, light meal options and snacks.

"While we pitch our new business class at halfway between business and first, premium economy will be halfway between economy and business but certainly closer to business class," Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller at the launch of airline's new business class.

Further down the plane, Virgin Australia will also introduce 42 ‘economy plus’ seats with extra legroom compared to the standard economy seat.

While the Boeing 777 overhaul will result in fewer seats – the total seat count will drop from 361 to 339 – Virgin is skewing the mix towards higher average revenue from tip to tail.

Also read: Virgin Australia looks to build on its successes in 2016

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


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.

I commend Virgin by not following the crowd and sticking to the much more civilised (for cattle class) 3-3-3 layout!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 172

The new Business seats in the 777 will undoubtedly be great, and a much needed upgrade. 

As a self funded traveller however, I'm really keen to see what exactly the Premium Economic product is. I've flown on the current PE to LAX, and found it pretty cramped and hard to sleep - may as well save some money and fly economy.

But with the new PE I'm keen to see if they've gone for leg rests and upgraded seats, or if they've just pulled out a few rows and re-spaced the existing product.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 567

I'm in the same boat as you Andrew. Very keen to experience the PE and find out where the sweet spot is - economy saver, PE or economy flex with points upgrade to J. My gut feel is for a 14+ hour flight, it's flex and upgrade or sucking it up in a nice and cheap discount economy. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Jan 2016

Total posts 59

Agree completly on the current VA PE seats.  They dont stack up against Qantas and Air NZ on the route,  and often electing for an Economy exit row is a better experience.   An upgrade is long overdue.  Also the pricing will be the acid test as shaping it as Business lite and reducing seat count only suggests that the $$ will go up substantially,  so the product has to match.  


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 729

Qantas please take note.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 390

For A380!refurbishment the the 787-9 configuration

Now all Virgin need do is lease a couple more 773s and fly to SFO.  That trek through LAX is a dog and I avoid it at all costs.  I would rather transit BNE / SYD and then SFO direct with Qantas than via LAX.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Nov 2012

Total posts 19

My booking from LAX>SYD in April is now showing the new configuration, so here's hoping. Then again, my booking from NAN>SYD in October was showing the new configuration and we ended up with the old one, and many passengers in J were just as annoyed as I was!

14 Jan 2016

Total posts 6

Looks terrific!

Agreed. Virgin's "The Business" is incredibly, monumentally sexy. So slick...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Dec 2014

Total posts 284

I wouldn't call the PE a BusinessLite!!

"Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously ruled out upgrading the Airbus A380s with the newer Qantas Business Suite, describing the Skybed II as "highly competitive on the markets that it is operating on."

No, it isn't. Air NZ's hard product is superior. AA's hard product is far superior. And whilst Emirates Business seats are somewhat narrow they are better layout-wise than Skybed 2 (then there's Etihad and all the Asian airlines providing kangaroo route services...).

My prediction; there will be an A380 product refresh after the 787-9s are introduced into the fleet. By then the A330s will all have been upgraded. The 787-9s will free up 747s (the ones operating JNB, SCL and perhaps SFO too.. maybe even the BNE - LAX one?), which can be used (alongside additional AA and Emirates services) to operate the A380 routes when the A380s are getting refurbished.

Part of this refresh will be Qantas Business Suite for the Business Class. I mean, they'd be idiots not to... going by Thompson's LOPA the Vantage XL is actually more dense than the Skybed 2, so QF is effectively missing out on extra premium capacity by not upgrading the A380s to the Business Suite.

21 Jul 2012

Total posts 128

I am constantly amazed at how bland and uninspiring the US carriers make their products. Could that AA product be more dull and grey?  They might as well call it the SkyCubicle.

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 270

Yes USA airlines are not known for their warm inviting tones in their planes, stark and clinical I find - like the service!

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 273

Business Lite is a good concept, means you can probably get close to a business seat without lounge access (where it's there or not I mean). However, I still feel to call it 'Business' the seats need to be further improved. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 464

Premium economy looks to be 2-4-2 layout with seats only marginally wider than economy.  Trying to sell it as Business Lite?  Seems JB has forgotten it's not a LCC anymore.  Do not like the look of the seats but like the added legroom.  Any info on the seat pitch for economy plus?  It will be interesting to see if QF do this as well given the deal with AA.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2015

Total posts 43

i have fond memories of travelling with my girlfriend in 5J and K and the privacy curtain that was left closed by the crew, sometimes progress isnt!

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