Virgin Australia launches Economy X 'extra legroom' seats

By David Flynn, March 30 2017

Virgin Australia will offer economy class passengers more legroom, priority boarding and exclusive access to overhead locker space as part of its new Economy X service launching on domestic flights from May 2017.

Other perks will include premium check-in and noise-cancelling headphones, as well as a 'guaranteed first meal choice' on flights where a full meal is served.

Virgin Australia Economy X pricing will start from $29 extra on short domestic flights such as Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane, with the price increasing as flights become longer.

Trans-Tasman flights as well as Melbourne-Perth will cost $49, with Sydney-Perth and Brisbane-Perth at $59, topping out at $149 between Australia and Los Angeles.

Velocity Platinum frequent flyers will be able to pre-select Economy X seats free of charge on domestic and trans-Tasman flights when making their booking or any time before check-in, along with any companions travelling on the same booking.

However, they will no longer enjoy exclusive access to the prized row 3 on the Boeing 737s – that row, with its sit-down-and-stretch-out legroom, will also be available to savvy economy travellers regardless of status, provided they pay the Economy X surcharge and know to select a seat in row 3.

"People tell us they want speed on the ground and space in the air," said Virgin Australia Airlines Group CEO John Thomas in launching the Economy X package at Sydney Airport today.

"We believe this will revolutionise the domestic economy travel experience."

The Economy X package will replace the airline's current Space+ option, which starts at $20 but offers fewer inclusions and is limited to the emergency exit rows of Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737-800s and other domestic aircraft.

The Space+ rows on Virgin Australia's Boeing 737-800

Virgin will convert the first three rows of the economy cabin (rows 3-5) on its workhorse Boeing 737-800 jets into an Economy X zone...

... with "a minimum of three inches (7.62cm) extra legroom" or 34 inches of pitch over the 31 inches of regular economy seats.

The move was exclusively tipped by Australian Business Traveller in December 2016 following a series of closed-door focus groups held by the airline and its top-tier Velocity Frequent Flyer members.

Virgin expects most of its Boeing 737 fleet to be reconfigured for Economy X by the end of May.

Economy X will also be rolled out on Virgin's Airbus A330 jets, with eight seats in row 28; and on the international Boeing 777-300ER fleet, with 57 seats at rows 20-25, 26 and 39.

Regional ATR jets will have Economy X at row 1; Fokker 70s at row 11; and Fokker 100s and Embraeur 190s at row 12.

Economy X takes a leaf from the playbook of domestic US airlines where passengers can pay an additional fee to be seated in an Economy Plus, Economy Comfort or Main Cabin Extra row at the front of the economy cabin for extra legroom, priority boarding and dedicated overhead luggage space (as well as being among the first passengers off the flight).

Economy X on the Boeing 737

So what's the Economy X legroom really like?

Here's the view at row 4, which has a 34 inch pitch and measures 15 inches from the front of the cushion to the rear of the seat ahead.

For comparison's sake here's the standard economy legroom of a 31 inch pitch, which translates to 11.5 inches from the front of your seat cushion to the rear of the seat in front.

Of course, row 3 remains the prize: located directly behind the bulkhead wall of the business class cabin (which Virgin has nudged forward to help free up the extra inches for the Economy X rows), there's a lazy 30 inches of legroom.

More to follow...

David
David

David Flynn

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.

kiwiwings

kiwiwings

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

10 Aug 2015

Total posts 78

Any hints as to what will be available for top tier partner pax?

MattJelonek

MattJelonek

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 222

Main Cabin Extra with Delta, a long name but also gets you priority boarding if you don't have an elite status...

jianga

jianga

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 128

It's actually called Delta Comfort+ now but yes you're correct about the priority boarding and dedicated bin space.

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

IMHO very positive move. Though I do not believe in commercial success - herd wanna save a dollar. Also I am curious where they got those 9"? It is not enough to remove one row and if they where forced to remove one row then they will create more Economy-X rows. Do they squash rest of economy seats by few mils? And main question - will our "national flag carrier" follow?

GBRGB

GBRGB

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 209

I see merit in this and a good move from VA, Good point Serg in regards to QF response but I have always considered JQ would be the one to look at this seriously, many routes in Australia are only covered by JQ with no QF available, to be able to offer a few rows at the front with extra legroom and a few perks would be well recieved, 

deany83

deany83

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 133

Didn't they only launch the space+ option a few months ago?

riley

riley

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

Where does this leave gold pax?

jorgb

jorgb

23 Feb 2016

Total posts 34

Nothing will change for gold. These seats will open up for gold like they always have 48 hours before the flight.

smoothsilver

smoothsilver

21 Feb 2014

Total posts 10

Having used the Space+ iteration AKL-BNE, I think this is a great idea, and tbh Y+ is outrageous for the little benefits you get.

What Virgin really needs to do with this now is push it hard with the staff at foreign airports - the gate staff were almost prepared to physically restrain me from boarding early "because I wasn't a platinum or business class flier" - and I have heard from others that mine was not an isolated instance.

Ryan K

Ryan K

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 292

Low cost? Full service? Who knows with VA these days. It's just one change after another lately. No consistency whatsoever. 

GregXL

GregXL

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 390

Great news for us longer-legged flyers.  Well done VA.  It will be interesting to see how available these seat are to non-Platinums who are prepared the pay for the extra room.   

deany83

deany83

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 133

Imagine it's first in first server if you pay for it on booking

mcglynp

mcglynp

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Jan 2016

Total posts 61

So this is very welcome if confusing..  It seems to be a straight replacement for Space+,  I'm not seeing any difference. It is also very welcome that Plat flyers will be able to select these free, as it improves what is currently a very poor plat offering from VA.   Of course this does also lead to the question of will current plat flyers be refunded for space+ bookings they have on upcoming flights?  Actually I think I know the answer to that.  

Jon W

Jon W

25 Feb 2013

Total posts 59

I wonder if this means that they will clamp down on seating myself (Platinum) and my wife (Gold) together in Row 3?

Jon W

Jon W

25 Feb 2013

Total posts 59

I wonder if this means that they will clamp down on seating myself (Platinum) and my wife (Gold) together in Row 3?

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2322

If your wife is on the same booking, you're both good for free access to Economy X.

otternz

otternz

04 Mar 2015

Total posts 16

Air New Zealand offer a Space+ for Koru, Gold and Gold Elite passengers.  Theirs is the whole front half of the aircraft.

aussiflyer

aussiflyer

27 Jan 2016

Total posts 52

Great move, and a good to see VA doing something to differentiate them to QF. If I was plat i wouldnt be too concerned with all the front rows filling up. Every time i fly Virgin and ask for exit rows, they always oblidge willingly.  

Kogglogs

Kogglogs

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Apr 2013

Total posts 147

Bit-by-bit, they're progressively marginalising their top tier FF pax. It's like they're actually TRYING to drive away their highest value customers.

Steve42act

Steve42act

30 Mar 2017

Total posts 6

I totally agree ,ive had the same feeling since they cut back the fly ahead even for platinum.

UpUpAndAway

UpUpAndAway

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 279

I know people who fly VA because of row 3. Making a quick exist off the plane is important and most of these people don't just earn 800 status credits a year. It's good marketing but they need to also watch they don't annoy the decision makers.

sim86on

sim86on

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 May 2014

Total posts 37

I flew on a VA 737 last Thursday CBR-MEL, seated in row 4. 

I suspected at the time the aircraft had already been converted for Economy X because the legroom was massive (same as in David's picture). 

However the headrests were still the normal red/grey/purple. 

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1372

Was announced that they have already sneakily converted about half the fleet.

Then just a new headrest cover needed.

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2322

Yes, Virgin Australia has already got a lot of 737s with Economy X flying, they tell me they deliberately tried to keep them off the Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne 'triangle' in case somebody spotted the extra legroom in rows 4 and 5 and put it up on social media :P

bagpuss

bagpuss

18 Jan 2017

Total posts 20

" exclusive access to overhead locker space".

My ongoing complaint to Virgin is that flight attendants keep placing their carry-on above row3.  Let's see if they stop.

hakkinen5

hakkinen5

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 93

Two questions:

Where, really does the 9 inches of extra room come from. Not just from the business class wall.

And... the article says "row 3 remains the prize with 30" of leg room".... do you mean 40"?

PK

PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 113

No, he means 30". Pure leg room, not seat pitch. 

Steve42act

Steve42act

30 Mar 2017

Total posts 6

Velocity platinum members will mostly loose our row 3 ,yet another perk taken away lately from virgins best customers .

Too Technical

Too Technical

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2016

Total posts 40

When did VA have Fokker 70's?

wdeguara

wdeguara

Etihad - Etihad Guest

06 Apr 2012

Total posts 88

Will be particularly welcomed by folks regularly flying between Perth and the East Coast I suspect. 

GregXL

GregXL

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 390

With regard to Perth flights, I read that there will not be any additional extra leg room seats on the A330, just row 28 as it is now.  

xtfer

xtfer

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 119

Why would you put these in Row 1 on the ATR? The best rows on the ATR are right at the back... where the door is.

Genji88

Genji88

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 10

Considering comments about Platinums about getting seated near Reds in row 3 when economy hasn't  been That full, it makes sense to charge for row 3

bigken

bigken

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Nov 2014

Total posts 24

Not much hope for taller passengers as I suspect that all the Economy X seats will be snapped up earlier by shorties. I wish that we could return to the days when exit row seats were allocated to tall passengers at check in time.

SteveWA

SteveWA

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

25 Aug 2016

Total posts 2

Just another example of the dilution of the Virgin Australia product for regular (Platinum) flyers. Slowly turning it back to those horrible "Blue" days......


First it was the reduction in A330 aircraft on PER<>BNE, then the general lowering of food quality especially in Business and then on personal note getting charged $120 for being 2.5kg over the 23kg bag limit even although as Platinum I could have taken three bags of 23kg each free. 

As other people have commented it seems like they just want to get rid of their loyal, frequent and usually high value guests.

Zippy

Zippy

20 Dec 2013

Total posts 4

Maybe I'm being too elitist, but as a platinum member -I've earned those seats and priority boarding through loyalty. If I'd know I could pay $30 for it.. why bother being loyal. Defeats the concept if a 'loyalty program;' when you can pay to play. I'm sure it'll be hard for VA to say no to revenue from a paid seat upgrade over a no cost Platinum member too.

quick_dry

quick_dry

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 26

They really had VA Plats that fly economy at this focus group? And they suggested it was a good idea to give up one of the few remaining real benefits to top tier FFs?

The 'fly ahead' was effectively gutted,  and if the row 3 (and other front row benefits) are simply being sold off, then there isn't much benefit to preferencing VA over any other domestic carrier. I liked having a nicer seat on the bus, but if I'm not even getting a nicer seat for that hour - I might as well go with whoever gives me a better price on the same squishy seats.

amitchell

amitchell

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 10

I hope as a platinum flyer this does not reduce my benefits as I am sure many corporates will pay the extra because it is not their money relegating me to seats further back - if it does then I am going back to Qantas - Virgin beware "do not reduce the platinum benefits any further"

Steve42act

Steve42act

30 Mar 2017

Total posts 6

Hi guys,i see my other VA platinum members are as upset as i am for another blow to our hard earned benefits.Please let them know on there facebook page and i even emailed CEO John Borghetti as now its almost a no brainer to go to Qantas after this.However its the time it takes to build up status with a new airline which will be a major inconvenience for business travel until platinum is acheived again.See the following text of my facebook post...........The decision to include row 3 and priority boarding is madness ,you have upset all of your supposed most loyal platinum members.[see Australian business traveler website comments on this subject] .Why not make it at least rows 4 5 and 6?As platinum members we all pay at least 10s of thousands of dollars a year to earn our status and remain loyal.it will be almost impossible to get row 3 now,of course VA will take the revenue firstly over saving platinum priority seats firstly,priority boarding and check in will be much busier also.The lounges will be much more difficult to get a seat at peak times due to the afl football packages you guys offer ,and l aready the Melbourne lounge is hard to get a seat at peak times.Just in the last few months you took away fly ahead on saver fares,less status credits,no status bonus points all for even your platinum.What is the point of remaining loyal now?such a shame as all the staff,cabin crew and especially the lounge staff at Canberra and Melbourne are so great yet you have such bad decision makers in the head offices.I will be watching this space very carefully in the near future as to who to fly my 130 sectors a year with .VA needs to do some major platinum benefit upgrade to keep us.And with your earlier decision to make VIP lounges without platinum access what reason do we have left to choose VA over Qantas????

DownSouth

DownSouth

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 96

Platinum members get this for free, non platinum guests need to pay for spacex.

I'm sue row 3 will be provided to platinum guests, as it is today. 

quick_dry

quick_dry

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 26

@DownSouth - we know that WP get it for free, the issue is that by making it generally available the seats will be bought by people more often, meaning that the seats are never available to Plats. That it will be a benefit that is not really a benefit because you can never use it.

DownSouth

DownSouth

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 96

I'm sure the airline would of hold out seats (row3) for the final bookings close to flight date and avail to platinum guests. That would seem logical and reasonable, standard procedure for any airline in any premium cabin.

quick_dry

quick_dry

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 26

the article and Virgin's own press releases say that you can buy row 3 seats straight away when making your booking - just pony up the $29 and you're in.

Pointshark

Pointshark

11 Apr 2017

Total posts 1

Strongly agree with all previous sentiment that Platinum is being devalued quicker than the Rand. 

YET I can earn Status credits on a weekly Coles shop??

Just went to book Reward seats and despite my wife and I both being Platinum we were required to pay extra $ or 3500-5000 (depending on leg) to sit row 3. 

quick_dry

quick_dry

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 26

interesting to which posts get downvoted, seems like posts by frequent flyers critical of the change are being knocked down.

UpUpAndAway

UpUpAndAway

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 279

I've seen the new John about, next time I see him I will be saying, I buy flexi fares, I earn a lot more then 800 status credits and Qantas staff want to know why I don't fly with them more often. Row 3 is one reason why.

Genji88

Genji88

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 10

Let's face it - the bottom line is VA Needs Revenue - BADLY! 

No one likes their perks being devalued or stripped, but if VA were to cease being a common carrier, 

All status benefits GONE!

julius-grafton

julius-grafton

23 May 2012

Total posts 36

So they needed 7" - to stretch row 4 and row 5. In row 3 the other day I didn't notice it was 7" less pitch. But it must be, right? David says row 3 has 30" clear legroom, does this mean it had 37" before??

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