Virgin Australia: new business class seats for Airbus A330s, Boeing 777s

By David Flynn, September 25 2014

Virgin Australia will install new business class seats across its Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 fleet from next year as the airline aims to trump Qantas on both domestic and international routes.

The extra-wide and extra-long lie-flat beds will debut on Virgin’s Airbus 330 in March 2015, with all six of the twin-aisle transcontinental jets upgraded by July.

The international Boeing 777s will follow in November 2015 and be completed “within three months.”

Virgin will position the new seats as a ‘business first’ product, although it hasn’t yet settled on a marketing moniker for the seats.

The 1-2-1 layout on both the A330s and Boeing 777s will provide direct aisle access for every passenger.

The seat converts into a fully-flat bed...

... which will be dressed by the cabin crew with a mattress, duvet and large pillow as part of the 'Deep Sleep' turndown service.

There's a large video screen for inflight entertainment – 16 inches in the A330 and a whopping 18 inches in the Boeing 777 – while Virgin's inflight wifi system will also beam movies, TV shows and music to traveller's own devices, no matter which end of the plane they're sitting.

“We already have the best transcontinental business class in Australia, and this will take us to a whole new level” Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller at the seat’s launch today in Singapore.

“And on the Pacific route from Australia to Los Angeles this will be the business class to beat.”

However, Borghetti is keeping his powder dry on plans for an international route for the A330s, which has long been rumoured as Perth-Singapore.

“This obviously gives us that capability if we choose to fly it international, but we’ve got nothing to announce today."

Up close with Virgin Australia's new business class seat

But those pretty PR pictures only tell part of the story.

Australian Business Traveller editor David Flynn (below) took a closer look at the new seat following its reveal in Singapore (prior to the Singapore-Sydney leg of the delivery flight of Virgin Australia's latest factory-fresh Airbus A330).

Virgin Australia’s new business class seat is based on the Super Diamond model from B/E Aerospace, but it's received a make-over from Virgin design director Hans Hulsbosch and London-based design agency Tangerine, says Borghetti, "inspired by a lot of luxury automotive interiors."

As Australian Business Traveller tipped some weeks back, Virgin Australia's new business class is more of a suite than just a seat, thanks in part to the high walls surrounding the shell which provide a degree of privacy without impeding access to the aisle.

In fact, Borghetti says he "would classify (the seat) as more ‘business first’ than business class.”

Let's kick off with perhaps the most important attributes for any business traveller: just how big is this thing?

It's a maximum 28 inches wide with the aisle-side armrest down, with a bed length of 80 inches.

Borghetti tells us that the subdued colour scheme of charcoal with brushed aluminium trimming is not only for the sake of contemporary elegance – it ensured the seat also looks great when combined with the red of the cabin crew's uniforms.

In common with many of the latest business class seats – including the Business Suite of competitor Qantas – there's a slab of surface space right next to the passenger.

This not only provides room to spread out your work during a flight, it's also a handy temporary parking space for your laptop or tablet when meals are served.

And because finding room for all your carry-on kit these days is a particular pain point for travellers, Virgin's new business class seat has nooks and crannies a'plenty.

The first one is a large cavity located under the main part of this workspace.

Inside you'll find a controller for the inflight entertainment system...

... plus USB and headphone jacks...

... and a universal AC socket.

Now here's a particular clever piece of design: the hinged lid of this hidden gadget grove is lined with a strip of soft foam so that you can plug in your laptop, tablet, smartphone or noise-cancelling headphones and then close the compartment and regain full use of the table.

The foam compresses over the cables to stop them from pinching.

And if you were wondering about the smaller cut-out space next to this section...

... yes, that also opens to reveal a small shallow shelf for your passport or other knick-knacks.

After all, nobody has ever heard a traveller complain about having too much space for their gear!

The literature pocket for Virgin’s inflight magazine and safety card is located just off to one side of the passenger.

This also boasts a hidden hatch, one designed to your tablet within easy reach.

Sized to just over 10 inches, it’ll take Apple iPads as well as tablets running Google’s Android software.

Further around from this is an LED reading light with three brightness settings which cleverly flips out from the seat's sidewall.

The armrest – which, like the seat's headrest, is clad in soft leather – rises up or drops down to suit your needs when sitting or sleeping.

And lo and behold, here's another nook suitable for a water bottle, reading glasses and so on.

Continuing this walk-around brings us to the aisle side of the seat and the large dining table, which slides close to the passenger when it's time to work or eat...

... then pushes back when it's time to step into the aisle and make for lav or, on Virgin's refitted Boeing 777s, the inflight bar and lounge area.

Note also the touchscreen controller for the seat functions.

Of course, the demo seat was sitting on its lonesome rather than paired to others in a cabin.

On the Airbus A330 or Boeing 777, passengers will find their feet projecting under the seat in front of them (into the space beneath that seat's side workspace).

That's also home to a 16 inch touchscreen running an enhanced version of Virgin’s Red inflight entertainment system backed by Panasonic’s eX2 system.

As you’d expect, the paired middle seats in this 1-2-1 layout include a privacy divider.

Installing the new seats will see Virgin’s business class cabin on the A330 shrink from 24 seats to 20, but Borghetti promised the fares “will remain competitive” against Qantas.

“Everywhere we’ve operated we’ve always brought fares down, so they have to be competitive, but that said, people will be prepared to pay for this product.”

On the Boeing 777, however, the business class cabin will gain an extra four seats, while the premium economy cabin is shrunk from 40 to 24 seats and repositioned as ‘business lite’.

The Boeing 777 will also see a newly-designed business class bar with face-to-face service for up to four seated guests and additional lounge seating behind the bar.

Also read: Virgin Australia upgrades Boeing 777 premium economy, plans 'economy plus' seats

David Flynn travelled to Virgin Australia's launch in Singapore as a guest of Virgin Australia.

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

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.

gippsflyer

gippsflyer

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Excellent news, and it's great that a real operating plane will be flying with the new seats within a couple of months! While Qantas' Next Generation Business Class Suite looks great, the long, long, long lead-time to it actually being available makes it feel like vapourware.

gippsflyer

gippsflyer

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

I'm glad my prediction that VA would only reveal their Next Generation Business Class seats/suite? shortly before it's fit-out came true. And while I understand that Qantas' very early previews of its Next Generation Business Class suite has some benefits (feedback, extended marketing trials), I think a year long preview is not the right way to go. From a marketing perspective, I think six months is the most you can push these things out before at least having one operating aircraft fitted with the product.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1374

Which thus means it is very likely an off the shelf design, already in service with another airline.

No airline has yet introduced the seat that Qantas's is based on

Flambam_99

Flambam_99

11 Jan 2015

Total posts 1

Seriously? Qantas' new seats are flying now, with VA's supposed to be coming in March, and Qantas is the slow one? I feel that you (and several other commenters) missed the "2015" in the "March 2015" and "November 2015" mentioned at the start of the article.

smit0847

smit0847

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

Davdi - The wording of the article is a bit confusing - do you mean VA will be using an A330 on SYD-AUH?

I wonder what the new route will be - SYD-HKG? PER-SIN? SYD-DPS?

gredgy69

gredgy69

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2013

Total posts 42

No I don't think he meant the A330 will be used on the SYD-AUH route. That will still remain a B777. I'm guessing the new A330 will be debuted on flights to Perth and that the new route gaining an A330 will be NZ, Fiji or Bali - due to comments around about NZ and Sth Pacific getting business class from next year.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1374

And given Virgin is going from 7 to 6 A330s, does that mean more Perth routes will be downgraded from A330 to B738 or dropped entirely?

Positive for the international routes, negative for Perth

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2322

Hi smit0847 - sorry if you found any wording confusing, although I'm not sure what actual wording that was, but to help bring clarity: no mention of an A330 taking on Sydney-Abu Dhabi.

bmc

bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 134

Hope the new route is to a major Asian transit hub

edowling

edowling

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Oct 2013

Total posts 10

I second this. Singapore alliance is good but would much rather the option to get to Asia on VA metal. QF and Singapore own the Asian market, but a MEL/SYD to HKG or BKK would be pretty damn awesome.

imxpnsv

imxpnsv

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Platinum

29 Aug 2014

Total posts 38

I really think VA should make a partnership and codeshare flights with Korean Air making Seoul/Incheon as a hub for North-East Asia and North America market as well as some of Europe routes. 

Qantas/Jetstar is based in Japan with the benefit of Oneworld alliance with JAL. Chinese airlines and airports are not as great as Korean air and Seoul airport including Chinese government's policies - higher barrier than Korea. 

Would be nice fly with VA from AUS to KOR then with KE from KOR to US then Delta or Virgin America for US domestic!

undertheradar Banned

undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

so VA will have a total of 6 332s in their fleet by Sept/Oct (XFA/B will be gone and no known orders for more in the foreseeable future)... And will be introducing at least 1 international 332 service to 'somewhere'.. in effect that will leave only 5 or less available 332s for the 'coast to coast' services...so we will see more 737 'coast to coast' services or maybe even less 'coast to coast' services overall....time will tell

riley

riley

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

Does Bris>Perth really require A330? I questioned the decision to run A330s Bris to Perth in the first place and believe it was a marketing decision in establishing a benchmark service level from coast to coast. 

Running an A330 both domestically and internationally poses operational challenges in itself given the down time in shifting from gates on the ground. 

 

Maybe coast to coast will be rationalised to just Syd > Per and Mel > Per using 4 aircraft and the remaing two operate on a daily asian service. 

 

Hong Kong would be perfect although the biggest hole I see is Bali route. You can fly Jetstar on the dreamline for 30% - 50% less versus a domestic configured 737. I'm lotal but I'm not that loyal... And just the 8 'business' seats means you need to get in early. Although Hong Kong would attract a greater yield of full fare paying business passengers.

gippsflyer

gippsflyer

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Believe you me, the departure of XFA/XFB is no loss lol. No more roulette at the airport - you'll know what you'll get now.

gwilli1

gwilli1

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Jun 2013

Total posts 26

Great news that the A330 will be deployed on International at some point . Personally I hope it will be NRT , but , its likely to be HKG . Both routes have a huge opportunity being heavily One World routes. 

Zac

Zac

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2014

Total posts 129

I must say I do like this about Virgin - no announcing a new product then taking an absolute age to bring it out. New business class coming, in a month the first plane will be here - excellent stuff, can't wait to see it. They've obviously been working on it in the background but understand the value of keeping your cards close to your chest. Virgin just seem to be much more agile company. I also broadly trust the statement that cuts won't be at the expense of service - case in point they've just introduced champagne before boarding on the 737s (Coast to Coast at least - haven't tried other routes recently).

I suspect the seat will be the same as Virgin Atlantic and AirNZ - it's very comfortable, efficient use of space, and VS's new staggered layout works well on the A330. Would be awesome to see a bar on the A330 too... we'll see.

oliverfladrich

oliverfladrich

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jun 2013

Total posts 11

Will be interesting to see whether the new product takes any features or is entirely like the products of VA's shareholding airlines - you'd think EY would be the most likely. If that were the case it'd be a fantastic product, be it the current EY J seats or the planned business studios. Bearing in mind the current seat is essentially the same as SQ regional J. 

Sim1

Sim1

16 May 2014

Total posts 99

I saw a comment on a forum the new A330 will be flying Perth-Singapore

Could be a very good move

_andrewgunn_

_andrewgunn_

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Aug 2014

Total posts 51

They should start flying to Kuala Lumpur, theres millions of passengers flying between australia and the port, but unfortunatly nobody really wants to fly MAS anymore, could imagine virgin doing well on the routes

Richrrrd

Richrrrd

Virgin Atlantic Airways - Flying Club (Gold)

24 Jul 2013

Total posts 15

Really hope the 777 fleet gets the refresh before March next year, have got a MEL-BNE-LAX in J booked. Guessing they'll scrap row 5 though.

Skipp

Skipp

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2012

Total posts 126

SO THE NEW BUSINESS CLASS GETS UNVEILED...

After 30 seconds of looking at the new product I guess I can see John Borghetti is saying in around about way to Alan Joyce... "Checkmate"

Gian

Gian

VA Platinum

26 Mar 2014

Total posts 117

Wowie!!!!!

Gian

Gian

VA Platinum

26 Mar 2014

Total posts 117

I must say,

I do like seeing the product now and knowing exactly when it will be available. Completion of all aircraft by July 2015 for the A330's is a pretty good timeline.

Quite a quick turn around.

In all fairness VA has a much smaller fleet than QF so can make these things happen alot quicker.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1374

Hoping that this puts the pressure on QF to complete the conversions more quickly...

Competition can only be good.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1374

I do like the new product,and think the metal edging and black leather give it a real modern feel.

Albeit I think Borghetti's widening the gap comment is a bit off the mark.

I mean currently.

VA fully flat 2x2x2   vs  QF recliner 2x2x2 some with a workbench

And in the future

VA fully flat 1x2x1 herringbone with shelf, direct aisle access versus

QF fully flat 1x2x1 staggered with shelf, direct aisle access

 

Whichever way you view the new VA v QF products, QF has gotten a lot closer.

Hugo

Hugo

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

From the photos it looks like there might not be a great deal of room for the legs and feet when it's in bed mode, but it'll probably be clearer when there's some photos from angles other than right on top available. 

1-2-1 is good news! On both the A330 and 777 though? The 777 is a fully two feet wider! Will the difference be made up in the aisles, or will they be angled differently on the two birds?

IflyQF

IflyQF

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Apr 2013

Total posts 47

How are you meant to talk to your seat mate?

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1374

Centre seats, purple divider down, lean forward.

But if you really want a seatmate, sit further back

ollie117

ollie117

21 Apr 2013

Total posts 34

Let the games begin 

 

nice product virgin it is a great looking seat and hopefully will deliver and pay off for the airline both qantas and virgin now have great buissness products I think this is a dead heat between the 2 

planemad

planemad

09 Sep 2014

Total posts 55

I bet you that since Virgin is going to do this, Qantas is going to make a move also!   I can't wait...

imxpnsv

imxpnsv

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Platinum

29 Aug 2014

Total posts 38

Qantas will probably target First Class over Business maybe then..

cssaus

cssaus

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 155

I'm pleased to read of the announcement just a bit disappointed that that it won'be be until later in 2015 that thr 777s get their new seats.

Opto80

Opto80

VA

25 Aug 2014

Total posts 42

Looks nice. Saw this on TV news tonight also and looks very interesting. Can't wait. 

Gian

Gian

VA Platinum

26 Mar 2014

Total posts 117

They just said on the news a deal was also inked between SQ and VA to make VA points and SQ miles transferrable between the programs. Nothing else was said other than that. If its true I'm looking forward to AusBT's no doubt extensive write up on this! 

A big improvement for Velocity if thats the case, which would possibly allow us to use some of our Velocity points for upgrades on SQ etc by transferring them. Exciting if all true. 

bmc

bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 134

It's already done. See the new tabs

bmc

bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 134

It's already done. See the news tabs

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1127

Beautiful.  In terms of aesthetics I prefer the look of VA's seat to QF's.

tjtecoma

tjtecoma

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 19

I agree, it looks very nice indeed.  QF's new seats may have been left behind before they've even started!

cooper81

cooper81

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 149

My first thought was 'wow it's a mini-BA First seat'.  Almost identical though on a bit smaller scale.  No suprise when I googled the design company behind BA First Class - London based tangerine, the same Virgin is using.

_andrewgunn_

_andrewgunn_

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Aug 2014

Total posts 51

AJ should not have given virgin such a headstart to make a product better then qf

Rkwm

Rkwm

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 87

Superb in one word . Hoping the new route will be SYD HKG as this seat will compete head on with the CX product which is currently the best option to HKG. 

_andrewgunn_

_andrewgunn_

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Aug 2014

Total posts 51

Would always chose QF on sydney-lax in business. but suddenly it looks like virgin wil have the best product!

somethingy23

somethingy23

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

19 Apr 2014

Total posts 46

The seat looks amazing!! really putting qantas (and a lot of international airlines ) on the back foot here. Pity that VA's international routing is not as extensive as one would hope.

SYD-HKG would definitely be the best choice, as it also opens up possible codesharing with Virgin Atlantic. However flying to KUL is also a good option. Japan (KIX/NRT) might also be possible as currently only oneworld airlines fly there.

imxpnsv

imxpnsv

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Platinum

29 Aug 2014

Total posts 38

I agree. But if VA can make another partnership and a hub international airport, I would suggest Korean Air and make Seoul/Incheon as a Hub for North-East Asia/Central Asia/ and North America codeshared by Korean Air. 

Currently VA misses market in Central & North East Asia. Japan (KIX/NRT) is a strong home of JAL/Qantas Oneworld alliance as well as Jetstar's low cost market. Where Chinese airlines and hub airports always have threat from their government's policies. Korea (ICN) and Korean Air is currently the best option for Asian market that VA can have. From Seoul, most of Chinese cities and Japanese cities within 2 hour range and there are a lot of flights from early morning to late night to choose from.

If VA get a partnership with Korean Air for North-East and Central Asia market as well as North American routes, it would be an ideal airline to travel with. Just my opinion!

Ben84

Ben84

Etihad

23 Jan 2013

Total posts 175

Finally a Trans Pacific airline seat worth travelling on! 

Joshb

Joshb

Qantas - QFF Platinum

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 212

QF First seat is alright.

cssaus

cssaus

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 155

I suspect another consequence of the new seats and the new seating layout would be the elimination of the previously curtained-off row 5.

radiC00l

radiC00l

22 Jul 2011

Total posts 98

Glad Virgin took the bait and took up the challenge after Qantas' premature announcement. However, I still prefer Qantas' version, looks more refind and thought-out. 

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1127

Great to see some real-life shots after the glossy PR images. A couple of observations:

1. The foam on the underside of the larger storage compartment lid does not trace the edge completely - I see three gaps so you could possibly "thread" through your cables and wires here and avoid closing the lid directly down on them.

2. Loving all the storage space particularly the ingenious hidden compartment underneath the armrest, but as with all nooks and crannies this will make cleaning a nightmare.  If the cleaners aren't very thorough...

Ben84

Ben84

Etihad

23 Jan 2013

Total posts 175

It wasn't cleaning that came to mind for me. Knowing my luck, I'd leave things behind in all the little compartments! 

ezihose

ezihose

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Feb 2011

Total posts 54

Might look flash but the seat doesnt look very well padded! So will end up being like sitting on a milk crate? 

less flash and more plush!

wider, longer, softer was the request?

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1127

Looks perfectly adequate to me.

cssaus

cssaus

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 155

What do they say?

  • "Looks can be deceiving"
  • "You can't judge a book by its cover"

I've no doubt that the new seats are going to be a huge improvement to what is presently installed. I'll defer making  any actual comment until I've had my bum in one of these seats for 13 hours or so.

You're obviously not a great fan of VA.

Jono

Jono

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 245

I don't quite get all this talk of how VA needs to find itself an Asian hub to use as a base and code share to Europe and Asia. Why not continue to build on the network with current partner and part owner SQ?

To paraphrase Jeremy Clarkson, 'it's like having Keira Knightly in your bed and sleeping on the couch'.

cssaus

cssaus

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 155

The Singapore hub is fine for Europe and South Asia destinations but if travelling to North Asia (Hong Kong, China etc) it would be more appropriate & convenient to have a partnership arrangement with an airline from these parts rather than having to fly Singapore.

riley

riley

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

Fairly long bow on the Keira Knightly analogy.

If the want to grow Velocity members 7m, then it needs increase international destiantions. The capacity / frequency / destinations is more or les sorted on the domestic front, they'll only achieve modest growth through that stream. The real growth will come from strengthening the allegiances with Etiahd and Singapore, which they're doing, and filling the gaps in the international network.

HK is huge. I'm a loyaly velocity man, if I want to go to HK for a long weekend, I have to stop over in Singapore. It costs more and it takes longer. 


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