Virgin Australia: no plans to charge for "economy plus" extra legroom seats

By David Flynn, July 17 2012
Virgin Australia: no plans to charge for

Virgin Australia has confirmed it has no plans to charge passengers for the extra legroom seats in the front row of economy on its Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

While charging an additional fee for exit row seats has become common practice, and with several US airlines now applying the same formula to the bulkhead 'economy plus' seats located at the front of the economy cabin, a Virgin Australia spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller “we currently have no plans to charge guests for sitting in the first row”.

That first row of Virgin's Boeing 737-800 aircraft (row 3, shown above) is a plum pick for frequent flyers due to the bonus legroom available between the seat and the divider separating economy from business class.

US airlines are now charging for that coveted legroom, as well as being among the first to leave the plane.

For example, Virgin America calls it Main Cabin Select – to differentiate from the economy Main Cabin class – and charges US$204 for a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles (which is equivalent in flying time to Sydney-Melbourne) against a standard refundable economy ticket of US$188.

Cost-extra 'instant upgrades' from a Main Cabin booking to to Main Cabin Select are also available during online checkin.

In addition to 38 inches of legroom instead of the 32 inches in standard economy seating, Virgin America sweetens the deal with extras such as one free checked bag, priority check-in and boarding, dedicated carry-on bin space and free food, drink and in-flight entertainment.

However, rather than succumb to the 'economy plus' temptation of pocketing extra revenue, Virgin Australia will continue to reserve the first two rows of economy for Platinum and Gold members of its Velocity frequent flyer program.

If none of those top-tier travellers happen to be on the flight, Velocity Silver members get the nod with seat reassignment at boarding, the airline spokesperson explains.


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.

+1 for Virgin Australia

I'm a gold and everytime I book a flight, I have automatically been allocated the row 3 seats. Just things like that makes me remain loyal to velocity.

05 Mar 2012

Total posts 12

Have to say, I'm not that impressed with Velocity's "treatments" for Platinums. Row 3 with reduced seat width and no easy-reach (under seat) storage has just as many minus's as the one plus of extra legroom.  Middle seats are rarely blocked as well.

My friends who fly Qantas get upgraded frequently, but in the last 100 flights, all at Flexi fares, I've ben op-up'd once.

To be honest, there isn't a single Platinum benefit that is keeping me loyal to Virgin - the staff actually are what keep me there. Have appreciated the changes to date - hoping there is something a bit more coming, though...

27 Sep 2011

Total posts 37

"My friends who fly Qantas get upgraded frequently, but in the last 100 flights, all at Flexi fares, I've ben op-up'd once."

Over the last two years, I must have flown on around 200 Qantas flights, all fully flexible Y fares, without a single op-up. These friends of yours must be doing something fairly exceptional.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2012

Total posts 178

I think your last paragraph sums up why I stay with Virgin. I can't see too much of a difference between the two airlines except for the service on board. Whilst not always perfect, they are human, it is a lot more agreeable on a greater percentage of the time than Qantas at the moment.


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 582

Ah, shame. I'm still waiting for QF or VA to introduce Y+ (in the American sense) onto their transcontinental flights. J is extortionate on these routes, but at the same time they're long enough that I'd be happy to pay $50ish for an extra few inches of legroom (or get it free with status...) I know that there's exit rows and so on, but these seats are very rarely still available when you book less than a week before departure...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Aug 2011

Total posts 42

Good to hear! Row 3 legroom is fantastic, I would never pay for it, so it's nice Virgin are keeping this as a benefit for their frequent flyers.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

05 Jan 2012

Total posts 335

Great to know that they arent charging. Thing is, those rows are usually automatically allocated to higher tier frequent flyers so why should they bother charging?

As for the fact that some dont like the platinum privelages, i think VA needs domestic business lounges in the large capital cities.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 671

Good on you, Virgin, while other airlines make a greedy money grab you just keep your frequent flyers and loyal customers happy so they keep coming back. Well done!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 261

I've flown VX Main Cabin Select on a red eye LAX-JFK flight, and it was pretty good. I'm 6'2 so there wasn't a heap of legroom for me, but at least my knees weren't in the back of the seat in front.

The other perk of MCS that I loved was that all food/drink (including alcohol) was included in the price. And with VX's amazing ordering system, where you can order your BOB purchases from the IFE, I'd put my drinks & snacks order in and within 2-3 minutes I was being fed & vodka'd without having to hand over any dosh. This is something that DJ could do to really differentiate Flexi from Saver, and provide better value for money.

The other plus of VX is that you can upgrade from Main Cabin to Main Cabin Select 24 hours prior to flight time, then 6 hours prior from MCS to First. I'd love to see DJ implement this too, from Saver>Flexi>Business/Premium.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2012

Total posts 268

I am surprised that Virgin Australia wouldn't charge extra for something like this. I would pay $15 for this on a Sydney to Melbourne flight. Virgin Blue use to charge for this row and Row 15 in their so-called 'Blue Zone.' 

I'm a Platinum and I guess this seat just comes naturally. I have found on some flights that there is a cut-off underneath the purple divider so you can stretch your feet or place your bag underneath row 2 of business. I really like that service.

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