Virgin Australia says it's on track to launch business class on all Australia-New Zealand flights by the end of this month as the challenger takes on Qantas for a larger share of the trans-Tasman market.
From March 31, all Virgin Australia services from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast to Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown and Wellington on Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737 fleet will feature eight black leather seats at the pointy end of the plane.
Configured in a 2-2 layout, business class replaces premium economy, which saw passengers assigned a seat no different to regular economy at the front of the aircraft, but with a cocktail table folded down over the centre seat in each group of three for a little extra space and room to move.
You’ll also find a Luke Mangan-designed menu in business class…
… which comes with an extensive ‘pantry’ listing offering extra nibbles such as cheese plates, sushi, finger sandwiches and a variety of sweet and salty snacks.
AusBT review: Virgin Australia trans-Tasman business class
Virgin's rollout of business class across the pond replaces the airline's premium economy offering, which is still being sold on some routes although many travellers find themselves in the new business class seats, albeit with premium economy service, until the whole network is upgraded from March 31.
VA flights to Pacific Island destinations including Nadi (Fiji), Apia (Samoa), Rarotonga (Cook Islands), Nuku'alofa (Tonga) and Port Vila (Vanuatu) will also switch from premium economy to business class from that date.
Fare prices: premium economy vs business class
But how much more will Virgin's trans-tasman travellers pay for business class?
With flights between Brisbane and Auckland offering premium economy until March 31, the cheapest fares this week sit just under $1,100.
After business class goes on sale that jumps to $1,740 – although that's marginally more than a fully flexible premium economy ticket.
Melburnians are looking at a similar shake-up, with this coming week’s sub-$1,100 Saver premium economy fares and $1,675 fully flexible tickets…
… replaced with business class tickets at a fraction more than the current flexible premium economy fares:
Fare prices: Qantas vs. Virgin Australia business class
While the price of a business class ticket with each airline can vary considerably in line with commercial demand, the Virgin Australia figures quoted above were available throughout the week as the standard, entry-level fare in Australian dollars.
As it happens, they match Qantas’ regular business class fares, quite literally, right down to the cent:
On the dates we searched, Qantas was also offering its reduced-price Business Sale fares on selected flights which undercut Virgin Australia by around $400 return:
Pricing similarities were also observed on flights between Melbourne and Auckland.
The bottom line: The business class fares charged by both airlines are comparable, but as with any airfare, may come down during sale periods.
If you’ve got a foot in both camps and are building loyalty status with both Qantas and Virgin Australia, it doesn’t hurt to check business class fare prices with both airlines before snapping up a ticket.
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