Virgin Australia on track for trans-Tasman business class rollout

By Chris Chamberlin, March 23 2015
Virgin Australia on track for trans-Tasman business class rollout

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…

One of Mangan's Virgin Australia business class dishes: lamb meatballs
One of Mangan's Virgin Australia business class dishes: lamb meatballs

… 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.

Also read: Virgin Australia trans-Tasman business class review

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

And yet still much much cheaper than a similar duration flight to Perth in J on both carriers! 

Fair enough Full J costs more than a Y seat with shadow (which is what it really was before). You'll find Qantas and Virgin have similar fares on most routes now, both having decided a cosy duopoly is preferable to bleeding revenue over fare wars (no surprise that when this stopped, Qantas stopped posting record losses - it's a game no-one but the consumers win). Qantas and VA don't always synch their sale fares, but  generally reflect each other here too.

10 Feb 2012

Total posts 9

Thus the Duopoly has returned, with fares hardly changing by each airline. 

RR
RR

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 65

As much as the Virgin crews are very pleasant I still think their  737 seating product is substandard (having just sat bolt upright for 5 hours to Perth on the 737 - I know another poster has berated me for complaining about those 737 biz seats, but they are simply substandard for biz in my view, for their lack of any recline and hardness). Also I have never had a lunch or dinner flight on a 737 where the full menu is available  - usually around 40% of the menu is not loaded with crews explaining only the Airbus gets the full menu loaded); so I am off to AKL from Brisbane shortly and will fly Emirates ($700 one way, about $140 less than Virgin); on an A380 with proper reclining seats and a full menu. Sure it's only one flight a day but the timings suit. At the prices Virgin are charging they could AT LEAST extend the biz space so the seat can recline somewhat (and add a leg rest!)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

That's why choice is such a beautiful thing - if you personally hate a airline you can always choose another, especially given duopoly fare pricing (practically the same) has been the norm for a while now. You only have to check the review that Chris just did on Emirates business to find a few people who hate them too (for their seat).

Of course if flying from Sydney there is also the choice of LAN for $742 return for the same dates versus $1289 on Qantas (source kayak) which appears to be a more international standard of business class than the Virgin offering. Close to a bottle of grange cheaper!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2013

Total posts 33

And did that very thing outbound to ALK on the LAN A340 (bit old but comfortable) and inbound on an Air China brand spanking new, just unwrapped A330. Just a bit of shopping around, Webjet, Skyscanner etc and plenty of choice out there

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 8

I am booked CHCH - MEL then MEL to BNE 31st  premium, I knew I got a business upgrade on the domestic leg, will I be in the new seating on the CHCH MEL leg?? 

flight is VA 353 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 8

I have seat 1A on both flights, just hoping reading this I get the new Business seat

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

I suggest asking this question in the Q&A section, more people will help you out (and more knowledgable too).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 8

Good idea, cheers


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