Virgin Australia is set to raise the stakes in its battle for business travellers with the addition of two new Airbus A330s to its domestic fleet.
Both of the A330s are tipped to sport lie-flat seats in business class to improve the journey during transcontinental trips on Virgin’s ‘Coast to Coast’ service.
A revised business class cabin layout will also remove the middle seat found in Virgin’s two A330s which already fly Sydney-Perth, resulting for a less-squeezy 2-2-2 configuration compared to the current 2-3-2 arrangement.
However a Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller that those first two A330s, which were bought 'pre-loved' from Emirates and currently fly Sydney-Perth, would not be upgraded to install the new seating or remove the middle seat.
The spokesperson also confirmed that every seat from tip to tail in both new A330s will sport the same 'Red' Panasonic in-flight entertainment system as on Virgin Australia's international Boeing 777 (which are now emerging from a refresh, as reported here).
The system will support video and audio programming 'on demand' rather than the looped video of the first two A330s, which also appear to be in for an upgrade of sorts. A Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller the system in those A330s "will be similar to the Boeing 777 (RED) system in the new aircraft."
The first of the new A330s flew in Australia over the weekend and will be used for training cabin crew and technical crew based in Melbourne.
The second – which will be the fourth A330 in Virgin’s fleet – is slated to arrive from Airbus HQ in Toulouse on Thursday April 26.
Virgin says it will take delivery of two more factory-fresh A330s in the second half of this year.
Melbourne-Perth gets A330 in May
Virgin Australia tells Australian Business Traveller that the new aircraft will be shared among Virgin's A330 routes rather than dedicated to a single service.
This will include Virgin’s new Melbourne-Perth Coast to Coast service, which begins on May 14, and a daily A330 ‘morning peak hour’ service between Melbourne and Sydney starting May 15.
Virgin’s Melbourne-Perth A330 flights will run twice each day, departing Melbourne at 1pm and 5.30pm for arrival into Perth at 3.15pm and 7.45pm (local Perth time).
Return flights from Perth depart at 8.30am and 5.30pm, arriving in Melbourne at 1.45pm and 10.45pm (local Melbourne time).
The morning A330 shuttle between Melbourne and Sydney will depart Melbourne at 7.15am, arriving into Sydney at 8.40am. The return leg will depart Sydney at 10.00am and arrive Melbourne at 11.35am.