Virgin Australia's new Boeing 777 business class takes wing

By David Flynn, May 3 2016
Virgin Australia's new Boeing 777 business class takes wing

It was a case of "better late than never" as Virgin Australia's new Boeing 777-300ER business class seats made their debut on the Sydney-Los Angeles route over the weekend.

The airline will now push to make up for lost time, considering the upgrade – intended to catapult Virgin ahead of Qantas in terms of trans-Pacific business class –  was initially slated to begin flying in November 2015.

Certification issues with the installation of the business class seat delayed that launch to "early 2016", which according to the original timeline was when the airline intended to have all five of the Boeing 777s refitted.

The first of the refurb'd birds is scheduled to fly between Sydney and Los Angeles "on even-numbered days during May, unless operational requirements require otherwise," a Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller.

This Boeing 777 now sports 37 of Virgin's 'The Business' business class seats, up from 33 in the older configuration – with all of the new seats offering direct-aisle access (compared to the current 2-3-2 layout)...

... and converting into a wide fully-flat bed.

The seat is largely identical to that already flying in Virgin's domestic Airbus A330 fleet on most east-west and some domestic legs, but for a larger screen – 18 inches, up from the A330's already-generous 16 inch panel.

Review: Virgin Australia's 'The Business' Airbus A330 business class

A second Boeing 777-300ER is now headed for the refit hangar in the US state of Louisiana, and Virgin now expects the fleet-wide refit to be completed "in the third quarter of 2016" and be flying on the Sydney-Los Angeles, Brisbane-Los Angeles and Sydney-Abu Dhabi routes. 

Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has predicted this will be "the business class to beat" between Australia and Los Angeles, and it certainly stacks up well against Qantas' older Skybed II seats on the Flying Kangaroo's Airbus A380 superjumbos.

Virgin's closest competitor from Sydney to stateside will be Qantas partner American Airlines, which has a similar seat design to The Business – albeit one based on that of Cathay Pacific – on its own Boeing 777-300ER jets (below) running daily on the Sydney-LA route.

Passengers at the pointy end of Virgin's Boeing 777 will also see a newly-designed business class bar with face-to-face service for up to four seated guests... 

... plus additional lounge seating behind the bar.

'Business Lite'

And while Virgin's refitted Boeing 777 premium economy zone will be almost halved, from 40 seats down to 24, the revamped seats and smaller more exclusive cabin are being repositioned as a ‘business lite’ product with an extra three inches of legroom – up from the current 38 inches to 41 inches – and a new Luke Mangan-designed menu.

Premium economy passengers will also have access to a new 'Premium Larder' snack bar stocked with an assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, light meal options and snacks.

"While we pitch our new business class at halfway between business and first, premium economy will be halfway between economy and business but certainly closer to business class," Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller at the launch of airline's new business class.

Also read: 10 things you didn’t know about Virgin Australia's 'The Business'

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

David

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.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 654

I assume one of you guys will be heading to LAX to air-test the new seat very shortly.  Looking forward to your report as well as a report on the new Premium Economy which looks like being a generous offering by market standards.

What is the conventional wisdom regarding future expansion of Virgin Australia's intercontinental/long haul routes? Are they now just limited to SYD-LAX, BNE-LAX and SYD-AUH and are more US and Asia destinations likely to be added? Are additional 777-300ER's or other longhaul aircraft likely to be added to the fleet?

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 654

VA are currently undertaking an operational review of all its products and this will largely decide whether its int'l operations are expanded, retained or ceased.  Arguments exist for all three options but it appears its current size is not optimal from a profit perspective so it will probably come down to a decision between expansion or closure.

This decision will certainly dovetail into what happens with the NZ shareholding.  If, as most expect, SQ acquires the NZ shares, then it is likely the international service will be retained and expanded giving SQ its long sought after entree into the trans-Pacific routes out of Australia.  Other acquirers may prefer to see VA as a profitable purely domestic and trans-Tasman business.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 177

Hope SQ is making the right decision if they do buy into VA.  According to this mornings Business Oz, Qatar has ruled out buying NZs share, stating 'we only buy successful carriers'. Further, the article stated that VA needs to raise as much as $1B new capital to repair its balance sheet.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 47

I'm flying from BNE - LAX at the end of August, I really hope the plane is fitted out with this by then.  It looks fantastic.

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 117

qantas needs to install the new A330 business class seats on the A380. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1189

If only!

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

Frankly, I believe QF eventually will but it's clear QF does not see such product upgrade for 380 as a priority CAPEX item.

This isn't hard to understand if we look @ how QF actually deploy its entire 380 fleet today.  They only fly regularly on routes where QF or its JVs dominate the mkt(Thx mostly to partner EK & AA) or simply has a monopoly(i.e. SYD-DFW) where VA has much weaker or no mkt presence at all.  Combined with the structural advantages of a far larger longhaul network+FFP member population, I'll be surprised if QF is in any hurry to upgrade J on 380 in order to match the new J on VA's 77W......

VA

17 Dec 2013

Total posts 51

This does look good, now, if only VA could address their woeful J product on the workhorse of their fleet, the 737s

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 654

Not really much you can do with a 737.  They just aren't wide enough.  Look to the US; all of the narrowbodies with int'l standard J class seatings are A32X.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2015

Total posts 43

its much better than the qantas alternative, you can actually get out from the window seat without the ailse passenger getting up and there is a feeling of space that you just do not get on qantas also the wine and food is better!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2015

Total posts 43

its much better than the qantas alternative, you can actually get out from the window seat without the ailse passenger getting up and there is a feeling of space that you just do not get on qantas also the wine and food is better!

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

Not happening as long as QF is doing nothing to the equally "woeful"(or wonderful or whatever adjectives) J product across its 737 fleet.....  That's the mkt reality of a near-duopoly in the AU domestic mkt.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Oct 2015

Total posts 50

Looking forward to hear what seats are best.... am going to miss row 5...... just came back LAX-BNE over the weekend and it's time fir the refit with business seats even uncomfortable to sit on without the mattress.

28 Nov 2014

Total posts 3

Couldn't agree more about the seats and magical row 5 - flew business Lax - Syd 2 weeks ago - seats are tired and ' collapse' when sitting on the end. Screens are clumsy to select anything , even the food wasn't what I would expect. Had the middle 3 seats in row 5 - with the curtains closed, there isn't anybody else on the plane - hard to beat at any price. As always , the VA staff, both on board and check in were excellent. Would be better if they were allowed into TBIT, rather than the 'outdoor loo' where they are now !

10 Dec 2015

Total posts 3

Im flying to LA on the 8th of may in the new config. im also returning on the 28th on the new config it seems too!

will let you know how it goes!

18 Mar 2016

Total posts 10

Which class? Please do let us know how it goes!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 May 2016

Total posts 3

Looking forward to flying this new business class config SYD-LAX-SYD in August... it looks to be a vast improvement... up your game Qantas!

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

QF won't up its game anytime [email protected] least not until VA reaches half the size /traffic volume of the QF+AA JV on Trans-Pcf routes.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Mar 2016

Total posts 27

I booked flight a couple of months ago for September & selected K4 seat which was confirmed. Although with delays was wondering if refit would ever happen. Now, I am looking forward to the flight  

MDK
MDK

04 May 2016

Total posts 1

Its disappointing that VA has abandoned MEL, even turning their services to DPS over to Tiger! Maybe they should concentrate on their service to the US and pull out of AUH!

05 May 2016

Total posts 3

Looks to be the same seating as Air Canada.  I'm not sure this is the best design as i found the tray table to be intrusive on legroom when reclined or lying flat.  Very difficult to move around without knocking it with your legs.

05 May 2016

Total posts 3

Looks to be the same seating as Air Canada.  I'm not sure this is the best design as i found the tray table to be intrusive on legroom when reclined or lying flat.  Very difficult to move around without knocking it with your legs.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

"I found the tray table to be intrusive on legroom when reclined or lying flat."

Probably because designer didn't expect most pax(e.g. you) would  deploy/use the tray table(e.g. dining or working) while they are reclined(e.g. assuming pax use this position for relaxing /watch a movie /read a book) or lying flat(e.g. assuming pax use this position for sleeping).  I'm guessing the designer got the assumptions wrong?

"difficult to move around without knocking it with your legs."

May be I hv an unusual way in how to use this seat:  If I need to move around within the seat space, I'd simply retract the tray table or @ least slide it out of my way as far as possible.....

05 May 2016

Total posts 3

Apologies, i should have mentioned that this was with the tray table in the standard position - meaning i did not have it deployed.

Hey David - when can we expect pics/review of the real deal? :)


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