Virgin Australia’s launch of domestic business class is great news for Australian business travellers, as it brings a welcome and overdue dose of competition into the market – something which has been absent for over a decade, since the collapse of Ansett left Qantas as the only player in ‘the pointy end’.
We’ve put together this guide to Virgin Australia’s new business class to break down the many changes into bite-size chunks so you can work out what it means to you and your travel.
If you're keen for a first-hand report on Virgin Australia business class, click through to our detailed review and photo tour.
Business class roll-out
Virgin Australia’s new business class replaces the airline’s ‘premium economy’ seats and service, and as of this week is available on almost of the airline’s Boeing 737s (which are the workhorse of the Virgin Australia fleet).
This includes 12 new Boeing 737s delivered fresh from the Boeing factory – they’re the ones with the cool new Boeing Sky Interior cabin – as well as 44 older-but-refurbished 737s.
A handful of the original 737s have yet to be upgraded to the new business class seats.
The airline tells us that the 737s which Virgin Australia owns will be refurbished by the end of January, but those which it has leased won’t get the new business class seats.
Instead, their premium economy seats will be re-covered in leather and the aircraft eventually retired from the fleet. These older aircraft will be replaced by 15 new Boeing 737s throughout 2012.
Double points bonus
As a special promotion, all Virgin Australia business class travel between January 26 and February 29 will earn double number of Velocity frequent flyer points and twice the usual number of status credits.
That's got to be one of the easiest ways yet to bulk up your Velocity account, especially if you want to earn (or retain) Platinum or Gold status.
Business class seating
If you’ve flown Virgin Australia in recent months you may already have seen or sat in the new business class seats.
The plush leather-clad business class seats sport a 38 inch pitch, a surprisingly generous recline and a power socket in case you want to keep your notebook or tablet juiced up during the flight.
Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737s are fitted out with eight business class seats, in two rows of a 2-2 configuration.
But even with so few seats to choose from they're not all created equal when it comes to legroom – see our Best Seat guide for tips on choosing the right seat for maximum comfort.
Business class service
The cabin supervisor on each flight is now personally in charge of business class passengers, with an extra flight attendant on deck to take up the slack in economy class. With only eight business class seats in the cabin this should make for exceptional service.
As with the ‘Coast to Coast’ service, Virgin Australia business class will now include a coat check at the door so your jacket can be stowed out of the way. Virgin says this will also include a free coat bag like those used on Coast to Coast flights.
A selection of newspapers are also offered on morning flights.
To emphasise the ‘exclusivity’ of the pointy end of the plane the business class cabin is now roped off from economy (using a clever cable with magnets to affix itself to the divider wall, instead of hooks or velcro fasteners).
Business class passengers also have exclusive use of the toilet at the front of the plane.
In addition to free choices from the for-purchase menu – ranging from snacks to main meals and drinks – there are now six ‘timed’ meal options served to business class passengers.
These are breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner and supper. The airline promises there will always be “at least two choices”, with flights rotating through a total of six variations.
One of the mid-morning snacks is this toasted ham and cheese croissant, with a fresh fruit salad on the side. From presentation to quality it's a big step up from what Virgin used to serve.
Meanwhile, back on the ground, a new hot dinner offering is now available at Virgin Australia lounges.
Virgin Australia still offers the bulky ‘personal players’ preloaded with movies, TV shows and music, and from what we’ve seen on our travels there’s very little take-up of these – most business travellers seem happy to tap away at their iPad or laptop or bring their own reading material.
These will be replaced from mid-year with iPads as part of Virgin’s move to a wifi-based in-flight entertainment system.
You can read our full report and photo tour of Virgin Australia's new business class here, and we welcome readers who've also experienced Virgin business class to share their thoughts in the comments box below.