Reviews

Review: Virgin Australia 'The Business': Sydney-Los Angeles, Boeing 777

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, May 16 2016
Virgin Australia 'The Business': Sydney-Los Angeles, Boeing 777
Route

Sydney - Los Angeles

Aircraft Type

Boeing 777-300ER

Airline

Virgin Australia

Flight

VA1

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

6K

Notes
The Good
  • Limousine transfers for high-paying guests
  • Dine on what you like, when you like
  • Direct aisle access from every seat
The Bad
  • Limited entertainment selection
The Unexpected
  • A revamped and now-tended inflight bar
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Complete with a tended inflight bar, direct aisle access from every business class seat and an array of storage spaces is Virgin Australia's new Boeing 777 business class cabin, dubbed 'The Business'.

Currently flying every alternate day between Sydney and Los Angeles, it's expected to feature on every Virgin Australia Boeing 777 flight by the third quarter of 2016, including on routes between Brisbane and Los Angeles and also between Sydney and Abu Dhabi.

Australian Business Traveller took to the skies on one of Virgin Australia's first trans-Pacific The Business flights to bring you this exclusive review.

Check-in

  • Chauffeur-driven airport transfers: Complimentary for guests booked on higher-priced J and C fare types when requested at least 24 hours in advance, but not the lower-priced D or I fares, or flights booked using frequent flyer points.
  • Priority check-in, boarding: Keep your eyes peeled for purple signage at check-in and at the gate to skip the queues, and grab your Express Path card to zip through security and passport control.
  • Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg, or 3x32kg for Velocity Silver, Gold and Platinum frequent flyers.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x115cm bags up to 7kg each, plus one small personal item.

Lounge

Virgin Australia utilises the Air New Zealand lounge at Sydney Airport for guests travelling to Los Angeles, completely overhauled in 2015 to offer a funky new design with different zones to suit different moods...

... whether that's near the bar with a morning coffee in hand...

... or over in the business and quiet zones for that last chance to use the Internet before wheels-up.

AusBT review: Air New Zealand, Star Alliance Sydney Airport lounge

Seat

Gone are the days of stepping over your seatmate to access the aisle or being woken by somebody doing the same, thanks to the new 1-2-1 layout with direct aisle access from every seat.

You'll also find plenty of room to store your gear...

... starting with two fold-up panels to your side which can comfortably house phones, watches, passports and other smaller goodies...

... with the larger space also including AC and USB power outlets. We found the AC port too close to the base to accommodate our Microsoft Surface charger, although the fixed USB port comes high-powered and worked just as well.

Next to that is a literature pocket, plus a separate fabric-lined tablet holder to protect your device:

We could comfortably fit our Microsoft Surface 3 once the keyboard had been detached, and as there's room for cables to run from the power outlets and underneath the white side panels even when they're closed, you can charge up easily.

But wait, there's more: this side armrest not only raises and lowers to suit your preference...

... it also doubles as an extra storage nook for your water and headphones...

... while this other bin is an ideal place to plonk your amenity kit, or even your shoes:

Each seat also offers a cocktail shelf underneath the TV screen...

... folding out to create a full meal table...

... and can be lowered for a more comfortable dining experience by sliding it towards you:

You can also find the perfect seat position by using a nearby touchscreen controller, with pre-sets for snoozing, lounging and landing...

... plus buttons to control the seat's various subtle lights, in addition to a personal reading light which pops out and can be swivelled to face your book at the perfect angle:

When it's time to turn in, the crew offer to make your bed, complete with two pillows, a comfortable mattress to top the seat...

... a blanket and also pyjamas:

Measuring at 21 inches wide, stretching to 28 inches with the armrest lowered and extending to an impressive 203cm when fully-flat, your suite is as lengthy as a queen bed on the ground – helped in part by this fixed footrest which adjoins your seat for maximum space:

But don't feel you need to eat and then head straight to sleep: Virgin Australia's revamped Boeing 777s also feature a tended inflight bar in business class...

... with four adjoining bar stools and a further two seats behind that, which we found much more comfortable...

... and a great place to enjoy a coffee – or a cocktail – after the meal service is concluded.

However you spend your flight, this coat hook also comes in handy closer to landing when the crew return your jacket:

All things considered, this isn't just a step up from Virgin Australia's outgoing Boeing 777 business class offering, it's a giant leap forward and becomes the new seat to beat across the Pacific.

Meal

The flight begins with your choice of drink before departure, including the 2006 vintage Ayala Millésimé Champagne...

.... which also comes in cocktail form after take-off as a Bellini with peach nectar, accompanied by garden peas, pitted olives and warmed nuts:

Afterwards, when and how you dine is entirely up to you: you can tuck into lunch straight away, can have an 'express' meal later in the flight or can pick from a selection of pantry snacks and light bites.

We took the traditional approach, beginning with tasty garlic bread: always a favourite on long Virgin Australia flights...

... followed by fresh king prawns with carrot, daikon and coriander with miso and yuzu dressing, paired with a glass of the Oakridge Over the Shoulder Chardonnay 2014 (Yarra Valley, Australia)...

... and a second sweep of the bread basket. Other options included pumpkin soup with quinoa and chives and a pear, pecan, witlof, parmesan and rocket salad with mustard vinaigrette.

Then comes the main course with the following choices, from which we selected the succulent pork fillet and surprise crackle on top, which was as good as you could expect in the air.

  • Moroccan spiced lamb and sweet potato on date couscous with almond, preserved lemon and mint
  • Pork fillet on parsnip puree with roast eschalot, caramelised apple and broad beans
  • Barramundi with black bean sauce, snow peas, rice and spring onions
  • Eggplant, zucchini and blue cheese lasagne with basil and toasted pine nuts (vegetarian option)
(Matched with the 2013 Knappstein Cabernet Sauvignon from Clare Valley, AU)

Following is a cheese board or more traditional desserts, from which the lamington proved a light and typically Australian option, enhanced by its accompaniments.

  • Cheese: Heidi Gruyere (Tasmania), Tarago River triple cream brie (Victoria) and Tarago River Shadows of Blue (Victoria), with grapes, fig paste and Byron Bay Falwasser crispbread
  • Lamington with poached blueberries and crème fraîche
  • Coconut and kaffir lime sorbet
  • Mango and cream ice cream
Great with this course: Gramps Botrytis Semillon 2011 dessert wine (Riverina, AU)

Still peckish? Roasted mixed nuts, Valrhona chocolate, sea salt potato chips and Australian green olives can all be ordered from your seat or at the bar, as can the following 'lite bites':

  • Chicken and leek toasted sandwich
  • Ham, paprika and Manchego cheese croquettes with corn and capsicum salsa
  • Mezze plate of dips with spiced flatbread
  • Artisan cheese plate with grapes and fig paste

Each option is the perfect size to fill your hunger without spoiling your breakfast, including the mezze plate with regular hummus, beetroot hummus and chickpeas:

Speaking of breakfast, you'll receive a hotel-style ordering card when the crew make your bed, and you can nominate whether to be woken up or left to sleep until close to landing.

On offer were a variety of juices, fruits, cereals, bakery items, Nespresso coffee, Madame Flavour tea and your choice of main:

  • Fig and apricot Bircher muesli with cardamom and pistachio (selected and refreshing)
  • Spiced plum on toasted banana bread with almonds and coconut yoghurt
  • Scrambled eggs with tomato relish
  • Sides of bacon, celeriac potato cake, smoked salmon, field mushrooms, wilted spinach and marinated feta

For something different, you can also opt to enjoy your full breakfast at the bar or partake in a simple continental brekky in the bar area before the proper breakfast service begins.

Again, we really couldn't ask for more on this 13.5-hour flight.

Entertainment & Service

Every suite in The Business features an 18-inch HD touchscreen panel, joined by noise-cancelling headphones and a remote control if you're leaning back:

The entertainment options are surprisingly lacking, though, with just 45 movies and a selection of 'variety' TV shows on tap, most of which centre around cooking rather than categories like comedy and drama.

More importantly, however, we could always find something to watch – and with selections updated monthly, only the most frequent of flyers to LA will ever work their way through the entire collection.

You can also share a flick in tandem with other travellers, discussing the movie or anything else via the screen's chat system...

... while Virgin Australia's renowned flair also makes an appearance, both on-screen during cabin announcements...

... and from the cabin crew themselves who address all travellers by name, are personable and engaging without being intrusive or over-the-top friendly, which is perfectly professional.

Also distributed are Mandarina Duck amenity kits: for gents, it's a black bag with a REN skincare pack of facial moisturiser, lip balm and hand and body cream, along with a dental kit, socks, an eyeshade, ear plugs and a pen:

Ladies receive a similar white bag but with the addition of cotton buds, cotton pads and tissues:

The crew also thoughtfully pre-fill your USA arrivals card with the flight number and date, which tops off an incredibly well-rounded business class product that's sure to tempt travellers across from Qantas, Delta, United and even American Airlines.

Also read: Photos: Virgin Australia’s new Boeing 777 premium economy

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Virgin Australia.

ChrisCh
ChrisCh

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

ausJCP

ausJCP

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2014

Total posts 212

That inflight bar...! Oh my...

*heavy breathing*

Tracie

Tracie

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Oct 2015

Total posts 46

So what seats are the new row 5???? Am flying in September and have no idea on the best location now..

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Well be running a separate 'best seats' guide well before then, Tracie. :)

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Mandarina Duck is a great brand for the amenity kit.

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Looks like everyone moving to heringbone layout.

aldrigsomandre

aldrigsomandre

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2015

Total posts 126

I think direct isle access is the way to go in Business Class from this point on. Especially when many airlines are ditching First Class and trying to bridge the gap between First and Business to lure high paying customers.

aldrigsomandre

aldrigsomandre

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2015

Total posts 126

This looks absolutely amazing. The improved service and the bar are X factors for me. I think Virgin now has the edge over Qantas for transatlantic flights. I just wish that they had a bigger widebody fleet to increase flights so that we could get Virgin service on other routes as well.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 521

Both suck on Trans-Atlantic ;) but I get your point.  This looks to be a generation ahead of what QF can offer.

jimmylikesitwet

jimmylikesitwet

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Sep 2014

Total posts 84

Pretty sure neither Virgin Australia or Qantas fly transatlantic ;p

Amy C

Amy C

16 May 2016

Total posts 5

Thanks for the nice review. Would you know if any seat in business has a bassinet? I called VA about an upcoming flight on the reconfigured aircraft to request a bassinet and was told no bassinets in business - infant must stay in lap the whole flight (!!!!!) or rebook into premium economy! Not sure if the agent had the wrong information.

I find it peculiar and ridiculous. I am now considering cancelling the booking with them altogether - thankfully got a fully refundable fare.

Amy C

Amy C

16 May 2016

Total posts 5

Another option I was given was to book a discounted paid seat in business and bring alone a certified car seat.

Andreyah

Andreyah

16 May 2016

Total posts 1

Hey amy, I work for VA out of the Los Angeles Port. The bassinets in The Business are 1D and 1G. And with the new configuration, you no longer have to pick up the baby during turbulence.

hopefully this helps!

ausdt

ausdt

27 Aug 2013

Total posts 22

Looks great! Can't wait to try it in July.

anthony watts

anthony watts

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Mar 2015

Total posts 79

Looks great. BUT you can put as much lipstick on a pig as you like, but you still have a pig! IMHO the 777 as a piece of flying metal is so inferior to 380 or 787 that it simply starts so far behind the 8 ball that no amount of lipstick is going to make it worthwhile. (Lipstick, pigs and 8 ball, all in a comment about an aeroplane!)

So, congrats Virgin, great job with the refurb; call me again when you have better metal.

mickeyg

mickeyg

Virgin Australia - Platinum

26 Jun 2011

Total posts 44

Pretty sure the article was about "The Business" class product, not the aircraft.

RaptorNation158

RaptorNation158

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

Newer plane doesn't mean the product is gonna be better, just have a look at UA's new 787-9s which are brand new birds but have the seats back from the 1980s meanwhile VA's 777s are older but have the product of the 21st century.

It's not the plane that decides what you get, it's the airline that decides what you get.

jubbing

jubbing

American Airlines - AAdvantage

13 Jul 2015

Total posts 205

Honestly, that looks stunning

saints78

saints78

17 May 2016

Total posts 6

in pic 24 at the back of the pic it looks like Economy class i gather that they never got new seat or sprused up

Whatever

Whatever

08 Aug 2012

Total posts 11

I think that's tied in to the Space + launch at the end of August.

kerryblackburn

kerryblackburn

Emirates

08 Oct 2012

Total posts 3

I have a horrid feeling I am going to miss out in both directions.  Have flights SYD-LA on 3 July, returning 11 July: they seem to be letting me reserve my seat in the 1-2-1 formation but I have that funny feeling there will be a change nearer to departure and I'll get the old layout :(   Please cheer me up and tell me that Q3 2016 includes my flights!

GigiPk

GigiPk

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Mar 2016

Total posts 27

Pleased review positive. I am booked in Sept, seat selected confirmed & looking forward to experence, although few hours into flight novelty will have worn off. Hopefully entertainment options will improve by Sept.  

dwrj

dwrj

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 May 2016

Total posts 6

I travelled in The Business from Perth to Brisbane on an A330 also (except of the bar - international only). However, it doesn't appear to be on every flight to/from east cost to Perth.  Chris, do you know if this is going to become the standard for all business class on the Perth routes, and if so, when will it be so?

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

It's standard of all Airbus A330 routes to/from Perth, and these days appears on the booking screen as a flight with 'The Business'. As long as Virgin Australia also flies Boeing 737s to Perth, it won't be offered on every flight.

Janus710

Janus710

18 May 2016

Total posts 2

As a Platinum Virgin flyer this is great.  Only wish VA flew direct to SFO.....

findjeremy

findjeremy

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 19

Amen!! I'm puzzled considering its Virgin America's hub (I know the Virgin franchise isn't necessarily that will aligned but still!

Would love to switch my allegiance to Virgin entirely considering how far ahead their North America service is.

LoveToFly

LoveToFly

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2012

Total posts 166

Looks great, doing Brisbane to LAX return in J in late September, right now it shows the new config so hopeful il get it. Picked 3K so looking forward to your "best seats" atricle Chris

Tracie

Tracie

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Oct 2015

Total posts 46

Does anyone know why row 8 is blocked on the new configuration? VA are telling me this is the bassinette row. 

FairFlyer

FairFlyer

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

28 Jul 2016

Total posts 1

Can't wait for your review of VA's new 'Premium' class. I'm flying it in December and am keen to see what it has to offer. 

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Hi FairFlyer, at this stage we have nothing to share on if or when a full review of Virgin Australia Premium will be undertaken, but for now, you can have a peek here.

talkscheap

talkscheap

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Dec 2016

Total posts 45

Flew VA Business to LA in the last week and it is so far ahead of ANY of the competition. The comfort and feeling of space and privacy and level of service is exceptional. Well done VA, Qantas needs to lift its game big time

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