Reviews

Review: Virgin Australia 'The Business': new A330 business class seats

Overall Rating

By David Flynn, September 25 2015
Virgin Australia 'The Business': new A330 business class seats
Route

Sydney - Perth

Aircraft Type

Airbus A330-200

Airline

Virgin Australia

Flight

VA559

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

5K

Notes
The Good
  • Wide, comfortable lie-flat seats
  • Direct aisle access for every passenger
  • Ample workspace and at-seat stowage
The Bad
  • Inflight video system
X-Factor
  • Nespresso at 40,000 feet
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Virgin Australia’s all-new A330 business class goes head-to-head against the Qantas Business Suite in the airlines' continued dogfight for premium passengers on the lucrative east-west route.

Marketed as ‘The Business', the seat+service package will be rolled out onto all six of Virgin Australia's Airbus A330 jets by the end of October 2015.

This will see Virgin's Sydney-Perth, Melbourne-Perth and Brisbane-Perth A330 services all boast a business class travel experience of international calibre.

Australian Business Traveller put The Business to the test on its inaugural flight from Sydney to Perth.

Seat

Virgin Australia's revamped A330 business class cabin consists of five rows, each with four seats in that pleasing 1-2-1 arrangement which ensures that every passenger has direct access to the aisle, along with ample personal space in terms of both shelving and stowage nooks.

The outer seats are angled towards the window.

The middle pairs of seats are angled towards one another...

... and separated by a tinted privacy screen...

... which slides back so you can chat with your seatmate.

Each seat's wrap-around shell adds privacy and makes it a little more of a 'suite'.

Design

Virgin Australia's new business class seats are built on the Super Diamond platform from B/E Aerospace, but customised by London design agency Tangerine and Virgin Australia's Creative Director Hans Hulsbosch.

The result includes plenty of top-end touches inspired by the luxury automotive market, and the closer you look the more you can detect influences which could have been borrowed from a performance sports car.

The seat shells are cast from carbon-fibre, making them at once strong, rigid and light – but rather than cover that material, as many airlines do, Virgin has opted to leave it exposed and dressed in a scored cross-hatch finish which just begs to be touched.

Dusky near-black charcoals, blacks, white panels, silver trim (which is hard to catch in real-life photos) and dashes of Virgin Australia's signature purple contribute to a premium palette that oozes subtle upmarket style.

Fittings such as coat hooks and the LED reading lamp indicate a high degree of attention to detail.

Senior crew working The Business cabin are also decked out in matching grey threads.

Comfort

This is an incredibly comfortable seat – which is no more than you'd expect given that the same basic design is used by Qatar Airways on its international Airbus A380s, A350s and Boeing 787s.

The well-padded seat is a generous 21 inches wide between the sidewall and the armrest facing the aisle, but lower the armrest and you gain up to another 7 inches of useable space.

Unlike the domestic Qantas Business Suite, Virgin's The Business is clad in a durable but soft-weave cloth below the plush leather headrest.

The seat itself is slightly inclined by 5.3 inches or 17.3°, even in what would usually be considered the 'upright' position.

This is immediately more relaxing than sitting bolt upright, and in fact it's approaching the recline which the Qantas Business Suite permits for taxi, take-off and landing (Qantas trumps Virgin with 21° on its domestic A330s).

Naturally, you can kick back into a more leisurely mode...

... set the seat to fully-flat...

... or find your sweet spot anywhere on the spectrum using a touchscreen panel.

For overnight flights such as the red-eye services from Perth to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the seat converts into a flat two-metre bed that's topped with a memory foam mattress, high-grade cotton pillows and doona.

So how's the legroom?

In standard upright or recline mode there's room to spare, unless you're of the loftiest pro-basketballer dimensions.

Note the shelf above my feet in this photo, where you can stow your shoes, the pillow or rolled-up light blanket when not in use.

With the seat in lie-flat bed mode there's no problem for average-sized feet, but – as with the Qantas Business Suite – there's not there a lot of wiggle-room to cross your feet at the ankles, for example.

 

Work

Virgin Australia’s new A330 business class seat is well-suited to making the most of that five-plus hour transcontinental trek as an inflight work session.

The large height-adjustable table's got plenty of space for your laptop.

Along the side of each seat there's a flat surface where you can plonk work documents.

What's clever about this is that the AC and USB sockets are tucked away in a recess under the larger of the panels.

There's room for the little power brickette of a MacBook...

.. along with a high-power USB socket capable of recharging your tablet en route, plus a standard aircraft three-pin headphone jack.

There's a slight gap between the cover and the surrounding panel which lets you close the panel and still have cables running to your laptop, tablet or smartphone and headphones...

... so that the entire surface of the table remains useful.

There’s also a natty little tablet holder hidden away inside the sidewall, behind the literature pocket.

And of course, that concealed USB power port is close at hand.

All that remains to transform The Business into a sky-high office for your business is inflight Internet, which could arrive sometime in 2016 powered by the new NBN satellites...

Meal

Part of The Business package is that passengers can choose when to have their meal, rather than dine according to the airline’s schedule.

Although the Sydney-Perth flight averages five hours, with the meal service slated to start around two hours into the journey, this gives business travellers the opportunity to spend more time working without interruption.

The latest you can be served a full meal is at 1 hour and 40 minutes before landing, although the ‘express meal’ (comprising a bakery selection, starter, salad and cheese or dessert) can be plated up as late as an hour before landing.

Lunch on my daytime flight from Sydney to Perth began with a choice of king prawns or pumpkin soup – I opted for the prawns served with corn, smoked paprika and chives.

On the mains menu:

  • barramundi fillet with avocado, red beans, tomato, basil and lime
  • soft cheese polenta with zucchini, tomato, broad beans and marinated feta
  • lamb meatballs with Middle Eastern spice, zucchini, chickpeas and coriander (below)

Dessert options were a raspberry and passionfruit mousse or a cheese platter (below).

Luke Mangan oversees Virgin Australia’s inflight menu, and as I’ve come to expect, each dish could have come straight from a restaurant kitchen rather than a galley.

There's also a new Nespresso coffee service, using a world-first customised Nespresso machine...

... which delivers one of the best coffees you can get in the sky, from a frothy cappuccino...

... to a rich flat white.

Entertainment & Service

Service from the Virgin Australia crew was exceptionally attentive during this flight, and even though it was the first commercial service of the new business class, every crew-member was fully up to speed on the seat and its features.

Each business class seat is fitted with a large 16 inch high-definition screen...

... while pair of noise-cancelling headphones lurks under the armrest.

If you've brought your own cans, fling the airline-supplied ones into the overhead locker and you've recovered a little extra space that's suitable for a water bottle and some inflight amenities.

A conventional controller lurks under one of the seat-side panels.

The on-screen menu is easy to navigate and includes some unexpected extras, such as a chat room which can be used by every passenger on the plane (via a keyboard on the underside of the controller)…

... although it was a pretty lonely place on my flight.

There are, however, two shortcomings with Virgin’s A330 inflight entertainment system.

The first is that the screen is fixed in place, rather than having a tilt adjustment, and its position is noticeably below the line-of-sight for a passenger of average height when sitting in the upright position – although with the seat reclined the screen is almost exactly at eye level.

Secondly, the selection of movies and TV shows is relatively slim and certainly falls behind what Qantas has on tap.

Nobody expects to watch a Lord of the Rings marathon between Melbourne and Perth, but very frequent flyers on the cross-country jaunt could soon have worked through their choice of viewing.

Summary

Superbly designed and well-appointed, Virgin Australia's new A330 business class really is 'the business' – and from the end of October it should be on every one of Virgin's A330 east-west flights, making it the safe bet for doing your transcontinental business travel in style.

David Flynn travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia.

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.

MattJelonek

MattJelonek

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 222

Great review, the same menu I had between Bris and Perth over the weekend and being a 2 x 2 config, and 8 seats with 2 people filling them - I ate the whole menu on offer... How often do the menus change on flights?

theworld2

theworld2

12 Aug 2014

Total posts 8

Any tips on best seats?

RYS

RYS

Garuda Indonesia - Garuda Miles

30 Jan 2015

Total posts 23

A very thorough review. I enjoyed reading it.

One thing, is this statement correct, "the well-padded seat is a generous 21cm wide between the sidewall and the armrest facing the aisle"? Should this be 21 inches instead?

Gian

Gian

VA Platinum

26 Mar 2014

Total posts 117

Looks Amazing! Thanks for the review David. 

Looks like the extra wait was worth it.

How bloody lucky we are in Australia to have such a high product standard from our two big airlines!

Can't wait to try it out. 

drsimon50

drsimon50

qantas

10 Oct 2013

Total posts 113

brilliant review - thanks

Rod H

Rod H

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 121

Thanks David , a very good comprehensive report that answers all of my questions.

I am travelling  Sydney- Perth on VA555 Business Class mid Oct and am really looking forward to trying this out. I have checked with the Guest Contactr Ctr. and the seat layout for this flight is 1:2:1 so it's the newy. Before I booked the flight I had on line confirmation from VA that VA555 is the full lunch service which is really something to look forward to especially now that I have read this report.

Can hardly wait !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chris_PER

Chris_PER

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

5/5 stars for everything.  It must be good....

PunditShafton

PunditShafton

12 Jun 2014

Total posts 69

Good to see that the nuts are in a bowl!

StudiodeKadent

StudiodeKadent

20 May 2015

Total posts 584

QF and VA are both doing a great job. This new Business class looks very stylish and the 777 version will be even more spacious (more width, esp in the footwell, due to a wider fuselage allowing a better angle).

I wonder if VA plan to expand their own fleet sometime...

Rkwm

Rkwm

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 88

Thank you for a fantastic review . Perfect for long haul international travel . Would certainly be my choice over all competitors . Now all we need is more routes . Let's hope Virgin Australia expand this business product for overseas destinations ... ie. Hong Kong ... Pleeeease !!!

Doubleplatinum Banned

Doubleplatinum Banned

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

Pity VA dont fly there!

Doubleplatinum Banned

Doubleplatinum Banned

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 558

Pity VA dont even fly there?????

trevor2

trevor2

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Apr 2015

Total posts 57

Very cunning from VA, they targeted David's weakness for good coffee! :P

But on a serious note, this looks absolutely amazing. And that's coming from very much a seasoned Qantas veteran who has never stepped foot on a VA plane. Perhaps I'll have to 'cross the floor' at some stage.

The only surprising point is the lack of a 'Do Not Disturb' sign, although this is minor in the grand scheme of things...

Whatever

Whatever

08 Aug 2012

Total posts 11

Hey Trevor2, 

I can tell you first hand that the VA crew are attentive enough to know when not to disturb you.  They dont need a gimmy sign to tell them to stay away.

Marxx63

Marxx63

Qantas Platinum

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 48

Truly in the land of great coffees, nobody can be persuaded with Nespresso! I rate that marginally better than instant. But perhaps it's me being spoilt when I moved here (thank you Belaroma Coffee Roaster :-). 

It's just a matter of time and we will have mid-air barista's!

ausJCP

ausJCP

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2014

Total posts 213

Ooomph, five stars in all categories! Must be very slick! That large tray-table is a small but noticeable bonus; I find QF's domestic and international J-class tables too small and flimsy to comfortably work on a laptop (though I've not experienced the BSI upgrade yet).

Still can't shake my impression that VA's a great option for the solely-domestic business traveller, but wouldn't consider switch unless/until they have a decent international alliance offering. Aahh, if only QF offered Nespresso as well... can't have it all haha!

itchyfeet

itchyfeet

09 Jul 2014

Total posts 31

Great review David, thanks! Future looks bright.

Johnsy

Johnsy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 18

Nice Review !

It didnt look like as much leg space is available. You mentioned unless you are a basketball player it will be fine. May i ask how tall you are David ? I am 6ft 2 and travelling on this flight late in November then trying VA1 to LAX with the new or slightly bigger setup like this ?  Cheers

Bizflyer

Bizflyer

Lufthansa - Miles & More

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 185

Im not David but it is very good as I have the pleasure of being 6ft 6 and in bed mode and seated I was very comfotable

Traveller14

Traveller14

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

A good review but one qualification is that neither Qantas or Virgin Australia have A330 planes operating all flights between the east coast and Perth.  Some are now B737s, so it is more important than ever to check th actual flight details so that if travelling in business class - or even in economy - you end up on a widebody plane not a 737.  Some of Qantas' Airbuses are still in the old configuation so beware of those too.

The best way to travel to or from Perth remains in a Great Southern Railway Platinum or Gold (first) class sleeping berth on the transcontinental Indian Pacific train - now that's true luxury!

Johnsy

Johnsy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 18

Are you for real ?? It takes 4 days on a  train compared to 4 hours on a plane.. I think you have had to many motion sickness tablets.

ezihose

ezihose

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Feb 2011

Total posts 54

Just Flew on the new Business Class Seats!

What a shame! The old Singapore Airline Version was way, way better!

The new version limits your leg spread room and no body likes flying side saddle for 5 hours...

Its a real pitty that they missed the boat on these new seats..

johnnypc67

johnnypc67

28 Nov 2012

Total posts 90

I would love to see more widebody aircraft for virgin, Melbourne-Japan is very under serviced with Jetstar the only carrier on this route direct. This A330 would be perfect and could connect with Virgin Atlantic to London (do they fly to Japan?)

mickeyg

mickeyg

Virgin Australia - Platinum

26 Jun 2011

Total posts 46

VS pulled out of Japan.  They now codeshare with ANA.

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2336

A timely reminder: as explained in our comments policy, reader comments should be on the topic of the article and ideally add value to the conversation, otherwise they may at our discretion be deleted (as several comments here have already been).

Yohy

Yohy

20 Apr 2014

Total posts 94

excellent product that is far too good for domestic - VA must be biding their time and waiting for the right time to take it international when the mining demand for perth services evaporates.

Johnsy

Johnsy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 18

They allready have a great international buisness class.. Escpecially the newly renovated VA1 - VA2 SYD to LAX.. waiting for a review on this website !

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2949

Hi Johnsy, we published a review of Virgin Australia's current Boeing 777 business class in November last year.

Johnsy

Johnsy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 18

Hi Chris.. On the buisness class show on Sky Buisness they said the boeing 777's that do that trip are being updated OCT-JAN this year into 2016..  Its just started now as the current setup is getting tired and nearly 10 years old. I saw the pictures of the "bar" area that now has a small table and bench charis as well as existing stools.. also the bedding will be thicker and they are changing to the 1-2-1 pod setup..  steering away from 2-3-2..do you have an article on that ?

Johnsy

Johnsy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 18

Sorry i meant 2-2-2 pod setup with isle acess for all and divider for the middle 2

Johnsy

Johnsy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2015

Total posts 18

Andrew (post 7 )  mentions the upgrade as well.. https://www.executivetraveller.com/virgin-australia-boeing-777-business-class-seat-review-brisbane-los-angeles-lax

 

brettg

brettg

Qantas

13 Dec 2012

Total posts 20

Had my first ride on "The Business" week before last. Was a nice surprise to board XFH and find the new suite. Personally I was very happy with the old suite, but hey, who's thankful for some competition?!

I really loved the seat, the work surfaces and the big screen. I did find that the storage available was a little light on. On the old seat I used to tuck my computer down the side of the seat for quick access. Fortunately since I'm using the Surface Pro 3 I can just switch to tablet mode and keep using it through the whole flight, but if you had to put your laptop away for take off and landing I'm not sure where it would go...

I did find that the aisle is very narrow now too, making for an interesting boarding march through the business cabin.

After a long day I managed to get a good hour of comfortable sleep after the service although it was just a short 3:45 hour flight.

Service and food continues to be the best on domestic in Australia. Now with this suite, there is no better way to fly from east to west.

Punkkez86

Punkkez86

16 Oct 2015

Total posts 1

Hi, So i'm flying sydney to perth on a AIRBUS INDUSTRIE A332 JET December 11th 2015 was going to use points to upgrade to Business. Would the plane have these seats by then? Is that the right kind of plane, cos seat guru is still showing the old layout.

Thanks  :)

Rod H

Rod H

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 121

Hi. According to V's schedule for the refit of these seats they should all be fitted by mid to end of Nov.

It looks good for you to be able to try the seats out for you rself.

Iam flying Perth-Brisbane on Nov 30th so should alos have the pleasure. Did Sydney-Perth on 15th Oct with the A330  with the older seats , disappointed in not being able to see them on that flight but the service etc. was absolutely impeccable. If the new seats had been there it would have been just perfect. Lets hope so next flight but you should be on a flight with them fitted.

Toottifruitti

Toottifruitti

04 May 2011

Total posts 10

Will these be used in the A330 for the BNE to LAX flights?

Rod H

Rod H

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 121

The A330 does not as yet fly to the USA , VA use a B777 .

The entire fleet of the B777's will be refitted with these new seats over the coming months.

I flew Perth- Brisbane in Nov in the new seats and they are fantastic.


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