Virgin Australia to suspend Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights

By Chris C., June 24 2015
Virgin Australia to suspend Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights

Virgin Australia will temporarily suspend its flights from Sydney to Abu Dhabi as its international Boeing 777 fleet undergoes a revamp to feature the airline’s new business class seats (below), a larger inflight bar, more legroom for premium economy passengers and new ‘economy plus’ seats down the back.

That affects all of Virgin’s VA29 and VA30 flights between October 27 and December 16 2015, and then again between February 2 and April 6 2016 – leaving services to run as usual during the peak summer and school holiday period in between.

A Virgin Australia spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that alliance partner Etihad Airways will help fill the gaps during these windows with VA's economy and business class passengers booked into the same cabins with Etihad on its Sydney flights.

However, as Etihad doesn’t offer premium economy, passengers who booked this with Virgin Australia can choose between:

  • a downgrade to regular economy with a partial refund,
  • paying extra to upgrade their ticket to business class, or
  • receiving a travel credit or full refund.

Premium economy travellers: your options explained

A business class upgrade will cost $1,000 per passenger, per flight between Sydney and Abu Dhabi – so that's $2,000 on a return booking – with travel also netting Velocity frequent flyer points and status credits at the full business class rates when taking this route.

That sees you with either a new Business Studio on Etihad's Sydney Airbus A380 flights...

... or a seat that too goes fully-flat and provides direct aisle access to every passenger on Etihad's Boeing 777s:

Passengers who choose to downgrade from premium economy to standard economy will receive a flat-rate refund of $390 per person, per affected flight ($780 on a return trip), as opposed to a refund of the exact fare difference.

Using sample fare prices obtained from dates in early October, we found that travellers booked on the less-expensive ‘Premium Saver’ fares may come out slightly ahead when taking this option, as the fare difference between these and comparable economy tickets averaged $763 on a return trip – less than the $780 refund.

However, the most flexible ‘Premium’ return fares on the same dates and flights were $2,116 more expensive than return economy ‘Flexi’ tickets, in most cases making the best option a full refund before booking a new economy ticket at the lower fare.

Whether originally booked on Premium or Premium Saver fares, passengers opting for the partial refund will find themselves in Flexi economy on the affected flights, earning twice as many Velocity frequent flyer points and status credits as entry-level Saver economy tickets.

Guests impacted by these changes can also alter their travel dates at no charge, provided that the revised journey begins no later than 30 days after it originally would have.

No changes are currently planned for the airline’s flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Los Angeles.

Also read: Virgin Australia’s new premium economy seats, service

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

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Nov 2011

Total posts 244

Do they still do the AUH - KUL route?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Mar 2013

Total posts 19

Yes they do. But obviously this won't be happening during those times either unfortunately. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 361

Hmm..... By looking at the above schedule, looks like full refitting of all 777 will be completed by 6 Apr 2016. I got a flight booked on 30 Mar BNE-LAX in J. Looks like I have a good chance of getting the new business class but not guaranteed....

Any word on the density? Removing 7 abreast to 4 in biz must mean they have to make it up somewhere. And premium is gettinf reduced  too

01 Aug 2012

Total posts 30

Boo to VA for not honouring bookings in premium economy. It is VA's commerical decision to suspend services so it is their job to make sure those who booked premium eco are able to fly it! Those passengers should not be forced to pay extra  for a comfortable ride or else be downgraded. It would be interesting to see the outcome of a legal challenge. After all VA have entered a contract of carriage for transport in premium economy and they now have a legal (and moral!) duty to deliver the service.

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 10

You are right, it is a commercial decision to undertake a cabin refit as quick as possible rather than the slow upgrade path that leads to inconsistent service levels. Good luck with your legal challenge, especially since VA are offering refunds.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 504

Of course it can't work as well when your partner has a better Economy, Business and First product and in some cases a cheaper ticket, and uses an A380, just like QF who have the traffic onwards to London and a better International product than Emirates (depends what you like) when they stopover in Dubai.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 504

Oops sorry I just commented without reading a bit of the article, I take that comment back - wish there was a way to delete it but I can't...

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

14 Apr 2013

Total posts 328

So any news on which route will be the first to get the new seat plan? Also has VA started to refit the A330?

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 149

You'd think QF would be getting 4-abreast J onto those 380s ASAP, and competing with VA and DL and CX and SQ, rather than reminding us that BA and UA are worse...

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