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.
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