Virgin Australia upgrades Boeing 777 premium economy, plans 'economy plus' seats

By David Flynn, September 24 2014

Virgin Australia will upgrade the premium economy and economy cabins of its long-range Boeing 777 jets next year, in addition to outfitting them with the airline’s new business class.

Premium economy will be repositioned as a ‘business lite’ seat with an extra three inches of pitch, up from the current 38 inches to 41 inches.

This will result in a smaller premium economy cabin, dropping from 40 seats to 24 seats in the new configuration.

“This is going to be a  more exclusive cabin” Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti tells Australian Business Traveller.

“The intention isn’t economy plus but ‘business lite’, so while we pitch our new business class at halfway between business and first, premium economy will be halfway between economy and business but certainly closer to business class.”

This will also include an upgrade of the meals, Borghetti says, with consulting chef Luke Mangan “already working on a new menu for us.”

However, the premium economy bar will be axed as part of the make-over.

“The bar doesn’t really work” Borghetti opines. “It’s a good idea but it’s not quite right.”

However, business class passengers will see a newly-designed business class bar with face-to-face service for up to four seated guests. 

There'll also be additional lounge seating behind the bar.

Further down the plane, Virgin Australia will also introduce ‘economy plus’ zones with extra legroom and a higher price tag to suit.

There will be 42 of these seats on each Boeing 777, although the airline didn’t reveal how many inches will be gained over the standard 32 inch pitch.

“There will be enough enhancement in seat pitch to sell these at a premium” Borghetti says.

“And there are more things happening in economy but we’re holding back on that for now.”

Virgin Australia’s Boeing 777 refit will begin in November 2015 with all five aircraft to be completed “within three months”, the airline says. 

The changes will see the Boeing 777’s total seat count will drop from 361 to 339, broken down as

  • 37 business class (four more than the current configuration)
  • 24 premium economy (down from today’s count of 40)
  • 278 economy (down from 288)

Also read: Virgin Australia's new business class seats for Airbus A330s, Boeing 777s

David Flynn travelled to Virgin Australia's launch in Singapore as a guest of Virgin Australia.

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

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

This refit is going to take a bit longer, but still looks sounds good. Look forward to more details.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2014

Total posts 6

Will be interesting to see if the wording he is using is reflected in the pricing. Premium Economy now Business Lite = More expensive that Premium but not quite Business and Business now middle ground for business and first so whilst they never provided a first class will this mean an increase to the cost????

22 Apr 2012

Total posts 5

I suspect the reason the PE bar "doesn't really work" is because of VA having to operate under Australian RSA laws, requiring the bar to be constantly manned while it is being used potentially tying up a flight attendant for hours at a time. I'm sure the numbers stack up in the Business Class bar to justify this, but every time I've used the PE bar en route to LAX they couldn't wait to get me back to my seat so they could carry on with their (proper) duties.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2014

Total posts 102

I have spent a bit of time in the buisness class bar. Hardly ever see it manned. Sometimes a flight attendant will stop for a chat but usually pouring our own drinks. 

26 Sep 2014

Total posts 1

A business class closer to first, a premium economy closer to business...

I reckon they're doing this to bring their product somewhat in line with Etihad's luxury offerings, and also seeing that flyers are willing to pay for greater luxury.

I'm sure it's also a placebo effect on the value proposition: pay for Prem Econ but actually get something like Biz; pay for Biz but almost experience First


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