Incredible comfort, service and meals. That's the short take of my experience flying coast to coast from Sydney to Perth on Virgin Australia last month.
In an effort to lure a greater share of business travelers away from Qantas, Virgin Australia recently upgraded their aircraft and service on the highly competitive, five-hour journey across the continent.
Here's a full review of my Virgin Australia experience in business class for this installment of "Road Warrior Tested."
Route: Sydney to Perth, Australia.
Aircraft: An Airbus A330 featuring 24 leather, lie-flat seats in business class and 255 leather seats in economy.
Cabin/Seat Assignment: Business class seat 3K, a lie-flat window seat, which offered up to 60 inches of space between rows and a 19.5-inch wide seat.
Comfort: Airbus A330s are typically flown on international routes. Virgin Australia's domestic version of the aircraft can easily compete with the top-rated airlines in the world in terms of comfort and cabin layout.
The business class cabin has only 6 seats across each row of the widebody aircraft and offers international-style seats, which I found extremely comfortable in all positions. The electronic seat controls are intuitive, allowing for easy seat adjustment at the touch of a button. It also included a lumbar support feature. The headrest manually extends and can be adjusted into several positions.
Business class passengers are provided a plush blanket, large pillow and an international-style amenity kit featuring Australian brand Grown skin care products.
Meals: Virgin Australia partners with Australian chef Luke Mangan to provide a sophisticated menu of meal choices. My dinner flight was a culinary delight and began with hot towel service, followed by a drink of my choice and warmed mixed nuts. For starters, either parsnip, leek and thyme soup, or harissa spiced chicken with fattoush salad and lemon sumac dressing were offered. I went with the latter and it was simply delicious.
A small salad consisting of spinach, rocket and radicchio with red wine vinegar and mustard dressing complimented my main course of tomato and saffron chicken with green olives, peas and cous cous. Other selections available were ocean trout with cauliflower puree, zucchini, lemon and anchovy butter, or massaman curry of pumpkin, potato and zucchini with French beans and Jasmine rice.
A beautifully presented cheese plate preceded dessert, which was an absolutely delicious toffee, banana and chestnut pudding with pecans and maple syrup.
The selection of spirits, liqueurs, beer, wine and champagne were impressive, and barista-style coffee was even available. Overall, I couldn't believe this was a domestic flight as the meal quality and service was on par with the best international first-class service I've experienced.
Entertainment: This aircraft featured a huge catalog of on-demand entertainment akin to what you'd find on international flights. The Red entertainment system contained dozens of movies and television programs, as well as more than 300 music albums and a variety of games. You can even chat with other passengers via text messages to any seat on the airplane on the system.
Noise canceling headsets are provided to each business class passenger. In-seat power (110V-enabled) and a USB port for connecting Apple iPods and other capable devices are also available at each seat.
Service: It's so refreshing flying international carriers, as I've found their flight attendants are trained to provide exceptional service. And the crew serving me on Virgin Australia were among the best I've experienced in my more than one million miles of airline travel.
From cabin supervisor Adam making a personal visit to my seat before departure wishing me a pleasant journey, to flight attendant Anneleise who provided professional, yet authentically friendly service, my experience with the crew lived up to my exceedingly high expectations.
And here's something rather unique. When my coat was returned to me after landing, it was delivered in a complimentary hanging garment bag with the Virgin Australia logo. As I'm an airline enthusiast to begin with, I was more than happy to take it along with me.
Summary: Flying Virgin Australia's business class across the country was a delight and ranks among my top flight experiences. Nothing could have been improved, in my opinion, and I look forward to trying out their international service someday. For more information on Virgin Australia's business class, click here.
This was a sponsored trip courtesy of Virgin Australia.