The Battle of The Transcontinental Business Class : Virgin Australia vs Qantas (Part 1)
The days of Qantas' monopoly of the business and premium travel market between the east and west coast of Australia are now well and truly over. Since Virgin Australia's introduction of their domestic Airbus A330 in 2011 it has been an increasingly intense competition between the 2 carriers as to who can offer the best product, not only in business class but also in economy.
Virgin have moved away from a low cost offering to a full service product in economy on its trans-con flights with meals and drinks included in direct competition with Qantas. Virgin have branded the new product the 'Coast to Coast' service
Both carriers now also operate the majority of their flights between Perth and Sydney or Melbourne with widebody Airbus A330s. However, depending on which aircraft you get on the day both airlines have wildly varying configurations on the seats! At this stage Qantas is operating with at least 3 different seat types in business and Virgin has 2. I will go into more detail in each of my reviews.
Now, let's get to Part 1 : Virgin Australia on Melbourne to Perth
PART 1 : VIRGIN AUSTRALIA
ROUTE: Melbourne to Perth
AIRCRAFT: Airbus A330-200 VH-XFA
SEAT: 1B (Business Class)
DEPARTURE: 13.00 (Scheduled) 13.23 (Actual)
ARRIVAL: 15.15 (Scheduled) 16.13 (Actual) 58 minutes delayed
|Arriving at Melbourne Tullamarine|
Upon arrival at the terminal I am greeted by Virgin posters telling me 'The romance is back'. Well Virgin, let's just see about that! From curbside to lounge its just a few moments as the security checks are actually done on the way to the gate. Upon arrival in the lounge (actually called 'The Lounge') I went to the counter to get my boarding pass printed. I was handed back a boarding pass for seat 1B, having pre selected seat 1A online I questioned what happened. I was told they had just been advised that seat 1A was out of service so I had been moved, but with 1A unoccupied I would have 2 seats worth of space.
I suppose I should not be surprised as I had heard that Virgin's 2 A330's that they received from Emirates (VH-XFA and VH-XFB) are regularly experiencing technical difficulties. It was a shame today's flight was being operated on XFA as the seats are recliners instead of the new pod style angled lie flats on the 4 new aircraft. Still, they are a decent seat by domestic standards.
|Arriving at The Lounge|
|VH-XFA in background as seen from The Lounge|
|The Lounge decor|
|The Lounge view|
|The Lounge - Barista made cappuccino and some nuts|
|VH-XFA prepares for the flight to the West|
|Boarding has commenced at Gate 4|
|Looking across Row 1|
|My seat with pillow, blanket, water bottle and headset in place|
|Another look at the cabin|
The crew on this flight were mostly under 30s and all very friendly and welcoming. Whilst boarding was under way they went around the cabin distributing menus which came in booklets with separate wine lists. The presentation of the menu was definitely of an international business class standard and very impressive. A basic amenity kit was also provided which I wouldn't normally expect on a domestic flight of this length.
A short delay was announced by the captain due to the late refueling of the aircraft, and we would need a lot of fuel today since the headwinds were forecast to be some 300km/h for the entire flight resulting in a very long sector length of 4 hours 33 minutes in the air. The delay on the ground ended up being 23 minutes and we eventually pushed back at 1.23pm with 15 out of 27 business class seats occupied. Minutes later we were powering down runway 34 and into the sky, making a quick left turn to track westbound. The seatbelt sign was left on for quite a long time as some turbulence was expected during the climb to cruise. While I was seated I had a look at the offerings on this flight:
|Blanket - a little thin and quite small|
|drawstring amenity kit bag|
|Amenity kit contents - ear plugs, tissues, socks, toothbrush, pen and eyeshade|
|Up in the clear blue sky|
|My own entertainment|
A table cloth was placed on the tray table and the first course arrived on a single purple tray with celebrity chef 'Luke Mangan' branding. Bread was immediately offered to go with my meal. One thing I do like is the olive oil and dukkah that come on the tray to be used with the bread, very tasty. Interestingly Virgin don't use proper wine glasses instead using the same tumblers they serve the water in. Maybe this is supposed to be stylish but I don't like it, please switch to a proper wine glass in future Virgin.
|Cabin during meal service|
Once the main was finished the crew came around and took the tray away leaving the table cloth. A short time later the dessert trolley came out but for some reason they commenced in the right hand aisle and went to the back before moving to my aisle and starting from the back and going to the front. This meant that I was served dessert last. As a result I did not have a choice of cheese or dessert or both, I had to accept the only remaining option which was chocolate lava cake. Had I not been a fan of desserts I would have been pretty annoyed not to be able to have cheese. Ideally I think a cheese course should be offered in addition to dessert.
|On descent into Perth|
I was fortunate enough to be invited by the captain to have a look at the cockpit before I left the aircraft which was a great experience and here are a couple of snaps:
|Aircraft has just shut down - doors not yet open|
|The flight times and fuel burn for today, we burnt 24 tonnes of fuel exactly|
Overall I had a great time on this Virgin Australia flight. I mostly fly Qantas domestically but Virgin have really stepped up and now have a fabulous product. Next up I am going to review the Qantas flight in the reverse direction and then I will follow up with an article comparing the two.