Aviation Virgin Australia has a new class between economy and premium

Virgin Australia story - Virgin Australia's new business class suites on its Boeing 777s.
Photo of Geoffrey Thomas

The airline's upgraded international Boeing 777 fleet will offer the new Economy Space, plus better comfort, a revamped bar in business and more on long-haul routes.

Virgin Australia’s radical upgrade of its international fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs means the planes finally match the service. Virgin now has a world-class product for all budgets.

The old 2-3-2 business class configuration has been replaced by individual suites that would be more at home in most airlines’ first-class cabins.

Premium economy — now just called premium — has more leg room than most standard domestic business-class cabins. Economy travellers get new Economy Space+. It sits neatly between economy and premium.

The atmosphere in the cabin is stunning, with excellent use of LED lighting to create a feeling of an opulent nightclub.

Business Class

In business class there are 37 individual and private suites that convert to the length of a 203cm queen bed. They are set in a reverse herringbone layout, in a 1-2-1 configuration, maximising privacy and giving everyone aisle access. There is loads of space to work and store personal items.

But the real plus is the bed with its triple layer seat cushion, supported by a hammock sub-frame. On my flight from Los Angeles to Sydney I got eight hours sleep.

If you don’t want to sleep, the suite has a 45.7cm high definition touch screen, which the airline claims is the biggest flying between Australia and North America.

Virgin Australia has also revamped its business class bar and lounge. The only issue is its proximity to the first row in the second business class cabin but Virgin Australia has now installed heavy duty curtains to block the light and chatter. The bar also doubles as a place to have a continental breakfast before landing.

While Virgin doesn’t fly long-haul from Perth, it tickets through from the regions and its new Perth Airport terminal. Perth travellers are likely to join long haul flights to the US in Sydney or Melbourne.

Premium

The improvements to the 24-seat premium cabin are numerous, with more leg room than any other Australian airline in a comparable class. It has 22.8cm more leg room than economy, with a 40.5cm-wide seat with 22.9cm of recline.

Passengers get a plated meal served on business class crockery and accompanied by a selection of wines from the business class cellar. There is dedicated check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage, enabling guests to speed through airport formalities.

Premium seating has been reduced and is in a smaller, more exclusive cabin which has taken seat comfort to a new level and the positioning is closer to business light rather than economy-plus.

Economy Space 

This is the big news for most. Economy Space is designed to make travel more comfortable and seamless for budget travellers who want a touch of class. This product will be available for flights from August 30.

It costs between $135 and $165 more than economy one-way between Sydney and Los Angeles.

This new class is located in a dedicated cabin of five rows behind premium and the exit rows of the main economy cabin. And it’s amazing value. Passengers get extra leg room, check-in via a dedicated premium check-in counter, pre-boarding, preferred overhead locker, dedicated crew members, guaranteed first meal choice and a noise cancelling headset.

Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell believes Economy Space will be popular among a range of travellers.

“Economy Space enables you to speed through the airport and enjoy service from dedicated crew members throughout the flight, providing great value for guests,” Mr Hassell said.

There are 67 seats — 47 in the one cabin, the rest further down the main cabin and the “pitch” per seat row is 86cm compared with 81cm in economy. That brings economy back to what it used to be in the late 1960s.

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