As we reported last month, Virgin Australia have launched the first upgraded service of their 777-300ER fleet, featuring a brand new Business and Premium cabin, as well as an Economy Space +, which can be booked for flights from 30 August onwards – though the cabin itself is already in operation in the one fitted aircraft. But what hasn’t been reported is how the changes to the top end of the aircraft will effect the rest of their service. We flew the new aircraft on VA2 from LAX to Sydney earlier this week and found out for ourselves.
The first thing to note is that the new Business Class section does look fantastic. The seats are among the best we’ve seen on any aircraft, anywhere in the world. The section has also increased its size, with Business Class taking some 16 seats out of the Premium Economy section – which now feels dwarfed. But no doubt Premium guests will enjoy the improved service, including a “Business Class” inspired menu.
Moving back through economy, Economy Space + section can be seen, though it’s hard to tell if the leg room is noticeable without sitting in the section. I’m sitting a little further back in row 31 on this service, and honestly I’m not convinced we haven’t been given more leg room here either – the entire cabin feels like it’s been cleaned up, with their latest in flight entertainment units in operation. It’s extremely comfortable.
Not much has changed, though, from the time you sit down – there’s a bottle of water waiting for you at the seat (which you can refill halfway down the cabin at any time), as well as comfortable headphones, eye mask, ear plugs and a pen for your customs forms, which has always been a brilliant touch from the airline. There still is no power in the economy seats, bar a USB port on the back of the seat.
The new layout on the entertainment unit still offers an all-too-limited selection of TV shows, but the selection of movies remains impressive – though it’s interesting to note that there’s no longer a “New Releases” option, each tab instead being genre based. Unlike other airlines, Virgin don’t show edited versions of the films, which is big plus for the airline.
But for anyone who has travelled at VA service to the USA (or back) in recent years, none of this will surprise you. Apart from the slight possibility of increased leg room (this may be all in my head), and a touched up cabin, none of this is anything new. It’s not until the meals come through that you notice a difference. For dinner, there are three options – nothing new there – and on my flight it’s a green chicken curry, a beef casserole or a spinach and ricotta ravioli.
I choose the vegetarian option, which is delicious, but a keen eye above may notice something: where are the accompaniments? In the past, a Virgin meal came with a dessert – generally an ice cream or a moose – a salad (or something along those lines), a roll and crackers with cheese. And usually a drink to polish off the presentation. Having flown VA1 on the older aircraft two weeks prior, this was indeed the service offered.
But here, we are only given a warm bread roll – which to their credit, had not been presented warm in the past – and a dessert. Though it is a sizeable (and rather delicious) gelato. We are also only offered a limited selection of drinks (juices, soft drinks and wines), with the cart serving food and drink at the same time, rather than separately as in the past. And gone is the Virgin wine glass. If you’re looking for a spirit you’ll need to wait for a later service.
Indeed, it seems that, as a by product of the upgrades elsewhere, economy has reduced its meal service. This is most noticeable in their breakfast service, served about 10 hours after dinner, as an average wrap (sausage and egg or egg and potato), with a yogurt OR a muffin (in the past, you’d get both – and likely a fruit or even a croissant to top it all off), and your choice of juice, tea or coffee. And if you ask for a tea, the milk is mixed for you, rather than provided in your own capsule to use at your leisure, and you’re not given a tea cup on our plate as you once were. As a frequent traveller, these changes are very noticeable.
Virgin’s service remains among the best in the world, and their cabins amongst the most comfortable. However if you’re lucky enough to get yourself on one of their updated aircraft, be prepared for the slightly reduced service. Whether or not this is a permanent change, or a one off to this aircraft will remain to be seen – I can only speak of my own experiences. But it is expected that the roll out of Virgin’s upgraded 777 aircraft will be completed before the end of the year, so you’ll if you’re travelling with the airline later this year you’ll likely be able to find out for yourself!
To book flights head here: http://www.virginaustralia.com/