We test out the new Virgin “economy x” service from Sydney to Darwin

The newest domestic offering (and rebranded International inclusion from what was known for the year prior as “Economy Space Plus”) from Virgin Australia¬†adds new benefits to the exit row and the first few rows of the economy section: some extra leg room, priority security screening, priority baggage and dedicated overhead storage.

The new section of seats is inspired by the economy “plus” seats you’ll find on airlines like Virgin’s partner Delta, and most US aircraft who parade the service as their premium economy offering – even, sometimes surprisingly, on their long haul aircraft.

The offering is complimentary for Velocity Platinum frequent flyers on any flight, including international services, or a nominal fee for everyone else, based on route and aircraft, starting from $29. No lounge access is included, however if you’re a lounge member, or a gold or platinum velocity member you’ll have access as normal.

I recently enjoyed the service for the first time on a flight from Sydney to Darwin. The airline seem really proud of the new service, with several staff smiling and saying, “oh you’ve got an economy x seat!” as I boarded. On this particular service, a four hour route, they indeed had reason to; though I’d booked in on several x services in recent months, this was the first time the new seats had actually been available on their 737 aircraft.

They’re the same as economy seats, all but for the red stripe saying “economy x” across the movable headrest. The extra legroom is immediately noticeable, and of course those who don’t normally have Gold or Platinum status will enjoy some of the benefits we take for granted for a relatively low cost. The service otherwise is the same; if you’re in one of the first three rows of course you’ll get served first, which is an added bonus, and you’ll be among the first to deplane.

In terms of in flight service, tea, coffee, juice and water is complimentary on all flights, and you’ll get a snack on short haul flights, and a more substantial offering complementary on longer flights. On this morning service to Darwin – Virgin’s only daily direct between the cities – they served a warm cheese, sundried tomato and olive scroll, a muffin and a yogurt with their usual drink selection. Soft drinks, premium teas and alcoholic beverages were available for purchase, either during future services on board, or on request by pressing the call button.

Those who used to enjoy inclusive front row seating may be disappointed by the extra cost, but for those that want the best seats in economy, the “x” seats are certainly worthwhile – especially for the longer flights, and those with longer legs. And it’s not going to break the bank to find your way into one of the seats, unlike the Business cabin. If you’re not used to the Premium treatment, the priority boarding, priority baggage and priority screening additions will be very welcome, especially given the recent upgrades to security. At some airports in peak time it may be worth the cost alone. And look out for in flight wi-fi coming soon to a Virgin flight near you.

“economy x” upgrades can be made online anytime you’re managing your booking via the seat selection screen, or at check in. To find out more about “economy x” and virgin’s services, head to virginaustralia.com.

Hot Tip: Not all 737 aircraft have yet upgraded their aircraft. If you want to guarantee yourself the extra legroom, make sure to grab an exit row seat – however you’ll still enjoy all the other extras either way.

The writer travelled on flight VA1351 on seat 5F at his own expense.