REVIEW: Virgin Australia Business Class, Adelaide to Sydney
Flight: VA 423
Route: Adelaide, South Australia (ADL) – Sydney, New South Wales (SYD)
Date: Monday, 7 March 2022
Depart: 2:30 PM ACDT
Arrive: 4:30 PM AEDT
Duration: 1 hr 55 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737
Seat: 1A (Business Class)
Content of this Post:
About a month before my trip, I received notification from Virgin Australia that my flight had been changed from VA421 to VA423, which was no big deal, delaying my departure and arrival by about 35 minutes. This was not the first change in flight times and numbers during the pandemic, and I am sure it won’t be the last, as flying is attempting to return to normal.
I thought it had been a long time since I travelled on Virgin Australia in Business – but that’s not quite true. I travelled on the second incarnation of the airline post-Virgin Blue under John Borghetti back in 2019 and reviewed what I thought was a Qantas rivalling product. I also travelled on Virgin Australia in Business in 2021 when airlines were struggling with how to provide a COVID-19 safe on-board food service, having mastered the QR-code ordering and delivery of food in their lounges. I was a bit disgusted with what I was served.
Things seem to be getting back to normal now a year later in March 2022. The new Lounge in Adelaide is operating more normally – but still with a large area roped off, and onboard, business class food service is heading back to a new post- Luke Mangen normal.
At the Airport
If you catch a Taxi to Adelaide Airport, then they drop you at the Virgin end of the airport, between the terminal and the Atura Hotel. You still need to traverse the escalators up to the 1st floor, and head for the central security area. Once processed (they are not using the body scanners at the moment), you head left towards the Virgin Lounge.
Adelaide Airport is undergoing a major refurbish and expansion – the first since it was opened in 2005. It seems to be progressing well, and the refreshed retail area at the Virgin end of the terminal looks pretty good.
Boarding was called in the lounge on time at 13:45 and I headed off to Gate 16. All was orderly, and I was in my seat 1A very promptly. What’s better than sitting in 1A in Business Class on Virgin Australia? Having an empty seat 1C next to you!
These are the same as the Virgin Australia Business Class seats pre-administration and purchase by Bain Capital. They don’t really have many features to talk about. They don’t have a lot of functions other than recline. They don’t have a footrest, or lumbar support like the Qantas domestic Business Class does. Still they are perfectly serviceable black p/leather seats with a width of 19.5 inches and a pitch of 37 inches.
Business class comes in 2 rows of 2-2, making a total of 8 seats divided from Economy X by a bulkhead and those signature purple perspex screens.
The seats are showing their age, which is why Virgin is planning on replacing them, and has a couple of demonstration new interiors on its fleet of 737’s flying around the country at the moment.
This was not one of them. Most noticeable was the very warn seatbelt. I’m sure it is perfectly safe, but it sure doesn’t look it.
Gavin the cabin manager introduced himself soon after boarding, offering either water or sparkling wine. The sun was over the yardarm, so I opted for bubbles. Qantas doesn’t do this any longer (from memory). You have to wait until you are in the air to get your first drink.
Not only had I opted for Business Class, and seat 1A, but it turned out 1C was left empty. Lovely!
At 14:04 the door was closed, the airbridge withdrawn, and we commenced our pullback.
Virgin makes a point of introducing all its cabin crew, not something that happens as a matter of course on Qantas. The safety demonstration and glasses collection was efficiently done while we taxied to the runway and out to sea over Glenelg about 14:15 (ACDT).
About 15 minutes into the flight, Gavin came round to take lunch orders. The options were a Cajun chicken sandwich on Turkish bread or a vegetable quiche and salad. My choice was the chicken sandwich. White wine options were a Chardonnay or, my choice, a Pinot Grigio. Meals were served, and wine was poured in the galley – no cart as with Qantas, or bottle display, unless during refills at your seat. .
Lunch was served on a tray with no table cloth about 30 minutes later at 15:10. And while we are talking about nappary, my napkin had seen better days.
The heated chicken sandwich, with melted cheese and some kind of pickle was moor delicious that perhaps it looks in the photographs. The ‘cajun’ element contained a pleasant amount of chile, and the Pinot Grigio was very drinkable.
The Business Class toilets where clean, but had run out of paper towels. I found the stored supply, but failed to work out how to replace them in the holder. So I just filched enough for me to use and wipe the basin, and left the rest on the ledge. I don’t think the bins in the forward toilet had been emptied before the flight.
Pilot announces preparations for landing about 10 minutes before our scheduled landing in Sydney at 4:30. Our approach to Sydney Airport took us over Sydney Harbour, and being in 1A, a window seat on the left hand side of the plane gave me a great view of the Bridge, Opera House, and the Sydney skyline. Pity there was a bit of rain about.
We landed slightly early at 16:26, and taxied to our gate. I was first off the plane in a timely manner, and heading through Sydney Airport Terminal 2 to find a taxi
Well, I did predict this would happen soon, and it looks like they left it until the beginning of 2023 to make the announcements.
There are a lot of good things to be said about Virgin Business Class. Starting with the price, which for a one-way fare between Adelaide and Sydney was under AU$300, compared to over AU$700 on Qantas. The food on Virgin is not as good as it was under Luke Mangen pre the airline going into administration and being sold to Bain Capital, but its as good if not a little better than Qantas. Wine quality was comparable on both airlines. Service levels were also comparable too, although on this flight, Gavin was a little reticent in the chat department. In Virgin’s favour is the pre-flight drink. Lets face it, it’s a great way to ease into a flight.
So given all of that, and ignoriing the price for a minute, what stops me from flying Virgin Business Class domestically out of Sydney? The answer is simple – the horror of Sydney’s Terminal 2, and the cramped and over full Virgin Australia lounge.
If Virgin re-opened their curbside express entry in Sydney, which gets you straight through security, and direct access into the lounge, I would be in-like-Flynn. Until that happens, I will deny myself the pleasure. I’ll restrict my Virgin Australia flights to into Sydney, not out-of Sydney.