VIRGIN AUSTRALIA: Goodbye to the business class barricade
I recently wrote about my trip between Sydney and Byron Bay/Ballina on a Virgin Australia Boeing 737 with the new ‘test’ interior that is expected to be rolled out across the fleet, and especially in the soon-to-arrive 737-MAX aircraft.
One change of note was the disappearance of the business class bulkhead topped by those purple transparent perspex screens. Another function that these bulkheads performed was to enable Virgin cabin staff to place a magnetic barrier to stop recalcitrant economy passengers from using the Business Class toilets at the front of the plane.
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To see what I mean – above is the barrier operational on my return flight between Ballina and Sydney in a cabin with the old Business Class bulkheads. The flight attendant barred any entitled economy passenger who tried to get past.
Interestingly, the cabin announcement at the beginning of the flight doesn’t mention that there is a toilet at the front for business class passengers. It merely directs passengers from row 3 and greater to the two at the back of the plane.
The prospective new interiors, particularly for the soon-to-arrive controversial Boeing 737 MAX jets, don’t contain the business class bulkhead and don’t have any physical barrier, magnetic or otherwise. In my sample of one flight, there was considerable traffic from economy to the front bathrooms on the plane with no barrier, and absolutely none on the plane with the old layout with a barrier.
Does this matter? Probably not. I just want to mourn the loss, just as I did with the disappearance of the flower holder in the toilets of Qantas 737s when they underwent an interior refit in the early 2000s and from the 747s when they were taken out of service at the start of the pandemic.
One sidenote on the barrier. It reduced the traffic to the front of the aircraft, which I am sure would have added to the cabin crew’s operational efficiency up the front. Fewer interruptions from clueless passengers trying to enter the flight deck, thinking it was the toilet.