Review: Virgin Australia Business Class 737 Sydney To Melbourne

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Virgin Australia 808
Sydney (SYD) – Melbourne (MEL)
Tuesday, May 16
Depart: 7:00AM
Arrive: 8:35AM
Duration: 1hr35min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 2C (Business Class)

I’ve always been impressed by service on flights within Australia, so I was curious to see how Virgin Australia’s product stacked up.

At the door Holly, the cabin supervisor, verified my boarding pass and said “welcome to business, Mr. Schlappig.” What an impressive welcome, and I saw her address every business passenger the same way. She also seemed to say “welcome back, Mr./Mrs. [Name]” to anyone with status.

Virgin Australia has an intimate business class cabin on the 737, consisting of just eight seats. They’re spread across two rows, in a 2-2 configuration.

Virgin Australia 737 business class cabin

In terms of legroom, the seats were almost identical to what you’d find in domestic first class in the US, as the pitch was roughly 38″.

Virgin Australia 737 business class seats

However, the cabin was in immaculate condition, and I loved the Virgin branding on the seats.

Virgin Australia 737 business class seats

Virgin Australia 737 business class branding

Originally I had hoped for a window seat for the short flight, but since my flight was canceled last minute and I had to rebook, I was stuck in an aisle seat, 2C.

Virgin Australia 737 business class legroom

There was a center console between seats, and then also a small tray that could be extended.

Virgin Australia 737 business class tray

The tray table folded out of the side armrest, and could be folded in half.

Virgin Australia 737 business class tray table

The seat had a moderate amount of recline, and that could be controlled with a simple button on the center armrest.

Virgin Australia 737 business class manual seat recline

Every seat on the flight was taken, though boarding was still efficient. A few minutes after settling in I was offered either water or orange juice, which was served in real glassware. I was also asked if I wanted a newspaper, though declined.

Virgin Australia business class pre-departure beverage

By 7AM boarding was complete, at which point Captain Tony added his welcome aboard, and informed us of our flight time of 73 minutes.

Shortly before departure a couple of “suits” boarded, and it was pointed out to me that it was Virgin Australia’s CEO in the jumpseat today. He seemed like a really nice guy, and was friendly to the crew (though the interaction was limited, given the flight deck door being closed).

Virgin Australia CEO in the jumpseat

A few minutes after the door closed we began our pushback, at which point a manual safety demonstration began. As much as the 737 otherwise felt fresh, there were no personal televisions. Virgin Australia does offer streaming entertainment, though they don’t yet have standard wifi (I think one plane has it now, so hopefully it’s more readily available soon).

View prior to pushback at Sydney Airport

Our taxi to the runway was super quick, and by 7:10AM we were airborne. Just five minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned off. At this point a rope was placed between the economy and business class cabins, which is a good way to enforce their bathroom policy of the forward bathroom being reserved for business class passengers. The bathroom was pretty basic/outdated, though.

Virgin Australia 737 business class lavatory

Holly was absolutely fantastic, and began the service just minutes later. She came around to take meal and drink orders. She addressed each passenger by name, had a big smile on her face, and provided a detailed description of the breakfast options. Why can’t service on US airlines be this consistently good?

The breakfast choices were between a scrambled egg bacon tortilla wrap with tomato sauce, and muesli. I chose the latter, since I don’t eat bacon. It was a perfect breakfast.

Virgin Australia business class breakfast — muesli

The muesli was flavorful and tasted fresh.

Virgin Australia business class breakfast — muesli

The croissant was great, especially for an airplane croissant. 😉

Virgin Australia business class breakfast — croissant

The fruit was basic, but decent for what it was.

Virgin Australia business class breakfast — fresh fruit

Zac of Points from the Pacific was on my flight, and was nice enough to take a picture of his breakfast for me, which looked great as well.

Virgin Australia business class breakfast — scrambled egg tortilla wrap

Holly offered several refills throughout the short flight, and by 8:20AM the seatbelt sign was back on. We touched down in Melbourne by 8:30AM, and arrived at the gate five minutes after that.

Virgin Australia 737 business class bottom line

What a lovely, pleasant experience on Virgin Australia. While the seats are similar to what you’d get on a domestic flight in the US, the crew was an absolute delight, and it’s impressive that they serve food on a 73 minute flight. However, I do wish they had inflight wifi, though it’s something they’re working on.

Given how good Virgin Australia’s domestic product is, I couldn’t wait to fly them to Los Angeles.

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  1. Virgin is the better domestic airline in Australia I find. The food quality in business is consistently fantastic and I’ve yet to experience bad service. Given that it’s a one hour flight essentially, I’m always impressed at how much food they do serve!

    While Qantas service is also good, the food isn’t up to par (surprising since their lounge food is actually good).

  2. On a 73 minute flight I’ll take free food over paid Wi-Fi any day; they have their priorities right!!

  3. I was on the same route up front too on 5/11/17 and our aircraft did have wifi and worked flawlessly. I was very impressed with the speed and reliability, gate to gate. It’s being installed through the fleet. I also had the muesli and agree that the croissant was fantastic. Service overall was impressive.

  4. “Why can’t service on US airlines be this consistently good?”

    Because Australians are generally nicer people. Simple.

  5. How was the hot towel service and barista grade cappuccinos? Since you loved the breakfast so much, you’ll be glad to know is sold at any golden arches location. 🙂

  6. A couple of days ago I was flying Delta domestic First. Got asked what I wanted for pre departure beverage, and that was the extent of the conversation between me and the FA for the entire flight. I was not even served that beverage!

  7. @Evan, I think it’s mostly two-fold: different service culture, and unions. You don’t have an incentive to do good work if you know you can’t get fired.

  8. I recently flew Virgin Australia economy from Perth to Melbourne (737), and was pleasantly surprised. We had great movie screens and selection, and they brought around a choice of two boxed dinners (chicken or veggie) with dessert and free wine. Very pleasant flight attendants, friendly seat mate, plenty of storage. On a short flight (by my standards, anything under 4 hours) why worry about flying in front? Johannesburg to Perth, and Melbourne to LAX, yes, indeed, get a front seat/bed. But a 73 minute flight? You could do it standing up, hanging from a bus strap!

  9. Nice review mate. Just for the record Virgin Australia has just started rolling out WiFi on it’s aircraft with all to be complete by next year.

  10. How is it remotely impressive that the cabin supervisor was able to read your name on the boarding class and then say the word “welcome” before repeating it?

    Evan – Australians aren’t particularly nicer than Americans… They’re a much nicer society (e.g. they generally believe the poor should be allowed medicine), but on an individual level it’s no different. I also doubt there’s any correlation between the niceness of a country and the quality of its airlines.

    Freetravelguy – I’m afraid you’re probably wrong on both counts. The service culture in the US is far higher (I hate it as it’s clearly fake and built on a system of giving bribes, but it’s clearly better service!) and Virgin has unions too. It’s difficult to fire people in many countries, including Australia, anyway – union or no union. Employee protections in the US seem notably absent to an outsider like me (presumably the reason behind having powerful unions in the first place?).

  11. Pay people well, you don’t need tips to get good service! (Check out the min wage). Australian respect each other.

  12. I fly VA all the time as a Platinum and generally agree that their business class is very good. They have some struggles as their costs have risen and they have a gnarly fleet – 777, 330, 320, 737, E190 (on the way out), ATR72, and via Alliance, the F50 and F100. The international arm is too small – example: they have 5 x 777 which means they can’t do daily service from Brisbane or Melbourne.

    They have a lot of partnerships like Etihad, Singapore and Delta and that works quite well for me.

    There’s a lot of goodwill towards VA across Australia where culturally we ‘root for the underdog’.

    As to Australians being nicer than Americans – NO! We’re just different. Give me American any day for fun, first to dance at a party. Us Aussies stand there with our arms folded. American bands touring here for the first time can be quite alarmed at our reserve -v- back home.

  13. I should have said, ‘they have 5 x 777 which means they can’t do daily service TO LAX from Brisbane or Melbourne.’

  14. For such a short flight I don’t know that it’s even worth it to fly business. I mean I can endure 1.5 hours on a NYC subway with no air conditioning when its 110 degrees in the train and 100% humidity I can deal with economy for that duration. And actually as I recall my economy flight between melbourne and sydney some 8 years ago on Quantas wasn’t bad.

  15. Virgin Australia has a terrific Business Class product, especially on the A330 and 777.

    By the way, at the risk of sounding rude, “flavorful” is not a word in the English language – it’s a very old neologism. 🙂 It’s been around in the USA – but not England – for 80 years, but it’s still not a real word!

    I think you meant “tasty”.

  16. Well done Virgin, its always excellent service. Awesome review!!!! I flew the 737-800 Business class Melbouren to Brisbane on VA328, it was great…. The service is very friendly!!!!

  17. @Callum, disagree. I could be wrong, but I have traveled enough that the U.S. having a better service culture just not my perception. In the aggregate, I don’t think U.S. crews care as much as other countries’ about whether you have a great flight experience or not, and it shows in their demeanor. Like I said, I could be wrong, but that’s just not what I have experienced.

  18. I’m really intrigued by the CEO’s choice to in the jump seat. Of course tis is the 3rd best seat on the plane! but then he’s locked away while the customers re served and therefore removes himself from the most important perspective on the plane – that of the passengers!! Of course this is just one flight but to me this still speaks volumes.

  19. @ Phil — Don’t disagree in general, though another way to look at it is that the flight was completely sold out due to two other cancelations, so maybe he wanted to sit in the cockpit jumpseat so that he wouldn’t displace a revenue passenger.

  20. I guess that makes as much sense yeah. I know nothing about the guy either just to be clear! I just love it when the big shots like CEOs are at the coal face showing they value the customer experience. Like you say though, he may have had no option.

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