Full Review: My Free Virgin Australia Business Class Experience from Auckland to Sydney
Both the outbound and return legs of my $900 Delta error fare included flights operated by one of Delta’s partners, Virgin Australia. While I had been hoping to change one of my Trans-Pacific flights from a flight operated by Delta to a flight operated by Virgin Australia, I didn’t end up having any luck. That means my Virgin Australia experience was limited to the airline’s Boeing 737.
Originally, my itinerary included a flight in both Virgin Australia’s Economy and Business Class cabins. However, I managed to score a completely free no questions asked upgrade on the flight in which I had been booked in Economy. This means I didn’t actually get to experience Virgin Australia Economy Class but, I think that’s a good thing.
A major part of my Virgin Australia Business Class experience includes my free upgrade. I’ve already written an entire post about that upgrade. As the title of that post would indicate, all I did was ask. That said, I’m going to leave out the upgrade experience in this post.
Upgrade aside, Virgin Australia’s Trans-Tasman flights feature fantastic service making up for a rather underwhelming hard product. Here’s what you can expect on flights between New Zealand and Australia in Virgin Australia Business Class.
Itinerary: Virgin Australia Business Class
- Airline/Flight: Virgin Australia VA143
- Departure City/Time: Auckland (AKL) / 8:00 AM (+11 Mins Late)
- Arrival City/Time: Sydney (SYD) / 9:07 AM (38 Mins Early)
- Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 (VH-YIM)
- Flight Time: 2:55hrs
- Seat/Class of Service: 2F / Business Class
Virgin Australia Business Class Ground Experience
Since I received an upgrade just minutes before the door closed, I didn’t really get to experience any business class treatment while in Auckland.
Even flying in Economy Class, I was able to use the Priority check-in line as I’m a partner elite and was booked in Business Class on later flights on the itinerary. The standard line for check-in wrapped around Virgin Australia’s check-in desks. The only airline with self-serve kiosks in Auckland is Air New Zealand requiring all other passengers to wait in line to check in. I was the only passenger using the Priority line and managed to get my boarding pass in under five minutes.
I met up with my friend who was traveling with me, and we made our way to the security checkpoint. It was still fairly early in the morning, and I wasn’t the most attentive I’ve ever been so I don’t remember if there was a Fast Track/Priority security line in Auckland. I’m pretty sure if there was a Priority line for security, it couldn’t have been much faster than standard security. My friend and I managed to get through the security checkpoint in roughly ten minutes.
Preview: Strata Lounge Auckland
From the security checkpoint, we made our way to the Strata Lounge, a contract lounge used by a long list of airlines. If you are flying Business Class on Virgin Australia or are an elite Velocity member, you can access the Air New Zealand Business Class Lounge in Auckland. At the time, I was holding an Economy Class boarding pass so that left me with the Strata Lounge.
In addition to premium passengers on select airlines, Priority Pass members have access to the Strata Lounge. There’s also an option to purchase a day pass at the lounge. I’m saving most details for my full review of the lounge; however, I will share a few highlights.
I can say, hands down, that the Strata Lounge Auckland is by far one of the best Priority Pass lounges worldwide. The lounge features a relatively extensive hot buffet, an assortment of soft drinks, espresso beverages, coffee and tea, free premium self-serve liquor, fast wi-fi, shower suites, and an overall airy atmosphere. I’m not even hyping the lounge up. It’s just an all-around substantial lounge.
Boarding Virgin Australia Business Class to Sydney
Just thirty minutes after we arrived at the lounge, I walked my friend to her Qantas flight. I still had about an hour to kill at the lounge. An hour or so later, I made my way to gate 15L which is one of the most remote gates in Auckland.
15L is one of the newer and recently renovated gates, so the departure lounge was actually quite nice. Boarding began on time. My boarding pass had Zone 2, so I held back and waited for other groups to be called. To my surprise, following Business Class, elite frequent flyers were invited to board. Printed on my boarding pass was “Silver/Elite” so I walked up to the agent scanning boarding passes. I asked, “I’m just Silver on Delta, will that work,” the agent looked at me and said, “Ha, I don’t care, seems fine with me.”
Onboard: Virgin Australia Business Class Boeing 737-800
As I’ve mentioned quite a bit, I was initially assigned a seat in economy. The agent at check-in assigned me seat 3F, a window in the first row of Economy X. Upon review photos from the flight, I realized that for some reason I had been sitting in 3C during my time in Economy X. 3C has to be the best seat in Economy and Economy X. There’s ample legroom, more than what’s found in Business Class.
Fast forward past my upgrade. Business Class on Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737-800s is arranged in a 2-2 configuration with 8 Business Class seats. It’s a typical domestic narrowbody Business Class cabin. The seats are fairly wide, feature okay legroom, and recline more than your standard Economy Class seat. I mistook a leather partition below the seat to be a leg rest at first, but upon further investigation, I realized it was just for show.
Unlike Virgin American and Virgin Atlantic, the interior of Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737-800 wasn’t overwhelmingly mood-lit. Additionally, the cabin, in general, appeared worn and bland. It certainly didn’t feel like I was on a Richard Branson airline.
There was a pillow and blanket waiting at my seat. The pillow was pretty standard for a flight of this duration, as was the blanket. Nothing about the amenities was super premium but more than enough for the hop over to Sydney. Additionally, earbuds, an arrival card, and a bottle of water were provided by the flight attendant when I took my seat.
When the purser handed me the headphones and other amenities, she introduced herself with a warm and welcoming smile. She informed me of the flight time, breakfast options, and explained to me that she and the other flight attendants were there to make my flight as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. The one thing that stuck out most on this flight was by far the hospitality and tremendous service I received on this flight. Honestly, I can’t recall ever receiving such fantastic and genuine service onboard.
Virgin Australia flight VA143 made its way out to the runway. After a quick takeoff roll to the west, the aircraft made its way to 37,000 feet.
Virgin Australia Business Class In-Flight Service
Shortly after takeoff, the purser brought me a cup of coffee with cream. She informed me that breakfast would be out soon.
Breakfast was served roughly a half hour after takeoff. There were two options for breakfast, an egg frittata with turkey sausage and fresh fruit and congee. I opted to try the egg frittata. Both plates were served with a warm croissant as well.
The best part of the meal had to have been the croissant. The croissant was warm and flaky. The egg frittata, on the other hand, was quite disappointing. It wasn’t all that tasty and was very dry. The turkey sausage, however, was delicious. The fruit that accompanied the dish was also quite flavorful and fresh. Both fresh squeezed orange juice and sparkling water with lemon were served along with coffee.
Overall, the onboard breakfast was more than sufficient for the nearly three-hour flight. Though it wasn’t spectacular, I’ve had much worse for breakfast at 35,000 feet. Service throughout breakfast was efficient and professional.
After breakfast, I decided to see what was available through Virgin Australia’s in-flight entertainment tablets. Virgin Australia doesn’t offer seatback in-flight entertainment on narrowbody flights and instead offers a mobile app and tablets to Business Class passengers. I have no problem with airlines offering streaming entertainment options as long as power outlets are found on the aircraft. Power outlets are available on most Boeing 737-800s however, only in Business Class. That means if you are seated in Economy or Economy X and want to use your personal device for streaming entertainment, you are going to need to charge your device before you board.
The in-flight entertainment options are identical on both the personal device application and Business Class tablets. The content is lackluster at best with just a few recently released movies. There are less than 25 TV show episodes. Additionally, the audio and literature content is also lacking. The best part of Virgin Australia’s in-flight entertainment application is the in-flight map application that allows passengers to track the flight in real-time. Given the poor selection of content, I decided to watch some Parks and Recreation on my phone that I had downloaded earlier.
The purser made sure that Business Class passengers had full drinks throughout the flight. Snacks were also offered later in the flight. Along with my coffee, I enjoyed some New Zealand dark chocolate.
After nearly three hours, my time in Virgin Australia’s Business Class was up. The aircraft made a right turn up the coast of Australia and then finally, turned left for final approach into Sydney International Airport.
Virgin Australia Business Class, Overall
I have now completed both Virgin Australia flights on my Delta error fare itinerary. Both flights were similar though one major difference between the two flights is that my second Virgin Australia Business Class flight was full completely changing the service dynamic. Even with a full cabin, Virgin Australia’s professional crew was able to provide exceptional service to the entire cabin.
Overall, Virgin Australia offers an adequate hard product for Trans-Tasman flights. This adequate hard product is made up for with fantastic service by the crew. I have yet to fly Qantas or any other airline Trans-Tasman for that matter so I can’t compare the service. However, I enjoyed both of my flights on Virgin Australia mostly thanks to the amazing service.
Have you ever flown Virgin Australia Trans-Tasman? What’s your experience with Virgin Australia?