The Airline: Virgin Australia
The Flight: VA1 Sydney to LAX (13:50)
The Equipment: Boeing 777-300ER
The Cabin: Premium Economy (11A & 11C)
Date: March 23, 2012
With business class pretty much sold out on this flight, it was a good opportunity to put Virgin Australia’s premium economy service to the test on a long haul run. The airline promises a luxury experience at a significant discount to business class.
At Sydney Airport, Virgin Australia has its own Premium Economy check in line, and we were through and checked in within about three minutes. As Platinum members we had Sydney Lounge access and were given priority passes to proceed through immigration and security. Without Platinum status, Premium Economy passengers are unable to use the Virgin Australia lounge in Sydney.
As with most Virgin Australia flights, crew are mostly young and enthusiastic and offered to help with anything needed as we settled in for take-off. They served lunch immediately after take-off (no pre-flight welcome drinks), and after the meal service there was usually one crew on duty to take care of any extra requests for drinks etc.
On this flight there was a lunch and breakfast served with a solid selection. The starter was a pasta salad with smoked salmon and dill pesto, while the main selections included butter chicken with vegetables and rice, braised beef with mustard and creamy mash and green beans, and penne pasta with pomodoro sauce and parmesan. All meals were fresh and good quality and the wine selection featured a mix of Australian and Californian reds and whites. It was all served on china with tablecloths and done with a sense of occasion which made it all quite fun. Breakfast was far more simple and functional with hot pastries, fruit and a choice of frittata with diced potato, mushrooms and chicken chipolata, or vanilla hot cakes.
The Seat and Entertainment:
While the lunch service was a nice welcome, we were hoping for a seat with some recline in a quiet cabin. In the 777 premium economy, the configuration is 2-4-2 and we had a two on the side but one row back from the galley. The row 10 seats behind the galley have a little more leg room but there is the constant noise and the nearby toilets to contend with. The seats themselves are leather and just under 50cm wide with adjustable foot and head rests, along with 97cm of leg room and a 20cm recline. The 30cm TV screen was a feature and Virgin Australia’s “RED” interactive entertainment system is one of the best in the air at the moment with plenty of new release movies, interesting documentaries, new release comedies, music and games.
The legroom and general quiet makes this a comfortable flight, even over 13 hours but the only downside is that the recline means many people would find it hard to get to sleep properly for more than a few hours. A lot of the regular long haul flyers on this flight seemed to have this worked out and spent most of the time at the self-serve stand up bar just in front of premium economy.
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