It’s winter in Australia, but up on the Gold Coast the sun is still shining and it’s warm enough to go swimming. Down in Melbourne, 1,300km south, the sun is definitely not shining and winter has hit with a vengeance. It’s cold and very wet. But there are lunch dates to be kept so the t-shirts have been put aside and the winter jackets dug out. Join Simple Flying on the flight south to Melbourne as Virgin Australia’s 737 business class is reviewed.
FLIGHT : Virgin Australia VA742 Gold Coast (OOL) – Melbourne (MEL)
AIRCRAFT : 737-800 (VH-YWE)
CLASS : Business
DATE : 4 June 2019
FLIGHT TIME : 2 hours 20 minutes
FREQUENT FLYER SCHEME : Velocity
Gold Coast Airport is the second busiest airport in Queensland and is bursting at the seams.
You can check in for Virgin Australia domestic flights online, at the terminal kiosks, or at the check in counters. Priority check in counters are available for business class passengers.
The luggage allowance is two bags up to 23kg each.
Business class passengers are also welcome to use the Virgin Lounge at the Gold Coast Airport. A review of this lounge will appear at Simple Flying tomorrow.
Unlike Qantas, Virgin Australia have priority boarding sorted. There’s a priority boarding lane available for business class, platinum and gold Velocity passengers which Virgin staff are generally good at enforcing. Business, platinum and gold passengers are called to board first but you can board anytime. Staff will stop swiping economy boarding passes and let you through.
Departure was about 20 minutes late. Given the state of the weather further down the east coast, this was hardly an issue. The flight took off to the south, banked right over the Jerusalem Walls National Park, and tracked down over central west New South Wales, over Shepparton and on into Melbourne.
The 737-800 is the workhorse of Virgin Australia’s domestic network. You can pick up the A330s across to Perth with their exceptional lie flat business class seats, but the eight seat 737-800 business class cabin is the standard template you’ll see on most Virgin Australia domestic flights.
Only six of the eight seats on today’s flight were occupied.
The cabin is small, two rows of 2-2. The seats are leather with decent recline. There is a 38” seat pitch. Leg room is ample. There is no leg rest or foot rest.
Business class passengers have sole use of the bathroom at the front of the plane.
The cabin was clean and fresh. The carpets had been vacuumed and there were no obvious signs of wear and tear.
There was complimentary WiFi which worked fine. There is no seatback IFE, but tablets are available for business class passengers
On flights over three hours, pillows, blankets and an amenities pack are available.
What’s to eat
At the moment, Virgin Australia is considered to have an edge over Qantas regarding business class food.
Prior to pushing back, business class passengers were offered mineral water, juice, or sparkling wine served in glasses.
On this mid afternoon flight we were offered three afternoon tea choices – an Asian noodle salad with coriander and chilli, pork and fennel sausage rolls with a herb salad, or a BLT with guacamole. Not been a fan of the zhuzhed up sausage roll fad currently sweeping Australia (thanks very much Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney) and fairly well fed from the lounge, I went with the BLT. It was fine. There was a little side salad, dressing, Sauvignon Blanc and still mineral water. Coffee and chocolates followed.
Afternoon tea was served on a tray with proper crockery, glassware, cutlery, and a linen napkin.
The flight attendant kept my wine glass full and offered snacks or something sweet from the pantry if I was still hungry. Coffee and chocolates followed.
With one flight attendant to look after a maximum of eight passengers, service in Virgin Australia’s 737 business class is generally good. I’ve have had a few flights in Virgin Australia’s business class with indifferent service, but today’s flight attendant was excellent. He was relaxed, competent, and friendly. He kept drinks topped up, he plied another passenger with Kit Kats, and nothing was too much trouble for him.
The business class fare from Gold Coast to Melbourne varies between AUD$639 and AUD$699.
Most people buy economy tickets and upgrade using Velocity points, upgrade from economy using the upgrade me cash bids, or in my case paid 23,500 Velocity points plus AUD$27.50 in taxes.
Aussies are generally spoilt by the Qantas and Virgin domestic business class product. Invariably they get a rude shock when they then first experience business class on intra-European flights. For a flight of a few hours, the Virgin 737 business class product is a comfortable way to fly which is enhanced by decent food and friendly, personable service.