Exclusive Peek: Virgin Australia’s International Business Class Debuts

Jul 21, 2016
“Every seat is an aisle seat!”

And with these words, that are like music to the ears of any traveler, Virgin Australia Group CEO John Borghetti ushered in a new era for the popular airline.

Travelzoo got an exclusive sneak peek this week at Virgin Australia’s new International Business Class during a private affair at Los Angeles International Airport.  The inauguration of what’s been dubbed “The Business” was held on a seaside stretch of Tarmac at LAX and was attended by a select group of bloggers and global media. “It makes sense that we do the launch here in this very important market,” said Mr. Borghetti. “Los Angeles was Virgin Australia’s very first long haul international destination.”  The U.S. is also the third largest market of total visitor spend in Australia, to the tune of $2.6 billion a year.

For the big reveal, Mr. Borghetti, flanked by an attractive band of flight attendants decked in Virgin Australia’s fabulous red regalia, escorted us aboard a newly refurbished Boeing 777 300-ER aircraft.  There’s wow factor right away: your first glimpse is of the new Business Class Bar and Lounge, which is fully stocked and encircled by several slick stools.  The bar’s visual effect is by design, since “what’s pleasing to the eye will put flyers' mindset in the correct space for the journey ahead,” said Mr. Borghetti.

The bar divides the 37-suite Business Class in two, creating a pair of intimate cabins that are enhanced by elegant lighting and that awesome 1-2-1 configuration that makes the middle seat a thing of the past.  Every passenger has access to the aisle – a huge plus on any 15-hour flight.

The individual private suites in this new International Business Class are remarkable.  The seats, outfitted with triple-layer cushion and memory-foam mattress toppers, convert into the length of a queen size bed; high-grade cotton pillows come standard.  The reverse herringbone layout maximizes privacy and there’s plenty of space to work and store personal items in the generous side console area.  The 18-inch in-flight high-def entertainment touchscreen is the largest of its kind on any Australia-North America flight.

The sleek overall look of each pod, as well as their textured surface, is part of an overarching vision by the design team at prestigious London-based tangerine. “We set out to create something that feels truly different,” tangerine Creative Director Matt Round told our group. “Everything from the shapes to the shadows to the tactile qualities of what you feel down to your fingertips was in play.” The new Business Class cabin has already won a Good Design Award and a Red Dot Award this year and was one of three finalists in the Cabin Concepts category at the Crystal Cabin Awards 2016.

The International Business Class flying experience will feature gourmet menus fashioned by Australian celeb chef Luke Mangan and premium wines, a cocktail-and-canapé service and coffee creations by Nespresso.

Our tour also included a look at Virgin Australia’s new 24-seat Premium Economy cabin, a cozy space that features roomy seats with 41 inches of pitch and nine inches of recline.  Service is offered by a dedicated Business Class-trained crew and meals are inspired by the menus in Business Class. “Premium” also features its own self-serve refreshment pantry.

There’s also a new Economy Space + product in the first five rows and exit rows of the Boeing 777 main cabin with features that include extra legroom.  And these Virgin Australia airplanes continue to offer the route’s most enviable bathroom-to-passenger ratio: 1 toilet for every 12 passengers.

Virgin Australia will launch five newly refurbished Boeing aircraft featuring the new International Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy Space + products by September. They’ll fly primarily between LAX and both Sydney and Brisbane. The flights will be part of an alliance formed with Delta Airlines in 2009 and which operates 21 combined flights a week between Australia and Los Angeles.

Mr. Borghetti admitted that the LA-Australia market has become increasingly saturated, with increased competition by airlines like Qantas, Air New Zealand, United and American.  It’s a reality that continues to put pressure on competitive pricing. “But pricing will also be the result both of supply and demand as well as quality of product,” said Mr. Borghetti, who added that the price tag on the new International Business Class will be going up “a few hundred dollars” come September.

And one more bit of news revealed during our tour: Virgin Australia plans to introduce in-flight Wi-Fi on its full domestic and international fleet by mid-2017.

For a virtual reality experience of new Virgin Australia Boeing 777 300-ER products, click here.

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