Virgin Australia Business Class LAX to Sydney flight review

By: Michael

Recently we had the opportunity to fly Virgin Australia Business class on their 777-300 from Los Angeles to Melbourne during our westbound flights around the world. I was very impressed with the experience, and enjoyed the flight very much. Here’s a full recap.

Ticketing:

We purchased our one-way tickets using 45,000 Virgin America miles (80,000 for a roundtrip), which we each earned by transferring 40,000 SPG points during last year’s JetBlue matching promotion. By transferring 40,000 points to each of our accounts we each earned 50,000 Virgin America miles since SPG transfers yield an additional 5,000 miles for each 20,000 points transferred to over 30 airlines. Virgin Australia consistently releases award space to airline partners within 5-7 days of departure, so when that window opened, we called Virgin America and booked our tickets by phone and then cancelled our original flights on American Airlines. We were traveling all the way to Melbourne and I was hoping to catch the LAX-MEL nonstop flight, but that particular flight was pretty well booked and seats never opened up, so we connected through Sydney instead.

Check-in and lounge access:

We checked in a couple of hours before our flight, which departs at 10:35 p.m. Pacific Time and arrives in Sydney shortly after 6:00 a.m. local time, 2 days later (I don’t like losing a day when you “time travel”). It is also worth noting that while Virgin Australia flies out of Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), their check in counters are in Terminal 3 at the very end, next to Terminal 4, so when checking in you must first head to Terminal 3.

Virgin-AustraliaWe were flying only with carry-on, but were disappointed to find out Virgin Australia strictly enforces baggage allowances and our carry-ons were over the weight limit, so we had to check them in. After getting our boarding passes, we used this amazing trick to skip the TBIT security line, since TBIT doesn’t feature TSA pre-check. Virgin Australia uses the Etihad lounge at LAX, so we headed there and spent a couple of hours, grabbed some food (the lamb chops were excellent) before heading to our gate.

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Boarding:

Shortly before boarding we headed to our gate (about 5-10 minute walk) and got there a few minutes before they started boarding.

Virgin-AustraliaVirgin-AustraliaOther than the fact that we were among the first ones to board when they called for business class boarding, the boarding process was a complete haze to me as I went through a horrible secondary screening experience with Customs and Border Protection. Eventually we boarded the flight, being pretty much the last people to board.

Seat:

Virgin flies all LAX routes with a Boeing 777-300, using a reverse herringbone seat with a 1-2-1 configuration and all-aisle access. The seats, cabin design and lighting are very stylish. I actually took the first picture below while deplaning in Sydney, due to having boarded last in LAX. It’s amazing how the cabin still looked incredible after a 14-hour flight.

Virgin Australia business class configuration has 7 rows up front, followed by the bar, and then a small 3-row business class mini-cabin. We were seated in seats 10D and 10G, the very last row of the smaller mini-cabin, right before Premium Economy.

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Over the shoulder space there was a popup lamp which had 3 different intensity settings. There was also the normal overhead light that we are all familiar with, but I struggled to figure that one out, so I just went with this one most of the flight, which was more than enough and didn’t throw as much light around the dark cabin.

Virgin-Australia

The seat has different storage compartments, and one of them included the remote control, headphones plug, and USB and regular power ports.

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Virgin-Australia

There was also what I assumed to be an iPad storage compartment, but with my iPad having its own cover it wouldn’t fit, so this compartment was useless to me and the space could be probably better used for something else.

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The armrest storage space contained a water bottle and the noise cancelling headphones. The armrest can be raised or lowered, and was required to be in the lowered position for taxiing, take-off and landing.

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Virgin-Australia

The 18” TV was touchscreen in addition to having its own remote.

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Tray table

Tray table

Onboard experience:

After we got settled in our flight attendant came by and gave us a quick tour of the seat features, pointed the menus to us and asked us to fill out the breakfast card in advance of our arrival in Sydney, and indicate in it whether we wanted to be woken up if we were asleep, to which we agreed. She also offered us pre-departure beverages, with my wife choosing white wine and I choosing champagne, which oddly enough was served in a regular glass instead of a flute.

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While we waited final boarding preparations I also browsed the drinks and dinner menu.

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We also reviewed and filled out our breakfast/wake-up card.

Virgin-AustraliaAs we settled in, we were also given an arrivals customs card, which the crew had kindly pre-filled with the flight information and arrival date (2 days after our departure due to the time change).

Virgin-AustraliaI also perused the Mandarina Duck branded amenity kit, which had Ren Skincare items, a toothbrush and toothpaste kit, hand and body cream, skin protection cream, lip balm, eye shades, socks and a pen.

Virgin-Australia

We were also given pajamas, which were designed by Julie Grbac, and were quite comfortable. For some reason I never bother wearing inflight issued socks, because they constantly seem to slide off my feet.

Virgin-AustraliaVirgin-AustraliaAfter quick taxiing and a smooth takeoff the seatbelt sign was quickly turned off and I went and changed into my pajamas to get more comfortable. The crew quickly started the dinner service since it’s a pretty late departure.

Virgin-Australia

Dinner started with mixed nuts, olives and edamame. We each ordered a glass of white wine. The crew also offered us garlic bread. I usually don’t have any bread, but I had read Virgin’s garlic bread is excellent, so I wanted to try it and thought it was very good.

Virgin-AustraliaVirgin-AustraliaWe each then ordered the Peking duck breast, which was served cold. My wife didn’t like it, but I thought it was quite excellent.

Virgin-AustraliaFor an entree we both had the Pacific ocean trout, which we found to be excellent. The Opera House theme salt and pepper shakers were very original, and I thought about asking the crew if I could buy them, but eventually chose not to do so.

Virgin-Australia

For dessert I had the Belgian Chocolate gelatto. I wanted to try the cheese courses, but was too full to order them. My wife skipped dessert.

Virgin-AustraliaThe food was excellent, and the service was well paced although a bit on the reactive side when it came to refilling drinks, but otherwise perfectly fine. After dinner I went to check out the bar and brush my teeth, and apparently was so tired at this point that I forgot to take pictures of the lavatory. The lav was of reasonable size for a 777-300 and had enough room to change, was kept clean throughout the flight, and had relaxing theme music piping through its speaker throughout the flight, which I thought was a nice touch.

Virgin-AustraliaVirgin-AustraliaVirgin-AustraliaThe bar was mostly empty throughout the flight each time I visited, as most passengers went to sleep through the first half of the flight.

After this I went to sleep for a couple of hours. Virgin has a stars theme on the cabin ceiling, which is always nice to see.

Virgin-AustraliaAfter sleeping for a couple of hours, I realized the crew had never told us that Virgin provides a turn down service with a mattress pad and a thicker blanket. I knew about it from reading earlier reviews but was so tired I had forgotten to request it, and my wife was never told about it either and fell asleep and did not want to bother requesting one the couple of times she woke up. I thought this was something the flight attendants could have communicated or offered to do, as it is not expected that all passengers know about it. After sleeping the first couple of hours I asked our flight attendant to set up my seat with the extra padding, etc, and it made a huge difference in quality of sleep.

Virgin-AustraliaVirgin-AustraliaI did find the seat a bit constraining when sleeping on my side because of the arm rest, so I chose to sleep facing up and slept quite well for a few hours.

After I woke up I decided to browse through the entertainment menu, which was pretty impressive and had entire seasons of many shows like the Big Bang Theory, Friends, 30 Rock, etc. The movies selection was extensive and had a combination of recent movies and old favorites. I decided to watch Moonlight, which I thought was excellent.

Virgin-Australia IMG_5745 IMG_5746During the sleeping hours, the bar was set up with multiple snacks for passengers to help themselves. I helped myself to a single malt Balvenie scotch.

Virgin-AustraliaVirgin-AustraliaVirgin-AustraliaVirgin-AustraliaA couple of hours out of Sydney the crew started setting up for breakfast and eventually started turning up the lights. We were pretty much the last business class passengers to be served, just because the crew was busy and we were on the last row.

Virgin-Australia

I had ordered the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, which were also served with spinach. I also ordered yogurt and fresh fruit, orange juice and a croissant, plus a double espresso. Everything was served at once on a single tray to expedite service. If you like to drink your espresso after your food like I do, I recommend not ordering one until you finish, as it will get cold. The crew looked busy enough that I just had mine before eating the food. Every single item was excellent, and the eggs tasted as fresh as I’ve ever had them at 40,000 feet. The yogurt was very tasty.

Virgin-AustraliaSoon after breakfast was over we initiated our descend and the crew continued to be busy setting up for landing. I went to change back into my clothes and eventually had to go into the front galley and find our flight attendant to get them for me after the first one left to search for them and never came back. The galley scene was a bit chaotic and the crew seemed having trouble keeping up with their checklists and setup. Eventually I got my clothes back and changed and got back to my seat at around the 10,000 feet mark.

Before landing the crew gave us an express card to expedite customs, which was very useful on arrival.

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After a smooth final approach we touched down in Sydney and had a quick taxi and deplane process into the main terminal on our way to customs.

Overall impression:

This was a fantastic flight, and at the 45,000 miles price we paid, it was a bargain. The food was fantastic, and cabin very nice and stylish, and the crew’s service, while a bit reactive and had a few blips with the turn down service and timing, was very friendly and welcoming and made it a really pleasant flight. We really enjoyed the hard product and definitely recommend Virgin Australia business class if you ever have the opportunity to fly them.

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