Virgin Australia New Business Class Unveiled

Today Virgin Australia revealed their brand new business class product, which they’ll offer through their Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 fleet by early 2016.

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Virgin Australia’s new business class product

It looks like their new product will consist of reverse herringbone seats, which are my favorite type of business class hard product. Here’s how they describe the new business class suites:

The revolutionary Business Class suites, which convert into 80 inch lie-flat beds, represent a major enhancement to the travel experience on board Virgin Australia’s Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft and the first major product innovation to be announced under the airline’s new three-year strategy, Virgin Vision 2017.

The innovative 1-2-1 configuration will guarantee passengers a window or aisle seat and maximum privacy to work, rest and unwind. The suite includes a unique tablet holder, a 16 to 18 inch touch screen for entertainment, multiple lighting settings and plenty of storage. The seat also offers the ultimate comfort with new soft furnishings, a number of adjustable positions to suit the differing needs of customers and an adjustable arm rest to increase the seat width when sleeping.

In terms of the “bones,” the seat looks very similar to the other reverse herringbone products out there, though perhaps a bit longer, at 80″. But beyond the “bones,” this cabin has among the sexiest finishes I’ve ever seen.

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Virgin Australia’s new business class product

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Virgin Australia’s new business class product

Here’s a video of the new product:

What’s most impressive is how quickly Virgin Australia plans to roll out the product:

The suites will roll out to Virgin Australia’s Airbus A330 fleet in early 2015 with the first aircraft expected to be in service by March and the complete refit of the fleet to be finalised by August.

The roll out of the new Business Class product to the Boeing 777 fleet will commence from November 2015 and be complete by early 2016. The upgrade will also include the introduction of a redesigned Business Class bar and changes to the Premium Economy cabin. A reduction in the number of seats will make Virgin Australia’s International Premium Economy a more exclusive experience, and give passengers three inches more legroom.

So they’ll be reconfiguring all seven of their A330s between March and July of 2015, and will be reconfiguring all five of their 777s between November 2015 and February 2016.

With the cabin redesigns, we’ll see the business class cabin on the A330 shrink from 24 seats to 20 seats, while on the 777 we’ll see the business class cabin go from 33 seats to 37 seats.

What’s interesting is that Virgin Australia flies their A330s mostly domestically, so really they’re just trying to beat Qantas even further. So while Qantas unveiled their new business class last October, Virgin Australia is just even further one upping them here. That’s probably why we’re seeing them install the new product on the A330 before the 777s — they want to kick Qantas out of the domestic market even further.

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Qantas’ new A330 business class

And let’s be clear, their “Virgin Vision 2017” initiative could just be renamed “Run Qantas Completely Out Of Business.” 😉

Anyway, kudos to Virgin Australia on this new product — it’s mighty impressive!

What do you think of Virgin Australia’s new business class product?

(Tip of the hat to Australian Business Traveller)

Comments

  1. As long as Delta miles remain useful for them, this is fantastic news. Aiming for 2016 return to Australia as is. *Fingers Crossed

  2. I feel like the virgin seats are going to be more claustrophobic than normal reverse herringbone as the screen doesn’t fold back and so it’s permanently in your face.

  3. It looks great, although I really question the decision to refit the A330 fleet first. Sure, everyone loves a lay-flat seat, but is that really necessary on a 5-hour transcon? This crazy domestic competition between Virgin and Qantas is one reason why both carriers lost hundreds of millions of dollars last year.

    The trans-Pacific market is hugely profitable given the relative lack of competition on OZ-US routes (I don’t consider UA competitive for obvious reasons). Virgin would be better off refitting the 777s and trying to capture a larger chunk of this traffic since Qantas offers an outdated J product and does not have the resources to update it any time soon. Meanwhile, Qantas hasn’t even announced a schedule for their A330 refit yet, so there’s no need to rush into improving the transcon product.

  4. I agree with Arcanum above. It makes no sense to bother with retrofitting their domestic fleet with the new product first. Their current 777 biz class offering is a 2-3-2 formation, which means someone who paid premium cabin fare might end up stuck in a middle seat for a 15 hour flight. That’s not fun, regardless of how flat your seat lays, and there’s not a huge amount of privacy between VA’s biz class seats. Imagine if the seat mates on both sides of you fell asleep on their seats in the lay flat position and you have to go to the bathroom? They really need to step their game up. Even Delta has all-direct aisle access in its business elite for its Oz routes and no one thinks “premium”, “luxury” or “cutting edge” when they think of Delta.

  5. Actually, I think it makes perfect sense for them to refit the A330 and increase competition there first. As mentioned, the trans-Pacific routes are very profitable for Virgin. I fly them a lot (Platinum) and the Business cabin is always completely full, as is Premium. Not sure on Economy, but pretty sure its the same there. Increasing the Business class seats on the 777 makes a lot of sense.

    The A330 on the other hand is often flying with 50% loading in Business Class. Reducing number of seats here to differentiate from Qantas is a big deal as they will no doubt be hoping to make the value proposition that much greater. Also rumoured is that the A330 will begin operating a new international route, possibly Perth to Singapore. By fitting the A330s out first, they can begin to schedule that new route sooner rather than later.

    I am so in love with the new Business product. Going from 2-3-2 in current config to 1-2-1 is going to amazing. I really notice the difference when flying on AirNZ occasionally.

  6. Lucky, VA only fly their A330s domestically so it would be safe to say Australia will soon have the worlds best domestic Business Class. I agree it is complete overkill for most domestic transcon routes, especially a daytime MEL-PER flight which can be less than 4 hours. I dont think

    I agree the 777s are far more urgent than the A330s. Im interested to know why you think the timeline for refit is impressive given they have such a small fleet? Given they can only do 1 at a time so service disruptions are going to happen whenever they do it why wait to start? If this seat has been in the planning for months why not start the refit in Nov 2014 rather than 2015? They will have the best product across the pacific – why wait a year to start?

  7. @lucky – not sure why all the hate towards QF… also from these pics, the VA seats look hella claustrophic – and yes I’m a fan of reverse herringbone too. however, the QF seat looks miles ahead – more luxurious and spacious, atleast in the pics.

    so why all the cheerleading for VA while basically hoping for QF’s demise… as a valuable member of OW, I would hate to see them fold. some of my fav AA redemptions are on QF.

  8. @ Ben — Well it’s just rare to see any airline reconfigure an entire subfleet in just a few months. Yes, it has to do with how small their fleet is, but to me that’s still kind of cool. Agree it’s not really surprising, though.

  9. @ Adam — I don’t hate Qantas at all, I’m actually a big fan. Not sure what I said to suggest otherwise? Just pointing out the facts, that financially they’re doing horribly…

  10. What I find strange is that Virgin has taken delivery of a new A330 from Airbus in the last day or so which apparently is fitted with the current (old) seats. Why would they order a plane with the old product knowing it will need to be withdrawn from service and reconfigured within a year?

  11. @ Arcanum — Ultimately airplane specs are usually determined years in advance before they’re delivered, so I’m guessing it works better for them to have the seats installed through a third party vendor rather than Airbus. Probably even saves them money.

  12. I’m so impressed with this move from Virgin. We Aussies are already so spoilt with the best domestic travel experience in the world, and I love that it just keeps getting better.
    The corporate market in Australia is where the airlines make their money, (QF International is hugely loss-making) and so prioritising the A330 refit is absolutely to target the corporate flyer. Bring on 2015!

  13. @lucky – gotcha, well it just seemed like the tone of the post was way too pro-VA regardless of QF’s financial situation.

    just curious why do you think the VA J seats are better? apart from the design perspective, it feels like VA seats are way too compact and packed in together. kinda claustrophobic if you ask me. QF seats seem more open, with more space around (even if it is dead space and not efficient per airline standards.) they’re both fully flat, new products (should be comparable quality and comfort wise,) not sure about service (soft product) quality diff b/w the two.

  14. @ Adam — Not at all, actually a big fan of Qantas. Just can’t deny the *horrible* financial situation they’ve gotten themselves into by not being the least bit innovative over the past couple of decades. Ultimately Qantas’ new business class seat is a staggered seat while Virgin Australia’s new business class is a reverse herringbone seat. As far as seat types go, I just far prefer reverse herringbone.

  15. As far as I know, VA flies ALL their A330s domestically – they don’t have service to Asia except AUH (B777) and their other international flights are NZ and NA, which are operated by B737 and B777 respectively, although there is talk of putting A330s to Asia, rumor has it its SIN.

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