Airline review: Virgin Australia A330 business class, Hong Kong to Melbourne

THE PLANE

Virgin Australia Airbus A330-200

THE ROUTE

Hong Kong to Melbourne

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Virgin Velocity Rewards

THE CLASS

Business class, seat 3A

THE LOUNGE

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Virgin is currently making use of Hong Kong Airways' lounge, though during my visit it is very crowded. It's not a particularly calming environment so you may be better off just taking the train to the departure terminal that is far less busy.

DURATION

8 hours, 35 minutes

FREQUENCY

Five flights a week.

SEAT

There are 20 seats in the business class cabin with a 1-2-1 layout. The seat is 28 inches (71 centimetres) wide and converts to an 80-inch (203 centimetres) long flat bed.

BAGGAGE

In business class, two bags of up to 32 kilograms each and two carry-on bags up to seven kilograms each, plus one personal item.

COMFORT

Virgin's business-class seat has been rated among the best-designed in the sky and it's certainly among the most comfortable. Although the A330 version feels marginally smaller than that found on the airline's larger Boeing 777 aircraft, virtually all the design elements are the same including the seat's width and length. The overhead lockers are also smaller than on a 777, but in business class there's still ample room for your carry-on bags and duty-free shopping.

The main difference from 777's business class cabin is that there is no bar on board (which is possibly better for overnight flights, since you don't have people drinking and chatting at the back of the cabin when you're trying to sleep). Two different pillows are provided allowing you to choose your preference (or, in my case, use both). The turndown service includes putting a thin mattress on the seat and the provision of a doona and pyjamas.

The amenity kit from Mandarina Duck contains everything you'd expect in business class: socks, an eye mask, a pen, Ren skincare products and lip balm, a toothbrush and paste, and ear plugs.

See also: Airline review: Virgin Australia Boeing 777 business class

ENTERTAINMENT

There are 147 films in a wide range of genres available: with recent releases, kids' films, comedies, dramas, action flicks and documentaries. There are several complete TV seasons too (more than 400 episodes in total), though these are organised by individual episode rather than by series, which means navigating past 20 episodes of 2 Broke Girls before you can find the next show.

SERVICE

The business class crew are friendly and obliging, even a bit flirty. Requests for drinks or snacks are met promptly and with a smile. Cabin announcements are made in both English and Chinese (though I can't quite pick if the latter is in Hong Kong's Cantonese, or mainland China's Mandarin).

FOOD

Virgin's dishes are created by celebrity chef Luke Mangan, who has introduced some Asian options for this new route, including pork egg noodles with eggplant, and prawn laksa. I choose the peking duck pancakes for entree, which are delicious, but my main, a spinach, feta and ricotta pie, while tasty, is a little on the soggy side. A full breakfast is served before our descent into Melbourne.

ONE MORE THING

This new route is Virgin's first foray into China and the airline's partnership with Hong Kong Airlines means it offers connections into 13 mainland China cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Chonqing.

THE LAST WORD

More competition on this route is welcome and has already seen some bargain fares become available. With Virgin's new connections into mainland China, the business class seat will undoubtedly prove popular.

Our rating out of five: ★★★★

Craig Platt travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia.

See also: World's best airline for 2017 named as Qantas hits lowest ranking

See also: Where to shop, and what to buy, in Hong Kong

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