Airline review: Virgin Australia Economy X, Melbourne to Los Angeles

Plane

Boeing 777-300

Loyalty Scheme

Virgin Velocity

Duration

14 hours 30 minutes

Frequency

Five flights per week, no flights on Wednesday or Friday.

Seat

Economy X seat 26A

Baggage

Two 23-kilogram bags checked-in plus seven kilograms carry-on and a small bag; the same as in regular economy class. However, Economy X passengers get preferred overhead locker space.

Comfort

If you're looking for extra leg room in economy, this is the seat for you. For an extra $149, your leg room extends past the emergency exit row door (which does not protrude far from the cabin wall) to the next row of Economy X seats, a ridiculously generous distance of about five feet (1.52 metres). For privacy, a window seat is your best bet.

The seat comes with the usual emergency-exit row caveats – your entertainment screen and tray table is attached to your armrest, making it immoveable. The tray table too is a little unstable and wobbles when using a laptop. There's nowhere to stash your gear. And while the seat pitch is six inches longer than regular economy seats at 38 inches, the width is 18.5 inches, which is no larger than regular economy seats. If you're looking for a bit more girth, you might want to upgrade.

Entertainment

Virgin now offers Wi-Fi on its international flights for $9 an hour or $20 for the entire flight, a good price for those wanting to stay connected. I'm a little underwhelmed by the selection of television and movies, which range from the ordinary to the frankly weird, and the screens are smaller than my iPad and not particularly responsive. I settle for binge-watching Sex and the City given I'm making my way to New York. In Economy X, we're given noise-cancelling headphones.

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Service

Despite priority service with Economy X seats, check-in is a whopping 30-minute wait and when I'm checked in I'm told I need to check in again for my connecting flight to Boston with Delta, with whom Virgin code-shares. Errr, I don't think so. When I point this out they agree to check me straight through.

On board, I find the service dries up a little after lunch but I later find out the flight was short-staffed, and items such as mid-flight snacks were late arriving. Good ol' Aussie friendliness throughout the flight more than makes up for these shortcomings.

Food

It's an 11.30am flight, which means I've skipped breakfast and would gladly have inhaled anything put in front of me. In this case it's a cheesy penne pasta with pumpkin in a cream pesto sauce, a combination that can be pretty oily at the best of times. It's served with a warm bread roll and Lurpak butter, crackers and cheese, and a plastic tub of Wicked Sisters panna cotta with passion fruit. The drinks trolley comes around simultaneously and spirits are served long and strong. Breakfast is sweet; a slab of banana bread with almonds and maple syrup, chocolate muffin and Chobani yoghurt (eggs are also an option). Snacks and cans of drink are put out in the galleys during the flight, but I think you have to be quick. Economy X passengers are served their meals first, therefore more likely to get their first meal preference.

The last word

As far as economy seats are concerned, this is an excellent choice for those prepared to fork out an extra $149 to really stretch their legs out.

Rating of five

★★★★

The writer travelled as a guest of Brand USA and Virgin Australia, but paid for the upgrade to Economy X.

See also: Airlines are adding a new type of economy class to planes

See also: Airline review: Virgin Australia's premium economy class

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