Airline review: Virgin Australia business class, Boeing 777-300ER, Los Angeles to Melbourne

THE ROUTE

Los Angeles to Melbourne

THE AIRCRAFT

Boeing 777-300ER. Virgin Australia has five of these large long-haul jets in its fleet.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Velocity Frequent Flyer. Virgin's scheme is not part of any of the big three alliances (Star Alliance, Oneworld or SkyTeam) but points can be earned with several other airlines, notably Singapore and Etihad.

CLASS

Business, seat 10K on the window.

DURATION

14 hours, 43 minutes

FREQUENCY

Five flights a week.

CHECKING-IN

I'm quite early to LAX and as a result there's virtually no wait to check in, even though I'm using the economy class check-in line (awaiting the availability of an upgrade).

THE SEAT

The seat is 28 inches (71 centimetres) wide and stretches out to 80 inches (203 centimetres) in lie-flat mode, equivalent to the length of a queen-sized bed. The cabin features a 1-2-1 layout, meaning everyone gets direct aisle access. The seat's design offers a great feeling of privacy and separation from the rest of the cabin.

BAGGAGE

Two checked bags of up to 32 kilograms each (three if you are a Velocity silver member or above). Oddly the carry-on bag limit in business is the same as economy: one or two carry-on bags up to seven kilograms in total, plus one personal item.

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COMFORT

Virgin's "The Business" seats are large and the aisle armrest lowers to be level with your seat, creating an even wider feel. When it's time to sleep a thin mattress and warm doona are provided for the flatbed, along with two pillows. It's very easy to sleep.

There's a hard, stylish amenity case provided, featuring moisturisers, toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, eye mask, ear plugs, tissues and a pen. One of the best things about Virgin's business class is the design of the storage space. There is a multitude of compartments to store your small items, including a special slot for tablet computers.

The tray table slides back rather than folding to the side, meaning you can get out of your seat without much trouble even during meal service

ENTERTAINMENT

The screen in business class is a huge 18 inches (47 centimetres), with bright , crisp images. The touchscreen is responsive and there's also a remote for when you're reclined and too far away to reach. There are more than 150 movies to choose from along with a decent selection of TV shows. Noise-cancelling earphones are provided. There is a bug that causes the system to shut down when you put the brightness too low, which is annoying since it requires a restart and I lose my place in the movie. There is Wi-Fi available at $9.99 for one hour or $24.99 for the whole flight. There's also power outlets for your devices.

SERVICE

Romy, our flight attendant for the rear business cabin is friendly and efficient. All requests are met immediately and pleasantly. A turn down service is provided when I'm ready to sleep and little touches, such as removing the water bottle from its armrest compartment to the more accessible side shelf, are appreciated. Romy pays special attention to the toddler across the aisle, helping her mother (who is in the adjacent aisle, which means she has to circle around the cabin to reach the child) ensure she stays quiet throughout the flight.

FOOD

A three-course meal is provided in business class, with an "express" option for those wanting to eat quickly and get to sleep. I opt for the full menu and enjoy pumpkin soup with feta and parsley, followed by a braised lamb shank with potato and ricotta gnocchi. The pasta is a little dry, but the lamb is succulent and delicious. For dessert there's ice-cream, a lemon tart or a cheese platter – I opt for the latter. There's a bar between the two business-class cabins where passengers can mingle and enjoy a drink. In the morning I sleep late and most other passengers have already finished their breakfasts, but this proves no issue and I'm still provided with the full options from the extensive breakfast menu including cereal, croissant, scrambled eggs and bacon, plus fruit and yoghurt.

ONE MORE THING

Virgin is now using Emirates' lounge at the Tom Bradley Terminal at LAX. It's a stylish, large space with a terrace overlooking the rest of the terminal. There's an excellent buffet with steak, chicken, fish, curry and more. As stylish as the lounge might be, several of the Australians using it are not – I count three passengers strolling about the lounge in shorts and thongs.

THE VERDICT

First introduced in 2016, Virgin Australia's business-class seats still feel as modern and comfortable as they did five years ago. It doesn't get much more pleasant than this on such a long haul.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★½

Craig Platt travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia and Disney.

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