Sydney to Los Angeles
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.
Economy X, seat 22A on the window.
12 hours, 45 minutes.
Even in the early hours of Sunday morning, traffic around Sydney Airport is terrible, meaning I end up checking in quite late. Economy X passengers get priority check-in so there's no queue and check-in is quick and easy.
Economy X seats get their own cabin, between the premium economy and economy seats. While they're no wider than regular economy at 18.5 inches (47 centimetres) with a 3-3-3 layout, they offer 38 inches (96 centimetres) of legroom – 15 centimetres more than regular economy seats.
Baggage allowance for Economy X passengers is the same as regular economy – two checked bags up to 23 kilograms each (three if you have higher frequent-flyer status) and one or two carry-on bags totalling seven kilograms, plus one personal item.
The extra legroom in Economy X is excellent. At 185 centimetres, I can easily fully stretch my legs out straight under the seat in front of me and my knees have plenty of clearance from the seat in front, even when that seat is reclined. As it's a daytime flight I don't attempt to sleep but I'm comfortable enough that I feel I could nap without too much trouble if I desired.
There are more than 150 movies to choose from including recent blockbusters such as Aquaman and old favourites like Toy Story and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, plus some foreign films. There are nine TV drama series and 14 comedies, along with some kid's shows and documentaries. The TV shows don't have descriptions or titles so it's hard to find specific episodes. The touchscreen is a little fiddly – I find it occasionally jumps two or three screens when only pressed once, so I resort to using the hand controller. Economy X passengers get a decent set of noise-cancelling headphones that help cut down on the cabin noise. There is Wi-Fi available at $9.99 for one hour or $24.99 for the whole flight. USB power is available.
The Virgin crew lives up to the brand's reputation – they're friendly and energetic. My call button is responded to quickly and a request for a cup of tea outside regular drink service met with a smile. The lights are dimmed midway through the flight but the crew regularly come through offering water.
There are three main options to choose from: beef stew with mash potatoes, teriyaki chicken and rice or mac and cheese with vegetables. Each comes with cheese and crackers, bread roll and a chocolate mousse. I opt for the chicken and it's very tasty. Perhaps because the meal is served early in the flight, everything tastes fresh, even the cooked vegetables are crisp. Breakfast is served two hours before arrival with a choice of omelette and ham with beans or waffles with fruit. Both come with yoghurt and a muffin.
ONE MORE THING
This is a special flight with a Star Wars theme to mark the airline's new partnership with Disneyland and all passengers are given some Star Wars merchandise including a pillow and toy lightsabre. The theme park recently opened a giant new Star Wars land and Virgin is offering special holiday packages as part of the partnership.
At $199 one-way on this route, upgrading to Economy X isn't cheap. But for tall passengers the extra centimetres of legroom will be well worth it, particularly when compared with the price of premium economy.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
Craig Platt flew as a guest of Virgin Australia and Disney.