Airline review: Virgin Australia, Los Angeles to Sydney, economy class

THE ROUTE

Los Angeles to Sydney

THE AIRCRAFT

Boeing 777-300ER

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Velocity

CLASS

Economy

DURATION

14 hours 30 minutes

FREQUENCY

Twice daily with codeshare partner Delta Airlines

CHECKING IN

I'm at the check-in counter early due to a missed connection the previous evening, which forced me to overnight at an airport hotel – a short shuttle ride away. My luggage is in transit, so all I need to do is collect my boarding pass. Too breezy.

THE SEAT

36D. The seats are arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration, with 2-3-2 near the bathrooms. They are 18.5 inches (47cm)  wide, with a 32-inch (81cm) seat pitch and a 15cm (6in) recline. The seatback in-flight entertainment system is equipped with a nine-inch (22.9cm) screen.

BAGGAGE

My allowance in economy is 23 kilograms.

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COMFORT

I'm separated from my neighbour by an empty middle seat and am buoyed by the positive impact this has on one's mood when flying economy. While my feet must by necessity remain on the floor, this fortuitous buffer helps me (and my neighbour, no doubt) to maintain a sense of privacy and spread out a little. But that precious space is invaded as soon as we reach altitude, when the man sitting in front of me flings back his seat, almost hitting me in the face. When will people learn to do the polite thing and warn those sitting behind them that they will be reclining their seats?

ENTERTAINMENT

The seatback entertainment includes a good selection of new-release movies along with classics, children's entertainment, TV shows and a limited selection of documentaries. There's a great variety of podcasts – a really edifying way of passing the time on those seemingly endless flights – and playlists which take people's circadian rhythms into account: there's music to wake you up, and music to wind you down. Each seat has a USB slot for recharging personal devices – an essential feature these days, but one that's frequently absent on planes.

SERVICE

The service is cheerful, inconspicuous and thorough. The flight attendants seem to genuinely enjoy their job, and cope good-naturedly with the constant barrage of requests from passengers.

FOOD

The meal selections are announced over the public address system, cutting down on the wastage that comes with individually printed menus. Dinner is a choice of beef ragout with potatoes and sauteed broccoli, chicken with Spanish rice and salsa, or a yellow vegetable curry, which I order; its blandness is offset by the deliciousness of the potted, iced key-lime dessert cake. A selection of soft-drinks, wine, spirits and beer are served with the meal. During the flight passengers can help themselves to water (there are jugs conveniently placed in kiosks near the galleys), boxes of juice, crisps and fruit. Breakfast is served before we land in Sydney, a choice of an omelette with chicken sausage and potatoes or crepes with stewed pears. I go for the savoury option but have instant food envy when I see a woman across the aisle eating the fragrant crepes.

ONE MORE THING

There are no more apples in the help-yourself kiosk when I go in search of something to quell my rumbling stomach in the early hours; the crew go out of their way to find one for me, but alas, they're all finished (even in business class). As I settle back into my seat, one of the flight attendants arrives with an alternative: a banana. It's good to know that fresh fruit is so popular on airlines.

VERDICT

I sleep, fitfully, for an astounding eight hours: a record for me, and a testament to the overall comfort of the cabin, the crew's attention to detail (late-night hunger pangs, for example) and the sense of calm that settles over the space once the lights have been dimmed.

Our rating out of five: 4

Catherine Marshall was a guest of Virgin Australia and its codeshare partner, Delta Air Lines. See virginaustralia.com/au/en and delta.com

See also: Airline review: Is Virgin's 'Economy X' class worth the extra $149?

See also: Airline review: Delta Airlines economy class

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