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

THE PLANE

Airbus A330-200, Virgin Australia; there are six of this aircraft type in the VA fleet.

THE ROUTE

Hong Kong to Sydney direct 

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Velocity Frequent Flyer

CLASS

Business, 4G

DURATION

About 9 hours, 30 minutes.  

FREQUENCY

Virgin Australia operates daily, direct services from Sydney and Hong Kong, as well as Melbourne and Hong Kong.

THE SEAT

There are 20 seats in business class which is in a reverse herringbone cabin layout, a 1-2-1 configuration so every seat has direct aisle access while also offering a lot of privacy.  The seat is 60 inches by 19.5 inches, a lie-flat bed (with a180 degrees recline).

BAGGAGE

Two 32-kilogram checked bags, two carry-on items up to seven kilograms each.

COMFORT

Virgin's A330 business cabin, The Business, has been named the best business class cabin for 2018 and 2017 by airlineratings.com for a reason; it's extremely comfortable, stylish and its design is user friendly. The seat is firm and supportive, and I don't feel like I'm sinking into the chair five hours into the flight as I sometimes feel in other business cabins. There is a turndown service, with memory foam toppers and cotton  pillows and doonas, which is perfect on this overnight flight. Put on your PJs and slippers and snooze.

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ENTERTAINMENT

There is HD 16-inch touch-screen entertainment offering a decent selection of films, new and classic. You can also listen to a small selection of podcasts or do the challenging crossword at the back of the in-flight magazine.

SERVICE

The crew are friendly, polite and quick with service. They are attentive and great at explaining how the seats function, something I found very useful  as I've never flown business with Virgin before. After dinner, I pop to the bathroom with the toothbrush provided in the amenity kit and return to find my seat has been given the turndown service  effect – a double mattress, lie-flat recline, doona, pillows.

We arrive on schedule despite taking off 30 minutes late. Hong Kong Airport is busy at night, the captain explained. Hot towels are handed out before we land, and this morning, we're trying a different runway to see if we can skip the taxi queue at Sydney Airport in the mornings.

FOOD

It's a new business class menu on the flight, designed by Virgin's resident chef, Luke Mangan. There's a strong north Asian influence, as well as modern Australian options. For dinner, I choose the broad bean goats cheese salad, the pork egg noodles and the cheese plate because I'm keen to taste the wines that have been designed for altitude. There are two on the list – Hardys The Magic Stick Shiraz 2016 from McLaren Vale and the Grant Burge Vine View Chardonnay 2017, from the Barossa Valley. The wines are balanced, with a slight aroma and a good colour and texture, and not flat, tasteless or over acidic as some wines tend to be in the air. I'm a fan of reds, but I'd give both the tick. Passengers can choose to be woken for breakfast or not; I select a wake-up call. I struggle to decide between a choice of congee or eggs for breakfast.

ONE MORE THING

Virgin started its daily Sydney-to-Hong Kong service on July 2 this year. The airline launched its first direct flight to Hong Kong from Melbourne last year as a daily service but has since reduced it to five days a week. The launch of Virgin's Melbourne- and its Sydney-Hong Kong route has created a price war, which has led other airlines, including Qantas and Cathay, to heavily discount their fares. 

THE VERDICT

It's clear Virgin's The Business cabin is award-winning for a reason. My only peeve is that it's hard to squeeze in more than four hours of sleep on this 9.5-hour flight, unless you skip a meal. The Sydney sunrise as the plane landed was quite a highlight, seeing a blaze of red and orange filter in through the cabin.

Our rating out of five: 4.5/5

Tested by Annie Dang, who flew as a guest of Virgin Australia.

See also: Airline review: Cathay Pacific A350 premium economy

See also: Virgin Australia's new international route takes off

Airline reviews A to Z: Read all Traveller's Flight Tests

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