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Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ER; the airline has five of this aircraft model in its fleet.
Sydney to Los Angeles
The Loyalty Scheme
Velocity Frequent Flyer (points can also be earned on several partner airlines)
Business class, seat 5G. Virgin Australia's new "the Business" seat has just rolled out on its international flights and the design is a big improvement on the old seat. Gone is the 2-3-2 layout that potentially left one business class flyer stuck with a middle seat. The new 1-2-1 layout means everyone has direct access to the aisle. The seat is 28 inches (71cm) wide and stretches out to 80 inches (203cm) in lie-flat mode, equivalent to the length of a queen sized bed.
Two checked bags up to 32 kilograms each in business class, with two pieces of up to 7kg each for carry-on, plus one personal item.
The seat comes with its own instruction booklet to explain the various features, including the recline, which is controlled by an easy-to-use touchscreen. Virgin calls the new seats "suites" and while they may not have the true enclosed privacy of Emirates or Singapore's first class, I definitely feel ensconced in my own private space.
There are several nifty pop-open storage compartments built into the seat (including a purpose-built tablet space), which allows you to keep your essentials close to hand without having to access your carry-on. The adjustable armrest contains a water bottle to keep you hydrated throughout the flight. The tray table, rather than folding away, pushes back underneath the entertainment screen, making it easier to get in and out.
When you're ready to sleep, the crew will put a thin mattress on to the seat and provide a good doona before putting the seat into lie-flat mode. The seat is wide and flat enough to allow for a comfortable sleep on this long haul.
The amenity kit contains socks, an eye mask, toothbrush and paste and a Ren skincare kit with face cream, hand lotion and lip balm. Passenger are also provided with Juli Grbac pyjamas to keep.
Noise-cancelling earphones are provided in business class. The entertainment can be controlled via touching the screen or through a handheld controller. The 18-inch screen is currently the largest of any airline's on Australia-US flights. There's almost 100 modern and classic movies to choose from, plus a reasonable selection of TV shows including dramas, comedies and documentaries. There's a USB port and power if you want to use your own device.
The well presented crew are friendly and attentive. Each crew member has designated seats to look after and they know all the passengers' names. Requests are met quickly and with a smile, even when I ask for extra chocolates after dinner.
The Luke Mangan designed menu features some of the most interesting and tasty dishes I've eaten in the sky. For starters it's a sweet potato, turmeric and coconut soup, followed by a braised duck and shitake mushroom pie. For dessert there's chocolate cake, ice cream or a selection of cheeses. The bar offers nine wines and a selection of spirits (including a 12-year-old single malt). In the morning, a full breakfast is available or you can eat a continental breakfast at the bar.
One More Thing
The cabin revamp has also seen the business class bar expanded and rather than self-serve, it's now staffed by a crew member who will pour drinks as well as provide snacks (and conversation). The only drawback to this is that some passengers choose to stay at the bar socialising while others are trying to sleep it can be noisy for those located closest.
The new business class seat likely represents the future of what seating will look like at the pointy end of the plane. The clever design touches, sleek looks and excellent comfort levels make it a pleasure to fly in, particularly on a long haul.
Take a 360-degree tour of the Virgin Australia Boeing 777 below.
Craig Platt flew as a guest of Virgin Australia.
See also: How to avoid the worst seat on the plane