My 25 words or less:
"After flying over 80,000 miles of business travel on DJ's hard leather seats, I need something to soften me up."
This trip report has also been posted on AFF.
Virgin Australia DJ572
Perth (PER/YPPH) - Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD/YSSY)
June 13, 2011
Departure: 23:55 (scheduled) 00:15+1 (actual)
Arrival: 06:05+1 (scheduled) 06:45+1 (actual)
Seat: 3B (moved to 3A) - business class
Aircraft: Airbus A330-243 VH-XFB Cable Beach
Load: 10/29 in business class
As this was a red-eye flight, I focused on sleeping as much as possible rather than writing a good trip report.
I took the bus to the airport rather than paying a grumpy taxi driver (I live close to the airport so it's not a good fare for them). I went through security (also grumpy), got "randomly selected" for the explosives scan, and spent a bit of time in the Lounge where I met jdevereux3 from AFF who was taking part in an ambitious JQ/DJ status run. After a big meal earlier in the evening to celebrate my birthday, I stuck to drinking water.
Waiting for the bus
As we boarded, I was impressed. The A330 has a completely different feel from the usual DJ 737s. Boarding was through door 2, so business class passengers could turn left into a relatively private cabin.
I found the seat uncomfortable, primarily due to my inability to raise the headrest. I later found that it could be raised quite easily, so I don't know why I found it difficult. In any case, after taking off, and waiting for the seatbelt sign to be switched off, I reverted to the fully reclined position to get as much sleep as possible. This seemed a bit uncomfortable, particularly with the person in front fully reclined and restricting foot-space, but regardless I slept quite happily for about 3.5 hours so in hindsight it can't have been too bad.
Business class seats
I awoke shortly before we began our descent into Sydney. I had a drink of water, but I was generally happy to do without the usual business class service and meal in favour of additional sleep. Consequently it was difficult to judge the crew on this flight, but my impression was that they were pretty good.
Upon our arrival in SYD, jdevereux3 had Lounge access on arrival as a Velocity Gold member, and he kindly guested me into The Lounge.
Virgin Australia DJ565
Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD/YSSY) - Perth (PER/YPPH)
June 14, 2011
Departure: 17:30 (scheduled) 17:52 (actual)
Arrival: 20:45 (scheduled) 20:53 (actual)
Seat: 2K (moved to 2J) - business class
Aircraft: Airbus A330-243 VH-XFA Cottesloe Beach
Load: 7/29 in business class
We arrived back at SYD airport and were dropped off at the premium entry for The Lounge. This is available to Gold Velocity members and Business Class and Premium Economy passengers, and is a great way to bypass the main check-in area. The dedicated security screening people here are unusually friendly! Inside, we had snacks and drinks.
There wasn't a huge wait until boarding was announced, but after walking down to Gate 40 it turned out that boarding hadn't actually commenced at all. But once it did start I walked straight past the queue and through the premium entry.
After boarding was announced, I went to the gate to find that boarding had not commenced and I had to wait a bit. Subsequently, I used the Priority Boarding lane to bypass the queue. As we were using the first door for all passengers, all the economy class passengers had to walk through the business cabin. Normally I don't like that, but tonight I had the pleasure of hearing the economy class passengers' comments on the business class cabin:
- "oh wow!"
- "imagine sitting here!"
- "wow this is nice!"
- "that's some serious legroom!"
- "is this first class?"
Other DJ aircraft on the ground in SYD - these one's could do with a new paint job!
Mandatory legroom shot - also showing the "pilot view" on the screen
It took me a little longer to be truly impressed, but once the meal service was underway I was convinced. This was easily the best domestic flight I've ever taken (though I've only had one previous domestic business class flight, QF ADL-SYD on a 734). Furthermore, it was an excellent business class experience and comparable to similar length flights on renowned regional airlines such as SQ and CX. A few minor mistakes were made, which was understandable given that this is a new product. For example, the placemat on my tray was initially forgotten and the bread roll was served upside down. But these things are trivial, both were acknowledged appropriately, and will be perfected over time. What was obvious was the genuinely friendly, attentive and professional service, and the excellent quality of the product.
Melissa, editor of the Voyeur in-flight magazine, recommended "The Australian" cocktail, and it didn't disappoint... to the extent that I had two, which was perhaps overdoing it but enjoyable nonetheless. It was served with warm nuts.
'The Australian' Cocktail
by Luke Mangan
Our new signature cocktail is a delicious aperitif, with the hue of an Australian sunset and the fresh lively flavours of our country. A blend of white spirits, cognac and cranberry juice, freshened with ginger and lime syrup. A delicious way to begin your culinary journey today.
The mushroom soup was rich and delicious, and served with a tasty bread roll (unfortunately visually similar to the rock-like QF economy rolls, but this was much softer and tastier). It came with olive oil and dukkah.
Your choice of warmed bread served with Luke Mangan's extra virgin olive oil and dukkah.
King smoked salmon with creme fraiche, salmon caviar dressing and grissini
Rich mushroom soup with chives
The main, in comparison, was a bit of a let down. The flavour of the beef and the sauce that came with it was uninteresting though it was well cooked and tender. Note I didn't notice the presence of mushrooms in this dish.
Fillet of beef with parmesan polenta, Swiss brown mushrooms and French beans
Basque style barramundi fillet with braised calamari, saffron potatoes and capsicum
Vegetarian tartlet of mushrooms, zucchini, parmesan, basil and cauliflower puree
For dessert, I chose the cheese plate in favour of the cheesecake. Each of the cheeses were very tasty and a worthy finale to the meal.
King Island Triple Cream, King Island, Tasmania
Cobram Vintage Cheddar, Cobram, Victoria
Roaring 40's Blue, King Island, Tasmania
Served with dried apricots, walnuts and crackers
Orange and cointreau cheesecake, with almond and lemon biscotti
The seat was comfortable in the upright position once I got the headrest sorted out. The noise-cancelling headphones were very effective. We had a choice of video options on the Rockwell Collins entertainment system, consisting of several movies and several TV shows plus a map display (which didn't work on the way over) and and a pilot's view. The reason I swapped seats on this flight was that the screen in 2K wasn't working. I also noticed the screen in 3A was a bit dodgy on the flight over... they should have bought the IFE system from my company instead!
There was a small Bvlgari amenity kit, which contained eyemask, earplugs, toothbrush, toothpaste, body lotion and lip balm. I used the eyemask and earplugs on the flight over to help me sleep. Finally, the crew took my jacket when I boarded and gave it back to me on arrival, complete with a Virgin Australia branded suit bag. This struck me as very professional, and I liked this little touch. But ultimately, it's not the suit bag or the amenties kit that made this an excellent flight. It was the friendliness and genuine warmth of the cabin crew, combined with the great food and comfortable seat.
Based on this trip, I consider Virgin Australia to have the best domestic business class product in Australia. They have been working long and hard on their partnership with Singapore Airlines, they totally deserve to be part of such a partnership - their business class product really is comparable to SQ's A330 regional business class. I would quite happily spend my own money or Velocity points to upgrade to Virgin Australia business class in the future; I just hope I get an opportunity to do so because it really was fantastic.
Thanks to Velocity Rewards and Virgin Australia for providing the flights as part of this memorable day, and to the Virgin Australia crew for being so fantastic on this trip; thanks to pshepvic, malmacdowall, Travel Guru and oz_mark for making the AFF Five; and big thanks to jdevereux3 for guesting me into The Lounge on arrival in SYD.