The moment you step on one of Virgin Australia’s 777-300 planes all the anxiety about a 14-hour flight goes away. The flight attendants are so nice and their product is amazing – especially in business class. Here’s my play-by-play of last night’s flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.
Airline: Virgin Australia
Scheduled Departure Time: 9:10pm
Push Back from Gate: 9:12pm
Actual Departure Time: 9:30pm
Actual Arrival Time: 6:00am
Announced Flight time: 14:18
Cost: Sponsored by Tourism Australia
I showed up to LAX’s Terminal 3 at 7:50pm for the 9:10pm flight. There was a small line at the economy check-in but just one person in business class so it didn’t take more than two minutes to reach the desk. To my dismay the agents were weighing everyone’s carry-on bags — I packed my usual two small bags but worried they might be over their weight limit.
Sure enough the friendly agent said they were over the allowed 10KG weight (22 lbs) limit so I had to pull magazines out of my work bag and stuff them in the clothes bag to check. FYI: Economy only gets 7KG (15lbs). The agent said even if she let me slide they would weigh it up at the gate and she wasn’t kidding – at least for economy class passengers. Tip: Make sure your carry-on bag is under the weight limit — even normal size carry-ons were being checked. FYI: I was told they do it for the flight attendant’s safety.
Before getting up to the gate I had to go through security and the line at T3 was long — about 15 minutes for coach passengers while biz class passengers could stroll to the front. They also got a pass to the lounge which used to be Alaska Airlines’ Board Room. Since Alaska moved to LAX’s T6 it’s now Virgin Australia’s Club. According to the agent the club is in transition and there’s nothing spectacular about it (yet). It’s nothing like Virgin Atlantic’s club room at LHR. Since they haven’t received their liquor license they give a single drink coupon for Gladstone’s Restaurant bar which is near the departure gate (the card has your name on it so you can’t give it away).
Virgin Australia boarding begins 40 minutes prior to flight time and because I didn’t have two bags to store and the flight was over 14 hours long I wasn’t in a hurry to get on the plane early – instead I went last.
On board the flight attendants were friendly, giving passengers menus and sleek black pajamas. On the seats were a bottle of water, amenity kits, noise canceling headphones and pillows.
Virgin Australia has three classes of service: Economy Class has 288 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration. They have 32 inches (81 centimeters) of legroom and a six-inch (a 15-centimeter) recline. Premium Economy has 40 seats with 38 inches (96.5cm) of legroom and nine-inches (22.9-centimeter) of recline in a 2-4-2 configuration. International Business Class has 35 seats and features fully horizontal flat beds (six-foot-two long) and 77 inches (1.95 meters) of legroom in a 2-3-2 configuration. TIP: Request row 5 because they have their own section with curtains on both sides of the aisles so it creates a ton of privacy. This is where the celebs sit when they are on board.
All seats come with the Virgin Australia’s entertainment system called RED. There’s no live TV or Internet like Virgin America but it has tons of movies (I counted 75), tons of TV shows, games, 335 music CDs so you can create your own playlist, flight mapping and seat-to-seat chat on a 10.6-inch screen. In business, the screen is about 15 inches. There’s also a power outlet that fits US and Australian type plugs and a USB slot. FYI: There are no power ports in economy, just USB ports to charge your electronics.
We pushed back on time and after a long taxi we were airborne at 9:30pm.
The menus came with one of those hotel-like breakfast inserts that you typically hang on your room door for delivery the next morning except here they do it so they don’t come down the aisle with loud carts and ask people what they want. Trays are ready to be delivered and there are tons of choices (I will scan one when I return).
Shortly after takeoff the flight attendants came around with hot towels, drinks (no beverage carts!) accompanied with seasoned mixed nuts.
Dinner was served about an hour after takeoff and on the place setting is a cute salt and pepper shaker that’s a model of the Sydney Opera House. Good to know: The last time I flew Virgin Australia they gave them away as a departing gift but not this time.
Since it’s a night flight and I didn’t want to disturb my seatmates I didn’t take many or great photos (I only used the flash a few times). But the food is really good and my seatmate loved his lamb. I passed on the main dish since I had a late dinner at home but I did have the Buffalo mozzarella salad which was extremely fresh and tasty and had a chocolate cherry slice (mousse) for dessert.
Good to Know
- Seats won’t recline when they tray table is out.
- Flight attendants were quick picking up food trays
- Seats go completely flat and after dinner the friendly flight attendants ask if you want them to make your bed (they put a pad down and give you a nice duvet).
- I pressed the call button to tell them it was freezing and the flight attendant came within a minute (good) but said she couldn’t do anything about the temperature.
- The plane is freezing so bring a sweater (maybe even a winter hat!).
- When they turn off the lights the “stars” come out on the ceiling so it’s super cool.
- When I couldn’t sleep I went up to the bar and met some amazing people as I ate a midnight snack of bratwurst with green peppercorn mustard and onions.
- Breakfast trays was served two hours before landing and my flight attendant kindly nudged me since I ticked “wake me for breakfast” on my card.
- I watched the 24-minute Departure Date short movie which was filmed on all three Virgin airlines (Virgin Australia, Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic). Cute story and the actor in the film was sitting in my seat (5H!).
The seat and flight were extremely comfortable and it surprisingly went by super fast. Almost too fast as I was scrambling to write these notes down just before arrival. Good on ya, Virgin Australia!