Trip Report – My Own Row in Virgin Australia Business Class, Better than New Config – LAX to Sydney

This was a Delta “low level” partner redemption using 80,000 SkyMiles – see DL Schedule Change Allows for Awesome Australia Award Flights (Non-Stop JFK-LAX-SYD both ways). I just about missed this flight thanks to my Delta connection from JFK (see Delta Assist Saves the Day In-Flight, Books Me Business on LAX-SYD Flight), but just made it thanks to the air-side bus from the Delta terminal.

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This is part one of an eight part trip report from my recent trip to Sydney:

I booked this flight back in August and was continuously monitoring the seat next to me to see if it would remain open (Virgin Australia delayed their new business class on the B777 LAX until Spring 2016 when you will no longer have to worry about having a seatmate). This was my only trepidation in booking with Virgin Australia to Sydney, I did not want a seatmate for that long flight. Day of, the seat was still not reserved and I was hoping for the best.

The flight boarded from the Tom Bradley International Terminal which actually felt like a world class foreign airport terminal.

Once I took my seat, I was welcomed by the purser and my “dedicated flight attendant” (all crew members were in Santa hats as it was 12/23 with an arrival date of 12/25), offered a drink, and presented with an amenity kit, menu, and customs card / express pass. There was also a breakfast selection card which we were asked to complete  so that breakfast would be ready upon waking up.

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Impressive that the flight number and date were already completed for us.  Once in Sydney, the express pass allows you to skip the normal customs line and head to an expedited area (the wait time was about 10 minutes…much shorter than the gigantic regular customs line).

The amenity kit by Mandarina Duck with product by REN – Pretty standard with socks, eye shade, ear plugs, pen, and toothbrush:

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My flight attendant then offered me pajamas, sizes available were small, medium, and large. I started with a medium (I’m 5′ 11″ and 170lbs), but they were huge and I had to switch to a small. A garment bag is provided to hang your clothes and the flight attendants literally wait outside the bathroom for you to come out and hand them the bag.  The PJs were lightweight and comfortable, especially the drawstring pants. The entire business class cabin changed into the provided pajamas, the exact opposite of the return flight on Delta (see My First Delta Pajamas Flight- Impressed! Lots of Pics!). The PJs definitely felt softer and higher quality than the new Delta PJs, but I found the Delta drawstring pants to be more comfortable and I really liked their zip-up.

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Noise cancellation headphones by Phitek were also waiting on the seat for each business class passenger:

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Well, the boarding door closed and I had the only empty seat in business class next to me! The passenger across the aisle remarked how lucky I was! Although this was not Virgin Australia’s new business class, I think having the full row (and two beds) was actually more comfortable. On the other hand, if there was a passenger next to me, this would have been my least private business class flight in ages and the new business class configuration definitely would have been preferred.

There is an insane amount of room between your seat and the row in front of you (take a look at the second picture below). Each seat has a standard power outlet as well as a USB connection.

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Red, the in-flight entertainment system, was smooth and loaded with content, but of course the new config will have a much larger 18” screen.

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13 hours and 48 minutes to go!

For dinner I went with the Moroccan spiced sweet potato soup with coriander and almonds, ocean trout with a tandoori-spiced cauliflower, zucchini, currants, and pine nuts, and the chocolate & raspberry moose. Note the Sydney Opera House salt and pepper shakers…pretty cool!

I often order seltzer or sparkling water as my drink of choice…and constantly request refills throughout dinner.  However, on this flight the purser offered me the full bottle after just two refill requests…and she continued checking to see if I needed a new bottle. At the end of the flight, she told me I was “very good at hydrating”.

The food was excellent, I really enjoyed the trout and the soup.

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Breakfast was even tastier, I went with the corn and capsicum fritters with avocado, tomato, and coriander salsa.You were able to customize these and I added smoked salmon…delicious!

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In the galley behind business class is a fully stocked bar with four stools and mood lighting. Snacks, sodas, and waters were also placed here during the flight. You were supposed to ring the bell for a crew member to pour your drinks, but I saw passengers taking care of themselves. The space was actually used and conversations were happening throughout the flight. Snacks on demand were also offered including guacamole with corn chips and chicken sandwiches. I ended up meeting several passengers…who I later bumped into at our hotel in Sydney, at the beach, and at restaurants and bars in the city.

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Next, it was time for Virgin Australia’s “Deep Sleep turn-down service. The cabin crew was like a machine with these after dinner.  It seemed like every flight attendant (economy included) was up front turning down a bed at the same time. They really go all out, possibly the most effort I’ve seen in-flight. A very comfy mattress pad is placed on your seat as are large pillows and a duvet. I don’t think I’ve ever been as comfortable in an on-board bed (beating Emirates, Singapore, and Cathay in first), though I haven’t yet tried The Residence on Etihad). I cannot express how comfortable the mattress pad made these beds and two large pillows was fantastic.   …and just look at the effort (don’t worry, I snuck these pictures):

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Even better, I still had a normal seat next to my bed thanks to having the row to myself. This “old” business class was miles ahead of Delta’s flat-bed on the return.

Next, the stars came up until it was time for sunrise:

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Besides some pretty severe turbulence past Hawaii, the flight was smooth and easy. I thought the food was tasty and the service top notch. I will surely fly with Virgin Australia again and look forward to trying out their new business cabin (plus this is definitely one of the best SkyMiles redemption opportunities).

Up next, Sheraton on the Park, Sydney

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Need assistance with your next award trip? Consider the Juicy Miles award booking service for all your redemption needs.

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Comments

  1. I agree – it’s a great service. I didn’t want the flight to end! VA crew are great – they hit just the right note of professionalism and casual friendliness. And they really seem to care about doing a great job. The bed is comfier than my own at home! I’ve taken two trips to Aus from LAX on VA and they’re probably the best flights I’ve taken. Blew DL out of water on the one occasion I was rebooked onto their service.

  2. nice! Too bad DL is raising the prices for flights starting next fall (not officially – there is no official award chart — but apparently many partner award prices are going up next fall including business to Australia)

  3. We love our VA syd-lax flights, the crews are always fantastic and the beds are so comfy compared to other lie flat products. Yes it is a tight squeeze getting out when someone is next to you, and I always start my flight apologizing in advance in case I end up falling on them during the night 🙂 And you were very lucky having a spare seat as the cabin is always full normally.The turbulence is a given on these flights, and it pays to always be buckled up when asleep. I am looking forward to the new product that is rolled out in April syd-lax.Great review, and your pictures are so much better than my blurry ones…I hope you dont mind me using them for my own scrapbook 🙂

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