TRAVEL | Virgin Australia operates five flights a week between Los Angeles and Melbourne, and is one of their main international routes. The plane that’s currently used on the route is the Boeing 777-300ER (“777”). I’ve flown Virgin Australia several times within Australia, but internationally it’s always been on routes covered by their partner airlines, so I was particularly excited to try out the Virgin Australia international experience for the first time.
Check in was confusing to say the least. I had flown down on Virgin America (soon to be absorbed into Alaska Airlines) from San Francisco and landed at Terminal 2 at LAX. There was no indication as to where we needed to go to check in on our next flight. After walking around for a while trying to figure things out, we tracked down a staff member working at the airport who told us that we needed to go to Terminal 3 to check in. We walked across to Terminal 3 and the staffing situation at the check in counter was woefully inadequate, and we began to worry that we might actually miss our flight. We finally checked in (credit to the staff member at check in who was very friendly) and were told we’d need to walk to the Tom Bradley International Terminal to get through security and to our gate.
Checked luggage is included with all Virgin Australia Economy tickets when flying international. You can check-in two bags up to 23kg, and on carry-on bag up to 7kg.
Service was the typical Virgin Australia service that I’ve experienced over the years. Friendly staff who are find the right balance between being cheerful, talkative and fun without sacrificing professionalism and efficiency.
The Virgin Australia Economy cabins on the 777 that flies from Los Angeles to Melbourne features 278 seats, in a 3-3-3 layout. There are enough flight attendants around so getting the attention of someone should you need assistance isn’t an issue. Colour wise it’s white, grey and purple, keeping in line with Virgin’s branding. The mood lighting which is a bit of a Virgin feature is also fantastic and adds to the ambience of the cabin. When it comes to cleanliness, everything nice and clean.
The fabric seat has dimensions of about 81cm x 47cm. Like any economy seat, it doesn’t recline that far back (15cm in this case), but it’s no better or worse than the competition. The 3-3-3 layout does however, mean that the seats are wider than most, which is always a good thing. There’s an adjustable cushioned headrest which is handy when you want to get some sleep.
There are small armrests, and a mesh pocket sleeve at the back of the seat in front to place a few things, but do be aware that it’s quite small. There’s not much space to get work done with the tray down if you’ve got a laptop, but for a tablet sized device it’s possible to get some productive stuff done.
There’s a USB port for charging devices, and a power outlet but do be aware that the power provided is at USA power standards of 110V AC 60 cycles (Hz), not Australian power standards of 220V AC 50 cycles (Hz). I couldn’t actually find the power outlet when I looked, and gave up as I could manage without it, but further research I performed after the flight suggests “cabin crew can assist guests with charging devices”.
There’s a 22.9cm screen on the back of each Virgin Australia Economy seat which is your gateway to the Red in-flight entertainment system. Unfortunately this plane featured the old, smaller non-touch screen model rather than the newer model we’ve heard about. Red features over 200 movies, along with television programmes, music, games and apps, all of which rotate regularly to ensure that the content remains fresh and current. There’s a good selection of Australian content too – it’s great seeing Virgin support local talent. Provided headphones are acceptable, but if you’re anything like me you’ll bring your own noise cancelling headphones and an adapter for the headphone socket.
Meals are included with all Virgin Australia Economy tickets, with the exact options changing depending on what time of day you are flying. I was on the flight that departed at 11:00pm so my plan was to have some dinner, get some sleep, and then have a bite for breakfast.
For dinner it was spinach, chicken and mashed potatoes – the potatoes and spinach were fine but the chicken didn’t really hit the spot and I left most of that in the tray. My wife fared better with her choice, a pleasing beef, egg noodle and vegetable stir fry. Cheese and crackers, bread and butter, and a rather tasty chocolate mousse round things off nicely. Breakfast was a clear improvement over dinner, with a rather tasty French toast and granola, blueberry muffin and yoghurt. My only suggestion here would be for some healthier options as all three things on the tray were quite sweet.
For drinks its a selection of wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, fruit juices, coffee and tea which are all available at meal time and throughout the flight on request. There’s a self service snack station that can be accessed throughout the flight which contains packets of chips, jugs of water and juice, and staff are happy to hand out fruit, nuts, and other snacks throughout the flight. At one stage they were handing out ice-cream.
The provided amenities kit includes an eye mask, earplugs, and a pen (always handy when those immigration forms come around). Also on the seat when you first board is a blanket, a pillow, a bottle of water.
While the Virgin Australia Economy experience isn’t quite up there with the Qantas offering on the same route, they get enough things right overall, in particular on the service front, that I’d certainly fly the route with Virgin Australia again. At least next time I’ll be well versed in the check-in procedure.