Virgin Australia operate a single daily flight between Perth and Darwin. Serviced with a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, the flight departs Perth at 8:40am for arrival into Darwin at 1:45pm – as flight VA1433. From Autumn to Spring, Virgin Australia also add an afternoon service operating on Saturdays and Sundays.
Our flight was operated by an aircraft configured with the latest ‘BSI’ or ‘Boeing Sky Interior’ 737 aircraft. Besides looking fresh, this provides little tangible benefit to the traveler. In business class, the overhead bins above the first row taper and therefore don’t have as much capacity as those from the second row onwards (which often mysteriously seem to have crew luggage contained in them – although not on this flight).
The seating is in a 2-2 configuration allowing eight passengers seating in the forward cabin. The bulkhead in the first row doesn’t have a cutout for passenger feet. It is worth noting that the aircraft isn’t fitted with legrests or footrests, so offers one button adjustment (recline). Each seat has a power point, which is handy for those longer flights.
After priority boarding through the dedicated lane, we were promptly onboard. For this flight, pillows and blankets were on our seats already when we boarded.
It is worth noting that none of Virgin Australia’s 737 fleet are fitted with personal screens for on-demand in-flight entertainment. In contrast, Qantas have a growing fleet of 737s fitted with personal in-flight entertainment screens in all cabins. Instead, Virgin Australia offer business class passengers a Samsung tablet pre-loaded with a series of movies and TV shows. Virgin Australia also offer wireless content streaming on a number of their Boeing 737 aircraft for customers who have installed and configured the required app or Microsoft Silverlight plugin on their mobile device before departure.
Behind row two there is a small section for hanging up suit jackets or coats. After take off, there is also a rope strung up (well, held by magnets) between the business and economy cabins to discourage anyone coming forward to business. This was reasonably effective on this flight.
The seating isn’t exactly amazing and this probably represents a missed opportunity for Virgin. However, the crew were fantastic on this flight. The Cabin Manager introduced himself to us after we were seated and took the time during the flight to sit and talk with us to appreciate our business.
Prior to take off we were asked which beer would be preferred so that it could be chilled by the time we got into the air. This was a nice touch. No paper menu is offered on Virgin Australia 737 flights.
Our beer was served shortly after take off and snacks were offered – nuts, chips and olives being the options here. As an aside, Virgin Australia used to offer an excellent selection of spiced nuts on their A330 ‘Coast-to-Coast’ flights but those have since been discontinued.
After a snack we moved on to the main breakfast selection, starting with fruit, yoghurt and an assortment of breads. Given the small size of the cabin, we query why the meal is served on a tray (and a tacky looking purple plastic one at that).
The two options for the main course were a ‘bacon and egg tortilla wrap’ or a cold selection of cereal. We chose the tortilla wrap. There was little notable about the wrap itself. For a breakfast meal it was acceptable and had ample amounts of bacon inside.
Later in the flight we were offered any snack available on the plane for no charge. This included pringles, sandwiches and other snacks that are available for purchase by economy class passengers. We settled on a nut mix to go with the beers that were never left empty.
While Virgin Australia Boeing 737 domestic business class seating might not stand out, the service on this flight did. We really felt the crew were enjoying their work and genuinely wanted to provide a high level of service. Enthusiastic service seems more common on Virgin Australia than other airlines operating in Australia and it really does improve the in-flight experience.