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The Eagerly Anticipated VAustralia Inaugural Flight Review

Where: Australia
March 2, 2009 at 9:11 AM | by | ()

Sir Richard Branson was on VA1 from SYD to LAX, but while Sir Richard was partying it up at The Chateau Marmont, Jaunted was riding VA2 from LAX to SYD to see what a Bransonless Virgin Australia experience was like.

LAX - SYD is the definition of the long haul route. For years Qantas and United have dominated this route, but VAustralia has jumped into the fray and is attempting to redefine the way we fly to Australia. How did they do? The full flight review is after the jump.

Boarding for VA2 took place at LAX gate 38, right next to all the Virgin America domestic flight gates. It is important to note that VAustralia is not out of the Thomas Bradley International terminal, but instead out of Terminal 3 (Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, etc.)

Currently, VAustralia is glomming on to the Alaska Airlines Boardroom Lounge, so if you are flying VA International Business Class or Premium Economy this will be your lounge area. Free drinks, cookies, cheese and crackers and a bit of fruit are available in the lounge, free wireless internet is not available at this time.

There were a respectable 200-ish folks on this inaugural flight. Boarding however, was not without incident. We boarded a good 40 minutes late, which pushed our take off a full hour later to midnight PST. The pilot was able to make up this time in the air, so cutting an hour off a ~15 hour flight made the extra hour in LAX seem well worth it.

Jaunted previously covered off on the three VA seating options: International Business Class, International Premium Economy and Coach when we went on board on delivery day, so we won't rehash already covered ground. We will however tell you more in detail about the International Premium Economy option, specifically row 12 where we sat for the 14+ hour journey from LAX to SYD. Because the flight was not full, we were offered, and accepted, an upgrade to Premium Economy.

Like all seats in Premium Economy, our seat had a 38 inch seat pitch and 10.6 inch in-seat screen for viewing pleasure.

Interestingly, in this 2-4-2 arrangement the two middle seats do not have regular under-seat stow space. This could make under-seat storage coveted during full flights, though of course, there is extra space in the 777 overhead compartments.

Folks in Premium Economy were offered a glass of champagne or a mimosa as their welcome drink. Our seat-back contained the promised noise-cancelling headphones, (which by the way make a huge difference in the air) a sleeping mask, a dinner drink, and two meals.

In-Flight Entertainment
First the awesome news -- all movies and paid entertainment were free on the inaugural flight. Yup, that meant we finally got to see Slumdog Millionaire. However, the bad news was that the in-flight mobile connectivity via USB port was not ready, argh. After experiencing Web access on the transcon Virgin America flight we were looking forward to at least using our iPhone to Twitter and check email, though the best long term solution here is in-plane 'net access. A small consolation prize? The USB port was live and we were able to charge our iPod during the flight. Also, there were outlets under the seats for laptops, etc.

Because of the timing of the flight, a red eye after our transcon, sleep was in order shortly after take off, thus we hardly noticed the dead access. However, the live USB port-to-nowhere, reminded us how DirectTV/Tivo once put USB ports on the back of their receivers, but the dream of live USB ports on the back of DTV has yet to materialize five years later, lets hope VA does not go down that same path.

In-Flight Dining
For dinner we chose "Fragrant Thai beef on a bed of egg fried rice and steamed choi sum" -- sounds lovely doesn't it? Unfortunately, it tasted like rubber. Now we should add that first off, we don't like eating full meals on planes. Secondly we were so tired that two bites in we dozed off and woke up many hours later and the dinner was long gone.

"Pancakes filled with cinnamon apple compote" was our choice. These were VA's dining comeback, they were fantastic. Maybe it was the fact that we were now starving after 12 hours in-flight, or maybe it was the fact that pancakes are much less adventurous than the dinner choices, but we stand by the fact that we would eat these pancakes every morning if we could.

Below is a video of coach seating on VA2.

Folks are still telling us they scored a round trip coach ticket on VA LAX-SYD for well under $1000 all in. How long will these prices last? More than likely for the foreseeable future according to a couple people at VAustralia we spoke with. Of course, check the VA website often -- according to our same sources at VA the price went down to $399 for almost three days when Delta announced their July LAX-SYD route opening.

Conclusion The prices are absolutely game-changing. For years we watched Qantas, United and Air New Zealand stay between $1000 - $2000 for LAX-SYD, now VAustralia is changing expectations, and with Delta coming in on this route this summer, we are entering a real buyers market on USA to AU fares.

Furthermore, we spoke with a woman who flew United over to the States two weeks ago and flew VAustralia back with us on the inaugural. We asked her how the two experiences compared and she laughed and said "they don't".

Related Stories:
· Which Virgin Australia Seat Is Right For You?
· Virgin Australia

Archived Comments:

better than united but

better than qantas? sounds like it. although, unless you are in premium business it sounds hard to enjoy a 14 and a half hour flight. the good news is SYD to LAX is only 12 and a half hours!

the bar

That bar is my new favorite thing. You know, you flip through vintage airline books and you see the old lounge areas and bars for first class, and you dream; now it's again reality, although not nearly as chic. Also: that salad looks large for airline food standards!

not 12 and a half

SYD to LAX = 13h30m

the price

prices below $1000 are very good.