Virgin Australia launches ‘Space +’ economy cabin as part of 777 refit

written by australianaviation.com.au | May 17, 2016

In addition to a new business class with direct aisle access from every seat and a refreshed premium economy cabin, Virgin Australia’s fleet of five Boeing 777-300ERs will also feature a number of extra legroom economy seats that will be marketed as Economy Space +.

Economy passengers on Virgin’s 777s, which operate from Sydney and Brisbane to Los Angeles, as well as from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, can buy an Economy Space + seat for between $135 and $165 per sector, with the new product available for sale from Tuesday for flights from August 30, Virgin said on Monday.

The seat map on Virgin Australia's reconfigured Boeing 777-300ER. (Virgin Australia)
The seat map on Virgin Australia’s reconfigured Boeing 777-300ER. (Virgin Australia)

The seats are located in the first five rows of the main cabin, where they are set at a 34in pitch, as well as at the exit rows. Passengers will also be able to checkin at a dedicated counter, have priority boarding and be guaranteed their first meal choice, among other benefits.

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Virgin Australia chief customer officer Mark Hassell said Economy Space + offered passengers more choice when booking their travel.

“Coupled with Virgin Australia’s award-winning service, we believe Economy Space + will be very popular with a range of travellers,” Hassell said in a statement.

“Economy Space + enables you to speed through the airport and enjoy service from dedicated crew members throughout the flight, providing great value for guests travelling to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi.”

Economy Space + is a similar concept to what Virgin’s trans-Pacific alliance partner Delta Air Lines offers on its daily Sydney-Los Angeles service with Boeing 777-200LRs. Delta’s Comfort+, which has more legroom, priority boarding and some extras on board, is available for purchase and offered complimentary to the airline’s elite frequent flyer members subject to availability.

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The announcement of the new economy offering comes as Virgin begins operations with refitted 777s featuring its new Tangerine London-designed and B/E Aerospace-manufactured business class seats, that were also on board its six Airbus A330-200s, and a refreshed premium economy cabin between Sydney and Los Angeles.

Currently, VH-VPD is the only aircraft that has been refitted and commenced flying on April 30. The seats were being installed at Chennault International Airport in Louisiana. All five 777s are expected to be refitted by the third quarter of 2016, Virgin said.

Overall, the cabin changes have resulted in a reduction of 22 seats on board Virgin’s 777s, from 361 seats under the old configuration to 339 under the new configuration.

While Virgin’s 777 premium economy cabin, which is being renamed to “Premium” was shrinking to 24 seats at 41-inch pitch, from 40 seats currently at 38in pitch, the business class cabin was increasing from 33 seats currently in a 2-3-2 layout to 37 seats in a 1-2-1 layout.

There is also a 10-seat reduction in economy, from 288 seats to 278 seats, according to the Virgin Australia website.

Virgin Australia's new business class, now flying on its 777 fleet. (Virgin Australia)
Virgin Australia’s new business class, currently flying on one of the airline’s five Boeing 777-300ERs. (Virgin Australia)

Virgin chief executive John Borghetti said the response from travellers on the new business class seat on board the A330s, which fly domestically from Perth to Australia’s east coast capitals and seasonally to Fiji, had been very positive and he was confident of a similar reception from passengers on the 777s long-haul routes.

“With competition increasing from Australia to North America and the Middle East, we believe this will be the best Business Class on the Pacific, with the product also being introduced to Abu Dhabi later this year,” Borghetti said in a statement.

“We have seen customer satisfaction scores increasing to all-time highs after introducing ‘The Business’ domestically on transcontinental routes so we are confident that, with our new Boeing 777 Business Class cabin and refreshed Premium cabin, Virgin Australia will be the number one choice for premium travellers.”

In addition to the new seats, Virgin said its 777 business class bar would be staffed with a cabin crew after the first meal was served, compared with a self-service offering currently on board.

The bar and lounge on Virgin Australia's Boeing 777-300ERs. (Virgin Australia)

6 Comments

  • Ben

    says:

    Looks very good. Good to see Virgin are resisting the temptation to reconfigure economy in 10 abreast (3/4/3) on the 777. It’s just too cramped for long haul flights. They may do it if they ever order the 777X, but I believe the cabin cross section is wider, to allow 10 abreast at 18 inch width. Business class looks great, especially the bar 🙂

  • Keef

    says:

    A staffed bar…..bring backs memories of Continental Airlines “Pub service” on their DC10s which they flew on many of the long haul destinations including across the pacific to Australia many years back, it was a great product, staffed bar, bar snacks, bar stools and a few tables and chairs……and this was in economy!

  • Grant

    says:

    Looks awesome! The only thing I can’t work out is why they dropped the Mel – Lax route with such a good product; there must be a market for it.

  • John

    says:

    Grant, it was dropped due to the sector length (especially in winter) and the fact that high yielding freight was often offloaded on this route for more fuel due sector length. The b777-200LR would be more suited to this route, hopefully the b787-9 graces VA and LAX-MEL returns. Best wishes

  • michael Jones

    says:

    Virgin should be pulling out of Brisbane and fly Melbourne LAX Daily non stop. Melbourne has a better airport all in one terminal and i hope Virgin orders 10-15 boeing 787-9 or Airbus a350-900ULR or 8 airbs a350-1000 to start flights Melbourne to Abu Dhabi 3 times a week and Mel SYD BNE LAX SYD MEL Abu Dhabi

  • Ben

    says:

    @ michael Jones – Virgin are based in Brisbane. So it makes sense for them to have a direct service from there to LAX. Nothing against Melbourne, but as other comments on this story have pointed out – the 77W simply does not have the payload/range to do MEL-LAX efficiently. Yes they can do MEL-LAX potentially if they order the 787, 777X or the A350. I don’t live in Brisbane, or Melbourne, but I do agree that Melbourne probably has a more user-friendly terminal setup than Brisbane. Having said that though, Brisbane is a major city. If anyone living in/near Brisbane wants to travel to the US, it doesn’t make sense for them to travel South to Sydney or Melbourne, only then to travel North again on a connecting long haul flight to the US. BNE-LAX makes sense. Especially when they can serve it efficiently with their current fleet and their major rival, Qantas, also flies the sector. It is also probably good for their partnership with Delta on the trans pacific sectors.

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