Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Sydney Review

Posted: 14 May 2019 10:21 am
News


Evin's Virgin Australia "The Business" Verdict: ★★★★★☆

A stellar business class experience booked with Velocity Points that fares well compared to Qantas and Cathay Pacific.

The good

  • Excellent seat with full turndown service, plus pyjamas
  • Comprehensive three-course dinner and hot breakfast options
  • Friendly, laid-back service

The bad

  • The business class lavatories are very small
  • No inflight WiFi yet

Business class on a nine-hour flight doesn't get much better than this.

Having flown in Virgin Australia's Airbus A330 business cabin on domestic routes many times, I've always yearned to experience its excellent premium product on a much longer flight.

When an opportunity to travel to Asia came up in the following year, one of the first things I planned was to redeem my Velocity points for a Virgin Australia business class flight from Hong Kong to Australia.

Virgin Australia goes up against Cathay Pacific and Qantas on the Hong Kong route, both of which are very strong players, so this review aims to provide an objective view on how well the newest competitor is performing in business class.

Table of contents

Flight Details

Flight number: VA 82
Aircraft Type: Airbus A330
Route: Hong Kong to Sydney
Class: "The Business"

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Route Image: Great Circle Mapper/Finder

Booking this flight with points

When I started looking at reward seat availability about a year in advance (May 2018), I found a few seats were being made available each week. Luckily, when my particular date opened up for booking, I was able to snag two seats at 59,500 Velocity points and roughly $80 in taxes each.

Now in 2019, Virgin Australia has introduced a $50 surcharge for business class redemptions to and from Hong Kong, so expect to pay upwards of $130 in taxes for the same ticket. You'll still need 59,500 Velocity points to fly between Sydney or Melbourne and Hong Kong.

There are two other ways to get an upgrade. The first is to buy a full-fare Freedom ticket and request an upgrade for 27,500 points (Gold and Platinum Velocity members only).The second is to try submitting a cash bid online starting from around $450 through the Plusgrade button in your "manage booking" page.

The retail price for a business class ticket to Hong Kong is around $3,500 per person return from Australia.

Check-in

Hong Kong benefits from having in-town check-in if you hold an Airport Express ticket. Virgin Australia has a dedicated counter at the station, which I used after checking-out from the hotel.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Check in queue 2 Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The whole check-in process only took a few minutes. All boarding passes were issued and my luggage was tagged all the way through to my final destination (onwards from Sydney).

Later in the evening as I went through the airport more than three hours before departure, Virgin Australia's check-in section was chockers already. Business class and Velocity Gold/Platinum passengers do have a priority lane though, which was considerably emptier.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Check in queue Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Either way, I was glad not to have needed to deal with my luggage during the final day in Hong Kong, knowing it was already safely on its way to the airport.

Lounge: Hong Kong Airlines' Club Autus

Virgin Australia's partner in this area is Hong Kong Airlines, which handles check-in, boarding, and of course, lounge access.

The Club Autus lounge is one of Hong Kong Airlines' two flagship lounges at the airport. This is located in the Midfield Concourse where Virgin Australia flights also depart from.

It requires an internal train shuttle ride from the main terminal where you'd be for Cathay Pacific and Qantas flights, but the benefits of being a separate terminal are that it's much quieter, and the Club Autus lounge was spacious and airy.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Club Autus Lounge Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

It's a perfectly great lounge by most standards, offering buffet and made-to-order food, and the bar dishes out some good cocktails as well.

Boarding

Boarding started roughly 40 minutes before departure. With only twenty seats in business class (which wasn't even full) and only a handful of Velocity Gold and Platinum members, the priority boarding lane had no queues at all.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Boarding Gate Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Cabin and first impressions

The twenty reverse-herringbone seats are arranged in five rows of 1-2-1. On these longer flights, seat 5A is reserved for crew rest and has its own privacy curtain.

With purple mood lighting, and contrasting charcoal and white tones, the business class cabin certainly looks very sleek compared to the very brightly lit economy cabin behind.

The middle pairs face towards the centreline making it easy for neighbours to talk to each other. There's still a sliding privacy divider if needed.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Cabin Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

For solo passengers, the best seats are the 'A' or 'K' suites on the windows. Given how small the cabin is, there's not much difference between sitting in Row 1 or Row 5 except personal preference.

Seat and entertainment

My seat, 3A, is smack-bang in the middle of the left side. Two pillows are already waiting at the seat when boarding.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Seat Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

There's plenty of space for your feet under the screen and table area, even though the cubby hole tapers off a bit at the end.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Boarding Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The armrest on the outside can move up and down. It also stores the noise-cancelling headphones and a bottle of water.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Headphones Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

This panel controls the seat functions and some ambient lighting.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class seat controls Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Above that screen are two lids that reveal a USB port, universal charging plug, headphone jack and entertainment controller.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Storage Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Near your head is a push-light for illuminating the table, the literature pocket and a small area where you could store a small tablet or similarly thin item.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Light and Pocket Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The entertainment screen is clear and crisp. I like how the tray table is always half-available even when stowed.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Boarding Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

While not as extensive as other airlines' media libraries, there was a decent selection of recent release movies, as well as full seasons of some TV shows.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Entertainment Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The moving map is in high-definition and the view can be customised.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Flight Path Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

"Sleep suits" and amenity kits were distributed before take-off. Unfortunately, they only had size M available, which was extremely baggy on me. Still comfortable though!

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Sleepwear Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The business class lavatories were quite small and narrow – not designed with changing into pyjamas in mind.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class bathrooms Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The amenity kits had all the essentials such as toothbrushes, eye-mask, tissues, a pen and some Hunter lotions.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Amenity Kit Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The suite is quite comfortable for lounging in, as you can adjust it to any position you want. When it's time for sleep, a mattress cover is attached.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Bed Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The seat reclines into a fully-flat bed, where I comfortably slept between meal services for about four hours.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Seat Bed Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Arrivals cards and Express Path cards are handed out during the flight.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Express Path Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Inflight dining

Most Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Virgin Australia flights from Hong Kong to Australia are overnight. VA82 has a departure time of 7:50pm from Hong Kong and estimated arrival of 7:10am in Sydney, for a flight time of just over 9 hours.

In line with this, a full dinner is served after take-off, and a reasonably comprehensive breakfast before landing. Here's the full menu, including a hotel-style wake-up card for breakfast which was required to be filled out before departure.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Menu Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Before the main meal is a drink service with some olives and parmesan biscuits. The champagne in business class was Ayala Brut Majeur NV, along with a decent selection of white, red and dessert wines.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class appetiser Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Nibbles with a Bellini (champagne and peach nectar)

Having eaten a lot of Asian food on my trip, I started with the western option of smoked duck salad and garlic bread on the side.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Fig Salad Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Starters: smoked duck salad with beetroot, walnuts and fig puree

While I like experimenting with new flavours, I have to say that the fig puree did not agree with me. The smoked duck was lean and flavoursome.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Gnocchi Image: Finder
Mains: braised lamb shank with potato and ricotta gnocchi, capsicum, paprika and olives.

For mains, I chose the braised lamb shank with gnocchi.

I found the olives to be a strange addition to an otherwise-enjoyable dish.

Finally, I sampled the trio of desserts for… dessert.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Dessert Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Dessert: almond biscuit with nougat mousse, chocolate coffee cake and mango pancake

While it was an interesting assortment of sweets, it was hard to make it look good on a plate and tasted fairly ordinary too.

Overall, I do wish I chose the local Asian options on the menu instead. I think the wonton noodle soup and poached chicken would have had more fragrant flavours and be more enjoyable overall.

Breakfast started with a Nespresso cappuccino, which was as good as any pod coffee on the ground.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class coffee Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Then all served on one tray: pork congee, cut fruits, cereal, and a mango and avocado smoothie.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Breakfast Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

Breakfast: pork congee and various sides

This was a very wholesome meal – the pork congee was light and perfect for waking up on a flight.

All in all, I was impressed with Luke Mangan's and Virgin Australia's business class menu, even though the flavours were a bit off for the western dishes.

Arrival

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Window view Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The view while descending over New South Wales

My priority-tagged luggage arrived within a few minutes of the luggage belts turning on. For those connecting to Virgin Australia domestic flights, there is a transfer point to the left of the arrival halls.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Check in 2 Image: Finder

You can drop your bags off again and get a ticket for a dedicated shuttle bus from T1 to T2, which drops passengers right outside the Premium Entry.

Virgin Australia A330 Business Class Check in 3 Image: Evin Tan Khiew/Finder

The Points Finder Flight Rating: ★★★★★☆

Virgin Australia offers a solid business class option from Hong Kong to Australia. There's just about everything you need for the overnight journey – a comfortable bed, PJs and amenities, and a substantial dining menu.

The cabin crew were very friendly and hardworking all through the flight. The only thing I can fault is the small lavatories, which made it quite difficult to change into the pyjamas. There simply wasn't enough space to hang up clothing and the surfaces were often still wet.

I understand this is primarily because Virgin Australia initially outfitted the A330s for domestic routes, so larger lavatories wouldn't have been on the agenda.

Also notable in this day and age is that there's no Wi-Fi on the A330s yet, but it is due to come online sometime in 2019. Competitors Qantas and Cathay Pacific both still don't have Wi-Fi on their Hong Kong-bound aircraft either.

I've previously flown Cathay Pacific A330 business class from Hong Kong to Perth, and Qantas A330 business class from Jakarta to Sydney, so here are some initial comparisons.

I feel that Virgin Australia is slightly better than Cathay Pacific in terms of the business class product, as it doesn't have pyjamas and its meal options aren't as diverse or well-presented as Virgin Australia's.

On the flip side, Cathay Pacific has a lot more flights than any other airline on this route which is handy for anyone who needs to travel at specific times. Their lounges in Hong Kong are absolutely amazing as well.

Qantas A330 business class is comfortable and provides PJs as well, but I find service to be slow and the food is not that great overall. They also don't provide a full breakfast before landing – just some "cafe style" baked goods.

Taking everything into account, I feel Virgin Australia's A330 service from Hong Kong to Sydney merits a very reasonable 5 stars out of 6 and is a strong contender to the two other airlines.

Drool over more business and first-class flight reviews

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