Virgin Australia Melbourne to the Gold Coast Business Class Review
A great value points redemption let down by a tired lounge
Flight: VA 761
Aircraft Type: Boeing 737-800
Route: Melbourne to the Gold Coast
Class: Business Class
Rating: 4.5 out of 6 stars
I've always found that Virgin Australia has a lot more availability for rewards seats compared to Qantas. Because of this, when I recently had to travel from Melbourne to the Gold Coast for a business trip, I was eager to use a little-known hack to reduce the required points for a business class seat by almost 50%.
For this flight I used Etihad Guest Miles to book business class flights from Melbourne to the Gold Coast for only 11,500 Etihad Guest Points (excluding taxes of $24 per person)! This is compared to the 22,000 Velocity Points required for the same flight through the Virgin Velocity program.
I was able to use Etihad Miles I’d earned from some previous travel, but you could also transfer them across from programs such as Amex Membership Rewards.
If you want to use this hack, the best way to actually search for availability is to go to the Virgin Australia website and type your departure and destination info into the booking area. Then click the “use points” option.
After this, you just have to look for a “Classic Rewards” business seat. Then you can view all the available flights. Once you've seen what flights have seats available, write the Virgin Australia flight number down, along with the time of departure.
Next, call Etihad and give them the flight numbers. Tell them you want to book the flight using your Etihad miles, and they'll be able to do it over the phone.
Another side benefit of using points in this way for a shorter business class flight is that it gives you the option of packing two bags of 32 kg each. This is helpful if you’re connecting to an overseas flight.
Lounge and boarding
The lounge itself is great compared to some of the other lounges in other airports. Unfortunately, unlike Qantas, where there’s a dedicated Qantas business lounge and a Qantas Club lounge, Virgin just has one big area for all their high status frequent flyers and business class passengers. Taking this into consideration, the lounge is pretty busy depending on the time of day you use it.
The Virgin Australia Lounge in Melbourne.
Food choices in the lounge change daily. On the particular evening I was in the lounge they were offering Thai chicken curry. There were also cold cuts of meat in the buffet area and a range of beverage options including wine, champagne and beer available as well.
Unfortunately, there were big lines to get something to eat. Luckily, the inflight meals were great.
One big point in the favour of Virgin’s lounge in Melbourne is that they have a barista, so you can get real coffee!
Barista coffee in the Virgin Lounge!
The lounge furniture is also starting to get a little bit worn out because of the high traffic it receives. It would be great in future if they had a zoned area for business class passengers.
Cabin and first impressions
Boarding itself was great. If you’re traveling in business class, you can actually clear security through the lounge itself for flights leaving from gate 1-10. Once again it was pretty smooth and within a few minutes I had gone through security and walked to the gate itself.
The 737 business class cabin was very crisp and clean, and is laid out in a 2-2 configuration. Because of the colours Virgin Australia uses in their cabins and the ambiance, it's a very welcoming aircraft to be on.
The cabin layout of the Virgin 737. Source: Virgin Australia
The luxury leather seats were quite comfortable compared to economy class. They've got a generous recline with about 38 inches of seat pitch.
The seats also have USB charging ports for any business travellers who need to charge their phones or laptops.
On most Virgin Australia 737 flights, you're provided with a Samsung tablet for entertainment. With this tablet, you can track your status of your flight, watch movies and TV series or read a book or magazine.
The business class seat onboard the 737 was comfortable and had a generous recline.
The best part of the actual flight itself is the food. Virgin Australia sets a high standard compared to some of the other local carriers with its menu designed by famous Australian chef Luke Mangan.
The menu itself changes depending on the time of day you're flying, but there are always good options. I've noticed that Virgin Australia often changes its menu and offers new meals whereas some of the other airlines serve the same thing on every single flight.
There were two alternatives: a salad and the lamb meatballs. I had the meatballs which were served with fresh warm bread rolls and a side salad. There was also a choice of wine and beer as well as dessert. The meatballs were definitely a five out of five: it was a very tasty meal for a domestic flight.
The lamb meatballs with parmesan and basil with warm bread roll and salad.
Overall, the service was quite good. Straight after departure, the crew came and asked for drink orders and offered something small to eat including nuts, chips or crackers. After my tray was cleaned up, I was asked if I wanted some biscuits or crackers because there was still an hour to go on the flight.
Virgin Australia has partnered with Nespresso for selected flights. This means that on its A330 aircrafts, Nespresso coffee is available. Unfortunately on the Boeing 737, they didn't have that available, so it was just instant coffee.
In saying that, I do love my tea, and Virgin Australia offers Madame Flavour. It's a well-known brand in Australia, with lots of different teas available. This was offered after the meal.
Verdict: ★★★★☆☆ (4.5 out of 6 stars)
Using points for a Virgin Australia business class flight through the Etihad Guest program is great value, and it’s a nice option for special occasions. With this trick, you can travel business class at a much lower rate just by doing your research.
I can’t fault the aircraft itself or the food on board. Overall, I think the only thing to improve on is the lounge itself. In its current form, you don't feel like you’re actually traveling business class.
Feature image source: Virgin Australia
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