Flight Review: “The Business” on board Virgin Australia’s newest route Hong Kong to Sydney

Last month, we took you on board Virgin Australia‘s domestic A330 business service from Sydney to Perth, and earlier this month we got to jump on board one of the first ever flights (in fact, I believe it was flight number four), between Hong Kong and Sydney.

Carrier: Virgin Australia
Route: Hong Kong to Sydney (VA 82)
Class: Business
Seat: 1K (window in a 1-2-1 layout)
Aircraft Type: A330-200
Travel Time: 8 hours 40 minutes in the air
On time? On time departure and arrival

Check-in at the Train Station

Hong Kong is a unique city to fly out of, as you can actually check-in and drop off your bags at one of multiple train stations in the city that provide you access to the Airport service. Most passengers will come from Hong Kong or Kowloon Station, which cost HK$115 (AU$20) and HKD$105 (AU$18) respectively. Here, Virgin Australia customers are looked after by partner airline Hong Kong Airlines, and then you jump on a 20 minute train to the airport, with free Wi-Fi available on board.

There’s just one counter at the train station, so there’s no special queue for Business Class passengers (there is, however, at the airport), but they’ll know to give priority to your baggage. Business Class tickets permit 2 bags up to 32kg each, or three if you are flying business AND hold a Platinum Velocity membership.

Your Departure Airport: Hong Kong International Airport

Once you arrive, there’s plenty of places to eat if you need to – though being a business class passenger, you’ll probably want to get straight to the Lounge. Security proved a breeze, and within 10 minutes I was on the train that took me to the part of the concourse where the lounge and the gate sits. It took me a short amount of time to figure out where the lounge was, but it’s in a pretty convenient location once you do locate it – right near your gate! After you leave the lounge, you’ll head downstairs to your gate and then business guests can access a dedicated premium boarding queue, as well as your own drawbridge, when boarding the flight.

Lounge Access

Business Class passengers, as well as Gold and Platinum Velocity Card holders, have access to the brand new Hong Kong Airlines lounge. It’s spacious and open plan, looking both over the terminal and onto the tarmac. There are private shower rooms with L’occitane toiletries. The food is a mix of made-to-order and self serve, with soups serving as the most popular made-to-order menu item – I recommend the Laksa, though it’s worth noting that it’s very spicy. The bar isn’t self serve but they have cocktails and whatever you want on request. Juices and teas, however, are self serve. They don’t make any announcements about flights, so make sure to keep an eye on the boards, and I couldn’t get the lounge specific Wi-Fi to work – but there are plenty of screens and you can log into the more general Wi-Fi instead.

About “The Business” Cabin

There are just five rows in the cabin, with everyone getting an aisle. If you sit the in the middle two seats, there’s movable dividers depending whether or not you know the person next to you – though it’s only big enough to talk through, not get cosy. There’s no stand up bar on this business service, like on the 777 international leg. There is, however, an “on demand pantry” with snacks available as you want them. Express cup noodles, savoury biscuits, pana mint or wild orange chocolate, lemon stuffed olives and more were among the snacks available. And to add an extra touch, Grown Alchemist toiletries are available in the bathroom.

Service & Amenities

Marvellous service is customary with Virgin Australia no matter which class you sit in, but in Business Class their attention to detail and you as a customer is literally top of its class. Comfy Virgin Pyjamas (which I ended up walking off the plane wearing in a half-asleep state), which are a long shirt and pants with VA branding, are waiting for you at your seat, as is an amenities kit in a leather bag and a bottle of water.

They’ll come and explain the service and the seat if you need them to, and will provide a turn down service for your bed whenever you’re ready to get comfy in bed to sleep. Just remember to fill out the wake-up card before you pass out – a great service they offer, giving you the ability to have a meal waiting for you when you wake up (or not be woken up at all).

The Business “Suite” Seat

Shortly before sitting down, a stewardess came and talked me through the impressive business pods, with complete flat bed. There’s a lot going on, so make sure you pay attention should this be your first time in the seat. The best way for me to put it is that everything in this seat has been carefully and cleverly designed so much of what you need is hidden away from sight, tucked away into compartments specifically for its use.

Rather than the usual pile of buttons and knobs, the seat is adjustable via a touch screen next to the seat, which can take you through a variety of angles. Then, everything from your noise cancelling headphones to the remote for the touch screen TV, even the USB and AC ports can be found in different compartments around the seat. The compartment holding the headphones also pulls up to become an armrest. You can use these compartments for your own belongings too – and you enjoy ample room in the overhead bins given the limited seats in cabin.

There’s a light above you, and also a small reading light right next to your head. The tray table folds out in front of the monitor and a tray release level allows you to adjust its position (bringing it lower if you have the seat in recline). Every aspect of the design of these seats has been meticulously thought through; everything has a reason for being there, and it’s much of the reason these seats have been rated the best in class.

The 1-2-1 layout also means that sitting against the window isn’t a bad thing – no one will disturb you during the flight and you have the prime seat to enjoy the views as you fly over Asia on our way back to Australia.

On Board Dining

As is customary, you have the option of Champagne, Orange Juice and Water as soon as you sit down, and a menu is waiting for you at the seat as you decide both what you want for the three course dinner, and the breakfast, which is served shortly before landing and ordered by way of the wake-up card pictured earlier in this article.

Your first drink order is taken shortly after take off, and a pretzels are served with it. They’ll then take your order from Luke Mangan’s menu for your dinner, with a warm bread roll or garlic bread (or both, if you ask nicely enough), served with butter and the now famous Sydney Opera House inspired Salt and Pepper shakers, all with full cutlery and a tablecloth.

My appetiser was the Moroccan-spiced cauliflower soup with mint and parsley, which was delicious – though they make a point to mention you can skip the appetiser if you want to expedite your meal process for the sake of sleep. For my main I had the braised beef brisket, with noodles, ginger and soy broth, bok choy and water chestnuts. The meat was perhaps a bit chewier than you’d like it, but the flavours were fantastic. Extra chilli and soy sauce was available on request. Other options were a yellow vegetable curry, pork fillet or the Barramundi.

After chowing down in the lounge, I originally declined the dessert, but after a couple of scotches, and insistence from the hostess, my arm was twisted into it – which I did not regret. Pictured below, my dessert of choice featured three treats – a mango glutinous roll, sesame and taro fried dumpling, and a chocolate macaron. You can alternatively have a plate of cheese, or a selection of ice creams!

What I did regret however, was skipping breakfast for sleep. By the time I’d finished a dinner, a few drinks and a movie, we were already 4 hours into the flight – meaning I had less than 4 hours sleep ahead of me before they’d start waking everyone up to land. So as I ticked “do not wake me” on the card – to give myself an extra 45 minutes of sleep. By the time I woke up, all I could think about were the scrambled eggs with bacon and haloumi I missed out on. I have enjoyed it before on the Los Angeles to Sydney route, and they do a fantastic job of the meal. Unlike on that service, however, the Hong Kong leg also offers Char Siu Pork Congee.

In Flight Entertainment

With a massive 16 inch touchscreen built into your Business suite, it’s like having your own little cinema in the sky. And the noise cancelling headphones are terrific. Virgin definitely need to work on their TV selection, but film selection is outstanding – and most films are presented uncut.

The Verdict

Honestly the only downside to the service is that it’s not quite long enough; both in terms of limiting your sleep for the night, and reducing the time you get to enjoy the service. The food, the seat – everything is state-of-the-art and immensely comfortable and enjoyable. I have yet to have a better Business Class experience with any airline than what Virgin offers.

FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

To book your next trip to Australia from Hong Kong – or the other way around – head to virginaustralia.com.

The author flew as a guest of Virgin Australia. 

Larry Heath

Founding Editor of the AU review. You can find him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.