Monday, July 27, 2009

V Australia Reviewed

You know you want to come to Australia. You've been reading my blog and thinking to yourself "We should really go visit them." And since you can't walk here, you're looking for the best airline to plant yourself on for 14 hours while you travel 7500 miles over the Pacific.
V Australia might just be the ticket.

We chose V Australia for our recent trip back to the U.S. because the price was right. Earlier this year, during a big fare sale, I bought four round trip tickets in premium economy for $5300 USD. It was comparable to the fare available on United, and I figured the unknown couldn't possibly be any worse than United, so we took a chance and booked our tickets.

Now, I have to preface my review by saying that on my three previous flights to/from Australia I was lucky enough to be in first or business class. If you can swing business class tickets, it is definitely the way to go. A lay flat seat on any airline is by far superior to an economy seat on even the best airline. But this is the real world, and most people don't want to spend an extra $8,000 or so to purchase a business class seat. And, as I've discovered, it is getting really hard to use all those miles to upgrade to business class seats. So chances are, if you're paying for the ticket yourself, you'll probably be looking at economy.

Premium economy is like a mini-upgrade from standard economy class. On V Australia there are a few nice perks that come with the premium economy ticket. First, you get a nice leather seat. It doesn't lay flat, but it reclines 9 inches, has an adjustable headrest, nifty reading light, and a fold out footrest. On the downside, the arm rests are fixed, so if you have little kids who want to sprawl across your lap, it is a bit of a problem. Also worth mentioning, there is almost no storage space under the seat in front of you. Anything bigger than a lunch box will have to go in the overhead bin. Other perks in premium economy include bottled water in your seatback pocket, warm towels distributed twice on the flight, big padded headphones, and a self service bar. You also get a handy little kit "for your walkabout" stocked with toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, earplugs and socks.

V Australia flights are on Boeing 777. To see how the seats are configured, check out Seat Guru.

V Australia is hip and fun and fresh. Even the safety video (featuring an animated Richard Branson) was entertaining. Each seat has its own touch screen entertainment system that offers something for everyone. I watched four movies on the way to L.A. There is a good selection of kids shows and video games as well (mostly Disney Channel stuff, but my kids loved it). The food was fine, a step up from standard airline food for sure. I requested child meals for the kids, and they were a big hit. What kid wouldn't love breakfast served with a candy bar? I found the crew to be friendly, helpful and attentive. Even the people working the ticket counter were pleasant and efficient.

I would certainly fly V Australia again. Premium economy was nice, but even regular economy looked good. Let's face it, 14 hours on an airplane (especially with kids) is no party. But V Australia has done a great job of making it more than tolerable. And that's more than a lot of other airlines can say! So thanks for the ride, V Australia. And if you want me to write an awesome review of your business class service in December, you know where to find me.


Florida Girl In Sydney said...

So glad to hear about VAustralia, we'll be on it in December (also in Premium econ) and were wondering how it was compared to the same section on Qantas. Thanks!

ian said...

Sounds very similar to Virgin Atlantic - no surprise there. But good to know that they are keeping the brand consistent. Premium economy on Virgin is worth the extra (waste of time on BA tho) especially if the plane configuration means you can get in the bubble upstairs. And I find it quite easy to use miles for upgrades on Virgin - we upgraded to Upper Class on the way out here. We have a Virgin Amex card which has proven very useful.

MIchelle said...

Excellent review!

I flew Virgin America last summer to Seattle to visit my sister and was very pleased with the price, accommodations, staff, safety video, and entertainment as well. We flew Virgin to England 5 years ago and also had a great experience. I LOVED the travel pouch with the socks, postcards, pen, ear buds, and toothbrush.toothpaste... so thoughtful!

Richard Branson knows how to please his passengers!

suzinoz said...

Thanks for the review. We've flown Qantas exclusively for the last four or five years simply because they were the only airline offering a direct service from Melbourne to LAX--when you are going to travel that far with a couple of kids on your own, you want as few stops as possible. Looks like V Australia is planning to take that route on board very soon. So it may be worth a try. As for United, my sister and her family just came over for two weeks and paid $2200 USD total for all FOUR of their economy class tickets. Amazing fares, but they had to connect through Sydney, they didn't have individual TVs in their seats, etc. The good news is you've come to Australia at the right time--we've finally got some choice on the route back to the USA. Hooray for that!

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