Late last year, Virgin Australia announced that it would introduce a new business class product on its widebody fleet. This widebody fleet currently consists of Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft. The 777 fleet is used to operate long haul international services, while the Airbus A330 mostly and Airbus A330 aircraft mainly on transcontinental services.
Originally Virgin were doing a round of refurbishments on the 777 aircraft this year (between 27 October and 16 December), however, due to apparent delays with the certification of the new seats, this was delayed, and the jets are now slated to be removed from service between 07 April and 25 July, 2016. This is immediately after the already announced removal of services between 02 February and 06 April 2016. As a result, it now looks as though the refurbishments will occur one after the other, without the break that was originally scheduled.
The full period of refurbishments now appears to be starting at the beginning of February, with the last of the refurbished birds returning to the skies in late July.
Previously, Virgin had announced:
- suspension of operations on the following Virgin Australia operated flights to/from Abu Dhabi:
- VA29 SYD-AUH from 27 October 2015 to VA30 AUH-SYD 16 December 2015 (inclusive)
- VA29 SYD-AUH from 02 February 2016 to VA30 AUH-SYD 06 April 2016 (inclusive)
Sydney – Abu Dhabi
The VA29 and VA30 flights between Sydney and Abu Dhabi are the most affected by the upgrade of the fleet, with a large number of the flights being removed from the schedule.
Virgin are in the process of moving passengers onto alliance partner, Etihad Airways. While Business class and Economy class passengers will be accomodated into the equivalen cabin on Etihad, Premium Economy does not exist on Etihad Airways. Passengers booked into Premium Economy will be moved to Economy, but offered the chance of an upgrade to business (or a partial refund if the choose to remain in Economy)
The commercial policy for this is:
- All guests booked in either Business or Economy Class will be re-accommodated into the same cabin of service as originally booked on Virgin Australia.
- All guests booked in Premium Economy will be re-accommodated into the Economy Cabin.
- Premium Economy guests will have the ability to upgrade to Business Class for AUD$1000 per one-way sector (change fee waived), subject to availability.
- Premium Economy guests that wish to remain in the Economy Cabin will be entitled to a fixed refund of AUD$390 per one-way sector.
- The guest may cancel the affected sectors and retain the value of the ticket as credit for 12 months from the original ticket issuance date.
- In the cae of guests booked in Premium Economy, Guests are able to request a refund.
Los Angeles – Brisbane
Virgin have cancelled two services between Los Angeles and Brisbane. The two VA8 services are on 26 October 2015 and 01 February 2016 (being in each case, the day before the Abu Dhabi services are suspended. The day following the upgrade will see an extra sector added to the timetables)
For passengers affected by these changes, Virgin Australia will reaccomodate via Sydney, with an additional domestic segment from Sydney to Brisbane being added to the itinerary. In some cases, Virgin will arrange accomodation in Sydney if there is a lengthy transit.
It is a little unfortunate that upgrading the aircraft is going to cause such disruption to the timetable, however, the pictures of the new business class suites suggest that it will be worth the effort.