On July 2nd of this month, Virgin Australia kicked off their much anticipated service between Sydney and Hong Kong, as the carrier continues their push for growth within the Asian market. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be on board the maiden voyage – and while an airline’s first ever flight between two destinations is met with such fanfare that it’s difficult to compare that experience to your own, here’s a bit of insight into what it was like.
Airline: Virgin Australia
Route: Sydney to Hong Kong
Class: Economy X
Seat: 10K window 2-4-2 – Bulkhead seat
Flight Time: About 8 1/2 hours in the air
Boarding in Sydney
After a press conference on ground with Dannii Minogue alongside Virgin Australia’s executive team (and some dancing dragons), we were ushered through security and taken to the Etihad Lounge. Given the early arrival required for the press conference, this meant breakfast was served. The Etihad Lounge provides a solid breakfast spread, with hot and cold options. Some of us also enjoyed a glass of sparkling.
Once we started boarding the flight, egg tarts were handed to us as we entered, as well as slippers to commemorate the inaugural flight. A bottle of Nu water was sitting at the seat too with blanket and pillow, small amenities container and, since I was in an Economy X seat, noise cancelling headphones.
Seats and Entertainment
They’re using the Airbus A330-200, which are the same planes they use to fly between the East and West Coast in Australia, and nothing has changed in terms of the fit out of the aircraft. I daresay it’s starting to feel a bit dated in economy at least – the business offering is phenomenal – but the seats remain very comfortable. Being on the side in a 2-4-2 layout meant I only had one neighbour, though being a bulkhead seat meant I couldn’t watch the entertainment units for takeoff and landing. There’s plenty of film and TV options in English and Cantonese, and you’ll find USB and AC Plugs below the seat.
Food and Drink Service
Dinner was served two hours before arrival into Hong Kong and a lunch was served not too long after take off, with a request to keep tray tables down if you wished to be woken for meals while sleeping; otherwise they’d leave you alone. We were all presented with a special menu for the service, and both Business and Economy passengers got special meals – though it was only in Business Class that Chef Luke Mangan was personally preparing your food.
Hot towels and menus were served as seat belt signs came on, along with your HK arrival cards. Luke Mangan then made cocktails for everyone, “The Australian”, and served up spicy banana chips. It was made for business class passengers, but they kindly looked after us in the first few rows of Economy.
Lunch would be a cottage pie, chicken kung pao or a stir fried bean curd. Dinner hokkien noodles, penne pasta boscaiola or a egg fried rice with hot and sour beef. For lunch I had the chicken with jasmine rice and bok Choy, which was served with cheese and biscuits, a chocolate mouse and a warm bread roll with butter. And of course your drink of choice.
I had the fried rice for my dinner which came with fruit and an Anzac cookie. And a special mango pancake ice cream was served halfway through flight with Luke Mangan making a special announcement and helping distribute it through the whole flight (so they shared the love with his presence as much as they could).
The service was excellent throughout – particularly enhanced by virtue of the flight’s context. All announcements were made in English and Cantonese, and cabin lights were dimmed in between in spite of it being a day flight, to give everyone the chance to rest.
On Arrival in Hong Kong
On arrival in Hong Kong, we were greeted with a water gun salute, which saw the plane covered in water as we were approaching the gate – a pretty cool view from the inside. Outside, you could also see media taking photos and a number of staff celebrating the flight’s arrival. When we stepped off the plane we got to pose with the welcome wagon (as you’ll see me doing below). They ushered us through security and we hit the ground running for an adventure through the fabulous city – which you’ll be reading about in the coming weeks.
It’s hard to gauge how a normal experience flying on this route would be – getting to jump on an inaugural flight is such a special, unique experience. And it’s one I’ve always wanted to be a part of. So in every respect this was a once in a lifetime experience I won’t soon forget. But for those travelling on a normal flight on the route, you have excellent food to look forward to no matter which class you’re in, and superb service.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The author flew as a guest of the airline. Photos by the author, except the headline image, which has been provided by Virgin Australia.