Apr 5, 2017

Melbourne-Los Angeles becomes a route where A380s don’t rule

Virgin Australia throws everything at Qantas on the Melbourne-Los Angeles route

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Virgin is going to be hard to beat on MEL-LAX flights

The return of Virgin Australia’s 777-300ERs to the Melbourne to Los Angeles route this week sets up a strong contest with Qantas A380s (and arguably a no contest with any QF 744s) on the route pending its augmenting its capacity with brand new 787-9 Dreamliners much later this year.

This time around there is a new factor in play with the replacement of the Virgin Australia long haul business class product with something superior in every respect to the ‘old’ Qantas A380 biz class product at least in terms of physical dimensions and features.

Virgin Australia has thrown everything at its return to the route, even though it will offer in total much less capacity than the other Australian flag carrier on the route, which can take between 13.5 and 15.25 hours to cover gate-to-gate depending on the conditions at cruising altitudes irrespective of what type of jet does the flying.

Some of the differences between the Virgin 777s and Qantas A380s would rate as lesser or greater priorities for various passengers. In fact setting up a true contest between statistically significant numbers of flyers and involving steps to minimize conscious and unconscious biases would cost millions of dollars and almost certainly produce a result that at least half of available market for the services would ignore if they didn’t agree with the conclusions.

As a result any media battle to score a win by either side will not command any respect either. It would be as silly as relying on a Skytrax survey to determine how you spent thousands of dollars.

Time for some opinionated disclosure! This reporter will on aircraft type alone always prefer an A380 to a 777, and favour a 777 over any A330, and opt for an A350 over any 777, A330 or 787. But this contest for Melbourne-Los Angeles, at least until the QF 787s arrive, and the QF A380s are refurbished with all new flagship product defies that sort of outrageously facile analysis.

The 777 may be a much noisier jet inside than any of the other types mentioned, but in the Virgin Australia format the reduced risk of renal crisis waiting to use a relatively scarce toilet on the Qantas jets (for the most part) outweighs the inconvenience of using a noise cancelling headset. On the Qantas A380, a business class passenger seated beside the window has to clamber across the adjacent flyer seated on an aisle. This was unacceptable when the A380 was ordered with this product, and totally out of the question in 2017.

On the VA 777 I have a reasonably sized bar at which to indulge in conversation with others if in business class, and if in premium economy I get a roomier seat and in most instances, one with more legroom, than Qantas offers for the same class of cabin on its A380s, surviving 744s, and forthcoming 787-9s.

Virgin has also retained the classic nine across format for normal economy in its 777-300ERs, which is for this particular traveller, a huge plus factor.

At this moment, in this one person’s opinion, Virgin Australia has deployed a 777-300ER on the MEL-LAX route that will on its amenities, see off the Qantas A380, and in key comfort metrics, the pending deployment of 787-9s.

But nothing stays the same for long in healthy product competition. Within a few years everything could prove to be completely different to how things are today.

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9 thoughts on “Melbourne-Los Angeles becomes a route where A380s don’t rule

  1. comet

    Regarding the new Qantas 787 Dreamliner that features squished seating and not enough toilets in business class.

    It’s all a matter of bladder control, Ben. You could try a form of meditation to relax the muscles around the bladder, enabling you to greatly extend the duration between toilet stops.

  2. Chris Randal

    Or drink less of the complementaries perhaps?

    1. Dan Dair

      Chris Randal,
      Maybe you’ve hit on the business-modelling strategy.????
      If you reduce the number of toilets to the point that it becomes inconvenient to passengers,
      it will have a commensurate cast-saving for the company on the amount of complimentary drinks they need to serve.?
      Extra passengers, less effluent to remove & less complimentaries to serve.
      Looks like a winner to me….. (my God, what am I saying.???)
      & then I applied for a job as an airline bean-counter. (kill me now) (please don’t take this as an invitation to a contract)

  3. StickShaker

    How about a free catheter for every passenger ?

    1. derrida derider

      Wimps the lot of you! What’s wrong with just hosing out the cabin at the end of the flight?

  4. comet

    The Dreamliner has those fireboxes under the floor, with smoke vents that drain to the atmosphere.

    Maybe the catheters could also drain to the atmosphere in a similar way.

  5. Ben Sandilands

    Hey, my fantasy scenarios are somewhat gentler. I just want to see the Mariposa or Monterey not only brought back on the South Pacific runs, but extended to Port Melbourne. You could do Melbourne to the Embarcadero (a nicer place to dock than Long Beach) in about 13 days at up to 25 knots cruising speed unadjusted for time zones or datelines. No seat back IFE, but real home cinema sized screens in your cabin or shared public spaces. Unlimited full sized showers or baths, a dining room with a real menu, table setting and comfortable chairs, fresh food prepared to two star Michelin standards at least, coffee and tea made at sea level boiling points for the water, and walk in ward robes. Nothing too fancy of course.

  6. patrick kilby

    I suspect we may see A380s out of Melborue replaced with 789s to LA and Dallas in 2019. Adding a daily 787 to Melb LA is quite an increase in capacity, so in the second batch of 789s we may see Melb Dallas and then all the A380s can be based in Sydney, and once refurbished: do Syd to LHR, LA, DFW and HK, and maybe one other Singapore or Shanghai of the new Beijing airport.???

  7. ghostwhowalksnz

    I dont quite get the story, an existing route where the carriers fly A380 and B789 have a new airline which will use B77W. Surely some other city is losing its Virgin long range service?. It seems more a Qantas blockerwhen they run on some days an additional 787 service
    Still not a lot of choice over departure times. Both Qantas and United leave within 10 min of each other around 9:20am, Virgin is a little later at 11;30 am. Strangley Auckland LAX flights are available at 7:30 and 9:50 PM! What ever happened to an early evening service from Melbourne to LA? ( Sydney has a similar mornings only thank you very much approach)

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