Carrier: Virgin Australia (VA)
Flight Number: VA 35
Route: Sydney (SYD) – Denpasar Bali (DPS)
Duration: 5h 45m
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Cabin Class: Economy X
Seat Number: 5D
Economy X is Virgin Australia’s take on the strange middle ground between Economy and Premium Economy. As airlines continue to de-bundle their products and try to price discriminate as much as possible, there’s an increasing push to make consumers pay extra for the things they want, whilst saving on things that aren’t used.
Economy X passengers on Domestic and International Short Haul flights receive extra legroom seating (either in the first few rows of economy or at emergency exits), priority check-in, priority boarding and dedicated overhead lockers. In addition to this, International Long Haul customers also are entitled to noise cancelling headphones and guaranteed first meal choice.
How can you upgrade to Economy X?
This product is not a separate class, and instead is simply premium seating within Economy Class. When booking your economy ticket, you can purchase Economy X by selecting your seat and paying the additional surcharge, which ranges from $29 to $149 depending on the flight duration.
Similar to Economy Plus/ Economy Comfort/ Main Cabin Extra on many US carriers, Economy X seats can be pre-selected free-of-charge for Velocity Platinum members and their companions in the same booking. Meanwhile, if seats are still available at check-in, Velocity and partner airline Gold members can also request to upgrade for free, often along with companions.
In this instance, we had not pre-purchased Economy X. Upon reaching the check-in counter and presenting a KrisFlyer Gold card, the agent mentioned that the flight was very light and asked whether we would like to move forward to row 5. We were issued with new boarding cards and express passes for immigration/ security and headed through to the aircraft.
Boarding commenced on time, and Economy X passengers were invited to board using the priority channel, along with Business Class and elite status holders.
The seats had ample room, and felt very spacious for a 737 Economy Class. The additional 25% pitch makes all the difference, as do the dedicated overhead lockers (really only useful on full flights).
After takeoff, the refreshment service commenced. Whilst Virgin tries to be a ‘full service’ carrier, they still have some very budget/ hybrid trademarks. The cheaper economy fares, for example, do not include any food on short haul international sectors. Passengers must instead purchase from the onboard menu. This is a little disappointing, given the full service image the airline is trying to uphold.
The rest of the flight was smooth and uneventful, with the happy cabin crew regularly offering tea, coffee and water to passengers throughout the flight. Prior to landing, arrival cards were distributed, before a smooth and prompt arrival in to Denpasar.
The Economy X product has varying value, depending on the flight duration. It is especially effective during busy periods and on longer flights, where there are greater benefits. From the airline perspective, it attempts to justify paying extra for a slightly better product, in order to maximise the economic producer surplus. It also serves as a very welcome additional benefit for elite members of both Velocity and partner programs, further incentivising repeat business.