Hey everyone! I’m sitting in LAX, bored, on my way back to Michigan after two years in Australia. As some of you probably know, I’ve been back and forth across the Pacific quite a few times, and I have now experienced both Qantas and Virgin Australia service between Brisbane and Los Angeles. If you’re reading this you might be thinking about taking a similar flight too, and wondering which one is better. After all, it’s 12 to 14 hours of your life. You want to spend that in comfort, don’t you?
These comparisons are based off my most recent memory of a long-haul Qantas flight taken in June 2012, and a Virgin Australia flight taken in May 2014.
Let’s Talk About Seating
I’m tall for a woman (5’11”), and leg room is hugely important for me! In this section, Virgin wins hands down. I was amazed by how much leg room there was. My knees usually brush against the seat in front of me on a Qantas flight. On Virgin, I had a good 4-6 inches extra wiggle room, which made stretching out and sleeping more comfortable.
However, Qantas wins on the seat pocket front. Virgin had very little room in the seat pockets. I couldn’t fit my e-reader in without fear of it falling out. And the safety card was so tall that when I put the tray down it bent the card forward. Not a huge issue, but something to be aware of if you like to stuff the pockets with things.
I watched five movies on my Virgin flight, all of them quite good, but I’m afraid Qantas wins this round. From what I can recall, Qantas not only had more options, it had more recent options. Sure, there were quite a few recent blockbuster hits like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, but I’ve watched movies that were still in theatres on Qantas planes before. And like I said, there are simply more options from Qantas.
On long-haul flights, you’ll typically get lunch/dinner, a snack, and breakfast. Both carriers have a variety of options (some that cater to vegetarian needs). I can’t speak for everything, but I had the parmesan chicken on my most recent Virgin flight and I had something very similar on a Qantas flight a few years ago. The Virgin food certainly tasted better–the chicken looked like actual chicken breast rather than something processed.
However, I wasn’t as much of a fan of the Virgin breakfast. There were only two options: scrambled eggs, sausages, and hashbrowns, or potato bake, beans, and mushrooms. I didn’t like either of the options and only ate a little. Luckily, it comes with fruit and a banana muffin, so I was able to get something in me before going through customs! On the other hand, Qantas typically offers a “hot” or “cold” option–hot being something along the lines of one of the Virgin meals, and cold being cereal and milk. I would have loved some cereal for breakfast, and I might just take a little box with me on the flight back.
Qantas also presents you with a snack pack upon embarking, filled with little treats in case you get hungry during the flight, and goes around with fresh apples partway through. Virgin does not present snackpacks, and goes around with grilled cheese sandwiches partway through the flight. The sandwiches were good, but after so much time on planes, I find the lighter apples settle better than sandwiches! Both carriers also offer a snack bar, but I’ve never wandered past on either, and there’s plenty of drinks on both (including alcoholic beverages, free even for economy passengers).
If you’ve been researching flights, you’ll know this answer better than I will. Flight prices change day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour. For what it’s worth, lately I’ve been finding that Virgin has had cheaper prices than Qantas.
Virgin vs. Qantas
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits and drawbacks to each. Your own preferences will shape your opinions on the carriers. Personally, that extra leg room is enough to make me want to choose Virgin every time, but at the same time I know that in reality I’ll choose whichever one is cheaper!
Hopefully this post was helpful. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below, and feel free to share your own experiences with Qantas and Virgin (and other long-haul carriers).