Virgin Australia business class to New Zealand

THE ROUTE

Sydney – Queenstown

THE PLANE

Boeing 737-800

LOYALTY SCHEME

Velocity frequent flyer

CLASS

Business class. Virgin Australia has now rolled out business class on all its trans Tasman and Pacific Island routes. It's been in great demand, says the airline, adding this completes a "missing link" to its overall service.

DURATION

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Two hours 30 minutes. A scheduled three hour flight, we took off 20 minutes late and arrived 10 minutes early so happiness all around.

FREQUENCY

Daily

THE SEAT

Seat 1C. Refitted for business class, the two front rows are configured 2-2 with a total of eight seats. Made of leather, each seat has a 38-inch (96cm) pitch, more legroom and the compartment has its own toilet.

BAGGAGE

Two pieces up to total 32kg and 7kg hand luggage.

COMFORT

It's unusual to be offered an amenity kit on a short flight, whatever the class, but there's one here and it's very stylish. In a cute grey and yellow Mandarina Duck bag, there are socks, eye mask, lip balm, toothbrush and paste and – great idea – a ballpoint pen.

ENTERTAINMENT

We're each offered a tablet loaded with entertainment in categories Watch, Listen, Read, Experience and Maps. The choice is large and includes meditating with Erin Kyna, watching AFL, reading artist David Lynch's catalogue for his Modern Art Gallery exhibition in Brisbane, listening to classic hits or choosing from 43 movies. I tick off a film from my "must see" list by watching Dior and I. The Anzacs feature big in the documentaries. The entertainment system is an app that can be downloaded to your own device.

SERVICE

Virgin Australia uses Air New Zealand's lounge at Sydney International Airport but it's undergoing refurbishment and a bit makeshift. Neverthless, food and all the usual drink offerings are there. In flight, chief steward Kymberly takes charge in business class and does it politely and with great dexterity. When handed NZ landing papers, the crew has already filled in the date, flight and my seat number. A nice touch.

FOOD

Virgin head chef Luke Mangan's expertise is evident all over this meal. The choice is braised short ribs with shiitake mushrooms, smashed pumpkin and fetta or an eggplant and chickpea curry with turmeric, steamed rice and Asian herbs. To drink, a 2013 Basilisk chardonnay, 2014 Sandalford chardonnay or 2012 Tempus Two Copper Series GSM. Bread is warm sourdough or soy linseed and, hallelujah, the butter is soft. Served on white tableware, the meal includes a rocket and spinach salad with a merlot dressing and, to finish, chocolate polenta cake with blackberry icing by Manna from Heaven. The beef dish is full of flavour, cuts like a dream and to say it's substantial is to do it an injustice. My three hefty slices are served in a rich gravy.

ONE MORE THING

Virgin and Air New Zealand are partners on the Tasman route. Together, they have more than 200 flights across the ditch weekly, servicing 47 Australian and 25 New Zealand destinations. They have reciprocal frequent flier agreements and for eligible members, access to each other's lounges.

THE VERDICT

As Virgin continues to drive its position in the premium market, a business class service across the Tasman was an obvious next step. Partnered with Air New Zealand, it offers a comprehensive service and with special touches like a classy amenities bag and really good meal service, it gives competitors a serious run for their money.

The writer travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia.