Last month, I was fortunate to visit both Cairns and Tokyo as a guest of Virgin Australia. As such, I was also able to test out the direct Virgin Australia flight between Cairns and Tokyo Haneda. This flight is flown on Virgin’s new Boeing 737-8 aircraft.

Below is my review of my flight and what people can expect when boarding Virgin Australia en route to the stunning metropolis of Tokyo.

Check-in, lounge and boarding

My starting point for this flight is, of course, Cairns. Don’t worry, though, if don’t live in Cairns. Multiple flights are on offer to connect you from your city to Cairns. If you live in one of the Golden Triangle cities, it is a one-stop connection. For everyone else, it is likely two.

I arrive at Cairns International Airport with my fellow media contingent and am amazed at how modern and open this airport feels. I believe it has just undergone a refurbishment. And there are still some small areas of unfinished construction.

But aside from that, check-in is a breeze. Being seated in Economy X and a Velocity Platinum member affords me the privilege of using the Business Class check-in counters, speeding up the check-in process. Although the general bag drop line is moving along well, too.

The advantage of flying out of a smaller international airport is the speed of getting through security. Unlike morning peaks at larger International Airports like Sydney and Melbourne, I complete the security process within 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, there are no lounges available at the International Airport. The third-party Reef Lounge is temporarily closed, with access previously granted to Priority Pass cardholders.

Virgin Australia Boeing 737 seating

I board the brand new Boeing 737-8 aircraft that was recently delivered to Virgin Australia. It looks amazing! The Business Class seats have been refined and now include footrests, which were a clear omission from the previous version. The new Economy and Economy X seats are slimmed down, allowing for more seat pitch and increased seat padding for greater comfort. This padding is a must for a seven-plus hour flight.

A feature I especially love with these new seats is the tablet holder clips. It makes the pleasure of watching entertainment on my iPad so much more comfortable. No head tilting and sore neck, and more room on my tray table for my meal and drink. And the clip easily adjusts to all sizes of smartphones and tablets, which is great.

You might notice that there are currently no cabin dividers between Economy and Business Class. Newly designed cabin dividers will be installed on all Virgin Australia aircraft from early 2024. I can’t wait to see what these will look like.

Virgin Australia Boeing 737 food & beverage

As always, Virgin Australia’s excellent hospitality and customer service shine through on this flight. Like other Virgin Australia short-haul international flights, the service comprises a buy-on-board menu in Economy Class, with complimentary tea, coffee and water. In Business Class, it is a complimentary full-plated meal.

First up, snack and hot meal…

There are two main service rounds for this flight, but as I am quite hungry, I order a snack and a hot meal in the first round. The good thing is that the cabin crew serve you the non-hot food item immediately but come back to serve you your hot option once they have taken other orders and had time to heat the meal. This provides a natural separation between the snack and hot meal.

I start with the Morish Premium Savoury Nibbles, accompanied by a cold cup of Spring Water. I’m a big fan of the Morish nuts and think that’s the best snack on the menu. It has a mixture of dry roasted nuts, cashews and pretzels.

Next up is the hot meal. I’m slightly disappointed that the Katsu Curry that is listed on the menu is not available as I prep my taste buds for some curry goodness. But it is not to be. Not to worry, though, as the Teriyaki Chicken is a fantastic, tasty replacement.

My sweet tooth beckons…

I relax and enjoy multiple hours of in-flight entertainment before I start to again feel a bit peckish. This time, it’s my sweet tooth calling. One of my excellent Virgin Australia hosts advised me to try the Pocky Strawberry Sticks. So, who was I to argue? And given that my sweet tooth was particularly loud today, I accompanied them with a chocolate chip muffin. All washed down with an English Breakfast tea. Now, these Pocky sticks are sweet. And I mean sweet. Too sweet, in fact, even for my sweeter-than-sweet teeth. But from what Virgin Australia tells me, they are incredibly popular. So perhaps on this one, I am in the minority.

For reference, I have added an image of my hot meal from my return flight to Cairns from Tokyo Haneda. I choose the Nanban Chicken on this flight, and that, too, goes down a treat.

Virgin Australia Boeing 737 amenities, entertainment and service

I like to download video content onto my personal iPad before every flight. But I understand that many people do not do this. And there are times when I’ve not had time to download anything beforehand. This is where an airline’s in-flight entertainment is so important. Especially on a longer flight like this one.

Virgin Australia does not disappoint in this regard. As expected on a brand-new aircraft, the in-flight entertainment is modern and responsive. Even on my couple of years old iPad. The content includes all the major categories of movies, TV and kids.

But remember to bring your own device. Virgin only offer Wi-Fi-based entertainment and does not have seat-back screens.

How to book this flight with Velocity Points

Using Velocity Points is a great way to experience this flight. If you have been busy saving your Velocity Points, you can fly to Japan for the following number of points:

To Tokyo (Haneda) from: (one-way)Economy Class^Business Class^
Brisbane & Cairns 27,80059,500
Sydney & Melbourne (flying VA via CNS)34,80071,500
Sydney (flying NH direct)42,00078,000
Melbourne (flying VA to SYD, then NH direct)48,200 – 51,900*93,000
Adelaide & Hobart (flying VA to SYD, then NH direct)51,400 – 56,900*101,500
Perth (flying VA to SYD, then NH direct)56,100 – 63,900*113,500
^Velocity Points required, excluding taxes, fees and charges.
* Pricing based on Velocity’s new three-tier Economy Reward Seat pricing.

Taxes, fees and charges are generally around the $100 to $200 mark, one-way.

The recent partnership between Velocity and ANA is an exciting development for Velocity members. The new partnership allows members to book flights on all ANA’s International and Domestic Japanese networks. This means that if you wish to fly beyond Tokyo, or for that matter, beyond Japan, go right ahead. You can!

Make sure to read our guide on how to book ANA flights using Velocity Points for more information.

Summing up

It’s fantastic to sit Virgin Australia jets touching down at Tokyo Haneda Airport. It has been a long time coming and a welcome development for Australian-based travellers. Japan is a popular destination for a number of reasons, not least its wonderful hospitality, great food, the juxtaposition between new and old and a unique and amazing buzzing atmosphere in its largest city, Tokyo.

Getting to Tokyo Haneda on Virgin Australia is an effortless task, with many flights connecting to Cairns from Australia’s major cities, along with the option to fly direct from Sydney on Virgin’s partner ANA. If you do head to Tokyo on Virgin’s own direct service from Cairns, you will be treated to a brand new Boeing 737-8 aircraft, along with Virgin’s great hospitality and service. And while you’re at it, why not squeeze in a quick holiday in Cairns while you’re at it?

Photography by Daniel Sciberras, who travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia Boeing 737-8 Economy Class (Cairns – Tokyo Haneda) was last modified: April 30th, 2024 by Daniel Sciberras