Virgin Australia's lie-flat business class seat on its transcontinental A330 jet.
Qantas and Virgin Australia are pulling out the big guns in their battle for Australia's business travellers.
Or perhaps that should be the big birds. Both airlines plan to dedicate their latest Airbus A330 jets to the lucrative and thus highly competitive east-west routes between Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
Virgin Australia's A330 business class seats are of international calibre, and are the same as you'll find on some Singapore Airlines flights.
Unlike the smaller Boeing 737s which are the domestic workhorse of Qantas and Virgin, especially along the "golden triangle" of Australia's east coast capital cities, the A330s are international-grade planes which aviation boffins tag as "widebody" or twin-aisle aircraft.
Qantas's A330 business class seat. Picture: Australian Business Traveller
They already wing their way out of Australia on flights operated by Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, MAS and Singapore Airlines.
Now these 300-odd seat jetliners are being used to boost domestic capacity over the 170-seat Boeing 737s and, in the case of Qantas, replace ageing Boeing 767s.
Qantas has pledged that Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth flights will be exclusively A330-only routes during weekdays beginning from May.
For its part, Virgin Australia went A330-only between Melbourne and Perth in September, and promises a similar service for Sydney-Perth will follow next year.
With this transcontinental turf war heating up, how do the two airlines' latest A330 coast-to-coast services stack up for the business traveller?
Before kicking off this comparison, we should note that Qantas runs several versions of its A330s cross-country. Some of these are kitted out for international routes, with first-generation Marc Newson Skybed business class seats and ample legroom for the long-limbed.
However, to keep things fair and not get all Apples vs Oranges, we'll focus on the latest aircraft to leave the Airbus factory and launch into Australian skies.
But before you even set foot on the plane, which airline offers the best pre-flight experience?
Qantas and Virgin Australia both offer easy online check-in and mobile boarding passes, including support for Apple's new Passbook app.
Busy business travellers love Virgin's fast-track check-in at Sydney Airport, with its own service desk and security lane which then leads straight into the lounge. No rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi here.
But at both ends of the trip Qantas passengers can swipe their smartchipped frequent flyer card against one of the automatic check-in towers and be ready to go in five seconds (yes, we've timed it).
Neither of the airline's lounges at Perth are anything to get excited about. They tick the boxes for food, drink and fast, free WiFi.
Sydney's a different story. Qantas has its flagship Business Lounge for business class passengers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers. For our money it's still Australia's best domestic airport lounge.
But December will see Virgin Australia unveil the first stage of its all-new Sydney lounge, located atop the current and well-worn lounge.
This will take its design cues from Virgin's chic Melbourne and Brisbane lounges.
Qantas remains the one to beat, but until Virgin cuts the red ribbon and rolls out the welcome mat, we'll hold fire on declaring a winner in the lounge stakes.
Qantas has stuck with a conventional domestic business class seat design on its newest A330s, although the bench itself looks almost identical to the Red Roo's excellent A380-grade premium economy seat.
The 37-inch seat pitch is comfortable enough for the roughly five-hour journey, but the limited recline won't be a friend if you're booked on the red-eye.
By comparison, Virgin Australia has raised the bar and gone all out to show it has shed the budget skin of Virgin Blue and is now an airline for the corporate traveller.
Virgin Australia's A330 business class seats are of international calibre – they're actually the same as you'll find on some Singapore Airlines flights.
With a massive 60 inches of pitch and reclining all the way down to a lie-flat bed dressed with a blanket and pillow, they win this round hands-down for Virgin.
Both Qantas and Virgin Australia offer mod cons such as laptop power and USB ports at every seat so you can keep your laptop, tablet or smartphone juiced up during the journey.
Travellers in the middle row of Qantas' latest A330s can use what the airline calls an "in-flight workspace" – a plastic shroud mounted atop the unused middle seat – for keeping documents and other items within reach when they're not directly in use.
It's also a handy place to park in-flight food and drink while your laptop stays on the tray table.
But there's no escaping that this is in reality a 2-3-2 seating layout, which is once again outclassed by Virgin Australia's slicker seat in a true 2-2-2 configuration.
Each seat sports a half-dozen pockets and nooks where you can stow almost anything from an iPad to a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or your reading glasses.
The table is also big enough to hold all but the very largest laptop, although it'd be more usable if it was fixed level instead of than sloping down to one side.
And the winner is...
We're calling this one for Virgin Australia. Its A330 business class is simply that good – so much so that it's hard to believe you're not packing your passport and headed overseas.
Which is your choice of airline for making the cross-country trek, and why?
David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.