I’m currently attending the A350 launch event at Virgin’s HQ in Crawley. Keep an eye on our Twitter and Instagram feeds for more updates through the evening. I’ll also update this post with additional pictures in due course.
Virgin Atlantic has unveiled details of its Airbus A350-1000 aircraft, which includes an entirely new Upper Class cabin.
Tickets go on sale this month and the airline’s first A350, named Red Velvet, will begin flights in late summer 2019.
An entirely redesigned Upper Class Suite
Every seat now faces towards the window – including the middle pair – and offers what Virgin call “deployable privacy screens”. Virgin have decided NOT to go down the ‘Qatar Airways QSuites or British Airways Club Suite route’ and install proper doors.
(EDIT: I had a brief chance to see these at the launch event. They are designed to give you crucial privacy when the seat is in ‘bed mode’ while not affecting the crew’s ability to serve you/keep your glass topped up).
Laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration, every suite has a 44” pitch, with a fully flat bed length of up to 82”. All suites will transition from an upright seat, straight to a bed. This is important as allows you to put the seat in a lounging position if you don’t want to go fully flat. Previously, you needed to get up and then put the seat in bed mode – praying you’d not left your glasses/phone/iPad to be swallowed up by the seat!
It features an 18.5” screen (the new BA Club Suite offers the same size) and a new in-flight entertainment system, controllable by customers’ own personal device. As is currently the case, every seat will still have direct aisle access.
The Virgin Atlantic bar has been replaced
They were the first airline to introduce an onboard bar, but Virgin Atlantic has ditched their bar in favour of a new space known as The Loft.
The Loft is designed to take Virgin’s famed Clubhouse experience to the skies, offering a wide range of cocktails, and the option for customers to dine together and enjoy Mile High afternoon tea by Eric Lanlard and a selection of new dishes by Donal Skehan.
As well as enjoying luxe comfort and high-end finishes, customers can settle in with Bluetooth headphones and connect to the 32” screen – catch a show, or watch the live tail cam.
New Premium and Economy seats too
Customers travelling in Virgin Atlantic’s Premium and Economy cabins will also be able to enjoy increased levels of comfort on the A350. By contrast, British Airways decided to stick with their current economy and premium economy product on their A350.
Premium customers will get a generous 7” recline, increased space for storage, a four-way adjustable headrest and a luxurious leather seat.
Both have the largest entertainment screens ever offered; 13.3” in Premium and 11.6” in Economy.
Economy seats have been upgraded to new luxurious fabrics offering adjustable headrests. Economy Light and Classic will offer a 31” seat pitch whilst Economy Delight offers 34”.
The entire aircraft will also have access to high-speed wifi. Unlike BA’s A350, this isn’t groundbreaking as such – all Virgin flights have been Wifi equipped for a number of years now.
How to fly new Virgin Upper Class
The first A350 will take to the skies in August 2019, as it flies from London Heathrow to New York JFK, followed by other services to JFK later in the year. Atlanta is also scheduled to be one of the initial destinations. Virgin Atlantic has ordered a total of 12 Airbus A350-1000, with them all scheduled to join the fleet by 2021.
The A350 will also be the first aircraft in Virgin Atlantic’s fleet to feature its new Flying Icons, which are set to replace the airline’s famous Flying Ladies. The high flyers are a diverse range of men and women representing modern Britain, rolled out on the four A350-1000 aircraft this year, followed by a further eight by 2021.
Virgin have been rather tight-lipped over whether this product will be retro-fitted to other aircraft in their fleet. With the A340 and 747 being phased out in the next few years and the ex-Air Berlin A330’s having already been refitted with a different Upper Class product, that only really leaves the Boeing 787’s.
The new Upper Class seat looks and feels fabulous but as always I won’t get too excited before having a chance to test the product in the sky.
What I can say is that it already looks a huge improvement over the current ‘coffin seats’. I wasn’t a fan of the coffins both from a privacy perspective and a comfort point of view. It was a shame really because Virgin, particularly at Heathrow, have such an impressive business class ground experience. From the chauffeur, dedicated arrival entrance, private check-in to the immensely enjoyable Virgin Clubhouse lounge.
Now it looks like they may finally have a business class product to match. Suite door or not, Virgin’s new Upper Class product looks set to give BA a run for their money.